Dooyeweerd, Spann, and the
Philosophy of Totality
by J. Glenn Friesen'[Othmar] Spann helps us to situate Dooyeweerd’s philosophy within a tradition that goes back to Romanticism, to the Christian philosophy of Franz von Baader, and to the German mystics, including Meister Eckhart and Jakob Boehme. Spann was associated with what may be called “the philosophy of totality” [Die Philosophie der Ganzheit]. There were many philosophers in the early part of the 20th century who emphasized the idea of totality. Some of those who influenced Dooyeweerd are Spann, Husserl, Cassirer, Nicolai Hartmann, Hans Driesch and Felix Krueger.'
[...] 'Totality is one of the key ideas of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. On the second page of his “Prolegomena” to A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Dooyeweerd refers to totality six times (NC I, 4). He says that the temporal coherence of the modal aspects points beyond itself to a central totality. And conversely, this totality expresses itself in the temporal aspects. Our selfhood is a totality that expresses itself in its temporal functions. And our selfhood in turn is the expression of the image of God (the Origin of totality). Later Dooyeweerd says that these three Ideas – temporal coherence, totality, and Origin – are the three transcendental Ideas that are found in the Ground-Motive for any philosophy; different philosophies give different content to these Ideas.'
[...] '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).'
[...] 'The difference between Dooyeweerd and many philosophers of totality is that for Dooyeweerd the totality is transcendent and supratemporal. Some other philosophers of totality find totality within temporal reality, whether in a vitalism or a psychologism or a logicism. Dooyeweerd refers to these philosophies as “immanence philosophies,” because their view of totality is wholly within time. If we do not understand the importance of totality for Dooyeweerd, we cannot understand his transcendental critique of these immanence philosophies.'
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