mardi, mai 15, 2012

Dooyeweerd: Time, Reality, Substance, Meaning

Time, Reality, Substance, Meaning: 
Dooyeweerd responds to H.G. Stoker†.
     ["the South-African philosopher H. G. STOKER was of the opinion that we need a concept of substance"...."STOKER rejects our Idea of cosmic time."..."My answer to STOKER'S argument may therefore be summarized as follows: the continuity of cosmic time is inter-modal, but not empty. Time, in its continuity, may not be cut off from reality, as a floating abstraction, and then joined to reality by means of a plus sign. Reality, in its typical thing-structure, is present in time's continuous coherence. In fact, reality has its inter-modal bottom-layer in the continuity of cosmic time. And it is only in this cosmic temporal bottomlayer of every thing-structure that the individual whole of a thing is realized. Its individual identity receives its determination from its internal structural principle. It is this identity that is intuitively experienced in naive experience"..."The identity of a thing, rooted in the continuity of cosmic time, is, however, not the metaphysical identity of a substance, as the absolute point of reference of its different "accidental properties". Nor can it be the radical identity of the different modal functions of the thing concerned. The modal aspects of reality find their deeper identity in the central religious sphere alone. But temporal things are perishable, they do not have a supratemporal selfhood; their thing-identity is only that of a temporal individual whole." 
(Herman Dooyeweerd, New Critique of Theoretical Thought Vol 3 pp 62, 64, 65)]
Misunderstanding of the philosophy of the cosmonomic Idea as meaning-idealism.
     As yet the question raised especially by Prof. Dr H. G. STOKER (who otherwise accepts the philosophy of the cosmonomic Idea) remains open as to whether created reality is not more than meaning.
     Here there is the threat of a possible misunderstanding to the effect that the philosophy of the cosmonomic Idea, in its concentration upon the problem of meaning might drift into the water of an "idealism of meaning" (STOKER). In this context, I am not yet able to cut off this serious misunderstanding by the roots. To this end it is first necessary to confront our conception of meaning with that of immanence-philosophy.
     From the start, however, our inquiries should make clear the ultimate character of meaning as the mode of reality of the whole of creation, which finds no rest in itself.
Meaning-idealism, as we are able to note it, for example, in RICKERT, issues from a distinction between meaning (Sinn) ascribed to reality subjectively by the absolutized transcendental consciousness by means of reference to values („Wertbeziehung"), and reality as such that is meaningless in itself. But RICKERT views "reality" only in the abstract sense of its psycho-physical aspects. From our point of view, meaning is universally proper to all created things as their restless mode of existence. As meaning, reality points toward its Origin, the Creator, without Whom the creature sinks into nothingness.
     It is objected, that meaning cannot live, act, or move. But is not this life, this action, this movement, with respect to the mode of existence of created reality, itself meaning, pointing beyond itself, not coming to rest in itself? Only God's Being is not meaning, because He alone exists by and through Himself.
     Hence, even the totality of meaning, which transcends philosophic thought, necessarily has its correlate in the Being of the Άρχή ["Beginning"/"Origin", ie God the Creator] and in every transcendental basic Idea a position is taken with reference to this Arché.
     In fact, nobody who speaks about modal aspects of reality, or even about concrete things, can understand them otherwise than in their meaning, that is in their relative mode of reality which points to their temporal coherence, to a totality in the root, and to the Origin of all relative things. If the pre-logical aspects of temporal reality were not aspects of meaning, standing in relation to the logical aspect, then thought could not even form a concept of them.
     Such is the preliminary justification of our terminology.

     Now what positive content does the transcendental ground-Idea of philosophy receive from the central motive of the Christian religion?
     The Archimedean point of philosophy is chosen in the new root of mankind in Christ, in which by regeneration we have part in our reborn selfhood.

The lex as boundary between the "Being" of God and the "meaning" of the creation.
     The totality of meaning of our whole temporal cosmos is to be found in Christ, with respect to His human nature, as the root of the reborn human race. In Him the heart, out of which are the issues of life, confesses the Sovereignty of God, the Creator, over everything created. In Christ the heart bows under the lex (in its central religious unity and its temporal diversity, which originates in the Creator's holy will), as the universal boundary (which cannot be transgressed) between the Being of God and the meaning of His creation 1.
     1 From the theological side some have raised an objection against the conception of the lex as the boundary between God and the creation. This objection can arise only from a misunderstanding. The term "boundary" merely intends to indicate an essential distinction between God and the creature with respect to their relation to the lex.
     As sovereign Origin, God is not subjected to the law. On the contrary this subjectedness is the very characteristic of all that which has been created, the existence of which is limited and determined by the law.
Christ Jesus also, with respect to His human nature, was under the law, but not with respect to His Divine nature.
     But if every creature is under the law, then the limit which the latter sets for the creature's existence can never be transgressed.
     CALVIN has expressed the same conception as to the relationship of God to the law in his earlier quoted statement "Deus legibus solutus est, sed non ex lex" ["God is unbound by laws, yet is not lawless"]; in which he intended at the same time to refute any notion that God's sovereignty is despotic arbitrariness.

     The transcendent totality of meaning of our cosmos exists only in the religious relation of dependence upon the absolute Being of God. It is thus no eidos* in the sense of the speculative Platonic metaphysics, no being set by itself, but it remains in the ex-sistential mode of meaning which points beyond itself and is not sufficient to itself.
     *eidos: Greek term for what is seen—figure, shape, or form. In the philosophy of Plato, the eidos is the immutable genuine nature of a thing, one of the eternal, transcendent Forms apprehended by human reason {Gk.[nous]}. Aristotle rejected the notion of independently existing Forms and understood them instead as abstract universals. By extension, Husserl used the term "eidetic" for the phenomenological apprehension of essences generally.

     Sin is the revolt against the Sovereign of our cosmos. It is the apostasy from the fulness of meaning and the deifying, the absolutizing of meaning, to the level of God's Being. Our temporal world, in its temporal diversity and coherence of meaning, is in the order of God's creation bound to the religious root of mankind. Apart from this root it has no meaning and so no reality. Hence the apostasy in the heart, in the religious root of the temporal world signified the apostasy of the entire temporal creation, which was concentrated in mankind.
     Thus the disruption of the fall permeated all temporal aspects of meaning of cosmic reality. There is no single one of them that is excepted in this respect, neither the prelogical aspects of temporal reality, nor the logical, nor the post-logical ones.
     This becomes evident, as soon as we have seen, that they are fitted by the cosmic time-order in an indissoluble coherence of meaning which is related to a radical religious unity. The semblance of the contrary can only originate, when we have lost sight of this coherence.

The logical function of thought in apostasy.
     In this context the Biblical conception must be especially maintained against every effort to exempt the logical function from the fall. For in every effort in this direction Christian thought leaves open a wide door of entry to the dialectical ground-motives of immanence-philosophy. We shall return to this point in a later context.
     By the fall of man, human thought (νοῦς) [nous], according to St Paul's word, has become νοῦς τῆς σαρκὸς, the "carnal mind" ["inntinn fheòlmhor] (Colos. 2:18), for it does not exist apart from its apostate religious root. And thought includes its logical function.
     Of course the logical laws of thought or the modal structural law of the logical aspect are not affected by sin. The effects of apostasy disclose themselves only in the subjective activity of thought, which is subjected to these laws. In the apostate attitude, we are continually inclined to make the logical aspect of meaning independent, and to set it apart from its coherence with all other modal aspects, which implies a lack of appreciation of its modal boundaries.

 The re-formation of the cosmonomic Idea by the central motive of the Christian religion.
     From the Christian starting-point the cosmonomic Idea of our philosophy obtains the
following contents:
     1) To the ultimate transcendental question: What is the Άρχή of the totality and the modal diversity of meaning of our cosmos with respect to the cosmonomic side and its correlate, the subject-side?
     it answers: the sovereign holy will of God the Creator, who has revealed Himself in Christ.
     2) To the second transcendental question, with respect to its cosmonomic-side: What is the totality of meaning of all modal aspects of the cosmic order, their supra-temporal unity beyond all modal diversity of meaning?
     it answers: the requirement grounded in God's sovereignty, of the love and service of God and our fellow-creatures with our whole heart.
     To the same question, with respect to its subject-side,
     it answers: the new religious root of the human race in Christ (in which, indeed, nothing of our created universe can be lost) in subjection to the fulness of meaning of the divine law.
     3) To the third transcendental question: What is the mutual relation between the modal aspects of reality?
     it answers: sphere-sovereignty, that is to say: mutual irreducibility, yet in the all-sided cosmic coherence of the different aspects of meaning, as this is regulated in God's temporal order of the world, in a cosmic order of time.

Colour Refraction through Prism.
     In order to bring this cosmonomic Idea, in its theoretical focusing upon the modal aspects of meaning of our cosmos, nearer to the vision of those not schooled in philosophy, I use a very old symbol, which of course should not be interpreted in a physical sense.
     The light of the sun is refracted through a prism, and this refraction is perceived by the eye of sense in the seven well-known colours of the spectrum. In themselves all colours are dependent refractions of the unrefracted light, and none of them can be regarded as an integral of the colour-differentiation. Further, not one of the seven colours is capable of existing in the spectrum apart from the coherence with the rest, and by the interception of the unrefracted light the entire play of colours vanishes into nothing.
     The unrefracted light is the time-transcending totality of meaning of our cosmos with respect to its cosmonomic side and its subject-side. As this light has its origin in the source of light, so the totality of meaning of our cosmos has its origin in its Ἀρχή through whom and to whom it has been created.
     The prism that achieves the refraction of colour is cosmic time, through which the religious fulness of meaning is broken up into its temporal modal aspects of meaning.
     As the seven colours do not owe their origin to one another, so the temporal aspects of meaning in face of each other have sphere-sovereignty or modal irreducibility.
     In the religious fulness of meaning, there is but one law of God, just as there is but one sin against God, and one mankind which has sinned in Adam.
     But under the boundary line of time this fulness of meaning with reference to its cosmonomic-side as well as to its subject-side separates, like the sunlight through the prism, into a rich variation of modal aspects of meaning. Each modal aspect is sovereign in its own sphere, and each aspect in its modal structure reflects the fulness of meaning in its own modality.

The modal spheres of laws and their sphere-sovereignty.
     Every modal aspect of temporal reality has its proper sphere of laws, irreducible to those of other modal aspects, and in this sense it is sovereign in its own orbit, because of its irreducible modality of meaning.
     The acceptance of the basic philosophic principle of modal sphere-sovereignty consequently has an indissoluble coherence with the Christian transcendence-standpoint ruled by the religious ground-motive of creation, fall into sin, and redemption.
     The immanence-standpoint is incompatible with this cosmonomic principle.
     This incompatibility is not due to an inability of immanence-philosophy to recognize that the totality and deeper unity of meaning must transcend its modal diversity, and that the modal aspects which it admits as such cannot originate from one another.
     For every scientific thinker must necessarily distinguish different modal aspects of temporal reality, and guard against jumbling them together.
     However, we have seen in our transcendental critique of theoretic thought, that the immanence-standpoint must necessarily lead to an absolutizing of the logical function of thought, or to an absolutizing of a special theoretical synthesis.
     The theoretically abstracted modal aspect which is chosen as the basic denominator for all the others or for a part of them, is torn out of the inter-modal coherence of meaning of temporal reality. It is treated as independent and elevated to the status of an ἀρχή which transcends meaning. This occurs whether or not the thinker realizes it. Over against this unrestricted sovereign authority, the remaining aspects of meaning of our cosmos are unable to validate any sphere-sovereignty. Mathematical logicism will admit only logical realms of thought with relative autonomy. Psychologism allows only psychological realms (whether or not understood transcendentally) which are not reducible to one another 1; historicism accepts only different realms of historical development, etc. etc. 2 .
     1 See e.g. the typical instance of HEYMANS' psycho-monism with its elaboration on all realms of meaning of our cosmos. Einführung in die Metaphysik (Introduction into metaphysics), p. 33ff. and pp. 334ff.
     2 Cf. SPENGLER'S Untergang des Abendlandes (Decline of the Occident).

     If the thinker has become aware of the implacable antithesis in his hidden religious starting-point, his philosophic system will exhibit an overt dualism. Instead of one single basic denominator there will be chosen two of them, which will be conceived of in an antithetic relation. The transcendental ground-Idea in all its three directions will disclose the dualistic character of the religious basic motive without any attempt to bridge this dualism. But in this case, too, there will be no acceptance of a modal sphere-sovereignty of the different aspects and their proper law-spheres.
     Because of the choice of its Archimedean point immanence-philosophy is forced to construct various absolutizations of modal aspects. In our analysis of the modal structures of the different spheres of laws, we shall show why these absolutizations can seemingly be carried out. On the immanence standpoint, now, the Christian starting-point may be reproached conversely with an absolutizing of religious meaning. But this objection, upon somewhat deeper reflection, is not tenable even on the stand-point of immanence-philosophy.

Christian religion does not allow of any absolutizing with respect to its fulness of meaning.
     In the first place, the Christian religion, by virtue of its fulness of meaning, does not admit of any absolutizing: it is religio, i.e. connection between the meaning of creation and the Being of the Ἀρχή, the two of which may not be brought on the same level.
     He who tries to make the religious totality of meaning independent of its Archè, becomes guilty of a contradiction in terms. But any one who should contend that at any rate God is absolutized does not know what he says.
     In the second place, there is usually at the basis of the said reproach the confusion between the temporal meaning of the faith-aspect, which is actually contained within a modal sphere, and the fulness of meaning of religion, which transcends the boundary of cosmic time and cannot possibly be enclosed in a modality of meaning.
     Let it be borne in mind, finally, that also unsuspected opponents of the Christian transcendence-standpoint in philosophy, such as HEINRICH RICKERT, admit that religion within its fulness of sense does not tolerate a coordination with special realms of meaning as law, morality, science and so on. It can hardly be denied, that the view of religion as an "autonomous categorial realm of thought" destroys its meaning. On the other hand, the contention, that a recognition of necessary religious pre-suppositions of philosophical thought would destroy the meaning of this latter, ought to be demonstrated more stringently by immanence philosophers. Their (religious) confession of the self-sufficiency of theoretic reason is not sufficient in this respect.

Sphere-sovereignty of the modal aspects in their inter-modal coherence of meaning as a philosophical basic problem.
     As a transcendental basic principle the sphere-sovereignty of the modal aspects therefore stands in indissoluble connection with our transcendental Ideas of the Origin and of the totality and radical unity of meaning. Moreover, this principle is indissolubly linked up with our transcendental Idea of cosmic time. For this latter implies, as we have seen, a cosmic coherence of meaning among the modal aspects of temporal reality. And this coherence is regulated, not by philosophic thought, but by the divine temporal world-order.
     It is, however, a highly remarkable state of affairs which is disclosed in the spheresovereignty of the modal aspects of meaning. For it might appear as if sphere-sovereignty were incompatible with the inter-modal coherence of meaning guaranteed by the cosmic order of time.
     In fact there is hidden a philosophic basic problem of the first rank, which cannot be solved, before our general theory of the modal structures in the second volume has been developed.
     In the present context we can say only, that the key to this solution is to be found in the modal structure of the different aspects, which is of a cosmonomic character.
The same cosmic time-order which guarantees the modal sphere-sovereignty does in fact also guarantee the inter-modal coherence of meaning between the modal aspects and their spheres of laws.

Potentiality and actuality in cosmic time.
     We have said in an earlier context, that all structures of temporal reality are structures of cosmic time. As structural laws they are founded in cosmic time-order and are principles of temporal potentiality or possibility. In their realization in individual things or events they have time-duration and actuality as transitory factual structures.
     Everything that has real existence, has many more potentialities than are actualized. Potentiality itself resides in the factual subject-side; its principle, on the contrary, in the cosmonomic-side of time. The factual subject-side is always connected with individuality (actual as well as potential), which can never be reduced to a general rule. But it remains bound to its structural laws, which determine its margin or latitude of possibilities.

Cosmic time and the refraction of meaning. Why can the totality of meaning disclose itself in time only in refraction and coherence of modalities?
     Prof. Dr H. G. STOKER, and lately also Prof. Dr PH. KOHNSTAMM 1 have raised the question, why it should be precisely in cosmic time that the totality of meaning is refracted into coherent modal aspects. The reason is, in my opinion, that the fulness of meaning, as totality and radical unity, is not actually given and cannot be actually given in time, though all temporal meaning refers beyond itself to its supra-temporal fulfillment.
     1 Prof. Dr PH. A. KOHNSTAMM, in his essay, Pedagogy, Personalism, and Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea (in the anniversary papers in honour of Prof. Dr J. WATERINK, Amsterdam 1951), pp. 96f., in which the author, an outstanding Dutch thinker who died shortly thereafter, made known for the first time his adherence to the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea. He had a reservation, however, so far as the conception of time was concerned.
     This hangs together with his thought, in itself altogether correct, that the Bible ascribes not even to God any supra-temporality in the Greek metaphysical sense. But the conception of the supra-temporal defended by myself is radically different from the Greek, as I have previously established with emphasis.
     It is the very signification of cosmic time in its correlation of order and duration to be successive refraction of meaning into coherent modal aspects.
     Sphere-sovereignty of modal aspects and their modal spheres of laws makes no sense in the fulness and radical unity of meaning.
     In the religious fulness of meaning love, wisdom, justice, power, beauty, etc. coincide in a radical unity. We begin to understand something of this state of affairs in the concentration of our heart upon the Cross of Christ. But this radical unity of the different modalities is impossible in time considered as successive refraction of meaning.
     Hence, every philosophy that tries to dissolve this totality of meaning into Ideas of reason, or absolute values, always ensnares itself in antinomies by which the cosmic order of time avenges itself on theoretic thought which tries to transgress its boundaries.

The logical function is not relative in a logical but in a cosmic sense.
     Also the attempt to approximate cosmic time otherwise than in a limiting concept must necessarily lead to antinomies, because cosmic time is the very pre-supposition of the concept. With regard to its fundamental analytic aspect the concept is necessarily discontinuous, and is incapable of comprehending the cosmic continuity of time, which exceeds the modal boundaries of its aspects. The logical function in its modal speciality of meaning is indeed relative, but its relativity is not itself of a logical, but of a cosmonomic temporal character. If philosophy should attempt to interpret the cosmonomic coherence of meaning in a dialectical-logical sense, it must begin in each case with a logical relativizing of the fundamental principles of logic, and thereby sanction the antinomy.

The elimination of cosmic time-order in KANT'S Critique of Pure Reason.
     By the hypostatization of "theoretical reason" as the self-sufficient Archimedean point of philosophy, the cosmic order of time is eliminated from philosophic thought, particularly from epistemology. In this way the critical basic question of all philosophy, namely: How is it itself possible? is relegated to the background. This elimination was also a source of subjectivism in the development of philosophic thought.
     KANT'S so-called Copernican revolution in epistemology (or, should one accept HEIDEGGER'S interpretation of KANT, which in our opinion is by no means convincing, — in "ontology") is the direct proof of the impossibility of a truly critical critique of theoretic reason apart from a transcendental insight into the cosmic order of time. In his Prolegomena zu einer jeden künftigen Metaphysik § 4 (W.W. Cass. IV, p. 23) the philosopher of Königsberg writes of The Critique of Pure Reason: „Diese Arbeit is schwer und erfordert einen entschlossenen Leser, sich nach und nach in ein System hinein zu denken, das noch nichts als Gegeben zum Grunde legt, auszer die Vernunft selbst" (I italicize) „und also, ohne sich auf irgendein Faktum zu stützen, die Erkenntnis aus ihren ursprünglichen Keimen zu entwickeln sucht" 1 .
     1 KANT'S Prolegomena to every future Metaphysics (Works, Cass. Ed.IV, p. 23). ["This work is difficult and requires a resolute reader to think his way gradually into a system, which sets at its foundation nothing as given except reason itself, and thus, without supporting itself upon any fact, seeks to develop knowledge from its original seeds."]
     What the reader is asked to do here is simply an abdication from the preliminary questions of critical thought. "Theoretic reason", according to KANT'S transcendental conception a manifest product of theoretical abstraction, should be accepted as given. The question as to how philosophic thought is possible is thereby cut off. For the cosmic order of time, by which the relations of meaning of this thought are guaranteed, is lost sight of. (New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Prolegomena 96 - 106)
     In the light of our transcendental basic Idea the criterion of the modal diversity of the law-spheres can only have for its transcendent created foundation the religious fulness of meaning as embodied in Christ, as the new root of our cosmos.
     The sinful subjectivity of temporal reality, as will be presently explained in greater detail, has its sinful mode of being as (apostate) meaning only by virtue of the religious fulness of meaning of divine law, without whose determination and delimitation sinful reality would have no meaning and hence no existence or being.
     The religious fulness of meaning (in no way self-sufficient, but wholly dependent) is the meaning-ground of all created existence.
     This conception of meaning was defended in the Prolegomena of Vol. I, where we repudiated any possible misinterpretation of our philosophy as a kind of symbolical idealism, a kind of meaning-ism.
     Now the moment has come for a definitive comparison of this conception of meaning with that of immanence-philosophy.
     It is remarkable that in Humanistic philosophy there has never been so much talk of 'meaning', of 'rendering meaningful', of 'interpreting meaning', as in recent times. And this is happening at the very moment when the former foundations of the idea of 'being of what is' -- as established in the Humanistic cosmonomic Idea by the ideals of science and of personality — are being relativistically dissolved.
     In the earlier phases of immanence-philosophy the metaphysical idea of being as the basis of the modal diversity of meaning appeared to be founded in the hypostatizing [absolutizing] of reason.
     Meaning was abstracted from its true religious fulness and from the real Archè. Being, as the ultimate metaphysical idea of reason, is indeed the being of a reason that has been made self-sufficient and independent, the "Vernunft", the νοῦς, in which the selfhood thinks it has found its Archimedean point.
     In post-Kantian freedom-idealism the Idea becomes the only ground of being in a more and more radical sense; it contains the totality of meaning which it expands [in the modal diversity] through its dialectical self-development within time.

The metaphysical basis for the distinction between meaning and reality in immanence-philosophy.
     In ancient idealistic metaphysics there is, however, always some μή ὂν* in temporal reality as a counter-instance opposed to the true being, the rational ground of meaning.
     * μή ὂν: In relation to each of the forms, being (τὸ ὂν) is seen as many, and not-being (τὸ μὴ ὂν) infinite (ἄπειρον), confirming an asymmetry between being and nonbeing. Plato is strikingly consistent in maintaining this ontological, rather than epistemological, approach also in the case of language, so that truth turns out to be a mixture of being with saying, and falsehood a mixture of nonbeing with saying. Thus negation in language is to be understood ultimately on the basis of ontological criteria expressed within a coherent metaphysical account which recognises the coexistence of being and nonbeing as real and existent entities, or forms, in the world. (Negation in Ancient Greek Philosophy: Plato, Sophist, Domenico Pacitti (1991)

     It is the ἄπειρον, the ὕλή (formless matter), the principle of becoming and decay. It is a constitutive element of the phenomenal sensory perceivable world. Nevertheless the phenomenon shares in the true 'Being' (οὔσια), and in this way becomes meaningful only through its relation to the latter (cf. the μέθεξις in PLATO and his doctrine of temporal, changeable reality as a γένεσις είς ούσιαν). In Aristotelian metaphysics the phenomenon shares in the true being by means of its immanent essential form, which actualizes matter and has a teleological relation to the Deity as pure actual Form. The latter was identified with absolute theoretical thought having only itself as object (νόησις νοησέος).
     Thus it was conceivable that temporal reality derives its meaning solely from reason without being itself meaning.
     In pre-Kantian Humanistic metaphysics the distinction between phenomenon and noumenon continues to play its dominating part, and the true ground of Being is found in divine creative mathematical thought.

'Nature' as meaningless reality in FICHTE and the South-Western German school of neo-Kantianism.
     When KANT ascribes primacy to the ideal of personality, and attributes to the Idea as noumenon a practical-moral sense, the true ground of being of temporal reality can no longer be found in mathematical thought. In FICHTE 'nature' as 'phenomenon' becomes the dialectical counterpole of the free I-ness, a dialectical negation (the non-ego) which — being meaningless in itself—acquires meaning only through its relation to the Idea, (as the material for the fulfilment of duty).
     In the neo-Kantian philosophy of the South-Western German school this conception of meaning is carried through in its pregnant sense, but at the same time KANT's practical ethical metaphysics is given up. The practical Idea turns into an absolute, extra-temporal valid value, which as such is elevated to the transcendent ground of all temporal meaning.
     The empirical reality of 'nature', as conceived of by natural science, is meaningless in itself; however, it assumes meaning through its relation to value, a relation which has not an ontological sense, but can be effectuated only by the judging subject in a synthetical act of consciousness. Thus the immanent "Akt-Sinn", accomplishing a subjective synthesis of reality and value, finds its ultimate ground in the transcendent meaning: viz, in value.
A more detailed explanation of our own conception of meaning.
     At the present stage, our discussion of the above-mentioned Humanistic views of meaning will suffice, and we shall now expound our own conception in greater detail. 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 supertemporal 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. 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 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, supertemporal 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 immanencephilosophy. If it is admitted that all the aspects of reality 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.
     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.
     The 'problem of substance' cannot be discussed in more detail before the investigation of the structures of individuality of temporal reality. We have observed that the theory of the modal law-spheres must have precedence for purposes of method.
     But both the theory of the law-spheres and that concerning the structures of individuality must he founded in an Idea of the mode of being of creaturely reality as such, an Idea that is implied in the transcendental basic Idea.

Meaning in the fall of man.
     There remains, however, another central problem of extreme importance: As regards his human nature, Christ is the root of reborn creation, and as such the fulness of meaning, the creaturely Ground of the meaning of all temporal reality. But our temporal world in its apostate religious root lies under God's curse, under the curse of sin. Thus there is a radical antithesis in the subject-side of the root of the earthly cosmos. It may be that this antithesis has been reconciled by the Redemption in Jesus Christ, but in temporal reality the unrelenting struggle between the kingdom of God and that of darkness will go until the end of the world. The falling away from God has affected our cosmos in its root and its temporal refraction of meaning. Is not this a final and decisive reason to distinguish meaning from reality? Does not the radical antithesis between the kingdom of God and that of darkness, which our transcendental Idea itself also recognizes as fundamental for philosophic thought, compel us to accept an ultimate dualism between meaning and reality?
     Is sinful reality still meaning? Is it not meaningless, or rather the adversary of meaning, since meaning can only exist in the religious dependence on its Origin?
     Here we indeed touch the deepest problem of Christian philosophy. The latter cannot hope to solve it without the illumination of Divine Revelation if it wants to be guaranteed from falling back into the attitude of immanence-philosophy.
     I for one do not venture to try and know anything concerning the problem that has been raised except what God has vouchsafed to reveal to us in His Word. I do not know what the full effect of unrestrained sin on reality would be like. Thanks to God this unhampered influence does not exist in our earthly cosmos. One thing we know, viz. that sin in its full effect does not mean the cutting through of the relation of dependence between Creator and depraved creation, but that the fulness of being of Divine justice will express itself in reprobate creation in a tremendous way, and that in this process depraved reality cannot but reveal its creaturely mode of being as meaning.
     It will be meaning in the absolute subjective apostasy under the curse of God's wrath, but in this very condition it will not be a meaningless reality.
     Sin causes spiritual death through the falling away from the Divine source of life, but sin is not merely privatio, not something merely negative, but a positive, guilty apostasy insofar as it reveals its power, derived from creation itself. Sinful reality remains apostate meaning under the law and under the curse of God's wrath. In our temporal cosmos God's Common Grace reveals itself, as KUYPER brought to light so emphatically, in the preservation of the cosmic world-order. Owing to this preserving grace the framework of the temporal refraction of meaning remains intact.

The Christian as a stranger in this world.
     Although the fallen earthly cosmos is only a sad shadow of God's original creation, and although the Christian can only consider himself as a stranger and a pilgrim in this world, yet he cannot recognize the true creaturely ground of meaning in the apostate root of this cosmos, but only in the new root, Christ. Any other view would inevitably result in elevating sin to the rank of an independent counter-power opposed to the creative power of God 1.
     1 In his Kirchliche Dogmatik KARL BARTH has tried to escape this consequence by deriving the positive power of sin from the 'Divine No' placed over against His 'Yes' with respect to His creative act. But this dialectical solution of the problem results in a dualistic (at the same time positive and negative) conception of creation.
     The Divine 'No' cannot explain the power of sin, which as such is derived from creation itself, as we have stated in Vol. I.
     The idea of a negative creation is destructive to the Biblical conception of the integral Origin of Heaven and earth, because it implies that sin has a power outside creation in its positive sense.
     Creation itself implies the Divine 'No' with respect to sin in its negative sense as 'privatio'.

     And this would result in avoidance of the world, an unbiblical flight from the world. We have nothing to avoid in the world but sin. The war that the Christian wages in God's power in this temporal life against the Kingdom of darkness, is a joyful struggle, not only for his own salvation, but for God's creation as a whole, which we do not hate, but love for Christ's sake. We must not hate anything in the world but sin.

The apostate world cannot maintain any meaning as its own property in opposition to Christ. Common Grace.
     Nothing in our apostate world can get lost in Christ. There is not any part of space, there is no temporal life, no temporal movement or temporal energy, no temporal power, wisdom, beauty, love, faith or justice, which sinful reality can maintain as a kind of property of its own apart from Christ.
     Whoever relinquishes the 'world' taken in the sense of sin, of the 'flesh' in its Scriptural meaning, does not really lose anything of the creaturely meaning, but on the contrary he gets a share in the fulness of meaning of Christ, in Whom God will give us everything. It is all due to God's common grace in Christ that there are still means left in the temporal world to resist the destructive force of the elements that have got loose; that there are still means to combat disease, to check psychic maladies, to practise logical thinking, to save cultural development from going down into savage barbarism, to develop language, to preserve the possibility of social intercourse, to withstand injustice, and so on. All these things are the fruits of Christ's work, even before His appearance on the earth. From the very beginning God has viewed His fallen creation in the light of the Redeemer.
     We can only face the problem of the effect on temporal meaning that the partial working of the falling away from the fulness of meaning has in spite of common grace, when we have gained an insight into the modal structures of the law-spheres within the temporal coherence of meaning. But— and with this we definitively reject any separation of meaning from reality — meaning in apostasy remains real meaning in accordance with its creaturely mode of being. An illogical reasoning can occur only within the logical modality of meaning; illegality in its legal sense is only possible within the modality of meaning of the jural sphere; the non-beautiful can only be found within the modal aspect of meaning of the aesthetic law-sphere, just as organic disease remains something within the modal aspect of meaning of the biotic law-sphere, and so on. Sin, as the root of all evil, has no meaning or existence independent of the religious fulness of the Divine Law. In this sense St PAUL'S word is to be understood, to the effect that "but for the law sin is dead" 1).
     1) Rom. 7:8 "χωρὶς γὰρ νόμου ἁμαρτία νεκρά" ["as eugmhais an lagha bha am peacadh marbh"]
     All along the line meaning remains the creaturely mode of being under the law which has been fulfilled by Christ. Even apostate meaning is related to Christ, though in a negative sense; it is nothing apart from Him.
     As soon as thought tries to speculate on this religious basic truth, accessible to us only through faith in God's Revelation, it gets involved in insoluble antinomies. This is not due to any intrinsic contradiction between thought and faith, but rather to the mutinous attempt on the part of thought to exceed its temporal cosmic limits in its supposed self-sufficiency. But of this in the next section. For thought that submits to Divine Revelation and recognizes its own limits, the antithesis in the root of our cosmos is not one of antinomy; rather it is an opposition on the basis of the radical unity of Divine Law; just as in the temporal law-spheres justice and injustice, love and hatred are not internally antinomous, but only contrasts determined by the norms in the respective modalities of meaning.

The religious value of the modal criterion of meaning.
     If created reality is to be conceived of as meaning, one cannot observe too strictly the limits of the temporal modal law-spheres in philosophic thought. These limits have been set by the cosmic order of time in the specific 'sovereignty of the modal aspects within their own spheres'.
     Any attempt to obliterate these limits by a supposedly autonomous thought results in an attack upon the religious fulness of meaning of the temporal creation.
     If the attempt is made to reduce the modal meaning of the jural or that of the economic law-sphere to the moral one of the temporal love of one's neighbour, or if the same effort is made to reduce the modal meaning of number or that of language to the meaning of logic, it must be distinctly understood that the abundance of meaning of creation is diminished by this subjective reduction. And perhaps without realizing what this procedure implies, one puts some temporal aspect of reality in the place of the religious fulness of meaning in Christ. The religious value of the criterion of meaning is that it saves philosophic thought from falling away from this fulness.
     (Herman Dooyeweerd, New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Prolegomena 96-106; Vol II: 25-36)
Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977)
† Prof. Dr. H.G. Stoker (1889-1993)