Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Philosophia Reformata

The latest edition of PR has just arrived and it contains an important announcement: all future contributions are to be in English only. While it states that this will commence from the next issue the current issue is already English only.

Here is the list of articles:

Andrew Basden, Engaging with and Enriching Humanist Thought: The Case of Information Systems

M.D. Stafleu, Time and History in the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea

Lambert Zuidervaart, Dooyeweerd's Conception of Truth: Exposition and Critique

Jonathan Chaplin, Beyond Multiculturalism - but to where? Public Justice and Cultural Diversity

There is also a review of B.J. van der Walt's When African and Western Cultures Meet by Steve Bishop. So it is not only the English language that is well represented but also English nationals with three out of the six contributors Englishmen residing in England. I must admit to having a slight reservation about banning future Dutch language articles, despite its obvious positives, especially for people like myself, however I do hope that the prominence of the British is a sign of things to come in this country.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Future Reformational Books

At this time of year it is customary to look back over the year and make lists and observations of various kinds. It occurs to me though that there are many books that I am looking forward to reading once they are published. While it is great to hear about forthcoming books, it can also be a little frustrating when the process of publication takes a long time. So two books that I have read and enjoyed this year I was especially pleased that their publishing date was advertised soon after hearing about them and that they became available as close to on-time as could be wished. Indeed both Bob Goudzwaard's Hope in Troubled Times and Lambert Zuidervaart's Social Philosophy After Adorno arrived as reasonably priced paperbacks.

What follows is a list of reformational books that I have, in a variety of ways, come to learn are to be published at some indeterminate time in the future.

  • Dirk H. T. Vollenhoven Reader edited by John Kok
  • Philosophy put to work:Contemporary Issues in Art, Society, Politics, Science and Religion Edited by Henk Geersema and Jan van der Stoep
  • Philosophy the discipline of the disciplines by D.M.F. Strauss
  • Herman Dooyeweerd: Christian Philosopher of State and Civil Society by Jonathan Chaplin
  • Reason Reversed: The Neo-Marxism of the Frankfurt School and the Dialectic of Enlightenment by Jacob Klapwijk
  • Creation, Revelation and Philosophy by Johan Mekkes
  • Technology and the Future by Egbert Schuurman
  • Culture, Society, and Diversity: Essays by Sander Griffioen Edited by Paul Otto and Hubert Krygsman
  • Between Historicism and Relativism: The Dynamics of Historicism and the Philosophical Development of Ernst Troeltsch by Jacob Klapwijk
  • Political Community Beyond The State: A Neocalvinist Position On Non-Monopolistic Public Law Order by Gregory Baus
If you know of other reformational books worth waiting for do let me know.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Reformational philosophy on the web

These days I rarely do a random internet search on Dooyeweerd or reformational philosophy to see what might turn up. However I recently found some interesting stuff:

The biggest find was a long, "directors cut", article by Lambert Zuidervaart called After Dooyeweerd: Truth in Reformational Philosophy. Since Zuidervaart has been working on theories of truth for a while now, this looks like it is a significant contribution to systematic philosophy within the reformational movement.

I was also encouraged to find a blog post on Dooyeweerd's philosophy of furniture by a "Thomist of sorts" who finds value in Dooyeweerd's non-reductionist ontology. It is also a good illustration of how Dooyeweerd ontology can open up our perspectives on the most mundane of realities.

I also discovered this blog that looks interesting, must get round to reading it properly.

The latest Aspects from the Association for Reformational Philosophy is now on-line and includes interviews with Gerrit Glas and Roger Henderson. Glas has been appointed to the Dooyeweerd Chair at the Free University and hopes to publish more in the area of systematic philosophy. Sound exciting to me.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The dynamic character of reality

Sometimes Dooyeweerd has been accused of articulating a static view of creational structures. Whatever the truth of this I think it does go against his intention as expressed by his statement that “all structures of temporal reality are structures of cosmic time” (NC I 105).

Here is another indication of Dooyeweerd’s desire to stress the dynamic character of temporal reality:

“the entire conception to the effect that temporal reality should be something statically given, a fixed “Vorhandenes”, rests upon a fundamental failure to appreciate the dynamic character of reality in the whole coherence of its different modal aspects. In our view, this dynamic character is guaranteed by the mode of ex-sistence of all created things as meaning, finding no rest in itself, and by the opening-process of temporal reality” (NC I 112)

This theme of creational dynamics is something that Mekkes took up in his philosophical reflection, he wrote that

"right from the beginning reformational philosophy emphasized the dynamic character of creation as being God's first revelation to the creature. That's why it spoke of the ground-motive of creation."
In another place he speaks of the

"thesis of disclosure, a dynamic principle" which is "not secondary with regard to the modalities, as if the latter could be subsequently related to each other in a dynamic relation. It is the dynamics of creaturely meaning which shows itself in those modal aspects. It is the dynamics which is primary."
Mekkes placed at the centre of his philosophical work the themes of creational dynamics, religion as radix and a critique of Reason. These are themes are certainly present in Dooyeweerd, yet it appears that Mekkes came to develop them in distinctive ways. Since Mekkes work is a very difficult and as yet largely untranslated we will have to wait for more work to be done to assess his contribution to reformational philosophy. The glimpses I have seen and the evidence of those he influenced (eg Bob Goudzwaard) suggest to me that he is well worth a serious study.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Reformational presentations at the Metanexus conference

The papers from the Metanexus conference are now on-line. These include the following:

Roy Clouser

A Blueprint for a Non-Reductionist Theory of Reality

Johannes Corrodi Katzenstein

H. Dooyeweerd and E. Voegelin on Transcendence

Adolfo GarcĂ­a de la Sienra

The Economic Sphere

Egbert Schuurman

The Ethics of Responsibility as a Comprehensive Approach: An Application to the Ethics of Technology

James Skillen

The Necessity of a Non-Reductionist Science of Politics

Daniel F. M. Strauss

The Significance of a Non-Reductionist Ontology for the Disciplines of Mathematics and Physics–an Historical and Systematic Analysis

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Critique as unmasking

Dooyeweerd assures his readers that his transcendental critique does not cut each philosophical school off from each other in incommensurable starting-points. It is instead the dogma of theoretical autonomy that threatens genuine philosophical dialogue.

“Our transcendental critique wages a merciless war against the masking of supra-theoretical prejudices as theoretical axioms which are forced upon the opponent on penalty of his being viewed as an outsider in philosophical matters. In other words, it aims its attack against the dogmatic exclusivism of the schools, all of which fancy themselves to possess the monopoly on philosophical truth” (NC I 70)

Dooyeweerd emphasises again and again that it is the Christian understanding of the radicality of evil that cuts off any theoretical pride in claiming to possess the monopoly on theoretical truth. In contrast humanism, under the inspiration of the enlightenment, has become more dogmatic in affirming its supra-theoretical beliefs as irrefutable rational certainties.

Humanism that holds to the autonomy of theoretical thought must conclude that exclusive '
supra-theoretical prejudices' which reside at the base of theoretical thinking must cut off philosophical communication. Dooyeweerd's emphasis on the fundamental antithesis between the central motive of Christianity and that of all other religious impulses which have guided philosophy is surely poof of such obscurantism, yet he insists on the continuing contact between Christian philosophy and immanence philosophy.

“this radical rupture with the starting-points and transcendental ground-Ideas of immanence-philosophy does not mean, that an intrinsically re-formed Christian philosophy should intend to break off philosophical contact with Greek, scholastic, and modern Humanistic philosophy. On the contrary, because of its radical-critical standpoint, the Christian philosophy developed in this work is enabled to enter into the most inward contact with immanence-philosophy”
Dooyeweerd further insists that his philosophy “will never break the community of philosophical thought” because to do so would be to return to a dogmatic conflation of religious pre-suppositions and theoretical axioms (NC I 115). Then a few pages on Dooyeweerd writes that his philosophy “is wedded to the historical development of philosophic and scientific thought with a thousand ties” (NC I 118). It would be good to see more work done on exploring these ties.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Philosophy and the special sciences

Here’s a succinct summary of Dooyeweerd’s understanding of the relationship between philosophy and the special sciences:

“each special realm of theoretical inquiry, whether or not it is called “empirical” in the narrower sense, pre-supposes a theoretical vision of temporal reality. And such a vision of reality must necessarily exhibit a philosophical character. Consequently it appears at the same time, that no single special science can possess an essential autonomy with respect to philosophy in the sense of a theory of reality” (NC I 49)

I think that it is worth pointing out that such a “vision of reality” does not require full comprehension of reality. Its purpose is to set the tone of ones research based on an insight on how things hang together. This is often a reductionist vision taking one of the (abstracted) modal-spheres as the theoretical entry-point to reality, but it need not be. It is the positive contribution of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy to sketch what an anti-reductionist ontology looks like.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Selfhood and the act of thought

“Our selfhood … is never to be eliminated from the act of thought” (NC I 23)

This statement shows how theoretical thought is not self-sufficient for it relies on the non-theoretical and more-than-logical human selfhood. Human thought is an actual activity and so theory is a human artefact. Recognising this puts limits on theoretical thought and in particular its ability to comprehend the human subject, even the thinking human subject cannot be grasped in a theoretical concept. Dooyeweerd explains this saying “the “gegenstand-relation” can only be an intentional relation within the real act of theoretical thought between its logical and its non-logical aspects. The real act itself can never be made the “Gegenstand” of its logical function, since the latter can be actual only within a real act of our consciousness, and does not have any actuality in a theoretical abstraction” (NC I 50)

This takes us back to the negative result of Dooyeweerd’s transcendental critique. To arrive at an understanding of the religious root of thought requires an act of self-reflection that is not theoretical.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The necessity of Transcendence

Dooyeweerd uses the image of a lookout-tower to explain why “if I am not to lose myself in the modal speciality of meaning during the course of philosophical thought, I must be able to find a standpoint which transcends the special modal aspects. Only by transcending the speciality of meaning, can I attain to the actual view of totality by which the former is to be distinguished as such” (NC I 8)

This necessity of transcendence is a crucial element of his critique of “immanence philosophy”, yet it still feels to me too closely tied with an epistemological standpoint. That’s a problem because it is the immanence standpoint that is supposed to be caught up in the problematic of knowing subject over-against known object. The point of the Zuidema quote turns on this issue, we are not a philosophical or theoretical subject, but ultimately a religious subject. Apparently Dooyeweerd’s student Johan Mekkes questioned the character of this transcendence in his later thought suggesting that the Archimedean point sought by Dooyeweerd was an illegitimate, neo-Kantian turn which effaced the temporal actuality of thought.

Perhaps we have to accept that the negative character of Dooyeweerd’s critique remains persuasive while his positive account concerning the transcendence of the religious concentration point requires, at the least, further reflection. On this negative result of his critique Dooyeweerd wrote: “the demonstrative force of our critique has been negative in character, so far as it, taken strictly, can only demonstrate, that the starting-point of theoretical thought cannot be found in that thought itself, but must be supra-theoretical in character” (NC I 56-57)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Future posts

I've been getting back into Dooyeweerd's A New Critique of Theoretical Thought and so I plan to post a few quotes and thoughts as I read through. While Dooyeweerd's philosophy is systematic, I think his style invites reflection on themes that recur throughout his work.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Philosophy as point of departure

It's a bit late, I know, to mention that The Reformational Publishing Project has made available S.U Zuidema's important essay concerning Kuyper's view on common grace, follow this link: Common Grace and Christian Action in Abraham Kuyper However it does give me an excuse to quote an extract from another article by Zuidema which also appeared in the volume Communication and Confrontation. This brief piece is entitled "philosophy as point of departure", it is still relevant in its self-critical comment concerning reformational philosophy (here referred to as the Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee).

It is out of the question that any creature behaves at root philosophi­cally in his totality or in his concentrating selfhood. This is certainly beyond dispute with respect to the plant and animal kingdoms. How­ever, man also is not a "philosophical being," and also the man of philos­ophy, qua man, is more than philosopher, and qua philosopher, does not find his point of departure in his philosophical activity, let alone in its results. Neither the point of departure nor the driving force of man are philosophical in nature–nor are they theological or sociological.

This is not to deny that in Western culture there have not lacked at­tempts and do not lack attempts to elevate philosophy, theology or soci­ology to a point of departure. Even certain special sciences aspire to this all-controlling position. Wherever this occurs, an overestimation of sci­ence has taken place, which as an overestimation is of a profoundly reli­gious nature, and man has doomed himself to slavery. He has thus be­trayed and sold out his freedom, and with his freedom his responsibility, his task, and his calling. He has subjected himself to the sway of his phi­losophy, his theology or his special science and, as a result, can no longer find himself or his God.

Wherever the autonomy of thought–which is allegedly grounded in itself and grounds man in his thinking–is made an article of faith, phi­losophy claims to be the only Absolute, the only Unconditional, the only Non-contingency and Inviolate, and attempts to efface as much as possi­ble the supra-philosophical character of the belief in the autonomy of thought. Wherever this type of philosophy comes to historical power, "Philosophy" in fact becomes the point of departure, also for the prac­tice of life, which is then daily subjected to this indignity. Wholly con­trary to its deepest intention, the Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee can also be misconstrued as the point of departure for the practice of life. This is a very antinomical misconception but one for which we must constantly be on our guard because it is characteristic of a temptation which has un­dermined and threatened Christendom for centuries. Is this not one of the many ways whereby man, or in this case the Christian, seeks his se­curity and point of departure in "the works of his hands"–as has been the case for centuries in Christian theology, and no less in the depending on a "strong" personal faith, an experience of faith, and works of faith.

Communication and Confrontation pages 124-125

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Politics of Time

One of my old lectures at Middlesex University has put a book of his on-line. The Politics of Time is a fascinating read for anyone interested in modern philosophy and issues of modernity, history, temporality and politics. It seems to me that the very idea of reformational philosophy is an appeal to a certain 'politics of time' that is anti-revolutionary and anti-conservatistic.

Interestingly Peter Osborne drew a parallel between Heidegger's temporal politics and that of the reformation in an article on Heidegger's politics. This was not an appealing connection though, as Osborne argued that it was the temporal dimension of Heidegger's project - "as a revival of the openness of the present through the retrieval, beneath the de-structured tradition, of the concealed truth of a distant origin" (p.26) - that structurally tied his philosophy to National Socialism. This temporal logic is a form of "reactionary modernism" which he calls "conservative revolution" where the past is regained in order to effect radical change. This temporal logic, writes Osborne, "displays distinct affinities with the temporal-political logic of the Reformation, in which religious authority was challenged by reference to the concealed essence of an other-worldly domain (conscience), delegitimising the established Church and energising the present with a newly transcendent futurity: justification by faith alone" (p.26). I admit that my reformation history is not good enough to know just how fanciful such an explanation is, but it does not come very close to what I understand by the term "reformational"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Prodi loses vital vote

Strange, I was watching Viva Zapetero the other day, and then checked out Freedom House's rating of Italy which has moved from "partly free" to "free" since Prodi replaced Berlusconi as Italy's prime minister. Today Prodi lost a confidence vote in the senate and it looks as though Berlusconi could be back yet again for what would be his third spell as Italy's prime minister.

Monday, January 21, 2008

A Bibliography of Bibliographies

There is loads of stuff out there for Christians seeking to honour God in all they do. The Bibliography at the end of Walsh and Middleton's The Transforming Vision (see updated version here) together with Richard Russell's book list were crucial in my early development in reformational thinking. So here I offer up a short list of links to bibliographies that others may find to be the doorway into an exciting world of following Christ in our thinking.

A Bibliography we can’t live without by Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton

Bibliographies: Important resources for Christians

Christianity and Economics: An annotated Bibliography

On Dooyeweerd by Steve Bishop

Public Justice for All: an annotated bibliography of the works of James W Skillen
by Bruce Wearne

Cultivating Care within a Vulnerable Economy: an annotated bibliography of the English writings of Bob Goudzwaard 1967-2007 by Bruce Wearne