A transformed idea of truth is central to the project of reformational philosophy. This essay lays groundwork for such an idea by proposing a critical retrieval of Herman Dooyeweerd’s conception of truth. First it summarizes relevant passages in Dooyeweerd’s New Critique. Then it demonstrates several problems in his conception: he misconstrues religious truth, misconceives its relation to theoretical truth, and overlooks central questions of epistemology and truth theory. By addressing these problems, reformational philosophers can find new ways to think about truth that retain the holism, normativity, and radicalness of Dooyeweerd’s conception. [T]he decisive blow against the idea of religiously neutral philosophy must be delivered on the field of the problem of truth”¦ The postulate of neutrality always stands and falls with an idea of truth that takes theoretical truth to be self-sufficient. Herman Dooyeweerd1
This essay presents an emerging conception of truth and shows how it appropriates Herman Dooyeweerd’s conception. First I compare my “critical hermeneutics” with other reformational models of critique. Then I propose to think of truth as a dynamic correlation between (1) human fidelity to societal principles and (2) a life-giving disclosure of society. This conception recontextualizes the notion of propositional truth, and it links questions of intersubjective validity with Dooyeweerd’s emphasis on “standing in the truth.” While abandoning his idea of transcendent truth, I seek to preserve the holism and normativity of Dooyeweerd’s radical conception. Theoretical thought never finishes its task. Anyone who believes to have created a philosophical system that can be adopted unchanged by every ensuing generation shows no insight into the historical contingency [gebondenheit] of all theoretical thought. — Herman Dooyeweerd1
This article responds to a debate in analytic philosophy between realist and antirealist conceptions of truth, as formulated by Alvin Plantinga. Whereas Plantinga recommends a return to Aquinas, I argue for a new understanding of propositional truth that grows out of Jürgen Habermas’s “pragmatic realist” conception. By critically appropriating Habermas’s insights, I aim to move beyond the realism/anti-realism dispute, replacing questions of independence with questions of interdependence. I claim that truth theory needs to begin with the interdependence of “mind” and “object” and with the corporeal multidimensionality of both human knowers and that about which they acquire knowledge.
This essay asks whether and how a Reformational epistemology should distinguish different types of knowledge within a unified conception of knowledge as a whole. I begin with the thesis that knowledge, in its deepest meaning, is not a thing to possess but a complex relationship to inhabit. It encompasses human knowers, practices of knowing, the knowable, known results, guiding principles, and procedures of confirmation. Within this complex relationship, humans achieve insight of various sorts. After briefly distinguishing artistic from scientific knowledge, I examine two other social domains of knowledge, namely, technology and religion. Taking issue with Hendrik Hart, I then argue for the religious legitimacy of propositional beliefs, provided they support genuinely religious knowledge, which is post-propositional. Knowledge, I conclude, takes on distinct contours within different social domains; some of them, like art and technology, provide pre-propositional insight, and others, like religion, offer insight that is post-propositional.
This essay explores the Reformational epistemology proposed by Australian philosopher and educator Doug Blomberg in 1978. After locating his work in a tradition of holistic pluralism with regard to knowledge, I introduce the notion of distantial knowing, Blomberg’s key innovation. Blomberg uses this notion to identify and describe multiple ways of acquiring normative insight, ways that are not theoretical but do open up concrete experience. Although in agreement with Blomberg’s emphasis on the integrality and multidimensionality of knowledge, I raise questions about the role of analytic or logical knowing, the sociocultural mediation of experience, and the contributions of cultural practices and social institutions to knowledge acquisition. I return to these questions in a companion article on the social domains of knowledge.
Future historians will note many parallels between the 1930s and the 1990s in Europe and North America. Both decades appear to be times of dramatic cultural upheaval and societal transformation. Indeed, many of the battles fought over capitalism, democracy, and cultural modernism in the 1930s have returned in recent struggles over a global economy, the welfare state, and cultural postmodernism. Hence it may be instructive for contemporary Christian scholars to revisit the seminal texts of European philosophy in the 1930s. Cultural theorists have long recognized the significance of Martin Heidegger’s essay “The Origin of the Work of Art,” both as a turning point in his own thinking and as a fundamental challenge to modern aesthetics. Presented as lectures in 1935-36 and first published in German in 1950, the essay develops a conception of artistic truth that breaks entirely with Kantian divisions among epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics. Much less recognized, even among his students and followers, is the significance of Herman Dooyeweerd’s discussion of art from around the same time.3 First published in Dutch in 1936 and then revised and republished in English in 1957, Dooyeweerd’s discussion presents a conception of the artwork that reconfigures the Kantian divisions discarded by Heidegger.
This essay lays out a reformational research program on the idea of truth. First it describes challenges to the idea of truth in contemporary philosophy and gives reasons why a robust conception of truth is needed. Next it presents two overriding concerns – ontological and axiological – that such a conception should address. In addressing these concerns, a contemporary reformational approach will take up three sets of issues: relations between propositional truth and the discursive justification of truth claims; distinctions and connections between propositional and nonpropositional truth; and the sorts of cultural practices and social institutions within which truth occurs. My detailed response to these issues, as sketched in the last section of the essay, is to propose a holistic, normative, and structurally pluralist conception of truth, one that I call holistic alethic pluralism. Propositional truth is important but not all-important, and reformational philosophy needs to show why that is so.