circularity

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.)

circularity NC III, 187: “With equal right it can be said that the concept founds the modal Idea, and that the modal Idea is the foundation of the concept.”
en-kyklios Encyclopedia of Legal Science (1946), 5-6.
to and fro
(NC II, 478-79). My intuition moves to and fro between my deepened analysis and its “Gegenstand” to bring them into actual contact in the inter-modal synthesis of meaning. In this process I become conscious of my theoretical freedom of thought. The actual synthesis of meaning accomplished in it can never be explained by means of the isolated functions of consciousness. Theoretical intuition is operative in deepened analysis itself, and only by its intermediary is theoretical thought able to analyse the “Gegenstand” in the intermodal synthesis of meaning. In this intuition I implicitly relate the intermodal meaning-synthesis to the transcendent identity of the modal functions I experience in the religious root of my existence.

Some philosophers have criticized Dooyeweerd’s philosophy for being circular.See my article, “Did Dooyeweerd contradict himself? A Response to D.F.M. Strauss.”

D.F.M. Strauss has argued that Dooyeweerd’s position was circular because Dooyeweerd said that the logical aspect itself could be subjected to the Gegenstand relation. Dooyeweerd disagreed. He said that what Strauss called an “unmaintainable circle” in his thought was in fact a necessary consequence of the ideas that Strauss himself had accepted–the transcendental Ground-Ideas of the mutual irreducibility and unbreakable mutual coherence of meaning of the modal aspects. And neither the idea of irreducibility nor the idea of mutual coherence can be understood apart from the supratemporal selfhood or religious root (Dooyeweerd’s Last Article (1975), 99).

There is a circularity, but it is not a vicious circle as in logicism that stays within the temporal. Dooyeweerd’s kind of circularity depends on the distinction between central and peripheral. Our Ideas depend on our supratemporal selfhood; that allows us to engage in theoretical thought about  ontical conditions that are beyond time. Dooyeweerd describes this kind of circularity in his Encyclopedia of Legal Science (1946). He discusses the meaning of ‘encyclopedia’ itself, which is derived 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. There is a 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).

Dooyeweerd says that ‘encyclopedia’ has two meanings: the philosophical one which is egkuklios (or enkyklios), and the practical one of paideia. Dooyeweerd says that this encyclopedic work is ambivalent, almost like being amphibious [tweeslachtig]. The philosophical person relates from out of the center, for Dooyeweerd says that philosophy is a “science of totality.” (1946 Encyclopedia,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 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 [see abstraction] 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, 6).

Dooyeweerd says that we move back and forth between center and periphery. It is our intuition that enables us to do that .In theoretical thought, our intuition also relates the Gegenstand, which has been split out from the temporal coherence, back to the coherence. It recognizes the theoretical datum as “our own.” (NC II, 475-480). In other words, our intuition relates our theory to the experience of our supratemporal self. Some confusion has been caused here, because the New Critique translation refers to an inter-modal synthesis of meaning:

My intuition moves to and fro between my deepened analysis and its “Gegenstand” to bring them into actual contact in the inter-modal synthesis of meaning. In this process I become conscious of my theoretical freedom of thought. The actual synthesis of meaning accomplished in it can never be explained by means of the isolated functions of consciousness. Theoretical intuition is operative in deepened analysis itself, and only by its intermediary is theoretical thought able to analyse the “Gegenstand” in the intermodal synthesis of meaning. In this intuition I implicitly relate the intermodal meaning-synthesis to the transcendent identity of the modal functions I experience in the religious root of my existence.(NC II, 478-79)

Baader is helpful in showing this kind of inter-connected circularity. As Sauer describes Baader’s circularity, our thinking unfolds itself in an embracing and comprehensive circular movement, which always seeks to catch up with or approximate a totality. That is why we can begin at any point in the periphery, and that same point will be reached again from another completed thought process from another standpoint (Sauer, 67).

Baader says that our concepts do not build a row, but a circle; you can start wherever you want, as long as you go through to the Center. This idea is in contrast to linear thought that regards one individual thought as merely arrayed next to another thought and not understood. Our thinking unfolds itself in an embracing and comprehensive circular movement, which always seeks to catch up with or approximate a totality. Baader says that if the concept cannot be shown to relate to the center, it is meaningless (Begründung 109; Werke XV, 160). When it is brought back to the Center, each concept leads and points to other concepts as either retrocipatory or anticipatory:

Da die wahrhafte Gnosis keine Reihe von Begriffen, sondern einen Kreis derselben bildet, so kommt es weniger darauf an, von welchem dieser Begriffe aus man im Vortrage der Wissenschaft anhebt, wohl aber darauf, daß man jeden derselben bis ins Zentrum durchführt, aus welchem dieser Begriff notwendig sodann auf all anderen regressiv oder antizipierend wieder weiset und führt, welche Durchführung darum allein als die systematische in der Tat und im Wesen sich erweist. (Werke VIII, 11, cited by Sauer 27)

[Because true gnosis is a circle and not a row of concepts, it matters little from which concept we begin our theory; it is more important that each concept must be related to the Center, from which this concept then necessarily points to other concepts in a regressive (retrocipatory) or anticipatory way; this relation to the Center therefore shows itself in act and essence as the only systematic relation].

and elsewhere Baader says,

True gnosis is a circle, which one does not really grasp little by little but rather all at once. Here, one thing always leads to every other, and whoever has understood one thing well will soon have grasped the whole. There is no cause for wonder, then, when, in part, one concept constantly refers back to another and also when, while holding on to one concept, we have to anticipate others. For it is precisely therein that the systematic character of gnosis manifests itself, since every single concept leads to and points to the Center and the Center in turn, to all other concepts (Werke 14, 160; translated by Betanzos 80. The word ‘gnosis’ in Baader’s quotation should not be understood in terms of Gnosticism. It means “true knowledge.”).

Sauer refers to this idea of retrocipating and anticipating concepts as a ‘double heuristic principle.’ The retrocipating concept is a kind of anamnesis–a looking back, a remembering of what has already come. This remembering is by turning within. Sauer uses the phrase ‘rückfragende sich er-innern’ (a questioning back by going within); this is a play on the word ‘erinnern’, which means ‘to remember’ and ‘er-innern’–to go within (Werke 4, 105; Sauer 65). It is our selfhood that allows us to remember; remembering is a making present (Vergegenwärtigung) (Werke 4, 105). Baader says that consciousness is the work of memory (Gedächtnis). Time is measured in our soul [Gemüth] not by succession of ideas, but by consciousness. It is only because of the permanence of our selfhood that we can experience change and the passing of time. Not to measure time is the situation of dreams (Weltalter 90, 91). Baader praised Fichte for describing ‘the mechanics or instinctive operation of the human mind in its struggle for awareness (preservation of consciousness) within the temporal flow of what is transient’ (Werke 3, 244; translated by Betanzos 41).

Sauer says that, in contrast to retrocipation, which looks to the past in memory, anticipation seeks the coherence and reintegration that will occur in the future (Sauer 123). When we anticipate the future, we attempt to shorten time (Elementarbegriffe 555). Time is ‘the winter of eternity.’ As good gardeners, we can bring forth passing blooms of eternity, anticipating paradise. We anticipate outwardly what we already anticipate inwardly (Weltalter 242).

Dooyeweerd also says that we may begin with concept or idea.

With equal right it can be said that the concept founds the modal Idea, and that the modal Idea is the foundaiton of the concept. (NC II, 187).

If we begin by a concept, then we will deepen that concept in correct theoretical thought.

Dooyeweerd also says that our concepts refer to retrocipatory moments, that our Ideas include anticipatory moments, and that all these moments coincide in a central unity.

Revised Sept 25/07; Dec 23/16