Context: In his work on neurophenomenology, the late Francisco Varela overtly tackled the well-known “hard problem” of the (physical) origin of phenomenal consciousness. Problem: Did he have a theory for solving this problem? No, he declared, only a “remedy.” Yet this declaration has been overlooked: Varela has been considered (successively or simultaneously) as an idealist, a dualist, or an identity theorist. Results: These primarily theoretical characterizations of Varela’s position are first shown to be incorrect. Then it is argued that there exists a stance (let’s call it the Varelian stance) in which the problem of the physical origin of primary consciousness, or pure experience, does not even arise. Implications: The nature of the “hard problem” of consciousness is changed from an intellectual puzzle to an existential option. Constructivist content: The role of ontological prejudice about what the world is made of (a prejudice that determines the very form of the “hard problem” as the issue of the origin of consciousness out of a pre-existing material organization) is downplayed, and methodologies and attitudes are put to the fore.
Context: Traditional research on the fiction/non-fiction distinction is the fruit of an essentialist methodology in which the procedures of ontologizing and textualizing are assumed as obligatory. Ontologizing and textualizing form the basic discursive technique, in which analyses are focused on the object as the semantic centre. Theory of literary fiction – deeply rooted in Alexius Meinong’s theory of non-existent objects – is object-orientated and, as a result, is always ontologically involved/engaged. Problem: The re-description of the fundamental literary problems as a kind of epistemological experiment for which non-dualizing philosophy is a foundation. Considerations are aimed at providing answers/solutions to the three following issues: 1. Is it possible to connect non-dualism with a literary discourse about literary fiction? 2. What difference does the non-dualizing perspective make in comparison to a philologically-orientated discourse? 3. What difference does the non-dualizing perspective make in comparison to the constructivist approach to the problem of fiction? Approach: Mitterer’s non-dualism is considered from both the context of ontologically-orientated discourse about fiction and literary research and the context of constructivist discourse about fiction. Results: Mitterer’s non-dualizing conception may be considered a foundation of a radical non-essentialist way of thinking about literary fiction. As a result, the philologically-orientated research on literary text, focused on the explanation of its semantics, would rather move towards a culturally-, pragmatically-, and/or sociologically- orientated type of discourse. The notion of (literary) fiction should be reformulated as follows: fiction is not the reason for interpretation; fiction is the result of interpretation because the description comes from the object of speech (from-object-cognition). Implications: This is only an introduction to the project of a potential non-ontologizing discourse about literary fiction. Therefore it should be developed and discussed as the option for the dualizing type of the discourse as it still stirs up a lot of controversies.
In the reception of Josef Mitterer’s writings up to now, there are two predominant types of motifs: the radical constructivist background of his philosophy and the ontological and epistemological foundations and consequences of non-dualism. The critics are focused rather on some problematic consequences of non-dualism, ranging from the problem of infinite regress up to the thesis assuming that Mitterer’s philosophy presupposes a world reduced to descriptions. However, these two types of readings are founded on dualizing assumptions which are not coherent with non-dualism. \\Thus, in the present paper I interpret non-dualism in the frame of non-dual-ism, based on non-dualizing assumptions. I argue that non-dualism is a rhetorical project resulting in far-reaching consequences in the field of academic and scientific debates, poetics and practice of negotiations and deliberations, as well as in ordinary discourse. Non-dualism fulfills Richard Rorty’s dream of culture as a never-ending conversation in which the argument of power is successfully replaced by the power of argument. Mitterer makes transparent the rhetorical techniques performed in the dualizing discourse (not only in situations of conflict) in order to present an alternative – the non-dualizing mode of discourse. Mitterer’s philosophy – reread in the context of Rorty’s pragmatism, Foucault’s conception of discourses, Perelman’s new rhetoric – offers the new vocabulary (in Rorty’s meaning) which may change the practice of speaking
Problem: The question of the moral and social effects of non-dualism has not yet been clarified to the necessary extent. The relation of truth claims, power and violence has been simplified; critical questions of non-dualist practises have not yet been addressed. Approach: By discussing relevant philosophy and political theory, this paper draws the attention of non-realists towards the issues of power, conflict and discourse rules and asks to rethink the issue of the pragmatic justification of non-realist epistemology. Findings: (1) Constructivists, as well as the non-dualist Josef Mitterer, are critical of the discursive effects of truth claims. Yet, neither constructivism nor non-dualism solve the power issues that are ascribed to realism by constructivists and dualism by Mitterer. Even if participants abstained from truth claims in discourses, many of the power issues would still be prevalent. (2) The question arises of whether a practical difference between non-dualism and dualism exists. (3) There is a tendency in constructivist and non-dualist theory to regard any form of influence on others as illegitimate. This tendency is not sound. Instead, the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate power is necessary in non-dualism as well. Implications: Constructivist and non-dualist theory need to scrutinise statements about the moral implications of the respective theories and to emphasise power issues not solely by extrapolating from epistemology, but by acknowledging the social dynamics of discourses and conflicts. Non-dualist social scientists could contribute to the discussion through empirical analyses of the effects of the use and the debunking of truth claims.
Context: Non-dualist philosophy is no longer novel. Arguing against the distinctions between thought and action, theory and practice, language and objects has been a staple of the debate for decades, and Josef Mitterer offers another approach to the problem. Problem: Non-dualist philosophy is beset by a problem: it is trying to argue against a separation of “ideas” from the life-world while staying exclusively on the side of ideas. It offers a philosophy seminar argument against the bread and butter of philosophy seminars. Results: The paper argues that non-dualism in practice should be represented not by philosophers but by everyday life sociologists; not by those who argue against theory and idealisms but by those who simply ignore them. Non-dualism, however, is a useful tool when theorists have to be confronted practically; this, I argue, is its value, and in this debate, non-dualism is welcome. It is, however, a value that should not be overstated.
Context: Non-dualistic thinking is an alternative to realism and constructivism. Problem: In the absence of a distinct definition of the term “description,” the question comes up of what exactly can be included in non-dualistic descriptions, and in how far the definition of this term affects the relation between theory and empirical practice. Furthermore, this paper is concerned with the question of whether non-dualism and dualism differ in their implications. Method: I provide a wider semantic framework for the term “description” by means of George Spencer Brown’s terminology in his calculus of indications as laid out in Laws of Form. The connection of descriptions and distinctions enables descriptions to comprise reflections and language as well as empirical observations. Results: Non-dualism can be thought of in different ways but still has essential elements in common with dualism. Implications: Non-dualism, as well as dualism, is an argumentation technique suitable for specific situations, but without significant differences in implications.
Purpose: To show that the idea of non-dualistic thinking is of great value for some of the core problems of media philosophy (which often lacks the radical approach of Josef Mitterer’s concept). Method: Non-dualistic philosophy, introduced by Mitterer, has a lot in common with other thinkers’ discontent with the traditional way of describing the subject-object relation. Their differences and the impasses of phenomenological, structuralist and psychoanalytic media theory shall be examined to show whether and to what extent non-dualism could do better. Findings: As sociologists and some media-philosophers are already adopting some principles of non-dualism without a real framework, non-dualistic thinking offers a new insight into the way that consent/dissent is manufactured in a world where most descriptions are given in a mediated (i.e., non-interpersonal) form. Implications: If we re-establish the personal freedom of gathering knowledge individually instead of “getting nearer to the truth,” the way of looking at the escapist power of media also has to be reinterpreted. The early distinction between Lumiére-like “documentation” (= truth) and Méliès-like “fiction” (= perception open to alternatives) could be another dualism, which should be expurgated by the application of Mitterer’s concepts.
Problem: A dualistic position faces considerable problems as Mitterer, inter alia, clearly pointed out. Mitterer not only wants to name these problems, but to provide a genuine alternative with his non-dualism. However, this non-dualistic alternative also contains severe problems. Thus this text suggests preferring Wittgenstein’s concept of a pragmatic investigation of language-games to Mitterer’s non-dualism in order to tackle the problems of dualism. Solution: With recourse to Wittgenstein’s pragmatic investigation of language-games, a fundamental problem of dualism can be solved. With the concept of certainty, Wittgenstein succeeds in avoiding an ontological grounding in an independent world – or, as Mitterer would put it, the assumption of a “beyond of discourse.” At the same time, the assumption of an independent world as a concept that provides a basis for our language-games is maintained on an epistemological level. This assumption, however, is not maintained as a phenomenon that requires to be substantiated but as a certainty that is constitutive for language-games and does not need to be substantiated. Such a concept is suitable for preventing epistemological operations such as knowledge, doubt, giving reasons, etc., from being made void, without having to provide an ontological basis for them. Implications: Wittgenstein’s point of view therefore provides an attractive alternative to Mitterer’s non-dualism. By getting rid of the “beyond of discourse,” Mitterer’s non-dualism faces the problem of not being able to explain how we can manage to understand epistemological operations within our language-games without referring to a “beyond of discourse.” From this point of view arises the consequence that it would make sense to analyze language-games from a pragmatic standpoint rather than to keep on honing non-dualistic vocabulary.
Context: Josef Mitterer’s non-dualism advocates a method of analysis as distinct from a metaphysical position. As such it bears resemblance to my earlier work. Problem: Is there only the world of discourse or is there a sense in which some facts and some theories are beyond argument and will remain so? Approach: In my analysis I try to apply Mitterer’s ideas to science, philosophy, and literary criticism. Results: I claim that it is not possible to argue against certain scientific facts or against scientific progress. The same holds for philosophy and literature. Implications: Some claims about science appear to be inconsistent with Mitterer’s non-dualist model, according to which validity-claims are limited to interpretations. Also, in literature, Mitterer’s claim that “text is neutralistic” does not apply.
Context: Josef Mitterer’s critique of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s concept of aspectual vision as elaborated in the second part of Philosophical Investigations and an attempt to develop a kind of non-dualistic “philosophy of systemic psychotherapy.” Problem: How can we ever say that we see something as some other thing when already seeing something is a kind of interpretative activity? Is everything we see an interpretation of an antecedent interpretation? Method: Analyzing and interpreting literature. Results: Wittgenstein, Rorty, and Mitterer develop their positions from a comparable kind of discomfort. The foundation of Mitterer’s critique, however, is completely different: his concept of non-dualism no longer only discusses problems resulting from aspectual vision or from the metaphor of a mirror in relation to objects but seeks to overcome the problems arising from the belief in a categorical difference between objects and the description of objects. Implications: If considered residually dualist in Mitterer’s perspective, aspectual vision in the sense of Wittgenstein is a controversial construction that needs further reflection.