Karl-Otto Apel Prepares Way for Dooyeweerd
In Karl-Otto Apel's  Towards a Transformation of Philosophy, he uses his last chapter to argue that we need to find the transcendental conditions that make logic (and argumentation) possible, and that these involve something value-free that he calls 'ethics'. In fact, it seems that Apel ends up where Dooyeweerd starts, by proposing that
"the actual business of philosophical foundation must consist of reconstructing the necessary preconditions for human argumentation as completely as possible ... to reconstruct the ethical preconditions for the possibility and validity of human argumentation and, consequently, of logic" [p.266-7] "everyone must take upon himself a non-groundable - or not completely groundable - 'moral' decision of faith." [p.285]
So we may take Apel's work as an excellent argument for the need for what Dooyeweerd has attempted to do. Apel sets his argument out clearly and step by step.
Here is an initial collection of excerpts from Apel that are relevant to Dooyeweerd (Apel's emphasis retained). The purpose of this page at present is to demonstrate a content-connection between the two thinkers. Much needs to be added, and at present this page contains a rather limited view of what Apel thought and wrote.
- "Once we have adopted the methodological standpoint of 'transcendental reflection', we can take a step further and investigate the preconditions for the possibility and validity of value-free, empirical-analytical science itself." [p.256] -- Here Apel contends for the need of a 'transcendental' method to ask what makes a thing possible (and, as he says, valid). This is the method Dooyeweerd assumed as a starting point in his New Critique of Theoretical Thought. (Note: Like Dooyeweerd, Apel finds science cannot be value-free.)
- "Our second and, in my view, decisive approach develops heuristically from the thesis that even the 'objectivity' of value-free science still presupposes the intersubjective validity of moral norms. [p.256] -- Dooyeweerd provided not one but two transcendental critiques to demonstrate that theoretical thinking has a religious root (which is included in Apel's 'moral').
- "I am completely of the opinion (together with Peirce, Popper and Lorenzen) that logic, and especially the logic of science, must be regarded as a normative science." [p.257] -- Dooyeweerd saw the main scientific areas as centred on specific aspects. Thus logic as a science of the analytic aspect and since that aspect is normative, so must the science of logic be. Moreover, Dooyeweerd saw each science is self-reflexive, giving a recursive quality to each.
- "But it appears that our thesis - that logic presupposes ethics - gives rise to a more serious objection to the possibility of a rational grounding of ethics. One might argue that every 'grounding' already presupposes the validity of logic. Yet if the latter, for its part, presupposes the validity of ethics then neither a grounding of ethics nor logic would appear possible, since every such attempt must lead to a circular argument or a regressus ad infinitum. ..." [p.262-3] -- Apel tries to resolve this by way of examining the discussant in argumentation and, in doing so, makes a Dooyeweerdian point that in everyday language we engage and do not question what we are doing. But Dooyeweerd, I feel, offers a better approach, namely that seeking ultimate 'grounding' implies presupposing self-dependence of something in created reality, which has always failed us. Which is why, when Dooyeweerd adopted the creation-fall-redemption ground motive, which presupposes the non-self-dependence of everything in created reality, he found at least one answer to this problem.
- " ... But is not the very reference to the fact that one cannot ground logic in this sense, since it is always presupposed for every attempt to ground something, the typical starting-point of a 'philosophical grounding' in the sense of a transcendental reflection upon the preconditions for the possibility and validity of argumentation." [p.263] -- This, to Dooyeweerd, would evidence the non-absolute nature of the analytical aspect.
- "The fact that there is a genuine problem here and that, in particular, one cannot resolve the Kantian problem by merely realizing the ... a priori character of semantic systems ... seems to have been hardly noticed for decades ..." [p.265] -- This was also Dooyeweerd's main criticism of Kant.
- "the actual business of philosophical foundation must consist of reconstructing the necessary preconditions for human argumentation as completely as possible ... to reconstruct the ethical preconditions for the possibility and validity of human argumentation and, consequently, of logic" [p.266-7] -- This is what Dooyeweerd tried to do: critically examine criticality itself.
- "My attempt is conceived as a transformation of transcendental philosophy that is critical of meaning" [p.267] -- If by this Apel means that we should make meaning a critical problem for philosophy, then this is exactly what Dooyeweerd did. He postulated that meaning is 'referring beyond' and not merely subjective attribution, as a starting point and then worked out what this would imply for a positive philosophy. In doing so, he came up with a theory of modal aspects, a theory of entities, and much besides that is proving very interesting in interdisciplinary areas of work and study.
- "What is actually achieved by transcendental reflection upon the moral norms of the communication community that are also presupposed in the a priori of argumentation?" [p.276] -- In starting where Apel arrived in this book, and working out the transcendental conditions for the theoretical attitude, Dooyeweerd managed, as we have just said, to formulate a positive philosophy that puts meaning at its centre and is able to cope with diversity and coherence and give dignity to everyday experience.
Dooyeweerd may thus be read in this light: as suggesting one answer for the question that Apel poses for us. And Apel might be read as providing a clearer view of the question than Dooyeweerd was able to give us.
Many thanks to Albert Gedraitis, who made a number of useful recommendations for this page.
This page is part of a collection of pages that links to various thinkers, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.
Copyright (c) 2004 Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.
Number of visitors to these pages: . Written on the Amiga and Protext.
Created: 23 August 2004.
Last updated: 24 August 2004 changes from AG, and link to Habermas.