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Herman Dooyeweerd (7 October 1894, Amsterdam – 12 February 1977, Amsterdam) was a professor of law and jurisprudence at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam from 1926 to 1965. He was also a philosopher and principal founder of Reformational philosophy with Dirk Vollenhoven, a significant development within the Neocalvinist (or Kuyperian) school of thought. Dooyeweerd made several contributions to philosophy and other academic disciplines concerning the nature of diversity and coherence in everyday experience, the transcendental conditions for theoretical thought, the relationship between religion, philosophy, and scientific theory, and an understanding of meaning, being, time and self.
Dooyeweerd is most famous for his suite of fifteen aspects (or 'modalities', 'modal aspects', or 'modal law-spheres'), which are distinct ways in which reality exists, has meaning, is experienced, and occurs. This suite of aspects is finding application in practical analysis, research and teaching in such diverse fields as built environment, sustainability, agriculture, business, information systems and development. Danie Strauss, the editor of Dooyeweerd's Collected Works, has provided a systematic look at Dooyeweerd's philosophy here.
Dooyeweerd made both immanent and transcendental critiques of Western philosophy, following the traditions of Continental philosophy.
In his immanent critique, he sought to understand each philosophic thinker's work or each tradition from the inside, and uncover, in its own terms, its basic presuppositions, to reveal deep problems. By such immanent critique of philosophic thinkers from the pre-Socratic Greeks onwards through to the middle of the twentieth century (including mediaeval period, into the modern periods), Dooyeweerd claimed to have demonstrated that theoretical thinking has always been based on presuppositions of a religious nature, which he called ground motives. A ground motive is a spiritual driving force that impels each thinker to interpret reality under its influence. Dooyeweerd identified four major ground-motives of Western thought, three of them dualistic in nature:
- the Form-Matter divide of Greek thought
- the Creation-Fall-Redemption motive of Biblical (Hebrew, Semitic) thought
- the Nature-Grace divide of mediaeval, Scholastic thought
- the Nature-Freedom divide of humanistic, Enlightenment thought
This means that theoretical thought never has been neutral or autonomous of the thinker.
However, Dooyeweerd remained unsatisfied "with an argument that shows that in fact philosophy always has been influenced by religious convictions". Rather, "He wants to show that it cannot be otherwise, because it is part of the nature of philosophy or theoretical thought."
This led Dooyeweerd to undertake a transcendental critique of theoretical thought, of the kind Immanuel Kant pioneered. Whereas Kant and Husserl sought the conditions that make theoretical thinking possible, they still presupposed that a theoretical attitude is possible. Dooyeweerd sought to understand the conditions that make a theoretical attitude possible, and argued that all theoretical thought takes place with reference to an "Origin of Meaning", which is a ground-motive to which we adhere extra-rationally. This means that theoretical thought never can be neutral or autonomous of the thinker.
From this, Dooyeweerd argued that all "good" philosophy addresses three fundamental parts to an idea:
- coherence of rationalities
- origin of meaning
This, he proposed, can enable disparate theoretical and philosophical approaches to enter into discourse with each other, as long as each thinker openly admits their own ground-motive. Dooyeweerd, accordingly, made very explicit his own grounding in Creation-Fall-Redemption, with a neo-Calvinist flavour and a debt to Abraham Kuyper.
Dooyeweerd's cosmonomic philosophy is different from most extant philosophy in at least three ways, which intertwine:
First, it takes seriously the pre-theoretical attitude of thought, as a starting point from which to begin to understand what makes theoretical thought possible. Most other philosophical thinking begins by presupposing a theoretical attitude and either ignores everyday experience or attempts to explain it theoretically, either way presupposing the possibility of theoretical thought as a way to knowledge. In making the possibility of theoretical thought a philosophical problem to address, Dooyeweerd went deeper and further than Kant, Husserl and Heidegger and others.
Second, it is rooted in different presuppositions ('ground motives') about the nature of reality, which are religious in nature. Whereas Greek philosophy is rooted in the Form/Matter divide, Scholastic thinking of mediaeval Christianity in the Nature/Grace divide, and Humanistic philosophy in the Nature/Freedom divide, Dooyeweerd began from the Biblical idea of Creation Fall and Redemption. He may be said to have explored the philosophical (rather than theological) implications of this idea. He called his philosophy 'Christian philosophy', though what usually claims that label is of a Scholastic nature and very different.
Third, it posits that Meaning is more fundamental than Being or Process. Dooyeweerd expressed it:
Meaning is the being of all that is created, and even of our selfhood and the nature even of our selfhood. It has a religious root and a divine origin.
Meaningfulness originates in the Creator (God) rather than in sovereign human attribution. All things, not just those linked with humanity, are meaningful. Strictly, Dooyeweerd says, things are, rather than have, Meaning. Thus, Meaning is like an ocean in which we swim, an enabler of all our existence and functioning, rather than a property we attribute to things or words.
This has implications for science. Science – whether mathematical, natural, human or social sciences - is seen as the abstracting of certain aspects for study. For example, even though a lawyer and a biologist might study the same things (say, fingerprints), they are interested in different aspects. They are looking at the meaning of a thing with different focus, though equally concerned with what is real. Perceptions of reality through this kind of scientific attitude, selecting one aspect as distinct from others for study, will necessarily be governed by fundamental assumptions about how these various kinds of meaning are related to one another in a coherent whole, belonging within the total range of all experiences.
Likewise, in everyday life, we can be aware of distinct aspects, though most of the time we function in them tacitly.
The positing of meaning as fundamental, and the priority given to our pre-theoretical experience of diverse meaning, prompts the thinker to ask, what ways are there of being meaningful, which cannot be reduced to each other? What different aspects are there of things? He delineated fifteen, which are not mere categories, but modalities (ways of being, functioning, etc.):
- Quantitative aspect: amount
- Spatial aspect: continuous extension
- Kinematic aspect: flowing movement
- Physical aspect: energy, matter
- Biotic/Organic aspect: life functions, self-maintenance
- Sensitive/Psychic aspect: feeling and response
- Analytical aspect: distinction, conceptualization
- Formative aspect: formative power, achievement, technology, technique
- Lingual aspect: symbolic communication
- Social aspect: social interaction
- Economic aspect: frugal use of resources
- Aesthetic aspect: harmony, surprise, fun
- Juridical aspect: due (rights, responsibility)
- Ethical aspect: self-giving love
- Pistic aspect: faith, vision, commitment, belief
Dooyeweerd claimed that since the discovery of these is addressed by our theoretical functioning, which is fallible, no suite of aspects, including his own, can "lay claim to material completion".
Briefly, aspects are ways of being meaningful and are the 'law side' of created reality. All that occurs does so by 'answering to' the laws of each aspect (i.e. being subject to their laws). e.g. physical waves or particles occur by the laws of the physical aspect, poetry occurs by the laws of the aesthetic aspect. Thus, each aspect or 'law sphere' may be seen as defining a distinct kind of possibility.
Earlier aspects are determinative; later ones are normative. Human beings function as subject in or to all aspects, animals as subject up to the sensitive aspect, plants up to the biotic, and non-living things up to the physical. As you are reading this, you are functioning lingually by understanding it, analytically by conceptualizing, sensitively by seeing or hearing, etc. In fact, all our functioning is multi-aspectual, though some aspects might be latent.
Things exist by reference to each aspect. For example, a car exists physically as a load of steel, plastic, etc., kinematically as a mode of transport, socially as a status symbol, economically as a dent in our finances, aesthetically as a thing of beauty, biotically as a polluter, pistically as an idol, and so on. The being of things is multi-aspectual in principle.
Knowledge may be seen as multi-aspectual knowing. For example, analytical knowing gives categories and theories, formative knowing gives skills, lingual knowing gives 'bodies of knowledge' as found in libraries, and so on.
Each aspect defines a different rationality. In this way, Dooyeweerd echoes Winch and Habermas, though with more precision.
Dooyeweerd attempted to provide a philosophy which accounted for not only the differences in non-human reality, but also, between one thinker and another. Following Abraham Kuyper, and other, earlier Neo-Calvinists, Dooyeweerd attempted to describe reality as a creation of God, which has its meaning from God. This God-given meaning is displayed in all of the aspects of temporal reality – which has implications for science.
For example, even though a lawyer and a biologist might study the same things (say, fingerprints), they are interested in different aspects. They are looking at the meaning of a thing with different focus, though equally concerned with what is real. Perceptions of reality through this kind of scientific attitude, selecting one aspect as distinct from others for study, will necessarily be governed by fundamental assumptions about how these various kinds of meaning are related to one another in a coherent whole, belonging within the total range of all experiences. Dooyeweerd argued that this showed the need for a consistent and radically Christian philosophy which he sought to provide. Furthermore, he attempted to show that even the imaginations of men are part of that same created reality, and even where misguided they cannot escape being subject to the rule of God exposed by the Christian revelation.
Dooyeweerd self-consciously allowed his Christian perspective to guide his understanding, but in a philosophical rather than a theological mode of thought. He believed that this permitted the philosopher to gain insight into the principle by which diversity of meaning is held together as a unity, as he directs his thought toward the origin of things, which is God, and God's purpose for making things, which is found in Christ. This basic religious orientation should affect the way that the Christian understands things. In contrast to a dualistic type of religious ground motive, Dooyeweerd suggested that the Christian's basic orientation to the world ought to be derived not from human speculation, but from God's revealed purposes: Creation, the Fall into sin, and Redemption in Christ. This Christian religious ground motive is a fundamentally different posture toward things, compared to say, the "Form/Matter" scheme of the Greeks, the "Nature/Grace" synthesis of Medieval Christianity, or the "Nature/Freedom" approach of the Enlightenment, all of which are orientations divided against themselves by their reliance upon two contradictory principles. While the Christian religious view of things as Created, Fallen and being Redeemed has often been blended with speculative and dualistic schemes, it has never really become fully identified with them, so that there is historical continuity in Christian thought despite the fact that it has undergone numerous significant shifts, in Dooyeweerd's view. But the fact that they are capable of being blended convincingly exposes the transcendental rules to which both false and true theories are subject.
A religious ground motive is a spiritual driving force that impels each thinker to interpret reality under its influence. Dooyeweerd wrote that, in the case of thinkers who presume that human thought is autonomous, who operate by the dictum that it does not matter whether God exists or not, such a thinker's basic commitment to autonomous thought forces him to pick out some aspect of the creation as the origin of all meaning. In doing so, the supposedly autonomous thinker is made captive to a kind of idol of his own making, which bends his understanding to conform to its dictates, according to Dooyeweerd.
Although he self-consciously exposes the religious nature of his philosophy, Dooyeweerd suggests that in fact, all thought is inescapably religious in character. This religious stamp is disguised when the supposed origin of meaning, toward which various thinkers direct their thought, is not called God, but is rather said to be some aspect of creation. This, he suggests, explains why humanistic science will produce bitterly conflicting ideologies. It helps to locate the "antithesis", the source of irreducible differences, between various perspectives. The "antithesis" must be accounted for as a foundational issue, in any complete philosophy, and this antithesis is religious in nature, according to Dooyeweerd.
Borrowing language and concepts from a wide variety of philosophical schools, especially Edmund Husserl, the Marburg school of neo-Kantianism, Ernst Cassirer's Philosophy of Symbolic Forms—and, as some contend, Franz Xaver von Baader,[a] Dooyeweerd builds on this foundation of a supposed "antithesis" to make distinctions between one kind of thinking and another, theorizing that diverse kinds of thinking disclose diverse kinds of meaning, and that this meaning corresponds in some way to the actual state of affairs.
Dooyeweerd developed an anti-reductionist ontology of "modal aspects", concerning diverse kinds of meaning which are disclosed in the analysis of every existent thing. He considered such modes to be irreducible to each other and yet indissolubly linked. Dooyeweerd at first suggested that there were 14 modes but later postulated 15. The indissoluble coherence of these modal aspects is evinced through their analogical relationship to one another, and finally in their concentration in the central religious selfhood which has a direct relationship to its origin: God.
The majority of Dooyeweerd's published articles and multi-volume works originally appeared only in Dutch. During his lifetime efforts were already underway to make his work available to English-speakers. Translation of Dooyeweerd's writing has continued since 1994 under the oversight of the Dooyeweerd Centre (see link below). To date, thirteen books have been published in English, including his magnum opus, De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee (1935–1936), which was revised and expanded in English as A New Critique of Theoretical Thought (1953–1958).
Dooyeweerd's influence has continued through the Association for Reformational Philosophy and its journal Philosophia Reformata which he and Vollenhoven founded in 1932. The title of the journal is something of an arcane philosophical joke, which repristinates and shifts the meaning of the title from a 1622 book, authored by Johann Daniel Mylius, Philosophia Reformata, a compendium of alchemy, then regarded by some as a science. There are also a number of institutions around the world that draw their inspiration from Dooyeweerd's philosophy.
In a commemoration editorial appearing in the newspaper Trouw on 6 October 1964 upon the occasion of Dooyeweerd's 70th birthday, G.E. Langemeijer, chairman of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, professor at the University of Leiden, and appellate attorney general, lauded Dooyeweerd as "... the most original philosopher Holland has ever produced, even Spinoza not excepted."
- Dooyeweerd, Herman (1997) , A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, I: The Necessary Presuppositions of Philosophy, Edwin Mellen.
- Volume II: The General Theory of the Modal Spheres
- Volume III: The Structure of Individuality of Temporal Reality
- Volume IV: Index of Subject and Authors (compiled by H. de Jongste)
- Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy
- Volume I: The Greek Prelude
- Encyclopedia of the Science of Law
- Volume 1: Introduction
- Christian Philosophy and the Meaning of History
- Essays in Legal, Social, and Political Philosophy
- Roots of Western Culture
- In The Twilight of Western Thought
- Political Philosophy
- Contours of a Christian Philosophy; An Introduction to Herman Dooyeweerd's Thought
- It is the controversial contention of the Baader and Dooyeweerd scholar J. Glenn Friesen that Dooyeweerd's Calvinist philosophy is closely akin to and developed from the mystical Catholic philosophy of Von Baader. Accepting this premise would lead to a different interpretation of Dooyeweerd's thought than has hitherto prevailed.
- Several names for Dooyeweerd's system have appeared over the last few decades. His original De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee (3 vols., Amsterdam: H.J. Paris, 1935-6) translates as "The Philosophy of the Law-Idea". However, Dooyeweerd wrote in his later New Critique of Theoretical Thought that the "best English term corresponding to it seems to be ‘cosmonomic Idea’, since the word ‘law’ used without further specification would evoke a special juridical sense which, of course, cannot be meant here" (NC I, 93). While this phrase has been popular among Dooyeweerd scholars, some have also used the phrase "law framework philosophy", such as Roy Clouser (cf. Clouser 2005, 2010) and Adolfo Garcia de la Sienra Guajardo (cf. Garcia de la Sienra 2010).
- While many Dooyeweerd scholars believe Dooyeweerd's thought to be compatible with that of Vollenhoven, others have cast doubt on such a view. For the former view, see Wolters (1985). For the latter, see Friesen (2005).
- Ground motives, Dooy info
- Choi, Paper, Dooy info
- Geertsema, HG (2000), "Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique: Transforming it hermeneutically", in Strauss, DGM; Botting, M (eds.), Contemporary reflections on the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd, Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, p. 99
- Transcendental critique, Dooy info
- Dooyeweerd, H (1955), A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, I, p. 4
- Science, Dooy info for different kinds of science from a Dooyeweerdian perspective.
- Aspects, Dooy info
- Dooyeweerd 1997, p. II.554.
- Dooyeweerd's notion of functioning, Dooy info
- Entities, Dooy info on how things 'exist' in relation to aspects.
- Knowing, Dooy info
- Rationality, Dooy info on aspectual types of rationality.
- Dooyeweerd, "Foreword", De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee,
At first I was strongly under the influence of neo-Kantian philosophy, and later of Husserl’s phenomenology.
- Friesen, J Glenn (2003). "The Mystical Dooyeweerd: The Relation of His Thought to Franz von Baader". Ars Disputandi. 3: 16–61. doi:10.1080/15665399.2003.10819763.
- Strauss, Daniël FM (2004). "Intellectual Influences upon the Reformational Philosophy of Dooyeweerd" (PDF). Philosophia Reformata. 69 (2): 151–81. doi:10.1163/22116117-90000323. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
- Dooyeweerd 1997, p. 2.98.
- "H. Dooyeweerd (1894 - 1977)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 17 July 2015.
- Chaplin, Jonathan (2011), Herman Dooyeweerd: Christian Philosopher of State and Civil Society, Notre Dame.
- Otto, Paul (2005), "In the twilight of Dooyeweerd's Corpus: The Publishing History of In the Twilight of Western Thought and the Future of Dooyeweerd Studies", Philosophia Reformata, 70 (1): 23–40, doi:10.1163/22116117-90000340.
A special issue of the journal Axiomathes was devoted to the subject of "Philosophy and Science in the Thought of Herman Dooyeweerd".
- Clouser, Roy (2010). "A Brief Sketch of the Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd". Axiomathes. 20 (1): 3–17. doi:10.1007/s10516-009-9075-2. S2CID 55421582.
- Strauss, D.F.M (2010). "The Significance of a Non-Reductionist Ontology for the Discipline of Mathematics: A Historical and Systematic Analysis". Axiomathes. 20 (1): 19–52. doi:10.1007/s10516-009-9080-5. S2CID 122405137.
- Strauss, D.F.M (2010). "The Significance of a Non-Reductionist Ontology for the Discipline of Physics: A Historical and Systematic Analysis". Axiomathes. 20 (1): 53–80. doi:10.1007/s10516-009-9081-4. S2CID 195233860.
- García de la Sienra, Adolfo (2010). "The Economic Sphere". Axiomathes. 20 (1): 81–94. doi:10.1007/s10516-009-9077-0. S2CID 195233965.
- Skillen, James W. (2010). "The Necessity of a Non-Reductionist Science of Politics". Axiomathes. 20 (1): 95–106. doi:10.1007/s10516-009-9076-1. S2CID 154309247.
- Schuurman, Egbert (2010). "Responsible Ethics for Global Technology". Axiomathes. 20 (1): 107–127. doi:10.1007/s10516-009-9079-y.
- Vasta, Salvatore (2010). "A New "Essential Tension" for Rationality and Culture. What Happens if Politics Tries to Encounter Science Again". Axiomathes. 20 (1): 129–143. doi:10.1007/s10516-009-9082-3. S2CID 153773880.
- Clouser, Roy A. (2005). The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An Essay on the Hidden Role of Religious Belief in Theories (2 ed.). University of Notre Dame Press. ISBN 978-0-268-00775-1.
- Hommes, Hendrik Jan van Eikema (1982). Inleiding tot de wijsbegeerte van Herman Dooyeweerd. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.
- Kalsbeek, L. (1976). Contours of a Christian Philosophy: An Introduction to Herman Dooyeweerd's Thought, trans. Bernard Zylstra and Josina Zylstra. Toronto: Wedge Publishing Foundation.
- Originally published in Dutch as Kalsbeek, L (1970). De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee: Proeve van een christelijke filosofie (PDF). Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn.
- Marcel, Pierre-Charles (2013). The Transcendental Critique of Theoretical Thought, trans. Colin Wright. Volume 1 of The Christian Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd. Aalten, Netherlands: Wordbridge Publishing.
- Marcel, Pierre-Charles (2013). The General Theory of the Law-Spheres, trans. Colin Wright. Volume 2 of The Christian Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd. Aalten, Netherlands: Wordbridge Publishing.
- Spier, J.M. (1954). An Introduction to Christian Philosophy, trans. David H. Freeman. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.
- Originally published in Dutch as Spier, J.M. (1950). Een inleiding tot de wijsbegeerte der wetsidee (4 ed.). Kok: Kampen.
- Strauss, D.F.M. (2015) Herman Dooyeweerd's Philosophy
- Provides a more extensive systematic orientation in Dooyeweerd’s philosophy.
- Troost, Andree (2012). What is Reformational Philosophy? An Introduction To The Cosmonomic Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd. Jordan Station: Paideia Press. ISBN 978-0-88815-205-3.
- Wolfe, Samuel T. (1978). A Key to Dooyeweerd. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.
- Henderson, Roger (1994). Illuminating Law: The Construction of Herman Dooyeweerd's Philosophy, 1918 - 1928. Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn.
- Friesen, J Glenn (2003). "The Mystical Dooyeweerd: The Relation of His Thought to Franz von Baader". Ars Disputandi. 3 (1): 16–61. doi:10.1080/15665399.2003.10819763.
- One of the most controversial articles in the literature on Dooyeweerd's intellectual development, Friesen argues that twenty-five key ideas in Dooyeweerd's writings "can already be found in the nineteenth century German philosopher, Franz von Baader".
- Friesen, J. Glenn (2005). "Dooyeweerd versus Vollenhoven: The religious dialectic within reformational philosophy". Philosophia Reformata. 70 (2): 102–132. doi:10.1163/22116117-90000355.
- Kraay, John (1979). "Successive Conceptions in the Development of the Christian Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd (I)" (PDF). Philosophia Reformata. 44 (2): 137–149. doi:10.1163/22116117-90001335.
- Kraay, John (1980). "Successive Conceptions in the Development of the Christian Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd (II)" (PDF). Philosophia Reformata. 45 (1): 1–46. doi:10.1163/22116117-90001342.
- Strauss, Daniël FM (2004). "Intellectual Influences upon the Reformational Philosophy of Dooyeweerd" (PDF). Philosophia Reformata. 69 (2): 151–81. doi:10.1163/22116117-90000323. Retrieved 2008-06-09..
- One of the first responses to Friesen (2003), Strauss argues that the idea "there is any direct influence on his [Dooyeweerd's] thought from Von Baader can not be substantiated on the basis of the available sources even though it is not unlikely that he might have been aware of the existence of Von Baader".
- Verburg, Marcel (1989). Herman Dooyeweerd: Leven en werk van een Nederlands christen-wijsgeer. Baarn: Ten Have., translated by Herbert Donald Morton and Harry Van Dyke as Herman Dooyeweerd: The Life and Work of a Christian Philosopher, Jordan Station: Paideia Press, 2015.
- Wolters, Albert, "The Intellectual Milieu of Herman Dooyeweerd", in McIntyre, C.T. (1985), The Legacy of Herman Dooyeweerd: Reflections on Critical Philosophy in the Christian Tradition, University Press of America.
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