ding an sich

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.)

an sich
I, vi.

NC I, 5 (philosophical thinking is an actual activity), 7 (actual logical function of thought can never be “an sich”)

NC II, 581 (no such thing as natural reality in itself)

Ding an sich I, 55
II, 492NC I, 14 (extra-mental Ding an sich), 43 (metaphysical substance concept)NC II, 548
in itself I, 5, 9, 11, 12 (function), 62 (no rest in itself), 62 (meaningless), 64, 68 (thinking in itself), 69, 81 (2+2=4), 129 (no laws “an sich”)

NC I, 561
NC II, 30
NC III, 45-46.

Sache an sich II, 420
thing in itself NC II, 566 (substance)
world in itself NC II, 549

Dooyeweerd’s rejection of the idea that things exist in themselves is based on his idea of individuality structures. See my article: “Individuality Structures and Enkapsis: Individuation from Totality in Dooyeweerd and German Idealism.”

Dooyeweerd rejects the view that ascribes our sensations to “things in themselves” existing independently of the functions of our consciousness, so that our consciousness is one-sidedly dependent upon them, or that we passively receive sense impressions from them. Instead, he says that things do not exist independently of the functions of our consciousness (III, 45, 46). This does not merely mean that we have access to things. It means that things have no existence or reality apart from humanity as its supratemporal root (NC I, 100; II, 53), and that they have no qualities apart from humanity.

Dooyeweerd says that God created the earthly cosmos in central relation to mankind.

Since God has created the ‘earthly’ world in a concentric relation to the religious root of human existence, there cannot exist an ‘earthly’ ‘world in itself’ apart from the structural horizon of human experience. (NC II, 549)

Because earthly reality was created in relation to mankind, there is no world in itself.

Dooyeweerd also rejects any distinction between primary qualities that inhere in a thing and secondary qualities that inhere in the perceiver of the thing. Things function in all aspects. They have subject functions in some aspects of temporal reality and object functions in the rest. They are “qualified” by their highest subject function. Thus plants are qualified by the biotic aspect, since that is the highest aspect in which they have a subject function. In the later aspects, they have object functions. We as subjects can perceive them, think about them, admire them, talk about them, sell them, etc. These ‘objective’ qualities of a sensory, logical, aesthetic and economic character are not secondary qualities, but they inhere in the things themselves as objects. They have meaning only in the subject-object relations of human experience.

Furthermore, the subjective functions of our experience in relation to things that we see are functions of the human self.

…and the subjective functions of this experience cannot be ascribed to God, but are focused in the human ego as their religious centre. (NC II, 52, 53).

The rejection of the view of a world “in itself” is also related to the whole Idea of meaning:

“Not a single temporal structure of meaning exists in itself (an sich). That which makes it into meaning lies beyond the limit of time (NC II, 30).

Scientific experiments do not disclose a static reality, given independently of logical thought (NC I, 561).

Even the human selfhood, the supratemporal root in which temporal reality has its existence, does not exist in itself. Our selfhood has meaning only in relation to the Origin, God.

In an early article, Dooyeweerd relates the Idea of existence “in itself” to apostasy:

If what exists has a fixed [vaststaande] meaning, that is only because of the Divine giving of meaning. Nothing exists in itself. Nothing exists “apo-state” or separate from the Divine giving of meaning, everything exists in and through the Divine noesis. (Feb 1923 “Advies over Roomsch-katholieke en Anti-revolutionaire Staatkunde,” cited by Verburg 48-61).

Revised Jul 6/06; Dec 24/16