© J. Glenn Friesen 2003-2006
Glossary of Terms
Dooyeweerd's philosophy relativizes the whole temporal world (I, vi). Dooyeweerd emphasizes how radical this is. Kant's philosophy only relativized the "natural" sides of reality. This idea of the relative is related to his view of reality as meaning (I, 62). Cosmic time relativizes the particular by the coherence of meaning ( I, 70). The temporal or “earthly” world restricts and relativizes our knowledge of God. In this temporal life, “the transcendent light of eternity must force its way through time.” (NC II, 561). From the temporal side, there is a restlessness of our ego that is transmitted to all temporal functions (I, 11).
There can be no partial truth. Truth is relativized by the absolute Truth (II, 492). Theoretical truth is limited and relativized by [but not to] the temporal horizon and is in every respect dependent on the full super-temporal truth II, 493).
We should not think that Dooyeweerd thereby limits us to the status of merely temporal beings. In this “earthly dispensation” we are restricted and relativized by (but not at all to) our temporal cosmic existence. If our experience were limited to our temporal functions of consciousness, it would be impossible to have true knowledge of God, of ourselves, or of the cosmos. We cannot truthfully know the cosmos outside of the true knowledge of God (NC II, 561).
This combination of being both within and outside of cosmic time is what Baader refers to as “versetzt” (displaced beings–again a play on the word for ‘law’, ‘Gesetz’).
But although our theoretical truth is relativized, that does not mean a historicistic relativism. Historicism sees the choice of position in the Archimedean point as itself relative, something that Dooyeweerd cannot accept. The relative is not to dominate truth, but to be tested by truth (I, 54).
Dooyeweerd cites Crusius (1715-1775) with approval (NC I, 339). As against Leibniz, there is an absolute truth. If nothing is absolute, then it is also contradictory to assume something which is relative. This was also Shankara’s criticism of Buddhism.
An early appreciation of the relativism of our thought is found in Dooyeweerd's student article 'De neo-mystiek en Fr. van Eeden' [Neo-mysticism and Frederik van Eeden], Nov 27, 1914. The second half of the article is devoted to van Eeden. Dooyeweerd is attracted to him because van Eeden did not have a negative attitude with respect to science. Unlike Bergson, van Eeden did not depreciate the value of science. Science also had value, as long as it did not pretend to be able to split apart (uiteen to kunnen doen vallen) the mysterious universe into numbers and mathematical formulas. He says van Eeden is both a thinker and a "ziener-dichter" [poet-seer] Science must have regard to these poet-seers, and come to the conclusion that these seers long ago concluded, that our categories bound to space are only relative. (p. 150).
Revised May 6/06