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.