"enkapsis takes place, when one structure of individuality [i.e. an entity] restrictively binds a second structure ... without destroying the peculiar character of the latter." [NC, III:125]
(The second structure, he says, is "of a different radical- or geno-type", by which he means that they are qualified or led by a different aspect.)
He gave as an example Praxiteles' sculpture of Hermes and Dionysus, in which the work of art (aesthetic aspect) is enkaptically bound to the marble (physical) and the work of creation (formative). He also said, especially in relation to this example [ibid.], "In such an enkaptic union there ought not to be any dualism observable between the natural and the aesthetically qualified structures."
Dooyeweerd identified at least five different types of enkapsis:
The enkaptic relationship is a necessary one (note Dooyeweerd's word "restrictively binds" above). To say that two things are enkaptically related is to say that one of the things needs the other, at least for its full meaning. For example, while marble can exist meaningfully without being part of a sculpture, the sculpture could not exist without the marble (or some other equivalent medium). In some enkaptic relationships both entities need the other. For example, a snail without a shell would not last very long as a snail, and a shell removed from a snail would not serve its intended function (though it might come to serve another object function such as decoration for a human being): each needs the other in terms of fulfilling the meaning of the other.
In devising this Theory of Enkaptic Interlacements (NC Vol III Part III, Dooyeweerd was motivated by his curiosity about how the different types of entities could relate and form systems - not only those cited above but also, for example, atoms and molecules, human being and their lung. (The latter is included to show that Dooyeweerd also recognised a part-whole relationship which is different from the enkaptic relationships.) The beauty of the concept of enkapsis is that:
In this way it has the advantage over systems theory, for which there is only a part-whole relationship involving system and sub-system. Systems theory does try to be holistic, in recognising that any system has an environment with which it relates, but it treats the environment as a wider system of which it is sub-system. Systems theory, at least in its original forms, takes no notice of aspectual differences and has difficulty with multiple roles (multiple meanings). It suppresses the intuitively understood differences between the various relationships; for example those between a oboe-player and the orchestra, the orchestra and the town, the town and the state, the oboe-player and their oboe, and the oboe-player and their lung.
We can think of many others. For example, the web page you are looking at exhibits several levels of foundational enkapsis:
(These are similar to the levels of computer systems proposed by Allen Newell .) A similar case can be made for any communication and its medium (written, drawn, spoken, TV, etc.) and as can be seen it is much more precise than the apparently simple duality of message and medium.
Dooyeweerd's notion of foundational enkapsis is more useful in such situations than a part-whole relation. While we might say that the marble is 'part of' the sculpture - and do so with a grimace because it does not feel intuitive - we simply cannot apply the part-whole relation to the above aspects of a computer screen. The results of doing so would be almost incomprehensible, and certainly misleading. This is not to say that the part-whole relationship has no part to play; one part-whole relation is mentioned in the above: between the red, green and blue light emissions and the shapes they form. But this part-whole relation strictly exists within a level, and not between levels. This is a result of Dooyeweerd's restriction of the part-whole relation to between things that are meaningful under the same aspect.
Note that foundational enkapsis is often (always?) one-way, and often reflects in concrete reality the dependency relationship that aspects have with each other.
Some examples of foundational enkapsis:
Notice the element of necessity there. Subject-object enkapsis is, like the subject-object relationship, based on Dooyeweerd's notion of the responding to aspects as subject and as object, but it additionally involves necessity. A human using a hammer is a subject-object relationship, but it is not subject-object enkapsis. Often the necessity of S-O enkapsis is in both directions. The snail could not exist (that is have Being in the sensitive aspect) for long without its shell, and the shell has no meaning in the sensitive aspect once it is removed from the snail and lying on the sea bed.
Dooyeweerd discusses many types of symbiotic enkapsis - including well-known examples of symbiosis such as clover and nitrogen-fixing bacteria, but also parasitic symbiosis such as gall wasp and oak, symbiotic relationships in collectives like corals, and in jellyfish and their polyps. He treats heathland and the individual trees growing in it to be related by symbiotic enkapsis. (Note: the relationship between trees and heathland is symbiotic, while that between heather and heathland is correlative.)
Is symbiotic enkapsis not the same as subject-object enkapsis? The difference is that in symbiotic enkapsis, both entities are functioning as subjects in the aspect in which the relationship is meaningful, not as subject and object (as was the case of snail and shell).
This is not to say that the two subject-entities must be qualified by the same aspect, but rather that the aspect in which the symbiosis has meaning is one in which both can function as subjects. Animals can enjoy symbiosis with plants in order that each may live (e.g. in the gut); notice that living, in this sense, is functioning in the biotic aspect. An interesting example of this type of enkapsis is one that might not be considered symbiosis by biologists: cattle and pasture [NC III:652]. Cows (as domesticated rather than wild) need pasture for food; pasture needs cows in the sense that without them it would be mere grassland and not pasture - notice the importance of Meaning here; the difference between pasture and grassland lies in its meaning rather than in our conventional notions of being.
(Not only is Dooyeweerd's notion of enkapsis richer than the part-whole relation of systems theory, but, as Dooyeweerd noted in [NC III:649], his view "does certainly not agree with the teleological Aristotelian scheme of form and matter.")
While two concrete entities may exist in symbiosis, an entity and its environment have a rather different relationship. Like symbiotic enkapsis, however, it speaks of a two-way necessity. The squirrel could not be a proper squirrel without the environment of trees, nuts, etc., and the environment would not be an environment without the trees, squirrels, etc. Each needs the other to meaningfully exist. Correlative enkapsis is a "relation of mutual interdependence in a different respect" [NC III:648].
For example (the first two examples are Dooyeweerd's, the rest are mine and might not be correct!):
Dooyeweerd makes the point that the environment cannot exist without the animals and plants that inhabit it, and they cannot exist fully without the environment. Similarly, society cannot exist without people, and people cannot be fully human when isolated from society.
Do we find these ideas elsewhere? Latour, in Science in Action [1987:143] shows a Janus-pair of heads saying "Society is the cause that allowed controversies to get settled" and "A stable state of society will be the consequence of settling controversies." So we might add the pair:
The word, territorial, indicates that the relationship stops when we move out of the territory over which the state has jurisdiction.
Territorial enkapsis is often mistaken for a part-whole relationship, but it is not because while it is the juridical aspect that makes the state meaningful, the meaning of other entities is found in other aspects (e.g. aesthetic for orchestras, lingual for educational establishments). It is also not the same as correlative enkapsis because the state is not an Umwelt, it is a concrete entity, qualified by the juridical aspect.
Copyright (c) 2004 Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.
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Created: 27 February 2003. Last updated: 17 March 2003 internal links from list of types to sections; added examples of correlative enkapsis, one from Latour. 21 September 2005 defn enkapsis; new .end. 19 August 2008 chomsky.