synthesis

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.)

integration
joining of meaning I, 22, 43-44, 47-48, 81, 121, 124-125
II, 411, 414, 415
meaning-synthetic II, 414, 490
reintegration
inter-modal synthesis NC I, 19
NC II, 434 (distinguished from analytical synthesis).
synthesis I, 23, 26, 46, 50, 125
II, 399; II, 401;403, 404, 407, 409, 411, 413, 417-20, 422, 424, 484, 486, 494

NC I, 45 (starting point of theoretical synthesis must transcend the theoretical antithesis)

NC II, 478-79, 579 (absolutizes the theoretical meaning-synthesis)

Last article: “De Kentheoretische Gegenstandsrelatie en de Logische Subject-Objectrelatie,” Philosophia Reformata 40 (1975), 86-100.

“Het transcendentale critiek van het wijsgeerig denken,” Philosophia Reformata 6 (1941), 1-20 at 10. Within the Gegenstand-relation, the modal diversity between the logical and the non-logical cannot be bridged. To transcend this modal diversity requires the selfhood, the individual concentration point where all aspects of temporal human existence come to a deeper unity and self-containedness (een-zelvigheid).

synthetic II, 404

We must not identity our selfhood with the synthetical act of thought, in which our selfhood is active (“Het dilemma voor het christelijk wijsgeerig denken,” Philosophia Reformata 1 (1936) 1-16 [‘Dilemma’] at 12).

Following the dis-stasis or analytical splitting apart of temporal reality, there must be a joining of meaning or a synthesis.

The dis-stasis is done by an epoché or refraining from the temporal coherence. We ourselves descend to the temporal level in order to perform the Gegenstand-relation.

The synthesis requires a re-entering of the continuity of time, and this is done by our intuition. Intuition of time allows for joining together of meaning (II, 415). Our theoretical intuition is “actualized in synthetical thought” (NC II, 479). Even in the theoretical abstraction from the continuity of time, in which we epistemologically split apart the aspects in a dis-stasis, the synthesis of meaning is presupposed (WdW II, 407; NC II, 472).

The synthesis is a reintegration of what has been split apart. But the reintegration is deeper than the coherence had been before. This is because in the process there has been an opening out of the aspects.

If dis-stasis is not followed by synthesis, we remain in a disintegrated state. I believe that this is where the impairment of our naive experience comes from. It is also the temptation of which Baader speaks–to remain within the temporal, instead of re-uniting the analyzed temporal reality with our selfhood, and making what we have analyzed our own.

Synthesis involves a dialectical method in theory. But the opposites are relative and not absolute, and we must search in theory for their higher synthesis (Roots 8). We cannot get beyond the over-against relation in the Gegenstand-relation unless it is directed above itself to a transcendent supra-temporal concentration point (NC I, 31). Steen observes the importance of the supratemporal heart for this synthesis (Steen 28, 67). But Steen does not recognize the descent to the temporal that is involved in the initial dis-stasis of theory.

The theoretical dialectic, involving relative opposites, must not be confused with a religious dialectic in a dualistic Ground-Motive. A religious dialectic prevents a true synthesis. And the theoretical synthesis of meaning-sides must not be confused with an attempted combining or two religious ground motives. That is an accommodation, and not a theoretical synthesis.

In his De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer (1931) Dooyeweerd asks, “What is the meaning of meaning-synthesis thought in the light of the cosmic coherence of reality?” His answer is:

Het is niets dan de anticipeerende (daarom steeds door den zin der historische ontwikkeling geleide) verdieping, de zin-ontplooiing van het naive zin-systatischdenken, dat zelve nog traag hangt aan zijn zinsverband met de psychische zinnelijkheid. De zin-synthesis is in de zin-systasis gefundeerd, niet omgekeerd! In het zin-synthetisch denken bevrijdt de verdiepte analytische bewustzijnsfunctie zich van een bloot ingesteld zijn in de volle tijdelijke werkelijkheid: het steltzich de ter kennis opgegeven a-logische zin-functies tegenover, het wordt “gegenständlich.” Dit tegenovergestelde, dit probleem der kennis kan niet de kosmische realiteit zelve zijn. Want onze analytische denk-functie is zelve systatisch in die realiteit gevlochten en blijft zulks ook in haar verdiepte, theoretische werkzaamheid.” (pp. 102-103, excerpts in Verburg 143).

[It is nothing other than the anticipating (and therefore always being led by the meaning of historical development) deepening, the unfolding of meaning from naive systatic-meaning thinking, which itself still inertly depends on its relation of meaning with psychical sensation. The synthesis of meaning is founded in the systasis of meaning, and not the other way around! In meaning-synthetic thought, the deepened analytical function of meaning frees itself from a merely enstatic being in full temporal reality: it sets itself over-against the a-logical meaning-functions that are offered up for knowledge; it become “gegenständlich.” This being set-over-against, this problem of knowledge can not be the cosmic reality itself. For our analytical function of thought is itself woven systatically in reality, and it remains so even in its deepened, theoretic activity.]

Synthesis thus involves the anticipating of future temporal moments. It involves the unfolding from naive systatic enstasis to the deepened meaning of an opened-out reality.

Synthetical thought pre-supposes enstatic-systatic thought, with which it should never come into conflict (NC III, 46).

The enstatic-systatic thought is naive thought in our pre-theoretical experience, before theoretical deepening:

De naieve, vóór-theoretische ervaring is en-statisch, niet synthetisch in de volle tijdelijke werkeijkheid met al hare in de kosmische tijdsorde samengevlochten zinzijden, zoowel natuurlijke als geestelijke, ingesteld en komt intuïtief in verzet tegen iedere poging van het verabsoluteerd synthetisch denken, om haar een of meer zin-zijden harer werkelijkheid to ontrooven.(De Crisis der Humanistische Staatsleer, in het licht eener Calvinistische kosmologie en kennistheorie (1931), 87)

[It is not in a synthetic but an enstatic way that naïve, pre-theoretical experience is fitted into full temporal reality with all of its meaning-sides (both natural and spiritual) that are interwoven in the cosmic order of time. And this naïve, pre-theoretical experience intuitively opposes every attempt of absolutized synthetic thought to rob it of one or more of its meaning-sides.]

The theoretical synthesis is only possible by means of our intuition:

“The inter-modal synthesis of meaning appears thus to be possible only through the theoretical intuition. The latter is necessarily related to the transcendent selfhood” (II, 413; NC II, 478-9, italics Dooyeweerd).

Intuition relates our dis-stasis to the unity of our selfhood. He says that theoretical truth is meaningless without its relation to our cosmological self-consciousness (II, 512; NC II, 578).

The transcendent, religious fulness of Truth, which alone makes all truth within the temporal horizon possible, does not concern an abstract theoretical function of thought. It is concerned with our full selfhood, with the heart of the whole of human existence, consequently also the centre of our theoretical thought (NC II, 571; WdW II, 504).

This means that for Dooyeweerd, there is an immediate experience of the supratemporal self. It is not correct to interpret Dooyeweerd as believing that all our knowledge is mediated through the temporal. Our intuition is the link between our supratemporal experience and our temporal functions.

I believe that failure to see the relation of theoretical to our selfhood has been the basis for many misunderstandings about Dooyeweerd. It was one of the disagreements between Dooyeweerd and D.F.M. Strauss, as mentioned in Dooyeweerd’s last article, which he wrote two years before his death: “De Kentheoretische Gegenstandsrelatie en de Logische Subject-Objectrelatie,” Philosophia Reformata (1975) 83-101. Strauss denied both the theoretical Gegenstand-relation as well as the theoretical synthesis. Strauss argued that both the Gegenstand-relation and the theoretical synthesis contained contradictions. I believe that this is because he understood both ideas in an “inter-modal” sense. In fact, both of them express a relation between our supratemporal religious selfhood, from out of which our actual logical function of thought issues (like all acts), as well as the modal aspects which are abstracted out of the coherence of cosmic time, and which have no actual or ontical existence. Strauss was under the mistaken assumption that both the Gegenstand-relation and the theoretical synthesis related only to actual acts. In his last article, Dooyeweerd describes Strauss’s view:

For, so he says, according to my own conception, intuition cannot function within theoretically abstracted aspects, which, in this abstraction have lost their actuality. An actual intuitive contact is, according to Strauss, only possible between the actual logical thought function and the actual non-logical functions of our experience.

But Dooyeweerd’s own view was very different. The synthesis, aided by intuition, is not between actual functions. It is between our actual act and non-actual abstracted, non-ontical functions:

But the theoretical inter-modal synthesis rather concerns the actual logical function of thought and the non-actual, intentionally abstracted non-logical aspects of experience

In other words, the theoretical synthesis (in its final form) is not inter-modal, but relates the aspects that have been split apart to our transcendent selfhood. The synthesis is beyond inter-modal. The theoretical synthesis is between my actual thought [an act from out of my selfhood] and the Gegenstand of abstracted aspects, which is not actual or ontical, but only intentional. The synthesis can also be between my concrete act of thinking and any one of the non-actual aspects, including the analytical aspect.

The synthesis can never be explained by means of the isolated functions of consciousness (NC II, 479).

I have referred to the synthesis in its final form, since Dooyeweerd does say that deepened analysis first executes [voltrekt zich] an inter-modal synthesis of meaning, in which the non-analytic meaning is made into a ‘Gegenstand’ of the analytic aspect (WdW II, 401). It must be remembered that there are several possible levels of Gegenstand. Furthermore, this is only a very preliminary meaning of ‘synthesis,’ for here there the Gegenstand is still separated from the logical aspect. The completion of the theoretical synthesis is accomplished by our theoretical intuition, which relates the meaning-synthesis to the supratemporal religious root of my selfhood:

My intuition moves to and fro between my deepened analysis and its “Gegenstand” to bring them into actual contact in the inter-modal synthesis of meaning. In this process I become conscious of my theoretical freedom of thought. The actual synthesis of meaning accomplished in it can never be explained by means of the isolated functions of consciousness. Theoretical intuition is operative in deepened analysis itself, and only by its intermediary is theoretical thought able to analyse the “Gegenstand” in the intermodal synthesis of meaning. In this intuition I implicitly relate the intermodal meaning-synthesis to the transcendent identity of the modal functions I experience in the religious root of my existence.(NC II, 478)

The original Dutch does not refer to ‘inter-modal’ at all:

In de heen- en weder schouwende intuitie, waarin ik mij mijn theoretische denkvrijheid bewust wordt, komen de verdiepte analyse en haar “Gegenstand” in het actueele kennis-contact, in de actueele zin-synthesis, die van uit de geïsoleerde bewustzijnsfuncties nimmer is te verklaren.
Alleen doordat die theoretische intuitie in de verdiepte analyse zelve werkzaam is, vermag het theoretisch denken den “Gegenstand” in zin-synthesis te analyseeren. Theoretische zin-onderscheiding is inderdaad slechts in de intuitieve theoretische zin-verbinding mogelijk. En in die intuitie betrek ik de zin-synthesis op de transcendente identiteit der modale zinfuncties, welke ik in den religieuzen wortel van mijn bestaan ervaar.

Although NC II, 468 refers to “inter-modal theoretical synthesis,” the original Dutch only refers to “zin-synthesis.” WdW 401 NC II, 470 refers to “an inter-modal synthesis of meaning,” but the original Dutch only refers to a “meaning-synthesis” [zin-synthetisch, WdW II, 404]. Similarly, NC II, 479 speaks of “the inter-modal synthesis and analytical disjunction of the modal synthetical thought as insight.” But the original Dutch reads: “De theoretische intuitie, als in de actueele verdiepte analyse werkzaam zin-verbindend en zin-onderscheidend in-zicht” (WdW II, 414). See also NC II, 494 and WdW II, 429. It is true that the dis-stasis is inter-modal: one aspect is set over against others [WdW II, 401]. But the synthesis is more than inter-modal; it relates to the religious root. It is also true that things have an inter-modal character (NC III, 63) but that does not mean that a theoretical synthesis has this character. Temporal coherence is not the same as supratemporal totality!

Our intuition should not be viewed as a separate metaphysical faculty, but as the temporal bottom layer of the analytical function. Our intuition relates the intermodal meaning synthesis to the transcendent identity of the modal functions that we experience in the religious root of our existence. In intuition we recognize the theoretical datum, the Gegenstand, as our own (NC II, 475-480). In other words, our intuition relates our theory to the experience of our supratemporal self. For those who begin with a dualistic Ground-Motive, no ultimate synthesis is possible; they are left with a primary religious dualism. Those caught in such a primary dualism may argue for the use of a dialectical logic to attempt to overcome antithesis in starting points (NC II, 37). But this results only in a dialectical-logical unity, not a real unity (NC I, 89).

See also my article Imagination, Image of God and Wisdom of God: Theosophical Themes in Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy,” (2006). In that article, I discuss Dooyeweerd’s idea of intuition, and how it rleates to imagination and to synthesis in theoretical thought.

Baader also emphasizes the importance of synthesis of two opposed conceptual standpoints. The two opposed viewpoints are ‘sublated’ (aufgehoben). But he does not see this in Hegel’s terms. Concepts have to be related back to their Center. Baader says that theory involves three steps. The first is the initial subordination or dissolution of true coherence, and our ‘embodiment’ in the periphery [this is the abstraction in which we form the Gegenstand]. The second step is the collection [Sammlung] of the dispersed ‘sparks’ in the temporal world, in order to reunite them in a higher order. The third step is when this unification or ‘higher embodiment’ is completed; there is then death or dissolution of the lower embodiment; it is like the scaffolding that collapses after the house is built (Zeit 36).

Baader also stresses the importance of intuition. From our initial intuition [Schauen] we move outwards in our theoretical abstraction; but we must return to this ‘Schauen.’

Like Dooyeweerd, Baader emphasizes that there is a good and a bad dialectic. (Weltalter 129). The negative function of our abstracting, distinguishing Verstand is only a necessary moment in our thinking function; we must restore the concrete (Philosophische Schriften II, 217). From our initial intuition [Schauen] we must return to a Schauen. Otherwise, our thinking becomes an enemy; it is then destroying and deadening to the Spirit. The mistake in theory is not in the antithesis involved in thought, but in failing to return to a synthesis.

Dooyeweerd makes the same point. He says that that Kant and his followers opposed the logical function to the other modal aspects of the integral act of thought.

The only, but fundamental, mistake in their argument was the identification of the real act with a purely psychical temporal event, which in its turn could become a “Gegenstand” of the ultimate transcendental-logical cogito (NC I, 50).

Dooyeweerd says that Kant’s mistake was trying to find the starting point for synthesis in the antithetical relation itself (NC I, 54). In other words, Kant took the antithesis as fundamental. Kant did not take into account the synthesis with the supratemporal self. Kant regarded the antinomies as necessary.

Revised Sept 25/07; Dec 24/16