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Buying a new car
- and the chaos it caused

"How am I going to make ends meet?! All these years I have been giving him the money I earned, and he goes and buys a new car!" So says the wife in Kit de Waal's memoir, Without Warning and Only Sometimes, after her husband has come back proudly with a new car, a luxury model of the range at the time (a Princess Van Den Plas, with leather seats, walnut fold-down tables, and so on). The children went out and were excited, but the wife stood in the doorway. When husband said, "Get in, let's go for a spin" she turned and went back inside, sat down at the kitchen table and counted her housekeeping money, added up the bills and made that despairing statement. Then wept.

How do we understand this? The popular understanding these days (based on Feminist Critical Theory) is men's power over women, which basically holds men to be evil and women to the the innocent victims. One type of entity is evil, the other, good. And thus shall it ever be, with no hope of reconciliation. Moreover, it fosters hatred, suspicion and war in society, perhaps fulfilling the prophecy uttered 2000 years ago, "In the last days, love will grow cold".

I suggest there is a more nuanced understanding, which could avoid such outcomes. It involves Dooyeweerd's final four aspects, the aesthetic, the juridical, the ethical and the pistic. Let us analyse the situation, looking at what is good and what is 'evil' or 'problematic'.

Let's start with the only positive functioning in the whole situation, the only 'good': a high quality car and finishes, the pleasure that can bring, and the children's excitement. This is a functioning in the aesthetic aspect. In the other three, the functioning is almost entirely negative, 'evil' or at least harmful.

The pistic functioning is the terminal aspect and our functioning in it - our ultimate beliefs, commitments, identity, aspirations, expectations, ultimate meaningfulness, and what we worship - affects all the others. What did the husband see as his identity, his ultimate meaningfulness - what did he (really) worship - if not himself and his own pleasures? Idolatry of self!

The ethical aspect, of self-giving love, has, as its opposite, selfishness. The husband was utterly selfish, sacrificing all the family's hard-saved wealth on this car. What is worse, he did this without consulting or even informing her beforehand.

In so doing, he perpetrated a gross injustice on both the wife and the entire family, with is negative functioning in the juridical aspect.

We may also see an earlier positive ethical functioning in the wife's sacrifice of the money she earned to her husband, and her trust in her husband to do what was right for the family. That trust was totally broken in the sudden buying of this car - especially without consulting or even informing her.

How we function in each aspect, especially the pistic, impacts the others. Dooyeweerd calls this inter-aspect dependency.

This selfishness and injustice occurred because of the husband's pistic functioning of self-idolatry, his deep beliefs about his own identity and that of his wife - the wife only there to serve him and his pleasures, he worthy of that, and his wife not worthy of consultation or even information. In his own attitude he was a mini-god. That boosted his selfishness and blinded him to injustice. It caused breakdown of trust. And it almost completely nullified the aesthetic pleasure in the car, and indeed made it a negative point of contention.

Our functioning in the ethical and pistic aspects may be seen as what the Bible calls "heart" (as in "humans look on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart" and in "change of heart") or we might call deepest attitude.

Sadly, too many men throughout history and throughout the world have taken this view, deep down - self-regard and selfishness at the very century. So Feminist Critical Theory is not entirely wrong in its (statistical) observation about men as entities. However, it does not go further. It does not ask itself the philosophical question of why this must be so. It does not ask itself whether men necessarily are always like this, or instead whether there may be any salvation for men, and any hope for the relationship between women and men.

Dooyeweerd's aspectual approach introduced here takes us further than Feminist Critical Theory does, by opening up to us the modes in which all human beings can function, and identifying the many facets of the problematic situation. In doing this, Dooyeweerd can offer a remedy.

What might be the remedy?

This aspectual analysis implies that the husband's functioning in the latest two ("heart") aspects must change. The only real remedy in such a situation is not to try to get the wife to enjoy the car too, attempting remedy in the aesthetic aspect, nor trying to make it up to the wife in some way, attempting remedy in the juridical aspect. With these, there will always be a lingering breakdown of trust and love. The only remedy is much deeper: in the heart. It involves true repentance that is completely without conditions or self-protection. The husband should say, genuinely, "I was wrong. I am sorry." (pistic change of identity) and open himself, sacrificially (ethical aspect) up to possible horrible consequences for himself. That is only remedy to broken trust, deep selfishness and idolatry of self.

This page, "", is part of a collection that discusses application of Herman Dooyeweerd's ideas, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments are welcome.

Written on the Amiga and Protext in the style of classic HTML.

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

Created: 18 August 2022 Last updated: