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Summary of Dooyeweerd for Researchers (In Any Field)

This page offers a summary overview of Dooyeweerd's philosophy, aimed at researchers in any field including philosophy, with noes that expand each, and links for further study. It is based on Basden [2020], Foundations and Practice of Research : Adventures with Dooyeweerd's Philosophy ("FPR").

Dooyeweerd is different,
    and gives a different flavour
        to research.

Notes and Expansions

1. Herman Dooyeweerd (1895-1977) a Dutch thinker of the mid-twentieth century, and might be the best philosopher of everyday experience yet to emerge.

2. Background.

Dooyeweerd was Professor of Jurisprudence at the Free University of Amsterdam, and was perplexed that the various schools of juridical thought always seemed to talk past each other, seldom engaging. This was, his studies revealed, that each was based on a separate philosophical foundation, which themselves did not engage with each other. So he set about investigating why not, and this is what led him into philosophy. His investigations convinced him that philosophy was in need of reform - not a reform driven from outside, such as by religious or ideological belief, but a reform that is true to the nature of philosophy itself. First, however, he realised he had to think deeply and critically about what philosophy is, and, then, that to do so has starting-points. Not only deconstructing philosophy in this way, he then reconstructed it, in a way that has been found congenial to practice and research. This congeniality arises from his starting-points seem to differ radically from those of most philosophy of that time, and perhaps since.

3. Starting-point 1, Everyday Experience.

During most of its centuries, philosophy has denigrated or ignored everyday experience and the kind of 'pre-theoretical' ("nave") way we think in our everyday living. Bundled in with everyday experience are things like intuition and tacit knowledge. Over the past few centuries or so, this has changed, in three ways.

See also Everyday Experience

4. Dooyeweerd's Starting-point, 2: Diversity and Coherence

In everyday experience, we encounter a wide diversity: physicality, health, feeling, personality, industry, communicability, sociality, frugality, beauty, justice, morality, belief, etc. Most philosophers have tried to reduce the diversity we experience to one or two aspects, such as Plato and Aristotle to matter and form, or materialists to physics or evolution. Some have adopted dualisms of mutually incompatible forces like freedom and determination. Some, reacting against these, have said diversity is infinite and cannot be studied. Dooyeweerd bypassed them all. He took the diversity we encounter but assumed there is coherence in it, and it may be studied in a manageable way. In so doing, he separated out around fifteen fundamental ways in which reality seems to be meaningful.

5. Dooyeweerd's Suite of Aspects

Table 1. Dooyeweerd's aspects with Examples
Aspect Kernel Good Things / Relationship Rationality
Quantitative Amount Sequential order Magnitude / More, less A > B > C => A > C
Spatial Continuous extension Simultaneity Shapes / Inside Inside cannot be outside
Kinematic Movement Dynamism Paths / Follows Achilles beats the tortoise
Physical Energy Causality, persistence Pebble / Causes Heat flows hotter to colder
Biotic / Organic Vitality Life, health Leaf / Feeds on Varied diet aids health
Psychic / Sensitive Feeling, emotion Interaction Fear / Stimulates-responds Colour difference helps seeing
Analytical Distinction Clarity, logicality, Gegenstand Concept / Similar to, implies Principle of non-contradiction
Formative Formative power Achievement, creativity Tasks, structures / Produces Inaction does not achieve goals
Lingual Symbolic signification Information Sentence / Describes, suggests Following grammar rules enhances understanding
Social 'We' Friendship, collaboration Institutions / Associates with Respect enhances relationship
Economic Frugality Prosperity Resource / Consumes Micawber's law
Aesthetic Harmony, enjoyment Integration, interest, fun Poem, sport / Enjoys Resolution in symphony enhances enjoyment
Juridical Due, appropriateness Justice Statute / Rewards, punishes Reward responsibility, punish irresponsibility
Ethical Self-giving love Culture of goodwill Gift / Loves "Give and it will be given you"
Pistic / Faith Faith, ultimacy Morale, meaningfulness Ideology / Committed to, believes Firm belief implies commitment

See also Pages on Dooyeweerd's aspects.

6. Meaning and Meaningfulness

Sadly, though he referred to "meaning" over 3000 times in his main work, he never clearly characterized it. So Basden 2019a] tries to clarify what he intended, and distinguishes five kinds of meaning:

The first three type of meanings emanate from the functioning of a subject. The fourth is centred on the subject, but expresses a belief that there is something meaningful beyond the subject (sometimes this "beyond" is assumed to mean intersubjectivity).

See also page on Meaning.

7. On Fundamental Meaningfulness

Meaningfulness can account for both 'is' and 'oughht' in reality, where the 'is' can be static and dynamic.

Static: Things exist by virtue of their meaningfulness. All being is being-as, modes of being, which are aspects. Example: A poem, as poem, is not just a piece of writing, but something aesthetic. So it does not exist, as poem, without meaningfulness in the aesthetic aspect. However, the being of most things is multi-aspectual; the poem is also a piece of writing, lingual aspect. A football club exists by virtue of its meaningfulness in the social aspect (club), aesthetic (sports), juridical (a legal entity), economic (finances etc.), pistic (committed fans), physical (ball propelled by force), spatial (pitch, goal-mouth, etc.), kinematic (movement of players and ball), and so on. See also pages on Existence and Theory of Entities.

Dynamic: Each aspect offers fundamental laws that enables reality to occur, act, behave. These are not social norms, but rather promise like ("If you do F then G will result") where F is functioning in an aspect and G is a (good or bad) outcome. e.g. law of gravity, or law of lingual aspect "If you write according to the syntactic and semantic rules of your language, then people will understand (your signfication-meaning) better." See also page on Functioning and Law.

Ought: Each aspect is the potential for a different kind of good in the world, whether health, communication, prosperity, responsibility, love, etc.; see Table 1. But also evils (disease, deceit, poverty, injustice, selfishness respectively.) We function (F) well or badly in each aspect and bring good (G) or harm. See also page on Normativity.

Other: Each aspect also has a different rationality, a way of making sense or nonsense, and offers possibility and types of time.

8. Presuppositions

Dooyeweerd believed, from his experience, that philosophy is in need of "inner reformation". He identified four ground-motives that have driven Western thought over 2,500 years, and Choi identified four in Korean thought. They act as deep presuppositions. Of Dooyeweerd's four, three are dualistic and he argues for how they have misled thought. The fourth one is pluralistic, and the one that Dooyeweerd himself adopted. See Ground-Motives and Religion, and Yong-Joon Choi's Thesis.

There is also an even deeper presupposition, which Dooyeweerd called the immanence standpoint. Dooyeweerd adopted a transcendence standpoint, by which his three starting-points make sense.

9. Immanent Critique

Immanent critique involves trying to understand the other thought in its own terms, rather than in my own terms, and revealing the presuppositions it makes, so that they may be critiqued. It it followed by a number of philosophers, including Habermas, Bhaskar, etc. It is an attempt at an academic humility that is fair to others. Its opposite is transcendent critique, (not transcendental, with an 'al'), which argues against the other from my own perspective, e.g. as capitalism and socialism do against each other.

10. Transcendental Critique of Theoretical Thought

See Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Critique. See also Three Challenges.

11. Three Challenges for Theoretical Thought

(a) Examples of the first challenge (transcendental problem TP1), of abstracting one aspect and setting it asumder from the others:

(b) The second challenge (second transcendental problem TP2), of harmonising rationalities. No rationality makes sense in terms of others, so each must be given equal due, and it is the thinker's responsibility to harmonise rationalities. For example, in studying acceptance of information technology in organisations, Davis [1989] employed the following rationalities, some of them without realising it:

(c) The third challenge (third transcendental problem TP3), of wider meaningfulness. Considering the following academic discourse (via the journals) after the findings F of some research have been published.

Critic 1: "Finding F fails to consider factor X."

Critic 2, "The author has not analysed correctly, and should employ rationality R."

Rejoinder: "But X is not relevant, because Y. Rationality R is inappropriate because S."

Critic 3: "But S / Y are inappropriate in this field, because of T." (About paradigms)

Rejoinder: "But T is the current paradigm and is not appropriate; what is being suggested is a new paradigm U." (Paradigm shift)

Critic 4: "But the U must be resisted (or welcomed) because of O."

The first two criticisms relate to transcendental problems TP1 and TP2, but the others relate to wider meaningfulness. Both Critic 3 and its rejoinder refer to the wider meaningfulness that two paradigms, T and U, supply (see FPR, 8-2.2). Critic 4, wanting to critique the paradigms, refers to an ultimate origin of meaning, O.

See Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Critique, The Second Way of Critique, and Chapter 6 in FPR.

12. Non-Neutraity of Theory

Theoretical knowledge is often presumed to be truth, but Dooyeweerd showed what is now becoming increasingly evident, that theoretical knowledge is never neutral. It is often biased, not only by the foibles of those involved, but because of the deep presuppositions that Dooyeweerd called ground-motives. See On the Non-Neutraaity of Theoretical Thought.

13. Implications for Theoretical Thought

See Some Reflections.

14. Disciplines and Fields of Research

Each major discipline or field of research tends to find one core aspect most meaningful. For example:

Aspect Example fields
Quantitative Algebra, statistics
Spatial Geometry, trigonometry, topology
Kinematic Dynamics, phoronomy
Physical Quantum physics, atomic physics, chemistry, materials science, astronomy, geology
Biotic / Organic Biology, ecology, health science, botany, some zoology
Psychic / Sensitive Behaviourist psychology, some cognitive psychology, some zoology
Analytical Logic, analytics
Formative Design sciences, technology studies, computer science, engineering, 'sciences of the artificial'
Lingual Linguistics, semiotics
Social Sociology in all its forms, organisational science
Economic Economics, finance, management
Aesthetic Art, music, aesthetics, sports science
Juridical Jurisprudence, law
Ethical Ethics
Pistic / Faith Theology, ideology studies

15. On Interdisciplinarity

Because Dooyeweerd recognises all aspects, and thus fields, equally, he offers a basis for interdisciplinary research and practice. Those in each field will be able to understand what is meaningful to others.

16. On Paradigms

Kuhn's notion of paradigms is ambiguous. Basden & Joneidy [2019b] argue that this confusion may be clarified by seeing paradigms as expressing what a community of thinkers finds meaningful. See also Chapter 8 in Basden [2020].

17. On the Usefulness of Dooyeweerd's Aspects

See Chapter 11 in Basden [2020], and also the many pages about Using Dooyeweerd.

18. Dooyeweerd Being Used in Research

See Chapter 11 in Basden [2020].


"FPR": Basden A. 2020. Foundations and Practice of Research : Adventures with Dooyeweerd's Philosophy. Routledge. See Summary of Book.

This page, "", is part of The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Questions or comments are very welcome.

Compiled by Andrew Basden. You may use this material subject to conditions.

Written on the Amiga with Protext, in the style of classic HTML.

Created: 17 December 2019, errors corrected and uploaded 20 December 2019. Last updated: