© 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 I, 64]
The Archimedean point of philosophy is here chosen in the root of the human race that has been redeemed in Christ and in which we participate in the religiously time-transcending root of our individual person, in our re-born selfhood.
The root of the re-born human race is the fullness of meaning, the totality of meaning of our whole cosmos is in Christ, with respect to His human nature, just as the Scriptures say. In Him the heart, out of which are the issues of life, confesses the absolute creational sovereignty of God over all of creation, and the heart bows under the law as the universal boundary that cannot be exceeded between the Being of God and the meaning of His creation. The law finds its origin in the Creator’s holy will. The transcendent totality of meaning of our cosmos exists only in the religious relation of dependence to the absolute Being of God. It is therefore no substance in the sense of speculative metaphysics, no being that exists in itself; it remains in the creaturely mode of being that refers, the mode of non-self-sufficient meaning.
Sin, the rebellion against the sovereign Arché, of our cosmos, is the fall away from the fullness of meaning, and the idolizing, the absolutizing of meaning to the being of God. In this way there arose in the religious root of the cosmos itself the absolute break between Civitas Dei and Civitas terrena [the City of God and the City of Earth], between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of darkness. Our temporal world, in its temporal diversity of meaning and coherence of meaning, is in the order of God’s creation bound to the religious root of the human race, and has without this root no meaning, and therefore no reality.
The nature of the whole cosmos was dragged with man in the fall. In this way the break carried through into all meaning-sides of cosmic reality in time. There is nothing that is excepted from the fall. Neither the natural sides of temporal reality, nor the logical, nor the post-logical aspects.
With great emphasis the Biblical understanding must be opposed to all attempts to exempt the logos from the fall into sin. For each attempt in this direction leaves open a wide door in Christian thought for the logos speculation and for immanence philosophy. We shall return to this subject.
According to Paul, the logos (nous) has as a result of the human fall become the "nous tes sarxos," the “mind of the flesh” [Col. 2:18]. This is because it does not exist apart from the fallen religious root of creation.
From the thereby explained Archimedean point, the law-Idea of our philosophy acquires the following content:
(1) To the central preliminary question: What is the Arché of the totality of meaning and diversity of meaning of our cosmos with respect to the law-side and the subject-side? it answers: the sovereign, holy creative will of God, Who has revealed Himself in Christ.
(2) To the second central preliminary question: what is the totality of meaning of the law, its supratemporal unity above all diversity of meaning? it answers: the demand grounded in God’s sovereignty to serve God with one’s whole heart.
(3) To the third preliminary question: What is the totality of meaning of our cosmos with respect to its subject-side? it answers: the religious root of the human race, re-born in Christ (in Whom nothing of our created reality can be lost) in subjection to the fullness of meaning of the divine law.
(4) To the fourth central preliminary question: What is the mutual relation among the aspects of temporal reality? It answers: sovereignty in its own sphere, but in the all-sided cosmic coherence of aspects, as this is regulated in God’s temporal world order, in a cosmic law order.
This understanding of the law-Idea, in its theoretic focus on the meaning-sides of our cosmos is a vision formed in the spirit of a radical Christianity (in this sense Calvinistic). I use a symbol in order to bring this vision closer to those not schooled in philosophy.
The light of the sun is refracted though a prism and appears to the eye as split up into the known seven colours of the spectrum. All colours of the spectrum are in themselves dependent refractions of the unrefracted light, and none of these colours may be regarded as integral to the differentiation of all of the colours. Further, not one of the seven colours exists outside of its coherence with the other colours of the spectrum. When the unrefracted light is intercepted, the whole play of colours vanishes into nothing.
The unrefracted light is the time-transcending totality of meaning of our cosmos in respect to its law and subject side. Just as this light has its origin in the source of light, so does the totality of meaning of our cosmos have its origin in its Arché, through Whom and to Whom it has been created.
The prism that breaks up the colours is cosmic time, by which the fullness of meaning is broken into its temporal aspects.
Just as the seven colours of the spectrum do not owe their origin to each other, so do each of these temporal aspects have, with respect to each other, sovereignty in their own sphere according to the meaning of each sphere.
But under the boundary line of time the fullness of meaning breaks (just as white light breaks in a prism) into law and subject side in a rich variation of aspects that are sovereign in their own spheres. Each of these aspects displays the fullness of meaning in its own modality of meaning according to its temporal mode of being.
We shall in future name the aspects of temporal reality law-spheres, since the term 'law-sphere' sharply emphasizes the mutual irreducibility, the enclosed functionality, the “sovereignty in its own sphere.”
The philosophic principle of sovereignty in its own sphere therefore is inseparably bound to the choice of the Archimedean point in the transcendent root of reality, in Christ directed again to the Arché, and with the religious confession of the absolute sovereignty of God
The immanence standpoint is not consistent with the acceptance of the sovereignty in their own sphere of the law spheres in their particular meaning. This is not because immanence philosophy would not be able to acknowledge that the totality of meaning transcends the diversity of meaning and that the law-spheres, which it allows to be in force as such, cannot originate from each other. For each scientific thinker must necessarily always form a concept of the aspects, and to therefore be on guard against any mixing up of these aspects.
From the immanence standpoint, the Archimedean point is chosen in philosophic thinking itself, which is in the fallen selfhood. Because of this, the law-Idea of immanence philosophy must elevate this philosophic thinking out of the coherence of meaning of temporal reality (at least as to the apriori structure of this thinking, which can never be made into a “Gegenstand”). Thought is posited as in itself and it is elevated to the Arché, which transcends meaning. This occurs in immanence philosophy whether or not the thinker himself can give an account of it. As against this unlimited sovereignty of thought, the other aspects of our cosmos can have no valid “sovereignty in their own sphere.” They are brought under the common denominator of absolutized aspects of philosophic thought. In mathematical logicism, other aspects are allowed to be in force only as logical areas of thought with relative autonomy. In psychologism (whether or not it is understood as transcendental), other aspects allowed to be in force as psychological areas that are not reducible to each other. In historicism, other aspects are allowed to be individual areas of historical development, etc. etc.
A dualistic system is also possible, whereby the meaning structure of full temporal reality is torn apart into phenomenon and noumenon (WdW I, 68). Aspects are brought together as ‘phenomenon’ under a different immanent common denominator than those that are brought together in the ‘noumenon.’ In the analysis of the meaning structure of the law spheres we shall demonstrate why the various absolutizations that immanence philosophy is forced to take, because of its choice of Archimedean point in cosmic time, allow themselves to appear to be carried out.
On the immanence standpoint it on the other hand may be objected that Christian transcendence philosophy is an absolutizing of religious meaning. But this objection, although it is at least thought through in a somewhat deeper manner, cannot be maintained.
In the first place, because religion is the fullness of meaning, it does not allow any absolutizing. It is religio, i.e. joining, a relation between creaturely meaning and the Being of the Arché. This meaning and the Being of the Arché are not to be brought on the same level.
Whoever wants to posit the religious totality of meaning in itself is guilty of a contradictio in terminis. And whoever has the insolence to assert that at least God is absolutized does not know what he says.
Second, the objection that there is an absolutization of religious meaning contains at its foundation an ambiguity, a confusion between the temporal meaning of belief that is itself in fact enclosed in a law-sphere, and that of the fullness of meaning of religion, which transcends the limit of cosmic time and which cannot possibly be enclosed in a law sphere.
Finally, it must be borne in mind that even unsuspected opponents of the Christian transcendence point in philosophy, such as Heinrich Rickert, acknowledge that religion in its fullness of meaning does not allow a coordination with areas of meaning such as law, morality, science, etc. But his understanding of religion as an “autonomous categorical area of thought” abolishes the meaning of religion. Immanence philosophy will have to demonstrate in a more stringent manner their statement that our acknowledgement of the religious connection of philosophic thought absolutizes religious meaning. Their religious confession of the self-sufficiency of philosophy is not sufficient. Ipse-dixetisme is not in much demand in the forum of scientific truth.
As an apriori Ground-Principle in the Calvinistic Law-Idea, sovereignty in its own sphere thus stands in an unbreakable coherence with the choice of the Archimedean point. This principle stands just as much in unbreakable relation with the acceptance of a cosmic coherence of meaning among the law-spheres. This mutual coherence is not regulated by philosophic thought, but by the divinely given temporal world order. This world order of cosmic time we shall from now on call the cosmic order of laws.
In each separate law-sphere, in accordance with its separate meaning-structure, as a particular refraction of meaning from the transcendent totality of meaning, the coherence of meaning with all the other law spheres is reflected in a separate particularized meaning.
In the refraction of light, the colours of the spectrum are not found arbitrarily next to each other, but one colour is the foundation of the other in a fixed order of more or less refractedness. And in each colour of the spectrum, a relation to all the other colours is maintained. This is also the case in the temporal organism of the law spheres. In an order of increasing complexity, the sphere of the simpler meaning-structure is the foundation of the following of more complicated structures.
The coherence of meaning of the law spheres is an order of cosmic time. In our religious apriori we refer this back to divine predestination in the broadest sense of plan for the world. It is a law-order of a horizontal nature that spans particularized meaning, in contrast to the vertical, which comes to expression in particularized meaning by sovereignty in its own sphere.
All law spheres are founded in this order of cosmic time. Cosmic time refracts the totality of meaning into the particularized meaning of the law spheres. It therefore first makes possible the sovereignty in its own sphere, but it relativizes the particularized meaning in a coherence of meaning that streams through and spans across all separated boundaries of meaning.
Stoker has asked why we must say that it is cosmic time that refracts the totality of meaning into mutually cohering diversity of meaning. It is because, the fullness of meaning, as the totality of meaning, is not itself actually given in time and cannot be given in time. Yet all temporal meaning refers above itself to the supratemporal fulfillment of meaning. The meaning of cosmic time is just this successive refraction of meaning in the coherence of meaning. But sovereignty in its own sphere, which applies to the particularized meaning, has no meaning in the totality of meaning.
In the religious fullness of meaning itself, there can be no sovereignty in each separate sphere. In the religious fullness of meaning, love, wisdom, justice, power, beauty, etc. are mutually congruent, of which we can have some understanding by the concentration of our heart on the cross of Christ. This coincidence of meaning is impossible in time as a relative refraction of meaning.
This is why temporal philosophic thought, which tries to dissolve this totality of meaning in the Idea of reason itself, always gets entangled in contradictions and antinomies in which the cosmic order avenges itself on thought that tries to exceed its limits.
Therefore the attempt to approximate cosmic time itself, otherwise than in a limiting concept, necessarily leads to antinomies. This is because concepts themselves presuppose cosmic time. We shall look at this in more detail later. A concept is necessarily discontinuous with its fundamental analytical aspect. It therefore cannot comprehend the continuity of time that streams through and spans over the boundaries of meaning of the law spheres. If thought tries to comprehend this it absolutizes itself. The logos is relative in its temporal particularized meaning, but this relativity of meaning is not itself of a logical but rather of a cosmological-temporal character. Whenever philosophy tries to interpret the cosmic coherence of meaning in a dialectical-logical way, then it improperly begins with the logical relativizing of the separate basic laws of thinking, and thereby it ends up by sanctioning antinomies.
Immanence philosophy hypostatizes human reason to a self-sufficient Archimedean point of philosophy, and supposes that it can lift the structure of philosophic thought from out of cosmic time. But in this way the cosmic order of time is eliminated from philosophic thought and in epistemology in particular. The critical basic question of all philosophy–how it is itself possible–is forced into the background. This elimination is also the source of all subjectivism, of which the history of philosophy gives such a confusing picture.
Kant’s so-called Copernican revolution in epistemology (or in ontology, if we take Heidegger’s interpretation of Kant, which I do not find convincing ) is the direct proof of the impossibility of a really critical critique of reason without an apriori choice of position with respect to the cosmic law to which philosophic thought is subject. In his Prolegomena to every Future Metaphysics, the philosopher of Koningsberg [Kant] says of pure reason:
What Kant here demands of his reader is to simply abdicate from the preliminary questions concerning critical thought. The “reason” that Kant lays as his foundation is a clear product of philosophic abstraction. But in that abstraction I am myself actually at work in philosophic thought. The question: How is philosophic thought itself possible? is thereby cut off. The cosmic order of law, which guarantees the relations of meaning for philosophic thought, is eliminated from the problem investigated, the possibility of knowledge. Theoretical reason is a complex of functions caught in the diversity of meaning. But Kant abstracts this and does not view it in its proper meaning-structure. Instead Kant understands it in terms of apriori forms of logical and psychical functions and consciousness and then sets this reason up by itself, disconnected from the temporal coherence of meaning and he then tries to come to a critical self-reflection about its activity! Even the cosmic coherence of meaning between psychical sensation and the logical activity of thought [two aspects of temporal reality] is not considered here by Kant. It remains hidden to Kant that in his understanding the thinker thereby eliminates from critical self-reflection his own activity of thought (which is only actualized in the temporal coherence of meaning). This fact must remain hidden to immanence philosophy, even where it supposes that it has been able to come to an essential self-reflexive understanding of thought viewed as itself.
By the Archimedean point in which our law-Idea is rooted, any thought is eliminated of an “axiological” precedence of one of the law spheres above the other. A “values philosophy” in the modern sense of these words is only possible on the immanence standpoint.
Each law-sphere has its temporal particularized meaning only within the universal coherence of meaning of our cosmos. Shall the hand or the foot say to the eye: I am more important than you? All law spheres in their sovereignty in their own spheres have equal value as refractions of meaning of the transcendent totality of meaning.
The whole so-called “objective” concept of values in modern philosophy rests on nothing else than an absolutizing of the normative aspects of meaning according to their law-side. The law (in modal particularized meaning), has thereby been separated on the one hand from its true Arché, and on the other hand it has been separated from its “subject” and from its relations of meaning in the temporal cosmic coherence (which first give it meaning). It then is supposed to be an abstract, timelessly valid, absolute value. In fact this speculative concept of value is carried by an open or a hidden hypostatization of the nous, an absolutizing of human reason, which the fallen root of humanity believes to have found for its Archimedean point. Modern values philosophy is, in the domain of thought that is directed to the normative spheres of meaning, only the capstone of a philosophy that has allowed the pre-normative sides of reality to shrivel up into a mere object of consciousness.
Go to next page of translation: Law and Subject
Footnotes for these excerpts
 Prolegomena zu einer jeden künftigen Metaphysik (§4 W.W. Cass. IV , p. 23). “Diese Arbeit ist schwer und erfordert einen entschlossenen Leser, sich nach und nach in ein System hineinzudenken, was noch nichts als Gegeben zum Grunde legt, auszer die Vernunft selbst [my italics], und also, ohne sich auf irgendein Faktum zu stützen, die Erkenntnis aus ihren ursprünglichen Keimen zu entwickeln sucht.”
Go to next page of translation: Law and Subject
Revised Oct 13/08