archimedean point

Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)

Archimedean point WdW I, 5, 10, 14-17, 20, 23, 25, 27, 32, 34, 40, 43, 45, 50 , 64, 66-68, 70, 72-74, 76, 80-81
II, 407; NC I, 8 (fixed point from which we form the idea of the totality of meaning), 11, 12 (cannot be sought in philosophic thought itself), 34

“Beroepsmisdaad en strafvergelding in ‘t licht der wetsidee” (1928)

“De Theorie van de Bronnen van het Stellig Recht in het licht der Wetsidee,” (1932)

Philosophy cannot be merely “gegenständlich” concentrated–that is, it cannot merely be set over against particular modal aspects of reality.Instead, it necessarily has a tendency towards totality, seeking its concentration above or behind the diversity of the modal aspects. The thinker must seek his Archimedean point. See “Het dilemma voor het christelijk wijsgeerig denken,” Philosophia Reformata 1 (1936) 1-16 [‘Dilemma’] at 7. At p. 10, he says that if this point is regarded historicistically within time, then we lose the static character of that point. Page 13: true self-knowledge depends on choice of Archimedean point.

“Het transcendentale critiek van het wijsgeerig denken,” Philosophia Reformata 6 (1941), 1-20 at 11.The Archimedean point is supra-individual, since it is not only the concentration point of individual human existence, but of the whole temporal cosmos in its diversity of modal aspects. But our individual thinking selfhood must participate in this supra-individual point of concentration.

Transcendental Problems of Philosophic Thought (Eerdmans, 1948), 49: Descartes sought the Archimedean point in the cogito

standpoint I, vi, 10II, 496
viewpoint I, vi;

The Archimedean point is where we choose to stand in order to form the idea of the totality of meaning. This cannot be done apart from a view of the origin of both totality and specialty of meaning (NC I, 8). Christian philosophy takes a transcendent standpoint Immanence philosophy takes its standpoint within temporal reality and therefore absolutizes part of reality.

Our choice of Archimedean point determines insight into the structure of the cosmos and of human experience, and the true character of our selfhood. (“Het dilemma voor het christelijk wijsgeerig denken,” Philosophia Reformata 1 (1936), 7). This choice is a religious choice, in which theoretical thought is concentrated on that which the thinking selfhood accepts as the deeper root and self-sufficient Origin of the cosmos.

It is of course taken from the saying of Archimedes that if he was given a place to stand (pou sto or pou= stw) outside the world on which to place his lever, he could move the world.

The whole Idea of standpoint is related to the Idea of ‘standing.’ It occurs in many forms in Dooyeweerd: en-stasis, dis-stasis, apo-stasis, sys-stasis, ana-stasis, standing in the Truth and standing in falsehood.

Immanence-philosophies seek their starting point from something within time, and this involves them in necessarily dialectical Ground-Motives. Immanence philosophy includes Christian philosophies that deny the supratemporal heart, the religious root that transcends time.

Dooyeweerd says that Christian philosophy seeks its Archimedean point above time instead of seeking it within time like immanence philosophy (Verburg 155)

Steen relates Dooyeweerd’s idea of Archimedean point to the idea that our supratemporal heart exists in the aevum. Because of this “created eternity,” we have eternity consciousness, we get God’s point of view; we get distance from the temporal earthly cosmos, or as Kuyper said, we obtain a standing in a non-cosmos, we have an Archimedean point from which to get an overview. Kuyper: Encyclopaedie der Heilige Godgeleerdheid, II, 59. (Steen, 210). A partial translation of this work, Encyclopedia of Sacred Theology, is online at
[], and the reference appears to be at p. II, 113 of the translation:

Suppose that you had succeeded in attaining an adequate knowledge of all the parts of the cosmos, the product of these results would not yet give you the adequate knowledge of the whole. The whole is always something different from the combination of its parts. First because of the organic relation which holds the parts together; but much more because of the entirely new questions which the combination of the whole presents: questions as to the origin and end of the whole; questions as to the categories which govern the object in its reflection in your consciousness; questions as to absolute being, and as to what non-cosmos is. In order to answer these questions, you must subject the whole cosmos to yourself, your own self included; in order to do this in your consciousness you must step out from the cosmos, and you must have a starting-point (d/o/v moi pou= stw==) in the non-cosmos; and this is altogether impossible as long as sin confines you with your consciousness to the cosmos.

In the paragraph I have cited from Kuyper above, note that sin makes it impossible to stand in this Archimedean point. Dooyeweerd says that we can stand in the truth because we in our selfhood transcend the temporal “earthly” cosmos (NC II, 593). Such standing in the truth is a prerequisite for insight into the (temporal) horizon of experience (NC II, 564).

Note also that for Kuyper, the Archimediean point is outside the cosmos. He seems to be using ‘cosmos’ in the same way that Dooyeweerd does–’cosmos’ is restricted to temporal creation, which Dooyeweerd also refers to as the ‘earthly.’ The ‘heavenly’ standpoint is outside the cosmos, but still part of creation.

What about Steen’s statement about “eternity consciousness?” A reference by Dooyeweerd that would support this can be found in his 1923 article “Roomsch-katholieke en Anti-revolutionaire Staatkunde.” Through the grace and redemption through Jesus Christ, our intuition and thought [schouwen en denken] is again directed to the Divine giving of meaning, and we again intuit [schouwen] the world “sub specie aeternitatis,” in the light of eternity [in het licht der eeuwigheid] (Verburg 61).

Nevertheless, we must emphasize that Dooyeweerd distinguishes the aevum from God’s eternity, although that distinction may have come only later, and seems to be related to Baader’s distinctions of eternal, supratemporal and temporal.

Verburg says that Dooyeweerd first uses the idea of Archimedean point in a 1928 article, “Beroepsmisdaad en strafvergelding in ‘t licht der wetsidee” in Antirevolutionaire Staatkunde (1928), p. 425 (Verburg 120).

In a 1932 article, Dooyeweerd says that the law-Idea is the Idea of the deeper unity of the law-spheres. We can compare the law-spheres only after we have discovered their supratemporal deeper unity in the Archimedean point of philosophy. We cannot seek the Archimedean point in logic, or what Dooyeweerd here calls ‘logos’ (“De Theorie van de Bronnen van het Stellig Recht in het licht der Wetsidee,” Handelingen van de Vereeniging voor Wijsbegeerte des Rechts, XIX (1932) from Mensch en Maatschappij, cited by Verburg).

In his Divergentierapport [Report of Divergences], Vollenhoven  said that Dooyeweerd’s emphasis on the supratemporal might lead people to connect his philosophy to the ideas of Jung. Although Dooyeweerd certainly does emphasize the supratemporal selfhood, and also writes about the unconscious, I believe that there are also significant differences from Jung’s psychology. This can be seen in Jung’s denial of the Archimedean point, an idea that is important for Dooyeweerd’s view of the self. Jung says,

There is no Archimedean point from which to judge, since the mind is indistinguishable from its manifestations. The mind is the object of psychology, and-fatally enough-also its subject. There is no getting away from this fact. – (Psychology and Religion, CW 11, para. 18).

However, Jung may only have been objecting to an Archimedean point outside of the psyche (See Psychology and Religion, 1938, para. 140, fn27). The psyche itself does act as an Archimedean point. In comparison with the temporal ego, the supratemporal psyche does provide an Archimedean point from which we can view our suffering This Archimedean point outside the ego is “the objective standpoint of the self, from which the ego can be seen as a phenomenon. Without the objectivization of the self the ego would remain caught in hopeless subjectivity and would only gyrate round itself.”(“Transformation Symbolism in the Mass,” CW 11, para. 427-428).

Perhaps in denying an Archimedean point outside of the psyche, Jung was reacting against Freud, who in 1908 had searched for an Archimedean point by which individuals could be understood against a universal pattern. See The Freud-Jung Letters: The Correspondence between Sigmund Freud and C. G. Jung (W. McGuire, Ed.: R. Mannheim & R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974.

Although both Jung and Dooyeweerd emphasize a supratemporal selfhood, they use the term in different ways. Jung’s approach involves a reciprocal approach between the selfhood and a temporal ego, whereas Dooyeweerd follows Franz von Baader in the idea of the supratemporal heart as our true selfhood, for which our body is the temporal instrument. Perhaps we can make some analogy between a temporal ego and the temporal act structure, which for Dooyeweerd is one of the four enkaptically interlaced individuality structures that together make up the body. Our transcendent selfhood should not be identified with any of these structures. It should be noted that Dooyeweerd denies that the selfhood can be an “object” that can be investigated by psychology or any other theoretical discipline; rather, the supratemporal selfhood is the ontical condition for any theoretical thought at all. Here, Dooyeweerd follows Baader’s critique of the autonomy of theoretical thought. Although he is sometimes ambiguous, Jung generally remains within the Kantian acceptance of such autonomy. In my 2005 series of lectures on Jung, I argue that Baader provides a clearer explanation of several ideas where Jung is ambiguous or incorrect (such as his interpretation of Boehme and Eckhart, particularly with respect to the issues of God and evil, and whether the dynamic movement within God is to be pantheistically identified with development of man’s consciousness). I believe that Dooyeweerd follows and expands upon Baader’s tradition of Christian theosophy, and that these ideas provide the basis for significant insights in psychology.

The idea of an Archimedean point is found in Franz von Baader. In a letter dated January 2, 1825, he writes how, in seeking such a point, Archimedes was smarter than most of those moralists who try to free us from the world without a foundation outside of or above the world (Werke 15, 428). And at he compares this idea of an Archimedean point to what Christ says, that only he who is from heaven can ascend to heaven (Werke 10, 262).