DOOYEWEERD's 15 IRREDUCIBLE LAW-SPHERES
(Also called Aspects/ Modes/ Modalities/ Meaning-sides)
Dooyeweerd: Individuality Structures, Metaphysics, Classical Darwinism as Theoretic Magic Trick
(Extracts fom Herman Dooyeweerd, ‘Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy’ Vol II, pp 232-236)
[NB green text inserts within square brackets are by FMF]
The Law-Idea and the
individuality structures of reality.
individuality structures of reality.
[p 230-232] Because of its theoretical character, the Law-Idea is primarily an idea of how things differentiate in their modal aspects [see law-sphere chart above] within our horizon of time.
In this respect it pointedly joins the structure of the theoretic Gegenstand relation, which primarily arises by separating the aspects [law-spheres] and by placing the logical aspect [Analytical law-sphere] in opposition to the non-logical ones.
As we shall see, from a theoretical point of view, distinguishing the modal aspects [law-spheres] is fundamental for all other further philosophical investigation, even though this distinction demands a transcendental idea of their radical unity.
But philosophical thought cannot halt at an analysis of the modal structures. Since concrete reality is founded on typical structures of individuality, we must now try to penetrate to the individuality structures which ground concrete reality. The Gegenstand relation itself demands to be directed towards what is concrete, if it is not to ignore what is pre-given and which makes it possible in the first place.
Reality presents itself to human consciousness only in typical individuality structures, never in modal [law-sphere] abstractions. We must therefore submit these individuality structures to an analysis in the Gegenstand relation if theoretic thought is indeed to disclose reality theoretically.
This means that we must also direct our idea of the law toward these structures, if it is to maintain itself as the transcendental basic idea of philosophic thinking.
These individuality structures too, as soon as they are placed in the Gegenstand relation, pose a real transcendental problem for philosophic thought that can never be solved in a purely theoretical way and is closely related to the problem raised by the analysis of the the modal structures.
We can formulate this problem again as that of unity in relation to the diversity exposed by our theory, a problem which not a single philosophic school can avoid, since it emerges automatically from the Gegenstand relation itself.
In individuality structures, however, this problem displays an especially complicated character. As we saw earlier, the reason is that individuality structures span all modal aspects [law-spheres] and yet are structures of an individual whole [eg in Dooyeweerd's view humans are comprised of four “enkaptically” interlaced individuality structures: 1) physico-chemical, 2) biotic, 3) sensory, 4) act-structure].
What guarantees the intrinsic unity here? Is this unity absolute or relative by nature? Is it a unity above or within the diversity of aspects [law-spheres]?
The answer to these questions will decide the whole direction of our philosophic investigation of the typical structures of reality. It will depend on how we view the mutual relation and coherence of the various types of structures, and this in turn is determined by our deepest religious [ultimate] presuppositions concerning the basic unity and Origin of temporal reality.
And only the Law-Idea can give a critical theoretic account of these presuppositions.
[p 232] Since our Law-Idea disclosed the time-horizon of reality as seen from the radical unity and Origin of all modal structures, we were able to avoid making any modal aspect [law-sphere] into an absolute.
The modal unity appeared to be merely a modal expression of the continuity of cosmic time. We found it to be a modal structure in time which guarantees structural coherence but not unity of origin. Still, unity comes first, also in the idea of the modal structure.
This fundamental unity itself, which is a priori in the ontological sense of the word, cannot be analyzed theoretically, since this unity, as we now know, is an ontic presupposition for all scientific analysis.
[p 233] The individual structures are not given to us outside of cosmic time and are, as our further investigation will show, only possible within time and through time. They lose all validity beyond the horizon of time.
As soon as one loses sight of this, philosophic thinking is always driven toward a speculative metaphysics, which pretends it can raise theoretic thinking with its abstractions above the horizon of time and so ends up declaring independent what is relative.
Metaphysics does not establish the relationship between on the one hand all things that are relative within time and on the other their radical unity and their absolute Origin which, as our transcendental critique has demonstrated, is a transcendental precondition for all philosophic thinking.
But the defect of the metaphysical way of thinking is its failure to understand that it itself is determined at a pre-theoretical level and that it mistakes intrinsically religious [ultimate] prejudices for purely theoretical conclusions and in the process elevates theoretical abstractions to the level of supra-temporal substantial entities.
For that reason alone the Philosophy of the Law-Idea has become the radical adversary of metaphysical thought, and certainly not in order to curry the favor of positivism, which itself is rooted in a dogmatic metaphysical view of science.
The individuality structures include all individual reality within cosmic time. Like the modal [law-sphere] structures, they form a universal horizon for all that exists or occurs in time.
Full temporal reality always reveals its subject-side individually. And this individuality can only be realized in typical structures, which as law-types of individual totalities span all modal law-aspects [law-spheres] and arrange them in the unity of a typical structure.
The horizon of these structures is of an inexhaustible wealth, and every philosophic theory that tries to explain the individuality from a uniform principle and to reduce structural types to a few abstract schemes is objectionable from the start, because it sacrifices the wealth of God's creative wisdom to its passion for arbitrary constructions.
The humanist science-ideal and the tendency to dissolve the individuality structures in a closed system of modal relations. The classical phylogenetic doctrine in biology.
[pp 234-236] We must especially warn against the attempt of the humanistic science ideal to dissolve the individuality structures into modal relations, which one then believes one can put into a closed causal, or at least a logical, system. The modal [law-sphere] denominator under which the structures are brought then depends upon the synthetic [conceptual] viewpoint in the scientific discipline that one has made absolute as his Archimedean [integration] point.
A typical example of such an aspiration is the classical doctrine of evolution, which Charles Darwin started (1859, 1871) and Ernst Haeckel worked out philosophically (1899) and which tried to fit all living organisms into one genetic tree, starting with protozoa (unicellular beings in the plant and animal realm) and ending with the human species.
Beginning with the unlimited variability of form-types, they attempted to arrange them in a biological system of development in which the most primitive evolved into the most highly developed forms of life in purely mechanical fashion. A process of natural selection of those most adapted in the struggle for survival, and the inheritance of acquired characteristics, was proposed for its explanation.
What immediately strikes us here from a philosophical point of view is that the unity of all life in the diversity of its typical forms of appearance is placed in the foreground. This was the strongest side of this theory of descent. Because this unity does indeed exist.
However, it is modal in character. "Life" as such is not a thing but an attribute, a modal aspect [law-sphere] of temporal reality. Its nucleus of meaning returns in the structure of all later aspects [law-spheres] as an analogy [the structure of each law-sphere references all other law-spheres] and its unity of origin and fulfillment can only be found in the religious [ultimate] communion with God as the Fountain of all life.
We cannot reduce the immense diversity of the typical individuality structures [which always function within all law-spheres] to the purely modal unity of all of life [ie to an absolutised Biotic law-sphere - see pale blue band on above chart].
Unforeseen, evolutionism therefore reduces the modal unity to a material complex. "Life" is reduced to a material unity determined by physico-chemical processes; it is identified with the living protein of protoplasm, which in protists (“Protists”: a group of unicellular living entities) would crystallize into living individuals, and from that beginning it would in mechanistic fashion account for the rich enfolding of all the forms of a typical structure as mere varieties.
Here then begins the fundamental aberration of scientific thinking. For the problem of the individuality structure returns in the "protists." They are not pure modal units of life [ie impossibly reductionist products of the Biotic law-sphere] but individual living beings that [necessarily] function in all aspects [law-spheres] of reality when we reckon with the subject-object relation [which presents as concrete temporal reality].
The unity of their individuality structure and the unity of their individual existence as subject are not guaranteed by the unity of the modal structure of the life-aspect [ie Biotic law-sphere].
When it is evident that the typical totality structure of living beings cannot be reduced to each other and that a human being proves to be radically different from animal and plant already in its temporal existence [cf only humans have “act-structure”], how then can anyone in all seriousness believe that one can bridge these differences in structure in a purely biological [discrete single law-sphere] manner?
Indeed, how would one propose to reduce the typical differences in structure of the "protists" genetically to an original unity of structure? In order to bring off this theoretic trick of magic the really existing protists in the plant and animal world (the unicellular algae or protophytes and the unicellular amoeba or protozoa) would first have to be reduced genetically to a hypothetical proto-cell without nucleus, the so-called "moner." However, the existence of moners could not be demonstrated, yet they had to form the hypothetical "origin" of the genetic system of all living beings. They were the "proto-protists," which themselves were to be the individual crystallization products of living protein: crystals without any special shape or organization.
Haeckel did not know yet that every type of living organism produces its own type of protein, so that in the living protein, formed by cellular protoplasm, the problem of individuality structures returns immediately. In his day scientists had no idea yet of the immensely complicated structure of the various types of protein (a protein consists of over twenty different amino acids - these in turn are complex compounds of carbon chain or ring which contain nitrogen in the form of the NH2-group).
Finally, the mechanistic science ideal demanded the denial that the modal aspect of life [Biotic law-sphere] cannot be reduced to another aspect [ie to the Physical-Energy (“mineral”) Law-sphere - see chart above]. The functions of life were nothing but a complicated modality of the physico-chemical characteristics of protein matter. And this protein in turn was supposed to have been formed in the same mechanistic manner from existing inorganic compounds in the "proto-sea" of earlier geological periods.
And so one witnessed the revival - under the banner of the modern mechanistic science ideal of an ancient mythology, already known in Greek natural philosophy - of a spontaneous production of living matter from dead material: the "generatio aequivoca." The leap from dead to living protein posed no problem for this mechanistic way of thinking.
In reality, however, the problem of the structure of individuality returned even beyond the boundaries of the life-aspect [Biotic law-sphere] in inorganic chemical compounds [Physical/ Energy (“mineral”) law-sphere].
Extracts from Herman Dooyeweerd’s ‘Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy’ Vol II, Paideia Press 2013)
[NB Confusing cover says: "SERIES A -VOLUME SIX". This is in fact the central volume of a trilogy called: "Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy". See info on Amazon's rear cover image.]
Everything within Time functions holistically within ALL law-spheres/ aspects. ALWAYS. Without exception. The law-spheres, after all, are aspects of TIME.
There are different creaturely "templates” ("individuality structures") at work: rock, rose, horse, human etc. Also fried eggs, paper, paint, birds nests, bridges, TVs, football clubs, families, governments, churches, businesses, schools etc etc. These all prioritise (are "qualified" by) different aspects, but they ALWAYS function, one way or another (as "subject" or as "object") in ALL aspects/ law-spheres.
The human does too, but as image of God the human alone also TRANSCENDS Time in his/her deepest selfhood/ heart (“God has put eternity in the heart” Ecclesiastes). Our loyalty and focus and worship are therefore directed above time (above and beyond the temporal law-spheres) to the Living God Who created and sustains and gives meaning to all creaturely reality within Time. Or our focus is directed towards an ersatz alternative.
The pagan or humanist in his/ her apostasy seeks, Dooyeweerd argues, to replace the Living Eternal God with something within Time. In effect, this idolatry invariably takes the form of an absolutisation of a law-sphere. The attempt is made to elevate that which is only relative to the role of ultimate integration-point and origin of all meaning of reality, including of one's personal selfhood.
By deifying one law-sphere (or occasionally an attempted synthesis of more than one) every other law-sphere is automatically interpreted as a mere by-product or court-retainer of that particular absolutised aspect.
In Dooyeweerd's analysis, reflecting societal, historical, aesthetic, juridical etc law-spheres, a redressing dynamic will eventually engender a counter-balancing retribution. The disharmony will awaken the opposing polarity. Hence the arising of historical "ground-motive" dualisms: Hellenistic Form-Matter, Thomistic Nature-Grace, Humanistic Nature-Freedom.
Theoretical reductionism of reality to one law-sphere involves a flagrant disregard of the internal sphere-sovereignty and mutual irreducibility of all law-spheres. Everything has a Logical Aspect but cannot be exhausted by the Logical. Just as everything has Aesthetic and Economic Aspects but cannot be exhausted by the Aesthetic or Economic.
Let us emphasise again that even the Logical/ Analytical law-sphere cannot be made the source of all other aspects. Some Christians might usefully ponder that. And philosophical Rationalists might benefit from greater awareness of the concrete selfhood behind the buzz-saw of Logic (to borrow a Van Til image).
The concrete selfhood which, immersed in temporal reality, ALWAYS functions (always acts) in ALL aspects simultaneously.
The concrete selfhood which, immersed in temporal reality, ALWAYS functions (always acts) in ALL aspects simultaneously.
The concrete selfhood which necessarily transcends at its deepest human core Time itself. Harbouring (usually unawares or unacknowledged) a pre-committed ultimate ("religious", to use Dooyeweerd's term) anchorage deeper than thought itself. Deeper than Logic itself. For Logic, let us remember, is theoretical. The thinker is not.
Picasso was once asked if, when eating a tomato, he envisaged it in cubist terms or whatever. "No", he reportedly replied. "I just eat the tomato." Ultimately we all just eat the time-immersed tomato.
Remember Dooyeweerd’s analogy of the fullness of truth like clear light refracting through the prism of Time. Thus, since all temporal reality always functions in all law-spheres, reality cannot be reduced to one "colour", eg to the Logical law-sphere. In fact, apart from the sustaining power of God over His creational laws, human theoretic reductionism (if actually realised) would pop reality like a soap bubble.
So what of Classical Darwinism? Dooyeweerd points out here that it's explanation is incoherent on various levels. In the first instance it absolutises the Biotic law-sphere. This reductionist "biologism" is a kind of metaphysics, in that it attempts to reify (assert as actual substance “out there” ) that which is merely an idea in the head.
In Dooyeweerd's view the law-spheres succeeding the Biotic (see chart above) cannot be derived from the Biotic. The law-spheres are "ontologically prior" to that which functions within them (eg living entities).
This error is then compounded by trying to derive “Life” from non-living matter. This shifts the absolutisation/ reductionism down from the Biotic law-sphere to the Physical-Energy (mineral) law-sphere.
“A theoretic magic trick”, Dooyeweerd quips.