Monday, February 08, 2016

Criticism after Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven

No comments:
by Bob Sweetman

This post is part of an ongoing symposium interacting with Lambert Zuidervaart's book Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation: Essays in Reformational Philosophy. For more responses to the book, see our table of contents.

In this short reflection ("Reformational Philosophy after Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven"), Lambert Zuidervaart examines the task of Reformational thinkers vis-à-vis their own tradition, narrowly defined, and vis-à-vis the philosophical tradition as a whole. He argues for an orientation to both traditions that he names critical retrieval. He positions this stance as a virtuous middle between two vicious extremes: “following” and “rejecting”. Zuidervaart is saying that philosophy in its proper sense is to be a critical project; this is as true for the practice of Reformational philosophy as it is of philosophy as a whole. Moreover, criticism or a sifting of what one receives from the passing on (traditio) one participates in can never be a pure act of rejection, on the one hand, nor a wholesale acceptance, on the other. To sift is to trust that there is much in the passing on that will bless one going forward. It is equally to anticipate that there will be things in the passing on that would be better left behind.

In all of this Lambert Zuidervaart is arguing for a shift in focus from philosophical criticism as an externally focused responsibility that the participant-beneficiaries of one philosophical tradition have toward the participant-beneficiaries of other traditions. This responsibility can be thought of as the “diaconal” thrust of both the thetical/antithetical critique of Vollenhoven and the transcendental criticism of Dooyeweerd. Characteristic of this diaconal thrust is a dichotomizing understanding of the relationship between one’s own tradition and the traditions of others. While there is a recognition that they all participate within the cultural form we call philosophy, that unity is overshadowed by the differences constitutive of each tradition in its discrete identity. The foregrounding of difference creates an illusion for any participant-beneficiary of any tradition. The content of one’s tradition constitutes an identity “A” to which all other traditions and their contrasting content relate in an important respect as “not-A”. Zuidervaart is not comfortable with that illusion and that is presumably in part because he is uncomfortable with the rhetorical emphasis upon real difference at the expense of real communion or solidarity.

Zuidervaart is not comfortable with that illusion and that is presumably in part because he is uncomfortable with the rhetorical emphasis upon real difference at the expense of real communion or solidarity.

Zuidervaart’s suggestion is to shift toward criticism as an internally focused responsibility to sift one’s own tradition in virtue of answering the legitimate questions that are being asked of it. The name for such an internal focus is immanent criticism; the effect, critical retrieval. Indeed, the internal way is so important that one ought to centre one’s participation in the wider philosophical endeavour by examining other traditions as if an insider, that is, via immanent criticism, so as to ask legitimate questions of them that “true” insiders could take on via immanent critique and critical retrieval in the way one takes on the legitimate questions of others in one’s own immanent critique and critical retrieval.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Generative Problems or Dynamic Limits? Retrieving Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Critique of Theoretical Thought

No comments:
by Jazz Feyer Salo

This post is part of an ongoing symposium interacting with Lambert Zuidervaart's book Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation: Essays in Reformational Philosophy. For more responses to the book, see our table of contents.

"The Great Turning Point," the first chapter in Lambert Zuidervaart's Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation, stands as an object lesson in the spirit of critical engagement practised at the Institute for Christian Studies: at once a fidelity to the tradition out of which it emerged and a critical eye and ear toward the Creation that tradition holds in such high regard. The result of such a critical engagement is what Lambert calls "critical retrieval" -- whereby we acknowledge valid objections to the philosophies local to our tradition and, in light of such objections, provide a redemptive critique. The impetus behind such a critical engagement is a non-oppositional cross-pressure between a firm commitment to the goodness of Creation and the recognition that all claims rest upon an ontology that is never all-together apparent to those making the claims. This cross-pressure is the catalyst for what should be called a "faithful divergence" not only by the subsequent generations but by figures within the generations themselves.

In "The Great Turning Point", we see this "critical retrieval" being practised in a focused discussion of Herman Dooyeweerd's (henceforth HD) Transcendental Critique. The question being addressed is the relationship between faith and philosophy in HD's thought. However, as Lambert makes clear, this question is ill-equipped to address the subtlety with which HD addresses this problem. Lambert proceeds by correcting those who read HD in light of this simplistic distinction between faith and philosophy and the misreadings it propagates. Only after correcting these invalid objections and making clear HD's philosophical positions and their merit does Lambert move on to the objections to HD that "warrant criticism". These objections are summarised by Lambert in the closing paragraphs of the essay:

Any attempt to salvage Dooyeweerd's project must address both the logical slippage in his transcendental argument and the conceptual confusion in his account of religion. [...] These puzzles merit the attention of anyone who thinks seriously about the relation between faith and philosophy. They remain generative challenges for the tradition of reformational philosophy that Dooyeweerd helped create. (47)

How appropriate it is for a Reformational philosopher to close an essay that explicates the "puzzles" or "challenges" of his philosophical tradition with a claim that those very puzzles or challenges constitute the productive power of the tradition itself. Such a closing is a crystallisation of the cross-pressure mentioned above.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

It’s Time for Reformational Philosophy

4 comments:
By Neal DeRoo

This post is part of an ongoing symposium interacting with Lambert Zuidervaart's book Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation: Essays in Reformational Philosophy. For more responses to the book, see our table of contents.

I am very excited about the forthcoming publication of Lambert’s book Religion, Truth and Social Transformation. For one thing, Lambert’s philosophical abilities are world-class—his ability to be clear and maintain consistency, even when using the most technical of vocabularies, is a wonderful blessing to those of us trying to make sense of the world in a systematic, philosophical way. His work isn’t easy to read, but it’s always helpful. Very helpful. And therefore the chance to read it is always welcome.

An occasion to read a more sustained account of Lambert’s interactions with reformational philosophy—something that is not only dear to my heart, but also near to my current research interests—is doubly promising and exciting for me. Clear, concise elucidation of the problems and promises inherent in the work of Dooyeweerd, Vollenhoven, and their followers is extraordinarily valuable, not least because neither of those men would be considered an excellent writer by anyone familiar with their work (and with good writing). Excellent thinkers and philosophers, perhaps; but no one has called their work easy to follow or simple to comprehend.

It was with excitement, then, that I received the invitation to join this on-going engagement with Religion, Truth and Social Transformation. I think that reformational philosophy has much to offer the philosophical world, and the world more broadly. Lambert articulates the promise of reformational philosophy very well, in a way that mirrors many of my own interests in it. I echo his desire for “an interdisciplinary, spiritually open, and socially engaged philosophy that seeks sociocultural renewal and the transformation of society” (20), “a philosophy that does not ignore the suffering of God’s creatures, a philosophy that seeks comprehensive wisdom in order to critique social evil” (22).[1]

I think that reformational philosophy has much to offer the philosophical world, and the world more broadly.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A Living Philosophical Tradition of Redemptive Hope

6 comments:
By Doug Blomberg

This post is part of an ongoing symposium interacting with Lambert Zuidervaart's book Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation: Essays in Reformational Philosophy. For more responses to the book, see our table of contents.


I hesitate to write the response I have been invited to give to the Introduction to Lambert Zuidervaart's new book, given the time frame available and the fact that I am currently a long way from home, hunkered down in a basement apartment in Washington on what has been a weekend of historic snowfalls, without access to books, articles and other sources. However, I do not feel I should resile from this opportunity to mark and hopefully honour what my longtime friend and colleague has offered to us, so I am determined to bite the bullet. For this collection of essays, volume one of two to be published, is a great gift to the Reformational community, to Christian scholars and others generally, and to all those who are concerned to reflect and act on the need of our world for radical and comprehensive social transformation – both radical and comprehensive because it is rooted in the sacrifice of Jesus by which all things everywhere, and in all times, will be reconciled.

Zuidervaart is a scholar – I was tempted to say, through and through, but he is of course much more than this. His vocation, in the narrow but commonly understood sense, is scholarship, including of course, teaching. He is an intensely-focused, dedicated and consummate practitioner of his craft. Like all of those who take a stand within the Reformational tradition (and many more besides, of course), he offers his scholarship in service to God and neighbour. It is scholarship devoted to glorifying his Lord and bringing flourishing life to all God's creatures, human and otherwise, and these not as individual beings in isolation from one another, but as standing in inextricable interconnectedness. Thus, his scholarship incarnates the genius of Reformational philosophy, that scholarly investigation is always accountable to everyday people in their everyday lives.

Thus, [Zuidervaart's] scholarship incarnates the genius of Reformational philosophy, that scholarly investigation is always accountable to everyday people in their everyday lives.

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Ground Motive Symposium on Lambert Zuidervaart's "Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation"

2 comments:

In April 2016, ICS Professor of Philosophy Lambert Zuidervaart's new book, Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation: Essays in Reformational Philosophy, will be published with McGill-Queen's University Press. To celebrate, over the next few months Ground Motive will host a blog symposium inviting a wide variety of authors to respond to the book essay by essay. At the end of the symposium, Dr. Zuidervaart will provide a response to the event as a whole. We invite our readers to follow along and participate in this exciting conversation through the comment sections of each post. Below is a table of contents for the symposium, followed by the publisher's information about the book.* Some of the essays are available for free in ICS's Institutional Repository, and are linked should readers wish to follow along with what the respondents are reading.**

Table of Contents

Introduction: Transforming Philosophy

1 The Great Turning Point: Religion and Rationality in Dooyeweerd’s Transcendental Critique (2004)
[read]

2 Reformational Philosophy after Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven (2006)
[read]

3 Dooyeweerd’s Conception of Truth: Exposition and Critique (2008)
[read]


Joshua Harris

4 Dooyeweerd’s Modal Theory: Questions in the Ontology of Science (1973)
Daniel Rudisill


5 Fantastic Things: Critical Notes toward a Social Ontology of the Arts (1995)
[read, hosted at Philosophia Reformata]

Tricia Van Dyk

6 God, Law, and Cosmos: Issues in Hendrik Hart’s Ontology (1985)
[read]

Ronald Kuipers

7 Artistic Truth, Linguistically Turned: Variations on a Theme from Adorno, Habermas, and Hart (2001)
[read]

Adrian Atanasescu
Carolyn Mackie


8 The Inner Reformation of Reason: Issues in Hendrik Hart’s Epistemology (2004)
Hendrik Hart

9 Metacritique: Adorno, Vollenhoven, and the Problem-Historical Method (1985)
Ben Hampshire 

10 Defining Humankind: Scheler, Cassirer, and Hart (1988)
Peter Lok

11 Good Cities or Cities of the Good? Radical Augustinian Social Criticism (2005)
[read]

Clinton Stockwell
Drew Van't Land


12 Religion in Public: Passages from Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (2010)
[read]

Ruthanne Crapo
Jonathan Chaplin


13 Macrostructures and Societal Principles: An Architectonic Critique (2011/2015)
[read]


Jonathan Chaplin
Ben Fulman


14 Unfinished Business: Toward a Reformational Conception of Truth (2009)
[read]


Allyson Carr


15 Science, Society, and Culture: Against Deflationism (2007)
Michael DeMoor

Epilogue: Earth’s Lament: Suffering, Hope, and Wisdom (2003)
[read]

Farshid Baghai
Doug Blomberg


Concluding Response
Lambert Zuidervaart

Publisher's Overview

Reformational philosophy rests on the ideas of nineteenth-century educator, church leader, and politician Abraham Kuyper, and it emerged in the early twentieth century among Reformed Protestant thinkers in the Netherlands. Combining comprehensive criticisms of Western philosophy with robust proposals for a just society, it calls on members of religious communities to transform harmful cultural practices, social institutions, and societal structures.

Well known for his work in aesthetics and critical theory, Lambert Zuidervaart is a leading figure in contemporary reformational philosophy. In Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation - the first of two volumes of original essays from the past thirty years - he forges new interpretations of art, politics, rationality, religion, science, and truth. In dialogue with modern and contemporary philosophers, among them Immanuel Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, Martin Heidegger, Theodor Adorno, Jürgen Habermas, and reformational thinkers such as Herman Dooyeweerd, Dirk Vollenhoven, and Hendrik Hart, Zuidervaart explains and expands on reformational philosophy’s central themes. This interdisciplinary collection offers a normative critique of societal evil, a holistic and pluralist conception of truth, and a call for both religion and science to serve the common good.

Illustrating the connections between philosophy, religion, and culture, and daring to think outside the box, Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation gives a voice to hope in a climate of despair.

 *Respondents are subject to change. This post will be updated as the symposium transpires.
**Essays in the final publication may not be exactly the same as essays linked in the repository.