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Herman Dooyeweerd, The Man

Herman Dooyeweerd: Philosopher, Musician, Lawyer, Christian.

See also Biography of Herman Dooyeweerd

Characteristics of Herman Dooyeweerd as a Person

Here is a compilation of things about Herman Dooyeweerd, the man, taken from the late Evan Runner's tribute to Dooyeweerd, supplied by Magnus Verbrugge and used with permission. In no particular order as yet. See also some biographical details.

How did Herman Dooyeweerd Operate in Academic Life?

Bruce Wearne posed the following 'everyday' questions on Thinknet about Herman Dooyeweerd's academic activities, and Harry Van Dyke provided the following answers

Question Answers

Introduction to questions:

It may not be the most important question to be considered when assessing Dooyeweerd's contribution to philosophy but it may be useful to have some idea about the way he worked, his manner of setting down his ideas on paper.

Introduction to answers:

When teaching in very introductory ways about Dooyeweerd, there are few personal anecdotes, stories, and every-day life pictures that can be found in the English materials. Whereas there is a new biography of C. S. Lewis appearing every few months, the life of Dooyeweerd comes across largely as bibliography, rather than biography.
Is much known of the process by which Dooyeweerd brought his writings to publication? If so who would know this? And where, if at all, is it discussed in some depth? Nowhere with these specifics.
Were there distinctive traits in the way in which Dooyeweerd (substitute your favourite CPI writer) produced his voluminous writings? All written out in longhand on foolscap in fountain pen.
Was he possessed of special compository and typing skills? Mss have words, sentences, sometimes a whole paragraph crossed out. In the margin at times: "replace" or "inlasch [insert] from next sheet"
Let's take the De Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee. The dedication reads: "Aan mijn vrouw, mijne trouwe medewerkster".
We know that Mvr D initially attended his lectures to provide him with an assessment of student reception to his presentations. What else do we know about her contribution to his work over the years? Running the household and taking care of nine children (all still living 26 April 2013). In the early years mevr D also checked his greek citations (she graduated from a gymnasium).
Was the WdW and his journal articles initially handwritten and then typed, then proof-read etc etc? If so by whom? None of this. Only two articles published in Phil. Ref. were corrected and emended by him; this will appear in Reformation and Scholasticism Vol. 2 (forthcoming later this year 2013).
Was Dooyeweerd a writer who could write it all out without going back over his literary creations to amend them to include matters he had overlooked? Little rewriting. He could write periodic sentences half a page long "in einem Guss". But see previous answer: articles from 1942-44 were changed somewhat after many years.
Did he have any helpers, office staff, secretarial assistance, PAs (anachronism) ? None whatsoever! A secretary at the university only when he twice took his turn as rector magnificus.
Is this covered in any of the biographies? Very little attention is paid to these aspects. Verburg was advised by the supervisor of his Diss. to exclude most personal details. A great pity.
How were the WdW volumes produced? He went to a known publisher two blocks from the university along the Keizersgracht Canal.
Did he do all his own the proof-reading? Yes.
What kind of a teaching regime did he have? Two sometimes three courses a year, each one hour a week, from Sept to Nov and Jan to April.
Was he given study leave so he could concentrate on his research? Never any.
Did he live on coffee, cigars and little sleep for much of his active academic life? Coffee or tea, plus cigars. Modest hours of sleep. Sometimes in the middle of the night he would take a break and play one of his favorite sonatas on the grand piano in the front room of his two-room study on the second floor. During the month-long summer vacation in a rented house near the beach, he would write or proofread in the morning hours and join the family in the afternoon.
What of the interface between the study environment he needed to do what he considered necessary and family life? I recall Magnus and Maria [Verbrugge; Maria was Herman D's eldest daughter] telling me of the need for the children to not jump downstairs to land next to his study door (or something like that). Once, when they made too much noise coming up the stairs to the third floor, he made them go down again and ascend "the proper way."
What of the daily, weekly, yearly, academic yearly timetable for the family life and how did these mesh (or not?). Did they have special annual holidays together? See above. There were also three or more trips to Canada, Twice combined with a lecture tour through the States. There were also short lecture tours to Paris and Zurich. In 1935 he joined his senior prof in the Law Dept (Rutgers) and attended the Criminal Law Conference in Nazi Germany. He disliked the way they were ushered around by officials and also wondered why the inmates of certain camps looked so wan and gaunt.
What was expected of him at the Free University? Could he have had a long career at the VU without engaging in the extensive publication programme we now associate with his academic contribution? How encouraging was the way in which the Free University was organised of the kind of scholarly intensity that was required to do what he did? How much of a factory was the Free University in the manner in which its "work" was organised? (van Deursen's book is helpful to the degree that it helps us ask such questions but the actual scholarly activity seems to be hidden from view as I've noted on another occasion). 'Publish or perish' was unknown. One was appointed for life, or nearly for life; see below.
We may all know of the 'loneliness of the long-distance scholar' but what other daily activities did Dooyeweerd engage in so as not to become narrow-mindedly focused on his own work? "You also have to do something practical," he once said to Verburg. "So I chaired the Protestant Rehabilitation Society and served as its president for 25 years." [see below for more on this.] He also chaired the board of a small private Reformed Hospital in Amsterdam. In the late Thirties, with war looming, he volunteered as ward captain for civil defence. Another interesting activity was giving an evening lecture at the various clubs for Calvinist Philosophy in the major cities. Even more important probably was lecturing at the famous one-week summer camps in the village of Lunteren, where a sizable group of young students would gather for study and fun. C. Veen Hof has written about it. They were all enthusiastic,adepts of the new movement of the Thirties, inspired by the writings of D[ooyeweerd] and V[ollenhoven], S. G. de Graaf (he of Promise and Deliverance), Antheunis Janse (see the monograph by Bennie van der Walt), and Klaas Schilder. There is a snapshot showing D and V wearing chef's hats and standing behind a long table ready to dish out food.
Just a few questions from someone who knows a little of the difficulties of organising one's research let alone of completing one's scholarly projects ...
It might seem a naive question but for a long-time in the situation in which I have sought to make a scholarly contribution there is an intriguing question that is difficult to answer: for whom is one writing this stuff? For whom was Dooyeweerd writing and how did this anticipated audience change over the years. D wrote for the general academic public, for Dutch Thomists, for the rising generation (see above). In the Society of Philosophy of Law he wrote for his immediate colleagues at the public universities. He gave them no quarter. After 10-12 years they voted him in as president.

Harry Van Dyke also contributed the following information about professors in the Netherlands in the middle of the twentieth century, partly to clarify some issues in his answers above:

The copyright to the material supplied by Bruce Wearne and Harry Van Dyke belongs to them; I am grateful for permission to use the material. The rest, which I have written is copyright (c) 2002-prsent Andrew Basden, as part of The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. However, you may use this material freely under certain conditions. Email questions or comments would be welcome.

The picture was created by Andrew Basden for the Herman Dooyeweerd Foundation from a photograph supplied by Magnus Verbrugge.

Written on the Amiga and Protext.

Created: 11 March 2002 Last updated: 9 May 2005 corrected Kant; link to Voll pages; link to hd.html, added photo. 26 April 2013 added section on everyday academic life. 3 September 2015 corrected '../'; rid counter; new .nav; did NOT change end.