In two books the Austrian philosopher Josef Mitterer has developed a non-dualistic alternative to both realistic and idealistic positions. It dispenses with the categorical distinction between description and reality beyond description. In “The Third Philosophy,” scientists from the fields of philosophy, psychology, sociology, art history, media and communication studies and political science explore the potential of Mitterer’s criticism of dualistic thinking for key issues and open questions. The anthology brings together established names such as Volker Gadenne, Ernst von Glasersfeld, Walter Grasnick, Adolf Holl, Peter Janich, Konrad Paul Liessmann, Siegfried J. Schmidt, Peter Strasser and Peter Weibel and a young generation of scientists. These authors address issues such as the relation of non-duality to (radical) constructivism and its compatibility with the actor-network theory of Bruno Latour. The book is based on the special issue of Constructivist Foundations 3(3) dedicated to the work of Josef Mitterer.
Problem: Mitterer’s critique of the central argumentations of radical constructivists has been mostly neglected until today. The paper presents and evaluates his criticism and, in the second part, outlines a format of constructivism that tries to draw appropriate consequences. Solution: In his critique Mitterer explains why the radical constructivism represented above all by Maturana, Varela, von Glasersfeld or Roth still remains in a dualistic format. In his view Neurobiology is used in their writings as the indisputable basis for deriving far-reaching epistemological consequences. Therefore constructivism evades self-application. To overcome this serious critique a different approach to constructivist thinking is sketched that operates without using any biological or psychological theories, tries to avoid dualism, and elaborates Mitterer’s basic argument that the description of an object and the object under description are the same. Benefits: The paper shows what constructivism can learn from a serious critique and how it can be rewritten in a non-dualistic way.
Purpose: Explaining the relationship between theory and empirical research within the research process. The main motivation is to show that non-dualizing epistemology and constructivism have approximately the same ideas to explain this relationship. Problem: Josef Mitterer criticizes constructivism as a dualizing epistemology and “overlooks” that non-dualizing philosophy and constructivist perspectives are similar with regard to the relationship between theory and empirical research. Method: (1) Reconstruction of non-dualizing argumentation, (2) non-dualizing implications for the description of the relationship between theory and empirical research, (3) comparison of non-dualizing implications for the relationship between theory and empirical research with constructivist implications for this relationship. Solution: Finding a position on the description of the relationship between theory and empirical research that fits both epistemologies i.e. non-dualizing philosophy and constructivism. If we discard the critical rationalist idea to falsify theory with the help of empirical research (which reflects reality), we better conceive the relationship between theory and empirical research as a permanent and mutual refinement, stabilization and irritation. Implications: With the help of non-dualizing argumentation, constructivists have to clarify their position towards the relationship between theory and empirical research, particularly towards the choice of methods and the interpretation of the results; and non-dualizing epistemology can profit from constructivist second-order argumentation.
Problem: The article seeks to tackle three problems of Mitterer’s non-dualistic philosophy. Firstly, the key term description remains not only rather unclear and rudimentary but also isolated from relevant neighboring terms and theories of other disciplines. Secondly, a logical reconstruction and formal model of non-dualism is still lacking. Thirdly, there are hardly any extensions of philosophical non-dualism to non-philosophical disciplines and fields. Findings: The three main findings of the article are based on the abovementioned problems. Firstly, the non-dualistic term description will be connected to the sociological and semiotic term meaning by emphasizing their semantic-pragmatic similarities. Moreover, a common and distinction-theoretic conceptualization of both terms will be proposed. Secondly, a non-dualistic formalization and logical reconstruction will be elaborated by deducing non-dualism from dualism using the operation of re-entry. Thirdly, the non-dualistic formalization will be applied to the classical semiotic triangle, resulting in the elaboration of a non-dualistic semiotic triangle. Benefits: The aforementioned findings have two possible benefits. Firstly, the compatibility between the terms description and meaning makes philosophical non-dualism connectable to social science approaches, especially to sociology and semiotics. This may be an important avenue for interdisciplinary cross-fertilization and co-operation. Secondly, the formalization and logical deduction may help to clarify and explicitize non-dualism’s main arguments and implicit assumptions.
The book presents a general and formal theory of meaning, signs, and language. Its philosophical base rests on a constructivist and non-dualist approach that leads to an ontological monism of meaning or language. The theory offers novel and provocative insights into the fundamental structures and processes of communication, cognition, and reality. Key topics include the construction and use of distinctions and categories, the self-contradictory dualism of word vs. object, linguistic meaning monism, interpretive relations and processes in the semiotic triangle, conceptual prototypicality and fuzziness, semantic fields and frames, meaning medium vs. forms, as well as activation and co-activation of meanings. In order to illustrate and apply the theory, everyday examples, in particular power and law, are discussed throughout the book. Methodological questions of data collection and analysis are also addressed as they are relevant to the empirical application and verification of the theory.
Excerpt: Can you imagine a non-observable, un-describable state?… There are trivialities that hide abysses… To solve the paradox of the very beginning of the world one has to reject dualistic ontology… From now on, all of the perceptions and ideas embedded in God’s mind have never been anything other than descriptions so far and from now on.
Context: Due to its grounding in a simplistic core model, mainstream theoretical work in economics is heavily conditioned by a realist epistemic framework that may be viewed as the “paradogma” – sensu Mitterer – of economics. Problem: The contribution delineates theoretical developments on the basis of a realist epistemology and their problem-laden consequences for the economic sciences. The subsequent critical discussion seeks to clarify whether economic theory formation is a suitable field for the application of Mitterer’s non-dualist ideas. Method: In the context of a review of their historical background, the paper will explore the possibilities and limits of an application of Mitterer’s non-dualist argumentation to the economic sciences, and present a diagnosis of compatibility and a characterisation of necessary steps towards amplification. Results: It can be shown that the economic sciences would gain in expert knowledge and applicability by adopting the alternative of non-dualism, whose potential has been little appreciated so far. The solution to the meta-scientific problems caused by the pre-structuring of economics in terms of a realist epistemology seems at hand. To take up this new meta-scientific perspective, however, theoretical progress in both non-dualism and economics is required, particularly by paying more serious attention to the theoretical component of communication. Implications: Non-dualism can certainly be utilised by the economic sciences to induce radical innovations and conceptional revisions involving higher meta-scientific consistency. In future, pragmatic gaps will increasingly have to be filled conceptually in order to develop more highly-reflected economic theory formation and corresponding scientific practice. Hence the main idea is that economic actions are inevitably, but not exclusively, based on communication. Constructivist content: Theoretical approaches embracing epistemic relativism in the economic sciences will be properly assessed and developed further along the lines of a non-dualist conceptual revision on the basis of an ontology-free understanding of reality.
Context: The short history of the reception of the philosophy of non-dualism in science is a history of misunderstandings and cursory reception – the latter especially concerns Mitterer’s main work Das Jenseits der Philosophie (The Beyond of Philosophy, which still has not been translated into English). Non-dualism so far is mostly seen either as a kind of constructivism replacing the rhetoric of “construction” with a rhetoric of “description” or as an overall philosophical critique of the use of dualisms, dichotomies or polarities in epistemological contexts. The core arguments of non-dualism are often completely ignored. This paper wishes to discuss them precisely and draw some conclusions. Approach: Close critical reading of Mitterer’s texts, trying to avoid as many translation gaps as possible. Findings: Non-dualism reveals the infinite regress of classical philosophy of language: the categorical differentiation between language and the world leads to a systematic contradiction. While non-dualism also helps to deconstruct the pretension to speak “about reality” or to claim that “in fact” something is the case in everyday life, non-dualism refrains from giving satisfying answers to the great questions of mankind in the “metaphysical” context: questions of starting points/origins, meanings, causes, and the (implicitness of the) time arrow. Benefits: The intention of this paper is to stimulate a broader discussion – so far limited by language – extending it beyond German and Polish scientific circles.
Context: Is non-dualist epistemology, based on the unity of descriptions and objects, logically consistent? Problem: What is the status of the infinite regresses that the non-dualist Josef Mitterer, in his book The Beyond of Philosophy, censures in dualist thought? Their academic discussion is still in its infancy. Method: An attempt to reconstruct and differentiate Mitterer’s infinite regress accusations against dualism (originating from the 1970s) with today’s means and distinctions. Results: A weak and a strong linguistic principle are presented (non-dualism being subsumed under the strong linguistic principle), which are defined as such depending on whether the infinite regresses of dualism are interpreted as benign or as vicious. Implications: Further penetrating investigation of the infinite regresses highlighted by Mitterer is of crucial importance because these regresses have not yet been discussed and classified in relevant current publications on infinite regress arguments by authors such as Rescher or Gratton. Such proper classification is indispensable, however, if the value of the non-dualist alternative to, and its critique of, dualist thought is to be assessed adequately.
Purpose: Tracing the historical roots of Mitterer’s non-dualizing philosophy in Austrian philosophers who studied the relationship between object and language around 1900. Method: Discussing the epistemological relevance of the “tertium non datur” principle and disclosing the mutual influence of early language critics Mauthner, Stöhr, and Wahle, who also anticipated many of Wittgenstein’s later insights. Findings: Mitterer’s philosophy can be considered the endpoint of the Austrian tradition of language criticism. His non-dualizing approach is a methodological constructivism that does not comply with “tertium non datur.” Implications: Non-dualizing philosophy can also be applied to media theory.