human in the cosmos (1991)
Philosophia Reformata 56, 101-131
3.1. Cosmic time
3.2. The position of human persons in the natural kingdoms
3.3. Humanity in the history
of the cosmos
The recent discussion within the circle of Calvinian philosophy on anthropology
has left me with a feeling of dissatisfaction. The profoundness and the quality of the publications are beyond doubt, but I cannot suppress the impression that little progress is achieved. This is sad, because Herman Dooyeweerd himself considered his anthropology
to be unfinished, like a beginning that ought to be elaborated with the help of the special sciences. It may be wondered what could be wrong with the approach of anthropology up till now. I mention a few possibilities.
1. Most striking in the discussion during
the past years is the absence of the theory of evolution. For the participants in the international conference on anthropology at Zeist in 1986 it seems as if Charles Darwin never existed, and as if no progress has been made in biological
and astrophysical insights concerning the development of the cosmos.
The participants in the discussion seem to take no interest in the natural scientific contribution
to anthropology. For my part, I am convinced that anthropology is in need of all sciences, and is doomed to sterility if an important segment is neglected. In particular the development of anthropology within the context of the philosophy of the
cosmonomic idea badly needs the study of the evolution of mankind in the universe, and the position of humanity with respect to the kingdoms of plants and animals.
Verburg recalls that Dooyeweerd did not finish his anthropological work because he did not see a solution
to the problem of evolution. Evidently, Dooyeweerd attributed the study of evolution a key position. With
a few exceptions his followers did not make conspicious attempts to fill in this hiatus.
Contrary to his intention, Dooyeweerd's careful and deliberate reaction to Jan Lever's epoch-making work
appears to have blockaded rather than advanced the development of anthropology. Probably it prevented many natural scientists from contributing positively to the systematic analysis of the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea.
2. It is generally recognized that Dooyeweerd's theory of enkaptic structural interlacements
should be one of the starting points of anthropology. But then it is surprising that so little attention is
paid to a necessary elaboration of this theory. No author discussing Dooyeweerd's so-called ‘anthropological theses’
fails to mention his recognition of three basic substructures in the structure of the human body, to wit the physical-chemical, the biotic, and the psychic ones. Should one not consider a spatial and/or a kinematic substructure?
Is it not the case that besides a primary qualification of substructures (characterized by the ‘leading’ or ‘qualifying’ modal sphere) a secondary characteristic also exists (determined by the ‘founding’
aspect)? As a consequence, the number of substructures to be found in the human body would amount to 1 (spatial) + 2 (kinematic, i.e., spatially and numerically founded, respectively) + 3 (physical) + 4 (biotic) + 5 (psychic) = 15.
This makes things rather complicated, but to ignore this state of affairs implies neglecting a fruitful application of the systematic part of the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea to anthropology.
Moreover, these structures of the human body have mostly a retrocipatory character, albeit that anticipations are already operative. Still, should one not explore the possibility that the human spirit is determined
by anticipating structures?
3. In my opinion too little
attention is paid to the relations of every human being with his or her fellow creatures, in particular his or her fellow women or men (which are, of course, not entirely neglected) and the worlds of plants and animals; in short, to the position
of any human being in the cosmos. In this respect Dooyeweerd's view of so-called cosmic time is extremely important.
Unfortunately, once more it has to be concluded that the participants in the debate on anthropology are too much concerned with the clarification of Dooyeweerd's views (sometimes arriving at unsufficiently founded proposals for radical changes
concerning the meaning of time), and too little with the strongly needed development of Dooyeweerd's revolutionary conception of cosmic time. In particular the idea that all relations have an intrinsic temporal character hardly plays a part in the
4. Neglecting the problem of evolution implies that hardly any attention is paid to the question in which respects a human being differs from an animal. Usually the problem is
dismissed by stating (without much argument) that animals (contrary to human persons) are only objects, not subjects, with respect to post-psychical laws, without wondering whether this might be a rationalistic point of view.
It could detract from another thesis defended by the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea, i.e., the statement that a human being is primarily a religious being, called to bear responsibility, to promote what is good and to combat what is wrong.
This means that religion not only implies a relation between any person and his creator, but also a mission of mankind. It also means that the distinction between ‘natural laws’ and ‘norms’ should be reconsidered.
The theme of the present chapter is the position of any human being in the cosmos. In section 3.1 I shall discuss a person as a subject in the various modal aspects. In section 3.2 the relation of
mankind to the so-called natural kingdoms will be investigated. In section 3.3 we shall pay attention to the position of humanity in the history of the cosmos. The problems of the structure of the human body, the relation of body and spirit, and the human
‘self’, will only summarily be touched.
My intention is not to discuss extensively the contributions mentioned earlier to the debate on anthropology,
but to look for alternative, i.e., complementary roads.
3.1. Cosmic time
part of this paper is devoted to the so-called subject-subject relations in the modal aspects of reality. It forms a major, though by no means the only, part of ‘cosmic time’, which encompasses everything created into a coherent whole. The coherence
of reality is expressed by the fact that nothing can exist without having relations to other things. Hence, cosmic time is the set of all relations between all creatures.
Dooyeweerd's challenging and thought-provoking theory of time is strongly programmatic. It demands an elaboration involving the special sciences and their philosophies. It is still underdeveloped, but it is promising, and in my view indispensable
for the development of anthropology. One of the ambitions of the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea is to design an anthropology that shows humanity in its modal diversity. This implies finding the position of a person in cosmic time, i.e., the cosmic
connection of any human being with his fellow men and women (in the past, the present and the future) and with all other creatures. A reliable anthropology cannot arise as long as the framework of cosmic time is not available as a well developed
The theory states that the mutually irreducible modal aspects are not only ontic aspects of reality - besides epistemic aspects of our experience
and principles of explanation - but also have a temporal structure.
as a system of reference
Each aspect determines temporal relations, subject to a modal order of time. Together, the modal aspects constitute a system of reference,
enabling us to identify things and events, to determine their quantity, spatial position, relative motion, interaction, etc., and to relate them to other things and events. For the first six modal aspects this system of reference can be summarized as follows.
First we have a numerical framework that allows us to compare different things and events in a quantitative sense. Next we have a spatial framework, enabling us to determine the
relative position of anything, and to orientate ourselves in our surroundings. Third, we experience a mode of mobility in which the moving thing remains identical with itself. Fourth, we recognize the relation of interaction, without which physical things
and events would not exist. Fifth we encounter the relation of descendence, allowing us to relate living beings with each other. Sixth, there is a sense of teleology and communication (dependent on recognition) as a psychic relation.
The designation of the modal intersubjective relations cannot be done loosely. It ought to be based on a careful analysis of the modal aspect concerned including its retrocipations and anticipations,
and of the idionomic structures which are qualified or founded by the aspect concerned. Until now this has only been done for the first six modal aspects indicated above.
From an anthropological perspective, I shall put forward some suggestions with respect to the remaining aspects, and reconnoitre some problems involved.
into the subject-subject relations in the post-psychic aspects is not merely essential to anthropology, but unavoidably also part of it. The study of the numerical up to the psychic aspect can be restricted to non-human subjects: numbers, spatial figures,
moving subjects, physical systems, living and learning beings. For methodological reasons it is even advisable to restrict the investigation of the modal aspects concerned initially to non-human beings.
For the post-psychic aspects this is virtually impossible. After all, even if animals are not excluded, human persons are the main subjects in these aspects. This gives rise to a number of complications,
some of them related to the order of the modal aspects. We shall discuss these problems when we meet them.
The opposing attitude of a human being
Apparently, the logical aspect is concerned with ‘thinking about ...’, but this emphasizes the subject-object relation too much. Whoever wants to put the subject-subject relation to the
fore may observe that logic concerns convincing. This means the discussion between two logical subjects, who attempt to achieve agreement about something on which their opinions differed before. In this way they arrive at a rational
order in their environment. This can be done either in a direct manner, or indirectly, in an abstract, objectifying and theoretical way. The discussion, if logical, is subject to the law of excluded contradiction. Within a certain context agreed
upon, no contradictions are allowed.
With respect to the logical aspect, Dooyeweerd has stressed that a human being makes use of two different attitudes. The first
is natural (or ‘naive’) experience, which by the way is not purely logical. The second is the so-called Gegenstand-relation, which, according to Dooyeweerd, is a characteristic of theoretical thought. In this relationship a thinking
subject opposes the logical aspect against all other aspects, which are analytically detached from the continuous coherence (as established by cosmic time) between the modal aspects and the idionomic structures.
This detachment includes methodological isolation and idealization.
Such an opposing and therefore critical attitude does not occur in theoretical thought only. It
occurs wherever a human being leaves natural experience, by putting an instrument between himself and his object. A telling example is how people extend their sensorial abilities by using a telescope or a microscope. In this case, too, one assumes
an opposing attitude, creating distance, and narrowing one's vision. One sees further, but one's field of view becomes smaller. The observed object is more or less abstracted from the coherence in which it functions.
This attitude of opposition has consequences for the study of cosmic time. In the first six modal aspects (i.e., the numerical, spatial, kinematic, physical, biotic and psychical ones) subjective time can be characterized
by a direct relation between ‘modal subjects’. The concept of a ‘modal subject’ is an abstraction from concrete reality. Its meaning is to abstract from the individuality and idionomy of the concrete things, in order to arrive at their
Each modal subject-subject relation is itself subject to a modal order of time. In this way we introduce abstract notions like numbers and their
relations, such as their difference or ratio, subject to the order of earlier and later; spatial figures related by their relative position and orientation, subject to the order of simultaneity; moving subjects and their relative motion, subject to the order
of the flow of time; physical systems with their mutual interactions subject to the order of irreversibility; living beings and their genetic relations subject to the genetic law stating that any living being is a descendent of another living being; and learning
beings, with their ability to communicate, subject to the teleological law of goal directedness.
Each of these subject-subject relations has a direct character. For
instance, an animal immediately recognizes another animal, as a mate, a young or parent, as a prey, an enemy, or neutral. This direct character does not exclude the mediation of other subjects of the same kind. For instance, one physical system can interact
with another via a third, and we can determine the relative position of two spatial things using a coordinate system. Besides we have the habit of objectifying subject-subject relations, e.g., using a map in order to determine the distance between two cities.
This is especially, but not exclusively done in science. We objectify spatial relative positions by distances and angles, kinematic relations by velocities, interactions by energy, force, current, and so on.
Nevertheless the fundamental modal subject-subject relations maintain their direct character. This is also the case in the later modal aspects, as far as it concerns the ‘natural’ functioning of humans
and animals. Dooyeweerd has shown that natural (or ‘naive’) experience has a direct character, and should not be confused with theoretical experience, which has an opposing and distantiating character. Elsewhere I have developed this view
in my own way, first by making distinction between scientific work and theoretical thought.
Second, by observing that theoretical thought discloses natural thought, because it anticipates the formative, lingual and other modal aspects following the logical one. Third, by analysing the idionomic structure of theoretical thought. Fourth, by observing that theoretical thought has an instrumental character which is lacking in natural
Now this instrumental character introduces a complication into the theory of time, which is absent in the direct subject-subject relations mentioned
above. To be sure, instruments are primarily used in subject-object relations, which lose their simplicity by becoming subject-instrument-object relations. In theoretical thought a person uses theories and similar structural units as instruments to
investigate the cosmos. However, the logical subject-subject relation has an instrumental character as well. In any discussion transcending natural interhuman relations, artificial concepts, propositions and theories are needed. This is by no
means restricted to science.
The opposing, distantiating attitude is absent in the natural experience of humans as well as in the functioning of animals. It makes an
important difference between humans and animals, not only occurring in the logical aspect. A person takes distance from the cosmos, of which he or she is a wholesale part.
A person is even taking critical distance from his or her fellow men and women, and this influences the interhuman relationship in all its aspects.
The fact that human beings design and make instruments is only
possible because they disclose all modal aspects in the so-called anticipatory direction. Also this is relevant for the study of the modal aspects from an anthropological perspective.
With respect to the pre-logical aspects much can be achieved by restricting oneself to the study of the aspect concerned with its retrocipations (i.e., referring to earlier modal aspects), and to the study of the idionomic structures
which are qualified by that aspect. For instance, it is very fruitful to study the physical aspect including the preceding ‘mathematical’ aspects as well as the physically qualified idionomic structures, but ignoring the following aspects.
At first in biology it becomes necessary to include the anticipations in the physical aspect.
In the post-psychic aspects such a methodological restriction is virtually
impossible. One could propose to study animals in this respect, but that would probably not yield very much of interest. Dooyeweerd seems to have assumed that so-called ‘primitive people’ are functioning in a not-yet disclosed community, but that
is subject to doubt. In general, a human being operates anticipating in every modal aspect, i.e., always
referring to later as well as to earlier modal aspects. Hence it is nearly impossible to investigate the post-psychic aspects one after the other, in a way that has proven successful in the natural sciences.
In the process of disclosure the historic, formative or cultural aspect plays a major part. Mankind not only deforms the non-living universe, but also living nature. This again draws the attention to the subject-object
relation, but also the cultural subject-subject relation has the character of formation. We find this relation in education, schooling, and each form of tuition, sometimes directly (apprenticeship), sometimes more distantly. The nuclear
word is ‘tradition’, meaning the transfer of cultural achievements from one generation to the other. Tradition and tuition are not purely cultural in a modal sense, just because they have an anticipatory character. All modal aspects are involved
From inward to outward
Human beings and animals have an inner experience, which is organically localized in the nerve system. Animals express this experience nearly exclusively in their behaviour (chapter 4). Sometimes
animals have other ways to give expression to their emotions, in particular fear. Warnings, and the marking of a territory, can be considered as examples of elementary, undisclosed and instinctive uses of language.
In contrast, people have the habit of communicating their inner experience to other people, to express themselves. Thereby they reveal their feelings, emotions, opinions, thoughts, insights, judgements, problems,
plans, orders, reports, prohibitions, and beliefs. That is the meaning of language, in all its appearances: signals, natural language (like English or Dutch), written language, group language, traffic signs, and all other kinds of symbols. All these are subject
to the norm of clarity.
The lingual subject-subject relation, in which language plays an instrumental mediating part, is not first of all determined by the need of
communication (which has a psychic character), but by the need of name giving and interpretation. With the help of language a human being allots himself and others a position in the cosmos, besides all things and events.
The lingual aspect of human experience should be distinguished from the natural languages - or rather ‘so-called’ natural languages, for even the language of speech is already an artefact,
having a long history and being strongly differentiated. The same applies to written language. For any purpose, language is an indispensable instrument for interhuman communication, and it is interwoven with other instruments, like logical
concepts and propositions.
Every person belongs to a lingual community, sometimes to more than one. Such a lingual community does not constitute a community with
an internal organisation, with an official structure. It cannot act as a modal subject. The romantic ideology according to which a modern state should be founded in a lingual community has given rise to many serious conflicts. In a state community a single
language is sometimes privileged, and other languages are discriminated. Besides the general language of speech with its dialects one finds group languages with their typical jargon. The position of a person in the cosmos is strongly determined by
his mastery and use of various languages.
as modal subjects
No less important for a person's place in the cosmos are her or his social relations.
The study of social communities is part of the study of the idionomic structures and their relations. But the fact that social communities can be subjects in the modal aspects is a reason to consider them in the framework of the modal
aspects as well.
Usually one distinguishes between natural communities (like marriage, nuclear family, family in a wider sense, tribe, which are also recognizable with
animals), and organized communities, like business firms, schools, hospitals, states, and churches.
The former are biotically founded, and differ from animal communities because their functions are disclosed and normative in all aspects. Sometimes they suffer of a loss of functionality, because certain tasks are taken over by other communities. The latter
seem to be founded in the cultural-formative aspect. The social subject-subject relation concerns the various ways people interact with each other. It is subject to the norm of mutual respect, which is specified by the relative position they have
in society, in particular in many different communities. Two persons can meet each other: the first is a member, the other an elder in church; the first is director, the second employee in the same company; the first is chairman of a club, the second
its secretary. In each of these three relations the two have to respect each other in a different way. Without respect or recognition no social relationship can endure. Together these relationships determine a social order. Mutual respect is the foundation
of a free society. In particular a free society can only exist if the various communities respect each other's
responsibility, in a normative way.
How is it possible that an association functions like a modal subject ? In part because a community exists independent of the
identity of its members. A club remains in existence long after its first members have withdrawn or died. On the other hand no association can exist without members. It can only act as a subject if it is represented by some authorized person. This authorization
again rests on recognition. Nobody is able to act with authority within an association if they do not have the respect of its members. Without mutual respect the community collapses. For the external functioning, too, it is necessary that somebody be
identified and recognized as a representative of the community concerned. Below I shall find occasion to say more about the figure of a representative.
of social communities as modal subjects is opened up by the economic aspect (a business company), the aesthetic aspect (an orchestra), the juridical aspect (the state), the aspect of care (hospitals), and the aspect of faith (the church).
The many-sided possibilities of a person
Besides other things human beings differ from animals because of their many-sidedness. Every kind of animal displays a certain speciality, which is developed in the course of evolution, and often a certain animal
species excels mankind with respect to its speciality. (Never try to outrun a tiger.) A human being's body is not specialized. Even the development of the neocortex is a function of his many-sidedness. Any person has many possibilities, and this makes
specialization within human societies necessary. It would be very inefficient to do everything on one's own. It is much more economical to divide our work and to cooperate in peace in order to exploit all human possibilities. In a well-developed society
people have various occupations, and one's occupation is an important determinant for one's place in the community.
Therefore the many-sidedness of people
should be discussed in the framework of the economic modal aspect. The economic subject-object relation concerns the efficient use of all available means. The subject-subject relation concerns the delivery of services wherein each person
makes other persons profit from their special gifts. Hence the norm of the economic aspect is to be of service to one's fellow beings.
The mutual rendering of service
soon leads to the need of some kind of settlement or accounting, hence to barter or a monetary system, a market of supply and demand. In a general sense, the ‘market’ may be considered to indicate the economic order. For this view it is relatively
irrelevant whether the market is ‘free’ or ‘planned’. Besides a market of various goods, there is a market of employment, a money market, stock exchange, and even a marriage market.
The many-sidedness of human beings allows them to play various parts, for instance as a producer, a consumer, a merchant, a negotiator, an informer, and so on. We observe a certain kind of asymmetry in economic relations:
producer versus consumer, for instance. This is not restricted to the economic functioning of humans. Hence we meet another complication in the study of the modal aspects: it is virtually impossible to abstract the functioning of a person such that
a pure ‘modal subject’ remains.
Another difference between humans and animals is the need of people to decorate their existence, to enjoy themselves, to create and experience beauty and pleasure. In the relation between the sexes one finds with animals something of beauty and play too, but then it is merely retrocipatory
For an investigation of the arts the phenomenon of ‘subject-instrument-subject relation’ mentioned above could be of help. We can easily
be focussed on a painter as a subject and his paintings as objects of art, and forget about the art lovers. In my view art can only be understood
as functioning in
a subject-subject relation, even if it is asymmetrical, such as the relation between the painter and the onlooker. It means that the painting is not an object but an instrument, the object being whatever the painter wants to paint, irrespective if this is
something visible (like a landscape), a fantasy, some emotion, or what not. The painting is an instrument in the aesthetic relation between the painter and the spectator, and next between various spectators. The interhuman relation between the artist and the
spectators is perhaps more obvious in theater, ballet and musical performances.
In order to determine the character of the aesthetic subject-subject relation it
may be advised to pay attention to joy and sorrow, to festivities and mourning, to plays and rites, expressing direct relations. The arts and organized sports are more distantiating. Discipline and competition are relevant points. It is only possible to communicate
in festivals, plays, mournings, rites, and sports if one adheres to the rules. People compete, and thereby determine each other's relative positions.
Often the rules
of play are no less artificial than products of art. Perhaps rules of play are not norms, but it is a norm to obey the rules. The aesthetic subject-object relation comes to the fore in ornaments, beautiful clothing, delicious food, and objects of
Discussing the social aspect I said something about the figure of an ‘authorized person’ serving on behalf of a community as a subject in the modal aspects. This figure also has an important juridical
This is especially the case if a community is a legal person. A ‘legal person’ is an abstract modal subject in the juridical sphere. ‘All
natural persons are legal persons’ is an ideologically coloured statement. Under Roman law slaves were in general not considered legal subjects, but legal objects, and the legal status of women was disputed. In a Christian society slavery is not accepted,
and minors are legal persons, even though they should be represented occasionally by their parents or guardians. The constitutional rule ‘all people are equal before the law’ is relatively modern, and still not universally accepted.
Besides natural persons a modern society recognizes associations as legal persons. The institutional system of justice is the state, having the task to maintain the legal order.
It has the authority to recognize non-state communities as legal persons. Within such a community it should be clear which natural persons as ‘officers’ have the right to represent the community in legal affairs. Yet if a social community
has no legal status it is not unlawful. The inner structure of a social community is independent of its being a legal person.
An ‘office’ can be defined
as a set of tasks and powers, and an ‘officer’ as somebody who is charged with an office, for which they can be held responsible. The juridical aspect of an ‘office’ should be distinguished from the authority that the same ‘officer’
exercises within the community, which is based on social respect, as we argued above. A club which is no legal person still knows such authority. In particular the authority in natural communities like a nuclear family is exerted independent of the
consent of the state. Conversely, within a community an officer can lose their authority and still be responsible in a juridical sense.
Hence, the status of an
‘office’ is not necessarily juridically qualified, but is usually (but not always) qualified by the same aspect as the community in which the office acts. For instance, the office of an entrepreneur is economically qualified. On the other hand,
the office of an employer is also economically qualified, but it is often exerted by officers of a community which is itself not economically qualified, such as a hospital. In this case the director of the hospital has the office to look after the economic
aspects of the hospital. Not surprisingly, in large communities the various offices are often separated from each other.
Hence the juridical subject-subject relation
is not restricted to natural persons. It is a relation, which can be positivized in various ways. The positivation of norms becoming rules may be more characteristic for the juridical modal aspect than the principles of attribution or retribution which
are usually taken to be the nucleus of this aspect. The juridical relations as laid down in positive law determine the legal position of all people in the cosmos, determining their rights and duties, and their liabilities.
The care for one's fellow humans
The last but one aspect, usually denoted the ‘ethical’ or ‘moral’ one, has the love for one's neighbour as its principle. Perhaps the word ‘care’ could be used to characterize this aspect. It concerns the love for one's neighbour (a subject-subject relation), but also the commitment of a person
to her environment and the products of her labour (subject-object relations), and the care with which she handles them.
This function is not only apparent in the care
for the weak in the society (children, sick or elderly people, the unemployed, refugees), but also in human relations such as concern, compassion or pity, sympathy or antipathy, aversion and indifference. The term ‘love for one's neighbour’ shows
that each person's responsibility for their fellow human is a function of the position that this person has with respect to other people. It starts within the natural communities: marriage, the family. Without the experience of such love people become lonely
- without love a person finds no place on earth.
a person as a believer
The anticipating character of all human acts (which we already mentioned in the framework of the formative aspect) also has a transcending
aspect. In every anticipation (i.e., the reference of some aspect to a later one) human beings transcend a modal aspect. Therefore it is relevant to observe that animal functions in the post-psychic aspects are merely retrocipatory (i.e., only referring
back to the earlier aspects, in particular the psychic and biotic ones). A person is able to transcend aspects and structures of temporal reality, without ever being able to leave behind his or her interhuman relations.
The pistic subject-subject relation concerns shared convictions, certainties, points of departure, world views and ideologies. These can be religious, but also philosophical, scientific, or political. An ideology
is not merely personal. Each society has an ideology, a common creed, even if it is cynical. The ideology
determines the norms to which the society has to answer.
The ideology transcends all modal diversity, because its roots are in the heart of the people.
It is a leading factor in the opening up of all modal aspects, and is highly determining for the position of a person (as well as for each community) in the cosmos, in particular for the position that he assigns himself. It is not without reason that
people call themselves Christians or Muslims, socialists or capitalists, positivists or realists. It marks in various contexts the choice of one's position. If somebody changes their ideology, this is rightly called a ‘conversion’.
The pistic subject-subject relation is determined by mutual trust. We believe each other on our word.
We make promises, and other people trust them. The anticipatory character comes to the fore in the hope for a better future. Someone's credibility is also determined by the office that they exercise.
The pistic subject-object relation is denoted by terms like the belief in the correctness of a message, the fairness of a report, the reliability of an apparatus, the safety of a means of transport, and so on. One person
guarantees another that a purchase is reliable.
The possibility to transcend the modal aspects (and the idionomic structures as well) also implies a certain amount
of relativization. The anticipations show that no aspect must be absolutized. This even applies to ideologies, for which every person is himself responsible, whereas he has to respect the ideological self-determination of any other person. In particular every
community (including the state) has to respect the personal beliefs of any person, as well as the ideologies of any other community. Without such respect, freedom is lost.
the possibility to transcend modality and structurality is very important for the human ‘selfness’, his or her unique personality. It means that each person is religious, for ultimately, transcending means to be reaching out beyond the
limits of the cosmos.
In section 3.1 I discussed the position of a person in the cosmos with respect to the modal aspects, stressing the importance of the ‘subject-subject relation’
as a temporal relationship. It would be wide of the mark to give the impression that interhuman relations were never discussed in the framework of the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea or in Christian anthropology. But as far as I know the subject-subject
relation has never been used as a methodological instrument for the study of anthropology. If I have convinced the reader of the potential fruitfulness of such an approach,
I have reached my goal.
3.2. The position of human persons
in the natural kingdoms
In the second part of this paper we shall pay attention to the position of a person
in the so-called ‘kingdoms’. Usually one recognizes three kingdoms: that of minerals, that of the plants, and that of the animals. Elsewhere I have argued that the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea allows of more kingdoms, i.e., that of spatial
forms and that of structured motions. Besides there are kingdoms which are qualified by the aspects beyond
the psychical one. In general, we shall consider a kingdom the set of all individual ‘things and events’ with typical structures qualified by a single modal aspect. They have the same ‘radical type’. This term refers to the law side
of the qualifying aspect, whereas the term ‘kingdom’ refers to the subject-side (i.e., everything that answers the radical type).
Every kingdom is characterized
by the subject-subject and subject-object relations determined by the modal aspect concerned. For instance,
for the kingdom of physical things and events interaction is characteristic, insofar as something assumed not to interact with other physical things does not belong to the physical kingdom, and therefore cannot have physical existence.
In this paper I shall mostly restrict myself to a discussion of a person's position in the traditional ‘natural’ kingdoms of minerals, plants, and animals.
The astrophysical kingdom
For the determination of the position of a human being in the cosmos within the kingdoms of individual things and events an obvious place to start is with the position of mankind in the astrophysical universe. This
concerns the kingdom of physically qualified things, which interact with each other directly or via a third subject.
Since Nicholas Copernicus observed that the distance
of the earth to the sun is vanishingly small compared to the distance to the nearest stars, the universe became (according to our insights) larger and larger, and the earth comparably smaller and smaller. Hence the habitat of humanity seems to be
minutely small. This gives rise to the anthropological question of why the universe should be as large as it is: billions of light years. The answer given by some astrophysicists is surprising: it is so large in order to make space for humanity.
That answer rests
on at least two assumptions. The first concerns the astrophysical relation between the dimension of space and its age. This relation is laid down by the theory of cosmological evolution which states that the universe has expanded steadily for about fifteen
billion years. A universe of the magnitude of our galaxy could contain enough matter for a hundred billion stars as large as the sun, but it would have existed for only one year, and merely contain hydrogen and helium. The formation of the other elements needed
for the material existence of human beings took about ten billion years.
The second assumption concerns the time needed for the evolution of mankind, starting from
the beginning of the astrophysical evolution. A calculation of this period is unavoidably speculative. In fact it rests on the simple fact that we exist. Considering the fact that humanity exists ‘now’ (i.e., for the relatively short time of at
most three million years), its evolution evidently needed more than ten billion years, including four billion years since the earth was formed. The existence of mankind is the best (and perhaps only) proof of the possible existence of human beings.
Hence the fact that the
earth is a small and physically insignificant planet in a huge universe does not mean that humanity is insignificant. John Barrow and Frank Tipler's book intends to demonstrate that the lawfulness and the evolution of the cosmos can only be understood
by its destination, the evolution of mankind. In this context one speaks of the anthropic principle. The observed structure of the universe is determined by the fact that we observe that structure. Because we are an essential part of the cosmos one could say
that the cosmos observes itself. We cannot observe the universe as an object, from outside. By
considering the universe as a whole we cannot escape including ourselves in our observations.
This is the ultimate consequence of a development started by Nicholas
Copernicus, when he explained the observed retrograde motion of the planets as an apparent motion, caused by the real motion of the earth from which we perform our observations.
The kingdom of living beings
For mankind the earth is not in the first place a physically qualified celestial body among many others, but a grown-over and inhabited world. The age of the earth can be estimated in various ways to be of the order
of four billion years. During this time the biosphere evolved: the relatively thin skin around the surface of the earth, in which all living beings and fossils can be found. Even the composition of the atmosphere, consisting of about 20% oxygen is probably
of organic origin. The biosphere makes human life possible, and according to current theories of evolution mankind has evolved from that sphere. The habitat of human beings is, therefore, the earth, which fact does not prevent us from exploring the surroundings
of the earth.
Recently mankind has become conscious of the unicity of the biosphere, for the place of humanity in it, and for the responsibility that we have for the
maintenance of our environment.
The closed functioning of animals
in the post-psychic aspects
Before discussing the place of human beings in the animal kingdom I want to pay attention to the subjective functioning of animals.
It is a standard view in the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea that animals do not function as subjects in the post-psychic aspects.
This accords with the traditional view that a human being distinguishes himself from an animal in particular because of his rationality, his ability to think. It therefore detracts from another view of this philosophy, namely that a person is primarily
In the present section we shall consider the question whether it is true that animals, or at least the so-called higher animals, cannot be subjects
(rather than objects) in the post-psychic aspects.
To begin with, it will be difficult to maintain that animals have no distinguishing abilities. It is sometimes stated that human logical thinking is necessarily based on the use of concepts, and that animal
distinguishing lacks this ability. I think that the latter part of this statement is correct, but I also believe that conceptual thinking is opened-up thinking, theoretical thought. Natural thought is not necessarily linked up with conceptual
thought. Animal thought is natural, not opened-up, i.e., not anticipating later modal aspects. Conceptual thought implies the formation of concepts, hence anticipates the formative aspect.
It also anticipates the lingual aspect, because concepts are worded. Hence, if animals do not use conceptual thought, this does not mean that they are not functioning subjectively in the logical modal aspect.
Some animals display a primitive use of language. The significance of the dance of bees is well known. Birds are able to warn each other against danger. In groups of apes a recognizable system of communication is
Many animals display social behaviour: bees, ants, birds during their seasonal migration, mammals living in herds, families of apes, etc. A certain amount
of division of labour is sometimes unmistakable. Animals can behave economically and harmoniously. During the process of breeding a primitive ethical behaviour is recognizable.
The formative activity of animals often results in the production of individual objects like a bird's nest, the hole of a rabbit, and so on. With respect to plants one can speak of certain ‘products’, for instance wood,
which after the demise of the plant still shows a typical cellular structure. The above mentioned biosphere is a product of agelong organic and animal activity. Yet these are merely by-products, however important. Initially they are enkaptically bound
in the structure of plants or animals, and they only achieve a relatively independent existence after being separated from their origin.
In this respect wood, manure,
etc. differ obviously from individual objects like a bird's nest. A nest has an evident structure which is biotically and psychically determined. Its structure is recognizable as belonging to a certain species. The nest of a sparrow differs from that of a
blackbird. But the nest itself does not live and does not display any behaviour. It is not a subject in the biotic and psychic aspects, but an object. It is a subject in the aspects preceding the biotic one, but its structure is not determined
by these aspects. It is an individual structured object with respect to those animals which made it or use it. We find this not only with birds and mammals, but also with insects (bees, ants), spiders (webs), and with fish.
This formative behaviour virtually always has an instinctive character. The animals concerned can only behave in a singular way, which is heritably determined, and is often coercive.
In general it should be stressed that the subjective functioning of animals in the post-psychic aspects is invariantly primitive and instinctive. It is retrocipatory, never anticipatory.
It is retrocipatory, because all post-psychic behaviour of animals serves their biotic and psychic functioning, in particular feeding, reproduction and survival of the species.
Human activity, on the contrary, is opened-up, anticipating, transcending, and therefore religious.
As a methodological rule, the question whether animals
display subjective behaviour in the post-psychic aspects should not be answered in an a priori way, but a posteriori, by empirical research. The present section should be read taking this into account.
The structure of the human body
It is not my intention to discuss the structure of the human body extensively. I restrict myself to a few remarks in order to discuss the position of mankind in the animal kingdom.
In biological taxonomy a human being is a mammal, belonging to the order of the primates. The theory of enkapsis, the interlacement of structures, accounts for this state of affairs.
The structure of a human body is interlaced with an animal substructure, and its nature determines a person's position in the animal kingdom. Likewise, because of its organic substructure, an animal belongs to the organic kingdom, even though it simultaneously
transcends this kingdom. The structure of an animal is not biotically but psychically qualified. Hence the fact that we assign mankind a place in the animal kingdom does not imply that its structure is psychically qualified, and it does not exclude the fact
that the structure of the human body essentially differs from the animal body.
The structure of the animal body, in which biotic, physical, kinematic and spatial substructures
are enkaptically bound, is designed for the animal's behaviour. It is remarkable that in several respects the animal substructure of a human being is much more developed than the structure of any animal.
Human thought is localized in the cerebral cortex, in particular the neocortex, which is absent in most animals. In mammals it is present only to a small extent. The cultural aspect of human activity is most pregnantly expressed in the hand, an organ that
is far more developed than whatever comparable animal organ. The nerve cells related to the hands take a relatively large volume in the human brain. The lingual aspect finds its counterpart in the speech centre, again a substantial part of the brain. Also
the larynx, the tongue and the muscles of the jaws are such as to make speech possible. Similarly, the structure of the human face is made to show joy, sorrow or anger.
social development of a human child is furthered by the relatively short period of pregnancy, and by the relatively long period of growing up. More than any comparable animal the human child is unfinished at its birth, meaning that its individual possibilities
to develop its faculties are much larger than those of any animal.
All these differences in the body structure of humans and animals point to the open character of
the ‘act structure’ of a human person. It shows how much the human body is directed to
spiritual life. The open character can only be understood from the view that a person knows what it is to be called to bear responsibility, because they know the difference between good and evil, as we shall see presently.
Body and spirit
The distinction between human persons and animals is often expressed by the supposed lack of a ‘mind’ or ‘spirit’ in the latter. In the present context I can only give a very short comment on the relation between
body and spirit.
Dooyeweerd has stressed that the human body has a very complex structure (3.0). The elaboration of his views is much wanted. It is tempting to
relate the distinction of body and spirit to the complementary directions of retrocipation and anticipation.
We observed already that animal functioning in the post-psychic
aspects (if present) is always retrocipatory, instinctive, directed to biotic and psychic needs. It should not be surprising to find that the functioning of a person, as far as it is retrocipatory, does not differ very much from that of the higher
animals. But the human functioning (the ‘act-structure’ according to Dooyeweerd) is mostly anticipatory, directed towards the opening up of all modal aspects, and even transcending them. This should be the leading motif of any Christian
This should not be misunderstood as the resurrection of the age old dualism of body and mind, supposed to be two different substances, whether or not
interacting with each other. Nor do we intend to identify the distinction of body and mind with the distinction of natural modal aspects (up to and including the psychic one) and the normative aspects (starting from the logical one), which would again imply
an untenable dualism. Rather, our proposal means the application to anthropology of a duality which is already present in Dooyeweerd's theory i.e., the duality of anticipatory and retrocipatory directions. It appears at the individual-structural
side of reality. It replaces the structure of having a leading or qualifying aspect besides a foundational modal aspect, that is characteristic of virtually all other ‘radical types’. The structure of a human person lacks both a foundational
and a qualifying modal aspect. It is characterized by the simultaneous occurrence of retrocipatory (‘bodily’) and anticipatory (‘spiritual’) functioning of a human person as a whole. This applies to all modal aspects of human
functioning. Hence, the death of a person does not mean the separation of body and spirit: what remains is neither body nor spirit. And the resurrection concerns the human body as well as its spirit. From this point of view it would be rather silly to narrow
the human mind down to his intellectuality.
The main incentive for human anticipatory activity is the experience of good and evil, to which we now turn.
The experience of good and evil
It is now generally accepted that the fundamental distinction between human beings and animals cannot be determined on biological grounds only. Of course, there are relevant biotic differences between human persons
and their nearest relatives, the apes. Nevertheless, the biotic distinction between a human and an ape is smaller than that between an ape and a horse. Humans and apes constitute different families of the same order of the primates.
When paleontologists want to establish whether certain fossils are derived from ape-like or human-like beings they have to take recourse to non-biological characteristics, like the
use of fire, clothing, tools and ornaments, the burial of the dead. The age-old tradition of seeking the difference between animals and human beings in human rationality seems to lie behind us. At present one looks for this distinction in culture,
in language, in social organization and the like. In terms of the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea this would mean that a human being is a subject in the post-psychic laws.
we have already seen that being a subject in these aspects as such is not sufficient for the distinction between humans and animals. The difference is that animals at most function subjectively in a purely retrocipatory way, whereas human acts are anticipatory.
During its history humanity has disclosed the various modal aspects. Human activity is not merely directed to the fulfilment of biotic and psychic needs, but is directed to answering a calling. Instead of speaking of the ‘act-structure’ (or the
human mind) one could speak of the ‘answering structure’ of humanity.
In the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea the post-psychic aspects are usually
called ‘normative’. According to this view norms have the character of laws which can be trespassed by the subjects concerned. Norms state how humans ought to behave, not how they actually behave.
In my opinion the so-called natural laws also have a normative character as soon as they apply to human beings. There is some kind of gradual increase of ‘normativity’ from the earlier modal aspects to
the later ones. Laws in later modal aspects have a more obvious normative character than the ‘natural’ laws. Still, a natural law like being fruitful becomes normative as soon as human subjects are involved.
The distinction between ‘natural’ and ‘normative’ is not a feature of the laws as such. A law becomes a norm, as soon as a human person makes the distinction between good and evil. Laws can
only be norms for creatures having a conscience for norms.
The awareness of good and evil marks the birth date of humanity. The fact that animals can learn shows that
they have a sense of lawfulness. But only people consider laws as normative. Human beings have discovered the existence of good and evil, in the animal world, in their environment, and last but not least in their own communities. For an example I point
to the phenomenon of illness of plants and animals. Every biologist can explain that illness as such is a natural process. Only from a human point of view does it make sense to say that a plant or an animal is ill, and that this is anti-normative.
Illness is an anthropomorphic concept. Also the so-called struggle for life is experienced as anti-normative by people only.
The calling of mankind
All persons experience the calling to combat evil. This not only applies
to evil observed in the plant and animal worlds, but also evil in themselves and in their fellow people. The calling to combat evil implies a sense of responsibility for plants and animals and for humanity.
In my view this is the most relevant distinction between humans and animals. An animal takes the world as it is, as given. A human person attempts to better the world.
The awareness of good and evil constitutes the basis of culture.
The sense of calling, which is the heart of human existence, cannot be traced back in any scientific
way. From a philosophical point of view one can only establish that it exists. The question of the origin of this calling cannot be answered scientifically or philosophically, because it is a religious question. Hence the development of humanity from the animal
kingdom cannot be scientifically explained or even dated. Rhetorical questions like: ‘Can you imagine that a gorilla mother gives birth to a human child?’ are therefore quite irrelevant.
The cultural development of humanity arises from human creativity, the human ability to design and make new things in order to better the world. In a closed form, the cultural modal aspect concerns mastery, the use of things, plants
and animals for one's own needs. In this respect ‘culture’ can also be found with animals: beavers building dams, ants exploiting aphides, birds using stones as tools, or building nests. The creativity of human beings discloses these possibilities
and brings new ones to the fore.
Through cultural development humanity started to transcend the animal kingdom. For this end also language, the arts, society, the economic,
juridical, ethical and faith aspects became disclosed. Each of these is a means to order, to promote the good, and to fight evil. A person no longer experiences the world merely as being psychical, but also as being logical, historical, and so on. More and
more, the belief in one's calling has played a leading part in this evolution.
Let us now consider the distinction between evil and sin.
In the first few chapters of Genesis the story of good and evil is told in biblical language. One is often inclined to read the first and second chapters apart from the third, the creation apart from
the fall into sin. Probably this devaluates the story of the creation as well as the story of the fall into sin. It is certainly better to read them as a whole.
instance, the text telling that God created man and woman ‘after his image’ is more often than not cited out of its context. The context itself explains the meaning of this text: being the image of God means to rule the animal kingdom. Genesis tells us that God makes humanity responsible for the creation, as a steward, as God's representative
on earth. This interpretation avoids the idea of making an image of God after man.
The story of the serpent tempting Eve and Adam suggests that before the fall into sin, evil was already present in the animal kingdom. This would mean that evil can be considered apart from humanity.
However, the categories good and evil only make sense from a human point of view, even though mankind perhaps recognized it at first in the animal world. Genesis 1 stresses repeatedly that God made the world ‘good’. Evil entered the world only
with humanity, not in the sense that evil only then came into existence, but because humans are called to consider it as such. Only when human beings started to commit evil themselves did it become sin.
Increasing insight in the distinction between good and evil enables human beings to understand much better how to commit evil themselves. The belief in a calling degenerates into belief in one's own possibilities, love for one's neighbour
into love for oneself, justice into arbitrariness, division of labour into slavery. Humanity wants to be allowed to use evil in order to further what is good in one's own eyes, the goal sanctifying the means. This is the fall into sin, from which humanity
can only be saved by the complete sacrifice and self-denial of Christ.
The most pregnant expression of evil is death, destruction. In a strictly biological sense
death is not wrong, if it concerns the natural end of a plant or animal as a living individual. Human beings fight death, seeking eternal life. Genesis contains the promise of eternal life, meaning the knowledge of God. Eternal life is like a window, from
which a human person can look outside the plant and animal kingdoms. This window is opened by God himself, who allowed his son to become a man in order to tell us who is the father of humanity and the creator of the cosmos. Christ is the real image of
God, by conquering death in his resurrection. The victory over death does not mean that people will not die any longer, but that they have the prospect of resurrection, of eternal life.
Eternal life means the knowledge of God, which is much more than logically qualified insight. Eternal life means meeting the Lord, which is made possible because God himself became human. By meeting Jesus Christ in our heart and in
our fellow men we also meet ourselves. True knowledge of oneself is absolutely connected to the knowledge of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
Hence we find that also
our self-knowledge is dependent on subject-subject relations, the relations between human persons, of whom Christ is the first. Through him we have our relation to God.
If we accept that science is fully human activity, and also that
humanity belongs in every respect to the created world, we can easily conclude that science has its limits, to wit the limits of the cosmos. Because they belong to the cosmos no person is able to transcend the cosmic boundaries.
Yet not everybody will accept this conclusion. It is a temptation, for instance, and frequent occurrence to suppose that logic and mathematics do not belong to the cosmos. They are supposed
to contain eternal truths, because they are tautological, and empirically empty. It is said, for instance, that God could have created the world in many different ways as long as the result is not self-contradictory - God considered subject to logical
laws. René Descartes said it a bit more subtly. He said that God could perhaps have created a world in which two plus two does not make four, but then he, Descartes, would not have been able to understand that world. Put otherwise: mathematics
and logic constitute unalienable aspects of our cosmos, and we cannot do without them.
According to John Calvin, God is neither subject to laws, nor does he act arbitrarily.
With this remark Calvin distantiated himself on the one hand from scholastic rationalism, stating that God is subject to rationality, on the other hand from contemporary voluntarism, in which God's sovereignty was absolutized to complete arbitrariness.
Apparently Calvin meant to say that God created the world in an orderly way, lawful, and moreover that he maintains the laws. This means that the world is rational indeed, and
is thus fit to be investigated. But Calvin also implied that the idea of God being almighty, and therefore being able to do anything, is speculative. It means that not only space and time are created together with the whole concrete reality (such as astrophysics
implies nowadays with respect to physical space and time), but also mathematics and rationality.
Accepting this radical view we should be careful not to apply
mathematics and logic to situations outside the cosmos, to God himself, or to whatever preceded the beginning of the cosmos. Not only our physical insights, but also our mathematics and logic are altogether insufficient to understand that beginning, and
whatever preceded it. In the third part of this paper we shall find occasion to say more about the boundaries of the cosmos.
Dooyeweerd states there does not exist
a single ‘kingdom’ or ‘radical type’ of human beings, qualified by a single modal aspect. Humanity is characterized by the fact that it transcends all modal boundaries. Instead we recognize a large number of kingdoms, in which
people act in various ways, and which are therefore characterized by human activity - for instance, the kingdom of logically qualified structures of theoretical thought, the kingdom of human-made artefacts, the kingdom of all languages (qualified
by, but to be distinguished from the lingual aspect), the kingdom of all social communities, the kingdom of all states and their legal parts, and so forth.
discussed some aspects of the position of human beings in the cosmos. We emphasized that human beings are part and parcel of the cosmos, in particular of the so-called natural kingdoms, but distinguish themselves from animals by transcending the natural kingdoms
as well. This does not mean that humanity is able to transcend the boundaries of the cosmos. In order to have true knowledge of God it is sufficient to address oneself to Christ, who came into the world to become a subject to creational law, a true brother
of any human person.
3.3. Humanity in the history of the cosmos
In section 3.3 we shall turn our attention to the history of the cosmos. This history may be divided in a first, very large part (the natural evolution before the rise of humanity), and a second part (the history
of mankind), which is relatively short, such that apparently the natural evolution has halted. The development of humanity during its existence took place at an accelerating pace. We shall mostly pay attention to the first part, and the transition to
the second one.
Time as horizon
‘Time’ as intended both in colloquial language and in the sciences is merely a part of a set of relations between all things and events, their structures and their modal relations.
The totality of relations and the order to which they are subjected we call ‘cosmic time’. It is an idea, an extension of the common concept of ‘time’ in a narrower sense. Presently we shall discuss the boundaries of the cosmos, arguing
that these are determined by cosmic time.
Whenever our sight is not hampered by houses, trees or mountains the horizon marks the end of our sight. We know
that the horizon is partly determined by our stand. By climbing a hill we change our horizon. We discover that the horizon is the end of our sight, but not the end of the world. Analogously, we speak of the horizon of our experience, which
is just as plastic, because it is individually and culturally determined.
The horizon of cosmic time is less individual, yet it is plastic. The whole creation
is restricted in time, conceived as the network of all possible relations between all possible creatures. Because reality evolves, the horizon of time expands.
dimensions of the horizon of time include past, present and future. The past leaves its traces, and the investigation of these traces provides us with insight into the evolution of the cosmos. Paleontological studies of various strata and fossils taught us
a lot about the evolution of our planet and the developing kingdoms of plants and animals. The evolution of the sun is mirrored in the state of the stars which are either younger or older. The history of humanity is recovered by archeological and historical
research. The availability of written records is most important for our historical horizon.
In astrophysics, the idea of a horizon has recently become relevant. After
the so-called big bang, i.e., the beginning of the development of the physical universe, the universe expands like a balloon. As a result all galaxies move away from each other. Astronomers are able to determine both the distances and the speeds of the galaxies.
It turns out that the most remote systems move fastest.
Now the light reaching us from these galaxies needs time to reach us. Hence the picture we gain of them relates
to states of affairs of a long time ago. The most distant systems are at the spatial horizon of the physical universe, and what we see of them shows events dating from shortly after the big bang. This marks the horizon of cosmic time in its spatial,
kinematic and physical aspects.
It has become clear that the proper beginning of the astrophysical evolution remains behind this horizon forever. With the help of their
theories based on observations, astrophysicists explore the possibility of coming very close to the big bang. But they realize that they can never reach that beginning. The theory aims to describe the evolution after the big bang, not the big bang
It should be observed that the big bang had better not be identified with the creation in the beginning of the cosmos in a biblical sense, which is not primarily
the creation of matter out of nothing, but the ordering of the cosmos, making possible the coming into being of all created things, plants, animals, and ultimately people.
to astrophysics, the evolution since the big bang occurs according to laws that we (at least partly) know from our present-day experience. The extrapolation towards the past is based on the supposition that these laws have a constant validity.
The first living beings
In its biotic aspect too the cosmos is bounded by time. Elsewhere I have argued that the biotic subject-subject relation is characterized by descendence, the genetic relation.
The genetic law states that every living being descends from one or more other living beings. Consequently, the question of how the first living being came into existence cannot be answered by biology alone. There is clearly no biotic relation between
the first living being and whatever preceded it. It may very well be that the beginning of the biotic cosmos remains forever behind the biotic horizon, characterized by the very beginning of life in its concrete manifestations.
Speaking about the ‘biotic cosmos’ does not mean that it has a separate existence from the physical cosmos. It can hardly be doubted that the world of living beings arose from the physical
world, even if we do not know how, and even if this would forever remain beyond the scope of our knowledge. Dooyeweerd
reasons that biotic being cannot arise from biotic non-being, which sounds Parmenidian. On the contrary, I contend that the rise of the biotic cosmos is consistent with the view that the creation is primarily ordering, not creation out of nothing.
The coming into existence of the first living beings means the manifestation of biotic laws at a time when the circumstances allowed it.
In his extensive review of
Jan Lever's Creatie en evolutie, Herman Dooyeweerd proposed to practise an attitude of ‘learned ignorance’ with respect to the problem of the coming into existence of living beings.
It is improbable that Dooyeweerd did not realize that this term was used by the fifteenth-century philosopher and theologian Nicholas of Cuse (and even earlier by Augustine). In 1440, Nicholas wrote De docta ignorantia, On learned ignorance.
He argued that it is the aim of all science to determine the measure of all things, the mathematical relation to other things. However, there is no measure of the infinite, and God being infinite is unknowable.
I don't think it was Dooyeweerd's intention to accept this view, if only because in the present context he was not concerned with the knowledge of God, but with our insight in the coming into existence of plants,
animals, and humans. He had too much respect for the sciences, realizing that all human knowledge is fallible. The philosophy of the cosmonomic idea assumes that reality is fundamentally knowable. Its lawfulness investigated by science is based in the
creation, which is subject to laws given by God and maintained by him according to his covenant. The possibility to gain reliable knowledge of the world rests on this ground.
We can safely agree with Nicholas of Cuse that there is no autonomous road to the knowledge of God. Even for the knowledge of the cosmos humanity depends on investigation. Every scientist is bound to the states of affairs which he finds in
Dooyeweerd had no intention to use the docta ignorantia thesis to discredit the results of science. The positivist view that science merely
puts hypotheses, and that any set of hypotheses can always be replaced by an equivalent one is sometimes employed by Christians who feel threatened by scientific results. Within the framework of our philosophy this loophole is useless, however.
To acquiesce in the docta ignorantia thesis is an argument of embarrassment. The above formulated assumption that the beginning of the astrophysical and biotic evolution
is hidden behind the horizon of cosmic time has a higher philosophical, i.e., explicative quality.
Dooyeweerd refused to accept that the rise of the various kingdoms
can only be explained on a theological basis, i.e., by special creation. Dooyeweerd maintained that there does not exist any creation within the horizon of cosmic time. From the beginning the cosmos contained the possibility for the development of plants,
animals and humans, even if its realization (the process of becoming, according to Dooyeweerd) is a matter of time.
A philosophical account of evolution
It might very well be possible to account for the coming into existence of
the first plants and animals in a philosophical way. Evidently, this is widely different from a scientific explanation. Even if the problem of the rise of the first living beings can never be solved in a scientific way, a philosophical system like
Dooyeweerd's cannot avoid the question of how to give a philosophical account of the successive realization of the various kingdoms. No serious philosophy would consider a supernatural deed of God, an act of creation in the course of time, as a scientific
The temporal relations of reality include the modal retrocipations and anticipations. An important part of the development of the creation concerns
the gradual opening up of the anticipations. The study of the modal aspects, and of the kingdoms qualified by them, allows us to identify and study these anticipations.
is a typical Dooyeweerdian thesis that the development of the anticipations in a certain modal aspect can only occur ‘under the guidance’ of a later aspect.
This is a dark and even mythical statement. A guiding role can only be attributed to individuals or groups of individuals, not to aspects. But Dooyeweerd's intention is sufficiently clear from the context.
Thus he states that the ‘bio-molecules’ having a physical-chemical structure anticipating the biotic functioning of a cell can only exist within the structure of a living cell. This is an old and often repeated thesis.
Unfortunately, it is not altogether clear what kind of molecules is meant. Every time one is identified scientists succeed in producing it sooner or later outside a living cell.
it may be wondered if the thesis is right. In fact it has no empirical or theoretical ground, and it seems to be as speculative as its reversal. At least we should investigate the possibility that under specified circumstances the anticipations of certain
structures would develop such that the emergence of new structures would be possible. We should include the possibility that these ‘circumstances’ are such that they are not experimentally reproducible, for instance, because they would
need a very long time.
This is not altogether speculative. For physically qualified structures an analogical possibility is not only theoretically but even experimentally
established. The structure of electrons and similar particles differs very much from that of photons, yet electrons emerge from photons spontaneously.
The irreducibility of the modal aspects
The philosophy of the cosmonomic idea
is able to account for this phenomenon by pointing to the distinction between law and subject. Even if in certain circumstances electrons are absent, the structural law for electrons is valid. When the circumstances are favourable, electrons can emerge under
conditions determined by this structural law.
The thesis that there is no law without subjects should not be interpreted to mean that the subjects should always actually
exist. Every law has potential subjects besides actual ones. The law is not only valid at present, but also in the future. Thus we can maintain that the laws for life, learning, distinguishing, namegiving, etc., existed long before living beings existed, and
the same applies to learning, distinguishing, or name-giving beings. The gradual development of the cosmos would have been impossible if otherwise.
According to this
principle research into the rise of the first living beings is conducted. With the help of geological and paleontological facts one tries to establish the circumstances under which the first living beings manifested themselves. It cannot be denied that much
speculation surrounds this kind of research, but that does not condemn it.
In describing the development of the universe over billions of years, astrophysics too
assumes the validity of laws which have been found from contemporary experience. The lawfulness we discover in nature and in our laboratories we apply to happenings which we did not observe.
The distinction between law and subject allows us to meet a possible objection against our views as developed so far. It is the objection that evolution erases the idea of the mutual irreducibility of the various modal aspects. If
the coming into existence of the first living beings would be a natural process, would that not imply that the biotic aspect is reducible to the physical one, after all?
don't think so. As soon as the processes started that ultimately resulted in the coming into existence of living beings, the biotic laws became operative, as a new order, i.e., as an order irreducible to the physical one. The order in any
living cell has a biotic character. In fact, from a physical point of view, cells are merely accidental aggregates of molecules, with no physical ordering above the molecular level. Even the structure of wood (i.e., ‘dead’ matter)
can only be understood with the help of biotic laws.
Hence the assumption that the evolution of living beings from non-living material is a natural process, according
to natural laws, does not imply that we should reject the mutual irreducibility of the biotic and the physical modal aspects. That would only be the case if we assumed that the emergence of living beings can be explained with the help of physical-chemical
Mutatis mutandis similar remarks can be made with respect to the emergence of the animal world.
Evolution within the biotic kingdom
If the hypothesis that descendence is the fundamental biotic subject-subject relation is right, the universality of the biotic aspect implies that the family relation includes all living beings, past, present and future. If there would be
no genetic relation between the individual members of various genera or orders, then these would form as many different biotic kingdoms. This is the philosophical foundation of the theory of evolution, which the biotic theory of evolution attempts to account
The fact that so far empirically founded theories explaining the evolution of various genera, orders and families have not been successful does not detract from
the fact that the kingdom of all living beings is a biotically qualified kingdom, for which a philosophical system like the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea should account. We do not know how one genus has evolved from another one. We do not even know what
conditions determine the stability of biotic structures. But we cannot doubt that if an explanation is found, it will be a natural one, in conformity with laws laid down by the creator of the world.
Evolution in the animal kingdom
For the determination of the position of humanity in the cosmos it is crucial to rethink the evolution within the animal kingdom. Most important seems to be the development of the vertebrates, which since the Cambrium
display a succession of jawless animals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. Further research along our suggestion made above with respect to the subjective functioning of animals in the post-psychical aspects could lead to surprising results
In the animal kingdom, too, evolution means a gradual, sometimes stepwise development of possibilities which have been laid down in the creation from
the beginning. It would be highly interesting to find out if the (retrocipatory) functioning of animals in the post-psychic aspects was subject to evolution. Unfortunately, behaviour cannot be fossilized.
The position of humanity in cultural history
recognition of good and evil, the challenge of responsibility, marks the beginning of culture. This implies that the coming into existence of mankind cannot be traced in any scientific way, neither biologically nor culturally.
The opening up of the psychic and post-psychic aspects, as well as the development of the kingdoms of humanity, is of eminent importance for the understanding of history. For instance, the
tremendous growth of the individual memory of men and in particular the collective memory of mankind by the development of written language, the invention of printing, libraries and other bearers of information marks the pace of history. Education in
the family and in schools is to a large extent directed to the appropriation of the entry to the collective memory of mankind.
In the cultural development the normative
character of the law side of reality comes to the fore. That is one reason why one hesitates sometimes to call the natural evolution ‘history’. It is certainly meaningful to maintain a distinction between natural evolution and cultural history.
In particular one should distinguish the cultural development of humanity from the biotic and psychic evolution within the kingdoms of plants and animals. The equivocation
of the two processes means to fall into the trap of evolutionism. Incidentally, it would be just as wrong to confuse the astrophysical evolution with the biotic one. The first is determined by physical laws, the latter by biotic ones.
The human I
search for the position of a human being in the cosmos should be part of a discussion of the destiny of mankind, the meaning of reality, the unity of the creation and in particular of all human beings, their personality and character, their self-knowledge,
and their relation to their true or assumed Origin. I have hardly touched on these questions, mainly because these are less often neglected than those related to the evolution of humanity. But of course they are not less important, and implied in our discussion.
It would be utterly wrong to relate the religious character of humanity exclusively to questions of destiny, unity and origin. I have tried to make clear that also the position
of a human being in the cosmos is religiously determined. This follows from the transcendental character of the functioning of a person in the modal aspects, from the relevance of the recognition of good and evil with respect to the position of mankind in
the natural and cultural kingdoms, and from the normative positioning of a human being in cultural history.
In this context it would be necessary to pay much more attention
to the structure of the human body, the spirit, and the self. This would include a much-needed reflection on the distinction of man and woman, and on the distinction between the various phases of human life.
The individuality of every person, the ‘self’ or ‘I’, is the nodal focus of all relations between human beings and their fellow men and women, their environment, and their creator and redeemer. To ignore these relations would, if possible, inevitably lead to getting lost in time.
of the discussion on anthropology in the context of Calvinian philosophy I have posed some questions regarding the position of human persons in the cosmos. It will be clear that I have been proposing more problems than providing solutions. My aim was to investigate
why (in my view) the anthropology debate of the past years has borne so little fruit.
This paper explores some new roads for the development of a Christian anthropology,
in particular, but not exclusively, from a natural scientific point of view. Starting from Dooyeweerd's theory of cosmic time, Section 3.1 points out the relevance of the modal subject-subject relations for an understanding of the position of human beings
in the cosmos. An analysis of the subject-subject relations in each modal aspect, and their analogies with respect to the other aspects, is a necessary prerequisite for the establishment of a temporal reference system which enables us to determine the
position of individual persons in the cosmos. For each modal aspect the relevant subject-subject relation is briefly and provisionally indicated.
Some problems with
respect to such an analysis are mentioned, including difficulties concerning the order of the post-psychic modal aspects, a person's oppositional attitude to the creation and his or her fellows, the instrumental character of opened up subject-subject
relations, the functioning of associations as modal subjects, the openness of mankind and the need for specialization, the transformation of laws into positive norms, and the transcendental character of humanity.
In section 3.2 we discussed the position of a person within the ‘kingdoms’: the astrophysical cosmos, the biosphere of the earth, the kingdom of animals, and briefly, the cultural
kingdoms. In particular attention was paid to the distinction between humans and animals. Although taking part in the kingdom of animals, a person transcends it because of his or her calling as a responsible being, to promote the good and to combat the
evil. Whereas animals are functioning in the post-psychic modal aspects in a closed (retrocipatory, instinctive) way, mankind has disclosed all modal aspects in a normative sense.
In section 3.3 we discussed the position of humanity in history. Using the idea of the horizon of time an attempt is made to understand why some problems concerning the origin of the astrophysical cosmos, of the first living beings,
and of the first human beings, will probably for always remain out of reach of the sciences. Finally, we indicated how the natural and cultural evolution of the cosmos can possibly be accounted for within the framework of the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea.
And this is of the uppermost importance. This philosophy should never acquiesce in the image of a static system of modal aspects and idionomic structures, which will be its
fate if it fails to account for the dynamics of the creation. If we want to avoid this trap we shall have to consider ‘creation’ and ‘development’ (both natural evolution and cultural history) not as contrary but as complementary
ideas in our philosophy.
Dooyeweerd 1949. On Dooyeweerd’s anthropology, see Ouweneel 1986. From Ouweneel’s ‘Nabeschouwing’ (Conclusion) I cite (p. 418): ‘Als we de balans opmaken van ruim vijftig jaar christelijk-wijsgerige transcendentaal-antropologie,
dan is het resultaat eigenlijk teleurstellend.’ (‘If we make the balance of more than fifty years of christian-philosophical trancendental anthropology, the result is rather disappointing’.)
 Verburg 1989, 350-360.
 Of course, a lot has been written on the subject of evolution, usually in a negative
sense. See Kalsbeek 1968; Hughes 1961; Hart 1984; Verbrugge 1984; Keizer 1986, chapter 13.
Lever 1956; Dooyeweerd 1959b.
‘So it appears that the theory of the enkaptic structural whole forms the necessary connective link between the theory of the individuality-structures and their temporal interweavings, and what is called a philosophical anthropology’:
Dooyeweerd 1953-58, III, 781.
Dooyeweerd 1942. Most (but not all) theses can also be found in Ouweneel 1986.
 Stafleu 1989,
and with respect to psychically qualified structures, Stafleu 1988. Accepting Ouweneel’s suggestion to divide the psychic aspect into a perceptive one and a sensitive one would make the number of substructures 21. 15 or 21 substructures may
seem abundant, but it presents an interesting possibility to map the extremely complicated structure of the human body.
Cf. Dooyeweerd 1953-58, III, 781: ‘... the most important problem of philosophical reflection: What is man’s position in the temporal cosmos in relation to his divine Origin ? ... a philosophic anthropology presupposes an enquiry into the different
dimensions of the temporal horizon with its modal and individuality structures.’
According to Dooyeweerd 1942, proposition XIV, the ‘act-life’ (‘act-leven’) of a human being is expressed in three fundamental directions: knowledge, imagination, and volition (‘... de drie grondrichtingen van
kennen, zich verbeelden en willen ...’). It is not difficult to recognize temporal relations in this triad: knowledge can only be based on past experience; insight in the present state of affairs does not only presuppose knowledge, but also
imagination; and volition is evidently directed to the future. All the same, it is not clear why knowledge, imagination and volition should be restricted to human acts, because animal behaviour contains the same elements.
 See, however, Dengerink 1986, 249.
 See Dengerink 1986, 222-223.
 Stafleu 1970; 1980; 1985; 1986;1988, 1989.
 The present chapter holds to the order
of the modal aspects as proposed by Dooyeweerd. For an alternative order, see e.g. Hart 1984, 152, 190-198. The determination of the order of the post-psychic aspects is hampered by the fact that humans are simultaneously subject to all these aspects,
which are moreover functioning in so-called opened-up form. The study of the retrocipations is not much of a help either, because in the later aspects retrocipations become more and more complicated.
 Dooyeweerd 1953-58, II, 466 and beyond. For a discussion of Dooyeweerd’s
views, see Strauss 1973, 1984; Dooyeweerd 1975-76; Dengerink 1977.
Cf. Stafleu 1981-82; 1987.
Scientific work, qualified by the historic-formative aspect includes theoretical thought, qualified by the logical aspect, but it is more. Science also means experiment, observation, calculation, excavation, dissection, and many other forms
of investigation that cannot be called ‘theoretical thought’. Science has a specific goal, i.e., the investigation of the laws of the cosmos, whereas theoretical thought lacks an intrinsic goal, and is therefore applicable for various purposes.
Theories are widely used, also outside science. The identification of ‘science’ with ‘theoretical thought’ has caused a lot of unnecessary confusion.
 Theoretical thought makes use of a number of logically qualified structures, which are absent in natural thought.
These are concepts (numerically founded), statements or propositions (spatially founded), theories (founded in the logical motion from axioms to proven theorems), etc. Of course, neither natural nor theoretical thought can be taken
apart from the thinking subject, who as a human being always belongs to full reality. In a more or less complete analysis of theoretical thought one has to consider all modal aspects and idionomic structures. See Stafleu 1987.
 The opposing attitude can easily lead to a dualism,
as for instance in the humanistic motive of ‘nature and freedom’. In my opinion this is not restricted to the logical Gegenstandsrelation.
 A more relevant distinction
would be between an organized association, based on authority and discipline, and an unorganized community, see Stafleu 2004.
Dengerink 1986, 237-239, relates freedom with the spatial aspect. In my view this can only be correct if freedom is considered a spatial retrocipation in the social aspect.
Dengerink 1986, 227, speaks about this aspect in terms of ‘dienstbaarheid of ter beschikking zijn’ (to be of service). Hart 1984, 191 uses the terms ‘... troth, loyalty and faithfulness ... Keeping troth is standing in permanent
relations of trust, keeping one’s promise. Keeping troth is the subjective ethical response to the call for truth’. I think these categories belong to the aspect of faith or certitude. See also Stafleu 2007.
 T.S.Kuhn’s ‘paradigms’ and I.Lakatos’s
‘research programmes’ both have a recognized ideological flavour. According to Kuhn and Lakatos these determine the ‘social matrix’ of a group of scientists.
Cf. Dengerink 1986, 223-227. Meanwhile, Dengerink 1989 adds the characterization of ‘eternity’ to the pistic aspect. This is a consequence of Dengerink’s view of time as being the first modal aspect, preceding the numerical one. I have given
my comments on this proposal in Stafleu 1988.
Cf. Stafleu 1985 and 1989. In part 2 of the present chapter I shall bypass the kingdoms qualified by the spatial and kinematic aspects.
Roughly speaking, ‘things’ (including plants and animals) are characterized by subject-object relations, whereas an ‘event’ is determined by a subject-subject relation. Cf. Stafleu 1985, 1989.
 Barrow, Tipler 1986, 3. For a discussion of astrophysical cosmology from a
Christian viewpoint, see van Till 1986.
This is called the ‘Weak Anthropic Principle’. It is nearly trivial, but it excludes models in which life, in particular human life, is impossible. This applies for instance to a model which excludes the formation of carbon. The present theories
of evolution cannot explain the rise of mankind, but can explain why it took so long.
Cf. Barrow, Tipler 1986, 4. The so-called ‘Strong Anthropic Principle’ reads: ‘The Universe must have those properties which allow life to develop within it at some stage in its history’, ibid. 21. It can be specified as ‘There
exists one possible Universe ‘designed’ with the goal of generating and sustaining ‘observers’’, ibid. 22. Barrow and Tipler call this interpretation ‘religious’.
 Cf. Stafleu 1987, 44-45.
 Dooyeweerd 1953-58, I, 39; II, 81, 114; III, 58, 85.
 Cf. Lever 1973, 187-193. My views in this case are
not identical with Dengerink’s, 1986, 214, who effectively rejects the distinction between subjects and objects with respect to all concrete things etc., stating that anything concrete is subject in all modal spheres. See also Hart 1984, 176-182
for a discussion of animals functioning in the formative aspect.
Cf. Stafleu 1981-82.
fact, I am proposing here a definition of ‘instinctive behaviour’. Not all animal behaviour is instinctive: animals are able to learn, and can change their patterns of behaviour accordingly. See Stafleu 1988.
 Cf. Lever 1956, Chapter 5; Goudge 1961, 160-183.
 ‘The erect gait, the spiritual
expression of the human face, the human hand formed to labour after a free project, testify to the fact that the human body is the free plastic instrument of the I-ness, as the spiritual centre of human existence.’ Dooyeweerd 1953-58, III. 3, 88. See
also Dooyeweerd 1959b, 153.
Only after the fall did Adam and Eve become conscious of the fact that they were naked, i.e., different from animals. Clothing as a cultural phenomenon is typically human.
 Cf. Troost 1969, 21.
 Genesis 1,26: ‘Let us make man in our image and likeness to rule the fish in the sea, the birds of heaven,
the cattle, all wild animals on earth, and all reptiles that crawl upon the earth’. (This and the following quotations are taken from the New English Bible).
Compare Genesis 1,26-28; 5,1; 9,6 with Genesis 5,3: ‘Adam ... begot a son in his likeness and image, and named him Seth’. This can hardly mean anything else but Seth’s destination to become the successor or deputy of Adam as the religious
head of mankind. The genealogy of Jesus, God’s son, in Luke 3,23-38, ends with: ‘... son of Seth, son of Adam, son of God’. Also this can only have a religious meaning. Clearly, being the image of God is closely connected to being the son
of God. The unity of mankind, personalized first by Adam, later by Jesus Christ, is not primarily given by its having a common ancestor, but because all people are children of God.
 Stafleu 1989, chapter 8; 1986.
 Dooyeweerd 1959b, 126ff.
 Dooyeweerd 1959b, 156-157.
 Dooyeweerd 1959b, 128-129: ‘... zgn. bio-chemische en bio-physische processen,
waarin de organische levensfunctie zelve de leidende en richtende rol vervult.’ (... the so-called biochemical and biophysical processes, in which the organic function of life itself has a guiding and directional part.) Dooyeweerd
stresses that an explanation for the rise of living beings through physical and chemical processes only would contradict his philosophy, in particular the view that the biotic aspect is irreducible to the physical one.
 For more details, see Stafleu 1959, Sec. 8.4 and 1986, Sec.
 Cf. Stafleu op.cit. 1989,
37. The human self is also called the ‘soul’ or the ‘heart’, and must be distinguished from the ‘spirit’ or the ‘mind’ as discussed in Sec. 2.5.