© J. Glenn Friesen 2003-2008
Glossary of Terms
Dooyeweerd says that his philosophical anthropology, the place of man in the cosmos, is really the basic theme [grondthema] of the Philosophy of the Law-Idea (WdW III, 627). He refers on that same page to man’s “supratemporal selfhood in the religious root of his existence.”) Man's selfhood is his supratemporal heart, and it is the supratemporal root of temporal creation. In Dooyeweerd's “32 Propositions on Anthropology,” (De leer van den mensch in de W.D.W., Corr. Bladen 5 (1942), he says,
Dooyeweerd had planned to devote a whole book to his philosophical anthropology (See NC III, 781). This was to be Volume III in the planned trilogy Reformation and Scholasticism. Volume III was never completed, although in his 1964 lecture, Dooyeweeerd said that he still planned to do so. Dooyeweerd did draft a lot of material that was intended for the book. That material has been thoroughly investigated by W.J. Ouweneel, who has incorporated many excerpts from it in his doctoral thesis, De Leer van de Mens (Amsterdam: Buijten & Schippheijn, 1986). An extract from this thesis was published in English in W. J. Ouweneel: “Supratemporality in the Transcendental Anthropology of Dooyeweerd, ” Philosophia Reformata 58 (1993) 210-220, where Ouweneel says (at p. 273),
As Ouweneel points out, Dooyeweerd’s whole transcendental critique depends on this Idea of the supratemporal heart. I agree with that, since the three transcendental Ideas of Dooyeweerd’s transcendental critique depend on distinguishing eternity, supratemporality and cosmic time. The question of the Origin refers to God’s eternity; the question of Totality refers to the supratemporal selfhood and religious root in the aevum or created eternity; the question of coherence relates to cosmic time. Those who deny the supratemporal selfhood, and who start from some other basis for Totality have fallen back into what Dooyeweerd calls “immanence philosophy.”
The selfhood stands under a law of religious concentration, which makes it restlessly search for its own Origin and that of the whole cosmos. “Het dilemma voor het christelijk wijsgeerig denken en het critisch karakter van de Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee,” Philosophia Reformata 1 (1936), 1-16, at 14.
Dooyeweerd emphasizes that our selfhood cannot be found within time:
The false idea of the ego then is an idolization of that which is temporal. I interpret this as meaning that we must go beyond this false idea of ego to our true selfhood, which is supratemporal.
Our supratemporal selfhood expresses itself as a temporal coherence:
The NC translates this as our 'ego' expressing itself as a totality. But that confuses the supratemporal and the temporal idolization. Our I-ness expresses itself in the coherence of its functions.
But our selfhood transcends this coherence of its functions:
Our selfhood is not this systasis (WdW II, 400; NC II, 467). The NC correctly says on p. 5:
Dooyeweerd says that Heidegger's views the selfhood with reference to its innermost original essence as time itself. For Kant, the transcendence of the selfhood then remains of a temporal character:
Heidegger eliminates the cosmic order of time and even merges the selfhood into time (NC II, 527). He gets into a contradiction of first calling the selfhood the origin of time and then identifying it with time (NC II, 531).
In contrast to such a temporalized view of the selfhood, Dooyeweerd emphasizes its supratemporal nature. Our selfhood is the religious center of our existence. Our selfhood expresses itself in all modal aspects of time, but it can never be exhausted by these (NC I, 58). Humans participate in all aspects, but their supratemporal center goes beyond all aspects (NC I, 51; NC III, 88). Our selfhood is a totality that transcends the mutual coherence of modal aspects of temporal reality, just as our selfhood transcends the coherence of its functions in these aspects (NC I, 4, ft. 1; I, 5; III, 71 ft 1).
If the selfhood is not seen as transcendent, then its radical unity disappears:
Our selfhood is not only the center of our own existence. It is the center of the existence of all of temporal reality. It is the root of temporal reality, and apart from it, temporal beings have no reality. See root. There is a "radical individual concentration of temporal reality in the human I-ness" (NC II, 417).
Others have said that Dooyeweerd's view of man as the supratemporal root is too "anthropocentric." Such an objection of "anthropocentrism" belies a temporalized view of our existence--a view that Dooyeweerd rejected. He says that our authentic or fundamental I-ness will ever recede from view as long as it is dispersed in time (NC I, 58 fn. 1). Of course if Dooyeweerd is wrong in his ideas of cosmic time, religious root and supratemporal selfhood, then his philosophy is anthropocentic. But if Dooyeweerd is correct, then any criticism of anthropcentrism fails to grasp the true nature of man's existence, and cannot see the central importance of man's participation in the redemption of the temporal world, which has its existence in the religious root.
It is true that man's appearance "in time" does not occur "until the whole foundation for the normative functions of temporal reality has been laid out." But this temporal priority of the rest of reality does not come until "after" our creation as the supratemporal religious root and creaturely fullness of meaning. He says,
In the fall, we fell away from our true self. (I, vi; II, 496). This is not translated in the NC. We discover our self to our self in the anastasis (standing again, resurrection) (I, 80). Such resurrection occurs even in this present life.
The rediscovery of our true selfhood is at the same time a rediscovery of the true God; this discovery is brought about by the working of God's Spirit. Dooyeweerd says,
But even our true selfhood has no existence in itself. It exists only as meaning; it is dependent on the Origin, and points towards it. Even our selfhood, which is supra-temporal, is nothing in itself (NC III, 6). The Christian conception of the human selfhood is that it is
Dooyeweerd does not even speak of our selfhood in terms of Being. He rejects the idea of an analogy of being; he says that it originated from Greek philosophy and was ruled by the form and matter motive (NC III 73) .Only God, the Origin, exists as Being. Everything else exists as meaning.
And our selfhood is supra-individual. Dooyeweerd cites Abraham Kuyper's view that individuals do not exist in themselves; there only exist membra corporis generis humani (NC III, 248, ft)
The Christian conception of the human selfhood is that it is "a spiritual centre, which is nothing in itself, but whose nature is a "stare extra se," a self-surrender to its true or its fancied Origin." (NC III, 6).
In De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer (Oct 20/31), Dooyeweerd says that cosmic individuality is
This supratemporal selfhood must be the presupposition of any truly Christian view of society:
In "De Zin der Geschiedenis in de 'Leiding Gods' in de Historische Ontwikkeling" (1932), Dooyeweerd said that the Christian religion has always taught that the supratemporal creaturely root of creation is not found in temporal reality nor in the temporal function of reason, but in the religious root of the human race. For out of the heart (which he says is the religious root of existence) are the issues of life. (Verburg 149)
In "De Theorie van de Bronnen van het Stellig Recht in het licht der Wetsidee," (1932), Dooyeweerd says that our selfhood, which is broken [gebroken] into temporal meaning functions, is found in our heart, the religious root of our existence, which individually participate in the religious root of the whole human race. (Verburg 156).
Dooyeweerd uses the terms ‘zelfheid’ [selfhood], ‘ikheid [I-ness], and ‘ik’ [I or ego]. Is there a difference in these terms? See my discussion in the Glossary entry for ego.
Criticism of Dooyeweerd's Idea of the Self
Initially, Dooyeweerd was criticized (by Hepp and others) because his Idea of the heart as our supratemporal selfhood did not agree with the traditional dualism between body and soul. Dooyeweerd does reject such a dualism, so this criticism was correct. Dooyeweerd is clear that the idea of the immortal soul is a Greek idea. The idea of a substantial soul is an hypostatization of the logical aspect of reality. Dooyeweerd does use the word 'soul,' but only in the sense of an integral selfhood that is supratemporal, and the basis of all our temporal aspects, including the logical.
Vollenhoven rejected rejected the idea of a supratemporal selfhood. This disturbed early critics like Hepp even more than Dooyeweerd's Idea of the heart, since in Vollenhoven's view, there was nothing that remained after death. Our entire existence was subject to death. The resurrection therefore had to be a re-creation. I am not aware of any discussion by Vollenhoven of such a re-creation.
Later criticism rejected the Idea of the supratemporal selfhood because they saw it as still too dualistic! They argued that the division between supratemporal and temporal was itself a dualism. I believe that these critics are wrong. Dooyeweerd is not dualistic, but rather nondual. Furthermore, if we reject the supratemporal selfhood, we end up with a temporalized view of the selfhood. But why should we deny that we have experience of the supratemporal? Dooyeweerd and Kuyper saw supratemporality as key to the immediate fellowship that we have with God. Those who temporalize the selfhood accept postmodernism's contention that all our knowledge is mediated through time. They say that any view of a supratemporal selfhood is a totalizing that must be rejected. What is interesting is that even Vollenhoven's Idea of a pre-functional but temporal unity is not immune from this kind of criticism. What we are left with is a de-centred and fragmentary selfhood.
For example, Jim Olthuis has argued against all centering metaphors like the prism or the selfhood:
He says that the self is like a convection pattern in air or water, a whirlwind (p. 41). He rejects Dooyeweerd's Idea of the body as merely “the free plastic instrument of the I-ness” (NC III, 88). He also rejects Dooyeweerd's Idea of the immediacy of our experience of the supratemporal self. He says,
Olthuis's idea that we are "web-like" reminds me of the Buddhist Idea of coherence, Indra's Net, and indeed of the Buddhist view of the self. It is also similar to what Panikkar expresses:
The "fortress" he speaks of is the assumption that each individual consciousness is a closed fortress. Olthuis's description of a person as a "knot" interwoven with the threads and textures of others may therefore still be too individualistic a conception of the world. Is not all the emphasis on the "other" a denial of the interpenetration of consciousness?
Furthermore, says Panikkar, how are we so certain that there is no overarching Being, "or that the idea of reality as a Mystical Body is simply a figure of speech?' [Or, in Dooyeweerd's terms, a supratemporal root?] Panikkar looks at this issue from the perspective of how we interpret the human consciousness of Christ. The relation between "I and "Thou" is not dualistic, like two substances. I and Thou are not two 'things.' But neither is it a monistic relationship. They are not identical. They are nondual.
Panikkar says that there remains a relation to the selfhood:
Building on what Panikkar says, my response to Olthuis is, yes, we are inter-related with others and with the world we live in. But this inter-relatedness must not be seen as a relatedness of individual and other, but rather as interpenetrating consciousness. The inter-relatedness is a temporal relatedness, or in Dooyeweerd's terminology, a temporal coherence. The temporal coherence is related to a supra-individual supratemporal selfhood that is the root of temporal creation.
Olthuis refers to Glas's view that centering metaphors can make us lose sight of Dooyeweerd’s “luminous emphasis that the self is nothing in itself, and only exists as relational.” But we must distinguish between temporal and supratemporal. Yes, the supratemporal self does not exist except in relation to God, its Origin. But temporal reality exists only in relation to the selfhood, its supratemporal root. These two levels of relations must not be confused. It is a valuable insight that our ego expresses itself as a coherence of temporal functions, and that it is often not even in coherence. But that insight must not be transferred over to say that the supratemporal selfhood is nothing but these temporal relations. The temporal relations are the expression of the central selfhood.
Olthuis says that centering metaphors have the danger of undervaluing human activities, and there is a temptation to view all community in sameness and uniformity (p. 36). I agree that there may be a temptation to do this. The temptation is that of monism. At its extreme, monism not only levels temporality to a sameness, it says that temporality is an illusion. But Dooyeweerd is not a monist. He is a nondualist. And his nondualism is founded in a Trinitarianism that values both unity and diversity. As Panikkar says,
In our present "earthly dispensation" (NC II, 560-61), where we exist as a supratemporal selfhood with a temporal mantle of functions [functiemantel], nondualism values both the supratemporal and temporal diversity. Even within the supratemporal there is a diversity, but Dooyeweerd refuses to speculate about what our supratemporal reality may be like. I like Baader's emphasis that it "will not be less" than our present reality.
The debate between Ideas of a temporalized selfhood and a supratemporal selfhood also occurred in eastern philosophic traditions. Hinduism maintained an Idea of a supratemporal selfhood (atman). Buddhism reacted against this Idea of the self, and said that there was no-self (anatman); there is only the world of dharmas or particulars. The Buddhists said that everything, including our selfhood, was relative. They spoke in terms of dependent origination. The Hindu response was that it does not make sense to speak of anything as relative except in relation to an absolute. Temporal reality may be relative, but it is so only in relation to the supratemporal self. Furthermore, how could Buddhism still maintain the doctrine of karma and reincarnation when there is no Self to migrate across time? How can we deny the reality of the empirical world without the acceptance of another reality? For the Vedantin, the lack of any substance anywhere seems nihilistic.
David Loy says that Vedanta prefers to speak of "the One" and Buddhism prefers to speak of "emptiness." But this is because Shankara was trying to describe reality from outside. The Buddha says that we cannot get outside of this phenomenal reality. Similarly, the Zen Buddhist Masao Abe says that monistic oneness is an attempt to conceive and objectify reality from outside:
Loy acknowledges that the Buddhist idea of emptiness is “unattractive in comparison with an eternal immutable, all-encompassing Absolute.” (Nonduality, 215). Loy’s answer to the charge of nihilism is that although there must be something, there need not be some thing. In other words, there need not be anything that can be experienced as object.
Some Buddhists like D.T. Suzuki and Thich Nhat Hahn have said that the Buddhist doctrine of no-self means only that we are to overcome the temporal ego, and that we cannot form a concept of our true selfhood. That is more in line with Dooyeweerd's thought.
Hisakazu Inagaki has made an interesting comparison between Kuyper and certain currents of Japanese thought. See his article "Comparative Study of Kuyperian Palingenesis: The Transcendent and Human Ego in Japanese Thought," in Kuyper Reconsidered. Inagaki, in a dialogue with Nishida's Buddhist philosophy (Kyoto school), discusses "the self in contact with the religious root." He discusses this in relation to Nishida's 1932 article "I and thou." He quotes Nishida:
Inagaki says that Nishida has changed the usual Buddhist emphasis on the self as nothingness to the 'absolute other.' Inagaki comments: "This is a scheme of human self-understanding in contact with the religious root." He sees it as an improvement over the normal Buddhist emphasis on nothingness, which he says "impedes the establishment of the self of Japanese people in the true sense." Inagaki says that for the Christian, this 'absolute other' should be regarded as absolute being:
Inagaki thus relates "absolute being" to Kuyper's views. In his emphasis on being and fulfillment, and of the 'absolute other' over nothingness, Inagaki's views of the selfhood are contrasted to Buddhist thought. Although he does not say so, these views are more similar to Hindu thought, which tends to emphasize being (although not in a Western static sense).
What is interesting is that Inagaki also relates 'absolute being' to Jesus Christ, in whom we see our true selfhood, and as Dooyeweerd says, the New Root in which all temporal meaning is fulfilled. However, Inagaki rejects any idea of being 'united with Christ' as a mystical experience. It seems to me that Dooyeweerd's vision goes further than Inagaki's, in that Dooyeweerd speaks of our participation in the New Root. It is not just that we are to become 'like' Jesus.
It is possible that Inagaki has misunderstood Nishida's emphasis on 'absolute other.' According to James Heisig, Nishida rejected Aristotelian logic, according to which something in “the subject that cannot become a predicate.”
Heisig cites Nishida's I and You.
Thus, the encounter with the other is within the dialogue of "I and I." It seems to me that Inagaki's view of the 'other' assumes an individualism that is not in Nishida (nor in Dooyeweerd). For Nishida, the other is seen in our own inwardness"
In this quotation, Nishida speaks of the 'absolute other' as "the self-awareness of absolute nothingness." Thus, the contrast that Inagaki sets up does not seem to be there. Furthermore, Inagaki does not critically examine to what extent Nishida's ideas are derived from Western thought. It is true that Inagaki acknowledges Western influences in Nishida:
But according to Heisig, Nishida and the Kyoto school of philosophy are more Western than has been admitted. Heisig says (p.25) that the Kyoto school is more within the framework of Western philosophy than of Buddhist thought.
Heisig says that Nishida got the term and idea of a conscious state of undifferentiated unity from William James. But whether Nishida's philosophy is Buddhist or Western, his philosophy does seem to have some important parallels to Dooyeweerd. Heisig says,
We see here similarities to Dooyeweerd's ideas of unity and totality as dynamic, as unfolding in time, and as refracted [the prism] in a plurality of interrelated temporal "items" [aspects]. And Nishida's emphasis on consciousness as true selfhood, as a mirror of the ultimate principle of reality, can be compared to Dooyeweerd's understanding of man's creation in the image of God. And I believe that Nishida's emphasis on love in the sense of a descent [or kenosis] is also a key idea in Dooyeweerd, although he did not develop it as fully as did Baader. And Nishida's idea of the true self is similar to Dooyeweerd's emphasis on the supratemporal self that gives us a new standpoint for knowing [Archimedean point]:
See my thesis on Abhishiktananda (Henri Le Saux) for more discussion regarding Hindu, Buddhist and Christian Ideas of the selfhood.
Dooyeweerd rejected the Hindu Idea of atman because he regarded it as dualistic. See his comparison to atman. But he was interpreting atman in Western terms, and the Hindu Idea of atman is much closer to his view of selfhood than he acknowledged.
Baader also says that Being is not a term that can be applied univocally to God and to creatures. Being is a temporal term. He does say that that there is a supratemporal body or ‘nature,’ even in God.
Our self is not to be identified with any either thinking or feeling:
Baader refers here to spirit [Geist]; he must mean our spiritual functions in the sense of those that are normative. For Baader, although our supratemporal reality is not any of our temporal functions, it is not nothing. And it is "not less" than our temporal existence:
Elsewhere Baader speaks in terms of a fulfilled individuality. He says that the completely fulfilled individuality or personality is even what the divine in God consists of (Philosophische Schriften II, 22).
van Eeden's Idea of Selfhood
In his student article on van Eeden, "Neo-Mysticism and Frederik van Eeden," Dooyeweerd refers to "the intuitive dream-life of our second 'I' " (p. 135).
Van Eeden obtained his idea of the Selfhood from at least two sources: (1) the Hindu Upanishads (as did C.G. Jung more than twenty years later) and (2) his reading of Boehme. In later life, van Eeden became a Catholic, so he may have moved away from some of his more monistic conceptions of the selfhood. In my notes on van Eeden, I have indicated some similarities with Dooyeweerd. the similarities are not surprising, in view of the fact that Baader was the one who re-introduced Boehme to western philosophy through Schelling.
According to van Eeden, our selfhood is supratemporal and supra-individual. It is the source of existence for the temporal world. It cannot be expressed in concepts, since it lies at the source of our concepts. See the notes on van Eeden for a more extensive discussion.
Notes revised Jan 29/08