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Umwelt - Environment

An Umwelt is a surrounding-world, an environment, such as a forest or society. Dooyeweerd's philosophy can contribute considerable insight into the workings of Umwelten, by his idea of correlative enkapsis and his notion of modal aspects.

A forest is an Umwelt. A forest exists by virtue of its trees, insects, birds, fungi, soil and water, which are themselves maintained by the forest and can only flourish therein. They adapt to living in the forest. This circular relationship is what Dooyeweerd called correlative enkapsis.

The Internet is an Umwelt comprising all the computers and mobile devices connected to it. Society is an Umwelt constituted of all its denizens.

An Umwelt is not static, nor pre-determined in its shape, [Dooyeweerd, 1955, III,648]:

"But we can only speak of an 'Umwelt' (environment) in connection with a living organism. In this enkaptic interwovenness the environment exhibits an objective biotic or objective psychic qualifying function, only opened as such by the subjective structure of the living organisms."

Unlike an organisation, an Umwelt has no parts. Nor is it constituted of aspectual layers. Its being is that it engages in a correlative enkaptic relationship with the entities that make it up. Correlative enkapsis is the relationship that exists between a forest and its denizens (trees, other plants, animals, insects, fungi, etc.) that constitute the forest but also live in it and because of it. They could not flourish if not within their proper Umwelt. Likewise, society cannot exist without people, and people do not flourish as full human beings without society.

Dooyeweerd claimed that an Umwelt has no qualifying aspect, but forest, Internet and society may be differentiated by a qualifying aspect: biotic, lingual and social.

Dooyeweerd argues that it is misleading to see a part-whole relationship here, but rather a kind of enkaptic relationship, in which distinct wholes necessarily need each other.

Is an Umwelt a genuine 'thing', something about which philosophers should be concerned? Some might argue that to identify a forest as an is a mere reification of the presence and behaviour of all the denizens taken together. Others argue that the forest is a thing because it can be identified by its spatial boundaries, and yet others because someone owns it. Dooyeweerd finds limitations in both sides of this argument. He would argue that the forest is an important and necessary 'thing' that contributes to the very being and occurrence of each of the denizens, so it deserves to be acknowledged as some kind of thing, even though its thingness is not like that or the ordinary entities of our existence. Its thingness is constituted in the functioning of all its denizens. We might understand it (though Dooyeweerd is unclear about this) as a generated object, generated from the combined subject-functioning of all its denizens (biotic functioning in the case of a forest). The being of the forest is not constituted in its spatial boundaries (partly because those can be fuzzy), nor in its ownership; these should be seen as aspects in which the forest might function either as subject (in the pre-biotic aspects) or as object (in the post-biotic).

More to be written.

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.

Written on the Amiga with Protext.

Created: 10 December 2015 started. Last updated: