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Comparison of Dooyeweerd and Spinoza

G.E. Langemeyer, the Dutch jurist, a humanist, believed Dooyeweerd to be "the most original philosopher Holland has produced, even Spinoza not excepted." (See fuller statement).) In what ways? This page does not go all the way to answering that but it attempts to provide pointers to comparing the thinking of the two great men. It takes the form of a table showing some elements of Spinoza's thought, along with how Dooyeweerdian thought might agree with it (sometimes approximately or 'in spirit', in a way that might enrich Spinoza's thought) and how Dooyeweerd's thought differs from it.

Spinoza Dooyeweerd agrees Dooyeweerd differs
Spinoza took a cosmic view, seeing all 'sub specie aeternitatis' Dooyeweerd also took a cosmic view, and thus tackled such things as time and the human self. -
Believed in universal laws of nature ... Believed there is a law side to created reality that provides laws that universally pertain but considered the diversity of such law (aspects), and that law has the form of promise rather then authoritarian demand. (And Dooyeweerd differentiated between aspectual law-promise and such constructed things as social norms and legal rules.)
... that determine all we do (e.g. we are affected by our culture and genetics). Yes, aspectual law cannot be escaped, nor can its effects, and we are indeed guided and enabled by the laws of nature (aspectual law), but .. .. only the law of earlier aspects is determinative; that of the later aspects is normative.
Critical of Descartes' dualism of subject and object. Likewise critical of Descartes' dualism of subject and object. -
We are within, part of nature rather than separated from it. We are part of nature and interconnected with it .. .. but humanity has special place within it as 'image of God'.
Spinoza was driven to monism. Dooyeweerd maintained pluralism, in that the aspects are irreducible to each other in their meaning.
Nature (and its laws) is the same as God. (Pantheism) Yes, God is the one who gave us the law side (and thus we cannot escape them), but .. .. God is transcendent creator, of which the laws are created by him in order to enable his creation to Be and Occur. (What Spinoza saw as God may perhaps be better interpreted as the sum total of created reality; c.f. our interpretation of Hegel's notion of the Divine.)
Only God (nature) is fully free. Yes, God is not subject to the laws he gave to this creation, and so may be said to be free, .. .. but human beings have genuine freedom, which is enabled by the aspectual law-framework.
We are influenced by inner and outer causes. (Inner = laws of nature, outer = e.g. puppeteer.) Inner causes relate to the law side (aspectual law) as above; outer causes relate to the entity side, that is our temporal relationships with entities and stuff and events that actually occur. The latter relationships may be of several kinds, including subject-object and enkaptic. But 'cause' is the wrong word, used only analogically.
Spinoza held that all is made of a single substance (which is the same as nature or God) ... - Dooyeweerd strenuously denied and argued against any substance-concept, believing it to have led to innumerable problems in philosophy.
... but they are of different attributes, especially of thought and extension ... Dooyeweerd acknowledged the reality of thinking .. .. but denied the separation implicit in thought v extension.
... and of various 'modes', which are particular manners which substance assumes. Spinoza's modes might be seen as Dooyeweerd's aspects, which he also called modes or modalities, .. .. but they are modalities of meaning and not of substance.

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) 2005 Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.

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Created: 11 July 2005 Last updated: