© J. Glenn Friesen 2003-2013
Linked Glossary of
Aspects are refractions of meaning
Aspects are the modal dimension of the horizon of our temporal experience. Strauss and Clouser, who view aspects as “properties” of “things,” are mistaken. As noted below, Dooyeweerd specifically denies that aspects are properties. Dooyeweerd does not speak of aspects as properties of things. And Dooyeweerd is opposed to any philosophy that views aspects as the result of an "abstraction" of universals or properties. Although we can form general concepts, such general concepts are within a certain aspect (I, 43). Things are experienced in the dimension of individuality structures. This is a lower level of our experience, and our experience of these these individuality structures depends on the modal aspects.
Roy Clouser corresponded with Dooyeweerd
regarding his dissertation at the University of
Pennsylvania. A letter from Clouser to Dooyeweerd dated
June 21, 1972 shows that Dooyeweerd still had questions at
that time about Clouser's view of aspects as properties.
This was after Clouser had completed and defended his
thesis. And it was many months after Clouser's extensive
meetings with Dooyeweerd during the previous year with
respect to his dissertation (August and September, 1971).
As of June, 1972, Dooyeweerd still wanted to replace the
reference to 'property-kinds' with 'modes' of experience.
See my articles "A
Response to Roy Clouser's Aristotelian Interpretation of
Philosophia Reformata 75 (2010) 97-116 and "Reply
to Roy Clouser."
In his last article,
“De Kentheoretische Gegenstandsrelatie en de Logische
Subject-Objectrelatie,” Philosophia Reformata 40
(1975), 83-101, Dooyeweerd gives a sharp critique of the
thesis by D.F.M. Strauss, Begrip en Idee. He
says that Strauss’s rejection of the Gegenstand-relation
involves “real antinomies.” Strauss blurs the crucial
distinction between pre-theoretical and theoretical
experience, and negates the distinction between
theoretical and pre-theoretical intuition. Contrary to
Strauss’s assertions, we do not have implied knowledge of
aspects in pre-theoretical experience. Nor are aspects
deduced or abstracted from things. That is a “serious
misunderstanding.” Aspects are therefore not kinds of
properties, as is often asserted in reformational
philosophy. It is the other way around: the modal aspects
lie at the basis of individuality structures; things are
individuations of the empirical functions of the aspects.
Dooyeweerd says that Strauss’s rejection of the
Gegenstand-relation reflects the most common prejudices of
modern epistemology. And Dooyeweerd emphasizes that the
ideas of the irreducibility of the modal spheres and their
coherence are not to be separated from the transcendental
idea of their root-unity in the religious center of human
existence.See my article, "Did
Dooyeweerd Contradict himself? A Response to D.F.M.
It is interesting that in this 1975 article, Dooyeweerd distinguishes between aspects and functions. It is not the aspects that are individualized in individuality structures–otherwise they would cease to exist. It is the empirical functions of the aspects that are individualized. Elsewhere Dooyeweerd says that the individuality structures, which are individuated from the aspects, then function in those aspects.
Dooyeweerd also says this in “Van Peursen’s Critische Vragen bij “A New Critique of Theoretical Thought,” Philosophia Reformata 25 (1960, 97-150, at 137:
At p. 138, he says that it is not the modal aspects that are theoretical abstractions, but it is only their setting-apart that is an abstraction:
For a detailed examination of how aspects differ from the functions of individuality structures in those aspects, see my article “Individuality Structures and Enkapsis: Individuation from Totality in Dooyeweerd and German Idealism.”
Functions are therefore not derived from “things.” They relate to things in their inter-relatedness and not to individual things. The notion of functions is a view that we obtain in the special sciences. In veritable naive experience, things are not experienced as completely separate entities (NC III, 54).
Other reasons why the Strauss/Clouser view is a wrong interpretation of Dooyeweerd are set out below, as well as in the note regarding the meaning of abstraction.
It is also a mistake to view aspects as different phenomenological views or perspectives, where we view a reality that exists apart from us from different angles or perspectives. Dooyeweerd rejects any notion of a reality that exists apart from its relationship to us. we may have a wrong view of reality, but such a ‘view’ must not be confused with ‘aspects’ that are given in our experience.
Dooyeweerd's De Wisjbegeerte der Wetsidee does not use the word 'aspect.' Dooyeweerd speaks of “sides” of reality, or “meaning-sides.” In I, 67 he says he will from then on refer to meaning-sides' as “law-spheres,” but he is not consistent in that terminology even in the WdW (see I, 71). Dooyeweerd did not use the word 'aspect' until during World War II, when he wrote what was intended as Volume II of Reformation and Scholasticism. He there refers to “law-spheres, in which the aspects of temporal reality are enclosed” ["wetskringen, waarin de aspecten der tijdelijke werkelijkheid besloten zijn"]. Even in that quotation he makes a distinction between the law-spheres and the aspects enclosed in them.
I have frequently translated the various terms he uses as 'aspect' because that is the translation in the NC. The NC translates ‘zijden’ [sides] as ‘modal aspects,’ with the following footnote:
This footnote has had an unfortunate consequence in that it contrasts the “how" to a “what.” Although modalities are certainly “hows” of reality, this footnote should not be taken as saying that there is in fact a concrete “what” which is somehow independent of the aspects. Even in this footnote, there is a distinction between “modalities” and the “aspects.” The aspects are aspects of our theoretical view. Our theoretical view is “determined” by the modes.
Dooyeweerd says that Kant's critical epistemology, which attempted to examine “categories of knowledge,” is something that belongs to the analysis of the modal structures of the law-spheres. But
Notes on the history of the terms 'modality' and 'aspects'
Verburg gives a very useful history of Dooyeweerd's development of the Idea of aspects and law-spheres. Verburg says that initially Dooyeweerd used the word 'modality.' This changed to 'law-sphere,' and then he refers to'aspect' as in some sense a more limited explanation of a law-sphere, and finally, the term 'modal aspect' was used, translated in English as 'modal sphere.'
In an early unpublished article, Dooyeweerd distinguishes between natural and normative categories. See “Een kritisch-methodologische onderzoeking naar Kelsen's normative rechtsbeschouwing,” (1922-26, excerpts in Verburg 34). He says that the modality is the “ground category” or “area category”–“gebiedscategorie” to use Emil Lask's term. In pure logic, the ground-category is “validity.” In the other sciences, it depends on how logic is applied. For the natural sciences, the ground modality is “being” or “reality.” For the normative sciences it is “of being proper” [te zoo behooren]. Thus there are several fundamental ground-modalities: being, validity, and of "being proper" (Verburg 37). In addition, the pre-natural sciences (my term) have ground-modalities that are not being. For example, for geometry it is space, for arithmetic it is quantity (number)
Each of these ground modalities can be “specified” by taking on a higher level of “Gegenständlichkeit.” So in a study of motion, the ground-modality of space is specified by the modal category of movement. The idea of a Gegenstand is essential to distinguishing the aspects from each other. This is not a matter of logic: logic needs an area on which to work by using its categories of identity and difference.
The natural sciences specify the ground-modality of being. In physics, the ground-modality of being is specified the by the modal categories of motion, power and matter. In psychology the ground-modality of being is specified by the modal categories [logic] and quality. In biology the ground-modality of being is specified by the modal categories of quality and organicity.
In the normative sciences, the ground-modality of “being proper” is specified in ethics to the moral, in jurisprudence to the juridical, in aesthetics to the aesthetic.
Another very important early discussion of modalities is in his 1923 article “Roomsch-katholieke en Anti-revolutionaire Staatkunde,” February, 1923 (excerpts in Verburg 53). Modalities are described as modes of intuition [schouwingswijzen]. And Dooyeweerd specifically denies that modalities are qualities or properties of things. He says that the modality in which the concrete meaning is perceived is not the same as a quality [eigenschap] of this concrete meaning:
This long quotation is an express rejection of the view put forward later by Strauss/Clouser that aspects are concepts of general properties of things. This quotation is also of great interest in other respects. It refers to the modalities of “reality” and “matter.” Verburg suggests that these modalities have been later incorporated into the physical modality (Verburg, 54). In the WdW, Dooyeweerd still uses the “reality” modality in the sense of a “reality-function”:
The passage also distinguishes between the aspect's subjective nature as a form of intuition, and its objective nature as a domain category. Domain categories are later referred to as law-spheres. So the modalities are subjective giving of meaning–that is, the giving of meaning from within our supratemporal subjectivity. The law-spheres are within "objective" meaning reality.
For our subjective meaning to be true, it must correspond to the objective meaning. If it does not correspond, then our knowledge is in error. For example, he says that we may mistake a tree for a man. This is similar to the usual problem posed by Hindu advaitic thought, of mistaking a rope for a snake.
The subjective giving of meaning precedes all knowledge, and is dependent on our intuition [schouwen] of meaning. This intuition of meaning is bound to various conditions that make this intuition possible. These are the modalities, the forms of intuition that each have a definite meaning. The modality of the subjective giving of meaning is determined by the concrete primary-objective meaning that is being perceived:
We normally arbitrarily select a certain modality or field of view [gezichtsveld]. But logic, which is systematic thinking, focuses our attention on a certain gezichtsveld.
Dooyeweerd continues to explain modalities in his Inaugural Lecture of 1926 (excerpt in Verburg, 425). Dooyeweerd divides the law-spheres into existence and validity spheres [bestaans-en geldingssferen] Thus, the natural spheres were those of existence. That may explain why initially all “analogies” were only retrocipatory. The anticipations were not regarded as analogies, but as normative modalities. In later writings, Dooyeweerd continues to distinguish between natural and normative aspects.
Verburg says that it was not until the Second World War, in a manuscript for Vol. II of Reformatie en Scholastiek in de Wijsbegeerte that Dooyeweerd spoke of “law-spheres in which the aspects of temporal reality are enclosed.” (Verburg 201).
Verburg does not mention the word 'function,' which has also been used to refer to the aspects. Hendrik Hart, for example, speaks of the aspects of functions in relation to 'functors' (Understanding our World, p. 1, note 1). I believe that this tends to see aspects in terms of properties of things. It seems to derive from Vollenhoven's view of the aspects. Although Vollenhoven refers to the aspects, he does so in a way that is very different from Dooyeweerd. Vollenhoven rejects the Idea of the supratemporal self. He therefore cannot see the aspects as expressions of a supratemporal unity. He also disagrees with the idea that the order of the aspects is a temporal order of cosmic time. And in Vollenhoven's “Problemen rondom de tijd" he complains that the distinction between function and thing, between modality and realm has not been clear.
The enumeration of the aspects
Dooyeweerd enumerates fourteen aspects of our temporal experience: number, space, movement, organic life, feeling, logical analysis, historical development, language, social association, economic valuation, beautiful harmony, law, morality, faith (I, 5, 36). He later distinguished the physical and the kinematic aspects. But already in 1922, Dooyeweerd had distinguished between the modality of movement (studied in 'phoronomy') and the modal aspect of 'movement, force and matter' (studied in physics) See “Een kritisch-methodologoische onderzoeking naar Kelsen’s normatieve rechtsbeschouwing” (Verburg, 33). So it is not clear why this distinction was not made when he enumerated the aspects in the WdW.
These aspects are not distinguished in naive experience. The modal aspects of an individual thing are experienced only implicitly (NC III, 57). Theoretical thought gives an explicated or articulated knowledge of the aspects. But this is not to be regarded as a logical distinguishing. See abstraction.
The kernel meaning and its analogies
The internal modality of meaning is the kernel or nuclear moment of the aspect, surrounded by its analogical meaning-moments. These meaning-moments are either retrocipatory or anticipatory. We cannot define the kernel or each aspect because by this kernel an aspect maintains its individuality even against the logical aspect. (Dooyeweerd's “Introduction to a Transcendental Criticism of Philosophic Thought,”Evangelical Quarterly XIX (1) Jan 1947). Our inability to define the kernel is another reason that Strauss and Clouser are wrong in supposing that the aspects are properties that we can "abstract" from things.
We cannot form a concept of the kernel because the kernel is in the supratemporal. Dooyeweerd says that the 'actuality' spoken of by phenomenology is actually the kernel of each subject-function (I, 78; NC I, 101) Our acts occur in the supratemporal and are expressed in the temporal. The kernel of each subject-function is therefore in the supratemporal. as i understand it, these subject functions are the subjective giving of meaning through the modalities.
The kernel of each law-sphere cannot be reduced to any other law-sphere. This is what Dooyeweerd was to call the “sphere sovereignty” of each law-sphere. Each law-sphere thus has what Dooyeweerd called an absolute, qualitative boundary with respect to human reason. In his 1926 Inaugural address, Dooyeweerd says that only in "an intuitive seeing [schouwen]" can we become aware of the “qualities” of the law-spheres [their absolute boundary for human reason]:
What does this mean? The specific quality,or kernel meaning, of each aspect forms a field of view for our theoretical thought. I understand each "quality of law" to be a differentiation of the central law, which he here refers to as the law-Idea (There is a differentiation of both law-side and subject-side). This differentiation gives our supratemporal consciousness different temporal points of view. But our theoretical consciousness is restricted. It is wedged into the logical categories of identity and diversity. Instead of being a field of view, the logical aspect becomes a sphere of thought. Theory builds a system of relations that is determined by the modality. In this system, theory regards what is really a Gegenstand [that which is over-against the logical aspect] as an object.
In his 1926 Inaugural Address, Dooyeweerd links the sovereignty in each sphere to the law-Idea.
So not only is the kernel not capable of being understood logically. We cannot logically understand the coherence [samenhang] either.
The kernel of the aspect, the sovereignty in its own sphere, is related “vertically” to the sovereignty of God, and to us as the image of God who express the aspects. What in the totality of meaning has no meaning is the sovereignty in own sphere in the particularity of meaning (I, 71). The coherence of the aspects is maintained “horizontally” by cosmic time.
This idea of the kernel as expressing itself in the temporal analogies is also found in his article “Handelingen van de Vereeniging voor Wijsbegeerte des Rechts, XIX (1932) from Mensch en Maatschappij. He says that the kernel controls the analogical [retrocipatory] and anticipatory moments of meaning. The same point is made in his “De Theorie van de Bronnen van het Stellig Recht in het licht der Wetsidee.” He refers to the "architectonic structure" of the general Ground-meaning of each law-sphere. The retrocipatory and anticipatory moments of meaning are controlled by the nuclear meaning moment (“…de door deze zin-kern beheerschte analogische en anticiperende zin-momenten die vooruit-wijzen naar den zin van alle vroegere, resp. latere wetskringen”).
We can have only an an Idea of a modality. We understand the kernel in its analogies. It is the task of theoretical thought to deepen concepts to Ideas, and to unfold the meaning of the kernel of the aspect in its surrounding meaning analogical meaning moments. These meaning moments are either retrocipatory or anticipatory. (II, 420).
The unity of the laws is in God’s world plan which cannot be conceptually understood. Herman Dooyeweerd: “Leugen en Waarheid over het Calvinisme” [Lies and Truth about Calvinism], 6 Nederland en Oranje, (1925) 81-90, a. 87-88.
The refracted aspects are refractions of God's world plan:
Dooyeweerd's initial use of the term 'modality' may have been influenced by his reading of Frederik van Eeden. Van Eeden, influenced by Spinoza, refers to modes of being. He starts his list of modes with the mathematical, moves to time and movement to the physical and then the sensory. As this occurs, our experience of reality gets more concrete.
This is the same initial order of modalities used by Dooyeweerd (although Dooyeweerd at first did not separate the modes of movement and the physical. Dooyeweerd also emphasizes the concrete nature of our naive experience. Since Dooyeweerd says that naive concepts are limited to the sensory aspects, there is a lot of similarity with van Eeden's views. For Dooyeweerd, the aspects succeed each other in an order of cosmic time. It makes sense to interpret him as saying that it is only when the aspect of the psychical appears that we have a concrete naive experience.
Although Dooyeweerd appears to have been influenced by van Eeden in his idea of modes, I believe that Dooyeweerd added to this certain other ideas of Baader. Baader also speaks of modes of being, and of spheres that are sovereign. The use of both van Eeden and Baader is not inconsistent, since Baader was influenced by St. Martin, as he acknowledges in his Studies. And St. Martin was one of Baader's principal sources.
Baader says that the temporal is only a mode [Weise] of production of the Absolute; the temporal is a mode or quality of the inexistence of what has been ‘produced’ by the Absolute (Elementarbegriffe 540; Werke V, 81). He also refers to the mode (‘le modus, la manière’) of our existence (Fermenta V, 13).
Usually, Baader refers to different modes of production as ‘elements’ or ‘factors.’ For example, he refers to “elements and factors of perception." In their central inner sense, these elements are identical; in their outer sense–the temporal world–there is only a composition of elements which are put together [zusammengesetzt] into temporal beings (Werke IV, 100). Temporal beings are a result of the breaking up of the supratemporal unity–they are not an integral unity, but a non-unity [Nichteinheit]; temporal things are put together and subject to dissolution [zusammengesetzt und auflösbar]. (Elementarbegriffe 538, 538). Temporal things have individuality only in time; their temporal life must lead to Death. But Man was not destined to remain in the region of brokenness (Zeit p. 28 ft. 9).
Dooyeweerd also sometimes speaks of the aspects as factors. For example, in his Encyclopedia of Legal Science (1947), he says,
Dooyeweerd also speaks of the transcendent identity of the modal functions that is experienced in the religious root of our existence (NC II, 479). Dooyeweerd’s view of temporal beings is also similar to Baader’s view of things being put together [zusammengesetzt] in time. Neither Dooyeweerd nor Baader accept the idea of substance that is put together to make things. Structures of individuality are given by time and are wholly temporal. Temporal things are perishable; they do not have a supra-temporal selfhood; their thing-identity is only that of a temporal individual whole—a relative unity in a multiplicity of functions (NC III, 65). Temporal beings have an ‘individuality structure’ based on a temporal ordering of the modes, and this is what gives temporal things their duration in time (NC III, 79).
Sometimes Baader refers to these modes as different ‘spheres’ (Begründung 17 ft. 6). He says that if we make a division between belief and knowledge in our religion, it will also infiltrate into all the other ‘spheres of our knowledge, belief and action’ (Zeit 53). He refers to ‘particular modalities’ or ‘spheres’ of consciousness (Fermenta IV, 13). His clearest statement referring to spheres is:
Baader also refers to modalities as functions. Each member of the Organism is given its function (Philosophische Schriften I, 89). Our sensory functions are not the same as our thinking functions; nor are the senses the source and origin of our thinking. Both functions are part of a total process of living (Werke V, 53; cited by Sauer 31). Like Dooyeweerd, Baader says that our capacities and faculties in the temporal region are not to be regarded as separate beings (or ‘whats’) (Fermenta V, 23). Our feelings, imagination and concepts are functions and not substantial beings [‘als erstarrt gedacht’] (Werke II, 223; cited by Sauer 46). The “factors” must not be seen as hypostatized or mummified (Werke 2,223; Sauer 46). My sensory functions must not be abstracted from my own self (Werke XII, 104; Werke XI, 364; cited by Sauer 32).
Baader does not provide a list of all fifteen modes or aspects as distinguished by Dooyeweerd. But Baader refers to some of the modes. Number and language are abstracted analogically (Fermenta V, 11). He refers to thought, word and art (Fermenta I, 23). Dooyeweerd sometimes speaks of the logical aspect as the function of thought.
Dooyeweerd sees the special sciences as investigating different aspects. Baader refers to various different sciences [Wissenschaft]: mathematics, geometry, experimental (physics) and the study of religion [Religionswissenschaft] (Begründung 92, ft. 4). Baader also refers to the political, physical, ethical senses, and to the aesthetic (Weltalter 241, 396).
Baader also refers to different spheres of life that are congruent with each other but yet distinguished from each other:
For a history of the development of Dooyeweerd's thought, including his idea of the aspects, see my article "Two Ways of Reformational Philosophy: Early Writings of Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd."