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Herman Dooyeweerd

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Herman Dooyeweerd

Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977) was a Dutch juridical scholar by training, who by vocation was a philosopher, and the founder of a new approach called, the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea. He received early support for his work from his brother-in-law D. H. Th. Vollenhoven and later from H.G. Stoker in South Africa and Cornelius Van Til in the U.S.A.

Contents

Overview of the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea

Dooyeweerd attempted to provide a philosophy which accounted for not only the differences within reality, but also, between one thinker and another. Following Abraham Kuyper, and other, earlier neo-calvinists, Dooyeweerd attempted to describe reality as a creation of God, which has its meaning from God. This God-given meaning is displayed in all of the aspects of things. A lawyer and a biologist are interested in different aspects, for example, even if they are studying the same things. They are looking at the meaning of a thing with different focus, equally concerned with what is real. Perceptions of reality through this kind of scientific attitude, by means of which one aspect is picked out for study, will necessarily be governed by fundamental assumptions about how these various kinds of meaning are related to one another in a coherent whole, belonging within the total range of all experiences. He argued that this showed the need for a consistent and radically Christian philosophy which he sought to provide.

Dooyeweerd self-consciously allowed his Christian perspective to guide his understanding, but in a philosophical rather than a theological mode of thought. He believed that this permitted him to gain insight into the principle by which diversity and the unity of meaning agree, as he directs his thought toward the origin of things, which is God. Although he self-consciously exposes the religious nature of his philosophy, he suggests that in fact, all thought is inescapibly religious in character. This is disguised by the fact that the supposed origin of meaning, toward which various thinkers direct their thought, is not God, but some aspect of creation.

This "religious ground-motive" acts as a spiritual driving force impelling each thinker to interpret reality under its influence. In the case of thinkers under the influence of non-christian ground-motives this leads to an over-emphasis on one part or aspect of reality so that all things seem to fit into the scheme determined for him by his prior commitment, his most basic beliefs. From thinker to thinker, as these presuppositions differ between them, people view the world differently from one another leading to the various isms. Thus, there is a basic "antithesis", a source of irreducible differences, which must be accounted for as a foundational issue, in any complete philosophy; and, this antithesis is religious in nature.

Borrowing language and concepts from a wide variety of philosophical schools, especially from the Marburg school of neo-Kantianism, Dooyeweerd builds on this foundation of a supposed "antithesis", to make distinctions between one kind of thinking and another, theorizing that diverse kinds of thinking disclose diverse kinds of meaning, and that this meaning corresponds in some way to the actual state of affairs.

Dooyeweerd developed an anti-reductionist ontology of "modal aspects", concerning diverse kinds of meaning which are disclosed in the analysis of every existent thing. He considered such modes to be irreducible to each other and yet indissolubly linked. Dooyeweerd at first suggested that there were 14 modes but later postulated 15 (Dooyeweerd 1997 Vol.2 p.98). The indissoluble coherence of these modal aspects is envinced through their analogical relationship to one another, and finally in their concentration in the central religious selfhood which has a direct relationship to its origin: God.

Works and legacy

The majority of Dooyeweerd's published articles and multi-volume works originally appeared only in Dutch. During his lifetime efforts were already underway to make his work available to English-speakers. Translation of Dooyeweerd's writing has continued since 1994 under the oversight of the Dooyeweerd Centre (see link below). To date, thirteen books have been published in English, including his magnum opus, De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee(1935-6), which was revised and expanded in English as, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought (1953-8). For an introduction to Dooyeweerd's thought, the 2004 publication, Political Philosophy, with introduction by David T. Koyzis, may be a good option.

Dooyeweerd's influence has continued through the Association for Reformational Philosophy and its journal Philosophia Reformata which he and Vollenhoven set up. There are also a number of institutions around the world that draw their inspiration from his philosophy.

Accolades such as that offered by Professor G.D. Langemeijer, Chairman of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, indicate that the full influence of Dooyeweerd's ideas is yet to be seen. Langemeijer noted that Dooyeweerd was "...the most original philosopher Holland has ever produced, even Spinoza not excepted."

Multi-volume publications

  • A New Critique of Theoretical Thought
    • Volume I: The Necessary Presuppositions of Philosophy
    • Volume II: The General Theory of the Modal Spheres
    • Volume III: The Structure of Individuality of Temporal Reality
    • Volume IV: Index of Subject and Authors (compiled by H. de Jongste)
  • Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy
    • Volume I: The Greek Prelude
  • Encyclopedia of the Science of Law
    • Volume 1: Introduction

Collected essays and compilations

  • Christian Philosophy and the Meaning of History
  • Essays in Legal, Social, and Political Philosophy
  • Roots of Western Culture
  • In The Twilight of Western Thought
  • Political Philosophy

References

  • Dooyeweerd, Herman A New Critique of Theoretical Thought Vols. I - IV (Edwin Mellen Press, 1997)

External links

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