Linked Glossary of Terms
(references to the Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee unless indicated. See concordance for correlation with pages in the New Critique. The concordance is in pdf format.)

symbol I, 64 (of prism), 66

NC II 381 (contrast of animal expression and symbol)


Symbols point to a fullness of meaning that cannot be expressed in our concepts.

The importance of symbols is not developed very much by Dooyeweerd, although he does use the symbol of the prism. Dooyeweerd prefers to speak of the importance of Ideas over concepts. However, Ideas themselves rely on images, and image-ination in the sense of turning within. See my Imagination, Image of God and Wisdom of God: Theosophical Themes in Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy,” (2006).

Dooyeweerd refers to the way that abstract symbols depend on human formation:

A genuine symbol, in contradistinction to a natural animal means of expression, always has a cultural and logical foundation. In the case of a natural symbolism which lies at the foundation of objective aesthetical relations in nature (for instance the objective beauty of a landscape) the objective symbolical as well as the objective logical and cultural functions of the beautiful natural whole, are only given potentially in relation to human actualization by the corresponding modal subject-functions.
But a conventional and especially an abstract symbol is not found in nature; it is the product of human formation (NC II, 381).

Elaine Botha has explored Dooyeweerd’s use of symbol in her article, “Metaphor and Analogy Revisited,” in Contemporary Reflections on the Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd, ed. D.F.M. Strauss and Michelle Botting (Lewiston: Edwin Mellen Press, 2000). She points out that Dooyeweerd usually has a reductive view of metaphor. She seems to be saying that metaphor is a more original way of speaking than the literal, along the lines of Owen Barfield’s argument in his book Saving the Appearances. However, Botha does not do justice to Dooyeweerd’s concern for the ontical difference between the aspects. The analogies between the modal aspects are more than metaphorical. There is a differentiation from fullness of meaning to diversity of meaning, as expressed in the symbol of the prism splitting up the fullness of white light into the various colours. The fullness of meaning expresses itself in the temporal aspects, and the modal aspects then refer back to the fullness of meaning. This is an ontical differentiation, and more than “mere metaphor,” at least as we normally understand what metaphors mean. It is not at all clear that Botha accepts Dooyeweeerd’s key distinction between a supratemporal and central fullness of meaning, and a temporal periphery of modal aspects that refers to this fullness. If that distinction is not maintained, then to speak of modal aspects in terms of metaphors will lead to a temporalization of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy, missing Dooyeweerd’s emphasis on the supratemporal experience of our heart.

Frederik van Eeden speaks of the necessity of images to refer to what cannot be captured in our concepts. He speaks of images, of figurative language [beeldend uitspraak].

Franz von Baader says that we greet with joy symbols of spontaneity (Philosophische Schriften I, 57).

Revised Aug 21/06; dec 24/16