My Journey In Reformational Philosophy

Andrew Basden

Professor of Human Factors and Philosophy in Information Systems,
University of Salford.

I have no formal philosophical background, coming to philosophy via Dooyeweerd as a way to tackle certain issues. By 'Reformational Philosophy' I mean mainly that of Dooyeweerd, though I have been informed by Vollenhoven, and do not see much difference between them except in emphasis. Though Dooyeweerd and I share a similar Christian faith, it is not for that reason I am interested; it is because it works in everyday life and scholarship. I recount stages I have been through.

1. Being Prepared (1980s). Growing desire for what Reformational Philosophy might offer: environmental activism, benefits of information systems, computer systems levels, appropriateness of knowledge representation schemes.

2. Discovery (1993). Paul Marshall's book Thine is the Kingdom helpful for a Christian in environmental politics. Discovery of its roots in Reformational Philosophy and Dooyeweerd's aspects. Also Walsh & Middleton's The Transforming Vision.

3. Aspects as Functioning and as Checklist (Mid 1990s). Understanding environmental sustainability as multi-aspectual shalom. Understanding benefits of ICT use as multi-aspectual shalom. Aspects as checklist. Started The Dooyeweerd Pages.. Read Henk Hart's Understanding Our World, which is informed more by Vollenhoven, though I did not understand the difference at the time.

Paper: Lombardi P, Basden A, (1997). Environmental sustainability and information systems: the similarity. Systems Practice v.10, n.4. The Dooyeweerd Pages at

4. Aspects as Stimulation (Late 1990s - 2000s). Mike Winfield's Multi-aspectual Knowledge Elicitation, MAKE and Suzanne Kane's Multi-aspectual Interview Technique, MAIT. Aspects as spheres of meaning that stimulate thinking rather than being slots to fill.

Papers: Winfield M J, Basden A, Cresswell I, (1996). Knowledge elicitation using a multi-modal approach. World Futures 47:93-101.
Kane SC, Basden A (2004) "The mature student education of prospective information systems professionals" pp. 20-30 in de Vries, MJ, Bergvall-Kåreborn B, Strijbos S (eds.) Interdisciplinarity and the Integration of Knowledge; Proc. 10th Annual Working Conference of CPTS, 19-24 April 2004: CPTS'2004. Amersfoort Netherlands: Centre for Philosophy, Technology and Social Systems; ISBN 90-807718-3-X.

5. Aspects as Levels of Being (Late 1990s to 2000s). Allen Newell's computer systems levels intuitively correct; parallel Dooyeweerd's aspects. Dooyeweerd's understanding of being as multi-aspectual, multi-levelled. Understanding of the difference between data, information, knowledge. Enkapsis also helpful.

Chapter V in Basden, A. 2008. Philosophical Frameworks for Understanding Information Systems. IGI Global, USA.

6. Aspects of Knowledge Representation (late 1990s). Errors and inefficiencies multiply when we try to express one aspect of reality in terms meaningful in a different aspect. e.g. spatial things in numbers, quantitative amounts as logic. At last found a way of discussing appropriateness: Dooyeweerd's aspects.

Chapter VII in Basden, A. 2008. Philosophical Frameworks for Understanding Information Systems. IGI Global, USA.

7. Normativity and Faith (2000s). Always believed in importance of responsibility, attitude and faith, and the innate normativity of all we do, whether in environmental sustainability or in ICT development and use. So it was pleasant to find Dooyeweerd affirmed these and provided a penetrating understanding of them. The idea that I could affirm faith functioning as such in all people was liberating. Also helps restore the integration between micro and macro levels in society.

See chapters IV, VI, VIII of Basden, A 2008 Philosophical Frameworks for Understanding Information Systems for normativity pervading IS use, IS development and the relationship between technology and society.

8. Engaging With World's Thinking (Late 1990s to today). Discovered Donald de Raadt and Sytse Strijbos applying Dooyeweerdian thought as I did, and we formed the Center for Philosophy, Technology and Social Systems, which hosts an annual working conference in the Netherlands, as a workshop for developing, critiquing and refining the application of Dooyeweerd or systems thinking. Sytse Strijbos' vision that it should be possible to engage with humanist and other thinkers as Christian thinkers was liberating. But also hard work, because it means working hard to truly understand the other thinkers. Especially Habermas! Also postmodern thinkers. I found Heidegger easy to understand because of having understood Dooyeweerd first. Interestingly, I found that it was non-Christian more then Christians who liked Dooyeweerd's aspects. Found I could co-write Dooyeweerdian papers with others. Devised the ACE Approach - Affirm, Critique, Enrich.

Paper: Basden, A. (2008) Engaging with and enriching humanist thought: the case of information systems. Philosophia Reformata, 73(2), 132-53.

Co-Written papers: Basden A, Wood-Harper AT. (2006) A philosophical discussion of the Root Definition in Soft Systems Thinking: An enrichment of CATWOE. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 23:61-87.
Basden, A. & Klein, H.K. (2008) New Research Directions for Data and Knowledge Engineering: A Philosophy of Language Approach. Data & Knowledge Engineering, 67(2), p.260-285.

9. Collecting My Thoughts (2005-2008). Wrote monograph in which I set out how Dooyeweerd could help in five major areas in information systems research and practice. Also to provide referenceable introduction to Dooyeweerdian thought.

Book: Basden, A. 2008. Philosophical Frameworks for Understanding Information Systems. IGI Global, USA.

10. Teaching With Dooyeweerd (2007-today). Took the bold step of using Dooyeweerd's aspects as a way to classify the 'key issues' in information systems development for students. Masters students loved it - especially Muslims and Hindus - possibly because it related to everyday life and affirmed the faith aspect in a way that no other teaching did. Also found it easy to relate to both my and the students' everyday experience.

"The importance of aspects as a tool in ISD projects cannot be over emphasized. ... application of aspects to my personal life currently has impacted the way I view things and make decisions" - S.O., 2010

11. Lifeworld and Everyday Life (late 2000s and today). Began to appreciate Dooyeweerd's privileging of the pre-theoretical attitude and everyday experience, in contrast to most thinking. That aspects are of everyday life and are intuitively grasped provides a systematic way to address everyday experience, without the romantic vageness that inflicts many thinkers.

Paper: Basden, A. (2010) Towards lifeworld-orientated information systems development. pp.41-65 in Reframing Humans in Information Systems Development, Ed. H. Isomaki & S. Pekkola. Springer.

12. Disciplines and Sciences (ca. 2010). "Is IS a true discipline?" is an active debate, without end. But Dooyeweerd's aspects, as spheres of meaningfulness, can provide a basis for answering that: a discipline or science finds its core in relation to one aspect, and focuses on what is meaningful in that aspect. This can not only define a discipline, but can provide dignity, destiny and responsibility.

Paper: Basden, A. (2010) On Using Spheres of Meaning to Define and Dignify the IS Discipline. International Journal of Information Management, 30, 13-20. (For full paper see

13. IS Research and Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Critique (2010-2011). It took me ten years of exploration and discussion before I felt I understood Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique of theoretical thought. The view I now have can accommodate all three research approaches found in IS and sociology: positivist, interpretivist, critical, and provides a basis for integration. It also helps me understand the creational mandate as 'opening up' the potential of the creation.

Paper: Basden A. (2011). Enabling a Kleinian integration of interpretivist and critical-social IS research: The contribution of Dooyeweerd's philosophy. European Journal of Information Systems. 20, 477-489.

14. Meaningfulness (2010s). Increasingly grasped the importance of meaningfulness in Dooyeweerd's thought. Meaningfulness like an ocean in which fish swim and which enables their swimming. Important in ICT, e.g. affordance. Work in progress.

15. Dooyeweerd and my Christian Faith (all). Complex. I try to ensure that I don't treat Dooyeweerd as a kind of 'bible'. Even in philosophy I try to treat Dooyeweerd critically but positively. Given my deep belief that this world matters in God's eyes, especially environmental responsibility, Dooyeweerd provides one way to understand and address its diversity, its meaningfulness and our normative responsibility within it, and to understand the wider scope of salvation ('three dimensional salvation'). However, I also develop a 'new view' in theology with little reference to Dooyeweerd. Dooyeweerd also provides a basis for openness about my faith - which was used of God to bring two Muslim students to Christ.

Web sites: A New View in Theology and Practice "".
Three-Dimensional Salvation "".