mercredi, décembre 31, 2014

Understanding Dooyeweerd Better Than He Understood Himself

Theodore Plantinga (1947-2008)

Philosophia Reformata 74 (2009) 105–114 

Ernst  Cassirer  (1946,  140)  once  observed:  “In  the  history  of  ideas  it  is  by  no means  unusual  that  a  thinker  develops  a  theory,  the  full  purport  and significance  of  which  is  still  hidden  to  himself.”  Cassirer  was  echoing  no  less  a personage  than  Kant  himself.  Kant  had  written  long  before:  “…  it  is  by  no means unusual, upon comparing the thoughts which an author has expressed in regard to his subject, whether in ordinary conversation or in writing, to find that we understand him better than he has understood himself. As he has not sufficiently determined his concept, he has sometimes spoken, or even thought, in  opposition  to  his  own  intention.”2  May  we  take  our  lead  from  Kant  here? May  we  understand  Dooyeweerd  better  than  he  understood  himself,  even  to the  point  of  attributing  to  him  a  view  or  views  that  would  appear  to  be  “in opposition to his own intention”? 

It may sound a little strange, but something of this sort seems to have been underway  among  Dooyeweerd  interpreters  for  quite  some  time.  Many  have started  from  the  assumption  that  Dooyeweerd  and  Vollenhoven  held  to essentially the same position. Now, since there were some widely acknowledged differences,  something  would  have  to  yield,  and  what  often  yielded  was Dooyeweerd.  It  was  thought  that  in  essence  Dooyeweerd  was  saying  what Vollenhoven  had  also  been  saying.  One  could  therefore  allow  for  an  error  in Dooyeweerd  here  or  there  —  perhaps  even  a  “contradiction”  —  while  con-tinuing to hold him in high esteem.