Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Van Riessen and the limits of criticism

I found this an interesting observation:

Perhaps it is not in order but at this point I feel constrained to acknowledge that in criticizing certain opinions of another, one always has the disagreeable feeling of not doing full justice to the whole of the other’s viewpoint. There is, after all, no alternative. The reader will have to keep the fact as well as
the inevitability of such one-sidedness in mind, especially in the choice of illustrations. (The Society of the Future p.103)

I like the modesty apparent in this statement, but I also think that it says something true about criticism. Each thinker has his or her insights and in criticising them one aims to show how such insights are limited, malformed, partly in error or contain certain dangers. To do this one generally has to interpret their views in a way that goes beyond what they in fact say, in other words the danger, or error, or whatever, has to be highlighted creating a tension between what was originally stated and the problem that the criticism attempts to deal with. Another way of putting this is to say that all criticism involves over-interpretation which, more often that not, involves (an element of) misinterpretation.


Paul said...

This is why, if I were organising a philosophy degree in a Reformed institution, I would want to bring in lecturers from other traditions.

E.g. I read about Aquinas in Schaeffer, Van Til, and Dooyeweerd, but it was a (much needed) shock to be taught about him by an open-minded but convinced Thomist in a Scholastic Philosophy department at a "secular" university.

Paul said...

I should add that I have read Aquinas, but what I focus upon in the primary text and how I interpret it, is affected by what I have been taught about him.

Rudi said...

Thanks Paul. I think these are really important questions. Both the way we engage others in critique and the way we respond to the critique of others are crucial to any attempt to follow a genuinely reformational path.