central/peripheral

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.)

central I, v (central significance of the heart; central Christian point of view), vi; 57 (central-religious), 61 (central a priori)
II, 494
III, 888

NC I, 3 (every aspect refers within and beyond itself to all the others; points beyond its own limits to a central totality), 5 (selfhood as central point of reference), 8 (in my central selfhood I must participate in the totality of meaning), 11 (ego is subjected to a central law), 21 (central direction), 32 (the central sphere of human existence is dynamic; the central sphere of occurrence), 33 (revealed supratemporal realm; the supratemporal central sphere of human existence and of divine revelation), 49 (disposition of the heart is of a central-religious character), 55 (central supra-theoretical knowledge), 57-58, 60 (central and radical unity of our existence)

NC II, 548 (central religous sphere)

NC III, 784 (central sphere of human existence)

“Van Peursen’s Critische Vragen bij “A New Critique of Theoretical Thought,” Philosophia Reformata 25 (1960), 97-150, at 137: time-transcending, central direction of consciousness. At p. 139, fn21: heart in its central-religious meaning.

center I, 19 (transcendent center), 31 (religious center)

NC I, 11 (centre of our existence), 31 (religious centre of our existence is not found in a rigid and static immobility; in time, meaning is broken into an incalculable diversity, which can come to a radical unity only in the religious centre of human existence; our religious centre is the only sphere of our consciousness in which we transcend time), 57 (ex-sistent character of the ego as the religious centre of existence), 58 (ex-sistent character of the religious centre of our existence)

NC II, 114, 143 (not in WdW)
NC III, 783 (man as personal religious creaturely centre of the whole earthly cosmos).

1946 edition of his Encyclopedia of Legal Science, 5-6

“Het dilemma voor het christelijk wijsgeerig denken en het critisch karakter van de Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee,” Philosophia Reformata 1 (1936), 1-16, at 14. Page 15 refers to the heart as the supra-rational, religious root of existence, and as the center.

peripheral
periphery I, vi

1946 edition of his Encyclopedia of Legal Science, 5-6

The center is the transcendent and religious reality. It includes our supratemporal heart. Humans function in all aspects, but their supratemporal center goes beyond all aspects (NC I, 51; III, 88). Animals lack this center (NC II, 114).

The periphery is temporal reality as differentiated by cosmic time into diversity and particularity of meaning. The center thus expresses itself in the periphery. Our supratemporal selfhood expresses itself in its temporal functions. To focus on the periphery is to relate to the temporal cosmos, as opposed to the central supratemporal selfhood (WdW I,vi).

That which is central expresses and reveals itself in the peripheral, and the peripheral in turn refers back to what is central for its meaning. Furthermore, the central is on a higher ontical level than the periphery. So God, Who is eternal, expresses and reveals Himself within creation (both temporal and supratemporal), and the creation refers back to Him for its meaning. And man, as the image of God, expresses and reveals his supratemporal selfhood in the temporal cosmos, and the temporal cosmos in turn refers back to man’s selfhood as the religious root for its meaning. Dooyeweerd uses the same term, ‘revelation’ (openbaring) for God’s expression in creation as well as for man’s expression in the temporal. The way that the peripheral is concentrated in the supratemporal central, and the central in turn is concentrated in God as Origin, is what Dooyeweerd calls the “religious law of concentration.”

Knowledge of our selves is dependent on our knowledge of God. This is shown in the Biblical Revelation of our creation concerning our creation in the image of God. Our self-knowledge is a central knowledge. It is rooted in the heart, the religious center of our existence (NC I, 55).

Sometimes Dooyeweerd uses the image of an organism to describe the central/peripheral relationship. The head is the center, and the peripheral functions are its organs. The soul is the full human selfhood, one’s heart, in the sense of the center of one’s whole existence, of which the body is only the temporal organ (March 19/1938 response to Curators; cited Verburg 226-227).

Our heart as the center or religious root of temporal reality is itself the expression of a higher center, the Origin. We are the image of God, who has expressed Himself by creating us in His image. We have no existence except in our Origin, and the temporal world has no existence except in humanity as it supratemporal root (NC I, 100; II, 53).

There is a real meeting of I and Thou in our religious center which transcends the ethical aspect. Buber’s mistake is to locate this central relation within time:

On the other hand, the real meeting of I and thou is in the deepest sense a central, religious relation, which indeed does not allow of modal boundaries of law-spheres. But if this central relation is sought within the temporal order of human existence, one gives oneself up to an idolatrous illusion (NC II, 143.)

Both the law-side and the subject-side of temporal reality have a center. The religious center of the law-side is the central revealed law, just as the religious center of the subject-side is the heart (“Das natürliche Rechtsbewusztsein und die Erkenntnis des geoffenbarten Göttlichen Gesetzes,” February 28, 1939, cited by Verburg, 251).

Our acts come out of our supratemporal center. They are expressed in temporal reality through our temporal functions.

In the 1946 edition of his Encyclopedia of Legal Science, Dooyeweerd refers to the central/peripheral distinction in the very meaning of ‘Encyclopedia.’

Therefore, the Encyclopedia as a philosophical science does not need to systematically discuss the concrete material of science as such, but much rather it needs to discover the universal framework in which the material science groups its subject matter, and on which it constructs its system.
In this regard, the direction of its research proceeds from the center to the periphery; it is egkuklios.(pages 5-6).

What does Dooyeweerd mean? The word ‘encyclopedia’ comes from the French ‘encyclopedia,’ which in turn comes from the Greek enkyklios paideia. Paideia means education and enkyklios means “in a circle.” So an encyclopedia is teaching in a circle. Unlike a reference work like a dictionary, which is merely arranged alphabetically, an encyclopedia arranges human knowledge in a circle. In an encyclopedia the footnotes of an article reference to other (not so) related articles of the encyclopedia, connecting all the articles inside a system. See the definition for ‘encyclopedia in the Online Etymology Dictionary, at [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=e&p=5].

So in his Encyclopedia of Legal Science (1946), Dooyeweerd says that ‘encyclopedia’ has two meanings: the philosophical one which is egkuklios (or enkyklios), and the practical one of paideia. Dooyeweerd says that the work is ‘amphibious’ [tweeslachtig]. The philosophical one relates from out of the center, for Dooyeweerd says that philosophy is a “science of totality.” (1947 Encyclopedia, p. 10. Totality is supratemporal, as opposed to temporal diversity, so that is why we are amphibious. We live in two worlds, the supratemporal and the temporal, and it is only because we have a supratemporal selfhood that we can, by the Gegenstand-relation, have a philosophical Idea of the supratemporal. Dooyeweerd makes this clear in the 2002 Mellen translation of the Encyclopedia:

Therefore by maintaining the Gegenstand-relation, the theoretical Idea relates the theoretical concept to the conditions of all theoretical thought, but itself remains theoretical in nature, thus within the bounds of philosophic thought. It is just in this that its transcendental character resides. For in theoretical thought, the transcendental is everything that, by means of the inner (immanent) structure of theoretical way of thought first makes possible theoretical thought itself; the transcendental is everything that stands at the basis of every theoretical conceptual distinction as its theoretical presupposition. (2002 Encyclopedia, pp. 80-81).

Dooyeweerd rejects the inductive/abstractive approach of enquiry, which seeks to find commonalities among concrete things, and says we must begin with the central, irreducible concept. Only then do we move to the periphery:

When we have found the correct method, and when we have we have established the central concept of law that determines all concrete concepts of law, and which imprints on them their unique juridical character, then we have fixed the middle point of the circle, and we can thereafter cover the distance to the periphery, to the circumference.(1946 Encyclopedia, p. 6).

The contrast central/peripheral is also one of Franz von Baader’s main emphases. For Baader, the ‘central’ refers to the supratemporal heart, and the peripheral refers to the temporal cosmos. He says that the Center is in each and all points of the periphery, within the temporal, but nowhere ‘vorhanden’ in the temporal itself. Because time has no present, only past and future. What is free from time, the Act, is within, over and outside of time, as nontemporal, as eternal and truly existing. (Philosophische Schriften I, 16).

Baader also uses the idea of totality when he refers to the center. The central totality is different than just the sum of all the peripheral points (Peripherie-Punkte); rather, the Center stands as essence (Inbegriff) over them. Just as the sum of all creation does not constitute a creator, so the Center is more than the sum of the periphery (Begründung 63 ft. 7). Similarly, Dooyeweerd says that the religious Center of our existence expresses itself in all modal aspects of time but can never be exhausted by these (NC I, 58).

Baader says that the Center is the starting point [Ausgangspunkt] of an organism. In this Center, the individual limbs lie in an  undifferentiated state (in potentia). It is our Ground, as distinct from the Urgrund (the hidden One that first by involution becomes the Center in order to then evolve with and in this Center (Werke 4, 214). This idea of a point of departure is similar to the Archimedean Point that Dooyeweerd speaks of in our religious center. That this Center is undifferentiated is echoed later in Kuyper’s view of the supratemporal heart, which is quoted by Dooyeweerd. And like Dooyeweerd, Baader says that the Center is not the sum of its parts. It is not identical with the sum of its radii (Anal d. Erk , Werke 1, 42).

Like Dooyeweerd, Baader uses the image of an organism. Each embodied or realizing and fulfilling life proceeds from a Center, in which the individual limbs of the organism are still undifferentiated, as partial lives, and in a seed state, the still state of potential. [Über Sinn und Zweck der Verkörperung, Leib oder Fleischwerdung des Lebens] There is a twofold ciruclation between the factors of a life that are distinguished, as individual points or individual limbs, with their unfolded [entfaltenden] Unity.” (Philosophische Schriften I, 86).

But Baader says that because each dynamic movement is reciprocal, each individual limb is also received directly by the universal principle of the organism and then sent forth in a non-mediated way to bring forth fruit. There is a reciprocity [Wechselspiel] between the Center and peripheral limbs. (Philosophische Schriften I, 87). Sauer comments that true life (to be in one’s center) is dependent on having a periphery. Inner-ness and Outer-ness must act on each other reciprocally. (Sauer 64).

And he says that each individual limb must also be received [empfangen] directly by and and given back to each other. All individual limbs live “from all and for all” [von allen, und für alle], just like citizens of the same State, where each pursues its own individual and special office. (Philosophische Schriften I, 87) Thus there is an inter-relation among the different limbs, although each has its own individual office. Baader refers elsewhere to the separate limbs in terms that are very similar to Kuyper’s and Dooyeweerd’s views of sphere sovereignty.

But this peripheral movement of the limbs can only be understood if we do not lose sight of the relation of each limb with the central unity, and to acknowledge that each limb is subordinate to this Center. This Center produces or engenders each individual limb in its Totality, although it only gives this in a germinal [saamlichen] state. But each limb in its specific receptivity, like an individual denominator [Nenner], has only a specific part (like a colour) of this center (Philosophische Schriften I, 87). Here the individual limbs are compared to colours coming from a center. Elsewhere, Baader gives a more direct reference to the prism analogy of center and periphery.

Notice also his use of the word ‘denominator.’ Dooyeweerd uses that term when speaking of absolutizations of an aspect (e.g. NC I, 47). Baader is also opposed to such absolutization. He says in this same passage that each limb has its function, its own standing in the common organism, and it is required to have a cohesion with all of the limbs. Nor is it self-sufficient. Just as a seed cannot grow of itself, each limb must strive for real Existenz. It cannot come to free life if it shuts itself off from the Sun, and goes into its own center(Philosophische Schriften I, 89).

Baader says that God is himself both Center and periphery (Philosophische Schriften II, vii; Lichtstrahlen 143). I understand this to mean that within God there is a nature in which He expresses himself, within the Trinity.

Several reformational philosophers have objected to Dooyeweerd’s use of the terminology of center and periphery, as being “totalizing.” See here Olthuis’s criticism in “Of Webs and Whirlwinds; Me, Myself and I,” Contemporary Reflections 36. He proposes that the image of center and periphery be rejected in favour of many and diverse ways of describing the relation to God and self. However, Olthuis also rejects the Idea of the supratemporal self. For Dooyeweerd, these ideas of the selfhood, and his references to Totality, to Central/peripheral and to the root are key to his philosophy.

Baader says that to flee from one’s center is the same as fleeing from time [Centrumflüchtigkeit der Creatur=Zeitflüchtigkeit]. (Segen und Fluchen Werke 7, 84, Note 92).

We have free movement of life in the periphery when we are related to the Center:

…die Begriffe des Zentrums und der Peripherie hier in ihrem gegenseitigen Bezug in einem und demselven organischen Systeme zu nehmen sind. Denn in einem solchen bewirkt nur die Ruhe, das Gesetztsein (‘le posement’) des Zentrums die freie Bewegung in seiner Peripherie (in seinem Äußeren), weil jede Bewegung nur aus dem Unbeweglichen hervorgeht…( Zeit 24 ft.4).

[…the concepts of the Center and of the periphery, in their reciprocal relation, are to be understood as an organic system. For only in such an organic system can the Stillness effect or cause the ‘being fitted’ (le ‘posement’) by the Center of the free movement in its periphery (in its exterior), because each motion only goes from out of the Unmoved…].

See also centrifugal/centripetal.

Revised May 16/06; Dec 23/16

 

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