DOOYEWEERD: Form-Matter: Superheroes & Zombies

Dooyeweerd’s ground-motive analysis applied to movie culture.

The following are extracts from the book ‘In The Twilight of Western Thought’ by Herman Dooyeweerd, Paideia Press, 2012


The central motive of Greek philosophy, which we have designated as the form-matter motive in line with the Aristotelian terminology, originated from the meeting of the pre-Homeric religion of life and death, with the younger, cultural religion of the Olympian gods.”


SUPERHEROES – deified cultural powers of American society.

The ancient Greeks, whose conception of human nature had such a predominant influence upon the traditional theological view of man, worshipped their Olympian gods who were merely deified cultural powers of Greek society. These gods were represented as invisible and immortal beings endowed with a splendid beauty and a supra-human power. But these splendid gods had no [ultimate?] power over the fate of death to which mortals are subjected…”


ZOMBIES – the life of the one is the death of the other.

The pre-Olympian religion of life and death deified the ever-flowing stream of organic life which originates from mother earth and cannot be fixed or restricted by any corporeal form. It is from this formless stream of life that, in the order of time, the generations of beings separate themselves and appear in an individual bodily shape. This corporeal form can only be maintained at the cost of other living beings, so that the life of the one is the death of the other. So there is an injustice in any fixed form of life which for this reason must be repaid to the horrible fate of death…”

(Extracts from: Herman Dooyeweerd, ‘In The Twilight of Western Thought’, Paideia Press, 2012, pp. 29, 111, 129).

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DOOYEWEERD: Form-Matter ground-motive | Superheroes and Zombies


DOOYEWEERD: Historicism, relativism, loss of faith in absolute truth.

At great turning-points of world-history, man’s historical consciousness is strongly aroused. The relativity of our traditional measures and opinions manifests itself in a clear way. At these historical turning points those who do not live by the Word of God and who had considered these traditional measures and opinions to be the firm ground of their personal and societal life, easily fall prey to a state of spiritual uprooting, in which they surrender themselves to a radical relativism, which has lost all faith in an absolute truth.” (‘In the Twilight of Western Thought: Studies in the Pretended Autonomy of Philosophical Thought’ by Herman Dooyeweerd, Paideia Press 2012, Series B, Volume 4, p 45)

See also:

DOOYEWEERD: Historicism denies constant structural prin­ciples.

DOOYEWEERD: Radical Historicism of ‘The Decline of the West’ by Oswald Spengler.

DOOYEWEERD: The human ego is nothing in itself

Rembrandt: Self-portrait detail 1659

The mystery of the central human ego is that it is nothing in itself, i.e., viewed apart from the central relations wherein alone it presents itself. But the first of these relations, namely, that of the selfhood to the temporal horizon of our experience, cannot determine the inner character of the ego, except in a negative sense. The central unity of the selfhood is not to be found in the modal diversity of the temporal order. A physico-psychical I does not exist, neither a logical, a historical, nor amoral self.”

(Herman Dooyeweerd, ‘In the Twilight of Western Thought’, Paideia Press 2912, p 21)

See also:

DOOYEWEERD: The human ego

DOOYEWEERD: Intuitive experience of temporal reality as my own.

Leonardo da Vinci: ‘Lady with an Ermine’ (1489-1490)

“In the composure of my pre-theoretical intuition I have an immediate enstatic [‘standing within’] experience of temporal reality as my own in my thought. In pre-theoretical thought our I-ness enters enstatically by means of its naive [‘immediate integral’] intuition into the cosmic temporal coherence of experience.

“[…] Only humans can have cosmic and cosmological self-consciousness because only the human cosmic temporal structure is founded in an individu­al religious [ultimate] root transcending time, viz. the human selfhood. Only this selfhood is able to enter into the temporal cosmos by means of human intuition of time and to set apart and combine the modal aspects in theoretical thought. In contrast with those creatures that have no self-consciousness and are ex-statically absorbed by their temporal existence, human selfhood is able to enter enstatically into the coherence of cosmic time.

We have approached intuition as the temporal bottom layer of the analytical function which it exceeds. This implies that we must reject any attempt to detach intuition from the analytical aspect and to contrast it to analytical thought as a mysterious metaphysical faculty.”

(Herman Dooyeweerd, ‘A New Critique of Theoretical Thought‘ Vol 2, p 479, 480)


See related blogpost:

DOOYEWEERD: Theoretical thought cannot penetrate to empirical reality as it really is.


DOOYEWEERD: Historicism denies constant structural prin­ciples.

‘Nature by Numbers‘: (Concept & Artwork by Cristóbal Vila. Music by Wim Mertens)

Historicism denies in principle that the different types of modern social rela­tionships such as marriage, family, State, Church, trade, or those of a primitive society, are founded in constant structural prin­ciples which determine their inner nature. From the absolutized historical viewpoint it can discover nothing but individual tran­sitory cultural phenomena involved in a continuous change and development.”

(Herman Dooyeweerd, ‘A New Critique of Theoretical Thought’, Vol III p 82)

Longer related posts:

Dooyeweerd: Historicism

Dooyeweerd: Humanism’s historicist swing from classical fixed values to a radical relativism

Herman Dooyeweerd: Law as “cosmic a priori structure” versus relativistic Historicism

Dooyeweerd: Hegel, Nietzsche, Darwin, Marx, Hitler.

Dooyeweerd: The Criteria of Progressive and Reactionary Tendencies in History

DOOYEWEERD: Male and female feelings.

‘Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife’ by Jan van Eyck (Early Netherlandish, 1434)

No doubt there occur female feelings in men, and male feelings in women. But this cannot be established without a standard for male and female feeling.”

Herman Dooyeweerd, ‘A New Critique of Theoretical Thought’, Vol. III, pp 326)

DOOYEWEERD: The Unfathomable Silence of the Sphinx, Soap-bubble Reality…

Image: F. MacFhionnlaigh

“The cosmic order passes an internal judgment on the theoretical absolutizations of immanence-philosophy which invariably result in internal antinomies.

[NOTE: “immanence-philosophy” = philosophy which seeks to ground all of reality in one relative aspect (thus yielding an “-ism”)]

We cannot interpret the Divine order on the basis of a self-sufficient and autonomous reason. Apart from the Divine Word-revelation, this order maintains the unfathomable silence of the Sphinx.

[…] If apostate [God-rejecting] faith gains the functional guidance in the [historical-cultural] opening-process, the subjection of the latter to the Divine world-order is not thereby cancelled. The Creator of Heaven and Earth maintains the functional-structural law-conformity in the disclosure of the temporal modal aspects against any human arbitrariness.

If the Divine order in the temporal cosmos were not kept intact and elevated above any kind of human hubris, the manifestation of sin in time would not even be possible. For the whole of temporal reality would then burst like a soap-bubble.

[…] The formal abolishing of paternal authority by the first wave of the French Revolution was one of the many ‘paper decrees’ which, as an expression of human hubris, were swept away by what is very inadequately termed the logic of the facts. By setting aside the normative principles of law, morality, or culture, human arbitrariness can create a social chaos; it cannot create juridical, moral or historical norms in this way.

The human work of [cultural] formation remains unshakably bound to the Divine structural principles of the normative law-spheres.”

Herman Dooyeweerd: ‘A New Critique of Theoretical Thought’, Vol II, pp 331-337

(Free PDF download of this and other books by Dooyeweerd HERE)


Related (extensive) full blog post:

Dooyeweerd: Hume, Kant,The Unfathomable Silence of the Sphinx, Soap-bubble Reality…

Related (short) blog post:

DOOYEWEERD: ‘Paper Decrees’

DOOYEWEERD: True self-knowledge and the primary lie.

“True self-knowledge opens our eyes to the radical corruption of fallen man, to the radical lie which has caused his spiritual death. It therefore leads to a complete surrender to Him Who is the new root of mankind, and Who overcame death through his sufferings and death on the cross.

In Christ’s human nature our heavenly Father has revealed the fulness of meaning of all creation (Ephes 1:10), and through Him according to His Divine nature, God created all things as through the Word of his power (Heb 1:2, 3).

The primary lie obfuscating the horizon of human experience is the rebellious thought that man could do without this knowledge of God and of himself in any field of knowledge, and could find the ultimate criterion of truth in ‘autonomous’, i.e. absolutized theoretical thought.”

(Herman Dooyeweerd, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Vol 2, pp 563)

DOOYEWEERD: “Kuyper had died…”

Abraham Kuyper 1837-1920

The following extract is from “Center and Periphery: The Philosophy of the Law-Idea in a changing world” (1964 Lecture by Herman Dooyeweerd, translated by Dr. J. Glenn Friesen) –

“Kuyper had died, and as could have been predicted, after his death there was a battle with respect to his spiritual heritage. In which line should reformational thought further develop? For it was clear that two lines could be observed. And not only in Kuyper but also in Herman Bavinck — one of the other leading members of the older generation — and also in Jan Woltjer.

There was a truly reformational line, which sought an inner reformation, an inner re-forming of the whole attitude towards life and thought, which came from out of the driving force, the dunamis of the divine Word.

And the other direction, which merely proceeded in the old scholastic line and that did not want to know about reformation, inner formation of thought. But as Voetius had named it, they wanted accommodation, adaptation, an external adaptation of thought to traditional theology, which itself appeared in every respect to be infected by Greek philosophy, which cannot be reconciled with the Biblical basic principle [grondgedachte].

The Philosophy of the Law-Idea immediately chose the reformational line, in this radical sense. It concerns reformation, inner reformation of our attitude of thought, through God’s Word – and, as was always added, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. That’s what it’s about.

It was against the scholastic accomodation. But then the conflict occurred with the theological faculty of the Free University, which at that time was still wholly in the grip of the scholastic way of thinking. It related in particular to the attack that the Philosophy of the Law-Idea had made against the traditional scholastic view of man, the view that man is a composite, something put together out of two substances, two independent entities [zelfstandigheden] as they were called: a material body that is mortal, and a soul that is immortal because it is spiritual, an anima rationalis, a rational soul that is characterized by reason, by its ability to think. In this picture of man there was no room for

the core [kern] of human existence, as it has been revealed to us by the light of the Bible, namely the religious center of man’s existence, the concentration point of his whole existence. It is what the Bible concisely names “the heart, out of which are the issues of life.”

Extract from “Center and Periphery: The Philosophy of the Law-Idea in a changing world” 1964 Lecture by Herman Dooyeweerd. Translated by Dr. J. Glenn Friesen.

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Glenn Friesen’s Dooyeweerd SITE.