mercredi 9 mai 2018

Herman Dooyeweerd: Meaning as the mode of being of created reality

“To illustrate totality and temporality, Dooyeweerd uses the image of the prism. Totality is analogous to white light before it is refracted by a prism into many colours. In this analogy, the prism is cosmic time, which refracts the totality into the differentiated and  individuated temporal reality. The unrefracted light is the time-transcending or supratemporal totality of meaning of our cosmos, both as to its law and subject sides. And just as this unrefracted light has its origin in the Source of light, so this supratemporal totality of meaning has its origin in the Arché or Origin by whom and to whom it has been created. The totality and deeper unity of meaning ‘must transcend its modal diversity’ (NC I, 102; WdW I, 66-67).” J. Glenn Friesen, p7 Dooyeweerd, Spann, and the Philosophy of Totality’ (pdf)

(Also called Aspects/ Modes of Consciousness/ Modalities/ Meaning-sides)
Herman Dooyeweerd: Meaning as the mode of being of created reality
"Being is only to be ascribed to God, 
whereas creation has only meaning."
(A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, p 73, footnote) 

Pieter Bruegel: "Hunters in the Snow" (1565)

"The question: what is meaning? cannot be answered without our reflecting on the Origin and unity of all temporal meaning, because this answer depends on the cosmonomic Idea of philosophical thought. Not a single temporal structure of meaning exists in itself (an sich). That which makes it into meaning lies beyond the limit of time. Meaning is 'ex origine' the convergence of all temporal aspects of existence into one supratemporal focus, and this focus, as we have seen, is the religious root of creation, which has meaning and hence existence only in virtue of the sovereign creative act of God.

 The fulness of meaning is implied in the religious image of God, expressing itself in the root of our cosmos and in the splitting up of that root in time.

This religious fulness of meaning, given only in Christ, as the new root of creation, is not an abstract 'eidos', not an 'Idea', but it implies the fulness of created reality, again directed to God.

Especially in accordance with the Christian confession about Creation, the Fall into sin, and Redemption, it will not do to conceive of created reality as merely the bearer of meaning, as possessing meaning, as is done in immanence-philosophy [ie any philosophy that denies "the supratemporal heart, the religious root that transcends time". (J Glenn Friesen)].

Such a conception remains founded in an Idea of the 'being of what is', which is incompatible with the radically Christian confession of the absolute sovereignty of God, the Creator, and of the fulness of created meaning in Christ. It is especially in conflict with the view resulting from the Christian attitude, stating that no single aspect of the meaning of reality [see above chart] may be depreciated in favour of certain absolutized aspects. 

There is an after-effect of the form-matter scheme of immanence-philosophy discernible in the distinction between reality and meaning. In particular it is the opinion that 'meaning' would be exclusively ideal, supratemporal and abstract — a view found again in THEODOR LITT's conception of thinking in the so-called cultural sciences — which is the foundation of this distinction.

HUSSERL thinks he can carry ad absurdum the view that natural reality itself would be meaning, by means of the simple remark: meaning cannot be burnt down like a house. And again this remark is founded in the concept of matter and the (semi-Platonic) concept of form of immanence-philosophy: the sensory impressions of nature are 'merely factual reality'; meaning, however, is the 'eidos', the ideal 'Bedeutung' (signification). But, in the Christian attitude the Archimedean-point is radically different from that of immanence-philosophy. If it is admitted that all the aspects of reality [see above chart] are aspects of meaning, and that all individual things exist only in a structure of meaning, so that the burning house itself, as regards its temporal mode of being as a 'thing', has an individual temporal structure of meaning, then HUSSERL's remark loses all its value.

Giuseppe Arcimboldo: 'Fire' (1566)
If created things are only the bearers of meaning, they themselves must have another mode of being different from that of the dependent creaturely existence referring beyond and above itself, and in no way self-sufficient. Then with immanence-philosophy it must be possible to abstract meaning from reality.

Then we fall back into the form-matter scheme of immanence-philosophy in whatever different varieties and shades of meaning it may be propounded. Then the religious fulness of meaning of our created cosmos in Christ must be an abstract value or a transcendental Idea and nothing more.

But, if 'meaning' is nothing but the creaturely mode of being under the law, consisting exclusively in a religious relation of dependence on God, then branding the 'philosophy of the cosmonomic Idea' as a kind of 'meaning-idealism' appears to be based on a fundamental misunderstanding.

I trust I have precluded once for all this misconception, which has arisen in a quarter so congenial to this philosophy. The struggle to shake off the fetters of the basic schemes of immanence-philosophy from our thinking is an extremely difficult task, and it is quite explicable that there may arise some misunderstandings.

Should there be some misconception on my part, and should it be possible on biblical grounds to show that (religious) meaning is not the mode of being of created reality, I shall not for a moment hesitate to revise my conception on this point. If I see aright, however, the difference on this head between my view and that of STOKER, mentioned in the Prolegomena, is of a provisional character and is connected with the question raised by him, if Christian philosophy can indeed do without the concept of substance. Now I stick to my opinion that this question can only be considered to some purpose, if beforehand the preliminary question has been answered: What is the creaturely mode of being, what is the being of all created existence? The answer to the latter question is of primary importance; for the sense in which a new concept of substance, if any, is to be taken, depends on this answer.

And that is why I believe that it is not right to criticize the conception of meaning as the creaturely mode of being by means of a concept of substance of which the meaning has not been further defined."
(Herman Dooyeweerd, 
A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Vol II: pp 30-32)
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