www.mdstafleu.nl

 

A collection of published papers and book chapters,

written between 1986 and 2018,

as indicated in the table of contents

 

© 2018: M.D.Stafleu

Weeshuislaan 31

3701 JV Zeist, Netherlands

m.d.stafleu@freeler.nl

 


 

Contents

 

Preface

 

1. Some problems of time - some facts of life (1986)

(‘Some problems of time - some facts of life’, Philos­op­hia Reformata 51 (1986) 67-82).

2. Criteria for a law sphere (with special emphasis on the ‘psychic’ modal aspect, 1988).

(‘Criteria for a law sphere (with special emphasis on the ‘psychic’ modal aspect’, Philosophia Reformata 53 (1988) 171-186).

3. Being  human in the cosmos (1991)

(‘Being human in the cosmos’, Philosophia Reformata 56 (1991) 101-131).

4. ‘The idionomy of natural kinds and the biological concept of a species’ (2000)

(‘The idionomy of natural kinds and the biological concept of a species’, Philosophia Reformata 65 (2000) 154-169).

5. Evolution of organic characters (2002)

(Een wereld vol relaties, Karakter en zin van natuurlijke dingen en processen, Amsterdam 2002, hoofdstuk 6; Relations and characters in Protestant philosophy, part IV, chapter 6, 2006).

6.Characteristics of animal behaviour (2002)

(Een wereld vol relaties, Karakter en zin van natuurlijke dingen en processen, Amsterdam 2002, hoofdstuk 7; Relations and characters in Protestant philosophy, part IV, chapter 7, 2006).

7. Evolution, history, and the individual character of a person (2002)

(‘Evolution, history and the individual character of a person’, Philosophia Reformata 67 (2002) 3-18).

8. Time and history in the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea (2008)

(‘Time and history in the philosophy of the cosmonomic Idea’, Philosophia Reformata 73 (2008) 154-169).

9. Emergence in and from the natural world (2011)

(‘Properties, propensities and challenges: Emergence in and from the natural world’,paper delivered at a conference in Amsterdam, 2011, published  in  Glas, G., de Ridder, J. (eds.) 2018, The future of creation order, vol. 1, Philosophical, scientific, and religious perspectives on order and emergence, Cham, 119-134).

10. Attributing meaning to historical development (2012)

(Excerpts from Chronos & Clio, Time in history, 2012)

11. Nature and freedom (2018)

(Excerpts from Nature and freedom, Philosophy of nature, Natural theology, Enlightenment and Romanticism, 2018).

 

Cited literature

 

Preface

 

Arguably, Herman Dooyeweerd is the most important Protestant philosopher of the twentieth century. Tempus vitam regit, time reigns life,[1] could have been his motto. His first exposition about ‘cosmic time’ appeared in 1931.[2] The intended but never completed fourth volume of his Wijsbegeerte der wetsidee (1935-36) would treat it extensively.[3] Instead, he published his theory of time in a number of papers and subsequently in his A new critique of theoretical thought (1953-58).[4]

According to Dooyeweerd, besides being ontic aspects of reality, epistemic aspects of human experience and principles of explanation, the mutually irreducible law spheres or modal aspects have an intrinsic temporal structure. Like a prism refracts sunlight into a spectre of colours, cosmic time refracts the unity of the creation into about fifteen law spheres.[5] Cosmic time has a law side and a subject side. At the law side, cosmic time shows the cosmonomic temporal order of succession in a discontinuous series as well as the order of simultaneity, whereas at the subject side it expresses itself as factual duration.[6] In particular, cosmic time is expressed both in the serial order of the modal aspects and their simultaneous validity, and within each modal aspect by the ‘retrocipations’ and ‘anticipations’ referring backward and forward to the other aspects. In each of the modal aspects cosmic time is expressed in a specific meaning concerning both temporal order and duration.[7] Dooyeweerd explicates this for the biotic and the logical aspect.[8] Apparently, Dooyeweerd did not suppose that succession is the quantitative temporal order and simultaneity the spatial one. Rather, both express the temporal order in any modal aspect in a specific way. Likewise, duration indicates cosmic time at the factual or subject side in a specific way in any modal aspect and in any structure of individuality. According to Dooyeweerd, factual duration is developed in subject-object relations.[9] The most important temporal order is the order of the modal aspects, expressing  modal diversity.[10] In each modal aspect it returns in the order of the meaning nucleus, the retrocipations and the anticipations.

 

Regarding the temporal order, since 1970 I developed a more radical view than Dooyeweerd’s.[11] I stated that succession in a series is an expression of the quantitative temporal order, and simultaneity is the spatial temporal order.[12] Besides, each modal aspect has its own temporal order, not reducible to succession or simultaneity. I pointed out that time at the subject-side is expressed in subject-subject relations even more than in subject-object relations. I observed that duration had better be considered a kinetic expression of individual temporal existence. Generally speaking, the subject side or factual side of cosmic time is expressed in subject-subject and subject-object relations. At the law side, too, one finds temporal relations in the form of projections (retrocipations and anticipations) from one modal aspect onto another one. That’s why I prefer to call the modal aspects relation frames, consisting of general natural laws or normative principles, pertaining to these relations. In this way I have analysed the first six ‘natural’ relation frames as well as numerous characters qualified by these frames,[13] and I intend to proceed analysing the normative aspects and character types in the present book.

Time should be considered to have both a law side and a subject side, expressed in all relation frames. The law side is the temporal order, the law or laws for subject-subject relations and subject-object relations, expressing time at the factual side of reality. What we call ‘time’ in ordinary life and read from clocks is based on the kinetic relation frame (we compare time with the motion of the sun or a clock work), finding its meaning mostly in a social context. We use our watch and calendar to make and keep appointments. However, from a philosophical point of view, the ordinary view of time is only one of its aspects. In a spatial metaphor, one says that philosophical anthropology is concerned with the position of mankind in the cosmos.[14] All relation frames function as frames of reference, in which human experience is ordered, such that it finds its proper place in the creation. Consequently, my view of time is radically relational. This idea of time means that everything is related to anything else.

 

Protestant philosophy considers people as well as all other individuals to be created, temporal and directed to redemption. These three dimensions determine the religious meaning of human existence in the following way.[15]

Being created points to anybody’s relation to the origin of the creation, it means the vertical relation with the Creator of heaven and earth. The unity of the creation can only be found in the religious relation of a human being with God through Jesus Christ.[16] Western philosophy from Parmenides to existentialism considered being to be the most general, indefinable concept, almost obvious and self-evident, yet a continuously recurring problem. It includes the being of God, usually specified as perfect being. Protestant philosophy breaks radically with this view. In stead of being only God is indefinable. Being can be specified as being created, being dependent on God, who has created everything.[17] Therefore, a view on being human cannot be religiously neutral. Being is lawful, subject to laws given by God. Between created reality and its Creator, the natural laws and normative principles constitute a boundary that no person can surpass. As subject or as object, all individuals are subjected to natural laws, values and norms. The development of the cosmos in the evolution, the realisation of natural characters, takes place at the subject side. Protestant philosophy confesses that like normative principles or values, natural laws are given in the creation. However, history also concerns the law side, because people develop norms being part of the characters of artefacts and associations to be realised. I consider evolution to be a subjective natural process, in which chance or randomness plays a part within the limits set by invariable laws of nature. In contrast, mankind takes an active part in history, both at the law side (developing normative principles into norms and character types into characters) and the subject side (the application of norms in concrete acts), in the freedom and responsibility of any human being for their conduct.

Being temporal points to the coherence of the creation and consists of horizontal relations. This concerns, for instance, the relations of an individual or an association with other individuals or associations, between subjects, between objects, and between subjects and objects. The projections of one relation frame on another one and the mutual interlacements of characters implicate horizontal relations between laws. This complex of horizontal relations constitutes time, having both a law side and a subject side. The distinction of law and subject with their mutual relations is a fundamental idea in Protestant philosophy.[18]

Directed to redemption means that the ‘created universe waits with eager expectation for God’s sons to be revealed’.[19] Everything created is concentrically directed to the son of men, Jesus Christ. Besides natural time (including the evolution), cosmic time concerns history, having its centre in the coming of Jesus Christ on earth. The fall into sin and the redemption affect all human relations, including cosmic time. The end of times does not mean the end of cosmic time, but the radical elaboration of the redemption.[20] This concentric direction of anybody toward God is called religion (to be distinguished from faith). In their religious concentration onto God, human beings meet Jesus Christ, who became a man among all men and women. God reveals himself in time.[21] Therefore, nobody needs to rise above time in order to get knowledge of Him.

 

These metaphorically intended spatial concepts of vertical, horizontal and concentric could be amplified by the metaphor of the horizon. If houses, trees or mountains do not obstruct our view, the horizon means the end of what we can see. We know that our standpoint determines the horizon. We could climb a hill or a tower in order to shift our horizon. We can change our horizon by moving around. Then we may discover that the horizon being the boundary of our sight is not the end of the world. Analogously, we speak of the horizon of human experience.[22] It is plastic, temporal, individual and culturally determined, and capable of extension and diminishing. This metaphor makes clear that people do not experience the cosmos from outside, from a fixed point of view, but from a variable standpoint within the cosmos. In this way we can research the cosmos from the viewpoint of every relation frame.

The horizon of time, determined by evolution and history, is less individual than the experiential horizon, but it does change. The total existence of the creation is displayed in time, conceived as the network of all possible relations between all possible creatures and their law conformities. Because reality develops, the horizon of time expands. This opening-process concerns the cosmos as a whole, stars and planets, living beings, animals, the evolution and history of mankind, the individual development of each human child. The dimensions of this horizon relate to past, present and future. The past leaves traces and the research of these traces gives us insight into the evolution and the history of the cosmos. Paleontological research of earth layers and fossils teaches us a lot about the evolution of our planet, the biosphere and its inhabitants. The evolution of the sun is reflected in the state of the stars being younger or older than the sun. The history of mankind is subject to archaeological and historical research. To a large extent, the availability of written and unwritten documents determines our historical horizon. Besides to their past, people are foremost directed to their future.

 

It appears that both evolution and history are mostly concerned with the gradual factual realisation of character types. In this process both retrocipations (the foundation of a character) and anticipations (a character’s dispositions) are developed. In the case of evolution, where a character is a set of general and specific natural laws, this is a natural and slow process, in which chance plays an important part. In the case of history, this means the realisation of character types into characters. In particular the development of the characters of artefacts and of associations determines human history to a large extent. Humans take an active part in this realisation, for normative characters consist of normative principles (besides sometimes natural laws) and of human-made norms. This explains why history is a much faster process than evolution, and is even accelerating.

Protestant philosophy should maintain that biotic evolution is first of all subjected to general biotic and psychic laws, irreducible to physical, chemical and mathematical laws. Next it should assume that natural kinds like species are determined by biotic and psychic characters, sets of specific laws being gradually realized by the process of natural selection.[23] Consequently, contrary to creationism, this philosophy is not in need of rejecting the process of evolution.[24] It firmly rejects evolutionism, the reductionist interpretation of evolution that only recognizes physical and chemical laws, believing that the existence and evolution of plants and animals can be explained on the basis of these laws and natural selection only. Protestant philosophy believes that the theory of evolution cannot explain the ultimate origin of natural laws. It accepts that mankind has evolved from the animal realm and considers biotic evolution to be a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for the explanation of the emergence of mankind, which requires normative principles besides natural laws. Ultimately, the question of the origin of mankind is a religious one. Protestant philosophy confesses that God calls the people to leave the animal world in order to become his image, responding to his laws according to his covenant. In this treatise I shall repeatedly discuss the differences between animals and human beings, emphasizing that the normative relation frames express existential conditions for humanity, laid down in the creation. It presents an alternative to both creationism and evolutionism. It may be observed that the idea of ‘intelligent design’ also presents an alternative.[25] However, ‘intelligent design’ is more a Platonic than a Christian idea,[26] and cannot play a part in a scientific theory.[27] In contrast, natural laws and natural characters (specific sets of natural laws), being key concepts in this book, have a natural place in the science of nature.



[1] Landes 1983, 360.

[2] Dooyeweerd 1931, 93-111.

[3] Dooyeweerd WdW I, 37; III, v. The fourth volume of WdW was intended to deal with the special theory of the modal aspects, with cosmic time, and with anthropology. Later on, Dooyeweerd wanted to discuss anthropology in his Reformatie en scholastiek (Dooyeweerd 1949), but that book too was never finished beyond the first volume.

[4] Dooyeweerd 1936, 1939, 1940; NC I, 22-34, 99-107. Initially Dooyeweerd considered the investigation of the all-sided meaning of time to be one of five fundamental, but mutually inseparable connected themes (WdW, 504-505), but in 1953 he wrote: ‘The problem of time cannot be a particular theme, since it has a universal transcenden­tal character, and as such embraces every particular philosophical question. It is the transcen­dental back­ground of all our further inqui­ries.’(NC I, 542)

[5] Dooyeweerd WdW, II, 493; NC, I, 101-102; II, 561.

[6] Dooyeweerd NC I, 28: ‘…time in its cosmic sense has a cosmonomic and a factual side. Its cosmonomic side is the temporal order of succession or simultaneity. The factual side is the factual duration, which differs with various individualities. But the duration remains constantly subjected to the order.’

[7] Dooyeweerd NC I, 29: ‘The entire empirical reality in its overrich diversity of structures is enclosed and determined by universal cosmic time. In each of its modal aspects, the latter expresses itself in a specific modality of meaning with respect to temporal order as well as duration.’

[8] Dooyeweerd NC I, 28: ‘Thus, for example, in the aspect of organic life, the temporal order of birth, maturing, adulthood, aging and dying holds good for the more highly developed organisms. The duration of human life may differ considerably in different individuals. But it always remains subject to this biotic order of time.’ NC I, 30: ‘The logical order of simultaneity and of prius and posterius is as much a modal aspect of the integral order of time as the physical.’

[9] Dooyeweerd NC I, 28.

[10] I criticized this view in Stafleu 2008.

[11] Stafleu 1970, 1986.

[12] I was inspired to this view by Dooyeweerd NC II, 79, 85.

[13] Stafleu 1980; 1989; 1998; 2002a.

[14] Max Scheler 1928: Die Stellung des Menschen im Kosmos. Dooyeweerd WdW I, 5-33; II, 22-34; NC, I, 3-21; II, 25-36; 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.’

[15] Dooyeweerd WdW I, 5-33; II, 22-34; NC I, 3-21; II, 25-36; III, 781; Dengerink 1986, 10-127.

[16] Dooyeweerd NC I, 521: ‘God is the origin and original unity of all modal aspects of human experience which are to be distinguished only in the temporal order, but coincide in their religious root and a fortiori in their Divine Origin.’

[17] Clouser 1991a, chapter 10.

[18] Dooyeweerd 1931, 129; WdW I, 57-79; NC I, 93-113.

[19] Romans 8, 19; Colossians 1, 15-20.

[20] Berkhof 1958, 178.

[21] Dooyeweerd WdW II, 493; NC I, 101-102; II, 561: ‘… all human experience remains bound to a perspective horizon in which the transcendent light of eternity must force its way through time. In this horizon we become aware of the transcendent fulness of the meaning of this life only in the light of the Divine revelation refracted through the prism of time. For this reason, Christ, as the fulness of God’s Revelation, came into the flesh; and for this reason also the Divine Word-revelation came to us in the temporal garb of human language.’

[22] Dooyeweerd NC II, 552; NC III, 781: ‘... a philosophic anthropology presupposes an enquiry into the different dimensions of the temporal horizon with its modal and individuality structures.’

[23] Dooyeweerd 1959b, 127: The Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea ‘… pointed out that these structure principles were only successively realized in the factual process of becoming, and that this process of becoming proceeds in the continuity of cosmic time, warranting an intermodal coherence between its modal aspects.’ [translation by MDS.]

[24] One should carefully distinguish between evolution, being a natural process; astrophysical or biotic theories of evolution, being scientific explanations of long-term natural processes; and evolutionism, being a naturalistic ideology, trying to reduce anything to biological and ultimately to physical and chemical processes. In my view, Protestant philosophy should accept evolution as a fact and reject evolutionism as a false creed (‘Evolution as a religion’, see Midgley 1985), whereas it should be willing to critically investigate any truly scientific theory of evolution.

[25] See e.g., Dekker, Meester, van Woudenberg (eds.) 2005, 2006.

[26] De Pater 2005.

[27] Lever 2006, 146-149; Nienhuis 2006.

 

 


 

1. Some problems of time - some facts of life (1986)

 

1.1. Dooyeweerd’s program

 1.2. Time order in the modal aspects

 1.3. Time relates all subjects to each other under a universal law of order

 1.4. Past, present, future: individual time

 1.5. The core of individuality

 1.6. Structures of life

 1.7. Enkapsis

 1.8. Evolution and the universal validity of laws

 1.9. Aggregates of life

 1.10. Eternal life - the ultimate problem of time

 

  

1.1. Dooyeweerd’s program

 

In 1953, Herman Dooyeweerd wrote: ‘The idea of cosmic time constitutes the basis of the philosophical theory of reality in this book. By virtue of its integral cha­racter it may be called new.’[1] Indeed, Dooyeweerd’s view of time radically de­viates from anything comparable, and must still be considered a program.[2] Dooyeweerd was never able to develop it to its full extent.

If we want to study his theory of time seriously, we have to take into ac­count its implied consequences besides the condensed statements in Dooye­weerd’s published works. If one takes Dooyeweerd’s exposition on face value, one runs the risk of making grave mistakes.

I have the impression that even Atie Brüggemann has fallen into this trap. In her excellent review of Dooyeweerd’s theory of time,[3] she says that his views’ ... lead one to distinguish two meanings in the concept of time: time manifests itself in epistemology and the theory of reality as enclosure, as a fra­mework of constant presence; time manifests itself especially in the view of history and the disclosure process as disclosure, as the unfolding of its three perspectives: past, present and future.’[4]

I have some reserve concerning the tenability of the partition of ‘enclosure’ and ‘disclosure’ in Dooyeweerd’s thought. Brüggemann refers to Dooye­weerd’s statement: ‘According to this conception, time in its cosmic sense has a cosmonomic and a factual side. Its cosmonomic side is the temporal order of succession or simultaneity. The factual side is the factual duration, which differs with various individualities.’[5] Brüggemann states that time as ‘enclosu­re’ refers to the order of simultaneity, and time as ‘disclosure’ to the order of succession.[6]

However, in the context of Dooyeweerd’s quoted words (i.e., the Prolego­mena), he is laying the foundations of his philosophy. He only sketches the broad outlines of his theory of time, which is elaborated in the second volume of his work.[7] Here, he takes ‘succession’ to be the numerical order of time, and ‘simultaneity’ the spatial one.[8]Hence, when speaking of the ‘temporal or­der of succession or simultaneity’, he should not be interpreted to characterize time exclusively, as if time were either successive, or simultaneous, or both, but nothing else. In view of his later statements, these words should be inter­preted like: temporal order of succession or simultaneity, ‘for instance’, or: ‘and so on’,

Apparently, Dooyeweerd mentions these two aspects of time because they are the most obvious ones, because in the context of the Prolegomena he does not want to discuss the more controversial ones. But then these are merely two out of fifteen mutually irreducible modal aspects of cosmic time.

Because of the universality of the modal aspects of experience and of time, it is highly improbable that Dooyeweerd would consider the disclosure process to refer merely to the order of earlier and later, and knowledge to ‘a kind of extension, something like a space, in which the knowledgeable is present to whom strives after knowledge.’[9] Both the opening process and human know­ledge display all modal aspects.

Meanwhile, Dooyeweerd himself must be held responsible for the mistaken view that the law side of time is succession and simultaneity. Even by de choi­ce of ‘duration’ as characteristic for its subject side he strengthens this misun­derstanding, for duration is a kinematic concept. By emphasizing the trio: succession, simultaneity, and duration, Dooyeweerd unwittingly gives the im­pression that time is a mathematical affair. This impression is reinforced in his more detailed discussion of modal time in the second volume of New Critique, which only includes the numerical, spatial, and kinematic aspects.

Moreover, in a few examples of later modal aspects of time, he confuses them with their retrocipatory moments. Thus, he characterizes biotic time by ‘…  the temporal order of birth, maturing, adulthood, aging and dying ...’,[10] which refers to the kinematic time order, as we shall see. With respect to logi­cal time, Dooyeweerd speaks of ‘ ... the analytical order of prius and posteri­us ...’  which refers to the numerical order of time.[11]

Hence it is understandable that ‘… some adherents of my philosophy are unable to follow me in this integral conception of cosmic time ...’[12]

 

1.2. Time order in the modal aspects

 

If we wish to work in Dooyeweerd’s program, in which way should we pro­ceed? According to Dooyeweerd, the modal aspects and the typical structures have both a temporal character, each with a law side and a subject side. This cosmonomic idea has a transcendental-empirical nature - its structure is not invented by mankind, but given to be discovered. Our knowledge of law and subject in their temporal way of being has an empirical character.

Dooyeweerd’s program is a philosophical one. It can only be carried out in a scientific way. Hence, the study of the various modal aspects of time ought to be conducted in a co-operative effort of philosophers, scientists, philosop­hers of science, and historians of science. Falling short of this may be one rea­son why Dooyeweerd’s program is still in its initial stage.

Dooyeweerd himself addressed the first three modal aspects in a ‘provisional!’ way.[13] He characterized the numerical order as the order of before and after. The spatial order is the order of simultaneity, and the kinematic order is the order of continuous flow. Later on, I pointed out that irreversibility is the physical order of time,[14] and in the present paper I shall argue that the biotic temporal order is the order of genetic descendence.

These views are put forward using scientific arguments - whether these are valid or conclusive or convincing, or not. The arguments pro or contra a cer­tain view on a certain modal aspect are not taken from intuition, daily expe­rience, or common sense, but from current scientific research. Hence, any view developed in this respect is open to criticism, which is continually invited.

A certain tension in Dooyeweerd’s theory of cosmic time cannot be avoi­ded. On the one hand, the modal aspects are aspects of time, temporal orders of reality. On the other hand, the modal aspects themselves are subject to the selfsame order. The modal aspects are not merely subject to the numerical or­der of before and after. Indeed, the modal aspects show a linear order, begin­ning with the numerical aspect, and ending with the aspect of belief. But the modal aspects also respond to the spatial order of simultaneity, each having a universal character. This means that every individual thing always functions in all modal aspects simultaneously. Therefore, Brüggemann’s statement that simultaneity is irrelevant to the order of the modal aspects is mistaken.[15]

Each modal aspect refers back to the preceding ones, and anticipates the succeeding aspects. This conforms to the kinematic order of continuous flow, the restless progress from one moment to the next, as well as to the dynamic character of the created order. The physical modal order of irreversibility shows itself in the fact that each modal aspect is founded on the preceding aspects. The natural evolution of the cosmos, in which the modal anticipati­ons and retrocipations are gradually opened up, is characterized by the biotic genetic order.

Although mutually irreducible, the modal aspects are related to each other in various ways. Hence they are temporal, not in the sense of ‘transient’, but of being dependent on each other. In Dooyeweerd’s theory of time, temporali­ty means that nothing has autonomous existence.

 

1.3. Time relates all subjects to each other

under a universal law of order

 

Dooyeweerd emphasizes that the whole creation is temporal. Sometimes he seems to suggest that the cosmic order expresses itself in the modal aspects, in particular as succession and simultaneity, whereas the subject side of time is individual duration. From other contexts it is clear, however, that he consi­ders time to have a law side and a subject side both in the modal aspects and in the typical structures of individuality.

Therefore, in order to make sense of ‘modal time’ one has to introduce the abstract concept of a ‘modal subject’. In this concept one abstracts from the idionomy[16] of things and events, from their individuality, in order to concen­trate on the universal character of the modal aspects. In his main work, Dooy­eweerd pays little attention to this concept, but he agreed to consider the mo­dal subject-subject relation to be the subjective correlative of modal order as a law.[17] The modal order of time serves to relate subjects among each other. Irrespective of their typical structure, two things or events are temporally rela­ted to each other in a numerical, spatial, kinematic, physical and biotic sense.

The modal order of before and after refers to the numerical relation bet­ween two numbers - their difference or ratio. The spatial order of simulta­neity refers to the relative position of two spatial subjects. The kinematic or­der of continuous flow has its counterpart in the relative motion of two kine­matic subjects. The physical temporal order of irreversibility refers to the inte­raction between two physical systems.

I stress the universality of these modal relationships. Each subject A is rela­ted to any subject B by numerical, spatial, kinematic, or physical relations, whether subjectively or objectively. It determines their existence. If two physi­cally qualified things were unable to interact with each other, they would be­long to different realms. It has no meaning at all to contemplate the existence of physically qualified things, which cannot interact with the known physical world. Such things would not be considered to exist in a physical sense.

What about the biotic aspect? For all living systems, the order of descent is the most obvious characteristic.[18] It is completely absent in the closed physi­cal-chemical world, and it is irreducible to the physical temporal order of irre­versibility, which it nevertheless presupposes. The order of descent is correla­ted to the subjective genetic relation between any two living systems. Most bi­ologists now accept the law that all living systems are genetically related to each other.[19] Like any modal law, it is universally valid, but difficult to prove. Paleontological evidence alone is not sufficient to demonstrate that all living systems have a single ancestor.[20] It must be sustained by other empirical evi­dence. The fact that this law still meets a number of unsolved problems does not prove it false - rather, it shows that the genetic law acts as a primary principle of research.

It is, for instance, a leading principle in taxonomy:

‘... natural taxa must be monophyletic, ... , that is, they must consist of descendents from a com­mon ancestor. The theoretical basis of all biological classification is a power­ful constraint and completely refutes the claim that theories of classification are equally applicable to inanimate objects and organisms.’[21]

 

The modal aspects constitute a universal reference system. This allows us to identify a thing or an event, to establish its existence, by determining its temporal relations to other things and events. It presupposes the modal order of time, and its correlative, modal subjective time.

In this sense, the modal genetic law allows us to order all living beings into one taxonomic system. It should be observed, however, that the genetic relati­on itself is a relation between biotic subjects, not between ordering types. It makes sense to discuss the question whether a plant belonging to one phylum is genetically related to a plant belonging to a different phylum. But it is a mistake of categories to question whether one species or phylum is genetically related to another one. In particular, to accept the modal biotic law that all plants are genetically related does not imply that one phylum has ‘descended’ from another one. The phyla as ordering principles might very well be con­stant and invariable (1.8).

Modal time constituting a universal reference system lacks one important moment of time: the present. The order of past and future is displayed in the modal orders of before and after, simultaneity, continuous flow, irreversibili­ty, and genetic descendence. But the present is absent. By abstracting from the idionomy of things and events, we have lost the present. Let us hasten to re­gain it.

 

1.4. Past, present, future: individual time

 

In discussions of problems of time it is not uncommon to distinguish between the human, subjective experience of time, and its objective measurement. The former would belong to the domain of psychology, the latter to physics. The first concerns the freedom of people, the second is determined by natural laws. It is not difficult to recognize in this partition some variety of the worn-out motive of nature and freedom.[22]

In order to see its irrelevance, let us look at the problem of the distinction of past, present, and future. In the mechanist, determinist views prevalent in natural philosophy till the start of our century, it was assumed that there is neither ‘now’ nor ‘here’. Physical laws and physical processes were assumed to be symmetrical with respect to a conceivable reversal of time. No instant of time could be accepted as singularly different from other instants. The pre­sent was relegated to the subjective, conscious experience of man.

This view was undermined by physicists, in 1905 and in 1925. In 1905, Albert Einstein showed the relativity of the concept of simultaneity.[23] Two events being simultaneous according to one system of clocks are definitely non-si­multaneous with respect to another system of clocks, if the two systems are moving with respect to each other.

Apparently, this would reinforce the view that the present is not a physical concept, but a psychological one. However, on second thoughts it turns out that in Einstein’s theory the present is a concept that is not universal, but dependent on some spatial-temporal position. At each spatially and temporal­ly localized event it is unequivocally clear what is present, past and future. But this cannot be transferred to other events without ambiguity.

About 1925 it became clear that the concept of probability is an inalienable part of physical theories. If an electron is moving towards a screen, it cannot be predicted with full certainty, where it will actualize its position. Probability implies an irreversible distinction between past, present and future. Probabili­ty concerns possible events in the future. The actualization of a possibility re­cords a ‘now’. It does so with respect to the individual electron, and the parti­cular event of its being absorbed by an atom at the screen. An individual thing actualizes itself in a ‘here’ and ‘now’, a present, and this is an event. Hence, the present is not absent in natural states of affairs, and it is highly individual. Even though time can still be measured, and has lost nothing of its objectivity, the subjectivity of time is not an exclusively human affair. It occurs whenever one meets individuality.

 

1.5. The core of individuality

 

Being temporal means being related to other things. But any individual thing is not merely temporal, it is also created. Being temporal means that anything is horizontally related to everything else.[24] Being created means that anything is vertically related to its Creator. Hence, everything that is temporal is also created, and vice versa. But this does not imply an identification of ‘being temporal’ and ‘being created’.

Each type of individuality has a core that cannot be penetrated. Consider, for example, an atomic nucleus, subject to radioactive decay. Since nearly a century we know that atoms are not necessarily stable. The atoms of some iso­topes decay, in a very regular way. In a precisely determinable span of time, half of the initial number of atoms of a certain kind will change into another kind. For uranium (U238) this is 4.5 billion years, for radium (Ra226) it is 1622 years, for polonium (Po212) it is less than a millionth of a second. The average decay time expresses a typical law, it belongs to the idionomic structu­re of the isotope concerned.

But nobody knows at what time a given, individual atom will decay. A gi­ven radium atom may change in the next minute, or remain unchanged for millions of years. This core of individuality is beyond our reach. It is largely independent of the atom’s relations to other things or events.

Ultimately, each individual thing and event has a secret. It means that it is created, is cared for, and decays, in a way that is only partly open to our un­derstanding. Being created means that any individual points to the Creator, and in this sense transcends cosmic time.[25] This, clearly, is a religious state­ment, not a scientific one. Its truth is hidden for the scientific mind, but open to the faithful.

In no other way is anything able to transcend cosmic time - not even man, as we shall argue later on. Every attempt to transcend time except by pointing to the Creator is an attempt to hypostatize something, to make something in­dependent of everything else.

An individual could be characterized by having a relation to itself - its identity. In a spatial sense this means that its parts are coherent. Each moving thing remains itself in the progression from one moment to another. A physi­cally qualified individual can only exist in consequence of internal inter­actions. And a living plant maintains its genetic identity during all its life pro­cesses.

Hence, the existence of an individual depends on three types of relations: the temporal relations to everything else, the creational relation to the Crea­tor, and the identity preserving relation to itself. The identity of an individual thing or event is the intersection of its temporality and its being created.

 

1.6. Structures of life

 

Besides a subject side, individuality has a law side. The temporal functioning of an individual plant is not only determined by its subjective relations to other plants or its environment, but also by its structure.

We might coin the term ‘organism’ to express the structure of a living system.[26] An organized whole is not yet a living system, although it anticipates it. A machine, like a car, is also an organized whole, made according to some design, but it does not live. The most obvious reason to say so is that a machi­ne is not able to reproduce itself. It is not genetically related to plants - not even to other machines.

A structure of individuality is a typical subject-object relation. For plants, this is expressed by the organism. Physically qualified things cannot be said to form an organism, but in a plant, physical things, processes and functions are organized, opened up by the biotic aspect. In the organism molecules be­come adapted to each other.

This structure has a temporal character. The organism emerges at the ger­mination of the plant, increases in size and complexity, and decays when the plant dies. The plant remains identical to itself, but the organism changes.

According to Dooyeweerd, an idionomic structure like a living system has a foundational aspect besides a qualifying one. We may therefore expect to find four different types of biotically qualified structures, based, respectively, in the numerical, spatial, kinematic and physical aspects. These types can be actualized either apart or together in a kind of structural interlacement or ‘enkapsis’.

The smallest unit of life is generally considered to be a cell. Each organism is either a cell, or a composition of cells. The genetic order expresses itself in the process of cell division, subject to the numerical order of before and after. Cell fission must be distinguished from sexual propagation, in particular be­cause in cell division the genetic content of the cell (objectively given by the structure of the DNA-molecule) remains constant. The only occurring change seems to be some kind of counting procedure. For monocellular systems (pro­tista) this procedure makes the cell after a certain number of divisions unable to divide itself again, without first having a sexual rejuvenation. For multicel­lular organisms (metaphytes) this counting mechanism is responsible for the aging of the system. The cell division process is very important for the per­sistence of the system.

As soon as several cells are integrated into a symbiotic whole, we recognize a spatially founded living system, in which individual cells are enkaptically bound together. This may occur in the undifferentiated multicellular thallop­hytes like some kinds of algae, or in the form of tissues (sterns, roots, leaves, etc.) in a differentiated plant. In undifferentiated plants, metabolism takes place in each cell independently of other cells, and the growth of the organism is nothing but the multiplication of cells. These spatially founded structures are subject to the spatial order of simultaneous coherence.

I consider growth to be the main kinematic analogy of the biotic aspect. Its individualization is apparent in plants with a certain amount of cell diffe­rentiation, in which various tissues with different functions can be recognized. The kinematic retrocipation of the genetic order is the natural development from germination to death. We cannot deny that unicellular and undifferenti­ated multicellular plants grow. But the typical sequence of germination, matu­ration, adulthood, aging, and natural death, only applies to differentiated plants. Therefore it cannot be considered the original universal biotic tempo­ral order. Cell differentiation has a physiological besides a morphological aspect. Metabolism, for instance, is an organized process in a differentiated plant, in which many cells are involved in various, mutually dependent ways. Differentiation enhances the stability of a plant.

The main physical retrocipation of the biotic genetic order seems to be the irreversible order of ascendents to descendents. It is correlated to the sexual propagation, the universal biotic ‘interaction’ between two living systems. All living systems reproduce sexually (even if some of them also reproduce in other ways), but only in the higher developed plants, sexuality is individuali­zed into typical sexual organs, like flowers, pistils, and stamens. Some plants exist in separate male and female specimens. In these plants the whole genetic cycle is determined by the sexual relation.

Sexual relationship is the most important objective expression of the univer­sal genetic relation. It is well known that a certain individual will only have a sexual relation with individuals of its own kind. The concept of a species, the unit of biological taxonomy, is determined by this fact. It makes the con­cept of a species a typical biological concept, clearly different from a merely logical class concept.

 

These four biotically qualified structures are, in fact, not founded in the pre­ceding modal aspects themselves, but in their biotic analogies (retrocipations). These analogies are, respectively: the unity and multiplicity of life; symbiosis; growth; and sexual interaction.[27]

The result of this section is highly schematic and tentative. Although it shows similarities with the various taxonomies used in botany, there are still several problems left. One of these concerns the distinction of ‘prokaryotes’ (bacteria and blue-green algae), and ‘eukaryotes’ (most other cells).

Eukaryotes are more complicated than prokaryotes, and contain a nucleus (determining the heredity of the cell), mitochondria and other more or less in­dependent cell bodies, each surrounded by a membrane. The mitochondria have a genetic content (a DNA-structure) governed by the nucleus. Some bio­logists are inclined to consider the prokaryotes to constitute a separate king­dom, besides those of plants and animals. The oldest fossils known are proka­ryotes.

It is not impossible to consider the mitochondria to be prokaryotes, enkap­tically interlaced in the structure of an eukaryotic cello This would mean that the prokaryotes, the mitochondria, and perhaps the nucleus, are numerically founded structures, whereas the eukaryotic cells are spatially founded structu­res, besides the undifferentiated multicellular plants, and the tissues in diffe­rentiated plants. Much of this is still subject of biological research.

 

1.7. Enkapsis

 

If it is true that ‘time relates all subjects to each other under a universal law of order’, then all relations between idionomic structures should also be re­cognized as being ‘temporal’. Among these relations, ‘enkapsis’ plays an im­portant part in Herman Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. With respect to plants, three kinds of enkapsis can be distinguished.[28]First, we recognize the interlacement of various biotically qualified but dif­ferently founded structures in a single plant. We referred to this kind of en­kapsis in section 1.6. In particular in the highest developed plants (phanerogams or flowering plants) one finds this enkapsis of the typical biotic structures of cells, tissues, leaves and roots, flowers and seeds. Together they form the or­ganism, the objective biotic structure of the plant.Second, we point to the interlacement of the biotic organism with structures that are not biotically qualified. These first of all concern the physically qualified structures of the molecules composing the plant. Next, we find in a plant typical kinematically qualified structures, the typical motions of the plant as a whole, or those of its parts. Each plant and each of its cells, tissues, and organs, also have typical spatial forms. These structures are by no means purely physical, respectively kinematical or spatial. They are opened up by the biotic organism, in whose structure they are interlaced. Still, they are not part of the organism, as can be seen from the fact that they remain intact even after the death of the plant. Thus, everybody recognizes the typical structure of a piece of wood to be of an organic origin, even if the plant from which it origi­nated has been dead for ages. This piece of wood is not alive, but its physical and spatial structures could never be explained on the basis of physical and pre-physical laws alone. It is a product of a living system. It has been produ­ced by the living plant, whose organism orders physically qualified molecules in a typical biotic way.Third, each plant is interlaced with its environment, in a structural way. This interlacement, called ‘correlative enkapsis’, will be discussed in section 1.9.

Hence, the structure of a living plant is highly complicated. It encloses all three kinds of temporal relations mentioned in this section into a single, typi­cal whole that we recognize as a ‘plant’.

Its unity as a whole is given by its genetic content, its heredity, and is, therefore, of a typical biotic character. Dooyeweerd underestimated the relevance of the genetic relation for the biotic aspect. Therefore, he experienced great difficulties in finding the enkaptic unity of a plant, which he calls the ‘body of the plant’, or its ‘form-totality’.[29] But whenever he speaks of the ‘body’ of the plant, he means nothing else but the plant itself, whereas the ‘form-to­tality’ can only refer to the spatial foundation of enkapsis. The latter is obvi­ous because in every kind of enkapsis, one finds several structures acting si­multaneously, and simultaneity is the spatial order of time. But the structural unity of a plant as a structural whole must necessarily have a biotic character, and can easily be found in the genetic relation, as it is individualized in every plant.

The genetic identity of a plant is objectively expressed in the genes, and their material basis, the DNA-molecule. All cells and a fortiori all tissues and organs of a plant have the same DNA-structure, and every two plants have different DNA-molecules. Hence, the genetic identity of the plant warrants the unity of the plant as far as the first kind of enkapsis is concerned. The DNA-molecules also determine the biochemical processes occurring in every cell, and the structure of any other molecule as far as this differs from a purely physical-chemical structure, that is, as far as it is opened up by the organism. Therefore, the genetic identity of the plant determines the physical, kinematic and spatial structures typical for each plant and it warrants the unity of the plant with respect to the second kind of enkapsis.

As we shall see later on, the genetic identity of the plant is also extremely important with respect to the third kind of enkapsis.

Hence, the genetic identity of the plant may be considered the plant’s orga­nizing principle. It determines the unity of the plant as far as it is temporal - it disappears as soon as the plant dies and disintegrates.

Many plants, in particular monocellular plants, are able to reproduce in a non-sexual way. The daughter plant has the same genetic identity as the pa­rent, and from a biological point of view, the two plants can be considered two spatially separated parts of the same plant. There is nothing wrong with this view. Alaska is a genuine part of the United States of America, even if it is spatially disconnected from the mainland. The temporal unity of an individual is determined by the leading structure, and in the case of a plant, this is the genetic identity. Only after sexual reproduction, the daughter plant is a really new plant, genetically different from its parents and any other plant.

 

1.8. Evolution and the universal validity of laws

 

This excursion into biology will allow us to address a few other problems of time, in particular its relation to change. The most pressing problem concerns the theory of evolution. Unfortunately, this theory is often married to materi­alism, to such an extent that many Christians consider the theory of evolution to be at variance with a Christian worldview. It would be advisable to divorce the idea of evolution from materialism.[30]

Even if called ‘scientific’, materialism is not a scientific theory, but a worldview. Supposing matter to have autonomous existence, it postulates the aboli­tion of the distinction of law and subject. It suggests that everything did emer­ge from material causes only.

In the past, the natural sciences were not deeply concerned with the questi­on of the origin of the physical and biotic worlds. But biology in the nineteenth, and astrophysics in the twentieth century became more and more involved in pro­blems concerning the emergence of galaxies and stars, the coming into being of atoms and molecules, of planets and the atmosphere, of the first living beings and their present diversity.

These theories, as far as they turn out to be fruitful, start from physical and biotic laws. Discovered by studying present-day states of affairs, these laws are supposed to be valid always and everywhere, to have universal validity, independent of the various stages in the evolutionary process. This is called the ‘principle of uniformity’. It is not always realized that it implies the refuta­tion of materialism. Clearly, our present world has not only a material cause - it is also subject to laws, irreducible to matter of whatever kind.

The astrophysical and biological theories of evolution are attempts to ans­wer the problem of the emergence of individual things and events, but are de­pendent on laws. Hence, these theories cannot solve the problem of the origin of these laws. This problem is hardly ever discussed, probably because it does not have a scientific solution. For a Christian the answer should be clear. It is God who gives and maintains the laws, including the laws discovered in evolutionary research.

This does not imply an adherence to the view that all laws are necessarily unchangeable. Aristotle distinguished the eternal and universal ‘forms’ or ‘ideas’, or ‘essences’ from individual ‘substances’. Whereas the ‘forms’ are by their nature unchangeable, the nature of individuals is to change, to actualize their potentialities. Biology has had great difficulties to liberate itself from this ‘essentialistic’ view.[31]

One of the most curious traits of Dooyeweerd’s theory of time is the dissoci­ation of ‘time’ from ‘change’. In his philosophy, ‘temporal’ is not identical to ‘transient’. In particular with respect to the numerical and the spatial mo­dal aspects, both time order and intersubjective relation are unrelated to chan­ge - unless these aspects have opened up their anticipations toward the kine­matic and later aspects.[32] In all other modal spheres, it appears that change is an analogical concept, referring back to the kinematic one.

This implies that we should not too easily accept the Aristotelian principle that laws are unchangeable, and subjects are ‘subject to change’.

It is argued that laws must be unchangeable, for they constitute our frame of experience. This argument is logically untenable if applied to laws in gene­ral. It is sufficient if some laws are unchangeable - say, the modal laws, and the most general typical laws. As observed, the principle of uniformity lies at the basis of any theory of evolution, for otherwise one could say nothing at all about states of affairs which are beyond our immediate experience.

But this argument fails as soon as we would apply it to other kinds of laws. Everybody knows that the man-made ‘positive laws’, valid in our society, are changeable. There is little reason to assume that (besides the most general mo­dal and typical laws) any low-level physical or biotic law should be unchangeable.

Idionomic laws are, in fact, adaptable. The structure of many things de­pends on their environment. Thus, the density of a metal, which is a typical property, depends on the temperature: metals tend to expand on heating. The crystalline structure of most solids depends on temperature and external pres­sure. To counter, that this kind of variability belongs to the invariable structu­re of the solid, is clearly a petitio principii.

In this light it cannot be rejected a priori that biotic species are subject to change. Nor is this a speculative idea. Species are seen to change, and in the laboratory, completely new species have been produced. On the other hand, it seems probable that the higher categories like phyla are unchangeable, mu­tually irreducible principles of ordering.[33]

If considered apart from its materialistic overtones, evolution is a temporal process. If time is characterized to be the ‘horizontal’ relation between sub­jects, and being created the ‘vertical’ relation between any subject and its Creator (1.5), ‘evolution’ and ‘creation’ cannot be considered mutually exclusive alternatives.

No plant is subject to genetic change. There is hardly anything as stable as the genetic structure of a living system. From its germination till its death, a plant remains the same in a genetic sense. Of course, each plant is subject to non-genetic change - its development, which we recognized as a retrocipa­tion to the kinematic aspect. Hence, we still have to face the problem of gene­tic change.

 

1.9. Aggregates of life

 

In order to understand the biological theory of evolution, I propose to consi­der the laws concerning four other typical biological systems.[34] These do not re­fer to biotic subjects, but to enkaptic aggregates of life: genes, biotopes or ecosystems, niches, and populations. These are typical biotic units with a cer­tain kind of individuality. Nevertheless they differ from the structures discus­sed in section 1.6. Their typical structure is not subjectively, but objectively foun­ded in a retrocipation of biotic time. They cannot exist apart from subjective plants.

(a) Genes may be considered objectively numerically founded biotic structu­res, to be distinguished from living cells. The genes are the units of heredity, the objective bearers of the genetic information. Together they constitute the ‘genotype’, which in turn determines the ‘phenotype’, i.e., the structure and individuality of a plant.[35]

A gene should not be identified with a DNA-molecule, its material substratum.[36] Genes are not ‘particles’ in a physical-chemical sense, but rather pat­terns of information or design. If we would compare the molecular structure of DNA with the ‘hardware’ of a computer, the genes are the ‘software’.

Gregor Mendel’s laws (1865) concerning heredity depend on the principle that genes exist in pairs, each one derived from one parent. In sexual propagation, the pairs are separated, to be recombined in a new cell.

Genes cannot be considered subjectively living individuals like plants, or­gans, tissues, or cells. They can only function within the structure of a living cell. Nevertheless they have their own individuality, which is passed from one cell to the next in cell division, and which is rearranged in sexual propagation.

For this reason it is possible to speak of a ‘gene-pool’, shared by a populati­on of plants. It is subject to the law of abundance. Each population of plants produces far more offspring than can ever come to maturation. This principle is a necessary condition for evolutionary change. The so-called ‘struggle for life’ is another expression of this abundance. It is a process occurring within a population (not between populations), and has the effect that ‘the fittest sur­vives’. This is the core of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection (1959).

Whereas the genes objectively determine the genotype of the plants, the ‘target of evolution’ is their subjective phenotype. The question which genoty­pe is the ‘fittest’ is decided by de phenotype, the way a certain individual plant is adapted to its environment.

(b) A biotype or ecosystem is a spatially more or less bounded set of plants and animals living together, and therefore being mutually dependent. It is characterized by a biotic state of equilibrium. Like a physical equilibrium it has a dynamical character. If equilibrium is disturbed, processes occur which tend to restore the balance, eventually at a different level than before. It is subject to change, in particular if the climate changes, or if a new species inva­des the biotope, or by human intrusion.

Although a biotope is a typical biological phenomenon, it differs from a plant. It is not subjectively determined by biotic laws, but objectively. We cannot say that a biotope lives, that it propagates itself, that it shows metabo­lism. It is an objectively biotically qualified structure. It is qualified by symbi­osis, the spatial analogy of biotic time. Its structure is dependent on subjecti­vely qualified structures like plants and animals. Without plants there is no biotope. Most biotopes are opened up because animals take part in them, or because they are organized by human interference. Biotopes like deserts, woods, meadows, or gardens are easily recognizable.

Sometimes two different kinds of plants are completely dependent on each other, even if they are genetically different. This is symbiosis in a restricted sense. If it is one-sided, it is also called parasitism.

(c) A niche or adaptive zone may be considered a kinematically founded biotic structure. It is not first of all spatially determined, but physiologically, it is a certain way of life. It is a highly differentiated objective structure. As such it differs from the subjective structure of a differentiated plant.

Each ecosystem contains a number of niches, which can be occupied by po­pulations. In fact, each niche is made possible by the presence of several populations in the same area. Living systems create their own ecosystem. Still, each niche can only be occupied by a single population. This law of exclusion has its physical counterpart in Wolfgang Pauli’s principle, saying that any well-specified state can be occupied by at most one electron (or proton, neu­tron, etc.). Typical laws like these are of tremendous importance for the un­derstanding of the diversity of idionomic structures.

If an ecosystem is invaded by a population that would fit an already occu­pied niche, the result is a fight, which has to end in the defeat of one of the two populations. If a niche is empty, it will sooner or later be invaded by some population. The more two populations are similar, the more they repel each other.

(d) Finally, the population as the basic unit of genetic change is a physically based objective biotic structure. It is qualified by sexual reproduction, the physical retrocipation of biotic time.

A population is a reproductive community, a group of plants or animals that interbreed and multiply. It has various objective properties: dispersion, density, adaptive potential, birth rate, and death rate. Although the members of a population belong to the same species, they are genetically differentiated. A population is the bearer of the gene pool. Because of external circumstances the gene pool can change extremely fast. It may be a matter of a few generati­ons to change the distribution of a gene-pair AB from 90% A, 10% B, into 10% A, 90% B. This means that a population is able to adapt itself to chan­ging circumstances, and thereby to increase its chance of survival. ‘Adaptation’ and ‘survival’ as concepts in the theory of evolution do not refer to individual plants, but to populations.

A freely breeding population is subject to Godfrey Hardy and Wilhelm Weinberg’s law (1908), stating that the frequency of any gene in the gene-pool of the population (and therefore the frequency of any phenotype) remains constant, generation after generation, unless this equilibrium is upset, e.g., by selective factors, or by hy­bridization with another population. With a major environmental change, the hereditary variation within a species may give rise to evolution.

Hybridization between related species or different populations of a single species may give rise to new species or races if the hybrids are fertile, if there are environmental niches to which some of the hybrids are better adapted than either of the parent populations, and if the new combination of genes becomes isolated and sufficiently stabilized, so that the new population can survive.

This survey should be sufficient to show that the theory of evolution de­pends on a number of unchangeable typical laws concerning heredity, abundance, equilibrium, and exclusion, besides the typical idionomic structures, which are changeable. This does not seem to give rise to contradictions.

Our short review should also make clear that the biotic aspect is irreducible to the physical one. As far as evolutionism is identified with reductionism, sta­ting the continuity of the physical and organic worlds, it is refuted by the re­cent development of biological thought.[37]

 

1.10. Eternal life - the ultimate problem of time

 

Space does not permit us to investigate a few other problems of life, such as the emergence of the first living beings on earth,[38] the distinction of plants and animals, the genesis of mankind, and the possible influence of evil and man’s fall into sin upon the evolution of structures of individuality. But I like to end this chapter with a few comments on the so-called ‘perspective structure’ of time.

In Dooyeweerd’s philosophy, ‘temporal’ is not contrasted with ‘unchangeable’, but with ‘eternal’. This fits our view of ‘temporal’, to be first of all ‘rela­tional’. To say that everything created is temporal, means to emphasize that nothing should be absolutized, for everything depends on everything else. On the other hand, to say that everything temporal is created, means to point to the Creator, who does not depend on relations, but ‘is, who He is’.

The contrast of ‘temporal’ and ‘eternal’ is related to that of ‘diversity’ and ‘unity’. In its temporality created reality displays an enormous diversity. We have discussed part of this in the preceding sections. The creation does not show an intrinsic unity, except in so far as it is created. The unity of the creati­on is its religious root, its dependence on the Creator. A Christian recognizes this unity in Christ,

‘... the image of the invisible God ... In him everything in heaven and on earth was created … the whole universe has been created through him and for him ... all things are held together in him ... ‘.[39]

 

Dooyeweerd considered it necessary to introduce the idea of a ‘supratempo­ral heart’, the concentration point of the selfhood, directed to its origin. Otherwise, man would be lost in time. Man would be unable to have knowled­ge of time, of himself, and of God, if he could not transcend the temporal horizon of his experience.[40]

I agree that man has the intention to transcend time in order to gain know­ledge of the origin of the cosmos and of himself. But I don’t consider it possible to actually transcend time. In a biblical sense, eternal life is the true know­ledge of God, and is, therefore, pointing out of time. But to gain this know­ledge, we need not transcend time - for Christ descended into the creation, in order to make the Father known to us. Becoming man, he put himself un­der the law, and became temporal in de full sense of this word. For the know­ledge of God, man is dependent on His revelation, the Word becoming flesh.[41]

Attempts to actually transcend time in order to reach the eternal God must be qualified as mystical. It seems that mystical experiences are usually highly personal. But the true knowledge of God cannot be achieved in a supratempo­ral, purely individual act. It is achieved in a community, the community of believers, the visible or invisible church. The Christian love of God does not transcend time, just because it can only function in the relation to our fellow men, the love of our neighbours. And this relation is no less temporal than the mathematical, physical and biotic relations discussed in this paper.

In 1953, Dooyeweerd wrote: ‘The idea of cosmic time constitutes the basis of the philosophical theory of reality in this book. By virtue of its integral cha­racter, it may be called new.’[42] He was right. Moreover, his theory turns out to be extreme­ly fruitful.



[1] Dooyeweerd NC  I,  28.

[2] Popma 1965, 54-55, 65.

[3] Brüggemann-Kruyff 1981-82,131.

[4] Brüggemann-Kruyff 1981-82,63.

[5] Dooyeweerd NC  I, 28; cf. Brüggemann-Kruyff 1981-82,137.

[6] As far as the opening process is concerned, Dooyeweerd refers to the temporal order of succes­sion, op. cit. (a), vol. I, 29. Here, he relates the opening process to the anticipatory structures of the modal aspects. In chapter 11 I argued that the disclosure process, at least in science, si­multaneously occurs into four directions: anticipatory, retrocipatory, analytically, and synthetically.

[7] In the Dutch edition, Dooyeweerd intended to discuss the problem of time in the fourth volu­me, which was never published. Dooyeweerd WdW I, 37; II, 60, 64; III, v. His theory of time was first published in Dooyeweerd 1940.

[8] Dooyeweerd NC II, 79, 85; 1940, 166-168.

[9] Brüggemann-Kruyff 1981-82, 137 (my translation).

[10] Dooyeweerd NC I, 28.

[11] Dooyeweerd NC I, 30-31; 1940, 167-174.

[12] Dooyeweerd NC I, 31.

[13] Dooyeweerd used expressions like ‘preliminary analysis’, ‘brief analysis’, NC II, 79, 83, 93.

[14] Stafleu 1970; 1980.

[15] Brüggemann-Kruyff 1981-82, 41.

[16] I borrow the term ‘idionomic’ from Verbrugge 1984, 134, 153. ‘Idi­onomy’ is a synonym of ‘individuality structure’, used by Dooyeweerd. It should be contrasted to ‘autonomy’

[17] Private communication, concerning Stafleu 1970. Cf. Dooyeweerd NC I, 108-109; II, 370, 415.

[18] Mayr 1982, 629: ‘ ... the existence of a genetic program ... constitutes the most fundamental difference between living organisms and the world of inanimate objects, and there is no biological phenomenon in which the genetic program is not involved’.

[19] I accept this law to be the probably most fundamental law of the biotic modal aspect, making the latter irreducible to the physical aspect. In this respect my views differ from Dooyeweerd’s, see e.g. Dooyeweerd 1959.

[20] Ruse 1973, 118-121.

[21] Mayr 1982, 239.

[22] Mekkes 1965.

[23] This ‘relativization’ is due to the opening up of the spatial modal aspect by the kinematic one, see Stafleu 1980, chapter 4.

[24] Dooyeweerd NC II, 552, speaks of the ‘temporal horizon’ of human experience.

[25] In this respect, every individual thing and event is a miracle, cf. Diemer 1943.

[26] Cf. Dooyeweerd NC III, 716- 717.

[27] In chapter 3 I shall develop a more sophisticated view on this matter.

[28] See Dooyeweerd NC III, 627-652, 714-780; Strauss 1979, 135-165.

[29] Dooyeweerd NC III,765, 768-778.

[30] Cf. Mayr 1982,535: ‘Ernst Haeckel, Germany’s most enthusiastic evolutionist. . did a very effective job of popularizing Darwinism, but used it at the same time as a weapon against all forms of supernaturalism, particularly Christianity, thereby provoking counterattacks in which evolutionism was equated with materialism and immorality’. The merger of evolution theo­ry with materialism and reductionism, also called evolutionism, is rejected by all adherents of the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea, in particular by Lever 1956; recently by E. Schuurman, S.P. Geertsema, and W.J.Ouweneel, in Beweging 47 (1983) 17-36; Verbrugge 1984.; and by Hart 1984,135-140. This does not mean that these au­thors necessarily adhere to ‘creationism’ in whatever form.

[31] See, e.g., Lever 1956, Chapter 4.

[32] Dooyeweerd NC I, 31-32.

[33] Dooyeweerd 1959b includes ‘species’ but not ‘varieties’ among these invariable ordering principles.

[34] See chapter 3 for a more developed view.

[35] The ‘genotype’ is the genetic endowment of an individual plant. The ‘phenotype’ is the orga­nism into which this genotype has been transformed during development. Cf. Mayr 1982,781.

[36] Ruse 1973, 21, 30, 201-207; Mayr 1982, 62: ‘The claim that genetics has been reduced to chemistry after the discovery of DNA, RNA, and certain enzymes cannot be justified ... The essential concepts of genetics, like gene, genotype, ... , are not chemical concepts at all ...’

[37] Cf. Mayr 1982, chapter 2.

[38] see Verbrugge 1984.

[39] Col. 1, 15-17

[40] Dooyeweerd 1940, 179, 181, 208-209; NC I, 24, 31, 32;  II, 473, 480; III, 781-784; cf. Popma 1965, 246-260.

[41] See John 17, 3: ‘This is eternal life: to know thee who alone art truly God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent’. Cf. Mekkes 1971, 121, 227, 233; Dooyeweerd NC II, 561, 564.

[42] See footnote 1.

 

 


 

 

2. Criteria for a law sphere

(with special emphasis on

the ‘psychic’ modal aspect, 1988)

           

 

2.1. A modal aspect determining a ‘kingdom’

2.2. A modal aspect founding a structural type

2.3. Interlude: Subjects and objects

2.4. A law sphere as an aspect of explanation

2.5. Alaw sphere in relation to other law spheres

2.6. A law sphere as an aspect of time

 

Ever since Herman Dooyeweerd during a walk in the dunes of Holland conceived of the idea of mutually irreducible ‘law spheres’, people have objected to his designation of these ‘modal aspects’. Recently, Jan Denge­rink proposed to consider ‘time’ as a modal aspect preceding all others,[1] and Willem Ouweneel put forward arguments to replace the so-called psychic modal aspect by a ‘perceptive’ and a ‘sensi­tive’ one.[2]

In this paper I intend to investigate these claims from a methodolo­gical point of view, summing up various methods for distinguishing a modal aspect. This means I shall only engage in a discussion of Dengerink's view of time and Ouweneel's psycholo­gy as far as these are relevant to the investigation of the philosophi­cal criteria for the distinction of the various modal aspects. By way of example my investigation will be focussed on the psychic modal aspect, the law sphere that according to Dooyeweerd appears between the biotic and the logical aspects.

My approach will be heuristic and practical. Because the modal aspects are found by abstraction I shall start with a discussion of struc­tures qualified by the supposed aspect, and proceed with a discussion of the psychic aspect itself. This means that the order of the various criteria to be discussed is not necessarily the most satisfactory from a systematic point of view.

I shall not explicitly discuss the so-called ‘meaning-nucleus’ of the modal aspect concerned. Dooyeweerd calls it ‘feeling’, but Ouweneel's extensive discussion shows how confusing such an epithet can be. My own perceptive feeling is that nobody has ever succeeded in finding an adequate name for any modal aspect. Hence I prefer a conventional but rather empty label like ‘physical’, ‘biotic’, or ‘logical’, without further questioning its possible meaning.

I realize that what I am about to write is not generally accepted. Therefore I have adopted a more personal style than is usual in a philosop­hical article. I want to add that I shall discuss only a small part of Dengerink's and Ouweneel's works, and this paper should not be considered a book review.

 

2.1. A modal aspect determining a ‘kingdom’

 

In Dooyeweerd's theory of structural types, the structures having a common qualifying modal aspect form a ‘kingdom’ of structures. He recogni­zes three natural kingdoms or ‘radical types’, ‘... viz.

1) that of the inorganic kinds of matter, things and events, all of which have a typical qualification in the energy-aspect; 2) that of plants and their bio-milieu, which kingdom has a typical biotic qualification; 3) that of animals, inclusive of their typical symbiotic relationships, their form-products and animal milieu, a kingdom which is typically qualified in the psychical aspect.’[3]

 

This distinction is based on tradition as well as on common sense or natural experience.[4] Both can be and have been challenged. One modern taxonomy of organic structures distin­guishes five kingdoms: Monera (proka­ryotes); Protoctista (mostly unicellular plants and animals); Fungi; Animalia; and Plantae.[5] I shall not be concerned with biotically qualified structures,[6] and only observe that merely one kingdom of animals is mentioned in this taxonomy. However, it may be worthwhile to discuss the distinction of animals and ‘plants’ (in the wider sense of all biotically qualified subjects).

A biologist questioned about the difference between plants and animals may answer that plants are autotrophic, animals heterotrophic. Plants derive their food and energy directly from their physical environ­ment, whereas animals depend at least partly on plants for their food.[7] This distinction is not universally applicable. There are (parasitic) plants that depend on other plants or their debris, and some higher plants depend on bacteria for the assimilation of nitrogen. Apart from that it seems an unsatisfactory criterion, for it does not regard the qualifying   functions  of  plants  and  animals,   respectively. The criterion seems to be inspired by a philosophy that reduces everything biological to physical and chemical processes. In that view metabolism is unduly stressed.[8]

It is also precarious to rely too heavily on our natural experience of plants and animals. Jan Lever observes that in our habitat the differences between plants and animals are obvious enough, such that nobody can avoid to see them. But, he con­tinues, in a maritime environment the difference is not that large, and he suggests that if human beings were living in the sea, they would perhaps never have made a fundamental distinction between plants and animals.[9] Lever says there is only one kingdom of organisms, albeit with two specialization trends: on the one hand the vegetative trend in the direction of food in a general sense, on the other hand the anima­listic trend towards manipulation in the environment, hence to behaviour.

From a Dooyeweerdian point of view it must be granted that animals have a vegetative substructure, which is enkaptically interlaced with and disclosed by the leading animal structure. It can also be granted that in some plants anticipations can be found towards the behavioural structure of animals. One may think of flowering and fruit bearing plants, which have an obvious symbiosis with insects distributing pollen, or with birds and mammals eating fruits and scattering the indigestible seeds. (In the evolutionary order, ‘plantae’ come after ‘animalia’). Therefore, Lever's arguments do not necessarily lead to the conclusion that separate kingdoms of plants and animals do not exist, even if it is not always easy to determine for a certain species to which kingdom it belongs.

The methodologically sound way of distinguishing two kingdoms is to investigate their respective qualifying functions. Let us first have a look at the biotic aspect. The genetic relation between organic systems is the most typical feature for all living beings, both with respect to their individuality and their structure.[10] As an explanatory model for the functioning of plants and animals we might think of a computer with a built-in program. For plants this program is fixed in the DNA of the cell nucleus (and partly in other cell bodies). It is rigid and unchangeable, it is a so-called ‘closed’ program. Only by sexual reproduction (and eventual­ly mutations etc.) the program changes, but then a new individual comes into existence.

In animals the program is partly fixed in a similar genetic code, partly in the nervous system. The first is just as closed as is the case in a plant. The program located in the nervous system, however, appears to be partly open and adjustable. An animal is able to learn, and by learning it changes its program, such that it can react upon its environment in a new way. This learning ability is small for primitive animals, but it increases with increasing differentiation.

The acquired experience of an animal is probably not hereditary, at least not directly. Sometimes an animal can communicate its experience to others, and an animal can establish a lead in natural selection because of its experience. In this indirect way acquired experience can influence the evolution of the species.

For the lower (more primitive) animals, learning is based on trial and error. An animal has a certain freedom of choice. At first decisions will be made at random, but the animal remembers its choices, and evaluates their results. This influences its choice on a later occasion, whose circumstances are not neces­sarily the same as on the preceding occasion but must have some similarities. If the result of the new choice receives the same response, the change of program will be reinforced. Besides trial and error, one finds other kinds of association in animals, such as habituati­on, classical and operant conditioning, Gestalt perception, environment recognition, and AH-Erlebnis. [11]

For higher animals learning occurs far less through trial and error. They have an ‘expectation pattern’, allowing them to calculate the conse­quences of a certain choice. Several methods of learning can be observed: exploration, initiation, games, imprinting (the first impression of an animal after its birth, in particular the identification of its parents), etc.

Learning ability itself is inborn, is genetically deter­mined, and therefore differs structurally for different species, and individually for different individuals. It even changes during the life time of a single animal. Usually a young has more learning capability than an older one. The content of what an animal learns belongs to its individual experience. It gives an animal  qualitatively  more   individuality  than  a  plant  has.

The identity of an animal is not exclusively determined by its genetic identity, but is further determined by its individual experience, by what it has learned. By changing its experience an animal changes, it develops its identity.

If a plant reproduces in a non-sexual way, the daughter plant is genetically identical to the parent plant. If two animals have the same genetic identity, they will still develop a different psychic identity (a different ‘character’) because of their different experience.

It will be clear that the criterion based on an investiga­tion of ‘kingdoms’ cannot be applied to all modal aspects. In particular it cannot be applied to the first modal aspect, whether one considers this to be the numerical one, or, with Dengerink, the temporal one. The first law sphere does not qualify a kingdom or radical type. [12]

Hence we should not absolutize this criterion. Ouweneel says he only accepts those modal aspects that determine a kingdom. [13] In his Psycholo­gie he ignores the modal aspects preceding the physical one,[14] and he attributes human beings a ‘spiritive aspect’. Those law spheres which according to Dooyeweerd come after the psychic one Ouweneel calls ‘sub-aspects’ of the spiritive aspect, characteristic of mankind.[15]

Even apart from the question, that we shall presently discuss, of how many kingdoms there are, I don't consider it recommendable to reduce the idea of mutually irreducible modal aspects to their qualifying function of a kingdom.

Ouweneel states there are two psychic aspects, which he calls the ‘perceptive’ and the ‘sensitive’, respectively. Hence, he distinguishes two kingdoms of animals, the ‘higher’, i.e., the mammals, and the ‘lower’.[16] The lower animals have a perceptive structure as a leading structural principle. This includes reflexes, instincts, and tendencies or needs. Mammals have a sensitive structure, including affections, impulses (by sensitive unrest accompanied desires, lusts, inclinations, impulses, and passions) and emotions (positive and negative, and often violent).

I shall raise several objections to Ouweneel's proposal, but in the present section I restrict myself to its consequence - the recognition of two separate kingdoms of animals. For a ‘hard fact’, Ouweneel points to the so-called limbic system in the mammalian brain. It controls their feelings, affections, impulses, and emotions. He also points to the distinction of a sympathetic and a parasympathetic system in the nervous system.

However, both are also present in birds (at least the so-called hypothalamus, an organ that plays a significant part in this).[17] Hence we should at least ask whether birds belong to the kingdom of higher animals or to that of the lower animals? Do not birds show emotional behaviour no less than mammals? Ouweneel says very little about birds.[18]

Also octopuses have a lobe in their brain with functions comparable to that of the limbic system in mammals.[19] It is no accident to mention mammals, birds and octopuses in one context. All three form end stations in an evolutionary line, and have a highly developed and complex nervous system. One cannot maintain that mammals are ‘higher’ than birds or octopuses, as far as taxonomic or evolutionary arguments are concerned. It is for instance striking that the animals in all three categories have senses (in particular eyes) which are completely comparable as to complexi­ty and appropriateness.

If Ouweneel wants to restrict the ‘higher’ animals to the mammals, his argument with respect to the limbic system etc. fails. It would be difficult to maintain that birds lack emotions and affections, which mammals like elephants and mice would share. So let us assume that Ouweneel includes birds, and perhaps also octopuses, among the kingdom characterized by the ‘sensitive’ aspect. It is, however, clear that birds, mammals and octopuses have so little in common with each other that this kingdom would immediately fall apart into three sub-kingdoms. The birds and the mammals have more in common with the reptiles than with each other. I think that most biologists would consider it a dubious proposal to have reptiles in a kingdom separate from that of mammals and birds, which in turn includes the octopuses. Still, it is a possibility to be considered, for the distinction of psychic types should be based on psychic argu­ments, not on morphological or physiological ones.

However this may be, from a methodological point of view it is unsatisfactory that Ouweneel does not include birds and octopuses in his discussion, if not in his sensitive kingdom.

 

2.2. A modal aspect founding a structural type

 

In Dooyeweerd's theory of structural types, a modal aspect cannot only serve to qualify a certain type, it is also able to found one (except, of course, for the final modal aspect). Besides the primary distinction of ‘radical types’ or ‘kingdoms’, we meet here a secondary distinction of types having the same qualifying function but different foundation functi­ons. In principle, in each kingdom one can expect as many secondary types as there are law spheres preceding the modal aspect qualifying that kingdom. Hence, in the kingdom of physical things and events, one may expect three secondary types, founded in the numerical, spatial and kinematic aspects, respectively.[20] And in the kingdom of living beings (except animals) four secondary types may be expected.

One reason why I am not happy with Dengerink's proposal to consider a ‘temporal’ modal aspect preceding the numerical one is that it would upset my analysis of structural types. This is a very personal remark, and as such of little value. But I regret that Dengerink does not pay much attention to the consequences of his proposal for Dooyeweerd's theory of types. If one takes the existence of structural types founded in a modal aspect as a criterion for the existence of that aspect, then - at least for the time being - it does not provide us with an argument to consider ‘time’ to be an irreducible law sphere.

But again, one should not absolutize any criterion for the distincti­on of modal aspects, and perhaps the ‘temporal’ forms an exception. One should not observe that all individual things and events are ‘temporal’, and are as such founded in the temporal aspect, for this is not a structu­ral feature. It only points to the universality of being temporal, and the univer­sality of time is not disputed.

With respect to the animal kingdom, I think it needs a very thorough investigation to arrive at even a tentative designation of the five secondary structural types to be expected. Before entering into this problem (in section 2.4) I want to observe that the distinctions made by Ouweneel between mammals and the ‘lower’ animals appear to be secondary rather than primary, meaning that mammals (and perhaps birds and octopuses) belong to a different secondary type than other animals. For instance, Ouweneel does not say that mammals have a limbic system exclusively. Rather, they have a ‘developed’ limbic system, contrary to reptiles, for instance, whose limbic system is ‘rudimentary’.[21]

Hence, by rejecting Ouweneel's proposal to distinguish more than one kingdom of animals, I am not stating that his arguments concern­ing the differences between mammals and other animals are irrelevant to an investi­gation of structural types. It is regrettable, however, that Ouweneel only takes into account the primary distinction of radical types, and omits from his discussion the secondary distinction as defined above.

 

2.3. Interlude: Subjects and objects

 

According to the standard representation of the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea, animals cannot function subjectively in the modal aspects following the psychic one.[22] This is in line with the traditional view that man is different from animals in particular because of his rationali­ty. Therefore, it distracts from another view proposed by this philosophy, namely that a human person is first of all a religious being.

I should like to endorse Dengerink's suggestion that animals can be subject in the aspects following the psychic one, albeit, of course, different from human beings.[23] It can hardly be denied that animals have limited capabilities of logical distinction. Some animals produce structu­red things like nests or holes. These should be distinguished from organic products like wood or manure, which are by-products, however important. Initially these are enkaptically interlaced in the structure of a plant or an animal, and only achieve a relatively independent existence after having broken this connection.

In this respect, wood and manure differ strikingly from an individual object like a bird's nest. It has an evident struc­ture, which is biotically and psychically determined. It is produced with a clear purpose. Its structure is recognizable as belonging to a certain species - the nest of a blackbird differs from the nest of a heron. But the nest itself does not live, and shows no behaviour, it is not a subject in the biotic and psychic aspects, but an object. It is a subject in the physical aspect, but that does not determine its typical structure. It is an individual structured object with respect to the animals which make it or use it. We find this figure not only with birds and mammals, but also with insects (bees, ants), with spiders and with fish.

This formative activity has invariantly an instinctive character. The animals concerned can only act in one way, which is usually genetically determined, it is species-specific. Often it is coercive.

In a similar way it can be observed that some animals have a primiti­ve supply of lingual signs. The bees' dance is an example. Birds are able to warn each other against danger. In groups of apes a recognizable lingual communication system has been established. Many animals show social behaviour: bees, ants, birds during migration, mammals living in herds, etc. Sometimes a division of labour and leadership is unmistakably present. Also economic, aesthetic, and even primitive ethic behaviour is recogniza­ble.

In all these examples it is striking that the behaviour concerned is retrocipatory. All post-psychic functions of an animal serve its biotic and psychic needs, in particular the acquisi­tion of food, reproduction, and survival of the species. Therefore, animals remain qualified by the psychic aspect. (As a consequence, the modal aspect qualifying a kingdom is not necessarily the highest subject-function of the individuals belonging to that kingdom).

In this respect mankind differs from the animal kingdom. Man is subject in all modal aspects, and, during his evolution, has been able to develop all of them into the anticipatory direction, guided by his faith, and by his calling as a responsible person.

The behaviour of a person is not merely directed to food, reproduc­tion, and survival. It is no longer genetically restric­ted, but culturally determi­ned. The laws, to which animals are subjected by necessi­ty, receive a normative character for mankind. Normativity is correlated to responsibili­ty. I would not apply normati­vity to the post-psychic law spheres, but to human responsibili­ty, i.e., the manner by which human beings respond to laws. For humanity, laws have a normative character. This could just as well pertain to pre-logical laws.

Now returning to the psychic modal aspect, I think it is sound philosophy to state that (apart from human beings) only animals can be subject in this aspect. I was struck by Ouweneel's treatment of instincts, emotions, etc. as being ‘subject’ in the ‘percep­tive’ and ‘sensitive’ aspects. [24] I consider this a mistake of categories. There is no doubt that these states or drives are psychically qualified. Nevertheless they have an objective function in this (or, for Ouweneel: these) modal as­pect(s). Feelings do not feel, percep­tions do not perceive. It is like the magnitude of a spatial subject, the volume of a cube for instance. ‘Volume’ is an objective spatial magnitude, but unlike a cube it is not a subject in the spatial aspect. [25]

The objective ‘states’ of psychic subjects have an objec­tive, psychically qualified structure. In the preceding section I said that we should expect five secondary structural types in the animal kingdom. This refers to differently struc­tured psychic subjects. In a similar way, it may be expected that five differently founded objective structures can be distinguished. It is deplorable that Ouweneel did not use this lead for his analysis of reflexes, instincts and tendencies, which he calls ‘percepti­ve’; and affections, impulses and emotions, which he calls ‘sensitive’. It is regrettable, because he overlooks one of the most promising possiblities in Dooyeweerd's theory of structures.

 

2.4. A law sphere as an aspect of explanation

 

In the preceding sections we were mainly concerned with the modal aspects as aspects of being. Now we shall consider them as aspects of explanation, in particular regarding animal behaviour and its organic basis, the nervous system.

The study of typical structures qualified by the psychic modal aspect is extremely difficult, because these structures are always interlaced with sub-structures which are qualified by the biotic, physical, and probably the kinematic and the spatial aspects. These sub-structures are opened up by the leading psychic structure. The investigation of this intricate ‘enkapsis’ provides another means to distinguish the various modal aspects -although it will usually be the other way around: the distinction of the modal aspects allows us to investigate the structure of reality. Anyhow, for the psychic aspect, this means a study of the nervous system (as well as the study of the endocrine glands, which I shall ignore, for convenien­ce).

The philosophy of the cosmonomic idea sometimes considers ‘sensorial experience’ to be characteristic for the modal aspect qualifying the animal kingdom. Now the senses are merely highly specialized external organs of the nervous system and only appear in higher developed animals. The existence of a nervous system would be more characteristic.

The nervous system as such has first of all an organic charac­ter, its structure and functioning are genetically determined. The nervous system has a biotically qualified structure, albeit opened up by the psychic aspect. It is comparable to DNA-molecules, enzymes, the spatial structure of a cell, etc., which are physically qualified, but opened up by the biotic aspect. The nervous system is the organic basis for the psychic functioning of an animal, its behaviour. When discussing the structure of a plant, we can use the term ‘organism’ to summarize its physical sub-structure as opened up by the biotic function of the plant. Similarly, we can use the term ‘body’ to summarize the biotic (and physical, kinematic and spatial) sub-structure of an animal, opened up by its psychic structu­re, which shows itself in the animal's behaviour. Compared with the organism of a plant, the body of an animal is morphologically and physiolo­gically more differentiated, specialized, and integrated.

Moving from primitive to higher developed animals, we do not only see an increasing complexity, integration and differentia­tion, but also an increasing ‘internalization’. This begins with the appearing of a stomach in very primitive multicellular animals, making necessary the formation of a mouth and eventually an anus or a vent.[26] The vertebrates have an internal skeleton, internal organs like blood vessels, kidneys, liver, lungs, etc. As far as a plant has differentiated organs (leaves, flowers, roots, the bark), these are typically peripheral, directed outwards. In animals these organs are gradually more directed inwards. This development is compensated by the formation of new organs directed outwards: propelling organs like feet or fins, clutching organs like a mouth or hands, food-intake organs like mouth and nose, and in particular sense organs.

The taxonomy of the animal kingdom is largely based on similarities and differences with respect to morphology and physiology, and is therefore not basically different from the taxonomy of plants. But there are examples of species which can only be distinguished because of their difference in behaviour. In the formation of a new species a change in behaviour (in particular with respect to breeding) precedes a change of morphology or physiology.[27] This means that behaviour plays a leading part in the formation of a new species. Because of the multiformity of species-specific behaviour there are far more species of animals than species of plants.

The function of the nervous system in an animal body is not first of all to observe, to perceive. Perception is rather means than aim of the animal's psychic functioning. The nervous system has a cybernetic function, it controls the animal body, and is in need of observation, registration and processing of external and internal data.

Also in plants one meets regulating processes. The DNA-based cell nucleus controls the biochemical processes in the cell. Hormones stimulate or check the growth. The manner by which a plant reacts to the change of day and night or the seasons is determined by internal factors, even if influenced by external physical circumstances like temperature, sunshine, and humidity. Really regulating organs (like nerve cells) are lacking in plants, however. They occur only in the animal kingdom as the organic basis of a new ordering principle, psychic control.

By the presence of a nervous system the animal body disposes of an organization of mutually tuned co-operating organs and processes. After the conception, in an animal embryo first the nervous system is developed. In turn, this controls the develop­ment of the other organs. The highly specialized and differen­tiated functioning of the animal organs is only possible because of the integrating function of the nervous system.

Accepting, for the sake of argument, Ouweneel's distinction of two psychic aspects, I would still hesitate to consider ‘perception’ to be characteristic of the first of them. In my view, perception is merely a phase in the kind of control that distinguishes animals from plants. Perception is a necessary condition for animal behaviour rather than its characteristic. An animal that would only be able to perceive would not survive - it also has to act on its perceptions. A similar remark could be made with respect to ‘sensitive’ as characteristic for Ouweneel's second psychic aspect.

The nervous system reacts on stimuli, which come partly from the animal's own body, partly from outside. It amplifies and processes the stimuli, and controls the body, e.g., the motion of the muscles. The processing of the stimuli occurs according to a certain program, which is partly closed, partly open (see section 2.1). An important difference is that for animals the program is no longer localized in the cell nucleus, as it is in plants. During and after the development of the embryo its function is taken over by the nervous system, except with respect to the typical biotic and biochemical functioning of the cells themsel­ves. As a consequence animals are able to react faster and more flexibly than plants can do.

If we consider the nervous system as most characteristic for the animal body, we can gain some insight in the secondary structural types defined in section 2.2 - but I like to emphasize the tentative and perhaps premature character of the following suggestions.

The numerical unit of the nervous system is the nerve cell, which is fed by stimuli. These are amplified, communicated, and transformed into an instruction, for instance for a muscle or a gland. A unicellular animal does not ‘have’ a nervous system, but I suggest it ‘is’ a nerve cell. A nerve cell occurring in the body of a higher developed animal can be considered to be a psychic subject with its own idionomic structure, qualified by the psychic aspect. Its structure is enkaptically interlaced in the structure of the nervous system and of the animal as a whole.

The nerve cells are spatially integrated (enkaptically bound) into the nervous system, that (with some exceptions) shows a typical left-right symmetry, having consequences for the spatial structure of the animal body. In the nervous system simultaneously received stimuli are co-ordinated, and various instructions given at different positions in the body are integra­ted.

The next (and I suggest: kinematic) level of integration is the memory. It needs a certain amount of differentiation of nerve cells and groups of them, and probably the integration of nerve cells into a central nervous system: the brain. The short-term memory allows the animal to perceive and process stimuli which arrive successively rather than simulta­ne­ously, hence to perceive changes in its environ­ment.

Usually one distinguishes this short-term memory from the long-term memory, which needs even more specialized parts of the nervous system, in particular sense organs. These can dis­criminate between stimuli of diffe­rent kinds, and integrate them into a ‘picture’ (not only visual, but also tactile, auditive, olfactory, etc.). This allows the animal to form an image of its environment relative to the state of its own body, and to store it for some time, such that it can be compared with a new image formed at a later time. Succeeding images can be used (in a feed-back process) to invoke corrections during a course of action. This suggests a physically founded structure, because these images ‘interact’ with each other or with inborn programs. (This ‘interaction’ is not physical, of course, but psychic). Hence, on this level one can expect emotions, like conflicting desires. Perhaps the distinction of a separate autonomic nervous system (only in vertebrates) is relevant at this level.

As the highest, i.e., biotic level of integration the phantasy or imagination would count, meaning the generation of information, allowing higher animals to anticipate on expected situations, and to solve problems. On this level feelings like pleasure and fear can be expected, and the limbic system (see section 1) may play an important part.

Whatever these suggestions are worth, they serve to illustrate the potential power of Dooyeweerd's theory of types for an analysis of both typical subjects (like nerve cells and the animals themselves) and typical objects (like instincts and feelings of various kinds).

 

2.5. A law sphere in relation to other law spheres

 

From the assumption that the law spheres are both mutually irreducible and universal, one derives two other methods of distinguishing modal aspects: the method of antinomy, and the method of analogy. Both are highly valued in the philoso­phy of the cosmonomic idea.[28] However, as a heuris­tic tool both are weak if considered apart from other methods.

The method of antinomies states that if one fails to make a distinc­tion between two mutually irreducible aspects, one runs into antinomies. I have the impression that antinomies are only recognized ‘after the fact’, that is, after one has become convinced that two aspects are mutually irreducible. Therefore it is not surprising that Ouweneel finds antinomies after his discovery that the ‘perceptive’ and the ‘sensitive’ are different modal aspects.[29] But if one is not convinced by his arguments, one sees his ‘antinomies’ in a different light. I make two remarks.

First, referring to what I said in section 2.2 about the secondary distinction of types, an anomaly can also arise if one does not realize that two types (though having the same qualific­ation function) have different foundation functions.

Second, Ouweneel states that something cannot be both subject and non-subject in the same law sphere.[30] This is a common misunderstanding. In the physical aspect, for instance, unlike nucleons (protons, neutrons, etc.), electrons are not subject to the laws for strong nuclear interacti­on, whereas they are subject to the laws for weak nuclear interaction, electromag­netic interaction, and gravity. In the spatial aspect, a twodi­mensional subject like a triangle can only be an object with respect to a threedimensional subject like a pyramid. In many cases, the relation between an animal and its prey must be considered a subject-object relati­on, even if the prey is a living animal (see section 2.6). Hence, if Ouweneel (inaccurately) says that perceptions are not subject to the laws for impulsivi­ty, affectivity and emotivity, this does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that an anomaly is at stake. It is a bit inaccura­te to say that something is a subject or object with respect to a lawsphere (as I did myself in section 2.3), and occasionally it leads to mistakes. We call something a ‘subject’ with respect to a certain law (rather than a law sphere) if it is directly subjected to this law; and we call it an ‘object’ if it is only intermediate­ly, via a certain ‘subject’ subjected to this law.

The other method, the study of retrocipations and anticipa­tions, is more fruitful, at least if one takes distance from a merely verbal appro­ach, that is very tempting in the Dutch and German langua­ges, but hardly translatable into English. Ouweneel's discussion of the anticipations and retrocipations of the ‘perceptive’ and the ‘sensitive’ aspects abounds with metaphorical terms like ‘gevoelsleven’ (sense life) and ‘levens­gevoel’ (sense or feeling of life). [31]

The Dutch are fond of these contractions, whose philosophi­cal relevance is minimal. It is true that these verbal excercises constituted a necessary stage in the early development of the philosophy of the cosmono­mic idea. However, quod licet Iovi non licet bovi: after fifty years we should proceed beyond the first steps towards a fully scientific research into the structure of the modal aspects. Analogies can best be studied in the context of the criteria discussed in sections 2.1 and 2.2, and in the context of the theory of time.

 

2.6. A law sphere as an aspect of time

 

As observed, Dengerink recently proposed to consider ‘time’ to be the first modal aspect. His main argument seems to be that time is universal (which would be endorsed by Dooyeweerd) but is not characteristic of the whole creation in the way Dooyeweerd takes it. It is difficult to argue with Dengerink. Where Dooyeweerd states that a modal aspect is (inter alia) an aspect of time, Dengerink merely recognizes an analogy of time, and where Dooyeweerd states that every structure and individual is temporary, Dengerink agrees, pointing to the universality of each modal aspect. They also agree that time has a subject side and a law side. The difference will only become clear after Dengerink has elaborated his view into a more comprehensive theory of time. Dengerink's critique of Dooyeweerd's concep­tion of time is probably right in several respects[32] but does not compel to such a radical revision. I prefer to work in Dooyeweerd's program, which I find more promising (even if more complicated) and more challen­ging than Dengerink's proposal.

Each modal aspect, then, is an expression of time, having a law side, i.e., the order of time, and a subject side, which comes to the fore both in subject-subject relations and in subject-object relations. Time is relative, and the modal aspects together form inter alia a universal and abstract frame of reference for all kinds of relations, assuring that nothing exists in isolation. For the psychic modal aspect I suggest that the order of time is teleological; that the subject-subject relation is most adequate­ly expressed by ‘communication’, and the subject-object relation by ‘recognition’. Both communication and recognition are nothing if not purposive.

Under the influence of a mechanist world view, together with the deserved­ly bad reputation of eighteenth and nineteenth century natural theology, and reinforced by reductionalist philosophies, teleological arguments have been banned from the philosophy of nature for a long time. Nevertheless, zoologists have always been aware that the behaviour of animals cannot be understood if it is not considered to have some purpose, even if it is instinctive or coercive. Botanists do not need such argu­ments, for plants do not show purposive behaviour. (One could make an exception with respect to flowering and seed bearing plants, whose structu­re is opened up by the interaction with animals, see section 2.1. This functioning anticipates the purposive behaviour of animals). The age-old discussion whether the creation is purposive is put into a new perspective by pointing out that the psychic aspect is a universal aspect of the creation, and that teleology is the psychic aspect of ‘cosmic time’ in Dooyeweerd's sense. This means that the physical universe and the biotic cosmos are purposive as well, even if this can only be recog­nized if we study them in their relation to animal and human behaviour.[33]

If anything, teleology is an order of time. As such it presupposes the numerical order of before and after, the spatial order of simultaneity, the kinematic order of continuous succession, the physical order of irreversibility, and the biotic order of genetic descendence.

As a law, the teleological order is correlated to the psychic subject-subject relation determining the temporal relations  of  a  certain  individual  with  other   individuals.

This relation could be called ‘perceptive’, but this is usually understood to be one-sided. ‘Communication’ of information and feelings between animals, and between various parts of the body of a single animal, comes closer. In turn, communication depends on ‘recognition’, which also plays a part in the psychic subject-object relation. This pertains both to the inborn, genetically determined ‘instinctive’ functioning of an animal, and to what it has learned.

A nerve cell recognizes a stimulus, transmits it in a recognizable way, and transforms it in a recognizable stimulus for a gland or a muscle. Even the most primitive animal is able to orientate itself in its environment. By co-ordinating various stimuli a pattern can be recognized, and by co-ordinating various instructions a differentiated unity of behaviour arises, which again has a certain pattern. An animal is able to recognize changes in its environment, sometimes directly, sometimes by comparing the observed pattern with what is registered in its memory. The animal is able to recognize its food, sometimes a prey, or reversely, an enemy.

In particular, animals are able to recognize individuals of the same species - as partners, as offspring, as parents, or as belonging to the same or a different herd, flock or nest. Recognition can be the basis of territorial behaviour and for the order in groups of animals: the pecking order of chickens, the hierarchy in herds of elephants or troups of apes.

Recognition consists of remembrance, observation and foresight, which refers to the numerical time order. In the recognition of a pattern simultaneously registered signals are related, and it is also a continuous process. The processing of a signal or a pattern, or a succession of images is irreversible, and there is a genetic relation between the stimulus and its response. Recognition lies at the foundation of feelings of various kinds, such as fear or pleasure.

For animals, communication outside the body is an in­dividualized form of recognition, often restricted to members of a species or a population. In many cases, relations between animals of different species are of a subject-object character, for instance, if an animal serves as food for another one. Communication occurs between the members of a group or herd, between a male and a female, between parents and their offspring. Many patterns of communication are inborn, but sometimes they are achieved by learning, in particular during the first phase of life of a young animal. Characteristic for communication is that an animal produces signals with the purpose of being recognized (and sometimes with the purpose of preven­ting recognition).

A typical example of communication is the courting behaviour of a male that recognizes the presence of a female, and acts accordingly. Also in the migration behaviour of birds and other animals, of which the details are largely unknown, communication and recognition probably plays a significant part.

These few remarks should be sufficient to show that the study of a law sphere as a mode of cosmic time is a fruitful method for the designation of the various modal aspects. However, time is more than modal time. The temporality of the creation also means that it is dynamic, it evolves continuously.

A study of the physical, biotic and psychic aspects of reality is wanting if it ignores the evolution of the cosmos. It is true that Dooye­weerd seems to restrict the so-called opening process to the cultural sphere of mankind. But he was certainly not afraid of evolutionary theo­ries, even if he was critical with respect to some of them, and in particu­lar with the philosophical hypostatization embodied in ‘evolutionism’.

It is hardly avoidable to arrive at a rather static view of reality if one rejects all kinds of evolution, and even if one restricts evolution to development within the limits of a certain species. The assumption that species are unchangeable is called ‘essentialism’ and is reminiscent of Platonic idealism.[34] The theory of types initiated by Dooyeweerd should be developed into a theory that would account for the evolution (or perhaps the gradual actualization) of types. We shall have to go a long way before we reach this goal. It is simply impossible to ignore both evolutionary theories and evolution itself. If the theory of the modal aspects and structural types would fail to account for evolution (astrophysical as well as biological), it would fail entirely. But this is by no means the case. In particular, this theory has a great potential in giving an account of the order of evolution, if not of its actual course. And reversely, the empirically established order of evolution may help us in the investigation of structural types.

 

Conclusion

           

With respect to the modal aspects discussed in this paper, my conclusion is that neither Dengerink nor Ouweneel has provided sufficient arguments for his proposal, respectively, to consider ‘time’ as a modal aspect, or to consider two separate psychic aspects, the ‘perceptive’ and the ‘sensitive’. My chief aim, however, was to discuss criteria for suchlike decisions. In particular, I did not enter into a discussion of Ouweneel's psychological arguments, which should be left to psychologists. As a philosopher I am interested in methodology, and from this viewpoint I arrive at the above mentioned conclusion.

There is no royal road to science. There is no infallible unique way to decide which modal aspects should be recognized, and therefore one cannot afford to neglect one. I have discussed various methods to investi­gate a modal aspect, and I identified three fruitful ways: the study of the ‘primary’ distinction of kingdoms or radical types; the study of the ‘secondary’ distinc­tion of types having the same qualifying aspect but different founding aspects; and the study of the temporal order and the corresponding intersubjective relations. Implicit in all three methods is the study of retrocipations and sometimes anticipations of one modal aspect to another.

In my view, a far less fruitful method is a mainly verbal discus­sion of the ‘meaning nucleus’ of a modal aspect, based on a search in the literature or based on intuition or natural experience. A scientific investigation of the modal aspects and the typical structures of reality should critically transcend both tradition and natural experience. I do not say that tradition and intuition do not play a part, in particular at an early stage of investigation. Such was the case when Herman Dooyeweerd and Dirk Vollenhoven started to work on the idea of mutually irreduci­ble law spheres. There is no deprecia­tion in the observation that the fathers of the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea made mistakes. On the contrary, not only animals and human beings, but also philosophers should be ready to learn from their mistakes, in order to survive.

The modal and typical structures of reality are not immediately available, neither for human thought or intuition (a fallacy of rationa­lism) nor for human perception (a fallacy of empirism). These structures are hidden, and can only partly, tentatively and successively be laid bare by a careful, respect­ful and laborious exploration of God's creation.



[1]. Dengerink, 1986, 240-245. Already in 1953, Dooyeweerd observed that ‘... some adherents of my philosophy are unable to follow me in this integral conception of cosmic time’, Dooyeweerd,, NC, I, 31.

[2]. Ouweneel 1984, 24-25,  39, 43, and beyond; 1986, hoofdstuk 2. Ouweneel is by no means the first to challenge the ‘psychic’ aspect, see Ouweneel 1986, 75-91.

[3]. Dooyeweerd, op.cit. III, 83.

[4]. M.D.Stafleu (a), ‘Spatial Things and Kinematic Events’, Philosophia Reformata 50 (1985) 9-20.

[5]. Margulis, Schwartz 1982. Although these authors distinguish only one kingdom of  animals, it should be observed that they define animals as being multicel­lular. Hence the monocellular protozoa find a place in their kingdom of Protoctista.

[6]. The present paper is more or less a sequel to Stafleu 1986, discussing biotically qualified structures.

[7]. e.g., Smelik1969.

[8]. Ouweneel 1984, 44 characterizes the biotic aspect by metabolism. I consider this a mistake. ‘Food’ with respect to living beings can only have an objective meaning, and therefore metabolism cannot serve to characterize the aspect of organic life.

[9]. Lever 1973, hoofdstuk 2.

[10]. In this context, 'structure' points to the law side, 'individuality' to the subject side of reality.

[11]. Wallace 1979, 151-174. Eibl-Eibesfeldt1970, 251-302. Lorenz 1973, hoofdstukken 4-7.

[12]. cf. Stafleu op.cit. (a): a radical type has both a qualifying and a founding aspect.

[13]. Ouweneel 1984, 43: ‘Wij geven er de voorkeur aan - ... - slechts die aspecten teaanvaarden die elk een bepaald rijk van stoffelijke (sic) entiteiten kwalificeren’ (italics by WJO).

[14]. Ouweneel 1984 mentions them, but they do not play a part in Ouwe­neel's analysis. In Ouweneel 1986 these aspects are discussed with respect to Dooyeweerd's views.

[15]. Ouweneel is not quite consistent in his terminology. In Ouweneel 1984 he speaks of one ‘spiritual’ (‘geestelijk’) aspect, with the logical, historical, etc. as ‘sub-aspects’. In Ouweneel 1986 he summarizes the post-psychical aspects under the name ‘spiritive aspects’ (plural).

[16]. see footnote 2.

[17]. Wallace 1979, 85

[18]. Ouweneel 1986, 100 is the only place I could find, and it says about nothing.

[19]. Wallace 1979, 142-143.

[20]. Stafleu 1980, Chapter 10.

[21]. Ouweneel 1986, 100. Similarly, when Ouweneel discusses the distinction between human beings and mammals, he points to the ‘neo-cortex’ which is ‘developed’ in humans, and underdevelo­ped but not absent in mammals. Again, this can hardly serve to make a distinction between two ‘radical’ types, which needs more ‘radical’ differences.

[22]. Dooyeweerd NC  I, 39; II, 81, 114; III, 58, 85.

[23]. Dengerink 1986, 222-223, 249. See also Lever 1973, 187-193; Smelik 1969; Ouweneel 1986, 216-217.

[24]. e.g., Ouweneel op.cit. (b) 112, 115.

[25]. I shall briefly return to the distinction of subjects and objects in section 5, below.

[26]. Margulis, Schwartz 1982, 161. After conception, every animal starts its development by forming a ‘blastula’, a hollow ball of cells.

[27]. Wallace 1979, 23; Thines 1966, 254-264.

[28]. Dooyeweerd NC, II, 3-54.

[29]. Ouweneel 1986, 113-118.

[30]. ibid., 115; see also Dooyeweerd NC, II, 370.

[31]. Ouweneel 1986, 118-126. Also Dengerink does not always escape verbalism in this respect. It should be observed, however, that these metaphors can be very helpful in a didactic context, and also that Ouweneel has several really interesting examples of analogies.

[32]. Ouweneel 1986, Chapter 5 discusses Dooyeweerd's theory of time, but he does not apply it in his analysis of the psychic modal aspect(s) in Chapter 2.

[33]. Even in modern physical cosmologies, the ‘teleological dimension’ is recognized, see e.g. Barrow, Tipler 1986.

[34]. Mayr 1982, 38, 87, 304-305: ‘Without questioning the importance of Plato for the history of philosophy, I must say that for biology he was a disaster.’ (p. 87).

 

 


 

 

3. Being  human in the cosmos (1991)

 

 

3.0. Introduction

3.1. Cosmic time

3.2. The position of human persons in the natural king­doms

3.3. Humanity in the history of the cosmos

General Conclusion

 

3.0. Introduction

 

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.

Marcel Verburg recalls that Dooyeweerd did not finish his anthropological work[1] because he did not see a solution to the problem of evolution.[2] 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.[3]

Contrary to his intention, Dooyeweerd's careful and deliberate reaction to Jan Lever's epoch-making work[4] 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.[5] 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’[6] 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?[7] 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.[8] 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.[9] 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 discussion.[10]

 

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.[11] 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.[12]

 

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

 

The first 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.

Herman 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 system.

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.

 

Time 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.[13] From an anthropologi­cal perspec­tive, I shall put forward some suggestions with respect to the remaining aspects, and reconnoitre some problems invol­ved.

Research 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.[14] 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.[15] 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 modal determination.

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,[16] first by making distinction between scientific work and theoretical thought.[17] 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.[18] Fourth, by observing that theore­tical thought has an instrumental character which is lacking in natural thought.

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.[19] 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.

 

Creativity

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.[20] 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 in tradition.

 

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.

 

Social communities 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.[21] 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.[22] 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.

The functioning 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.

 

Homo ludens

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.[23] In the relation between the sexes one finds with animals something of beauty and play too, but then it is merely retrocipatory and instinctive.

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 art.

 

Office

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 function.

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.[24] 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.

 

Transcendence: 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.[25] 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.[26] 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.[27] 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.

Hence 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.

 

Conclusion

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.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30]

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.[31]

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.[32] 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.[33]

 

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.[34] 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 religious.

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.­[35]

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.[36] 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 established.

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.[37] 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.[38] 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.

The 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.[39] 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.[40] 

 

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 anthropology.

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.

But 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.[41]

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.

           

Genesis

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.

For 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.[42] Genesis tells us that God makes humanity respon­sible for the creation, as a steward, as God's representati­ve on earth.[43] 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.

 

Conclusion

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.

We have 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.

The 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 itself.

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.

According 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.[44] 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[45] 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.[46] 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 reality.

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 explana­tion.

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.

It 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.[47] 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.

Hence 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?

I 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 laws only.

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 for.

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.[48]

 

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 for anthropology.

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

The 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

The 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.[49] To ignore these relations would, if possible, inevitably lead to getting lost in time.

 

General Conclusion

 

In pursuance 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.



[1] 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’.)

[2] Verburg 1989, 350-360.

[3] 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.

[4] Lever 1956; Dooyeweerd 1959b.

[5] ‘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.

[6] Dooyeweerd 1942. Most (but not all) theses can also be found in Ouweneel 1986.

[7] Stafleu 1985.

[8] 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.

[9] 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.’

[10] 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.

[11] See, however, Dengerink 1986, 249.

[12] See Dengerink 1986, 222-223.

[13] Stafleu 1970; 1980; 1985; 1986;1988, 1989.

[14] 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.

[15] Dooyeweerd 1953-58, II, 466 and beyond. For a discussion of Dooyeweerd’s views, see Strauss 1973, 1984; Dooye­weerd 1975-76; Denger­ink 1977.

[16] Cf. Stafleu 1981-82; 1987.

[17] 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.

[18] 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.

[19] 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.

 [20] Griffioen 1986.

[21] A more relevant distinction would be between an organized association, based on authority and discipline, and an unorganized community, see Stafleu 2004. 

[22] 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.

[23] Stafleu 2003.

[24] 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.

[25] 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.

[26] Cf. Kim 1983.

[27] 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.

[28] Cf. Stafleu 1985 and 1989. In part 2 of the present chapter I shall bypass the kingdoms qualified by the spatial and kinematic aspects.

[29] 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.

[30] Barrow, Tipler 1986, 3. For a discussion of astrophysical cosmology from a Christian viewpoint, see van Till 1986.

[31] 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.

[32] 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’.

[33] Cf. Stafleu 1987, 44-45.

[34] Dooyeweerd 1953-58, I, 39; II, 81, 114; III, 58, 85.

[35] 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.

[36] Cf. Stafleu 1981-82.

[37] In 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.

[38] Cf. Lever 1956, Chapter 5; ­Goudge 1961, 160-183.

[39] ‘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.

[40] 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.

[41] Cf. Troost 1969, 21.

[42] 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).

[43] 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.

[44] Stafleu 1989, chapter 8; 1986.

[45] Dooyeweerd 1959b, 126ff.

[46] Dooyeweerd 1959b, 156-157.

[47] 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.

[48] For more details, see Stafleu 1959, Sec. 8.4 and 1986, Sec. 9.

[49] 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.

 


 

 

4. The idionomy of natural kinds

and the biological concept of a species

  

4.1. What is a natural kind?

4.2. Types of idionomic law clusters and their interlacement

4.3. Reflections on the biological concept of a species

 

 

4.1. What is a natural kind?

 

 

It seems almost obvious that a species is a natural kind, but several philosophers have expressed a different opinion.[1] Before dealing with this problem, I shall review and partly revise the theory of natural kinds. According to the cosmonomic philosophy, things or events of the same kind are subject to a specific idionomic cluster of laws.[2] Herman Dooyeweerd’s expression ‘structure of individuality’ appears to be appropriate to describe individual subjects like atoms, molecules, plants and animals, each having a relative stability and lasting identity and a characteristic form.[3] But the concept of a structure is hardly applicable to individual events or processes, which are transitive rather than stable and lack a specific form. A dictionary description of the word structure would be the manner in which a building or organism or other complete whole is constructed, how it is composed from connected parts. In this sense, an electron has no structure, yet it is no less a characteristic whole than an atom. Depending on temperature and pressure, a solid like ice displays several different crystal structures. The structure of an animal, its size, appearance and behaviour depend characteristically on its sex and age, changing considerably during its development. The structure of an individual subject is changeable, whereas its kind remains the same. Therefore I prefer to speak of individual things, events and processes to be subject to an idionomic cluster of laws valid for a class of individuals of a natural kind and specifying an ensemble of possible variations. Alternatively, I shall call an idionomic law cluster a structure, a character or a pattern, if the context precludes misunderstandings.[4]

In contrast to autonomy, the concept of idionomy expresses the interdependent character of natural kinds, it is a relational concept. An idionomic cluster of laws determines which properties a specific subject has and which propensities, how it relates to its environment, under which circumstances it exists, how it comes into being, changes and perishes.

 

A natural kind is determined by a specific cluster of laws

In general, the specification of a natural kind is in need of laws shared with others kinds. Electrons are characterized by having a specific rest mass, electric charge, magnetic moment and lepton number.[5] Positrons have the same rest mass and magnetic moment, but different charge and lepton number. Electrons and neutrino’s have the same lepton number but a different rest mass, charge and magnetic moment. Electrons, positrons and neutrino’s are fermions, but so are protons and neutrons. It appears that no property is unique for a single natural kind. It is never a single law, but always a specific cluster of laws that characterizes things or events of the same kind.

Dooyeweerd introduced other ‘spheres of laws’ governing the general frames that he called modal aspects of reality.[6] Each frame concerns general, non-specific relations between things or events, independent of their character.[7] Quantitative, spatial, kinematic, physical, biotic and psychical relations constitute the six relation frames relevant for the study of natural kinds.

Both general relation frames and specific idionomic law clusters determine the subjects concerned, both are conditions for their existence. In no way are these law clusters to be considered as definitions in a logical sense. It is very well possible to define electrons by their mass and charge only. But this definition says very little about the laws concerning the electron’s spin, magnetic moment and lepton number. The definition does not tell that an electron is a fermion, that it has an antiparticle by which it can be annihilated, or that it belongs to the first of three generations of leptons and quarks. It does not follow from a definition that electrons have the tendency to become interlaced in atoms or metals and in events like oxidation or lightning. Although science needs definitions, theories stating laws are far more important. After electrons were identified as charged particles, the laws for electrons were gradually discovered in a century of painstaking experimental and theoretical research. We can never be sure that we know the laws for a thing or an event. Our knowledge of most natural kinds is very incomplete, even if we are able to define them fairly accurately.

Because a natural kind is characterized by a cluster of laws partly shared with other kinds it is possible to find natural classifications, like the periodic system of the chemical elements or the taxonomy of plants and animals.

 

An idionomic law cluster determines a class of subjects

An idionomic cluster of natural laws determines a class of individual things or events being subjects with respect to these laws.[8] The class of all things or events subject to an idionomic law cluster is not a priori restricted to a limited number, a certain place, or a stretch of time. In this respect a class may be called tenseless. But the individual things and events belonging to this class are far from tenseless. Any actual collection of individuals (even if it contains only one specimen) is a temporal subset of the class, like a sample.[9]

As far as the realization of an idionomic law cluster depends on external circumstances, it is temporal, too. This is crucial for the understanding of astrophysical and biotic evolution. Idionomic laws determine the temporal nature of things or events and their characteristic relations. Similarly, the general relation frames determine their temporal non-characteristic relations, like relative magnitude, position or motion.

Sometimes, a number of similar things are connected into an aggregate, for instance a chemically homogeneous gas of molecules, or a population of interbreeding plants or animals of the same species. An aggregate is a temporal collection, a connected subset of the class defined above and itself subject to a cluster of specific aggregate laws (like the gas laws).

 

An idionomic law cluster determines an ensemble of objective possibilities

Each idionomic cluster of laws allows of a certain amount of variation, giving room to the individuality of the things or events concerned. To specify the set of possibilities governed by the law cluster, I borrow the word ensemble from statistical mechanics.[10] An ensemble’s members are not things or events, but their objective states. It includes all possible variations of the individuals subject to the same cluster of laws, whether the possibilities are realized or not. An ensemble reflects the similarity of the subjects of the same kind, the relevant properties they have in common, as well as their possible differences, the variations allowed by the appropriate idionomic laws.

The idea of an ensemble is useful whenever an objective representation is available. In physics, the possible states allowed by an idionomic law cluster are mapped on the vectors of a state space. In biology, the genotype of each organism is projected on the sequence of nucleotides constituting its DNA-molecules, the so-called genetic code (6.3).

Whereas variation is universal, the distinction between possible and actual states makes only sense if these law clusters are at least physically characterized in one way or another, as defined in section 4.2. A mathematical concept anticipating physical interaction, probability is the relative frequency distribution in an ensemble, subject to statistical laws. Empirical statistics is only applicable to a specific collection of individuals of the same kind, a sample representative for the ensemble and its idionomic cluster of laws.

 

4.2. Types of idionomic law clusters and their interlacement

 

The various species of bacteria are studied by biology, but it is a philosophical matter to decide to which type they belong. Dooyeweerd designed a theory of structural types referring to the modal aspects or general relation frames.[11] Each type is determined by primary, secondary and tertiary characteristics. For the phenomenon that structures are interlaced with each other, Dooyeweerd coined the word enkapsis or encapsulation.

 

The primary characteristic is the qualifying relation frame

Primarily, each natural kind is specifically qualified by the laws for one of the six relation frames mentioned above. The universal relation of physical interaction, specified as electric, gravitational, etc., characterizes physical and chemical things, processes and events. General and specific genetic laws constitute primarily the idionomic law clusters valid for living beings and life processes.[12]

Each relation frame qualifies numerous idionomic clusters of laws. A traditional point of view acknowledges only three natural kingdoms, the physical-chemical or mineral kingdom, the plant kingdom and the animal kingdom,[13] but I believe the quantitative, spatial and kinematic relation frames qualify idionomic clusters of laws as well. A triangle, for instance, has a spatial structure, oscillations and waves have a kinematic character, and mathematical groups are quantitatively qualified.[14]

 

The secondary characteristic is fundamental

For most idionomic law clusters, a relation frame preceding the qualifying one constitutes the secondary characteristic, called its foundation.[15] In fact, an idionomic law cluster is not founded in a preceding frame itself, but in a projection of the qualifying relation frame on a preceding one.[16] For instance, electrons are secondarily quantitatively characterized, yet not by numbers, but by physical magnitudes like mass, charge and lepton number. These magnitudes determine to what amount an electron is able to interact with other physical subjects. Atoms, molecules and crystals have a characteristic spatial structure as a foundation. The secondary characteristic is as distinctive as the primary one.

For each primary type one expects as many secondary types as relation frames preceding the qualifying one. For biotically qualified wholes this means four secondary types, based in biotic projections on the quantitative, spatial, kinematic and physical frames, respectively.[17]

Prokaryotes (bacteria) and some organelles in eukaryotic cells[18] appear to be subject to idionomic law clusters founded in a quantitative projection of the biotic relation frame. Being the smallest reproductive units of life, they are genetically related by asexual multiplication, subject to the serial or diachronous temporal order. In multicellular organisms, eukaryotic cells operate as units of life as well, but eukaryotic cell division starts with the division of the nucleus, having a prokaryotic structure.

The idionomic law clusters for eukaryotic cells, multicellular undifferentiated plants and tissues in differentiated plants are founded in symbiosis. A spatial projection of the biotic relation frame, symbiosis is subject to the spatial cosmic order of coexistence, simultaneity or synchronicity.

Being kinematic projections of biotic relations, development and growth are secondary characteristics of all differentiated plants. The differentiation of a cell is only partly genetically determined, the influence of neighbouring cells being equally important. Development and growth are subject to the kinematic order of uniform succession. Differentiated organs like leaves or flowers have their own characters.

The idionomic law clusters for sexually differentiated plants (in particular angiosperms or flowering plants) are founded in sexual reproduction, which I consider a physical expression of biotic relations, the genetic interaction between plants. Genetic change caused by sexual reproduction is subject to the physical order of temporal irreversibility.

Moreover, each organism is an individual unit, has a typical morphological shape, displays characteristic rhythms and is involved in typical processes like photosynthesis.

 

A disposition is a tertiary characteristic

The tertiary characteristic of an idionomic cluster of laws is a disposition, its natural tendency or affinity to become interlaced with another individual. An idionomic law cluster is always interlaced with other ones, either because the individuals concerned cannot exist without each other (an eukaryotic cell cannot exist without its nucleus and organelles, and vice versa) or because an individual has a natural tendency to become a constitutive part of another one, in which it performs an objective function.

Some prokaryotes have the disposition to be part of an eukaryotic cell. In multicellular plants, eukaryotic cells have the disposition to be a specialized part of a tissue or organ. Plants of a certain species have the propensity to occupy a certain niche, to interbreed and to be a member of a population. A population has the propensity to change genetically, eventually to evolve into another species.

Tertiary characteristics concern a specific subject-object relation between individuals of different kinds. For instance, with respect to the cluster of laws constituting the structure of an atom, the atom itself is a subject, whereas its nucleus and electrons are objects. The nucleus and the electrons interact with each other, maintaining a physical subject-subject relation, but they do not interact with the atom of which they are constitutive parts. The relation of the atom to its nucleus and electrons is a subject-object relation determined by the laws for the atom. In turn, according to their idionomic laws nuclei and electrons have a disposition, a tendency, to become encapsulated within the fabric of an atom.

Physics and chemistry investigate the structure of atoms and molecules without taking into account their disposition to have a function with respect to organisms. But biochemistry cannot afford this freedom. Being concerned with many different polymers, it cannot overlook their characteristic functions in living cells. These molecules are physically qualified and spatially founded, witness the double helix structure as a fundamental characteristic of DNA. But much more interesting is the part the polymers play in biotic processes.

Whereas the primary and secondary characteristics refer to properties, the tertiary characteristic is usually a propensity. A particular molecule may or may not have an actual objective function in a plant, yet the propensity to exert such a function belongs to its idionomic cluster of laws.

 

Enkapsis presupposes correlation, causes emergent properties and points out the meaning of idionomy

Interlacement is only possible if the two or more subjects involved are somehow correlated to each other. Only because electrons and protons have exactly the same electric charge with opposite sign, atomic nuclei and electrons have the disposition to form electrically neutral, quite stable atoms. Atoms having an affinity to form a molecule adapt their internal charge distribution by exchanging one or more electrons (heteropolar bond), or by sharing a pair of electrons (homopolar bond), or by an asymmetric distribution of the electrons (dipolar bond). The character of a typical event like the emission of light is correlated with the characters of the emitting atom and the emitted photon.

When an atom gets interlaced with a molecule its properties change without getting lost completely. Molecules in a living cell are involved in biotic processes like reproduction without changing their chemical character. But the interlacement of idionomous law clusters is more than a mere addition, for it leads to the emergence of wholly new properties. A molecule like water has properties not shared by the constituting hydrogen and oxygen atoms.

Biochemical processes produce molecules, designed to perform specific functions in biotic processes like reproduction.[19] The large polymers consisting of carbohydrates (polysaccharides), amino acids (proteins) or nucleic acids (DNA, RNA) emerge and function within living cells only.

Hence, taking into account its propensities, the idionomic laws for a physical subject like a molecule not only determine its structure and physical-chemical interactions, but its full meaning in the cosmos as well.[20] That is the reason for speaking of idionomy rather than autonomy of natural kinds. The theory of enkapsis steers a middle course between reductionism (stressing the secondary, foundational properties of things) and holism (emphasizing the tertiary functions of things in an encompassing whole).

 

4.3. Reflections on the biological concept of a species

 

In his influential book On the origin of species (1859), Charles Darwin set out to prove that species are not tenseless classes, but evolve one from another, the motor of evolution being competition and natural selection. I want to discuss the question of whether a species corresponds to an idionomic cluster of laws as described above, without challenging either the basic facts of evolution or the currently received theory of evolution.

At present, the reality of species seems to be generally accepted. The nominalist view of species being convenient inventions of the human mind counts few adherents. Having an intuitive understanding of the concept of a species, practical biologists steer away from relying on definitions as a relic of essentialism. But taxonomists are in need of operational criteria in order to distinguish one species from another, and to group species into divisions like genera, families, orders, classes, phyla and kingdoms.[21] The basis of a theoretical explanation of this taxonomy is the genetic law, stating that all living beings are genetically related to each other. Yet, ‘there is probably no other concept in biology that has remained so consistently controversial as the species concept.’[22]

 

Primary criteria for distinguishing species are genealogical

The genetic law implies two genealogical (or phylogenetic) criteria. The first is seldom mentioned, but always presupposed. It is the assumption that each individual organism belongs to the same species during its whole life.[23] Hence a species is or defines a set of individual organisms. This means that a species cannot be characterized by morphological criteria only. In particular the shape of an individual multicellular plant, fungus or animal (in which all cells have the same genetic configuration) changes drastically during its development. Hence, the application of morphological similarities and differences has to take into account the relevant phase of life.

Secondly, as a rule each organism belongs to the same species as its direct ancestors and descendants. Therefore, the dimorphism of male and female specimens does not lead to the distinction of different species. The (very rare) exception to the second rule occurs when a new species arises from an existing one. Hence, according to a minimal theoretical definition, a species is a lineage beginning when it splits off from another species and ending at its extinction.[24]

These two genealogical criteria refer to the biotic relation frame of living beings (concerning their genetic relations) and may be called primary criteria.[25] However, even as a minimal definition it is defective, for it leaves unclear what the splitting of a species means.[26] Isolated from other criteria, the minimal definition would allow of only one species, the collection of all living beings (assuming that they have a common ancestry). Biology is in need of additional criteria, both secondary and tertiary ones.

 

Secondary and tertiary criteria for distinguishing species are differentiated

The most practical criteria for distinguishing species are secondary ones, usually called structural. They concern similarities and differences with respect to DNA-sequences determining the genotype, and to typical form (morphology) or processes (physiology, embryology, development and reproduction) constituting the phenotype of the members of a species.

Tertiary criteria refer to the disposition of organisms to find a suitable niche or adaptive zone. How organisms adapt to their environment leads to the formulation of ecological criteria for distinguishing species. Secondary and tertiary criteria are related to each other. How an organism is adapted to its niche depends on its morphological form.

The so-called biological criterion assumes that species are separated by a reproductive gap. ‘A species is a reproductive community of populations (reproductively isolated from others) that occupies a specific niche in nature.’[27] During a long time this was considered the conclusive definition of a species, but recently it has drawn a lot of critical fire.[28] Organisms only reproducing asexually would not belong to a species. In particular prokaryotes, the only living beings during three-quarters of the history of life on earth, reproduce asexually, having other means of exchanging genetic information than interbreeding. Moreover, populations of plants considered to belong to distinct species but nevertheless interbreeding are not exceptional.

The fact that all secondary and tertiary criteria have a limited applicability gives rise to pluralist views on the concept of a species.[29] Monist philosophers hold that there should be only one concept of a species.[30] The assumption of a species to correspond to an idionomic cluster of laws almost necessarily implies the existence of at least four different types of species, corresponding to the four secondary idionomic types identified in Sec. 2. In this light, it is not surprising to find various secondary criteria, each with a limited applicability.[31] For instance, the criteria for distinguishing species of bacteria differ from those for differentiated plants.[32]

 

A species can be considered a biotic subject

Some philosophers believe that a species should be considered an individual comparable to an organism.[33] A species is subject to biotic laws, it descends from another species, it changes during its existence and it may become extinct. Yet, I prefer to consider only organisms (besides processes) to be biotic individuals of a specific kind. Organisms belonging more or less simultaneously to the same species constitute one or more populations, being subsets of an ancestral lineage.[34] Both populations and lineages are temporal collections of individuals, not tenseless classes. They are aggregates, too, because there is a genetic connection between the members of each collection. Hence, if considered to be a lineage or a population (or a set of populations), an empirical species is a temporal collection, an aggregate subject to biotic laws.

I shall not contest this view that stresses the subject side of a species. But it does not answer the question of whether a species might have a law side as well.

 

Evolution does not exclude the existence of an ensemble of possibilities

A species having a law side implies the existence of an ensemble of possible variations within the boundaries set by a specific cluster of laws. Finding such an ensemble turns out to be easier than specifying the laws for a species. In order to make this clear, I suggest the following model.

Consider a space of all possible configurations of DNA, expressed by the genetic code.[35] This configuration space is mostly empty, i.e., the majority of all possible DNA-sequences is never realized, and a great deal is not realizable at all.[36] Almost all mutations of existing DNA being lethal, it is safe to assume that most genetic configurations of DNA are not viable.

Empirical evidence suggests that the DNA-configuration of an organism, grouped into genes and chromosomes, is partly species-specific, partly individual and unique.[37] This means that the configuration space can be ordered such that the configurations are clustered into ‘valleys’ of viable configurations, each valley corresponding to the ensemble of all possible variations corresponding to a single species. The valley is large if the species allows of much variation. The variable depth of the valley is a measure of fitness. The valleys are surrounded by barriers of restrictive constraints, which may be physical-chemical, biotic or related to animal behaviour.[38] Because of these constraints, the configurations surrounding those in the valley are not viable. 99% of all species known from fossils being extinct, it may be assumed that many valleys realizable in the past are not realizable at present, because a suitable niche is no longer available. This means that viability is not merely a trait of the genotype, but of the phenotype and the environment as well.

Some valleys will be unoccupied. One or more populations temporarily occupy other valleys. A subset of each occupied valley in configuration space constitutes the temporal gene pool of a population belonging to the species.[39] While the population changes, so does the gene pool, by the forces of competition and natural selection. Hence, a particular population wanders through the valley, adapting itself to ecological circumstances.

Occasionally, a population crosses a barrier of constraints between two neighbouring valleys. It means that a new species is realized, if the new homeland was not occupied before. This process, called cladogenesis (if the old homeland remains occupied, otherwise it is called anagenesis), has a quite low probability. ‘By far the commonest fate of every species is either to persist through time without evolving further or to become extinct.’[40]

Biologists distinguish sympatric from allopatric cladogenesis. (A third form, parapatric cladogenesis, is quite seldom). The division of a population over geographically isolated areas (like the Galapagos and Hawaii islands) causes allopatric cladogenesis. It usually starts with a relatively small population, the so-called founder population, for an aberrant population of a species is almost invariably peripherically isolated. Large, widespread populations are evolutionary inert.[41] In the sympatric case, the populations are not spatially isolated, but a new niche becomes available. The most common cause for plants is polyploidy, a duplication of the number of chromosomes. Generally, polyploidy does not lead to fertile descendants, but occasionally it produces a new species after a number of generations reproducing by self-pollination or asexual reproduction. More than half of all flowering plants is polyploid.

Crossing a barrier has an analogy in the well-known phenomenon of ‘tunneling’ in quantum physics. A radioactive nucleus is usually separated from a more stable nucleus by an energy barrier, much larger than the energy available to cross it. According to classical physics, the nucleus would never be able to pass this barrier, but quantum physics proves there is a finite (even if small) probability that the nucleus will cross the barrier, like a car passing a mountain through a tunnel. A similar event occurs in the formation of molecules in a chemical reaction. In this case, whether the energy barrier can be overcome depends on external circumstances like the temperature. The presence of a catalyst may lower the energy barrier. In biochemical processes enzymes have a similar function. Hence, the possibility that an individual physical thing changes its idionomy is a fact, both theoretically and experimentally firmly established.

 

The model implies the existence of a tenseless ensemble as well as a tenseless class corresponding to a species

With respect to the emergence of a new species, all kinds of circumstances can either increase or decrease the probability of overcoming one or more constraints. Clearly, the transition probability is largest if it concerns genetically similar species (neighbouring valleys in our model). The model finds some support in the theory of ‘punctuated equilibrium’, published by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Gould in 1972. Pointing to paleontological evidence, these authors observe that transitions between species appear to occur in a relatively short time compared to periods of rather stable equilibrium.[42] Hence, during a transition the organisms concerned cannot be said to belong to either one of the species between which they are migrating.

The model suggests that the standard theories of evolution, genetics, ecology and molecular biology do not preclude the possibility that a species corresponds with an idionomic cluster of laws determining a tenseless ensemble of possible genetic configurations constituting viable organisms. The ensemble is tenseless in the following sense. In the model, a species corresponds with a valley in configuration space, supposing that the genotype of any organism is objectively represented by the sequence of nucleotides in its DNA. Hence, whenever and wherever in the universe (in suitable circumstances) an organism would have a similar DNA-configuration, it would be a member of that species. This sounds - and is - speculative, because there is no evidence of organisms living outside the terrestrial biosphere. But it is necessary to make this observation, in order to show the plausibility of the following assumption: a species is a natural kind corresponding to a tenseless ensemble of objective possible configurations, as well as to a tenseless class of individuals, subject to an idionomic cluster of laws.

 

The explanation of the existence of species is in need of specific laws

Both lineages and populations are subject to the laws for biotic evolution (organisms do not evolve). Natural selection, genetic drift and ecological circumstances are sufficient to explain how lineages arise, change and expire, and geographic isolation explains the existence of distinct populations belonging to the same species. But all this does not explain why species of viable organisms exist.

Quantum physics explains how the transition from one physical or chemical system to another happens, but neither tunneling nor catalysis explains why a nucleus or molecule is stable or metastable in certain circumstances. Natural selection explains how a population changes within the boundaries of a valley corresponding to a species, and how a population sometimes crosses a barrier between species, but it does not explain why some genetic configurations lead to more or less stable organisms (if the circumstances allow of them). It explains why a population changes its gene pool such that its fitness increases, but not why the new gene pool is more viable in new circumstances. Natural selection explains how constraints can be overcome, it does not explain why there are constraints and which constraints are operational. It explains how species are realized (Darwin’s ‘origin’), not why they exist. To assume that the theory of evolution is able to explain almost everything biotic is the fallacy of evolutionism.

Some biologists and philosophers deny the existence of laws other than physical-chemical ones,[43] others accept the existence of general biotic laws.[44] However, it cannot be denied that any explanation must start from hypothetical or corroborated law statements. These should be both general and specific, enough to explain the viability of a particular population in particular circumstances. As shown in the model, such law statements may very well include the assumption that a lineage and its populations are spatiotemporal subsets of a tenseless class, without violating the received facts and theories of evolution and genetics. The members of this class are subject to an idionomic cluster of laws, whether physical-chemical, genetic or ecological, necessary to explain their fitness.

The model itself does not prove that a species corresponds to an idionomic cluster of laws. The proof of the pudding is in its eating. Pointing out such laws should substantiate the assumption that an empirical species is a temporal subset of a class, which members are subject to a specific cluster of laws.[45] Both genetics and developmental biology search for the lawful conditions concerning the specific constitution of genes and chromosomes determining the phenotype of a viable organism belonging to a species. This is a biological problem, exceeding the scope of this paper, which philosophical concern is merely to demonstrate that the received theories and facts do not exclude the said assumption.

 

The theory of idionomic laws is at variance with essentialism

According to many biologists and philosophers, the supposition that species are natural kinds means a return to essentialism, as developed by Carl Linnaeus, in particular.[46] Essentialism assumes the possibility to formulate necessary and sufficient conditions for a kind, which are independent of similar formulations for other kinds.[47] This is a far cry from the idea of an idionomic cluster of laws.[48] And with respect to the subject side of species, as far as essentialism (like creationism) excludes evolution, the above-discussed model is by no means essentialistic.

In an essentialist sense, a kind is autonomic rather than idionomic. Several biologists and philosophers seem to assume that the essentialist paradigm for natural kinds is still applicable to physical and chemical structures. But physical things only exist interacting with other things, and the actual realization of physically qualified things is only possible if the circumstances allow of it. For instance, in the interior of the sun, no molecule can exist. According to the astrophysical theory of the evolution of the universe physical things came into existence only gradually, not unlike organisms in the biotic evolution. Nevertheless, it is generally accepted that elementary particles, atoms, molecules and crystals are subject to universal, tenseless laws.

Similarly, living organisms can only exist in genetic relations to other organisms if the circumstances allow of it. Any living being would perish in the absence of other living organisms, and no organism can survive in an environment that does not provide it with a suitable niche.

 

Conclusion: laws cannot be separated from their subjects

Whether or not a species is a natural kind corresponding to an idionomic cluster of laws is a question that should not be questioned on a priori, philosophical grounds. Rather, it is a biological problem, to be solved using a posteriori arguments, derived from empirical research. As a hypothesis it ought to be accepted only if it does justice to the facts as we know them, to the practice of working taxonomists, and to received biological theories.

If an empirically found species turns out to be idionomous in the sense described above, the concept of a species has both a law side and a subject side. At the law side, a species would correspond to a biotically qualified idionomic cluster of laws. This cluster would determine a class of individual organisms subject to the idionomic laws, as well as an objective ensemble of possible variations. At the subject side, an empirical species corresponds to a variable collection of individual organisms, limited in number, space and time.

The cosmonomic philosophy assumes that a law cannot be separated from its subjects. The laws characteristic for a species can only be found by studying their subjects, i.e., the organisms supposed to belong to the species concerned. Empirical biology discovers a species as an observable spatiotemporal collection of organisms distinguishable from other species. Biological research aims to discover the characteristic laws for a species in an empirical way sustained by the general theories of evolution, genetics, development, ecology and molecular biology. Knowledge of the relevant idionomic cluster of laws is a prerequisite for the explanation of the existence, viability and evolution of any particular species in its environment.



[1] I shall refer to a number of recent papers collected in Allen, Bekoff, Lauder (eds.) 1998; Hull, Ruse (eds.) 1998; Wilson (ed.) 1999.

[2] Verbrugge 1984, 42, 90, 134, introduced the term idionomy, analogous to but different from autonomy, after a suggestion made by P.A.Verburg (M.Verbrugge, private communication).

[3] Dooyeweerd NC, III, part I, Ch.II; part III, Ch.I, III.

[4] Misunderstandings can arise in biological morphology, where a feature or a complex of features with a specific biological role is called a character, in particular if it is shared by various species, see, e.g., Bock, von Wahlert 1965, 121. Animal psychology deals with patterns of behaviour, e.g., fixed-action patterns.

[5] Lawfully having a property is an example of a law. Each physical subject having mass (equivalent to energy) is a general law, each electron having a rest mass of 9.109 *10-31 kg is a specific law. However, every property is relational. An electron having mass is only meaningful if its mass is comparable to the mass or energy of other things, and each physical measurement needs an interaction.

[6] Dooyeweerd NC, II, part I.

[7] Stafleu, 1995.

[8] In cosmonomics, whether something is called a subject or an object does not depend on the epistemological context (as usual in philosophy) but on the nomological context, a subject being directly subjected to a law, an object only via a subject.

[9] I distinguish a tenseless class from a temporal collection. Both are sets. The temporal collection of all plants at present in my garden is a subset of the tenseless class of all plants.

[10] Tolman 1938, 43: An ensemble of systems is ‘… a collection of systems of the same structure as the one of actual interest but distributed over a range of different possible states.’ Josiah Gibbs introduced the concept of an ensemble about 1900.

[11] Dooyeweerd NC, III.

[12] Mayr 1982, 56: ‘Except for the twilight zone of the origin of life, the possession of a genetic program provides for an absolute difference between organisms and inanimate matter.’ Ibid., 629: ‘… the existence of a genetic program … constitutes the most fundamental difference between living organisms and the world of inanimate objects, and there is no biological phenomenon in which the genetic program is not involved …’

[13] Dooyeweerd NC, III, 79, 83. According to Dooyeweerd, all structures having the same qualifying aspect belong to the same radical type, and all things or events belonging to the same radical ­type form a kingdom. Modern biology distinguishes at least six kingdoms, bacteria, archaea (both prokaryotes, until recently considered one kingdom), protista (unicellular eukaryotes and algae), plantae, fungi, and animalia.

[14] Stafleu 1985. Stafleu 1989, 40-68.

[15] Dooyeweerd NC, III, 143, 266. Only quantitatively qualified kinds lack a secondary characteristic.

[16] In cosmonomics, a retrocipation refers a modal aspect to an earlier one, an anticipation to a later one. Both imply a projection and mapping of the relations determined by one relation frame on those of another frame.

[17] Stafleu 1989, Ch. VIII.

[18] In eukaryotic cells, the nucleus and organelles like mitochrondria and chloroplasts have about the size of prokaryotic cells (which do not contain such particles) and are enveloped by a similar membranes. Having their own DNA, mitochondria are genetically related to the purple group of bacteria, chloroplasts to the cyanobacteria.

[19] Dawkins 1983, 16: ‘If you find something, anywhere in the universe, whose structure is complex and gives the strong appearance of having been designed for a purpose, then that something either is alive, or was once alive, or is an artefact created by something alive.’ Kitcher 1993, 270 (492): ‘Entities have functions when they are designed to do something, and their function is what they are designed to do. Design can stem from the intentions of a cognitive agent or from the operation of selection …’

[20] Dooyeweerd NC, III, 107: ‘Nowhere else is the intrinsic untenability of the distinction between meaning and reality so conclusively in evidence as in things whose structure is objectively qualified.’

[21] de Queiroz 1999, 64: ‘… the species problem results from confusing the concept of a species itself with the operations and evidence that are used to put that concept in practice.’

[22] Mayr 1982, 251.

[23] An organism may change of population, e.g., by migration.

[24] de Queiroz 1999, 77: ‘… the general lineage concept is a quintessential biological species concept: inanimate objects don’t form lineages.’ Mishler, Brandon 1987, 310.

[25] This applies to biotically qualified organisms as well as to psychically qualified animals, because the concept of a species is biological.

[26] Ereshefsky 1992, 350.

[27] Mayr 1982, 273. According to Mayr, ‘There are three aspects of the biological species that required the adoption of new concepts. The first is to envision species not as types but as populations (or groups of populations), that is, to shift from essentialism to population thinking. The second is to define species not in terms of degree of difference but by distinctness, that is, by the reproductive gap. And third, to define species not by intrinsic properties but by their relation to other co-existing species, a relation expressed both behaviorally (noninterbreeding) and ecologically (not fatally competing).’ (ibid. 272). Hence, Mayr appears to prefer subject-subject relations above subject-object relations (e.g., morphological similarities and differences): ‘The word “species”… designates a relational concept.’ (ibid. 286).

[28] Rosenberg 1985, 191-197. Mishler, Brandon 1987; de Queiroz, Donoghue 1988; Ereshefsky 1992.

[29] Dupré, 1999. Ereshefsky 1992, 352 observes that the various criteria are not always consistent.

[30] Hull 1999, 38-39: the concept of a species should be universal, applicable, and theoretically significant.

[31] de Queiroz 1999, 60, 63: ‘In effect, the alternative species definitions are conjunctive definitions. All definitions have a common primary necessary property – being a segment of a population-level lineage – but each has a different secondary property – reproductive isolation, occupation of a distinct adaptive zone, monophyly, and so on.’

[32] Nanney 1999.

[33] Rosenberg 1985, 204-212. Hull 1999, 32: ‘when species are supposed to be the things that evolve, they fit more naturally in the category individual (or historical entity) than the category class (or kind).’ Hull, ibid. 32-33 assumes a dichotomy: ‘Classes are spatiotemporally unrestricted, whereas individuals are spatiotemporally localized and connected. Given this fairly traditional distinction, we argued that species are more like individuals than classes.’ Apparently, Hull neither distinguishes classes from collections, nor aggregates from individuals. For a critique, see Mishler, Brandon 1987; de Queiroz, Donoghue 1988; de Queiroz 1999, 67-68.

[34] A set of organisms with a common ancestry is called a taxon. This applies to species as well as to genera, phyla, etc. A taxon containing all and only the descendants of a common ancestor is called monophyletic.

[35] For each organism, the genetic code is expressed by a set of DNA-molecules (each chromosome is a DNA-molecule) each consisting of a very long characteristic sequence of only four nucleotides, called A (adenine), C (cytosine), G (guanine) and T (thymine). In RNA thymine is replaced by uracil. Each gene corresponds to a large sequence of nucleotides. The number of possible sequences far exceeds the number of genes and of individual organisms now and in the past. Individuals having the same genetic configuration are genetically identical and occupy the same position in configuration space (which, by the way, is discrete, not continuous). This space is comparable to the morphological space or morphospace discussed by, e.g., Amundson 1994.

[36] Lauder 1982, 508: ‘Why does the range of extant phenotypes, when mapped onto a theoretical “morphospace”, fill so little of it?’

[37] In the human genome, 0.1% is individually different, 99.9% is the same for all human beings. The human genome differs from that of chimpanzees by about 2%.

[38] Mayr 1982, 274: ‘Isolating mechanisms are biological properties which prevent the interbreeding of populations that are actually or potentially sympatric.’ Sober 1996, 76: ‘The word ‘constraint’ has been used in many different ways; biologists talk about mechanical constraints, developmental constraints, phylogenetic constraints, genetic constraints, etc., etc. Underlying this diversity, however, is the idea that constraints limit the ability of natural selection to produce certain outcomes.’ Dawkins 1983, 17: ‘Living things are not just statistically improbable in the trivial sense of hindsight: their statistical improbability is limited by the a priori constraints of design.’

[39] The gene pool consists of all genes present in the population. The frequency of the occurrence of each gene in the gene pool is determined by the frequency of the organisms in the population bearing that gene. Hence, whereas a population is a subjective aggregate of individual organisms, a gene pool is an objective aggregate of genetic patterns.

[40] Stebbins 1982, 23.

[41] Mayr 1982, 602.

[42] Stebbins 1982 16-21, estimates that such a transition takes 50,000 years or more, a stable period lasting several millions years.

[43] Dawkins 1986, 10-15.

[44] Hull 1974, Chapter 3. Griffiths 1999 denies that there are no laws pertaining to taxonomy.  Ereshefsky 1992, 360, observes ‘… there may be universal generalizations whose predicates are the names of types of basal taxonomic units … So though no laws exist about particular species taxa, there may very well be laws about types of species taxa.’ Ruse 1973, 30 stresses the existence of biotic laws like Mendel’s to be necessary for giving scientific explanations.

[45] Boyd 1999, 141 identifies ‘… a class of natural kinds, properties and relations whose definitions are provided not by any set of necessary and sufficient conditions, but instead by a “homeostatically” sustained clustering of those properties or relations. It is a feature of such homeostatic property cluster (HPC) kinds (…) that there is always some indeterminacy or “vagueness” in their extensions.’

[46] Toulmin, Goodfield 1965, Chapter 8. Mayr 1982, 175-177. Mayr 1982, 176 quotes from Linnaeus’ Philosophia Botanica (1751): ‘The ‘character’ is the definition of the genus, it is threefold: the factitious, the essential, and the natural. The generic character is the same as the definition of the genus … The essential definition attributes to the genus to which it applies a characteristic which is very particularly restricted to it, and which is special. The essential definition distinguishes, by means of a unique idea, each genus from its neighbours in the same natural order.’

[47] Rosenberg 1985, 188: ‘Essentialism with respect to species is the claim that for each species there is a nontrivial set of properties of individual organisms that is central to and distinctive of them or even individually necessary and jointly sufficient for membership in that species.’ Hull 1999, 33; Wilson 1999, 188

[48] Stafleu 1999.

 


 

 

5. Evolution of organic characters (2002)

 

5.1. The biotic relation frame

 

5.1. The biotic relation frame

5.2. The organization of biochemical processes

5.3. The character of biotic processes

5.4. The secondary characteristic of organisms

5.5. Populations

5.6. The gene pool

5.7. Does a species correspond with a character?

 

 

No doubt, 1859 was the birth year of modern biology. Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace were neither the first nor the only evolutionists, and their path was paved by geologists in the preceding century establishing that the earth is much older than was previously perceived, and that many animals and plants living in prehistoric times are now extinct.[1] The publication of Darwin’s On the origin of species by means of natural selection draw much attention, criticism, and approval. In contrast, Gregor Mendel’s discovery in 1865 of the laws called after him, which would become the basis of genetics, was ignored for 35 years. The synthesis of Darwin’s idea of natural selection with genetics, microbiology, and molecular biology (circa 1930) constitutes the foundation of modern biology.

This chapter applies the relational character theory, introduced in chapter 1, to living beings and life processes. The genetic relation, leading to renewal and ageing, is the primary characteristic of living subjects (5.1). I investigate successively the characters of organized and of biotic processes (5.2, 5.3), of individual organisms (5.4) and of populations and their dynamic evolution (5.5, 5.6). For the time being, I shall take for granted that a species corresponds to a character. Section 5.7 deals with the question of whether this assumption is warranted.

Life presupposes the existence of inorganic matter, including the characters typified by the relation frames of number, space, motion, and interaction. Organisms do not consist of other atoms than those occurring in the periodic system of chemical elements. All physical and chemical laws are unrestrictedly valid for living beings and life processes, taking into account that an organism is not a physically or chemically closed system.

Both in living organisms and in laboratory situations, the existence of organized and controlled chemical processes indicates that biotic processes are not completely reducible to physical and chemical ones. In particular, the genetic laws for reproduction make no sense in a physical or chemical context. Rather, they transcend the physical and chemical laws without denying these.[2]

For the biotic relation frame the genetic law is appropriate. Each living organism descends from another one, and all living organisms are genetically related. This also applies to cells, tissues, and organs of a multicellular plant or animal. Its descent determines the function of a cell, a tissue, or an organ in an organism, as well as the position of an organism in taxonomy. The genetic law constitutes the universal relation frame for all living beings. Empirically, it is amply confirmed, and it is the starting point of major branches of biological research, like genetics, evolution theory, and taxonomy. However, in physical and chemical research, the genetic law only plays a part in biochemistry and biophysics.

The genetic order is more than a static relationship. It has the dynamics of innovation and ageing. Renewal is a characteristic of life, strongly related to sexual or asexual cell division, to growth and differentiation. The individual life cycle of fertilization, germination, growth, reproduction, ageing, and dying is irreversible. Rejuvenation occurs in a series from one generation to the next, and between cells in a multicellular organism.[3] A population goes through periods of rise, blooming, regress, and extinction. Speciation implies innovation as well.

 

Each living being descends from another living being. The law statement, omne vivum e vivo, is relatively recent. Even in the nineteenth century, generatio spontanea was accepted as a possibility. Empirical and theoretical research have led to the conviction that life can only spring from life.[4] The theory of evolution does not exclude spontaneous generation entirely, for that would constitute the beginning of the biotic evolution. It might even be possible that the two kingdoms of prokaryotes arose independently. In contrast, there are good reasons to assume that eukaryotic cells have evolved from the prokaryotes, and multicellular plants, fungi, and animals from unicellular eukaryotes.

Most biologists accept a stronger law than omne vivum e vivo. It states that all living beings are genetically related, having a common ancestry. This law, to be called the genetic law, is hard to prove. Paleontological research alone does not suffice to demonstrate that all organisms have the same ancestors,[5] but it achieves support from other quarters. The argument that all living beings depend on the same set of four or five nucleic acids and twenty amino acids is not strong. Perhaps no other building blocks are available. But in eukaryotes these molecules only occur in the laevo variant, excluding the mirror-symmetric dextro variant. These two are energetically equivalent, and chemical reactions (as far as applicable) always produce molecules of the two variants in equal quantities. In the production of amino acids, similar DNA and RNA molecules are involved. In widely differing organisms, many other processes proceed identically.[6] Moreover, all plants, animals, and fungi consist of cells, although there are large differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, as well as between plant and animal cells. Prokaryotic cells are more primitive and much smaller than eukaryotic cells, and the cell wall is in plants thicker and more rigid than in animals.

The fundamental laws of the universal relation frames cannot be logically derived from empirical evidence, even if this is abundantly available. The laws of thermodynamics, the mechanical conservation laws, and the law of inertia are no more provable than the genetic law. Such fundamental laws function as axioms in a theory, providing the framework for scientific research of characters. In this sense, the genetic law has proved to be as fruitful as the generally valid physical and kinetic laws. This does not mean that such laws are not debatable, or void of empirical content. On the contrary, the law of inertia was accepted in the seventeenth century only after a long struggle with the Aristotelian philosophy of nature, from which science had to be emancipated. The law of conservation of energy and the Second Law of thermodynamics were accepted only about 1850. Similarly, only in the twentieth century the genetic law was recognized after laborious investigations. In all these cases, empirically sustained arguments ultimately turned the scale.

With respect to the biotic relation frame, the theory of evolution is as general as thermodynamics is with respect to physical and chemical relations. Both theories concern aggregates, but they are nevertheless indispensable for understanding the characters of individual things and processes. The main axioms of evolution theory are the genetic law and laws for natural selection with respect to populations.[7] In general terms, the theory of evolution explains why certain species can maintain themselves in their environment and others cannot, pointing out the appropriate conditions. In specific cases, the evolution theory needs additional data and characteristic laws, in order to explain why a certain species is viable in certain circumstances. Also in this respect, evolution theory is comparable to thermodynamics.[8]

 

The genetic law lies at the basis of biological taxonomy. Like plants and fungi, as well as protists and prokaryotes, animals are subject to biotic laws, but I shall assume that they are primarily characterized by another relation frame, to be called psychical. Within their generic psychic character, a specific organic character is interlaced. Genetic relations primarily characterize all other living beings and life processes. Each biotic process is involved with replication (5.3), and the nature of each living being is genetically determined (5.4). Within an organism, physical and chemical processes have the tertiary disposition to function in biotic processes (5.2). Living beings support symbiotic relations leading to evolution (5.5).

The genetic law is a leading principle of explanation for taxonomy and the modern species concept. The universal relation frames allow us of identifying any thing or event, to establish its existence and change, and to find its temporal relations to other things and events. In principle, the genetic law allows of the possibility to order all organisms into a biological taxonomy. The empirical taxonomy does not originate from human thought but from living nature. Its leading principle is not logical but biological. A logical, i.e., deductive classification is based on a division of sets into subsets, considering similarities and differences. It descends logically from general (the kingdoms and phyla) to specific (the species). In contrast, the biological ordering depends on genetic descent, ascending inductively from species to the higher categories.

Genetic relations can be projected on the preceding relation frames, in this chapter to be indicated by the italics a-d. On the different levels of taxonomy, a species, and a multicellular organism, these mappings can be distinguished as follows.

a. A lineage is a serial projection of the genetic order on the quantitative relation frame. Within a species one finds the linear relation of parent to offspring. Within a multicellular organism the serial order concerns each line of replicating cells.[9] By counting the intermediary specimens, it is possible to establish the genetic relation between two individuals, organs, or cells, that are serially connected.

b.  Parallel lineages are mutually connected by common ancestry. Therefore species, organs, or cells having no serial relation may be related by kinship, the genetic relation between siblings, cousins, etc. Kinship of parallel lineages is to be considered a spatial expression of the genetic relation. Each branching means a new species, a new individual, a new organ, or a new cell. In taxonomy, biologists establish kinship between species on the basis of similarities and differences. These concern shape (morphology), way of life (physiology), development of an organism (in particular embryology), the manner of reproduction, and nowadays especially comparing DNA, RNA, or the proteins they produce.[10] Kindred lineages are connected in a cladogram, a diagram showing the degree of kinship between species. If an organism has several descendants, the lineage branches within a species. In sexual reproduction lineages are connected and each organism has two parents, four grandparents, etc. Within an organism cell division causes branching. In a plant, fungus, or animal, recently branched cells lie close to each other. The larger the distance between two cells, the smaller is their kinship.

c.   Genetic development may be considered the kinetic projection of the order of renewal and ageing. Temporal relations are recognizable in the generation difference as a biotic measure mapped on kinetic time. It is the time between two successive bifurcations of a species, between the germination of a plant and that of its seeds, or between two successive cell divisions. If timing is taken into account, a cladogram becomes a phylogenetic tree. Between two splits a population evolves. From germination to death an organism develops, and cells differentiate and integrate into tissues and organs.

d.  The dynamic force of evolution within a species and the splitting of species consist of competition and natural selection. These may be considered projections of the genetic relation on the physical. Between plants, the competition concerns physical and chemical resources for existence, between fungi and animals organic ones as well. Competition is a repulsive force, to use a physical term. Besides natural selection, accidental processes lead to genetic changes, mostly in small isolated populations. This phenomenon is called ‘random genetic drift’ or ‘inbreeding’ in common parlance. Breeders use it to achieve desirable plant or cattle variations. There are attractive forces as well. Only within a species, sexual reproduction is the most innovative form of replication. Sexual interaction may be considered a specific physical expression of the genetic relation. Within an organism, neighbouring cells influence each other during their differentiation and integration.

These projections give rise to four types, each of organized chemical processes (5.2), biotic processes (5.3), biotically qualified thing-like characters (5.4), and their aggregates (5.5, 5.6).

 

5.2. The organization of biochemical processes

 

In each living being, many organized biochemical processes take place, having a function in the life of a cell, a tissue, an organ, or an organism. The term organism for an individual living being points to its character as an organized and organizing unit. The organism has a temporal existence. It emerges when the plant germinates, it increases in largeness and complexity during its development, it ages and after its death it falls apart.

An organized unit is not necessarily a living being. A machine does not live, but it is an organized whole, made after a design. A machine does not reproduce itself and is not genetically related to other machines. Because human persons design a machine, its design cannot be found in the machine itself. In a living organism, the natural design is laid down in the genome, the ordered set of genes based on one of more DNA molecules.[11] The organism transfers the design from cell to cell and from generation to generation. The natural design changes because of mutation at the level of a single cell, because of sexual interaction at the level of organisms, or caused by natural selection at the level of a population. It is bound to general and specific laws determining the conditions under which the design is executable or viable. A design is the objective prescription for a biotic character. It is a chemical character having a tertiary biotic characteristic.

The processes to be discussed in the present section are primarily physically qualified, and some of them can be organized in a laboratory or factory. Their disposition to have a function in biotic processes is a tertiary characteristic (5.3).

 

a. Molecules are assembled according to a design. Although the concept of a lineage points to a relation between living beings, there is an analogy on the molecular level. This refers to the assemblage of molecules according to a genetic design as laid down in the DNA molecules. The DNA composition is partly species specific, partly it is unique for each individual living being.

The natural design for an organism is laid down in its genome, the genetic constellation of the genes in a specific sequence. The DNA molecules are the objective bearers of the genetic design, which is the genotype determining the phenotype, that is the appearance of a living being. Each organism has its own genome, being the objective expression of the species to which it belongs as well as of its individuality. Like the DNA molecules, the genome is mostly species specific.

A DNA molecule consists of a characteristic sequence of bases (nucleotides) of nucleic acids indicated by the letters A (adenine), C (cytosine), G (guanine) and T (thymine).[12] DNA is the start of the assembly lines of the molecules having a function in life processes. Three nucleotides form the design for one of the twenty possible amino acids. An RNA molecule is a replica of the part of the DNA molecule corresponding to a single gene. Mediated by an RNA molecule each gene designs a polypeptide or protein consisting of a characteristic sequence of amino acids.[13] Some proteins are enzymes acting as catalysts in these and other material transformations.[14]

Although a great deal of the assembly of molecules takes place according to a genetically determined pattern, interaction with the surroundings takes place as well. The environment is first of all the cell plasma, the more or less independent specialized organelles and the cell wall, in which many specific biochemical processes occur. Second, via the cell wall a cell is in contact with the physical and chemical environment. Third, in multicellular organisms the environment includes other cells in the immediate neighbourhood. Finally, only animal cells exert some kind of action at a distance (6.1).

To a large extent, the environment determines which genes or combinations of genes are active, being selectively switched on or off. The activity of genes in a multicellular organism depends on the phase of development. The genome acts in the germination phase differently than in an adult plant, in a root otherwise than in a flower. The genetic constellation determines the growth of an organism. Conversely, the genetic action depends on the development of the plant and the differentiation of its cells.[15]

Therefore, DNA is not comparable to a code, a blueprint, a map or diagram in which the phenotype is represented on a small scale. Rather, it is an extensive prescription, a detailed set of instructions for biochemical processes.[16]

The enormous variation of molecules is possible because of the equality of the atoms and the uniformity of chemical bonding. This is comparable with the construction of machines. It is easy to vary machines if and as far as the parts are standardized and hence exchangeable. This applies to the disparity of organisms as well. The organization of a plant or an animal consists partly of standardized modules, some of which are homologous in widely different organisms. Such modules exist on the level of molecules (there are only twenty different amino acids, with an enormous variation in combinations), genes (standardized combinations of genes), cells (the number of cell types is restricted to several hundreds), tissues and organs. For evolutionary innovations, the existence of exchangeable parts having a different function in different combinations and circumstances is indispensable.[17]

 

b. The biotic functions of molecules depend on their shape. Although the macromolecules occurring in living beings have an enormous diversity, they have much in common as well. Polymers are chains of monomers connected by strong covalent bonds (5.3). Polysaccharides consist of carbohydrates (sugars), polypeptides are constructed from amino acids, and nucleic acids consist of nucleotides. The lipids (fats, oils and vitamins) constitute a fourth important group of large molecules. Lipids are not soluble in water. Lipids are not characterized by covalent bonds but by the weaker Van der Waals bonding. Phospholipids are the most important molecules in biotic membranes. In the double cell wall the molecules are at one end hydrophilic (attracting water), at the other end hydrophobic (repelling water). In the assembly of polymers, water is liberated, whereas polymers break down by hydrolysis (absorption of water).

All organisms apply the same monomers as building blocks of polymers. In contrast, the polymers, in particular the polypeptides and nucleic acids, are species specific. The twenty different amino acids can be connected to each other in each order and in large amounts. As a consequence, the diversity of proteins and their functions is enormous.

Polymers do not only differ because of their serial composition, but in particular by their spatial shape. Like all molecules, they are primarily physically qualified and secondarily spatially founded. DNA’s double helix structure plays a part in its replication in cell division. Also other macromolecules display several spatial structures simultaneously. For the functioning of a protein as an enzyme, its spatial structure is decisive.

Each biochemical process has to overcome an energy barrier (5.6). Increasing the temperature is not suitable, because it accelerates each chemical process and is therefore not selective enough. Catalysis by specialized proteins (enzymes) or RNA molecules (ribozymes) is found in all organisms. In plants, the enzyme rubisco is indispensable for photosynthesis.

The polymers have various functions in an organism, like energy storage, structural support, safety, catalysis, transport, growth, defence, control, or motion. Only nucleic acids have a function in the reproduction of cells and organisms.

 

c. The genetic development of a living being depends on metabolism, a transport process. A cell can only live and replicate because of a constant stream of matter and energy through various membranes. A unicellular organism has direct contact with its environment, in which it finds its food and deposits its waste. This also applies to a multicellular organism consisting of a colony of independently operating cells, like many algae. These organisms’ ideal environment is salt water, followed by fresh water and moist situations like mud or the intestines of animals. To colonial organisms, this imposes the constraint that a tissue cannot be thicker than two cells.

Multicellular fungi, plants, or animals need internal transport of food, energy, and waste, requiring cell differentiation, in which, for instance, the photosynthetic cells lie at the periphery of plants. Metabolism is an organized stream of matter through the organism. It allows of life outside water. In the atmosphere, oxygen is better accessible than in water, other materials are less accessible.

The cell wall is not merely a boundary of the cell. Nor is it a passive membrane that would transmit some kinds of matter better than others. Rather, it is actively involved in the transport of all kinds of matter from one cell to another. Membranes have an important function in the organization of biochemical processes, the assemblage of molecules, the transformation of energy, the transport of matter, the transfer of information, and the processing of signals. Hence, the presence of membranes may be considered a condition for life.

Plant cells are close together, and transport takes place directly from one cell to the other one. A plant cell has at least one intracellular cavity enclosed by a membrane. This is a vacuole, mostly filled with water, acting as a buffer storage and waste disposal. Animals have intercellular cavities between their cells. Animal cells are connected by proteins regulating the exchange of molecules and information. These proteins play an important part in the development of the embryo as well.

Passive transport is distinguished from active transport. Passive transport lacks an external source of energy and is caused by diffusion in a chemical solution or by osmosis if the solution passes a membrane.[18] Some substances pass a membrane together with proteins acting as carriers. The concentration gradient is the driving force of diffusion. The size and the electric charge of the molecules concerned and the distance to be travelled also influence the diffusion speed. In particular the distance is a constraint, such that diffusion is only significant within a cell and between two neighbouring cells. To cover larger distances other means of transport are needed.

Active transport requires a source of energy, like adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This transport is coupled to carriers and proceeds against a concentration difference like a pump. Endo- or exocytose in eukaryotic cells is the process in which the cell wall encapsulates the substance to be transported. After the capsule has passed the wall it releases the transported substance. Animal cells have receptors in their wall sensitive for specific macromolecules. Besides, animals have organs specifically designed for transport, for instance by the circulation of blood.

No organism can live without energy. Nearly all organisms derive their energy directly or indirectly from the sun, by photosynthesis. This process transforms water, carbon dioxide, and light into sugar and oxygen. This apparently simple chemical reaction is in fact a complicated and well organized process, only occurring in photosynthetic bacteria and in green plants. The product is glucose (a sugar with six carbon atoms in its molecule), yielding energy rich food for plants and all organisms that feed on plants.

The transformation of energy is a redox reaction. Some molecules oxidize by donating electrons, whereas other molecules reduce by accepting electrons. The first step is glycolysis (transformation of glucose in pyruvate), which does not require oxygen. Most organisms use oxygen for the next steps (cellular respiration). Other organisms are anaerobic, transforming energy by fermentation, which is less efficient. In the absence of oxygen, many aerobic cells switch to fermentation. Because nerve cells are unable to do so, they become easily damaged at a shortage of oxygen. Glycolysis, cellular respiration and fermentation are organized processes with many intermediate steps. The end product consists of ATP and other energy carriers that after transport cede their energy in other chemical reactions.

 

d. Self-replication of DNA molecules has a function in reproduction. Serving as a starting point for the assemblage of polypeptides, the DNA molecule has a specific spatial structure. It consists of a double helix of two sequences of nucleotides being each other’s complement, because each adenide (A) in one sequence connects to a thymine (T) in the other one and each cytosine (C) in one sequence to a guanine (G) in the other. If the DNA molecule consists of two such strings it is called diploid.[19] The two halves are not identical, even if they look alike. This structure makes the DNA molecule very stable. An RNA molecule, acting as an intermediary between a gene on the DNA molecule and the assemblage of a polypeptide, is haploid. Consisting of a single helix, it is less stable than DNA. DNA is not always diploid. Many fungi consist of haploid cells. Only during sexual reproduction, their sex cells are diploid.

The DNA molecule itself is not assembled by another molecule. It has a unique way of self-duplication. Preceding a cell division, the diploid helix unfolds itself and the two haploid halves separate. In sexual cell division (meiosis) the next steps differ from those in the far more frequent asexual cell division (mitosis).

Mitosis is the asexual form of reproduction for unicellular organisms. It also occurs in the growth of all multicellular organisms. After the first division of the diploid DNA molecule, each half doubles itself by separating the two sequences and connecting a new complementary base to each existing base. Hence, two new diploid DNA molecules arise, after which the cell splits as well. The daughter cells are genetically identical to the mother cell.

Meiosis, the sexual cell division, is more varied. In a much occurring variant, the DNA remains haploid after the first splitting. As a rule, after the second division four daughter cells arise, each with half the DNA. Either all four are sperm cells or one is an egg cell, whereas the other three die or become organelles in the egg cell. Only after the egg cell merges with a sperm cell of another individual, a new diploid cell arises. This cell has a different composition of DNA, hence a new identity. This is only possible if the two merging DNA halves fit to each other. In most cases this means that the individuals concerned belong to the same species. In prokaryotes meiosis is often a more complicated process than in eukaryotes.

Cell division is not restricted to DNA replication. The membranes are not formed de novo but grow from the existing ones. In particular, the cell wall of the original cell is divided among the daughter cells. Life builds on life.

 

5.3. The character of biotic processes

 

Besides the organized biochemical processes there are processes that are typically biotically qualified. In section 5.5, I shall discuss the genetic changes occurring in a population. Important processes for the dynamic development of an individual organism, to be discussed in the present section, are cell division, spatial shaping, growth and reproduction.

The genetic identity of a living organism as a whole is determined by its genetic contents. Its heredity is expressed in the genes and their material basis, the DNA molecules. All cells of a multicellular organism have the same DNA configuration and every two living beings have different DNA molecules, except in the case of asexual reproduction. The genes organize the biochemical processes discussed in section 5.2 as well as the biotic processes to be discussed in section 5.3. The genetic identity as an organizing principle of a living being determines its temporal unity. This unity disappears when the organism dies and disintegrates.

 

a. Cell division is a biotically qualified process that is quantitatively founded. The cell as a subjective unit multiplies itself. Sexual cell division (preceded by sexual interaction, see below) is distinguished from the more frequent asexual cell division (5.2). In the case of an eukaryotic cell, the nucleus too is divided into two halves. The other cell bodies, the cell plasma, and the cell wall, are shared out to the daughter cells and supplied by new ones.

Many organisms reproduce asexually. The prokaryotes and protists (mostly unicellular eukaryotes) reproduce by cell division. Many plants do so by self-pollination. Now the daughter has the same genetic identity as the parent. In this respect they could be considered two spatially separated parts of the same plant. On the one hand, nothing is wrong with this view. Alaska is an integral part of the United States, though it is spatially separated from the mainland. The primary character determines the temporal unity of an individual, and in the case of a bacterium, a fungus, or a plant, this is its genetic identity. Only after a sexual reproduction the daughter plant is a real new individual, genetically different from its parents and any other individual. On the other hand, this view counters natural experience, accepting a plant as an individual only if it is coherent. Moreover, in asexual reproduction not only the spatial coherence is lost, but all kinds of biochemical and biotic interactions as well. This seems to be sufficient to suppose that asexual reproduction gives rise to a new individual.[20]

No single organism is subject to genetic change. Hardly anything can be found that is more stable than the genetic character and the identity of a living being. From its germination to its death, a plant remains identical to itself in a genetic sense. Only in sexual replication genetic change occurs. Of course, a plant is subject to other changes, both cyclic (seasonal) and during its development in its successive phases of life.

 

b. The genetic relation is not the only factor determining the biotic position of a living being. For each plant and every animal, its relation to the environment (the biotope or ecosystem) is a condition of life. First, the environment concerns subject-subject relations. Symbiosis should be considered a  spatially founded way of living together. It is found on all levels of life. Within an eukaryotic cell symbiosis occurs between the cell nucleus and the organelles having their own DNA. In multicellular organisms cells form tissues or organs. In an ecosystem, unicellular and multicellular organisms live together, mutually dependent, competitive or parasitic.

Second, each organism has a subject-object relation to the physical and chemical surroundings of air, water, and soil. Just like the organized matter in the plant, the physical environment has a dynamic function in life processes.

Third, the character of plants anticipates the behaviour of animals and human beings. This constitutes an object-subject relation. By their specific shape, taste, colour, and flavour plants are observable and recognizable by animals as food, poison, or places suited for nesting, hunting, and hiding.

 

c. The dynamic development of a plant from its germination to adulthood may be considered a kinetically founded biotic process. It is accompanied by differentiation of cells and pattern formation in tissues, and by relative motion of cells in animals. The growth of a plant is strongly determined, programmed by the genome. In the cell division the DNA does not change, but the genes are differentially switched on and off. During the growth, cells differentiate into various types, influenced by neighbouring cells.[21]

There are other influences from the environment, for a plant only grows if the circumstances permit it. Most seeds never start developing, because the external factors are not favourable. Even for a developing plant, the genotype does not determine the phenotype entirely. The development of the plant occurs in phases from cell to cell, in which the phenotype of the next cell is both determined by its genotype and by the phenotype of the preceding cell and the surrounding cells, as well as by the physical, chemical, and organic environment.

The dynamic development of a plant or animal belongs to the least understood processes in biology.[22] It starts from a single point, fertilization, and expands into a series of parallel but related pathways. Sometimes one pathway may be changed without affecting others, leading to a developmental dissociation. Usually such dissociation is lethal, but if it is viable, it may serve as a starting point for evolutionary renewal.[23]

 

d. Sexual reproduction may be considered a primarily biotically qualified process that is secondarily physically founded, like a biotic interaction. Two genetically different cells unite, and the DNA splits before forming a new combination of genes (5.2). By sexual reproduction a new individual comes into being, with a new genetic identity.

Contrary to the growth of a plant, reproduction is to a large extent accidental. Which cells unite sexually is mostly incidental. Usually only sex cells from plants of the same species may pair, although hybridization occurs frequently in the plant kingdom. By their mating behaviour, animals sometimes limit accidents, increasing their chances. Even if a viable combination is available, the probability is small that the seed germinates, reaches adulthood and becomes a fruit bearing plant. Because the ultimate chance of success is small, a plant produces during its life an enormous amount of gametes. On the average and in equilibrium circumstances, only one fruit bearing descendant survives. The accidental nature and abundance of reproduction, supplied with incidents like mutation, is a condition for natural selection. But if it would occur in a similar way during the growth of a plant, no plant would ever reach the adult stage. Dynamic development is a programmed and reproducible process. Sexual reproduction (as well as evolution according to Charles Darwin) is neither.[24]

Fertilization is a biotically qualified process, interlaced with biochemical processes having a biotic function. Moreover, in animals fertilization is interlaced with the psychically qualified mating behaviour that is biotically founded.

 

5.4. The secondary characteristic of organisms

 

Assuming that four relation frames precede the biotic one, we should expect four secondary types of biotically qualified thing-like characters. These are, respectively, quantitatively, spatially, kinetically, or physically founded. Each type is interlaced with the corresponding type of biotic processes mentioned in section 5.3. Moreover, the characters of different types are interlaced with each other as well.

 

a. It seems obvious to consider the cell to be the smallest unit of life. Each living being is either a cell or a composite of cells. However, this conceals the distinction between prokaryotes (bacteria and some algae) and eukaryotes. According to many biologists, this difference is more significant than that between plants and animals.[25] The oldest known fossils are prokaryotes, and during three-quarters of the history of the terrestrial biosphere, eukaryotes were absent. Prokaryotic cells are more primitive and usually smaller than eukaryotic cells. Most prokaryotes like bacteria are unicellular, although some colonial prokaryotes like algae exist. The protists, fungi, plants, and animals consist of eukaryotic cells. A bacterium has only one membrane, the cell wall. An eukaryotic cell has several compartments enclosed by a membrane. Besides vacuoles these are particles like the cell nucleus, ribosomes (where RNA molecules assemble polypeptides), mitochondria (the power stations of a cell), and chloroplasts (responsible for photosynthesis). Prokaryotes have only one chromosome, eukaryotes more than one. Therefore, biologists consider the prokaryotes to belong to a separate kingdom, or even two kingdoms, the (eu)bacteria and the much smaller group of archaebacteria (archaea).

It appears that the chromosomes in an eukaryotic cell have a prokaryotic character, as well as the genetically more or less independent mitochondria and chloroplasts. Having their own DNA, the latter organelles’ composition is genetically related to that of the prokaryotes.[26] Therefore, I consider the character of prokaryotes to be primarily biotic and secondarily quantitative. This may also apply to the characters of the mitochondria, chloroplasts, and chromosomes in an eukaryotic cell, and to the character of viruses as well. None of these can exist as a living being outside a cell, but each has its own character and a recognizable genetic identity.[27] Their character has the tertiary disposition to become interlaced in that of an eukaryotic cell. In eukaryotic organisms, reproduction starts in the prokaryotic chromosomes.

 

b. A spatially founded biotic character is characterized by symbiosis (5.3). The symbiosis of prokaryotes in an eukaryotic cell is called endosymbiosis. In the character of an eukaryotic cell several quantitatively founded prokaryotic characters are encapsulated. In turn, eukaryotic cells are the characteristic units of a multicellular fungus, plant, or animal.[28] Each cell has a spatial (morphological) shape, determined by the functions performed in and by the cell.

In colonial plants (thallophytes like some kinds of algae), the cells are undifferentiated. As in colonial prokaryotes, metabolism takes place in each cell independent of the other cells. In higher organisms, eukaryotic cells have the disposition to differentiate and to integrate into tissues and organs. Both in cell division and in growth, cells, tissues, or organs emerge having a specific shape. The spatial expression of an organism is found in its morphology, of old a striking characteristic of living beings. Since the invention of the optical microscope in the seventeenth century and the electron microscope in the twentieth, the structure of a cell is well known.

 

c. Differentiated organisms and organs have a kinetically founded character. Except for unicellular and colonial organisms, each living being is characterized by its dynamic development from the embryonic to the adult phase. Now the replication of cells leads to morphological and functional differentiation. In a succession of cell divisions, changes in morphology and physiology of cells occur. Their tertiary character takes distance from that of the gametes. This gives rise to differentiated tissues and organs like fibres, the stem and its bark, roots, and leaves. These have different morphological shapes and various physiological functions. In a differentiated plant, metabolism is an organized process, involving many cells in mutually dependent various ways (5.2). Growth is a biotic process (5.3). Differentiation enhances the plant’s stability, fitness and adaptive power.

Differentiation concerns in particular the various functions that we find in a plant. The biological concept of a function represents a subject-object relation as well as a disposition. Something is a biotic object if it has a function with respect to a biotic subject (5.2). Cells, tissues, and organs are biotic subjects themselves. A cell has the disposition to be a part of a spatially founded tissue, in which it has a function of its own. A tissue has an objective function in a differentiated organ. By differentiation the functions are divided between cells and concentrated in tissues. In a differentiated plant, chlorophyll is only found in leaves, but it is indispensable for the whole plant. The leaves have a position such that they catch a maximum amount of light.

Differentiation leads to the natural development from germination to death. The variety in the successive life phases of fertilization, germination, growth, maturing, reproduction, ageing, and natural death is typical for differentiated fungi, plants, and animals.

Although the cells of various tissues display remarkable differences, their kinship is large. This follows from the fact that many plants are able to reproduce asexually by the formation of buds, bulbs, stolons, tubers, or rhizomes. In these processes, new individuals emerge from differentiated tissues of plants. Grafting and slipping of plants are agricultural applications of this regenerative power.

 

d. Sexual reproduction appears to be an important specific projection of the genetic relation on the physical and chemical relation frame. This biotic interaction between two living beings is the most important instrument of biotic renewal. All eukaryotic organisms reproduce by sexual cell division (even if some species reproduce by other means most of the time). In prokaryotes, the exchange of genetic matter does not occur by sexual interaction, but by the merger of two individuals. Reproduction is a biotic process (5.3), and the part played by DNA replication is discussed in section 5.2.

In the highest developed plants, sexuality is specialized in typical sexual organs, like flowers, pistils, and stamens. Some plant species have separate male and female specimens. In sexually differentiated plants, the sexual relation determines the genetic cycle, including the formation of seeds. Fertilized seeds can exist some time independent of the parent plant without germinating, for instance in order to survive the winter. Sometimes they are provided with a hard indigestible wall, surrounded by pulp being attractive food for animals. The animal excretes the indigestible kernel, co-operating in the dispersal of the seeds.

In particular, sexual reproduction is relevant for the genetic variation within a population. This variation enhances the population’s adaptability considerably. The genetic kinship between individuals in a population is much less than the genetic relation between cells within an individual organism.

The characteristic distinctions between an egg cell and pollen, between male and female sex organs in bisexual plants, and between male and female specimens in unisexual plants, have a function to prevent the merger of sex cells from the same individual. In bisexual plants self-pollination does occur, but sometimes the genetic cycle is arranged such as to preclude this. Fungi are not sexually differentiated but have other means to prevent self-fertilization. Within each fungus species several types occur, such that only individuals of different types can fertilize each other.

 

The above presented distinction of four biotic types of thing-like characters is only the start of their analysis. Real characters almost always consist of an interlacement of differently typed characters.

First, one recognizes the interlacement of equally biotically qualified but differently founded characters. In eukaryotic cells, an interlacement occurs with various organelles having a prokaryotic character. Because the organelles have various functions, this interlacement leads to a certain amount of differentiation. In all multicellular plants, the character of the cells is interlaced into that of a tissue. In differentiated plants, the character of organs is interlaced with those of tissues. This concerns both their morphological structure and their physiological functions. The highest developed plants display an interlacement of cells, tissues, leaves, roots, flowers, and seeds. Together they constitute the organism, the plant’s primary biotic character. The differentiation of male and female organs or individuals is striking.

Second, the biotic organism is interlaced with characters that are not biotically qualified. First of all, these concern the physically qualified characters of the molecules composing the plant (5.2). Besides we find in a plant kinetic characters, typical motions of the plant as a whole or of its parts. An example is the daily opening and closing of flowers, or the transport of water from roots to leaves. Each plant and each of its cells, tissues, and organs have typical shapes. By no means these characters are purely physical, chemical, kinetic, or spatial. They are opened up by the biotic organism in which their characters are encapsulated. Their tertiary biotic disposition is more obvious than their primary qualifying or secondary founding relation frames. They have a function determined by the organism. Unlike cells and tissues, they do not form parts of the organism, as follows from the fact that they often persist some time after the death of the organism. Everybody recognizes the typical structure of a piece of wood to be of organic origin, even if the plant concerned is dead for a long time. Wood is not alive, but its physical properties and spatial structure cannot be explained from physical laws only. Wood is a product of a living being, which organism orders the physically qualified molecules in a typically biotic way.

Third, we encounter the interlacement of the organism with many kinds of biochemical and biotic processes (5.2, 5.3). Whereas physical systems always proceed to an equilibrium state, an organism is almost never at rest. (A boundary case is a seed in a quasi-stable state). Metabolism is a condition for life. Reproduction, development, and growth of a multicellular organism, and the seasonal metamorphosis of perennial plants, are examples of biotic processes. Each has its own character, interlaced with that of the organism.

 

The typology of characters differs from the biotic taxonomy. A relatively recent taxonomy of living beings still distinguished five kingdoms: monera (proka­ryotes); protoctista or protista (unicellular and colonial eukaryotic organisms); fungi; animalia; and plantae.[29] Nowadays the prokaryotes are divided into the kingdoms of (eu)bacteria and archaebacteria or archaea, differing from each other as much as they differ from the eukaryotes. The protists form a set of mutually hardly related unicellular or colonial eukaryotes. Fungi are distinguished from plants by having haploid cells most of the time. Being unable to assimilate carbon, they depend on dead organic matter, or they parasitize plants or animals. DNA research reveals that fungi are more related to animals than to plants.

It cannot be expected that the typology discussed in this section would correspond to the biological taxonomy of species. Taxonomy is based on specific similarities and differences and on empirically found or theoretically assumed lineages and kinship. If the biotic kingdoms in the taxonomy would correspond to the division according to their secondary characteristic, this would mean that the four character types would have developed successively in a single line. In fact, many lineages evolve simultaneously. In each kingdom the actualization of animal phyla or plant divisions, classes, orders, etc. proceeds in the order of the four secondary character types and their interlacements. However, their disparity cannot be reduced to the typology based on the general relation frames.

The biological taxonomy, the division of species into genera, families, orders, classes, phyla or divisions, and kingdoms, is not based on the general typification of characters according to their primary, secondary, and tertiary characteristics. Rather, it is a specific typification, based on specific similarities and differences between species.

 

5.5. Populations

 

Sections 5.2 and 5.3 investigated physical, chemical, and biotic processes based on projections of the biotic relation frame on the preceding frames. Section 5.4, too, was mainly directed to secondary characteristics of biotic subjects. Now a tertiary characteristic will be considered, the disposition of organisms to adapt to their environment. Organisms do not evolve individually, but as a population in a biotope or ecosystem. Section 5.5 discusses the laws for populations and aggregates of populations, whereas section 5.6 treats the genome and the gene pool as objective aggregates.

 

a. A population is a homogeneous aggregate, a spatio-temporally bounded and genetically coherent set of living beings of the same species.[30] Two sets of organisms of the same species are considered different populations, if they are spatially isolated and the exchange of genetic matter is precluded. A population as a whole evolves and isolated populations evolve independently from each other.

A population is a quantitatively founded biotic aggregate, having a number of objective properties open to statistical research, like number, dispersion, density, birth rate, and death rate. These numbers are subject to the law of abundance. Each population produces much more offspring than could reach maturity. The principle of abundance is a necessary condition for survival and evolutionary change. Competition, the struggle for life, sets a limit to abundance.[31]

Being threatened by extinction, small populations are more vulnerable than larger ones. Nevertheless, they are better fit to adaptation. Important evolutionary changes only occur in relatively small populations that are reproductively isolated from populations of the same species. As a ‘founder population’, a small population is able to start a new species. Large, widely dispersed populations are evolutionary inert.[32]

 

b. A biotope or ecosystem is a heterogeneous aggregate. It is a spatially more or less bounded collection of organisms of different species, living together and being more or less interdependent. The biotic environment or habitat of a population consists of other populations of various species.

A biotope is characterized by the symbiosis of prokaryotes and eukaryotes, of unicellular and multicellular organisms, of fungi and plants. Most biotopes are opened up because animals take part in them, and sometimes because they are organized by human interference. Biotopes like deserts, woods, meadows, or gardens are easily recognizable.

A population occupies a niche in a biotope. A niche or adaptive zone indicates the living room of a population. Both physical and biotic circumstances determine a niche, in particular predator-prey relations and the competition about space and food. Each niche is both possible and constrained because of the presence of other populations in the same area. In general, the geographic boundaries of the habitats of different species will not coincide. Therefore the boundary of a biotope is quite arbitrary.

Each niche is occupied by at most one population. This competitive exclusion principle is comparable to Wolfgang Pauli’s exclusion principle for fermions (5.2, 5.4). If a population that would fit an occupied niche invades an ecosystem, the result is a conflict ending with the defeat of one of the two populations. Sooner or later, some population will occupy an empty niche.

If the physical or biotic environment changes, a population can adapt by genetically evolving or by finding another niche. If it fails it becomes extinct.

 

c. In each biotope, the populations depend on each other. Each biotope has its food chains and cycles of inorganic material. Fungi living mainly off dead plants form a kingdom of recyclers.[33] Many bacteria parasitize living plants or animals, which, conversely, often depend on bacteria. Sometimes the relation is very specific. For instance, a lichen is a characteristic symbiosis of a fungus and a green or blue alga.

The biotic equilibrium in an ecosystem may change by physical causes like climatic circumstances, by biotic causes like the invasion of a new species, or by human intervention. Like a physical equilibrium, the biotic balance has a dynamic character. If an ecosystem gets out of balance, processes start having the disposition to repair equilibrium or to establish a new equilibrium.

Sometimes the ecological equilibrium has a specific character, if two populations are more or less exclusively dependent on each other, for instance in a predator-prey relation. If the prey increases its number, the number of predators will grow as well. But then the number of prey will decrease, causing a decrease of predators. In such an oscillating bistable system, two ‘attractors’ appear to be active.

 

d. Individual organisms are not susceptible to genetic change, but populations are subject to evolutionary change. Besides competition, the driving force of this dynamic development is natural selection, the engine of evolution. With each genotype a phenotype corresponds, the external shape and the functioning of the individual plant. Rather than the genotype, the phenotype determines whether a plant is fit to survive in its environment and to reproduce. Fitness depends on the survival value of an individual plant at short term, and on its reproduction capability and the viability of its offspring.[34] Fitness is a long-term measure for the ability of a population to maintain and reproduce itself.

Natural selection concerns a population and acts on the phenotype. It has the effect that ‘the fittest survives’, as Herbert Spencer would have it.[35] The struggle for life is a process taking place mostly within a population, much less between related populations (if occupying overlapping niches), and hardly ever between populations of different species.[36]

But the evolution of a population depends on the environment, including the evolution of other populations. The phenomenon of co-evolution means that several lineages evolve simultaneously and mutually dependently. An example is the evolution of seed eating birds and seed carrying plants. The plant depends on the birds for the dispersion of its seeds, whereas the birds depend on the plants for their food. Sometimes, the relation is very specific.

Besides co-evolution, biologists distinguish divergent and convergent evolution of homologous respectively analogous properties.[37] Homology concerns a characteristic having a common origin. In related species, its function evolved in diverging directions. Analogy concerns a characteristic having a corresponding function but a different origin. The emergence of analogous properties is called convergent or parallel evolution. The stings of a cactus are homologous to the leaves of an oak, but analogous to the spines of a hedgehog. The wings of a bird and a bat are homologous to each other, but analogous to the wings of an insect. Light sensitivity or visual power emerged at least forty times independently, hence analogously, but the underlying photoreceptors may have arisen only once, they appear to be homologous.[38]

 

5.6. The gene pool

 

The insight that populations are the units of evolution is due to Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace. It is striking that they could develop their theory of evolution without knowledge of genetics. Besides populations being subjective aggregates of living beings, in the biotic evolution objective aggregates play a part. These objective aggregates consist of genes. Six years after Darwin’s publication of The origin of species (1859), Gregor Mendel discovered the laws of heredity. These remained unnoticed until 1900, and only some time later they turned out to be the necessary supplements to the laws for populations.

Some populations reproduce only or mostly asexually (5.7). In section 5.6, I restrict myself to populations forming a reproductive community, a set of organisms reproducing sexually. Within and through a population, genes are transported, increasing and decreasing in number.

 

a. The genetic identity of each living being is laid down in its genome, the ordered set of genes (5.2). The genes do not operate independent of each other. Usually, a combination of genes determines a characteristic of the organism. In different phases of development, combinations of genes are simultaneously switched on of off. The linear order of the genes is very important. The number of genes is different in different species and may be very large. They are grouped into a relatively small number of chromosomes, each chromosome corresponding to a DNA molecule. The human genome consists of 23 chromosome pairs and about 30,000 genes. The genes take only 5% of the human DNA, the rest is non-coding ‘junk-DNA’, which function was not very clear at the end of the twentieth century.[39] A prokaryote cell has only one chromosome. In eukaryotes, genes occur in the cell nucleus as well as in several organelles, such as the mitochondria. The organelles are considered encapsulated prokaryotes (5.4).

Genes are not subjectively living individuals like organisms, organs, tissues, cells, or even organelles.[40] They have an objective function in the character of a living cell. A genome should not be identified with the DNA molecules forming its material basis, neither a gene with a sequence of bases.[41] Confusion arises from using the same word for a sequence of nucleotides in a DNA molecule and its character, the pattern. In all cells of a plant the DNA molecules have the same pattern, the same character, which is called the plant’s genome. Likewise, a gene is not a sequence of nucleotides, nor a particle in a physical or chemical sense, but a pattern of design. The same gene, the same pattern can be found at different positions in a genome, and at the same locus one finds in all cells of a plant the same pair of genes. Each gene is the design for a polypeptide, and the genome is the design of the organism.

The biotic character of the genome is interlaced with the chemical character of DNA molecules. The genome or genotype determines the organism’s hereditary constitution. The phenotype is developed according to the design expressed in the genome. Both phenotype and genotype refer to the same individual organism.[42]

Nevertheless, genes have their own objective individuality. In asexual cell division, the genome remains the same. The parent cell transfers its genetic individuality to the daughter cells. In sexual reproduction, objective individual genes are exchanged and a new subjective individual organism emerges.

 

b. A population is characterized by the possibility to exchange genes and is therefore the carrier of a gene pool. Although the members of the population belong to the same species, they are genetically differentiated. In a diploid cell, a DNA molecule consists of a double helix. At each position or locus there are two genes. These genes may be identical (homozygote) or different (heterozygote). Different genes that can occupy the same locus in different organisms in a population are called alleles. Some alleles dominate others. The distribution of the alleles over a population determines their genetic variation, satisfying Gregor Mendel’s laws in simple cases. In sexual reproduction, the pairs of genes separate, in order to form new combinations in the new cell (5.3).

At any time, the gene pool is the collection of all genes present in the population. The exchange of alleles in sexual reproduction leads to changes in the frequencies within the gene pool, but does not change the genes themselves. For change, several other mechanisms are known, such as mutation, crossing-over, and polyploidy.[43] Usually, the location of the genes does not change. It is a specific property of the species. Hence, the way genes co-operate is also specific for a species.

A population in which sexual reproduction occurs without constraints is subject to the statistical law of Godfrey Hardy and Wilhelm Weinberg (1908): on a certain locus in the genome the frequency of the alleles in the gene pool in a stable population is constant, generation after generation. Only selective factors and hybridization with another population may disturb the equilibrium.[44] Hybridization between related species or different populations of the same species give rise to a new species or race if three conditions are met. First, the hybrids are fertile. Second, there is a niche available in which the hybrids are better adapted than the original population. Third, the new combination of genes becomes isolated and sufficiently stabilized to survive.[45]

Observe that the organisms determine the frequency of the genes in the pool. The character of each gene is realized in DNA. Still, it makes no sense to count the number of DNA molecules in a population, because DNA is found in each cell and most cells have no significance for the gene pool. Even the number of gametes is irrelevant for calculating the gene frequency. The frequency of genes in the pool is the weighed frequency of the organisms in the population, being the carriers of the gene concerned.[46] For instance, if at a certain locus a gene occurs once in 10% of the organisms and twice in 10%, the gene has a frequency of 15% in the gene pool, because each locus contains two alleles.[47] By natural selection, the frequency of a gene may increase or decrease, depending on the fitness of the organisms in the population.

 

c. Because of external circumstances, the gene pool may change very fast. Within a few generations, the distribution of a gene pair AB may change from 90% A, 10% B into 10% A, 90% B. This means that a population is able to adapt itself to changes in its habitat, and to increase its chances of survival and reproduction. In a radical environmental change (in particular if a part of the population is isolated), hereditary variation within a species may give rise to the realization of a new species. Hence, adaptation and survival as concepts in the theory of evolution do not concern individual organisms (being genetically stable), but populations. Only populations are capable of genetic change.

Natural selection as such is not a random process,[48] but it is based on at least two random processes, to wit mutation and sexual reproduction. Which alleles combine in mating rests on chance. The enormous amounts of cells involved in reproduction compensate for the relatively small chance of progress.

 

e. The phenotype (not the genotype) determines the chance of survival of an organism in its environment. The phenotype is the coherent set of the functions of all parts of the organism, its morphology, physiology, and its ability to reproduce. The genotype generates the phenotype, whereby development and environment factors play an additional but important part. Natural selection advances some phenotypes at the cost of others, leading to changes in the gene pool. Together with changes in the genes themselves, natural selection induces small changes in each generation to accumulate to large changes after a large number of generations.

The received theory of evolution emerged shortly after 1930 from a merger of Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection with genetics and molecular biology. It presupposes that evolution occurs in small steps. Major changes consist of a sequence of small changes. In many cases, this is an acceptable theory. Nevertheless, it would be honest to admit that there is no biological explanation available for the emergence of prokaryotes (about three billion years ago); of eukaryotes (circa one billion years ago); of multicellular organisms (in the Cambrium, circa 550 million years ago); of sexual reproduction; of animals; and of the main animal phyla, plant divisions, classes, and orders. At the end of the twentieth century, the empirical evidence available from fossils and DNA sequencing is not sufficient to arrive at theories withstanding scientific critique.

 

5.7. Does a species correspond with a character?

 

A natural character is defined as a set of laws determining an ensemble of possibilities besides a class of individuals. A class and an ensemble are not restricted in number, space, and time. They do not change in the course of time and do not differ at different places. A population is not a class but a collection. Hence, it does not correspond to a character. The question of whether a species corresponds to a character is more difficult to answer. ‘There is probably no other concept in biology that has remained so consistently controversial as the species concept.’[49] Philosophers interpreting the concept of a natural kind in an essentialist way rightly observe that a biotic species does not conform to that concept. However, the idea that a character is not an essence but a set of laws sheds a different light on the concept of a species. The main problem appears to be that insufficient knowledge is available of the laws determining species. Instead, one investigates the much better accessible subject and object side of these unknown laws.

Generally speaking, biologists are realists, because they consider a species to be a natural set. Each living being belongs to a species, classified according to a variety of practical criteria, which do not always yield identical results. Besides, there are quite a few theoretical definitions of a species.[50] The distinction between operational criteria used in practice and theoretical definitions is not always sharp. Practice and theory are mutually dependent. However, not distinguishing them gives rise to many misunderstandings.[51]

Criteria to distinguish species from each other are grouped into genealogical (or phylogenetic), structural, and ecological criteria. This corresponds more or less to a division according to primary, secondary, and tertiary characteristics.

Species can be distinguished because they show distinctive, specific properties. These are regular, therefore lawlike. This is not merely interesting for biologists. In particular in sexual relationships, animals are able to distinguish other living beings from those of their own kind.

 

Primary criteria to distinguish species are genealogical. The biological taxonomy is based on empirical or theoretically established lineages. A population is a segment of a lineage. A taxon (for instance, a species, genus, family, order, or phylum) is defined as a set of organisms having a common ancestry. A monophyletic taxon or clade comprises all and only organisms having a common ancestry. Birds and crocodiles are monophyletic, both apart and together. A set of organisms lacking a common ancestry is called polyphyletic. Such a set, like that of all winged animals, is not suited for taxonomy. A taxon consisting of some but not all descendants of a common ancestor is called paraphyletic. For instance, reptiles have a common ancestry, but they share it with the birds, which are not reptiles. Opinions differ about the usefulness of paraphyletic taxons. 

The biological taxonomy clearly presupposes genetic relations to constitute a general biotic relation frame.[52] Descent providing the primary, genealogical criterion for a species has two important consequences.

The first consequence is seldom explicitly mentioned, but always accepted. It is the assumption that an individual living being belongs to the same species throughout its life. (It may change of population, e.g., by migration.) This means that species characteristics cannot be exclusively morphological. In particular the shape of multicellular fungi, plants, and animals changes dramatically during various phases of life. The metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly is by no means an exception. The application of similarities and differences in taxonomy has to take into account the various phases of life of developing individuals.

Second, as a rule each living being belongs to the same species as its direct descendants and parents. Therefore the dimorphism of male and female specimens does not lead to a classification into different species. A very rare exception to this rule occurs at the realization of a new species. A minimal theoretical definition says that a species necessarily corresponds to a lineage, starting at the moment it splits off from an earlier existing species, and ending at its extinction.[53]

If this minimal definition would be sufficient as well as necessary, a species would be a collection, like a population bounded in number, space, and time. But this definition cannot be sufficient, because it leaves utterly unclear what the splitting of a species means. Branching alone is not a sufficient criterion, because each lineage branches (an organism has various descendants, and in sexual replication each organism has two parents, four grandparents, etc.). According to the primary criterion alone, the assumption that all organisms are genetically related would mean that either all organisms belong to the same species, or each sexual reproduction leads to a new species. Hence, additional secondary and perhaps tertiary criteria are needed to make clear, which kind of branching leads to a new species.[54]

 

The most practical criteria are structural. It concerns similarities and differences based on the DNA-structure (the genotype), besides the shape (morphology), and processes (physiology, development), making up the phenotype. In DNA and RNA research, biologists look at similarities and differences with respect to various genes and their sequences, taking into account the locus where they occur. The comparison of genes at different loci does not always give the same results. Hence people should be cautious with drawing conclusions. It should be observed that DNA and RNA research is usually only possible with respect to living or well-conserved cells and only establishes more or less contemporary relations.[55] This also applies to other characteristics that cannot be fossilized, like behaviour. Non-contemporary similarities and differences are mostly restricted to morphological ones. For the agreement between various related species, homologies are very important (5.6).

Many biologists accept as a decisive distinction between species the existence of a reproductive gap between populations.[56] Within a species, individuals can mate fruitfully with each other, whereas individuals of different species cannot. This concerns a subject-subject relation.[57] According to this definition, horses and donkeys belong to different species. A horse and a donkey are able to mate, but their offspring, the mules, are not fertile. The mentioning of populations is relevant. The reproduction gap does not concern individuals but populations.

Sometimes, a population A belongs to the same species as population B, B ditto with C, but C does not with respect to A.[58] Hence, the concept of a species according to this criterion is not always transitive. The possibility to mate and having fertile descendants is only relevant for simultaneously living members of a population. Hence it serves as a secondary addition to the primary genealogical criterion, stating that organisms living long after each other (and therefore unable to mate) may belong to the same species. Taking this into account, the mentioned lack of transitivity can be explained by assuming that one of the populations concerned is in the process of branching off. After some time, either A or C may become to belong to an independent species.

The reproduction gap is in many cases a suitable criterion, but not always. First, some species only reproduce asexually. This is not an exception, for they include the prokaryotes (the only organisms during three-quarters of the history of life on earth).[59] Second, many organisms that experts rank to different species are able to fertilize each other. Hybrid populations are more frequent in plants than in animals. The reproductive gap is in animals more pronounced than in plants, because of the animals’ mating behaviour and the corresponding sexual dimorphy.[60]

A tertiary criterion concerns the disposition of a species to find a suitable niche or adaptive zone (5.5). How organisms adapt to their environment leads to the formulation of ecological criteria to distinguish species. This is a relational criterion too, for adaptation does not only concern physical (e.g., climatic) circumstances, but in particular the competition with individuals of the same or of a different species.

 

Biologists and monist biophilosophers look after a universal concept of a species.[61] Supposing that a species corresponds to a character, it should be primarily biotically qualified. No difference of opinion is to be expected on that account. But what should be its secondary characteristic? Considering the analysis in section 5.4, for prokaryotes the quantitative relation frame comes to mind (cell division); for unicellular or colonial eukaryotes the spatial frame (morphological shape and coherence); for differentiated plants the kinetic frame (physiology and development); finally, for sexually specialized plants and animals the physical relation frame (the reproductive gap). A species can only be a universal biotic character if the concept of a species is differentiated with respect to secondary and tertiary characteristics. For instance, the secondary criterion based on the reproductive gap is only applicable to sexually reproducing organisms. The pluralistic concept of a species finds its origin in the fact that all secondary and tertiary criteria are restrictively applicable, whereas the universal primary criterion is necessary but not sufficient.[62]

 

Some philosophers assume that species are comparable with organisms and they consider a species to be a biotic individual.[63] A species comes into being by branching off from another species, and it decays at extinction. Species change during their existence. It is true that these processes depend entirely on the replication of the organisms that are part of the species, but that applies to multicellular organisms as well, whose development and growth depend on the reproduction of their cells.

Organisms belonging more or less simultaneously to the same species form a population. Usually a population is a geographically isolated subset of a lineage, a set of organisms having the same ancestry. Both populations and lineages are temporal collections of individuals, not timeless classes. They are aggregates as well, because their members are genetically related. However, an aggregate is not always an individual, and it is always a set of individuals. If considered as a lineage or population (or a set of populations), a species is a temporal collection of individual organisms, subject to biotic laws. I shall not contest this vision that stresses the subject side of a species. But it does not answer the question of whether a species has a law side as well, corresponding with a character.

 

Both lineages and populations are products of a biotic dynamic evolution. Natural selection, genetic drift, and ecological circumstances explain how lineages emerge, change, and disappear. Geographic isolation explains the existence of various populations belonging to the same species. But natural selection, genetic drift, or geographic isolation does not explain why a group of living beings is viable in the circumstances constituting an adaptive zone. Unavoidably, such an explanation takes its starting point from law statements, whether hypothetical or confirmed. These propositions may very well include the supposition that a lineage and its populations are spatio-temporal subsets of a timeless class, without violating the received facts and theories of evolution and genetics. The character of this class determines an ensemble of possibilities, partly realized in the individual variation occurring in a population.[64]

No more than species, the chemical elements have been realized from the beginning of the universe. Only after the universe was cooled down sufficiently, protons and electrons could form hydrogen and helium. Only after the formation of stars, hydrogen and helium nuclei fused to become heavier nuclei. Nuclear physics provides a quite reliable picture of this chemical evolution. Doubtless, each isotope satisfies a set of laws constituting a character. I believe that the same applies to biotic species, although the complexity of organisms makes it far more difficult to state in any detail which laws constitute a biotic character.[65]

The crossing of a barrier between two species has an analogy in the well-known phenomenon of tunneling in quantum physics. An energy barrier usually separates a radioactive nucleus from a more stable nucleus. This barrier is higher than the energy available to cross it. According to classical mechanics, a nucleus could never cross such a barrier, but quantum physics proves that there is a finite (even if small) probability that the nucleus overtakes the barrier, like a car passes a mountain through a tunnel. A similar event occurs in the formation of molecules in a chemical reaction. In this case, the possibility to overtake the energy barrier depends on external circumstances like the temperature. The presence of a catalyst may lower the energy barrier. In biochemical processes enzymes have a comparable function. The possibility that an individual physical or chemical thing changes of character is therefore a fact, both theoretically and experimentally established. Moreover, in all chemical reactions molecules change of character, dependent on circumstances like temperature.

Similarly, at the realization of a new species, circumstances like climate changes may enhance or diminish the probability of overcoming one or more constraints. A small, geographically isolated population will do that easier than a large, widely dispersed population. Since 1972, biology knows the theory of ‘punctuated equilibrium’. From paleontological sources, Niles Eldredge and Stephen Gould derived that in a relatively short time (compared to much longer periods of stable equilibrium), a major transition from one species to another may occur.[66]

Quantum physics explains the transition from one character to the other by tunneling, but tunneling does not explain the existence of the characters concerned. Natural selection explains why constraints can be overcome, not why there are constraints, or which types of constraints are operative. Natural selection explains changes within species and from one species to the other, but not why there are species, and which species exist. On the contrary, the existence of species is a condition for the action of natural selection. Populations change within a species, and sometimes they migrate from one species to another one, and its motor, its dynamic force, is natural selection. However, natural selection does not explain everything. The success of natural selection is only explicable by assuming that a population after adaptation is in a more stable equilibrium with its environment than before. What is stable or better adapted, why the chances of survival of an organism increase by a change induced by natural selection, cannot be explained by natural selection itself. Natural selection explains why a population changes its gene pool, but it does not explain why the new situation is more viable. To explain this requires research into the circumstances in which the populations live and into the characters that determine the species.

On the one side, the standard theories about evolution, genetics, ecology, and molecular biology do not exclude the possibility that each species corresponds to a character, a set of laws defining an ensemble of possibilities, sometimes (and never exhaustively) realized by a population of organisms. After all, ‘by far the commonest fate of every species is either to persist through time without evolving further or to become extinct.’[67]

On the other hand, it cannot be proved that a species corresponds to a character. That would only be empirically demonstrable. The idea that an empirical species is a subset of a class subject to a specific set of laws can only be confirmed by pointing out such laws.[68] For instance, both genetics and development biology look for lawful conditions concerning the constitution of genes and chromosomes determining the phenotype of a viable organism belonging to a species. That is because the biotic expression of a character is a natural design, the genome, objectively laid down in the species-specific DNA.

Natural selection may be considered a random push for the dynamic development of populations of living beings. This development also requires the specific lawful pull of the species concerned.

 

Should we not consider the ascription of an unchangeable and lawful character to species a relapse into essentialism?[69] Essentialism is a theory ascribing a priori an autonomous existence to plants, animals, and other organisms. Their essence is established on rational grounds, preceding empirical experience. Essentialism presupposes the possibility to formulate necessary and sufficient conditions for the existence of each species. The conditions for any species should be independent of the conditions for any other species.[70] This view differs widely from the idea of a character being a specific set of laws. With respect to the subject side, as far as essentialism excludes evolution, the theory of characters is by no means essentialist.

According to Aristotelian essentialism, each species would be autonomous. Biologists and philosophers seem to assume that this paradigm is still applicable to physics and chemistry. But physical things can only exist in interaction with other things, and the actual realization of physically qualified characters is only possible if circumstances permit. For instance, in the centre of the sun no molecules can exist, but we can only say that assuming that the laws which determine the possible existence of molecules are valid within the sun as much as elsewhere. The astrophysical and chemical theories of evolution assume that physical things emerged gradually, analogous to organisms in the biotic evolution. Nevertheless, it is generally accepted that particles, atoms, molecules, and crystals are subject to laws that are everywhere and always valid.

Physical and chemical things can only exist in interaction with each other in suitable circumstances. Similarly, living organisms can only exist in genetic relations with other organisms, permitting the circumstances. Each living organism would perish in absence of other living beings, and no organism can survive in an environment that does not provide a suitable niche.

My reasons to consider a species to be a character are a posteriori, based on scientific arguments open to empirical research. It is a hypothesis, like any other scientific assumption open to discussion. And it is a hypothesis leaving room for the evolution of a population within a species as well as from one species to another one. It is a hypothesis fully acknowledging Darwin’s great discovery of natural selection. Moreover, this hypothesis recognizes the importance of environmental circumstances both determining possibilities and their realization. The laws are not the only conditions for existence. Physical and ecological circumstances are conditions as well. The realization of species can only occur in a certain order, with relatively small transitions. In this respect, too, the evolution of species does not differ from the evolution of chemical elements.

Although essentialists are able to take circumstances into account, the theory of characters moves ahead. The possibilities offered by a character are not merely realizable if the circumstances permit, but the ecological laws are partly the same as the laws constituting the character of a species. The laws forming a character for one species are not separated from the laws forming the character of another species, or from the laws determining biotic processes. Essentialism supposes that each species can be defined independent of any other species.

It is undeniable that my hypothesis runs counter to the kind of evolutionism that denies the existence of constant laws. From the above discussion it will be clear that I do not criticize Charles Darwin’s theory and its synthesis with genetics and molecular biology. By natural selection, the theory of evolution explains the actual dynamic process of becoming and the evolution of populations. I believe that this theory does not contradict the view that species correspond to unchangeable characters and their ensembles. On the contrary, I believe that the facts corroborate the proposed model better than a radical evolutionism denying the existence of laws. The hypothesis that unchangeable laws dominate the species can be investigated on empirical grounds. This discussion belongs to the competence of empirical science.

The answer to the question of whether a species corresponds to a character does not depend on the acceptance or rejection of the belief that characters – not only biotic species – consist of laws given by God. The empirical approach that I advocate is at variance with the creationist view assuming a priori that the species are unchangeable, rejecting any theory of evolution. Creationism uses the bible as a source of scientific knowledge preceding and superseding scientific research. It contradicts the view that the problem of whether species correspond to constant characters can only be solved a posteriori, based on scientific research.

 

For the time being, I am inclined to conclude that a species at the law side corresponds with a biotically qualified character, an unchangeable set of laws. The least one can say is that the recognition of a species or a higher taxonomical unit requires an insight into the regularities which make an organism to belong to that category.  At the subject side, a species is realized by a lineage, an aggregate of individual organisms, hence with a collection, bounded in number, space, and time.

Evolution means the subjective realization of species. Natural selection is its motor and explains how species are realized. Whether a species is realizable at a certain place and time depends on the character of the species; on the preceding realization of a related species (on which natural selection acts); on the presence of other species (the ecological environment); and on physical circumstances like the climate (the physical environment).

I have no intention to suggest that the biotic evolution is comparable to the astrophysical and chemical evolution in all respects. I conceive of each evolution as a realization of possibilities and dispositions. But the way by which this occurs is strongly different. For physical and chemical things and events, interaction is decisive, including circumstances like temperature and the availability of matter and energy. The biotic evolution depends on sexual and asexual reproduction, with the possibility of variation and natural selection.

Another difference concerns the reproducibility of evolution. The physical evolution of the chemical elements and of molecules repeats itself in each star and each stellar system. In contrast, it is often stated that the biotic evolution is unique and cannot be repeated. It may be better to assert that the actual course of the biotic evolution is far more improbable than that of the physical and chemical ones. Comparable circumstances – a condition for recapitulation – never or hardly ever occur in living nature. In particle accelerators the astrophysical evolution is copied, the chemical industry produces artificial materials, agriculture improves races, in laboratories new species are cultivated, and the bio-industry manipulates genes. All this would be difficult to explain if one loses sight of the distinction between law and subject.

 

As a character, a biotic design is a set of laws, but for a scientist this does no longer imply a divine designer.[71] Whereas this does not solve the question of the origin of the natural laws, natural science became liberated from too naive views about the observability of divine interventions in empirical reality.

Essentialism survived longest in the plant and animal taxonomy. Until the middle of the twentieth century, this considered the system of species, genera, families, classes, orders, and phyla or divisions to be a logical classification. In this classification, each category was characterized by one or more essential properties.[72] Biological essentialism was not a remains of the Middle Ages, but a fruit of the Renaissance. From John Ray to Carl Linnaeus, many realistic naturists accepted the existence of unchangeable species, besides biologists having a nominalist view of species.[73]

The difficulty that some philosophers have with the modern concept of a species can be reduced to a conscious or subconscious allegiance to an essentialist view. The difficulty that some biologists have with the idea of natural law is their abhorrence of essentialism.[74] Therefore, it is important to distinguish essence from lawfulness. The ‘essential’ (necessary and sufficient) properties do not determine a character. Rather, the laws constituting a character determine the objective properties of the things or processes concerned.[75] These properties, represented in an ensemble, may display such a large statistical variation that necessary and sufficient properties are hard to find.[76] Moreover, the laws and properties do not determine essences but relations.

A second reason why some biologists are wary of the idea of natural law is that they (like many philosophers) have a physicalist view of laws. Rightly, they observe that the physical and chemical model of a natural law is not applicable to biology.[77] The theory of evolution is considered a narrative about the history of life, rather than a theory about processes governed by natural laws.[78] However, biologists will probably not deny that their work consists of finding order in living nature.[79] The theory of evolution would not exist without the supposition that the laws for life, that are now empirically discovered, held millions of years ago as well. The question of whether other planets host living organisms can only arise if it is assumed that these laws hold there, too.[80]

A third reason may be the assumption that a law only deserves the status of natural law, if it holds universally and is expressible in a mathematical formula. A mathematical formulation may enlarge the scope of a law statement. Yet the idea of natural law does not imply that it has necessarily a mathematical form. Neither should a law apply to all physical things, plants, and animals. Every regularity, every recurrent design or pattern, and every invariant property is to be considered lawful. In particular each character expresses its own specific law conformity. In the theory of evolution biologists apply whatever patterns they discover in the present to events in the past. Hence they implicitly acknowledge the persistence of natural laws, also in the field of biology.

Anyhow, Charles Darwin was not wary of natural laws. At the end of his On the origin of species he wrote:

‘It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us. These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms.’[81]

 



[1] Rudwick 2005; 2008.

[2] Mayr 1982, 56: ‘Except for the twilight zone of the origin of life, the possession of a genetic program provides for an absolute difference between organisms and inanimate matter.’ Ibid. 629: ‘… the existence of a genetic program … constitutes the most fundamental difference between living organisms and the world of inanimate objects, and there is no biological phenomenon in which the genetic program is not involved …’. Jacob 1970, 4: ‘Everything in a living being is centered on reproduction’.  Rensch 1968, 35: ‘… “life” is not so much defined by certain single characters but by their combination into individualized, purposefully functioning systems showing a specific activity, limited to a certain life span, but capable of reproduction, and undergoing gradually hereditary alterations over long periods.’

[3] This does not exclude neoteny and other forms of heterochrony, see Raff 1996, chapter 8.

[4] Farley 1974; Bowler 1989.

[5] Ruse 1973, 118-121.

[6] Monod 1970, 102-103: ‘… from the bacterium to man the chemical machinery is essentially the same … 1. In its structure: all living beings … are made up of … proteins and nucleic acids … constituted by the assembling of the same residues … 2. In its functioning: the same reactions, or rather sequences of reactions, are used in all organisms for the essential chemical operations …’

[7] Rosenberg 1985, 136-152.

[8] At the end of the nineteenth century, energeticists like Wilhelm Ostwald assumed that thermodynamics should be able to explain all physical and chemical processes. Atomic theory and quantum physics made clear that thermodynamics is too general for that. Likewise, in my view, evolution theory is not specific enough to explain biotic characters.

[9] According to Rosenberg 1985, 137-138, ‘biological entity’, ‘parent of’ and ‘ancestor’ are primitive, undefinable concepts in the following two axioms: ‘No biological entity is a parent of itself. If a is an ancestor of b, then b is not an ancestor of a.’ If the mentioned terms are undefined, the natural numbers satisfy these axioms as well.

[10] Panchen 1992, chapter 9.

[11] Dawkins 1983, 16: ‘If you find something, anywhere in the universe, whose structure is complex and gives the strong appearance of having been designed for a purpose, then that something either is alive, or was once alive, or is an artefact created by something alive.’ Kitcher 1993, 270: ‘Entities have functions when they are designed to do something, and their function is what they are designed to do. Design can stem from the intentions of a cognitive agent or from the operation of selection …’

[12] In RNA, uracil (U) replaces thymine. The production of uracil costs less energy than that of thymine, which is more stable, see Rosenberg 1985, 38-43. Stability is for DNA more important than for RNA that is assembled repeatedly. Hence, mistakes in the transfer of design are easy to correct. The double helix structure also enhances the stability of DNA. RNA consists of only one series of nucleotides.

[13] A protein is a large polypeptide. Sometimes the same gene assembles more than one protein. Often a gene occurs more than once in the DNA, its locus determining how the gene co-operates with other genes. Hence, similar genes may have different functions. A direct relation between a gene and a phenotypic characteristic is rare. See Hull 1974, 15-19.

[14] According to the ‘central dogma of molecular biology’, formulated by Francis Crick, the transfer of information from DNA via RNA (‘transcription’ by mRNA) to the polypeptides (‘translation’ by tRNA) is irreversible. With respect to the first step, the dogma does not apply entirely to viruses, and there are important differences between prokaryotes and eukaryotes. The intervention of RNA is necessary in eukaryotes, because DNA is positioned in the cell nucleus, whereas the assembly of the polypeptides occurs elsewhere (in ribosomes). In prokaryotes, the translation may start before the transcription is finished. In transcription, a third form is produced, rRNA, concentrated in the ribosome, the organelle where the assembly of polypeptides takes place. Because RNA has mostly a transport function, its tertiary characteristic may be called kinetic.

[15] Epigenesis is the name of the process, in which each phase in the development of a plant or animal is determined by preceding phases, genes and environment, see McFarland 1999, 27-29.

[16] Dawkins 1986, 295-296; McFarland 1999, 27. The conception of the composition of DNA as a code is a metaphor, inspired by the discovery that the structure of DNA can be written in only four symbols.

[17] Raff 1996, chapter 10. Ibid. 27: ‘If each new species required the reinvention of control elements, there would not be time enough for much evolution at all, let alone the spectacularly rapid evolution of novel features observed in the phylogenetic record. There is a kind of tinkering at work, in which the same regulatory elements are recombined into new developmental machines. Evolution requires the dissociability of developmental processes. Dissociability of processes requires the dissociability of molecular components and their reassembly.’

[18] Osmosis occurs if a membrane lets pass a solvent (usually water) but not the solved matter. The solvent moves through the membrane in the direction of the highest concentration of the solved matter. This induces a pressure difference across the membrane that counteracts the transport. In equilibrium, the osmotic pressure in some desert plants can be up to a hundred times the atmospheric pressure.

[19] In haploid cells, the cell nucleus contains a single string of chromosomes, in diploid cells the chromosomes are paired. Each diploid gene occurs in a pair, except the sex chromosomes, being different in males (XY), equal in females (XX). Each chromosome is a single DNA molecule and consists of a large number of genes. The position of the genes on a chromosome is of decisive significance. On each position (locus) in a chromosome pair, there is at most one pair of genes, being homozygote (equal) or heterozygote (unequal). If in different individuals different genes can occupy the same locus, these genes are called alleles.

[20] Griffiths, Gray 1994.

[21] Griffiths, Gray 1994.

[22] During the twentieth century, the attention of biologists was so much directed to evolution and natural selection, that the investigation of individual development processes (in which natural selection does not play a part) receded to the background. The complexity of these processes yields an alternative or additional explanation for the fact that relatively little is known about them. Some creationists take for granted ‘natural’ processes in the development of a human being from its conception, during and after pregnancy, while considering similar processes incomprehensible in evolution. A standard objection is that one cannot understand how by natural selection such a complicated organ like the human eye could evolve even in five hundred million years. However, who can explain the development of the human eyesight in nine months, starting from a single fertilized cell? In both cases, biologists have a broad understanding of the process, without being able to explain all details. (I am not suggesting here that the evolution and the development of the visual faculty are analogous processes.)

[23] Raff 1996, 260.

[24] Raff 1996, 23.

[25] Mayr 1982, 140, 244; Margulis, Schwartz 1982, 5-11; Ruse 1982, 169-171.

[26] These organelles are about as large as prokaryotic cells. RNA research indicates that mitochondria are genetically related to the purple group and chloroplasts to the cyanobacteria, both belonging to the eubacteria. The most primitive eukaryotes, the archaezoa, do not contain mitochondria of other organelles besides their nucleus. The similarity between prokaryotes and the organelles in eukaryotic cells was first pointed out by Lynn Margulis, in 1965.

[27] Contrary to bacteria, viruses are not capable of independently assembling DNA, RNA and polypeptides, and they can only reproduce parasitically in a cell. Some viruses can be isolated forming a substance that is only physically and chemically active. Only if a virus enters a cell, it comes to life and starts reproducing. Outside the cell, a virus is primarily physically qualified, having a biotic disposition, to be actualized within a cell. Because a virus mainly transports DNA, its character may be considered to have a (tertiary) kinetic disposition (like RNA). A virus has a characteristic shape differing from the shape of a cell.

[28] Likewise, an atomic nuleus (having a spatially founded character) acts like a quantitative unit in the character of an atom.

[29] Margulis, Schwartz 1982. Up till the sixties, besides the animal kingdom only one kingdom of plants was recognized, including the monera, protista and fungi besides the ‘true’ plants, see Greulach, Adams 1962, 28.

[30] Hence, a population is not a class but a collection. It is a spatial cross section of a lineage, which in turn is a temporally extended population, see de Queiroz 1999, 53-54. Besides being genetically homogeneous, a population is also genetically varied, see below.

[31] Darwin 1859, chapter 3.

[32] Mayr 1982, 602.

[33] Purves et al. 1998, chapter 28: ‘Fungi: A kingdom of recyclers.’

[34] McFarland 1999, 72.

[35] ‘Survival of the fittest’ is sometimes called circular, see e.g. Popper 1974, 137; Dampier 1929, 319: ‘That which is fit survives, and that which survives is fit’. According to Rosenberg 1985, chapter 6 this circularity is caused by the fact that fitness is a primitive, undefinable concept in the theory of evolution. Fitness is not definable, but it is measurable as reproductive success. See also Sober 1993, 69-73. According to McFarland 1999, 78, this circularity is removed by relating survival to an individual and fitness to its offspring: ‘the fit are those who fit their existing environments and whose descendants will fit future environments … in defining fitness, we are looking for a quantity that will reflect the probability that, after a given lapse of time, the animal will have left descendants’. Fitness is a quantitatively founded magnitude, lacking a metric. Fitness depends on the reproduction of an individual, and on that of its next of kin. This is called ‘inclusive fitness’, explaining the ‘altruistic’ behaviour of bees, for instance.

[36] Darwin 1859, chapter 4.

[37] Panchen 1992, chapter 4.

[38] Mayr 1982, 611; Raff 1996, 375-382.

[39] In 2012, the ENCODE project, a research program supported by the National Human Genome Research Institute, reported that 76% of the human genome's noncoding DNA sequences were transcribed and that nearly half of the genome was in some way accessible to genetic regulatory proteins such as transcription factors.

[40] Dawkins 1976 assumes that the ‘selfish genes’ are the subjects to evolution. But according to Mayr 2000, 68-69: ‘The geneticists, almost from 1900 on, in a rather reductionist spirit preferred to consider the gene the target of evolution. In the past 25 years, however, they have largely returned to the Darwinian view that the individual is the principal target.’ See also Sober 1993, chapter 4.

[41] Mayr 1982, 62: ‘The claim that genetics has been reduced to chemistry after the discovery of DNA, RNA, and certain enzymes cannot be justified … The essential concepts of genetics, like gene, genotype … are not chemical concepts at all …’

[42] Ruse 1982, 21, 30, 200-207.

[43] Mutations may have a physical cause (e.g., radioactivity), or a biotic one (e.g., a virus). Mutations are usually indifferent or even lethal, but sometimes enriching. For every gene, they are very rare, but because there are many genes in an individual and even more in a gene pool, they contribute significantly to the variation within a species. Crossing-over means a regrouping of genes over the chromosomes. Polyploidy means that a DNA molecule consists of more than two strings, on each or some loci there are three genes in stead of two.

[44] Hull 1974, 57-58; Ridley 1993, 87-92, 131-132. Populations are hardly ever in equilibrium. The relevance of the law of Hardy and Weinberg is that deviations point to equilibrium disturbing factors. In small populations ‘genetic drift’ occurs, changes in the gene pool caused by accidental circumstances.

[45] Ridley 1993, 42-43. Usually, hybridization is impossible, because the offspring is not viable, or because the offspring is not fertile, or because the offspring has a decreasing fertility in later generations.

[46] Ridley 1993, 387: ‘A community of interbreeding organisms is, in population genetic terms, a gene pool.’

[47] The complication that on different loci the same gene may occur is left out of consideration in this example.

[48] Dawkins 1986, 43, 62.

[49] Mayr 1982, 251. On the biological species concept, see Mayr 1982, chapter 6; Rosenberg 1985, chapter 7; Ereshefsky 1992; Ridley 1993, chapter 15; Wilson (ed.) 1999. 

[50] Panchen 1992, 337-338 mentions seven species concepts, others count more than twenty, see Hull 1999.

[51] See de Queiroz, 1999, 64: ‘… the species problem results from confusing the concept of a species itself with the operations and evidence that are used to put that concept in practice.’

[52] de Queiroz 1999, 77: ‘… the general lineage concept is a quintessential biological species concept: inanimate objects don’t form lineages.’

[53] de Queiroz 1999; Mishler, Brandon, 1987, 310.

[54] Ereshefsky 1992, 350; de Queiroz 1999, 60, 63: ‘In effect, the alternative species definitions are conjunctive definitions. All definitions have a common primary necessary property – being a segment of a population-level lineage – but each has a different secondary property – reproductive isolation, occupation of a distinct adaptive zone, monophyly, and so on.’

[55] For some fossils DNA research is possible. An exceptional record concerns a fossil aged 135 millions years.

[56] Mayr 1982, 273: ‘A species is a reproductive community of populations (reproductively isolated from others) that occupies a specific niche in nature.’ Mayr, ibid. 272 mentions three aspects of a biotic species. ‘The first is to envision species not as types but as populations (or groups of populations), that is, to shift from essentialism to population thinking. The second is to define species not in terms of degree of difference but by distinctness, that is, by the reproductive gap. And third, to define species not by intrinsic properties but by their relation to other co-existing species, a relation expressed both behaviorally (noninterbreeding) and ecologically (not fatally competing).’

[57] Mayr 1982, 286: ‘The word “species”… designates a relational concept’.

[58] Ridley 1993, 40-42.

[59] Nanney 1999.

[60] Mating behaviour leads to the ‘recognition species concept’, see Ridley 1993, 392-393.

[61] According to Hull 1999, 38-39, the concept of a species ought to be universal (applicable to all organisms), practical in use, and theoretically significant. Hull, ibid. 25, observes that monists are usually realists, pluralists being nominalists.

[62] Dupré 1999. Likewise, the physical concept of natural kinds is not universal. For quantitatively, spatially, and kinetically founded characters, different secondary criteria apply.

[63] Rosenberg 1985, 204-212; Ridley 1993, 403-404. Hull 1999, 32: ‘when species are supposed to be the things that evolve, they fit more naturally in the category individual (or historical entity) than the category class (or kind).’ Hull assumes a duality: ‘Classes are spatio-temporally unrestricted, whereas individuals are spatio-temporally localized and connected. Given this fairly traditional distinction, we argued that species are more like individuals than classes’ (32-33). Clearly, Hull does not distinguish between aggregates and individuals. For a criticism, see Mishler, Brandon, 1987; de Queiroz, Donoghue, 1988; Sober 1993, 149-159; de Queiroz 1999, 67-68.

[64] Boyd 1999, 141 identifies ‘… a class of natural kinds, properties and relations whose definitions are provided not by any set of necessary and sufficient conditions, but instead by a “homeostatically” sustained clustering of those properties or relations. It is a feature of such homeostatic property cluster (HPC) kinds (…) that there is always some indeterminacy or “vagueness” in their extensions.’

[65] Based on an essentialist interpretation, Mayr 1982, 251 turns down the analogy of the species concept in biology with that of mineralogy or chemistry: ‘For a species name in mineralogy is on the whole a class name, defined in terms of a set of properties essential for membership in the class.’

[66] According to Stebbins 1982, 16-21 such a transition takes 50,000 years or more, whereas a stable period may last millions of years. See Gould, Vrba 1982; Ridley 1993, chapter 19; Strauss 2009, 487-496..

[67] Stebbins 1982, 23.

[68] Evolutionists have a tendency to deny the existence of biotic laws, see e.g. Dawkins 1986, 10-15. Nevertheless, Griffiths 1999 asserts that there are laws valid for taxonomy. Ruse 1973, 24-31 stresses that biology needs laws no less than the inorganic sciences. He mentions Mendel’s laws as an example. And Ereshefsky 1992, 360, observes at least that ‘… there may be universal generalizations whose predicates are the names of types of basal taxonomic units … So though no laws exist about particular species taxa, there may very well be laws about types of species taxa.’.

[69] Toulmin, Goodfield 1965. Mayr 1982, 175-177 observes that in Carl Linnaeus’ taxonomy the genera are defined in an essentialist way. Mayr, ibid. 176 quotes from Linnaeus’ Philosophia Botanica (1751): ‘The ‘character’ is the definition of the genus, it is threefold: the factitious, the essential, and the natural. The generic character is the same as the definition of the genus … The essential definition attributes to the genus to which it applies a characteristic which is very particularly restricted to it, and which is special. The essential definition [character] distinguishes, by means of a unique idea, each genus from its neighbors in the same natural order.’

[70] Sober 1993, 145-149; Hull 1999, 33; Wilson 1999, 188.

[71] Dawkins 1986, chapter 1.

[72] See e.g. Mayr 1982, 260: ‘The essentialist species concept … postulated four species characteristics: (1) species consist of similar individuals sharing in the same essence; (2) each species is separated from all others by a sharp discontinuity; (3) each species is constant through time; and (4) there are severe limitations to the possible variation of any one species.’

[73] Toulmin, Goodfield 1965, chapter 8; Panchen 1992, chapter 6. Ray and Linnaeus were more (Aristotelian) realist than (Platonic) idealist. Mayr 1982, 38, 87, 304-305 ascribes the influence of essentialism to Plato. ‘Without questioning the importance of Plato for the history of philosophy, I must say that for biology he was a disaster.’ (ibid. 87). Mayr shows more respect for Aristotle, who indeed has done epoch-making work for biology (ibid. 87-91, 149-154). However, Aristotle was an essentialist no less than Plato was.

[74] Stafleu 2018b, 6.8.

[75] Rosenberg 1985, 188: ‘Essentialism with respect to species is the claim that for each species there is a nontrivial set of properties of individual organisms that is central to and distinctive of them or even individually necessary and jointly sufficient for membership in that species.’ The identification of a class by necessary and sufficient conditions is a remnant of rationalistic essentialism, see, e.g., Hull 1999, 33; Wilson 1999, 188. Boyd 1999, 141-142 calls his conception of a species as ‘… a class of natural kinds, properties and relations whose definitions are provided not by any set of necessary and sufficient conditions, but instead by a “homeostatically” sustained clustering of those properties or relations’ a form of essentialism, to be distinguished from the essentialism of Linnaeus etc. Griffiths 1999 contests the view that there are no natural laws (in the form of generalizations allowing of counterfactuals) concerning taxonomy. Definition of a natural kind by properties may have a place in natural history, but not in a modern scientific analysis based on theories, in which laws dominate, not properties.

[76] Hull 1974, 47; Rosenberg 1985, 190-191.

[77] Hull 1974, 49; Mayr 1982, 37-43, 846. To the nineteenth-century physicalist idea of law belonged determinism and causality. However, determinism is past, and causality is no longer identified with law conformity but is considered a physical relation.

[78] Mayr 2000, 68: ‘Laws and experiments are inappropriate techniques for the explication of such events. Instead, one constructs a historical narrative, consisting of a tentative construction of the particular scenario that led to the events one is trying to explain.’

[79] Rosenberg 1985, 122-126, 211, 219. ‘But biology is not characterized by the absence of laws; it has generalizations of the strength, universality, and scope of Newton’s laws: the principles of the theory of natural selection, for instance.’ (ibid. 211). About M.B. Williams’ axiomatization of the theory of evolution, (ibid. 136-152, see also Hull 1974, 64-66), Rosenberg observes: ‘None of the axioms is expressed in terms that restrict it to any particular spatio-temporal region. If the theory is true, it is true everywhere and always. If there ever were, or are now, or ever will be biological entities that satisfy the parent-of relation, anywhere in the universe, then they will evolve in accordance with this theory (or else the theory is false).’ (ibid. 152). But concerning the study of what is called in this book ‘characters’, Rosenberg believes that these ‘… are not to be expected to produce general laws that manifest the required universality, generality, and exceptionlessness.’ (ibid. 219). Yes indeed, it concerns specific laws. Evolutionists tend to deny the existence of biotic laws, see e.g. Dawkins 1986, 10-15. However, Ruse 1973, 24-31 stresses that biology is no less than the inorganic sciences in need of laws. He points to Mendel’s laws for an example. Rensch 1968 gives a list of about one hundred biological generalizations. Griffiths 1999 asserts that there are laws valid for taxonomy. Ereshefsky 1992, 360, observes at least that ‘… there may be universal generalizations whose predicates are the names of types of basal taxonomic units … So though no laws exist about particular species taxa, there may very well be laws about types of species taxa.’ For a discussion of the functioning of laws in biology, see Hull 1974, chapter 3.

[80] Dawkins 1983.

[81] Darwin 1859, 459.

 

 


 

 

6. Characteristics of animal behaviour (2002)

 

6.1. The primary characteristic of animals

6.2. Secondary characteristics of animals

6.3. Control processes

6.4. Controlled processes

6.5. Goal-directed behaviour

6.6. The emergence of humanity from the animal world

 

This chapter investigates characters of animal behaviour. Section 6.1 argues that animals are primarily characterized by goal directed behaviour, implying the establishment of informative connections and control. Section 6.2 discusses secondary characteristics of animals. Section 6.3 deals with the psychical processing of information, section 6.4 with controlled processes, and section 6.5 with their goals.

A psychical character is a lawful prescription, a pattern of behaviour or a program. It is a scheme of fixed processes laid down in detail, with their causal connections leading to a specified goal. Behaviour has an organic basis in the nervous system and in the endocrine system, and a physical and chemical basis in signals and their processing. In line with the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea, I consider an animal character (or ‘structure of individuality’ or ‘idionomy’) to be primarily characterized by the psychic relation frame (or ‘modal aspect’), and secondarily founded in a projection (‘retrocipation’) of psychic relations on one of the preceding relation frames. It has the tertiary disposition to become interlaced with other characters (‘enkapsis’).

This inventory of animal behaviour does not contain anything new, except for its ordering which is philosophical rather than scientific. The proposed ordering intends to demonstrate that the characters studied in natural science do not merely show similarities, but are mutually interlaced and tuned to each other.

 

6.1. The primary characteristic of animals

 

As the most important psychic subject-subject relation I consider the ability to make informative and goal directed connections. Animals are sensitive to each other and to their environment. Psychic control influences organic, physical, chemical, kinetic, spatial and quantitative relations. According to the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea, each ‘modal’ order means an enrichment of the preceding ones. Physical interactions cause more different motions than the kinetic relation frame alone would allow. Even more varied motions are possible in the organic and psychic worlds. The number of organic compounds of atoms and molecules is much larger than the number of inorganic ones. Organic variation, integration and differentiation are more evolved in the animal kingdom than in the kingdom of plants. Each new order opens and enriches the preceding ones. By making informative connections, an animal functions organically better than a plant. For this purpose, an animal applies internally its nervous system and its hormones, and externally its behaviour, sustained by its senses and motor organs.

 

Several secondary characteristics make difference between animals and plants

Animals constitute a separate kingdom of living beings, differing in important respects from plants, fungi and bacteria. The theory of evolution assumes that animals did not evolve from differentiated multicellular plants, but from unicellular protozoans.[1] The first fossils of multicellular animals occur in older layers than those of differentiated plants. Fungi are genetically more related to animals than to plants. Possibly, the plants branched off from the line that became the animal kingdom. If so, this branching is characterized by the encapsulation of prokaryotes evolving into chloroplasts. The distinctive property of green plants is their ability of photosynthesis, which is completely absent in animals and fungi. Another difference is the mobility of most animals in contrast to the sedentary nature of most plants. Animals lack the open growth system of many plants, the presence of growth points of undifferentiated cells, from which periodically new organs like roots or leaves grow. After a juvenile period of development, an animal becomes an adult and does not form new organs. Animal organs are much more specialized than plant organs.

If asked to state the difference, a biologist may answer that plants are autotroph and animals heterotroph. Plants achieve their food directly from their physical and chemical environment, whereas animals depend partly on plants for their food supply.[2] However, fungi too depend on plants or their remains, and some plants need bacteria for the assimilation of nitrogen. Apart from that, this criterion is not very satisfactory, because it does not touch the primary, qualifying relation frames of plants and animals. It seems to be inspired by a world-view that reduces everything biological to physical and chemical processes. This view stresses the energy balance, metabolism and the production of enzymes out of proportion. I believe the distinction between autotroph and heterotroph to be secondary.

 

Primarily animals distinguish themselves from other organisms by their behaviour

A relational philosophy does not look for reductionist or essentialist definitions, but for qualifying relations. The most typical biotic property of all living beings, whether bacteria, fungi, plants or animals, is the genetic relation, between organisms and between their parts.[3] Superposed on this relation, animals entertain psychic relations between their organs by means of their nervous system, and mutually by means of their observable behaviour. In part, this behaviour is genetically determined; in part, it is adaptable. Obviously, in particular species specific behaviour is genetically determined, because species are biotically qualified. Different animal species can be distinguished because of their genetically determined behaviour. More differentiated animals have a complex nervous system with a larger capacity for learning and more freedom of action, than simpler animals have.

The taxonomy of the animal kingdom is mostly based on descent and on morphological and physiological similarities and differences. Its methodology hardly differs from that of the plant taxonomy. But some species can only be distinguished from each other because of their behaviour. When a new animal species is realized, a change of behaviour precedes changes in morphology or physiology.[4] This means that controlled behaviour plays a leading part in the formation of a new animal species. Because of the multiformity of species specific behaviour, there are far more animal species than plant species, and much less hybrids.

However, animals have a lot in common with plants and fungi, too, their psychic character is interlaced with biotic characters. Conversely, some plants have the tertiary characteristic to be tuned to animal behaviour. Flowering and fruit bearing plants have a symbiotic relation with insects transferring pollen, or with birds and mammals eating fruits and distributing indigestible seeds.

The psychically qualified character of an animal comes to the fore in its body plan (morphology) and body functions (physiology), being predisposed for its behaviour. For this purpose, animals have organs that plants and fungi lack, like the nervous system, hormonal glands and the sense organs. Animals differ from plants because of their sensitivity for each other, their aptitude to observe the environment, and their ability to learn. They are sensitive to internal stimuli and external signals. Sometimes, also plants react to external influences like sunlight. But plants lack special organs for this purpose and they are not sensitive to each other or to signals. In a multicellular plant, a combination of such reactions may give rise to organized motions, for instance flowers turning to the sun. Animal movements are not primarily organized but controlled. However, control does not replace organization, but is superposed on it.

Each plant cell reacts to its direct surroundings, to neighbouring cells or the physical and biotic environment. A plant cell only exerts action by contact, through its membranes. Neighbouring animal cells are less rigidly connected than plant cells. There are more intercellular cavities. Animal cells and organs are informatively linked by neurons, capable of bridging quite long distances. An animal exerts action at a distance within its environment as well, by means of its sense organs, mobility and activity.

A physical system is stable if its internal interactions are stronger than its external interactions. An organism like a plant derives its stability from maintaining its genetic identity during its lifetime. Only sexual reproduction leads to a new genetic identity. For the stability of an animal, internal control by the nervous and hormonal systems is more important than the animal’s external behaviour.

 

Psychic relations can be projected on preceding relation frames

Informative goal-directed connections express the universal psychic subject-subject relation. Animals receive information from their environment, in particular from other animals, and they react upon it. Mutatis mutandis, this also applies to animal organs. Both internally and externally, an animal may be characterized as an information processor. Provisionally, I propose the following projections (or ‘retrocipations’) of psychic relations on the five relation frames preceding the psychic one.

a. Quantitative relations: As units of information, signals or stimuli quantitatively express the amount of information. A signal has an external source, causing a stimulus in a sensor, or an impression on a sense organ. A stimulus may have an internal or an external source. In communication technology, the unit of information is called a bit. A neuron has an input for information and an output for instructions, both in the quantitative form of one or more stimuli. The cell itself processes the information.

b. Spatial relations: A behaviour program integrates stimuli into information and instruction patterns. Neurons make connections and distribute information. By their sense organs, higher animals make observations and transfer signals bridging short or large distances. The animal’s body posture provides a spatially founded signal.

c. Kinetic relations: A net of neurons transports and amplifies information, with application of feedback. Communication between animals is a kinetic expression of the psychic subject-subject relation.

d. Physical relations: Behaviour requires an irreversible causal chain from input to output, intermitted by programmed information processing. Interpretation, the mutual interaction and processing of complex information, requires a memory, the possibility to store information for a lapse of time.

e. Biotic relations: The animal’s ability to learn, to generate new informative links, to adapt behaviour programs, may be considered a projection on the biotic subject-subject relation. Learning is an innovative process, unlearning is a consequence of ageing. In the nervous system, learning implies both making new connections between neurons and developing programs.

The psychic subject-subject relation and its five projections should be recognizable in all psychic characters to be discussed. In the next sections, I shall refer to these projections by means of the italics a-e.

 

6.2. Secondary characteristics of animals

 

Animal behaviour has an organic basis in the nervous system. Its character has a genetic foundation.[5] The sense organs emerge during the development of the embryo as specialized parts of the nervous system. The nervous system controls the animal body and requires observation, registration and processing of external and internal information. The processing of stimuli, coming from inside or outside the animal body, occurs according to a certain program. This program is partly fixed, partly adaptable because of experience. Consequently, animals react to changes in their environment much faster and more flexibly than plants do. Besides the nervous system, the whole animal body and its functioning are disposed to behaviour.

 

a. A unicellular animal has the character of a nerve cell

The basic element of the nervous system is the nerve cell or neuron, passing on stimuli derived from a sensor to an effector. A unicellular animal has no nerve cells. Rather, it is a nerve cell, equipped with one or more sensors and effectors.[6] An effector may be a cilium, the organ by which a primitive animal moves. The simplest multicellular animals like sponges consist only of such cells.[7] A nerve cell in a more differentiated animal is a psychic subject with a character of its own, spatially and functionally interlaced with the nervous system and the rest of the body. We may consider the protozoans and the sponges as well as the neurons in higher animals to be primarily psychically and secondarily quantitatively characterized thing-like subjects. For all multicellular animals, the neurons and their functioning (inclusive of their neurochemistry) are strikingly similar, with only subordinate differences between vertebrates and invertebrates.[8]

 

b. Neurons constitute a spatially founded network

In a multicellular nervous system, a neuron usually consists of (1) a number of dendrites; (2) the cell body; and (3) the axon ending in a number of synapses. Each synapse connects to a dendrite or the cell body of another cell.[9] A dendrite collects information from a sensor or from another neuron. After processing, the cell body transfers the information via the axon and the synapses to other neurons or to a muscle or a gland. The dendrites collect the input of information that is processed in the cell body. The axon transports the output, the processed information that the synapses transfer to other cells.

In all animals except the most primitive ones like protozoans and sponges, the neurons are distinct from other cells. The other cells may be sensitive to instructions derived from neurons, but they are unable to generate or process stimuli themselves. The neurons make psychic connections between each other and to other cells, sometimes bridging a long distance. The neurons form a network, which character is primarily psychically qualified, secondarily spatially founded. One or more neurons contain a program that integrates simultaneously received stimuli and processes them into a co-ordinated instruction.

Jellyfish, sea anemones, corals and hydrozoans belong to the phylum of cnidarians (now about 10,000 species, but in the early Cambrium much more numerous[10]). They have a net of neurons but not a central nervous system. The net functions mostly as a connecting system of more or less independent neurons. The neurons inform each other about food and danger, but they do not constitute a common behaviour program. The body plan of cnidarians is more specialized than that of sponges. Whereas the sponges are asymmetrical, the cnidarians have an axial symmetry. They cannot move themselves. Sea anemones and corals are sedentary, whereas jellyfish move with the sea currents. The nerve net of cnidarians can only detect food and danger. It leads to activating or contracting of tentacles and to contracting or relaxing of the body. However, even if a jellyfish is a primitive animal, it appears to be more complex than many plants.

 

c. A differentiated nervous system has bilateral symmetry

In the nervous system, signals follow different pathways. Each signal has one or more addresses, corresponding to differentiated functions.

The behaviour of animals displays several levels of complexity. Sensorial, central and motor mechanisms are distinguished as basic units of behaviour. Often these units correspond with structures in the nervous system and sometimes they are even recognizable in a single neuron.[11] Only in a net, neurons can differentiate and integrate. Now the three mentioned functions are localized respectively in the sense organs, the central nervous system, and in specialized muscles.

The simplest differentiated net consists of two neurons; one specialized as a sensor, the other as a motor neuron. The synapses of a motor neuron stimulate a muscle to contract. In between, several inter-neurons may be operative, in charge of the transport, distribution or amplification of stimuli. In the knee reflex, two circuits are operational, because two muscles counteract, the one stretching, the other bending the knee. The two circuits have a sensor neuron in common, sensitive to a pat on the knee. In the first circuit, the sensor neuron sends a stimulus to the motor neuron instructing the first muscle to contract. In the second circuit, a stimulus first travels to the inter-neuron, blocking the motor neuron of the other muscle such that it relaxes.

A differentiated nervous system displays a typical left-right symmetry, with many consequences for the body plan of any animal having a head and a tail. In contrast with the asymmetric sponges and axially symmetric cnidarians, bilateral animals can move independently, usually with the head in front. The bilateral nervous system allowing of information transport is needed to control the motion. The more differentiated the nervous system is, the faster and more variable an animal is able to move. In the head, the mouth and the most important junction (ganglion) of the nerve net are located, in the tail the anus. From the head to the tail stretches a longitudinal chain of neurons, branching out in a net. Sometimes there is a connected pair of such chains, like a ladder. Apparently, these animals are primarily characterized by the psychic relation frame, and secondarily by the kinetic one. At this level, real sense organs and a central brain are not present yet, but specialized sensors occur, sensitive to light, touch, temperature, etc.

The simplest bilateral animals are flatworms, having hardly more than a net of neurons without ganglions. A flatworm has two light sensitive sensors in its head enabling it to orient itself with respect to a source of light. Roundworms and snails have ganglions co-ordinating information derived from different cells into a common behaviour program. Their reaction speed is larger and their behaviour repertoire is more elaborate than those of flatworms, but considerably less than those of e.g. arthropods are.

Progressing differentiation of the nervous system leads to an increasing diversity of animal species in the phyla of invertebrates, arthropods and vertebrates. Besides the nervous system, the behaviour, the body plan and the body functions display an increasing complexity, integration and differentiation. In various phyla, the evolution of the body plan and the body functions, and the evolution of the nervous system and the behaviour have influenced each other strongly.

A remarkable feature is an increasing internalization, starting with a stomach.[12] Sponges and cnidarians have only one cavity, with an opening that is mouth as well as anus. The cavity wall is at most two cells thick, such that each cell has direct contact with the environment. Animals with a differentiated nervous system have an internal environment, in cavities which walls are several cells thick. Between neighbouring cells, there are intercellular cavities. In differentiated animals, biologists distinguish four kinds of tissues (with their functions): epithelium (the external surface of the body and its organs, taking care of lining, transport, secretion and absorption), connective tissue (support, strength and elasticity), muscle tissue (movement and transport) and nervous tissue (information, synthesis, communication and control).[13] Vertebrates have an internal skeleton and internal organs like blood vessels, kidneys, liver and lungs. These may be distinguished according to their ethological functions: information and control (nervous system and endocrine system); protection, support and motion (skin, skeleton and muscles); reproduction (reproductive organs); food (digestion and respiration organs); transport and defence (blood, the hart, the blood-vessels, the lymph nodes, the immune system); secretion, water and salts balance (kidneys, bladder and guts).[14] As far as a plant has differentiated organs (leaves, flowers, roots, and the bark), these are typically peripheral, with an outward direction to the acquisition of food and reproduction. Animal organs are internalized. This is compensated for by the formation of specific behaviour organs directed outward: movement organs like feet or fins, catching organs like a beak or the hands, fighting organs like horns or nails, and in particular the sense organs.

 

d. Manipulation of the environment requires a central nervous system and sense organs

The most interesting capacities of the nervous system emerge from the mutual interaction of neurons. The storage and processing of information requires a central nervous system. Reflexes are usually controlled independent of this centre. The peripheral nervous system takes care of the transport of information to the centre and of instructions from the centre to muscles and glands. Secondarily, it is therefore kinetically characterized. The physically founded storage and processing of information requires specialization of groups of cells in the centre, each with its own programs.

In particular the sensors are grouped into specialized sense organs allowing of the formation of images. The best known example is the eye that in many kinds of animals uses light sensitivity to produce an image of the surroundings. In all vertebrates and octopuses, the image on the retina is formed due to the presence of a lens operating according to physical laws, but the visual image formation does not end at the retina. An important part of the brain is involved in the psychic part of imaging. On this level, chains of successive acts occur, in which different organs and organ systems co-operate, such as in food gathering, reproduction, movement or fighting. Animals have manipulative organs, like teeth and claws. Animals with a central nervous system are primarily characterized by the psychic relation frame and secondarily by the physical one.

 

e. Animals are capable of learning

In the highest animals’ neocortex, the brain is superposed on the autonomous nervous system. In the latter, the same processes occur as in the entire nervous system of lower animals. With respect to the construction of their nervous system and their behaviour, octopuses, birds and mammals are comparable. Within the nervous system, a division appears between the routine control of the body and less routine tasks. The neocortex can be distinguished from the ‘old brain’, including the limbic system, that controls processes also occurring in lower animals. In primates, there is a further division of labour between the global, spatial-temporal right half and the more concentrated, analytical and serial left half, which in human beings harbours the speech centre. In the neocortex (if present), the learning capacity of animals is concentrated. The difference between old and new brains, or between left and right half, is not rigorous. It points to the phenomenon that new programs have a tendency to make use of existing ones.

Learned behaviour called habituation, i.e. an adaptive change in the program caused by experience occurs both in higher and in lower animals. During habituation a new program emerges that the animal applies in a stimulus-reflex relation. The reverse is dehabituation. A stronger form is sensitisation, learning to be alert for new stimuli.

Instrumental learning based on trial and error is biotically founded. It requires imagination besides a sense for cause-effect relations. Only the highest animals are able to learn by experiment (experimental trial and error), in which the animal’s attention is directed to the effect of its activities, to the problem to be solved. Sometimes an AH-Erlebnis occurs. Whether this should be considered insightful learning is controversial.[15]

Sometimes animals learn tricks from each other. Singing birds learn the details of their songs from their parents, sometimes prenatal. Some groups display initiation behaviour. In the laboratory, imitation learning is the imitation of a new or improbable activity or expression for which no instinctive disposition exists. It is a consequence of observing that another animal of the same or a different species performs an act for which it is rewarded.

Mammals, birds and octopuses have programs that require making choices. They apply these programs in the exploration of their environment and in playing. Initially, the animal makes an arbitrary choice, but it remembers its choices and their effects. By changing its programs, the animal influences its later choices. The new circumstances need not be the same as in the earlier case, but there must be some recognizable similarity.

 

In the interlacement of characters tertiary dispositions come to the fore

Starting from the lowest level, we find in each psychic character dispositions to interlace with characters at a higher level. Neurons have the disposition to become interlaced into a net that allows of differentiation. The differentiated net may form a central nervous system, at the highest level divided into an autonomous system and a brain. These levels constitute a hierarchy of characters.

On the one hand, the phenomenon of character interlacement means that the characters having different secondary foundations remain recognizable, on the other hand, it implies an amount of adaptation. A neuron in a net is not the same as a unicellular animal, but it displays sufficient similarities to assume that they belong primarily and secondarily to the same character type. Only the tertiary characteristic is different, because a unicellular protozoan cannot become part of a net of neurons, and because it has sensors and flagellates instead of dendrites and an axon.

The relation between ‘old’ and ‘new’ brains can be understood as a character interlacement as well. In particular, instinctive processes and states like emotions that mammals and birds share with fish, amphibians and reptiles are located in the limbic system, the ‘reptilian brain’. Hence, the difference between the limbic system in the higher animals and the central nervous system in the lower animals is tertiary, whereas the difference of both with the neocortex is secondary. This character interlacement is not only apparent in the structure of the nervous system. Both the programming and the psychic functioning of the nervous system display an analogous characteristic hierarchy.

 

6.3. Control processes

 

Animals are sensitive to their own body, to each other and to their physical and biotic environment. By observing, an animal as a subject establishes relations with its environment, being the object of its observation. In its observation space (which is not necessarily Euclidean), an animal is aware of a number of objects in their mutual relationships. Motion of an object is observed against the background of the observation space. Depending on the animal’s interests, it makes causal connections. Together with its own position and its memory, the observation space constitutes the animal’s subjective world of experience, to be distinguished from its objective environment. Organically, sensors or sense organs bring about observation. The gathering of information is followed by co-ordination, transfer and processing into instructions for behaviour, via the nervous and endocrine systems. Together, this constitutes a chain of information processing.

Leaving aside control on the level of genes, I shall distinguish between control processes (section 3), controlled processes (section 4), and psychically qualified behaviour (section 5), each having their specific characters. For information processing, psychic projections on the quantitative up to the biotic relation frames can be indicated, as follows.

 

a. The simplest form of control is the on/off switching of a program

The simplest form of control is to switch on or off a programmed pattern of behaviour, like an electric appliance is put into operation by an on/off switch. Psychology calls this the release after the reception of an appropriate signal. Each signal and each stimulus must surpass a threshold value in order to have effect. Mathematically, a ‘step function’ represents the transition from one state to the other. Its mathematical derivative (the ‘delta function’) describes a pulse, the physical expression of a stimulus or signal, kinetically represented by a wave packet. In a neuron, a stimulus has the character of a biotically organized chemical process, called an action potential, in which specific molecules (neurotransmitters) play a part. Hence, the objective psychical character of a signal or a stimulus is interlaced with various non-psychical characters.

The simplest form of behaviour consists of a direct relation between a stimulus and a response (e.g., a reflex). It depends on a specific stimulus that switches the program on or off. (The program itself may be quite complex.) Often, only the output is called behaviour, but because there is an unbreakable connection between input, program and output, it appears better to consider the whole as a kind of behaviour.

Sometimes a program as a whole is out of operation, such that it is insensitive to a stimulus or signal that should activate it. Hormonal action has the effect that animals are sexually active only during certain periods. Hormones determine the difference between the behaviour of male and female specimens of the same species. Sometimes, female animals display male behaviour (and conversely), if treated with inappropriate hormones. Being switched on or off by hormones, sexual behaviour programs appear to be available to both genders.

 

b. Stimuli are spatially integrated into a pattern

A spatially founded system of connected neurons receives simultaneous stimuli from various directions and co-ordinates instructions at different positions. The integration of stimuli and reflexes does not require a real memory. ‘Immediate memory’ is almost photographic and it lasts only a few seconds.[16] It allows of the recognition of patterns and the surroundings. The reaction speed is low. Recognition of a spatial pattern requires contrast, the segregation of the observed pattern from its background.

Often, a program requires more information than provided by a single signal. The observation of a partner stimulates mating behaviour, whereas the presence of a rival inhibits it. Moreover, internal motivation is required. Aggressive behaviour against a rival only occurs if both animals are in a reproductive phase.

Via the dendrites, several incoming pulses activate simultaneously the psychic program localized in a single cell body or a group of co-operating neurons. Some pulses act stimulating, others inhibiting, and together their effect may be activating, alerting, relaxing, numbing or even paralysing. Only the integration of stimuli produces an instruction leading to a co-ordinated pattern of mutually related activities. Each neuron in a net co-ordinates the information received in the form of stimuli through its dendrites. It distributes the processed information via the axon and synapses to various addresses. Various mechanisms can be combined into more complex behaviour systems, like hunting, eating, sexual or aggressive behaviour. A behaviour system describes the organization of sensorial, central and motor mechanisms being displayed as a whole in certain situations.

 

c. In a differentiated nervous system, transport of information takes place

Each neuron transports information via its axon to other cells. In a differentiated nervous system, transport and amplification of information occurs in steps, mediating between the reception of signals and the exertion of instructions. As discussed so far, information exists as a single pulse or a co-ordinated set of pulses. However, the information may consist of a succession of pulses as well. The short-term memory (having duration of 10 to 15 minutes) allows the animal to observe signals arriving successively instead of simultaneously. The stored information is deleted as soon as the activity concerned is completed.

If an observed object moves, it changes its position with respect to its background, enhancing its contrast. Hence, with respect to its background, a moving object is easier to be observed than a stationary object. Likewise, an animal enhances the visibility of an object by moving its eyes.

Amplification of stimuli makes negative feedback possible. This control process requires a sensor detecting a deviation from a prescribed value (the ‘set point’) for a magnitude like temperature. Transformed into a signal, the deviation is amplified and starts a process that counters the detected deviation. For a feedback process, no memory is required.

 

d. Interpretation requires sense organs and a long-term memory

Psychologists distinguish sensation from perception. Sensations are the basic elements of experience, representing information. Perception is the interpretation process of sensorial information,[17] a new phase between the reception of signals and the exertion of instructions. It allows the animal to observe changes in its environment, other than motions for which a short-term memory is sufficient.

A physically differentiated nervous system may include chemical, mechanical, thermal, optic, acoustic, electric and magnetic sensors, besides sensors sensitive to gravity or moisture. The sense organs distinguish signals of a specific nature and integrate them into an image, that may be visual, tactile or auditive, or a combination of these.

An animal having sense organs is capable of forming an image of its environment and storing it in its memory. It is able to make a perceptive connection between cause and effect.[18] This does not mean a conceptual insight into the abstract phenomenon of cause and effect - that is reserved to human beings. It concerns concrete causal relations, with respect to the satisfaction of the animal’s needs of food, safety or sex. For instance, an animal learns fast to avoid sick making food. An animal is able to foresee the effects of its behaviour, the best predictor of an event being its cause.

Imaging allows an animal to get an impression of its changing environment in relation to the state of its body. The animal stores the image during some time in its memory, in order to compare it with an image formed at an earlier or later time. This is no one-way traffic. Observation occurs according to a program that is partly genetically determined, partly shaped from earlier experiences, and partly adapts itself to the situation of the moment. Observation is selective, for an animal only sees what it needs in order to function adequately.

In observation, recollection and recognition, comparison with past situations as well as knowledge and expectations play a part. If an animal recognizes or remembers an object, this gives rise to a latent or active readiness to react adequately. Not every circuit reacts to a single stimulus switching it on or off. Stimuli derived from a higher program may control a circuit in more detail. This is only possible in a nervous system having differentiation and perception besides co-ordination, and allowing of transport and storage of information. The long-term memory is located in the central nervous system, requiring specialized areas coupled to the corresponding sense organs.

Recognition based on image formation does not occur according to the logical or analytical distinction of similarities and differences, but holistic, as a totality, in the form of a Gestalt. Recollections of the past, recognition of the present situation, and expectations of the future give rise to emotions like joy, sorrow, anger or fear. Probably, animals only have ‘object bound’ emotions, like the fear of some other animal, to be distinguished from human anxiety in the I-self relation. Images interact psychically with each other or with inborn programs. Emotions act like forces in psychic processes, in which both the nervous and the endocrine system play their parts. Sometimes the cause of behaviour is an internal urge or driving force (the original meaning of ‘instinct’). This waits to become operative as a whole until the animal arrives at the appropriate physiological state and the suitable environment to behave according to its instinct.

Imaging allows an animal to control its behaviour by its expectations, by anticipations, by ‘feedforward’. Now the intended goal controls the process.[19] Animals drink not only to lessen their thirst, but also to prevent thirst. In such a case, animals adapt the set point in a feedback system, taking into account observations and expectations.

 

e. Imagination is the highest integration level for observation

Imagination is more than processing of information. It is innovative generation of information about situations that are not realized yet. It allows higher animals to anticipate on expected situations, to make choices, to solve problems and to learn from these. It requires a rather strongly developed brain able to generate information, in order to allow of choosing between various possibilities. At this level, emotions like satisfaction and disappointment occur, because of agreement or disagreement between expectation and reality. In particular young mammals express curiosity and display playful behaviour.

Animals control their learning activity by directing their attention. Attention for aspects of the outer world depends on the environment and on the animal’s internal state. A well-known form of learning in a newborn animal is imprinting, for instance the identification of its parents. Sometimes, comparing of experience leads to the adaptation of behaviour programs, to learning based on recognized experiences. Associative learning means the changing of behaviour programs by connecting various experiences. In the conditioned reflex, an animal makes connections between various signals. Repetition of similar or comparable signals gives a learning effect known as reinforcement (amplification by repetition).

 

6.4. Controlled processes

 

Technologists speak of control if a process having its own source of energy influences another process, having a different energy source. All psychically controlled processes are biotically organized processes as well, and are subject to physical and chemical laws. In an organized process, enzymes are operative, by lowering or heightening energy barriers. Hormones play a comparable stimulating or inhibiting part.

 

a. A stimulus is controlled information

A stimulus corresponds to a kinetic wave packet, whereas the transport and processing of a pulse have a physical nature. Transport of information occurs by means of an electric current or a chemical process in a nerve. The distribution of hormones from the producing gland to some organ, too, constitutes information transport. In invertebrates, the stimulus has often the form of an electric pulse, in vertebrates it is a chemical pulse, called an action potential. Whereas the neurons produce most stimuli, external signals induce stimuli as well. The induction and transport of stimuli happens in a characteristic way only occurring in animals. However, the interlaced characters of a physical pulse and a kinetic wave packet are fairly well recognizable.

 

b. Co-ordination of stimuli and instructions requires a spatial organization

The body plan of an animal is designed for its behaviour. Complex behaviour requires co-ordinated control by an integrated circuit in the nervous system, usually combined with the endocrine system. A special form of co-ordinated behaviour follows an alarm. This brings the whole body in a state of alertness, sometimes after the production of a shot of adrenalin. The animal’s body posture expresses its emotive state.

 

c. Controlled motions form an obvious characteristic of animals

Controlled motions recognizable as walking, swimming or flying, are evidently different from physical or biotic movements, even without specifying their goal. Psychically qualified behaviour is recognizable because of its goal, like hunting or grazing. One of the most important forms of animal behaviour is motion. For a long time, the possibility to move itself was considered the decisive characteristic of animals. Crawling, walking, springing, swimming, and flying are characteristic movements that would be impossible without control by feedback. The animal body is predisposed to controlled motion, such that from fossils it can be established how extinct animals used to move. Many kinds of  motion have other functions than displacement. Catching has a function in the achievement of food, chewing in processing it. Animal motions are possible because animal cells are not rigidly but flexibly connected, having intercellular cavities (unlike plant cells). Muscular tissues are characteristically developed to make moving possible.

Many of the mentioned movements are periodic, consisting of a rhythmic repetition of separate movements.[20] Many animals have an internal psychic clock regulating movements like heartbeats or respiration. The circadian clock (from circa die, about a day) tunes organic processes to the cycle of day and night. Other clocks like fertility are tuned to the seasons, and some coastal animals have a rhythm corresponding to the tides.

The more complicated an animal is, the more important the control of its internal environment. Homeostasis is a characteristic process controlled by feedback. Many animals keep their temperature constant within narrow limits. The same applies to other physical and chemical parameters.

Animals with a central nervous system and specialized sense organs control their external behaviour by means of feedback. They are able to react fast and adequately to changes in their environment.

 

d. Animals control their physical and chemical processes

In particular in higher animals, the nervous system controls almost all processes in some way. Respiration, blood circulation, metabolism and the operation of the glands would not operate without control. The animal controls its internal environment by its nervous system that also controls the transport of gases in respiration and of more or less dissolved materials in the guts and the blood vessels. Whereas in plants metabolism is an organized process, in animals it is controlled as well.

Internal processes are usually automatically controlled, but in specific actions, an animal can accelerate or decelerate them or influence them in other ways. Animals with sense organs also control external processes like the acquisition of food.

The development of a differentiated animal from embryo to the adult form is a controlled biotic process. The growth of an animal starting from its conception is influenced by the simultaneously developing nervous system. In a mammal’s placenta, the embryo interacts with its mother. Emotions induced by the observation of a partner or a rival control mating behaviour.

 

e. Genetically determined behaviour is developed during the growth and is adaptable

Many forms of behaviour, such as mating, are genetically programmed. Through the genes, they are transferred from generation to generation. They are stereotype, progressing according to a fixed action pattern. The programming of other forms of behaviour occurs during the individual’s development after its conception. The genome should not be considered a blueprint. Even in multicellular differentiated plants, the realization of the design during the growth is not exclusively determined by the genome, but by the environment of the dividing cell as well. The tissue to which the cell belongs determines in part the phenotype of the new cells. Besides, in animal development during the growth the nervous and endocrine systems play a controlling part. While the nervous system grows, it controls the simultaneous development of the sense organs and of other typically animal organs like the heart or the liver.

Besides the animal body including the nervous system, the programs in the nervous system are genetically determined, at least in part. Partly they are developed during growth. Moreover, animals are capable of changing their programs, to learn from information acquired from their environment. Finally, the exertion of a program depends on information received by the program from elsewhere.

Behaviour programs consist of these four components. Hence, there is no dualism of genetically determined and learned behaviour.[21] Behaviour emerges as a relation of the animal with its environment, as slow or fast adaptation, as follows. First, by natural selection a population adapts the genetic component to a suitable niche. Next, an individual animal actualizes this adaptation during its development from embryo to adult. Third, its learning capacity enables the individual to adapt its behaviour to its environment much faster than would be possible by natural selection or growth. Fourth, the input of data in the program allows the animal to adapt its behaviour to the situation of the moment.

 

6.5. Goal-directed behaviour

 

Behaviour consists of psychically qualified events and processes. It emerges as a chain from stimulus or observation via information processing to response. It is always goal-directed, but it is not goal-conscious, intentional or deliberate, these concepts being applicable to human behaviour only. Since the eighteenth century, the physical sciences abandoned goal-directedness as a principle of explanation, but the psychic order is no more reducible to the physical order than the biotic one.[22] Behaviour is goal-directed and its goal is the object of subjective behaviour.

Often an animal’s behaviour is directed to that of some other animal. In that case, besides a subject-object relation, a subject-subject relation is involved. Animal behaviour is observable, both to people and to animals. By hiding, an animal tries to withdraw from being observed. Threatening and courting have the function to be observed. This occurs selectively, animal behaviour is always directed to a specific goal. Courting only impresses members of the same species.

Various types of behaviour can be expected, based on projections of the psychic relation frame onto the preceding ones. It has been established that many animals are able to recognize general relations in a restricted sense. These relations concern the recognition of small numbers (up to 5), spatial dimensions and patterns in the animal’s environment, motions and changes in its niche, causality with respect to its own behaviour and biotic relations within its own population.

For human beings, activity is not merely goal-directed, but goal-conscious as well. In the following overview, I shall compare animal with human behaviour.

 

a. The unit of behaviour is the reflex

A neuron transforms stimuli coming from a sensor into an instruction for an effector, e.g. a muscle or a gland. Muscles enable the animal’s internal and external movements. The glands secrete materials protecting the body’s health or alerting the animal or serving its communication with other animals. The direct stimulus-response relation occurs already in protozoans and sponges. The reflex, being the direct reaction of a single cell, organ or organ system to a stimulus, is the simplest form of behaviour. It may be considered the unit of behaviour. Reflexes are always direct, goal-directed and adapted to the immediate needs of the animal. Whereas complex behaviour is a psychically qualified process, a reflex may be considered a psychically qualified event.

Often, a higher animal releases its genetically determined behaviour (fixed action pattern) after a single specific stimulus, a sign stimulus or releaser. If there is a direct relation between stimulus and response, the goal of a fixed action pattern is the response itself, for instance the evasion of immediate danger.

People, too, display many kinds of reflexes. More than animals, they are able to learn certain action patterns, exerting them more or less ‘automatically’. For instance, while cycling or driving a car, people react in a reflexive way to changes in their environment.

Human beings and animals are sensitive to internal and external states like hunger, thirst, cold, or tiredness. Such psychically experienced states are quantitatively ordered. An animal can be more or less hungry, thirsty or tired, feeling more or less stimulated or motivated to acting. The satisfaction of needs is accomplished by complex behaviour. Within the animal kingdom, animals apply a broad scale of food sources. Animals of a certain species restrict themselves to a specific source of food, characterizing their behaviour. In contrast, human beings produce, prepare and vary their food. People do not have a genetically determined ecological niche. Far more than animals, they can adapt themselves to circumstances and change circumstances according to their needs.

Contrary to the animals themselves, scientists analyse the quantitative aspect of behaviour by a balance of costs and benefits.[23] A positive cost-benefit relation is appropriate behaviour and favours natural selection. Behaviour always costs energy and sometimes gains energy. Behaviour involves taking risks. Some kinds of behaviour exclude others. The alternation of characteristic behaviour like hunting, eating, drinking, resting and secreting depends on a trade-off of the effects of various forms of behaviour.[24] People, too, deliberate in this way, conscious or subconscious.

Animals of the same species may form a homogeneous aggregate like a breeding colony, an ants’ or bees’ nest, a herd of mammals, a shoal of fish, or a swarm of birds. Such an aggregate is a psychically qualified and biotically founded community, if the animals stay together by communicating with each other, or if the group reacts collectively to signals. (A population of animals as a gene pool is biotically qualified, but mating behaviour is a characteristic psychical subject-subject relation.) Human beings form numerous communities qualified by relation frames other than the psychic one.[25]

 

b. In a biotope, animals react to each other

An ecosystem or biotope is a biotically qualified heterogeneous aggregate of organisms. The environment of a population of animals, its Umwelt, is psychically determined by the presence of other animals, biotically by the presence of plants, fungi and bacteria, and by physical and chemical conditions as well. Each animal treats its environment in a characteristic way. In a biotope, animals of different species recognize each other. They attract or avoid each other. The predator-prey relation and parasitism are characteristic examples. The posture of an animal is a spatial expression of its state controlled by its emotions, but it has a goal as well, e.g. to court, to threaten, to warn or to hide. Characteristic spatially founded types of behaviour are orientation, acclimatization and defending a territory.

The Umwelt and the horizon of experience of a population of animals are restricted by their direct needs of food, safety and reproduction. Animals do not transcend their Umwelt. Only human beings are aware of the cosmos, the coherence of reality transcending the biotic and psychic world of animals.

 

c. The kinetic behaviour of animals is characteristically goal directed

The movements of animals are often very characteristic: resting, sleeping, breathing, displacing, cleaning, flying, reconnoitring, pursuing, or hunting. On a large scale, the migration of birds, fish and turtles are typical motions. Usually the goal is easily recognizable. A healthy animal does not move aimlessly. Many animal movements are only explainable by assuming that the animals observe each other. In particular animals recognize each other’s characteristic movements. Human motions are far less stereotype than those of animals, and do not always concern biotic and psychic needs.

Communication is behaviour of an individual (the sender) influencing the behaviour of another individual (the receiver).[26] It consists of a recognizable signal, whether electric or chemical (by pheromones), visual, auditive or tactile. It is a detail of something that a receiver may observe and it functions as a trigger for the behaviour of the receiver. Communication is most important if it concerns mating and reproduction, but it occurs also in situations of danger. Ants, bees and other animals are capable of informing each other about the presence of food. Higher animals communicate their feelings by their body posture and body motions (‘body language’).

A signal has an objective function in the communication between animals if the sender’s aim is to influence the behaviour of the receiver. A signal is a striking detail (a specific sound or a red spot, the smell of urine or a posture), meant to attract attention. It should surpass the noise generated by the environment. Many signals are exclusively directed to members of the same species, in mating behaviour or care for the offspring, in territory defence and scaring of rivals. Animal communication is species specific and stereotype. It is restricted to at most several tens of signals. In particular between predators and prey, one finds deceptive communication. As a warning for danger, sound is better suited than visual signals. Smelling plays an important part in territory behaviour. Impressive visual sex characteristics like the antlers of an elk or the tails of a peacock have mostly a signal value.

Only human communication makes use of abstract symbols, having meaning each apart or in combination. Whereas animal signals always directly refer to reality, human symbols also (even mainly) refer to each other. A grammar consists of rules for the inter-human use of language, determining largely the character of a language.[27]

 

d. Animals manipulate their environment

Often, animal behaviour can be projected on cause-effect relations. Higher animals are sensitive for these relations, whereas human beings have insight in them. Sensory observation, image formation, manipulations, emotions and conflicts are related forms of behaviour.

The senses allow an animal of forming an image of its environment in order to compare it with images stored in its memory. This enables an animal having the appropriate organs to manipulate its environment, e.g. by burrowing a hole. Characteristic is the building of nests by birds, ants and bees, and the building of dams by beavers. These activities are genetically determined, hardly adaptable to the environment, and incomparable to human labour.

The formative activity of animals often results in the production of individual objects like a bird’s nest. Plants are producers as well, e.g. of wood displaying its typical cell structure even after the death of the plant. The atmosphere consisting of nearly 20% oxygen is a product of ages of organic activity. Likewise, animals produce manure. From the viewpoint of the producing plant or animal, these are by-products, achieving a relatively independent existence after secretion. In this respect, wood and manure differ obviously from an individual object like a bird’s nest. A nest has primarily a physical character and is secondarily spatially founded, but its tertiary biotic and psychic dispositions are more relevant. It is produced with a purpose. Its structure is recognizable as belonging to a certain species. The nest of a blackbird differs characteristically from the nest of a robin. However, the nest itself does not live or behave. It is not a subject in biotic and psychic relations, but an object. It is a subject in physical relations, but these do not determine its character. It is an individual object, characteristic for the animals that produce it, fish, birds, mammals, insects and spiders. The construction follows from a pattern that is inborn to the animal. Usually, the animal’s behaviour during the construction of its nest is very stereotype. Only higher animals are sometimes capable of adapting it to the circumstances. The tertiary psychic characteristic of a nest, its purpose, dominates its primary physical character and its secondary spatial shape.

Manipulating the environment concerns a subject-object relation. The mutual competition, in particular the trial of strength between rivals, may be considered a physically founded subject-subject relation. Both relations are species-specific and stereotype. Stereotype animal behaviour contrasts with the freedom of human activity, for which human beings are consequently responsible.

 

e. The purpose of biotically founded behaviour is reproduction

Much animal behaviour has a biotic function, like reproduction and survival of the species. Animals are sensitive for genetic relations. Whether protozoans experience each other is difficult to establish, though their mating behaviour makes it likely. The courting and mating behaviour of higher animals is sometimes strongly ritualized and stereotype. It is both observable and meant to be observed. It has an important function in the natural selection based on sexual preferences. The body plan, in particular the sexual dimorphy, is tuned to this behaviour.

Mating behaviour and care for the offspring are psychically qualified and biotically founded types of behaviour. Animals are sensitive to the members of their species, distinguishing between the sexes, rivals and offspring. For biotically founded behaviour, the mutual communication between animals is important. Sexually mature animals excrete recognizable scents. In herds, families or colonies, a rank order with corresponding behaviour is observable. An animal’s rank determines its chance of reproduction.

Human mating behaviour is cultivated, increasing its importance. People distinguish themselves from animals by their sense of shame, one reason to cover themselves with clothing. The primary and secondary sex characteristics are both hidden and shown, in a playful ritual that is culturally determined, having many variations. Human sexuality is not exclusively directed to biotic and psychic needs and inborn sexual differences. It is expressed in many kinds of human behaviour.

 

An animal changes its identity by learning

The ability to learn is genetically determined and differs characteristically from species to species. Every animal is the smartest for the ecological niche in which it lives. Its ability to learn changes during its development. In birds and mammals, learning takes place already during the prenatal phase. In the juvenile phase, animals display curiosity, a tendency to reconnoitre the environment and their own capacities, e.g. by playing (acting as if). Usually, a young animal has more learning capability than an adult specimen.

The capacity of learning is hereditary and species specific, but what an animal learns is not heritable. The content of the animal’s learning belongs to its individual experience. Sometimes, an animal is able to transfer its experiences to members of its population.

The genetic identity of a plant or animal is primarily determined by the individual configuration of its genes. This biotic identity is objectively laid down in the configuration of the DNA molecule, equal in all cells of the organism. Only sexual reproduction changes the genetic configuration, but then a new individual comes into existence. In contrast, the psychic identity of an animal is not exclusively laid down in its genetic identity. An animal changes because of its individual experience, because of what it learns. By changing its experience (by memorizing as well as forgetting), the animal itself changes, developing its identity. Even if two animals have the same genetic identity (e.g., clones or monozygotic twins), they will develop divergent psychic identities, having different experiences. In the nervous system, learning increases the number of connections between neurons and between programs.

The individual variation in the behaviour of animals of the same species or of a specified population can often be statistically expressed. The statistical spread is caused by the variation in their individual possibilities (inborn, learned or determined by circumstances), as far as it is not caused by measurement inaccuracies. When the statistics displays a maximum (for instance, in the case of a Gauss or Poincaré distribution), the behaviour corresponding to the maximum is called ‘normal’. Behaviour that deviates strongly from the maximum value is called ‘abnormal’. This use of the word normal is not related to norms. However, these statistics can be helpful in finding law conformities, in particular if comparison between various species reveals corresponding statistics.

Their learning capacity implies that animals are able to recognize signals or patterns, and to react by adapting their behaviour programs. This means that animals in concrete situations have a sense of regularity. This sense is not comparable to the knowledge of and insight into the universal law conformity that humanity has achieved laboriously. Still, it should not be underestimated. The sense of regularity shared by humans and animals is a condition for the insight into lawfulness that is exclusively human.

The learning capacity of an animal is restricted to behaviour serving the animal’s biotic and psychic needs. It is an example of the capacity of animals (and plants) to adapt themselves to differing circumstances. In this respect, animals differ from human beings, whose behaviour is not exclusively directed to the satisfaction of biotic and psychic needs. Moreover, animals lack the human I-ness, the religious centre of each person directed to their divine Origin.

 

In this chapter, I did not distinguish between animal psychology, studying the general properties of behaviour, and ethology, concerned with the characteristic behaviour of various animal species. I discussed the general relations constituting the psychic relation frame together with types of characters primarily qualified by that frame and secondarily by projections of psychic relations on preceding relation frames. Besides, I paid attention to the tertiary disposition of animal characters to interlace themselves with other characters.

Human psychology and psychiatry too are concerned with behaviour, but human behaviour is usually not psychically qualified. Hence, it is not always possible to compare animal with human behaviour. In animals, goal-directed behaviour and transfer of information always concerns psychic and biotic needs like food, reproduction, safety and survival of the species. In humans, behaviour serves many other purposes.

 

6.6. The emergence of humanity from the animal world

 

Christian philosophical anthropology ought to dissociate itself from naturalistic evolutionism that considers a human being merely as a natural product no more than any animal.[28] The criticism exerted by Herman Dooyeweerd and several of his adherents on evolutionism is right, as far as evolutionism states that the evolution of humanity from the animal kingdom should be explainable entirely in a natural scientific way.[29] On the other hand, Christian anthropology does not need to object to the hypothesis that humanity emerged from the animal kingdom.[30] The evolution of humankind, like the evolution of plants and animals, occurs partly according to natural laws, providing a necessary, though by no means sufficient explanation for the coming into being of humanity.[31] There is no reasonable doubt that human beings, as far as their body structure is concerned, evolved from the animal world.[32] For a sufficient explanation one has to take into account normative principles, irreducible to natural laws.

The theory of character interlacement accounts for the kinship of men and animals. The human body character is interlaced with an animal behaviour character, opened up into an act structure, determining the human position in the animal kingdom.[33] Likewise, both human beings and animals belong to the world of living beings because of their organic character, but they transcend it as well. Indeed, the character of animals is not primarily biotic, but psychically qualified by their behaviour. Hence, the assumption that humans have a place in the animal kingdom does not imply that they are psychically qualified. It does not exclude that a human body differs from an animal body to a large extent.[34] The size of the brain, the erect gait, the absence of a tail, and the naked skin point to the unique position of humankind in the cosmos.

The starting point for a Christian philosophical anthropology would be that human beings are called out of the animal kingdom to control nature in a responsible way, to love their neighbours, and to worship God. Persons are called to further good and combat evil, in freedom and responsibility. Science or philosophy cannot explain this vocation from the laws of nature. Yet it may be considered an empirical fact that all people experience a calling to do well and to avoid evil. As such it is open to scientific archaeological and historical research.

The question of when this calling happened for the first time can only be answered within a wide margin. It is comparable to the question of when (at which moment between conception and birth) a human embryo becomes an individual person, with a vocation to be human. The creation of humanity before all times, including the vocation to function as God’s image, should be distinguished from its realization in the course of time. Contrary to the first, the latter can be dated in principle, albeit within wide limits.

When leaving the animal world, humanity took an active part in the dynamic development of nature. This opening of windows on humanity concerns all six natural relation frames and the characters they qualify. People expand their quantitative, spatial, kinetic, physical, biotic and psychic relations with other creatures and with each other. The exploitation of energy and matter transformations, far beyond the use of fire and celts marks history. Initially, the mastery of nature meant hunting, domestication of animals and the collection of fruits. Only in agriculture and pastoral cattle-breeding, about 10,000 years ago, people started to develop living nature dynamically. They influenced the genetic renewal of plants and animals by cultivating and crossing, replacing natural by artificial selection.

Whereas ethology studies animal behaviour, ethics is concerned with human acts being characterized by the normative relation frames succeeding the psychic one. People have the will to labour or to destroy; to enjoy or to disturb a party; to understand or to cheat; to speak the truth or to lie; to be faithful or unreliable; to keep each other’s company in a respectful or in an offending way; to conduct a business honestly or to swindle; to exert good management or to be a dictator; to do justice or injustice; to care for or to neglect each other’s vulnerability. The various virtues and vices express the will to do good or evil in widely differing circumstances. The will to act rightly or wrongly opens the human psyche towards the relation frames following the psychic one. The desire to act freely and responsibly according to values and norms raises men and women above animals, a human society above a herd.

 

By distinguishing natural laws from values and norms, Christian philosophical ethics accounts for human freedom and responsibility. No less than animals, people are bound to natural laws, being coercive and imperative, though leaving a margin of randomness, as was argued above. Like natural laws, values or normative principles are given by the Creator as conditions for human existence, but human beings are able to transgress these. For instance, people ought to act righteously, but they do not always behave accordingly.

Normative principles are not derivable from human being as such, as if there are first human beings with their activity and next the morals. On the contrary, each fundamental value is a condition for human existence in its rich variety. Human freedom, too, cannot be the starting point of ethical conduct, for without normative principles freedom and responsibility would be quite illusory.

The naturalist fallacy is to reduce the normative aspects of reality to the natural ones. In order to deny normativity, naturalists often assume that people are not free to act, and cannot be held responsible for their acts and the ensuing consequences. Therefore they need to believe that everything is determined by natural laws. That view is highly remarkable, because both physics and biology heavily depend on the occurrence of stochastic or random events, and do not provide a deterministic basis for naturalism.

It is a generally held assumption that human beings are to a certain extent free to act, and therefore responsible for their deeds. Although this confirms common understanding, it is an unprovable hypothesis. Naturalist philosophers denying free will cannot prove their view too, but they should carry the burden of proof.[35] Apparently, their problem is that they cannot both ascribe freedom and responsibility to animals, and maintain that human beings are just another species of animals, subject only to natural laws. In contrast, Christian philosophy holds that human beings and their associations are conditioned to be free and responsible according to normative principles irreducible to natural laws.

 

The fact that animals can learn from their experience shows that they have a sense for regularity, but only people consider normative principles. Though not coercive, in the history of mankind the normative principles appear to be as universal as the natural laws. From the beginning of history, human beings have been aware that they are to a certain extent free to obey or to disobey these principles in a way that neither animals nor human beings can obey or disobey natural laws. Moreover, they have discovered that the normative principles are not sufficient. In particular the organization of human societies required the introduction of human-made norms as implementation or positivization of normative principles. Therefore, human freedom and responsibility has two sides. At the law side it means the development of norms from the normative principles, which norms are different at historical times and places, and vary in widely different cultures and civilizations. At the subject side, individual persons and their associations are required to act according to these laws, which ought to warrant the execution of their freedom and responsibility.

For instance, all people appear to have a sense of justice. The normative principles like justice may be assumed to be universal, and should therefore be recognizable in the whole of history (as far as we know it), in all cultures and civilizations. Human skills, aesthetic experience, and language may widely differ, but are always present and recognizable in any human society. The sense of universal values appears to be inborn.

This has led naturalists to assume that human history can be described as biological evolution, in particular applying Charles Darwin’s ideas of adaptation and natural selection. They overlook the fact that Darwin’s theory necessarily presupposes genetic heredity. Natural selection is a slow process. The evolution of hominids to modern humankind took at least six million years, which is not even long on a geological scale. But human history is at most two hundred thousand years old. Because of human activity, it happens much faster than biological evolution, and is even accelerating. Moreover, human experience cannot be inherited. The historical and cultural transfer of experience in asymmetrical subject-subject relations is as diverse as human experience itself. It is completely absent in the animal world. The transfer of experience as an engine of history in each normative relation frame replaces heredity as an engine of biotic evolution. This is the nucleus of truth in the hypothesis that memes are the units of cultural transmission, comparable to inheritable genes in biotic evolution.[36]

 

Although there are relevant biological differences between human persons and their nearest relatives, the biological difference 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. Yet it is now widely accepted that the fundamental distinction between human beings and animals cannot be determined on biological grounds only.

When paleontologists want to establish whether certain fossils are ape-like or human-like 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 be abandoned. At present one looks for this distinc­tion in culture, in language, in social organization and the like. In terms of the philosophy of dynamic development this would mean that a human being is a subject in the post-psychic relation frames. Human activity is not merely directed to the fulfilment of biotic and psychic needs, but is directed to answering a calling.

The awareness of good and evil marks the birth date of humanity. 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. Consider 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.

All persons experience the calling to fight 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. This is a very 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. Through cultural development humanity started to transcend the animal kingdom. A person no longer experiences the world merely as being psychical, but also as being rational, historical, and so on. More and more, the belief in one's calling has played a leading part in their history.

The sense of calling to fight evil, which is at 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. In particular the difference between evil and sin is a religious question. Hence the development of humanity out of the animal kingdom cannot be completely scientifically explained. Besides insight into natural processes, it requires revelation about what it means to be created in the image of God.

The arguments in this section show that the theory of evolution may be able to provide necessary conditions for understanding the emergence of humanity, but by no means sufficient conditions. These should be sought in the normativity of the relation frames succeeding the natural ones, in the active part human beings take in the dynamic development of nature and society, and in God’s revelation.

The tertiary characteristics of natural things and events point to the possibility of the emergence of new structures with emerging new properties and propensities. It provides the original characters with meaning, their proper position in the creation. The phenomenon of disposition shows that material things like molecules have meaning for living organisms. It shows that organisms have meaning for animal life. The assumption that God’s people are called from the animal world gives meaning to the existence of animals. Both evolution and history display the meaningful development of the creation, the coming into being of ever more characters. The theory of relation frames and characters points to the natural evolution making the natural relation frames into windows on humanity, and interlacing the natural characters in human normative activity.



[1] According to a modern definition, animalia are multicellular: ‘An organism is an animal if it is a multicellular heterotroph with ingestive metabolism, passes through an embryonic stage called a blastula, and has an extracellular matrix containing collagen.’ (Purves et al. 1998, 553-554). Within the kingdom of the protista (consisting of all eukaryotes that do not belong to the animalia, plantae or fungi), the unicellular protozoans like flagellates and amoebas do not form a well-defined group. The animalia probably form a monophyletic lineage, which would not be the case if the protozoans were included. Therefore, some biologists do not consider the protozoans to be animals, but others do.

[2] McFarland 1999, 62-63 divides organisms into producers, consumers and decomposers. Plants produce chemical energy from solar energy. Animals consume plants or plant eaters. Fungi and bacteria decompose plant and animal remains to materials useful for plants.

[3] Stafleu 2000.

[4] Wallace 1979, 23.

[5] Hogan 1994, 300-301: ‘The study of behavior is the study of the functioning of the nervous system and must be carried out at the behavioral level, by using behavioral concepts … the output of the nervous system, manifested as perceptions, thoughts, and actions.’

[6] McFarland 1999, 174: ‘Protozoa, being single-cell systems … seem to be organized along principles similar to those governing the physiology of neurons … the protozoan is like a receptor cell equipped with effector organelles.’

[7] A sponge (to the phylum Porifera belong about 10.000 species) has no nervous system, no mouth, muscles or other organs. The cells are grouped around a channel system allowing of streaming water. Each cell is in direct contact with water. A sponge has at least 34 different cell types. The cells are organically but not psychically connected.  The even more primitive Placozoa (of which only two species are known) too lack a nervous system (Purves et al. 1998, 632-633).

[8] Churchland 1986, 76-77.

[9] There are two kinds of nerve cells, neurons that are connected to each other besides glial cells, supporting the activity of the neurons. In the human brain, glial cells are more numerous than neurons, but I shall only discuss neurons.

[10] Whether the pre-Cambrian Ediacaran fauna mostly consisted of cnidarians is disputed, see Raff, 1996, 72.

[11] Hogan 1994, 300-301: ‘There may often be a close correspondence between systems defined in structural and functional terms, but this is by no means always the case, and it is very easy for confusion to arise.’

[12] Margulis, Schwartz 1982, 161. After the conception, every multicellular animal starts its development by forming a blastula, a hollow ball of cells. A sponge is not much more than such a ball.

[13] Purves et al. 1998, 810.

[14] Purves et al. 1998, 809-814.

[15] McFarland 1999, 343-346.

[16] The distinction between immediate, short and long term memory does not concern their duration, but their function (on which the duration depends), as described in the text.

[17] McFarland 1999, 204: ‘Sensations are the basic data of the senses … Perception is a process of interpretation of sensory information in the light of experience and of unconscious inference’.

[18] McFarland 1999, 340.

[19] McFarland 1999, 278: ‘The term feedforward … is used for situations in which the feedback consequences of behaviour are anticipated and appropriate action is taken to forestall deviations in physiological state.’

[20] Hinde 1966, chapter 14.

[21] Cp. Hebb 1953, 108: ‘We cannot dichotomize mammalian behaviour into learned and unlearned …’ Lehrman 1953 and others criticize Konrad Lorenz’s definition of instinctive behaviour to be genetically determined (in contrast to learned behaviour). Each kind of behaviour has inherited, learned and environmental components. See also Hinde 1970, 426: ‘… the innate/learnt type of dichotomy can lead to the ignoring of important environmental influences on development.’

[22] Aristotle introduced a dualism of causal and teleological explanations (‘proximate’ versus ‘ultimate’ causes). By ‘teleology’ is understood both the (biotic) function and (psychic) goal, see Nagel 1977. I restrict goal-directedness to behaviour. Goal-directed behaviour always has a function, but a biotic function is not always goal-directed. Function and purpose presuppose (physical) causality, but cannot be considered causes themselves. Nagel 1961, 402 associates teleological explanations with ‘… the doctrine that goals or ends of activity are dynamic agents in their own realizations … they are assumed to invoke purposes or end-in-views as causal factors in natural processes.’ See Ayala 1970, 38. In order to prevent this association, I shall avoid the term teleology (or teleonomy, see Mayr 1982, 47-51). The goal being the object of animal behaviour cannot be a ‘dynamic agent’. Only the animal itself as a psychic subject pursuing a goal is an agent of behaviour. This is in no way at variance with physical laws.

[23] Houston, McNamara 1999.

[24] McFarland 1999, 125-130.

[25] The study of animals living in groups is called ‘sociobiology’, see Wilson 1975. For quite some time, sociobiology has been controversial as far as its results were extrapolated to human behaviour, see Segerstråle 2000. Sociobiology was accused of ‘genetic determinism’, i.e. the view that human behaviour is mostly or entirely genetically determined.

[26] Goodenough, McGuire, Wallace 1993, chapter 17. In communication, structuralists recognize the following six elements: the transmitter, the receiver, the message from transmitter to receiver, the shared code that makes the message understandable, the medium, and the context (the environment) to which the message refers.

[27] Goodenough et al. 1993, 596: ‘Animal communication signals are not true language because animals do not use signals as symbols that can take the place of their referent and because they do not string signals together to form novel sentences.’

[28] Stafleu 2018b, chapter 11.

[29] Dooyeweerd 1959b.

[30] This view does not contradict the intention of the story of the creation in the first chapters of Genesis. Clouser 1991b, 6-7: ‘Thus the interpretation of the biblical remark that God created Adam “from the dust of the ground” would not be that it is intended as a description of God’s act, but as a comment on Adam’s nature. To be sure, it is by God’s creative activity that humans come into being. But on this interpretation the expression “from the dust of the ground” should not be understood as a description of one causal deed in space and time by which a biologically human being came into existence, but as conveying the fact that part of human nature is that humans are made of the same stuff that the rest of the world is made of. Thus, humans never are, and never can be, more than creatures of God. They are not little bits of divinity stuffed into earthly bodies, which are degraded as “the prison house of the soul.”’

[31] Mayr 1982, 438: ‘… the claim made by some extremists that man is “nothing but” an animal … is, of course, not true. To be sure, man is, zoologically speaking, an animal. Yet, he is a unique animal, differing from all others in so many fundamental ways that a separate science for man is well-justified.”

[32] This is a hypothesis, for which no logically conclusive proof exists, and probably cannot exist. In scientific laboratories, evolution cannot be copied. Scientific evidence differs from logical proof. Science does not require logical proof for a hypothesis. It requires scientific evidential material that does not contradict the hypothesis, but corroborates it. During the past two centuries, such evidence has been found in abundance. Moreover, for the above-mentioned hypothesis no scientifically defensible or viable alternative appears to be available.

[33] Referring to Max Weber, Reynolds 1976, xv writes: ‘If we describe what people or animals do, without inquiring into their subjective reasons for doing it, we are talking about their behaviour. If we study the subjective aspects of what they do, the reasons and ideas underlying and guiding it, we are concerned with the world of meaning. If we concern ourselves both with what people are, overtly and objectively, seen to do (or not to do) and their reasons for so doing (or not doing) which relate to the world of meaning and understanding, we then describe action.’ Dooyeweerd NC,  III, 87-89, too speaks of the human act-structure, ‘… the immediate temporal expression of the human I-ness, which transcends the cosmic temporal order.’ (ibid. 88). Dooyeweerd 1942, proposition XIV: ‘By “acts” the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea understands all activities starting from the human soul (or spirit), but functioning within the enkaptic structural whole of the human body. Guided by normative points of view, man is intentionally directed to states of affairs in reality or in his imagination. He makes these states of affairs to his own by relating them to his I-ness.’ [my translation, italics omitted].

[34] Reynolds 1976, 87: ‘Since man’s neural development consists of essentially the same processes as that of other mammalian species (differing in the much greater extent to which those processes go on, to produce a relatively gigantic brain with a greatly exaggerated frontal portion and a number of other characteristic features) we can expect that our brains too develop along genetically programmed lines. In the case of animals this was postulated because behavioural responses tended to be species specific. Is the same true for man? This is the central question … Without wanting to prejudge the issue, it seems to be the case that some universal responses are clearly present in early life, but that they become less and less clearly evident as childhood proceeds; the conclusion that would appear to follow is that the relatively exaggerated growth of certain brain areas is concerned not so much with behaviour determination and restriction as with the opposite: The keeping open of options for behaviour to be modified and adjusted by conditioning of basic programmes.’

[35] Of course, many human acts are based on a reflex or some other fixed action pattern, wired in the brain. Experiments to point this out cannot prove, however, that this is always the case. For an extensive argument against determinism, see Popper 1983. On page 27-28, Popper argues ‘… that the burden of proof rests upon the shoulders of the determinist.’ See also Popper 1972, chapter 6. Martin Luther and John Calvin are often accused of some kind of ‘religious determinism’, because of the doctrine of predestination. However, both invariantly stressed the responsibility of every person for their acts.

[36] Cunningham 2010, 206-212.

 

 


 

 

7. Evolution, history, and

the individual character of a person (2002)

 

 

7.1. Cosmic time is the horizon of our experience

7.2. The opening up of reality concerns the subject side of the cosmos

7.3. People belong to the animal kingdom

7.4. Humanity is called out of the animal world

7.5. Dooyeweerd’s wise ignorance does not make us any the wiser

7.6. Humanity is called to leave the animal world in order to develop nature

7.7. Nine relation frames beyond the six natural ones articulate human experience

7.8. The individual character of a person is different from other characters

7.9. People direct themselves to their origin

  

7.1. Cosmic time is the horizon of our experience

 

For Christian anthropology, Herman Dooyeweerd’s vision of cosmic time is indispensable.[1] He considered each individual subject both created and temporal. Being created points to the subject’s vertical relation to the Creator of heavens and earth. Between the creation and the Creator, natural laws and normative principles constitute a boundary that no creature is able to cross: no creature is above the law. Being temporal implies the horizontal relations with other individuals, subject-subject relations as well as subject-object relations. The projections of one relation frame to the other ones and the mutual interlacements of characters[2] imply horizontal relations between laws. Hence, the complex of horizontal relations called cosmic time has a law side and a subject side.

If houses, trees or mountains do not restrict our view, the horizon determines the end of what we can see. We know that the horizon depends on our point of view. By climbing a hill or a tower, we widen our horizon, and by moving, we change our horizon. The horizon is the limit of our sight, but not the end of the world. Analogously, we speak of the horizon of our experience, which is plastic, temporal, in­dividual and culturally determined.

The horizon of cosmic time is less individual, but it does change. The full existence of the creation is restricted to time, considered as the meshwork of all possible relations between all possible creatures. Because reality develops itself, the horizon of time expands. Dooyeweerd calls this the opening-process. It concerns the cosmos as a whole, stars and planets, living beings, animals, evolution and history of mankind, as well as the individual development of a human child.

Among other things, the dimensions of this horizon concern the present, the past and the future. The past leaves traces, and the investigation of these traces provides us with insight into the evolution of the cosmos. The palaeontological research of the layers of earth and fossils has taught us a lot about the evolution of our planet and the biosphere surrounding it. The evolution of the sun reflects itself in the states of stars being younger or older than the sun. The history of mankind is subject of archaeological and historical research. Largely, the presence of written and unwritten documents determines our historical horizon.

The metaphor of the horizon of time is common in astrophysics. Since the ‘big bang’, the physical cosmos has been expanding like a balloon being inflated. Astronomers calculate both the distances and the speeds of the galaxies moving away from each other. It turns out that the most distant galaxies move fastest. Light arriving from those galaxies needs time to travel the gigantic distances. Therefore, the images achieved from distant galaxies concern states of affairs from a distant past. The most removed galaxies are situated at the spatio-temporal horizon of the physical cosmos. By observing these galaxies, astronomers study events that happened shortly after the big bang, the starting point of the astrophysical evolution. But the big bang itself cannot be observed. The astrophysical theory describes what happened after the start, but it does not describe the beginning itself. Astrophysicists are aware that their theories based on observations come very close to the start of the evolution, without ever being able to reach it. The factual beginning of the astrophysical evolution appears to remain forever behind the horizon of human experience.

The biotic evolution started later than the astrophysical one. Hence, the astrophysical horizon encloses the biotic one. For the time being, the beginning of the biotic evolution (the emergence of the first living beings), of the psychical evolution (the emergence of the first animals) and the emergence of mankind remain behind our horizon of experience. This does not mean that we cannot investigate them scientifically and should not discuss them in our philosophy. Even less should we try to find a supernatural explanation for these events.

The existence of these horizons may be understood from the point of view that reality consists mostly of relations. For example, each living being is related by kinship to all other ones. As far as we can see, there is no living individual that does not descend from another living individual. This thesis, omne vivum e vivo, expresses a universal biotic law. It is not an a priori thesis (until the middle of the nineteenth century, scientists considered spontaneous generation very well possible), but it is based on empirical biological research. This universal law prevents a biological explanation of the emergence of the first living beings. The actual beginning of life lies behind the biological horizon of experience. However, because this emergence remains within the astrophysical horizon, one cannot exclude a natural explanation, even if it is not available at present. From a Christian point of view, this means no less than the acknowledgement, that the possibility of the emergence of living beings is laid down in the creation.

Like Dooyeweerd, I do not accept the proposition that for the emergence of living beings only a theological explanation would be possible, based on the biblical tradition. Dooyeweerd rejected the idea of a special creation in time, and he did not recognize supernatural acts as a scientific principle of explanation. Since the beginning, created reality contained the possibility of the development of plants, animals and human beings, even if its realization was a matter of time.[3]

It is very well possible to account for the coming into being of the first plants and animals in a philosophical way. This is something entirely different from a scientific explanation. Even if the scientific problem of the emergence of the first living beings will never be solved, a philosophical theory like Dooyeweerd’s cannot avoid the question of how the various kingdoms did emerge successively.

 

7.2. The opening up of reality concerns

the subject side of the cosmos

 

The evolution since the big bang proceeds according to natural laws, of which we have scientific knowledge derived from present-day experience. Its extrapolation to the past is based on the presupposition that these laws are unchangeable, independent of time, place and motion. In a Christian culture, this rests on the trust that God maintains his once given laws. Since the beginning, in the presence and under the guidance of God, the cosmos develops according to his laws.

Being human consists of relations,[4] and each relation is intrinsically temporal. In order to stress the significance of relations, I propose to replace Dooyeweerd’s ‘modal aspects of cosmic time’ by ‘relation frames’ and his ‘structures of individuality’ by ‘characters’.[5] Each relation frame is a cluster of universal laws for intersubjective relations and for subject-object relations. Each natural thing or process has a character, defined as a cluster of natural laws determining a class of individuals, besides an ensemble of possibilities. Each character is primarily qualified by one of the relation frames. With a few exceptions, each character has a secondary type because of its foundation in a projection of the qualifying relation frame on a preceding frame. The tertiary characteristic is the disposition of each character to become interlaced with other characters (Dooyeweerd’s ‘enkapsis’). Together with the possibility to project every relation frame on the other ones (Dooyeweerd’s ‘anticipations and retrocipations’) and the disposition of the characters to be interlaced, the universal relations determine the coherence and the meaning of the cosmos.

The astrophysical and biotic evolution does not concern the law side of the relation frames and the natural characters, but their subject side. Dooyeweerd called this the subjective process of becoming.[6] It consists first of the gradual realization of characters, both subjectively (the coming into being of things, processes, plants and animals), and objectively (the opening up of their specific possibilities). In this process, the disposition of each character to interlace itself with other characters plays an important part.[7] Secondly, the process of becoming implies actualizing of subject-subject relations and subject-object relations in the universal relation frames.

According to Dooyeweerd, the retrocipations and anticipations (the projections of one relation frame on another one) belong to the temporal relations of reality. An important part of the process of becoming concerns the gradual development of the mutual projections of the relation frames. It is a typically Dooyeweerdian thesis that the opening up of the anticipations can only occur ‘under the guidance of’ a later aspect.[8] This is a rather obscure statement. Leadership can only be ascribed to individuals (or groups of individuals), not to modal aspects. It looks like an old and often repeated thesis, stating that biomolecules, having a physical and chemical character anticipating the biotic functioning of a cell, can only exist within a living cell. Unfortunately, it is hazardous to give an example, for some time after one has identified a presumably irreproducible biomolecule, biochemists usually succeed in producing it outside a living cell.

I believe Dooyeweerd’s thesis to be wrong. One cannot deny that in many cases anticipating moments of existing characters (their dispositions) are developed, such that new characters realize themselves. This occurs, for instance, when atoms form molecules. During the development of an animal from embryo to adult, hardly anything else happens.[9] The possibility, that the boundary between non-living and living nature is crossed in this way, cannot be excluded a priori.[10] Probably the circumstances in which living beings can emerge cannot be reproduced experimentally, for instance because such an experiment would require too much time.

This view is not reductionistic. Even if a boundary line is crossed, it is still a boundary. The continuity of the evolution (the subjective process of becoming) in cosmic time does not imply that biotic or psychic laws, characters, and types of subject-subject relations and subject-object relations are reducible to physical or chemical ones.

 

7.3. People belong to the animal kingdom

 

In his 32 ‘anthropological propositions’, Dooyeweerd distinguished three substructures in the human body structure. These are the physical and chemical material structure, the biotic or organic vegetative structure and the psychic animal structure.[11] Dooyeweerd did not recognize structures of individuality qualified by the modal aspects preceding the physical one, although he ascribed an integrating part to the ‘form-totality’ of the human body. However, I have shown that quantitative, spatial and kinetic characters exist as well.[12] A human being displays typical bodily magnitudes, shapes and motions. Yet, I should not speak of six substructures of the human body. The interlacement of characters is not typically human, and in the human body much more than six characters are interlaced.[13]

The human body consists of the same atoms and molecules as we find elsewhere. Biochemical processes proceed in humans as they do in other living beings. The human body plan and physiology have much in common with those of the apes. Since the eighteenth century, biology classifies humankind as a species among the primates, the mammals and the vertebrates. People are part of the animal kingdom, even if they transcend it as well.

An animal has a psychically qualified character expressed by its goal-directed behaviour.[14] But in human beings this character is opened up,anticipating the post-psychic relation frames. Human behaviour is opened into actions, being qualified by any one of the relation frames and therefore lacking a unique qualification.[15] For instance, there are logically qualified acts, economic transactions, and juridical offences. All these actions proceed in cosmic time.[16]

We can summarize this by stating that, contrary to animals, each human being has a spirit besides a body. Then we should not consider the spirit in a dualistic sense as an independent (even immortal) substance besides the body.[17] In my view, the words body and spirit refer to two dual directions in human existence. The word spirit expresses the anticipating direction, in each relation frame directed to succeeding frames. The human body refers to the projections of each relation frame to the preceding frames. Besides similarities, the human body shows many differences with the animal body. A person does not have a mortal body besides an immortal spirit, but each person is body, spirit and soul simultaneously.[18]

 

7.4. Humanity is called out of the animal world

 

According to Marcel Verburg, Dooyeweerd never finished his anthropolo­gical work because he did not see a solution to the problem of evolution.[19] Hence, Dooyeweerd accorded the study of evolution an important position. The study of the evolution of humanity and of its relation to the anorganic cosmos, the vegetative and the animal world is highly relevant to philosophical anthropology.

Contrary to his intentions, Dooye­weerd’s extensive, cautious and well-considered review of Jan Lever’s pioneering work[20] has hampered rather than furthered the development of a Christian anthropology. Probably it has withheld several scientists from contributing to the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea. Several decades later, much more empirical evidence for the astrophysical, biotic and human evolution is available. This gives rise to the following thesis.

On the one side, Christian philosophical anthropology ought to dissociate itself from naturalistic evolutionism that considers a human being merely as a natural product.[21] The criticism exerted by Dooyeweerd and several of his adherents on evolutionism is right, as far as evolutionism states that the evolution of humanity from the animal kingdom should be explainable entirely in a natural scientific way.

On the other hand, Christian anthropology does not need to object to the hypothesis that humanity emerged from the animal kingdom.[22] The evolution of mankind, like the evolution of plants and animals, occurs according to biotic and psychic natural laws. These laws are useful for a necessary, though by no means sufficient explanation for the coming into being of humanity. There is no reasonable doubt that the hominids, as far as their retrocipatory body structure is concerned, evolved from the animal world.[23] However, no more than any other science, biology is able to account for the vocation of people, making them spiritual (anticipating) human beings.

The starting point for a Christian philosophical anthropology is that human beings are called out of the animal kingdom to control nature in a responsible way, to love their neighbours, and to believe in God. Persons are called to further good and combat evil, in freedom and responsibility. Science or philosophy cannot explain this vocation from the laws of nature. Yet I consider it an empirical fact that all people experience a calling to do well and to avoid evil.

The question of when this calling happened for the first time can only be answered within a wide margin. It is comparable to the question of when (at which moment between conception and birth) a human embryo becomes an individual person, with a vocation to be human. We have to distinguish between, on the one side, the creation of humanity before all times, including the vocation to function as God’s image, and on the other hand, its realization in cosmic time. Contrary to the first, the latter can be dated in principle, albeit within wide limits.

 

7.5. Dooyeweerd’s wise ignorance

does not make us any the wiser

 

In his discussion of Jan Lever’s Creatie en evolutie, Herman Dooyeweerd proposed to observe a ‘learned ignorance’ with respect to the problem of the emergence of humanity.[24] It is improbable that Dooyeweerd did not realize that this term is due to the fifteenth-century nominalist philosopher and theologian Nicholas of Cusa (and earlier to Augustine). In his book De docta ignorantia (1440), Nicholas argued that the task of science is to determine the measure of all things, the mathematical ratio to other things.[25] The infinite cannot be measured, however, and because God is infinite, He is not knowable by means of science.

I do not believe that Dooyeweerd intended to join this view. In the present context, he was not concerned with the knowledge of God, but with our insight into the emergence of humanity. Dooyeweerd had too much respect for natural science, however fallible it may be. Calvinists accept that reality is knowable in principle. About a hundred years after Nicholas of Cusa, John Calvin formulated the principle that the lawfulness investigated by science has its ground in the creation, being subject to laws maintained by the Creator according to His covenant with humanity.[26] This covenant warrants the possibility to achieve reliable knowledge of reality. Calvin underlined Nicholas of Cusa’s thesis that human beings cannot achieve autonomous knowledge about God, because true knowledge of God depends on divine revelation. Empirical scientific knowledge of created reality depends on research. Each scientist is bound to the states of affairs with which he is faced. But God is not subject to scientific research.

The docta ignorantia doctrine cannot be used to ignore the problem of the emergence of the first human beings. Christians who feel threatened by science, have a tendency to appeal to the positivist or nominalist view, that science is only able to pose hypotheses. For instance, the Roman-Catholic philosopher Pierre Duhem stated that in any theory a set of hypotheses could be replaced by another equivalent set.[27] However, within the framework of a Protestant critical-realistic philosophy a subterfuge of this kind is not acceptable.

It may very well be that we shall never find a satisfactory answer to the question of how mankind evolved from the animal kingdom. If the emergence of humanity consists foremost of the recognition of one’s vocation to further good and combat evil, one cannot even expect a scientific explanation. In that case, it is not a scientific problem, but a philosophical one.

Anyhow, to acquiesce in a docta ignorantia is embarrassing. We can make at least one step ahead by accepting the above formulated hypothesis, that the start of the biotic, psychic and human evolution may be (for the time being or forever) behind our horizon of experience, like the big bang is. By taking this step, one recognizes that the first living beings, the first animals, and the first human persons emerged within cosmic time, even if we have no explanation available. It has a larger philosophical quality, because it offers the beginning of an explanation. For the next steps, the theory of characters with their dispositions to become interlaced with each other may be of help.

The only commendable feature of the docta ignorantia plea is the rejection of speculations of the following kind. Many problems in the theory of evolution are weighed down by a shortage of empirical data necessary to arrive at a scientifically sound explanation. It turns out to be very attractive to supply this shortage with ‘just-so stories’ (unverifiable imaginative narrative explanations) about how ‘it could have happened’. These speculations ought to find no place in empirical science.

 

7.6. Humanity is called to leave the animal world

in order to develop nature

 

I do not share the opinion of naturalists, that the evolution and the history of mankind form a continuous process. Although the historical horizon of human experience is included in the biotic and psychic ones, humanity has been called to leave the animal world. When the evolution of the hominids became the history of mankind cannot easily be established, nor whether the transition happened abruptly or gradually. Biological and palaeontological research teaches us how the body structure of hominids evolved in about three million years into that of human beings, but a sharp transition is not to be found. Archaeological research is not only directed to fossils of hominids and humans, but to the products of human labour as well. If we regard the use of fire and tools as decisive, the history of mankind started some two hundred thousand years ago. Cave paintings are no more than fifty thousand years old. Written texts date from several thousands years. The calling of the first human persons may have occurred relatively recently (as compared to the duration of the evolution of the hominids). Perhaps the use of fire and tools preceded it. The data are too scarce to draw a definite conclusion.

In itself, the use of natural resources is not a monopoly of human beings. Animals using fire are unknown, but the application of rocks and sticks as tools is not exceptional among birds and mammals. People do that with increasing quantity and quality. Whereas evolution in the animal world is biotically founded, depending on natural genetic selection, human progress is characterized by cultural tradition. It proceeds gradually and sometimes by jumps, but it is not hereditary.

The opening of nature concerns all six natural relation frames and the characters they qualify. People deepen their quantitative, spatial, kinetic, physical, biotic and psychic relations with other creatures and with each other. Contrary to animals, human beings are able to count more than the fingers of a hand. Their environment is not restricted to their Umwelt. Its kinetic sense of time led humanity to the measurement of time, at first by the diachronous and synchronous comparison with the motion of celestial bodies, later by the invention of periodically operating clocks. People experience cosmic time first  quantitatively, counting days, weeks, months and years. Besides to natural laws, the calendar is subject to norms. Not nature, but human beings harmonized the lunar calendar with the solar one. Clocks ought to represent the uniformity of kinetic time. The exploitation of energy and matter transformations, far beyond the use of fire and celts marks history. Initially, the mastery of nature meant hunting, domestication of animals and the collection of fruits. Only in agriculture and cattle-breeding, people started to develop living nature. They influenced the genetic renewal of plants and animals by cultivating and crossing, replacing natural by artificial selection.

Although history began with the technical development of natural characters, the popular view that nature is the teacher of technology (‘natura artis magistra’) is wrong.[28] Rather, our insight in technical instruments allows us to understand the functioning of natural things, plants and animals. For instance, about 1600 Johann Kepler found the optical explanation of the human eye when he studied the operation of a lens in a camera obscura.

 

7.7. Nine relation frames beyond the six natural ones

articulate human experience

 

Contrary to Dooyeweerd, I believe that the technical relation frame (instead of the logical one) succeeds the psychic frame.[29] By means of technology, humanity opens the natural relations and characters. That is the beginning of history. In turn, the technical relation frame is the foundation of all other interhuman relation frames.

In the cultural opening process, humanity develops the normativity of the law side of reality. Therefore, natural evolution should be distinguished from normative history. All human relations are historical. In history people develop more dispositions of natural things and processes than nature itself does. This concerns first all subject-object relations in which a person acts as a subject. Next, it concerns all artefacts, the culture of mankind. Third, history is concerned with human subject-subject relations, constituting the human civilization.[30]

Plants and animals, just like some human ideologies, are subject to a cyclical order of time. Influenced by Christianity, the western view arose of history as a linear process, guided by the norm of the progress of humanity. Progress as the historical order of time is not a fact, but a norm by which all historical events can be judged. The historical order of time can be projected on the six natural relation frames. The succession of historical events is a projection on kinetic time, preceded by numerical diachronic and spatial synchronic relations. Human labour is the motor of history. Historical development as cultural renewal and ageing is a projection on the biotic relation frame. In a living society, tradition plays a renovating part, but against the historical norm, tradition may lead to petrifaction or decline as well. In addition, human culture is not only goal-directed in a psychical sense, but also goal-conscious.

The opening of the natural relation frames concerns all post-psychic relation frames, not only the technical one. Some of them correspond to a specific body function: manual skill to technology, the senses to the aesthetic frame, the larynx combined with hearing to human language, and the brain to thought and ideology. For the other relation frames such a connection is not directly given.

The production of artefacts is the first distinctive mark between humans and animals. Labour brings about human culture. Animals adapt themselves to their Umwelt, but people change their environment. Animals build nests and dams according to inborn patterns, but people make artefacts according to their own design. Technology characterizes the cultural subject-object relation. The tradition, i.e., the transfer of insight, knowledge and skills, is the cultural subject-subject relation.

People use their fantasy by playing with each other and adorning their bodies and homes. Animals too display mating rituals and learning by playing, but these are always related to biotic and psychic needs. People invent rules, organize plays and develop playing into sports and arts.

People give symbols significance beyond the psychic context of animal signals, by naming, showing, clarification and interpretation. One speaks of a language if the symbols refer to each other, something animal signals never do. A grammar rules the connections between the symbols themselves and semantics or a vocabulary determines what these artefacts mean. Language is ambiguous, allowing of synonyms, analogies and metaphors.

Conceptual thought, reasoning and arguing are developed from the animal ability of Gestalt-recognition and associating.

The human need of reliability and credibility reminds of the instinctive mutual trust of animals living in herds. Shared convictions, certainties and basic principles constitute a philosophical or scientific worldview or a political program. The members of an association are loyal to its ideology or mission statement. Determining their position in their world, people call themselves Christians or Moslems, socialists or Christian-democrats, positivists or realists.

Whereas each animal species is specialized in its own niche, people are many-sided, dividing their tasks. During their education children develop their talents for virtues or vices, their individual character or personality, and their skills. Division of labour leads to organization and professionalization. The norm for service is mutual respect, recognition of each other’s skills, trust in each other’s sense of responsibility, and respect for each other’s personal convictions.

The specialisation of people requires the exchange of products, services and skills. On the market, competing buyers and sellers determine the relative value (objectified with the help of money) of products, production processes and of services. Efficiency as an economical norm is a projection on the psychic order of goal-directed behaviour.

People are responsible for their behaviour. In order to deal with conflicts and to punish infringements of norms, the society acknowledges an order of justice exerting compulsion. In the development of norms, principles of justice are decisive.

The animal’s care for its brood evolved into the human care for the fellow men. The love of one’s neighbour as a universal norm for mutual charity is expressed in the care for weak persons like children, patients, invalids, unemployed and refugees. Human relations like interest, compassion, sympathy and antipathy, aversion and indifference belong to this relation frame, as well as a person’s involvement with the environment and the products of her labour.

Human feelings and senses have a primary or a secondary psychic character. Feelings that people share with animals, like fear, cold, hunger, and pleasure have a primary psychic character. Besides, people have a sense of technology, aesthetics, language, logic, and justice. The sense of justice is usually assumed to be psychically founded, being a projection of the judicial relation frame on the psychic one. Hence, it has a secondary psychic character. This kind of feeling points to a human propensity that is not yet articulated, an innate intuition, shared by all people. However, what is innate is laid down in a person’s genetic and psychic constitution. It is part of her natural experience. When education articulates intuition, we speak of a virtue or a vice. Both just and unjust people have a sense of justice, therefore both are held responsible for their deeds.

The same applies to skills. The ability to learn a language is innate, but to master a language is a human activity, taking place within a person’s historical and cultural context. It is an activity subject to norms, for one can both teach and learn a language well or badly.

 

7.8. The individual character of a person is different

from other characters

 

The history of mankind is not primarily expressed in the universal relation frames themselves, but in the characters qualified by the relation frames. First, this concerns the characters of artefacts, the products of human labour, having an internal technical destiny or a destiny in one of the succeeding relation frames.[31] In artefacts, the natural characters are opened up. Second, this applies to the characters of all kinds of human acts, such as an economically qualified transaction. Third, this concerns the characters of human associations, like a hospital qualified by the relation frame of loving care. In each relation frame, it appears to be relevant to distinguish between the private and the public domain. Voluntary associations have their own sovereignty, irreducible to both the private and the public domain.

Each of these characters is a set of natural laws and of norms. Only the appearance of norms distinguishes them from natural characters. A natural character is a specific cluster of natural laws valid for a class of similar things, events or processes. The character of an artefact consists of norms besides natural laws, and the characters of acts and of associations consist mainly of norms.

However, unlike animals, human beings do not have a character in this sense.[32] The individual character of a person does not concern a set of laws and norms, but an attitude with respect to the law side of the cosmos. A human person is not characterized by a cluster of specific laws, which they (like an animal) would satisfy imperatively, but by an entirely different relation to the laws. People are conscious of regularities, they know laws, they formulate existing and make new laws, and they obey or transgress laws. Human persons are able to formulate laws as statements and to logically analyze them, to develop new characters and to apply them according to their own insights and needs.

As far as we ascribe an individual person a character or personality, this is the set of their virtues and vices. A person’s individual character is their attitude with respect to natural laws, norms and values, concerning the way a person deals with their fellow people and with nature.[33] There is an enormous diversity of virtues and vices. Some can be related to a relation frame, some to a type of action or association.

With this idea of the individual human character or personality, we approach but do not yet arrive at the nucleus of human being. This nucleus is a person’s religion.[34]

 

7.9. People direct themselves to their origin

 

Investigations starting from the periphery, from evolution and history proceeding via artefacts, activities and associations to the human individual character, may teach us a lot about people. Nevertheless, they do not touch the religious nucleus, the heart of being human. The consciousness of people, to be called to further the good and to combat evil, does not immediately lead to knowledge of God. To feel being called does not mean to know whom is calling. Knowledge of God does not spring from people, but arrives at people by revelation and prophecy. The religious choice made by a person directs her acts and influences her character. The individual character of a person concerns their attitude towards the law side of the cosmos, towards natural laws, norms and values, with all the implications this attitude may have for their relations with fellow human beings and other creatures. However, in religion a person directs themselves to the Origin and the Redeemer of the cosmos beyond its law side.[35]

Human self-knowledge is unbreakably connected to the knowledge of God.[36] We cannot arrive at the knowledge of God by our own effort. Nor is this necessary, for God came into the world in the person of Jesus Christ.[37] In meeting the Son of Man, a human person becomes God’s child, restoring being God’s image. The unity of mankind is not primarily given by common descent, but by the principle that each person is called to be a child of God, and therefore to take responsibility for herself and co-responsibility for others.[38] In his summary of the law, Jesus mentions the love of God and the love of one’s neighbour in the same breath. This means that the relation between God and an individual person does not stand apart from the relations this person exerts with their fellow people, with other creatures, and with human activities, artefacts and associations.

The principle of the mutual dependence of the knowledge of God and self-knowledge is decisive for a Christian philosophical anthropology. However, as a starting point for empirical philosophical research, an approach from periphery to the centre should be preferred. The above sketched approach is not averse to the results of science and the humanities, but makes use of them, gratefully and critically. Christian philosophical anthropology ought to account for the many-sided relations that each person experiences with their fellow persons in the cosmos, their evolution and history, without losing out of sight that the whole cosmos depends on its Creator and Redeemer.

Dooyeweerd warned against having too high expectations of a Christian philosophical anthropology.[39] He was focussed on the I-ness of a person and their relation to the Creator to such an extent, that he forgot more or less the periphery, i.e., being human in the cosmos. He underestimated the potential of his own philosophy. It is true that an empirical philosophy cannot say very much about a person themselves or about their relation to the Eternal. However, much more can be said about other relations, both with other people and with the rest of the cosmos.

The horizon of cosmic time encloses the total cosmos, including all people. We cannot place ourselves outside the cosmos, even in thought. There is no Archimedean point outside the cosmos available, from which we could have an overview of the whole world. We shall have to be content with a view from within the cosmos, or rather with several different points of view, complementing each other. Each relation frame is an aspect of human experience. In each of them, a person expresses something of their own, relative to other people. In addition, each relation frame qualifies the characters of a variety of artefacts, activities and associations. Their study constitutes a Christian philosophical anthropology.



[1] Dooyeweerd NC, 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.’ On Dooyeweerd’s anthropology, see Ouweneel 1986; Glas 1996.

[2] I shall explain the meaning of these terms below.

[3] Dooyeweerd 1959b, 123.

[4] Dooyeweerd 1960b, 181-182: ‘The mystery of the human I is, that it is, indeed, nothing in itself; that is to say, it is nothing as long as we try to conceive it apart from the three central relations which alone give it meaning. First, our human ego is related to our entire experience of the temporal world as the central reference point of the latter. Second, it finds itself, indeed, in an essential communal relation to the egos of its fellowmen. Third, it points beyond itself to its central relation to its divine Origin in Whose image man was created.’ See also Dooyeweerd1961.

[5] Stafleu 2002a, chapter 1.

[6] Dooyeweerd 1959b, 127: The philosophy of the cosmonomic idea ‘… pointed out that these structure principles were only successively realized in the factual process of becoming, and that this process of becoming proceeds in the continuity of cosmic time, warranting an intermodal coherence between its modal aspects.’ [In this and some other footnotes, quotes from Dooyeweerd’s Dutch texts are translated by MDS.]

[7] Dooyeweerd NC, III, 781: ‘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.’

[8]. Dooyeweerd 1959b, 128-129: ‘... so-called bio-chemical and bio-physical processes, in which the organic function of life itself plays the leading and directing role.’ Dooyeweerd stresses that an explanation of the emergence of living beings in a merely physical-chemical way is contrary to the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea (in particular the irreducibility of the biotic aspect to the physical and chemical one), and lacks any scientific justification.

[9] Some philosophers take for granted ‘natural’ processes in the development of a human being from its conception, during and after pregnancy, while considering similar processes incomprehensible in evolution. A standard objection is that one cannot understand how by natural selection such a complicated organ like the human eye could evolve even in five hundred million years. However, who can explain the development of the human eyesight in nine months, starting from a single fertilized cell? In both cases, biologists have a broad understanding of the process, without being able to explain all details. (I am not suggesting here that the evolution and the development of the visual faculty are analogous processes.)

[10] Dooyeweerd 1959b, 129: ‘In this regard, every evolutionistic hypothesis, that attempts to explain this according to physical and chemical laws, surpasses the boundaries of natural science and moves into the area of a philosophical vision of totality with respect to the coming into being of our world, erasing the modal boundaries between the aspect of energy effect and that of organic life.’ Here Dooyeweerd assumes a viewpoint that is incomprehensible in his own philosophy. It is the view that science could be performed apart from any view of totality, whether or not philosophically justified. I believe that no fundamental scientific problem at all can be posed and solved apart from a scientific world-view. Evolutionism is such a world-view, and the question is whether the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea is able to put forward an alternative.

[11] Dooyeweerd 1942, proposition X: ‘The human body is built as an enkaptic whole of four structures of individuality, of which each lower one is morphologically bound in the higher ones. Hence, the natural body form or body plan is a nodal point of interlacements between the several structures.’ Proposition XIII: These lower structures function ‘… enkaptically in a fourth structure, the so-called act-structure of the human body, i.e., the typical structure of the human “acts”.’ Dooyeweerd, New critique, III, 87-89: ‘…the human body, as the individual whole of a man’s temporal existence, shows a very complicated interlacement of different typical structures which are combined in a form-totality, qualified by the so-called act-structure. This act-structure is successively founded in an animal, a vegetative and a material structure.’

[12] Stafleu 2002a, chapters 2-4.

[13] If we include the secondary foundations besides the primary qualifications, the number of substructures enkaptically bound in the human body structure increases to at least 16. [One quantitative + one spatial (quantitatively founded) + two kinetic (spatially or quantitatively founded) + three physical + four biotic + five psychic = 16 substructures]. However, in this way one does not count characters, but types of characters. The real number of characters interlaced in the human body is enormous. Dooyeweerd’s concept of an animal, a vegetative and a material substructure in the human body appears to be an attractive simplification that cannot survive scientific scrutiny.

[14] Stafleu 2002a, chapter 7. Sections 7.5 and 7.6 deal with the distinction of human beings and animals.

[15] Dooyeweerd 1942, proposition XIV: ‘By “acts” the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea understands all activities starting from the human soul (or spirit), but functioning within the enkaptic structural whole of the human body. Guided by normative points of view, man is intentionally directed to states of affairs in reality or in his imagination. He makes these states of affairs to his own by relating them to his I-ness.’ [Italics omitted]. Dooyeweerd distinguishes an intentional internal act from an external action realizing an act. Apparently, acts constitute a kind of intermediary between the human I and the outer world, see Glas 1996, 100. However, I believe that an internal act and the ensuing external action form a continuous whole. They cannot be separated. There are many different kinds of acts, each having its own character. Hence, it may be misleading to speak of the act-structure.

[16] According to Dooyeweerd 1942, proposition XIV, the human act-life expresses itself into three basic directions of knowing, imagining and willing. It is not difficult to recognize these as the past (knowledge is based on past experience), the present (insight into present states of affairs requires imagination besides knowledge), and the future (to which the human will is directed). Hence, Dooyeweerd’s trio is temporal. It is by no means evident that knowing, imagining and willing are restricted to human activity. Animal behaviour contains these elements as well. In Dooyeweerd 1961, 41 he specifies them as the theoretical logical function of thought, the moral function of the will and the aesthetic function of the imagination [italics by MDS], referring to three (out of nine) post-psychic modal aspects of human activity.

[17] A dualism means the division of something into two different compartments. A duality means that something has two sides.

[18] Dooyeweerd NC,  III, 89: ‘The human body is man himself in the structural whole of his temporal appearance. And the human soul, in its pregnant religious sense, is man himself in the radical unity of his spiritual existence, which transcends all temporal structures.’

[19] Verburg 1989, 350-360. Dooyeweerd intended to publish his anthropology in the third volume of his Reformatie en scholastiek in de wijsbe­geer­te,1949. He published parts of the second volume in Philosophia Reformata and in his New critique, but the third volume never appeared.

[20] Lever 1956. Dooyeweerd 1959b.

[21] By evolutionism, I understand a form of reductionistic naturalism, absolutizing evolution to be the only or the most important principle of explanation for the functioning of plants, animals and human beings. Being a popular world-view, evolutionism should not be identified with any scientific theory of evolution.

[22] Stafleu 2002a, chapters 6 and 7. This view does not contradict the intention of the story of the creation in the first chapters of Genesis. See Clouser 1991b, 6-7: ‘Thus the interpretation of the biblical remark that God created Adam “from the dust of the ground” would not be that it is intended as a description of God’s act, but as a comment on Adam’s nature. To be sure, it is by God’s creative activity that humans come into being. But on this interpretation the expression “from the dust of the ground” should not be understood as a description of one causal deed in space and time by which a biologically human being came into existence, but as conveying the fact that part of human nature is that humans are made of the same stuff that the rest of the world is made of. Thus, humans never are, and never can be, more than creatures of God. They are not little bits of divinity stuffed into earthly bodies, which are degraded as “the prison house of the soul.”’

[23] This is a hypothesis, for which no logically conclusive proof exists, and probably cannot exist. In scientific laboratories, evolution cannot be copied. Nevertheless, Dooyeweerd’s 1942 proposition XXX): ‘Neither palaeontology, nor … have provided any evidence for the bodily descendence of mankind from animal ancestors’ makes no sense. Scientific evidence differs from logical proof. Science does not require logical proof for a hypothesis. It requires scientific evidential material that does not contradict the hypothesis, but sustains it. During the past two centuries, such evidence has been found in abundance. Moreover, for the above-mentioned hypothesis no scientifically defensible or viable alternative appears to be available.

[24] Dooyeweerd 1959b, 156-157.

[25] In this respect, Nicholas of Cusa is an early representative of neo-Pythagoreanism that in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries inspired the mathematization of science. The Pythagoreans assumed that a rational explanation consists of the determination of quantitative ratios.

[26] Dooyeweerd NC, I, 93: ‘Calvin’s judgement: “Deus legibus solutus est, sed non exlex”, (“God is not subject to the laws, but not arbitrary”) touches the foundations of all speculative philosophy by laying bare the limits of human reason set for it by God in His temporal world order.’

[27] Duhem 1914.

[28] Schilling 1968, 10-13.

[29] See Hart 1984, 194-195. Seerveld 1985, 79.

[30] About the distinction of culture and civilization, see Elias 1939, chapter 1. Ibid 25: ‘Civilization’ points to a process or at least to the result of a process. It refers to something that is continually changing, that is ‘moving forward’. The German concept of ‘culture’ in its present sense has a different tenor: it concerns human products. According to Schilling 1968, 184, the concept of culture is derived from the cultivation or tillage of soil.

[31] Stafleu 2002a, section 8.2.

[32] Dooyeweerd NC, III, 87-89: humanity is not qualified by one of the modal aspects.  Arendt 1958, 20 states that it is highly improbable that human beings are able to establish their own nature. Ibid. 333: St. Augustine stresses the distinction between the species character of animal life and the individual character of human existence.

[33] Dooyeweerd 1942, proposition XXVI: ‘The character is the typical temporal expression of the individuality of the human spirit in the act-structure or boundary-structure of the human body. As a temporal type of individuality, the character is sharply distinguished from the “heart” as the spiritual centre of human existence.’ See Comte-Sponville 1995 11-14. According to Kant (cited by Comte-Sponville, ibid. 78), somebody’s character is determined by the features of the will to make use of the spiritual talents (like intelligence, sensitiveness, ability of judgement) and the qualities of the temperament (like courage, resoluteness, tenacity in the exertion of plans). Ethics, the philosophy of norms and values, concerns human action, whereas ethology studies the behaviour of animals. Praxeology or practical philosophy, the philosophical study of practical human activity, is part of ethics, see Troost1986; 1990; 1993.

[34] Dooyeweerd 1959b, 153: ‘This act-structure is indissolubly connected with the human I-ness as the religious centre, from which all temporal internal acts originate, including the activities expressing these human acts.’ See also Dooyeweerd 1942; NC, III, 87-89. However, not activity, but religion makes a human being human. It appears that Charles Taylor’s concept of the ‘self’ corresponds to what I call the individual character of a person. See Taylor 1989, 27: ‘To know who I am is a species of knowing where I stand. My identity is defined by the commitments and identifications which provide the frame or horizon within which I can try to determine from case to case what is good, or valuable, or what ought to be done, or what I endorse or oppose. In other words, it is the horizon within which I am capable of taking a stand.’ Ibid. 28: ‘What this brings to light is the essential link between identity and a kind of orientation. To know who you are is to be oriented in moral space, a space in which questions arise about what is good or bad, what is worth doing and what not, what has meaning and importance for you and what is trivial and secondary.’

[35] Initially, this led Dooyeweerd to the view that the human self is supra-temporal, see footnote 20 and NC, I, 31. His probably final view may be found in Dooyeweerd 1960a, 137: ‘... by the word supra-temporal I never intended a static state, but only a central direction of consciousness transcending cosmic time. Perhaps it had better be replaced by a different term.’

[36] Calvijn 1559, I, 1-4. Dooyeweerd NC, II, 562; 1962b, 184; 1961, 44.

[37] Dooyeweerd NC, II, 561: ‘… all human experience remains bound to a perspective horizon in which the transcendent light of eternity must force its way through time. In this horizon we become aware of the transcendent fullness of the meaning of this life only in the light of the Divine revelation refracted through the prism of time. For this reason, Christ, as the fullness of God’s Revelation, came into the flesh; and for this reason also the Divine Word-revelation came to us in the temporal garb of human language.’

[38] Clouser 1991b, 12: ‘… despite the long standing theological tradition to the contrary, there is no explicit biblical assertion that all humans descended from Adam. His being the first religious head of humanity (receiver of the covenant) is never equated with, or made to depend upon, his being the biological progenitor of all people.’

[39] Dooyeweerd NC, III, 783: ‘… we emphatically warn against any exaggerated expectation concerning a philosophic anthropology.’

 


 

 

8. Time and history in the

philosophy of the cosmonomic idea (2008)

 

 

8.1. Introduction

8.2. The first (restricted) trend of time in Dooyeweerd’s conception of history

8.3. The historical temporal order and its subjective correlate in the normative relation frames

8.4. Survey of the historical meaning in the natural and normative relation frames

8.5. Histori(ci)sm

8.6. The temporal  order of the modal aspects and the supratemporal heart

8.7. Conclusion

 

8.1. Introduction

 

Philosophy of history concerns various views of history, both of res gestae (the things that happened) and of its oral or written description, historia rerum gestarum. I shall hardly discuss the latter, also known as theoretical history or metahistory,[1] investigating the presuppositions, structure and methods of the science of history, and its relations to other fields of science and the humanities. Concerning the former, in Herman Dooyeweerd’s philosophy of the cosmonomic ideathe theories of both time and history play an important part. One might expect that these two be strongly connected. However, his theory of time appears to have two different trends, and Dooyeweerd applies only one of them in his extensive discussion of history, completely ignoring the other one.

In the first or restricted trend, time is primarily related to modal diversity. Like sunlight is refracted by a prism into a spectre of colours, time refracts the totality, unity and coherence of meaning of the creation into a diversity of meaning, expressed in mutually irreducible modal aspects.[2] Though mutually irreducible, the aspects are not independent, displaying a temporal order of before and after, such that later aspects are founded in former ones. Later aspects refer back to (‘retrocipate on’) earlier aspects in this order of time, whereas earlier aspects ‘anticipate’ the later ones. The meaning of each aspect is expressed in its meaning nucleus and in the meaning of its retrocipations and anticipations. Hence, the temporal structure of each separate modal aspect reflects the temporal order of all aspects together.

Clearly there are two terminal modal aspects, the first (quantitative) one lacking retrocipations. One might expect that the final one, the aspect of faith, lacks anticipations, but that is not entirely the case. According to Dooyeweerd, in the anticipatory direction each modal aspect ‘transcends’ the earlier ones. Ultimately, via the aspect of faith, the human self in its religion (its heart) transcends time, i.e., the modal diversity of meaning. In this way the aspect of faith is opened up by religion. Faith does not anticipate religion in the modal way of one aspect anticipating another one, but it forms a ‘window on eternity’.[3] This first trend in Dooyeweerd’s conception, emphasizing modal diversity, plays a decisive part in his theory of history, as well as in his treatment of epistemology.[4]

In the first trend,

‘time in its cosmic sense has a cosmonomic and a factual side. Its cosmonomic side is the temporal order of succession or simultaneity. The factual side is the factual duration, different for various individualities. But the duration remains constantly subjected to the temporal order. Thus, for example, in the aspect of organic life, the temporal order of birth, maturing, adulthood, aging and dying holds good for the more highly developed organisms. The duration of human life may differ considerably in different individuals. But it always remains subject to this biotic order of time.’[5]

‘The logical order of simultaneity and of prius and posterius is as much a modal aspect of the integral order of time as the physical.’[6]

 

Apparently, in this restricted sense Dooyeweerd supposed neither that succession is the quantitative or perhaps the kinetic temporal order, nor that simultaneity is the spatial one. Rather, these express the serial order or sequence of the retrocipations and anticipations being simultaneously present in any modal aspect. The discreteness of the serial order expresses the ‘sovereignty in their own sphere’ of the modal aspects, i.e., their mutual irreducibility. Simultaneity points to the modal universality of each aspect, i.e., the laws in all aspects are simultaneously and universally valid in the sense of applying to everything. In contrast, duration as the subject side of time is not expressed in the modal aspects but at the subject side of the structures of individuality, where factual duration is developed in subject-object relations.[7] For Dooyeweerd, besides modal meaning cosmic time refracts all temporal individuality from totality.

In the second, more expanded trend, however, Dooyeweerd states that time is expressed in each modal aspect in a different way, each law sphere being an aspect of time. Simultaneity is now called the spatial order of time, to be distinguished from the numerical order of earlier and later in a series and the kinematic order of succession of temporal moments.[8] Whether or not this may be in conflict with the first trend depends on how it is elaborated.

Since 1970, the present author developed the second trend, in particular with respect to what are called natural modal aspects, arguing that the temporal order is the law for modal relations between subjects and objects, and even more between subjects and subjects.[9] This view of time and its meaning differs from Dooyeweerd’s. It may be considered relational, and the modal aspects may be called ‘relation frames’, each containing a set of natural laws or normative principles determining subject-subject relations and subject-object relations. This includes the meaning of existence, for “‘meaning’is nothing but the creaturely mode of being under the law, consisting exclusively in a religious relation of dependence on God”.[10] The latter relation, mediated by Jesus Christ, is the foundation of Christian philosophical anthropology.

In the first trend in Dooyeweerd’s philosophy of time, retrocipations and anticipations relate the modal aspects to each other in a rather abstract way, in particular by direct or indirect conceptual ‘analogies’. In the second trend, as I interpret it, retrocipations and anticipations are first of all concerned with the characters (structures of individuality) of concrete things, events, processes, acts, artefacts and associations. Character types are primarily qualified by one relation frame and secondarily founded in an earlier one. Third, these types determine the disposition of characters to become interlaced with each other, and to function in relation frames succeeding the qualifying one.[11]

Dooyeweerd’s treatment of history, strongly determined by the first trend in his theory of time, is almost completely restricted to the opening up of the modal aspects. However, the historical development of the characters of natural and cultural objects, of associations, and of the public domain may be more to the point, like natural evolution occurs more in the characters of stars, plants and animals than in the natural relation frames. The assumption that God created the species conceived as characters of bacteria, fungi, plants and animals, i.e. as sets of natural laws, is not contradicted by the evolution theory stating that these characters are gradually realized in subjective natural processes.[12] This also applies to the constant and universal character types of human acts, artefacts and associations, consisting of invariant values (normative principles) and sometimes natural laws. In contrast, humans are actively involved in the realization of the corresponding characters, not merely at the subject side, but at the law side as well, for normative characters consist largely of norms, developed from values in the historical context of human culture and civilization. This accounts for the enormous diversity of human-made characters, though the number of invariant character types appears to be rather limited.

Section 8.2 criticises Dooyeweerd’s philosophy of history. Section 8.3 is concerned with the temporal order in the normative relation frames, determining asymmetric subject-subject relations as the engines of historical development and artefacts as objective instruments of history. It also discusses the religious meaning of history. Section 8.4 applies this to the various relation frames successively. Section 8.5 is a remark on historism. Section 8.6 contains some conclusions with respect to the order of the relation frames and Dooyeweerd’s idea of the ‘supratemporal heart’. Section 8.7 points out that rejecting the second trend in Dooyeweerd’s integral conception of time may lead to a relapse into a naturalistic view of time. 

 

8.2. The first (restricted) trend of time in Dooyeweerd’s conception of history

 

Dooyeweerd conceives of history as cultural development,[13] qualified by the ‘historical’ or ‘cultural’ modal aspect, succeeding the psychic and logical aspects and having the meaning nucleus of power, command, control or mastery.[14] Although retrocipations are relevant,[15] Dooyeweerd emphasizes the disclosure of anticipations.[16] This means that the anticipatory or ‘transcendental’ direction in the cosmic order of the modal aspects is the dominant temporal factor in history. This view of history can be and has been criticized in several ways.

Several adherents to the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea deny that history should be qualified by a single modal aspect.[17] Besides power, command, control or mastery, Dooyeweerd considers cultural development, or the controlling manner of moulding the social process[18] to be the meaning nucleus of the historical modal aspect, but occasionally development appears to be a biotic analogy in the historical aspect, ‘ultimately founded in the pure intuition of movement’.[19] It cannot be doubted that the technical relation frame (as I prefer to call it), characterized by human skilled labour, has a pivotal function with respect to history. Several authors consider it the first frame succeeding the natural ones[20], the development of natural characters by human labour being the first instance of historical processes. Dooyeweerd emphasized that the historical aspect should be distinguished from past events displaying all modal aspects. He states that an event can only be considered ‘historical’, if it contributes to cultural development in a positive or negative way, and he discusses various criteria according to which this may be decided.[21] I believe that historical development is a feature of all normative aspects, not only at the subject side (like evolution is in the natural relation frames), but at the law side as well. Whereas the natural laws are imperative and coercive, modal normative relations between people and their associations are subject to invariant normative principles or values, which in the course of history people actualise into variable norms. As observed above, the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea also distinguishes invariant normative character types from variable normative characters, developed by people in the course of history, and therefore extremely diverse. The cultural and civilizational development of associations like states, faith communities, enterprises, aesthetic companies and sports clubs constitutes an important part of history. One can only pay attention to their typical differences if one has at least the intuitive insight that churches differ from states and enterprises primarily by their qualifying relation frame. Moreover, one should investigate how various character types having the same qualifying frame may differ secondarily because of their founding frames. For understanding their historical development it is also crucial to gain an insight into the various ways each association is disposed to become entangled with other ones, as is amply illustrated in the history of the relation of church and state. Conversely, one can only get insight into the invariant values and character types by studying how they are actualized into variable historical norms and characters. Philosophy of history and the science of history are mutually dependent.

Dooyeweerd’s view of the opening up of the modal anticipations seems to contain an ambiguity, surfacing when he discusses closed cultures. On the one hand he considers their existence to be a purely historical phenomenon, a primitive historical state of development. On the other hand, he considers the closed state of a culture to be a result of sin.[22] The opening process is guided by true religion, and when this is absent, the anticipations remain closed. However, Dooyeweerd cannot and does not want to deny that the historical disclosure of the modal aspects also occurs under the guidance of apostate religion, in particular the Greek and humanist ones[23]. He could have added various non-Western religions. It may even be doubted whether entirely closed human communities exist or have ever existed.

Dooyeweerd’s emphasis on the opening up of modal anticipations downgrades the historical relevance of the development of retrocipations and of characters. This may not have been his intention, but it is an unfortunate consequence.  As a case study has shown, for the development of a field of science retrocipations and the investigation of characters is just as important as the disclosure of anticipations.[24] Attempts to open up a field of science restricted to anticipations turn out to be quite fruitless.

Dooyeweerd’s view of history strongly depends on the first trend in his theory of time: the idea that time expresses primarily the modal diversity of reality, the order of the modal aspects and the transcendental character of the anticipatory direction. It completely ignores the second trend in the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea, according to which each relation frame has it own order of time, the law for subjective and objective relations. Dooyeweerd pays much attention to subject-object relations,[25] but hardly to subject-subject relations, which may be even more important for the analysis of time. Moreover, in his treatment of history, relations in the public domain and the characters of acts, artefacts and associations play a minor part, although these are extensively discussed in a different context.[26]

 

8.3. The historical temporal order and its subjective correlate

in the normative relation frames

 

In my interpretation of the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea, the second trend in the theory of time interprets time in each relation frame to be the law or temporal order for intersubjective relations and for relations between subjects and objects. This allows an alternative philosophical theory of history, assuming that the temporal order at the law side of each normative aspect of human experience concerns first of all an asymmetrical subject-subject relation, expressing a kind of transfer of experience, acting like an engine of history. In the normative relation frames, besides individual people only associations (organized communities) can be subjects as actors of history.

Next, each normative temporal order appears to determine its own kind of artefacts, man-made objects, things or events acting as instruments of history. Artefacts should be distinguished from other objects. At the subject-side of each relation frame, anything is either a subject or an object. The difference is relational and contextual. With respect to a certain law (or a set of laws), something is a subject if it is directly or actively subjected to that law, whereas it is an object if it is indirectly (via a subject) or passively subjected to that law. In the normative relation frames an object may be anything that is not a human being or an association of human beings. For instance, an animal may be an object for someone’s aesthetic experience, or it may be a juridical object in a lawsuit. However, according to the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea, an animal is never qualified as an aesthetic or juridical object. It can only be qualified as a psychic subject. As such it is a subject in the relation frames preceding the psychic one and an object in the relation frames succeeding it. In contrast, a piece of art like a painting is an artefact, an aesthetically qualified object producedby an artist and viewed by a spectator.

Artefacts functioning in the transfer of experience are further distinguished from other kinds of objects because of their character. A character is a set of natural laws, normative principles (values) and human-made norms determining the structure of the artefact. Technical instruments have a single character, primarily qualified by the technical relation frame and secondarily founded in the natural ones. Other human-made artefacts (as well as associations) turn out to have a dual character, a generic and a specific one.[27] The generic character is primarily qualified by one of the normative relation frames succeeding the technical one. It is secondarily founded in the technical relation frame, expressing that any artefact is a product of human activity. Hence the generic character distinguishes artefacts having different qualifications from each other. The specific character of an artefact is primarily qualified by the same relation frame as is the generic character, but secondarily it is not necessarily founded in the technical relation frame. Hence, the specific character allows us to distinguish various types of artefacts having the same generic character. The artefacts functioning as instruments in the transfer of experience in a certain relation frame are primarily qualified by the same relation frame, whereas a different frame qualifies other objects.

Being objects, artefacts function in subject-object relations as well as in subject-subject relations. Suppose, for instance, that an archaeologist finds an inscription recognizable as the constitution of an ancient city. It has been a state law, a politically qualified artefact, during a certain historical period valid for the inhabitants of the city concerned. For present-day people, it is not a state law, but a historical document, a semiotically qualified artefact symbolizing a law. Without any relation to people, the inscription would have no historical meaning. This view of artefacts as instruments of historical development highlights the pivotal part played by the technical relation frame in history. Hence it is not difficult to understand why Dooyeweerd called it the ‘historical’ mode of experience.

The religious meaning of any normative relation frame implies the meaning of history in this frame. In its most pregnant sense, Christians recognize the incarnation of Jesus Christ as the religious meaning of history. However, related to its temporal order, each relation frame expresses an aspect of historical meaning. This historical meaning is not first of all objective or subjective, but normative. At the law side, it expresses the historical development of values into norms and of character types into characters. At the subject side it expresses how people actually perform their normative tasks according to their ethos, their attitude towards values and norms.[28] Hence, the meaning of history appears to be both a religious and an ethical affair.

 

8.4. Survey of the historical meaning

in the natural and normative relation frames

 

Let us briefly review the potential relevance of the second trend in the theory of time for the philosophy of history. It is obviously quite ambitious to look for the temporal order in no less than sixteen frames of reference (one more than Dooyeweerd’s modal aspects [29]). Therefore, the following list is by no means definitive. First, in the six natural relation frames (a-f), we shall find that the temporal order is not only significant for natural relations, but for history as well. Next, some provisional suggestions with respect to the ten normative relation frames (g-p) will be put forward. Arguments concerning the applied sequence of the relation frames are given elsewhere.[30]

a. The temporal order of earlier and later as depicted in a numbered series leads to ordering historical events into a diachronic sequence and determining quantitative relations like how much one event is later than the other one, measured in centuries, years, days and even hours or seconds.

b. The spatial temporal order of simultaneity allows of comparing and connecting historical events occurring synchronically at different places, making use of spatial relations like distance and environment.

c. The kinetic order of uniform flow is recognizable in historical processes, having a beginning, an end, a certain duration, relative speed and even acceleration.

d. The physical temporal order of irreversibility determines causal relations between historical events.

e. The biotic genetic order is expressed in several historical relations, e.g., in genealogies, in the metaphor of the birth, rise, flowering, decline and demise of an empire, or in the genetic relation or kinship between various languages, systems of state law, and civilizations.

f. The psychic order of goal-directedness lies at the foundation of all historical human acts, where it is disclosed into goal-consciousness, the goal people try to achieve.

So far the sixfold natural temporal order as relevant to history. Let us now turn to time and history in the normative relation frames.

g. I consider progress to be the technical temporal order for history, the normative principle for technological development as well as the foundation of the development of culture and civilization in the other normative relation frames. In this sense, an event, process, artefact or association and even a personality may be called ‘historical’ (though not ‘historically qualified’) if contributing to or hampering progress. During the nineteenth century, progress was not viewed as a normative principle, but as an inevitable factual feature of Western history. However, this optimistic view was shattered during the First World War. As the engine of technical progress I consider the transfer of practical know-how and skills, from parents to children in households, from skilled to untrained labourers in workshops, and from teachers to pupils in schools. Technical artefacts like tools are instruments in the history of tilling the earth, the opening up of the natural characters and their succeeding technical development. The character of a technical instrument is its design, the set of natural laws and norms the apparatus should satisfy. Technical artefacts are primarily characterized by the technical relation frame and secondarily founded in one of the natural frames. Technical artefacts function in a subject-subject relation in the transfer of technical skills, or in a technical subject-object relation, in which the subject (an individual or an association) may be its designer, its producer or its user. Technical progress as expressed in the development of many kinds of technical artefacts is an important part of historical research. Besides, all natural subjects (things, plants, animals) may be objects for technical development. By their skilled labour with the help of technical instruments, people develop natural characters in the course of history. The technical meaning of history is given by the cultural mandate to till the earth. Martin Luther and John Calvin interpreted profession as a calling, making work the protestant form of prayer.[31] The Bible values the meaning of human labour by connecting it with God’s creation.[32]

h. The temporal order of aesthetic renewal may be expressed as style, the law for aesthetic phenomena like fashion, decoration, plays and the arts. History is usually divided into periods according to a dominant style. Aesthetic artefacts like a piece of art, a musical performance or a football match are subjected to the order of style and instrumental in the transfer of aesthetic experience from an artist, an orchestra or a football team to their audience or spectators. At the law side, the aesthetic meaning of history is expressed in a religiously determined vision of the past, a worldview. At the subject side, by making images people show themselves as persons to each other and to their God. Religion finds its aesthetic expression in the cults, in the epiphany of God.

i. Memory may refer to the historical order applicable to any kind of semiotic activity.[33] The common name for a semiotic object is a sign, but the semiotic frame does not necessarily qualify a sign. For instance, a fossil is a sign of a formerly living body, and is therefore qualified by the biotic modal aspect. In contrast, a human-made semiotic artefact is usually called a symbol. A rainbow is a sign that it is raining while the sun shines, whereas the bible makes it a symbol of God’s covenant with the world.[34] For the transfer of semiotic experience subject to the temporal order of memory, a language forms an important instrument. Without language, the individual memory of people would be as limited as animal memory. The use of language, both oral tradition and written texts, forms the basis of shared memory and remembered history. A language may be defined as a set of words subjected to a grammar and semantics, pronunciation and spelling, acting as the specific character for the language concerned. According to the grammar, words are transformed and connected into sentences, which in turn are combined into narratives or texts. Semantics determines the meaning of words in the context of a sentence and a text. The generic character of any lingual act and lingual form is primarily qualified by the semiotic aspect and is secondarily founded in the technical one, in lingual skills. The specific character of a word is secondarily founded in the quantitative aspect. Words are the elementary units of a language, alphanumerically ordered in a dictionary, in which words are not logically defined but described by other words. A sentence appears to be founded in the spatial relation frame, for in a sentence the words find their position determined by syntax. A narrative or a text is kinetically founded, for it consists of a flow of sentences according to a plot. Texts are interpreted by other texts. The semiotic meaning of history would be the interpretation of the past, for Christians guided by the text of God’s revelation.

j. Logical extrapolation, as in prediction, explanation and rational choiceis subjected to the logical temporal order of prior and posterior, in which a conclusion follows from premises. The artificial instruments of logic are numerically founded concepts, spatially founded propositions and kinetically founded theories.[35] These artefacts have an instrumental function in the transfer of logical experience in a discourse or a discussion, subjected to the rational temporal order. The logical meaning of history appears to be the understanding of the past, the hope for the future, and eternal life as knowledge of God.[36]

k. Reformation may be suggested as the temporal order in the relation frame of faith and trust. Artefacts like myths, confessions, party programs and mission statements play an instrumental part in the reform of views and the transfer of beliefs. Often these lie at the foundation of associations, in particular but not exclusively of faith communities. Being narratives, myths appear to be founded in the semiotic relation frame. Confessions and dogmas (often established after a theological investigation) seem to be founded in the logical frame, and icons in the aesthetic one. Besides, historical facts should also be considered artefacts, which truth is generally believed on logical arguments. Conviction and conversion may express the religious meaning of history in the relation frame of belief.

l. The order of time in the relation frame of keeping company could be integration. In this relation frame habits or customs play an instrumental part in education, the transfer of how to act as a civilized person in any company. Integration is not restricted to children, however. Emancipation is a candidate for expressing the historical meaning in the relation frame of keeping company, and reverence for the leading motive in the religious intercourse with God.

m. In the economic frame the normative order is best described as differentiation, without which economic acts like the exchange of goods or services would make no sense. As far as it can be owned and sold, anything may be an economic object without being economically qualified. The most obvious economic artefact besides capital and contracts is money as an instrument for trade, the transfer of services and commodities made possible by the economic division of labour.[37] Mutual service could be considered the economic meaning of history. The service of God expresses religion in the economic aspect of human existence. Dooyeweerd mentions both integration and differentiation as laws for cultural development, but he does not identify them with the relation frames of intercourse and economy.

n. The political temporal order could bear the apt name of policy. A state law is a human-made artefact qualified by the political relation frame, serving as an instrument in leadership and discipline, the transfer of policy. Peace should be the historical meaning of this relation frame. In a religious sense, anybody should be obedient to God. This means that neither leadership in an association nor that association’s sovereignty in its own sphere can ever be absolute, because it always concerns a mandate derived from the supreme Sovereign.

o. The transfer of justice is ordered by justification. A human right or duty is an artefact qualifiedby the juridical relation frame. Customs determined by the relation frame of keeping company, economic contracts and state laws have juridical consequences, playing an important part in the transfer of justice. The juridical meaning of history appears to be reconciliation.

p. Finally, the transfer of loving care is subjected to the order of transience, each human being and everything created or man-made being vulnerable.[38] In the transfer of love and friendship, circumstances to be taken care of may be recognized as artefacts primarily characterized by this modal aspect. I suggest redemption to be the caring meaning of history, whereas for Christians resurrection is the ultimate religious meaning of history.

 

8.5. Histori(ci)sm

 

Dooyeweerd considered it necessary to defend the existence of an irreducible historical modal aspect in order to criticise humanist historicism.[39] He believed that the rejection of the historical as a modal aspect leads to historicism, which he interpreted as the absolutization of the historical modal aspect, either of its law side or of its subject side. The first occurs in Hegel’s idealism, in Karl Marx’s historical materialism and in Auguste Comte’s positivism.[40] Like Dooyeweerd, Karl Popper (1957) calls this historicism. A recent example is Francis Fukuyama (1992).[41] Romanticism absolutized the subject side, individualizing history, implying relativism with respect to the law side of reality. It only recognized accidental, contingent, individual occurrences, an endless stream of unique events.[42] Historism (to be distinguished from historicism) ‘emphasizes diachronism, for historism resolves everything in a continuous stream of historical development. Everything must be seen as the result of its previous history.’[43] ‘It was believed that the understanding of x consisted in knowing the history of x.[44]Social-constructivism appears to be its post-modern form. A third kind of historism absolutizes the objectivity of historical events, ‘bloss zeigen wie es eigentlich gewesen’ (merely show how it actually happened), according to Leopold von Ranke.[45]

Dooyeweerd based his criticism of historicism on the correct view that one should never absolutize a modal aspect. However, my proposal to consider the order of time as the order for historical development in all normative relation frames is sufficient to criticize any kind of historism, for it starts from the acknowledgement of the variety and mutual irreducibility of normative principles determining both the normative relation frames and the character types qualified by these frames. These principles are not subject to the historical development of culture and civilization, but govern it. On the other hand, in their history people develop norms from normative principles or values and characters exemplifying character types. In this way it is possible to criticise the absolutization of history in histori(ci)sm, and simultaneously to recognize its nucleus of truth making it so attractive.

Hence, I do not consider historism to be the absolutization of a single modal aspect, not even the ‘historical’ one, for in the twentieth century, history no longer absolutized progress. Rather, historism absolutizes history by relativizing everything else,[46] in particular denying the law-side of the normative relation frames, thereby destroying the meaning of history. Moreover, it interprets time in a naturalistic way (section 8.7).

 

8.6. The temporal  order of the modal aspects

and the supratemporal heart

 

In Dooyeweerd’s conception of history, the sequence of the modal aspects, expressing the modal diversity of the creation, is the primary temporal order. In the first trend of his theory of time, it is crucial that the aspect of faith is the final one in the anticipatory order from the quantitative to the pistic aspect. In this ‘transcendental’ order, starting with the historical aspect and guided by the aspect of faith, all normative aspects are disclosed in the course of history. This view gives rise to several problems, for instance with respect to the position of the logical aspect preceding the historical one,[47] and in particular with respect to the aspect of faith.[48] The first problem can easily be solved by positioning the logical relation frame after the semiotic one, for which there are other reasons as well. The second problem ‘is very important to the Christian conception of history’,[49] and Dooyeweerd discusses it quite extensively.[50] If the aspect of faith has no anticipations, it could not take part in the historical process of cultural development, if this means the disclosure of anticipations. Moreover, Dooyeweerd assumes that the aspect of faith has a leading function in this historical process. However, it could not fulfil this function, if it were closed itself. But how could the aspect of faith be opened up (either in obedience to the Divine order or in apostasy), if it cannot anticipate a later modal aspect? Dooyeweerd’s solution to this problem is to assume that in the ‘transcendental’ direction of the modal aspects, the aspect of faith is opened up by religion, ‘activated by the Spirit of Civitas Dei’,[51] in which any person transcends the modal diversity of the modal aspects. Of course, this should not be interpreted such that religion is a kind of modal aspect itself, succeeding that of faith. Dooyeweerd emphasizes that religion differs from faith because it is not a modal aspect, but the heart of human existence, in which each human being transcends the diversity of time in order to arrive at the coherence of meaning either in his relation with God in Jesus Christ, or in an apostate direction. Anyone ought to perform their religious concentration ‘with all her heart, with all her soul, with all her mind’.[52]

In order to make this clear, Dooyeweerd introduced the idea of a person’s ‘supratemporal heart’, the concentration point of his or her selfhood, religiously directed to the true or supposed origin. Man would be unable to have knowled­ge of himself and of God, if he could not transcend the temporal horizon of his experience.[53] Later on Dooyeweerd seems to have changed his mind, stating: ‘by the word supra-temporal I never intended a static state, but only a central direction of consciousness transcending cosmic time. Perhaps it had better be replaced by a different term.’[54] In the light of the recognition of two different trends in his theory of time, this term could perhaps be ‘transcending modal diversity’. The idea that a human being should be able to transcend time clearly stems from the first trend, interpreting time as modal diversity of meaning, such that the unity of the human self should transcend time. Any person is supposed to have the intention to transcend the temporal diversity in order to gain knowledge of the origin, unity and continuous coherence of the cosmos.

However, in line with the second trend in the theory of time, it should be considered impossible to transcend time, according to Johan Mekkes’ dictum: ‘De mens kan zijn dynamisch tijdelijk bestaan op geen wijze transcenderen.’[55] In this trend there is no need for a supratemporal heart (about which a lot more can be said than I do in this paper). The religious concentration towards Jesus Christ does not require any kind of transcendence of temporal relations. Rather, anybody is called to perform this concentration at any time, within all his temporal relations. In fact, it would only be confusing to call this ‘supratemporal’. 

The first trend in his view of time led Dooyeweerd to identify the anticipatory direction in the order of the modal aspects (the temporal order of historical development) with transcendence of the modal diversity. In the second trend as elaborated in this paper, this identification makes no sense. Now the opening up of anticipations should be considered a process occurring entirely within time, never transcending the cosmic order. In this process, no modal aspect has a leading function, except the particular aspect to which the aspect to be disclosed is anticipating.

In the second trend as elaborated in this paper, ‘transcending time’ could only mean ‘transcending the law side of reality’, being God’s prerogative.[56] No one else can transcend the law side of time, the temporal order. Nor can anybody transcend her subjective relations to other people, to her environment, or to God. One can only have intuitive or explicit knowledge of the law side of temporal reality without transcending it. In line with the first trend in his philosophy of time, Dooyeweerd believed that the modal aspect of faith is exclusively a ‘window on eternity’.[57] In the second trend this applies equally to all relation frames, for each frame includes one’s relation to God through Jesus Christ, whether recognized or rejected. In each frame people concentrate the religious meaning of their existence on their true or supposed origin.

Taking the second trend in the theory of time seriously implies assuming that the order of the relation frames is not transcendental, but merely serial, referring to the quantitative temporal order of a series. Likewise, the modal aspects are simultaneously valid, referring to the spatial temporal order. If we reject the existence of a separate ‘historical’ aspect (though maintaining the technical relation frame), the guiding function of the aspect of faith becomes superfluous. People and their religion rather than their faith guide historical processes. Each relation frame does not only determine subject-subject relations and subject-object relations, but also a religious relation between any human being and her true or supposed origin. Christians believe that this relation is mediated by Jesus Christ, who became a man subjected to the laws of the creation, in order to effect the relation between God and mankind as a subject-subject relation. As a consequence, there is no problem in accepting that the final relation frame (which may or may not be that of faith) has no anticipations, like the first one, the quantitative frame, lacks retrocipations.

 

8.7. Conclusion

 

Between the publication of the first Dutch edition of Herman Dooyeweerd’s main work (1935-1936) and of its second, revised translation into English (1953-1958), the emphasis shifted from the transcendental idea of law to the transcendental idea of cosmic time. In the former case, ‘transcendental’ refers to the Origin, who alone is able to transcend the law side of creation. In the latter case, it refers to the human capacity of transcending time (the diversity of meaning) according to the first trend identified above. Meanwhile, Dooyeweerd almost lost sight of the second trend in his conception of time.

He complains that ‘some adherents of my philosophy are unable to follow me in this integral conception of cosmic time’.[58] An explanation may be that these adherents[59] merely read the first trend in his philosophy of time. They seem to overlook the second trend, that (in my view) makes the conception of time the genuinely integrating factor in the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea. In particular, many philosophers reject the idea of a supratemporal heart, even if it is interpreted as intentionally rather than actually transcending the diversity of meaning.

Objections to the first trend in Dooyeweerd’s idea of time easily lead to a relapse into a naturalistic conception of time, in particular kinetic or physical time conceived as change.[60] Eventually, kinetic time as measured on a clock is complemented with diachronism and synchronism, e.g. in the dualistic tension between ‘process and structure’ or ‘development and context’ in historism,[61] or in the duality of ‘direction and structure’ in Reformed thought.[62] Observation of the second trend in the idea of time evades the relapse into naturalism.

Recognizing two different trends in Dooyeweerd’s conception of cosmic time and opting for the second one, leads to exploring a view of history remaining within the framework of the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea, yet different from Dooyeweerd’s. Rather than qualifying history by the historical modal aspect (though recognizing the pivotal part played by the technical relation frame in historical development), in this new view history applies to all normative relation frames, like evolution occurs in all natural frames. Instead of restricting the temporal order of history to the ‘transcendental’ (anticipatory) order of the modal aspects and the order of progress, historical development of culture and civilization in each relation frame appears to be subject to the temporal order in that frame conceived as an aspect of time. This order is applicable to the transfer of experience in asymmetric subject-subject relations; to the development of artefacts; to the development of character types into characters of associations and to the development of networks in the public domain. Of course, it also applies to the opening up of anticipations in the various modal aspects, to which Dooyeweerd mostly restricts his analysis, as well as to the opening up of retrocipations. Dooyeweerd’s view of history determined by his ‘transcendental idea of cultural development’ hinges on his restrictive view of time, leading to the conception that a human being looking for coherence, unity and the origin of the creation should transcend the temporal diversity of modal meaning. Paying attention to an expanded view of time, recognizing temporal orders and relations in all modal aspects as specified in various characters, leads to a different, much richer and more empirical philosophical conception of history, and to a possible solution of some misunderstandings of Dooyeweerd’s revolutionary perception of time.



[1] White 1973.

[2] Dooyeweerd NC I, 101-102; II, 6, 561.

[3] NC II, 298, 302-311.

[4] NC II, 466-485.

[5] NC I, 28.

[6] NC I, 30.

[7] NC I, 28.

[8] NC I, 31-32; II, 79, 85, 102.

[9] Stafleu 1970, 1980, 2002a.

[10] NC II, 31.

[11] Stafleu 2002a, chapter 1.

[12] Stafleu 2002a, 2002b.

[13] NC II, 181-365.

[14] NC II, 68-71, 192-217.

[15] NC II, 229-259.

[16] NC II, 259-298.

[17] e.g., Vollenhoven in 1968, see Tol, Bril 1992, 207-209; Mekkes 1971, 109, 111, 179; McIntire 1985, 89-96.

[18] NC II, 195-196.

[19] NC II, 250-251, 255, 266; McIntire 1985, 92-93.

[20] Seerveld 1964, 83; 1985, 79; Hart 1984, 194; Stafleu 2002b, 13; 2003, 138.

[21] Dooyeweerd 1959a, 60-76.

[22] NC II, 265-267, 296-297.

[23] NC II, 319-330, 334-337.

[24] Stafleu 1998; 1987, chapter 6.

[25] e.g., NC II, 366-413.

[26] e.g., NC III.

[27] Stafleu 2003, 2004.

[28] Stafleu 2007.

[29] Stafleu 2004

[30] Stafleu 2002a, 2002b, 2003, 2004, 2006.

[31] Weber 1904-05, chapter III.

[32] Genesis 2.2-3; Exodus 20.8-11; Deuteronomy 5.12-15.

[33] White 1973, 346; Von der Dunk 2007.

[34] Genesis 9.12-17.

[35] Stafleu 1987.

[36] John 17.3.

[37] Stafleu 2005.

[38] Stafleu 2007.

[39] NC I, 467-495; II, 205-207, 217-221, 283, 354-356; Dooyeweerd 1959a, 53-104.

[40] Löwith 1949; White 1973; Ankersmit 1983; Lemon 2003, part I.

[41] Lemon 2003, part III.

[42] Ankersmit 1983, 171-182.

[43] Ankersmit 2005, 143.

[44] Danto 1985, 324.

[45] Danto 1985, 130-133, 139.

[46] Huizinga 1937, 136-138.

[47] NC II, 237-241.

[48] NC II, 189, 297-298

[49] NC II, 297.

[50] NC II, 297-330.

[51] NC II, 297.

[52] Matthew 22.37; Mark 12.30; Luke 10.27.

[53] NC I, 24, 31- 32; II, 2, 473, 480; III 781-784.

[54] Dooyeweerd 1960a, 137, my translation.

[55] Mekkes 1971, 121; my translation: ‘In no way man is able to transcend his dynamic temporal existence.’

[56] NC I, 99.

[57] NC II, 302.

[58] NC I, 31.

[59] like van Riessen 1970, 119-123; McIntire 1985, 84-86.

[60] van Riessen 1970, 186.

[61] Ankersmit 2005, 142-144.

[62] Griffioen 2003, 170-172.

 

 


 

 

9. Emergence in and from the natural world (2011)

 

 

9.1. Introduction

9.2. Emergence within the physical world

9.3. The emergence of the physical world

9.4. Emergence from the physical world

9.5. Biology and the emergence of mankind

9.6. The diversity of humankind

9.7. The experience of normative principles

9.8. From evolution to history

9.9. Artefacts

9.10. The network society

9.11. The meaning of emergence

 

9.1. Introduction

 

In his Purpose in the living world? Creation and emergent evolution, Jaap Klapwijk discusses the theory of emergent evolution.[1] He describes the creation as a system of layers with increasing complexity, ignoring the mathematical aspects as well as Dooyeweerd’s distinction of modal aspects and structures of individuality.[2] His book is intended to show that the biotic or living world of bacteria emerges from the physical world; the vegetative world of plants from the living one; the sensitive or animal world from the vegetative world; and finally humanity from the animal world. He concludes that no theory of emergence is available that could be considered explanatory. At most it is a philosophical framework theory.[3] In particular, Klapwijk is unable to present a mechanism for the emergence of, e.g., the first living cells. But then, nobody else knows of such a mechanism, including the staunchest defenders of naturalistic evolutionism. I intend to present a small but maybe significant contribution to understanding the phenomenon of emergence.

The common view is that at a higher level of complexity new properties emerge that do not occur at a lower level. The whole is more than the sum of its parts.[4] In suit of Dobzhansky and using a term also applied by Dooyeweerd,[5] Ledyard Stebbins speaks of transcendence:

 

‘In living systems, organization is more important than substance. Newly organized arrangements of pre-existing molecules, cells, or tissues can give rise to emergent or transcendent properties that often become the most important attributes of the system.’[6]

 

Besides the emergence of the first living beings (prokaryote bacteria) and of humanity, Stebbins mentions the following examples: the first occurrence of eukaryotes (cells with a nucleus and other cell bodies, probably of prokaryote origin); of multicellular animals and fungi; of invertebrates and vertebrates; of warm-blooded birds and mammals; of the higher plants and of flowering plants. According to Stebbins, reductionism and holism are contrary approximations in the study of living beings, with equal and complementary values.

I interpret the modal aspects or relation frames (including the mathematical ones) to be primarily aspects of time.[7] Each aspect expresses a directive order of time, determining subject-subject relations and subject-object relations. Because everything is related to everything else, and human experience depends on relations, each relation frame is also an aspect of being and of human experience. In this interpretation, the relation frames are aspects of becoming and of change as well. According to Dooyeweerd, this comes about by the opening up of the anticipations in each modal aspect. For historical developments, this process is founded in the so-called historical modal aspect, and guided by the aspect of faith. In turn, the opening up of the aspect of faith (which has no anticipations) is guided by religion. Because several religious ground motives are operative, this historical process can occur both according and contrary to God’s laws.[8]

Dooyeweerd never came to terms with the theory of natural evolution.[9] One reason may be the tension between evolution and his philosophy of history. In Dooyeweerd’s philosophy there is no place for a modal aspect having the same function for evolution as the historical aspect has for history, and Dooyeweerd never suggests that natural evolution is guided by religion, faith, or any other aspect.

I don’t believe that it makes sense to call the technical or formative aspect historical, and I do not believe that the opening process occurs mainly in the modal aspects.[10] Evolution is only manifest in the coming into being of natural things and events at the subject and object side of reality. In contrast, historical development also occurs at the law side, in the human development of normative principles into variable norms. Besides, at the subject and object side one finds the historical development of acts, artefacts, and associations, in which people take an active part.[11]

For understanding this, the distinction of relation frames and characters is crucial (these are Dooyeweerd’s modal aspects and structures of individuality[12]). Both have a law side and a subject and object side.[13] At the law side of the relation frames we find universal laws for temporal intersubjective relations and for subject-object relations. For instance, we find that all physical things are subject to the temporal order of irreversibility, valid for any kind of interaction. We find that all living beings are genetically related, subject to the genetic law that any living being descends from another one. Characters are sets of universal laws and type laws, determining a subjective class of things or events, and an objective ensemble of possible states. The character of electrons differs from the character of hydrogen molecules, not because of universal physical laws, but because of different specific laws. At the subject side of natural characters, one finds individual things and events, plants and animals, at the object side specific properties. At the subject side of normative characters individual human beings and their associations function, at the object side individual acts and artefacts.

Coming into being refers to the realization of characters of things like molecules. Change refers to typical events like radioactive decay. In these processes, the temporal order and temporal relations of several modal aspects are involved, besides the typical properties of the structures concerned. Even if we assume that natural laws are invariant, the realization of the characters of things and events, with their properties and propensities, is a temporal process. Sometimes this is called emergence.

I propose to distinguish the emergence of physical things within the physical world from the emergence of the physical world itself (popularly called the big bang), and the emergence of living beings from the physical world. From an analysis of the first kind we may learn a few points that can help us to understand the other two. Next we shall see how humanity, emerging from the animal world, is challenged to activate its own history.

 

9.2. Emergence within the physical world

 

Let me start with a familiar example. Suppose you have a container with a gas mixture of two parts of hydrogen and one part of oxygen. The mixture has properties that do not differ much from a combination of the properties of its components. The properties of a mixture form a mixture of the properties. But if you apply a spark, the mixture will explode and you get water vapour. If you cool this, you will get liquid water and eventually ice, the crystal form of water.

In this example, we see both the emergence of new structures and of new properties. Water has completely different properties from hydrogen and oxygen, and the properties of vaporous, liquid, and solid water differ too. In the framework of the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea, each characteristic whole has a threefold character.[14]

a. Each typical whole is primarily characterized by one of the relation frames. Reversely, all modal aspects (including the mathematical ones) qualify various characters. The structures of hydrogen, oxygen, and water have in common that they are primarilyphysically qualified. This means that they are mainly characterized by interaction, being the universal physical subject-subject relation. Something is physical if it interacts with something else.

b. The mentioned structures differ because of having secondary retrocipatory properties (i.e., referring the qualifying relation frame to earlier frames). For instance, mass is a quantitative objective magnitude of physical subjects, having different values for hydrogen, oxygen, and water molecules. Symmetry is an emergent spatial property. Whereas free atoms have the symmetry of a sphere, hydrogen and oxygen molecules have the symmetry of a dumb-bell. A water molecule has a triangular shape giving rise to an electric dipole, partly explaining the peculiar properties of water and ice. Solids are characterized by their long-distance crystal symmetry, completely absent in the composing atoms or molecules. The parts of each physical thing perform periodic motions, contributing to the thing’s stability. One may recognize these two features from Dooyeweerd’s theory of individuality structures, being qualified by one modal aspect and founded in a preceding one. I have shown that the secondary characteristic, based in a preceding relation frame, leads to secondary types of things and events. Physical things and processes occur in three secondary types, based in the quantitative, spatial, and kinetic frames. Similarly, there are four secondary types of biotic characters recognizable.[15] Therefore, I have no need for a vegetative layer besides the biotic one, as Klapwijk postulates, after omitting the mathematical relation frames.[16] In my analysis, bacteria do not constitute a primary type, but belong to a secondary type of living beings, which are primarily biotic.[17] Whereas Klapwijk does not recognize the relevance of retrocipations for typical structures, both Klapwijk and Dooyeweerd do not recognize a third, a tertiary characteristic of any typical whole. It is sometimes related to anticipations, looking forward in the order of the relation frames.

c. Hydrogen has the tertiary disposition or propensity of being combustible. Its structure anticipates that of water. In turn, water has many more or less unique propensities, like being a solvent of many chemical compounds. In particular water is a prerequisite of all kinds of life as we know it. Clearly, with the emergence of new structures, both new properties and new propensities emerge. With the formation of a new physical thing, possibilities are realized and new possibilities are disclosed. For understanding evolutionary processes, the tertiary dispositions are paramount. Because of their tertiary propensities, in the course of physical time a hierarchy of structures came into existence. A crystal consists of molecules (or ions), a molecule consists of atoms, and an atom has a nucleus and a number of electrons. A nucleus consists of protons and neutrons, which are combinations of quarks.

Reductionists (like many high-energy physicists, naturalist philosophers, and popular science writers) believe that understanding interaction at the deepest level in a so-called theory of everything will inevitably lead to the understanding of interaction at all higher levels of complexity, including biotic, animal, and human life. Anti-reductionists (like several solid-state physicists, biologists, and holist philosophers) point out that in general the emergence of new structures, new properties and new propensities cannot (or cannot easily) be explained from knowledge of lower levels. A reductionist theory may be able to explain properties, but is often unable to explain or predict propensities. Some people consider this merely a practical difference; others see it as a matter of principle.

Whereas the stable structure of systems like nuclei, atoms, and molecules is fairly well known, the processes leading to their formation are far less understood. For instance, the crystal structure of solid matter is widely investigated, but up till now there is no explanation available of why below a fixed temperature a fluid becomes a crystal, showing a typical long-distance ordering of the composing atoms, ions, or molecules which is absent in gases and fluids.

Whereas the structure of a stable physical system is largely determined by general and typical laws, transitions between unstable states as in radioactivity or the emission of light are to a large extent random processes, subject to stochastic laws, i.e., probability laws. This is even more the case with the emergence of new structures like the formation of molecules from other molecules. In general, processes have a larger content of accidentality than stable structures. In our example of the formation of water from hydrogen and oxygen, only water molecules can be formed (besides some related molecules like hydrogen peroxide), but it is largely accidental which pair of hydrogen molecules will bind with which oxygen molecule into two water molecules. Statistical laws for random or stochastic processes were first introduced in statistical mechanics for the explanation of irreversible processes and of the irregular motion named after Robert Brown, then discovered in radioactive decay at the turn of the twentieth century. Quantum physics has confirmed this for every physical or chemical process (like the formation of a water molecule from hydrogen and oxygen), later followed by chaos theory. In biology, genetic drift is a random process in the theory of evolution, and the process of fertilization in plants and animals is very much random. Nevertheless, many reductionist philosophers and scientists maintain their unshaken belief in nineteenth-century determinism. Sometimes it leads them to the empirically unsubstantiated hypothesis of universes parallel to the observable one. If something seems to be the random realization of a possibility (like in radioactivity), they suppose that the other possibilities occur in some other universe, such that determinism is saved.

For the understanding of evolution, the distinction of the law-side and the subject and object side of reality is very important.[18] Realist physicists readily assume that physical laws are invariant. Otherwise they could not apply the laws they have found from observations and experiments in the present to past and distant events in astrophysics. Even positivist physicists do that. They also assume that mathematical laws are invariantly valid. Biologists, however, appear to be less confident about the invariance of natural laws, apparently because they seem to believe that something can only be called a natural law if it has a mathematical form. Nevertheless, in the theory of evolution they apply whatever patterns they discover in the present to events in the past. Hence they implicitly acknowledge the persistence of natural laws, also in the field of biology.

One should always keep in mind the distinction between general modal laws and type laws, valid only for a restricted set of things or events. If we assume that natural evolution takes place at the subject and object side of typical laws, we can hypothetically accept that species as natural kinds are invariant characters, whereas their temporally and spatially limited realizations (which biologists call populations) are subject to evolution.[19] Evolutionary processes are always directed by the modal temporal orders in the natural relation frames. Temporal order as a set of general, universal laws, determines the relations between subjects, between objects, and between subjects and objects, and this is highly relevant for evolutionary processes.

The invariance of natural laws is in accord with the view of Christian philosophy that God created and sustains the world according to his laws. These are not rational, not intelligent, and structures are not designed according to some intellectual idea, like technical artefacts are designed by people taking into account natural laws and human-made norms. Yet both modal laws and type laws are intelligible, meaning that science can investigate these and come to understand them and that people can apply them when designing artificial things and processes. Recognizing that the technical relation frame like all normative frames is irreducible to the natural ones, Christian philosophy should reject Plato’s idea (developed in his dialogue Timaeus), of a semi-divine demiurge, an anthropomorphic craftsman making imperfect copies according to a perfect, intellectual design. Therefore, we should not contemplate the idea of intelligent design of natural structures.[20] It appears that the idea of intelligent design is irrefutable (a trait it would share with, e.g., solipsism, or with the above mentioned multi-universe hypothesis). This means that it is logically consistent, but empirically empty.

 

9.3. The emergence of the physical world

 

The combination of the general theory of relativity with insights gained of the various typical kinds of interactions led in the past century to the so-called standard model. This is a now generally accepted theory of the structure of sub-atomic particles and their interactions, and of the development of the physical universe after it emerged in what is popularly called the big bang. Referring to a distinction made above, it explains many properties of sub-atomic particles, but hardly the emergence of any propensity. The fact that one needs the general theory of relativity shows that the relation frames preceding the physical one were crucial in this event. It is remarkable that these relation frames immediately occur in their ‘opened up’ form, already anticipating the physical aspect.[21] Only in the context of the physical aspect and the preceding aspects anticipating it, physical things and events could emerge.  Whereas the theoretical opening up of the modal aspects (including both their anticipations and their retrocipations) is a historical process, in an ontological sense the modal aspects always include both their retro- and anticipations. (The only and very important exception concerns the positivization of normative principles into historically developed norms, see below.) Therefore, evolution cannot be simply interpreted as the opening up of earlier modal aspects.

Sometimes the process occurring after the big bang is called astrophysical evolution. During this time, the initially very high temperature (meaning a high concentration of energy) gradually decreased when physical space expanded, allowing of the formation of protons and neutrons from quarks; nuclei from nucleons; atoms from nuclei and electrons; molecules from atoms; stars, comets and planets from interstellar dust; and then more atoms from exploding stars. This evolution means an enormously increasing diversity. Astrophysicists believe that they are able to give a fairly accurate (though not complete) description of what happened after the big bang, stressing that the emergence of the universe itself lies beyond the horizon of present-day theory. The reason is not difficult to understand. The physical world is characterized by interaction between existing things according to physical laws, and before it emerged, there was simply nothing to interact with.

Let us now see whether we can learn something from our summary of physical states of affairs for our third problem, the emergence from the physical world.

 

9.4. Emergence from the physical world

 

Christian philosophy assumes that the aspect of life is irreducible to the physical aspect. This is a fruitful hypothesis, which should nevertheless not be taken as an unshakable dogma. But there are many reasons to stick to it, all of which I shall not mention. With my earlier comments in mind, I offer a few considerations.

In my view, each relation frame is characterized by one or more general laws determining subject-subject relations and subject-object relations. Quantitative relations are relations between numbers; spatial relations determine relative positions, and kinetic relations concern relative motions. Physical relations are always concerned with some kind of interaction: general relations like energy, force, and current; typical relations like gravity, electromagnetic, and weak or strong nuclear interaction in all their typical manifestations like, e.g., glue. I have argued that relations in the biotic world are always determined by genetic laws.[22] The emergence of living beings is accompanied by the emergence of genetic relations between living beings as a universal trait of the living world.

The universality of interaction is expressed by the statement that everything interacts with everything else. Similarly, biologists argue that a living being always descends from another living being. Both statements are not trivial. The understanding that everything interacts with everything else became common sense in physics only in the seventeenth century with Newton’s laws of motion and in particular the universality of gravity. The insight that a living being can only emerge from another living being (or a pair of them) dates from the nineteenth century, when the idea of spontaneous generation was abandoned. It played a part in Darwin’s theory of evolution, but that theory only became fruitful in the twentieth century after the incorporation of genetics, particularly molecular genetics. Other general principles operative in Darwin’s theory of evolution of living beings are competition, variation, selection, and genetic transmission. These point to universal biotic laws, which like the later discovered laws of genetics are not of a physical nature. These laws only operate within the realm of living beings, and can therefore not explain how living beings arise from the material world.[23] In fact, neither Charles Darwin nor any other competent biologist pretends to know how life originated.

Everybody agrees that the emergence of the first living beings is a highly improbable process. Even naturalists, believing that it is a completely natural process, admit that the successive emergence of living beings, animals, primates, and human beings has such a low probability that we might very well be unique in the universe. The search for an extraterrestrial intelligent civilization is not very promising. Yet improbability is not the same as impossibility. The fact that we exist is the best and perhaps the only evidence that such a process is possible, and that the animal world has the propensity to give rise to humanity. The fact that chance plays a part does not mean that the emergence of a new thing is purely a chance process. The evidence is abundant that all processes in the natural world occur according to laws that delimit the possibilities. No less than properties, propensities are bound by laws. Without laws we would not even be able to estimate the chance of a certain process.

Assuming that the genetic relation characterizes all living beings implies that we cannot understand the emergence of the first living beings by biotic laws, because these were not operative before this emergence. This is similar to the inadequacy of physical laws to explain the emergence of the physical world. On the other hand, if we assume that physical things are only related by physical interaction we cannot understand how living beings emerge from the physical world. In that case, like the emergence of the physical world, the emergence of the biotic world, the animal world, as well as the human world would forever remain behind the horizon of human experience and understanding. It would be tempting to assume that we have here what insurance brokers call an act of God, an unexplainable special act of creation. In contrast, one may also stress that God’s hand is operative in any process, and that the emergence of the living world is neither excluded nor special.  

However, this may be too fast. In this reasoning we overlook what Christian philosophy calls anticipation. Molecular biologists have been able to identify propensities in physical systems like DNA-molecules to play a part in genetic relations. What we know about that is a far cry from understanding the emergence of living beings, but we should not exclude its possibility. In this case, anticipation means a relationship between physical and biotic laws, structures and processes, which understanding is gradually growing. An example of a physical structure anticipating life could be a so-called self-replicating molecule like DNA or RNA, although it is really some other thing which undertakes a process to replicate the molecule.

It is quite clear that the biotic world presupposes the physical one. It can hardly be denied that the biotic world emerged from the physical one, the animal world from the living one, and humanity from the animal world. Reductionists believe that basically there is only one world, with various levels of complexity and diversity, but ultimately completely determined by physical laws only. Christian philosophy supposes that mathematical, physical, biotic, psychic, and normative relation frames are mutually irreducible. Irreducibility does not mean that the relation frames are independent of each other. In scientific investigation, the so-called retrocipatory connections between the relation frames usually receive more attention than the anticipatory ones. As observed above, the properties of structures are better understood than their propensities and the processes that realize them. For the understanding of the emergence of new structures and their properties and propensities we need to pay attention to both retrocipations and anticipations, not merely in the relation frames, but in particular in the typical characters of natural things and events.

It appears that all living beings have the same unique ancestor. That is not something that follows from any theory or philosophical point of view, but might point to the improbability of this emergence. It has also been observed that the emergence of living beings and other major transitions happened in a relatively short time (measured on a geological scale). The sudden emergence of all phyla of animals, some 530 million years ago, is even called the Cambrian explosion. In the above discussed example of a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen gas, one may ask what causes an explosion. Is it the spark, or is it the composition of the gas mixture? We have a tendency to blame the spark. However, the spark appears to be only the accidental, though sufficient, cause, whereas the presence of a mixture of hydrogen and oxygen is the necessary cause. The spark is not necessarily electric. Any other accidental disturbance could act as a trigger. Similarly, one may assume that at a certain moment the circumstances necessary for the emergence of living beings or the emergence of the animal world were present. Maybe we shall never know what the trigger was, because it is accidental and could have been different with the same result.

The laws of biological evolution, about adaption, natural selection, and common descent have a general (i.e., modal) character. They show some resemblance to the physical laws of mechanics and thermodynamics, with the law of conservation of energy as a paradigm. In the nineteenth century, during Charles Darwin’s life time, positivist and materialist energeticists like Wilhelm Ostwald, Ernst Mach and (initially) Max Planck, believed that all of physics should be explained from these general laws, assumed to be deterministic. They scorned Ludwich Boltzmann for applying statistics to physical problems. They even rejected the reality of atoms and molecules. The development of physics during the twentieth century made clear that the general laws act as constraints, not showing what is possible but rather what is impossible. For instance, processes violating the law of energy conservation are prohibited. In the twentieth century it became clear that these general laws are not sufficient. Physicists discovered typical conservation laws (like the law of conservation of electric charge) besides symmetry laws, not determining but prohibiting certain processes. These laws give room for processes that might happen, without determining which processes that would be.

Similarly, Darwin’s theory may be able to explain which circumstances allow species to come into being or force them to be extinguished. But it does not explain why some species correspond with stable organisms in these circumstances and others do not. Since the twentieth-century synthesis of Darwin’s theory with genetics and molecular biology, biologists have similarly become aware that the general laws of evolution should be complemented with specific laws for the enormous variety of living beings.[24]

 

9.5. Biology and the emergence of mankind

 

One of the basic assumptions of the standard Darwinian theory of evolution is that every living being descends from another one. For this reason alone, this theory cannot explain the emergence of the first living beings from non-living matter. There are more unexplained transitions, like the emergence of the first eukaryotic cells, of sexual reproduction, and of the first animals. Finally, there is the emergence of mankind, for which I shall argue that the theory of evolution may be able to give an initial necessary explanation, but not a sufficient one.

In one way or another, history should be connected to evolution. Like most people, I assume that mankind has come out of the animal world. A Christian view would be that humanity has been called from the animal realm, in a challenge to shape its own world. This appears to supplement the biblical testimony, saying that Adam was made out of dust. Examination of fossils has sufficiently shown that human beings descend from hominids, sharing common forebears with other primates. Investigation of DNA and of behaviour has shown much resemblance with primates, including patterns of genetic deletions and insertions, etc. In short, I think there is convincing evidence that humans descend from animals in a biological sense. Nevertheless, this provides at most a necessary part of a scientific explanation, not a sufficient one. In particular it cannot explain how humanity became challenged to take an active part in its own history.

 

9.6. The diversity of humankind

 

From a biological point of view, human beings belong to a single species, homo sapiens, and a single subspecies, homo sapiens sapiens. If we make difference between natural evolution and human history, it may be assumed that the latter started with the appearance of homo sapiens, which would include homo neanderthalensis. The main difference between humans and animals appears to be normative behaviour, and the freedom and responsibility to actualize universal normative principles into culturally and historically different norms.[25] In contrast, natural things and events, plants and animals are subject to natural laws, which I assume to be invariant and universally valid.

All animals are specialized in one way or another. Each species occupies its own niche, in which it can survive. In contrast, mankind shows an enormous individual diversity and cannot be characterized in a single way. It is not really difficult to mention about ten different normative principles or conditions for being human.[26] People are called homo faber, or tool-making animals, developing quite different skills. Johan Huizinga introduced the term homo ludens, the playing man, having pleasure in beauty. Some philosophers prefer homo symbolicus, pointing to the unique ability of mankind to communicate with symbols, in particular language. Homo sapiens refers to the ability of mankind to reason, to make logical distinctions and connections. Another condition of being human is to trust each other, to have faith (which should be distinguished from religion) and to be faithful. People seek each other’s company. They are called homo economicus, or homo politicus. They strive after justice and ought to love their neighbours. Of course, people often act contrary to these conditions, which otherwise would not be called normative.

In order to account for this diversity of human activity, besides six natural aspects I conjecture ten mutually irreducible normative modal aspects or relation frames as conditions for being human. These are the technical, aesthetic, semiotic, and logical aspects, which I take together with that of trust as being cultural; and companionship, economics, politics, justice, and loving care as aspects of civilization. In each of these relation frames, one finds normative principles, including a temporal order giving normative direction to the history of mankind. For instance, the technical frame is directed by the normative principle of progress. The semiotic or communicative relation frame is directed by the normative principle of clarity. Culture means the development of technical skills, of aesthetic expression, of the exchange of information by communication, of reasoning, and of trust. Civilization means the development of companionship, of economic services, of authority and discipline, of justice, and of love. Each of these is an expression of human experience, and each directs a kind of transfer of experience, an engine of history as is unknown in the animal world.[27] By giving direction to historical events, the temporal order in each relation frame determines the normative meaning of history.

All these conditions for being human do not constitute properties of people, something people would have as a matter of course, but propensities, possibilities to realize, or rather challenges to develop the natural world into a cultural and civilized one.

 

9.7. The experience of normative principles

 

These normative principles appear to be as universal as the natural laws. However, at the beginning of history, human beings have discovered that they are to a certain extent free to obey or to disobey these principles in a way that neither animals nor human beings can obey or disobey natural laws. Moreover, they have discovered that the normative principles are not sufficient. In particular the organization of human societies requires the introduction of human-made norms as implementation or positivization of normative principles. Therefore, human freedom and responsibility has two sides. At the law side it means the development of norms from the normative principles, which norms are different at historical times and places, and vary in widely different cultures and civilizations. At the subject side, individual persons and their associations are required to act according to these laws, which ought to warrant the execution of their freedom and responsibility.

All people appear to have a sense of justice. The normative principles like justice may be assumed to be universal, and should therefore be recognizable in the whole of history (as far as we know it), in all cultures and civilizations. Human skills, aesthetic experience, and language may widely differ, but are always present and recognizable in any human society.

 

9.8. From evolution to history

 

This has led many scholars to assume that human history can be described as biological evolution, in particular applying Charles Darwin’s ideas of adaptation and natural selection. They overlook the fact that Darwin’s theory necessarily presupposes inheritance. Biological selection is a slow process. The evolution of hominids to mankind took at least seven million years, which is not even long on a geological scale. But human history is at most two hundred thousand years old. It happens much faster than biological evolution, and is even accelerating. Moreover, human experience cannot be inherited. In each relation frame, the transfer of experience is recognizable as an engine of history.[28]

Referring to the normative relation frames, concerning the cultural transfer of experience one might think of: instruction and learning as the engine of technical progress; players and spectators as actors in aesthetic renewal; transfer of information as a source for the collective memory of mankind; reasoning as the engine of logical extrapolation; and faith as the motive force of reform. For the propagation of civilization, the following engines may be considered: education in keeping company; commerce in economic rendering of services; leadership; justice; and finally friendship and marriage. In this multifaceted transfer of experience, people attribute subjective meaning to history.

The transfer of experience is as diverse as human experience itself. It is completely absent in the animal world. The transfer of experience as the engine of history in each normative relation frame replaces inheritance as the engine of evolution. This is the nucleus of truth in the hypothesis that memes are the units of cultural transmission, comparable to inheritable genes in biotic evolution.[29] Or, a bit more old-fashioned, it reminds of the distinction between nature and nurture.

 

9.9. Artefacts

 

The technical relation frame is the first cultural one. Culture means first of all cultivating, to bring nature into culture, the opening up of the natural relation frames, which therefore are no less aspects of human experience than the normative frames. People do that opening up by working. Labour is a cultural activity characterized by ability, skill, or command, in which people make use of instruments. Ability to perform labour is a universal value, a condition for progress as the historical temporal order for the technical relation frame. An event, process, artefact, or association, and even a personality may be called historical as far as they contribute positively or negatively to historical progress. The intuition of progress as a challenging value is not due to the Renaissance or the Enlightenment, but is a condition for being human. The later belief in progress identified it with the factualhistory of seventeenth to nineteenth century science and technology. The Eurocentric belief in progress considered the technical and scientific progress even as characteristic for the whole of history of mankind. This became a deep disappointment at the outbreak of the great European war in 1914, when science and technology turned out to be instruments of mass destruction. In 1931 Herbert Butterfield criticized the ‘Whig interpretation of history’ describing history as a continuous progress after the model of the British Empire.

Progress does not have the compulsory law conformity of a natural law, but is a normative challenging principle. As far as one can speak of progress in natural evolution, for instance pointing to an increasing complexity, this is not a value or norm, but the effect of a natural process, having no normative character as such. Herein plants and animals do not play an active part comparable to that of human beings in technical progress.

As a normative principle, progress acts as the temporal order for the technical relation frame, as directive meaning of skilful labour. The history of technology concerns the elaboration of objects and the invention of artefacts besides training and education as the engines of technical progress.

History concerns the world as people have made it. For this purpose, I distinguish two kinds of experience.[30] The natural or intuitive experience, which people to a certain extent share with animals, is directly founded in sensory observation. Besides, there is an indirect, detached form of experience, in which people make use of some kind of instrument. This may be a material expedient, like a microscope, with which people may reinforce their visual power. It may also be a logical device, like a theory used to think about a problem. I apply the word artefact as the generic name for any human-made object of human conduct primarily characterized by one of the normative relation frames.[31] This is a much wider definition than that applied in technology, where artefacts are technical products, or in archaeology, where artefacts are human made material remains. Artefacts or constructions are often not primarily technical, and by no means always material. In each relation frame artefacts are distinguished from other objects which are not characterized by that relation frame. A painting, for instance, is a material aesthetic artefact. It is an object characterized by the aesthetic relation frame, an instrument in one’s aesthetic experience. As such it is not an economic artefact, though it can clearly be an economic object. Only its proceeds at an auction forms an economic artefact, established by people, economically typified, not material. The price of a painting is primarily not characterized by aesthetic but by economic relations, and only secondarily by its aesthetic quality, rarity, and so on. Therefore, besides its being primarily aesthetic and secondarily technical, the painting also has an economic function, and the price of a painting has a history of its own.

Not only thing-like objects are artefacts. Events and processes playing an objective part in history can also be considered as artefacts if produced or interpreted. Therefore, artefacts show an enormous diversity, allowing mankind to leave the animal world and to explore nature. All artefacts (not only written sources) witness the objective meaning of history.

 

9.10. The network society

 

Humans live in societies. Evolutionists point to beehives and herds of cows as arguments to show that human behaviour can be reduced to biotic or sensitive needs. In order to study the social or communal meaning of history, philosophy of history cannot neglect social philosophy. In particular the distinction between organised and unorganised social connections is relevant for understanding their influence on historical developments.[32]

An unorganised group of people without leadership I call a community. Instances are a lingual community, a nation, or a people, a social class or caste, a culture or a civilization, but also a party during a reception or the public during a concert. These have a certain social coherence, forming a network, but not an organisation with a governing board.

Alongside individual people, organised associations or corporations are active actors in the normative relation frames, contrary to unorganised communities. A lingual community and the public opinion are no more active than Christianity or the market. Communities cannot work, talk, act, or show respect for each other. They do not bear responsibility and are not answerable. Sometimes a community is objectively determined by an artefact, like a lingual community by a language; sometimes by a common ideology, like communism; sometimes by a connection with an association, like a nation or people is connected to a state; sometimes it is related to an event, like a birthday party.

In contrast, organised associations, having some kind of government with authority and members with discipline, are able to act in all relation frames, not unlike persons. Moreover, they do so increasingly, partaking in objective networks like railroads and subjective networks like the markets. These networks constitute the public domain with the state having the function of guarding the freedom and responsibility of the users of the networks. Nothing of that kind can be found in the animal world. The so-called Umwelt of a population of animals is fully restricted by the animal’s experience. In the human world, this is replaced by the entirely open and multifaceted public domain.

 

9.11. The meaning of emergence

 

With Herman Dooyeweerd we may state that meaning is the mode of being of all that is created. It becomes manifest whenever something new comes into being. The tertiary characteristics of natural things and events point to the possibility of the emergence of new structures with emerging new properties and propensities. It provides the original characters with meaning,[33] their proper position in the creation. The phenomenon of disposition shows that material things like molecules have meaning for living organisms. It shows that organisms have meaning for animal life. The assumption that God’s people are called from the animal world gives meaning to the existence of animals. Both evolution and history display the meaningful development of the creation, the coming into being of ever more structures. Artefacts, in particular written texts, are the most important witnesses of history.[34] They provide history with an objective basis, complementing the normative meaning of history, provided by the directive time order in the relation frames,[35] and the subjective attribution of meaning by individuals, associations and unorganised communities in their history shaping transfer of experience.[36]

As a starting point this implies a realist religious view, confessing that God created the world according to laws which are invariant because he sustains them. We know God through Jesus Christ, who submitted himself to God’s laws. Partial knowledge of his laws can be achieved by studying the law-conformity of the creation. This also implies a dynamic view of the creation, as developing continuously, in the natural evolution and in particular in human history.  

The arguments in this paper show that the theory of evolution may be able to provide necessary conditions for the emergence of human affairs, but by no means sufficient conditions. As a religious statement, we may take the biblical message to reveal that humanity was led out of the animal world, called to be free and challenged to take responsibility for the development of God’s creation. This may truly be called the cultural mandate of humanity. The above mentioned relation frames include the relations of anyone with their true or imagined God. For Christians, these relations exist through Jesus Christ, who came into the world fulfilling God’s laws for the creation, leading his people out of the animal world.



[1] Klapwijk 2008; 2011; Wearne (ed.) 2011.

[2] Klapwijk 2008, 106-118.

[3] Klapwijk 2008, 162; 2011, 23.

[4] Popper 1972, 242-244, 289-295; 1974, 142; Popper, Eccles 1977, 14-31; Mayr 1982, 63-64.

[5] Geertsema 2011, 69.

[6] Stebbins 1982, 167.

[7] Stafleu 2002a; 2011.

[8] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, II, 181-365.

[9] Dooyeweerd 1959; Verburg 1989, 350-360; Stafleu 2002b; Wearne 2011, 88-100.

[10] Stafleu 2008; 2011.

[11] Stafleu 2011.

[12] Stafleu 2002a, chapter 1.

[13] Stafleu 2014.

[14] Stafleu 2002a, chapter 1.

[15] Stafleu 2002a, chapters 5 and 6.

[16] Klapwijk 2008, 106-115.

[17] Stafleu 2002a, 186-191.

[18] Geertsema 2011, 59-64.

[19] Stafleu 2000; 2002a, chapter 6.

[20] Klapwijk 2008, 12-28, 128-136; 2011, 12-14.

[21] Stafleu 2002a, chapter 5.

[22] Stafleu 2002a, chapter 6.

[23] Klapwijk 2008, 40.

[24] Miller 1999; Cunningham 2010, chapter 4.

[25] Stafleu 2011, chapter 1.

[26] Stafleu 2011, chapter 1.

[27] Stafleu 2011, chapter 2.

[28] Stafleu 2011, chapter 2.

[29] Cunningham 2010, 206-212.

[30] Stafleu 2011, chapter 3.

[31] Stafleu 2014.

[32] Stafleu 2004; 2011, chapters 4 and 5.

[33] Klapwijk 2008 prefers ‘purpose’.

[34] Stafleu 2011, chapter 3.

[35] ibid., chapter 1.

[36] ibid., chapter 2.

 

 


 

 

10. Attributing meaning to historical development (2012)

 

10.1. The temporal order gives direction to history

10.2. Subjective attribution of meaning to history

10.3. The objective historical meaning of artefacts

10.4. Historical views on the meaning of associations

10.5. Freedom and responsibility provide history with meaning

 

10.1. The temporal order gives direction to history

 

Chapter 1 of Chronos & Clio investigates the hypothesis that events from the past can be ordered into a spectrum of relation frames. Each frame is characterized by one or more natural laws or universal values and is subjected to its own directive order of time, determining in part the meaning of history. In order to account for the diversity of temporal existence we have found ten normative expressions for time in history, besides six natural orders of time. We indicated that the order of time in each relation frame gives direction to history. The diversity of human existence implies that this normative direction is very complex as well.

The diversity of the values and the presupposition of their mutual irreducibility lead to critique on and rejection of any form of monism or dualism. These attempt to reduce the diversity of temporal reality to a single principle or to an unbridgeable ‘dialectic’ opposition. To take one or more values in an absolute sense leads unavoidably to the diminishing of human freedom and responsibility to transform the values into norms dependent on historical and cultural circumstances.

The most striking one-sidedness in historiography is historism.

 

At the transition from the eighteenth century Enlightenment to Romanticism in the nineteenth century, Western historical notions were reinforced considerably.[1] This may be a sequel of the more or less simultaneously occurring French and industrial revolutions, the dual revolution according to Eric Hobsbawn. Together with historism a new historical view of time arose, the geschichtliche Zeit,[2] besides the naturalistic view of time based on natural science.[3] Johann Gottfried Herder, the first historist, stated: ‘Alles ist Geschichte’ (everything is history).[4] Historism is

‘… the approach of reality in which all phenomena and events are placed in a historical perspective, supposing that the essence of these phenomena and events can only be really understood from this perspective’.[5]

‘… it was believed that the understanding of x consisted in knowing the history of x’.[6]

‘Historism emphasizes diachronicism: historism dissolves everything into a continuous stream of historical development. Everything must be seen as the result of its history.’[7]

 

The emerging nationalism in the Napoleonic era furthered historism considerably.

After historiography was mainly practiced as a literary genre, since the end of the eighteenth century it became a scientific profession, by the nomination of professors in universities and grammar schools, the study of primary sources,[8] the opening up and investigation of archives and the rise of archaeology.[9] The science of history considers historism as the movement concentrating on the impartial establishment of past facts, abiding to Leopold von Ranke’s famous motto ‘bloss zeigen wie es eigentlich gewesen’ (only show what happened in fact).[10]

Besides this objectivism there are two other variants of historism. Historical determinism overemphasizes the law side of history. This concerns for instance Georg Hegel’s rationalistic idealism,[11] Karl Marx’s historical-materialism,[12] Auguste Comte’s positivism and Herbert Spencer’s social-darwinism, putting forward inescapable laws for history.[13] They consider these laws in a naturalistic way, not normative but compulsory, ignoring human freedom and responsibility.[14]

In contrast, Romanticism overemphasized the subject and object side of history, recognizing only the accidental, the contingent, the individual happening, an endless stream of unique events.[15] This subjectivism leads inevitably to relativism with respect to ‘the positive norms of evaluation’.[16]

The hypothesis of chapter 1 of Chronos & Clio, that temporal reality with its evolution and history is subjected to invariant and universal natural laws, values and character types, provides sufficient matter to criticize historism. The astrophysical and biological theories of evolution cannot function without the supposition of the existence of invariant natural laws, allowing of extrapolation to the past. Likewise, normative principles which are not liable to historical development make history both possible and understandable. Therefore, norms and characters having been actualized starting from these principles by people in their culture and civilization, are recognizable for everyone. This view allows us to reject all variants of historism being one-sided. Simultaneously we can understand that each variant has an attractive nucleus of truth, respectively the recognition of objective facts, of subjective individuality and of normative law conformity.

Meanwhile we conclude that the meaning of history is to be found normatively in the order of time, determining the direction of history. This is not sufficient, however. In the next sections we shall discuss the subjective attribution of meaning in the transfer of human experience (10.2) and the objective historical meaning of artefacts (10.3). In 10.4 and 10.5 we shall investigate how the meaning of history comes to the fore in social relations.

 

10.2. Subjective attribution of meaning to history

 

Subjective human activity is distinguished from psychic purposeful behaviour by having an external meaning besides an internal goal.[17]

The purpose of eating food is to appease one’s hunger, but a shared meal has also meaning, for instance to strengthen a community. Is something like that also valid for history? Does the transfer of experience make sense? The meaning of something refers to something else, something lying outside it. Is the future the meaning of history? Or the hope for a better future? Is history concerned with insight in the present, wie es eigentlich geworden ist?[18] Or has every historical episode its own meaning, as Leopold von Ranke said: ‘jede Epoche ist unmittelbar zu Gott’?[19]

Indeed knowledge of the past is important for human conduct, think of expressions like ‘the moral of the story’ or ‘the lesson of history’. How you judge the past influences your view of the present and the future. Who looks for the meaning of history within time, as the objective realization of an ideal situation, may identify this meaning with the end or completion of history. Georg Hegel sought this completion in the liberal state, Karl Marx in the victory of the proletariat, Francis Fukuyama in the establishment of liberal democracy and a free market.[20] Also the view people have on the origin of their existence is relevant for their view of the meaning of history. Like the future, the origin lies outside history, whether one seeks this in nature or in the creation. The question of the relation of mankind to its origin can be posed within each relation frame, perhaps arriving at the same answer. That answer may involve the hope of a future after death.

Clearly meaning depends on a normative direction. Chapter 1 of Chronos & Clio recognizes the order of time as directive. For believers, the meaning of existence may be the direction toward the Creator and Redeemer of the world, on whom they acknowledge to depend.[21] Others direct their fullness of life to culture and civilization, or to an aspect of it. In this way the meaning of history concerns to attribute subjective meaning to history,[22] in the framework of one’s religion or world view, conceived as the personal and shared view of the origin and destination of reality, of the completion of history and the position of people in it. Subjective attribution of meaning has much to do with ethics.

 

Everybody has the disposition (aptitude, talent, propensity or inclination) to act right or wrong. That is the field of research of philosophical ethics, the science of morals and normativity. By distinguishing natural laws from values and norms, ethics may give human freedom and responsibility their due. Like animals, people are bound to compulsory natural laws, which like the universal values are to be read from reality as conditions for human existence, even if people are capable of trespassing the normative principles. For instance, they ought to do justice, but often act differently. Norms are historically and culturally determined realizations of values, for which people bear full responsibility, both for formulating and for applying the norms in their situation. Ethics is also concerned with casuistry, the weighing of norms and normative principles in practical situations, in which different norms may lead to contradictory conclusions.

Because norms and values operate in all relation frames and in various kinds of human communities, besides the general philosophical ethics we know various specific ethics, like economical ethics,[23] the ethics of enterprise,[24] the ethics of science,[25] juridical ethics,[26] and the ethics of care.[27] Sometimes this is concretely elaborated into a code of behaviour or a professional code. Also associations like schools and companies ought to behave normatively, both in their internal functioning and their external relations. In this way individuals and associations contribute to the meaning of history, which cannot exist without subjectively giving meaning.

 

For individual persons the disposition to do good or evil comes to the fore in their character, their virtues and vices, for groups of people in their ethos. This is the subjective judgment of values, the attitude people display in a community with respect to human activity, the judgement they give of right and wrong, the calling they experience and communicate to each other to satisfy the norms. It is the mentality or attitude to life of a group of people with respect to values and norms valid for them.[28] Ethos does not depend on the belief in a personal God, for atheists and Buddhists share similar views. In vain, one has often attempted to derive the ethos, the motive or incentive of human conduct from the evolution of mankind, or to reduce it to egoism, to a social contract, to human ratio, to justice and to love.[29]

Within a labour community, the ethos of labour is the driving force of technical activity, the starting point of culture. It says that anyone should do one’s work properly, according to one’s talents and abilities achieved by education and practice. It is the responsibility all workers bear for their labour, for which they will be called to answer. The virtue of labour, the worker’s moral, is their skill, their craftsmanship. The reverse is to act sloppy, to deliver faulty work. The ethos of labour as the knowledge to be called to work in God’s vineyard is not a monopoly or invention of Protestants, even if the sociologist Max Weber ascribed it to them.[30] Japanese and other Asians have an extraordinary ethos of labour, too.[31] The spread of technology in Europe, leading to the prosperity of the Middle Ages, is especially due to some monastic orders, in particular the Cisterciensians.[32] They were not merely concerned with meditation, but also with labour. The monks sought a humble connection between prayer and work. In order to make the combination of praying and working possible, they had to learn to work efficiently. Mostly they worked for the monastery, but neighbouring farmers were pleased to follow their example. The sixteenth-century Protestants adopted the labour ethos from the monks in a revised way.[33] From antiquity to the Renaissance the high culture was characterized by contempt for ordinary work, whereupon nobility, clergy and clerks looked down. In contrast, the Protestants rehabilitated labour, small wonder, because many Protestants were artisans. Martin Luther and John Calvin interpreted a profession as a calling, making work the Protestant form of prayer.[34] They considered the meaning of labour to be the disclosure of the earth, of the relation frames preceding the technical one. Meanwhile, labour also derives meaning from the frames succeeding the technical one.

A striking historical development is the increasing professional skills of workers, the professionalizing of labour. It is not long ago when most people performed unskilled labour, in agriculture, in households and in factories. By our imagination, by interpretation and communication, by rational analysis and discussion, by technological research, we are able to organize our work ever more efficiently, developing new kinds of labour. By working more efficiently, sustained by many kinds of machines, we do not work less, but differently, achieving more. The introduction of the eight-hour working day, the five-day working week and holidays, the duration of labour diminished, but its productivity (the amount of labour produced every hour) relatively increased more than the number of working hours decreased. This professionalization is connected to education and learning, as well as to specialisation and division of labour, with economic differentiation. Specialisation means that people play different social parts: in their work differently from at home, as the manager of an enterprise otherwise than as a member of a chess club.

Besides by the technical relation frame, skilled labour is often characterized by a succeeding frame, think of sportsmen, scientists, ministers, managers, lawyers, and medical doctors. They have had a more or less intensive instruction, after which they have been trained in practice, developing to experienced professionals in the practical exertion of their profession. Often they have an exclusive right to exert their profession. Nevertheless we always find amateurs or volunteers besides these professionals, who do their work at a different level, but no less meritoriously. Professionals distinguish themselves from amateurs especially because their labour anticipates succeeding relation frames. They ought to have imaginative force; to command their professional language and literature; to keep informed about scientific research; to acquire the trust of their colleagues and their clients. They have to command their position in society; to be able to practice their job in the economic frame and to be aware of political, juridical and care aspects of their profession.

In all relation frames individuals become ever more professional, both in their practice and schooled in organized groups. This professionalization and specialisation explains the historical growth of differentiated associations (10.4) and their significance for the public domain (10.5), where professionals often have their own networks. Especially, their professional skills come to the fore in their products, the artefacts, with which we deal in the next section.

In the transfer of experience as the motive force of history, besides the transferring party also the receiving one becomes professionalized. In schools, for instance, teachers appeal to what students have learned before. Only small children have to manage initially with their inborn abilities. In all transfer processes discussed in chapter 2 of Chronos & Clio they function as the far from passive tractors of history.

 

10.3. The objective historical meaning

of artefacts

 

In each relation frame we can distinguish between artefacts being characterized by that frame and other objects which are not. Besides people and associations which always act as subjects, all things, events, situations and processes can be object in each normative relation frame. For instance, each thing and each event can be a sign as an object in the semiotic relation frame, if a person or an association recognizes it as such. Only if it is specifically made by men, we speak of a symbol as a semiotic artefact. Artefacts are not merely relevant for the relation frame by which they are characterized. They play an objective and instrumental part in all normative relation frames. Without signs, symbols and language, social relations, commerce, government and justice were impossible, and where necessary, we adapt our language. In this way, artefacts have an open character. Conceived as man-made objects or events caused by people, artefacts have an objective meaning for history as well. They function as instruments in the transfer of experience. They are subjected to the normative order of time in the relation frames by which they are characterized, like pieces of art showing aesthetic renewal. Because the technical relation frame characterizes all artefacts either primarily or secondarily, artefacts should at least satisfy objectively the historical norm of progress. Therefore artefacts have a history of their own, constituting an important instrument for historiography as the interpretation of signs from the past. Indeed, each artefact is an objective sign of the history of the activity of humans as subjective makers and users. Artefacts are objective witnesses of the past.

 

Although always being characterized technically – whether primarily or secondarily – artefacts are not always material. An historical narrative is an instance of an immaterial artefact. People give their history objective meaning by telling a story about it.[35] Some philosophers of history reduce historiography to a representative narrative interpreting the past (narrativism).[36] Hayden White argues that an historical narrative is bound to a literary form.[37] He distinguishes figures of speech or tropes like metaphor, metonym, synecdoche or irony, corresponding respectively with tragedy (Alerxis de Tocqueville), comedy (Leopold von Ranke), romance (Jules Michelet) and satire (Jacob Burckhardt), as applied by historians from the nineteenth century.[38] According to Arthur Danto a historical narrative is further distinguished from a chronicle because a narrative cannot be told by a contemporary of the narrated event.[39] A narrative sentence like ‘in 1533 the Dutch Father of the Fatherland was born’ cannot have been stated before or in 1533, or even many years afterwards, because William of Nassau only later became recognized as such. A narrative sentence describes an event by irreversibly connecting it in a historically relevant way with a later event.[40] In this way a historical discourse may give an explanation based on insights or concepts achieved much later than the event concerned.[41] Therefore history renews itself continuously.

Narrativism is probably influenced by analytical philosophy, having much support especially in the Anglo-Saxon countries. Since the linguistic turn (circa 1970), this philosophy considers lingual analysis to be the nucleus, if not the whole of philosophy. Earlier continental philosophy of inter alia Wilhelm Dilthey, Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer took hermeneutics (Verstehen, i.e., understanding, according to Dilthey) as the starting point or presupposition of the social if not all sciences.[42] In any case it is an important instrument for both lingual and historical research.[43]

A historical narrative is distinguishable from fiction because the author accepts a number of restrictions, according to rules forming a usually silent protocol for historiography.[44] These normative prescriptions surpass the semantic and aesthetic rules which an historical narrative has to satisfy as well. The difference between a biography and an historical novel (or between an historical documentary and an historical movie) is now which rules prevail. Artefacts are not entirely arbitrary and can only be used if people manipulate them responsibly, according to the norms valid for them, which they themselves have derived from invariant values. Only then artefacts can fulfil their objective historical meaning. In particular this applies to historical narratives.

 

10.4. Historical views on the meaning of associations

 

Besides individual persons only associations, conceived as organised social groups with members and a board, can act as subjects in the normative relation frames. Therefore both are relevant as players on the stage of history. The historical meaning of associations is their part in the transfer of experience and the development of artefacts. This is especially the case for the republic as the guardian of the public domain and protector of the freedom. But also the historical significance of other associations increases explosively. Their mutual relation is under duress because of widely different views on the relations between the state and other associations, the relations among states and their sovereignty, the relations among associations and with individuals, international affairs and the freedom and responsibility of individuals and of associations. All these mutual relations promote the historical development of the characters of the associations, in particular where they meet each other on the public domain. The necessity to develop forces them to reflect on their characteristic identity, especially if this is threatened by external influences. The historical trend seems to be that associations become less intertwined. The church takes distance from the state, enterprises return to their nuclear activities, trade unions discharge activities which are not directly related to the promotion of interests, and families suffer the loss of functions.

Opposite to the Protestant view that each association has a character of its own, with sphere sovereignty independent of the character of a state, one finds the family based society, Catholic organicism, liberal individualism, and socialist collectivism.[45] We shall briefly review these ideologies with their mainly Western history and establish that the proposition, defended in chapter 4 of Chronos & Clio, concerning the existence of various universal and invariant character types of associations, is still controversial, to say the least.

 

A tribal society based on a family or a tribe rests on subordination, on the distinction of men and women; of close and removed family members; of masters and servants or slaves; of patrons and clients; of believers and unbelievers. This old social form characterizes an undifferentiated society in which someone belongs exclusively to one community, the family or the tribe.[46] We find this in the past of all cultures, sometimes in the Third World, and it is still favoured in Christian, Jewish and especially Muslim orthodox circles. The relations within an undifferentiated society may be quite complicated.

The tribe has many kinds of functions which in a modern society are exerted by other associations. By the loss of these functions the family or tribe has generally speaking no meaning left as an organized community. Only the marital bond and the nuclear family as basis of the education of children remain. This is a relatively recent Western phenomenon. In many countries family relations still play an important part, for instance in family companies.[47]

In the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle too, the Greek polis is not differentiated. Their ideal city state (already out of date in their time) is a totalitarian community, a commonwealth, to which everything is subordinated and in which the citizens find their happiness (eudaimonia) and their destiny (telos). Outside the city boundaries the political community halts. Only free men have rights. Their mutual connection is not the family, but friendship. Family ties are subordinated to the polis.[48] The Roman Empire extended the polis to cosmopolis, in which an increasing number of people achieved citizen rights. It attributed larger independence to the familia, including slaves and clients besides family members.[49] The senate consisted of the most important family heads. However, the Roman Empire was as totalitarian as the Greek polis.

Social relations based on equality arise whenever free associations replace families. In this respect the organisation of the state does not suffice. The first association organizing itself independent of family and state was the Christian church, at first repressed, next tolerated, and then made into a state organ, again involved in power struggles. Ultimately, in the Western society, the church once more became separated from the state. This led to freedom of faith, the recognition that any person is free in one’s conscience, being fully responsible for their relation to God. Someone who is free in one’s conscience also requires freedom in other respects. The rise of free associations apart from family ties and the state does not accidentally coincide with the recognition of freedom of faith. It formed the basis of a republican and democratic society, not founded on tribal or nationalistic views, but on free associations.

 

Society as an organism is originally especially a Catholic view. The rise of Christianity stroke at the roots of the totalitarian Roman state. The young church only recognized the emperor’s authority on worldly affairs. Augustine’s book De civitate Dei assumes the existence of two communities, the city of God and the city of the world, separated because of the fall into sin.[50] After Christianity was elevated to state worship, medieval philosophers and theologians considered society to be an organic two-unity, consisting of the church equipped with the spiritual sword, and the subordinated state armed with the secular sword.[51] Their relation corresponds with that between anyone’s supernatural soul and natural body. The church is concerned with the eternal salvation of people, the state with daily wealth. The assumption that the state is subordinated to the church implies first that the state should not be concerned with internal affairs of the church, second that the church decides which matters belong to the domain of the church, and which matters belong to the state’s jurisdiction. According to Thomas Aquinas all communities, except the church, are organic parts of the state, like parts of a body. This apparently totalitarian view was toned down by the principle of subsidiarity, stating that each social activity is subsidiary. It ought to support the members of the social body.[52] The principle of subsidiarity assumes that society exists of a hierarchy of higher and lower communities or organs, of which the state is the highest and all embracing, with the most important norm that a higher organ should not be concerned with what a lower organ can do.[53]

Indeed, the principle of subsidiarity is applicable whenever an association as a whole has more or less autonomous parts. Such a relation of a whole and its parts we find in a state divided into provinces and municipalities; a national or international church with regional dioceses and local parishes; a national party with local branches; a holding company with more or less independent subsidiary companies; or a chain of shops. The principle of subsidiarity may be considered an important strategy for the internal organisation of an association, in which the separate parts receive as much freedom and responsibility as possible.[54] It determines the relation of the European Union to the member states. It opposes centralism. However, the organicist view on which it is based provides no insight into the relation of mutually independent associations, because it does not recognize them.

Because the Roman-Catholic Church circa 1965 abandoned the idea of an all-embracing society, some politicologists now consider the vertical principle of subsidiarity and the principle of sphere sovereignty (also called horizontal subsidiarity) as being slight differences within a converging view that they call communitarism.[55] It is the political philosophy of Christian-democratic and conservative parties in Europe. The principle of recognition of the independence of all kinds of associations is, however, not equivalent to an internal organisation principle within such associations.  

 

Liberal individualism recognizes only individuals to be original members of society.[56] These ought to have as much freedom of acting as possible. Each association is considered to be a voluntary set of individuals, no more than the sum of the members of the set. Individuals may form a union with a determined goal, based on a contract, which they can break or revise at any time. Liberals reject the specific character of associations. Humanist natural law scholars like Johannes Althusius, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant attempted to found the state in the myth of a social contract.[57] Hobbes preferred the reign of a single person, because he considered a strong government necessary to suppress haughty people.[58] However, this person should have the consent of their subjects. For Locke it was a small step to the sovereignty of the parliament.[59] The idea of a social contract forms the foundation of the constitution of the United States of America.[60]

The theory of the social contract rests on the humanist ideological principle that any individual is autonomous, having primacy above any association. Its critics observed that people never lived outside a community and contested the view that the state can be seen as a set of autonomous individuals.[61] Anybody is a member of the state without being asked, based on birth, not on a contract. Philosophers defending the idea of the social contract readily admit this to be a theoretical fiction, having no historical ground.[62] It appears to be more likely that the state emerged from a tribal community.[63] An intermediate form is a class or caste state, in which people are classified according to their birth status. Both the recognition of individual rights apart from tribe or state and the recognition of the independence of associations that are not bound to a family or the state, are more recent than the emergence of states apart from tribal ties. The liberation from tribal ties constitutes an important part of the historical development of modern society.

Humanism bases the sovereignty of the people on the contract theory. It often overemphasizes democracy, without understanding that this is not characteristic of the state, with its specific character of being the guardian of the public domain. Rather, democracy is a form of management that can be realized in many associations besides the state. Participation of the members in the leadership confirms the view that the generic character of any association is founded in the frame of keeping company. This does not depend on a social contract, but on the actual character of the association.

 

Socialist collectivism too does not allow of much room for independent associations, because it considers society to be the all-encompassing social reality. Collectivism overemphasizes the public domain. Karl Marx called man a social animal. Whatever a man does has the society as its perspective and should serve the community. About the character of the comprehensive community, opinions differ. According to nineteenth-century romantics and twentieth-century fascism, this was the people, determined by its language and culture. According to national-socialism this was the Volksgemeinschaft, determined by a common race.[64] According to communism it is the proletariat, represented by the party everything embracing. In some Islamic states it is the common faith, laid down in Quran and tradition. For socialists the collective is the labour community embracing all institutions and associations, not only the state, factories and companies, trade unions and political parties, but also families and schools, preparing children for their position in the society as a labour community, and clubs, if these fulfil a useful function in society.  None of these views has an eye for the existence of free associations, even if the social-democrats recognize the fundamental rights of individuals, such as the right of association and of assembly.

 

Opposed to the contract theory, Protestants (in particular Calvinists) maintain the principle that associations are characterized by normative principles laid down in the creation, actualised in the course of history. In the societal differentiation and integration process, neither individuals, nor free associations, nor the state or the church play a primary part. For the historical formation of associations people are responsible, and human freedom makes use of the possibilities presented by each character type.

Sphere sovereignty (soevereiniteit in eigen kring) is originally a typical Dutch term for an unsuspected widespread phenomenon. In particular during the twentieth century, the existence of free associations, independent of the republic which only exerts supervision of the public domain, has become the hallmark of the free Western society. Elsewhere it expands explosively too. The fact that Abraham Kuyper designed his view of sphere sovereignty in the nineteenth century, testifies to a prophetic mind.[65] In fact, this is historically a much more interesting phenomenon than the victory of neo-liberalism proclaiming the end of history, according to Francis Fukuyama.[66]

If in one respect Protestantism collides with Catholic, liberal, collectivist and totalitarian views, it concerns their insight into associations. Since the sixteenth century, Protestants argue and practice that associations have a character of their own; that these are irreducible to individual interests or to the interest of a collective; that associations are not subordinate but co-ordinate; that each person belongs to several associations; that no all-embracing association exists; that nobody is embraced completely by any association whatsoever; and that various mutually irreducible character types of associations exist.

The principle of sphere sovereignty is a societal principle, characterized by the way people treat with associations and keep each other’s company. It is a political principle too, because it indicates that an association does not derive its authority from other associations, but from the creational order, from God’s sovereignty, such that authority should never be absolute. It is not an organisational principle. Unlike the earlier mentioned principle of subsidiarity, it is not applicable to the mutual relations of the state with its provinces and local communities, as far as these are subordinate parts of the state.

Sovereignty presupposes some kind of authoritative rule. Therefore, the principle of sphere sovereignty only applies to associations, not to unorganized social communities.[67] Sphere sovereignty does not imply that associations are autonomous, independent of other associations. In fact, associations form many kinds of networks, in which they cooperate to achieve their goals. The meaning of sphere sovereignty is that any kind of authority is limited. It promotes the freedom and responsibility of individual persons. Because they belong to various associations, they can be alternatively leaders in one and subordinate members in another association.

The principle of sphere sovereignty does not in the least mean that each association should have an ideological foundation. The typically Dutch phenomenon of the ‘verzuiling’ (the compartmentalization of society from about 1850 to 1980[68]) could make that plausible, but Kuyper’s principle applies to associations having no relation to any world view as well.

The initial view of Abraham Kuyper and his Anti-Revolutionaire Partij made insufficient distinction between the sovereignty of the state and that of other associations. Indeed, the sphere sovereignty of each association also applies to the state, according to its generic character as an association, primarily characterized by the political relation frame. The internal functioning of associations received much more attention than their external relations in public networks, where they inevitably meet the state. However, in contrast to other associations the specific character of the republic is also primarily politically typified, by the sovereignty that the republic exerts on the public domain. No other association acting on the public domain can avoid this. Its specific character provides the republic with a unique authority, something that the Dutch anti-revolutionaries did not always recognize sufficiently, however law-abiding they were. The state’s authority on the public domain should be restricted to the protection of freedom, without infringing on the sphere sovereignty of other associations, and without restricting their responsibility and that of individual persons.

 

The question of the character of associations is related to the question of the origin of the authority in associations, in particular the state.[69] In concrete cases the foundation, expansion, contraction, or disappearance of a state rests on conquest, revolution, rebellion or liberation from foreign domination.[70] This indicates how a state is historically arisen or disengaged from one or more other states, how a state came to power, but it does not answer the question of the origin of the republic as a character type. The answer to this question strongly depends on one’s world view and usually on a myth, a faith story legitimizing the authority. Without doubt, the question of the emergence of authority demands an historical answer, but in the course of history myths have played a large part in it.

Because family ties rests on blood-relationship, they are (like the marital bond and the nuclear family) considered ‘natural’. However, the application of this to tribal connections overlooks that these develop in history, often displaying a rich culture. The assumed, by no means always factual, biotic relationship of the tribe’s members with each other and with their ancestors constitutes a bonding myth.

Another old myth attributes the state a divine origin.[71] The first large empires deified the power of the kings.[72] In order to enhance their authority the rulers were worshiped as god or majesty. In some countries, hereditary royalty is a remainder of this, in particular if the head of state is simultaneously the head of the state church. Sometimes the myth assumes a social relation based on a covenant with God, legitimizing the authority. Sometimes the myth is a popular belief, like the view of many Americans that theirs is God’s own country. Some Dutch people still speak of the threefold string of God, the Netherlands and Orange.[73] Like the Byzantine emperors, Charlemagne and his successors believed that they received their authority directly from God.[74] In the twelfth century the Catholic myth emerged that the state derives its authority from the church and through the church from God. At the end of the Middle Ages, the myth of the divine origin was weakened by a theory about the right of insurrection.

According to the humanist myth of the already mentioned social contract, replacing the covenant of God with his people, the state is legitimized by a voluntary agreement of citizens, a contract in which the citizens transfer their natural rights in part to the collective state. Thomas Hobbes characterized the state of nature as an unlimited anarchy, but John Locke assumed that people have naturally certain rights.[75] The reason for the formation of a state is to warrant these rights. For Jean-Jacques Rousseau not the state, but the community (the people) is the bearer of authority. In the romantic period this became the nation.

The historistic myth legitimizes the state exclusively on the basis of historical developments, for instance its factual origin from a family or tribe, or a coalition of tribes.[76] The people are subordinate to the prince, like the Roman family is subordinated to the pater familias. In the Netherlands the house of Orange plays the paternal (in the twentieth century the maternal) part. The monarch is the owner and his successor the heir of the sovereignty.[77] Therefore there is no clear separation between the fortune and income of the monarch and that of the state.[78] The traditionalist or conservative current within historism (Burke, circa 1800 and Hayek, second half of the twentieth century) rejects both the theocratic view about the divine origin of authority and the rationalist contract theory. In a long process complex systems like states are made by and for people, ‘results of human action but not of human design’.[79]

According to the Protestant myth the state is an institution of God and the authority of the government is given by God.[80] In my view this cannot be valid for any concrete state, but it can be true for the character type of the state and, in fact, for all types of associations.[81] Any association is typified by relation frames in a way laid down in the creation. In this view the profile of an association originates from God, not its historic realisation. Nevertheless any board exerts authority by the grace of God, which does not provide a license to act arbitrarily. Each government ought to satisfy the universal political norm that it should not abuse its authority. If a government satisfies this norm, the members of the association ought to obey the authority.

However, there is an important difference between the specific character type of the state and that of other associations. Whereas each association exerts authority within its own sphere, the state as a republic also exerts authority on the public domain. The public networks are manifest in each relation frame in their own way. Section 10.5 will show a road to find the origin of the state not based on a myth, but on systematic and historical research in the directive order of time in the relation frames.

 

How did so much diversity of opinion about associations arise? This does not only appear to concern the structure, the dual character of associations and the assumed origin of authority, but also their mutual relations, especially with the state. The difference of opinion does not perhaps concern the associations themselves, but the way they operate on the public domain. Are associations like churches merely a private affair, or are they allowed presenting themselves in public as well? Indeed, the republic guards the res publica, but does it coincide with the public domain? To what extent should the state be allowed to meddle with public affairs? This is the subject matter of chapter 5 of Chronos & Clio. We shall see that the network structure, applied by ever more associations, is especially characteristic for their mutual relations on the public domain. Individual persons too experience being part in a growing number of networks, expanding over the whole world.

Therefore we shall have to account for the character, the history and the internal and external functioning of associations. All three are indispensable. Who lays too much stress on typology, on the character type of associations, is an essentialist. Who only believes the historical development to be important is a historist (10.1).[82] And who only pays attention to the functioning of associations in public, is guilty of functionalism. Let us try to avoid these three extremes.

 

10.5. Freedom and responsibility

provide history with meaning

 

History displays itself largely on the public domain. The transfer of experience, which we recognized to be the engine of history, is concerned with subject-object relations (for instance, we buy goods on a market) and with subject-subject relations (for instance of buyers and sellers). On the public domain associations besides individuals perform as active subjects. These relations appear to have a network structure. According to the hypothesis with which this book started, they express time at the subject and object side of the experienced reality, with the diverse universal temporal order at the law side. In time everybody is connected to anybody else and to anything, not amorphously, but structured by directive time.

The historical trend seems to be that these networks expand and condense. For each normative relation frame we have found objective and intersubjective networks. Its historical meaning is to be derived from what we have already found in former sections. The directive order of time (10.1), the subjective applying of meaning (10.2), the objective meaning of artefacts (10.3) and the increasing significance of free associations (10.4) are all relevant for the public domain. The transfer of experience as the engine of history takes place both within the appropriate associations and in public. Artefacts play an indispensable part in the functioning of individuals and associations in the public networks.

The versatility of the values is reflected in the diversity of the public domain. It is not wise to deny any kind of restriction to a network like the functioning of the market or freedom of speech. First of all the public domain is the space of individual freedom, only if this does not stand in the way of its responsible use. Because the state as republic guards the public networks, the freedom to use it meets the state’s authority. Also in any association the freedom of acts is restricted by leadership and discipline. Denying this leads to anarchy instead of freedom. Both in public networks and in associations, human freedom is only possible by accepting norms and rules, leadership and obedience, civil sense and responsibility. In their networks individuals and associations are responsible for their deeds, not the networks themselves. The internet, the language, the society, or the market does not bear responsibility.

Responsibility always requires a certain amount of command, for nobody can be responsible for a situation which they do not command in any way. Freedom and command deteriorate into an unbridgeable contrast if taken absolutely, disengaged from values and norms. Humanism supposes that a person is completely autonomous, free of laws, values and norms, simultaneously being able to command the environment with the help of science and technology. This conflicts with the circumstance that other people belonging to this environment have the same claim of autonomous freedom. In this way historical determinism (10.1) undermines the autonomy of a person. Freedom and responsibility do not exclude each other if both are subject to norms, being historical (and therefore changeable) actualizations of generally recognized normative principles. As is usually the case with dogmas, the humanist ethos of freedom and command has been preached by philosophers, journalists and other writers more than exerted in practice. Practical people have always known that the freedom and responsibility of one person restricts and enables those of another person, in every situation in which people stick to the rules. Freedom and responsibility belong to individual persons and associations of people, and these do not easily consent in having their freedom and responsibility taken away.

 

Besides the objective networks like the road system, the public domain consists of intersubjective networks, each having the  character of an unorganized community, not of an association, in particular not of a state. A public network like the market has participants, but not an intrinsic board and no members. Of old, the republic according to its specific character guards the public interest, being the guardian of the networks and the freedom of individuals and associations to make use of them. In the past, networks had mostly a local or national character, but they internationalise fast. This globalisation forces the states to ever more cooperation.

Because history (conceived as res gestae, what happened) takes place mostly on the public domain, and the republics together or competing guard and protect the public networks, it is not surprising that the general history (now as historia rerum gestarum, writing history) is especially political.[83] It is a normative principle that the republic does not govern the public domain as its owner, but as its guardian, in order to promote the freedom of individuals and associations acting in their relations. This is not a statement of a fact, but of a norm, in the course of time derived from the value of good governance. Its validity is still not recognized everywhere. Each totalitarian state, each empire denies this norm, and also other states regularly sin against it. In particular, the freedom and responsibility of associations to operate besides individuals on the public domain, preserving their sphere sovereignty, is still disputed. The state is not an aim in itself and should not be identified with the public domain. This means that the republic cannot be the meaning of history, as Georg Hegel and his multicoloured adherents believed, and certainly not one universal state.

The states themselves form regional and global networks, guarding the public domain together. If they keep each other in a peaceful balance, this can be a warrant for the freedom and responsibility of individuals, associations and communities throughout the world, if no religion or world view exclusively commands the republics.

 



[1] Popper 1945, 18. Ankersmit 1983, 174; 2005, 141, 309-310 dates this between 1790 and 1800. Foucault 1966, 241 states that the transition from the classical to the modern epistèmè (world of thought)  took place between 1775 and 1825 in two phases, divided by the period of 1795 to 1800. In the modern epistèmè history plays a much larger part than in the classical one, says Foucault 1966, chapter 7. According to Wiersing 2007, 246 ‘die Entdeckung der Geschichtlichkeit der Kultur’ (the discovery of the historical character of culture) started in the middle of the eighteenth century.

[2] Koselleck, see Doorman 1994, 30-37; Reinhard 1997, 286, 288. See also Foucault 1966, 154.

[3] Simultaneously, time became an important theme in cosmology, geology and biology, see Toulmin, Goodfield 1965; Rudwick 2005, Introduction; chapter 4; Rudwick 2008, 554. Strauss 2009, 4: ‘... the emergence of historicism ... opened the way for Darwin to employ the idea of change in his theory of variation through natural selection (1859).’

[4] Safranski 2007, 23, 28; Toulmin, Goodfield 1965, 165-171; Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, I, 453-455, II, 272-280; Wiersing 2007, 274-282. From 1784 to 1791 Herder published four volumes of his unfinished Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (Ideas for the philosophy of history of humanity).

[5] Tollebeek 1990, 361-362 (my translation). Besides this ‘historism sensu latiore’ Tollebeek (ibid. 362-363) distinguishes ‘historism sensu stricto’, accentuating the specificity of each temporal interval.

[6] Danto 1985, 324.

[7] Ankersmit 2005, 143 (my translation).

[8] In this respect Edward Gibbon was a pioneer with his The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1788).

[9] Burke 2005, 5-6. In particular the excavations in Herculaneum and Pompeji, buried after the eruption of the Vesuvius near Naples in 79 and recovered in 1738-1748, made a deep impression.

[10] Geyl 1958, 9-25; Danto 1985, 130-133, 139; Bentley 1997, 419-423; Wiersing 2007, 369-394. Robert Fruin, the first professor of history in the Netherlands (from 1860 to 1894), was an adherent of Ranke. His most important works are Fruin 1857 and 1859. After that he only published papers, see Tollebeek 1990, chapter 1. The criticism of objectivistic historism is that the choice of primary sources is not free of values. Moreover one has to make do with secondary sources or copies if primary sources are not available.

[11] Hegel 1840, 23: ‘That this “Idea” or “Reason” is the True, the Eternal, the absolutely powerful essence; that it reveals itself in the World, and that in that World nothing else is revealed but this and its honour and glory – is the thesis which, as we have said, has been proved in Philosophy, and is here regarded as demonstrated.’ About Hegel’s historism, see Popper 1945, chapter 12; Wiersing 2007, 321-337.

[12] Popper 1945, chapters 13, 15. Van het Reve 1969, 48-85; Wiersing 2007, 413.

[13] Löwith 1949; Ankersmit 1983, chapter 2-4; Fukuyama 1992, 91-92; Doorman 1994, 38; Lemon 2003, part I. Popper 1945 and 1957 calls this ‘historicism’. (For Popper, ‘historism’ is historical relativism.) A recent example is Fukuyama 1992.

[14] This historical determinism was preceded by several naturalistic variants. Its radical and consequent elaboration in Spinoza’s Ethica (1677) caused much discussion in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, see Lovejoy 1936, 150-156; Nadler 1999; Israel 2001; Gaukroger 2006, 471-492. Also modern forms of naturalistic determinism exert influence on historiography, see Wiersing 2007, 969-989.

[15] Ankersmit 1983, 171-182; de Jong 2007, 181-182. The postmodern subjectivist variant is social constructivism (5.4).

[16] Huizinga 1937, 136-138 (my translation). According to Fischer 1970, 307-318, relativism with respect to the past leads inevitably to contempt of the science of history. Dooyeweerd considered historism to be an absolutization of the historical aspect of reality, which he introduced in order to criticize historism in the philosophy of the nineteenth and twentieth century, Dooyeweerd 1953-1958,I, 467-495; II, 205-207, 217-221, 283, 354-356; Dooyeweerd 1959, 53-104; Van Woudenberg 1992, 90-96; Stafleu 2008.

[17] Vrieze 1977, 73; Graham 2004, chapter 9.

[18]How it really has become’ (my translation), see P.J. Blok, cited by Tollebeek 1990, 82, 109.

[19]Each period is directly related to God’ (my translation), Tollebeek 1990, 363; Wiersing 2007, 393, 718-722.

[20] Hegel 1840; Russell 1946, 701-715; Fukuyama 1992, 14-15; Hardt, Negri 2000. 

[21] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, II, 31: ‘… “meaning” is nothing but the creaturely mode of being under the law, consisting exclusively in a religious relation of dependence on God …’.

[22] Popper 1945, 555: ‘Although history has no ends, we can impose these ends of ours upon it; and although history has no meaning, we can give it a meaning.’

[23] Graafland 2007.

[24] Verkerk 2004.

[25] Ziman 2000.

[26] Sandel 2009.

[27] Jochemsen, Glas 1997; Cusveller 2004.

[28] Aristotle Ethics II, 1; MacIntyre 1981, 38; Verbrugge 2001, 154.

[29] Midgley 1991; Kymlicka 1991; Baier 1991.

[30] Weber 1904-1905; Taylor 1989, chapter 13; Landes 1998, chapter 12.

[31] Landes 1998, chapter 23, 27.

[32] Le Goff 1964, 110-112. The order of Citeaux (Cistercium) was founded in 1115 by Bernard of Clairvaux.

[33] Weber 1904-1905, 80, 115-122; Schilling 1968, 136, 163-164.

[34] Weber 1904-1905, chapter III; Carroll 2004, 71-74. Foucault 1961, chapter 2, points out the back-side: since the seventeenth century people are forced to work.

[35] This form already dates from Greek and Roman antiquity, Partner 1995, 31: ‘The openly identified narrator who is the known author; the substitution of collected information for inspiration by muse or authorial omniscience; the use of prose for a complex extended narrative; close attention to causal relations, motive and fortune as the determinants of events; the organized state as the defining unit of human society, and the predominance of political action and war as subject matter are all legacies from antiquity.’ Fischer 1970, 130: ‘Narration is not the only form of explanation they [i.e. historians] use, but it is one of the more common and most characteristically historical forms … A story explains how and what – not why - … explaining is understood to mean … making clear, plain, and understandable ...’

[36] Ankersmit 1983, 182-190; Roberts (ed.) 2001. In contrast, Foucault 1963; 1966 prefers an ‘archaeology’, in which various layers in history are laid bare. Yet also his Birth of a clinic can be read as a story having the end ‘the medical revolution for which Broussais in 1816 laid the foundation’ (236), and the point of one of the story lines: Only when the death was accepted in the medical experience, illness could be separated from the counter natural and be incorporated in the living body of the individuals.’ (239, my translation.)

[37] White 1973, 2: ‘I will consider the historical work as what it most manifestly is – that is to say, a verbal structure in the form of a narrative prose discourse that purports to be a model, or icon, of past structures and processes in the interest of explaining what they were by representing them.’

[38] e.g. White 1973, 143: ‘The Romantics repudiated all formal systems of explanation and tried to gain an explanatory effect by utilizing the Metaphorical mode to describe the historical field and the mythos of Romance to represent its processes.’

[39] Danto 1985, 115-142, 354.

[40] Munz 1997, 852: ‘In order to do justice to time, it must be described in a narrative form. Any other form of description fails to take account of the fact that the past bears the mark of the arrow of time.’

[41] Ankersmit, in Danto 1985, 385.

[42] Gadamer 1960, 157; Hübner 1978, chapter 13; Burke 2005, 7.

[43] Ankersmit 1983, 130-156.

[44] Partner 1995, 33-34. Such a rule is the ‘Reality rule’: ‘that the historian writes about the past wie es eigentlich gewesen’ in the words of Leopold von Ranke, or: ‘historians are concerned and committed to tell about the past the best and most likely story that can be sustained by the relevant extrinsic evidence’, Vann 1995, 53.

[45] Griffioen and van Woudenberg 1996; Woldring 2001. I shall not pay attention to anarchist views rejecting any kind of authority.

[46] Dooyeweerd 1931, 160-164; 1953-1958, III, 346-376; 1959a, 70-84.

[47] In a modern society, enterprises in which the employees consist entirely or mainly of family members are usually very small. Enterprises being the property of a single family are more common.

[48] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, III, 198-214; Griffioen 2003, 13.

[49] Dooyeweerd 1962, 169.

[50] Hoogerwerf 1999, chapter 3.

[51] Luke 22:38. Luther too adhered to a doctrine of ‘two regiments’, Ruppert 1987; Hoogerwerf 1999, chapter 5. Eastern-orthodox theologians identified the church with the state. In many countries, Muslims adopted this view.

[52] Hoogerwerf 1999, chapter 7; Woldring 2001, 56-58, 72-76. In 1931 pope Pius XI confirmed the principle of subsidiarity in the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno. Next, in particular the Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain elaborated it.

[53] Boey 2002, 211-212.

[54] Griffioen 2003, 38. It is remarkable that the Roman-Catholic Church does not apply the principle of subsidiarity to its own organisation, Boey 2002, 212.

[55] Woldring 2001; Griffioen 2003, 56.

[56] Hobsbawm 1994, 167; Calhoun 2000, 534.

[57] Rousseau 1762, 68-69; Russell 1946, 601-610; Achterhuis 1988, part I-III; Tebbit 2005, 94-102; Fukuyama 2011, chapter 2. In contrast, Rawls 1971 uses the theory of the social contract to found justice (as did Kant too), not the state, see Sandel 2009, chapter 6.

[58] Achterhuis 1988, 28.

[59] Fukuyama 1992, 182-183.

[60] Hardt, Negri 2000, 164-166; Fukuyama 2011, 29.

[61] Burckhardt 1905, 20; Popper 1945, 122; Midgley 1985, chapter 17, 18; Fukuyama 2011, 30, 34, 439.

[62] Rawls 1971, 11; Von der Dunk 2007, 182-192.

[63] Popper 1945, chapter 4.

[64] Safranski 2007, chapter 15-17.

[65] Kuyper 1880; 1898, 72-80; Dooyeweerd 1959, 46-58; Clouser 1991a, 290-302.

[66] Fukuyama 1992. Especially since the credit crisis since 2007 neo-liberalism seems to be past its prime.

[67] The view that sphere sovereignty applies to the authority in associations can be found both in Kuyper and in Dooyeweerd. Besides  Kuyper also speaks of sphere sovereignty in ‘spheres of life’, like art or science, which Dooyeweerd develops into the ontological principle of creaturely diversity or mutual irreducibility of modal aspects and character types, see Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, I, 101-102; II, 3-54; 1962, 213; Marshall 1985, 126. In order to avoid this ambiguity I prefer to limit the concept of ‘sovereignty’ to bearers of authority and authority having instances, and ‘sphere sovereignty’ to the board of an association.

[68] Van Doorn 2009, chapter 7.

[69] Fukuyama 2011; Berlin 2006, 19 considers ‘the problem of obedience’ to be the heart of political philosophy.

[70] Burckhardt 1905, 20-24.

[71] Franken et al. 2003, 357-359.

[72] Schilling 1968, 104-105.

[73] Referring to Ecclesiastes 4:12: ‘a cord of three strands is not quickly snapped’.

[74] Duby 1961-1962, 24-26; le Goff 1964, 61, 336-337.

[75] Fukuyama 1992, 179-187.

[76] The transition from family groups (for instance of hunters/gatherers) via tribes to states is strongly connected to the increasing population density and the growth of settlements to cities, see Diamond 1997, chapter 14.

[77] Groen van Prinsterer 1847, 66.

[78] Even at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Dutch government did not succeed in separating these two.

[79] Hayek 1978; Fukuyama 2011, 251-253.

[80] Groen van Prinsterer 1847, 50-56.

[81] In Romans 13:1, Paul does not call the state but any government: ‘Every person must submit to the supreme authorities. There is no authority but by act of God, and the existing authorities are instituted by him.’

[82] Popper 1945, 81.

[83] Specialisms like the history of technology or of science are not or only indirectly concerned with politics, yet they also act on the public domain, typified by the technical or the logical relation frame.

 


 

 

11. Nature and freedom (2018)

 

 

11.1. Romanticism and history

11.2. Naturalism

11.3. Physico-theology

11.4. The uniformity of natural law

11.5. Biblical exegesis

11.6. Enlightened biology

11.7. Evolutionism

11.8. Determinism

11.9. Random processes

11.10. Philosophical and theological objections

11.11. Laws for random events

11.12. Critique of reductionism

11.13. The calling of humanity out of the animal world

11.14. The development of normativity

11.15. The freedom of a person

  

11.1. Romanticism and history

 

Romanticism is often considered a reaction to the Enlightenment.It is an artistic, literary, musical, and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the eighteenth century and in most areas it reached its peak during the first half of the nineteenth. Romanticism is characterized by its emphasis on emotion, aesthetics and naturalness, more on society than on individuals. Its perception of naturalness is a reaction to the scientific rationalization of nature by the Enlightenment. Instead of taking distance to nature the Romantics wanted to return to a natural state of innocence, with a strong preference for a primitive society. They replaced the Renaissance and Enlightenment ideal of classical beauty as mimesis (imitation of nature) by expressionism considering an artist as an autonomous and free creator of art. Although Romanticism was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, it also had a major impact on historiography, education, the natural sciences, and theology. Its political effect on the growth of nationalism was highly significant.

The influence of Romanticism on natural philosophy is mostly expressed in the idea of the unity of all natural forces; its critique of Newton’s concept of force; its objections to the lawfulness of nature, and its stress on subjectivity at the expense of objectivity. It often preferred practice above theory. Whereas the Enlightenment was focussed on physics and mathematics, Romanticism was more interested in chemistry, mineralogy, geology, and biology.

The shift from rationalistic Enlightenment to Romanticism marks the turn from the primacy of the domination of nature to the primacy of personality in humanistic thought. Because this controversy was not overcome in principle, the transition from Enlightenment to Romanticism could be quite smooth. The former is characterized by rationality, the rule of reason, the latter by its emphasis on feeling and sensibility, on unity, harmony, and coherence. However, Isaac Newton’s experimental philosophy and John Locke’s empiricism also took distance from René Descartes’ rationalism. In his three Critiques, Immanuel Kant restricted the scope of reason, subordinating it to feeling. The great romanticist Jean-Jacques Rousseau contributed to the Encyclopédie. Even earlier the staunch rationalist Gottfried Leibniz developed some quite romantic views.

Therefore, apart from the arts, one may consider Romanticism a subdivision of Enlightenment philosophy, a correction more than a reaction. Anyhow, Romanticism never succeeded in replacing Enlightenment philosophy entirely.

 

History played an important part in Romanticism. Both the Renaissance and the rationalist Enlightenment were critical if not disdainful of medieval history, but the Romantics loved it. Moreover they introduced various new philosophies of history. Historism and historicism (which cannot always distinguished from each other), as well as constructivism are part and parcel of the romantic movement. They have strongly influenced the twentieth-century views of the development of science, and there is even a naturalistic philosophy of history as an alternative to a relational one.

Historicism supposes that history is subject to invariant laws, after the model of natural laws. It figures in Georg Hegel’s idealism, in Auguste Comte’s positivism, and in Karl Marx’s historical materialism.[1] Its main law was that of historical progress. The intuition of progress as a value is neither due to the Enlightenment nor to the Renaissance. The later belief in progress as an inevitable law identified progress as a normative cultural principle with the factual history of the seventeenth to nineteenth-century science and technology.[2] This optimistic view on the actual history became a deep felt disappointment at the outbreak of the great European war in 1914, when science and technology became instruments of mass destruction. Progress turned out to lack the compulsory law conformity of a natural law.

In contrast, Romantics like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Johann Herder relativized historical law conformity by individualizing history. This is sometimes called historism, to be distinguished from historicism. It only recognized an endless stream of accidental, contingent, unique and individual occurrences,[3] emphasizing diachronic succession, ‘for historism resolves everything in a continuous stream of historical development. Everything must be seen as the result of its previous history.’[4] ‘It was believed that the understanding of x consisted in knowing the history of x.’[5] Historism absolutizes individual history by relativizing everything else,[6] in particular denying the law-side of normativity, thereby destroying the meaning of history.

A third kind of historism absolutizes the objectivity of historical events, ‘bloss zeigen wie es eigentlich gewesen’ (merely show how it actually happened), according to Leopold von Ranke.[7] This recipe was already applied by Edward Gibbon in The history of the decline and fall of the Roman empire (1776-1789).[8]

It goes without saying that these three variants of historism relativize each other, and as an absolutization of law conformity, subjectivity, or objectivity, neither can be true. Any responsible historical treatise should consider these three points of view equally critically.

Historicism became part of the Soviet philosophy of nature.[9] In theology Ernst Troeltsch was a historist,[10] who like Friedrich Schleiermacher argued that religion is directed to the Absolute. Both were also authorities in biblical text criticism, the vehicle of theological historism. Historism entered philosophy of science in the work of Pierre Duhem, followed by Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend, and even more in social constructivism.

 

11.2. Naturalism

 

Whereas in nineteenth-century academic philosophy after Immanuel Kant the personality ideal prevailed, elsewhere naturalism stressed the dominion of nature. It started with utilitarianism (David Hume, Jeremy Bentham, and William Paley) reducing morality to natural utility, in particular to the experience of pleasure and pain (hedonism). It reached its peak in the radical Enlightenment before it was epitomized in evolutionism.

In 1745 the physician Julien Offray de la Mettrie (disciple of Herman Boerhaave) published L’Histoire naturelle de l’âme at Paris, and in 1747 l’Homme machine at Leiden, deploying mechanistic, deterministic, atheist, and materialistic views on human nature, reminding of Benedict Spinoza.[11] As a monist rejecting any dualism of mind and body, La Mettrie argued that humans are not different from animals, which in turn he treated like machines. Together with his hedonism this met with much resistance both in France and in the Netherlands, urging him to fly to Berlin. Protected by the enlightened despot Frederick the Great he composed his magnum opus Discours sur le bonheur (Discourse on happiness, 1748). La Mettrie opposed moderate Enlightenment with its deism, argument from design and physico-theology.

Since about 1750 Denis Diderot and Paul-Henri d’Holbach propagated materialism as a permanent part of radical Enlightenment. Besides La Mettrie’s works, this was expressed in Denis Diderot’s Lettre sur les aveugles (1749),[12] George-Louis Buffon’s Histoire naturelle (1749-1783, 24 volumes), d’Holbach’s Système de la nature (1770), and especially the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et métiers (1751-1772, 28 volumes), edited by Jean d’Alembert and Denis Diderot.[13] After having initially adhered to it, Diderot abandoned physico-theology, Locke, Newton, and deism, adopting a deterministic evolutionary naturalism.[14] In France, even after d’Alembert in his introduction to the Encyclopédie paid lip service to Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and John Locke, these radical views started to dwarf moderate Enlightenment. In the political and social life radical philosophy became the mouthpiece of the French revolution of 1789. Moderate Enlightenment, in France represented by François-Marie Voltaire[15], remained strongest everywhere else.

A common feature of all Enlightenment philosophers is their rejection of scholastic Aristotelianism. This induced the opposition of many conservative theologians, whether Catholic (including both Jesuits and Jansenists), Calvinist, Lutheran, or Anglican. They stuck to the medieval accommodation of Aristotelian philosophy with Christian theology, as wrought by Thomas Aquinas, after Avicenna and Maimonides did the same for Muslim and Jewish theology, respectively.

Their distinction of the natural and the supernatural realms was not disputed by the mechanists and the moderate Enlightenment philosophers. Like almost all theologians, they abhorred Balthasar Bekker’s book De betoverde weereld (The world bewitched, 1691-1693), criticizing many superstitious views and magical practices, and arguing that only God is supernatural. About 1500 almost everybody believed in God for three reasons: the natural world testifies of a divine plan; social communities like cities, kingdoms and the church point to a higher authority; and people lived in a charmed world full of benignant and malignant spirits.[16] When the reformed minister Bekker asserted that the world is not under any supernatural spell, he undermined common faith, according to his colleagues. Though much despised, his book helped to make an end to witch hunting, after the Middle Ages introduced by the Renaissance.[17] During the seventeenth century, only Benedict Spinoza denied the possibility of miracles,[18] although both Isaac Beeckman and Simon Stevin (with his slogan ‘wonder en is gheen wonder’) were sceptical in this respect. Beeckman observed that in philosophy one must proceed from wonder to no wonder, whereas in theology the reverse should occur. Thereby he rejected any realm of ghosts, witches, and monsters between the natural and supernatural realms.[19]

As a weapon against atheist or pantheist radical Enlightenment, both moderate Enlightenment and counter-Enlightenment made use of physico-theology as a rational foundation of natural religion. In the first half of the eighteenth century, especially Newtonians like Samuel Clarke and Richard Bentley in England, Colin MacLaurin in Scotland, Jan Swammerdam and Bernard Nieuwentijt in The Netherlands, and François-Marie Voltaire in France, as well as Gottfried Leibniz and Christian Wolff in Germany propagated physico-theology based on natural insights. Colin MacLaurin asserted that:

 ‘natural philosophy is subservient to purposes of a higher kind, and is chiefly to be valued as it lays a sure foundation for natural religion and moral philosophy, by leading us, in a satisfactory manner, to the knowledge of the author and governor of the universe’.[20]

 

During the French Terreur, the rule of terror from 1792 to 1794, the deist Maximilien de Robespierre acted as a high priest in the worship of reason and the supreme being as the natural state religion, with immortality as its main dogma. Glorifying the views of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, it was a romantic reaction against the atheism of the radical Enlightenment.

In nineteenth-century England, William Paley’s books Principles of moral and political philosophy (1785), and Natural theology, orevidences of the existence and attributes of the Deity (1802), were widely read and very influential. He became famous because of the watchmaker argument, though he did not invent it.[21] Anybody being confronted with something as complicated as a watch will admit that an intelligent being must have designed and made it. In a similar way plants, animals and human beings point to an intelligent creator. This argument from design for the existence of God adds to the argument from perfection (God is perfect, and someone who does not exist cannot be perfect), as well as to the argument from causality (if everything has a cause, there must necessarily be a first cause).[22]

In some polytheistic religions, the gods are like men subjected to an impersonal moral power, such as the Greek anankè or the Indian karma.[23] Because an impersonal superpower was no option in the West, rationalistic theologians took a different path. People are evidently imperfect. In suit of Augustine’s neo-Platonism they chose as a starting point for their rational analysis the definition of God as a perfect being with perfect attributes.[24]

God’s perfection would imply the simplicitas Dei, the neo-Platonic doctrine (due to Augustine, and defended by Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas Aquinas) that God is one and does not have parts. In this respect Christian philosophers had to argue against Jews and Muslims about the trinity. Assuming that whatever is changeable cannot be perfect, perfectionists state that God must be unchangeable. The theologian Emil Brunner criticized the general trend of Protestant Scholastics to ground their entire systematic theology in this idea of simplicitas Dei. Brunner argued that the notion only arises if one makes the abstract idea of the Absolute the starting-point for our thought.

The bible nowhere indicates that God would be unchangeable in all respects.[25] God accompanies the history of His people, sharing in their suffering. Compared to Homer’s epics, the bible presents itself as a volume of historical narratives with various authors.[26] It is not strange to write a biography, in which God acts as the principal person in a literary work.[27] God reveals Himself in the Old and New Testament always as a concrete person in historical situations and never as an abstraction like the absolute, the perfect being, or as providence.

 

11.3. Physico-theology

 

A branch of natural theology, since the seventeenth century physico-theology welcomed each scientific result as a new proof of the existence of a benevolent Creator.[28] The belief in God was increasingly built on the progress of Newtonian science.[29] In particular the argument of design, more due to Plato[30] than to Aristotle, was popular. The effectiveness and usefulness of nature required as an explanation the existence of a suitable building plan and a conscious designer. David Hume rejected the argument from design,[31] but his views being purely philosophical made little impact in the scientific community, which generally adhered to physico-theology until the middle of the nineteenth century.

In 1755, Portugal experienced an earthquake with a death toll in Lisbon alone of between 10,000 and 100,000. It made a deep impression on the Enlightenment philosophers who started to question the idea of a benevolent God. It also led to the birth of modern seismology and earthquake engineering, replacing supernatural intervention by natural explanations.

In physico-theology, God was required to explain all phenomena that could not be explained by natural laws, but the increasing knowledge of nature diminished the range of the ‘God of the gaps’. Generally, two sources of knowledge of God were acknowledged: the Holy Scripture as word revelation, and nature as creation revelation. In case of conflict, both Francis Bacon and Galileo Galilei gave priority to natural science. Word revelation lost much of its appeal, not because of science, but because of the criticism exerted by Enlightened theologians, treating the bible as any other human text. Since the end of the nineteenth century, the two revelations appeared to lead to contrary views, and many people started to consider science a competitor of religion, with its own view of creation, fall into sin, and redemption. In the twentieth century the not very successful idea of a physical ‘theory of everything’ expressed the temptation to find God through science.[32]

The weakness of physico-theology is that it may be able to prove the existence of God as the Creator of the world, but it in no way leads to the message of the Gospel, to miracles, and to the authority of the church.[33] Already in the seventeenth century Blaise Pascal criticized the Enlightenment project to find the ‘philosophers’ God’. It fact physico-theology provided more support for a natural religion, an enlightened providential deism, than for Christianity, whether Catholic or Protestant. Therefore miracles as reported by eye-witnesses in the new testament (in particular concerning Christ’s resurrection) were often presented as evidence additional to natural theology.</