Introduction "Metanoia or: How Reading changes our world." (Excerpt II)

Linguistic ontology between two fronts

Because the central debates between philosophical factions over the last few decades generally use different definitions of metanoia, these debates can be seen in a new light when considered from the perspective of metanoia. These turf wars were essentially debates to define a philosophy of language. (We are therefore not accusing anyone of relativism when we attribute different forms of primary education to diverging metanoiac reading experiences.) Consider the debate between proponents of hermeneutics and deconstruction, or the lingering rifts between so-called continental philosophy and analytic philosophy, our primary influence, or the recent speculative turn (Bryant, Levi, Nick Srnicek, Graham Harman: The Speculative Turn. Continental Materialism and Realism, Melbourne: re-press 2011.), which can be understood as the retreat from the language fixation of deconstructive postmodernism.

We also contest central assumptions underlying modern and postmodern language theory – and not just where the central "arbitrariness of language" is concerned – which can barely be differentiated: nominalism in the philosophy of linguistic analysis has lead to a dead end for both linguistics and philosophy, which is why it is now being revised in contemporary linguistic and philosophical theory. We are adopting the line of thinking that considers thought in terms of relationships between objects, as opposed to a scheme based on cause and effect. Contemporary speculative philosophy takes temporal structures and events to be the object of its ontology on the one hand, while it also prefers final or functional explanations for the composition of language in a new form of linguistics based on universal grammar (Leiss). Both reject the theory that language is arbitrary and its concomitant rift between language and the world, which led to an epistemic, linguistic version of immanentism divorced from phenomenological cognition, and which locks up the subject in a correlational house of mirrors.

At its essence, the construction of language contains an immanent ontological thesis: the world that mediates language is made up of relationships, not objects. Because of the immanent knowledge of the world native to language, language can thus claim a higher degree of realism than perception, which is in turn responsible for the constitution of objects. Language leads us automatically to the center of the world because the world itself can be considered its product.

The differences in language philosophy under discussion are typical conflicts of interest between linguistic and philosophical discourses. As a generalized semiotic theory describing how we interpret the world makes clear, linguistics considers the relationship between sign (signifier) and meaning (signified), thus adopting a grammatical relation to the world, whereas philosophy primarily seeks truth in the relationship between meaning (signified) and object (referent). Both discourses believe that everything can be encompassed within the bounds on the relationships they describe, and for that reason exclude the respective opposing discourse: in philosophy, a language subject to logical truth only shuts off avenues of literary creativity, which is rejected as the uncontrolled production of signifiers. Thus, in the hopes of achieving understanding the analytic philosophy of language excludes what has long been a given in linguistics, namely that the objective existence of language can practically be considered a tangible fact.

Holistic semiotics would view these differences as reductive relationships between signs attributable to each discourse's respective interests, which should always be considered in its three dimensions. Symbol, meaning, and object form a relational whole in a semiotic triangle. At this point, however, further study of metanoia demands that we overcome the rift between opposing discursive fronts, even if it can only be understood by passing through all three semiotic moments. A possible definition of metanoia in semiotic terms could be: while I am reading, signifiers slip, and meanings shift to change the objects they refer to. To phrase it in more technical terms: the semiotic triangle is reformed in metanoia, so that it becomes clear as a whole. The whole encompasses all of its parts, thus changing all components at the same time.


Excerpt from: Avanessian, Armen; Hennig, Anke: Metanoia or: How Reading changes Our World. A Philosophical Consideration of Linguistic Conciousness. Berlin 2013. PDF