Colin B. Grant
Heriot-Watt University, School of Management and Languages, Edinburgh, Scotland (UK)




This paper uses an interdisciplinary perspective to consider the central concepts of the self, dialogue and meaning as complex constructions exposed to risk. Here, complexity is seen as a factor of the contingency (or risk) which is embedded in constructions which derive from cognitive-communicative action in an environment or context. Without recourse to realist epistemology or objectivist philosophy, the aim here is to examine the referentiality of the self and its relationship with cognitive autonomy (as distinct from social freedom). Such referentiality and autonomy are contingent in the sense that they can be seen as characteristics of cognitive uniqueness. This cognitive autonomy (self-reference) must also be located in an environment of other actors (allo-reference). Meaning - or a temporarily stabilized social semantic - is then 'constructed' by means of communications between cognitively autonomous actors in an environment known as society but without contact with an objective world. Such contingent communications cannot establish direct 'contact' with a putatively stable reality or horizon common to all, but operate by means of complex fictions which are temporarily constructed and require constant revalidation. The guiding question is: how does society reconcile stability with autonomy?