existence

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.)

aanzijn I, 9, 13
II, 409“Schepping en evolutie”
bestaan I, vi, 13, 19, 24, 26, 30, 37, 45, 62 (of God), 64, 65, 66 (no separate colour bestaanbaar), 80, 81 (partial truths do not exist), 86, 122
II, 482
exist II, 492
existence I, v, 33 (existentie), 88 (levensexistentie), 131 (existentie)

II, 408, 414, 492

NC I, 5 (temporal existence), 60 (central and radical unity of our existence)

geen op zichzelve gesteld zijn I, 64 [no substance] but note the word gesteld, 65 (gesteld)
ex-sistere NC I, 53 (the free historical ex-sistere), 57 (ex-sistent character of the ego as the religious centre of existence), 58 (; religion as the ex-sistent character to which the ego is bound; ex-sistent character of the religious centre of our existence), 59 (autonomous ex-sistere of the ego which has lost itself in the surrender of idols)

NC II, 531

Only God exists by and through Himself; that is why His mode of being is not meaning (I, 62). But meaning is the creaturely mode of being. Creaturely existence is nothing in itself (II, 492).

We were created as ‘aanzijn.’ This word is translated as ‘existence’ in the NC. But it means a determined existence. It is an existence that must “work itself out” in time:

Want hoe kon de mens binnen de tijdelijke orde tot een “levende ziel”worden, wanneer God niet in den beginne Zijn scheppend woord gesproken had, dat het hele mensdom in zijn totaliteit, gerepresenteerd in zijn stamvader en stammoeder, tot aanzijn riep, een aanzijn dat eerst in het wordingsprocess binnen de tijdsorde zou uitwerken? (“Schepping en evolutie,”Philosophia Reformata XXIV (1959), 115-116, cited by Steen 61-62)

[For how could man become a “living soul” within the temporal order, if God had not spoken His creative Word in the beginning, that called all of humanity to existence [aanzijn] in its totality, represented in its original father and mother, an existence that could only be worked out within the becoming process within the temporal order?]

Note also in this passage that Dooyeweerd refers to creation as having been “in the beginning” in this sense of being outside of cosmic time. Creation was “before”cosmic time. But it is this cosmic time which “limits and determines” our selfhood. Our aanzijn is worked out within time. In a sense ‘aanzijn’ is like Heidegger’s ‘Dasein,’ except that Heidegger does not speak of a supratemporal self beyond Dasein; he has temporalized the selfhood. For Heidegger, there is only the temporal, the ‘Vorhandenes’ (I, 69).

Aanzijn’ is the fitting of our selfhood into the temporal reality by which it is determined.

Dooyeweerd says that our selfhood is not to be viewed as an unchanging substance. Substance has the idea of an independent of consciousness; independent of possible sensible perception (NC II, 11). The notion of substance as unchanging is a Greek metaphysical conception.

Our selfhood has no meaning in itself; its meaning is only in relation to its Origin, to which the selfhood must surrender. This Origin is either the true Origin (God) or a fancied origin of our own sinful absolutizing of something temporal, of something that is not God (NC III, 6). Dooyeweerd refers to this tendency towards an Origin as the ex-sistent character of our heart. He says that religion is

…the ex-sistent condition in which the ego is bound to its true or pretended firm ground. Hence, the mode of being of the ego itself is of a religious character and it is nothing in itself. Veritable religion is absolute self-surrender. The apostate man who supposes, that his selfhood is something in itself, loses himself in the surrender to idols, in the absolutizing of the relative. However, this absolutizing itself is a clear manifestation of the ex-sistentcharacter of the religious centre of our existence, which, to be sure, expresses itself in all modal aspects of time, but never can be exhausted by these (NC I, 58).

To understand what Dooyeweerd means, we need to look at the roots of the word ‘existence.’ It comes from the Latin ‘ex-sistere’, meaning ‘to stand out,’ or in French, ‘sortir de.’ This standing out is in relation to a background. Humans have a pre-given essence given by God from which they emerge into existence. They are therefore ex-sistent beings.

Although he does not speak in terms of ‘essence,’ Dooyeweerd does refer to our ‘aanzijn’ which is worked out in time. He refers to our tendency towards an Origin as the ex-sistent character of our heart. He says that religion is the ex-sistent condition in which the ego is bound to its true or pretended firm ground. Even our absolutizing shows this ex-sistent character of the religious center of our existence. In the state of apostasy we attempt an autonomous ex-sistere. We need to be ‘pulled out of’ (ex-trahere) this state by God in order to regain our true ex-sistent position (NC I, 58, 59). It is our religious center or supratemporal heart that has this ex-sistent character. Only humans have such a religious center, so in this sense, only humans are truly existent.

It is only man who can have cosmic and cosmological self-consciousness because only man’s cosmic temporal structure is founded in an individual religious root transcending time, viz. his selfhood. (NC II, 480)

Dooyeweerd hyphenates ‘ex-sistent.’ This use of hyphenated compounds and the exploration of etymologies of words is also something that Heidegger does. But it is also something that Baader does.

Dooyeweerd says that his use of the word ex-sistent is not to be understood in the humanist-existential sense. He says that existentialism remains entangled in the diversity of meaning of the terms ego and selfhood; it loses sight of religious root (radix) of human existence. He points to Heidegger as an example of this attempt to find the selfhood in time:

If Heidegger had had real insight into cosmic time, he would not have sought the selfhood’s transcendence in the inner experience of the ex-sistere, in the historical time-aspect with its anticipatory future (NC II, 531).

Heidegger sought the transcendence within time itself, in our movement towards death. (NC II, 24) Existentialism sees existence only in its antithesis to the ‘given nature of reality” (for Heidegger, Dasein as the ontological manner of being against the given world of the Vorhandenes NC I, 112. Vorhandenes rest on a failure to appreciate the dynamic character of reality; ex-sistence of all created things as meaning, with no rest in themselves.

The apostate idolization or absolutization of temporal reality is itself an indication of this ex-sistent character of the religious center of our existence, which expresses itself in the temporal aspects, but is not exhausted by them. But a purely temporal ex-sistere can never be identified with the true ex-sistent character of the selfhood and its relation to the divine origin (NC I, 58, 59).

We were created as the supratemporal root of temporal reality. We have no existence except in relation to our Origin. But temporal reality has no existence except in relation to humanity, its religious root.

Dooyeweerd says that we cannot make a distinction between and impersonal I-it relation and an existential I-thou relation. His reason for this is very interesting. He says that it is un-Biblical. He then says,

It deforms the integral structure of human experience and eliminates its relation to the central religious sphere.
The world of experience seems to be impersonal and non-existential only if we identify it with an absolutized theoretical abstraction (‘nature’ in the sense of the classical Humanist science-ideal). But this absolutized abstraction has nothing to do with the modal horizon of human experience in its integral meaning form which we have started (NC II, 143).

In other words, Buber’s impersonal world of I-It fails to relate the temporal world to its religious root. It eliminates the relation of nature to the central religious sphere. Now it may be debated whether Dooyeweerd’s interpretation of Buber is correct; Buber has also been interpreted in a nondual way. What is important here is Dooyeweerd’s rejection of any dualistic separation between nature and humanity in its religious root.

Temporal reality has no reality apart from its root in humanity, in which it is concentrated:

Our temporal world, in its temporal diversity and coherence of meaning, is in the order of God’s creation bound to the religious root of mankind. Apart from this root it has no meaning and so no reality. Hence the apostasy in the heart, in the religious root of the temporal world signified the apostasy of the entire temporal creation, which was concentrated in mankind. (NC 1, 100).

Because we are the temporal root, creation fell along with humanity in the Fall. Since the Fall, the image of God is only revealed in its true sense in Jesus Christ (NC III 69).

To say that the temporal world has ‘no reality’ apart from its root in humanity means that it can be said have ‘inexistence’ (or what Baader refers to as ‘Inexistenz’).

Clouser has argued against this idea of the temporal world having no existence except in man. He argues that the rest of temporal reality existed for millennia before man, and that that shows that it its existence is not dependent on man. But this confuses the eternal creation in principio, and the temporal becoming of that creation. The creation was completed in the supratemporal beginning. It is “worked out” and expressed in the temporal.

According to the temporal relationship between foundation and superstructure in the cosmic world-order, man is not there before the things of inorganic nature. But, viewed from the supertemporal creaturely root of the earthly world, this inorganic nature, just as the vegetable kingdom and the animal kingdom, has no existence apart from man, and man has been created as the lord of the creation. (NC II, 53)

The inorganic realm, the realm of plants, and the realm of animals may have temporally been there before man, but viewed from the supratemporal root, these realms have no existence apart from man. [Note: ‘supertemporal’ must have the same meaning here as ‘supratemporal’–the reference is to the creaturely root of the earthly world.

Baader also speaks of our Existenz, and the fact that we have no being in ourselves. Our existence relates to a coming forth (Hervorgehens) and to a Ground (Begründung 26, 29). Baader also says that this Existenz cannot be found in temporal reality itself. Anticipating Dooyeweerd’s later criticism of Heidegger, Baader objects to Schelling and Hegel. These philosophers ought to be searching for Sein itself beyond the relativity of Dasein. The idea of analogy is also foreign to them. But ‘existence” cannot be used univocally of God and creatures (J. Sauter: Baader and Kant, 548 ft., cited by Betanzos 44). Baader says that our Existenz relates to our central being that is free of time and space (Elementarbegriffe 560). Man is the root-unity (Wurzel-Einheid) of nature. Man is not just a postscript to the rest of creation (Weltalter 280). We are God’s final creation (Schlussgeschöpf) (Werke I, 299, 432; IV, 33). The idea of the religious root is related to the fact that we are the image of God (Weltalter 184). St. Paul says that Heaven and earth “live and move and have their being” in God [Acts 17:28]. Because our central, supratemporal selfhood is the image of God, humans are truly the center of the material world (Werke 5, 31; XI, 78; Begründung 48).

And Baader speaks of a “virtual Inexistenz” in the spiritual penetration of another being (“Speculative Dogmatics, Werke IX, 95).

For Baader, analogies are anthropomorphic. This is because things do not ‘exist’ except insofar as they are related to Man; we should therefore explain things by our self and not our self by things around us. St. Martin frequently refers to Böhme’s idea that we must explain things through Man and not Man through things (WerkeXI, 233; 12, 88, 264, 371-372).

An interesting parallel to this view of existence is found in Rudolf Otto’s reference to Hindu thought of Being:

One might try to indicate this by forcing the language and making the word “be” into a medium of higher unity of intransitive and transitive. For instance one might say instead of : “I am Brahman,” “I am ‘existed’ by Brahman” or “essenced” by Brahman, or “Brahman exists me.” (Mysticism East and West, Macmillan 1970, first published 1932, p. 104).

Revised May 2/06; Dec 23/16