copy theory

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.)

copy theory NC I, 43
NC II, 388
NC III, 22, 35

Dooyeweerd distinguishes his view from that of a copy theory of reality, or what he calls “naive realism.”

For a detailed discussion of why Dooyeweerd rejects the copy theory, and how his own theory differs from such a copy theory, see my article “Imagination, Image of God and Wisdom of God: Theosophical Themes in Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy,” (2006), especially Part 3: Perception.

As I understand it, Dooyeweerd’s view is different from the copy theory for these two reasons:

(1) a copy theory does not distinguish between naive experience and theory. It assumes that our naive experience is already theoretical.

(2) a copy theory assumes that things exist in themselves and are copied in our mind.

For Dooyeweerd, true naïve experience comes before all theories, and cannot be refuted theoretically. Dooyeweerd says that the reason for misinterpreting naïve experience as naïve realism occurs when we fail to distinguish the Subject-Object relation from the theoretical Gegenstand relation. If no distinction is made between pre-theoretical and theoretical experience, then naïve experience is misinterpreted as a theory about reality, and identified with the uncritical theory of “naïve realism” or the “copy theory” (NC I, 43).

Dooyeweerd rejects the naïve realist view of sensation. Dooyeweerd explains that in the copy theory of reality, the “real datum of naïve experience”–i.e., our experience in all modal aspects–is reduced to the theoretical abstraction of objective sense-impressions (NC III, 22). According to naïve realism, these sense impressions give us an exact image of reality; perceiving is like taking a photo. Naïve realism assumes that the representing mind is placed in a surrounding world which must in some way repeat itself in this mind (NC III, 35). This naïve realist view of reality is then said to be refuted by a “critical” analysis of knowledge. But this criticism assumes that naïve experience is itself a theory of reality (a copy theory).

Dooyeweerd says that the Aristotelian realistic conception unavoidably leads to the copy theory. In the Aristotelian view, thinking is exclusively directed to the abstract universal which “grasps the logical copy of the materialized essential form of things in the intentional logical object.” But the “moderately nominalistic conception of Occam,” too, must have recourse to a copy-theory in order to head off absolute fictionalism (NC II, 388).

Dooyeweerd first objects to a doubled copy theory in his unpublished article from 1922, “Een kritisch-methodologische onderzoeking naar Kelsen’s normatieve rechtsbeschouwing.” (quoted at length in Verburg, 33-38).

Baader also objects to a reproduction theory of things in themselves. To hold to such a reproduction theory is to be bound to our merely outer senses (Sauer 39). Baader says that objects are not to be seen as the source of sensory impressions working upon a separate thinker (Weltalter 48, 364). Our sensations are not the source and cause of our thinking function (Werke V, 53). As Sauer says, there are for Baader no positivistic facts that are not already involved in the universal process of sensation, knowing and understanding (Sauer 21).

But although Dooyeweerd rejects the copy theory of experience, he does hold to some correspondence theory of truth for theory. See truth and see image.

Revised June 29/06; Dec 23/16

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