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.


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.


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

Saturday, April 14, 2018

(8) The question "what is philosophy?"

The question which we here deal with is clearly important and fundamental when considering the possibility and outline of a Christian philosophy.  Unfortunately, we will not easily find a satisfactory answer; certainly not one that will satisfy everybody.  It has been well said that the question “what is philosophy?” is itself a philosophical question and one that has received many different answers.

Let us at least begin with some common ideas without yet making any judgement about them.  Firstly, philosophy involves and is about thinking.  The twentieth-century philosopher Martin Heidegger at the end of his career even preferred to speak of “thinking” rather than philosophy, meaning by it a special and deep kind of thinking, and provocatively claimed that ‘science does not think’. In this way he stressed the difference between philosophy and science.  Others have seen science as the very pinnacle of human thought about reality so that philosophy is left with the task of clarifying the concepts and arguments we use both in science and in everyday life.  In this way philosophy becomes a specialised kind of thinking related to logical analysis.  So called “analytic” philosophy which is the predominant form of philosophy in universities today tends to follow this line.  The well-known Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga is a leading figure in analytic philosophy and once described philosophical reflection as “not much different from just thinking hard”.  Philosophy has also been said to start with a feeling of wonder, as Plato has it in the Theaetetus (155d)[1] and as Aristotle repeated (Metaphysics A 982b10)[2] – and also to involve reflection that goes deeper than usual thinking.  Let’s explore these ideas a bit further.

That people were struck by a feeling of awe at the world around them, and drawn by such a feeling to wonder at the origin of it all, certainly predated the beginnings of philosophy in 6th century BC Ionia.  This is clear from the many myths that describe the birth of gods and of human beings.  From its inception, usually identified with Thales of Miletus, philosophy had an ambiguous relation to these myths.  It is quite possible that the importance of Miletus as the birth of philosophy, being home also to Anaximander and Anaximenes, was due to its importance as a trade-route with the older cultures of Babylon, Egypt, Lydia, and Phoenicia.  Contact with such cultures would have confronted the Greeks with creation myths quite different from their own. The early philosophers both drew on these myths for inspiration and ideas, as Thales did in identifying water as the ultimate element, but also showed a critical attitude – as far as we know Thales made no link to the gods and gave a more ‘naturalistic’ and structural account of reality.  Often the critical attitude has been emphasised and from this we get the idea that philosophy is in tension with religion as well as the idea that philosophy must be a kind of thinking that is critical. 

Then we should consider the term philosophy itself which derives from two Greek words philos and sophia which together mean the “love of wisdom”.  Here we can find the notion that philosophy can help us discover the meaning of life and show us how to live a good life.  Early on in the history of philosophy, ethics took an important role such that for many it became a kind of alternative religious way of life for intellectuals.  We could think of the religious cult that grew up around the legendary Pythagoras or later when Plato spoke of philosophy as a conversion of the soul from darkness to light, from the world of change to reality itself which is understood to be a divine order. As the philosopher comes to know this changeless order he becomes divine so far as is possible for a mortal (Republic 518c-d and 500c-d).  While this view became less common with the advent of Christianity, in our increasingly post-Christian age it is experiencing something of a revival as the likes of Luc Ferry and Alain de Botton try to show us how to live a good secular life with the help of philosophy.  Finally, and possibly the most important and pervasive idea about philosophy is that it has to do with reason and being rational.


[1]"I see, my dear Theaetetus, that Theodorus had a true insight into your nature when he said that you were a philosopher, for wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder."
[2] “The fact that this science is not productive is also clear from those who first engaged in philosophy.  For human beings originally began philosophy, as they do now, because of wonder”

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Further reading

These introductory posts have tried to lay some of the Biblical foundations for a Christian philosophy. While it may overlap with theology, what is covered is perhaps better described as ‘worldview’. In his book The Relation of the Bible to Learning, Evan Runner lay great emphasis on the fact that “the Word of God is one,” a living and active power that speaks to and redirects the heart and so provides guidance for the whole of life. This directing power must also guide theology and so should be distinguished from it. Runner’s book and its sequel Scriptural Religion and Political Task, can be found in Walking the Way of the Word: The collected writings of H. Evan Runner Volume 2, (Paideia Press, 2009.)

One book that was drawn on for much in these sections and which covers similar topics is Albert Wolter’s classic Creation Regained: Biblical basics for a Reformational Worldview, (Eerdmans, 1985/2005.) From Wolters is taken the claim, made in section 4, that “There is nothing in human life that does not belong to the created order” (p.25). His short paper The Foundational Command:‘Subdue  the Earth!’is very helpful in understanding the cultural mandate. Also The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview by Brian Walsh and Richard Middleton, (IVP, 1984), deals with creation, cultural mandate and the dangers of dualism. Richard Middleton’s recent A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology, (Baker Academic, 2014), is a rich resource and was especially helpful for section 4; the quote there is from pp.101-102. The claim that God’s Word is “first published in creation, then republished in Scripture” is helpfully explained in Society, State, and Schools: A case for structural and confessional pluralism, by Gordon Spykman et. al. (Eerdmans, 1981) pp.151-155. Andre Troost has covered “The relation between the revelation of creation and Word-revelation” in chapter 2 of his book The Christian Ethos, (Patmos, 1983.)

The table of aspects and questions in section 1 is adapted from Science in Faith: A Christian Perspective on Teaching Science edited by Arthur Jones pages 18-19. The reference to Oscar Cullmann in section 2 is to his “Immortality of the soul or resurrection of the dead? Herman Dooyeweerd’s summary of the cultural mandate in section 3 is from Roots of Western Culture, (Paideia Press, 2012), p.30. This is a good place to start getting an insight into the worldview or “religious ground-motive” that propels reformational philosophy. The social perspective hinted at in section 3 is based on the principle of “sphere sovereignty” articulated by the Dutch statesman Abraham Kuyper in “Sphere Sovereignty” (1880) see pp.461-490 of Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader edited by James D. Bratt, and chapter 3 of Lectures on Calvinism, (Eerdmans, 1931.) Dooyeweerd discusses sphere sovereignty in chapter 2 of Root of Western Culture. Some of the implications of this principle for society will be explored in the later sections; however, it will also become apparent that the basic principle is fundamental to the whole working out of a reformational philosophy. The quote from Vollenhoven in section 6 comes from §13 of his Introduction to Philosophy Edited by John J. Kok and Anthony Tol, ‘being-subject’ as the ‘point of orientation’ comes from §17, and Tol’s gloss is from Anthony Tol Philosophy in the making: D.H.Th. Vollenhoven and the emergence of reformed philosophy page xvii fn23. Johan van der Hoeven’s "In memory of Herman Dooyeweerd. Meaning, time and lawPhilosophia Reformata 43: 130 -144, is helpful in understanding the key idea of meaning in Dooyeweerd.

To understand the reformational approach to reading the Bible, as well as the books already mentioned, one should consult Calvin Seerveld’s How to read the Bible to hear God speak, (Dordt Press, 2003.) Cornelis Veenhof described the atmosphere in the Netherlands surrounding the birth of reformational philosophy as “When the Scriptures Fell Open. Prominent among those he mentions is the Amsterdam preacher S. G. de Graaf whose four volume Promise and Deliverance (Paideia Press, 2012) was deemed significant enough to be the only major translation project undertaken by Evan Runner. An important historical account of how evangelicalism has repeatedly fallen for a reduced understanding of Biblical faith is Keith Sewell’s The Crisis of Evangelical Christianity: Roots, Consequences, and Resolutions (WIPF & Stock, 2016.)

Saturday, March 24, 2018

(7) Created reality as ‘meaning’

Early on in in his main work: A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Dooyeweerd writes: “Meaning is the being of all that has been created and the nature even of our selfhood” (NC I, 4).  It is a statement that has intrigued and confused.  Dooyeweerd, however, wastes no time in explaining that his point is that nothing in reality stands by itself in its own strength.  Anything, any moment or aspect, any individual or institution in some way expresses something of something else.  In some way it refers beyond itself, and ultimately to God.  Echoing Saint Augustine’s famous saying “Thou hast made us for thyself, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee”, Dooyeweerd described reality as restless.

This restless referring and expressing suggested to Dooyeweerd the idea of meaning.  We might also think of expressions like “the meaning of life,” or “the meaning of history” to get a sense of what he was getting at by using this term.  It has something to do with the direction and purpose of things, of all reality. The idea of meaning is used by Dooyeweerd to point towards a religious dynamic, the movement of creation as Saint Paul expresses it when writing to the Romans “For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (11:36).  In other words, reality expresses the will of God and refers back to God.

As with Vollenhoven’s use of the term ‘subject’, so too here it is useful to contrast what Dooyeweerd is saying with what other philosophers might be expected to say with the same term.  We would expect philosophers to take the term ‘meaning’ as designating something about how reality may appear to us.  Reality-in-itself is just so many bits of matter with no inherent meaning at all.  It is only when the human subject, in the sense rejected by Vollenhoven, confronts it that reality gets cloaked with meaning, value, even emotion.  Meaning then is a term related to human experience as something quite separate from reality.  On the one side, the human subject which bestows meaning on things; on the other, the object meaningless-in-itself.

Dooyeweerd responds to this picture by saying that it holds no relation to our experience.  Each element of reality is interconnected with the rest of reality.  The way things interrelate in both stable and changing ways is at the very heart of reality, and the term ‘meaning’ designates this dynamic interconnectedness.  By saying that reality is meaning, Dooyeweerd rejects the idea that anything could exist in-itself or could be known of itself.  Philosophical notions like “substance”, “essence” and, “subject” are to be abandoned, or at least seriously questioned, as they reveal attempts to disconnect some element of reality both from its relation to other elements of reality and from its very nature as a dependent creature, from, through and for God.

We can now summaries the key Biblical principles that lie at the heart of reformational philosophy.  (1) The richness of creation demands that philosophy does justice to diversity. (2) Humans have responsibility primarily realised in tasks that are always limited in scope. (3) Creational diversity and human responsibility do not have meaning in themselves but in relation to each other and ultimately to the command to love God above all else. (4) The interaction between the ordered cosmos and human responsibility to develop creation’s potential can be helpfully understood in terms of a dynamic coordination of structure and direction.