organic/organicism

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.)

Head
limbs
organic Inaugural address, 1926.

“Het juridisch causaliteitsprobleem in ‘t licht der wetsidee,” (1928)

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

Encyclopedia of Legal Science (1946) 8

De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer, in het licht eener Calvinistische kosmologie en kennistheorie (1931), 90.

organicism
organism I, 70 (of the law-spheres)

NC II, 418

Response to Curators dated Oct. 12/37.

The biological symbol of the organism is sometimes used to illustrate the relation between the center and the periphery, between the supratemporal and the temporal.

 Abrhaam Kuyper uses the term ‘organicism’ extensively. For example, he says,

In its essence, for the Calvinist, the Church is a spiritual organism, including heaven and earth, but having at present its center, and the starting-point for its action, not upon earth, but in heaven. (Lectures on Calvinism, “Calvinism and Religion,” Page 59).

On the same page, Kuyper expressly refers to our mystical union with Christ:

Regeneration saves the organism, itself, of our race. And therefore all regenerate human life forms one organic body, of which Christ is the Head, and whose members are bound together by their mystical union with Him. But not before the second Advent shall this new all-embracing organism manifest itself as the center of the cosmos. At present it is hidden.

Christ as the second root restores our mystical union with God. This union is of an organic nature:

Hence there can be no doubt that there exists a mystic union between Christ and believers which works by means of an organic connection, uniting the Head and the members in a for us invisible and incomprehensible manner. By means of this organic union the Holy Spirit was poured out on Pentecost from Christ the Head into us, the members of His body.

and Kuyper speaks of the organic relation between subject and object:

There must be an organic relation between the object and our person. The relation between the object and our thinking would not be sufficient, since the thinking cannot be taken apart from the thinking subject. (Principles of Sacred Theology (Grand Rapids, Baker Book House, 1980, p. 67).

Dooyeweerd also uses the term “organic.” He is opposed to any organicism that would place the unity or “head” within temporal reality. Thus, Dooyeweerd opposes the kind of organicism that would make the temporal Church the head of society. In fact, he criticizes Kuyper for confusedly referring to the temporal Church as an organism (NC II, 524). But Dooyeweerd has his own positive view of organicism and of center. The center is supratemporal; we err when we try to find the center in the temporal. It is the ecclesia invisibilis [the invisible Church] that is our common root (NC III, 535).

Dooyeweerd is generally opposed to an organicism that is limited to the temporal. But he does use the organic image where the head is supratemporal and the limbs are functions or aspects within the temporal. The soul is the full human selfhood, one’s heart, in the sense of the center of one’s whole existence, of which the body is only the temporal organ. (March 19/1938 response to Curators; cited Verburg 226-227). The selfhood has a central position in human experience (II, 494). Dooyeweerd uses all of these terms, “organism,” “center” and “fullness” in a positive sense, but always in a supratemporal sense when referring to the head:

In Christ, the root of the reborn creation, the transcendent fullness of individuality has been saved. The ‘corpus Christianum’ in its radical religious sense is not a colourless conceptual abstraction without any individuality. Rather it is, according to the striking metaphor used by St. Paul, a religious organism in which the individuality of its members is ultimately revealed in all its fullness and splendour. Individuality, in other words, is rooted in the religious centre of our temporal world: all temporal individuality can only be an expression of the fullness of individuality inherent in this centre. However obfuscated by sin, it springs from the religious root. (NC II, 418).

In his inaugural address (1926), Dooyeweerd refers to the “organic coherence among all of God’s ordinances” (cited by Verburg, 97). In “Het juridisch causaliteitsprobleem in ‘t licht der wetsidee,” (1928) he refers to “the organic relation of the law-spheres.” (p. 121, note 86, Verburg 114).

In 1930 Dooyeweerd says that the Calvinistic law-idea makes our whole temporal cosmos appear as an organic coherence of law and subject functions sovereign in their own sphere. And he says that it is cosmic time that refracts these functions from the imperishable, religious root of the human race that transcends all temporality in its subjected-ness to the eternal meaning of the law: the service of God. All law spheres, including what he calls the ‘logos,’ are temporal. They have sphere sovereignty, but none of them can be understood outside of the cosmic coherence of meaning of the law-spheres and outside of their dependence on the religious root. (In bundle “De Structuur der rechtsbeginselen,” (1930), p. 232, cited by Verburg 123).

In his Response to the Curators of the Vrije Universiteit, dated October 12, 1937, Dooyeweerd refers with approval to Kuyper’s “powerful conception of the church as an organism.”

In Encyclopedia of Legal Science (1946), Dooyeweerd says,

Temporal reality is enclosed in this way in a great diversity of law-spheres. But on the other hand, in naïve, pre-theoretical experience reality is nevertheless experienced [be-leefd] as an organic unity. (p. 8)

Steen refers to organic analogies by Dooyeweerd in the use of the terms ‘root’, ‘unfolding’, and ‘differentiation.’ The figure of the organism shows the correlation of time and eternity (Steen 185). An example of this organic use of ‘root’ is Dooyeweerd’s reference to Kuyper in support of the idea of the supratemporal heart. In his 1939 article “Kuyper’s Wetenschapsleer,” Philosophia Reformata, p. 193-232, he cites (at p. 211) Kuyper’s 1898 Stone Lectures, where Kuyper refers to “that point in our consciousness in which our life is still undivided and lies comprehended in its unity, not in the spreading vines but in the root from which the vines spring.” (Verburg 236)

Bavinck says that this analogy of organism must not, however, be viewed literally, as Fechner did with his hylomorphisme, conceiving of the universe literally as a living organism (Revelation and Nature, 104. Dooyeweerd makes a similar criticism of Fechner (NC III, 630, 631). Similarly, Dooyeweerd criticises a wrong or irrationalist use of organicism in Stahl (NC II, 249).

Franz von Baader uses the analogy of an organism to show the relation between the supratemporal unity and the temporal multiplicity of the cosmos. Each embodied or realizing and fulfilling life proceeds from a Center, in which the individual limbs of the organism are still undifferentiated. Philosophische Schriften I, 86. This organic analogy comes from Ephesians 1:10, where St. Paul speaks of the relation of the head to the limbs of the body. The head is the center and the limbs are the periphery; the limbs are subordinate to the head. The individual limbs or members can only relate to each other to the extent that they are unified with the head (Werke 4, 232; V, 372). Baader uses this analogy to show (a) the relationship between the supratemporal heart and its temporal functions and (b) the inter-relationship of different societal institutions, and their supratemporal Center. Both uses of the idea are very much related to Dooyeweerd’s (and Kuyper’s) idea of sphere sovereignty.

Baader also refers to different spheres of life as an organism. They are congruent with each other but yet distinguished from each other:

Jeder Theil einer solchen systematischen Erkenntniss–der Philosophie–ist somit, wie jedes Glied des Organismus, ein Ganzes, ein in sich sich-schliessender Kreis, oder die eine Idee ist darin in einer besondern Bestimmtheit. Der einzelne Kreis durchbricht darum–wie diess jedes einzelne Glied des Organismus thus,–die Schranken seines Elementes oder seiner Sonderung, weil er, in sich Totalität ist und das Ganze auf seine Weise repräsentirt, und er begründet hiemit eine weitere Sphäre, d.h. er erstreckt sich virtuell in die Gesammtsphäre des organischen Systems, und dies stellt sich daher als ein Kreis dar von einander deckenden, obschon gradweise unter sich unterschiedenen, in einander begriffenen Kreisen, deren jeder ein nothwendiges bleibendes Moment is, so, dass das System ihrer eigenene Elemente oder Besonderheiten die ganze Idee ausmacht, die ebenso in jedem Einzelnen erscheint. ‘Totum in Toto, et totum in qualibet parte.’ (Weltalter 104).

[Each part of such a systematic knowledge-philosophy–is, just like each limb of an organism, a whole, a sphere enclosed in itself; the one Idea is therein as a particular determination. Just like each individual limb of an organism, each individual sphere therefore breaks through the bounds of its elements or of its separation, because within it is Totality, and it represents the All in its mode, and in doing this it founds a further sphere, that is, it extends itself virtually in the combined spheres of the organic system. The system is arranged as a sphere comprised of other spheres congruent with each other, although distinguished by degrees among themselves and comprised in each other, of which each [sphere] is a necessary continuing moment. From its own elements or particularities, the system constitutes the whole Idea, which also appears in each individual part. ‘Everything in the whole, and the whole in each part.’]

Baader sometimes uses organic images to explain his own work. In a reference to the aphoristic nature of his thought; he compares his ideas to seeds or ferment (Werke 1,153f). That does not mean that Baader should be considered a romantic, although Romanticism did use organic images. Christ’s Parable of the Sower is also an image that uses organic terms. That does not mean that Christ was a romantic.

At times Baader speaks of the world as an individual (Welt-Individuum) (Fermenta IV, 11, note 12; Susini 386). But later Baader uses the term mystical body instead of world soul (Fermenta VII, 251). Dooyeweerd is more comfortable with that terminology. It is interesting that Frederik van Eeden, who was influenced by Fechner, sometimes uses the imagery of a world soul.

Dooyeweerd says that a “metaphysical “concept of the whole and its parts does not explain how the theoretic diversity of meaning is concentrated on a deeper unity (NC I, 72). Dooyeweerd is clear that the central totality transcends a mutual coherence of all modal aspects of temporal reality (NC I, 4, ft ). The idea of organicism, as it is used by Baader and Dooyeweerd, does not imply a temporal relation of whole and parts.

Baader says that each embodied or realizing and fulfilling life proceeds from a Center, in which the individual limbs of the organism are still undifferentiated, as partial lives, and in a seed state, the still state of potential. [Ueber Sinn und Zweck der Verkörperung, Leib oder Fleischwerdung des Lebens] There is a twofold ciruclation between the factors of a life that are distinguished, as indiviudal points or individual limbs, with their entfaltenden [unfolded] Einheit.” (Philosophische Schriften I, 86).

But because each dynamic movement is reciprocal, each indiviudal limb is also received directly by the unviersal principle of the organism and given back immediately (bringing forth fruit). And each individual limb must also be received [empfangen] and given back to each other. All individual limbs live “von allen, und fuer alle…The Unity and Totality zeugendeof each limb each individual limb in its seed state.

Revised May 1/06; Dec23/16

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