Sunday, June 17, 2018

Further Reading


At the beginning of reformational philosophy many contemporary thinkers were quite certain that the nature of philosophy excluded an explicitly religious starting point. Heidegger described “Christian philosophy” as on the level of a “square circle”. This meant that reformational philosophers have had to give sustained reflection to the nature of philosophy. The key presentation is Herman Dooyeweerd “Prolegomena” in A New Critique of Theoretical Thought Volume I Translated by David H. Freeman and William S. Young, (Paideia Press / Reformational Publishing Project, 2016) pp.3-165. The centre piece of Dooyeweerd’s position was a “transcendental critique of theoretical thought”. His presentation was from the start controversial and not easy reading and he returned to the same themes many times, for example in the more accessible In the Twilight of Western Thought (Craig Press, 1972). Vollenhoven sets out his ideas on the task of philosophy in “The place of Philosophy in the Cosmos and its Task” pp.9-18 in Introduction to Philosophy Translated by J. H. Kok (Dordt College Press, 2005). Most introduction to reformational philosophy start with a chapter on the nature of philosophy. For example L. Kalsbeek “What is philosophy?” pp. 35-43 in Contours of a Christian philosophy: An introduction to Herman Dooyeweerd’s thought, (Wedge Publishing, 1975), AndrĂ©e Troost “What is philosophy?” pp.1-21 in What is Reformational Philosophy? An Introduction to the Cosmonomic Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd translated by Anthony Runia, (Paideia Press, 2012), and the more challenging J.P.A. Mekkes “Introduction, The limits of philosophy” pp.1-16 in Creation, Revelation and Philosophy (Dordt College Press, 2010). One should add to this the important reflections in Gerrit Glas (2011) ‘What is Christian philosophy?’ Pro Rege 40:1 pp.1-17, and S.U. Zuidema “Philosophy as Point of Departure” pp. 124-128 in Communication and Confrontation (J.H.Kok, 1971).

Noticing and accounting for the role of abstraction in theoretical thought is a key insight of Dooyeweerd’s transcendental critique of theoretical thought. The best book length introduction and update of this element of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is Roy Clouser’s The Myth of Religious Neutrality: An essay on the hidden role of religious belief in theories (Notre Dame Press 2005). Vincent Brummer gives a good exposition of Dooyeweerd’s presentation in Transcendental Criticism and Christian Philosophy (T. Wever, 1961). Danie Strauss’ Philosophy: Discipline of the Disciplines (Paideia Press, 2009) should be considered one of the most important contemporary developments of Dooyeweerd’s transcendental approach. His arguments in chapter 2 of Strauss 2009 were drawn on for my discussion, also useful were Renato Coletto (2011) “The elaboration of a demarcation criterion in reformational philosophy” in Acta Academica, 43(2):41-65, and Martin Rice (2000) “What is Science?” pp.239-269 in Contemporary Reflections on the Philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd Edited by D.F.M. Strauss & Michelle Botting.

As already mentioned Dooyeweerd’s transcendental critique has been both influential and controversial among reformational philosophers. To get a good sense of the issues the reader should consult DMF Strauss “An Analysis of the Structure of Analysis” Philosophia Reformata 1983 pp.35-56, Henk G Geertsema (2000) “Dooyeweerd’s Transcendental Critique: Transforming it Hermeneutically” in Strauss & Botting ed. (2000)  pp.83-108, Lambert Zuidervaart (2004), “The Great Turning Point: Religion and Rationality in Dooyeweerd’s Transcendental Critique,” Faith and Philosophy 21, 65-89, Roy Clouser “The Transcendental Critique Revisited and Revised” Philosophia Reformata 74:1 pp.21-47

Descartes’ quote on the Archimedean point is from Descartes Selected Philosophical Writings Translated by John Cottingham Cambridge University Press 1988, 80. The contrasting quotes from Descartes and Hume in §12 are from Strauss 2009:56. The argument concerning psychology (§13) borrows from Martin Rice’s account of these issues in ethics from an unpublished paper (2011) “Ethics as a religious activity”. The definition of philosophy given in §13 is adapted from Calvin Seerveld “Reformational Philosophy and Christian College Education” in Cultural Education and History Writing.

Content

Sunday, June 03, 2018

(14) Philosophy not neutral


Philosophy claims to be neutral and to be conducted on a purely rational basis. Yet, as we look through the vast diversity of philosophical systems and insights, we are forced to account for this diversity through appeal to more than rational factors.  Philosophical concepts themselves require that we dig deeper.

In modern philosophy there is the basic motivation of personality/freedom and science/control which needs to be understood if we are to grasp the way concepts and arguments function.  These two are in constant tension.  Through science, humans come to understand the world. This delivers us from the fear of the mystery of nature. Further, our scientific knowledge gives us power over nature.  This power means that we can free ourselves from the capricious power of nature; we can even use the power of nature for our own benefit.  So science creates huge potential for human freedom.  Seen from a humanistic view point this freedom is created by humans. It is our power of reason that creates it, and through reason this freedom can become total.  Nature is an object that we can know completely and over which we can have complete power. We can become gods.

How do we gain complete control over nature?  We do this through strict adherence to the power of reason to analyse everything and to see the interconnections of everything.  This includes humans and human society if we are to have complete control over them.  It is not too hard to see that, along this path, what appeared to guarantee and to be irrefutable evidence for human freedom turns out to destroy human freedom, either through a deterministic science or social engineering.  This kind of problem has gone through many permutation over the last four centuries, the point to note is that underneath it we have a basic religious conviction of a humanistic kind.

Despite the fact that the history of philosophy requires us to take pre-rational factors seriously, it can still be held that neutrality is an ideal not yet attained. A second line of argument seeks to show that philosophy is not possible without a religious starting point; there is an inner point of contact between religious belief and theory.  This point of contact is to be found in certain basic ideas that make philosophy possible.  They are the ideas of (1) origin, (2) unity, and (3) diversity in coherence.

Content

Monday, May 28, 2018

(13) The Character of philosophy

Let us back-track a little because the above discussion of science, theory and abstraction leads us to an important argument.  The kind of sciences we have so far been talking about are specialized sciences because they investigate reality through the lens of one distinguishable sphere of properties and laws that acts as a unified principle of explanation. But notice this: we can only identify such a principle of explanation by simultaneously seeing how it is different from other possible principles of explanation.  We can focus on number as number only if we are able to distinguish it from other types of property such as motion, energy, life etc.  If reality contained only one kind of property then these special sciences would be impossible.  This undermines all claims to reduce reality to one type of thing.  The reductionist approach is inherently circular since the choice of principle for explaining everything else already presupposes a given diversity from which it makes it choice.  For example: materialism claims that all of reality can be reduced to matter. However, we can only understand this claim if we can identify matter as a distinctive kind of property in the world set off from other properties.  This in turn can only be accomplished if other properties distinct from matter really exist, and so strict materialism cannot possible be true.  

There is another conclusion to be drawn from this line of thought.  Since any special science is limited to the angle of approach of one dimension of reality, a view of how that dimension relates to the whole of reality (or to other dimensions or aspects) must require a more-than-special-scientific viewpoint.  This means that any definition of a special science must take a view outside of its specific modal viewpoint.  For example, to claim that “mathematics is the discipline encompassing algebra and topology” is to give a definition that is not mathematical in character since it is not itself an axiom, theorem or deduction either in algebra or topology.  It is a claim about mathematics and not a claim of mathematics.  This suggests that specialised sciences can only account for what they are doing by moving beyond their natural domain and so it points us towards the need for theoretical reflection that has as its focus such boundary-transcending issues.  Theoretical thinking requires a discipline that deals with the interrelation between different facets of our world.    Since every science and human task has set limits, philosophy must give itself to the service of others by listening to and learning from these disciplines and making conceptually clear the nature, limits, inter-relational meaning and potential for blessing/curse of things, events and human activities.  

It may help to develop an example (borrowed and adapted from Martin Rice).  If you are developing a psychological theory, then you will presume the existence of psychological phenomena, including certain psychological laws and properties which characterise psychological functioning.  Here we meet with a very basic kind of philosophical question which asks what is the nature of these phenomena and how they relate to other acknowledged realities.  It is true that some may wish to deny the existence of such realities and may advocate that we eliminate all talk of psychological laws and properties in a mature science.  Such a view would not even want to offer an explanation of psychological phenomena, but will instead propose an explanation of why we are mistaken in our belief that there are such. Either way, whether we accept or deny their existence we will be advancing a philosophical position.

Let us suppose that psychological properties and laws do constitute a genuine sphere of functioning in the reality we meet with in our experience of events and objects. The question now arises how these properties relate, connect with, or depend upon other, non-psychological phenomena. Here we have a choice: either psychological phenomena have independent existence with the other aspects of reality dependent on them, or they do not. Let’s take the first option where psychological properties exist independently of the remaining aspects.  We see a version of this in the (radical) empiricist position in philosophy where our sensory experience, sometimes called sense data, is seen as having a distinct existence and providing our only guide to true reality.  This is clearly a philosophical view.  To the extent that our sensory experience is taken as basic and independent it is also a religious view since psychological properties are given the role of a divinity.

In the second case, we assume there is a relationship of some sort between the psychological aspect of reality and the remaining aspects. How can this be conceived, or explained? That is, what kind of relationship are we dealing with? It could be that one of the remaining aspects explains or accounts for the relationship between the psychological aspect of reality and the remaining aspects to which it is related. This would have to be done by either a non-eliminative reduction to the relating aspect, or by a supervenience relation upon the aspect that does the relating. In either case we are involved in a substantive philosophical theory, since we are making a theory that comments, in whole or in part, on the number of, and interrelations between, the basic aspects of reality.

Of course, the kind of connection that exists between the psychological aspect and the remaining aspects of reality may not be characterized by one of the aspects at all. We may have a non-reductive relationship between the psychological aspect and the remainder. It is precisely such a philosophical view that is developed by reformational philosophy.

The point of the above example is that, as a special science develops, it is forced to take a philosophical stance on the limits of its field and how its conceptual results relate to other universes of discourse and knowledge.

An authentic Christian philosophy should seek to combat the tendency to reduce reality to one or two basic realities on which all else depends or through which all else can be explained.  It also has the task of exploring the richness of God’s world as uncovered by the many fields of scholarship by giving a theoretical overview that remains open to further surprises, and as with all cultural tasks this should be done in obedience to the two great commandments: to love God and serve one’s neighbour with the expectation of the redemption of the whole of creation.

Contents

Monday, May 21, 2018

(12) No Archimedean point


Now we recall that theoretical thought, often under the name “reason”, was linked to the divine and seen as capable of revealing the whole meaning of reality to us.  Here, many a philosopher has thought, is our true Archimedean point, a watch tower we can ascend and overcome the limitations of our body and senses to survey reality from a “Gods-eye-view”.  Rene Descartes, considered the father of modern philosophy, put it like this: “Archimedes used to demand just one firm and immovable point in order to shift the entire earth; so I too can hope for great things if I manage to find just one thing, however slight, that is certain and unshakeable.”.  Famously he proposed the cogito, the self as a thinking thing, to be his Archimedean point.  Reason then becomes a form of pseudo-revelation; it takes upon itself the role of revealing to us what is divine.

Right from the beginning of philosophy there was a faith in theoretical thought that it would lead us to the true picture of reality, a picture that sets itself against the changing diversity (and richness) of everyday experience.  This meant that the result of theoretical thinking was identified with true reality.  Put in another way, the fallible and limited outcome of human thinking became the standard for what is truly real and important.  Given that theoretical thinking involves isolating and focusing on a specific feature of the world, the identification of the result of our theoretical thinking with true reality has led philosophers to take what they had isolated in thought to be the independent and fundamental basis of all reality.  This shows a kind of forgetfulness because what is isolated in thought is isolated only as a result of our activity of separating it from its everyday context and not because it really is isolated and independent. We forget, at our peril, that what our thinking gives us is just a small focused part of reality and not its true, underlying nature: what philosophers often call essence or substance.

Now, to take something in reality as the independent and fundamental basis of all reality, is to take that part of creation and give it a divine like status.  By seeking the answer to the boundary question of unity and diversity within the confines of what reason reveals to us leads to a form of intellectual idolatry.  Not only that, it also fails to solve the problem.  Let’s see why that is.  Philosophers have tended to identity one or two features as basic to reality. If just one feature (monism), then there remains the problem of how we can get from this one feature all the diversity we experience.  For example, how from matter we can get life, consciousness, morality and so on.  If two features are made fundamental then the unity of what we experience, and the way things in God’s world seem to fit together become problematic because we are now required work out how these two very different features can interact with each other.  For example, in addition to matter Rene Descartes added mind, but then had great difficulty in explaining how the mind can affect the body and how the body can affect the mind.

A further problem is that since created reality is not absolute, and since the feature that our thinking has isolated for investigation is not truly isolated and independent but in actual fact intertwined with the rest of reality, then taking it to be the key to reality leads to irresolvable problems.  These can be seen in the various paradoxes and antinomies that crop up throughout the history of philosophy, perhaps none as famous as those identified by Zeno of Elea.  He developed a number of arguments to support his view that motion was not real.  The most famous is known as the Achilles paradox (after the famous Greek hero), or sometimes as the ‘tortoise and the hare’.  Here we are to imagine a race between a tortoise and Achilles (or a hare).  Achilles being a good sport allows the tortoise a head-start but doesn’t realise that in order to overtake the tortoise he must first reach the place where the tortoise started from, by which point the tortoise has moved on.  Now Achilles must cross an admittedly short distance to arrive at the position the tortoise has now got to.  Unfortunately, by the time Achilles has got there the wily tortoise has kept going on to a further point and so it seems the same will happen ad infinitum (to infinity) meaning that Achilles will never be able to overtake the tortoise!  This paradoxical conclusion, that Achilles will never overtake the tortoise when we know that in reality he will, is a result of Zeno’s attempt to explain everything in terms of space.  Since motion is different from space, it cannot be explained on its basis and so a consistent reduction of all of reality to space will end up denying the reality of motion.

One more problem we mention now is that due to the great diversity exhibited in creation there are many modes of reality that can be isolated and made into the fundamental starting point of our explanations.  This variety means that it becomes quite arbitrary what choice is made as regards what is taken to be ultimately real.  This is revealed in the changing fashions of -isms that one encounters in the different fields of scholarship, such as rationalism, behaviourism, psychologism, organicism, historicism, economism, physicalism etc.  Each of these has been equally successful (and unsuccessful) at organising its explanation of all reality around just one dimension of reality.  Later we shall see why reductionism can meet with a certain degree of success.  For now, to give a sense of how arbitrary the choice is, compare the following positions of Rene Descartes and David Hume.  First Descartes:

Yet I certainly seem to see, to hear, and to be warmed.  This cannot be false; what is called ‘having a sensory perception’ is strictly just this, and in this restricted sense of the term it is simply thinking.  (Descartes Meditations II)


Now compare with Hume:

To hate, to love, to think, to feel, to see; all this is nothing but to perceive. (A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Part II, sec. vi)

Descartes reduces all the phenomena of human experience to thinking, while Hume reduces the same realities to perception.  While the consequences are significant, it is difficult to know why one form of reduction should be favoured over the other.  Both in their own way are expressions of faith. Both reductions rely on the abstractive and isolating activities of thought. Now, since theory focuses on elements and cannot comprehend the whole, it is itself one element of the whole.  This means that the answer to the problem of unity and diversity must be found prior to theory, including philosophical theory.  A vision of the whole, as a vision of ‘life, the universe and everything’, is a vision of faith whether one is “religious” or not.  The conclusion is that philosophy cannot give us an Archimedean point.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

(11) Theory and abstraction

Based on our first approximation in defining philosophy (§9) we should look for what makes theoretical thought a distinctive part of our cultivation of God’s creation.  If we go back to the earliest philosophers we notice that theoretical thinking helped them to take ordinary features of our world such as water, fire and air, or certain pervasive realities such as change and constancy and turn them into fundamental ordering principles of the whole cosmos.  By claiming that the whole of reality could be explained by, or reduced to certain basic elements, these elements are given godlike status as being the independent basis of all the rest of reality.

Theoretical thinking is a feature of science and there are today many sciences.  At school we typically study physics, chemistry and biology; then there are also subjects such as psychology and mathematics.  Each of them investigates its own irreducible terrain of reality in which certain properties and laws that form a basic kind of functioning of the objects and events in our experience are grouped together.  Mathematicians, for example, focus on numbers themselves, not on counting particular objects, but investigating numerical properties as they can be understood in isolation from the objects of ordinary experience.  In biology we investigate generative (living) systems that reproduce and go through cycles of development.  In physics the focus is on the interactions of energy that are presupposed in living organisms, but also on physical forces such as gravity and electromagnetism. We can see that theory works by isolating aspects of the world in order to produce explanations [add examples]. This characterises science and cuts across the division of so-called ‘natural’ and ‘social’ sciences.[1]  We can also see that the explanations produced give us a model of the world that is different from what we directly perceive.  From this we conclude that theoretical thinking has the character of analysis, of identifying and distinguishing things, of taking things apart in thought.  In theory we view reality from an abstract perspective such as that of physics; we may start with the fullness of our experience of reality but we find a point of entry that directs us to certain features that are of specific interest.  So we might have a flower in front of us and our point of interest is in the psychological benefits of having flowers in a hospital environment, or our point of interest may be in its economic value and role in a particular economy, or we may be interested in the flower from a more strictly biological perspective its processes of growth, maturation, reproduction etc.  In each approach there is a human busy in the activity of selecting particular features of an object for further investigation.  In this act of thought we leave behind, though only in our thinking and explaining, the fullness of reality as we usually experience it and investigate an isolated part of it.

It takes considerable training to achieve this ability to select a relevant viewpoint to guide our investigation into some matter or other, and yet as a learnt human skill it becomes part of the scientist’s second nature and so easily passes unnoticed.  However, if we step back from this activity and ask ourselves how the resulting analysis and explanation relates to the results of other sciences with their different points of interest, and how these in turn relate to the original fullness of reality that we confront in our everyday experience then we face a perplexing philosophical problem of unity and diversity. We can unpack this by asking two distinct questions: How do all these perspectives relate to each other? And then: Can they all be united into a single understanding of reality?  But these questions cannot be answered by theoretical thought alone even though it is awakened by them. They are questions that sit on the very boundary of theoretical thought, or we could say at its limits.  Here it is appropriate to say that philosophy should proceed with a sense of wonder.




[1]I say so-called ‘natural’ because social sciences such as sociology, economics, history and so on can hardly be said to investigate non-natural aspects of reality.  These sciences investigate properties and processes that are just as much part of our world as those studied by the ‘natural’ sciences.  It is only a certain kind of philosophical prejudice that elevates the ‘natural’ sciences to a level of ‘real’ or ‘hard’ science as opposed to ‘soft’ sciences.  This is another result of reductionist thinking.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

(10) Rational thinking

The nature and status of human rational thinking is a central theme of philosophy, and we can certainly agree with the claim that philosophy has to do with thinking and a special kind of thinking at that.  It is correct to see in the birth and development of philosophy the beginning of science also since we find here the discovery of the power of theoretical thinking for exploring and explaining the world around us.  Anaximander, for example, attributed thunder storms to the compression of wind within a dense cloud rather than to the activity of the gods.  If our human task is to develop and cultivate the potential God laid in creation then the discovery and development of theoretical thinking was a great achievement.  Unfortunately, two less-than-positive developments are found together with the discovery of theoretical thought.  Firstly, the positive ability of theoretical thought to give us new perspectives on the world by mentally splitting up reality to permit a focused analysis of specific isolated elements was uncritically taken to give us a truer picture of the world than that given in our everyday experience.  This signalled the beginning of a reductionist spirit in which theory becomes the correct way to make the world comprehensible as it reduces the rich, multifaceted character of reality to only one or two basic elements.  In consequence, the number and nature of the factors used to explain reality was severely limited even while there appeared to be a number of options available; some chose water, some air, some fire etc.  While this may not have been so serious at an early stage of the development of theoretical thought, the prejudice, very much alive today, that science is necessarily reductive and that physics will soon give us a single true unified picture of the world, is a serious misconception.

The second negative development set philosophy more immediately off-track.  In the absence of a proper recognition of the Creator, this gift of theoretical thought was soon elevated to divine status.  Xenophanes (c.570-475 BC), admiring what he took to be pure and universal in us, projected consciousness (life, sensitivity and thought) on to his idea of the One god, supreme above the others.  Something that God had made for our good got turned into an idol (Romans 1:25).  This god is conceived as pure consciousness, “complete he sees, complete he thinks, complete he hears”.  The notion of “completeness” that Xenophanes uses would set off a powerful tradition that sees god as a motionless thinking, as a simple (as in not being made up of parts) spiritual being.  This idea of “divine simplicity” was unfortunately adopted by some early Christian intellectuals and has since caused havoc in Christian theology, putting a road block in the way of understanding the reality of the covenanting God who meets us in the Bible.

Contents

Monday, April 23, 2018

Two links worth checking out

The Faith-in-scholarship blog often has great pieces. A recent one explains the excellent Church Scientific project. It's called could a Christian worldview enhance science?

Jonathan Chaplin has a great piece at the Center for Public Justice

Before justice acquired a reactive, corrective inflection due to the fall, it was what Nicholas Wolterstorff calls “primary justice”–a rich relational lattice enabling the development of flourishing human societies in tune with God. It still is. Humans need just familial, neighborly, cultural, geographical, economic, and political relationships if they are to fulfill their original calling to be images of God tending and unfolding creation’s gifts. Justice is constitutive of the Gospel because it is constitutive of being human. Human history testifies to our necessary, stumbling, occasionally impressive, and often oppressive, attempts to build institutions that facilitate the doing of justice in each of these areas.

(9) Criticism and criteria


Philosophy as a deep kind of thinking, as specialised logical analysis, as an exercise in wonder, as critical, as a search for wisdom and as rational: what should we make of all these ideas?  A good place to start is the idea of being critical.  Since we will not be able to agree with all the above ideas and the ways in which they have been thought through, we will need to be critical ourselves.  Being critical has often been equated with incessant questioning, with a sceptical attitude that refuses to be duped.  This gives us the image of philosophy as a kind of thinking that reflects more deeply than usual by uncovering assumptions and presuppositions that we often take for granted, and have perhaps never given much attention to.  Or perhaps being critical involves questioning convictions that are held on to with great passion and are rarely subjected to rational scrutiny.  While these certainly have a place, at its root ‘to be critical’ means to hold something up for judgement according to some criteria.  It is not a mark of being critical just to question everything.  Instead, we need a firm hold of the basis or principle on which we build our judgement.  This “firm hold” is nothing other than an element of faith that is inseparable from our thinking; we must trust and be committed to the criteria we use to make our judgements.  So we can see that simply playing off philosophy as “critical” against religion as “dogmatic,” with the accompanying claim that philosophy is based on “reason” whereas religion is based on “faith” is actually a lazy way of understanding things that needs to be critically questioned!

Now it is legitimate to ask us for the criteria we will use in our judgements about philosophy.  Despite showing in the previous paragraph that any answer to this question must involve faith, our answer will still be controversial.  Let us just say for now that any answer should be controversial because it concerns the choice we make about the basis and origin of the meaning of our lives.  The direction of our lives is at stake in such a choice.  If we are to seek a Christian philosophy, then our orientation must come from God’s word.  God’s word is primarily revealed in the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, and Jesus as the image of the invisible God is witnessed to by the written word of God found in the Bible.  The Bible also directs our attention to the “glory of God”, the law and commandments of God that are wordlessly spoken throughout creation (Psalms 19, 104, 119).  If we take Jesus as the key to the meaning of the Bible and the Bible as the key to the meaning of creation, then we will have a sure guide to walk in God’s ways through our life, and also in philosophy.

As we saw earlier, we learn from God’s word that we are creatures made in the “image of God”, that we find our home in God’s good creation and that we are given the task to rule over, to care for, to cultivate and develop creation (See §2-5).  Our definition of philosophy must therefore reflect this.  So as a first approximation we will take philosophy to be one way in which we can bear God’s image in caring for and developing creation.  Since this is a definition that can serve for all human activities it may seem of little consequence. However, it will help us sift through the ideas we enumerated earlier and give us criteria to make (admittedly fallible) judgements about their worth.  In particular we will stress that philosophy is a human activity that fits into created reality and cannot be understood apart from the reality in which it is embedded.  As Dooyeweerd notes in the above quote, reality is a coherence of many interrelated meanings (see also §7) and philosophy is itself part of this coherence and not something above it.  As a human activity it has no special relationship to God, no privileged role in guiding life or setting out what is ultimately true.  When people divorce themselves from their true identity as image bearers of God and fail to recognise that meaning and purpose come from God, the source of true wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, Colossians 2:2-3), that all creation belongs to God and is made by, through and for him (Romans 11:33-36), then philosophy can become a vehicle of false religious hope and faith.  On these grounds we are forced to question one of the most important and long-standing convictions to be found in the history of philosophy.  Again and again we will confront the high esteem given to Reason by many philosophers:  that Reason is the highest and best in us, that Reason is the key to reality, that Reason is that which is unchanging and unconditionally reliable, that it is what is most godlike in us, that it is independent of particular cultures and faith commitments.  This veneration of Reason is central to much western philosophy, which has taken itself to be the exercise of Reason par excellence.  To ask critically whether assigning such a status to Reason properly helps us understand what is going on in philosophical thought is not an easy task and we shall have to keep returning to it.

Contents

Dooyeweerd on the nature of philosophy


“The intent of philosophy is to give us a theoretical insight into the coherence of our temporal world as an inter-modal coherence of meaning. Philosophic thought is bound to this coherence within which alone it has meaning.” Dooyeweerd New Critique I, 24