jeudi 24 août 2017

Historical Scottish Christian contributions to world constitutional and democratic thought

    John Duns Scotus (1266-1308)                       Declaration of Arbroath (1320) PDF

Christianity tends to get short shrift on Scottish independence blogs (as elsewhere) almost by reflex these days. It is timely therefore to draw attention to the fact that in the struggle for constitutional government, Christians have certainly made an illustrious historical contribution not just to Scottish but to human democracy.

John Duns Scotus (1266-1308)
A significant early example is the Berwickshire founder of the Scottish tradition of philosophy John Duns Scotus, whose thought apparently framed the Declaration of Arbroath. Prof Alexander Broadie makes this case in his 2010 Royal Society of Edinburgh audio lecture .

John Mair (Gleghornie, 1467-1550)
The writings of John Duns Scotus also influenced John Mair who became a highly significant professor at St Andrews University (lecturing to eg John Knox and Patrick Hamilton), and at the University of Paris (lecturing to eg John Calvin, George Buchanan, Ignatius Loyola, Francisco Vitoria, François Rabelais). Mair sought to curb the autocratic power of the Pope within the Catholic Church. Though he himself remained Catholic, his ‘Conciliar Movement’ principles influenced the constitutional thinking of the Protestant Reformers of the 16th century, informing the disputes against absolute monarchies in Europe of the 17th century.

George Buchanan (1506-1582)
Again, the treatise Art and Science of Government among the Scotsby Calvinist-humanist George Buchanan (a former pupil of John Mair above) had a huge influence on political thought in Britain and America. John Milton in his ‘Defence of the People of England’ wrote concerning just government: “For Scotland I refer you to Buchanan”.

Samuel Rutherford (1600-1661)
Presbyterian minister and St Andrews Professor, Samuel Rutherford in his Lex, Rex laid the foundation for the libertarian ideas of the US Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Indeed, the American War for Independence was referred to by the British as a “Presbyterian Rebellion”. John Locke (‘Father of Classical Liberalism’) was himself much influenced by Rutherford’s ‘Lex, Rex’.

The keynote of all this Scottish Christian heritage of political thought was how to oppose the injustice of absolutism.

Herman Dooyeweerd (Dutch, 1894-1977)
In keeping with the above heritage I have an ongoing interest in the thinking of the late Dutch Christian philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd, who wrote extensively on the nature of the “just state”. The jurist and humanist G.E. Langemeyer called him “the most original philosopher Holland has produced, even Spinoza not excepted”. For those interested, I have posted an extensive extract of Dooyeweerd’s historical analysis of the nature of the “State” here:

Dooyeweerd’s style of writing can be dauntingly academic, but essentially he identifies two structural parameters of a State. The first is the more obvious one that a State can only exist at all if its Government retains a military monopoly over the given territory (interesting to consider this factor in the current UK v Scotland [particularly Trident] v Europe context). Such dominance could of course lapse into tyranny, so Dooyeweerd’s upper parameter is that a State is structurally called to seek justice for its citizens (and we immediately note that the desire to re-assert Scottish Statehood is borne of an increasingly urgent awareness of the structural “injustice” of Scotland’s terminal feebleness within the UK State).

dimanche 30 juillet 2017

Dooyeweerd: Aquinas and "substance"

Thomas Aquinas (1224/25 - 1274)
(Painting attributed to Sandro Botticelli, 15th century)
Dear P,

I must clarify with regards to Aquinas that Dooyeweerd was entirely against his concept of metaphysical "substance". A massive amount of Dooyeweerd's writings are given over to addressing that issue, whether it is "substance" as conceived by Hellenistic thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle, medieval thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas, humanist thinkers such as Kant, and so on. Kant of course talks of "noumena" and "phenomena". The "noumena" is the impenetrable "Ding an sich" - "Thing in itself" -  a "substance" beyond human access. The "phenomena" are in effect the "secondary" qualities which our senses can perceive, and which science can investigate.

Dooyeweerd rejects all this. For Dooyeweerd, "substance" is an absolutisation (reification) of something purely conceptual. In other words, in no way is "substance" really "out there". It is simply a mental projection. Moreover, believing that it IS out there invariably skews our perspective on reality towards an insuperable pernicious dualism.

Dooyeweerd in fact repudiates the description of temporal reality in terms of "being" altogether. He views that also as a Greek metaphysical substance-related misreading of the actual "state of affairs". For Dooyeweerd, strictly speaking, only God has "being". Everything created is properly defined not by "being" but by "meaning". And meaning is never self-referential. In other words meaning, by definition, must refer beyond itself. So Creation has no autonomous, intrinsic, "meaning in itself". It must refer "beyond" itself to the only Source of Meaning, ie God. And the only conduit of meaning is Christ as the corporate Head of redeemed humanity, ie of that humanity whose deepest supratemporal selfhood ("heart") is "in Christ". Although, having said that, Dooyeweerd also strongly holds to the doctrine of "common grace" which holds that God uses even anti-Christian thinkers and civilisations to move truth forward.

There is a sense in which the Cosmos has no "being in itself" when detached from humankind, as the image of God. The Cosmos fell through our first corporate head, Adam. The Cosmos is structurally and directionally rescued through our new corporate head, the Second Adam, the True Man, Christ, via his Cross and Resurrection. That is the Gospel. The Good News. So our remit is to pass on that message, to live out and enact that testimony as part of the process of cosmic redemption. Not to take flight into personal "spiritual" mysticism, but to seek to partake of the structural "heavy lifting" of fallen reality, wherever we find ourselves.

The Hellenistic irreconcilable dualism is between "Form" and "Matter". The medieval dualism is between "Nature" and "Grace". The modern humanist dualism is between "Nature" and "Freedom". These three dichotomies, which built on each other, are for Dooyeweerd the historical "ground-motives" of Western thought. They are deeper than philosophy, and distort the philosophy of those who (usually unwittingly) premise their thinking on them as "religious" [ultimate] "givens" or "a prioris". The entire mission of Dooyeweerd is to deliver our thought and life from the apostate grip of such ground-motives and to help us experience an integrated existence which is only possible when founded on the Christ-centred Biblical ground-motive of "Creation, Fall, Redemption in Christ in Communion with the Holy Spirit".

The foregoing Christian ground-motive involves for Dooyeweerd the insight that all temporal reality is focussed on Christ via the human "heart" ("selfhood") as concentration point. And in that human core-selfhood alone does temporal reality rise above time unto God as source of meaning. Yet even the human selfhood ("heart") itself is meaningless and "nothing in itself". Only in focussing on Christ does it find itself truly filled with meaning.

All distortions of reality involve the "absolutisation" ("deification") of something temporal. The notion of "substance" absolutises (reifies) that which is in fact only conceptual (or "intentional", to use a Dooyeweerd term). "Substance" is imaginary.

Volume One of 'Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy' critiques Hellenistic dualism. Volume Two, Thomistic dualism. Volume Three, which as I said I have yet to read, talks us through an anthropology based on what Dooyeweerd considers the "true integrated state of affairs" of temporal reality, involving no dualism or dichotomies.

(Hopefully further adding to clarification) I will finish this post mainly with a sequence of "substance"-related excerpts from Volume Two which I am currently reading:

"And so this substance-concept is indeed entirely based on a dichotomy beween "matter" and "spirit" within the horizon of time, between "material" and "spiritual" substantial forms.

"That this substance-concept is based on the fact that theoretical thinking is given primary independence becomes abundantly clear in the Aristotelian and Thomist metaphysical doctrine of the soul. Both make the thought-activity in its logical aspect (the nous poiētikos or intellectus agens) completely independent of the "material body", and with that they lift the logical thought-aspect out of the horizon of temporal reality with its inseparable reciprocal relationship of the aspects.

"Aristotle conceives of the active nous as ousia ("substance"), and Thomas conceives of the anima rationalis [rational soul] as purely substance (separable from the material body) (albeit as substantia incompleta). Both views are inseparably tied to making the theoretical-logical aspect of thinking into an absolute (in the sense of "detaching" this aspect [ie the analytical-logical law-sphere] from the cosmic order of time, which is its presupposition)."

In rejecting "substance" as a description of reality, Dooyeweerd argues instead for "individuality-structures". You will recall in a previous email I tried to summarise in my own words what he means by the latter (excuse my reiteration):

"OK, a "modal aspect" is simply any one of the fifteen law-spheres. A "qualifying function" is what, in the order of the law-spheres, defines any entity. Examples: The 'qualifying function" of a rock is within the Physical-energy aspect; that of a plant is within the Biotic aspect; an animal is "qualified" by the Sensory aspect.

Of course, although a plant is qualified by the Biotic law-sphere, that sphere presupposes the earlier Physical-energy sphere also. In Dooyeweerd's terminology, the plant is therefore an "enkaptic" interweaving of two "individuality structures": the physico-chemical and the biotic. The animal is an enkaptic interlacement of three individuality-structures, the "physico-chemical", the "biotic", plus the "sensory".

Now, here's the thing. The human being in Dooyeweerd's anthropology is an enkaptic interlacement of FOUR individuality-structures, ie the earlier three plus the "Act-structure". The latter transcends time because the act of thought or deed is that of an entity (a human) who by definition transcends time."

My last paragraph there is key for understanding Dooyeweerd.

All of this does in fact relate back to your current preoccupation with the nature of "Time". I will close with a few quotes from "Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy" Vol 2, to try to make the link. The word "duration" is important. Also, "typical laws" are like templates for different types of created entities - including social etc entities such as governments. Each template ALWAYS involves all fifteen temporal law-spheres / aspects, with variations of which law-sphere has dominance, or "qualifies" the given entity. (I note that Dooyeweerd actually uses the term "being" here, but in context he is distancing its import from timeless "substance" and relating it instead to temporal "individuality structures"):

"And so every individuality structure is by implication a typical order of time for the individual duration of the subjective thing or being, prescribing a typical law for its individual existence.

"Thus the subjective duration of a plant's existence is subject to the time-order of its individuality structure, which in a typical way ties the existence of this being to the function of organic life. For this is the modal function that plays the role of qualifying or leading function in the typical structural whole of the plant body.

"On the other hand, for instance in the case of a radio-active element, the individuality structure ties the duration of its individual existence to the physico-chemical function in a typical manner (time is meant here in the subjective sense of duration). For this is the modal function that acquires the typical role of qualifying or leading function in the individuality structure of such an element.

'And in the same way the individuality structure of a work of art such as the "Hermes" of Praxiteles (350-340 BC) ties the duration of its individual existence in typical fashion to the aesthetically qualified function of its form in the modal historical aspect [law-sphere] of culture. As long as this cultural form of the sculptured marble can maintain itself in its aesthetic qualification, so long does the work of art continue to exist as an individual whole. (p339)

"In this way the relationship between the individuality structure and individuality itself becomes altogether clear. The former is a typical law for the individual subject; the latter is subjected to this law as subject.

"This whole philosophical conception of the individuality structure as an intrinsic real-life temporal figure fundamentally agrees with what is presented in naive [everyday non-theoretical] experience regarding the relative durability of individual things as their component parts and sensory qualities vary over time. For relative durability is only possible in time. By contrast, the Aristotelian-Thomistic substance-concept only allows time as an entirely external measure of "movement", a category which [as itself a law-sphere/ aspect] does not inhere in "substances" in any "absolute sense".

"[...] Thus every individuality structure spans the entire modal horizon of time in all its distinct aspects [law-spheres]. For this horizon forms an integral, indissoluble coherence of modal aspects that tolerates no dichotomy. The fundamental difference between the individuality structures is only to be found in the typical manner in which its modal aspects [law-spheres] are arranged into a whole."

"[...] Starting with the religious ground-motive of Nature and Grace, Thomist scholasticism took over the Aristotelian view regarding the principle of individuation. This could not but lead to a patent antinomy between Greek metaphysics and the church's doctrine regarding the individual survival of the human soul after the death of the body. This antinomy caused scholastic theology - insofar as it followed Thomas' conception - no small embarrassment.

"[...] Aquinas extricated himself from this difficulty, where Aristotle could not help him, through a line of reasoning that may be called more ingenious than convincing. If Aristotle viewed the active nous [mind, faculty of reason] as implanted in human nature from the outside, Thomas first of all accommodated this view, as we already observed, to the church's scholastic view regarding the "anima rationalis" ["rational soul"] as a "simple substance" as well as to the church's doctrine of creation. (p344)

"The result of this was the psycho-creationist theory, which had already been zealously debated among the church fathers. This theory, which bore the mark of the impossible on its forehead, attempted to achieve a synthesis between the Scriptural motive of creation and the Greek form-motive. It argued that since theoretical thought is an activity of the "rational soul", and that this activity is "independent of the material body", therefore the soul can exist by itself as a "spiritual", albeit "incomplete", substance. Consequently God must have created it separately, and it must still be created separately in the body. As well, since the rational soul by its very nature is the substantial form of the material body, God must have created it within a body suited to it." (p344)

"[...] The Thomist construction implicitly acquired its official sanction from the church at the Fifth Lateron Council chaired by Pope Leo X (c. 1513-17). Earlier, the Council of Vienne (1312) had already adopted the Aristotelian-Thomist doctrine of the soul as the substantial form of the body! ... We witness here a process of church doctrine's increasing entanglement in scholastic philosophy with its form-matter motive as ground-motive for the understanding of human nature." (p345)
(Herman Dooyeweerd, 'Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy' Volume 2)

Best wishes,

lundi 10 juillet 2017

Pierre Marcel : Philosophie Chrétienne de Herman Dooyeweerd

Philosophie Chrétienne 
de Herman Dooyeweerd 
par Pierre Marcel
Édité par Colin Wright
25,65 €

" Pierre Marcel nous livre dans ces deux volumes consacrés à la pensée de Dooyeweerd l'une des rares introductions, en français, à ce philosophe. La complexité et la richesse de la pensée de Dooyweerd invite à une réflexion profonde et sérieuse. La dimension holistique de cette pensée, touchant à tous les aspects de la vie humaine, procure une vision globale de la présence de la foi chrétienne dans le société. "
Pierre Marcel c 1983

mercredi 28 juin 2017

Dooyeweerd: Individuality Structures, Metaphysics, Classical Darwinism as Theoretic Magic Trick

(Also called Aspects/ Modes/ Modalities/ Meaning-sides)

Dooyeweerd: Individuality Structures, Metaphysics, Classical Darwinism as Theoretic Magic Trick

(Extracts fom Herman Dooyeweerd, ‘Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy’ Vol II, pp 232-236)
[NB green text inserts within square brackets are by FMF]

The Law-Idea and the 
individuality structures of reality.

[pp 230-232] Because of its theoretical character, the Law-Idea is primarily an idea of how things differentiate in their modal aspects [see law-sphere chart above] within our horizon of time.

In this respect it pointedly joins the structure of the theoretic Gegenstand relation, which primarily arises by separating the aspects [law-spheres] and by placing the logical aspect [Analytical law-sphere] in opposition to the non-logical ones.

As we shall see, from a theoretical point of view, distinguishing the modal aspects [law-spheres] is fundamental for all other further philosophical investigation, even though this distinction demands a transcendental idea of their radical unity.

But philosophical thought cannot halt at an analysis of the modal structures. Since concrete reality is founded on typical structures of individuality, we must now try to penetrate to the individuality structures which ground concrete reality. The Gegenstand relation itself demands to be directed towards what is concrete, if it is not to ignore what is pre-given and which makes it possible in the first place.

Reality presents itself to human consciousness only in typical individuality structures, never in modal [law-sphere] abstractions. We must therefore submit these individuality structures to an analysis in the Gegenstand relation if theoretic thought is indeed to disclose reality theoretically.

This means that we must also direct our idea of the law toward these structures, if it is to maintain itself as the transcendental basic idea of philosophic thinking.

These individuality structures too, as soon as they are placed in the Gegenstand relation, pose a real transcendental problem for philosophic thought that can never be solved in a purely theoretical way and is closely related to the problem raised by the analysis of the the modal structures.

We can formulate this problem again as that of unity in relation to the diversity exposed by our theory, a problem which not a single philosophic school can avoid, since it emerges automatically from the Gegenstand relation itself.

In individuality structures, however, this problem displays an especially complicated character. As we saw earlier, the reason is that individuality structures span all modal aspects [law-spheres] and yet are structures of an individual whole [eg in Dooyeweerd's view humans are comprised of four “enkaptically” interlaced individuality structures: 1) physico-chemical, 2) biotic, 3) sensory, 4) act-structure].

What guarantees the intrinsic unity here? Is this unity absolute or relative by nature? Is it a unity above or within the diversity of aspects [law-spheres]?

The answer to these questions will decide the whole direction of our philosophic investigation of the typical structures of reality. It will depend on how we view the mutual relation and coherence of the various types of structures, and this in turn is determined by our deepest religious [ultimate] presuppositions concerning the basic unity and Origin of temporal reality.

And only the Law-Idea can give a critical theoretic account of these presuppositions.

[p 232] Since our Law-Idea disclosed the time-horizon of reality as seen from the radical unity and Origin of all modal structures, we were able to avoid making any modal aspect [law-sphere] into an absolute.

The modal unity appeared to be merely a modal expression of the continuity of cosmic time. We found it to be a modal structure in time which guarantees structural coherence but not unity of origin. Still, unity comes first, also in the idea of the modal structure.

This fundamental unity itself, which is a priori in the ontological sense of the word, cannot be analyzed theoretically, since this unity, as we now know, is an ontic presupposition for all scientific analysis.
Contra Metaphysics.

[p 233] The individual structures are not given to us outside of cosmic time and are, as our further investigation will show, only possible within time and through time. They lose all validity beyond the horizon of time.

As soon as one loses sight of this, philosophic thinking is always driven toward a speculative metaphysics, which pretends it can raise theoretic thinking with its abstractions above the horizon of time and so ends up declaring independent what is relative.

Metaphysics does not establish the relationship between on the one hand all things that are relative within time and on the other their radical unity and their absolute Origin which, as our transcendental critique has demonstrated, is a transcendental precondition for all philosophic thinking.

But the defect of the metaphysical way of thinking is its failure to understand that it itself is determined at a pre-theoretical level and that it mistakes intrinsically religious [ultimate] prejudices for purely theoretical conclusions and in the process elevates theoretical abstractions to the level of supra-temporal substantial entities.

For that reason alone the Philosophy of the Law-Idea has become the radical adversary of metaphysical thought, and certainly not in order to curry the favor of positivism, which itself is rooted in a dogmatic metaphysical view of science.

The individuality structures include all individual reality within cosmic time. Like the modal [law-sphere] structures, they form a universal horizon for all that exists or occurs in time.

Full temporal reality always reveals its subject-side individually. And this individuality can only be realized in typical structures, which as law-types of individual totalities span all modal law-aspects [law-spheres] and arrange them in the unity of a typical structure.

The horizon of these structures is of an inexhaustible wealth, and every philosophic theory that tries to explain the individuality from a uniform principle and to reduce structural types to a few abstract schemes is objectionable from the start, because it sacrifices the wealth of God's creative wisdom to its passion for arbitrary constructions.

The humanist science-ideal and the tendency to dissolve the individuality structures in a closed system of modal relations. The classical phylogenetic doctrine in biology.

[pp 234-236] We must especially warn against the attempt of the humanistic science ideal to dissolve the individuality structures into modal relations, which one then believes one can put into a closed causal, or at least a logical, system. The modal [law-sphere] denominator under which the structures are brought then depends upon the synthetic [conceptual] viewpoint in the scientific discipline that one has made absolute as his Archimedean [integration] point. 

A typical example of such an aspiration is the classical doctrine of evolution, which Charles Darwin started (1859, 1871) and Ernst Haeckel worked out philosophically (1899) and which tried to fit all living organisms into one genetic tree, starting with protozoa (unicellular beings in the plant and animal realm) and ending with the human species.

Beginning with the unlimited variability of form-types, they attempted to arrange them in a biological system of development in which the most primitive evolved into the most highly developed forms of life in purely mechanical fashion. A process of natural selection of those most adapted in the struggle for survival, and the inheritance of acquired characteristics, was proposed for its explanation.

What immediately strikes us here from a philosophical point of view is that the unity of all life in the diversity of its typical forms of appearance is placed in the foreground. This was the strongest side of this theory of descent. Because this unity does indeed exist. 

However, it is modal in character. "Life" as such is not a thing but an attribute, a modal aspect [law-sphere] of temporal reality. Its nucleus of meaning returns in the structure of all later aspects [law-spheres] as an analogy [the structure of each law-sphere references all other law-spheres] and its unity of origin and fulfillment can only be found in the religious [ultimate] communion with God as the Fountain of all life.

We cannot reduce the immense diversity of the typical individuality structures [which always function within all law-spheres] to the purely modal unity of all of life [ie to an absolutised Biotic law-sphere - see pale blue band on above chart].

Unforeseen, evolutionism therefore reduces the modal unity to a material complex. "Life" is reduced to a material unity determined by physico-chemical processes; it is identified with the living protein of protoplasm, which in protists (“Protists”: a group of unicellular living entities) would crystallize into living individuals, and from that beginning it would in mechanistic fashion account for the rich enfolding of all the forms of a typical structure as mere varieties.

Here then begins the fundamental aberration of scientific thinking. For the problem of the individuality structure returns in the "protists." They are not pure modal units of life [ie impossibly reductionist products of the Biotic law-sphere] but individual living beings that [necessarily] function in all aspects [law-spheres] of reality when we reckon with the subject-object relation [which presents as concrete temporal reality].

The unity of their individuality structure and the unity of their individual existence as subject are not guaranteed by the unity of the modal structure of the life-aspect [ie Biotic law-sphere].

When it is evident that the typical totality structure of living beings cannot be reduced to each other and that a human being proves to be radically different from animal and plant already in its temporal existence [cf only humans have “act-structure”], how then can anyone in all seriousness believe that one can bridge these differences in structure in a purely biological [discrete single law-sphere] manner?

Indeed, how would one propose to reduce the typical differences in structure of the "protists" genetically to an original unity of structure? In order to bring off this theoretic trick of magic the really existing protists in the plant and animal world (the unicellular algae or protophytes and the unicellular amoeba or protozoa) would first have to be reduced genetically to a hypothetical proto-cell without nucleus, the so-called "moner." However, the existence of moners could not be demonstrated, yet they had to form the hypothetical "origin" of the genetic system of all living beings. They were the "proto-protists," which themselves were to be the individual crystallization products of living protein: crystals without any special shape or organization.

Haeckel did not know yet that every type of living organism produces its own type of protein, so that in the living protein, formed by cellular protoplasm, the problem of individuality structures returns immediately. In his day scientists had no idea yet of the immensely complicated structure of the various types of protein (a protein consists of over twenty different amino acids - these in turn are complex compounds of carbon chain or ring which contain nitrogen in the form of the NH2-group). 

Finally, the mechanistic science ideal demanded the denial that the modal aspect of life [Biotic law-sphere] cannot be reduced to another aspect [ie to the Physical-Energy (“mineral”) Law-sphere - see chart above]. The functions of life were nothing but a complicated modality of the physico-chemical characteristics of protein matter. And this protein in turn was supposed to have been formed in the same mechanistic manner from existing inorganic compounds in the "proto-sea" of earlier geological periods.

And so one witnessed the revival - under the banner of the modern mechanistic science ideal of an ancient mythology, already known in Greek natural philosophy - of a spontaneous production of living matter from dead material: the "generatio aequivoca." The leap from dead to living protein posed no problem for this mechanistic way of thinking.

In reality, however, the problem of the structure of individuality returned even beyond the boundaries of the life-aspect [Biotic law-sphere] in inorganic chemical compounds [Physical/ Energy (“mineral”) law-sphere].

Extracts from Herman Dooyeweerd’s ‘Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy’ Vol II, Paideia Press 2013) 

[NB Confusing cover says: "SERIES A -VOLUME SIX". This is in fact the central volume of a trilogy called: "Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy". See info on Amazon's rear cover image.]


Hi Alan,

Everything within Time functions holistically within ALL law-spheres/ aspects. ALWAYS. Without exception. The law-spheres, after all, are aspects of TIME. 

There are different creaturely "templates” ("individuality structures") at work: rock, rose, horse, human etc. Also fried eggs, paper, paint, birds nests, bridges, TVs, football clubs, families, governments, churches, businesses, schools etc etc. These all prioritise (are "qualified" by) different aspects, but they ALWAYS function, one way or another (as "subject" or as "object") in ALL aspects/ law-spheres.

The human does too, but as image of God the human alone also TRANSCENDS Time in his/her deepest selfhood/ heart (“God has put eternity in the heart” Ecclesiastes). Our loyalty and focus and worship are therefore directed above time (above and beyond the temporal law-spheres) to the Living God Who created and sustains and gives meaning to all creaturely reality within Time. Or our focus is directed towards an ersatz alternative.

The pagan or humanist in his/ her apostasy seeks, Dooyeweerd argues, to replace the Living Eternal God with something within Time. In effect, this idolatry invariably takes the form of an absolutisation of a law-sphere. The attempt is made to elevate that which is only relative to the role of ultimate integration-point and origin of all meaning of reality, including of one's personal selfhood.

By deifying one law-sphere (or occasionally an attempted synthesis of more than one) every other law-sphere is automatically interpreted as a mere by-product or court-retainer of that particular absolutised aspect. 

In Dooyeweerd's analysis, reflecting societal, historical, aesthetic, juridical etc law-spheres, a redressing dynamic will eventually engender a counter-balancing retribution. The disharmony will awaken the opposing polarity. Hence the arising of historical "ground-motive" dualisms: Hellenistic Form-Matter, Thomistic Nature-Grace, Humanistic Nature-Freedom.

Theoretical reductionism of reality to one law-sphere involves a flagrant disregard of the internal sphere-sovereignty and mutual irreducibility of all law-spheres. Everything has a Logical Aspect but cannot be exhausted by the Logical. Just as everything has Aesthetic and Economic Aspects but cannot be exhausted by the Aesthetic or Economic. 

Let us emphasise again that even the Logical/ Analytical law-sphere cannot be made the source of all other aspects. Some Christians might usefully ponder that. And philosophical Rationalists might benefit from greater awareness of the concrete selfhood behind the buzz-saw of Logic (to borrow a Van Til image). 

The concrete selfhood which, immersed in temporal reality, ALWAYS functions (always acts) in ALL aspects simultaneously. 

The concrete selfhood which necessarily transcends at its deepest human core Time itself. Harbouring (usually unawares or unacknowledged) a pre-committed ultimate ("religious", to use Dooyeweerd's term) anchorage deeper than thought itself. Deeper than Logic itself. For Logic, let us remember, is theoretical. The thinker is not. 

Picasso was once asked if, when eating a tomato, he envisaged it in cubist terms or whatever. "No", he reportedly replied. "I just eat the tomato." Ultimately we all just eat the time-immersed tomato.

Remember Dooyeweerd’s analogy of the fullness of truth like clear light refracting through the prism of Time. Thus, since all temporal reality always functions in all law-spheres, reality cannot be reduced to one "colour", eg to the Logical law-sphere. In fact, apart from the sustaining power of God over His creational laws, human theoretic reductionism (if actually realised) would pop reality like a soap bubble.  

So what of Classical Darwinism? Dooyeweerd points out here that it's explanation is incoherent on various levels. In the first instance it absolutises the Biotic law-sphere. This reductionist "biologism" is a kind of metaphysics, in that it attempts to reify (assert as actual substance “out there” ) that which is merely an idea in the head. 

In Dooyeweerd's view the law-spheres succeeding the Biotic (see chart above) cannot be derived from the Biotic. The law-spheres are "ontologically prior" to that which functions within them (eg living entities).

This error is then compounded by trying to derive “Life” from non-living matter. This shifts the absolutisation/ reductionism down from the Biotic law-sphere to the Physical-Energy (mineral) law-sphere. 

“A theoretic magic trick”, Dooyeweerd quips.

dimanche 25 juin 2017

Dooyeweerd: Consequences of Scholastic absolutizing of “moral law”

Dooyeweerd: Consequences of Scholastic absolutizing of “moral law”(Extracts from Herman Dooyeweerd’s ‘Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy’ Vol II)

[pp 218-219] We then arrive again at the real Scriptural view that all temporal aspects of the divine law find their deeper unity in a common root: the central religious commandment: to serve and love God with our whole heart and all our strength; and our neighbour as ourselves, as a fellow member of the religious community of mankind - with its common root (origin). 

This is the fullness and absolute unity of divine law, as Christ Jesus taught us. Only in this religious sense is the law of God supra-temporal, does it transcend the temporal cosmos, does it have meaning for eternity.

One can easily fail to grasp the full religious meaning of this command if one applies it only to human existence as perceived according to the Greek doctrine of substance, whereby the other temporal creatures such as inorganic things, plants and animals, are left out. Such a view certainly fails to do justice to the deeper sense of the Christian law-idea. It fails to appreciate that the entire temporal cosmos is religiously rooted in the human race, which is why the radical fall into sin has dragged this whole temporal cosmos with it.

No, the full meaning of the central religious command was already given in the order of creation itself. This command includes nothing less than the divine demand of centering the entire temporal cosmos, with all the forces and potentialities placed in it, upon the religious service in love of God and neighbor. For God created the human being as the lord of the entire temporal creation. The entire meaning of the temporal cosmos is included in the heart of his existence.

Only for that reason does this central command indeed include the deepest religious unity of all divine ordinances for temporal reality, without exception. This implicitly condemns the view that it would only contain the religious meaning of the “moral law,” which itself merely governs a temporal aspect of our existence - that of morality. [NB "Moral" = "Ethical" law-sphere. See pale blue band near top of yellow list on chart above]. 

The concept of the “moral law” as the unity of norm for human action is derived from Greek, and especially Aristotelian and Stoic philosophy, but is utterly foreign to Scripture. It was originally inspired by the rational form principle in the religious ground-motive of form and matter. According to Thomas [Aquinas] the moral law as the norm for our actions is founded upon the rational form of “human nature”. 

[pp 220-221] This view of the moral law left no room for an investigation into the various modal normative aspects for human action.

Aristotelian-Thomist “natural ethics” developed a “doctrine of virtues” that was not at all based on the nuclear moment of the moral aspect, the temporal relationship of love in its normative sense. [...] The modal nucleus of meaning of what is moral [ethical] was never made into an issue here.

The theology of the Reformation accommodated this Greek concept of the moral law to Scripture by identifying the moral law with the Decalogue, which in turn was concentrically compressed into the central religious command. Thus one could reject autonomous “natural ethics” and declare only a ”theological” moral law valid, while still taking one’s philosophic orientation from the Greek view of the moral law as the unity of norm. 

However, the great cultural mandate, given to humankind at creation, could not possibly be squeezed into the framework of “moral law”. The result was that the view of the moral law as the absolute and only norm for our actions simply could not be squared with Scripture.

Again, this whole concept of the norm was the fruit of the scholastic urge to accomodate. But it left science completely in the dark when it saw itself confronted with the task to investigate the normative aspects of reality in their specific law-spheres (and those are all the aspects that come after the psychic-sensory aspect in the cosmic order of time) [Note "Sensory/ Psychic (feeling)" law-sphere on yellow panel list above].

The prejudice that the unity of norm for human action would be given in the “moral law” led to the following situation. It became impossible to accept norms for historical culture, for social interaction, for economics and justice in the irreducible character for each of them, and the danger of identifying the norms for faith with the moral law was ignored altogether. 

But absolutizing the moral [ethical] aspect of reality at the same time led to an intrinsic disturbance of insight into the modal structure of this moral law-sphere itself, which is inseparably interwoven with all other law-spheres in time in its analogies [retrocipations and anticipations].

As a result, basic problems such as the relation of morals and history, of justice and history, of economics and history, etc., were addressed in a fundamentally erroneous manner -- if they were addressed at all.

[pp 223-224] As long as Christian thinkers refuse to be led by a truly Scripturally-directed idea of the law, they cannot gain insight into the proper relation between faith and the laws of nature. As long as the entire view of the law is not transformed, miracles have to remain in conflict with the concept of natural law for the scientist.

But humankind held onto a theoretical view of reality, determined by the dialectic, unscriptural ground-motives. And so, from the standpoint of accommodation, the same irreconcilable dualism retained the upper hand in the understanding of the law. It prevented scholastic anthropology from penetrating to the root and deeper unity in human nature. It created the same theoretic dichotomy between the “moral law” and the “natural laws” - discovered by modern science - as between “material body” and “rational soul”

From this starting point one cannot possibly penetrate to the radical unity of all the aspects of the law. Indeed, the dualistic starting point of one’s theory made the entire insight into the various modal structures of the law-spheres impossible.

The wealth of modal structures was lost due to a theoretic dichotomy in the temporal order which the divine law-order displays in time.

[p 224] As soon as theoretic thinking was again concentrated upon the radical all-encompassing meaning of divine law, the levelling dichotomy in the theoretical law-concept also had to be broken.

When we direct our theoretical glance in time from a Scriptural starting point, the religious unity and meaning-fullness of God’s law breaks up into a multicoloured wealth of law-spheres, which are merely the modal aspects it displays in time. 

Just as sunlight is refracted by a prism into the color spectrum of the rainbow, time functions like a prism that breaks up the meaning of the religious fullness of the divine law.

The temporal aspects of this law possess sphere-sovereignty and sphere-universality. In their modal structures they are inseparably interwoven, so that not one of them can be lifted out of this coherence and made into absolute law.

Extracts from Herman Dooyeweerd’s ‘Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy’ Vol II, Paideia Press 2013) 

[NB Confusing cover says: "SERIES A -VOLUME SIX". This is in fact the central volume of a trilogy called: "Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy". See info on Amazon's rear cover image.]

See also:

The scholastic distinction between moral theology and natural ethics

Dooyeweerd: ETHICS: Aalders, Brunner, Luther

mardi 2 mai 2017

Dooyeweerd: Scripture, Philosophy, Scientific Dogmatism

Scripture, Philosophy, 
Scientific Dogmatism 
by Herman Dooyeweerd 

(Some quotes from pages 5 to 50 of Herman Dooyeweerd's 
Paideia Press 2013, paperback £9.00) 

[pp 3-4] The Scriptural ground-motive tolerates no compromise with a religious [ie “ultimate”] ground-motive that is unscriptural. It is integral, and it demands the whole person in body and soul. It lays claim to all of life. In mankind and its religious [“ultimate”] root, the biblical ground-motive directs, in concentric fashion, the entire cosmos with all its forces and potencies toward the service of God, who has revealed Himself in His Word.
[p 4] What area of our temporal existence could withdraw from such spiritual workings? The Apostle Paul, by faith, dared to involve even the most "trivial" things of life, such as eating and drinking, in the glorification of God. How then could such an important area as the domain of science shut its doors to the spiritual force of this ground-motive?
[pp 5-6] The demand for a fundamental reformation of all of life, scientific activity included, is contained in the central commandment of love. Christ Himself understood this central commandment as the basic unity of all the laws that God gave His creatures: to serve God in love with all our heart and powers. Among the latter, the mind is mentioned with special emphasis. It is impossible to accept this central commandment in its radical and integral meaning and at the same time to reject the demand for a reformation of our attitude to life and thought.

But Scripture, as norm of faith, is not just a system of religious truths, accessible to all, from which science could deduce its ultimate foundations along logical lines. If that were the case, even the devil, in the guise of an orthodox scholar, could carry on Christian science. Scripture is only accessible through the operation of the Holy Spirit. The Word of God is spirit and power unto life or unto death. That is the antithesis it poses. This antithesis is not theoretical in nature; it does not oppose one theoretical system to another. Rather, it reaches to the religious [“ultimate”] root of human existence.
[pp 6-7] The reformational Scriptural principle poses a task of ongoing reformation, also for science, a never-ending task while the present dispensation lasts. It means that we can never rest from ridding our science of concepts which have their source, not in the ground-motives of the Divine Word-revelation, but in idolatrous motives. It guards against the canonization of all human ideas or pronouncements and always submits these to the crucial test -- the radical critique of the Word of God. This is the anti-scholastic principle in the spirit of the reformation.
[pp 7-8] Scripture is a coherent and unified whole. It cannot be approached from a temporal historical or moral perspective, but only from its own religious ground-motive. In this ground-motive it manifests itself to the human heart as the truly divine revelation through the Holy Spirit; and it places itself in radical opposition to all religious conceptions that originate in the apostate heart of humankind.

What happens when we try to approach the basic theme of creation, fall into sin, and redemption through Christ Jesus from the apostate human point of view? In revolutionary fashion, the basic religious relation between God and the human person is immediately turned upside down. Whereas "God created man in His own image," apostate humankind creates its God after its own image. In Adam man fell away from God and thus came under God's judgement. The apostate human heart, however, summons his God before the bar of human reason. There it seeks for a theodicy, a justification of the divine order that would cancel the consequences of the Fall in temporal life by means of the "harmony of a rational system."

The great trial between God and apostate humanity, however, is not conducted before the tribunal of human reason. It takes place before the judgement seat of God. God has revealed His love and justice in their divine original unity in Christ Jesus, the Word incarnate. This Word has earned for us radical salvation from sin through His cross and restored true fellowship between God and mankind.
[p 8] This ground-motive is the heart of Scripture. Primarily it is not a theoretical, theological doctrine, but a divine dunamis that transforms all theory at its root. And this dunamis [“power”] operates in this manner only in palingenesis, in the rebirth of the heart.

If anyone approaches Scripture from another religious [“ultimate”] ground-motive, not even the most extensive theological knowledge of Scripture will protect him from using Scripture in an unscriptural manner. For this simple reason, no intrinsically Reformed philosophy can ever take its starting point in the science of theology. Indeed a genuinely Scriptural theology can only arise from the ground-motive of Scripture itself.
[p 13] The reformation of scientific thought that Calvin and Luther began in the field of theology did not begin to spread through science as a whole until the Calvinist revival led by Kuyper toward the end of the nineteenth century. What was the reason for this delay? From the very start, Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560) had guided the reformational movement in science down the scholastic path of synthesis with the spirit of antiquity and Humanism.
[p 15] The golden opportunity to develop a Christian philosophy animated by the spirit of the Reformation was thereby suppressed for centuries. Melanchthon's enormous influence continued to dominate philosophical instruction and research at Protestant universities. Soon it allied itself there with the restoration of Aristotelian scholasticism, until finally the humanistic Enlightenment appeared on the scene and Protestant theology itself fell victim to synthesis.
[p 15] Humanism, on the other hand, posited the dogma of the autonomy of science as a theoretical axiom. The logic of this dogma demanded that every attempt to arrive at an inner reformation of scientific thought be nipped in the bud by simply banishing it from scientific discussion.
[p 21] Dynamics, movement is everything today. Misconstruing the ground-motive of Greek thought, some people think that the pronouncement of the Greek thinker Heraclitus, “all is in flux, nothing abides”, can be used once again to describe the current spiritual-intellectual situation. Humanism thus has fallen into decline precisely in its dogmatic attitude.
[pp 21-22] Like a tidal wave, historicism, pragmatism, vitalism and existentialism have inundated the riverbed of modern philosophical thought. They are all characterized by an irrationalistic, anti-systematic spirit that regards every “system” as suspect from the start.

To ground philosophic thought in an eternal truth, whether this be the divine Word-revelation or a realm of rational ideas or values, has become unzeitgemäß, out of step with the times, in the full sense of the word.
[p 26] The Philosophy of the Law-Idea has broken radically with traditional notions of a “Christian Philosophy”. Its demand for a reformation of philosophical thought entails the precise opposite of scholastic attempts at accommodation. Although it is rooted in the Scriptural starting point of the Calvinist reformation, it does not try to base itself on scientific-theological dogmatics. While openly confessing that it is bound to the ground-motive of the divine Word-revelation, it simultaneously wages a relentless battle against every form of philosophical dogmatism that puts all its confidence in philosophical thought and pretends that its religious presuppositions are theoretical axioms.
[pp 26-27] By virtue of its reformational ground-motive it has begun in its philosophical system a principled battle against the scholastic tradition, even where this comes to expression in Reformed thought. Nevertheless, it recognizes the scientific value of classic scholasticism, found in its often profound philosophical insights. In the same manner it also wishes to do full justice to ancient Greek and modern humanistic philosophy. It steadfastly opposes, however, every attempt at synthesis between the Christian ground-motive and the ground-motives of unscriptural philosophy.
[pp 44-46] On the other hand, humanists have no right to deny the scientific character of dogmatic reformational theology on the ground that its practitioners, by faith, are materially bound to Scripture as the positive, creaturely form of the divine Word-revelation. They assume that a truly scientific study of Scripture is only possible if it is regarded as a purely historical and literary document.

Such a view of the matter is intrinsically unscientific, however; for one of the primary requirements for scientific insight is recognition of the peculiar nature of one's field of inquiry. Scripture, in its creaturely temporal form, only allows itself to be approached as divine Word-revelation, regardless of the aspect from which one considers it scientifically. As such, it demands faith in its divine Origin. Anyone who attempts to approach Scripture on the basis of humanistic faith in the autonomy of human reason fundamentally distorts its nature and therefore can never gain access to it by means of science.

Scripture is God’s Word-revelation in the creaturely form of written documents. These have been composed by human authors who, while inspired by the Holy Spirit, still completely retained their individual human character, their style of writing, and their cultural development. It would not be a revelation of God if it did not enter into this human, creaturely form, but instead remained pure and at rest in the perfect being of God.

This creaturely form of Scripture, however, also necessarily exposes it to misunderstanding and rejection on the part of apostate humanity. Just as, in its incarnation in Christ Jesus, the divine Word became a sign that had to be spoken against (Luke 2:34 ['Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against']), so from the start, when it entered the creaturely realm of humankind, the divine Word-revelation was subjected to the gainsaying of human hubris. This hubris becomes manifest both in the deification of the human form of Scriptural revelation and in the humanization of its divine character.

Scripture does not reveal its divine character through a miraculous sign from heaven, visible or audible to everyone. Indeed, even such a sign would be spoken against. Only God's Spirit can reveal God to us in His Word, and not through visible signs, but through its silent work of regeneration in the human heart. Human hubris wants no true communion with God. That is why it rejects His Word. This human hubris must first be broken, and the human heart must first be made receptive, if the Word of God is to make its home there. Only then, moreover, is the soil prepared for scientific inquiry that bases itself on God's Word and is transformed by that Word at its root. But in every dimension of this inquiry, the Word of God demands that its ground-motive be accepted completely.

It is a universally valid scientific requirement that one must always be prepared to abandon one's theoretical views, however dearly one holds them, if closer examination reveals that they find no support in one's field of study or are even contradicted by fundamental states of affairs that obtain there. Scientific dogmatism is always unscientific. This is equally true even for systematic theology, to the extent that it holds fast to the scholastic philosophical tradition. Theology openly displays such an unscientific dogmatism when it tries to find support for unscriptural philosophical concepts [such as “substance,” 'human nature," "rational soul," "immortal soul," etc (p29)] in the terminology of certain foreign confessional documents such as the Westminster Confession or the Second Helvetic Confession. In this case the threat to the purity of the Reformed confession comes from theology, not from the direction of a philosophy [eg The Philosophy of the Law-Idea] that wishes to take the ground-motive of Scripture seriously, even in the domain of science, by undertaking an inner reformation of philosophic thought.

On the other hand, scholars of humanistic persuasion must never think that the scientific requirement mentioned above ever could entail an abandoning of faith in the absolute Truth of the divine Word-revelation. For this faith is a necessary presupposition of Christian scholarship as such; and in the scientific examination of Scripture it is demanded by the nature of what is investigated.

The guidance of Christian faith provides the most eminent guarantee of the scientific character of scientific inquiry, provided one always remembers that divine revelation and church confession are not themselves scientific in nature, but have to be interpreted in accordance with their own character. When Christian faith does not guide science, then, because of the lack of science's self-sufficient structure, another faith will take over; and by the standard of God's Word such a faith must be labeled as "unbelief," which in this context means a false faith. The control of such a false faith becomes evident when scientific authority is ascribed to religious [“ultimate”] presuppositions, an act that is tantamount to a fundamental violation of the sphere-sovereignty of science.

Why have systematic theologians offered so many misconceptions regarding the idea of a Christian philosophy? In the final analysis, these can all be traced back to their lack of insight into the internal point of contact between philosophy and the Christian religion.

Theologians failed to understand that the religious [“ultimate”] ground-motive, in which philosophical thought is rooted, controls one's entire philosophic view of the intrinsic structure of temporal reality. Instead, they started by accepting philosophical conceptions of reality rooted in unscriptural, dualistic ground-motives; and they then sought, in a merely external theological fashion to accommodate these conceptions to Christian doctrine. They therefore also did not see that the Scriptural ground-motive of the Christian religion has a central significance for the internal progress of philosophical inquiry, since it overturns the whole unscriptural view of the structure of temporal reality at its very root. They did not look for inner reformation, but only for external accommodation; and in so doing they never found the way to a genuinely Christian philosophy.

[p 47] Philosophy will not allow itself to be degraded to the role of a handmaiden of theological science. [...] As soon as one considers the unique character of philosophy, this must immediately become clear.

[p 48] It is only philosophy, moreover, that can give us theoretical insight into the typical structures of individual totalities such as things, concrete events, the temporal form of human existence, and the forms of society. All these, too, lie beyond the scope of the special sciences, and as typical total structures of reality they overarch, on principle, all the aspects of reality. Philosophy can only offer this insight, however, on the basis of a person's integral experience of reality, not on the basis of an a priori metaphysics.

[pp 48, 49] In the light of all this, how could it be possible to adapt to Christian doctrine a philosophic conception of reality that is entirely controlled by the dualistic form-matter motive (for example, the conception of reality offered in Aristotle's Metaphysics, or the philosophical epistemology developed in his Logic)? Such an attempt at accommodation will in reality have consequences that are utterly different from those intended. Although the philosophical conceptions mentioned above may purportedly be incorporated into theology for merely "formal use", they will inevitably have a material influence on the theological understanding of Christian doctrine. Indeed, they will even end up playing a dangerous role in the theological exegesis of Scripture. I will present various examples of this in my critical examination of the scholastic concept of substance.

The road of accommodation thus leads to a dead end. The concern of truly Christian philosophy is not to accommodate "philosophy" to Christian doctrine, which in actual practice rather proves to be an accommodation of Scripture to unscriptural philosophy. On the contrary, its concern is the inner reformation of philosophic thought while preserving its unique, intrinsic nature.

[p 49] Philosophy has a different task, a field of inquiry that differs from that of systematic theology. The Christian religion guarantees that we have an integral point of contact with philosophy, for it reaches to the religious ["ultimate"] root of the whole of temporal reality. Philosophy investigates this structure of reality.

[pp 49-50] One necessary implication of the foregoing is that Biblical texts can no longer be appealed to in intrinsically philosophic inquiry in order to sanction particular scientific views. On the other hand, however, in laying the Christian foundations of philosophy the Scriptures, and subordinated to it the confessions, will now indeed become the only sources. All philosophical problems must be probed down to their religious root, and at that point only the divine Word-revelation can shed light, a light which illumines the whole philosophic view of the structure of reality but which, in the nature of the case, can never itself provide the solution to an intrinsically scientific problem.

This is, therefore, indeed a radical reversal of the standpoint of accommodation taken by Augustinian and Protestant scholasticism. There, after all, the use of Scripture to address intrinsically philosophical questions was an indispensable requirement for the "Christianization" of philosophy. This was necessary because, in adopting Greek or scholastic philosophy, the Augustinians and Protestants also implicitly adopted the religious ground-motives on which they were based. And the more alien the foundations of their philosophy were to the Christian religion, the more copious, on this standpoint of accommodation, became their appeals to Bible texts in order to sanction their philosophic views and concepts. "Profane wisdom", after all, had to be brought into agreement with Scripture; it had to be adapted for "theological use". 

If the divine Word-revelation really is used to "solve" scientific problems, however, then it cannot be the foundation of science. The foundation must lie at a lower level than the building that will rest on it, and it must be of a different nature. [...] Philosophy must either be Scriptural in its foundation - or it will not even exist for the Christian!

(from Herman Dooyeweerd,'Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy' Vol 2, Paideia Press 2013, paperback £9.00)