forming

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.)

historical I, 39, 82-83 (development of philosophy), 133

NC I, 32 (acts which occur in the central sphere of occurrence must be distinguished from the historical aspect of cosmic time)
NC II, 191 (as nodal point), 231 (accessible only to human experience), 261 (cultural differentiation and integration as norm of historical development), 274 (this is a norm of individualization)

“De Structuur der rechtsbeginselen en de methode der rechtswetenschap in het licht der wetsidee,” (1930)

Encyclopedia of the Science of Law (2002), 140

historicism I, 27, 68

“Het dilemma voor het christelijk wijsgeerig denken,” Philosophia Reformata 1 (1936) 1-16 [‘Dilemma’] at 10-11: If our Archimedean point is placed historicistically within tim, then we lose the static character of that point and become caught in the historical stream of experience, where the thinker can only understand historic events from out of his own particular phase of historical development. Our theoretical thought can never then come to a true synthesis.

history NC II, 193
forming NC II, 198 (free project of form-giving), 199 (cultural mode of form-giving)
power NC II, 246 (dialectical theology has a horror of power-formation), 247 (church as historically founded in power), 287 (formative power must be exercised in harmony–an aesthetic anticipation), 290 (must also not be excessive–economic anticipation), 362 (excessive increase of formative power of modern natural science), 409 (juridical power)

The historical aspect is the aspect of formative power. It must be sharply distinguished from the central sphere of occurrence. All acts come from out of our supratemporal center [NC I, 32]. Acts are expressed in our temporal functions, and in our forming of temporal reality.

The historical aspect is the nodal point of the entire process of opening up of the normative anticipatory spheres of the other aspects (NC II, 191). Historical development, as such, is enclosed in a specific law-sphere (NC II, 192).

A history of an historical phenomenon, however, is a contradicto in terminis. The historical function of a thing, of a human social group, or of a concrete event presents itself only in the modal meaning of cultural development, but cannot have a history of its own. (NC II, 229)

I believe that Dooyeweerd makes this an analogy between the power of God as the basis of creation and the power of humans in positivizing the later spheres of temporal reality. This positivizing is done in the opening process of history. This is why Dooyeweerd sees the central meaning of the historical function as formative power [macht]. Just as God forms or creates the world by his power, so we, in the image of God, form temporal reality by positivizing the later aspects using our historical power. In Crisis der humanistische staatsleer (1930), Dooyeweerd says that the historical law-sphere is the junction [knooppunt] of the whole spiritual dynamic in our world. (“De Structuur der rechtsbeginselen en de methode der rechtswetenschap in het licht der wetsidee,”(1930) p. 257, cited Verburg 126-27).

Dooyeweerd distinguishes between history as the course of concrete events (what has happened) and the historical aspect in which an event functions.Encyclopedia of the Science of Law (2002), 140. But not all of the past can be considered as historical in a modal sense:

The fact, e.g., that I breathed yesterday is no less a thing of the past, but the merely ‘natural’ aspects of this event do not fall within the scope of ‘history’. (NC II, 193)

Dooyeweerd also distinguishes between instinctual forming (e.g. a spider forming its web accoridng to a fixed and uniform pattern), and the free project that characterizes historical forming that is due to reflective and productive fantasy (NC II, 198). And animals cannot distinguish historical events. “historical facts are only accessible to human experience.” (NC II, 230-31).

Events function in all of the aspects. The modal meaning of the historical aspect determines the “how” of all phenomena of historical becoming. This distinction between events and the historical mode is often overlooked by those who criticize Dooyeweerd’s idea of a historical modality.

Historicism is the absolutization of the historical aspect. The historical aspect relates to development. By absolutizing it, we relativize religious Ground Motives; they become just another historical expression of our Ideas. For Dooyeweerd, temporal reality is relative, but this relativity must never be extended to the religious dimension.

For further discussion see my article Imagination, Image of God and Wisdom of God: Theosophical Themes in Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy,” (2006).

Revised Sept 25/07; 

dec 24/16