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Dooyeweerd's notion of humanity is wide-ranging, covering multi-aspectual living, the self, the religious root, temporality and a-temporality in creation, etc. It is useful to distinguish two main issues:

But it should be noted that this is very different from Descartes' ideas of Res extensa and Res cogitans.

Some other pages at end.

Multi-Aspectual Living

If we restrict our living to a few aspects, then we do not live fully human lives. This is often what we mean by 'fully human'. For example, if we ignore the aesthetic and social aspects of life, focusing on the biotic aspect of eating and the sensitive aspect of feeling good, then we might be rightly criticised as not being 'fully human', even though our bodies and individual minds might be healthy. Likewise, an extremely selfish person is less than human; they ignore the ethical aspect of self-giving.

The Body

Dooyeweerd said [NC II:147]:

"The human body is not at all identical with an abstract 'physico-chemical soma'; it is the structural whole of temporal human existence in the intermodal coherence of all its modal aspects."

(This is treating the human body as a meaningful whole as in Dooyeweerd's Theory of Entities.) He called the body the 'function mantle'. This is very similar to what people like Scheper-Hughes and Lock are saying today about the 'Mindful Body'. But it goes further because of the spiritual element of our directedness towards the Divine; Richard Russell suggested that it is linked with the Christian idea of our bodies being 'living sacrifice' - the whole of our living offered to God, every aspect of it, and not just the 'religious' part.

The Self, the Heart

(See also page devoted to the self, ego, heart.)

We have seen, in Dooyeweerd's Entity Theory, how entities exist by virtue of functioning in the aspects. But the human being cannot be fully accounted for just in terms of multiple aspects of human living; his/her existence cannot be fully accounted for Dooyeweerd's Entity Theory. The human being is more than just a 'function mantle', a 'body'. The human being also is a Self, an Ego, a Heart.

The Heart is the 'I' that makes an integral response to all the aspects. We can understand I-ness intuitively, but we cannot understand it theoretically. The Heart or Self is likened to the hidden player of piano keys.

** New 16 April 2003 ** Click here for a page that gives all Dooyeweerd's expanded index entries on this topic.

But this is not to be confused with the mediaeval notion of homunculus or spirit, which was a model of humanity derived under the influence of the nature-grace ground motive. Nor with the mind that controls the matter of the body. Both mind and matter were seen as different types of substance in this Cosmos (especially under the influence of the matter-form ground motive. Under both these motive, it is proposed that the human spirit or soul is eternal and is the only 'part' of us that passes into heaven at death; the body is 'shed' or 'escaped from'.

In Dooyeweerd's proposal, the human Self or Heart is something beyond the aspects. It is the 'I' that responds to the the aspectual laws, being subject to them. Dooyeweerd held that not only the Heart, but also the body (as defined as function mantle rather than as 'meat') can pass into the eternal realm on death.

God's work in the human heart - which Dooyeweerd held to start with spiritual 'rebirth' in Christ - must be outworked in every modal aspect. This outworking is a process and must start from where the person was when 'reborn'. Some people start further away from God's intention than do others, and this is why one cannot judge a person by their life, their function mantle. A person's life might indicate the state of their heart, but not infallibly so, because of this difference in starting point. For example, someone who was a spoilt brat when a child will find it more of a struggle to obey the economic norm of frugality than someone who had a better quality childhood. Only God can judge the heart.


For both reasons there can be no single scientific area of anthropology. A scientific area is centred on a single aspect, yet human living and being is multi-aspectual. So, though there may be study of human being, there is no science thereof, but rather a plethora of sciences. The second reason is that Self is ultimately beyond even study. It is further beyond the grasp of theoretical analysis and understanding than any other thing because it transcends temporal creation.

Natural Entities

It is natural entities that are subject to the laws of aspects. There are four kingdoms of natural entities: humans, animals, plants, non-living physical things. Artificial entities are not. Dooyeweerd's Entity Theory fully explains artificial entities. It does not fully explain humans, who also have a 'heart'. Might this also be true of other types of natural entities, especially animals?

This question does not appear to have been discussed. [Research]

Supratemporal Heart

But, then, what is the human Heart, if it is not accounted for by Dooyeweerd's Entity Theory? Is it a piece of the Divine in us? Is it some kind of 'spirit'-substance? Is it some kind of centre of freedom? (These three possibilities are how the human heart - the 'essense' of humanity - is dealt with under the three other Western ground-motives, respectively those of Nature-Grace of the mediaeval Roman Catholic thought, Form-Matter of the Greeks, and Nature-Freedom of humanism.)

Coming from a different direction, the ground-motive of Creation-Fall-Redemption, Dooyeweerd maintained it is neither Divine nor is it of the aspects. Rather, he proposed that the Created Order involves not only a Temproral Reality that is governed by the aspects, but also a SupraTemporal part. The human Heart is of the latter, which explains why human beings reach beyond time into eternity. The human heart is also open to the Divine by means of a religious orientation: the human heart orientates itself either to the True Divine or to some pretend non-Divine which is treated as absolute.

But this does not feel entirely satisfactory, sounding too similar to the mediaeval notion of spirit and body. Many have criticised it. It may be that Dooyeweerd did not complete his working out of this area of thought, and this is left to us to work out.

Other Pages

Click here for a page that gives all Dooyeweerd's expanded index entries on this topic.

For '32 propositions' on the nature of human, see Glenn Friesen's page.


I am indebted to Richard Russell for providing material for the above account of the human Heart of Self, and especially for explaining the notion of function mantle.
This is part of The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Questions or comments are very welcome.

Compiled by Andrew Basden. You may use this material subject to conditions.

Number of visitors to these pages: Counter. Written on the Amiga with Protext.

Created: 4 March 2003. Last updated: 8 March 2003 Self/Heart added. 8 April 2003 God's work in heart added. 16 April 2003 links to self.html. 2 July 2003 refce to Scheper-Hughes+Lock; other minor changes. 21 November 2005 unets, link to self.html. 14 February 2008 link to GlennF. 16 March 2009 link to entities and ground-motives.