Thursday, August 24, 2006

Meaning is the being of all that is created

Baus has put up a list of Reformational and/or Neocalvinist Bloggers at Honest2Blog. A few I don’t recognise so I should find time to have a look and add to my links. In the comments the issue of meaning is raised with Paul Robinson indicating that he rejects the notion. I actually considered using Dooyeweerd’s famous quote at the head of this blog:

“Meaning is the being of all that is created and the nature even of our selfhood. It has a religious root and a divine origin.” New Critique I 4

Each of the three volume’s of Dooyeweerd’s magnum opus starts with the notion of meaning very much at the centre. At the start of Volume Two we find this statement:

The specific modal sovereignty of the different aspects of reality (with their various modal law-spheres) appeared to be founded in this cosmic order and at the same time made relative by it. Founded: for the specific modal sovereignty proved to be only possible in the temporal splitting up of the religious fullness of meaning, which in its turn is only given in the transcendental root of our cosmos. Made relative: for the modal law-sphere as a specific aspect of the meaning of temporal reality, proved to have no independent existence in itself, but rather to be interwoven with the temporal coherence of meaning (NC II 3)

A little later Dooyeweerd claims that:

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. (NC II 31)

The third volume may not start with a similar statement concerning meaning, however one of the main concerns that Dooyeweerd has in the opening pages of this volume is a critique of “the metaphysical concept of substance as a speculative exaggeration of a datum of naïve experience” (see the heading of the first section). This becomes particularly clear in his discussion of H.G. Stoker (NC III 62-76) where he states that: “philosophical thought which tries to discover a substantial being of created things as the independent bearer of meaning, must always land in meaningless absolutizations of theoretical abstraction” (NC III 69)

So Dooyeweerd sees his characterization of created reality as meaning, as pivotal for his transcendental critique of theoretical thought, his theory of the modal spheres and his theory of the structures of individuality.

Given this centrality* I am intrigued as to the nature of Paul’s critique and his own positive suggestion (I assume it is more substantive than Danie Strauss’ suggestion that the term “meaning” while legitimate in itself is given priority in a way that evinces a linguistic turn in Dooyeweerd away from his earlier use of organic metaphors). He has also indicated skepticism concerning the idea of law in Dooyeweerd (see here and scroll down to the bottom). I think that this could be potentially very positive as careful criticism is vital if the legacy of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is to remain reformational rather than fall into an arid Dooyeweerdian-ism. I hope Paul considers publishing something on this before acquiring tenure as an academic philosopher as his suggests.

* This centrality appears to concern Dooyeweerd rather than Vollenhoven who uses the term “subject” for creation as non-self-sufficient. Perhaps Paul is therefore more on the Vollenhoven side of things reformational (at least on this issue).
Paul is clearly not Vollenhovenian on this point as Vollenhoven's notion of 'subject' is based on his view of the law of which Paul is skeptical.


Baus said...

Hey, this is fantastic.

Don't be insulted, but you did such a good job here, I thought: "man, I need Rudi to back me up in all my debates!" So... we'll start calling you the 'reformational bulldog'.

I'll get into a tuf, and then just sic you on them!

(But, really, well said.)

Rudi said...

Cheers Baus.

I am quiet found of Dooyeweerd's notion of meaning, so I await with interest Pauls critique.

Paul said...

Crikey, I hope I don't come to blows with the Reformational Bulldog in October! :-)

The pressure is on!

Paul said...

Yes, I haven't read much Vollenhoven, but I would be very surprised if I was Vollenhovenian about law. Very.

Rudi said...

That was a rather sloppy mistake on my half to suggest you might be Vollenhovenian. Still, you have me guessing at what exactly the Robinsonian position is. I'm straining at the leash!