Bernard Zylstra: A New Critique of Theoretical Thought and Dooyeweerd Studies

Bernard Zylstra, one of Dooyeweerd’s own students, on how the New Critique translation of the Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee (Amsterdam: H.J. Paris, 1935-6) has – or has not – contributed to Dooyeweerd studies*:

To be sure, Dooyeweerd’s A New Critique of Theoretical Thought was translated into English in the fifties. But did the availability of that major work contribute significantly to an appreciation and understanding of Dooyeweerd’s christian philosophical endeavors? I doubt it. For one thing, it was poorly translated, both in terms of language and ideas. But the point I wish to make concerns something else. A New Critique give plenty of text, two thousand pages of it, but it does not give the context of this undertaking. And an understanding of the context is required for an understanding of the text. This big book by itself is like an oak tree in a desert, uprooted from its natural surroundings and transplanted in an environment that is foreign and at times hostile to it. This book is the top of an iceberg, one of the major intellectual achievements – alongside those of Kuyper, Bavinck, Schilder Berkouwer and Vollenhoven – of a christian community which at least until recently found its cohesion in a common christian calling and a concomitant walk of life. Anyone who wants to see what that christian calling, that walk of life, and its philosophical outgrowth are all about will have to learn the language and the ways of the people that responded to that calling and walked that path of life. anyone who wants to understand a philosophical movement will have to learn the language of that movement, to recognize both its contributions and its failures. This is true of Husserl’s phenomenology, of the Frankfurter school; it is also true of the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea.

Reminds me of something I’ve read . . .

* Bernard Zylstra, “Introduction,” in L. Kabsleek’s Contours of a Christian Philosophy: An Introduction to Herman Dooyeweerd’s Thought (Toronto: Wedge Publishing Foundation, 1976; second printing 1981), pp. 30 – 31.


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