lundi, juillet 06, 2015

Dooyeweerd: Humanity's Place in the Temporal World

Humanity's Place 
in the Temporal World
by Herman Dooyeweerd
Textual hyperlinks are to Dr J. Glenn Friesen's Dooyeweerd Glossary

So it appears that the theory of the enkaptic structural whole forms the necessary connective link between the theory of the individuality-structures and their temporal interweavings, and what is called a philosophical anthropology.

All our previous investigations have been nothing but a necessary preparation for the latter. They all implicitly tended to the ultimate and doubtless most important problem of philosophical reflection: What is man's position in the temporal cosmos in relation to his divine Origin? This question urged itself upon us at the outset of our inquiry and it returns at the end of this trilogy.

Nevertheless the present work does not yet contain a philosophical anthropology. We have reserved this theme for the third volume of our trilogy Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy. The reason is that in our opinion the really philosophical problems concerning man's position in the temporal cosmos cannot be rightly posited without a due insight into the transcendental conditions of philosophic thought. And in addition a philosophic anthropology presupposes an inquiry into the different dimensions of the temporal horizon with its modal and individuality structures.

This opinion is certainly not in line with the existentialistic fashion in contemporary European thought. The latter seeks an immediate approach to the innermost sphere of man's temporal existence to interpret the I-ness in its situation in the temporal world from those emotional dispositions (concern, care, dread) which are supposed to be the most fundamental strata of human existence, i.e. its "Existentialen" ("existentials"). If HEIDEGGER'S "existential" of dread is replaced by that of "love" in the sense meant by the Swiss psychiatrist BINSWANGEER (the "meeting" between "I" and "thou"), then this hermeneutic approach to man seems to assume a trustworthy Christian meaning. This existentialism is not interested in the structural investigations which we deem to be a necessary condition of a really warranted philosophical anthropology. As a "supra-scientific" approach to man's existence, it believes it has elevated itself above all structural conditions of temporal experience and can penetrate into its subject-matter by means of an immediate "encounter". "Encounter" and "experience" are opposed to one another as "genuine inner knowledge" to "objectifying outer knowledge".

It is disappointing but not surprising that different trends in Christian neo-scholasticism have welcomed this existentialistic anthropology as a "more Biblical" manner of thought in comparison with the proud rationalism and idealism of a former period. For what trend of immanence-philosophy has not been "accommodated" to the Biblical point of view and in this sense proclaimed to be "Biblical"? It was readily forgotten that the genuine Biblical view of "encounter" transcends any philosophical approach to temporal human life and that the dialectical opposition between "encounter" and "experience" contradicts the very core of the Biblical Revelation.

It was also forgotten that even with the Christian founder of existentialism, SÖREN KIERKEGAARD, existentialistic philosophy and the divine Revelation in Jesus Christ were considered to be separated by an unbridgeable gulf.

The ultimate and central questions about human existence cannot be answered by any philosophy in an autonomous way, since they are of a religious character. They are only answered in the divine Word-Revelation. But our transcendental critique of theoretical thought has shown that this answer has an intrinsic connection with the philosophical questions concerning humanity's position in the temporal world. For this answer indeed reveals man to himself and gives theoretical thought, as soon as the latter is ruled by its radical moving power, that true concentric direction which precludes any absolutization of temporal aspects. It also lays bare the root of all lack ot true self-knowledge and thereby it unmasks the hidden basic motives of any kind of anthropology which holds to the immanence-standpoint.

Consequently, any expectation that an existentialist philosophy might contribute to man's true self-knowledge should be abandoned. This philosophy is no more fit to do so than modern depth-psychology. Naturally I do not mean that this recent philosophic trend has nothing to say to Christian thought. Its great representatives are doubtless serious philosophers, and their ideas deserve special attention as a manifestation of the spirit of our time, though the most prominent leaders of this movement have already broken with it.

But it is a veritable spectaculum miserabile to see how Christian theologians and philosophers seek their philosophical equipment here and join the existentialistic movement to combat the former invasion of Greek ideas into Christian thought. Apparently they have learned nothing from the history of Christian scholasticism. They reject the radical transcendental critique of philosophical thought because they do not wish to break with the time-honoured spirit of the scholastic accommodation of immanence-philosophy to the Christian doctrine.

But all those who have understood the necessity of an inner reformation of the philosophic attitude of thought from the radical Biblical standpoint, will comprehend why we emphatically warn against any exaggerated expectation concerning a philosophic anthropology. They will also understand our thesis that the central question: Who is man? means both the beginning and the end of philosophical reflection.

The question concerning the human I-ness as the centre of human existence has already appeared in the Prolegomena of our transcendental critique. But that about man's temporal existential form has been seen to imply a series of primordial problems which should be first considered. At least one central point of a truly Christian anthropology must be made perfectly clear. Man, as such, has no temporal qualifying function like temporal things and differentiated societal structures, but at the root of his existence he transcends all temporal structures. Therefore the search for a "substantial essential form" of human nature, in the sense of the Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysical anthropology, is incompatible with what the Scriptures have revealed to us about created human nature.

In the radical community of the human race according to the divine order of creation, man is not qualified as a "rational-moral "being", but only by his kingly position as the personal religious creaturely centre of the whole earthly cosmos. In him the rational-moral functions also find their concentration and through him the entire temporal world is included both in apostasy and in salvation. All things, beings, and factual relations qualified by a temporal modal function are transitory, the temporal bonds of love included. But man has an eternal destination, not as an abstract "rational soul" or spiritual "mind", but in the fulness of his concrete, individual personality. This puts it beyond any doubt that the various conceptions of "body" and "soul", or of "body", "soul" and "spirit" devised from the immanence-standpoint are in principle unserviceable in a Christian anthropology which starts from the radical basic motive of the Word-Revelation. The all-sided temporal existence of man, i.e. his "body", in the full Scriptural sense of the word, can only be understood from the supra-temporal religious centre, i.e. the "soul", or the "heart", in its Scriptural meaning. Every conception of the so-called "immortal soul", whose supra-temporal centre of being must be sought in rational-moral functions, remains rooted in the starting-point of immanence-philosophy.

But all this merely relates to the only possible starting-point of a Christian anthropology. Any one who imagines that from our standpoint human existence is no more than a complex of temporal functions centering in the "heart", has an all too simple and erroneous idea of what we understand by "anthropology". What has appeared in the course of our investigations in this third volume is that in temporal human existence we can point to an extremely intricate system of enkaptic structural interlacements, and that these interlacements presuppose a comprehensive series of individuality structures, bound within an enkaptic structural whole. This insight implies new anthropological problems which cannot in any way be considered as solved. But they do not concern the central sphere of human existence, which transcends the temporal horizon.

No existentialistic self-interpretation, no "act-psychology", no phenomenology or "metaphysics of the mind" can tell us what the human ego is, but — we repeat it — only the divine Word-Revelation in Christ Jesus. The question: "Who is man?" is unanswerable from the immanence-standpoint. But at the same time it is a problem which will again and again urge itself on apostate thought with relentless insistence, as a symptom of the internal unrest of an uprooted existence which no longer understands itself.
Herman Dooyeweerd, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Vol 3 pp 781-784.
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