Thursday, July 19, 2007


Philip Blosser writes (ht):

Any intellectual wading more than ankle-deep into the work of these Reformational Philosophers soon realizes that he would be a fool to ignore the wealth of theoretical insights yielded by them over the last century. Dooyeweerd is probably among the two or three greatest Christian philosophers of the twentieth century from any tradition, period. I say this as a Catholic with more than a passing acquaintance with the work of Etienne Gilson, Jacques Maritain, Gabriel Marcel, John Courtney Murray, Bernard Lonergan, and Alasdair MacIntyre, not to mention Karol Wojtyla. This is a philosophical tradition, in my opinion, with which every serious thinker ought to be acquainted and conversant.

I think this is probably right. Indeed, I would go farther; if I were asked to name the twentieth-century philosophers (no restricting adjective) who are most likely to be remembered and read with interest several hundred years from now, Dooyeweerd would come in close behind Edith Stein on my list of candidates. Part of that, to be sure, is that it doesn't hurt one's longevity to have a stable and long-lasting niche group interested in you as part of their heritage (and neither Catholics nor Calvinists are likely to die out soon); and part of it is that there are not actually many competitors for such a distinction (Heidegger, Whitehead, and perhaps Wittgenstein are the only possibilities who seem even likely). But there's more to it than that; it includes quality and diversity of writings and ability to stand out from the (relatively) humdrum mass. Dooyeweerd's chief problem, I think, is that he has a wholly implausible view of the history of philosophy; it makes him say remarkably dubious things. But abstracting from that, there's much worth learning from him; his theory of aspects, for instance, is thorough and thought-provoking, and even the theory of ground-motives, which is too dependent on the dubious view of the history of philosophy, is worth careful consideration abstracted from that view. Certainly the New Critique is worth reading at least once.

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