How might we derive the fullest meaning?
How does research philosophy help us know what we find?
There is a sophistication to the work of Dooyeweerd that enables ontological and epistemological plurality and richness. In plain: we can seek to get at more, and to explain more in more ways, but without ever needing to lose balance, to lose shape and to diminish either our rationality or our richer humanity.
Dooyeweerd wrote of the "Gegenstand" of the researcher, that he or she 'stands over against' their subject insofar as their analytical functioning allows and reaches. In other ways the researcher is retained within that world, differentiated only by a certain selective attitude to it. The watchfulness of the researcher is as much towards his or her own attitude as it towards the research subject itself. Hence Dooyewerd's philosophy leads the researcher to a humble finding rather than an arrogant knowing. It is a joy to approach this world of research. All of the world and how we might know it is ultimately facilitated by the modalities or 'aspects' of Dooyewerd's work.
Discovering Andrew Basden's quiet passion for the work of Dooyeweerd reminded me of why I first came to the University. When I came to academia, I imagined that I was coming to a place of big ideas, of big debate, of openness and freedom of thought. Some still come as I came those years ago, seeking the profound, and the biggest river of thought. I still find students like me, as young as I was then, looking, asking, open to the big encounter with an idea that envelops you as you uncover it. I hope these students are not too disappointed because much of the daily experience of university life is not like that. Much of our daily engagement is actually concerned with a sedimentary accumulation of knowledge, with a safety and a respectability in the face of one's peers, with the unsurprising and with the rote.
It was clear to me that Andrew had incubated a special interest in a bold subject. As I listened to him, one day in a classroom of Manchester Business School, I was taken back to the ideas and minds that first brought me into the university. I remember writing letters to Stafford Beer, for one, and reading Peter Checkland's book on the 148 bus. I had one friend who promised me that Michel Foucault would change my life, another who stuffed my bag with the works of Lewis Mumford and then another who shared Christopher Alexander, Maturana and Varela, and Douglas Hofstadter. We lived in a constant sway of debate. At that time, it might surprise you, but I was studying in a Department of Computer Science, albeit under the expansive tutelage of Brian Warboys, a professor of software engineering 'in the large' for whom the boundary between the university and 'real life' was not a wall but a catalyst and a calling.
So here, much later, was Andrew telling me about this philosopher called Herman Dooyeweerd, in whom he had been investing for many years, and that a book was in preparation. I was, at once, reminded of that rush of heady thinking that accompanies all the best days at university and the same sense of doors opening. The research philosophy that Dooyeweerd opens up is, as Andrew said in that Manchester classroom, "lifeworld oriented."
Director of the Centre for Information Management,
Loughborough University, U.K.. 2019.