August 05, 2006

Dooyeweerd's Last Article (1975)

by Herman Dooyeweerd Philosophia Reformata (1975) 83-101
Newly translated and annotated by Dr. J. Glenn Friesen
In pre-Socratic philosophy, where the scientific forming of concepts had not yet become a theoretical problem, the general opinion was that “Like is only known by like."[7] We find this opinion in the Ionian nature philosophy up to Anaxagoras as well as in the metaphysical doctrine of being founded by Parmenides. In the former, which was already undermined by Anaxagoras’s opposition between nous as thinking spirit and the matter that was ruled by thought, this led to the view that we can know the “elements” from which, according to the ancient view, the cosmos has originated [p. 86] (water, earth, fire and light) only by means of these same elements, from which man himself has originated.
And in Parmenides’ metaphysical doctrine of being, the thought that “Like is known only by like” ledto the identification of theoretical thought and being. For Parmenides, unchanging being is only known by theoretical thought, because this thought is the same as being, and theoretical thought, by virtue of the logical basic principle of identity, is the same as that to which this thought is related, i.e. that which can only be thought.
But as soon as the Socratic insight was gained, that theoretical thought can only be obtained by means of a theoretical-logical concept, the identification of theoretical knowledge with what is known could no longer be maintained. Socrates always sharply set conceptual knowledge over against the sensory perception of that which can be perceived by the senses, to which both the Ionian philosophers of nature as well as the Sophists had reduced human knowledge. And, as Plato showed in his dialectical dialogue Parmenides, the logical identity of being can only be understood in its correlation to the logical diversity of being other.
And so we find that Plato, the greatest student of Socrates, also expressly rejects the thesis that “Like is known only by like” (Politeia 438e). Instead, he characterizes the theoretically knowable as the anticheimenon, that which is set over-against the theoretical-logical activity of thought. The theoretical Gegenstand-relation was therefore already known in classical Greek philosophy. Of course it was not understood within the framework of the modal aspects of the horizon of human experience, as it is understood in the transcendental critique of the Philosophy of the Law-Idea.

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