Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Herman Dooyeweerd

: Available English-Language Writings Online

1928 Nature and Grace in the Calvinistic Law-Idea

1935-36 excerpts from Philosophy of the Law-Idea
Vol.I: Foreword, Introduction, Ground-Idea, Foundation, Law-Idea, Prism of Cosmic Time, Law and Subject, Philosophy/Worldview;
Vol.II: The Gegenstand, Dis-stasis/ Synthesis, Intuition and Time, Conceptual Limits, Horizon and Levels, God, Self and Cosmos

1937-38 Responses to the University Trustees

1940 Time in the Philosophy of the Law-Idea

1942 Thirty-Two Propositions on Anthropology
[another version] The Theory of Man (pdf)

1943-46 The Idea of the Individuality Structure and the Thomistic Concept of Substance

1945-50 excerpts from Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy
Preface (pdf), Introduction, Chapter 1 pages 1-40 (pdf), Part 2, Intro section 1, pages 127-134, Part 2, Chapter 3 pages 237-262 (pdf), from Vol.II, from Vol.III

1946 Encyclopedia of Legal Science
[1967 excerpts from Introduction, Vol.I pages 11-48 (pdf), Vol.I pages 85-121 (pdf), Vol.III, Revised Intro]

1946 The Relation of the Individual and Community (pdf)

1947 Introduction to a Transcendental Criticism of Philosophic Thought
[also] Intro to Transc.Crit., * (pdf)

1948 Transcendental Problems of Philosophic Thought

1950 The Concept of Sovereignty (pdf)
Cf. Study Guide for Christian Idea of the State

c. 1950 excerpts from Essays in Legal, Social, and Political Philosophy
Cf. Study Guide for Christian Theory of Social Institutions

1953-58 A New Critique of Theoretical Thought
Vol.s I - II (large pdf), Vol.s III - IV (large pdf)
[excerpts from Vol.1, Vol.2, Vol.3]
Cf. Study Guide for New Critique

1953 The Secularization of Science
[also] Sec.of Sci. (pdf)

1954 The Analogical Concepts (pdf)

1958 The Criteria of Progressive and Reactionary Tendencies in Histrory (pdf)
[excerpts from Christian Philosophy and the Meaning of History]

1959 Roots of Western Culture
[excerpts from Various, Preface and Introduction (pdf), Chapter 3 pages 63-68 (pdf), Chapter 5 pages 111-119 (pdf), Chapter 7 pages 175-187 (pdf)]
____+ 1970 Reconstruction & Reformation (pdf)
____+ The entire 1979 (abridged) edition (pdf)
Cf. Study Guide for Roots of Western Culture

1959 Creation and Evolution (pdf)

1960 What Is Man? (pdf)

1960 excerpt from In the Twilight of Western Thought
Cf. Study Guide for Twilight of Western Thought

1964 ACP Lecture and Discussion

1972 Sociology of Law and Its Philosophical Foundations (pdf)

1974 The Verbrugge Interview [with mp3s]

1975 The Epistemological Gegenstand-Relation and the Logical Subject-Object-Relation [Dooyeweerd's last article]

1975 The Boeles Interview [Dooyeweerd's last interview]

* see also the 20 yr.old Dooyeweerd's 1914-1915 student paper Neo-Mysticism and Frederik van Eeden

Hopefully, this bibliography of Herman Dooyeweerd's writings that are online in English will continue to grow. If you know of anything I have missed, please comment below.

Friday, June 23, 2006

critical inquiry & prejudiced startingpoint

From the preface of Herman Dooyeweerd's 1948 Transcendental Problems of Philosophic Thought:

A reader who is of the opinion that a philosophic investigation should be 'unprejudiced' might ask me whether the results of my [theoretical] inquiry are not already implied in my religious starting point. If such were the case, it would be contradictory indeed to pretend that [my conclusions] proceed from an inquiry into the structure of theoretic thought itself. I must answer, however, that such an objection would reveal a fundamental misunderstanding.

I do not pretend that my transcendental investigations should be unprejudiced. On the contrary, I have demonstrated that an unprejudiced theory is excluded by the true nature of theoretic thought itself. The really critical character of my transcendental method appears only from its sharp distinction between theoretic judgments and super-theoretic prejudices and from its merciless fighting against the current dogmatic confusion of both of these behind the mask of a [supposed] 'autonomous' science.

However, the results of my [theoretical] inquiry are not [given] in my religious starting point. If this were true, it would seem a little astonishing that Christian thought has not detected long ago the inner point of connection between religion and scientific theory. This point of connection could only be discovered by means of a serious and exact inquiry into the structure of theoretic thought itself. And this is a matter of critical science, not a matter of dogmatic confession.

That this critical investigation is necessarily dependent upon a super-theoretic starting point does not derogate from its inner scientific nature. This latter would only be true if the thinker should [seek to] eliminate a really scientific problem by a dogmatic authoritative dictum, dictated by his religious prejudice. For instance, if he should proclaim that theoretic [conception] can start only from the logical function of thought, because logical understanding is 'autonomous.' Equally dogmatic would be an authoritative dictum from [our side, if we claimed] that [theoretic conception] cannot start from theoretic thought itself because this 'autonomy' would contradict the [religious] Revelation concerning the religious root of human existence.

I invite my readers to examine my inquiry on this point. I believe they will consent that it is nowhere turning away from the critical path and that the transcendental problems formulated in the course of this investigation are strictly bound to the structure of theoretical thought itself. The influence of the [religious] starting point appears in the [content of the] transcendental ideas, which, as will be demonstrated in the course of my treatise, determine the viewpoint on these problems and the direction of their solution.

But it is not true that the possibility of scientific discussion should end here. The solution, presented by a philosophical thinker, ought to be a real solution in view of the real problem. If it should appear that he tries to escape from this latter by means of an authoritative dictum, prescribed by his starting point, this can be discovered in a strictly [theoretic] way which cannot be [coherently] denied by the thinker himself.

And if it should appear that the [content of the] transcendental ideas which dominate the direction of his theoretic thought prevent his finding a real solution in view of the real problem, these ideas ought to be concerned in the discussion. But on that issue scientific discussion cannot transcend the limits of the really scientific problem. It would be pure illusion if one should imagine he could convince his opponents in a 'purely' theoretic way that a [certain] religious starting point in itself is true or false.

For in that question are concerned the thinker's religious convictions, which surely are not capable of theoretic [argument]. Here can avail only an absolute standard of truth, offered in Revelation. And the convincing power of the Word of God is not that of theoretic demonstration. Nevertheless, I am confident indeed that philosophic thought will be necessarily led astray if it starts from a religious point which is unmasked by Divine Revelation as idolatrous and false.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Dooyeweerd's Societal Sphere Sovereignty

Neither Tax-based Nor Laissez-faire

update 2008 : See video of new revised version and read online: Here and Here.
Read in Spanish.
For a PDF of modified version that appeared in the Griffin's View* International and Comparative Law Journal -June 2006, Here.
Read the paper below with the footnotes in PDF format, Here.

1. Introduction

Two years after the end of the second world war, Philipp Kohnstamm, a Christian member of the Labor Party, and Cornelis Smeenk, an Anti-Revolutionary Party member of parliament, debated the meaning of Kuyperian societal sphere sovereignty, and the policies the Anti-Revolutionary Party should pursue in terms of it. Kohnstamm advocated a socialistic interpretation, which no doubt involved tax-based funding for social programs. Smeenk advocated an interpretation which was neither laissez-faire nor statist.

During this same period Herman Dooyeweerd wrote a series of editorials which was later published as a book in English under the title Roots of Western Culture. In these articles he developed the concept of societal sphere sovereignty along the lines of Smeenk's interpretation, that is, in contrast to both individualism and collectivism. Dooyeweerd wrote:
"Since the time of Abraham Kuyper the term sphere sovereignty has become common place as part of this country's everyday language. But the profundity of Kuyper's insight, with respect to the nature of the social order --an insight based on the groundmotive of the Christian religion-- was understood by relatively few people at the time or since. The less it was realized that this fundamental principle is rooted directly in the scriptural groundmotive of the Christian religion, the more sphere sovereignty dissolved into an ambiguous political slogan that everyone could interpret in a different way." (Roots, p.49)
Over the following decade Kohnstamm's socialistic interpretation won out among would be anti-revolutionaries. Statist policies were implemented across the board in the Netherlands, resulting in even Kuyper's once independent university being funded through taxation.
In this paper I will describe Dooyeweerd's conception of societal sphere sovereignty in basic outline, and suggest that tax-based funding for social programs is incompatible with Dooyeweerd's view. I will also distinguish Dooyeweerd's conception of societal sphere sovereignty from a laissez-faire interpretation.

2. Dooyeweerd's Conception

2.1. Christian groundmotive
In Roots, Dooyeweerd begins his discussion of societal sphere sovereignty in terms of what he calls the groundmotive of the Christian religion which he summarizes as "creation, fall and redemption through Christ Jesus" (Roots, p.41). In general a groundmotive is an expression of one of two possible basic religious commitments or orientations. One of these is characterized by belief in the true God revealed in the Scriptures, the other by unbelief, that is, by an apostate faith in something as divine (ultimate or absolute) other than the true God, which is idolatry. These two possible religious commitments are in an irreconcilable antithesis to each other.

Only the Christian groundmotive is an expression of the former. The latter has been historically expressed in various groundmotives. In what is often called Western civilization there are three groundmotives other than the Christian one. There is the ancient Greek, or pagan groundmotive of Matter – Form. There is the Roman Catholic, or scholastic groundmotive of Nature – Grace. There is the Modern, or humanistic groundmotive of Nature – Freedom. These three non-Christian groundmotives all display an inner contradiction, or dialectical tension between two opposing principles. Although adherents of these groundmotives often try to resolve the tension, because each pole is itself ultimate no reconciliation is possible. Dooyeweerd affirms that the Christian groundmotive, however, is a unity in which no inner opposition exists.

Belief in the true God of the Scriptures that is expressed in the Christian groundmotive is a result of regeneration. That is, this belief is constituted by a conversion from unbelief to belief by the operation of God's Spirit in the human heart. The heart is the supratemporal unity of a person, and the root of all a person's temporal expressions. This heart is also known as the inner man, soul, mind, and spirit in the Scriptures, and philosophically is often referred to by terms such as the consciousness, ego, I-ness, and selfhood.

Crucial to Dooyeweerd's conception of societal sphere sovereignty is that the creation element of the Christian groundmotive recognizes a genuine diversity in creation, for "God created everything after its own kind" (Roots, 43). Intimately related to this idea of diversity in creation is the idea of order and law. That is, God created each kind of thing according to its own kind of law by which He continues to sustain and govern them. Only God is not inherently bound to law, everything else is subject to whatever laws He created for it.

2.2. Modalities
Within this creational diversity, there are two "levels" of structure that Dooyeweerd distinguishes. The first level is that of modality, the second is that of individuality.
"If one desires to understand the significance of the creational principle of sphere sovereignty for human society in its full scope, then the meaning... of the aspects of reality (including the aspects of society) must first be understood" (Roots, p.45).
What Dooyeweerd here refers to as "aspects" is the same as what he elsewhere calls modalities. For convenience, I will continue to use the term modality. To avoid confusion, what Dooyeweerd sometimes refers to as the "sphere sovereignty" of the modalities I will call by the term he uses elsewhere, namely modal irreducibility, along with its co-ordinate concepts of modal analogy and modal universality.

Modalities are ways in which something exists and is experienced. So for instance, while grocery shopping you may notice that grapes are more or less expensive at one store than they are at another. Grapes can be given a certain monetary value. Or you might be walking in the country and find them growing wild, and you might procure them at no monetary cost. In either case, grapes exist and are experienced in an economic way. We might not focus on the economic modality of grapes, and indeed the economic does not seem to be the most characteristic quality of grapes. Nevertheless, grapes are experienced and do exist economically.

Dooyeweerd distinguishes fifteen modalities altogether. These include the arithmetic (quantity), spatial (extension), kinetic (movement), physical (energy), biotic (life), psychic (feeling), analytical (distinction), historical (culture), lingual (symbol), social (intercourse), economic (thrift), aesthetic (harmony), juridical (justice), moral (love), and fiducial (certitude). Each modality has a core meaning (represented by the term in parentheses), an original sense which is proper to itself and cannot be explained exclusively in terms of any other modal sense, and by which each modality may be distinguished. Each modality is also subject to its own particular kind of laws. Accordingly each modality is said to be irreducible; no modality can be reduced to any other. For instance, the central modal sense of the psychic (that is, feeling) cannot be properly reduced to the kinetic (that is, movement).

However, in relation to the respective core meanings of the psychic and kinetic, we do speak of "emotion" which may be understood as a movement of feeling. We may also speak of mood swings and also of a feeling of motion, such as one may experience on a boat at sea. These are called modal analogies; concepts that attest to the inner connection or relation between modalities. In concrete experience all the modalities exist in an unbreakable mutual coherence. Moreover, every particular thing always has all the modalities. This is what we may call modal universality. However, some things function subjectively or actively in certain modalities, and objectively or passively in other modalities. For instance, a stone has all the modalities, but it only actively functions in the arithmetic, spatial, kinetic, and physical. The same stone functions in the biotic, psychic, analytical, historical, lingual, social, economic, aesthetic, juridical, moral, and fiducial only passively (for instance, as an economic object).

2.3 Individuality-structures and societal communities
The second level of structure in the diversity of created reality that Dooyeweerd distinguishes he calls "individuality-structures." Structures of individuality cover a broad range of concrete phenomena such as events and what we normally think of as "things," including humanly formed things such as artifacts and societal communities. For our purposes we will focus on how Dooyeweerd articulates the natures of and relationships among various societal communities.

Modalities are important in recognizing the distinct natures of diverse things, including the distinct natures of various societal communities. Each thing has what Dooyeweerd calls a "qualifying" function. Some thing's qualifying function is directly related to its most characteristic modality. This qualifying function specially characterizes the way some thing functions in all the other modalities, and determines its internal or intrinsic nature and purpose. Humanly formed things, such as societal communities, also have what Dooyeweerd calls a "founding" function. Some thing's founding function is directly related to the modality that most characterizes the basis upon which the thing was formed.

Dooyeweerd distinguishes various kinds of societal communities relative to their respective founding and qualifying functions. These so distinguished communities constitute the various societal spheres. For example, Dooyeweerd distinguishes between the school, the church, the business, and the state. While all four are historically founded, the school is analytically qualified, the church is fiducially qualified, the business is economically qualified, and the state is juridically qualified. The family, which Dooyeweerd also distinguishes from other societal communities, is biotically founded and morally qualified.

2.4. The root of the sovereignty of societal spheres
The foregoing description of a theoretical account of creational diversity is proper to the Christian groundmotive. Non-Christian groundmotives resort again and again to idolatrous reductionism in taking some modality, something of creation, as ultimate or absolute in terms of which they seek to explain everything else. For views of societal order such reductionisms result in the absolutization of some sphere, often that of the state. Failing to recognize the Creator, non-Christian groundmotives thereby fail to recognize genuine creational diversity.

Dooyeweerd, on the other hand, insists on the absolute sovereignty of God alone. And it is on this basis that the delegated sovereignty of each societal sphere is understood.
"Sphere sovereignty guarantees each societal sphere an intrinsic nature and law of life. And with this guarantee it provides the basis for an original sphere of authority and competence derived not from the authority of any other sphere but directly [delegated] from the sovereign authority of God" (Roots, p.49).
Dooyeweerd refers to this sovereign authority of God as the "total rule of God," and also calls it the "basic Christian idea of the kingdom of God." Here too we find the supratemporal unity of the community of humankind. While not all individual persons are regenerate (nor elected to be so), and so do not acknowledge God's sovereignty, the deepest root of humanity itself, as with each particular person, is its being "religious," that is, in direct responsibility to God.

2.5. Sovereignty vs. autonomy of societal spheres
This God-given sovereignty, or authority and competence, within each societal sphere is direct or immediate, that is, not mediated by some other sphere. Dooyeweerd contrasts this conception with that of autonomy. He insists that genuine societal sphere sovereignty is not equivalent to functional decentralization.
"This would mean that the different spheres of society, as independent parts, must be incorporated into the state while retaining a certain autonomy. The task of the state would then be decentralized by creating municipalities, provinces, and other parts of the state alongside [local agencies] endowed with a public legal regulatory jurisdiction..."(Roots, p.50)
Autonomy, in this sense, implies a part-whole relationship. Dooyeweerd is emphatic that no societal sphere constitutes a whole of which other spheres are but parts. Rather, each societal sphere is a whole unto itself. This also rules out any kind of hierarchical arrangement among the various societal spheres. Dooyeweerd affirms that "none of these temporal spheres can be derived from or valued lower than any other." And since "only derived competency can be based on positive law," not only can the other societal spheres never properly be made parts of the state, but the state (or any other sphere) can never be what creates the boundaries of sovereignty between spheres.

The criterion, then, for recognizing a sovereign societal sphere is its distinct intrinsic nature. As we stated before, the intrinsic nature of a societal sphere is determined by its founding and qualifying functions. The founding and qualifying functions which determine the basis upon which a societal sphere is formed, and the way it functions in all the modalities, and its distinct intrinsic nature and purpose which distinguishes it from other societal spheres Dooyeweerd collectively calls a societal sphere's "inner structural principle."

2.6. Intrinsic nature of the state
According to its inner structural principle, Dooyeweerd characterizes the state as a public legal community of rulers and subjects (or government and citizenry) with a monopoly on "power of the sword" within a defined territory. This sword-power within a territory is the historical founding function of the state. Sword-power here means lethal coercion, that is, the ability to achieve compliance upon the threat of death. Taxation is included in this exercise of state coercion.

As a public legal community the qualifying function of the state is within the juridical modality. While every sovereign societal sphere is a sphere of authority, that is, of law-making competence, the laws of any given non-state societal community such as family, church, business, or school, have no proper jurisdiction outside its own sphere. This is just as true of the state. The state's sphere of competence is distinctly qualified, and thus intrinsically limited, by its public character. Dooyeweerd affirms that "every form of legal power, that of the state also, is structurally delimited by the inner nature of the sphere of life within which it is exercised."

Therefore, the norm holding for the state's proper activities must be that of public justice. This is in keeping with Dooyeweerd's affirmation of the state as res publica, that is, as the public entity. The genuine state is not an object of private ownership, but rather is held in common without respect to membership in any other societal community. So the justice of the state is never, not even ideally, a generic justice. The norm of justice, as it applies to the state, must be delimited by the state's intrinsic public nature, and so holds with exclusive regard to the public legal sphere. There are many injustices, then, which the state has no competence to address.

Dooyeweerd explicates justice in terms of retribution; that is, in the classical sense of giving to each their proper due. However, justice has various modal analogies. We may speak of trustworthiness, that is, due confidence, in terms of the fiducial modality. In terms of the economic modality, we may speak of paying, financially, what we owe. Yet in every case, the original sense of justice is retribution. This retribution takes on a distinct qualification in various societal spheres according to each societal sphere's inner structural principle. Dooyeweerd calls the Christian conception of retribution as a public legal norm within the sphere of the state a "bulwark of the reformational principle of sphere sovereignty" particularly in its application to penalties in criminal law. The requirement that the state put murders to death must not be confused with, for instance, the sort of penalties that should be meted out within the familial sphere which is morally qualified.

2.7. Intrinsic limit of the state's public legal power
According to the state's inner structural principle, Dooyeweerd distinguishes two kinds of law proper to the state,
"namely civil law and public law, the first being a state-law regulating the civil coordinational relations of individuals as such, the latter being an inner communal law of the state as a public community. These are the two original spheres of competency of the state in the domain of [law-formation]" (Contest, p.119)
Civil law, then, concerns the liberty and equality of persons, as persons, before state law. Civil law also constitutes a public legal recognition of inter-individual legal agreements without regard to any particular communal membership or specific characteristic of the person, such as age, health, gender, ethnicity, religion, or economic status.

Public law, on the other hand, concerns the organization of the state, and the respective rights and duties of both government and citizens within that public legal community. So, for instance, whether the government is representational, and which citizens may elect representatives would be addressed in public law. However, the specific content of such law must be determined on the basis of the salus publica, that is the common good. And yet, Dooyeweerd says that the common good "has at all times been the slogan of state absolutism."

Dooyeweerd is again emphatic that only upon the Christian conception of societal sphere sovereignty in terms of which the state is understood to be intrinsically limited according to its inner structural principle, a conception which has "fundamentally broken with any absolutization of either state or individual,... [can we] grasp the principle of the common good as a truly juridical principle of public law." In other words, the common good, as a principle for determining public law, must also be intrinsically qualified in a public legal sense. So as it concerns public law, the common good must never have, for instance, an economic or social sense.

These two kinds of law proper to the state by virtue of the state's distinct inner structural principle are to be sharply distinguished from the multiple private spheres of law which are exclusively within the jurisdiction of each respective sovereign societal sphere.

3. Tax-based Funding For Social Programs
As mentioned above, taxation is an exercise of the state's legitimate coercive power. With regard to tax-based funding for social programs, this can function on any of three levels or some combination. The first level is that of direct state operation. On this level taxes are collected to fund social programs that are administered as any other department of state. The second level is what I will call subsidy. On this level taxes are collected and then allocated to autonomous agencies which administer the social programs. The third level is what I will call stipend. On this level taxes are collected and then allocated to the recipients of the social program services who in turn use the tax-stipend to fund the programs.

Refundable tax-credit to agencies or recipients for funding of social programs would be subsidy or stipend in as much as the tax refunded exceeds that which was paid by the refundee. In this case, the tax-credit allocated for the funding of social programs is collected from those not so refunded. However, non-refundable tax-credits for agencies and recipients of social program services would, by definition, not constitute tax-based funding since no tax is funding the programs.

Social programs include, for example, education and health care. When we consider whether, according to Dooyeweerd's conception of societal sphere sovereignty as outlined above, these activities are proper to the state, that is, within its sphere of competence, and thus whether the state should fund them through taxation at whatever level, we must consider the respective founding and qualifying functions of these programs. In this way we can determine their respective intrinsic natures and inner structural principles. We have already outlined Dooyeweerd's conception of the inner structural principle of the state. If it turns out that, for instance, education or health care has an identical intrinsic nature to that of the state, then we can conclude that tax-based funding for such social programs is compatible with Dooyeweerd's view. However, if it turns out that upon consideration of their inner structural principles such social programs posses their own intrinsic natures distinct from that of the state, then we can conclude that tax-based funding for them is incompatible with Dooyeweerd's view.

While schools and hospitals are historically founded and have, arguably, respective qualifying functions in the analytic and moral (or biotic), I would suggest that both education and health care are biotically founded and morally qualified. In this way education and health care would fall within the original sphere of competence of the family. Therefore I suggest that tax-based funding for education and health care is incompatible with Dooyeweerd's conception of societal sphere sovereignty.

4. Not a laissez-faire conception
Dooyeweerd distinguishes his conception of societal sphere sovereignty from the laissez-faire view of classical liberalism. While Dooyeweerd acknowledges that classical liberalism was significantly influenced in its development by Christianity, he traces the basis of its assumptions to the humanistic groundmotive of Nature – Freedom. Upon this motive, classical liberalism asserts the sovereignty of the individual with certain inalienable rights. In this conception, the state is therefore formed by contract for the sole purpose of protecting these individual rights, primarily life, civil liberty, and property.

In contrast to Dooyeweerd's view of the necessity of an intrinsic limit to the state, the laissez-faire conception constitutes a mere external or extrinsic limit upon the state. This mere extrinsic limitation is not only misconceived with regard to the diversity of creation in both its modality and individuality-structures, but it is utterly insufficient in practice. Historically, the laissez-faire conception has been unable to withstand the pressures of an absolutistic conception of the so-called common good that is not itself qualified by the limit of a state's intrinsic nature.

5. Conclusion: challenging the Zeitgeist
The conception of societal sphere sovereignty as developed by Dooyeweerd is not a popular one. This conception is rooted in the Christian groundmotive, affirming creational diversity, theoretically elaborated in terms of modality and individuality-structures and the intrinsic limit of distinct sovereign societal communities. Just as Smeenk and Dooyeweerd were a minority in their day among the would-be followers of Kuyper in defending a genuine conception of societal sphere sovereignty as neither statist nor laissez-faire, the view that tax-based funding for social programs is incompatible with Dooyeweerd's conception is woefully in the minority among those who identify themselves as being in Dooyeweerd's line of thought.

However, those who are bold to stand against the current tax-based orthodoxy are called to endure and move forward together faithfully. Moreover, we have good hope in doing so, having that inner motivation of the Spirit's power by that groundmotive of His Word, namely creation, fall, and redemption through Christ Jesus. With regard to his conception of societal sphere sovereignty which is based in the Christian groundmotive Dooyeweerd says:
"And it is to us, kindred in spirit, to take hold of this incomparably rich idea, to make it our own, to possess it spiritually as the heritage of our fathers, that we may carry it everywhere for the benefit of the entire community, now so drastically tortured, as the only balm for its wounds" (Xian idea of the state, p.155).

Saturday, January 21, 2006

consistent sphere sovereignty

or Civil Society and an Anti-Socialist View of a Positive Role for Civil Government

I'm currently working on a short paper (15+ pages), which, when completed will be posted here. This is a little teaser for you:
In this paper I will focus on a conception of societal structure and functioning, known as "sphere sovereignty," that was significantly developed by Herman Dooyeweerd. I will argue against an interpretation of sphere sovereignty that is what I will call "tax-based" as inconsistent with Dooyeweerd's view. The interpretation of sphere sovereignty I will put forward as consistent with Dooyeweerd's view is "nontax-based." Furthermore, I will distinguish this nontax-based sphere sovereignty from what I will call a laissez-faire interpretation.

For some historical background on this topic see James C. Kennedy's excellent article, which I would have entitled The Anti-Revolution Betrayed (pdf).

Dooyeweerd writes in his 1946 essay The relation of the individual and community from a legal philosophical perspective:
"...the State is characterized as a public legal community of government and subjects... the State cannot assume an absolute sovereignty over the other societal spheres that differ in principle from the State. Every form of legal power, that of the State also, is structurally delimited by the inner nature of the sphere of life within which it is exercised... As soon as one ascribes an absolute sovereignty to the State, one has abandoned the boundaries of law and collapses into State absolutism, based upon a deification of the State. Then also the idea of the "public interest" degenerates into a lever for an unhampered Sate absolutism... The ius publicum, constitutive of the internal law of the State as a public legal institution does not permit service to group interests external to the (public) jural qualifying function of the State. Therefore, the nature of the State is irreconcilable with the allocation of privileges to specific persons or groups... It is only the State, on the basis of its public legal power, that can... guarantee against an overexertion of the public legal power itself, as long as the public office bearers keep alive an awareness of the inner limits of their competence. The State, in view of the inner nature of the ius publicum, does not have the competence to bind the exercise of civil private rights to a specific social-economic destination, simply because the ius publicum intrinsically lacks any specific economic qualification... [There is an] undermining influence that the idea of "social rights," in its overextension, exerts on civil private law."

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Secularization Of Science, Redux

See the first entry under Notes On Several Readings (below) for my own summary.

Dooyeweerd's summary of his article The Secularization Of Science in 12 points:

1. The [secular] idea that non-theological science, because of its intrinsic character, should be independent of personal faith in order that its "objectivity" should not be menaced by being tied up with Christians presuppositions, is common today even among Christians. In fact, even Christians who have received a scientific education lack a clear understanding of the essential relationship between religion and science.

2. The secularization of science has been brought about under the influence of the religious dialectic, fundamental to modern thought. These central religious motifs are the scholastic schema of nature -- grace and the humanist schema of nature -- liberty. Both are opposed to the fundamental motif of Biblical revelation.

3. The dominant theme of the Bible: creation, fall, and redemption by Jesus Christ in the communion of the Holy Spirit, is the key to the true knowledge of God and of oneself. It is a theme which is integral and radical [all-inclusive and fundamental], free from all dualism or dialectic.

4. The religious dialectic, which dominates contemporary interpretation of reality and human experience, is the result of a partial or total apostasy from the Biblical point of view. When a specific aspect of temporal reality is elevated to the position of an absolute, the idolatry which is its religious basis evokes another aspect, in opposition to the aspect of reality already deified, which in its turn is deified. The resulting religious conflict which appears in the dialectic of the fundamental motif is insoluble. The reason for this is that religious presuppositions are always the ultimate point of departure for all thought. Therefore, in default of a real synthesis, there is no other recourse than to give the place of primacy to one or other of the two conflicting motifs which constitute the basic dialectic scheme.

5. The motive power of the religious dialectic of the nature -- grace which has dominated scholastic thought, both Romanist and Protestant, from the high Middle Ages to our own day, is the result of a self-contradictory effort to reconcile the central thought of the Bible with [ancient] Greek religion, expressing itself in the dominant theme of matter -- form. This latter schema resulted from the irreconcilable conflict between the old religion of life and death and the later cultural religion of the Olympian gods: the gods of form, of measurements and harmony. From the beginning this conflict of matter -- form has dominated Greek thought.

6. The internal conflict of the nature -- grace idea resulted in the dissolution of the synthesis attempted in the Thomistic philosophy through Occam's philosophy. Buy this there was held to be no point of connection between the opposing spheres of nature and grace. One might compare this with the same conflict at the present going on between the "dialectical" theologians, Brunner and Barth. This process of disintegration was completed by the end of the Middle Ages, preparing the way for the Reformation and modern humanism.

7. The Reformation did not succeed in achieving a basic reformation in scientific thought. In fact, through the influence of Melanchthon and Beza, it once again became scholastic. This is why the Reformation itself contributed to the secularization of science.
   The central religious drive of modern humanism, namely, nature -- liberty, is the result of a radical secularization of the Biblical outlook. The Christian idea of liberty in Jesus Christ which is both radical and unique, was divided in its secularization into two opposing themes. On the one hand there was the idea of the liberty and autonomy of humanistic science, which endeavored to dominate nature and created a picture of reality which was deterministic and mechanistic. On the other hand, there was the belief in the liberty of the autonomous human personality elevated to the position of an ultimate, which vindicated its autonomy in practical action.

8. The humanistic religious dialectic had as its primary theme the scientific control of nature, deifying the mathematical and mechanistic method of natural science. Then it was that Rousseau deprecated the humanist ideal of science and proclaimed the primacy of the autonomous human personality. In the critical system of Kant there is a radical antithesis between the two opposing interpretations of despised nature and the effective liberty of the independent human being.

9. After Kant, it was the absolute idealization of liberty which, by means of dialectic thought, tended to surpass the critical limits which Kant established between nature and liberty. On giving primacy to the creative liberty of the man of action, he sought to overthrow classical scientific determinism. He sought to fit one into the other: to discover liberty in nature and the determinism of nature in the freedom of the human personality. He created a new religious conception of human liberty in the unique creative individuality which was beyond the need of submitting to general laws. The old rationalistic individualism was replaced by a new universalism and irrationality. In these there was no place for human rights as such, but the individual community of the nation was deified, the individual being no more than one of its members.

10. This new idea of human liberty created a new idea of science, namely the idea of historic thought. From this came a new scientific point: the historical, which elevated the historic aspect of experience to the position of an absolute. This historicism has had a great influence on Christian thought.

11. The result of the development has been the depriving of modern science of every [stable] spiritual foundation by the introduction of a universal relativism. It recognizes no constant values and makes the central religious theme of humanism itself into an outgrowth of the process of human history. The secularization of science results in Nihilism, prophesied by Nietzsche. Man has not only murdered his gods, but also "godless" Science.

12. The Reformed reply to the secularization of science must be a radical break with the scholastic conception of nature -- grace and the demand for an absolute and radical reformation of scientific thought, without compromise. To do this it is necessary to develop a transcendental and Biblical criticism of the scientific philosophy. This criticism should unmask the uncritical dogmatism hidden in the assumption of the autonomy of science, and by a critical examination of the internal structure of theoretical thinking, reassert the presuppositions necessary for [genuine] Christian thought.

Friday, November 18, 2005

basics of Dooyeweerd's social philosophy

Three Principles and Tasks

1. Sovereign Creator
God is the absolute sovereign Creator of all that exists. He called all creation into being, and providentially governs its becoming. All that exists is constantly dependent on Him, and is never exempt from His sovereignty.

2.Creation Ordinances
God’s rule over creation is covenantal, ordering and governing all creatures by His law. God is Himself above His law, but accommodates Himself in His relation to creation by law and covenanted faithfulness to it. God’s law is pluriform and makes the diversity and development of creation possible, including that of social structures. God created all things good. His laws for human activity (norms) can be disobeyed, but the goodness and integrity of these norms is not destroyed.

3. Sphere Sovereignty
The development and differentiation of social spheres is normed by God. Each sphere is given its own distinct responsibilities. This delegated sovereignty is always dependent upon and accountable to God by His law.

The task of Dooyeweerd’s social philosophy is to:
a) identify the differentiated social spheres,
b) describe the respective norms for their inner natures and functions
c) define the proper relationships between the spheres.

See here for related discussion, and see also my previous post under the headings Clouser's Dooyeweerdian Theory of Society and Chaplain's Criticism of Dooyeweerd's Social Philosophy.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Notes On Several Readings

The following notes on ten different readings reflect not only the texts, but in some cases, issues raised in class lecture or discussion. If you would like more context for some of the key ideas being discussed, I recommend this summary and this introduction. Many of the sidebar links here (on the mainpage) should also be helpful.


Science and Philosophy

In his essay The Secularization of Science Dooyeweerd addresses the general secularization of modern life in terms of the secularization of modern science and its basis in a general philosophical view of reality rooted in a religious groundmotive. This secularization in science is related to the dogma of the autonomy of theoretical thought; that is a pretended autonomy from religious commitment. Because of the dominance of science in modern society, an understanding of the inner connection between science and religion, and accordingly an inner reformation of the sciences, is necessary for addressing secularization of life in general.

Dooyeweerd develops two lines of argument, one may be called a historical (de facto) argument, and the other a systematic (structural, de jure) argument. Both of these are important because he demonstrates not only that science, historically, has never been neutral with regard to religious startingpoints, but also that according to both the nature of biblical religion and the nature of science itself such neutrality is not possible.

Historically, Dooyeweerd shows how ancient Greek thought developed in terms of a dialectical religious groundmotive of Form and Matter, related to cultural powers and natural forces. This resulted in a dualistic anthropology and a positing of autonomous reason. However, this dialectic proved irreconcilable due to its ultimate religious nature. In the medieval period there was a Scholastic attempt at synthesis between the Greek religious motive and Christian religion. This resulted in a dialectical groundmotive of Nature and Grace. Here too reason was conceived of in religiously autonomous terms, anthropology was dualistic, and the dialectic was as equally irreconcilable. The Thomistic conception disintegrated in Nominalism.

At this point, two historical movements diverged. With the Reformation there was a return (albeit somewhat temporary and limited in relation to philosophy and science) to the radically integral biblical groundmotive (creation, fall, redemption). With so-called Enlightenment “Humanism” there was a secularization of the biblical motives of creation and redemption. Creation became an ideal of nature in scientific control. Reality was viewed deterministically, explainable in terms of a rational construction of cause and effect. The grace of redemption, as liberty in Christ, became an ideal of the autonomous freedom of personality. Although originally tied to control over nature, it’s later view rejected all normative order not based on the autonomous individual. This freedom ideal also had a collectivist interpretation.

The religious dialectic between an absolute science ideal, epitomized in Descartes, and an absolute personality ideal, epitomized in Rousseau, was also irreconcilable. Human freedom can not exist in the face of a deterministic universe, and order in the universe must be illusory if autonomy is ultimate. The attempt at synthesis made by Kant dissolved into positivistic historicism, undermining its own foundation for scientific truth. This led to the spiritual crisis of the twentieth century in Western civilization. In “Foolishness to the Greeks” Leslie Newbigin analyzed secularization and this disintegration in Western culture as a rejection of teleology. There arose a separation of objective, public, scientific fact from subjective, private, religious value and meaning.

However, according to Dooyeweerd, the biblical religion is characterized by the groundmotive of creation-fall-redemption. In this view no dualism arises in the understanding of reality or in anthropology. No part of creation is made absolute or opposed to any other part, but rather, creation is entirely dependent on God. Likewise, man is understood integrally as the image of God; his self-knowledge necessarily connected to the knowledge of God.

Dooyeweerd opposes the supposed autonomy of theoretical thought also upon the nature of science itself. In any particular science, given its selective theoretical outlook, it must assume (at least implicitly) a conception of the limits of that field and therefore a conception of some relation to other special theoretical fields. This, in turn, presupposes a general theoretical conception of reality which is necessarily dependent on a view of what is ultimate; that is a religious conviction. In this way we understand that theoretical thought is in no way autonomous from religion. We see here the inner point of contact between religion and science. That is not to say, however, that science and philosophy are dependent upon the discipline of theology. The distinction between various fields is given in their distinct criteria for theoretical inquiry.


Dooyeweerd’s Transcendental Critique

The fundamental aims of Dooyeweerd’s transcendental criticism are first, to engage in a self-critique for the sake of an inner reformation of a Christian approach to philosophy and the sciences; second, to then defend the legitimacy of a distinctly calvinistic philosophy and science; and third, to open a way for genuine communication between opposing philosophical schools.

The predominant barrier to these aims, against which the transcendental critique is proposed, is the pretended autonomy of theoretical thought. That is, theoretical thought was uncritically assumed to be independent of extratheoretical or religious commitments. This not only called into question the legitimacy of a religiously motivated philosophy, but because within each different philosophical school the nature of this autonomy was conceived differently, it prevented genuine philosophical dialog.

The transcendental critique is not merely immanent (or “inside”) criticism which examines theories in terms of logical consistency, and perhaps in terms of explanatory power. Nor is it merely transcendent (or “outside”) criticism which examines theories with respect to another theory, or perhaps from a faith-stance. Although these are not entirely alien to transcendental criticism, a transcendental (or “beneath”) critique makes an inquiry into the conditions required by the inner structure of theoretical thinking as such which alone make this thought possible.

This implies a fundamental distinction between thought in its special “theoretical” character, and non-theoretical (or so-called “naive”) thinking and experience. Dooyeweerd describes naive experience as related to things and events as individual wholes. In non-theoretical thought the logical mode of distinction is entirely embedded in concrete, integral experience.

In the first two chapters of Dooyeweerd’s book In The Twilight of Western Thought he structures his transcendental critique around three critical problems or questions, which in their basic concerns taken together form a three-fold transcendental idea. The first question is, what do we abstract in theorizing and how is it possible? Dooyeweerd answers that question in reference to temporal reality; that is, we abstract from the diversity of modalities unbreakably and mutually cohering in temporal order, which is possible by intentional (cognitive) opposition of the logical and the non-logical modalities of thought in abstraction, and may be called a “theoretical antithesis”. The second question is, how do we form a logical concept of the abstracted modality and upon what basis does this occur? Dooyeweerd answers that question in reference to the self; that is, we form a concept of the abstracted modality in a theoretical synthesis only upon a diversity-transcending unified reference, which is the unabstracted selfhood, through self-reflection. The third question is, what is the self and how is this critical, concentric self-reflection possible? Dooyeweerd answers that question in reference to absolute origin; that is, the self is an image of God, a religious consciousness of divinity (the absolute) in dependency on transcendence, and critical reflection upon ones self is possible by innate impulse expressed in historical, communal groundmotives.

The three basic concerns of the transcendental critical problems are time, self, and the absolute. These relate to what may be called the three-fold transcendental idea of diversity-unity-origin. This basic idea serves as the ground for an inner point of contact between theoretical thought and religious stance. This idea is necessary for all philosophical conceptions, and it’s particular content is always determined by a given religious commitment to something as the absolute origin.


Dooyeweerd’s Modality Theory

In his chapter Theory of Modes of Being van Woudenberg begins by asking how one might account for the variety of experience. He offers Dooyeweerd’s modality theory as a good way to do this without resorting to reductionistic explanations that deny the varied character of experience, and without imposing an axiomatically deduced system upon experience (such as Kant’s apriori categories). Modality theory seeks to account for the diversity of concrete experience, and not to explain away this diversity. It seeks to do this in terms of theoretical reflection upon concrete experiences.

Modalities are understood not as things, but ways things exist and are experienced. Hart says that they are “functions,” not “functors.” In other terms they are said to be “hows” not “whats.” Moreover, an understanding of modality helps give account, not only of concrete experience, but also of the distinctions between various theoretical fields, the special sense in their respective use of concepts, and of the differing criteria applied in distinct fields of scientific inquiry.

Modalities are aspects of reality as a whole. They are aspects of what Dooyeweerd calls “cosmic time,” that is, of temporal reality. They are also aspects of concrete phenomena, such as of things, processes, events, and behaviors. For instance, things exist numerically. There are a certain number of things.

Modalities may also be said to be the given conditions for these concrete phenomena, and to express the order of reality. This relates to modalities as law-spheres. That is, there is a “law-side” of reality to which things (in a broad sense) are subject. In this regard, there are two basic kinds of modalities, the “natural,” in which laws hold as such, for instance, the physical law of gravitation, and the “normative” in which laws must be “positivized” and can be violated, for instance, the economic norm of stewardship. Laws govern things (that is, God governs all creation by law) in both their ontic natures and in how they are experienced. So modalities are also modes of experience. For instance, language presupposes a sense of the meaning of words. We have an experience of linguistic meaning in speech and writing, and in hearing and reading words.

Modalities are also dimensions or sides of meaning. There is a rich qualitative diversity of meaning given in created reality. In this way reality is understood not to “have” meaning, but rather is meaning. Reality as meaning is both an expression of meaning, and a referring to both God as the absolute origin of all meaning, and of one meaning to other related meanings in creation.

Modalities have at least three basic characteristics: irreducibility, coherence, and universality. The core original sense of each modality is proper to itself and cannot be explained exclusively in terms of (that is, cannot be reduced to) any other modal sense. For instance, the central modal sense of the psychic (that is, sensitive or feeling) cannot be properly reduced to the kinetic (that is, movement). When the irreducibility of each is ignored, there arise antinomies. And so the exclusion of antinomies can serve as a criterion for discerning modal irreducibility.

However, in relation to the respective senses of the psychic and kinetic, we do speak of “emotion” which may be understood as a movement of feeling. We may also speak of mood swings and also of a sense of motion. In concrete phenomena, the modalities hold in an unbreakable mutual coherence. However, there is an order to this coherence. This is partially expressed in what may be called modal analogies and analogical concepts. These analogies may be understood in terms of either anticipations where an “earlier” core modal sense refers to a “later” one, or retrocipations where a later core modal sense refers to an earlier one.

Moreover, every particular thing has all the modalities. This is what we may call modal universality. However, some things function subjectively or actively in certain modalities, and objectively or passively in other modalities. For instance, a stone has all the modalities, but it only actively functions in the numerical, spacial, kinetic, and physical. It functions in the biotic, psychic, analytical, historical, lingual, social, economic, aesthetic, juridical, ethical, and pistic only passively. In this regard we can also speak of founding and qualifying modalities which play a special role in the structure of any given thing.


Dooyeweerd’s Entity Theory

In his chapter Theory of Thing-Structures van Woudenberg begins by asking how is it, despite the fact that individual things are constantly changing, we are able to recognize that any given thing is that same thing from day to day. How might one account for the experience of something’s identity? Similar to modality theory, he offers Dooyeweerd’s entity theory as a good way to do this without resorting to either reductionistic explanations that deny either the constancy or the changeableness of things, or to dualistic explanations that deny the basic unity of particular things. Dooyeweerd’s entity theory significantly presupposes his modality theory, and it similarly seeks to account for our concrete experience, not to explain it away.

Two sorts of identities of things may be distinguished. The first is what may be called the specific “structural” identity of some kind of thing. That is, something’s “structural” identity distinguishes what kind of thing something is, for instance, a Norway Spruce tree, in distinction from another kind of tree, or from something that is not a tree at all, such as an interstate highway. The second sort of identity is what may be called “unique” identity. That is, something’s “unique” identity distinguishes particular things from other particular things, for instance, the Norway Spruce tree that stands on the corner of exit 4 in Ogunquit, Maine off of route 95, in distinction from any other particular Norway Spruce.

Structural identities may be determined by three basic considerations: qualifying function, structural type, and enkaptic relation. Some thing’s qualifying function is its most characteristic modality. This qualifying function specially characterizes the way some thing functions in all the other modalities, and determines its internal or intrinsic purpose.

The most general classification of structural type is radical type, which is determined by qualifying function. For instance, all animals are included in one radical type since they all have the same qualifying function in the psychic modality. There are more specific classifications within each radical type, such as genotypes. For instance, all fish belong to a single genotype in distinction from other genotypes such as amphibians, mammals, and birds.

Enkaptic relationships consist of an interdependence of things such that at least one thing is somehow influenced in its structural identity by another thing. Enkaptic relationships differ from part–whole relationships in that parts have no independent structural qualification. There are several varieties of enkaptic relationships. For instance, a marble statue constitutes an irreversible foundational enkapsis since the statue cannot exist apart from its material, but the material can exist apart from whatever shape it may be given. Another variety is subject–object enkapsis such as a snail and its shell. The two structures are interdependent such that the snail influences the structural identity of its shell. Some enkaptic interlacements are embodied in single structure or what may be called an enkaptic structural whole. These wholes are qualified by the last qualifying modality of whatever structures are enkaptically bound in the whole.


Zuidervaart’s Criticism of Dooyeweerd’s Entity Theory


In his article Fantastic Things: Critical Notes Toward a Social Ontology of the Arts Zuidervaart offers a critique of Dooyeweerd’s discussion of art which is found primarily in the first part of the third volume of his “New Critique” concerning individuality-structures (entity theory). In particular, Zuidervaart focuses on Dooyeweerd’s analysis of Praxiteles’ sculpture of Hermes. Zuidervaart suggests that Dooyeweerd’s account involves four sets of problematic reductions, and yet that there are elements of his account that can be cultivated into a better “social ontology” of art.

The first problem is the reduction of structure to law. The distinctions between structures-of, that is, factual structures, and structures-for, that is, law structures or structural principles are not clearly articulated. And there is an emphasis on invariant laws, particularly those governing things with a normative object-function qualification. The second problem is the reduction of art to the artwork. Conclusions from the structural analysis of a particular artwork are drawn with reference to art in general, and that without any consideration of the highly significant sociohistorical factors involved. The third problem is the reduction of a “work” to a thing. Not all entities (individuality-structures) are things in the technical sense, and artworks receive improper analysis as things rather than as works. Moreover, there are additional kinds of artistic entities. The fourth problem is the reduction of the artwork (as thing) to artistic conception. In this way artworks are not viewed as mere copies of natural things, and properly so. However, the emphasis on artistic conception involves a misconstrual of the artistic process, and once again ignores the sociohistorical context.

Zuidervaart suggests an outline for reconstructing a full-fledged social ontology of art which accounts for the sociohistorical factors that characterize art in general, and accounts for artist and artwork in terms of those sociohistorical institutions that make art possible. This reconstruction attempts to “provide a more expansive and precise theory of the entire realm of art” in terms of Dooyeweerd’s account of aesthetic qualification, historical foundation, and aesthetic and historical norms.


Clouser’s Dooyeweerdian Theory of Society


In his chapter on a theory of society in his book The Myth of Religious Neutrality Clouser contrasts a biblical view with the two dominant approaches of Western liberalism. Epitomized in Locke’s approach, for instance, is an assumption of the primacy of the autonomous individual. In this conception communities are not givens, but rather dependent upon a contracting of individuals. Communities are viewed as mere means to chosen individual ends. This results in a view of the legitimacy of authority, and civil government in particular, as dependent on consent of the governed.

Epitomized in Rousseau’s view, for instance, is an assumption of the primacy of the collective. Individuals and communities are not givens, but viewed as mere parts of an overarching whole, most commonly of the State or civil community. This results in a view of the legitimacy of the collective authority as unquestionable, or perhaps relative to the collective good or general will.

In contrast to these two views, Clouser presents a view of individuals and communities where both are original, that is, neither depends upon the other for their origin or existence, but rather are equally given. Accordingly, individuals and communities exist in several basic relationships: between persons, between persons and communities, persons within communities, and between communities. In this view civil government or the State is one community next to others. The legitimacy of State authority relates to its responsibility for administration of public justice.

This conception of societal arrangements of non-hierarchical, horizontal relationships between all communities, including the State, may be called sphere sovereignty or differentiated responsibility. In the sphere sovereignty view authority is structurally given within each community and is related to the intrinsic nature of the community. Each community also has its own particular responsibilities, the fulfillment of which depends on the historical positivization of the norms for it. Clouser distinguishes two basic kinds of communities: natural institutions, such as marriage and family, and historical organizations, such as schools and hospitals.

There are also different kinds of individual relationships. Between persons there are both accidental or incidental relationships, such as those that may obtain in a commercial transaction, and enduring or non-incidental relationships, such as those that may obtain in a friendship. These relationships have certain structural qualifications of their own which include normativity.

There are several special issues of normativity related to this discussion. One such issue is the relationship between “the rule of law” and “democracy.” Democracy, as a form of civil government, itself requires the rule of law, lest there be a tyranny of the majority. The norm of public justice must serve as the basis for civil authority and the rule of law. Another issue is that of the domination of society, over individuals and/or communities, by either civil government or the market. In either case, the limited natures of each sphere in its differentiated responsibility is violated, and other spheres are hampered in their ability to fulfill their own responsibilities. Such antinormative conditions are destructive to human flourishing. Human flourishing is a norm for all societal spheres, related to the given responsibilities of each and in relationship to each other.


Chaplin’s Criticism of Dooyeweerd’s Social Philosophy

In Chaplin’s article Dooyeweerd’s Notion of Societal Structural Principles he addresses three “ontological problematics” of Dooyeweerd’s notion with specific reference to the State. Perhaps the main theme of Chaplin’s problematics may be put in the following way. Structural principles can be discovered because they “urge themselves” on experience. These principles cannot be altered no matter how they may be historically positivized (or how misdirected the positivization may be) in a particular factual structure because the principles are themselves invariant and make factual existence possible. However, there are not only principles of invariable typicality, but also principles of variability or at least factual variations in unique individual identity. Moreover, there is a great range of historical variation in the process of cultural development. Also, the universality of a phenomenon cannot in itself show that it is rooted in a creationally-given principle since the misdirecting effects of the fall are also universally present.

The first problem, then, is how we can properly discern which features of a factual structure belong to its invariable type, and which to its variable unique identity. The second problem is how we can distinguish the invariant principles from the factual variant forms in which these principles are historically positivized. The third problem is how we can more adequately relate the positivization of principles for social structures to the structure of human persons, that is, to the positivization of the norms for human flourishing.

Chaplin illustrates these problems in relation to Dooyeweerd’s identifying coercive power as the States founding function, and to his not identifying democracy as normative structural principle. In the end, he suggests that we must conceive of the principles governing societal structures as inseparably grounded in and directed to the principles governing the development of human life.


Dooyeweerd’s Theory of Historical Development

In chapters 3 and 4 of his book The Roots of Western Culture Dooyeweerd outlines his theory concerning historical unfolding and the faith-directed opening of culture. He begins with a discussion of the historical modality. This should not be confused with history in the concrete sense of what has happened. Concrete history in that sense displays a coherence of all the modalities. However, events that are typified by the historical are those which act formatively in world history. The historical modality concerns not what has happened, but rather how something occurs. The core modal sense of history, then, is cultural formation or formative power.

Cultural formation is grounded in the creation order, particularly in the God-given task to humanity to subdue and have dominion over the earth. In this way, creation itself is subject to cultural development. Cultural development is also subject to the norm of tradition, or historical continuity. Outstanding features of this development are differentiation and individualization, which in turn are subject to the norm of so-called cultural economy, or limitation of responsibility, and this is normatively accompanied by an intercoherence, integration, or sphere universality. God brings a judgment in history when these norms are violated in the resultant cultural disharmony.

Dooyeweerd goes on to discuss the faith modality. The core modal sense of faith is ultimate certainty. The faith modality expresses a coherence with every other modality. The norm for faith is God’s revelation which refers beyond temporal reality. In faith’s connection to God’s revelation it has a special relationship with cultural opening. All apostate faith is directed toward some modality of creation. Even through apostate faith there may be a disclosure and opening in historical development when this faith is directed toward some modality of human personality and culture. When this occurs through an apostate faith it brings about severe disharmony in a culture accompanied by a judgement of dialectical reaction. And yet this too serves a function in cultural formation.

There is a significant biblical background to this approach. Besides what has already been mentioned in terms of the cultural task given to humanity, there is also a biblical understanding of redemption in terms of a redemption of time and in time. This is opposed to a negative conception of redemption from time.

The ancient Greek conception of time and history was largely negative. Unity, the absolute, eternity, and changelessness, were considered to have more reality and to be in opposition to the qualities of time. History was merely cyclical and of minor importance. This ancient Greek attitude later negatively influenced early Christian thought. By contrast, the Reformational understanding of time and history returns to the biblical appreciation of them as good creations of God. Dooyeweerd did have a view of supratemporality which is related to a central unity of temporal diversity. However, supratemporality is equally created and no more real or important than temporal creation.

The modern “humanistic” understanding of history absolutizes it. This is historicism. Rather than historical development being subject to norms, all reality becomes relative to and determined by its supposed arbitrary contingencies. See Clouser's critique of historicism [pdf].


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--Two Readings In Alternatives To A Reformational Approach--


Alvin Plantinga’s Approach

In his essay On Christian Scholarship Plantinga asks the question of how a university can be a proper Christian university. More particularly he asks, “how should a Christian university and how should the Christian intellectual community think about scholarship and science?”

Plantinga begins by outlining the two main contemporary alternatives to Christian thought in western society. These are what he calls “perennial naturalism” and “creative anti-realism,” and he includes in the latter its “progeny” of relativism and anti-commitment. He characterizes the first as a basic rejection of God (and by extension the supernatural altogether), and a restriction of humanity to a mere natural phenomenon. He characterizes the second as a rejection of objective order in the world, and a restriction of all fact to mere subjective human construction.

In his final analysis, Plantinga asserts that these are not simply neutral alternatives to a Christian perspective, but rather they are explicitly anti-Christian positions. These viewpoints are not only deeply ingrained in our culture, but they are deeply antagonistic to a Christian understanding of things. And from a Christian perspective, these views are utterly unacceptable. However, these ways of thinking have an upper hand in universities and the general intellectual community.

Plantinga suggests that there are at least two particular responses needed from Christian academics. He says that first we need consciousness raising by way of Christian cultural criticism. Christian thinkers must help make the broader Christian community aware of and sensitive to the profound incompatibility of these two predominant viewpoints with Christianity. And second, Plantinga says, Christian scholars must do their scholarship from an explicitly theistic position. In each particular discipline Christians must take as granted the Christian understanding of God and creation and then address all the particular issues within that field upon those assumptions.

I am in general agreement with Plantinga’s assessment of the situation, the problem it poses, and what the Christian intellectual community can do about it. However, I believe there are several intellectual communities that go by the name Christian, and each has a different understanding of what such scholarship as Plantinga calls for would specifically involve. Unfortunately, I believe these different “Christian” scholarships are also incompatible with the Reformational view. I do not believe, for instance, that a “scholastic” approach in any form –be it Catholic Thomism, or one of its Protestant incarnations– is compatible with Reformational scholarship. One significant reason for this incompatibility is that, so far, only the Reformational approach has perceived the necessity of an inner connection between science and religion. All other approaches relate Christianity to scholarship in a merely external, and therefore inadequate, fashion.

Nevertheless, I agree that equal to the need for genuine Reformational scholarship is the need to relate this scholarship to the socio-cultural context and to communicate the implications of this scholarship for non-academic issues and life to the broader community. Perhaps this task is not the calling of every Reformational scholar, but the need should be unanimously acknowledged, and a Reformational response to that need should be widely supported.


Nicholas Wolterstorff’s Approach

In his essay On Christian Learning Wolterstorff begins by saying that one of the most provocative claims of neocalvinism is that scholarship cannot be religiously neutral. This is so provocative because it is directly opposed to the fundamental assumption of the predominant modern view of scholarship which largely assumes what he calls the “Leibnizian ideal.” This ideal posits that disputes about matters of fact can be impartially resolved on the basis of neutral rules of evidence.

Abraham Kuyper, the broadly recognized founder of the neocalvinist movement, elaborated his opposition to the Leibnizian ideal in terms of the notion of two kinds of science. This notion was rooted in Kuyper’s theological understanding of regeneration. Regeneration is that spiritual transformation whereby some men are radically changed in their being, renewed and enlightened in their consciousness. The regeneration of some people and not of others results in two kinds of people. And Kuyper believed that the idea of the unity of science necessarily implied a denial of the fact of regeneration.

Nonetheless, Kuyper maintained that while regeneration was thoroughly comprehensive in scope, effecting as it did the basic conscious constitution of a person, it did not alter the working of the senses or the formal processes of cognition. Yet Kuyper affirms the notion of two kinds of science precisely because these capacities (sensing and reasoning) are not sufficient for the construction of the sciences. Kuyper acknowledges that in a merely formal sense the effort and activity of the two sciences bear the same character. But the results of these efforts are entirely different and contrary to each other.

Wolterstorff’s main objection to Kuyper’s approach is that he doesn’t believe Kuyper is clear on how the religious divergence brought about by regeneration works itself out concretely in science. Kuyper is clear that the Christians and nonChristians (regenerate and unregenerate) have different startingpoints, and that this difference governs their scientific investigations. But Wolterstorff does not see how this actually happens. Kuyper admits that people may not be faithful to their startingpoints, and that this may result in their otherwise respective sciences being quite similar. The Kuyperian solution to this problem was for the Christians to do science that is more thoroughly consistent with their startingpoint.

However, Wolterstorff believes that this approach is mistaken. While we are to obey all of God’s commands, and not to serve anyone other than God, Wolterstorff suggests it is a profound mistake to say that all of life consists in obedience and service to God. He pejoratively calls this “religious totalism.”

Wolterstorff notices that the neocalvinist religious-totalist view has sought to articulate how religious divergence works itself out scientifically in two main ways. The first way this is shown is in terms of worldview. The worldview with which a scholar engages a discipline shapes his practice of it. However, Wolterstorff does not find this approach compelling because he isn’t sure what actual beliefs would constitute a worldview. The second way neocalvinist religious-totalists have sought to demonstrate a difference in the sciences is in terms of idolatry. Since persons inevitably view something as ultimate, it will either be the true Creator-God or some substitute in creation. The latter is idolatry and this idolatry inevitably results in reductive scientific accounts. However, Wolterstorff does not find this approach compelling either. It appears to him that there are plenty of instances where nonChristians in both their scientific practice and results (theorizing and theories) never fall into any sort of reductionism. He doesn’t think anyone has ever shown otherwise.

As an alternative to these neocalvinist religious-totalist approaches Wolterstorff suggests that Christians stop worrying about trying to be different. Besides, Wolterstorff asserts, all Christian scholars agree with nonChristian scholars on a vast number of things. Wolterstorff says we should be thankful for all the genuine agreement, and be content with doing our work faithfully. Additionally, he says, Jews and Muslims don’t worship a different god or an idol, they’re merely worshiping the same God in a different way. In his conclusion Wolterstorff argues that while Kuyper had a one-directional view in that he believed our faith should influence science, Wolterstorff recommends that we allow science to influence our faith too.

I cannot express my disagreement with Wolterstorff’s approach strongly enough. I understand how Geertsema related the basic notions of Wolterstorff to those of Kuyper and Dooyeweerd, but I think such a relating requires the significant denuding of Wolterstorff’s actual claims. In brief, my response (as a religious-totalist) to Wolterstorff is that I will happily show him how it has been demonstrated that all reductive theoretical accounts are idolatrous, and that idolatry's consistent implications for theoretical accounts are all reductionist.

Monday, October 10, 2005

your reading assignment

Here is a wonderful and utterly readable introduction to the Reformational approach to philosophy. When you have some time, give it a read. It's not too long, and it will be amazingly helpful in giving you a better understanding of what I am doing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Philosophical Foundations

: an overview of the first unit

There are two units in this program, plus a thesis. This first unit lasts about 8 weeks, til the end of October, and is broken up into 24 sessions. There are six general themes, and each is discussed in terms of various dominant contemporary philosophies (styled “post/modern” for convenience) and in terms of the reformational (neocalvinist) alternative.

The six themes are:
+ worldviews and philosophies
+ diversity and coherence in reality
+ reality and knowing
+ modern society
+ time and history
+ faith and reason

Of course, the reformational philosophy is taken primarily from Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven, but we are also reading non-reformational Christian thinkers such as Plantinga, Wolterstorff, and Milbank. Some of the post/modern thinkers we are reading include Descartes, Hobbes, Kant, Weber, James, Nagel, Rorty, Armstrong, Taylor, and Fukuyama. These thinkers represent mostly dualist or objectivist-realist or pragmatist-antirealist perspectives.

There’s surprisingly little from (non-pragmatist) subjectivist-antirealists —the sort of view I tend to associate more with postmodernism; primarily French thinkers. I’m tempted to think that this has something to do with the Dutch’s bald distaste for the French. But apparently, the reason is that such philosophy, along with existentialism, is widely perceived to be dead in Europe. A victim of suicide, I gather. In any case, Milbank, for instance, is fairly conversant with these thinkers, and the rest can hardly avoid discussing Nietzsche or Heidegger at various points.

All told, now in the third week already, the work has been quite enjoyable and stimulating and continues to look promising. In future posts I intend to draw from my class notes and deal mostly with the reformational alternative. I’ll do my best to make it entertaining.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

theoretically speaking

While I plan to continue with Honest To Blog, I thought that embarking on my next educational adventure merited a blog of its own. The idea here is to use Reformatorischeblog as a venue for (perhaps) more academically oriented posts. This assumes that I'll have blog-friendly academic type things to say over the course of my studies. That may not be the case, and this experiment will be cancelled.

In the meantime, stay tuned.