1. Introduction

277. In the former chapter, we have discussed Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique of Western philosophy via the religious basic motive as a thought critique, characterized by open dialogue and radical antithesis. However, as we have seen in the previous chapters, the religious ground motive determines not exclusively the direction of theoretical thinking as a philosophical motive, but also the whole life-attitude in a central sense, leading the whole development of culture as its driving force.(470) In other words, Dooyeweerd explains that "[t]he innate religious impulsion of the ego in which its central relation to its divine Origin finds expression, takes its content from a religious basic motive as the central spiritual motive power of our thinking and acting."(471) According to Dooyeweerd, the religious motive not merely gives rise to a common belief within the faith-aspect of our experience but also gains a socio-cultural power within the historical aspect of human society so that it can be a formative factor in human culture. The faith-power enables the religious ground motive to become the leading principle of human thinking whereas the socio-cultural power guarantees the temporal foundation of its socio-cultural influences.(472) The religious ground motive is, therefore, also a cultural community motive.

278. For Dooyeweerd, therefore, the transition from the transcendental thought critique to cultural critique is made possible via his unique idea of the religious ground motive which again determines the content of the three elements of the transcendental ground idea. Furthermore, because of the nature of their content, the three basic ideas are not only essential to each philosophical system but also important to pre-philosophical, religious convictions which are implied in each cultural phenomenon. The idea of origin as an ultimate horizon can be found in each culture, from which reality is understood in its meaning and nature. Each culture has also a certain view of the human being as the subject of cultural activity. It implies that here in discussing his transcendental critique of culture, Dooyeweerd's view of the idea of supra-temporal unity should be modified by the view of the nature of human being as such. Human cultural activity entails the idea of diversity with coherence as well because it is intrinsically various, revealing the richness of the creation mandate without losing its interrelatedness. In this sense, the transcendental basic idea can also play an important role in Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique of culture as the inner point of connection between cultural activity and the religious sphere.

279. According to Dooyeweerd, the development of Western culture has been determined by several religious basic motives. These motives, as the deepest driving forces behind the entire cultural and spiritual development of the West, "acquired their central influence upon the historical development of mankind via certain cultural powers, which, over the centuries, successively gained leadership in the historical process."(473) In thoroughly examining the roots of Western thought and civilization, Dooyeweerd arrives at five types of religious ground motives, adding the Roman power-law motive to the already known four motives. Except for the Christian motive, he argues, all the other motives are destined to be internally dualistic and thus display an inherent dialectic since each of these three motives consists of two opposite extreme poles that bear the seed of a religious dialectic which can never be synthesized. Only the biblical ground motive is integral, with no dialectical conflict in it. Dooyeweerd emphasizes, therefore, that "the ground motive of the christian religion ... is a spiritual dynamic which transforms one's entire view of reality at its root."(474) Thus even though dialogue and mutual communication are possible because of common cultural activity, tension and confrontation are inevitable between cultures led by the Christian motive and the other motives because the former challenges the latter radically and integrally. As Dooyeweerd says, "the christian ground motive permits no dualistic ambiguity in our lives, no `limping with two different opinions' [cf. 1 Kings 18:21]."(475) Accordingly, compromise is not a real option. The conflict between the Christian motive and the other motives is again referred to as the antithesis, i.e., the tense spiritual battle in which no synthesis is possible. A less than radical Christianity is compared to salt that has lost its savour. The full double-edged sharpness and power of God's Word requires the complete surrender of our whole hearts, our total commitment to Christ in thought and deed.

280. As Van der Hoeven properly points out, the deepening of Dooyeweerd's transcendental criticism and the birth of the notion of the religious basic motive are closely related to the breaking out of the Second World War, in which Western thought and culture experienced one of its most fundamental crises.(476) In order to overcome this spiritual uprooting, Dooyeweerd is convinced that a diagnosis is necessary, based on a systematic analysis of the religious roots of Western culture and that sincere discussion should take place at a level in which participants come to discuss issues pertaining to the root of their differences. Thus in a series of articles in Nieuw Nederland, Dooyeweerd analyzes Western culture from its religious root, namely, from its basic motive. From his own Christian viewpoint, he critically analyzes the other three options by revealing their dialectical dilemma. In this way, Dooyeweerd executes his transcendental critique as a cultural critique and so strives to reform Western culture from the grasp of its ultimate religious root. Here we see again the basic theme of his transcendental criticism, namely, dialogue and antithesis.

281. In this chapter, we are going to investigate Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique of Western culture throughout its history, viz., ancient Greco-Roman, medieval, and modern humanistic culture by looking at the following questions: What is the leading cultural power in each period, according to Dooyeweerd? How does he explain the transcendental ground idea in each religious ground motive? How does Dooyeweerd reveal the dialectical dilemma of non-Christian cultures? How does he try to overcome these non-Christian cultures from his Christian point of view? Then my own evaluative conclusion will close this chapter reflecting on the following points: Did Dooyeweerd succeed in achieving his goal? What are the strong and weak points of Dooyeweerd's criticism?

2. Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Critique of Greco-Roman Culture

282. Dooyeweerd claims that the form-matter motive governed not only Greek thought but also ancient Greek civilization as its leading spirit. But when he deals with Roman culture, he uses another term to characterize its ground motive, viz., power-law. In addition, compared with his critical analysis of Greek culture, his discussion of Roman civilization is less clear. I will demonstrate this first by discussing his transcendental critique of Greek culture and then that of Roman civilization. My concluding remarks end this section.

(1) Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Critique of Greek Culture

283. Dooyeweerd argues that the dialectical tension in the form-matter motive shaped Greek culture as well as its philosophical tradition. In his cultural critique, Dooyeweerd illustrates the dialectical conflict between the two polar opposites by discussing the Greek idea of the state, because for him the leading power of classical Greek civilization was the city-state (polis). The Greek idea of the state was limited to this polis, Dooyeweerd continues, which was the carrier of the new culture religion of the Olympian gods, bearing the culture-form principle. The polis was then generally regarded as the "all-inclusive whole of Greek society" and "the centre of Greek culture".(477) According to Dooyeweerd, this idea of city-state was then challenged by the ideas of world citizenship and the natural equality of all men which were introduced later by the cynics and the Stoic philosophers.(478) But these ideas were not of Greek origin so they made little impact on Greek culture. Similarly, the radical wing of the Sophists, driven by the matter principle, was also very hostile to the idea of city-state and so declared war on it. Consequently, Dooyeweerd asserts that the dialectical conflict was inevitable between the two groups controlled by the form and matter principles. Nevertheless, concerning the idea of origin, the primacy was mainly given to the form principle even though there was some opposition by other thinkers.

284. The Greek view of human nature was again dominated by the form-matter dialectical motive. Only the free Greek citizen of the polis was regarded as being truly human whereas outsiders were considered barbarians bearing the matter principle because they lacked the imprint of Greek cultural formation. The Greek idea of democracy which emerged in Ionian culture, was also limited to a small number of "free citizens" whereas an enormous amount of slaves and city dwellers had no rights. Thus industry and physical workers were despised. However, later on in the Hellenistic period, the most radical attack was made by the Christian confession that there are no boundaries of nation and race in the religious root community of mankind.

285. What is then the dialectical tension in the idea of diversity in coherence? Due to the primacy of the form ideal, Dooyeweerd points out that the Greek idea of the city-state was basically totalitarian, demanding the allegiance and commitment of the whole citizen. All of life had to serve this citizenship, for it alone was believed to grant a divine and rational cultural form to human existence. This means, Dooyeweerd continues, that the Greek city-state was not based on the principle that the state's authority is intrinsically limited by its own inner nature. The Greek idea of the state, therefore, did not admit the inalienable rights of a human being against the body politic but had only formal guarantees against despotism.(479)

(2) Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Critique of Roman Culture

286. Dooyeweerd analyzes Roman culture from the religious ground motive of power-law, which corresponds to the Greek motive of matter (nature religion)-form (culture religion). In classical Roman times, so he argues, the bearer of Roman civilization was the Roman commonwealth (res publica) but later, the bearer was the emperor as the figure who personified the Roman idea of empire (imperium).(480) According to Dooyeweerd, this ideal of power became embodied in the person of the emperor Augustus who replaced the ancient republican form of government with the Roman empire. But this idea of imperium had already germinated, Dooyeweerd continues, when Alexander the Great created the Macedonian empire and allowed himself to be worshipped as a demigod (heros), and later as a full god, making use of the Asiatic belief in the divine ancestry of monarchs.(481) In Athens, for instance, he was regarded as Dionysus, one of the city's deities. Originally the cult of Dionysus expressed, as we have already seen, the matter principle of the older nature religions. Dooyeweerd then maintains that this "fatalistic conception of the cycle of life ... was eminently suited to a deification of the monarch as the lord over life and death."(482) To resist the imperium was as useless as to fight the inexorable fate of death. Thus "the worship of Alexander was the foundation for the religious imperium idea, which became the driving force behind the Roman conquest of the world and continued in a christianized form with the Germanic-Roman idea of the sacrum imperium, the `Holy Roman Empire', after Rome's fall."(483) The Holy Roman Empire was supposed to embrace all spiritual and secular relationships.(484) Furthermore, after the Romans conquered Greece "they adapted the worship of their own gods to Greek culture religion" but "the Roman religion of life, which worshipped communal life in the tribe and clan had much in common with the older Greek nature religions."(485) In this way, Dooyeweerd contends that the Greek matter principle continued to play an important role in the classical Roman period.

287. However, Dooyeweerd holds that succeeding the Greek form principle, the ideal of law dominated later Roman civilization.(486) He explains the law principle by illustrating the development of the Roman legal system. The cultural driving force of law, according to him, thoroughly pervaded the Roman folk law (ius civile) of Roman tribalism, resting on a juridical delimitation of different spheres of authority such as the domestic communities (familiae), the large patrician clan (gens) and the Roman tribe (civitas). Later, when Rome became an empire, the need arose for a more universal civil law (ius gentium) that would be applicable to the private interrelations between both citizens and foreigners. This law was no longer bound to gens or familia but treated every free person as a legal subject with both rights and obligations. Dooyeweerd explains this development as the process of differentiation in ancient Roman society. In this civil law, public law began to distinguish itself (in accordance with its inner nature) from private law. The basic principles of a universal civil law could not be found on the religious authority of either the old gens, the familia, or the Roman community, but rather on the Greek Stoic philosophy with its doctrine of natural law (ius naturale), according to which natural law resides not in human institutions but in "nature" itself, so all men are free and equal before the law of nature.(487)

288. How then does Dooyeweerd explain the dialectical tension between the two polar opposites? Regarding the idea of an ultimate horizon, he contends that Roman culture gave the priority to the power ideal, which then corresponds to the matter principle in Greek civilization. The deification of the imperium was first associated with the common Roman practice of ancestor worship but later became "the counterpart and antipode to the typically juridical tendency of the ancestor worship" of the Romans.(488) The gods of the state, influenced by the Greek culture religion (form principle) and the old gods of home and hearth, like the Greek nature religion (matter principle), were clearly distinguished from each other. However, Dooyeweerd does not clearly point out here whether there is any real dialectical conflict between the two. Rather, by saying that "[t]he claims of both spheres regarding sacrifices and worship were precisely defined and balanced," he seems to suggest that there was no tension but rather harmony between the two spheres.(489)

289. Secondly, the Roman view of human being was again determined by the power ideal. Though he regards the Roman ius gentium as a gift of God's common grace to Western culture, Dooyeweerd maintains that the religious driving force of power continually threatened this gift which is determined by the law ideal because personal freedom was limited by the demands of empire.(490) Thus in the days of the Byzantine emperors, the Greco-oriental idea of the sacrum imperium advanced further and thus the Roman idea of freedom was replaced by an unrestrained state absolutism.

290. Lastly, concerning the idea of coherence in diversity, Dooyeweerd argues that when Constantine the Great became a Christian, even the Christian church was subordinated to the state, becoming a 'state church'. Dooyeweerd concludes, therefore, that the Roman empire was a totalitarian state. The 'caesaropapacy' is considered its fruit.

(3) Concluding Remarks

291. It is remarkable to notice that Dooyeweerd does not clearly mention the three elements of the transcendental ground idea in his critical discussion of ancient Greco-Roman culture. But we can reconstruct how Dooyeweerd would demonstrate that the Christian basic motive overcomes this Greco-Roman motive on the basis of our analysis up to now and from the perspective of the three transcendental basic ideas.

292. To begin with, already with respect to the revelation of creation, the Christian ground motive stands in diametrical antithesis to the religious ground motive of Greco-Roman antiquity. In the beginning, God created heaven and earth out of nothing. Because God, as the Creator, is the absolute and integral Arche of all things, there is no room for another principle of origin. Therefore, no expression of dualism or polytheism can be found. The Greek gods were the product of an absolutization of the relative, a deification of either the cultural or movement aspect in created reality. The Roman emperor was in fact merely a human being. Thus both Greek gods and Roman imperium stand in radical opposition to the God of Scripture, and so a synthesis between the creation idea and the Greco-Roman motive is impossible.(491)

293. Next, the Christian view of man overcomes the Greco-Roman dualistic anthropology. According to Dooyeweerd, the biblical revelation discloses man towards God in the religious root-unity of his creaturely existence, where the whole meaning of the temporal cosmos has been integrally brought to a single focus. The human heart is the religious centre and spiritual root-unity of all the functions and structures of temporal reality. This view stands in an absolute and unbridgeable antithesis to the Greek conception of body and soul.(492) In addition, since every man is created in the image of God, there can be no difference between the free citizen and the slaves or barbarians. Moreover, since man is not self-sufficient but totally dependent upon the sovereign Creator, the Roman emperor can never be worshipped as god. Rather, we need to kneel before the Lord our Maker fully acknowledging the Creator/creature distinction (Ps 95:6).

294. Lastly, the Christian confession that the religious root community transcends the boundaries of race and nations and that in Christ there is no distinction between the Greek city-state citizens and barbarians or between the Roman empire citizens and slaves is radically foreign to ancient Greco-Roman culture. In addition, Dooyeweerd clearly points out that the principle of sphere-sovereignty, namely, the principle that each area in society has a God-given task and competence and that each task and competence is limited by its own intrinsic nature overcomes the Greek and Roman view of the state which was basically totalitarian.

3. Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Critique of Medieval Culture

295. According to Dooyeweerd, the idea and tradition of the "Holy Roman Empire" remained in the Byzantine period in the Christian reign of Charlemagne and his successors, having accommodated itself externally to the Christian religion, because the German people had accepted the heritage of ancient Greco-Roman civilization and adopted Christianity.(493) Dooyeweerd emphasizes, however, that the adaptation of Christianity to the idea of the Roman empire at the end of the third century already implies a crisis in the foundations of ancient civilization.(494) The medieval scholastic ground motive is then the product of the attempt to reconcile these two opposite religious motives, namely, the Greco-Roman motive and the Christian one. According to Dooyeweerd, this effort resulted in a new dialectical nature-grace (or nature-supranature) motive.

296. In contrast to his transcendental criticism of Greco-Roman culture in which Dooyeweerd deals with the Greek city-state and the Roman empire as its leading powers in cultural formation, in his discussion of medieval culture, the central integrating factor is shifted to the Roman Catholic Church. Behind this stands the philosophical-theological system and social theory of Thomas Aquinas.(495) Therefore, we will direct our attention to Dooyeweerd's analysis of Aquinas' view to see whether he succeeds in revealing the dialectical conflict within this view.

297. To begin with, Dooyeweerd contends that the major leading power of medieval culture was the Roman Catholic Church because it established a unified culture, placing all the areas of society under its rule.(496) Further he holds that the ecclesiastical institution of grace was the highly differentiated super-structure of a largely undifferentiated natural substructure. The head of the church was the pope whereas that of the worldly state was the emperor regarded merely as the head of the church's natural substructure. In this sense, Dooyeweerd concludes that medieval culture was basically ecclesiastical and that the whole of Christian life was to be understood in the context of the temporal, institutional Church. This visible church was then identified with the invisible "Body of Christ (corpus Christi)". Thus for Dooyeweerd the Roman Catholic Church functions as the total unity of medieval society whereas in the biblical motive, the true unity of Christian society is found only in the Kingdom of God, the supratemporal root community of mankind, reborn in Christ.(497) Furthermore, in examining the medieval natural substructure, Dooyeweerd makes reference to two substructures, viz., the guild system and the so-called Mund. The former refers to the totalitarian principle lying at the foundation of the undifferentiated social structure. The latter refers to the power of the Germanic home or household community as the counterpart to the Roman familia. In light of the biblical principle of sphere-sovereignty, Dooyeweerd argues that as a temporal institution, the visible Roman Catholic Church cannot claim the whole of cultural power because it does not have the historical calling that the state, art or science have.

298. Next, Dooyeweerd discusses the Thomistic view of human society as an attempt to synthesize Aquinas' Christian idea of the corpus Christi with Aristotle's metaphysical conception of society.(498) Dooyeweerd argues that Aquinas' notion of society is based on his conception of human nature which is strongly influenced by Aristotle's Greek view of nature:

Man's "form" was the rational soul, and his "matter" was the material body, which owed its real being to the soul. Every creature composed of form and matter arose and came into being, and the principle of form gave this becoming the direction toward a goal. By nature, every creature strove to reach its perfection through a process whereby its "essential form" realized itself in the matter of its body... The natural perfection of man consisted in the complete development of his rational nature which distinguished him from plants and animals. His rational nature was equipped with an innate, rational, natural law that urged him to do good and to refrain from evil.(499)

299. Therefore, Dooyeweerd continues, Aquinas asserts that man naturally strives toward the good but he cannot attain his natural perfection as an isolated individual because he is dependent upon society for his material and moral needs. So "a social inclination or a predisposition toward society is also innate in rational human nature. This social propensity develops in stages, through the formation of smaller and larger communities that are mutually related in terms of lower to higher, means to end, part to whole."(500) For Aquinas, in the sphere of nature the lowest community is the family and the highest overarching and perfect community is the state whose essence is characterized by its goal, the common good. Of course Aquinas admitted that the government's authority is ultimately rooted in the sovereignty of the Creator. But in a typically medieval fashion, Aquinas "inserted the motive of rational nature between man and the creator," argues Dooyeweerd.(501) As for Aquinas, "the state, based on the rational nature of man, was necessary so that the rational form of human nature could arrive at perfect development and so the matter principle -- expressed in sensuous desires -- could be held in check."(502)

300. In this context, Dooyeweerd explains the so-called Scholastic principle of subsidiarity based on the part-whole relationship, namely, that the state, as the whole and perfect human community should contribute to the common good only those elements which the individual person cannot provide, either by himself or by means of the lower communities as its parts.(503) But Dooyeweerd holds that this teleological definition does not give us the true view of the internal nature and structure of the state.(504) He also points out that even though the doctrine of Thomas does not desire an absolute state, it has no defence against state absolutism other than this principle of subsidiarity which is actually derived from the Aristotelian conception of the social and rational nature of man and of the natural purposes of the various social communities.(505) According to this principle, the state is organized not from above but from below in a hierarchy of lower and higher communities, so whatever can be properly taken care of by a lower community should not be overtaken by the state. Dooyeweerd concludes that the totalitarian inclination of the medieval ground motive implies that in the medieval nature-grace motive, the influence of the Greek form-matter motive was greater than that of the Christian motive of creation.

301. What was then the relationship between the church and the state in medieval times? Dooyeweerd explains that being dominated by the grace and nature motive, the medieval church functioned as the total community of all Christian life whereas the state functioned as that of "natural life" alone. In other words, the church and the state are then described as that of the soul (grace) and the body (nature) and the church and society are like form and matter.(506) In the realm of nature, the state is the perfect community embracing all other natural spheres of life as its parts, whereas in the realm of grace the church-institution is the perfect society in its supra-natural sphere.(507) This church alone, as the infallible interpreter of natural ethical law, can pass judgment concerning the limits of competence of the state.(508) Dooyeweerd sums up, therefore, by indicating that "the Greco-Roman conception of the totalitarian state was transferred to the Roman Catholic institutional church."(509)

302. How then does Dooyeweerd explain the result of the dialectical tension in this medieval nature-grace motive? Arguing that "from the outset the Christian motive of grace and the concept of nature, which was oriented to the Greek religious ground motive, stood in irreconcilable opposition and tension," he mentions three possibilities:(510)

Accepting the primacy of nature, "the nature motive would overrun the motive of grace by summoning the mysteries of grace before the court of natural reason."

Or, assuming the priority of grace, "the constant temptation of mysticism ... attempted to escape `sinful nature' in a mystical experience of supranatural grace and thus inevitably led to asceticism and world flight."

Or, "every connection between nature and grace would be systematically cut off in such a way that any point of contact between them could be denied." As its result, an open split was inevitable between "natural life" and the Christian religion, both of which was entirely independent of each other.

303. The last case is what actually happened. According to Dooyeweerd, it is William of Ockham (c.1280-1349) who mercilessly laid bare the inner dualism of the Roman Catholic ground motive by denying any point of contact between the realm of nature and that of grace and thus rejected its official view of human society, together with its subordination of the natural to the supranatural and of the state to the church.(511) The attempts of pope John XXII to stifle the spiritual movement led by Ockham were in vain because his position became very weak; having been forced to flee from Rome, he was greatly dependent upon the king of France during his exile at Avignon. Moreover, Dooyeweerd argues that in the 14th century, Ockham's nominalism became "a cultural factor of world significance".(512) A new period in history announced itself at this time, namely, a period that signified the end of a medieval, ecclesiastically unified culture which had been maintained only by the doctrinal authority of the Roman Catholic Church, intervening by officially condemning the "heresies" that arose out of the polar tensions within the dualistic motive of nature and grace. After political life and the economy broke loose from the unifying grasp of the hierarchical Church, Dooyeweerd writes, "science, art, ethics, and the faith of the individual soon followed suit."(513)

304. Dooyeweerd does not explicitly execute his criticism of the Thomistic view of the church, the state and various social spheres from the perspective of his transcendental ground idea but we can find all three elements and thus reconstruct them as follows:

305. First of all, Dooyeweerd argues that Aquinas is silent with respect to the origin of the two metaphysical principles, viz., the principle of form as that of perfection and the principle of matter as that of imperfection, endless becoming and decay. Thus Dooyeweerd points out that Aquinas divided the creation order into two realms, namely, a natural realm and a supra-natural one.

306. Secondly, Dooyeweerd holds that Aquinas' view of man is radically contradictory with the biblical teaching of the unity of human nature and the total depravity of man as the result of sin. Due to this dualistic view of human nature influenced by the Greek motive, the Thomistic view lost insight of the spiritual root unity of human nature, seeking the "immortal soul" in an abstract part of man's temporal existence, thereby forfeiting the radical character of the fall into sin and redemption in Jesus Christ.

307. Lastly, Dooyeweerd holds that the principle of subsidiarity does not do justice to the diversity and sovereignty of various spheres of human society. The scriptural conception of sphere-sovereignty "does not tolerate the idea that in the natural realm the state is the perfect community embracing both individuals and other societal structures as parts."(514) In other words, the Thomistic view of the whole-part relationship within the state is out of step with the scriptural viewpoint of the relation between the state and the life spheres of different internal structures. These spheres are never parts of the state, they are rather sovereign in their own realm and their boundaries are determined not by the common good of the state, but rather by their own intrinsic nature and law. In short, instead of the part-whole relationship which is, according to Dooyeweerd, the product of the nature principle with its dualism of the form-matter principle, Dooyeweerd adheres to the biblical principle of sphere-sovereignty. Dooyeweerd makes his point clear by taking one illustration, namely, Aquinas' view of the family. Aquinas regards the family as a natural community serving the lower economic and sexual needs of life, consisting of three relations: husband and wife, parents and children, and master and servants. Pointing out this view as Aristotelian, Dooyeweerd then criticizes it by arguing that the family does not include the servants and that it cannot serve merely to meet the lower economic or sexual needs of life."(515)

4. Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Critique of Modern Western


308. When medieval civilization became weak during the spiritual decay in the fifteenth century, the modern Renaissance movement began, ushering in the church's downfall, which was, according to Dooyeweerd, the next great cultural crisis. He claims that after the collapse of medieval culture, the science ideal of nature and the human personality ideal of freedom shaped modern Western culture. However, another dialectical conflict is inevitable between the two, as we have already seen, since the nature principle tries to control reality with the power of natural science and its applied technology, which in turn threatens the other pole, the freedom or personality ideal. Any true synthesis of the two polar opposites is impossible and the dialectical tension between the two is unavoidable.

309. In criticizing modern humanistic culture, Dooyeweerd focuses on the appearance of the state because it replaced the medieval church institution as the central driving power of Western culture. He thus first turns his attention to the rise of absolute monarchies since the new humanistic science ideal provided the method by which absolute monarchs regained many prerogatives that had fallen into the hands of private lords under the feudal system of medieval ecclesiastical culture. "As long as modern man expects freedom and independence from the advance of the new exact sciences," writes Dooyeweerd, "the motive of nature or control will also govern his view of society."(516) The "modern age" required a "new construction", particularly the construction of the new state, which was designed as an instrument of control that could gather all power to itself. Modern science was regarded as competent to construct this state. However, Dooyeweerd argues that the history of modern Western culture reveals a restless dialectical conflict, giving primacy either to the science ideal or to the human freedom ideal. This conflict will be explicated in terms of Dooyeweerd's transcendental ground idea.

310. In order to illustrate his argument, Dooyeweerd first analyzes the political thought of Jean Bodin (1530-1596) and the natural law theory of Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), both influenced by the modern science ideal. He holds that Bodin laid the foundation for a humanistic political theory with his absolutistic concept of sovereignty of the state. Here the will of the state's legislator is regarded as the only sovereign and the state as "the supreme power-organization ruling human society in its totality."(517) From the perspective of the transcendental ground idea, this idea of an absolutistic, totalitarian state can be seen in connection with the notion of diversity within coherence. Then Grotius is mentioned as "the founder of the humanistic theory of natural law" who sought an autonomous foundation for his doctrine of natural law, independent of ecclesiastical authority. Thus, with respect to the second transcendental idea, the human being is seen as the autonomous and independent being who can control reality with the powerful instrument of modern natural science. According to Dooyeweerd, "Grotius' conception of the basis of natural law as independent of the existence of God was a harbinger of the process of emancipation and secularization which came to fruition during the Enlightenment."(518) We can see how the first transcendental basic idea -- the idea of origin -- finds expression in Grotius' thought. The ideal of nature and control was dominant in the humanistic doctrine of natural law but its consistent application made the free personality impossible. The State, like a Leviathan, absorbed all human freedom. Here again we see the inner conflict of the humanistic ground motive of nature and freedom. Therefore, Dooyeweerd further explains, the notion of state sovereignty which excludes any internal sphere sovereignty of non-political institutions such as the church or family, was made acceptable through the construction of a general and reciprocal social contract between individuals.(519)

311. However, the critical turning point toward the primacy of the freedom ideal was made by, among others, Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu and Kant. Here the ultimate horizon was the realization of human freedom and personality. The human being is seen as an autonomous individual person, free from the control of the church and the state. According to Dooyeweerd, Locke limited the content of the social contract and laid the basis for the classical liberal idea of the civil state, i.e., "a company with limited liability, designed for the continuity of the natural state under the protection of an authority organized to protect the civil rights of life, liberty, and property."(520) Thus Dooyeweerd calls him "the founder of classical liberalism". Rousseau took another direction, Dooyeweerd claims, from "the essentially private-legal human rights, which constitute the foundation of private civil law, to the public-legal guarantee of the freedom and autonomy of human personality in the inalienable rights of the citizen."(521) So Dooyeweerd regards him as "the founder of the classical humanistic idea of democracy".

312. Furthermore, Dooyeweerd interprets both Locke and Rousseau as the apostles of the French Revolution because through their theories of the "natural law", they wanted to achieve "the breakthrough of the idea of the state in terms of the final breakdown of the undifferentiated feudal structures" and that of "the fundamental idea of civil law, i.e., the idea of human rights."(522) But the difference between the two is that for Locke, people exercise the legislative power by means of representation, whereas Rousseau held a radical, direct democratic conception. While Locke's liberal notion of the state did not imply "a universal right to vote on the part of every citizen,"(523) Rousseau's idea of democracy was later elevated to be an end in itself on the basis of the humanistic personality ideal. Locke emphasized innate natural rights and freedom of men but Rousseau put his stress on political freedom as an inalienable right of the citizens.

313. Dooyeweerd further analyzes Rousseau's natural law conception of radical democracy in such a way that "[b]y means of the social contract the individual must surrender all of his natural freedom in order to get it back again in the higher form of the freedom of the citizen."(524) Therefore, "[t]he law must be the expression of the truly autonomous communal will, the volonté général, which is never oriented to a private interest but always serves the public interest [salut public]."(525) Dooyeweerd frankly admits seeing some elements of truth in Rousseau's theory: "In distinction from the undifferentiated feudal notions of governmental authority, Rousseau's idea of the state pointedly brought the res-publica conception to the foreground."(526) And in this way Rousseau tried to protect the value of human personality against the mechanistic and absolutistic view of the state. But at the same time Dooyeweerd sharply points out the totalitarian character of Rousseau's radical democracy, "in absolute antithesis to the biblical creation motive underlying the principle of sphere sovereignty."(527) He also mentions the antinomy or the inner tension between the natural rights of man and the rights of the citizen: "in the civil state private human rights can only exist by the grace of the general will."(528)

314. In addition, Dooyeweerd refers to another French thinker, Montesquieu (1689-1755), as a major advocate of the doctrine of "the separation and balance of the legislative, executive, and judicial powers of the state."(529) All these developments are then comprised into "the classical liberal idea of the law state [rechtsstaat]: the state is a representative democracy founded in popular sovereignty, subject to the constitutional supremacy of the legislature though with the greatest possible separation and balance of the state's three powers, and organized to protect the individual's civil rights."(530) Dooyeweerd fully appreciates some contributions of classical liberalism to the development of the modern law state: its blend of monarchic, aristocratic, and democratic elements, the principle of the independence of parliament over against the electorate, the principle of an elite, and Montesquieu's teaching on separation and balance of powers within the state.(531)

315. Summing up, Dooyeweerd holds that "[c]lassical liberalism... sought to place the state in the service of individual freedom. But even the `free individual' remained an `element' of society... Because of its overestimation of the individual, liberalism became unrealistic, colourless, and alien to social reality," even though Dooyeweerd fully admits that "the humanistic teaching of natural law had great significance for the evolution of both the modern idea of the state and the idea of civil private law with its basic principles of human rights, freedom, and equality before the law."(532)

316. Kant, according to Dooyeweerd, was strongly influenced by Rousseau. As we have discussed in the preceeding chapter, Kant restricted the scientific image of nature to the world of sensory phenomena and placed human freedom and volitional autonomy of the human personality in the supra-sensory world of the noumena. What is is distinguished from what ought to be. Human freedom is an idea of human practical reason. It cannot, therefore, be proved nor refuted by scientific thought. Since practical human reason commands us to do so and has the absolute primacy, one should believe in the freedom of the human personality. Thus the image of the autonomous and free human personality in its ethical aspect is deified as Kant's idea of origin, which is a requirement of practical reason. In this rationalistic ethics, Dooyeweerd argues, there is no room left for the individuality of the human person. Every person is regarded as nothing but a specimen of this general normative idea of human personality. "Therefore," Dooyeweerd concludes, "Kant lacked the insight into a real community as a social whole, which is not identical with the sum of the individuals, but brings about an inner inter-relation between its members."(533)

317. Dooyeweerd then diagnoses the new and irrational form of the personality ideal which began to arise after the French revolution by the great reaction in the Restoration period. Romanticism and the "Storm and Stress (Sturm und Drang)" movement bitterly opposed the rationalistic and individualistic view of the personality ideal. The conception of the humanistic freedom ideal was redirected by pushing this rational individualistic view to the background and by advocating the irrational, universalistic approach. This was, according to Dooyeweerd, the irrationalistic reaction to Kant's rationalistic view of human autonomy. Whereas Kant's rationalism tries to remove individuality of the human subject by reducing its true selfhood to a general view of man's practical reason, the irrationalistic view absolutizes the incomparable subjective individuality of human personality and rejects every general law as a falsification of true reality.(534)

318. Early Romanticism developed, according to Dooyeweerd, the "ethics of genius". Napoleon cannot be judged in terms of universal standards, for instance. But this morality "led to dangerously anarchistic consequences, particularly in the area of sexual relationships."(535) As an example, Dooyeweerd mentions Friedrich Schlegel's romance Lucinde which praised free sexual love, being "guided only by the harmony of the sensual and spiritual inclinations of the individual man and woman."(536) In this way, "[r]omanticism summoned its adherents to express this subjective, individual inclination in an aesthetic harmony between sensual nature and spiritual freedom in total disregard for the general rules of ethics established to guide the spiritless `masses.'"(537)

319. In order to evade the anarchical consequences of this new personality ideal, says Dooyeweerd, irrationalistic Romanticism and post-Kantian idealism began to change their view of the human being by limiting the individual freedom of the autonomous personality and regarding the individual person as a member of an all-embracing spiritual community of mankind. "Freedom and autonomy were conceived of as the freedom and autonomy of the individual community of persons."(538) This constituted, Dooyeweerd contends, "the point of departure for the modern conception of the law of nature and the natural-law theory of human society."(539) In this way, the new ideology of community was established and the nation was considered a temporal revelation of the eternal idea of humanity, of a spiritual community. The individual national mind (Volksgeist), Dooyeweerd continues, creates its culture, including all its social institutions and rules, in a long process of historical development.(540)

320. But Dooyeweerd critically points out its dialectical problem by saying that this community ideology then disregards the importance of each individual. He further holds that this ideology of community is in conflict with the biblical idea of creation which never views a temporal community as the totality of all human relationships. The Christian view of creation overcomes, Dooyeweerd insists, the dilemma between individualism and universalism, exalting neither the "autarkic individual" nor the "autonomous community", but acknowledging the sovereignty of each sphere of human society.(541)

321. The new conception of the freedom motive had, in turn, repercussions in the realm of science. Instead of dividing complex phenomenon into elemental parts, the new universalistic approach took its point of departure from the individual whole; it understood the parts in terms of the whole. The science of history lent itself quite well to this new method. True, the historian was concerned with the individual and the unique, but always within the historical context of any given period. Unlike the natural-scientific method, it understood the present as dependent upon the past. Cultural development had to be understood in the light of historical continuity. This new historical way of thought, in which expression is given to a new science ideal, was referred to as historicism. It would seem that the notion of historical development offered a link between "nature" and "freedom." Yet further reflection showed a hidden "natural necessity" (whether referred to as `divine providence' or `destiny' [Schicksal] behind this individual "creative freedom".(542) Dooyeweerd states that this new humanistic view of reality demanded recognition in every area of scientific investigation such as linguistics, political theory, economics, aesthetics and jurisprudence. The ultimate horizon is found in the horizon of history and the human being is basically seen as an historical being. Whereas the classical science ideal absolutized the aspect of mechanical motion, historical science absolutized the historical aspect. All the scientific, philosophical, aesthetic, political, ethical, and religious standards and conceptions are viewed as the expression of the mind of a particular culture.(543)

322. Regarding the rise of historicism as one of the most alarming symptoms of the beginning of a fundamental crisis of Western culture since the last decades of the 19th century, Dooyeweerd claims that this historicism is nothing other than a spiritual nihilism.(544) In other words, Dooyeweerd points out that this new science ideal contains an inner dialectical conflict which inevitably resulted in a spiritual crisis and an uprootedness of modern Western culture in the long run due to its radical relativism: "The new historicism encouraged a view of human society that excluded the acceptance of firm norms and clear limits between societal structures... The Historical School advocated the false notion that civil law is really folk law [volksrecht] and thus paved the way for national socialism with its volk ideology."(545)

323. Next, Dooyeweerd attempts a transcendental critique of modern positivistic sociology. This new science of society originated in France in the first half of the 19th century and "called for an exact investigation of brute social facts, free of idealistic prejudice."(546) Following the classical science ideal, it attempted to apply the method of natural science to the phenomena of human society. The founder, Auguste Comte (1798-1857), proclaiming to follow "the solid tradition of the work of Galileo and Newton," attempted to interpret "the historical development of Western Society in terms of a necessary causal process."(547) The idea of an ultimate horizon was to be found in human rationality. The human being is understood as a rational, autonomous being able to discover all the causal relationships of reality in order to control it. In short, this entire approach to modern sociology was driven by the nature ideal of the classical science ideal, displaying the same optimistic rationalism. Modern sociology then gave irrational historicism a rationalistic redirection in the second half of the 19th century.

324. However, Dooyeweerd sharply points out the inner contradiction of modern sociology because it tried to synthesize the natural-scientific approach of the Enlightenment and the universalistic method defended by Romanticism and Historicism. In other words, it attempted to explain social relations in terms of their causes, but at the same time it tried to interpret society as an "organic whole" whose parts are inextricably interwoven. This internal conflict originated from the insoluble dualism within the humanistic ground motive. As an illustration, Dooyeweerd analyzes the class concept in early French sociology as in harmony with the natural-scientific pattern of thought of the Enlightenment, being fitted only with "an individualistic conception of society which regards the economic self-interest of the individual as the real cause and driving force of societal development."(548) However, "[i]f the entire history of society is nothing but the history of class struggle," Dooyeweerd reasons, "then no room exists in such a society for a true community. In that case, the state too can be considered only as an instrument of class domination."(549) For Dooyeweerd, both the concept of class and estate had reality but also are expressions of the polar tendencies as used in the humanistic understanding of society, both being oriented to a notion of "civil society" which absolutized the economic aspect as the starting point of the entire conception of society "in total disregard of the real structural principles of society."(550) Furthermore, Dooyeweerd points out the basic problems in sociology, namely, its alleged value-free character, which is in fact impossible because without norms human society cannot really exist. Dooyeweerd argues that modern sociology has discarded modal and individuality structures which make possible the phenomena of human society and our experience of them. Additionally, he criticizes the so-called "ideal-type" concept as merely "subjective constructions which cannot contribute anything to our insight into the typical totality structure of reality."(551)

325. Dooyeweerd contends that in the middle of the 19th century Western civilization was deeply influenced by Darwin's theory of evolution in natural science and Spencer's theory of social evolution in sociology which saw human society from a biological point of view, driven by the natural science ideal. Influenced by this, Dooyeweerd continues, Marxist sociology gave a materialistic turn to the idealistic and dialectical view of Hegel.(552) Marx held that "all human ideas... are nothing but the ideological reflection of a particular technical system of economic production, which arises, ripens and breaks down in the course of history with an inner dialectical necessity."(553) Nevertheless, Dooyeweerd points out that Marx was as radical an historicist as Comte because Marx also believed "in an eschatological consummation of history; the final redemption and liberation of mankind by the suffering proletariat, which will found an earthly paradise of a classless communistic society, after the destruction of capitalism."(554)

326. In the second half of the 19th century, Dooyeweerd holds that the real process of spiritual uprooting began to be manifested in the thought of Nietzsche who completely broke away from the humanistic motive of freedom and nature with his own gospel of super-man and a religion of power (Wille zur Macht).(555) This idea was his ultimate horizon. Based upon the Darwinian and radical historistic view of reality, Nietzsche developed his own view of man exclusively upon the positive data of "nature and history": man is merely an animal, but not yet bound to instincts and circumstances. He has his destiny in his own hands in the historical development of culture. Since man has killed his gods by the progress of science, the "will to power" is now the only existential escape for man from the nihilism to which historicism ultimately leads because history is nothing but a struggle for power. Thus Nietzsche advocated an "Umwertung aller Werte [transvaluation of all values]" on the ruins of Christian and humanistic ideologies in order to build the kingdom of the "super-man" where the "will to power" will assume super-human forms. By rejecting both the ideal of science and that of human personality, therefore, Nietzsche attacked humanistic philosophy most seriously and this led to a radical spiritual crisis in Western culture.

326. In the first decades of the 20th century, Dooyeweerd asserts, the freedom ideal took a new and decisive reaction with neo-Kantianism and neo-Hegelianism in order to "check the absolutism of naturalistic positivism, and to arrest the nihilistic consequences of historicism."(556) But the religious root of this idealism was too damaged by the historical relativism to resolve the spiritual crisis. Furthermore, a great revolution in micro-physics, quantum-mechanics, put an end to the supremacy of the classical ideal of science. Dooyeweerd mentions three major works which witness to the crisis of modern Western culture after the first world war, namely, Spengler's Der Untergang des Abendlandes [The decline of the West] in which the author holds that Western culture is doomed to decline and is ruled by destiny, the inescapable fate; Heidegger's Sein und Zeit [Being and time] where "freedom towards death" is claimed; and J.P. Sartre's l'Être et le Néant [Being and nothingness] to express his idea of the nothingness and meaninglessness of being.(557) Out of this intrinsic process of decay, "[a]nti-Humanistic spiritual movements (national-socialism, fascism and bolshevism) have arisen" and there is still a chaotic struggle for the future of Western culture.(558)

5. Conclusive Evaluation

327. So far we have examined Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique as a cultural critique by looking at his criticism of Western culture from out of the perspective of his idea of the religious ground motive, highlighting dialectical conflicts in non-Christian cultures and looking at the possibility of overcoming those conflicts from a Christian point of view. It is now clear that it has been basically possible for Dooyeweerd to apply his transcendental critique of philosophical thinking as a cultural critique by means of his idea of the religious ground motive. He defends the validity of the transition from his theoretical critique to his cultural critique because the religious basic motive determines not only the direction of philosophical thinking but also the whole process of cultural development.

328. It is remarkable that Dooyeweerd divides ancient culture into two periods, viz., Greek and Roman civilization, to which then he ascribes the form-matter motive and the power-law motive respectively. This seems to be proper, doing more justice to the cultural character of each period.

329. Another point to be noted is that the transcendental ground idea seems to play less an important role than in his transcendental critique of Western philosophy. Dooyeweerd does not consistently execute his criticism of Western culture from the perspective of the three elements of the transcendental ground idea even though this idea still has its relevance, functioning as the point of contact between cultural activity and religious belief. Thus I have tried to demonstrate that it is possible to apply the basic ideas when analyzing Dooyeweerd's criticism of Western culture and that it is possible to resolve dialectical problems in non-Christian cultures. More specifically, we have also found that in his transcendental criticism of medieval culture, there is no shift of the primacy from one pole to the other, which is to be contrasted to the other two non-Christian motives. With respect to the shift of priority, the modern humanistic ground motive shows the most peculiar movement between the two antithetic poles.

330. Just like in his actual transcendental critique of Western philosophical thinking, therefore, Dooyeweerd's basic motivation has been the attempt at candid dialogue whereby the ultimate antithesis between the Christian motive and non-Christian motives would be revealed. Thus in his actual transcendental critique of Western culture, Dooyeweerd demonstrates that the Greek form-matter motive, the Roman power-law motive, the scholastic nature-grace motive, and the modern humanistic nature-freedom motive cannot but be internally dualistic and thus display an inherent dialectic because each of these motives has two opposite poles which can never be synthesized. In order to prove this, Dooyeweerd starts with the idea of the leading cultural power in each period. He mentions the city-state in Greek culture, the idea of empire in Roman civilization, the Roman Catholic Church in medieval times, and the rise of the state in the modern age. Then he shows how the Christian motive can overcome all the dialectical problems caused by the other three motives because the Christian motive is integral and consistent with no dialectical dilemma in it. In this way, Dooyeweerd approaches the issue of reformation or transformation of culture from its root.

331. Our question is whether he has really succeeded in achieving his goal. What are the strong and weak points of his transcendental critique of Western culture? As for the strong points, we can mention the following three points:

332. However, we can mention the following as weak points:

333. Nevertheless, it should be clear that Dooyeweerd's transcendental criticism can function as a cultural critique. It gives us not only marvellous insight into understanding the root and dilemma of Western culture throughout its history driven by non-Christian ground motives but also offers insight into the possibility of reforming or transforming it from a Christian perspective. This basic insight and contribution have been fully admitted and further worked out by his successors in order to make it more relevant to the present post-modern Western situation. This is to be discussed in the next chapter. After that, we will attempt to apply his transcendental critical approach to Korean culture throughout its history in order to see whether Dooyeweerd's insight has the same relevance in the Eastern world.

Copyright (c) Yong-Joon Choi, 2000, All Rights Reserved.

Prepared as part of The Dooyeweerd Pages web site by Andrew Basden 2002, with the kind permission of Yong-Joon Choi.

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