vendredi 15 décembre 2017

Abortion: Some related remarks by Dooyeweerdian thinker Andree Troost (1916-2008)

Abortion: Some related remarks by Dooyeweerdian thinker Andree Troost (1916-2008)

Being extracts from: ‘WHAT IS REFORMATIONAL PHILOSOPHY? An Introduction to the Cosmonomic Philosophy of HERMAN DOOYEWEERD’ (Paideia Press 2012)

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

9.2.4 Physical Time
According to the experts, time in the physical aspect [or "experiential law-sphere" - see above chart] manifests itself as non-reversibility in succession. This is shown by the sequential order of cause and effect. In everyday life physical time is primarily objectified in clock time and also in calendar dates — in “day and hour”.

9.2.5 Organic Time
In this aspect [law-sphere], (universal or total) time is expressed in the progression of the life process.

a) The organic process is characterized by development and decline, in the progression of germination, growth, maturation, ageing and dying. Physical irreversibility is here enhanced by finality, that is, goal-orientation, purpose.

b) The phases in organic processes, as in historical processes (see below), cannot be demarcated from each other mathematically (that is, quantitatively) by means of clock-time units such as years. Our internal biological clock is not synchronous with our watch.

Thus it is impossible to indicate the exact moment when a person or animal comes into being in the process of generation, or when death has set in. This requires biological and psychological criteria; but even these can only mark certain aspects of corporeal death or corporeal life. In the case of human beings, moreover, clerks at the Records Office will apply a juridical [aspect/ law-sphere] criterion when they ask for a doctor’s certificate. 

Man, as we will see in the next chapter, is not exhausted by his temporal mode of existence. That is also the reason why the (wrongly formulated) problem of the exact time of human generation and death finds its answer outside the area accessible to scientific analysis.

This fact is not important in the first place for the juridical problem of abortion and euthanasia (in the end-of-life phase), or for the medical problem of the criterion for terminating life (for the purpose, say, of organ transplants), but it is especially important for the moral and religious questions that arise here.

c) Full humanity comprises more than a person’s lifetime, that is to say, more than its beginning and its end in time. Therefore it cannot be delimited or measured by any aspectual [experiential law-sphere] criterion. We have long known this in faith, indeed we find it quite normal: we have no problem confessing that “temporal or physical death” is not the end of our existence.

Theology’s crutch here was always the pagan doctrine of an “immortal soul”. In practice this tool for use in apologetics usually leads to a materialistic view of the beginning and end of our temporal human existence. Both are then pinned down to an organic [aspect/ law-sphere] moment in time (the fusion of egg cell and sperm cell at conception, implantation in the uterine wall, to an exact moment for establishing cardiac arrest or brain death). In turn this often causes people to wrongly introduce the term “murder”. In the end, the way people think and talk about these issues is governed by how they view man’s heart, life’s transience, and the relation between them.

Here, too, ‘ethics’ is based on a theoretical view of reality (and in this context: on an anthropology) which is philosophical in character. The question at which point in time an organically qualified ["organically qualified" = context in which the organic aspect is the leading experiential law-sphere] fetus has become or will become a human being cannot be answered scientifically. Any answer one might give depends on a subjective religious interpretation of the observable facts in a concrete case. But the grounds for this belief, erroneous or not, can never be found in theoretical hypotheses about organic facts, the more so when these facts can only be established scientifically and with sophisticated medical technology. Every real belief (or “unbelief”) is based on man’s reception and interpretation of divine revelation. (pp 152, 153)

9.2.13 Juridical Time
The meaning of retribution gives an entirely distinctive mode of expression to time in the juridical aspect [experiential law-sphere].

a) Certain rights can be forfeited through lapse of time and “superannuate”, losing their validity. The term of a prison sentence cannot be prescribed in law in terms of a fixed number of months and years. The term is a punishment, which is a juridical figure. To be a just punishment, a judge (as a living and deliberating person) must determine its length in each individual case in a balancing consideration of guilt and punishment, allowing for, say, an offender’s psychological state, his age, background or culture. Hence criminal laws always mention a maximum sentence, which is no more than an upper limit for the judge.

Government laws do not acquire force of law until the time they are published in the official gazette, unless they take effect retroactively from a specified earlier time. All these are juridical figures of time, which cannot be identified with their moral aspect, their social or religious aspect.

b) When does a human person actually come into being? The juridical time in question here can be laid down in statute law as a criterion for making abortion punishable or non-punishable, for instance after the first trimester. Similarly, according to the biotic aspect of temporal human generation, the beginning of organic corporeality can be hypothetically assumed and legally laid down as the moment when sperm and ovum unite.

In both instances we are dealing with no more than one particular (in this case juridical) temporal aspect [experiential law-sphere] of human life, and not with full humanity itself. A full human being does not have a moment in time when it comes “into being “. Everybody knows that the date and hour of birth are not this moment either. Complete man has a genesis only in the sense of a (supra-temporal) origin, namely in God’s creation. Here, Christ (God and man) was created as the first creature (the “alpha”); and created with him, because “in Christ”, was man, the first Adam, as was the rest of creation (Col 1:15,16 - “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation... all things have been created through him and for him”). This “origin” should not be interpreted as a “starting-point” in time. (pp 157, 158)

*** Human identity and its interlacement in temporal reality 
Man’s relation to his own body involves at the same time his relation to the so-called material world around him. It is with his organic corporeality that man is interwoven with this world, encapsulated, or to use a Dooyeweerdian term, “enkaptically interlaced”.

To an important degree the same natural laws apply to minerals, plants, animals and human bodies. But man alone relates all these so-called material phenomena also subjectively to his I-ness. He experiences these “material” phenomena as something of himself. It is he himself who manifests himself in these aspects and entities of the temporal cosmos. As a result, man feels and experiences a many-sided participation in the world around him, in which he lives and feels at home. And yet he is equally aware of his own uniqueness and identity in this world, as is already suggested, for instance, by his footprints or fingerprints.

It would be foolish to say, however, that the personal identity and uniqueness of a human being reside in his fingertips, or in any part of his body for that matter. It is the unintentional effect of an uprooted and materialist view of man that induces a writer to say that a Christian need not object to organ transplants except for the transplanting (if possible) of a brain or genitalia. This is essentially a horizontalist view of man that seeks man’s uniqueness and identity somewhere in certain organs within his temporal corporeality. The birth of a human being is not his origin
The same deficient anthropology is found in the view that the fusion of an egg cell with a sperm cell produces not just a human organ, but a new human being. This leads, by logical inference, to the well-known and over-simplified proposition “abortion is murder”. But the origin of a human being, his fullness and uniqueness and thus his totality, cannot be scientifically established or bio-technically grasped. That would betray a positivist-rationalist attitude of thought. The origin of a human being is not the same as his beginning in time.

Human origin remains a religious mystery, and we should not presume to pass a (“scientifically reliable”) judgement on the “point in time” (??) when a human person comes into full being. For the origin of a person does not lie in time, unlike the origin (in the sense of “beginning “) of the human body. The origin of the total human being transcends all temporal knowledge, understanding and control, just as it transcends his corporeality as a whole, including all the “genes”. Man’s origin resides in his (scientifically inaccessible) supra-temporal and thus supra-corporeal center, in his “heart”: in his createdness, in Christ as the alpha, the beginning. And no different is the end of man’s temporal mode of existence: it is a given already now, in Christ, the alpha and the omega. The juridical and moral aspect of a human birth 
However, what we can do for the situation of a birth or impending birth in our temporal mode of existence is to formulate juridical and moral agreements or enact laws in human society, and in this way construct a practical normativity. In part this is even mandatory, given the brokenness of life and the many possibilities of ethical lapses.

But any argument one might wish to mount in these cases will have to respect the mystery of the point in question and will therefore have to refrain in our legal system from restricting or enlarging, on religious grounds, freedom of belief and freedom of choice. Rules can only be drawn up for the various sectors of the public sphere on public-moral and juridical grounds, but these rules should not presume to represent the whole will of God for the private spheres of marriage or family life. (pp 178-180)

13.5.4 Rigidity and dynamism 
[…] The sixth commandment prohibits “murder”, as the Heidelberg Catechism teaches so well in Lord’s Day 40, Question 105 (“What is God’s will for us in the sixth commandment? Answer: I am not to belittle, insult, hate, or kill my neighbor — not by my thoughts, my words, my look or gesture, and certainly not by actual deeds...”). The sixth commandment is not a legal prohibition, but a moral prohibition and commandment. The simplistic slogan “abortion is murder” is therefore to be rejected as a formalistic superficiality. Abortion can be murder, but it is not always so. The same can be said of euthanasia. In anthropological terms we can put it like this: external actions should not be divorced from their internal depth layers of dispositions and ethos. That would be a primitive externalization and lead to a juridification and rationalization of morality [ie to an infringement of the “sphere-sovereignty” of the ethical law-sphere by its reduction to the juridical and logical law-spheres]. That is the opposite of disclosure [ie of the optimum historical opening-process of the law-spheres upwards]: an ossification of both law and morality in the form of logical definitions, formal application of laws, and frozen traditions. (p 276)

Above extracts are from: 

WHAT IS REFORMATIONAL PHILOSOPHY? An Introduction to the Cosmonomic Philosophy of HERMAN DOOYEWEERD’ by Andree TROOST (Paideia Press 2012)

Translated by Anthony RUNIA, from original 2005 volume: Antropocentrische Totaliteitswetenschap: Inleiding in de 'reformatorische wijsbegeerte' van H. Dooyeweerd