D.H. Th. Vollenhoven


D.H. Th. Vollenhoven (1892-1978)

D.H. Th. Vollenhoven was the brother-in-law of Herman Dooyeweerd. Both taught at the Vrije Universiteit. It is often assumed that their philosophies were the same. That is not the case. Marcel Verburg says that despite the huge differences between these men, Dooyeweerd did not publicly refer to their disagreements. Dooyeweerd did not want to jeopardize the positive aspects of Christian philosophy as it was being taught at the Vrije Universiteit. Vollenhoven took over many of Dooyeweerd’s ideas, such as the sequence of the aspects (Verburg 87). When Dooyeweerd was asked about whether he developed this together with Vollenhoven, he diplomatically replied that Vollenhoven was “at his side.” Vollenhoven had raised objections against Dooyeweerd’s understanding of time, but Dooyeweerd thought that Vollenhoven had not completely thought through his critique. (Interview of Herman Dooyeweerd by Magnus Verbrugge (1974).

But late in his career, Vollenhoven did speak about his disagreements with Dooyeweerd. See the following:

  1. Divergentierapport. This is a report that Vollenhoven made of divergences between his philosophy and that of Dooyeweerd.
  2. Problems about time in our circle
  3. The Problems around Time

These three articles show Vollenhoven’s disagreements with Dooyeweerd, from Vollenhoven’s own point of view. Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven disagreed on almost every key point, including how Scripture should be used in relation to philosophy. The three articles should be read in the order that I have listed them. The articles were published in Dutch by A. Tol and K.A. Bril: Vollenhoven als Wijsgeer (Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn, 1992), 160-198. Tol and Bril edited the lectures. This is particularly important for “Problemen rondom de tijd,” which is very fragmentary. Tol and Bril completed Vollenhoven’s notes of this lecture by including notes taken by J.C. Vander Stelt, a student at the time. For those who can read Dutch, there are some very important notes in their book that Tol and Bril have included by way of introduction, and in footnotes to the text.

  1. The Divergentierapport

If we begin with the first article, the Divergentierapport I [Report of Divergences I], we note that it is marked “Strictly confidential,” and that it is directed to the Board of the Organization for the Special Chairs of Calvinistic Philosophy (het Bestuur der Stichting Bijzondere Leerstoelen Calvinistische Wijsbegeerte). Tol and Bril point out that it is not certain that this report was actually ever sent. But Vollenhoven did discuss it with Dooyeweerd, and a long footnote in Dooyeweerd’s A New Critique of Theoretical Thought seems to be a response to Vollenhoven’s criticisms. See NC I, 30-32, ft. 1.

The background to this “Divergentierapport” includes concerns that in the teaching concerning being (ontology), there was sometimes too much attention paid to the functions, and that in epistemology (“kentheorie”) there was a one-sided importance for specialized scientific (“vakwetenschappelijke”) knowledge: the rest of creation was then merely the mystical (“heet dan licht ‘mystiek’”). It is unclear whether this criticism was directed at Vollenhoven or Dooyeweerd. It seems to me to make more sense if this criticism was directed at Vollenhoven, and that he therefore prepared this report as a response.

The report deals with differences in opinion on (1) law and subject (2) the structure of the subject and of time and (3) the pre-functional.

The report says that there are other differences that exist but are not covered in the report. These include differences in the idea of “subject and individuality,” and “the whole theory of knowledge” (“kentheorie”).

It is interesting that the report confirms that for Dooyeweerd, the word ‘cosmos’ means “that part of creation that finds its center in Man.” Thus, for Dooyeweerd, the cosmos, and cosmic time, do not include man’s center, the supratemporal heart or other supratemporal creatures like angels. For Vollenhoven, the angelic world is included in time, and man has no supratemporal center, but only a pre-functional center.

The report wants to replace the word ‘supratemporal’ with ‘outside the temporal’ (buitentijdelijk). It is also interesting that it expresses the fear that Dooyeweerd’s reference to the supratemporal will lead people to make connections with monists like Leibniz, or even stronger, with dualists, or non-dichotomistic thinkers like Barth [1886-1968], dichotomistic thinkers like Ludwig Klages [1872-1956], “phrenological” thinkers and spiritualists, and to some extent C.G. Jung [1875-1961].

Based on the Divergentierapport, we can list the following key differences between Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd (there may also be others):

  1. Vollenhoven rejects the idea of thesupratemporal heart. Vollenhoven wants to replace it with the idea of a “pre-functional” unity. Dooyeweerd rejects such a view of a pre-functional center. See the note in NC I, 30-32. This appears to have been added after Vollenhoven discussed the Divergentierapport with Dooyeweerd. . Dooyeweerd says that we have no experience of such a pre-functional unity. By implication, we do have experience of the supratemporal. Dooyeweerd was criticized by theologians such as Hepp for denying the dualism of body and soul with his idea of the supratemporal heart. But Vollenhoven came in for even greater criticism. Of 79 references given by Hepp of passages that he found offensive, 78 referred to Vollenhoven and only one to Dooyeweerd! (Verburg 210). Whereas for Dooyeweerd, our supratemporal heart survives death, for Vollenhoven, there is seemingly nothing that survives death, at least until the resurrection.
  2. For Vollenhoven, the law is outside the cosmos, and governs the cosmos. It is the boundary between God and cosmos. This scheme of God-law-cosmos must be contrasted to Dooyeweerd’s view that the law is one side of the cosmos. Vollenhoven criticizes Dooyeweerd’s view that the law is restricted to the cosmos. But Dooyeweerd does not restrict law to cosmos (at least law in its temporal cosmic sense; he also allows for a central law (NCI: 11, 63, 174, 507). Baader would say that the central law applied prior to the fall, and that the cosmic law protects the temporal world, which fell with humanity, from falling into nothingness. It is because the temporal law is restricted to the cosmos that Dooyeweerd says that there is a law side to the cosmos. This meaning of “law side” is also acknowledged in the “confidential” report:

…Prof. Dooyeweerd zocht nl. beide, wet en subject, in de kosmos, onder welke term hij verstaat dat deel van het geschapene dat in de mens zijn centrum vindt

[…Professor Dooyeweerd sought both law and subject in the cosmos. He uses the term ‘cosmos’ to refer to that part of creation that finds its center in man. ].

This issue of the place of the law was one of the main disagreements between Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven.

  1. The Divergentierapport also indicates a difference regarding the nature of individuality. I believe that this relates to the fact that, whereas Vollenhoven assumes the primacy of things and events, Dooyeweerd begins with a supratemporal totality that must then be individuated in time. See my article “Individuality Structures and Enkapsis: Individuation from Totality in Dooyeweerd and German Idealism.”
  2. Because the law is outside the cosmos, Vollenhoven gives more independence to the ‘things’ that are within the cosmos and that are subjected to the law. But for Dooyeweerd, ‘things’ are experienced as individuality structures. Things are experienced in the plastic horizon of experience, which is formed in relation to the modal aspects.
  3. I believe that the emphasis on ‘things’ in Vollenhoven is also related to the way that Vollenhoven’s followers such as Hendrik van Riessen, D.F.M. Strauss and Roy Clouser have viewed theory as the abstraction of of properties and laws from things. From the “Divergentierapport,” it appears that Dooyeweerd did not share this view. Instead, he emphasizes the temporal refraction of meaning (“zinsbreking”). In Dooyeweerd’s last article, “De Kentheoretische Gegenstandsrelatie en de Logische Subject-Objectrelatie,” written in 1975 (two years before his death), he makes many statements that are contrary to this view of abstraction from things. He specifically denies that the aspects can be deduced from things. The aspects are prior to individuality structures, and this priority is not just methodological. This article deserves to be studied closely by reformational philosophers today.
  4. The Divergentierapport draws attention to Vollenhoven’s view of law as regularity (regelmatigheid). I believe it is this view that has contributed to the incorrect view of theory as abstraction. In this view, the law sets out the structure of creation, and then in theory we look at regularities within certain functions. But Dooyeweerd rejects this view. He says that the Gegenstand is not to be identified with such regularity (wetmatige) (“Het Tijdsprobleem in de Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee,”Philosophia Reformata1940, p. 210). Dooyeweerd saw law and subject as much more closely intertwined–as two sides of the temporal cosmos. And as already mentioned, he did not accept the abstraction view of theory.
  5. I believe that the reason that Dooyeweerd restricts the law to the cosmos is that the the law is given as part of theredemptionof the cosmos. He expressly opposes any idea of creation law that is separate from salvation. Thus, the very idea of cosmic law contains within it a saving aspect for the world. Jesus Christ is the King of common grace; common grace is not to be understood apart from Christ, nor can we derive common grace only from God as Creator. Common grace is common because rooted in the Saviour. It is not given for the particular fallen man, but for humanity in Christ. The cosmic law is related to our sinfulness. Dooyeweerd says that without the law there is no sin; but the same law makes the existence of creation possible (Vernieuwing en Bezinning 36-38). But Vollenhoven sees a different Word for salvation than for creation (See Vollenhoven’s book Isagooge)
  6. And this ties into Dooyeweerd’s very strong emphasis that the temporal world is fallen with humanity. He says that humanity was placed [‘gevoegd‘ or ‘gesteld‘] into the world coherence that was cursed in Adam; the cosmos fell in Adam! (WdW I, 65). It is not that the rest of temporal reality continues and that it is only humanity’s sinfulness that is at issue. That would seem to be Vollenhoven’s view, judging from the Divergentierapport, which criticizes the view that there could be a fallen plant, animal or inorganic realm. (“Deze wet geldt primair slechts voor het menselijk leven: het heeft geen zin te spreken van Christelijke dieren, planten en fysische dingen”). But Dooyeweerd says that all of creation fell, and it is our duty to help to restore it by participating in Christ, the new root of creation. The “earth” referred to in Genesis is the temporal world; it finds its center in the religious root of mankind and was cursed because it had no religious root of its own (WdW, 124).

Christus’ verlossingswerk in principe niet allen de redding van den individueelen mensch, maar van heel het Scheppingswerk Gods, dat in den mensch geconcentreerd was.

[Christ’s work of redemption is in principle not only the salvation of the individual person, but of all of God’s work of creation, that was concentrated in humanity (“Calvijn als Bouwer,” Polemios 2/22 Aug 23/1947, 6).

  1. If Vollenhoven rejects the supratemporal root, then I believe that it is fair to say that Vollenhoven also has a different view ofsalvationfrom Dooyeweerd. In the Divergentierapport, Vollenhoven rejects Dooyeweerd’s idea of supratemporal conversion of the heart in Christians who are regenerated. For Dooyeweerd, creation, fall and redemption are all in the religious root; he calls this view of the supratemporal heart/religious root the “key of knowledge.”
  2. Vollenhoven also says that neither the reproduction of the human race nor its history are to be regarded as supratemporal. Is he referring to Dooyeweerd’s views here? Dooyeweerd does say that all of our acts come out of our supratemporal center, and that they are expressed in the temporal. Vollenhoven makes the argument about reproduction in the other lectures, too. Perhaps it relates to Dooyeweerd’s idea that creation is in the root, and that temporal reality is an unfolding of God’scompleted creationthat is only worked out in time.
  3. Vollenhoven denies that there is a specific time in the arithmetical and spatial aspects. He says that these two aspects are outside of time. He contradicts this statement in his two later lectures. In “Problemen van de tijd in onze kring,” he says, “I certainly do not say that the functions belong outside of time–time is also in the function.” And in “De problemen rondom de tijd,” he says, “That does not mean that we must remove the arithmetical and spatial from time in order to make them a priori–as rationalism does–for time is always inherent in (physical) things.”
  4. Vollenhoven also denies that the order of the aspects is an order of cosmic time. Dooyeweerd emphasizes that the order of the aspects is a temporal order ofsuccession–an order of before and after. Each aspect represents a “moment” in our experience. Vollenhoven says that we can only speak of temporal order in “events” (not in an order of aspects). In his later lectures, he argues that we also find temporality in “things” in that things change.
  5. The Divergentierapport indicates that some Reformed people have objected to the idea of faith as an aspect. This relates to views of the Church as institution and whether church discipline also has force of law for the Kingdom of Heaven. He does not go into detail, but this appears to involve a very legalistic view of church discipline extending to the hereafter.
  6. Vollenhoven makes a very surprising use of the term “religious dialectic” in connection with Scripture’s views. That is not at all Dooyeweerd’s view ofreligious dialectic, which is related to the irreconcilable opposites in apostate Ground Motives.
  7. Vollenhoven says that the distinction normative/non-normative does not correspond to the higher and lower aspects. But he himself uses it that way. In “Problemen rondom de tijd,” Vollenhoven says that “norm only appears after the logical.” This is in any event not a terribly serious criticism of Dooyeweerd, for it is apparent that Dooyeweerd’s use of “normative spheres” corresponds to his reference to the spheres that require humanpositivization. And even Vollenhoven agrees that only the later spheres require positivization.Disagreements listred in “Problemen van de tijd in onze kring” [Problems about time in our group]

Vollenhoven gave this lecture, “Problemen van de tijd in onze kring,” in 1968. This was long is after the English translation of Dooyeweerd’s A New Critique of Theoretical Thought. It was published in 1953, and Dooyeweerd made revisions to incorporate Vollenhoven’s criticisms in the Divergentierapport. And yet Vollenhoven seems to ignore the clarifications made by Dooyeweerd. In my view, he continues to misstate Dooyeweerd’s ideas. Many of the disagreements with Dooyeweerd listed above are also referred to here. But there are additional disagreements here. Continuing with my numbering, I would add the following disagreements:

16.Vollenhoven maintains the idea of different aspects of reality. However for him, they were not ordered in a prior and later of cosmic time. He saw them not as earlier and later but higher and lower.

17. For Vollenhoven, temporal order begins with the differentrealms. Physical things come before the realm of plants, and the realm of plants comes before the real of animals, which in turn comes before that of humans. Vollenhoven’s beginning withthings is contrary to Dooyeweerd’s beginning with totality, which is differentiated by cosmic time in a temporal order of succession of aspects.

18. The main reason that Vollenhoven argues for temporal order to apply to realms appears to be to counterevolutionism. Dooyeweerd was not as opposed to evolutionism, and took a view of temporal order as applying to the order of the aspects. The Dooyeweerd Archives (Amsterdam) have a letter from Prof. JJ. Duyvené de Wit of Bloemfontein, South Africa, who had sought Dooyeweerd’s advice regarding creation science. Dooyeweerd’s replied by letter dated Feb. 11, 1964:

I thought that it should be clear at the outset for readers and listeners: whether there is a genetic line that runs from a one-celled being via multi-celled organisms to the first man–about this we can say neither yes nor no.
[…] Whenever we try to oppose “macroevolution” with the help of the “mechanisms of microevolution,” such as mutations and so on that we can observe today, we may say, “Gentlemen, in this way the “gene pool” can only grow smaller and can never become greater. That is of great importance scientifically, but it does not prove, and cannot prove that there has been no macroevolution. [my translation]

  1. In “Problemen rondom de tijd,” Vollenhoven’s specifically rejects the idea that man is the “image of God.” He also rejects the view that the image means comparing ourselves to see how we stand in accordance with God’s law. He calls that the “old reformational view.” But we must contrast this with what he says in “Problemen van de tijd in onze kring”:

In the Scriptures, to be the image of God is a characteristic of human life that we can lack if we do not live in accordance with God’s commandments.

Vollenhoven is therefore inconsistent as to what the expression “image of God” means. In any event, he does not believe that man is the image of God. But “image of God” is a key idea for Dooyeweerd. In my view, Dooyeweerd’s understanding, even if not derived from Scripture (in the sense that philosophy does not obtain theoretical knowledge from Scripture), better accords with Scripture than does Vollenhoven’s forced exegesis. In contrast to Vollenhoven, Dooyeweerd speaks of man as the image of God. Our central selfhood, restored in Christ, is that image. This is a key idea for Dooyeweerd. Just as God expresses His image in our selfhood, so our selfhood expresses itself in the coherence of temporal functions (NC I, 4).

He [God] has expressed His image in man by concentrating its entire temporal existence in the radical religious unity of an ego in which the totality of meaning of the temporal cosmos was to be focused upon its Origin. (NC I, 55).

The radical unity of all the different modalities in which they coalesce, is […] the concentration of meaning in the imago Dei, which is nothing in itself, but rather the reflection of the Divine Being in the central human sphere of creaturely meaning. And since the fall of mankind this imago Dei is only revealed in its true sense in Jesus Christ. (NC III, 68-69).

  1. Vollenhoven expresses the fear that Dooyeweerd makes the aspects too independent. Dooyeweerd certainly denies this. In my view, Vollenhoven makes things and events too independent. It is probably because of this that he raises the argument against the aspects being too independent. For Dooyeweerd, the aspects have an ontological priority. See Dooyeweerd’s last article, “De Kentheoretische Gegenstandsrelatie en de Logische Subject-Objectrelatie,”Philosophia Reformata (1975) 83-101
  2. Vollenhoven rejects the historical aspect. If we read between the lines, it would seem that Dooyeweerd would argue that Vollenhoven must therefore fall into the error of historicism. The arguments of both men need to be investigated further insofar as they have written elsewhere about history.

    Disagreements listed in “Problemen rondom de tijd” [Problems about time]

Vollenhoven gave this lecture, “Problemen rondom de tijd” in 1963. Thus, it was also following the English translation of Dooyeweerd’s A New Critique of Theoretical Thought. Chronologically, it should be read following the “Divergentierapport,” but in practice, we need to read it last because it is in such fragmentary form. The lecture is important in many ways, not least of all for the fact that it says that it was a conscious decision to keep hidden the the disagreements between Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd. I think that that was a tragic mistake, and one that has led to continued confusion to this day. If Vollenhoven is right, then most of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy must be rejected. I do not believe that he is right. Furthermore, a wide acceptance of Vollenhoven’s views has obscured a correct understanding of what Dooyeweerd was saying. By examining closely the objections that Vollenhoven makes, we can see how radically different Dooyeweerd’s philosophy really is.

Many of the disagreements already listed also recur in this lecture. But additional disagreements with Dooyeweerd are also listed:

  1. One of the most fundamental differences with Dooyeweerd is that Vollenhoven links time with change. Perhaps the most fundamental point of difference is when Vollenhoven says that “Time implies change in and through creatures.” And “Time and change are correlates.” Dooyeweerd would see such change as modal. To limit time to change is to miss its fundamental importance for the cosmos.16.
  2. In linking time with change, Vollenhoven also begins his philosophy withthingsand events. Dooyeweerd begins with supratemporal totality.
  3. According to Vollenhoven, the aspects are ordered by increasing complexity and not by time. But Vollenhoven wants to avoid saying that the first two aspects (the mathematical and the spatial)are not outside of time. He wants to avoid the view that these are somehowa priori. He says that these aspects are in time because things, which are in time, participate in these aspects. I do not believe that his argument succeeds in rebutting the charge of rationalism. Vollenhoven’s philosophy seems to be much closer than Dooyeweerd’s to rationalism, since Vollenhoven says that the ordering law is non-temporal. Now that in itself is not sufficient to make Vollenhoven a rationalist. But his argument about things participating in the numerical and spatial does not in itself provide an answer.
  4. Vollenhoven says, “Law gives the ordering, not functioning as such; otherwise there isn’t the correlation [between law and function].Perhaps the most fundamental point of difference is when Vollenhoven says that “Time implies change in and through creatures.Perhaps the most fundamental point of difference is when Vollenhoven says that “Time implies change in and through creatures.” This seems in some way to correspond to Dooyeweerd’s distinction between aspects [the ordering] and functions. See Dooyeweerd’s last article, “De Kentheoretische Gegenstandsrelatie en de Logische Subject-Objectrelatie,”Philosophia Reformata(1975) 83-101. But Vollenhoven disagrees with Dooyeweerd in placing the ordering outside of time. Dooyeweerd says it is time itself that does the ordering.
  5. Vollenhoven says, “We must distinguish between time in relation to functions and time in relation to order (the latter does not have to be temporal).Perhaps the most fundamental point of difference is when Vollenhoven says that “Time implies change in and through creatures.” This seems to indicate that time in relation to the structural aspects is non-temporal, and that it is only the [changing] functions of things that involves time. This relates to Vollenhoven’s view of the law as outside the cosmos.

Vollenhoven denies that the first four aspects have any object functions. For Vollenhoven, things have only subject functions in the first four aspects. This leads him to the peculiar view that. “The physicist does not deal with objects but only with subjects.Perhaps the most fundamental point of difference is when Vollenhoven says that “Time implies change in and through creatures.” As far as I know, that statement is not to be found in Dooyeweerd. Vollenhoven specifically denies that a point is the objectification of the numerical in the spatial. Dooyeweerd would say that things have both object and subject functions in those aspects.

  1. Vollenhoven opposes speaking of temporal reality as “insufficient” and God as “all-sufficient.” But these ideas are key to Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. Dooyeweerd refers to the self-sufficiency of God and therestlessnature of created reality are central to Dooyeweerd’s view of created reality as “meaning,” pointing to the Origin which is absolute and self-sufficient (NC I, 10).For Dooyeweerd, there is an expression from the supratemporal center, and then a referring back of temporal reality, which exists only as meaning.
  2. For Vollenhoven, “meaning” seems to be the way that things have object functions in the higher spheres. Vollenhoven says, “Time certainly hasmeaningfor these functions, but indirectly, by the changing of things [which appear in this aspect].” And, “The definition of an object function can now be described as “the repetition of the meaning of the subject-functions of things of lower realms.” This whole idea of ‘meaning’ is different than than in Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. For Dooyeweerd, meaning refers to a pointing beyond, the restlessness of created reality. For Vollenhoven, meaning is the objectification of things in the aspects. I can’t see how Vollenhoven’s view differs from that of modernism, where things have meaning by their properties.
  3. For Vollenhoven, ‘transcendence’ means “reaching out” and not “pointing-beyond.” As I interpret this, it means a call to God, who transcends us. But Dooyeweerd’s view is much richer. All of created temporal reality points beyond itself. Thus, the whole world can be understood as symbol, transcending the merely temporal. Contrary to what Vollenhoven says, this is not merely ontological and something that does not involve human activity. On the contrary, to see the whole world as pointing-beyond itself can very much affect our actions. They can help to transform our life into a rich symbolic life, or, to use a term that Dooyeweerd does not use, “sacramental” view of reality. Vollenhoven’s view of meaning seems to be restricted to how things function within time. There is no pointing beyond.
  4. For Vollenhoven, the temporal order does apply to the remaining aspects (above the first four), but only because things have object functions in those aspects. This is quite different from Dooyeweerd’s view of aspects as being moments of time in a temporal order ofsuccessionof before and after.
  5. Vollenhoven says that only plants are organisms. He may be objecting to Dooyeweerd’s view oforganicism, where a central totality expresses itself in temporal limbs. SeeNC II, 418. But I believe that Vollenhoven is also challenging Dooyeweerd’s view of enkapsis. For, according to Dooyeweerd, man is an enkaptic interlacement of several individuality structures, including that of the organic. See Dooyeweerd’s “32 Propositions on Anthropology.”
  6. Vollenhoven opposes the “baptizing” of non-Christian ideas by including the idea of creation. Dooyeweerd says that the idea ofcreationin the Christian Ground-Motive must it include the “key of knowledge”–the central and supratemporal religious root (In the Twilight of Western Thought (Craig Press, 1968), 145, 124-125, 135-36.. That is of course denied by Vollenhoven, so from Dooyeweerd’s point of view, Vollenhoven is himself baptizing wrong theories with the idea of creation.
  7. Dooyeweerd has no hesitation in referring to God asBeing. But Dooyeweerd does not have a “chain of being” ontology, since created reality exists only as meaning and not as being. See NC I, 99. Vollenhoven seems to take exactly the opposite approach. For Vollenhoven, only the cosmos has being, and God is beyond being. Vollenhoven wants to avoid dualism in the temporal and to maintain dualism with respect to the division between God and creation.
  8. One would think that such a strong emphasis on God being beyond being would lead Vollenhoven to an apophatic theology. Yet he very much wants to say positive things about God, and claims thatScripturecan be a basis for philosophy. Furthermore, he wants to maintain God’s entrance into history. These are all issues that are far more difficult to reconcile with Vollenhoven’s view of being than they are with Dooyeweerd’s. For Dooyeweerd, created reality exists only as meaning. Created reality is from, out and to the Origin, to which it refers.
  9. Vollenhoven warns against dualism “in the sense of: the transcendent is unchanging, the non-transcendent is changing.” But Dooyeweerd’s view of thesupratemporalis not that of the static and unchanging. As of the date of this lecture, Vollenhoven should have known Dooyeweerd’s views about this. It is explicitly set out in Dooyeweerd’s long footnote at NC I, 30-32. In that footnote, Dooyeweerd criticizes Vollenhoven’s idea of a temporal pre-functional heart, and Dooyeweerd specifically denies that the supratemporal religious center is to be found in a rigid and static immobility. Dooyeweerd says that the Bible does not even ascribe to God any supratemporality in this Greek metaphysical sense. (NC I, 106, ft. 1).
  10. Vollenhoven uses the term ‘mantle of functions’ [functiemantel]. Dooyeweerd uses the same word ‘functiemantel’[mantle of functions] to refer to thebody that is the temporal expression of our supratemporal selfhood. Vollenhoven has only the idea of a pre-functional heart, so this usage does not fit as well with his philosophy.
  11. Vollenhoven rejects the inner-outer view of the soul. He says that it is related to the interaction theory. But that is not always the case. Dooyeweerd stressesinnerness, but there a reciprocity between center and temporal embodiment, but that is not the same as a dualistic interaction theory.
  12. Vollenhoven’s exegesis of soul ornepheshwas much influenced by the views of A. Janse, whom he mentions. The connection with Janse’s writings, and Janse’s influence on Vollenhoven has not been sufficiently explored. See the discussion below under heading D. [Other disagreements]. Vollenhoven’s exegesis of nephesh must be contrasted with Dooyeweerd’s understanding of Scripture, as well as Dooyeweerd’s understanding of the Scriptural use of the term ‘heart.’ For Dooyeweerd, our experience of the supratemporal heart and religious root is itself the key of knowledge of Word-revelation. See In the Twilight of Western Thought, 125, 135. On page 145, Dooyeweerd says,

The Jewish Scribes and lawyers had a perfect theological knowledge of the books of the Old Testament. they wished, doubtless, to hold to the creation, the fall and the promise of the coming Messiah as articles of the orthodox Jewish faith which are also articles of the Christian faith. Nevertheless, Jesus said to them: “Woe unto you, for ye have taken away the key of knowledge!

  1. Vollenhoven claims to agree with Dooyeweerd regarding theGegenstand-relationas being more than a subject-object relation. But in his last article, Dooyeweerd argues that the Gegenstand-relation depends on the idea of the supratemporal selfhood. See Dooyeweerd’s last article, “De Kentheoretische Gegenstandsrelatie en de Logische Subject-Objectrelatie,“ written in 1975 (two years before his death). Dooyeweerd’s view of theory as the Gegenstand-relation depends on a view of cosmic time, and upon our selfhood as outside of cosmic time, which Vollenhoven did not accept. Vollenhoven begins with the individual thing, but Dooyeweerd begins with the supra-individual heart. Since Vollenhoven rejects the supratemporal selfhood, he cannot agree with Dooyeweerd regarding the Gegenstand-relation, except to the extent that he can say that the subject-object relation is not enough.
  2. For Vollenhoven, time is not limited to the body or to the cosmos. For Vollenhoven, time is broader than the cosmos. The cosmos is in time. For Dooyeweerd, “cosmic time” is given with the cosmos, and is whatdifferentiatessupratemporal totality into temporal diversity. Dooyeweerd limits “cosmic time“ to the cosmos. Dooyeweerd speaks of a more complete time, the aevum, as that which governs our supratemporal selfhood. It is not clear why Vollenhoven needs time to be more than the cosmos for his philosophy. He denies a supratemporal selfhood. Where does time then fit within his triad of God-law-cosmos? For Vollenhoven, God is not in the cosmos. Neither are the [structural] laws. And time is not in the cosmos. What does Vollenhoven mean by the statement that time is “subject between God and world?” The only way that I can make sense of this is that for Vollenhoven, time also includes the angels, who are created. I am not aware that he makes any distinction between time as if affects human created reality and time as it affects the angels. In other words, I don’t think that Vollenhoven has an aevum concept. In any event, humans do not participate in that aevum. Even new earth that is promised to us seems to be governed by the same time.
  3. Vollenhoven’s rejection of cosmic time means that he also rejects the analogy of theprism, which is so central to Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. SeeNC I, 101, 102. The prism has remained a popular image to explain the aspects in reformational philosophy. But reformational philosophy must abandon this image, at least as it is used by Dooyeweerd, if it follows Vollenhoven.
  4. In the summary about genesis, Vollenhoven curiously differentiates between sensory creatures and creatures with feeling. Dooyeweerd has simply thepsychicalsphere which incorporates both the sensory and feeling.Tol and Bril report that the student notes of Vander Stelt contains another entry here. Tol and Bril simply say that this idea occurs nowhere else in Vollenhoven.
  5. Vollenhoven rejects speaking about “the self“ and “the I.“ Dooyeweerd speaks about this in many place.
  6. Vollenhoven seems to emphasize that creation itself is not fallen, but only our “direction” towards it. I am not aware of any idea in Vollenhoven’s philosophy of humanity as thereligious rootof temporal reality. And that is not surprising, in view of the fact that Vollenhoven rejects the supratemporal self. Since he has rejected the supratemporal selfhood, all that Vollenhoven can say is that there is a “left” and a “right” direction for each aspect. I find that difficult to understand, unless in some moralistic way ( (as in his example of the alcoholic walking away from the bar). For Dooyeweerd, direction is either towards the Origin, or towards the temporal diversity in an absolutized view. For Dooyeweerd, this direction, and the change of direction, takes place in our supratemporal heart. For Vollenhoven, there are different directions possible in the aspects.
  7. Vollenhoven says that the priority teaching of the later Aristotle is the logical consequence of Dooyeweerd’s views of supratemporality. Elsewhere, Vollenhoven refers to this as “semi-mysticism.” But this assumes a dualism, and I believe that Dooyeweerd is more properly to be understood as a nondualist (for which Vollenhoven has no category in his problem-historical method). . In any event, the entire view of the later Aristotle has been challenged by a recent book by A.P. Bos,De Ziel en haar voertuig: Aristoteles’ psychologie geherinterpreteerd en de eenheid van zijn oeuvre gedemonstreerd (Damon, 1999), calls into question this whole distinction of early/late Aristotle. Vollenhoven’s view of the origins of what he calls “semi-mysticism” may therefore need to be re-examined.
  8. Vollenhoven says, “Norm only appears after the logical, for only in the logical do we speak of distinguishing.” This contradicts his statements in earlier articles that the normative/non-normative distinction is not to be found in the distinction of higher/lower modalities.
  9. Vollenhoven objects to the idea of beholding [aanschouwen] except for fantasy. Dooyeweerd frequently uses the word ‘beholding’ [aanschouwen], as well as ‘schouwen.’ And true Christian faith will find its fulfillment in the religious “vision face to face”[de volle religieuze aanschouwing] (WdWII, 228;NC II, 298). For Dooyeweerd, aanschouwing is related to our intuition, which relates our temporality to our supratemporal selfhood. Imagination is also involved, but Dooyeweerd’s view of intuition seems to me to be much richer than Vollenhoven’s mere appreciation of the “working hypothesis.“ Vollenhoven’s approach again sounds too rationalistic.
  10. Vollenhoven puts limits on the extent of love for the neighbour. I do not see this limitation in Dooyeweerd. For Dooyeweerd,loveis the central command in which all other commands coincide. In it is implied love for our neighbour.
  11. A final difficulty with all three of these articles and lectures by Vollenhoven is that he seems to give too much credit to himself for Dooyeweerd’s ideas. Of course the two men influenced each other in their discussions. But both were influenced by outside sources that were much more important. As students, both of them were aware of the writings of Frederik van Eeden and of Jakob Boehme. This is evident from the articles in the journalOpbouw, to which they contributed. Both Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven wrote about van Eeden. (SeeFrederik van Eeden for excerpts of Vollenhoven’s writings, and see Dooyeweerd’s article, “Neo-mysticism and Frederik van Eeden.“ Van Eeden discussed modes of experience, and has a list of modes that is similar to the initial modes put forward by Dooyeweerd. Both Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven were also influenced by neo-Kantians like Theodor Litt, and the neo-vitalists Hans Driesch and Felix Krueger. In 1920, Vollenhoven studied under Krueger for four months in Leipzig. These writers discussed many of the issues that were to preoccupy Dooyeweerd in the development of his philosophy. Finally, there was the enormous influence on Dooyeweerd of the Austrian philosopher and sociologist Othmar Spann, who edited a series of books called Die Herdflamme Sammlung. This collection included a volume devoted to the ideas of Franz von Baader. Spann also was highly influenced by Baader, and refers to him frequently. It is clear that Dooyeweerd was interested in this, since he cross-references a quotation from Baader that is referred to by both Litt and Spann.

Other disagreements

  1. According to D.F.M. Strauss (online discussion), Vollenhoven did not agree with the distinction between concept and Idea. Dooyeweerd of course strongly criticized Strauss’s own views. See Dooyeweerd’s last article, “De Kentheoretische Gegenstandsrelatie en de Logische Subject-Objectrelatie,“ written in 1975 (two years before his death). This article deserves to be studied closely by reformational philosophers today.
  2. Vollenhoven used Scripture in a different way than Dooyeweerd. For Vollenhoven, Scripture is one of our sources of knowledge. The other source is nature. (See Vollenhoven’s Isagooge). On the basis of Bible texts, Vollenhoven thought he could philosophize about heaven and world of angels, because they belong to created world. Dooyeweerd thought this was theology, not philosophy. See J. Klapwijk, “Honderd jaar filosofie aan de Vrije Universiteit,” (1980), cited by Verburg, 90).
  3. Vollenhoven’s own philosophy emphasizes a “Problem-Historical” method of interpreting the history of philosophy. Philosophers were analyzed as to whether or not they fell within certain categories or types, such as dualism or monism. Attempts have been made to correlate these categories with Dooyeweerd’s idea of Ground Motives, but I believe that these are very different views. Klapwijk thinks that the consequently problem-historical method is very different than Dooyeweerd’s dialectical way of thinking . Dooyeweerd thought that Vollenhoven too tightly and rigorously applied his method (Verburg 89). See my article, “Monism, Dualism, Nondualism: A Problem with Vollenhoven’s Problem-Historical Method
  4. Although Vollenhoven’s categories may be useful in some ways, their great danger is that they promote a way of philosophizing that is content with labeling philosophers. I think that the “filing cabinet” approach of Vollenhoven can easily be misused. It can too easily lead to pigeonholing thinkers. It need not, but often is used as a way of classifying thinkers, and once they are classified, that is the end of them.
  5. This danger of labeling others is compounded by the fact that Vollenhoven did not place himself within his own categories. The closest that he did so is when he acknowledged that his philosophy was probably monistic. There are reports that in later life he did place himself on his grid as an “interactionary monist.” Now Klapwijk says [in “Calvin on Non-Christian Philosophy”] that Vollenhoven initially saw Kuyper as dualistic, and Woltjer as more the monistic side of thinking. In contrast to Kuyper, Geesink and Woltjer’s basic assumption was that “man totally is and ought to be image of God.” But Klapwijk says that in his last few years, Vollenhoven made remarks “on more than one occasion that he sides with Gregory of Nazianzus and Woltjer.” In a letter dated Dec. 18, 1971, A. Tol confirms that Vollenhoven found much that was positive in Gregory of Nazianzus. Tol was then Vollenhoven’s assistant. (See Vollenhoven’sSchematische Kaarten, p. 293 for this reference to Tol).
  6. I believe that it is a real failing of Vollenhoven’s philosophy that he has not been more open as to his own starting point. This leads to a kind of privileged discourse that criticizes others without criticizing one’s own philosophy. This should be contrasted with Dooyeweerd, who emphasizes that the religious antithesis is one that runs through the heart of every one of us.
  7. Furthermore, it is a very real issue as to whether or not Vollenhoven’s categories are even adequate. For example, I do not believe that they are adequate to capture Dooyeweerd’s nondual philosophy. Vollenhoven’s division between the One and the many (or in your terms, unity and multiplicity) cannot do justice to nondualism. The nondual is not-two. But also not-one. And it is not a multiplicity. Unity and multiplicity are themselves analogical ideas (mathematical) that cannot capture the supratemporal. The idea of a monistic “oneness” is still dualistically related to duality and plurality. The fact that Vollenhoven does not have a category for nondualism means that Dooyeweerd’s philosophy has been interpreted as a monism with higher and lower contrasts (See Steen) or as a semi-mysticism (van der Stelt). Semi-mysticism is also how Vollenhoven characterizes Baader and Kuyper. But both of these ways of characterizing Dooyeweerd’s thought seem to miss the distinctiveness of nondualism. It is a mistake to regard it as in any way related to monism. And no one likes to be referred to as “semi” anything .I interpret Dooyeweerd as a nondualist. To call him (or Baader) a “contradictory monist” misses the point, and only emphasizes the dualistic assumptions from which such labeling derives. It is also rather pejorative. Why should their view be considered “contradictory” except from a viewpoint that starts with assumptions that reality must be divided up in a certain way?
  8. There is a danger that Vollenhoven’s categories will be used in the sense of different “paradigms of thought.” To refer to them as ‘paradigms’ falls into the constructivist error. The idea of paradigms was popularized by Kuhn’s 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. But Kuhn has himself stopped using the word ‘paradigm’ because of the way that term has been misused. Dooyeweerd’s emphasis on the religious basis of our Ground Motives seems to me to be a more helpful approach in avoiding such theoretical constructivism.
  9. I believe that any use of Vollenhoven’s categories or grid is philosophically harmful if we do not first place ourselves and Vollenhoven on the grid that we are using. If the grid cannot accommodate this, it needs to be changed. An unconscious metaphysics is much more dangerous than an acknowledged metaphysics.
  10. There is another fact that must be mentioned. Vollenhoven suffered a nervous breakdown in November, 1922. It was so serious that he was hospitalized (Henderson,Illuminating Lawp. 28 ft. 65). Henderson seems to say that this breakdown continued for several years, and that this is one reason that Vollenhoven’s philosophy developed in a different direction from that of Dooyeweerd. Henderson indicates that this breakdown occurred some months after the mysterious “find” in the spring of 1922 that gave direction to Dooyeweerd’s philosophy.

Further information regarding Vollenhoven’s breakdown is given by Mr. H. Nijenhuis, whom I understand to be a son-in-law of Vollenhoven. Nijenhuis gave a talk on Jan. 8, 2000 at the presentation of the book Vollenhoven’s Schematische Kaarten. See http://www.aspecten.org/teksten/teks.html.

Mr. Nijenhuis speaks about Vollenhoven’s breakdown. It started in 1922, and in the beginning of 1923 he was admitted to a clinic for ten months. This was at a time that he was 30 years old, married with three children. Nijenhuis says that the breakdown was due to a combination of his duties at the time as well as “a wrestling with difficult philosophical matter of a sensitive nature” (moeilijke en gevoelig liggende wijsgerige stof). He points to A. Janse, a teacher at Biggekerke, who had written about scholasticism in Reformed dogmatics, and had said that the “immortal soul” was neither immortal nor a soul.

Vollenhoven’s actual breakdown appears to have taken place in a morning service, that had to be broken off. The sermon concerned “becoming as a child.” Mr. Nijenhuis takes pains to show that this does not mean a reversion to childhood, but a second innocence.

As a result of this information, I have begun to look at the influence of Janse on Dooyeweerd. Vollenhoven himself wrote of this influence in his “In Memorium Antheunis Janse 1890 – 1960.” Vollenhoven says that contact with Janse began when, after reading Vollenhoven’s dissertation, Janse sent a long letter. Vollenhoven invited him to meet with him. Together they published an article about the activity of the soul in the teaching of math. Vollenhoven says that when he moved to the Hague, there was deeper contact, particularly concerning anthropology. Janse had come to a more fruitful view of the “living soul” than traditional speculation. Vollenhoven refers to Janse’s work concerning Lourens Ingelse (a mystic), and Janse’s warning that we should not replace childlike faith for an inner experience that posed in the literal sense a “deadly danger.”

The article that Vollenhoven wrote with Janse was “De Activiteit der Ziel in het Rekenonderwijs.” It was published in 1919 in Paedagogisch Tijdschrift voor het Christelijk Onderwijs. The article is interesting in several respects:

  1. It argues for the metaphysical existence of the selfhood as substance: there must be a soul to perform the act of counting. This appears to have some similarity to Dooyeweerd’s later view that a supratemporal selfhood is required for all acts, although Dooyeweerd never speaks of the selfhood in terms of substance. But whatever similarity there may have been in 1919, Vollenhoven later moved towards a view that denied the supratemporal selfhood.
  2. The article rejects the view that arithmetical concepts are the result of abstraction. Later, Vollenhoven seems to be more accepting of an abstraction view of theory, investigating the regularity of law. Dooyeweerd did not follow him in this.
  3. The article distinguishes between the act of thinking, the Gegenstand, the contents of the Gegenstand that distinguish it from other Gegenstände, and the “given” that is independent of thought. ‘Gegenstand’ is the object that is immanent within the spirit [geest], and that arises by the working together of the functions of the human spirit with the “given.”
  4. Vollenhoven gives as an example the representation “blue.” He distinguishes among:

(i) the act of representation, which is itself not blue

(ii) the Gegenstand “blue” which is the “what” of my representation

(iii) the content of the Gegenstand; that which specifically distinguishes it from “red” or from “chair” and

(vi) the “given” which in this case are vibrations by which we are made aware of colour.

This seems to be a different view of “Gegenstand” than in Dooyeweerd and Baader in that it does not specifically refer to the temporal and the supratemporal. In the article Vollenhoven does speak of the necessity of a “soul” to do the act of counting, so perhaps there was some agreement in their ideas at that time. But later, Vollenhoven rejected any idea of a supratemporal selfhood, and seemed to move towards the view that the Gegenstand concerned regularity of laws.

  1. Vollenhoven also disagreed with Dooyeweerd’s views regarding anticipations, retrocipations, object, and individuality structures. This was made clear in Vollenhoven’s response to Dooyeweerd’s address of January 2, 1964 to the Association for Calvinistic Philosophy [Vereniging voor Calvinistische Wijsbegeerte]. The subject of the gathering was “Center and Circumference of the Philosophy of the Law-Idea in a changing world” [“Centrum en omtrek van de Wijsbegeerte der Wetsidee in een verandereende wereld”]. Dooyeweerd said that the center was religious:

The core [kern, kernel] of the philosophy of the law-idea is not of a philosophic nature. The core of the philosophy of the law-Idea is of a central religious nature. And I believe that its strength is there, and that is also where its meaning for the future will lie. [Verburg 380, my translation]

Dooyeweerd indicated that many parts of this philosophy had been criticized:

Each part of this philosophy [of the law-Idea] must be critically weighed, because don’t forget, it is human work. With [being subjected to] such criticism I have had an alarming success! After the Second World War it came to the point, that I sometimes thought, “No pillar remains standing. For the moment everything lies knocked down flat. There is no part of this philosophy that has not been subjected to a sharp critique. The teaching of time, in my opinion a very fundamental piece of the philosophy of the law-Idea, has been struck at in its foundation.” The teaching of the law-spheres…has in various different parts been so injured that I thought, “Okay, now where are we going?” It was in fact said to me, “Yes, we agree with you, there is a diversity of modes of experience…, but we hesitate to speak of a historic aspect of experience,” and “We do not want to become historicists. That [aspect] must remain outside.” And others said, “Now, the intuition of time; it is such an all-encompassing time, in which all the aspects are fitted. That we can’t accept. There are aspects–the arithmetical aspect, the spatial aspect–which are timeless. We must maybe make time itself into an aspect…etc.” I thought, “There goes the whole philosophy of the law-Idea. [Verburg 380-81, my translation]

Verburg says that a long discussion ensued. Vollenhoven perceived that Dooyeweerd had been referring to his own disagreements, and Vollenhoven’s response was:

The theory of the law-spheres, the theory of the modalities–that has been splendidly developed by Dooyeweerd. The theory of retrocipations and anticipations, the theory of the object–these are rather mixed up [door elkaar geslagen], as I have recently shown. ‘Individuality structures’–I have always hesitated about that idea; I thought, “I don’t need that word.” And the theory of time–yes, I have a very broad understanding of that. But insofar as it concerns religion in philosophy, we are in precise agreement and therefore these other questions are of a different nature.

This discussion was in 1964, the year before Dooyeweerd’s retirement. Vollenhoven’s rather ungenerous response shows many disagreements with Dooyeweerd. I believe that Vollenhoven is wrong about being “in precise agreement” even with respect to the emphasis on the religious basis of philosophy. In The Twilight of Western Thought(1960) Dooyeweerd says that those who deny the supratemporal selfhood and its status as the root of temporal reality do not share the Christian Ground-Motive, despite their use of terms like “creation, fall and redemption.”

The history of dogmatic theology proves that it is possible to give an apparently orthodox theoretical explanation of the articles of faith pertaining to the threefold central theme of the Holy Scripture, without any awareness of the central and radical significance of the latter for the view of human nature and of the temporal world. In this case theological thought does not really find itself in the grip of the Word of God. The latter has not become its central basic motive, its central impelling force. Rather, it proves to be influenced by another, a non-biblical central motive, which gives to it its ultimate direction. (p. 191).

Dooyeweerd refers here to the motive of nature and grace. But do not his words also apply to those who, like Vollenhoven, deny the “ key of knowledge”–the supratemporal heart as the root of temporal reality? (pp. 122-125). Such philosophers have also not appreciated the “radical significance” of the Christian Ground-Motive “for the view of human nature and of the temporal world.”

  1. During the same1964 Lecture, Dooyeweerd made a plea for a wider ecumenism, and a reaching out to those who agreed with the philosophy but who did not want to join the “narrow circle” ofCalvinism. Vollenhoven disagreed with this proposal for greater ecumenism.

Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd differ greatly in their philosophy. Where they diverge, I prefer to follow Dooyeweerd’s path over that of Vollenhoven. If we follow Dooyeweerd’s original vision, then reformational philosophy will have to revise many ideas that it has mistakenly associated with Dooyeweerd. On the other hand, if reformational philosophy opts to follow Vollenhoven, then most of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy will have to be rejected. The importance of understanding the philosophy of both men cannot be overestimated.

Failure to recognize the differences between their philosophies has caused serious misinterpretations of Dooyeweerd, since he has often been interpreted from the standpoint of Vollenhoven’s very different philosophies. See my article Dooyeweerd versus Vollenhoven: The Religious Dialectic.