Archive for June 2007

Lecture 35

22 June, 2007

Imagine again a modern coffee shop so enclosed within a glass wall that we who are without can see and hear what is going on inside without being detected. Inside, life is going on as is usual in such a coffee shop. But let us suppose that we have lined up around the outside of the glass wall a group of scientists (scientific in the sense of Wissenschaft) intent on observing the life within. Let us say that among them are a physicist, a biologist, a logician, a linguist, a student of social life, an economist and a student of aesthetics. All these scientists observe the same life-situations: some people inside are standing at the counter ordering; others are sitting at tables alone or in groups, the latter engaged in quiet or animated conversation.The logician listens for logical enthymes. In reasoning there is syllogistic structures. Enthymenes are syllogisms where one of the three terms has not been expressed. Interested in first and second order enthymenes, are there adequate grounds for the conclusion? There are only two grounds: the minor and major premise.

The linguist abstracts those ‘moments’ that have something to tell him about human symbolical communication.

The student of social life, sociologist, is watching for social mores (plural of Latin word the mos, customs, it has come to mean the social ways ); he may be studying the very same gestures the linguist is watching, but rather from the standpoint of ways of persons’ getting along with one another rather than from the standpoint of symbolical communication.

Finally, the economist, he abstracts economic figures, he notices how large a cup of coffee you can buy for the price paid, and for signs of the ‘market’s’ willingness or unwillingness to pay. (Note that when we speak of the people on the floor of the stock exchange – or, for that matter, the people assembled at an old European village market – as ‘market’ we are using a term which describes that human situation there (Human Society) not in its integral wholeness of meaning, but only from the abstract economic point of view. In ordinary life we use language more casual than we do in scientific thought. The kind of functionality that dominates is the economic, but they are human, God’s covenant creatures, gathered together to do economics. There, in the stock market, we see human life at this moment, the economic function of life dominates.

Office means a commission, a divine task and the authority to do that task. Jesus was given the authority to do the task, his ‘active obedience’, that’s what earned us our righteousness.  One WTS lecturer when dying sent a telegram to John Murray, ‘Thank God for his active obedience of Christ’. We are accounted as righteous because we are identified with him who was obedient to God’s law, he earned eternal life, he accomplished it for himself and for us. His death was his passive obedience; a righteous life and his death a payment for the breaking of the covenant. He submitted to the wrath of God on our part. In that sense Christ is the centre of biblical revelation. The conditions of the covenant were met – covenantal obedience – and the punishment for disobedience paid for.

Talking about the stock market, can’t say that’s economic life, but we can see the economic side. Sensing that a particular act is somehow governed by the economic aspect, although it is not just economic life.
Finally, the student of aesthetics will be observing in the life that is playing itself off inside the coffee shop what is pleasing and harmonious in the gestures, movements, arrangements, etc. He too is abstracting ‘figures.’ These illustrations, I think, make sufficiently clear why we must not, scientistically, seek the unity and meaning of life in any body of scientific knowledge. The sciences arise from the fact that there are various ways (Latin: modus; English: modes, hence, modalities) of viewing the one reality, and every special science deals with only a ‘facet’ of life.

How do we define scientific and non-scientific? I’ve been giving examples to show this. Physical, biotic, organic, economic, lingual, social we are going to call modal functions. I’ve been leading up to Dooyeweerd’s theory of modal functions.
This diagram is not the divine plan! Dooyeweerd was aware that there was room for improvement and development. Why does a system of thought have to be a closed system?

Man has loved systems, William James says, ‘systems are closed’. How can a humanist have a system unless it is closed? For Christians we know God’s creation is integral, but it doesn’t mean we have grasped all of it. There is one creation order, we also know that it is that order that we experience, we can make mistakes, but that can be corrected. God’s creation is revelatory. We are guided by God’s revelation, sin distorts and disrupts, but we are open to his revelation. We need to be always open to correction.

Dooyeweerd first had 12 modalities in the 1920s, now there are 15.
Lower one is called numerical, then spatial, kinematic, physical, biotic, psychical, analytical, historial, lingual or symbolical, social, economic, aesthetic, jural, ethical, pistic.

We mean by scientific knowledge is knowledge that deals with modal abstractions. The word abstraction means a lot of things to different people.

The modal aspects are the building blocks of creation. All these areas of functionality, these spheres have laws that can’t be reduced to the laws of another sphere. This is what Dooyeweerd means by sphere sovereignty, it is sphere irreducibility. Everyone of these spheres shows a law side to it, psychical laws that can’t be reduced lingual laws and so on. This derives from Kuyper’s view, Kuyper meant something else by spheres, church, family, state and so on.

Evolutionary thinkers came along after Kuyper how can you say these structures are different? Evolutionism is a levelling process, everything reduced to physical or organic functionality. The next generation after Kuyper, said yes we know the state is different to the family, but how can we scientifically show it is the case, this is what Dooyeweerd looked at, what makes a family different from the inner structure of the State, different from the inner structure of the University etc. Kuyper’s doctrine of sphere sovereignty led to thinking about what is the internal structures, what are the ontic grounds for experiencing them.

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Lecture 34

9 June, 2007

A second illustration may serve to bring into still sharper focus the relation of scientific knowledge to naive experience. Imagine a modern coffee shop so enclosed within a glass wall that we who are without can see and hear what is going on inside without being detected. Inside, life is going on as is usual in such a coffee shop. But let us suppose that we have lined up around the outside of the glass wall a group of scientists (scientific in the sense of Wissenschaft) intent on observing the life within. Let us say that among them are a physicist, a biologist, a logician, a linguist, a student of social life, an economist and a student of aesthetics. All these scientists observe the same life-situations: some people inside are standing at the counter ordering; others are sitting at tables alone or in groups, the latter engaged in quiet or animated conversation.

Each of these scientists observing is first of all a man and each experiences happenings in their integral wholeness. There are such things as: persons, things, acts, events, relations, institutions which we experience whole, or integrally as an integer, a whole. Each of these wholes have a complex internal function which has to be implicitly experienced. They have a whole structure, an undifferentiated whole, that we experience them in everyday life differentiation is embedded in it. The psychical is diferent from the logical and so on, it is grounded in an internal structure. Implicitly seen in the undifferentiated whole. It is a highly complex internal structure – the physical can be set apart from organic etc, experienced as distinct aspects of the whole.

But out of this whole situation, which each scientist experiences, the physicist, for example, abstracts only those ‘figures’ that tell something about mass, motion, force, etc., such as the work involved in lifting a cup of coffee from the tabletop to the mouth against the pull of gravity. Other than figures of this kind he utterly ignores, or brackets, as physicist, he ‘abstracts’ the physical. At the same time that our physicist is doing this the biologist watches for such things as the return of ‘life’ to the exhausted body, digestion, etc, he looks for the ‘biotic’. He ignores the physical and other ‘figures’ the other scientists are raptly observing.

What is the difference between ‘biotic’ and biological’? Biological has logos in it and in these combinations it means theory about the biotic. It is part of the modern mind that we have no access to the real world and so biotic and biological become identical. ‘Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny’, according to evolutionary theory the development of the higher out of the lower is repeated in the genesis of individuals. At certain stages we looked like a fish and bird and so on, our foetal development recapitulates the evolutionary notion of the development of the phylum, it was consider a basic principle of biology at one time. This is a biological statement and theaken to be a biological fact. But because some men have accepted this as the principle asis it doesn’t mena that it is the structure of living beings. That is why important to distinguish biological (theory) from biotic (reality). If don’t distinguish, look at the confusion.

For example, photosynthesis is biotic, but theories about it are biological; same as sociological and social, psychological and psychical, ontological and ontic. Most believe we can’t know the structure of reality, that is why most now talk about models. If it works we go along with it, if it doesn’t we come up with another model – the structure of reality is unknowable! Yet, there is a law structure that is knowable and revelatory. Our ontology will be incomplete – important that we are on the right track.

Back to the coffee shop. The biologists is looking for the vital functions. Funtions of another sort than the physical functions or ‘figures’. Heart beat, pulse and so on.

The logician listens for logical ‘figures’ of implication in the often enthymemic reasoning of everyday life.

An enthymeme is an interesting word. The science of logic, Aristotle is regarded as the father of lodic theorising, to systematically develop logical theory. Logic theory reduced to the theory of the syllogism. The structure of the syllogism is present in all human reasoning, one lawful structure. What is syllogistic structure?

All men are mortals
Socrates is a man
Therefore
Socrates is mortal

This is the ideal form of a syllogism. Three sentences, or propositions. One rule is that there must be three and only three propositions. Three terms: man, mortal, Socrates. The premises, or grounds, are the first two propositions for the conclusion. The major premise, the minor premise, conclusion. If these two are true I can go further and say this. It is co-terminus.

The middle term: ‘men’, it occurs in the two premises. Mortal and Socrates only occur once.

All Y is Z
All X is Y
Therefore
All X is Z

Aristotle reduced all human reasoning to this.
The logicism is looking for enthymenic, an enthymene comes form two Greek words, in and heart, the inner man. In everyday life we don’t say all three terms of a syllogism. Eg ‘I wouldn’t associate with those people down the street, they are communists’. This is part of a syllogism:

All communists are persons not be be associated with (major premise)
The people down the street are communists (minor premise)
Therefore
The people down the street are not to be associated with (conclusion)

The major premise is presupposed. It was not expresses, an enthymene is what is a really a syllogostic argument, where one of the three statements has not been expressed. It could be the major or minor premise that has not been expressed (first order and second order, respectively). if the conclusion is not expressed it is an enthymene of the third order.