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.)

enkapsis III, 558-603

NC III, 100-103, 621-784

structural coherence II, 489
interlacement II, 489
relationships I, 46

Because Dooyeweerd’s philosophy begins with the idea of a supratemporal totality, he then needs to show how individual things and events are individuated from out of that totality. See my article: “Individuality Structures and Enkapsis: Individuation from Totality in Dooyeweerd and German Idealism.”

Dooyeweerd says that every thing is a combination of two or more individuality structures (NC III, 55). There is no simple thing, because no single structure of individuality can be realized except in inter-structural intertwinements with other individuality-structures (NC III, 627). It is not correct that a thing has an individuality structure, for that would make a thing independent of its law-side, and would lead to a view of reality based on substance.

Within a thing, the different individuality structures are nested within one another. Dooyeweerd refers to this relationship as enkapsis. He says he borrowed this term from the anatomist Heidenhain:

The term “enkapsis” was borrowed from the famous anatomist Heidenhain by Theodor Haering, who gave it a general philosophical meaning. Heidenhain used the term “enkapsis” or “encapsulation” to denote the relation between the separate organs and the total organism in the structure of a living creature. His scientific investigations had taught him that the organs of a living body such as the kidneys, the lungs, etc. are not simply “parts” of this body in the usual sense of dependent components, but that they are relatively independent individuals. Their growth proves to be a continuous self-propagation, a continuous self-division. On the other hand the total organism reveals itself as an individual whole of relatively independent individualities. […] This term “enkapsis” introduced by Heidenhain is used by Haering promiscuously with “Funktionseinheit” (functional unity) or “Ganzes mit Gliederen” (a whole and its member) (NC III 634).

Haering’s idea was that the whole is something “new” as compared with the parts, not merely the sum total of its parts. Haering tries to apply it to the psycho-physical and the functional unity of the I-ness. Dooyeweerd rejects this as based on a trichotomy of physis, psyche and spirit. Dooyeweerd also says that structures of individuality apply only to the plastic horizon of experience.

Dooyeweerd also cites Haering that modern physics not only eliminates the so-called secondary qualities of matter but also the primary qualities. Philosophie der Naturwissenschaft (1923) p. 328 ff. (NC III, 37).

Dooyeweerd distinguishes his meaning of ‘enkapsis’ from that of the relation of a whole and its parts. In this way, his idea departs from Haering’s use.

In my opinion the term “enkapsis” expresses much rather an interwovenness of individuality-structures that cannot at all be qualified as the relation of a whole and its parts. (NC III, 636).

Enkapsis is therefore the interlacement or interwovenness of different individuality structures within another structure. The structures that are interwoven in this enkaptic whole retain their own inner-sphere sovereignty. This is because each individuality structure is qualified by a leading function:

A genuine enkaptic structural interlacement, taken in our sense, pre-supposes that the structures of things and events, or those of societal relationships functioning in it, have an independent internal leading function and an internal structural principle of their own. (NC III, 637).

But the whole may have an entirely different character. For example, atoms of hydrogen and oxygen are both structures of individuality. They are interwoven to form a new unity, water, which is very different. But oxygen and hydrogen also maintain their own characteristics and can be separated out.

This difference between the leading function of the whole and the leading function of the other individuality structure in the enkaptic structure is what Dooyeweerd refers to as the difference between “leading function” and “founding function.” Within the enkaptic whole, the qualifying function of the more encompassing individuality structure is called the ‘leading function.’ It qualifies every individual totality belonging to the same kingdom (mineral, plant, animal). The qualifying function of the encompassed individuality structure is called the ‘foundational function.’ (NC III, 90-91, 696ff).

Enkapsis, as an intertwinement of individuality structures, is therefore different from the relationship of a part to the whole. Enkapsis is not part/whole. What is part of a whole is determined by the individuality structure of the whole (Grenzen van het theoretisch denken, 69). In the part/whole relationship, the parts are of the same nature as the whole–i.e. they are qualified by the same aspect and have the same individuality structure. In the water molecule, hydrogen and oxygen are not related to water as parts to a whole.

Verburg gives the following example of enkapsis– an individual living cell such as a protophyte, a one – celled entity of the plant kingdom with a biotically qualified individuality structure. All its atoms and molecules still have their own physically qualified law structure, which will control their activities when released at the death of their ‘captor’ the protophyte. See also NC III, 100-103. Although that may be correct, it seems to me that Verburg has limited enkapsis to the enkaptic relationship between two things. The things themselves (the cell and the biotically qualified individuality structure) have in turn an enkaptic relationship of their individuality structures. Thus, enkapsis includes the relation between individuality structures in a thing, as well as the relationship of things within larger wholes, or even as Dooyeweerd shows, of things and events within society (See NC III, 653 ff). There are nested relationships within nested relationships. And all of this shows the very dynamic and interrelated structure of created reality.

This exciting and rich idea in Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is not understood by those like Vollenhoven who speak only of things and their functions, and who reject the ideas of individuality structures and enkapsis.

If we ignore the idea of enkapsis, we will also fail to understand Dooyeweerd’s view of aesthetics. See my article “Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy of Aesthetics: A Response to Zuidervaart’s Critique.”

If we ignore the idea of enkapsis, we will also fail to understand the structure of the human body. Our temporal body is an enkaptic interlacement of four different individuality structures: the physical, the biological, the psychical, and the act-structure. These structures are not parts of a whole, but are rather enkaptically interwoven with each other. (NC III 781, 784; Proposition 10 of “32 Propositions on Anthropology“). Our body as a whole is the instrument or organ of our supratemporal selfhood. See references in Thesis 56 of my “95 Theses on Herman Dooyeweerd.”

In 1950, Dooyeweerd wrote an article about enkapsis: “Het substantiebegrip in de moderne natuurphilosophie en de theorie van het enkaptisch structuurgeheel,” Philosophia Reformata 15 (1959), 66-139.

We may contrast the idea of enkapsis with that of ‘holon’ in Ken Wilber, who obtained it from Arthur Koestler. The idea of a holon is that of an entity that is both a part and also a whole. Thus an atom contains parts, so it is a whole, but it is a part of a larger whole, a molecule. In this way Wilber builds up a chain of being that is inter-related. Wilber therefore takes the part/whole relationships. But I think that Dooyeweerd’s view of enkapsis better represents the change in nature of the “whole.” Furthermore, Wilber’s idea of inter-relationship does not seem as extensive as that of enkapsis. Enkapsis allows individuality structures to be nested within other individuality structures that are not of the same type. For example, a matrimonial community has an enkaptic civil function within the state. And the individuality structures themselves are composed of aspects which have their own interlacements and sphere universality. Wilber’s holons all seem to have the same nature. He ignores the idea of differently qualified spheres. This fits with Wilber’s evolutionism. The idea of holons seems to rest on a more substantialized view of reality in its part/whole analogy. This seems to be inconsistent with Wilber’s Buddhist views that repudiate any idea of substance in favour of the Buddhist idea of dependent origination.

Baader says that temporal things are “put together in time” [zusammengesetzt]. Temporal things have a non-unity [Nichteinheit]. But Dooyeweerd’s idea of enkapsis seems to be a new development.

Revised Sept 12/08; Dec 24/16