The Other (Alterity, Dyad, Intersubjectivity) and the Third (Turn to the Third, Thirdness, Triangulation): Social Theory / Social Ontology

The research project (Habilitation 2007-2009) reconstructs social theory as an instance of reflection in which cultural and social sciences reflect their autonomy as a group of sciences (against sciences of nature and life, philosophy and theology) – both ontologically and epistemologically. Social theories, as the basis of all humanities and cultural- and social sciences, understand self- and complex social-relations as emerging from a basic encounter/interaction of ego and alter. They presuppose a particular logic behind every pattern of interaction, which they designate for example as “trans-subjectivity” or “inter-subjectivity”. They reconstruct how dyadic structures or “reciprocities” (Wechselwirkungen, Georg Simmel) of shame, exchange (of commodities and gifts), conflict, struggle, recognition, dialog, trust, cooperation, education, friendship, care and love are formed within the medium of glances and words, of actions and expectations, of goods and gifts. From Wilhelm Dilthey on, the figure of the “other” has also constituted an epistemological characteristic of social and cultural science: the specific operation of ‘understanding’. There exists a rich and differentiated tradition of the figure and the function of the “other” (Hegel, Feuerbach, Dilthey, Husserl, Buber, Mead, Mauss, Sartre, Levinas, Habermas, Honneth, Luhmann (double contingency), et al.). In his standard work “The other” (1965) Michael Theunissen exemplarily analyzed and reconstructed the primary features of this social-theoretical history of reflection.

Through the increasingly systematic consideration of the figure of the “third” a paradigm shift emerges in social theory, because only now do figurations of observation, mediation, arbitration, constellations of competition, rivalry, intrigue, coalition, delegation, substitution, representation and scapegoating become visible as other fundamental structures of the social. The third is not another other, not its repetition, but brings up socio-ontologically new figures and functions (as not a fourth and a fifth, etc.). A theoretical pool can be formed out of the synchronization of psychoanalytical theorems on oedipal triangulation, interactionist and phenomenological approaches, and systems theoretical theorems of observation. Relevant authors (Freud, Simmel, Sartre, Girard, Serres, Levinas, Berger / Luckmann, Luhmann, Coleman, et al) who worked on the leap from dyatic to tradic figurations have to be reviewed and interpreted with regards to the constitution of social order and identity, and the arguments for the incorporation of the third or the triad in social theory have to be systematized. The "generalized Third" and "triple contingency" constitute society. The figuration of the third proves to be the key for theories of action and structuration. The theoretical consequences of alterity and ‘tertiarity’ for questions of identity and the social have to be reconstructed regarding the emergence of law, media, politics, and market economy – spheres whose intrinsic logic becomes socio-ontologically accessible only through and by the figure of the third (judge, messenger, coalition, competition). In addition to the operation of ‘understanding’ (of the other), the position of the third also constitutes the socio-epistemological operation of ‘observation’ (of a reciprocity or interaction) as a characteristic method of social and cultural sciences.

Publications and Presentations

“Der Andere und der Dritte. Zur Sozialanthropologie im 20. Jahrhundert” (The Other and the Third. On Social Anthropology in the Twentieth Century).
Paper presented at the Frankreich-Zentrum der Universität Freiburg.
Colloquium “Historische Diskurse in der Anthropologie und Ethnologie”, February 13-14, 1998.

“Die Funktionen des Dritten bei der Konstitution von Ich und Anderem” (The Function of the Third in the Constitution of Ego and Other).
Paper presented at the Zweite Jahrestagung des SFB 541 Universität Freiburg i. Br., “Identität und Alterität in Theorie und Methode”, February 16, 1999.

“Figuren und Funktionen der Tertiarität. Zur Anthropologie der Medien” (Figures and Functions of Tertiarity. Anthropology of the Media).
Paper presented at “Massenmedien und Alterität”, Workshop SFB 541 Universität Freiburg i.Br., July 2, 1999.

“Der Andere und der Dritte. Zur Anthropologie der Medien” (The Other and the Third, Anthropology of the Media).
Paper presented at the Kommunikationswissenschaftliches Kolloquium Universität Essen, January18, 2000.

“Der Dritte. Zur Anthropologie der Intersubjektivität” (The Third. Anthropology of Intersubjectivity),
in: Wolfgang Eßbach (ed.), wir/ ihr/sie. Identität und Alterität in Theorie und Methode, Würzburg 2000,103-136.

“Figuren und Funktionen der Tertiarität. Zur Sozialtheorie der Medien” (Figures and Functions of Tertiarity. Social Theory of the Media),
in: Joachim Michael/ Markus Klaus Schäffauer (ed.), Massenmedien und Alterität, Frankfurt a. M. 2004, 78-86.

“Der Dritte". Plädoyer für eine Theorieinnovation in der Sozialtheorie” (‘The Third’. A Plea for an Innovation in Social Theory).
Joachim Fischer / Gesa Lindemann (Org.): Ad-Hoc-Group at the 32th Convention of the GSA, München 2004 (October 4-8, 2004).

“The Other and the Third. A Systematic Consideration oft an Innovation in Social Theory”.
Paper presented at Configurations of the Third 1800 to present. Third Agents and Missing Links of Modernity, International Conference at St. John's College, Cambridge/UK, August 29 - 31, 2005.

Der Dritte/Tertiarität. Zu einer Theorieinnovation in den Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften,
in: Soziale Ungleichheit, kulturelle Unterschiede. Verhandlungen des 32. Kongresses der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie in München. Teilbd. 1 u. 2, hg. v. Karl-Siegbert Rehberg, Frankfurt a.M. 2006, S. 3715-3735.

Der Dritte / Tertiarität. Zu einer Theorieinnovation in den Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften (The Other / Tertiarity. A Theoretical Innovation in Cultural and Social Sciences),
in: Hans-Peter Krüger / Gesa Lindemann (Hg.), Philosophische Anthropologie im 21. Jahrhundert, Berlin 2006, S. 146-163.

“Das Medium ist der Bote. Zur Soziologie der Massenmedien aus der Sicht einer Sozialtheorie des Dritten” (The Medium is the Messenger. A Sociology of Mass Media from the Perspective of the Social Theory of the Third),
in: Andreas Ziemann (ed.), Medien der Gesellschaft - Gesellschaft der Medien, Konstanz 2006, 21-42.

“Der Dritte. Zum Paradigmenwechsel in der Sozialtheorie (Doppelbesprechung v. Thomas Bedorf u. Dietmar Wetzel)” (The Third. A Paradigm Shift in Social Theory [Review of Thomas Bedorf and Dietmar Wetzel]),
in: Soziologische Revue, H. 4/2006, 435-441.

“Tertiarität. Die Sozialtheorie des ‘Dritten’ als Grundlegung der Kultur- und Sozialwissenschaften” (Teriarity. The Social Theory of the ‘Third’ as a Foundation of Cultural and Social Sciences),
in: Jürgen Raab / Michaela Pfadenhauer / Peter Stegmaier / Jochen Dreher / Bernt Schnettler (ed.), Phänomenologie und Soziologie. Theoretische Positionen, aktuelle Problemfelder und empirische Umsetzungen, Wiesbaden 2008, 121-130.

“Der Andere und der Dritte. Zur Grundlegung der Sozialtheorie (unveröffentl. Habilitationschrift 2009, 210)” (The Other and the Third. The Foundation of Social Theory, unpublished Habilitation).

“Der lachende Dritte. Schlüsselfigur der Soziologie Simmels” (The Laughing Third. A Key Figure in Simmel’s Sociology),
in: Eva Eßlinger (et al, ed.), Die Figur des Dritten. Ein kulturwissenschaftliches Paradigma, , Frankfurt a. M. 2010, 193-207.

Thomas Bedorf / Joachim Fischer / Gesa Lindemann (ed.), “Theorien des Dritten. Innovationen in der Soziologie und Sozialphilosophie” (Theories of the Third. Innovations in Sociology and Social Philosophy), München 2010.

Tertiarität / Der Dritte. Soziologie als Schlüsseldisziplin,
in: Thomas Bedorf / Joachim Fischer / Gesa Lindemann (Hg.), Theorien des Dritten. Innovationen in Soziologie und Sozialphilosophie, München 2010, S. 131-160.

Turn to the Third. A Systematic Consideration of an Innovation in Social Theory,
in: Bernhard Malkmus / Ian Cooper (Eds), Dialectic and Paradox: Configurations of the Third in Modernity, Oxford 2013, pp. 81-102.

Dritte oder Tertiarität in Liebesdyaden. Zur Sozialtheorie dreifacher Kontingenz,
in: Takemitsu Morikawa (Hg.): Die Welt der Liebe. Liebessemantiken zwischen Globalität und Lokalität, Bielefeld 2014, 59-76.

Die Triade. Gründungsszene der Simmelschen Soziologie,
in: Sina Farzin / Henning Laux (Hg.), Gründungsszenen soziologischer Theorie, Wiesbaden 2014, S. 55-66.

Das Verzeihen. Seine Sozialontologie im Lichte der Theorie "sozialer Akte" oder "Sprechakte",
in: Takemitsu Morikawa (Hg.): Verzeihen, Versöhnen, Vergessen. Soziologische Perspektiven, Bielefeld 2018, S. 43-56.

Der „neutrale Dritte“. Zum analytischen Potential einer Sozialtheorie der Tertiarität,
in: Dimbath, Oliver / Pfadenhauer, Michaela (Hg.): Gewissheit. Beiträge und Debatten zum 3. Sektionskongress der Wissenssoziologie, Weinheim/Basel 2021, S. 400-412.

Liebe: Die Präsenz der Dritten in Liebesdyaden. Zur Sozialtheorie dreifacher Kontingenz
In: Von Miniaturen zu Großstrukturen. Eine Mikrosoziologie sozialer Ordnung [Festschrift für Karl Lenz], hg. v. Anne Laure Garcia, Tino Schlinzig, Romy Simon, Weinheim 2021, S. 142-158.

Tertiarität. Studien zur Sozialontologie, Weilerswist 2022.

Joachim Fischer interview to: "Der Dritte. Zur Theorieinnovation in der Sozialontologie"