We share here brief extracts from three posts by Junior Members responding to Lambert Zuidervaart's Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation. Hope these whet your appetite for more, “over on the blog”, as we have come to say.
Generative Problems or Dynamic Limits? Retrieving Dooyeweerd's Transcendental Critique of Theoretical Thought by Jazz Feyer Salo
"The Great Turning Point," the first chapter in Lambert’s book, 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 [the philosophical study of what “exists”] that is never altogether 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.
Jazz Feyer Salo is an MA Junior Member, focusing on philosophy of language and American pragmatism.
Art in the Real World by Tricia Van Dyk
Zuidervaart concludes the chapter by sketching his own way forward to a theory of art that takes into account the variations in art past and present, as well as the human institutions that make art as we know it possible. This theory is not simply a break from Dooyeweerd’s work; Zuidervaart believes that art can be successfully described in terms of its technical founding function and aesthetic qualifying function, for example. Thinking of art in these terms allows us to think clearly about norms for art, as well as how these norms may be more broadly applicable.
“What Dooyeweerd provides,” says Zuidervaart, “is an insight into the multidimensional and normative character of all those activities, events, processes, intersubjective relations, and products that make up the artistic realm. With suitable revisions and extensions, his account of the work of art can serve the development of a normative and critical social ontology of the arts” (127).
And indeed, much of the value of Zuidervaart’s strong and critical reading of Dooyeweerd’s account of art, I think, is that he has demonstrated himself willing and able not only to clear away the unstable structure that Dooyeweerd had built, but to choose what was worthwhile in the foundation and build upon it his own, more carefully constructed theory.
A broader implication that could be drawn from this chapter is one that most philosophers could probably stand to be reminded of: When constructing a theory, we should know what we’re talking about—and a broad range of how what we’re talking about shows up in the real world, so as not to base our philosophy too heavily on our own overly limited experience. It is clear from Zuidervaart’s criticisms that most of the difficulties in Dooyeweerd’s conception of art arise from the simple fact that Dooyeweerd was basing his ideas on too limited a range of experience with art.
This is not to say that philosophers must be experts in or have intimate real-world knowledge of everything they want to philosophize about. If that were the case, the potential for mutual conversation based on sharing ideas through publication would be sadly limited….
Tricia Van Dyk successfully defended her PhD dissertation in March. She is grateful for Lambert Zuidervaart’s mentorship throughout her MA and PhD programs.
Dooyeweerd's Modal Theory: Hermeneutics in Action by Dan Rudisill
Zuidervaart’s essay represents an excellent example of the kind of immanent criticism [from “within”, rather than from an external standpoint]that Dooyeweerd himself utilized. By a close reading of the text, Zuidervaart has immersed himself in the thought-world of Dooyeweerd and thus not only gives us a clear articulation of the theory and its attending problems but also provides a possible way forward out of the problems identified which is in many ways Dooyeweerdian. This represents the kind of creativity and clear argumentation which should be familiar to anyone who has read Zuidervaart’s work.
Yet, more than being merely Dooyeweerdian in style, this essay represents an example of the way in which immanent criticism in the Reformational tradition allows one to figure out how a philosopher argues and then from there uncover the trajectory of the philosophical argument throughout a text. This is much like being able to identify a river (and therefore to know whither it runs) by recognizing the way in which it flows. In fact, this allows us to bring out an argument implicit in Zuidervaart’s essay; philosophical methodology is always already a hermeneutic.
Rev. Dan Rudisill is a PhD Junior Member studying the philosophical and theological linkage between Reformational Ontology and Creation Order. He is the Dean of Word & Spirit Revival Training Centre in Mississauga, Ontario.