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Law (Law-Promise)

Law is what enables and guides.

Law was very important to Dooyeweerd. Indeed, he gave law such as important place that, in his New Critique, he refers to it over 1500 times (only meaning, at over 3000 references, is more). Aspects are "spheres of law" and law, Dooyeweerd maintains, is the 'boundary' between the Divine and the Creation.

The laws of each aspect are very different from each other, and cannot be reduced to each other. Those of the earlier aspects are determinative, while those of the later aspects allow some freedom of response.

Dooyeweerd's notion of Law is very different from that of liberal humanism, which sees law as constraint. Instead, Dooyeweerd saw Law as that which enables meaningful happenings, and that which defines which happenings are meaningful and good. Things happen, not by virtue of being-caused but by virtue of entities responding as subject to this framework of law. By this means entities have genuine Freedom.

This kind of fundamental law, different in each aspect, is NOT the same as government laws or social norms, but something much deeper (and indeed which enables governments to think up laws and social norms to come into being. In a sense, we are 'at home' in law; we live and move and have our being in what might be called an ocean of law. I tend to see this kind of Law as the Gift of the Creator to the Creation to enable it to Exist and Occur apart from (though always depending on) the Creator. This Law is not just "You should do X" but rather takes the form of

"If you do X then Y will result."

In this sense, Law is more like Promise. Hence I like to refer to it as 'law-promise', though Dooyeweerd himself did not use that term.

By means of response to aspectual Law things come into being; see our discussion of Dooyeweerd's entity theory.

Law Side and Fact / Subject Side

Most thinkers have presupposed a single reality, but to Dooyeweerd, created reality has two sides, a law-side and a fact-side. The law-side, which contains the aspects, is what enables the fact-side, all that actually exists and occurs, to become and occur. Without law nothing would come into being, nothing would occur. All cccurence, all activity, all becoming, to Dooyeweerd, is subjects responding to law of various aspects.

To Dooyeweerd, the Creation has not one but two 'sides'. Law side is constituted of the law-framework we are discussing here. The subject side (sometimes called entity side) comprises all the things, beings, events, processes, happenings, and the like that actually exist or occur in past, present and future - what we normally think of as the universes of our experience.

The subject side is subject to the law side and it is that very subjection to law that constitutes being a subject in the other sense, as a centre of action.

Note: this emphasis on the Law Side of the cosmos explains the rather clumsy name 'Cosmonomic' that was given to the philosophy. In fact, law is seen as boundary between God and the cosmos. See also our discussion of the philosophical implications of the notion of creation.

Aspectual Law

The diversity of types of law is explained by means of irreducibly distinct modal aspects. Each aspect is governed by its own set of laws, its own order. Thus we have laws of the quantitative aspect, which is much (not all) of mathematics. We have laws of the physical aspect (physics and chemistry). The laws of the analytical aspect include those that enable us to make meaningful distinctions and to reason. The laws of the lingual aspect are those of good communication.

(For this, Klapwijk (2008, p.120, note 10) uses the term 'idionomic' (having laws of its own) rather than `autonomous' (setting its own laws): the latter term suggests not only the intended irreducibility of the laws, but also an independence that runs counter to the interrelatedness of reality.)

The laws of earlier aspects are determinative, while those of later aspects are normative. They latter provide basic kinds of norms for living. In general it may be said that the human aspects (from analytic to pistic) are normative, while the first four aspects are largely determinative. The determinativity of the physical aspect is what gives rise to reliable causality.

Law implies norms, and the difference between Good and Evil. In the normative aspects, we have freedom both within the laws of an aspect and also to go against it. The former is Good and the latter, Evil. This is the basis for a Dooyeweerdian theory of ethics and is discussed further under the Shalom Principle.

Aspectual Law is Not Social Norm

Note: Do NOT confuse aspectual laws with social norms, written rules or whatever. As Mondrian said

"For there are 'made' laws, 'discovered' laws, but also laws - a truth for all time. These are more or less hidden in the reality which surrounds us and do not change. Not only science but art also, shows us that reality, at first incomprehensible, gradually reveals itself, by the mutual relations that are inherent in things."

In terms of Dooyeweerd's own thought, we might explain the differences in types of law and norm as follows:

Since all aspectual functioning is non-absolute, neither social norms nor written rules can be absolute, and will change with cultural context. However, aspectual law is a 'given' framework within which all life operates.


Piet Mondrian, Figurative Art and Nonfigurative Art (1937)
This page, "", 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.

Written on the Amiga with Protext.

This page, "", 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.

Written on the Amiga with Protext, in the style of classic HTML.

Created: 13 September 2004. Last updated: 6 January 2005 link to 2sides. 1 April 2005 link to Mondrian. 5 January 2010 idionomic. 27 April 2012 a couple of examples in Intro. 15 May 2013 link to de Saussure. 31 January 2018 corrected link analytical; new .end, .nav. 3 January 2022 small changes to intro. 1 December 2023 new intro.