© J. Glenn Friesen
Herman Dooyeweerd: De Wijsbegeerte
The Dutch Academy of Sciences has made all three volumes of De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee available online (in Dutch). These three volumes can also be downloaded here in .pdf format from the website of The Association for Reformational Philosophy.
The text below is a provisional translation. Copyright is held by the Dooyeweerd Centre, Ancaster, Ontario, and publishing right is held by Mellen Press, Lewiston, New York. A definitive translation will be published in the series The Collected Works of Herman Dooyeweerd.
[WdW II, 491] Study Notes
The various levels of the apriori, which we have discovered in the structure of the human horizon of experience as the horizon of cosmic reality, do not lie arbitrarily next to each other. They are much rather placed into a perspectival coherence in accordance with the divine order of creation. They form in their mutual order and coherence the perspective in which we experience the cosmos.
All human experience, in the pre-theoretical as well as the theoretical attitude, is rooted in the structure of the transcendent unity of self-consciousness as it participates in the root of creation, which is directed either to God or fallen away. This religious horizon is the transcendent horizon of the selfhood and it encompasses the horizon of cosmic time in which we experience the indissoluble coherence of meaning and the modal refraction of the meaning of reality. By the continuity of the horizon of time, this temporal horizon encompasses and determines the modal horizon, both in its theoretical articulation as well as in its pre-theoretical veil ['oerdekking']. Finally, both the temporal horizon and the modal horizon encompass and determine the plastic horizon of the individuality structures of reality.
All temporal knowledge is therefore religiously founded (whether for good or for evil). And this temporal knowledge is restricted and relativized by the temporal dimensions of the horizon of experience and reality. It is therefore illusory to think that the structure of human knowledge stands alone or that the apparatus of human knowledge is self-sufficient. For the transcendent horizon of the selfhood, which radiates perspectivally through all human experience, does not rest in itself, but exists only in the creaturely mode of being of meaning, which in and of itself is nothing.
The religious meaning of the created cosmos binds true knowledge of the cosmos to true self-knowledge, and it binds true self-knowledge to true knowledge about God. This view is set out in an unsurpassable and concise way in Book I of Calvin’s Institutes. It is the only purely Biblical view, and the alpha and the omega of each truly Christian epistemology.
Theoretical truth, which is relativized and limited by the temporal horizon, is not self-sufficient. It is related to the absolute supratemporal Truth. By attempting to become self-sufficient it turns to a lie. Because there does not exist any self-sufficient partial truth.
We cannot truly know the cosmos outside of true knowledge about God.
But, like all human experience in this [earthly] dispensation, our knowledge about God, although directed to the absolute Truth, is restricted and relativized by (but not at all relativized to) our temporal cosmic existence
That is to say that in the human experience of those reborn in Christ, the religious fullness of meaning remains bound up with temporal reality. Therefore each spiritualistic view that wants to make self-knowledge and knowledge about God separate from the temporal, is in conflict with the divine order of creation. Such a spiritualistic view necessarily leads to an internally empty idealism or to a confused mysticism, in spite of its own will or intentions.
In the order of this life–that of the hereafter is hidden as to its positive character–all human experience remains bound to a perspectival horizon, in which the transcendent light of eternity must break through time. In this horizon we become aware of the transcendent fullness of meaning of this life only in the light of the Divine Revelation refracted through the prism of time.
If critical and positivistic epistemology were correct that our experience is limited to our cosmic functions, or rather to an abstractum from out of our temporal complex of cosmic functions, then we could not truly know God, nor our self, nor the cosmos. And this lack of true knowledge is what actually occurs in the state of fallenness, in which falsehood rules instead of truth. These lies are at the foundation of the whole epistemology of immanence philosophy, grounded as it is in the self-contradictory hypostasis of the theoretical meaning synthesis, and in a serious misunderstanding of the groundedness in meaning of all human experience.
In this cosmic self-consciousness, we know that temporal cosmic reality is related to the structure of the human selfhood qua talis [as such]. In its conformity to law, this structure is universally valid, and in its essence, it is a structure of religious community into which individuality is fitted [gevoegd].
Now that we have reached this point, many a reader who has with difficulty come this far to follow our argument, may perhaps turn away in annoyance. Must this epistemology end in a Christian sermon? But can you have any more confidence in the dogmatic statement with which the fallen epistemology begins–the declaration of the self-sufficiency of the human cognitive function in the domain of theoretical knowledge?
Our philosophy dares to accept the “stumbling block of the Cross of Christ” even as the cornerstone of its epistemology. And it thereby accepts also the cross of scandal, of misunderstanding and of dogmatic rejection.
In the knowledge concerning God from His revelation, is given the religious ‘principle’ in the fullest sense of that word–the foundation of all true knowledge. This is so even thought we can only prayerfully understand it in the limitation and the weakness of the flesh.
This revealed knowledge carries primarily a religious enstatic character. It does not primarily rest in a theoretical meaning-synthesis. Nor does our cosmic self-consciousness rest in a theoretical meaning-synthesis.
The knowledge concerning God, wherein religious self-knowledge lies enclosed, is thus primarily not obtained in a scientific or theological way. What in a rather inadequate way is termed ’theology’ is a theoretical knowledge, in a meaning synthesis of the logical function of thought and the temporal function of faith. Such theology is a knowledge that itself it totally dependent on the law-Idea from which the thinker begins.
True knowledge of God and of our self has its point of contact [raakt] in the horizon of human experience, and therefore also with the horizon of theoretical knowledge. It rests on a child-like trusting acceptance with our full personality, with the heart, of Divine Revelation both in an indivisible unity of it transcendent-religious sense as well as in its immanent-cosmic sense.
True self-knowledge means a turning of the personality, a making alive in the fullest sense of these words. It is a restoration of the horizon of our experience, which again allows reality to be understood perspectively in the light of truth. This is not with a mystical so-called supernatural cognitive ability, but in the horizon that God in His order of creation has set for human experience. This perspective had been darkened and distorted by sin, because it had been closed up to the light of Divine Revelation.
True self-knowledge opens one’s eye to the complete corruption of fallen man by the radical lie that has caused his spiritual death. True self-knowledge therefore leads to a complete surrender to Him, the New Root of the human race. The surrender is to Him who overcame death through his death on the cross, and in Whose human nature Our Father in Heaven has revealed the fullness of meaning of His Creation. And in His divine nature God has created all things through the Word of His power.
The primary lie that has darkened the human horizon of experience, is the rebellious thought that we can do without this knowledge of God and of ourselves in any area of knowledge, and that we ourselves can [autonomously] find truth.
The law-conforming structure of the human horizon of experience continued to be maintained following the fall into sin, but the rebellious selfhood can from out of itself no longer obtain insight into this structure. It supposes to be able to itself create a horizon of experience. It has misused its religious freedom and has given itself prisoner to the slavery of darkness.
For the law-conforming structure of human experience is according to its transcendent horizon a law of freedom which in its fullness of meaning determines all temporal dimensions of the horizon of experience.
When this fullness of human freedom became subjectively lost through the fall into sin, the human selfhood fell away into the temporal horizon and, insofar as it sought a fixed standpoint, sought to hypostatize the temporal horizon to a transcendent one that lacked the character of meaning.
Standing in the Truth, as the participation in the fullness of meaning of the cosmos in Christ, is the absolute condition for insight into the full horizon of our experience. That is to say, that we have once and for all broken with the illusion that we possess the norm of truth in our own fallen selfhood; we have come to the self-knowledge that outside the light of Divine Revelation, we stand in falsehood.
Whoever grasps the God’s Revelation with all of his heart stands in the Truth.
Standing in the Truth also makes insight in the human horizon of experience free from the prejudices of immanence philosophy; it also again makes possible the directing of theoretic knowledge to the Truth. This cuts off by its roots the overestimation of the meaning synthesis of scientific knowledge, which remains bound to the temporal horizon.
Knowledge about God, which in our selfhood transcends the horizon of time, remains nevertheless bound to our temporal function of faith, in accordance with the divine order of creation. As we have seen, faith is the leading boundary function in the whole unfolding process within the temporal coherence of meaning, and therefore also gives direction to logical thinking.
In the light of the Christian law-Idea, the nominalistic division between believing and thinking [faith and reason] is a patent impossibility and always testifies to a lack of critical self reflection in philosophic thought. In the light of the immanence standpoint it is understood as a hidden or openly confessed hypostasis of meaning-synthetic thought.
Naturally the faith function cannot take the place of theoretic thought, any more than any other non-logical function may do so.
Whoever supposes that a science that believes in Christ should mean the substitution of truths of faith for theoretical knowledge, the lowering of faith to the position of “Lückenbüszer” [stopgap] for science, is very seriously on the wrong track.
The modal meaning of the temporal faith function is different from the logical function of thinking. And therefore the faith function can “lead” scientific thought and still maintain sovereignty in its own sphere.
Revised Oct 13/08