sphere sovereignty

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.)

sphere sovereignty I, vi; 64, 66-68, 70-71, 73, 82
II, 405, 497NC I, v (cosmological principle of sphere sovereignty), 102
NC III, 627

Sphere sovereignty is the irreducible kernel meaning of each aspect. It is guaranteed by the vertical dimension of cosmic time, which refracts the totality of meaning into the sovereign aspects. But the kernel moment remains supratemporal; it cannot be defined in temporal conceptual terms. What has no meaning in the totality of meaning has no meaning is the sovereignty in own sphere in the particularity of meaning (I, 70). Because it is supratemporal, the sphere-sovereignty must reveal itself in the temporal. It can only reveal itself within the inter-modal temporal meaning-coherence (NC III, 627).

The relation of these nuclear meaning moments to the analogical meaning moments is often not understood. Dooyeweerd says elsewhere that we cannot form a concept of the nuclear moment, but only an Idea. This is because the nuclear meaning moment is supratemporal, and is only known in its analogical meaning moments, which refer to the supratemporal centers of other aspects.

The structure of a specific aspect is always a unity in diversity of moments and never an absolute unity above the moments (“Introduction to a Transcendental Criticism of Philosophic Thought,” Evangelical Quarterly, XIX (1) Jan 1947 51)

Thus, an aspect displays an expression from out of the center within the temporal diversity of meaning. There is a unity and coherence within each aspect. The same article says that the kernel or nucleus of each aspect is that which gives that aspect its sphere sovereignty. By this kernel or nucleus, the aspect maintains its individuality with respect to all the other aspects of temporal reality. It is the central and directive moment within each aspect. The article also says that we know the kernel of an aspect in its retrocipations and anticipations:

The “nuclear moment,” however, cannot display its individuality except in close liaison with a series of other moments. These latter are by nature partially analogical, i.e. they recall the “nuclear moments” of all the aspects which have an anterior place in the order of aspects. Partially also they are of the nature of anticipations, which recall the “nuclear moments” of all the aspects which have a later place in that order.

This same article says that we cannot define the kernel or each aspect because by this kernel an aspect maintains its individuality even against the logical aspect.

The kernel meaning of the law-sides of reality is therefore in the supratemporal center. Steen correctly points out that for Dooyeweerd there is an eternal moment in each sphere of law (Steen 17). There is a systatic coherence between the kernel and its analogies (De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer, 1931, p. 102-103, excerpted in Verburg, 143).

The WdW says

The coherence of meaning of the law spheres is an order of cosmic time. In our religious apriori we refer this back to divine predestination in the broadest sense of plan for the world. It is a law-order of a horizontal nature that spans particularized meaning, in contrast to the vertical, which comes to expression in particularized meaning by sovereignty in its own sphere. (I, 70; not in NC)

And Dooyeweerd says, “What in the totality of meaning has no meaning is the sovereignty in its own sphere in the particularity of meaning” (WdW I, 71).

The law-order is horizontal in that it spans across all law-spheres. The coherence of the aspects is maintained “horizontally” by cosmic time. But the meaning of each law-sphere is related to its expression from the center. That is why the kernel or nuclear moment of each sphere is supratemporal. Because it is beyond time, we cannot obtain a concept of it.

The kernel of the aspect, the sovereignty in its own sphere, is related “vertically” to the sovereignty of God, and to humanity as the image of God, who expresses the aspects. It is not just the kernel of the law-side that is found in the supratemporal. All of our acts come out of our supratemporal selfhood, and Dooyeweerd says that this is our actuality. He relates it to the kernel of each subject function. The kernel of each subject function is the actuality that is referred to in phenomenology. (I, 78; NC I, 101).

In Dooyeweerd’s Last article (1975), he says that sphere sovereignty cannot be understood except in relation to the supratemporal selfhood. He says that the mutual irreducibility of the law-spheres and their mutual irreducibility unbreakable reciprocal meaning-coherence are “not to be separated from the transcendental idea of the root-unity of the modal aspects in the religious center of human existence.” For the nuclear meaning-moments are in the center. This also explains Dooyeweerd’s statement that the “meaning-kernels cannot be interpreted in an intra-modal logical sense without canceling their irreducibility.” For if we interpret them in an intra-modal logical sense, we have obtained a concept of the meaning-kernel, something that he says cannot be done.

Cosmic time also relates to the individuality structures of things, since the qualifying function in an individuality structure depends on sphere sovereignty. Among other things, this differentiates things according to realms of being, with differing subject and object functions.

Dooyeweerd relates each of the special sciences to the investigation of a separate modality. Each science is independent and cannot be reduced any others, because of the sphere sovereignty of the modalities they investigate. But although we cannot unify or reduce one mode to another, the modes are identical in their supratemporal coherence (NC II, 479).

Sphere sovereignty also has a differentiating effect in our social relations and institutions. This is perhaps where sphere sovereignty is best known in neo-Calvinism. A church has a different structure than the state, or the family, or a business. Each of these spheres also has sovereignty in its own sphere. But there is also an inter-relatedness among institutions that is related to sphere universality. This inter-relatedness is often not emphasized.

Development of the Idea of sphere-sovereignty

The idea of sphere sovereignty is of course found in Kuyper. But Kuyper was influenced by Baader, and the idea certainly is found in Baader.

Verburg says that Dooyeweerd’s first mention of modal sovereignty in the April 8, 1922 discussion in the Vereeniging voor Wijsbegeerte des rechts. But the article makes no mention of Kuyper (Verburg 31)

It is difficult to find support for sphere-sovereignty in Calvin. In a 1923 article,”Roomsch-katholieke en Anti-revolutionnaire Staatkunde,” Dooyeweerd says that because the law is the boundary between infinite and finite, it must lead to a pluralistic understanding of the areas of life that stand under the law (Verburg, 65).

The unity of the laws is in God’s world plan which cannot be conceptually understood. Herman Dooyeweerd: “Leugen en Waarheid over het Calvinisme” [Lies and Truth about Calvinism], 6 Nederland en Oranje, (1925) 81-90, a. 87-88.

Dooyeweerd speaks of sphere sovereignty in an article in 1923. He says that the cosmic non-rational unity expresses itself in a multiplicity of life and world spheres.

“Niet door verflauwing der grenzen, maar door handhaving van het soeverein en eigen karakter dier kringen wil God de eenheid van zijn kosmos handhaven.” (“De staatkundige tegenstelling tusschen Christelijk-Historische en Antirevolutionaire partij,” Dec 1923.)

[God maintains the unity of His cosmos not by a blurring of the boundaries, but by maintaining the sovereign and separate character of these spheres].

The acceptance of the idea of modal sphere-sovereignty has “an indissoluble coherence with the Christian transcendence-standpoint ruled by the religious ground-motive of creation, fall into sin, and redemption.” (NC I, 102).

Sphere sovereignty in Baader

Baader uses the analogy of an

organism to show the relation between the supratemporal unity and the temporal multiplicity of the cosmos. This 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 IV, 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 emphasizes the importance of institutions. Society is not just the sum of its members. Real social power is not exercised by the individual human person, nor by an aggregate of individuals, but rather where humans form themselves in social organizations, family, tribe [Stamm] people [Volk/Zunge], or the church (Begründung, 59; Philosophische Schriften II, 369). Elsewhere, Baader refers to the institutions of the church, the state and universities (Werke I, 150) as well as to guilds and corporations (Werke II, 289; V, 276ff, 290). The church is not subjected to the state (Werke I, 125 fn).

Baader says that each societal organization[(Gemeinschaft] has its own laws to which it is subjected. And each organization is independent with respect to other organizations, although all organizations are subordinate to the Center:

Hat man nun aber die organisch-assozierende Funktion der Vernunft, so wie ich sie hier zwar nur mit kurzen Zügen darstellte, begriffen, so sieht man auch ein, daß, so wie die wechselseitige Freiheit und Selbständigkeit jedes einzelnes Gliedes eines Organismus von und gegen jedes andere (unbeschadet ihrer relativen Subordination und Koordination, weil durch diese eben vermittelt) mit ihrer Einigung (ihrem Verband oder Zusammenhang) identisch ist, dieselbe Identität des Einverständnisses und der wechselseitigen Selbständigkeit auch für die Gemeinschaft der Intelligenzen in ihrer Subordination und Koordination gilt…(Begründung 61; Werke I, 39f).

[If one has understood the organic-associating function of reason, as I have briefly set out, then one also sees that, just as the reciprocal freedom and independence of each member of an organism with respect to each other member (notwithstanding their relative subordination and coordination through which they are mediated) is identical with their union (their association or coherence), the same identity of agreement and reciprocal independence also applies to the community of intellectuals in their subordination and coordination].

Each member of the Organism therefore has a reciprocal freedom and independence [Selbständigkeit] with respect to the others. This Selbständigkeit is only a relative autonomy, because each limb of the societal organism is subordinated and coordinated with the unity and coherence of all limbs (Werke VI, 80; XIV, 104). Christianity emphasizes this organic view of subordination and coordination, and in this way it has freed society. Baader cites Tertullian in support of this assertion (Werke II, 51; Weltalter 259).

Not only our social institutions, but also our intellectual pursuits (the sciences, or ‘the community of intellectuals’) have a similar relation of subordination and coordination, of Center and periphery. Although they are also coordinated, each member of the intellectual community is independent of other members. But the members of an Organism are identical in their coherence and union (Begründung 61). The different members of the Organism are ‘factors of life’ that have been separated in their [temporal] embodiment. These factors have a twofold ‘circulation’–among each other but also directly with the unfolded Unity There is a dynamic reciprocal play [Wechselspiel] among them; this determines their freedom with respect to each other. (Philosophische Schriften I, 87;Werke II, 5). But each of these factors, or periphery-points [Peripherie-Punkte] also has a relation to the Center (Begründung 61, 63 ft. 7).

Dooyeweerd’s idea of sphere sovereignty, as applied to social relationships, has sometimes been criticized as a conservative view of society. Is it not a justification of nineteenth century bourgeois Dutch or German life? But Baader does not support such a conservatism. In fact, Baader was the first German to refer to the working class as the ‘proletariat.’ In his 1835 article on the ‘Proletariatsproblem’ Baader pleads for justice on behalf of the exploited ‘proletariat.’ Christian love forbids economic exploitation of the weak. Baader proposes the representation of the working classes in the legislature. He also expresses concern about the exploitation of wage earners by business, and he advocates trade unions. The priests should care for the poor classes. Betanzos sees this as anticipating the later idea of ‘worker-priests.’ Betanzos points out that Baader’s Christian-social ideas predate the social analysis of Karl Marx, although different solutions are suggested. (Betanzos 76). In this connection, it is interesting that Leo Löwenthal, a member of the Frankfurt school, and a close friend of Marcuse, wrote his doctoral dissertation on Baader.

For a very non-conservative reading of Dooyeweerd, see Ernst Stern, Wat Zal Men Doen? (Amsterdam: Olive Press, 2002). Stern was a son-in-law of Dooyeweerd. I do not agree with Stern’s analysis of the aspects. Nevertheless, his book is required reading for any discussion of Dooyeweerd’s social views.

Baader specifically disagrees with the views of Adam Smith, whose works he had read while in England (Betanzos 63). The ideas of stock, loan and credit display an ‘atomized reason’ (Werke VIII, 202f; Schumacher 247). Dooyeweerd does not develop these social ideas to the same extent. But as Goudzwaard points out, Dooyeweerd does make a plea against the exploitation of the proletarian worker in modern capitalism. Vernieuwing en bezinning, 188; cited by Goudzwaard: ‘Dooyeweerd’s maatschappelijke opvattingen,’ in: Dooyeweerd Herdacht (Amsterdam: VU Uitgeverij, 1995) 27.

Revised Jan 11/09

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