impairment

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.)

impairment NC I, 171 (falsification of naive experience)
NC III, 145 (loss in intensity of naive experience)Encyclopedia of Legal Science (1946), 10 (robs us of unity of naive experience of reality)

In a remarkable passage, Dooyeweerd says that the routine view of modern daily life is not naive experience, because modern daily life is content with names abstracted from the subjective reality (NC III, 145). This is similar to the Hindu idea that reality goes beyond the names and the forms [namarupa] that we use to describe it. The quotation from Dooyeweerd is:

Nevertheless, it is true that in the routine of daily life, the knowledge of a thing’s name and its utility does not penetrate to its empirical reality. We simply cannot speak of naïve experience here, but only of an abstract technical mode of inculcation. Unfortunately, the enormous extensiveness of modern society often leads to an inevitable loss in the intensity of “naïve experience.” (NC III, 145)

What does he mean by “abstract technical mode of inculcation?” And how is it that modern society often leads to an inevitable loss in the intensity of our naive experience?

A fuller answer is given earlier in that volume. Dooyeweerd asks :

Is not the naive attitude experience a “lost paradise” still inhabited perhaps by children and primitive people, but irrevocably abandoned by civilized adult humanity? (NC III, 31).

Dooyeweerd does not accept the view that naive experience is that of children. He rejects Romanticism. Dooyeweerd says that the child’s life is not only pre-theoretical, but it is pre-experiential.

He points out that modern education has penetrated our common thought by concepts that originate from the special sciences.

We have become accustomed to the practical use of elementary arithmetic and geometry, to the use of an abstract chronology; our naive experience of the starry sky has undergone the historical influence of modern astronomy; we have some idea of natural laws, etc.(Ibid)

But he says that naive experience cannot be destroyed by this scientific thought. The concepts assume a concrete and practical sense. We use telegraph, telephone, trains, and technical applications. these belong to the opened temporal reality of modern human experience and are not theoretical abstractions.

They are now a part of our world’s concrete coherence, because they have been realized in integral structures of individuality. As long as we conceive them in these concrete structures without theoretical reflection on this integral experience, our attitude toward such things is naive. (Ibid)

How is it then that our naive experience can be impaired? If we only demand a notion of a thing’s utility, then we are living in “routine.” If we try to detach the name of a thing from its reality, then we are living our non-theoretical life as if it were theory:

The symbolical aspect of meaning cannot be detached from the individual reality of a thing. Its elimination results in a theoretical abstraction, in which a theoretical “Gegenstand” replaces a things’s full reality. (NC III, 145).

Abstraction is not to play a role in our naive experience. We may have naive concepts, but these are not abstractions in Dooyeweerd’s sense of the word.

When we attempt to live our practical lives in the theoretical mode, we then live in an over-calculated, technical way. We can live our lives as if we were still doing theory! Theoretical concepts and abstraction can lead to a technicizing of our experience. Phenomenology recognizes this problem, but Dooyeweerd does not accept the solution offered by phenomenology–to go beyond the merely symbolical by penetrating to the thing’s “essence.” Rationalistic philosophy falsifies naive experience by its theoretical interpretation (NC I, 171).

Dooyeweerd says that this influence of the “routine” of modern society does not affect our experience of things “essentially familiar” to us.

In Encyclopedia of Legal Science (1946), Dooyeweerd says that the knowledge of the special sciences “robs” us of the unity of our naive experience of reality:

If philosophy is to fulfil this task, it must first give account of the question how it is that the articulated knowledge of the law-spheres, which is obtained by special scientific thought, robs us of the unity of the naïve experience of reality. (p. 10)

I am not aware of any discussion of this impairment of naive experience by its over-theoretization. If as Strauss and Clouser say, theory is only a higher degree of “abstraction” than our naive concepts, why should such a higher degree of abstraction interfere with a lower? Does it not make more sense to say that the two experiences are qualitatively different? That is what Dooyeweerd says. He says that the abstraction and the Gegenstand-relation are totally foreign to naive experience.

Baader emphasizes that the purpose of our theorizing is therefore to participate in the redemption of the fallen temporal world. We are mediators for other temporal beings. I see this as similar to the idea of the religious root, used by both Baader and Dooyeweerd. Our freedom to be mediators can be used in two ways–either for or against God, so that what we set free will continue to have either a liberating or a binding action (Elementarbegriffe, 537, 544, 553-558). Thus, our theory can be used improperly.

I see this improper use of theory as the source of the impairment of naive experience to which Dooyeweerd refers. What we theorize has a continuing life of its own which is not always liberating. Dis-stasis must return return to the continuity of time in the synthesis. There is a temptation not to return to this fullness of reality, but to stay within dis-stasis.

Revised Dec 20/05