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Comparison between Heidegger's and Dooyeweerd's Thought

This page briefly compares some of Heidegger's and Dooyeweerd's ideas. Contents:

Also, Rudi Hayward has written a dissertation on Heidegger, that he has allowed us to have, in which he makes some comparison with Dooyeweerd.

Warning: Heidegger's Being and Time is, apparently, even more difficult to understand than Dooyeweerd's New Critique. (Actually I find it easier - which probably means I have completely misunderstood it!) So please correct us if we have misunderstood Heidegger.

Legend has it that Dooyeweerd obtained Being and Time soon after it was published in 1927, and then read it thirteen times before he made any claim to understand it. His own copy, heavily marked in margin and underscored, is housed in the library of the Toronto Institute for Christian Studies. [Source: Wolters, 1985] So his comments on Heidegger are probably worth something.

PART I - ON Being and Time

This part compares Heidegger's ideas in his most famous work Being and Time with Dooyeweerd's thought. There are many interesting parallels. It may be that what Heidegger did for Being, Dooyeweerd did for Meaning.

Table of Comparison

Heidegger Dooyeweerd Agrees Dooyeweerd Disagrees/
Takes Further
Starting point: not the 'thinking I',
but 'existence' that precedes thinking
and is present in it.
Starting point: not the 'thinking I',
but 'law' that precedes thinking
and is present in it.
Law/meaning rather than existence.
Sees only entity-side
(things, events)
law-side + entity-side
'worlding' Law-framework -
the 'meaning of being'
Law-framework in which being is.
"Meaning is the Being of all that is created."
Hdg's conclusion was Dooy's starting point.
Dooy asked what the world is like
starts with Meaning r.t. Being.
"Nothing exists in isolation." Interconnectedness is not only in entity-side but also in law-side, and also to Divine.
'power-to-be' The enabling that aspects provide
'Being itself' (without 'there')
expresses itself in human thought
(of 'later' Hdg)
Analytic functioning generates
isolated objects.
But that is not 'Being itself'. It is only being in the analytic aspect. There is no 'being itself' within creation.
The thinking person is where Being can come out into the open. [Schuurman:85] Person functioning in analytic aspect distinguishes things, and also makes the structure of law-side visible. -
Structures of all being become visible through the meditation of self. [Schuurman:85] Structures may be analysed theoretically via higher abstraction. Structures are visible to lower abstraction
'Being itself' not static but dynamic.
It is event. 'Historical'.
Distinguishing is event. What we distinguish is not static; it is under our control. (Note: Dooyeweerd sees 'historical' as of formative aspect.)
Everyday being is 'inauthentic' [Schuurman:84] Everyday being is not theoretically analyzable. Everyday being is the more authentic. See vignette.
Ge-stell ?? Multi-aspectual disclosure ?? -
Essence (Wesen) ?? Qualifying aspect ??
Technicity not only as utility but 'revealment'; see below Technicity: our functioning in formative aspect. See below. cf. Strijbos' 'Disclosive Systems Thinking'.
"Designing is not unlimited possibility. The being of man is radically limited in its 'power-to-be'. Man is 'thrown' into a 'beginning situation'." [Schuurman:84] The aspects guide what we are, do, design, normatively.
"Man is 'thrown' into a 'beginning situation'." [Schuurman:84] We are interconnected and we function historically. But our thrownness is not only into the entity-side ('situation'), but also the law-side.
Humanity's 'compulsory fate':
Humanity is 'sent' forth to 'reveal'.
Humanity's 'Cultural Mandate'. Sent forth by God, r.t. by 'fate'.
Maybe Hdg was discovering the God-given without allowing himself to think in those terms?
From Phenomenological Interpretation of Aristotle
especially in relation to meaningfulness
The character of the world in caring is meaningfulness
"Meaningfulness is a categorial determination of the world: the objects of a world, worldly, world-some objects, are lived inasmuch as they embody the character of meaningfulness." [p.68] "Meaning is the being of all that has been created and the nature even of our selfhood. ..." [NC,I,4] "... It has a religious root and a divine origin." Hdg "walked in the paths of immanence philosophy", and hence could not allow hiself to conceive of meaningfulness as having a Divine origin.
"The categorial sense of meaningfulness to be taken: 1) in an appropriately broad way, and 2) as a categorial character of objects (formally: that towards which caring is directed: 'something' (object), a character that is not in any way founded" [p.68] Aspects (spheres of meaningfulness) are the basis of types or categories of objects. See Existence; each thing is what it is by virtue of the way it functions in the aspects.
"The category of meaningfulness indicates how objects are in life according to the basic sense of their content and how they hold themselves and comport themselves in a world and under what guise they do so." [p.70] Aspectual profiles (way a thing functions, or potentially functions) in each of the aspects indicates how objects 'comport themselves' in the world.
"Meaningfulness is not experienced as such, explicitly; yet it can be experienced. The 'can' possesses its own specific categorial sense, the transition from explicitness to non-explicitness is, in an eminent way, 'categorial' (interpretation of the categories!). ..." [p.70] The explicit separation out of ways of being meaningful, i.e. the aspects, requires explication, i.e. analytical thought. However, Dooyeweerd believes that we all experience meaningfulness implicitly, by 'living within' it, as fish live in an ocean. This is a signal departure from Heidegger.
"... Meaningfulness becomes explicit in the proper interpretation of life with respect to itself, and thence we can first fully understand what it 's' and means to live factically 'in' meaningfulness. ..." [p.70] Here Heidegger gets very close Dooyeweerd's notion of living 'in' meaningfulness. But, as we shall see, he immediately moves away from it; perhaps he saw its danger to his immanence standpoint? ...
"... The abbreviated expression, 'to live in meaningfulness,' means to live in, out of, and from objects whole content is of the categorial character of the meaningful. " [p.70] Here Hdg tries to move back from the implications of living in meaningfulness, as though meaningfulness is given. Dooyeweerd believes that we do indeed 'live in' meaningfulness, as fish live in an ocean. This is a signal departure from Heidegger. Dooyeweerd made Meaningfulness his starting point; Heidegger made Being his starting point.
"realms of meaningfulness" [p.76, 76] Each aspect is a sphere of meaningfulness, a 'realm' if you like, a law-sphere. But Hdg did not allow himself to conceive of a law side.
One mode of meaningfulness is multiplicity [p.78] Dooyeweerd's understanding of the quantitative aspect is multiplicity.
'distance' is encountered in life as a "mode of meaningfulness" [p.77] This sounds to me similar to Dooyeweerd's notion of Gegenstand in theoretical thought.
"Factical life develops ever new possibilities of meaningfulness in which it can bestir itself and can in that way be assured of its own 'meaning'." [p.80] This sounds to me very like Dooyeweerd's notion of concrete actuality (the subject side), in which the meaningfulness of the aspects is expressed concretely in a myriad of ways. It also echoes the idea of Dooyeweerd's notion of the opening of the potential of aspects by historical process, especially in technology. c.f. technology as revealment below.


On Time

According to Wolters, Dooyeweerd's notion of cosmic time has a lot in common with Heidegger's. Both are centred on continuity. But must wait for more. According to Dooyeweerd [NC II:525] (I have not read Heidegger himself on this) "Time as 'pure intuition' and 'pure self-affection' is the essence of the finite human selfhood." But, to Dooyeweerd, the relationship between time and selfhood is different.

See comparison between Heidegger and Dooyeweerd on time on the Time page.

On Being of God and Creatures

As I understand it, Heidegger tried to ask "Why is there anything rather than nothing?", including even the Being of God in his question. But Dooyeweerd held that the Being of God and that of creatures cannot be brought together under the same metaphysical notion. If God is Creator, the bringer into Being, then he creates the very possibility of Being as we know it, and hence his own Being cannot be of this type. There is absolutely no justification for presupposing the two types of Being are in any way the same.

On Being in Everyday Experience

For Heidegger, paradoxically, the everyday ends up meaningless. As Rudi Hayward puts it:

"This is the ambivalence of the everyday, at one point it gives us critical leverage over rational metaphysics and yet it ends up in its traditional role of the superficial, and vague covering which obscures the deeper truth of being."

But for Dooyeweerd, the everyday was pulsing with meaning and significance, because it is multi-aspectual functioning and it is the aspects that make its meaning. Rudi Hayward says:

"Dooyeweerd understood reality to be a complexity of meaning; not only do entities exist within a referential framework, as with Heidegger, but also basic modes of meaning depend and relate to each other in a coherence of references. Dooyeweerd writes that "every aspect of experience expresses within its model structure the entire temporal order and connection of all the aspects", and so all of the modes of experience, "in spite of their mutual irreducibility - are interrelated in an unbreakable coherence of meaning." Modes of meaning do not exist in themselves, instead they are only to be thought of in connection with actual beings, in this way Dooyeweerd rejected all ideas of substances or things in themselves that somehow stand behind everyday experience."

On 'Worlding'

Dooyeweerd's notion that aspects pertain and transcend humanity is not unlike Heidegger's notion of 'worlding' of things, by which a thing is what it is, for example a pen is a pen rather than a piece of plastic by virtue of writing. Though this relates to Dooyeweerd's theory of entities, what is relevant here is that Heidegger wanted to move away from an anthropocentric notion of pen as merely a tool for humanity, to something beyond, namely writing as such - which is very similar to Dooyeweerd's lingual aspect. The lingual aspect pertains, including its possibility of offering 'penness' to the Cosmos, beyond the needs or aspirations of humanity. So, similarly, do all the other aspects, and Dooyeweerd thus might lend richness to Heidegger's idea of 'worlding'.

See also Rudi Hayward's discussion of 'being-in-the-world'.

PART II - On The Question Concerning Technology

The following text has been taken from a draft of a book I am writing. Until properly written, it is offered here in case scholars find it helpful. It should at least stimulate some ideas. A.B. 19 March 2015

An Overview of Heidegger's View of Technology

In his The Question Concerning Technology, Heidegger [====] wanted to disclose the what technology actually is, what its essence is. The journey in developing Heidegger's idea of technology is lengthy, via etymological reflection on various Greek words, but contains many valuable insights that resonate today. Technology is not just instrumental but is a revealing of the inherent potential; when making a chalice, the silversmith should not be seen as wrestling with silver to force it into the chalice-form that the smith wants, but rather as enabling the potential of chaliceness already in the silver to 'arrive' in existence. Technology is thus 'arrival' of new things or 'revealing' the potential of materials, a feature it shares with poetry. Responsibility for bringing things into existence. We might question, though, what constitutes this 'potential', something that Heidegger does not adequately address.

Modern technology, however, distorts this, being a frame of mind ('enframing'), which sees the rest of reality as nothing more than raw materials to shape to serve humanity's ends as a 'standing reserve' of energy, linked closely with humanity's desire to categorise. Whereas the chalice has meaningfulness beyond the human, the many societal products of technology, such as the airplane, has meaningfulness only for the human. It does not seem to be difference between craft and 'systemic' technology that is at issue here, but the idea of serving the self of humanity rather than the rest of reality. Heidegger [1977, 20] put it: "Enframing means the gathering together of that setting-upon which sets upon man, i.e., challenges him forth, to reveal the real, in the mode of ordering, as standing-reserve. Enframing means that way of revealing which holds sway in the essence of modern technology and which is itself nothing technological." Heidegger seems to be emphasising the sway that technology has over humankind.

Ultimately, even humanity, according to Heidegger, is seen in this way: the woodcutter is seen as meaningless except in serving the interests of the pulping industry, which is itself seen as meaningless except in serving the interests of the printing industry, who also see readers as merely serving its own interests.

Humanity is being 'sent' towards a destiny, is itself 'arriving', and the destiny Heidegger sees with modern technology caused him much anxiety. He argued, however, that the destination is not fixed, and there is a choice: humanity can instead arrive at a destiny in which it is in harmony with the world, revealing the world's potential, through art.

(This sounds very like the Biblical interpretation of humankind's role as opening up the potential of the rest of creation, not for humanity's sake but for the sake of the rest of creation, as shepherds of creation rather than as consumers -- but Heidegger did not allow himself access to the saving work of Christ and the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of people to effect changes in attitude, so his hope that humanity can choose this comes across as speculative nostalgia. See Dooyeweerd's affirmation, and also Dooyeweerd's notion of progress.)

Dooyeweerdian Affirmation, Critique and Enrichment of Heidegger's View on Technology

Heidegger's admirable and ground-breaking attempt to understand 'what technology is' opened up a number of important insights that had previously been overlooked, such the idea that technology 'reveals' innate potential in materials and helps that potential to 'arrive', the technology is an 'enframing' and that humanity itself is 'sent' in a particular direction and 'arrives' at a destination. While Heidegger grounds these largely in etymology, Dooyeweerd can provide a deeper philosophical understanding of them, to both affirm, critique and enrich. The discussion below may be seen as an exemplar of how Dooyeweerd might engage with such thinkers.

Heidegger's suggestion that technology is 'revealment' of the innate potential in things finds clear parallels in Dooyeweerd: the potential in silver of 'chaliceness' (Heidegger) is matched by 'potential' in marble of 'statueness' (Dooyeweerd), both in the context of craft-based technology. To talk about technological process, to Dooyeweerd, is to focus on the formative aspect of technological activity, of human shaping. This cautiously affirms some validity for the 'instrumentalistic' view of technology that Heidegger was trying to get away from, but Dooyeweerd's view is this is not the only important aspect of the process of crafting the statue or chalice, and that the absolutization of the formative aspect, which is inherent in the instrumentalist view, is wrong and misleading.

Dooyeweerd would see Heidegger as trying to escape this absolutization and emphasise some of the other important aspects of technological activity. Heidegger's emphasis on 'giving', in which the world 'gives' itself to us, opens itself up to us, in the technological process, is very like Dooyeweerd's ethical aspect of self-giving. The 'indebtedness' of the chalice to the silversmith for helping it to 'arrive', and the responsibility of the human who is in the 'driving seat' of technology, are juridical aspects of technological activity. Heidegger seems to have dwelt on these two, possibly because they are often overlooked in technological activity (c.f. Schuurman's [1980] normative approach), but Dooyeweerd would draw attention to others. Social aspects of technology might include agreements and cooperation, economic aspects of technology, responding to resource limitations, aesthetic aspects of technology, not only in the beauty of the thing produced but also in the elegance of the activity itself, pistic aspects of technology, in the vision, assumptions and commitments underlying the activity, to say nothing of the quantitative, spatial, kinematic, physical, biotic, psychic, analytic and lingual aspects. So, in Dooyeweerd's view, all these aspects are important in technological activity, in these and yet other ways, which is why even though the formative aspect is central (and is the one that instrumentalism focuses upon), it is by no means sufficient.

Heidegger's idea of technology revealing the innate potential of the material, however, begs the question of what constitutes potential. Dooyeweerd accounts for what constitutes this potential by his novel conception of the subject-object relationship, in which anything can function in all aspects as object. In this case the silver and marble function as object of the crafter's technological activity, and the potential for 'chaliceness' and 'statueness' may be seen as the something meaningful in the pistic and aesthetic aspects, in which the crafter functions as subject while forming them. Even though the material does not function as subject therein, that it is meaningful in these aspects constitutes its object functioning therein. The meaningfulness in these aspects is not to be solely imparted by the subject; the potential for chaliceness and statueness is inherent in the silver and marble even if no crafter ever uses them thus. This provides Heidegger with a conundrum: how to account for the meaningful-to-human potential inherent in non-human materials? Heidegger, in reacting against the Cartesian subject-object idea, tried to dissolve the difference between subject and object and thus deprived himself of the ability to explore this in the way Dooyeweerd does. (Note: the innate potential of the object in ways meaningful to the subject is also important in the idea of 'affordance', and to which Heidegger's philosophy has been linked.)

Heidegger's idea of technology as 'enframing' seems to be that of a technological frame of mind which holds sway over humanity, so that the products of technology merely serve humanity rather than a reality outwith humanity. This would be seen by Dooyeweerd as (a) pistic functioning by which we take a view of reality and become (more or less willingly) enslaved to it, (b) the apostasy in which humanity orientates itself to serve itself rather than the rest of reality (or even God), and elevate some aspect, in the case the formative aspect of shaping, to this end. This has much to contribute to modern humanity's response to the challenge of climate change.

This discussion of Heidegger's view of technology serves to exemplify how Dooyeweerd might be used to affirm, critique and enrich the thought of a thinker. Heidegger's ideas were affirmed by reference to aspects, to the question of subject and object, and to the apostasy of the human heart. This can provide a basis for genuine discourse between the two philosophies. Critique ranges from minor to deep. The limitation in range of aspects that interested Heidegger is minor. Lack of questioning what constitutes 'potential' that is technological revealed, and conflation of subject and object are medium critiques. The deep critique is about Heidegger's grounding presuppositions; though he rethought much that preceded him, he "moves in the paths of immanence philosophy; his Archimedean point is in 'existential thought', thus making the 'transcendental ego' sovereign" [Dooyeweerd, 1955,IV,p.88]. Immanence philosophy cannot properly address issues of meaningfulness, ends up in dialectical antinomies, and inevitably tends to absolutize aspects, and this is why we find Heidegger works against himself, to prevent finding what he sought. Enrichment of Heidegger might be to (a) consider all aspects of technological activity, to penetratingly analyse what constitutes potential, to recognise that subject and object are different in pre-theoretical experience, and to recognise the importance of meaningfulness as a ground of Being.

Discussion of how Dooyeweerd might affirm, critique and enrich Heidegger is yet to be undertaken as philosophical research; the above are mere pointers. However they provide an exemplar. The contribution such research might make is to first deepen Heidegger's important insights and to provide philosophical as well as etymological grounding for them, to open up new avenues to explore, and possibly also to make Heidegger's ideas more practical.

PART III - Dooyeweerd's Responses to Heidegger

I have a picture of us all living and existing within a porcelain sphere, thin-walled, beautiful but immeasurably strong. Most of us give thougnt to the contents around us within the sphere but little thought to the sphere itself. But Heidegger was not content, and explored until he reached the edge, the inner surface of the wall of the sphere. He examined the surface and tried to explain it as a given. Few have done as he did.

Dooyeweerd also gave thought to the sphere. But he saw beyond and through it. Not clearly, he felt a warmth that radiated from a source outside, and discerned a light that permeated through its thin walls. He took as a given not the sphere itself but the transcendent maker of the sphere, and thereby saw the sphere and all inside it as of infinite value.

Dooyeweerd's Appreciation of Heidegger

Dooyeweerd held Kant in high regard - but he seems to have held Heidegger in even higher regard. He said [NC III:525]:

"Heidegger here shows a much deeper insight into the real problems of the cognitive synthesis than Kant's most articulate modern followers. The latter simply eulogize Kant's discovery of 'the synthetical character of all objective knowledge' and his 'Copernican deed', without penetrating to the crucial questions implied in his transcendental idealism. Perhaps Heidegger's superiority in this respect is due to the fact that, however much he may start from the philosophical immanence-standpoint, he approaches Kant from the modern state of decline of the Humanistic ideals of personality and science. In Kant these two still function as the unshakable pillars of his cosmonomic Idea. His faith in the autonomy of theoretical reason caused him to overlook the most fundamental problems of a transcendental critique of human knowledge. Heidegger, who is no longer biased by this dogmatic prejudice, was confronted with the real problem of the inter-functional synthesis and tries to solve it in his own way, though he ascribes this solution to Kant himself. // Heidegger's interpretation of Kant changes that philosopher's thought considerably both as to its foundation and its essence. And yet Heidegger's book [Being and Time] is extremely valuable as an attempt to think out the problems of Kant's Kritik der reinen Vernunft with regard to the fundamental chapter on the 'synthesis'."

Dooyeweerd's Comments on Heidegger from Index

These are Dooyeweerd's comments on Heidegger found in the index of NC volume IV, with volume and page number, so you can look them up. As yet, I have neither sorted nor categorized them.

This page is part of a collection of pages that links to various thinkers, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.

Copyright (c) all dates below Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.

Written on the Amiga and Protext.

Created: 10 July 2003 Last updated: 25 July 2003 legend, time, being; Index, link to Rudi Hayward. 21 August 2003 table comparison started, with 'porcelain sphere'. 20 September 2003 Dooyeweerd's appreciation of Hdg; reordered sections. 23 September 2003 link to time#hdg. 17 June 2010 new .nav, .end, rid unet. 19 March 2015 Rearranged into Parts, and added part II, The Question Concerning Technology; also spellcorrect in Title! 26 September 2015 added bits from Hdg's discussion of meaningfulness in Phenomenological interpretation of Ariststle; rid counter. 28 September 2015 more from that.