states of affairs

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.)

state of affairs I, 21, 25, 44, 54, 76, 79, 80, 82, 88, 89, 96, 99, 117, 123-26, 129, 131-32, 135-36, 213, 216, 235, 254, 273, 279, 303-5, 316, 329, 420, 442, 486, 497, 524, 525, 563, 568, 594, 596, 605, 627, 630

II, 85, 92, 117, 122, 177, 178, 244, 259, 261, 264, 275, 280, 313, 316, 355, 356, 384, 392, 394, 405, 411, 417-19, 422, 479, 482, 483, 487, 504, 511

III, 37, 44, 54, 76, 79, 80, 82, 89, 92, 96, 97, 99, 117, 124-26, 129, 132, 133, 213, 216, 235, 254, 273, 279, 303, 304, 316, 329, 420, 442, 486, 497, 524, 525, 563, 568, 594, 596, 605, 625, 627, 630

NC I, 17, 56

NC II, 61, 577 (structural states of affairs which are undeniable)

Encyclopedia of the Science of Law

“Van Peursen’s Critische Vragen bij “A New Critique of Theoretical Thought,” Philosophia Reformata 25 (1960), 97-150, at 106-107

Generally Dooyeweerd does not refer to ‘facts’ that are discovered by our theory. He refers to facts [feiten] in history. (II, 487). But these facts are changing. States of affairs can be abstract or concrete. In I, 130, he refers to both concrete, individual states of affairs and abstract-theoretical states of affairs.

A discussion of the meaning of ‘states of affairs’ is given in Dooyeweerd’s article “Van Peursen’s Critische Vragen bij “A New Critique of Theoretical Thought,” Philosophia Reformata 25 (1960), 97-150. Without states of affairs, which are independent of our philosophical interpretation, there would be no common basis for a fruitful discussion between two different philosophical schools which disagree in their presuppositions (p. 119). But the subjective discovery and description of those states of affairs is not independent of our religious Ground-motive (p. 121). Dooyeweerd rejects the idea that these are static facts in the sense of Heidegger’s idea of Vorhandenes. Even states of affairs have a dynamic meaning character: they refer outside and above themselves to the universal meaning coherence in time, the creaturely root-unity, and the supra-creaturely unity and Origin of all meaning. And this referring expressees itself in the inner structure of these very states of affairs:

Ook in de tijdelijke orde gegeven “standen van zaken” zijn dus van dynamisch zinkaraker, d.w.z. zij wijzen buiten en boven zich zelve uit naar de universele zin-samenhang in de tijd, de creatuurlijke wortel-eenheid, en de boven-creatuurlijke Oorsprongseenheid van alle zin, een heenwijzing die zich in hun innerlijke structuur zelve uitdruikt. Maar deze zin-dynamiek beweegt zich binnen het onoverschrijdbare kader van een door God gestelde orde. Zij heft niet de relatieve bepaaldheid van de in deze orde gegronde standen van zaken op, maar legt slechts de betrekkelijkheid van deze bepaaldheid bloot, zodat iedere verzelfstandiging van een gegeven stand van zeken, onherroepelijk tot een fundamentele misvatting daarvan voert.

Thus, the “states of affairs” given in the temporal order also have a dynamic meaning character. That is to say, they refer outside and above themselves to the universal temporal coherence of meaning, to the creaturely [supratemporal] root-unity, and to the supra-creaturely [eternal] unity of the Origin of all meaning–a referring which expresses itself in their own inner structure. But this meaning-dynamic moves within the framework of God’s set order, an order that cannot be transgressed. It does not remove the limited nature of the states of affairs that are grounded in this order, but only lays bare the relativity of this limitation, so that every attempt to absolutize a given state of affairs leads irrevocably to a fundamental misunderstanding of them. (106-107)

Cornelius van Til criticized Dooyeweerd’s view of “states of affairs” as being an example of the autonomy of reason. Van Til wanted the religious antithesis to exclude the possibility of a non-Christian reaching any truth. In his reply to Van Til, Dooyeweerd says that states of affairs are founded in the divine order of creation:

In fact it was nothing but a result of my biblical conviction that the “states of affairs” in which the transcendental meaning-structures of our temporal horizon of experience reveal themselves are not founded in our subjective consciousness, but in the divine order of creation to which our subjective experience is subject. For this very reason they also cannot be dependent upon the religious conviction of the investigator, so that they may be discovered in a particular context by both Christian and non-Christian thinkers. (Jerusalem and Athens, ed. E.R. Geehan, 1971, 80).

Verburg cites this passage and remarks that Dooyeweerd here includes other ways of thinking but yet bases his own view on his “biblical conviction.”

Here Sauer’s interpretation of Baader is helpful. Our use of reason is grounded in an ontical structure that gives the basis for our reason.

And yet how can we reconcile Dooyeweerd’s acknowledgement that others can discover true states of affairs with his other viewpoint that those who have other ground motives do not see reality correctly? I believe he means that the states of affairs discovered by others are true, but have not yet been integrated by a true synthesis with our selfhood. And because of their religious dialectic, they cannot ever be so integrated.

Further clarification is found in Dooyeweerd’s Encyclopedia of Legal Science, where he distinguishes between our subjective presuppositions [voorstellingen], and the ontical conditions or presupposita [de vooronderstelde] to which they point. There are three transcendental Ideas, of Origin, Archimedean point, and temporal coherence. These Ideas as subjective presuppositions point towards what is presupposed in the sense of ontical conditions. For the supratemporal presupposed conditions of Origin and Archimedean point, “there is no criterion of truth other than the agreement of our subjective religious presuppositions with the self-revelation of God in his Word.” But with respect to the condition of temporal coherence, the subjective presuppositions related to them can appeal “to the structural states of affairs within temporal reality itself.” By means of its investigations, philosophical thought must give a satisfactory account of these states of affairs…” (pages 78-79). Unfortunately, the present translation of the Encyclopedia (2002) blurs this important distinction by adding the phrase “states of affairs” to the discussion of Ground Motives where these words do not appear in the original Dutch. See my article  “Dooyeweerd’s Encyclopedia of the Science of Law: Problems with the present translation.”

Revised Jan 21/08; Dec 24/16