soul

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.)

soul I, 56

NC II, 111

Dooyeweerd denies the traditional metaphysical teaching is of an immortal soul (which is conceived as a complex of temporal functions) (I, 56). Our center is not the soul, conceived of as part of our temporal functions, but our supratemporal heart, the center of all of our temporal functions.

He says that the Bible does not teach anywhere that man saves a divine part of his temporal existence. The soul or spirit is not an abstraction from temporal existence but the full, spiritual-religious root unity of man.(Vernieuwing en Bezinning, 35). It is only in this dynamic sense that we can speak of ‘soul,’ as the religious center of our existence:

The Biblical meaning of the word ‘soul,’ where it is used in its pregnant sense of religious centre of human existence, has nothing to do with a theoretically abstracted complex of modal functions. Neither has it anything to do with the metaphysical Greek conception of the psyche. This must be clear to any one who has discovered that the background of all such views is the immanence standpoint in philosophy. The Bible does not theorize at all about the human soul (let alone theorizing from the philosophical immanence standpoint (NC II, 111).

Dooyeweerd says that the body that is put off at death is the whole earthly existence of man in all temporal spheres of life, as this existence is interwoven in individuality structures. Bodily death is in fact the unbinding of all earthly bonds. It is not just a material body that is given up, a body that is conceived as being closed up in the physical-chemical aspects of temporal reality. And the soul, which Scriptures assure us continues after death, must not be understood as any part of this temporal earthly existence, nor as the theoretical abstraction of a substance that has only psychical and normative functions. The soul is rather 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 (Propositions of Prof. Dr. H. Dooyeweerd (March 19, 1938; cited Verburg 226-227).

The theologian Valentin Hepp criticized Dooyeweerd’s idea of the supratemporal heart as contrary to the traditional Reformed theological distinction between body and soul. Dooyeweerd argued that the body/soul distinction was a dualism that played off one set of temporal functions against another set. And yet it is interesting that in his response to the investigation that was set off by Hepp’s critique, Dooyeweerd does not deny the distinction between body and soul. The Curators asked Dooyeweerd in a letter dated July 8, 1939:

“Bij curatoren der Vrije Unversiteit is aanhangig de vraag of de Gereformeerde beginselen in het algemeen en de Drie Formulieren van Eenigheid der Nederlandsche Gereformeerde Kerken in het byzonder de dichotomie leeren…”

[The question remains for the Curators of the Free University whether a dichotomy is taught by Reformed principles in general, or the Three Confessions of Unity of the Dutch Gereformeerde Churches…]

Dooyeweerd’s response was [a few words are difficult to make out]:

Wat het eerste punt aangaat, er bestaat geen verschil van meening over de dichotomie van ziel en lichaam als confessioneel leerstuk, doch uitsluitend over de vraag, hoe deze dichotomie dient te worden verstaan, hetzijn in den religieuze zin van inwendiges en uitwendiges mensch (Hart en “tydelijke levensuitgangen”) dar wel in den metaphysisch-wijsgeerigen zin van “stoffelijk soma” en “geestelijke psychè” (anima rationalis).
Het vraagpunt kan dus
m.i. alleen zijn, of de Gereformeerde beginselen enz [?] “dwingen tot de aanvaarding van een tweedeling binnen het tydelijk leven van den mensch, dan wel of de dichotomie van ziel en lichaam op een dieper plan moet worden gezocht en wel in de onderscheiding van reliigieus levenscentrum (als eenheid en zelf en ___ [?]) en heel het complex der tijdelijke levens functies.

[Concerning the first point, there is no difference of opinion about the dichotomy of soul and body as a confessional dogma. The only difference concerns the question how this dichotomy should be understood, , but only concerning the question how we interpret it. We can interpret it in the religious sense of inner and outer man (the heart and the “temporal issues of life”). Or we can interpret it in a metaphysical-philosophic sense of “material body” and “spiritual psyche” (anima rationalis).
In my opinion, the problem can therefore only be whether the Reformed principles etc. [?] “force the acceptance of a dichotomy within the temporal life of man, or whether the dichotomy of soul and body must be sought on a deeper level, and then in the distinction of a religious center of life (as unity and self and __[?] as distinguished from the whole complex of temporal functions of life.

Revised Dec 27/04