Dr. J. Glenn Friesen

Herman Dooyeweerd:
De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee (1935-36)
Introduction: The Necessary Presuppositions of Philosophic Thought

Linked Glossary
List of Notes

De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee Volume I
Prism of Cosmic Time
Law and Subject

De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee Volume II
The Gegenstand
Dis-stasis/ Synthesis
Intuition and Time
Conceptual Limits
Horizon and Levels
God, Self and Cosmos

De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee Volume III
Foreword to Vol III

Other articles by Dooyeweerd
32 Propositions on Anthropology

Responses to the Curators (1937-38)

Dooyeweerd's 1964 Lecture, and Discussion

Dooyeweerd's last article (1975)

1974 Interview of Dooyeweerd, with mp3 audio files.

The last interview of Dooyeweerd (1975)

“The Problem of Time in the Philosophy of the Law-Idea” (1940)

The Idea of the Individuality Structure and the Thomistic Concept of Substance

Encyclopedia of Legal Science (1946)

The Romantic Poetry of Herman Dooyeweerd 1912-13

Dooyeweerd's student article: “Neo-Mysticism and Frederik van Eeden”(1914)

Other articles about Dooyeweerd

Dooyeweerd's Encyclopedia of the Science of Law: Problems with the Present Translation

Dooyeweerd versus Vollenhoven: The religious dialectic within reformational philosophy.

J.H. Gunning, Christian Theosophy and Reformational Philosophy

Dooyeweerd's Philosophy of Aesthetics: A Response to Zuidervaart's Critique

The Religous Dialectic Revisited

Why did Dooyeweerd want to tear out his hair?

Kuyper, Dooyeweerd and the Quest for an Ecumenical Orthodoxy

Imagination, Image of God and Wisdom of God: Theosophical Themes in Dooyeweerd's Philosophy

Dooyeweerd versus Strauss: Objections to immanence philosophy within reformational thought.

Dooyeweerd and Baader: A Response to D.F.M. Strauss

Dooyeweerd, Spann and The Philosophy of Totality

Revised notes regarding aevum

Individuality Structures and Enkapsis: Individuation from Totality in Dooyeweerd and German Idealism

Monism, Dualism, Nondualism: A Problem with Vollenhoven’s Problem-Historical Method

Vollenhoven's disagreements with Dooyeweerd; translations of three of Vollenhoven's articles.

Johann Stellingwerff: History of Reformational Philosophy (review)


© J. Glenn Friesen


Herman Dooyeweerd: De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee
The Philosophy of the Law-Idea

(Amsterdam: H.J. Paris, 1935-36)
Translation [Excerpts] and Meditational Study Guide
by Dr. J. Glenn Friesen
Notes on this Translation

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.

Part I: Prolegomena
The Necessary Presuppositions of Philosophic Thought
The Religious Apriori and
the Archimedean Point of Philosophy

[WdW p. 5. Study Notes]

Whenever I give an account of reality, the first thing that I notice is that in my naïve, pre-theoretical attitude [of en-stasis], reality is originally given to me in an indissoluble interrelation [systasis] of all of its various sides. Whenever I confront this naïve experience with my theoretical or scientific attitude [of dis-stasis], reality appears to split up into various sides. These sides or aspects of reality are first articulately distinguished from each other by the theoretical attitude. But although I can distinguish the aspects, they continue to be inter-related. A continuing mutual dependence binds the numerical aspect to the spatial aspect, the spatial aspect with the kinetic aspect, the kinetic aspect with the aspect of organic life, organic life to the aspect of psychical feeling. Psychical feeling is connected with the analytical-logical aspect, which is connected with the historical aspect, the linguistic aspect, the social aspect, the economic aspect, the aesthetic aspect, the juridical aspect, the ethical aspect and the aspect of faith. Nothing exists in and of itself in the temporal coherence of the world; everything points within and beyond itself to all the others in their mutual coherence.

The coherence of all sides of the cosmos also expresses itself within each aspect of our cosmos. And this coherence points beyond itself to a deeper totality which has expressed itself in this coherence.[1]

Our selfhood, our "I-ness” expresses itself as a totality in the coherence of all its functions in all aspects of cosmic reality. And man, whose I-ness is expressed in the coherence of all his cosmic functions, was himself created by God as the expression of His image. [2]

[WdW I, 6] Study Notes
Meaning as the mode of being of all creaturely being

This universal referring [heen-wijzende] and expressing [uitdrukkende] character of all our created cosmos, stamps created reality as meaning, in accordance with its dependent, non-self-sufficient way of being. Meaning is the being of all creaturely being. It is also the mode of being of our selfhood. It has a religious root and is of divine origin.

Now philosophy requires us to obtain a theoretical insight into the coherence of the [temporal] world. This temporal coherence in turn points towards a meaning-coherence that is a totality. We are fitted into this coherence of meaning with all our functions–what are called the natural functions as well as what are called the spiritual functions. Philosophy must direct the theoretical view of totality to our cosmos and within the boundaries of its possibilities it must answer the question, “Wie alles sich zum Ganzen webt.” [How everything moves towards totality].

The actual character of philosophic thought can never be misunderstood with impunity. Philosophic thought is theoretical thought directed to the meaning-totality of our cosmos.

These few introductory propositions already contain in themselves the whole problematics of the possibility of a truly philosophical thought!

Philosophic thought is an actual activity. In a philosophic concept, we abstract from the selfhood, the I-ness that is actually at work in this thinking. Such a reduced [afgetrokken] concept is therefore made at the expense of the actuality of the activity of philosophy.

Such an abstraction from the actual, complete I that thinks, may be necessary for a conceptual delimitation of philosophic thought. But even in this conceptual delimitation, the I-ness itself is actually doing the work. That I is not only actually at work in its thinking, but in all the functions in which it expresses itself within our temporal coherence. And there is no single meaning-side of our cosmos wherein I do not actually function. I have an actual function in the meaning of number expressed as unity, in space, in movement, in organic life, in psychical feeling, in logical thought, in historic development, in language, in association with my fellow man, in economic valuation, in aesthetic consideration or activity, in juridical life, in morality, in faith. In this whole composition [samenstel] of cosmic meaning-functions I am actually at work, in connection with other I’s.

[WdW I, 7] Study Notes
The direction of philosophic thought towards
meaning-totality implies critical self-reflection

Can philosophy, which in its theoretical actuality should be directed by the Idea of meaning-totality, ever be possible without philosophic reflection on the self-hood? Evidently not. A philosophy that in its philosophic thought does not arrive at philosophic reflection on the selfhood must necessarily miss its direction towards the meaning-totality of our cosmos. The Gnothi seauton, the “know thyself” must indeed be written above the entranceway of philosophy.

But a great problem is hidden in just this philosophic demand for self-knowledge.

The I-ness that thinks philosophically, is certainly actually at work in this thought, but the I-ness necessarily transcends the philosophical concept. But, as shall be seen, the selfhood is the concentration point of all my cosmic functions. It is a subjective totality that can not be comprehended in philosophic thought nor in any other function, nor in the coherence of these functions. Rather it lies as the foundation of all of my functions as their presupposition [voor-onderstelde]. But without conceptual delimitation we cannot think at all; thus we cannot think in a philosophic way without conceptual delimitation.

How then is philosophic self-knowledge possible, unless this self-knowledge transcends the concept? [In for example Husserl’s phenomenology] there seems [at first sight] to be a way out of this difficulty. [Husserl says that] one cannot meaningfully ask philosophic thought to exceed its immanent boundaries in order to reach self-knowledge. Then, if it is admitted that I am actually at work in philosophic thinking, then philosophic thought must from the beginning concentrate on this I-ness, but only insofar as it reveals itself in thought itself as a subjectivity that cannot be eliminated. This I-ness is then the residue of a methodical elimination of all those moments in the concrete, temporally functioning “individual self,” which I cannot make into a “Gegenstand” of my thought.

[WdW I, 8] Study Notes
The supposed reduction of the I-ness to
an immanent subjective pole of thought

[According to this rejected viewpoint] what then remains as subject is the so-called “transcendental logical subject of thought,” that has nothing individual in itself anymore and that is also not transcendent to thought, but rather an immanent subjective pole of thought. The counter-pole to this pole of thought is then the whole of experienceable reality.

The I-ness, which should arrive in philosophic self-reflection at a subjective turning inwards, is [in this rejected viewpoint] dissolved into an immanent “pure” actuality of thought [denk-actualiteit], which is then regarded as the necessary pre-requisite of all theoretic thought. Philosophic self-reflection [on this rejected view] then consists of nothing else than a reflexiveness of philosophical thought on its own actuality.

But in this experiment of thought [of Husserl’s], the ghost of the “blessed Münchhausen” again appears. For what is called the 'transcendental logical subject of thought,' in which the ego is actually active, is here again truly abstracted (while still theoretically thinking) from our I-ness. In fact it is abstracted to the highest conceivable level of abstraction, since it is the product of a methodical process of elimination, in which the thinker supposes he is able to finally direct the thought-function entirely upon itself.

[WdW I, 9] Study Notes
The transcendence of our selfhood above theoretical
thought. The so-called transcendental subject of thought is
as a theoretical abstraction and cannot be self-sufficient .

But this whole reduction of the thinking selfhood to a supposed “transcendental logical subject” can only be carried out by the thinking of our I-ness. And this theoretical thinking I-ness cannot itself be a product of abstractive thought. The “transcendental logical subject” in the supposed sense of a supra-individual subjective pole of thought, is finally nothing other than the bare concept of the subjective thinking subject that presupposes the thinking I-ness.

Philosophic thought can really not isolate itself in its subjective actuality. For as mere thought, as the so-called “reines Denken” [“pure thought”] it has no selfhood. All actuality in the act of thinking comes from the I-ness that transcends thinking. The “transcendental logical subject” remains an abstraction of the thinking I-ness. It is therefore a meaning-less, internally contradictory abstraction, because the actual thought-function can never be “an sich,” in itself. This is because without the transcending I-ness, this thinking function is just not actual, or rather it has no determined existence [aanzijn] at all.

Philosophic self-knowledge thus always supposes that our selfhood, which in its actual activity of thinking transcends the boundaries of thinking, directs its temporal activity of thinking to itself. It is not that philosophic thought reflexively turns inwards towards thought itself, but rather that I am required, in the process of philosophic thought, to turn inwards to my self. And this actual turning inwards in the act of thinking necessarily transcends the boundaries of philosophic thought if it is really to arrive at the desired self-knowledge. We may reach this same conclusion by another train of thought, which derives from the idea that philosophic thought is thinking about a totality.

[WdW I, 10] Study Notes
How does philosophic thought arrive
at the Idea of the totality of meaning?

As we have said, philosophic thought has the character of being directed to the totality of meaning. This cannot be disregarded with impunity. It is cosmological thought.

To therefore even make a beginning in philosophic thought, I already need the Idea of the totality of meaning in order to give my thought a fixed direction. If this Idea is not to remain completely without content, if it is to really give my philosophic thought a direction, then it must be possible for me, who wants to practice philosophy, to choose a standpoint for myself in the totality of meaning of our cosmos so that it does not remain foreign to me. My self-hood [I-ness] must participate in the totality of meaning if I can have an Idea of it in my philosophic thought.

To use an image: In order for my philosophic thought to be directed in this Idea to the totality of meaning, I must myself be able to climb a lookout tower above all particularized meaning that functions within the temporal world-coherence. From that standpoint I can then look out over the world-coherence with all the diversity of meaning enclosed within it. In other words, I must be able to occupy a standpoint that transcends all particular functions within which I am actually at work in the world coherence. If I can not occupy such a standpoint I would in the process of philosophic thought, lose myself within such particularized meaning. Only in transcending particularized meaning can I obtain an actual view of the totality of meaning that transcends such particularized meaning.

[WdW I, 10b] Study Notes
The Archimedean point of philosophy and the tendency
towards the Origin in philosophic thought

We call this fixed point, from out of which alone in the course of philosophic thought we can form the Idea of totality of meaning, the Archimedean point of philosophy. But standing in this Archimedean point, our selfhood discovers that the view of the totality of meaning is itself not possible without the view of the Origin, the Arché of both the totality of meaning and particularized meaning.

The totality of meaning of our cosmos, in which our selfhood is understood to participate, must, as the actual fullness of meaning, transcend all particularized meaning in the coherence of its diversity. But this in turn still remains meaning that cannot exist in itself, but which supposes an Arché, an Origin that gives meaning.

All meaning is from, through and to an Origin, which itself cannot be meaning.

The genetic relativity, the non-self-sufficiency of meaning lies in its essential character, and since philosophic thought cannot be other than thought that is directed to the totality of meaning of our cosmos, then a direction to the Arché is also necessarily included in this tendency to totality.

All truly philosophic thought is therefore begun as thought that is directed to the Origin of our cosmos. Non-Christian philosophy seeks this Origin within temporal meaning, even if it gives such a starting point an elevated name. This is a point that I will temporarily let rest. I now only want to place in the forefront the genetic ground-tendency [grondtendenz] of philosophic thought, as thought that is from and towards the Origin.

A premature appeal to the critical motive [motief] of the limits of our knowledge might appear to banish this entire genetic ground tendency of philosophy thought as directed to a transcendent Origin; but such a verdict cannot be peremptory. It would be premature as long as it is not seen that the philosophical question: "What are the limits to our knowledge?" presupposes insight into the meaning of knowledge, in its necessary relationship to our I-ness.

[WdW I, 11] Study Notes
The opposition between the so-called critical and genetic
methods is terminologically confusing, since their sense
is not clearly defined

For the ground-tendency mentioned above is so essential to philosophy that it is itself revealed in the heart of all epistemological questions. The critical question: How is universal knowledge of our cosmos possible? may in its emphasis on the apriori conditions of all human knowledge be sharply distinguished from all questions regarding the non-apriori moments of our knowledge. Nevertheless it is highly confusing to speak of a critical manner of thinking in opposition to a genetic manner, as is common in certain currents of Kantian philosophy.

After certain reflection, the critical question necessarily leads to the genetic: What is the origin of our knowledge and the knowable reality? [3] Everything depends on the meaning of the genetic question, and one need only ask this question of meaning in order to see that therein the possibility of epistemology itself is made into a problem.

As we have said, meaning always refers outside and above itself to an origin, which no longer is meaning. Meaning remains in the relative. In contrast, the true Origin is absolute, self-sufficient!

If from the outset we theoretically regard one or more of our cognitive functions in their apriori structure as being in themselves, that is regarded apart from all further possible determinedness (as is done in certain idealistic attitudes of philosophic thought, improperly referred to as ‘critical’ thought), then they will necessarily be elevated to the apriori origin of our knowable cosmos.

If philosophic thought stops with this supposed Arché, then we have precluded the question of the meaning of our knowledge itself. Because the Arché is always transcendent to all meaning. But in this case where there is a supposed origin, the knowable cosmos rather derives all its meaning from the self-sufficient apriori structure of the cognitive functions. At this stage of the preliminary fundamental questions relating to the foundation [grondlegging] of philosophy, philosophic thought has thus come to rest in its pretended origin of all knowable meaning.

So for example, from the neo-Kantian standpoint of the so-called Marburg school, it has no more meaning to ask as to the origin of the transcendental-logical meaning, in which they believe to be able to understand the entire cosmic reality. According to them, the origin or our knowable world is always of a transcendental-logical nature. From this standpoint, the cosmos obtains all its possible meaning from transcendental-logical thought!

But if the thinker finds no rest in logical meaning, then he is necessarily driven further into preliminary philosophical questions. The pretended Arché then appears not to be the true origin, but itself to exist only as meaning, which points towards its true origin.

Thinking does not come to rest in these preliminary philosophical questions, at least as long as the Arché is not discovered, which first gives meaning to philosophic thinking itself, and first gives creaturely determined being [aanzijn].

Philosophic thought cannot withdraw itself from this tendency towards the origin.

It is its immanent conformity to law for philosophic thought, to find no rest in meaning, but rather for it to think from and to the origin, in which meaning finds its ground and determined being [aanzijn]. Only where the meaning of questions ceases does philosophic thought come to its origin and is it set at rest.

[WdW I, 13] Study Notes
The restlessness of meaning in the tendency
towards the origin of philosophic thought

This restlessness, which reveals itself in the tendency towards the origin of philosophic thought, is essentially the unrest of our selfhood, which is actually at work in our philosophic thought. This restlessness comes from out of our own I-ness, out of the root of our existence, and it is transmitted in all the temporal functions in which this I-ness is actually at work:

Inquietum est cor nostrum et mundus in corde nostro!
[Our heart is restless and the world is restless in our heart!]

Our selfhood is actually at work in our philosophic thinking. And just as it is certain that philosophic thought in philosophical self-reflection does not exist without the direction to the selfhood, so it is also certain that it requires a direction to the Arché of our selfhood and to the totality of meaning. Our I-ness must participate in this totality of meaning if a genuine thinking of totality is to be possible.

Philosophic thought as such acquires the actuality of its meaning from the selfhood, which restlessly seeks its origin in order to understand its own meaning and in its own meaning to understand the meaning of our whole cosmos!

And it is just in this tendency towards the origin that our selfhood reveals its subjective subjected-ness [onderworpenheid] to a law. This law obtains the meaning-fullness of its validity from out of the Origin of all things, and it limits and determines our selfhood.

With this we have already discovered at the outset the twofold presupposition of philosophic thought: 1. an Archimedean point for the thinker, from out of which our selfhood can direct a view of totality over our cosmos and 2. a choice of position in the Archimedean point over against the Arché, which transcends all meaning and in which our selfhood comes to rest in its philosophic thought. If it tries to go beyond this Arché, there is no meaning in the asking of any further questions.

[WdW I, 14] Study Notes
The three requirements that must be
satisfied by the Archimedean point

And the Archimedean point must satisfy these three conditions:

1. It may not be separate from our own subjective selfhood, for it is this selfhood that is actually at work in philosophic thought and in which alone we can transcend the diversity of meaning.

2. It may not be separate from the law, for without the law the subject sinks into chaos, or rather into nothingness, because it is only limited and determined through the law.

3. It must transcend all diversity of meaning and be located in the totality of meaning of the cosmos, in which our selfhood must participate if it can have an Idea of totality in its philosophic thought.

[WdW I, 15] Study Notes
The immanence standpoint in philosophy

The prevailing philosophy views the self-sufficiency of philosophic thought as the alpha and omega of philosophic insight for accomplishing its task, as opposed to accepting any divine revelation. It will certainly admit the necessity of an Archimedean point. Since Descartes in his “cogito ergo sum” believed he had discovered the one fixed point as against the universal methodical skepticism with respect to all reality that offers itself to experience, the necessity of an Archimedean point has been generally acknowledged, at least insofar as philosophy sees the necessity of a critical self-reflection. But it will have to rise with all its might against the position defended here, that this Archimedean point cannot be found in philosophic thinking itself (whether or not in its coherence with other functions of consciousness). It must with respect to the Archimedean point of philosophy hold fast to the immanence standpoint, which rejects any support of thought in that which transcends the immanent boundaries of the functions as such of consciousness. [4]

Every attack on this immanence standpoint will mean for immanence philosophy an attack upon the scientific character of philosophy itself.

[WdW I, 16] Study Notes
The immanence standpoint does not itself exclude
the so-called metaphysical way to what transcends
human thinking

If the immanence standpoint is accepted, this certainly does not thereby exclude the so-called metaphysical way to what transcends human thinking. Classical immanence philosophy was itself founded wholly in a metaphysical prima philosophia [first philosophy].

This metaphysical way to totality of meaning and the Arché, at least in the rationalistic currents of thought, necessarily involves the attempt to exceed the creaturely boundaries of philosophic thinking in the Idea of an absolute deified thought which comprises in itself the fullness of being. It is the noesis noeseos, the “intellectus archetypus” [archetypal intellect].

The rationalistic-metaphysical way from out of the immanence standpoint to an Arché transcending human thought is in other words the way of absolutization of the [logical] function of thought.

Deified thought, the noesis noeseos, becomes the Arché; human thought, in its supposed participation in divine reason, is understood as the Archimedean point; the totality of meaning is sought in the system of Ideas of immanent thought.

The immanence standpoint does not necessarily imply a belief in the self-sufficiency of human thought as against the rest of the immanent functions of consciousness. It shows rather the most divergent positions from metaphysical rationalism to modern irrationalistic life-philosophy. It also reveals itself in the form of the modern so-called existentialism, which has broken with the Cartesian (rationalistic) “cogito” as an Archimedean point, and supposes to have replaced it with life (vivo), as Dilthey does.

[WdW I, 17] Study Notes
Immanence philosophy’ is used in the
widest possible sense

We therefore take the term “immanence philosophy” not in the commonly used narrow meaning of philosophy, which posits all reality as immanent to consciousness and that has broken every bridge between human functions of consciousness and an “extra-mental reality,” but rather in the broader meaning of all philosophy that seeks its Archimedean point immanently in philosophic thought itself. We do this regardless of how this philosophic thought is then more precisely viewed, whether it be in a rationalistic, or an irrationalistic, or a metaphysical, or a transcendental-logical, or in a psychological, or in a historical sense.

From the immanence standpoint, the task of philosophy can be viewed broadly or more narrowly. So in the modern immanence philosophy there is a strong current that has emphasized the theoretical character of philosophical research, and that denies that the theoretical is just one of the many points of view by which we can view the cosmos, although it is the only one in which we can really grasp it in the view of totality.

Next to the theoretical cosmos, immanence philosophy acknowledges the religious, the aesthetic, the moralistic and other a-theoretical “worlds,” and philosophy is then expressly denied the right to claim a monopoly of value for its theoretical cosmos. Through this philosophical direction the self-sufficiency of “transcendental” theoretical thought as Archimedean point for philosophy and Arché of the “theoretical cosmos” is even more powerfully brought to the fore.

On this standpoint, the theoretical cosmos is in fact that “creation” of philosophic thought. Theoretic thought must first methodically demolish all the atheoretical to a chaotic material of consciousness, which is then to be ordered to a cosmos in the creative forming of philosophic thought (Rickert).

The immanence philosopher in this conception of philosophy has the honest conviction that only in this way can the scientific character of philosophic thought be maintained. What would become of the “objectivity,” of the “universal validity,” of the controllability of philosophic thought if philosophy would bind itself to pre-suppositions that transcended its immanent boundaries? Religious and “weltanschauliche” convictions may be highly worthy of honour. Yes, the philosophy that understands its limits will be careful about attacking these convictions. But within the domain of philosophy the claims of these convictions cannot be recognized. It is said that this does not concern believing in what exceeds “the limits of our ability to know,” but rather is it a matter of objective truth that is valid equally for anyone who wants to think theoretically.

The so-called neutrality postulate can be regarded in the same way. It is by no means inherently acknowledged by the immanence standpoint, but only [expressly] accepted by those currents in immanence philosophy that do not acknowledge to philosophy any dominion over our personal life. All the shrewdness possessed by representatives of this standpoint is directed to demonstrating the correctness of the neutrality postulate. Two of the most discerning pleas for this have been made by Heinrich Rickert and Theodor Litt, which we will later examine, when we later deal in a more particular way with the relation between philosophy and life-and-world views.

[WdW I, 18] Study Notes
The inner problematic of the immanence standpoint

In this Introduction it is sufficient for us to bring to the fore the inner problematic of the immanence standpoint, and to demonstrate how the choice of this standpoint is not possible without an actual transcendence above philosophic thought and above all immanent functions of consciousness in the diversity of meaning.

In this connection we proceed from that which we earlier learned was essential for the Archimedean point of philosophy. We argued that this Archimedean point must be elevated above the diversity of meaning if it is really to offer to us a fixed point. Were the Archimedean point to itself lie in the diversity of meaning, then it would be per se unsuitable as a point of departure from which a view of totality over the diversity of meaning could be directed.

The Archimedean point must also transcend the meaning coherence within the diversity of the meaning-sides. Of this we shall now give a further account.

[WdW I, 19] Study Notes
Why the totality of meaning cannot lie in the
coherence of the diversity of meaning

The totality of meaning can also not lie in the immanent coherence in the diversity of meaning of the arithmetical side, the spatial side, the movement side, the side of organic life, the psychical side, logical, historical etc. sides of cosmic reality. The immanent coherence among all particular meaning-sides of our cosmos lacks in itself the inner concentration point in which all particular functions of meaning come together in the fullness of meaning. This truth is immediately revealed to us in self-reflection.

We began in this Introduction to observe that our selfhood expresses itself in all particular meaning-sides of our existence. This is only possible because all of these particular meaning functions find their transcendent concentration point in the selfhood, in the I-ness, elevated above the diversity of meaning. But our selfhood is not congruent with the mutual coherence between all the functions that we possess in the cosmos.

The diversity of meaning exists only in the mutual coherence of all particularized meaning, but this is the expression of a fullness of meaning that particularizes (verbijzondert) itself in the diversity of meaning.

As the fullness of meaning, the totality of meaning is the necessary transcendent center, where all particular meaning functions in their mutual coherence coincide in the unity of direction to the Origin, to the Arché, of all meaning.

[WdW I, 20]
The Archimedean point as concentration
for philosophic thought

In relation to the foregoing, the Archimedean point for philosophy must therefore be the concentration point for philosophic thought, and as such must also transcend the diversity of meaning in its coherence. Now can this concentration point itself be immanent to philosophic thought? In other words can we find anywhere in thought a point that really transcends the diversity of meaning?

[WdW I, 20b] Study Notes
Does the so-called transcendental subject of thought
satisfy the demands of the Archimedean point?

With all sorts of terms that have not been properly analyzed as to their meaning, men try to suggest that we possess such a unity above the diversity of meaning in our philosophic thought: the “transcendental consciousness,” the “transcendental cogito,” the “phenomenologically purified consciousness” (as the absolute, meaning-giving consciousness) etc. etc. are conceived as the subjective pole of thought against which stands all the knowable in the counter-pole of objectivity.

This immanent subjective pole of thought, which we have already learned to know as the product of a theoretical abstraction, is then supposed to transcend as Archimedean point all coherence of the particular meaning sides of our cosmos.

And in fact, does not thought already elevate itself in its subjective pole above all meaning coherence in the diversity of meaning in that I have to think about such a meaning coherence if I want to speak about it?

But this argument rests on a serious misunderstanding, that is caused by the pitfall that lies hidden in the conception of the so-called “transcendental cogito” itself.

Although it is true that I myself transcend the coherence of all particular meaning-sides of cosmic reality, the same does not hold true for my [logical] function of thought in its subjective actuality that can never be made a “Gegenstand” of my thought.

In place of the cogito, place credo [faith]. In the place of the “I think”, place “I believe.”

It would have to be admitted that I can direct not only my thought, but also my function of belief on the coherence among the particular meaning-sides of our cosmos. If this meaning coherence of my functions in the cosmos is now transcended in my function of belief is there in other words also an actual immanent faith pole in which the diversity of meaning in its coherence is transcended?

But believing and thinking are distinguished in their functional meaning and I cannot transcend this cosmic diversity of meaning in my thinking itself, much less in my immanent function of belief.

But, someone may object, the diversity of meaning that you refer to is itself a state of affairs that first has meaning for our distinguishing thought? They may say, although it may be true that the [logical] function of thought, insofar as it is itself thought of as a side of the experienceable reality, is caught in the diversity of meaning, that does not show that the transcendental subject of thought, as subjective pole of thought could not transcend the coherence of the meaning-sides. And they will say, does it not just appear here that all diversity of meaning is unavoidably dependent on this transcendental subject of thought, so that we can indeed speak of the subjective pole of thought as a “Transcendenz in der Immanenz?” [Transcendence within Immanence]. We have here come to a very key point in our discussion with the adherents of the so-called “transcendental” immanence standpoint.

In the last objection a new pitfall is hidden, which we must carefully lay bare if it is not to repeatedly capture us. In the subjective pole of thought of which we here continually speak, there resides logical meaning as the pole of thought. As the subjective pole of philosophic thinking this is theoretical-logical meaning.

Just as we shall later demonstrate more fully, in our theoretical thinking we are always active in the placing over-against [tegen-overstellling] of the non-logical to the immanent-logical meaning of thought, and it is just in this opposition that the theoretical problem is born.

[WdW I,22] Study Notes
The theoretical joining of meaning [synthesis] presupposes
the diversified meaning of the logical. The non-logical
that is set over-against it

In this theoretical, over-against thinking rests all correct concept formation and distinctions of the meaning sides of the cosmos, and upon a joining [verbinding] or synthesis of the logical meaning of thinking with the opposed non-logical meaning, which synthesis in itself is a fundamental problem [grondprobleem] of philosophy.

This joining of meaning or synthesis of meaning, by which, as we shall later see, theoretical thought distinguishes itself from all non-theoretical thought, already presupposes the meaning coherence in the diversity of meaning of logical and non-logical meaning.

Therefore, the logical meaning of the subjective pole of thought is as logical meaning distinguished from all non-logical meaning functions, but at the same time it is fitted [gevoegd] with them in an unbreakable coherence of meaning.

There is now a logical diversity, which is immanent to the logical meaning of thought, but which could not exist without a cosmic diversity of meaning, within which the logical itself functions.

[WdW I,22] Study notes
The pitfall in the conception of the so-called transcendental
subject of thought as Archimedean point: cosmic diversity
of meaning and diversity within particularized logical meaning

The pitfall that is hidden in the last objection from the adherent of the so-called transcendental immanence standpoint consists in the identification of the cosmic diversity of meaning with the diversity [distinctions] within particularized logical meaning.

The adherent of this standpoint should will continue to refuse to acknowledge the particularized meaning of his concept of the transcendental thinking subject. The transcendental-logical pole of thought remains for him the self, determined by nothing, but determining everything else; it is for him the origin of all diversity of meaning. The diversity of meaning can for him only be constituted through the apriori categories of thought.

How can the essential diversity of meaning, in which the logical meaning necessarily remains bound, itself be of a logical origin? If this thought is taken seriously, then already at the outset it would dissolve in the following antinomy: "The proclamation of logical meaning as the origin of cosmic diversity of meaning is the same as the giving up of diversity of meaning and thereby the abandonment of theoretical thought itself, which is only possible in the distinguishing and joining of meaning." This is a conclusion that was already made by the sophists from the logicism of Parmenides.

The so-called transcendental subject of thought can only be maintained if from the outset the apriori joining of meaning is included in transcendental thought [regarded in a purely logical sense]. As soon as this happens, the “transcendental subject of thought” is thrown back into the middle of cosmic diversity of meaning. Because the synthesis of meaning presupposes the diversity of meaning of the logical and of the non-logical sides of the cosmos, and their mutual coherence. How then can my Archimedean point remain within theoretical thought?

[WdW I, 23] Study Notes
Misunderstanding of cosmological joining
of meaning as a transcendental-logical one

This transcendental logicism can only appear to be maintained by a peculiar shift of meaning, which interprets the truly cosmological apriori joining of meaning and distinguishing of meaning in a so-called transcendental-logical synthesis, as an act of the pretended self-sufficient transcendental subject of thought.

What is really happening in this first choice of position is that the distinguishing and joining of thinking has been absolutized (because it declares it self-sufficient) in a transcendental-logical meaning, whereby Arché, and Archimedean point coincide.

In rationalistic metaphysics, where Arché and Archimedean point remained distinguished, the actual [logical aspect] of thinking was absolutized only in the Arché, as intellectus archetypus.

[WdW I, 24] Study Notes
The necessary religious transcending in the
choice of the immanence standpoint

This first choice of position, in which the attempt is made to elevate the [logical function] of theoretical thought from the cosmic coherence of meaning and to treat it as independent, is not the act of a “transcendental thinking subject,” which is only an abstract concept, but much rather the act of the full I-ness that transcends thinking. This is the case whether the logical aspect is elevated in this way to the Arché alone, or in both the Arché and the Archimedean point together.

And it is a religious act, just because it is a choice of position in the concentration point of our existence as against the Origin of meaning. In this reflexive choice of the immanence position, I myself elevate philosophic thought whether in the transcendental-logical, whether in the metaphysical logical sense to the Arché of the cosmos. This Arché stands as origin, above which it is no longer meaningful to ask questions, and in my view it no longer stands in the heteronomous mode of being that is meaning. In immanence philosophy, it is supposed to exist by and through itself.

This choice of position with respect to the Arché transcends philosophic thought, although it certainly does not occur without philosophic thought. It takes possession of the fullness of the selfhood, the fullness of the heart, and it is the first concentration of philosophic thought in a unity of direction. It is a religious choice of position in an idolatrous sense and it is therefore an act that falsifies meaning, that subtracts all philosophic thought from the fullness of Truth.

The proclamation of the self-sufficiency of philosophic thought, even with the addition “in its own domain,” is an absolutizing of meaning kai exochen [par excellence]. It loses none of its idolatrous character merely because the thinker is prepared to acknowledge that the absolutizing that he carries out in the theoretical domain is not the only proper one, and that philosophy should also give religious, aesthetic and moralistic man the full freedom to serve other gods outside of the theoretical domain.

The philosopher who grants this freedom to the non-theoretician is, so to say, a theoretical polytheist. He is shy of proclaiming the theoretical god to the one true god. But within the temple of his god, there shall be no others worshipped!

Even on the immanence standpoint the choice of Archimedean point is therefore not a purely theoretical act that prejudices nothing in a religious sense.

In truth, the selfhood is the religious root of existence, the player on the instrument of philosophic thought. From the immanence standpoint this player is invisible.

Philosophic thought shows us the true state of affairs–that in itself it is no Archimedean point, since it can only function in the cosmic coherence of meaning and nowhere transcends this coherence of meaning.

The immanent Ideas of the coherence of meaning and the totality of meaning are limiting concepts. They reveal the fact that theoretical thought is not self-sufficient in the individual domain of philosophy. This is a point that we shall come back to in more detail.

There is no other possibility to transcend the coherence of cosmic diversity of meaning than in the religious root of existence out of which philosophic thought also proceeds.

[WdW I,25] Study Notes
The fall of our selfhood from the Arché, and the totality
of meaning, and the consequences for philosophic thought

In the fall from the totality of meaning of our whole cosmos, our selfhood has lost its standpoint in that Archimedean point, apart from which it is not possible to have true self-knowledge, no true insight into the totality of meaning and the Origin of all meaning.

Apostate humanity has lost the concentration in the focus of its existence, the true service of God. Man’s self-consciousness is in full rebellion against God, dispersed in the diversity of meaning of our temporal cosmos.

The concentration of existence in the selfhood became in the fall a concentration in the absolutizing of creaturely meaning. And the confusing diversity within immanence philosophy is the theoretical consequence of this fallen relation in the religious root of humanity.

The apriori religious choice of position, in which the Archimedean point of philosophy is determined, must influence the whole direction of philosophic thought, in its view of the coherence of meaning among the diverse sides of cosmic reality, in its view of law and subject, in its view of truth, in its view of the conditions for the possibility of knowledge, etc.

[WdW I, 26] Study Notes
The dispersal of the fallen self-consciousness in the cosmic
of meaning and the beginnings of the –isms in immanence
philosophy, even in its so-called transcendental directions

And the fact that the fallen self-consciousness has dispersed itself in the diversity of meaning and that it finds its concentration point only by way of absolutization, also explains the countless –isms in the systems of immanence philosophy.

The synthesis of meaning, without which no theoretic thought is possible, is always a joining together of meaning of the distinctions in particularized meaning. This synthesis can only be realized by an I-ness that transcends all diversity of meaning. If I do not know my self any longer, how shall I direct my philosophic thought to the totality of meaning of our cosmos?

The theoretical distinction and joining of meaning thus comprises particularized meaning. [If I do not know my self], particularized meaning provokes its own absolutization. And even the transcendental direction in immanence philosophy, which in its search for the apriori structure of “Vernunft” believes is has found the way of critical self-reflection, cannot give any protection against such absolutization.

Along with transcendental logicism, immanence philosophy knows transcendental psychologism, a transcendental moralism and aestheticism, and even further –isms, of which it cannot give account because it has not critically reflected on its Archimedean point. And ever since Dilthey broke with the rationalistic notion of the “cogito” as an Archimedean point, and in a “Critique of Historical Reason” supposed he could elevate the dynamic “vivo” to such Archimedean point, we can speak of an irrationalistic transcendental historicism, which has taken up the battle against the whole earlier transcendental philosophy. With this step, modern immanence philosophy has arrived at a phase that is marked by a decline of its earlier self certainty, and there is a renewed search for an Archimedean point for philosophic thought.

We will return in greater detail to this important phenomenon in the second volume.

Already in the present context we must however remark that the foundation of such an irrationalistic transcendental life-philosophy involves a primary absolutization of the theoretical synthesis of meaning, as will later be shown in more detail.

The immanence philosopher shall always convince himself that he has avoided the cliff of these –isms. The idealist, who absolutizes the normative meaning sides of reality, with help of meaning-synthesis thought, blames the naturalist for an absolutizing of the domain of the natural sciences. The naturalist has fallen into a more primitive absolutizing of the natural sides of reality, without being philosophically aware in a meaning-synthesis that such an absolutizing lies at its foundation. But the idealist will with indignation try to reject blame for the fact that he has fallen into a primary absolutizing of the theoretical synthesis of meaning.

The logicist who supposes that the synthesis of meaning has a “purely” logical character and that the cosmos and logos are identical, will accuse the psychologist of absolutizing a specific area of thought that has not been understood in its supposed logical origin. But the logicist will himself be of the opinion that he has fallen into no single –ism, since he always acknowledges the various “domains of thought” as “autonomous” with respect to each other!

The irrationalistic life-philosophy falsifies reality by proclaiming all regularity to be a construction of thought. This kind of philosopher believes that by setting himself in the subjective psychical or historical “stream of life” he is adequately able to contain true reality. He is also convinced that only by this attitude of philosophic thought is the full reality unveiled. Irrationalistic life-philosophy will not be convinced that its own standpoint is rooted in an absolutization of the synthesis of abstracted particularized meaning.

The modal diversity of meaning within our world coherence, in its apriori structure (which we will later study), as well as in its law-sides and subject-sides, offers numerous possibilities for our fallen self-consciousness to absolutize in its synthesis of meaning in philosophic thought. In this absolutization, first one meaning-side, then a different meaning-side of reality is elevated as the basic common denominator for all others. This fact–that the root of all such –isms is to be found in the fallen selfhood–remains hidden in the philosophic immanence standpoint.

[WdW I, 28] Study Notes
King Midas and immanence philosophy

The rich meaning of King Midas can offer us a symbol of these –isms in philosophy.

Everything that immanence philosophy touches with its wand of absolutized particularized meaning, changes as if by magic into a modality of this particular meaning. For the logicist, the cosmos becomes logos. For the psychologist all meaning sides of reality become modalities of the psychical. For the historicist the whole cosmos offers itself under the basic aspect of historical development. For the moralist the whole natural reality becomes the sensible material of our moral duty, etc. etc.

But, just as Midas lost himself in his wish to change the world into gold, so in the immanence standpoint, the thinker loses himself to the absolutization of theoretical abstraction.

Philosophic thinking, if it is explained as self-sufficient, necessarily loses its direction to the totality of meaning. From the immanence standpoint, the thinker gives the idea of totality of meaning a false content and can then no longer see the true structure of our cosmos, its particularized meaning and the coherence of meaning.

To summarize, we may say that the first pitfall of all immanence philosophy, in the wide meaning that we give to it, is: Supposing it can naively maintain the immanence standpoint and therein the self-sufficiency of philosophic thought as against divine revelation, it misunderstands the religious transcendence that is necessarily hidden in its attitude, and this misunderstanding comes out of a lack of radical-critical self-reflection in philosophic thought.

[WdW I, 29] Study Notes
The Christian standpoint of transcendence as a
radical revolution in the attitude of philosophic thought

It is the radical meaning of Christianity for philosophy that it has again unveiled for us the transcendent religious root of human existence in all its functions, and has laid open the proton pseudos of immanence philosophy. The Biblical proverb, “Out of the heart are the issues of life,” must when it is properly understood bring a radical revolution in the attitude of philosophic thought. Greek metaphysics (with which Christian thought sought a compromise in the Middle Ages), never was able to extricate itself from the hypostasis of theoretical thought and also its conception of the essence of man as “rational-moral” being and of the immortal soul, which was grounded wholly in this absolutizing. In Platonic-Aristotelian metaphysical psychology, only the “reasonable,” the thinking part of the soul (logistikon) possesses immortality, because at the outset theoretical thought was hypostatized as the origin of reality, an origin that transcends the temporal world coherence. Human thought was distinguished from the Divine as noesis noeseos in that it was still bound to the lower part of the soul and therein bound to the material.

Neo-Platonism arrived at the insight that in the nous as theoretical thought itself there is still hidden a diversity and joining of meaning, and the Arché therefore must transcend the nous, but this insight did not in any way lead the thinkers of this school to a break with immanence philosophy as such, but only to a negative metaphysical conception of the divine--divine unity as the avoidance of all diversity of meaning.

The idealistic metaphysics of ancient Greece clearly expresses the immanence standpoint. It tore apart the immanent cosmic meaning-coherence into a noumenon and a phenomenon. The noumenon was conceived as supra-temporal reasonable form, and the phenomenon as matter that is immanent in time. Finally the form, as pure form or actus purus, was deified as the Arché.

Man seeks the transcendence of truth in the immanence of theoretic thought.

The Christian religion is in an irreconcilable conflict with this whole attitude of philosophic thought, because it unveils the fallen religious root of this philosophic immanence standpoint, out of which this attitude of thought springs.

[WdW I, 30] Study Notes
The heart, as the religious concentration point of all
human existence, is in fact the full selfhood, and also
the religious root of philosophic thought

The heart is truly the transcendent root of human existence, the one point in which we transcend the temporal diversity of meaning in the coherence of time. Just as the Scriptures say: "Eternity is set in the heart of man." The heart is the fullness of our selfhood, the true transcendent concentration point of our existence, in which all temporal meaning functions meet together. As such, the heart is also the point of departure for philosophic thought, a point that truly cannot be disconnected, since in all theoretical abstraction our selfhood is at work in thought. And the fullness of our selfhood consists in the religious center of our creaturely existence, where the direction of all of life is determined in relation to that which is Truth in its fullness, the absolute Origin of all things. Christ has said: "Where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also."

This basic truth [of the heart], which humanity has lost sight of in its fall from God and from the totality of meaning and from itself, is not the result of mere theoretical discussion, since it transcends theoretic thought in the fullness of its meaning.

The adherent of the immanence standpoint may now say, "Therefore free philosophy from it."

But what do we say if this basic truth embodies a necessary apriori condition for the possibility of philosophic thought? Then it would be internally contradictory to suppose that philosophic thought could abstract from it, in order to withdraw in self-sufficiency back into a merely theoretical cosmos.

For the acceptance of the possibility of a merely theoretical cosmos presupposes a truly religious proclamation of the absoluteness of philosophic thought (because of its self-sufficiency).

[WdW I, 31] Study Notes
The immanence standpoint as a crypto-religious
attitude of philosophic thought

It is the Christian religion that has unmasked the immanence standpoint in philosophy as a crypto-religious choice of position and thereby has discovered this standpoint as a standpoint in the fall from the true Arché and therefore also from our true selfhood.

The basic truth [grond-waarheid], that lies in our heart as religious concentration point, the transcendent root of our creaturely existence. It does not lie in theoretic thought, in our feeling function, in our aesthetic function, nor in our rational-moral functions. This basic truth first acquires its full rich meaning in the revelation of the fall of the human race as a fall in the religious root of the cosmos, and in the revelation of the only possible salvation in Jesus Christ as the New Root of the reborn cosmos.

[WdW I, 32] Study Notes
The irreconcilable antithesis between immanence
and true Christian philosophic thought

There is therefore an irreconcilable antithesis between the necessary religious apriori of immanence philosophy and of a philosophy that truly set itself within [instelt] in the Christian transcendence standpoint.

And this radically different attitude must influence the whole immanent course of philosophic thought, just as we shall demonstrate in more detail. For there is no greater error in philosophy than when one takes the position that the religious attitude of philosophic thought is of no importance for the immanent course of philosophic research.

We can make no greater error than that made by certain Christians in the late Middle Ages, who supposed that in philosophy the ‘naturalis ratio’ [natural reason] could be emancipated from the divine revelation of sin and grace, and that in grace they would merely find her higher “fulfillment” that extended beyond the limits of nature.

The truth is that philosophy needs an Archimedean point, and that the choice of this Archimedean point is a religious act that is all-determining for the whole direction in which philosophic thought chooses to go.

Unless our heart is enlightened by Divine Revelation, no true self-knowledge is possible.

And now at the close of our introduction, we must set aside another misunderstanding.

[WdW I, 33] Study Notes
Divine Revelation does not drop in the lap
of Christian thought an authoritarian solution to
the problems of immanence philosophy

The Divine Revelation that is fulfilled in Christ, that is directed to the religious root of our whole existence, and therefore also to the root of philosophic thought, does not solve a single essential immanent philosophic problem for us. This is because it transcends philosophic thought in its religious fullness.

But this revelation gives our philosophic thought a fixed direction towards the true totality of meaning and the Arché, a direction that this thought could never discover by itself, but which it needs as philosophic thought in order to fulfill its task. The Christian religion does not force itself externally into philosophic thought like a “Deus ex machina” in order to drop in our laps an authoritarian solution by way of Revelation. Rather, it brings our thought, which through sin has been diminished from its fullness of meaning, to a new and joyful life, to a new unfolding in harmony with all our other activities in the cosmos.

The direction to the totality of meaning and to the Arché, which revelation shows to philosophic thought, must permeate this thought in an inner way and in all its dimensions: in the formulation of problems, in the views of subjectivity and law, in the method of forming concepts, in the view of the structure of reality, in the understanding of meaning [zin-duiding] of naïve experience and of theoretical synthesis, in the philosophic view of the problem of time, etc. etc.

A truly Christian philosophy can not be an immanence philosophy with an external decoration of Biblical texts. Even less can it be a theology in the sense of a special science. It is not possible except in a radical reformation of philosophic thought itself, in a Reformation of Philosophy, just as my colleague Vollenhoven has so concisely expressed.[5]


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Footnotes for these excerpts

[1] The reason that this deeper totality necessarily transcends the mutual coherence of all aspects of cosmic reality, just as our selfhood transcends its cosmic functions, will be discussed infra.

[2] This image was wiped out, when humans believed they were something in themselves. Compare the splendid expression in Calvin’s Épitre à tous amateurs de Jésus Christ 1535 (èd. J. Pannier, Paris; 1929), p. 36: “Car il l'avoit formé à son image & semblance, telleme(n)t que la lumière de sa gloire reluysoit clairement en luy…Mails le malheureux voulant estre qu(el)que chose en soy-mesme…son image & semblance en estoit effacée.”

[3] The critical Marburg school speaks of the origin of reality in a transcendental-logical sense! “Nur das Denken kann erzeugen, was als Sein gelten darf” (Cohen). [“Only thinking can produce that which can count as Being”].

[4] Transcendental philosophy, which seeks its Archimedean point in a transcendentally conceived “cogito,” shall certainly hesitate to speak of the apriori transcendental unity of thinking or of a function of consciousness. In transcendental philosophy, the immanent transcendental pole of thought is always elevated above all functions of consciousness, since these receive all their theoretical determinedness from transcendental thought.
Seen from the Christian transcendent standpoint, the immanent apriori structure of thought remains functional, and transcendental thought remains a function of consciousness of our transcendent selfhood.

[5] See his work Het Calvinisme en de Reformatie van de Wijsbegeerte (Paris: Amsterdam, 1933).

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Revised Oct 13/08