substance

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.)

substance I, 60, 75, 77, 78 (substantialized)
II, 399;NC II, 11

See my extensive discussion of how Dooyeweerd’s idea of individuality structures differs from the idea of substance, in my article “Individuality Structures and Enkapsis: Individuation from Totality in Dooyeweerd and German Idealism..”

And see my article Imagination, Image of God and Wisdom of God: Theosophical Themes in Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy,” (2006), where I discuss how Dooyeweerd’s ideas differ from empiricism.

Dooyeweerd says that the notion of substance as unchanging “matter” is a Greek metaphysical conception. It absolutizes the Gegenstand-relation:

In my treatise on The Concept of Substance in the thomistic Doctrine of Being, I have shown that this metaphysical concept, in its dialectical uniting of the Greek motives of form and matter, cannot at all do justice to the  structural individuality of things in naive experience. It is founded in an absolutized theoretical ‘Gegenstand-relation’ ‘Substances’ are opposed as things in themselves‘ to human consciousness. They are represented as being quite independent of the latter, independent of possible sensible perception, independent of the theoretical logical function of thought. (NC II, 11; Cf II, 399).

Dooyeweerd’s Idea of meaning functions in place of the notion of substance or matter. For a history of how he developed the idea from medieval philosophy, see Dooyeweerd’s Idea of Modalities: The Pivotal 1922 Article. Temporal existence is meaning, and is dependent on the Being of God. Even our selfhood exists only as meaning, dependent on the Being of God.

If there is no substance, how is it that things appear to have an individual reality? Dooyeweerd says that the individuality of “things” in reality depends upon the inter-modal bottom layer of cosmic time, which gives them their individuality structures:

In fact, reality has its inter-modal bottom-layer in the continuity of cosmic time.
And it is only in this cosmic temporal bottom-layer of every thing-structure that the individual whole of a thing is realized. Its individual identity receives its determination from its internal structural principle. It is this identity that is intuitively experienced in naive experience.
This identity is consequently more than functional. […]
The identity of a thing, rooted in the continuity of cosmic time, is, however not the metaphysical identity of a substance, as the absolute point of reference of its different “accidental properties.” Nor can it be the radical identity of the different modal functions of the thing concerned. The modal aspects of reality find their deeper identity in the central religious sphere alone. But temporal things are perishable, they do not have a supra-temporal selfhood; their thing-identity is only that of a temporal individual whole, i.e. of a relative unity in a multiplicity of functions. (NC III, 65).

Thus for Dooyeweerd, the unity of things is given in their individuality structures. The individuality structures are given in the bottom temporal layer. But they are more than just the modes. They are a separate dimension of the horizon of our experience:

Temporal reality does not end in the modal functions; it is not shut off in the modal horizon of the law-spheres. Rather, it has–if I may use this image–its inter-modal prolongation in the continuity of the cosmic coherence (NC III, 64).

But this unity is not itself of a modal character. Nor is it the sum of its individualized modal functions. And it cannot be the supratemporal identity of the modal functions. (NC III, 63). It is only a relative unity that is given by a thing’s individuality-structure.

Even the temporal identity of a thing cannot be experienced apart from the diversity of its modal functions; it is a relative identity, pointing beyond and above itself to the inter-modal meaning-coherence of time and the radical unity of meaning in the central religious sphere of our experiential horizon.”(NC III, 67).

Dooyeweerd’s view was opposed by Stoker, who tried to re-introduce the Idea of substance. It should also be pointed out that Stoker wanted to retain the body/soul dichotomy; this may be one reason that he wanted to retain an Idea of substance. Dooyeweerd rejected Stoker’s attempted revisions. Stoker accused Dooyeweerd of “meaning idealism.” But Stoker’s mistake here is that although Dooyeweerd says that all things exist only as meaning, in that they are dependent on God, this is not to be construed as a conceptual meaning. See things.

See also Individuality Structures and Enkapsis: Individuation from Totality in Dooyeweerd and German Idealism, where I discuss some recent attempts to re-introduce substance as that which is opposed to the structure. But Dooyeweerd says that the law-side and subject-side of the structure are related and cannot be separated from each other.

Dooyeweerd’s denial of substance was questioned by Hepp as being contrary to some Reformed Confessions. Dooyeweerd responded that his denial of substance was not contrary to the Dutch confessions, but perhaps contrary to Westminster Confession.(Verburg 238). See Calvinism.

Substance in Baader:

Baader rejects any view of matter as independent substance. He says that the apparent permanence of matter is like the apparent existence of a circle of light when we spin a lighted stick (Philosophische Schriften I, 321 ft).

Yet Baader does use the term substance, in a sense of integral existence. He says that “true substance” is the coincidence of coherence of the rigid or fixed, the confluence of the flüssigen, and the penetration (spiritual). Body, soul and spirit. But our feelings, imagination and concepts are functions and not substantial beings [als erstarrt gedacht] (Philosophische Schriften I,113; Werke 2, 223; cited by Sauer 46).

True integral existence, or substance, exists only in God. Only God has substance; the creature has no substantiability except as given to it by God. (“Descencus des Wortes. Sold Verb,” Werke 3, 345).

Revised Jul 24/06; Dec 24/16