The Flight From Contingency 4



The Flight From Contingency

1. When we talk we don’t simply talk up and down, criss and cross: we talk about houses or trees, neutrons or the universe, about feelings, ourselves or other people or about what others talk or have talked about.


2. When we make “talking about” the topic of philosophical reflection, when we start our philosophical deliberations with “talking about”, then we have at least two options: a dualist option for a dualizing mode of speech and a non-dualist option for a non-dualizing mode of speech.

The dualist option of “talking about” has become so familiar through our socialisation into the habitual ways of thinking of the philosophical tradition that an alternative can hardly be imagined.

The decision for the dualist option is a decision made at the beginning of the philosophical education and it is no longer questioned once it has been made.


3. The problems that have determined philosophical discourse from the outset only emerge after the decision for this option. As long as we philosophize in consequence of the dualist presuppositions, the dualist way of thinking is not an option we can decide for or against.

In order to make the dualist way of thinking optional, I shall try to bring the “matters of course”, the trivial in the dualist way of thinking, into focus, and to make the “tacit knowledge”, the implicit presuppositions, explicit.


4. A rational alternative to dualist thinking presupposes that rationality is not merely possible as a result of dualist presuppositions. And why should rational argumentation without dualist presuppositions be impossible – when we take into account the difficulties dualist argumentation is getting into and has to cope with: the problems of truth, falsehood and error, of perception and illusion, appearance and reality, fact and fiction, the problems of self-application, of immanent circularity, of the dichotomic distinctions between description and object, between what we talk and what we talk about, and the futile flight from contingency.


5. The dualist mode of thinking is determined through presuppositions. These presuppositions define the philosophical interpretation of “talking about”, of “making statements about”, “descriptions of” and “getting knowledge of”.


6. How does dualist “talking about” proceed?

The dualist, who talks about an object, puts the object below the talk about the object. This is the only way the dualist can imagine talking about the object.

The object is placed under(neath) the talk and the talk (therefore) goes about it.


7. For talking about an object of talking, making statements about objects of statements and describing objects of descriptions in a dualist sense two levels are needed:

One level is the language-level:this is the level where objects are described, statements are made and the “talking about” takes place.

The other level is the object-level: the level underneath the language-level, where the objects of talking, descriptions, statements, theories etc. are lying.


8. These two levels divide and separate the description of the object from the object of the description, the perception of the object from the object of perception, the statement from the object of the statement, what we talk/write from what we talk/write about, theories from their domain of objects and hypotheses from that what they are about.

The distinction between language-level and object-level may be specified into a distinction between meta-language-level and object-language-level: when descriptions are described, when we make a (further) statement about an (already made) statement, talk about a talk, theorize about a theory, etc.

Instead of talking of an object-level we could as well talk of a world-level, a level of reality, depending on which version of dualist thinking we argue for.

In the course of time dualism has diffused, has differentiated to an extent that every (re)construction of dualist thinking leaves many versions unaccounted for.


9. How these levels relate to each other is a matter of controversy within the dualist ways of thinking; that they are in a relation to each other, that they are distinct from each other and therefore have to be distinguished as well in discourse, is non-controversial.

The distinction between language-level and object-level forms a basic consensus of all dualist thinking. According to dualist thinking this is a distinction that exists whether we make it or not: it is a presupposition, a precondition to be able to talk/reflect rationally about the world, to acquire knowledge of it, to describe the world correct or adequate, - and even to make wrong or false assertions about it.


10. Language-level and object-level are categorically distinct from each other and must not be mixed up, in order to get the dualist argumentation going.

The objection of getting levels mixed up is often nothing but the objection, that the criticized position does not make (or does not want to make) the distinctions made by the position raising the objection.

The mix-ups of the others: these are the distinctions we make and they don’t.


11. As a consequence of the distinction between language- and object-level all other distinctions can either be constructivistically made or realistically presupposed:

A. We make distinctions and therefore they are.

B. There are distinctions and therefore we make them.

For the constructivist the distinctions on the object-level are activelymade and determined on the language-level: there are distinctions because and as long as we make them.

For the realist the distinctions at the object-level exist  per se : they are  passively reconstructed and reproduced at the language level.

Constructivism and realism make concessions to each other: constructivists often interpret everyday discourse realistically and for many realists social reality is constructed.


12. The distinction between language- and object-level is a discourse-presupposition for the dualist.

A discourse-presupposition is a positing/distinction in advance of a discourse that is determined through this presupposition.

Is the distinction between language- and object-level a discourse-presupposition or a discursive positing?

Is this distinction made  in the discourse or is it presupposed to the discourse - (pre-)supposed in advance of each knowledge activity, each describing, each talking, saying and statement-making?

Is the distinction between object-level and language-level a principle of knowledge, a fundamental feature of knowledge which precedes any further knowledge?

Is this presupposition something which is made once and for all and valid for all discourse or is it a presupposition which is always made anew in certain discourse-situations: namely then, when the dualist argumentation-technique is employed?


13. Descriptions are always descriptions of something, whereby in dualist understanding the something that is described is not a description (or an object-language description described through a meta-language description).

 Knowledge is always knowledge of something, of an object of knowledge, whereby the object of knowledge is not knowledge. 

Objects of statements are not statements and the object-domain of a theory is not the theory.


14. The objects of descriptions, of talks and statements always remain on the object-level, while the descriptions, talks and statements always remain on the language level lying above. But when we talk about  the talking about the object , then the talking about the object turns into an object-language-level below a meta-language-level and thus the dichotomy between language- and object-language is saved.


15. Object-level and language-level are distinguished in all versions of dualism. They are not unrelated, but connected with each other.

What is the connection between these two levels? The language-level refers to the object-level: Descriptions refer to the object they describe, theories to their domain, sentences to their object, and what we talk refers to what we talk about.

According to dualist understanding it is the reference to what we are talking about, when we are talking, that keeps our talking in shape and order and ensures that we do not simply chitter-chatter, that our thinking has a direction and a goal.

If someone loses the relation/reference to the world, he ‘takes off’ and this seldom goes well....

So that the descriptions are not without a goal, they must have a direction and this direction is determined through the object. The description of the object is directed to the object of the description and the object of the description directs the description ...


16. What is the relation between language-level and object-level? How can such a relation be made? Does this relation exist already “automatically”?

How can we make sure that the expression “snow” docks onto snow in the object-level and not onto water, that the expression “wood” docks onto wood and not iron? Only when such a docking, such an anchoring has been successful, the description of the object can begin.

And what are expressions like “phlogiston”, “ether”, “virus” or “neutron” referring to? Simply to what they are referred to? Who decides in such cases what we talk about? The object-level? We? Or a critic, who determines the object of description differently than the one who has been criticized?

When critics say that speakers who talk about phlogiston or unicorns do not talk about phlogiston or unicorns but about fictions – then these speakers talk about objects of reference which they get pushed underneath by the critics of their opinions.


17. The relation between language-level and object-level may be determined as an agreement or a disagreement between an element (expression, sentence, description, speech, theory) of the language-level and an element of the object-level (object, subject, fact, state of affairs).


18. On the language-level there are the most varied descriptions, statements and hypotheses about objects and subjects on the object-level.

Manifestations on the language-level can fluctuate and change. They are many. What they are referring to is one..

The first part/side of the dichotomy is variable, the second part/side is invariable.

There are many possibilities to describe the object.

  For the object there is so to say only one possibility: to be as it is. 

  The object of a description is description-resistant. 

  The object of a statement stands against the statement. 

  The elements of the object-level possess an identity against the elements of the language-level.

On the language-level pluralism prevails, on the object-level monism.

In some variants of dualist thinking the first side of the dichotomy is dominant, in others the second side.


19. The agreement/correspondence between description and object, between linguistic efforts and their reference object on the object-level is not a matter of course.

This agreement/correspondence is a goal. When this goal is achieved we talk of truth, when it is missed we talk of falsehood and error.


20. The object that is presupposed to the descriptions and statements which refer to the object, is out of question. In order that different descriptions of an object can be brought into question or can contradict each other, there must be out of question what the descriptions are referring to. The object of the descriptions stands or lies below the discourse about the object and therefore as well outside and beyond the discourse.


21. The object-level remains the same for all participants of a discourse. The language-level is determined differently by different speakers.

The presence of different incompatible descriptions of one and the same object is an undesirable state for dualist philosophers.

This state could be fixed by reducing the various descriptions.

What is aimed for is a reduction of the various descriptions towards that description which reaches best the goal of agreement/correspondence between description and object.

The state of affairs that is already the case on the object-level -- one object for any amount of different descriptions of it – should be achieved as well on the language-level. The plurality of descriptions on the language-level should be transferred into a monism that matches the object-level and corresponds to it.Dissent in discourse should dissolve into a consensus, and not into some arbitrary consensus but into a true consensus.


22. How and if at all this goal can be reached, is a matter of controversy in dualist thinking. There is dissensus on how this consensus can be reached.


Next: The Flight From Contingency 5


Josef Mitterer is an Austrian philosopher.

The Flight From Contigency 1 here

The Flight From Contingency 2 here

The Flight From Contingency 3 here

On Interpretation here

On Interpretation 2 here

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 here

The Beyond of Philosophy 10 here