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.)

autonomy I, 75

NC I, 35 (dogmatic positing of autonomy of thought), 35 (in Greek thought, claiming autonomy over popular faith), 36 (dogma of autonomy of thought),

autonomous I, 75 (law-giver), 76

NC I, 59 (autonomous ex-sistere of the ego which has lost itself in the surrender to idols)

self-sufficient I, 9, 12, 15, 17, 28, 31, 34, 48, 72, 75, 77, 124, 132
II, 486, 492
self-sufficiency I, v, 16, 24, 29, 51-52, 69
II, 494NC I, v, 4 and 9 (non-self-sufficient), 10 (true Origin is absolute and self-sufficient), 12-13

Autonomy means ‘self-law’ [from autos and nomos]. Autonomy is the rejection of our status as subjects who are sub-jected to God’s law. It is the attempt to set up ourselves as our own law-givers, and to be in this way self-sufficient. But only God is self-sufficient; all created reality exists as meaning. The desire for autonomy therefore rejects this Idea of created reality as meaning.

Autonomy seeks its meaning within temporal reality itself. It therefore absolutizes aspects of temporal reality, resulting in a religious dialectic.

Autonomous law-giving is contrasted with heteronomous law (WdW I, 24).

The first reference to Dooyeweerd’s rejection of the dogma of autonomy of thought is in his unpublished article “Een kritisch-methodologische onderzoeking naar Kelsen’s normative rechtsbeschouwing”, part of which comes from 1922, but completed in 1926. (excerpts in Verburg 34ff).

Franz von Baader was one of the first to argue against the autonomy of reason, in words that are surprisingly similar to what Dooyeweerd later uses. Dooyeweerd’s New Critique is directed against Kant, and it uses similar arguments to those put forward by Baader a hundred years earlier.

Baader refers to St. Paul for a rejection of autonomy. Paul speaks of man choosing a law for himself. Baader says this law either elevates, expands and glorifies us or it works against us in an oppressive [zusammendrückend] way. (Werke 2, 501).

Baader says that if we do not freely accept being subjected to God’s law, we will attempt to set up our own law in an autonomous way. Such a person seeks the Origin in his or her own image, and not in the image of God. There are two standpoints: Selbstsetzung [giving one’s own law] or Gesetztsein [being placed under God’s law]. A person who denies God experiences a lawlessness (Anomie, Gesetzlosigkeit), or an inner lack of all laws. There is a vacuum, law-emptiness. Such a person therefore attempts to give his or her own law (Selbstgesetzgebung or autonomy) (Zeit31). For example, Kant says that the ethical creature is the absolute giver of the law (Begründung 34, ft. 20). Autonomy is when we do not: acknowledge any inner Principle of our Self as our Law, but become law for oneself (Philosophische Schriften I, 37).

Baader says that the consequence of autonomy is ‘anomie‘ or lawlessness. There is an inner lawlessness or opposition to law (Philosophische Schriften II, 63)

Baader also rejects Descartes’ attempt at autonomy. In place of the cogito (“I think, therefore I am”), Baader proposes “I am thought, therefore I think.” Baader also says that autonomy is denying our Sonship. These people are servants in the house of the Father, and deny that they can be Son, and be informed of all that the Father does in the house and to participate freely (Fermenta IV, 12).

Kuyper specifically cites Baader in relation to this opposition to the idea of autonomy, which he says is the human desire to rid itself of God:

In spite of his Praktisches Vernunft it was this desire which actuated Kant, of whom Baader correctly wrote, ‘The fundamental error of his philosophy is that man is autonomous and spontaneous, as if he possessed reason of himself; for it transforms man to a God, and so becomes pantheistic (Abraham Kuyper: “De Verflauwing der Grenzen,” (Amsterdam: J.A. Wormser, 1982;, ft. 26. This has been translated as ‘Pantheism’s Destruction of Boundaries,’ tr. Hendrik de Vries, The Methodist Review (July 1893), 520-535.

Baader says that we can choose to find our center either in God or in our own self. We either affirm the Central Unity or we deny it  (Zeit, 24). As Sauer says, if our center is in God, then we understand ourselves as ordered (gesetzt), as participating in a previously given Ground. Or we can choose to deny our true center and attempt to find our ground in our own self [Selbstsetzung] (Sauer 28, citing Werke 14, 61f). The foundation of our existence can be immanent, insofar as it is founded in oneself by oneself, or ‘emanant’–founded in another being (Werke 2, 520).

Dooyeweerd says that our power of thought is fallen and could never serve as the basis for autonomy (NC I, 100). Similarly, Baader holds (contrary to Kant, Jacobi and Fichte) that the Fall affected our reasoning ability (Begründung 121).

Both Baader and Dooyeweerd have challenged the dogma of the autonomy of thought. But if the theoretical Gegenstand-relation involves moving into the temporal, and using our logical function as if it were separate, does this mean that Baader and Dooyeweerd have reintroduced the autonomy of thought? That is how Sauer interprets Baader. Sauer says that the Absolute is the transcendental ground that makes possible the autonomy of the subject (Sauer 25). The existing conditions of our existence make possible our Selbstsetzung or autonomy. Sauer interprets Baader dialectically: he says that the two standpoints–grounded in God (gesetzt) and autonomy (Selbstsetzung) limit each other. But this confuses the a priori conditions of our thought with our theoretical thought.

Dooyeweerd says that the transcendental ground of our being is that which makes possible our autonomy, the idolization of the temporal (NC I, 31 ft.1) The same point is made by Baader in Elementarbegriffe 544). But such autonomy is to be rejected; we must always move from the dis-stasis of analysis to a synthesis with our supratemporal selfhood.

Revised Sept 19/08; Dec 23/16