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.

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