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Immanence Philosophy

What Dooyeweerd called immanence philosophy (with or without an hyphen) refers to the kind of thinking that seeks the foundation for explaining everything in temporal reality within that reality itself. He contrasts it with his own 'transcendental philosophy', which allows that the ultimate foundation or 'origin' of all is outwith this 'all'. He often calls it the immanence standpoint, to emphasise that its adoption in Western philosophy is not a rational but a pre-rational, even religious, presupposition.

Immanence philosophy usually results in reducing everything to one aspect. For example materialism reduces everything to the physical aspect, mentalism to the psychic aspect, and so on. Problems are listed below.

The Extent of Immanence Philosophy

Almost all Western philosophy has been immanence philosophy, or deeply influenced by its presuppositions. Dooyeweerd sees all three of the dualistic ground-motives (the Greek motive of form and matter, the Scholastic motive of nature-grace and the Humanistic motive of nature-freedom) as expressions of immanence philosophy.

Immanence philosophy is extremely varied.

"The age-old development of immanence-philosophy displays the most divergent nuances. It varies from metaphysical rationalism to modern logical positivism and the irrationalist philosophy of life. It is disclosed also in the form of modern existentialism. The latter has broken with the Cartesian (rationalistic) 'cogito' as Archimedean point and has replaced it by existential thought, conceived of in an immanent subjectivistic historical sense." [NC, I, 13]

"Immanence-philosophy in all its nuances stands or falls with the dogma of the autonomy of theoretical thought. ... Not only traditional metaphysics, but also Kantian epistemology, modern phenomenology and phenomenological ontology in the style of Nicolai Hartmann continued in this respect to be involved in a theoretical dogmatism." [NC, I, 35]

Dooyeweerd also found it in such thinkers as Heidegger who, though opposing much that preceded him, nevertheless "moves in the paths of immanence philosophy; his Archimedean point is in 'existential thought', thus making the 'transcendental ego' sovereign" [NC, IV, 88]. His conclusion was:

"Our general transcendental critique of theoretical thought has brought to light that the philosophical immanence-standpoint can only result in absolutizations of specific modal aspects of human experience." [NC,III,169]
Absolutization will pervade almost all areas of research and practice in all fields. Especially relevant to the social and societal disciplines, is Dooyeweerd's continuation:
"Similarly we may establish that on this standpoint every total view of human society is bound to absolutizations both of specific modal aspects and of specific types of individual totality."

Why is Immanence Philosophy Problematic?

Dooyeweerd argues at length during [NC volume I] that immanence philosophy has always led philosophy into unresolvable problems and antinomies, and that is partly what motivated him to search for and develop a radically different kind of philosophy, not by coming from the outside, but by something that philosophy itself would recognise as philosophy: an 'inner' reformation of philosophy.

For example, immanence philosophy has developed four main notions of the subject-object relation, all of which make it impossible to properly tackle the diversity that we experience (see [NC, II, 366-9].

The problems that immanence philosophy has led into include the following. More are summarised on pages 25-26 of [NC,II]:

Such problems are inherent in the very nature of the immanence-standpoint itself, and cannot be overcome from within that standpoint by merely shifting to a different immanence-philosophy or to a different pole of the current ground-motive. Rather, a new standpoint must be explored.

That is the reason Dooyeweerd based his philosophy on the Biblical ground-motive of Creation-Fall-Redemption.

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.

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Created: 16 January 2015. Last updated: