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Alfred Schutz meets Herman Dooyeweerd

Alfred Schutz did not, as far as I know, meet Herman Dooyeweerd in the flesh, neither as what Schutz called 'face to face' nor as what he called 'contemporary'. Rather, the thought of the two meets at various points. This page begins to look at some of these. In particular, both were very interested philosophically in the lifeworld or everyday experience, so we might expect some meeting of minds, and also some differences.

Types of Person-person Relationship

Schutz differentiated four types of relationship we can have with others:

Nowadays, we have email, social networking sites and multi-player Internet games; these presumably would be contemporaries. But regarding contemporaries, Schutz focused mainly on the legal relationship between, for example, tax payer and tax office, and did not seem to take much account of, for example, letters to friends. Schutz differentiated these on the basis of who can affect whom, and how immediately they can do so.

At first sight, the above sounds a reasonable categorization. But Schutz recognises that the boundary between face-to-face and contemporary is not clear; Schutz asked: when a friend walks away down the road, at what point does s/he become contemporary rather than face-to-face? I find that it might be fruitful to ask ourselves what is the nature of each type of relationships. Or, better:

When I ask those questions of each, I find Dooyeweerd's aspects are helpful, because they are precisely spheres of meaning and law. I find that all aspects are important in all types, but that certain aspects play special roles for each:

Perhaps this provides a richer differentiation, and one that is more in line with everyday experience (the lifeworld)?

Schutz and Luckmann compared with Dooyeweerd

Schutz and Luckmann, in Structures of the Life-World, Volume I [1973], discuss (the world of) everyday life. Dooyeweerd also gave considerable dignity to everyday life and the pre-theoretical attitude. Here we compare them. The following table is a start; it must be expanded considerably.

Schutz + Luckmann Pages Dooyeweerd agrees Dooyeweerd critique
Provinces of meaning
(e.g. awake, absorbed, theorizing, dream, fantasy)
22 ff. Consciousness qualified by an aspect?
See below for discussion.
Maybe S+L too psychologistic.
.. 'leap' from one to other p.22-24 Irreducibility of aspects?
(Thematic, Interpretational, Motivational)
182 ff. Concrete meaning to self in situation as determined by aspects as spheres of meaning. Only three types? Maybe more, one per aspect?
"the relevance problem is perhaps the most important and at the same time the most difficult problem that the description of the life-world has to solve." 183 Meaning is foundational .. .. and does not 'arise' from lifeworld, but the lifeworld itself arises from the meaning-framework that is the law-side.

Finite Provinces of Meaning

Schutz and Luckmann spoke about provinces of meaning. So do Berger and Luckmann, whose treatment is perhaps clearer. I was at first tempted to liken provinces of meaning to Dooyeweerd's aspects. But when I saw what they were referring to in more depth, this parallel is not so exact.

Finite provinces of meaning are "a turning away of attention from the reality of everyday life" [Berger and Luckmann, p.39]. Characteristic of them is that one enters them and then returns to the reality of everyday life, which retains its "paramount status" and in which the others are situated. the examples they give (at least some of which are found in Schutz and Luckmann) include:

However the first two differ from the latter four and from each other. The latter four may be seen as part of everyday life when, in Dooyeweerd's terms, we function particularly in one aspect (respectively the analytic, aesthetic twice, pistic), and to each of these we deliberately turn, from within everyday life itself. But we cannot be said to deliberately turn our attention when entering a sleep-dream; rather it happens to us, and does not happen within everyday experience. Also, the alternative world of the one supposed by us to be mad is not a turning away within the middle of everyday life, but rather a person's unusual way of seeing things.

So, *some* types of finite provinces of meaning may be the focusing on a particular aspect and defined by that aspect.


Berger P, Luckmann T (1966) The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge. Penguin, 1991. See also the page on Berger & Luckmann

Schutz, Alfred, and Luckmann, Thomas. (1973) Structures of the Life-World, Volume I. Evanston, Illinois, USA: Northwestern University Press.

Schutz, Alfred, and Luckmann, Thomas. (1989) Structures of the Life-World, Volume II. Evanston, Illinois, USA: Northwestern University Press.

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) 2006 Andrew Basden. But you may use this material subject to conditions.

Written on the Amiga and Protext.

Created: 17 March 2006 Last updated: 29 July 2008 added intro, plus Finite Provinces of Meaning, plus refces. 18 July 2009 revamped and retitled page (was 'Schutz + Luckmann', and added about interaction types. 7 September 2017 correction, rid counter.