The Flight From Contingency 11



133. The dualist thinker procures access to a truth-instance through a  dualization of the knowledge situation.  The knowledge-situation is dualized. How can such a dualization be understood? A distinction is introduced (the dualist would rather say: presupposed) between the object of discourse and the discourse about the object (in the example we want to discuss: a distinction between the table that stands here and our discourse about it); a distinction between the opinions, descriptions, theses, statements and what they are about. 

This distinction should enable us to denote/indicate  (anzugeben) the beyond of discourse, where the decision about the truth and falsehood of our opinions takes place; and it should thus also enable us to reproduce this decision in our discourse, namely by determining the truth and falsehood of the opinions by way of referring them to the object of the discourse. 


134. A first, preliminary determination of the beyond of discourse is possible by using depersonalizing expressions, especially with the help of expressions like “reality”, “world” or “nature”. However, such a determination of the beyond of discourse would be far too general to bring about a decision between one’s own opinion and a counter-opinion. If, for example, the question is whether the table here is made of wood or of plastic, then I would hardly convince the proponent of the counter-opinion if I simply said: “The sentence ‘The table is made out of plastic.’ is false, because in reality the table is not made of plastic.” – nor could I change his mind by saying “The sentence “The table is made of plastic.” is false because it does not agree with reality”. Such references to the beyond of reality would be almost indistinguishable from “naked” assertions. 


135. The beyond of discourse must be concretized to the extent that a decision about truth and falsehood of the conflicting opinions can be established/determined within the discourse; that is the beyond needs to be concretized towards exactly that segment of reality which is at stake in the discourse. 

How is this to be accomplished? After all, it is not possible to present/denote the segment of reality that our discourse is about (and which decides on the truth of the conflicting opinions) in any other way than with the help of one’s own opinion – or at least with the help of elements or extensions of one’s own view. 


136. I shall discuss four variants of the dualist approach on the basis of the above example. (1) If I indicate/denote the object, in our example the table which stands here , with the help of my own opinion, then I merely make an anticipation of the hoped-for, the desired result, for the sake of which the beyond of discourse was postulated. Specifying/denoting the object with the help of one’s own opinion would lead in our case to the result: “The sentence ‘The table is made of wood.’ is true, because in reality the table is made of wood.” or, taking into account the counter-opinion, to the result: “The sentence ‘The table is made of plastic.’ is false, because in reality the table is made of wood.” If I do not want – as happened here -- to anticipate the decision between truth and falsehood in favour of my own opinion in my sense, i.e. in the direction of my own opinion, already when stating/denoting the object in the beyond of discourse to which I refer the counter-opinion, what then? 


137. Well then I could perhaps (2) limit the specification/denotation of the object to those elements of my opinion which are non-controversial. These elements would be the already mentioned basic consensus that form the basic consensus <em>that there is table here</em>. The basic consensus is however compatible with both, one’s own and the counter-opinion, as they both developed/emerged from this basic consensus. The basic consensus forms so to speak the  neutralistic starting basis for the subsequently conflicting opinions – and is therefore insufficient to denote the beyond of discourse differentiated enough to decide knowledge claims. 


138. A third possibility (3) to denote the beyond of discourse would be the denotation with the help of reasons that speak for one’s own opinion; more precisely: with the help of reasons from which one’s own assertion, for which the truth-claim is made, can be derived. 

At least in any halfway rational discourse we should be able to give reasons for our assertions. In our case we could say perhaps “The sentence ‘The table is made of wood.’ is true, because the table shows the typical wood grain and it even has some woodworm holes.”. Or, incorporating the counter-opinion, we could say “The sentence ‘The table is made from plastic.’ is false, because the table shows the typical wood grain and it even has some woodworm-holes.” Now this could lead to a change of opinion of the discourse-partner, provided he did not know already my reasons for my assertion, when I claimed it to be true. But this does not make any difference in that the alleged “beyond of discourse” to which I have referred the counter-opinion is composed of nothing more than the depersonalized elements of a so to speak extended own opinion, enriched with reasons, which I presupposed as true. 


139. Testing theses through their confrontation with reality is the fourth variant (4) of dualist reasoning I wish to discuss. 

In our example of an empirical knowledge situation my discourse partner and I posit contrasting/conflicting theses: my discourse partner the thesis: “The table standing here is made of plastic.” and I the thesis: “The table standing here is made of wood.” Let’s assume that my discourse-partner checks his thesis that the table is made of plastic. What does he check it against? Reality, the object of discourse? What is happening here? 

We should note that the first thesis, the table-made-of-plastic theses, has not been pulled out of the hat; this theses too has come about empirically, for example by looking at the table for a moment, close-up and in the twilight. 

A new thesis may come about when the discourse partner takes a sharp look at the table, runs his hand over the table surface and draws in a splinter: He now arrives at the new thesis that the table is made of wood and will abandon the earlier hypothesis in favour of the new one. If the discourse-partner is a dualist truth-seeker, he will claim to have proven the first hypothesis to be false by testing/checking it against reality. 

However to prove the first hypothesis false the dualist must specify/denote the segment of reality against which the first thesis has failed. And this denotation can take place only with the help of the second thesis now presupposed as true. From it the falsehood of the first thesis is determined. The first thesis was not wrecked on the cliffs of reality, but rather did not survive the confrontation with a new hypothesis: the earlier thesis was simply given up in favour of the new one.

The reference of the first description is not to a table in the beyond of the description, but to a second description. 

The truth or falsehood of the first description/hypothesis is not decided by a table in the beyond of discourse: The truth or falsehood of the first description is decided from the second table-description, which is presupposed as true. 


140. If we postulate in a truth-oriented way that theses can fail when confronted with reality, a dualization occurs again, a distinction between reality and the thesis, which goes about reality. 

How can this distinction, which is central to truth-oriented philosophy, be introduced? The distinction between language-level and world-level, between description-level and object-level, is a distinction that a dualist is always confident of making. How is this distinction made?  During  the description of the table,  while describing the table,  while reflecting on it, I cannot distinguish between describing the table and the table. 

Now is it possible to distinguish <em>after</em>the description of the table between the description of the table and the table, perhaps in such a way: “The table is made of wood, whereas the description is short and precise, true and adequate.”? 

Yet from this distinction we can not gain a distinction between a discourse-external reality and discourse-internal description: I can admittedly distinguish the table from the description of the table by (re)describing the table and describing the description of the table. However the object of  this description(s) is not the table, but the table  and the description of the table. So we are again in a situation, where we can not distinguish the object of the description from the description of the object: we are again in a “during the description” situation. 

Our distinctions are based on non-distinctions. 


141. The (realist) dualist John Searle writes at the beginning of his book   The Construction of Social Reality : “We live in exactly one world, not two or three or seventeen. As far as we currently know the most fundamental features of that world are as described by physics, chemistry and the other natural sciences.” Searle published this sentence in 1995. But this sentence could have been published just the same by a John Searle of the year 1695, indeed it could have been written any time. If I presuppose a world categorically different from language, a language-different world, then the world is always as I describe it: I can denote the world only with the help of the descriptions I make. Or? Can I say, that the world is not as I describe it? Then I have perhaps another description in the back of my mind. But with that I get into a paradoxical situation such that I describe the world at the same time so and differently ... I can only say the world is different than I  have described it, but I cannot say that the world is different than I describe it. 


142. A distinction between object and description is only possible as a distinction between one’s own depersonalized opinion and the description someone else makes of the world.

Insofar as the world-description of the other person coincides with my world-description, I cannot make out a difference between the world descriptions. 


143. A difference between object and description can only be stated when there is a conflict: I can distinguish the object only from descriptions which “contrariously” ( gegensätzlich ) describe the object, which describe the object differently than I have denoted the object with the help of my description. 

The dualist  presupposes/posits his description ahead of the deviating description of the opponent. Thus he can claim a disagreement, a non-correspondence, a discordance between the description and the object of the description. Hence the description of the other is false: it does not comply with the object, because the dualist has denoted ( angegeben ) the object with the help of his own description. 

The difference between object and description is determined through the deviation from the description which is used to denote the object. 

A difference between object and description can be determined only as the difference between the description that serves to denote the object and the (other) description of the other, of the opponent, which describes the object. 


144. Truth-oriented philosophy determines the search for truth as a search for agreement/correspondence with a reality in the beyond of discourse. The beyond of discourse that decides about truth and falsehood of our opinions, can only be presented/denoted or constructed with the help of one’s own particular opinion. 

Thus a search for a truth is proposed and propagated, which has always already been found by whoever establishes the success of its search.The dualist method of truth-seeking-and-finding becomes thus an argumentation technique whose application can prove any arbitrary views/opinions to be true as long as they are held. And not only that: This technique can also prove false and erroneous any arbitrary views/opinions that run counter to the respective own view/opinion, because they do not coincide with the self-constructed/fabricated beyond of discourse.

Next: The Flight From Contingency 11


Josef Mitterer is an Austrian philosopher.

The Flight From Contingency 1 here

The Flight From Contingency 2 here

The Flight From Contingency 3 here

The Flight From Contingency 4 here

The Flight From Contingency 5 hereThe Flight From Contingency 6 

The Flight From Contingency 6 here

The Flight From Contingency 6 here

The Flight From Contingency 7 The Flight From Contingency 7 here

The Flight From Contingency 8 here

The Flight From Contingency 9 here

The Flight From Contingency 7 

The Flight From Contingency 10 here

On Interpretation here

On Interpretation 2 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 1 here

The Flight From Contingency 7 

The Beyond of Philosophy 1 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 2 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 3 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 4 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 5 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 6 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 7 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 8 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 9 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 10 here

The Flight From Contingency 6 here