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 , Foundations and Practice of Research : Adventures with Dooyeweerd's Philosophy ("FPR").
Dooyeweerd is different,
and gives a different flavour
- Dooyeweerd gave us a very different kind of philosophy, with different starting-points. [ 1 ], [ 2 ] This can give research a refreshingly different flavour and motivation.
- Dooyeweerd took everyday experience more seriously than most philosophers do. This includes pre-theoretical thought and intuition.
By "everyday experience", he included both the actual reality of the world, and also the real activity of research and reasoning. He treated the thinker as a full human being, not just a logical engine.
He refused to take for granted that theoretical thinking is neutral or adequate to understand the pre-theoretical - but he did not react against it. [ 3 ] This can encourage research to be more relevant.
- Dooyeweerd respected diversity and coherence more than most did.
For example, we experience physical, biological, psychological, technical, social and religious aspects of life. and all are important.
He was against both reductionism and lassaiz-faire fragmentation - and gave reasons for being so. [ 4 ] This can make research findings more robust.
- As a result, he delineated a suite of fifteen aspects of reality, which has proven highly serviceable in practice and research. These aspects are irreducible to each other, yet form an intimate coherence of meaning, via inter-aspect dependency and analogy. [ 5 ] Dooyeweerd's aspects have proven extremely useful in research, especially for analysis.
- Dooyeweerd took meaningfulness more seriously than most philosophers do. [ 6 ]
By "meaningfulness", we mean that everything has some intrinsic meaning, value or importance, even when don't recognise it.
This encourages researchers to look beyond their current views and expectations.
- Dooyeweerd makes meaningfulness, rather than being, process or subjectivity, the foundation of understanding the nature of things. [ 7 ]
This is a philosophical matter, but as such it affects all our other thinking and research at a subterranean level - via our presuppositions.
- Dooyeweerd, exploring the importance of presuppositions in philosophy, recognised they are of a religious, not just logical, nature.
We commit to our presuppositions just as religious adherence commit to their religion, defending them when they are attacked, but with presuppositions we often do not realise we have them. Presuppositions seem 'obvious truth', but in fact are beliefs.
Few others have recognised this until recently; hence the fruitless battles and dead-ends in much academic thinking. [ 8 ] This helps research to be more critical without being negative.
- This enabled Dooyeweerd to undertake an "immanent critique" of how thinkers have employed theoretical thought through the ages, showing that theoretical thought has never been neutral. [ 9 ]
Dooyeweerd argued that, even in the seemingly exact sciences like mathematics and physics, thought has always been deeply biased or partial, and in the social sciences the partiality is more obvious.
This helps us have more realistic expectations of research, both ours and that of others.
- Not content with showing that theoretical thought never has been neutral, he wanted to show it never could be neutral.
So that nobody could say "Even though it never has been, someone could in principle make it neutral. He wanted to save us from the futility of seeking or assuming neutrality.
He did this by making a "transcendental critique" that reveals the conditions that make theoretical thinking possible. [ 10 ] Ditto.
- Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique of theoretical thought revealed that it faces three challenges [ 11 ]:
- (a) It abstracts an aspect from reality, setting it asumder from its coherence with others, to obtain data from which to generate new knowledge (e.g. physicist abstract the physical aspect, sociologists, the social).
- (b) In that generation of new knowledge, various rationalities are used in harmony (e.g. analytical, quantitative and social rationalities).
- (c) In critiquing the new knowledge, the community refers to wider meaningfulness, an "origin of meaning".
- In each, theoretical thought is shown to be partial and biased, in (a) the selection of aspects to study, (b) the selection of relevant rationalities, (c) society's presupposition of what is the "origin of meaning". So theory does not express 'truth' but rather, belief and commitments. [ 12 ] This makes clearer where research findings, or even extant theories, might be fruitfully questioned.
- This does not condemn theoretical thought, but clarifies its strengths and weaknesses, so that researchers might ensure that their findings are as reliable and useful as they can be. It also avoids the hubris that has characterized much science to this day. From the three challenges, Dooyeweerd developed the notion of three-part ground-idea, with which paradigms and research approaches may be critiqued and guided. With this, Basden  has shown how it enables three research approaches that had previously been presumed incompatible, may be integrated. [ 13 ] This encourages researchers to be more flexible, and escape the tyranny of academic fashions.
- It also helps us understand the various fields of research, from mathematics, the natural sciences, design sciences, social sciences and humanities, how they relate to each other and how they might speak to each other. [ 14 ]
Notice how Dooyeweerd's understanding of theoretical thought applies across such a wide range of fields; most treatments, which major on research methods, apply to only a few fields.
This offers a common view across all kinds of research, opening up mutual understanding across fields.
- It helps interdisciplinary research and practice. [ 15 ]
For example, sustainability is an interdisciplinary field, covering not only ecology but also economics, social sciences, theology and technology studies.
- It helps cut through ambiguities in Kuhn's notion of paradigm. [ 16 ] This makes paradigm discussion more precise and useful.
- Dooyeweerd's suite of aspects is also very useful in guiding the activity of research, as well as its content. [ 17 ]
For example, when there is rivalry between scientists, perhaps neither will cite or dialogue with the other, so that the thought of neither benefits from stimulation and scrutiny. On the other hand, when a scientist is modest and generous, then not only will they give credit to others, but the atmosphere of the community as a whole improves, along with motivation and dialogue.
Hidden aspects of research, like submerged motivations or attitudes, come to light.
- Dooyeweerd's philosophy has been used in research in many fields across the world - and there are many other, unexplored opportunities. [ 18 ] Dooyeweerd can be useful in most stages of researchB: problem definition, literature review, selecting or creating conceptual frameworks, informing choice of research approach and methods, research data collection, data analysis, generation of findings, applying findings, and even in writing-up.
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.
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' ("naïve") 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.
- Interest in everyday experience as a topic to study. Various philosophical movements have begun to take an interest: American Pragmatism, Scottish Commonsense Realism, German Phenomenology, and mid-twentieth century French thinkers like Bergson, Bourdieu and de Certeau. But these have usually presupposed theoretical thought in order to study the pre-theoretical; yet why is it valid to do so? They do not question. But Dooyeweerd did.
- Appeal to everyday experience to offer data that contradicts accepted theories. Actually, even the ancient Greeks did this; for instance Zeno appealed to our intuition that Achilles would win a race with the tortoise to present a philosophical problem. Much science today collects data from everyday experience (e.g. or healthcare workers or railway passengers). However, very seldom, if ever, did anyone question what it is about everyday experience that makes it valid to use it this way, and how study distorts our view of it. Dooyeweerd did.
- Making everyday experience (or "pre-theoretical thought") a starting-point for philosophy. Instead of presupposing theoretical thought as a tool for analysing pre-theoretical, Dooyeweerd began with pre-theoretical thought and realised that philosophers need to ask how theoretical is different, and what makes it possible. This led him to his Transcendental Critique of theoretical thought, described in [ 10 ] preceded by an immanent critique in [ 9 ]. Dooyeweerd was almost alone in doing this (though Foucault might have done so a little).
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
|| Things / Relationship
|| Sequential order
|| Magnitude / More, less
|| A > B > C => A > C
|| Continuous extension
|| Shapes / Inside
|| Inside cannot be outside
|| Paths / Follows
|| Achilles beats the tortoise
|| Causality, persistence
|| Pebble / Causes
|| Heat flows hotter to colder
| Biotic / Organic
|| Life, health
|| Leaf / Feeds on
|| Varied diet aids health
| Psychic / Sensitive
|| Feeling, emotion
|| Fear / Stimulates-responds
|| Colour difference helps seeing
|| Clarity, logicality, Gegenstand
|| Concept / Similar to, implies
|| Principle of non-contradiction
|| Formative power
|| Achievement, creativity
|| Tasks, structures / Produces
|| Inaction does not achieve goals
|| Symbolic signification
|| Sentence / Describes, suggests
|| Following grammar rules enhances understanding
|| Friendship, collaboration
|| Institutions / Associates with
|| Respect enhances relationship
|| Resource / Consumes
|| Micawber's law
|| Harmony, enjoyment
|| Integration, interest, fun
|| Poem, sport / Enjoys
|| Resolution in symphony enhances enjoyment
|| Due, appropriateness
|| Statute / Rewards, punishes
|| Reward responsibility, punish irresponsibility
|| 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:
- Signification-meaning, the meaning carried by words, phrases etc. In very many cases, this is what philosophy refers to when it uses the term "meaning", and is studied in the sciences of semiotics and linguistics and in the Linguistic Turn in philosophy. The latter, however, has wandered into other types of meaning.
- Interpretation-meaning, the meaning we assign when we interpret something, e.g. a group of scattered feathers to mean a bird was killed. This is very similar to Merleau-Ponty's "perception meaning", in which a perceiving subject perceives an object, such as a dot, and interprets it as the pupil of an eye, the top of the letter "i", the end of a sentence, or so on.
- Attribution-meaning, the meaning we attribute to things, such as the vase my grandmother gave me. Like interpretation-meaning, attribution-meaning need not be signified (it may be pre-symbolic), but whereas interpretation-meaning is sensitive to the perceived object, attribution-meaning comes more from the subject (anything my grandmother gave me might have the same attribution-meaning to me). Attribution-meaning is often linked to utility or purpose.
- Life-meaning, as in "What is the meaning of my life (or career, etc.)?". The meaning of life has been discussed in philosophy since before Aristotle, and is usually treated as "which final ends a person ought to realize in order to have a life that matters" (Stanford 2013). Usually, "matters" refers to one of life's aspects, such as goodness, health, happiness or virtue.
- Meaningfulness, the idea that things are meaningful whether or not we signify, interpret or attribute, and whether or not a human life is involved. Meaningfulness applies to all temporal reality (e.g. animals, habitats, planets). In everyday language, words like "value", "importance" and "significance" are often used to denote or connote meaningfulness. For example, in "reality has a value in itself that is independent of its usefulness for humankind", Jochemsen (2006, 98) is referring to meaningfulness.
- There may be others.
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.
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:
- Physicists seek things meaningful in the physical aspect, biologicts, things meaningful in the biotic aspect, social scientists, in the social aspect, and so on. And each largely ignores things meaningful in most other aspects.
(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  employed the following rationalities, some of them without realising it:
- Formative and psychical rationalities, along with multiple aspects of the everyday life of usersto build a list of factors related to the main constructs;
- Lingual rationality to work these as survey questions;
- Analytic rationality after pilot study, decide that certain external variables were similar to others and hence could be combined;
- Quantitative rationality to ranking them by importance;
- Quantitative rationality in the main study, to assess the importance of each ranked external variable;
- Multiple aspectual rationalities to decide the importance of such differences (the wise researcher takes into account the everyday experience of the situations of use);
- Pistic rationality to detect which interviewees had strong views, so as to treat their answers accordingly;
- Quantitative with juridical rationality to measure internal consistency (Cronbach's Alpha);
- Economic rationality to taking the professional context into account.
(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:
|| Example fields
|| Algebra, statistics
|| Geometry, trigonometry, topology
|| Dynamics, phoronomy
|| 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
|| Logic, analytics
|| Design sciences, technology studies, computer science, engineering, 'sciences of the artificial'
|| Linguistics, semiotics
|| Sociology in all its forms, organisational science
|| Economics, finance, management
|| Art, music, aesthetics, sports science
|| Jurisprudence, law
| Pistic / Faith
|| Theology, ideology studies
See also A Practical Philosophy for all Fields of Research, which discusses how Dooyeweerd's philosophy can help us in seven different ways in research across all fields.
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 .
17. On the Usefulness of Dooyeweerd's Aspects
See Chapter 11 in Basden , and also the many pages about Using Dooyeweerd.
18. Dooyeweerd Being Used in Research
See Chapter 11 in Basden .
"FPR": Basden A. 2020. Foundations and Practice of Research : Adventures with Dooyeweerd's Philosophy. Routledge. See Summary of Book.
This page, "dooy.info/summary-r.html",
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: 8 February 2020 some errors corrected; emphasis added to help readers; added how it helps research. 12 June 2020 link to papers/ecrm20-fields.