© 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.
The horizon in which all human experience is enclosed is, in a transcendent sense, formed by the creaturely structure of the religious root of human existence. Our selfhood, which experiences, is under the law, sujet, and in this sense limited and determined by the law. It is because of the creaturely character of our selfhood that it is impossible to separate human experience from the religious attitude [instelling] of the selfhood.
All human experience is religiously determined in its deepest ground by divine ordinances of creation, whether this experience is directed towards God or in the apostate direction. In this sense we can speak of the necessary structural and subjective religious apriori of all human experience. This transcendent dimension of our horizon of experience is certainly not acknowledged on the immanence standpoint: it plays no recognized role in cosmology and epistemology.
Whenever we now descend to the transcendental dimensions of the horizon of human experience, we first come upon cosmic time. By ‘cosmic’ I mean all our experience of reality that is bound to time in accordance with the divine ordinances of creation. I do not mean ‘time’ in a specific (theoretically isolated) aspect of meaning, but rather time in its cosmic all-sidedness of meaning, which is the foundation of all the law spheres, and maintains them in a continuous coherence of meaning.
Even this dimension of the horizon of human experience can certainly not be acknowledged on the immanence standpoint. The immanence standpoint is bound to fail to appreciate the universal temporal coherence of meaning of the cosmos.
So in order to establish contact in however limited a way with what immanence philosophy calls the apriori, we have to descend to a still lower structure of human experience [than this level of cosmic time]. When we do this, then first the law-confirming structure of the aspects comes to our attention. These can also not be understood as such by immanence philosophy, since for such understanding, insight is needed into the cosmic order of time, and the acceptance of the Christian religious apriori.
The meaning modalities, which guarantee sovereignty in their own sphere to the law spheres, in fact determine all individuality of meaning within these law spheres.
An original individual spatial figure is only possible within the structural horizon of the spatial aspect. An individual objective representation of sensory perception (e.g. a representation of the apple tree in blossom in my garden here) is only possible within the structural horizon of the psychical aspect. A servitude of prospect [the juridical right to an unobscured view] vested in an individual building, only exists [bestaanbaar] within the structural horizon of the juridical aspect, etc. etc.
In their functional structure, the aspects are therefore the determining, necessary conditions for all modal individuality, in which temporal reality reveals itself within the law-spheres concerned. For this reason they may be called the modal aprioris of all individuality of meaning.
This is a cosmic state of affairs, grounded in the temporal world order, which also determines the possibility of our experience.
We can experience the aspects, both in the pre-theoretical as well as in the theoretical attitude, but only in their temporal coherence of meaning in the foundational and transcendental directions of time. Yet within the cosmic coherence of meaning the aspects are (by their structure) the apriori conditions for all experience of individual reality. And that is whether these aspects have been brought articulated and brought to our consciousness by the theoretical synthesis of meaning. or whether these aspects remain unarticulated and experienced in the pre-theoretical consciousness.
This cosmic apriori character of the aspects over against all modal individuality of meaning reveals itself in their structural constancy over against the individual variability in temporal reality.
Since in their temporal coherence of meaning they constitute the functional structure of our cosmos, they cannot be transitory in time.
The individual sensory impression [indruk] of a sunset, which I am at this moment experiencing, may pass away in time. But the psychical aspect in which this impression is objectified, can not itself pass away in time. For this aspect belongs to the functional structure of reality and as such it belongs to the apriori horizon of all human experience.
[That the constancy of the modal horizon is not identical with rigidity has already been seen in the discussion of the unfolding process in the modal meaning-structure].
The modal horizon is founded in the cosmic horizon of time, which includes all law spheres without any exception.
[WdW II, 484] Study
The structure of the inter-modal synthesis of meaning is the cosmological apriori of theoretical knowledge as to its law-side. It forms the horizon of all true theoretical knowledge. This theoretical horizon remains enclosed in the horizon of cosmic time and by the religious horizon of the selfhood. It first becomes subjectively theoretically accessible to us in actual transcendental self-reflection.
Insight into this horizon is the subjectively fallible apriori of all epistemology. Again there is no reason to refer to specific theoretical joining of meaning as subjective apriori while denying the apriori character of all other possible syntheses.
With respect to the law spheres, the subjective synthetic apriori in our theoretical knowledge does not reach further than the theoretical insight into the structure of the aspects in their law and subject sides under the hypothesis of the law-Idea. In this law-Idea, theoretical thought is directed both to the religious horizon and to the temporal horizon of human knowledge.
Of course, insight into the law-conforming functional coherence of all individual structures within each separate theoretically embraced law sphere is also of a subjective apriori character. For example physics tries to bring all individual functional operations within the physical viewpoint under one common denominator [i.e. energy] in order to detect the functional law-conforming coherence among these operations.
And jurisprudence looks for the functional juridical relation among constitutional law, civil law, non-civil industrial law, international law, etc., which diverge so widely as to their particular internal structure.
In both cases (physics and jurisprudence), this systematic striving finds its epistemological justification only in the apriori insight in the modal structure of the law spheres concerned. It keeps all individual structures within its sphere, in the functional coherence of its modality of meaning.
Mathematics and so-called formal logic are usually mentioned as wholly apriori sciences. With respect to formal logic, we have already seen how it in fact always presupposes the synthesis of meaning. Its (subjective) apriori character can only concern the modal horizon of the logical law sphere in a synthesis of meaning with the modal horizon of the remaining law spheres.
The mathematical sciences can only have a subjective apriori character in the theoretical embracing of the modal horizon of the numerical sphere and the spatial sphere with the functional conformity to law founded in them. As soon as we come to the determination of individual functions of number or spatial relations in reality (we need to only think of Planck’s quantum h), we are in the domain of the individually determined. These can never be established in an apriori manner, but only by means of an experiment, within the horizon of the physical viewpoint that has been set by a synthesis of meaning.
Now the word ‘apriori’ has received a bad reputation in the special sciences, except in mathematics. And rightly so! For the word is heavily laden by the rationalistic prejudices of the humanistic science Ideal, which granted to human consciousness a logically creative function and supposed that the structure of the given reality must first be broken down into a chaos in order to thereafter to impose on reality an ‘apriori’ constructive ordering of “creative” thought.
Even Kant’s so-called formal “Grundsätze des reinen Verstandes” were inspired by this science Ideal, and appear not to have been able to stand the test of the progressive development of the natural sciences.
The constructive view of the subjective apriori elements of our knowledge, grounded as it is in the humanistic law-Idea, is in fact a consequence of the hubris, the arrogance of the man who in his supposed self-sufficient thought does not want to subject himself to the divine world order. We have from the outset rejected this view, since we have broken with the law-Idea that lies at its foundation. The knowing subject does not himself create the horizon of his experience; the law-conforming structure of this horizon does not find its origin in a sovereign “transcendental subject.”
Even the modal structure of the law spheres abstracted in the theoretical synthesis of meaning must be carefully read from the horizon of the structure of full temporal reality created by God. And in this task, the modal analysis of meaning, philosophic thinking that orients itself to the Christian law-Idea is by no means infallible.
The system of the law spheres that we have designed can never make a claim to material completion. Deeper research may always bring to the light new aspects of reality that have not been noticed until now. And the discovery of new law spheres may necessitate again and again a revision and further development of our modal analysis of meaning. Theoretic thought never completes its task, and whoever thinks he has created a philosophic system that can be taken over unchanged by each following generation shows no insight in that all theoretic thought is bound to history. But all of this does not take away from the truth that theoretic thought remains bound to a modal horizon of meaning, which has a constant determining character over against all changing concrete facts. This is so even in research of the individual states of affairs within the law sphere that has been made to a ‘Gegenstand,’ that can never be understood in an apriori way.
If we want to avoid an arbitrary construction, the concept of function in the special sciences must become oriented to this modal horizon. This modal horizon is necessarily a priori because it determines the functional structure of all individuality of meaning within the law sphere. And where the analysis of modal meaning is philosophically operative, which cannot be complete without the hypothesis of a law-Idea, all thinking in the special sciences is necessarily philosophically founded, even though the special science theoretician gives no account of this.
Now the horizon of human experience has still another essential and important dimension, which plays the dominant role in naïve pre-theoretical experience, as we have repeatedly noted. This dimension is the individuality structure of reality, just as it is manifested in concrete things and social relations, created by God or formed by man, and in their mutual connections.
Here it no longer concerns a merely modal, functional meaning-structure, but it concerns the internal structural principles of concrete things and social relations, which in principle function equally in all law spheres.
And it concerns structural principles, not the individuality of things which is determined by these structural principles. The individuality of things cannot be comprehended by human experience.
We come here to a new level of the structural apriori, that forms a component of the human horizon of experience.
Although in Volume III we will discuss in more detail these individuality structures of reality, we may not neglect in the present context to point to this dimension of the human horizon of experience.
This horizon displays various peculiarities as against the other apriori levels. First, the internal structural principles of individuality presuppose all the earlier named dimensions of the horizon of human experience and of creaturely cosmic reality.
Second, these individuality structures carry a strong plastic character because of their more concrete nature. This gives an extremely rich and varied aspect to the human horizon of experience. The modal horizon, in its spanning of the horizon of cosmic time is the same for all things. But the plastic horizon of individuality structures is varied by types, which are different for different groups of things and in which things alternately appear, form themselves or are formed, and disappear.
The older pre-humanistic metaphysics tried to approach this plastic side of the horizon of reality with its teaching of the substantial or essential forms of things. Aristotle has developed this theory in great detail. He tried to apply the rigid metaphysical form-matter schema to the plasticity of the individuality structures of reality. He did this by conceiving form as a dynamic principle of development that is immanently operative in [plastic] things. He also conceived of the lower essential forms again in a plastic way, as capable of a higher formation.
In the modern eidetics of Husserl, the motive of plasticity as been lost in his static Platonic view of a “Welt der reinen Wesen” [“world of pure essences”].
But even the Aristotelian theory, which is rooted in the metaphysical immanence standpoint, is as we shall show, not able to do justice to the individuality structures of temporal reality. Even this side of the human horizon of experience is not capable of being understood from the immanence standpoint.
The plastic character of the structural principles of individuality reveals itself in the typical form-able interlacements and coherences in which they reveal themselves in variable, individual things (and social relations). Because of this, that side of our horizon of experience that is turned towards things does not display a rigid atomistic character, but it offers itself to us in a continually dynamic structural coherence.
We will return in more detail to all of these points. In the present context we need only to point to the particular kind of apriori character that is carried by the plastic side of the horizon of experience and reality. The fact that the typical structural principles of individuality reality cannot in any way be construed a priori by human thought is also a fact of the modal horizon of our experience. What is unique in the plastic horizon is that the structural principles themselves display types of individualized meaning. Even in theoretic insight, these principles only reveal themselves in the structural analysis of the variable reality of things and social relationships that constantly change their forms in time. Without the structural principles of individual reality we could have no real experience of concrete things and human social relations. The functionalistic epistemology with its abstractive constructive form-matter schema can never really give account of the possibility of concrete experience, since it must eliminate the structural character of individuality.
Because of the divine creation order, this structural character belongs especially to our horizon of experience and to the horizon of full creaturely reality.
The things of concrete experience are not the product of a meaning-synthetic forming of a chaotic sensory matter by abstract forms of thought and intuition.
God’s wisdom as Creator has disposed the human horizon of experience to the individuality of things, and this structural plastic side of our horizon of experience belongs to the horizon of the created reality itself. It is therefore apriori in this sense, that it determines and first makes possible our experience and the changing individuality of things.
[WdW II, 491] Study
The apriori horizon of cosmic reality is the divine order of creation itself, in which humans as well as all things in the cosmos are giving their structure and order. Before the foundations of the world, this order of creation was in the Divine counsel.
The Christian philosophic accommodation in patristic and scholastic thought has taken this revealed truth that transcends human reason, and changed it into the speculative ideas of realistic metaphysics. In this way the order of creation became a lex aeterna grounded in divine reason, and the divine principles of creation became the universalia ante rem (in Divine reason) and in re (in temporal things).
Now after everything that we have said about this, it should be clear that we reject such a metaphysics, which in the ground of the matter sets aside the divine order of creation and substitutes absolutized reason in its place. Whoever tries to conclude from this that our view, like nominalism, elevates divine arbitrariness to the throne, only shows that he remains caught in the schemas of immanence philosophy.
Go to next page of translation: Knowledge of God, Self and Cosmos
Revised Oct 13/08