samedi, décembre 03, 2016

Dooyeweerd: Does historic humanist dichotomy give insight on Brexit, Trump, Euro-Right?

Dooyeweerd: Does Historic Humanist Dichotomy Give Insight on Brexit, Trump, Euro-Right?
Historical Humanist Dichotomy
"The deepest root of its dialectical character lies in the ambiguity of the Humanistic freedom-motive. The latter is the central driving force of the modern religion of human personality. And from its own depths it calls forth the motive to dominate nature, and thus leads to a religion of autonomous objective science in which there is no room for the free personality." (Herman Dooyeweerd, New Critique of Theoretical Thought)
The late Dutch thinker Herman Dooyeweerd lived through the Nazi occupation. The Dooyeweerd family sheltered JewsAfter the war Dooyeweerd wrote a long series of newspaper articles which were eventually published as the Dutch original of the book: 'Roots of Western Culture: Pagan, Secular and Christian Options'

In part of the book Dooyeweerd philosophically plumbs the origins of German fascism. There are various elements to this, but the strand to note here refers to the corrosive influence of "historicism": Classical Humanism (circum French Revolution) had posited rationalist (Natural Mechanistic Law) absolutes which over-arched time. By the early 20th C, in the wake of Romanticism, an irrationalist (Lawless Personal Freedom) counter-polarity of humanism was taking over. Absolutization of the Historical Aspect (see Chart of Aspects below) began sucking everything into an existential maelstrom. 
Historical Aspect (Law-Sphere)
There were now NO absolutes spanning time. Norms were only provisional - a fleeting consensus within a universal flux:
"It calls itself dynamic, believing that all of reality moves and unfolds historically. It directs its polemic against static views that adhere to fixed truths. It considers reality one-sidedly in the light of historical becoming and development, arguing that everything is purely historical in character. This 'historicism', as it is called, knows of no eternal values. All of life is caught up in the stream of historical development. From this point of view the truths of the Christian faith are just as relative and transient as the ideals of the French Revolution [...]  
"Following the example of the mathematical and natural sciences, earlier humanistic theory had always sought after the universally valid laws that control reality. It constructed an 'eternal order of natural law' out of the 'rational nature of humankind'. This order was totally independent of historical development, and was valid for every nation at all times and in all places. The earlier rationalistic humanism displayed little awareness of the individual traits of peoples and nations. All individual things were regarded as mere instances or examples of a universal rule and were reduced to a universal order. This reduction highlights the rationalistic tendency of this type of humanistic thought.  
"But as a result of the polarity of its religious ground-motive, humanism veered to the other extreme after the French Revolution. Rationalistic humanism turned into irrationalistic humanism, which rejected all universally valid laws and order. It elevated individual potential to the status of law. Irrationalistic humanism was not inspired by the exact mathematical and natural sciences but by art and the science of history. Art revealed the 'genius' and uniqueness of individuality. This 'romanticism', which for a time dominated western culture during the Restoration period after Napoleon's fall, was the source of the view of reality defended by the Historical School." (Herman Dooyeweerd, 'Roots of Western Culture' pp 43, 50)
But Communism resisted this. It still subscribed to time-transcending laws:
"It should not be forgotten that communism in its Marxian and Bolshevist sense is primarily a spiritual power, a secularized eschatological faith in the final liberation of mankind in a future classless society" (Dooyeweerd, 'A New Critique of Theoretical Thought' Vol 4 p 602).
Finally, getting to our main point, German Fascism also (goose-) stepped out of the flux. Nazism recognized no laws above itself EXCEPT the genius and destiny of the German volk. This also involved the secularization of a Christian motif:
"When the Historical School attempted to understand the whole of culture, language, art, jurisprudence, and the economic and social orders in terms of the historical development of an individual national spirit, it elevated the national character to the status of the origin of all order. It therefore denied the truth that the individual creature always remains subject to law. It argued that if the individual potential of a man or nation is the only law for development and action, then this potential cannot be evaluated in terms of a universally valid law. Accordingly, any nation was considered to act rightly and legitimately if it simply followed the historical fate or goal implicit in its individual potential or disposition.  
"This view of reality was historicistic in the sense explained above. Although the Historical School fundamentally rejected the validity of general laws, it nevertheless tried to compensate for this by seeking to reach a kind of compromise with the Christian belief in 'divine providence'. It proclaimed divine providence to be a 'hidden' law of history, arguing that God's providence rules the history of a nation. As the Christian mask was laid aside, 'providence' was replaced by Schicksal, the historical destiny or fate of a nation. Schicksal played the same role as divine providence; it operated as a norm for the development of a national character.  
"Careful readers will have noted how closely this view approaches the spiritual atmosphere of national socialism and its appeal to providence, to the 'Destiny of the German People'  [Schicksal des deutschen Volkes]. We will do well to keep the affinity between national socialism and the Historical School in mind, for later we will see that nazism must be considered primarily a degenerate fruit of the historicism propagated by the Historical School." (Dooyeweerd, 'Roots of Western Culture' p 52)
Plausible connections to the social dynamics leading to Brexit, to Donald Trump, and to what is happening more widely in European politics, seem not so difficult to make. The crumbling of so many social pillars leave people psychologically vulnerable. They face an increasing overload of choices. The security of tradition and the relief of everyday routine diminish. There is a stalling of national and international direction.

Laws seem politicised and arbitrary. Authoritarian so-called 'progressive' governments marginalise and indeed criminalise 'traditional' views, cynically intimidating the populace into a silence which is then hailed as endorsement. The elite mantra is relentlessly megaphoned by radio, television, and cinema: The need to be "on the right side of history" is absolute. The youth by and large become true believers. The mortality of recalcitrant older folk is (how can it be delicately phrased?) not a matter of deepest regret.

 The Ships of State pitch as the oceans heave. Captains are sought who promise at least some return to stability.... 

See also: