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Usefulness of Dooyeweerd to Other Philosophy

Dooyeweerd's philosophy can be useful to other philosophy in the following ways:

Dooyeweerd summarises this in [NC, I:526 ff.].

It discloses new topics for philosophical examination.

Disclosing new topics for philosophic discussion is useful, and indeed it can explain why Dooyeweerd's philosophy is attracting interest in practical use. Here is a selection of them. But the more fundamental usefulness of Dooyeweerd to other philosophers comes not from these topics, but from his understanding of philosophic thought, which is outlined in the other three sections below.

The new topics are found in Volume II, which sets out Dooyeweerd's theory of modal spheres or aspects and its approach to epistemology, and Volume III, which sets out Dooyeweerd's theory of individuality structures (thingness) and enkaptic relationships. The new topics arise because Dooyeweerd's theories let us see reality from a different direction, and so we see new 'states of affairs', or see them in a new light. Here are some of the new states of affairs or topics, which Dooyeweerd throws new light upon:

However that may be,

It provides a basis for points of contact between rival philosophies, so they can mutually understand each other and communicate.

The basis is because Dooyeweerd's philosophy rejects the autonomy (neutrality) of theoretical and philosophic thought, and stresses the importance of the human thinker in such thinking (not unlike Foucault's insight about genealogy of thought, but probably more philosophically sound). If we presuppose philosophic thought is neutral and autonomous and we find two philosophers disagreeing over some point, then there is no higher court to which they can appeal than philosophy itself, and (unless it can be shown to the satisfaction of both that the disagreement arises because one or both were not doing genuine philosophy) the disagreement descends into conflict over what is genuine philosophy, which is unresolvable from within philosophy itself.

But, allowing that philosophy itself is not absolute or autonomous, Dooyeweerd showed by transcendental critique

If this is so, then how do we go about making contact? He first sets out the conditions.

It establishes conditions for such communication.

The basic condition for enabling different philosophies to communicate is that their supporters acknowledge the non-neutrality (non-absoluteness, non-autonomy) of philosophic and theoretical thought. As Dooyeweerd says [I:527], "Which philosophy is in a position to give a satisfactory theoretical explanation of these data [about states of affairs we encounter and reflect upon]? We have established in the Prolegomena, that no single philosophy may claim to have a monopoly." (This includes his own philosophy.)

He continues, "Each philosophy may strive in a noble competitive manner to work at a common task." (So he allows that most or all philosophies might offer useful insight.)

Then he gives the condition: "But this cooperation can only take place on one condition. The schools of immanence-philosophy must be ready to abandon their theoretical dogmatism and they must take seriously the transcendental critique of philosophic thought set forth in our Prolegomena." [p.527]

A little later, he puts this a different way, "Philosophical discussion is possible between schools which do not have the same starting point, if, and only if, a sharp distinction is made between authentic theoretical judgments (concerning which philosophic discussion is possible) and the necessary pre-theoretical prejudices which lie at the foundation of such theoretical judgments." (These prejudices are the pre-theoretical / religious choices referred to above.)

It suggests a technique for discourse between philosophies.

He goes further, suggesting something of a technique:

"Philosophical discussion about the theoretical judgments is to be based on the undeniable states of affairs in the structures of theoretical thought and of empirical reality which precede all theoretical interpretation and are to be established with [epoché] of the latter. They [the states of affairs] are to be confronted with the different philosophical views in order to investigate whether these views, each from their own super-theoretical starting-point, are able to account for them in a satisfactory way." [p.527].

Notice how he includes in 'states of affairs' not only empirical reality itself but also the reality of theoretical thought. In this way, theoretical thought is not elevated to an autonomous position. One might align these with ontology and epistemology respectively - the world and how it can be (theoretically) known. So, every philosophy must show how it deals with both the world and how it can be known, while itself acting in a theoretical way.

As Clouser [2005] shows, this leads to at least three levels of possible inconsistency in theory, and many theories fall at one or more of them.


This page is part of a collection that discusses application of Herman Dooyeweerd's ideas, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.

Written on the Amiga and Protext.

Compiled by (c) 2010 Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.

Created: 17 June 2010 Last updated: