Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The necessity of Transcendence

Dooyeweerd uses the image of a lookout-tower to explain why “if I am not to lose myself in the modal speciality of meaning during the course of philosophical thought, I must be able to find a standpoint which transcends the special modal aspects. Only by transcending the speciality of meaning, can I attain to the actual view of totality by which the former is to be distinguished as such” (NC I 8)

This necessity of transcendence is a crucial element of his critique of “immanence philosophy”, yet it still feels to me too closely tied with an epistemological standpoint. That’s a problem because it is the immanence standpoint that is supposed to be caught up in the problematic of knowing subject over-against known object. The point of the Zuidema quote turns on this issue, we are not a philosophical or theoretical subject, but ultimately a religious subject. Apparently Dooyeweerd’s student Johan Mekkes questioned the character of this transcendence in his later thought suggesting that the Archimedean point sought by Dooyeweerd was an illegitimate, neo-Kantian turn which effaced the temporal actuality of thought.

Perhaps we have to accept that the negative character of Dooyeweerd’s critique remains persuasive while his positive account concerning the transcendence of the religious concentration point requires, at the least, further reflection. On this negative result of his critique Dooyeweerd wrote: “the demonstrative force of our critique has been negative in character, so far as it, taken strictly, can only demonstrate, that the starting-point of theoretical thought cannot be found in that thought itself, but must be supra-theoretical in character” (NC I 56-57)


Baus said...

Zuidema's point is well taken, philosophy (even WdW/PCI) is not the starting point for Xian life, nor thought.

But the 'transcendent' standpoint is not a starting point in D's view. And the 'epistemic' is not reduced to a speciality of modal meaning.

In D's own terms he doesn't appear subject to the Mekkes criticism.

I do think D's positive account requires further reflection simply because it breaks so radically with channel of 'immanence' thinking, we struggle to read him on his transcendence terms.

Rudi said...

There could be three types of transcendence, (1) transcending theoretical thought, (2) transcending the modal aspects, and (3) transcending time. As with those terrible vollenhovenizers I tend towards the view that accepts the first two but remain sceptical about the third. However it is not clear to me the exact relationship between these three as understood by Dooyeweerd, and consequently whether his view merits acceptance or not.

Now, while it may not be possible to be critical without some element of mis/over-interpretation, don’t you think the lookout-tower metaphor could be construed in traditional subject-object terms? And might not the actuality of the selfhood in theoretical thought be difficult to maintain, with full justice, if it is thought of as supra-temporal?

As I say, I only tend towards a view, and modesty, or perhaps feeble mindedness, suggests I won’t have arrived at an established view by the end of this current re-read of the New Critique, so criticism and correction gladly welcomed.

Baus said...

you wrote:
"might not the actuality of the selfhood in theoretical thought be difficult to maintain, with full justice, if it is thought of as supra-temporal?"

I'm not sure why that would be the case. What is it about supratemporality that would render the self less- or un- actual (whether in theoretical thought or otherwise)?

you wrote:
"don’t you think the lookout-tower metaphor could be construed in traditional subject-object terms?"

That's the problem. D doesn't mean it in those terms. If construed in that way, then one misses his point. One way of seeing this is that traditionally, subjet is supposed to be overagainst object, and D holds that this is impossible. And the required standpoint 'above' modal diversity is not thought by D to be overagainst this diversity either.

Here, the other metaphor of the prism comes in. "White" light does not exist in opposition to the refracted spectrum of colors, but is its full unity.

Each metaphor is used to describe a different idea, but they contribute to the overall view.

Anyway, are you really wondering about D's view of the relation between the three kinds of transcendence, or are you just not seeing the cogency of the proposed third one (ie. time)?

To be honest, I'm worried that my not seeing the cogency of the critiques of D's view is due to my own feeble mindedness... so, I'd be happy to continue our mutual 'feebling' around for the answer/s.

By the way, have you seen Henk Geertsema's 1998 article Science and Person: beyond the Cartesian paradigm?

The reference for the article is this-- Studies in Science and Theology: Yearbook of the European Society for the Study of Science and Theology, volume 7, (year 1999-2000) pages 47-64.
editors: Niels Henrik Gregersen, Willem B Drees, and Ulf Gorman

It may help... or not.