1. In 1965, when Dr. Herman Dooyeweerd retired as professor at the Vrije Universiteit [Free University] in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, an album amicorum was dedicated to him with the title, Philosophy and Christianity. In this book, Richard Kroner from Switzerland in his article entitled "Philosophie und Christentum" [Philosophy and Christianity], said "Nowadays we know all too well, that all philosophizing is done against the background of a culture that is essentially determined by religion..."(1) This remark might seem a little oversimplified but nevertheless it is undoubtedly the central gist of Dooyeweerd's thought in which he tries to analyze the relationship between religion, philosophy, science, and culture.
2. Claiming religion not as one sphere of life but as the root of every aspect of human life, Dooyeweerd attempts to demonstrate that religious presuppositions are at work both in any scientific enterprise and in cultural activities. Recognizing his own Christian presuppositions, Dooyeweerd developed his own philosophical system, one which can be characterized in the following three steps: (1) the discovery of the religious root of theoretical thought articulated in his De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee [The philosophy of the law-idea](2); (2) the transcendental critique of theoretical thought, as it takes shape in A New Critique of Theoretical Thought(3); and (3) the idea of the religious ground motive in Western thought and culture, summed up in both Reformatie en Scholastiek in de Wijsbegeerte [Reformation and scholasticism in philosophy](4) and Vernieuwing en Bezinning: om het reformatorisch grondmotief [Renewal and reflection: about the reformed ground motive](5).
3. Behind Dooyeweerd's Christian philosophy, there are two important factors which motivated him in his research, viz. the notions of antithesis and dialogue. Following Abraham Kuyper's idea of the antithesis between Christian and non-Christian principles, Dooyeweerd makes explicit, on the one hand, the clear opposition between the Christian ground motive and non-Christian ones. On the other hand, however, Dooyeweerd still wants to restore and maintain the common philosophical and scientific community of thought in which both Christians and non-Christians communicate with and encounter one another. This is the main reason why Dooyeweerd worked out his first magnum opus, De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee, and developed his transcendental critique of theoretical thought as an investigation into the necessary conditions or presuppositions of philosophical thinking.
4. Dooyeweerd's concern was, however, not limited to the philosophical and scientific domain. As he developed his
transcendental critique of theoretical thought, he also gradually elaborated the idea of the religious ground motive. This
basic motive is, according to Dooyeweerd, not only the starting point of theoretical thought but it also determines the
process and direction of cultural development(6). Though he had seen the evident need to develop a Christian view of
culture before, it became acute for him especially after the Second World War as a way of overcoming the cultural crisis at
that time and thereby directing the cultural development in the Netherlands. Thus he proceeded to work out his idea of the
religious ground motive in order to reveal the roots of Western culture and in order to contribute to the reform of modern
secularized culture from a Christian perspective.
5. At this point, however, one can raise the following question:
How much can Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique, originally developed as a strictly theoretical thought critique,
function as a critique of culture (which is a much broader and more extensive human activity), maintaining both aspects of
antithesis and dialogue and furthermore, how relevant is his approach in other contexts such as contemporary post-modern
Western and Oriental (and in particular Korean) thought and culture? In other words, does Dooyeweerd's transcendental
critique have a universal validity as both thought and cultural criticism in the Western as well as in the Eastern world?
5. At this point, however, one can raise the following question:
6.This central question can be divided into a number of subquestions:
This dissertation will deal with these questions.
7. Accordingly, the aim of this study is, first of all, to critically evaluate the relevance and justification of Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique as both theoretical thought critique and cultural critique from the perspective of dialogue and antithesis. The second purpose of this research is to determine whether his thought has been adequately elaborated by his followers in their attempt to make it more relevant and actual in contemporary Western thought and culture. And the final intention of this thesis is to test the applicability and thus the universal validity of his theory to other contexts such as Korean philosophy and civilization.
8. As an orientational response to our main question raised before, a guiding and tentative statement can be made in a positive and affirmative way as follows: Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique, in spite of some possible weak points, is not only a theoretical thought critique but also a cultural critique since he conceived of the religious ground motive as the basic motivational factor both in thought and in culture. Moreover, his approach can also be applied to other contexts such as the Korean tradition in analyzing its religious basic motive and in revealing the dialectical conflicts in non-Christian thinking and socio-cultural structures.(7) This hypothetical proposition will be critically tested in this dissertation.
9. The main method to be used in this thesis consists, first of all, of an exegetical study of relevant texts written by Dooyeweerd about the structure of the transcendental critique and of an analysis of his dialogue with critical partners and followers. Next, the contextualization or actual execution of Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique throughout the history of Western philosophy and civilization is to be analyzed and critically evaluated from the viewpoint of dialogue and antithesis. Then we will discuss further developments of Dooyeweerd's ideas advanced by his followers with an eye on showing their continual vitality within the contemporary Western context. Finally, the applicability of Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique in other contexts, such as Korean thought and culture, will be tested in order to see whether it has general validity and universal relevance.
10. Chapter one offers an analysis of Dooyeweerd's view of culture. After a brief overview of his philosophy as a background, we will discuss his notion of culture as a normative process of disclosure, showing the important role of his idea of the religious ground motive. Then the development of the idea of a religious basic motive will be traced. Claiming the religious ground motive as the driving force not merely of theoretical thought but also of the whole of human cultural activity, I will attempt to show in what sense Dooyeweerd's critique of culture is based upon his transcendental critique of the Western philosophical tradition. After treating Dooyeweerd's notion of a Christian culture in accordance with his Christian ground motive, some major critical responses to his view will be outlined. Then my own evaluation will close this first chapter.
11. The following three chapters present a critical exposition of Dooyeweerd's transcendental criticism. Chapter two focuses on Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique of theoretical thought. To begin with, we will discuss what he called "the first way" of his transcendental approach as developed in De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee. Since this method elicited some critical responses, these need to be summarized together with Dooyeweerd's reply. Then other articles and his later major work, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, will be dealt with. In these works, Dooyeweerd refined the so-called "second way" of transcendental criticism of theoretical thought. Then two major responses to this second approach are critically evaluated. As a conclusion, attention is devoted here to the strong and weak aspects of Dooyeweerd's efforts. In addition, an attempt will be made to find the general implications of the structure of the transcendental critique in its use as a cultural critique as well.
12. Chapter three deals with the actual execution of Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique of Western philosophy. According to Dooyeweerd, religious ground motives determine the contents of the so-called "three transcendental basic ideas" (of origin, the totality and unity of meaning, and meaning diversity in coherence) underlying theoretical thought. How have the contents of these three basic philosophical ideas been determined by the underlying religious ground motives that Dooyeweerd has singled out? In addition, some major critical reactions to this will be examined and evaluated. Furthermore, the consequences of Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique of theoretical thought for culture will be added. In this way, the relationship between philosophy and culture in Dooyeweerd's thought will become clearer.
13. Chapter four inquires into Dooyeweerd's development of his transcendental critique as a cultural critique and examines whether he has consistently applied it to the Western history of civilization. Subsequently, his ultimate intention of providing an inner reformation of Western culture by means of his transcendental critique and by means of a discussion of the four religious ground motives that he believed underlie Western thought will be examined and critically evaluated.
14. Important developments that have been worked out by a number of (Dutch) scholars after Dooyeweerd are discussed in chapter five. These include elaborations and attempts at application by J. Van der Hoeven, J. Klapwijk, B. Goudzwaard and E. Schuurman. These critical improvements will be stated and evaluated in such a way as to highlight important elements of Dooyeweerd's philosophy but also complement it in such a way that his transcendental criticism may still be considered relevant to current Western thought and its cultural context.
15. In the last chapter, I endeavor to apply Dooyeweerd's transcendental approach and later developments to the Korean context as a case study to see whether his theory can make any substantial contribution to the analysis of philosophical and cultural traditions of the East and so to test whether his transcendental approach is universally valid or not. Thus an effort is made to discover the religious ground motives of Korean thought and culture throughout its history to see whether they evince dialectical conflicts. A transcendental critique is then offered of the philosophical and socio-cultural structure of Korean shamanism, Buddhism and Confucianism. In addition, the Christian response to these three types of Korean traditional philosophy and religion will be investigated from the perspective of dialogue and antithesis.
16. Summing up all the discussions made, I will conclude my dissertation by pointing out the significance of Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique and concentrate on both strong and weak aspects of his approach in order to decide whether his project has merit.
17. In order to understand our discussion of Dooyeweerd's transcendental criticism, it is necessary to give a brief biography of Dooyeweerd together with the early development of his thinking. Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977) was born in Amsterdam and grew up in a Dutch Calvinistic reformed environment. He was taught at a Grammar-school of a Reformed signature (Het Gereformeerd Gymnasium) in Amsterdam where he came into contact with philosophy. After studying law at the Free University, he received the Ph.D. degree for a dissertation entitled, De ministerraad in het Nederlandsche staatsrecht [The cabinet in Dutch constitutional law].(8)
18. Dooyeweerd's thought developed gradually and continuously throughout his early period. Even though he had been interested in philosophy while studying at the university, Dooyeweerd purposefully and intensively began to study philosophy when he was appointed in 1922 as assistant director of the Kuyper Institute (Kuyperstichting) in The Hague, the scientific research centre of the Anti-Revolutionary Party.(9) He worked here for four years during which time he developed one of the central tenets which was to play such a crucial role in his subsequent thought, viz. the insight regarding the religious root of theoretical thought. According to Dooyeweerd, philosophy and science are dependent on pre-theoretical presuppositions which together form a "wetsidee [the idea of law or the cosmonomic idea]". At first, in the 1920s, he meant by the word wetsidee the "idea of God's creational law". But in the 1930s, its meaning was changed into "religious starting-point" or "transcendental basic idea". Furthermore, in conjunction with his brother-in-law D.H.Th. Vollenhoven(10) he developed the theory of the modal aspects of reality. At first, fourteen `law-spheres' (also named `modal aspects' or `modalities') were distinguished, each one governed by its own laws, but later a fifteenth was added: the arithmetic, spatial, kinematic, physical, biotic, sensitive, analytic, historical, linguistic, social, economic, aesthetic, juridical, ethical, and the pistic.
19. Having laid the foundation for his philosophy at the Kuyper Institute, Dooyeweerd elaborated it further in his work at the Free University as professor of the encyclopaedia of jurisprudence, philosophy of law, and the history of Dutch law. He held his professorship for almost forty years. In 1930 his view of time underwent a significant change. Dooyeweerd now makes reference to `cosmic or universal time'. Cosmic time, according to him, is not a modal aspect. Rather, as an order of `before' and `after', cosmic time not only determines the relations between the modal aspects, but it also expresses itself in the structure of every aspect. Thus within each aspect cosmic time refers to all of the other aspects in what Dooyeweerd refers to as modal `retrocipatory' and `anticipatory' meaning-moments. The earlier aspects ground the later ones whereas the later aspects disclose the earlier ones.
20. In 1932, Dooyeweerd began to use the word `heart' for the first time in connection with the biblical text from Proverbs 4:23. He taught that the supratemporal creaturely root of creation lies neither in temporal reality, nor in man's reasoning function but in the religious root (heart) of the human being. Thus `heart', for Dooyeweerd, is the transcendent concentration or focal point of all modal aspects. This heart is nothing in itself; it refers to the central relation in the life of man: the relation to his Origin. Here in the heart of man, the direction of the whole of life is decided with respect to the absolute Origin. This idea of heart has been, therefore, the cornerstone of his anthropology and the point at which his philosophy attempts to be distinctively biblical.
21. Dooyeweerd was at first under the influence of neo-Kantianism and later under Husserl's phenomenology.(11) But after he discovered the religious root of thought itself, Dooyeweerd felt he could not formulate his own ideas in terms of other philosophies. Rather, he saw the need of an inner reformation in philosophical thought, viz. a radical break with humanistic and autonomous immanence philosophy. Accordingly, Dooyeweerd had to elaborate his own philosophical terms such as `wetsidee', `zin [meaning]', `wetskring [law-sphere]', `Gegenstand [object] relation', `Archimedean point', `law and subject', `heart', `cosmic time', `individuality structures', `ground-motive', etc.
22. Distinguishing between naive experience and theoretical thought, Dooyeweerd further developed his epistemology by saying that scientific knowledge is obtained by a theoretical synthesis between the non-logical aspects(12) and the logical one. Explaining the concept of law in the Calvinistic sense of the boundary between the sovereign God, the Creator and His creation, Dooyeweerd distinguished two kinds of law: law of nature and norm (or cultural law). In addition, Dooyeweerd elaborated Kuyper's idea of sphere-sovereignty as a philosophical-cosmological principle and developed the idea of sphere-universality. We will discuss these further as we analyze Dooyeweerd's view of culture in the first chapter.
Prepared as part of The Dooyeweerd Pages web site by Andrew Basden 2002, with the kind permission of Yong-Joon Choi.