interviewed you - what has been happening in the intervening months?
Several things. My main academic occupation has been getting several PhD students finished, and writing my new book, which has recently
The application papers expand themes that
In the rest of my life, I have been walking the hills, especially with the Manchester Pedestrian Club - a 'gentlemen's walking club' founded in 1903, in which "gentlemen" can now be
I've been working with the UK Christian Academic Network, meeting various
Andrew with some of his students
You have been an academic at The University of Salford for almost thirty years - what have been the highlights of your academic career so far?
Actually, 33 years, now! Somewhat sadly, retiring in May 2020. The highlights are diverse.
A major one is that I have been able to make sense of the dozen years I spent outside academic life before joining the university, in the medical profession, chemical industry and surveying profession. First, I developed some ideas in the fields of human computer interaction, knowledge acquisition, expert systems, geographic information systems and business informatics, without knowing about Dooyeweerd. It was when I discovered Dooyeweerd's philosophy in the mid-1990s that I
The second highlight is, therefore, the discovery and exploration of Dooyeweerd. It is such a rich philosophy, not as something apart from or superior to others, but as one that can affirm insights from others, offer
A third highlight is that my environmental concern,
What have been the discouragements and how have you dealt with them?
A couple, both about the Reformational philosophy community.
One example of this lack of interest is that, when Sytse Strijbos and Donald de Raadt set up the Centre for Philosophy, Technology and Social Systems, which ran working conferences for 20 years in which
Another example is that I tried to get a Dooyeweerd Research Fund going, which would offer pieces of financial support to those who wished to use Dooyeweerd in their research in various fields, but very few in the Reformational community seemed
Maybe I did not approach things in the best way (
As its main title, Foundations and Practice of Research,
One interesting nugget is that Dooyeweerd's transcendental critique of theoretical thought, which
How does this book differ from your previous work?
In three ways - in its coverage and aim, its treatment of day and its treatment of other philosophy.
(b) Dooyeweerd. As with my previous books, this one should be self-sufficient in its presentation of Dooyeweerd, but
(c) Philosophy. Whereas in my previous books, I discussed other philosophies first, to show how Dooyeweerd's fitted in, in this book, I postpone discussion of them to Chapter 5 after discussing his starting-points. That would be more appropriate for researchers in the various fields, especially those who are not aware how philosophy undergirds their thought. With this, researchers can understand how presuppositions guide them, not as some mysterious amorphous subterranean force, but as three distinct kinds of belief-activities in society (worldviews, ground-motives and standpoints).
You dedicate the book to Richard Russell as someone who started you on the adventure and Mike Winfield who turned the adventure towards empirical research. Are there others who have helped in your development and understanding of Dooyeweerd?
Yes, many. Perhaps some key ones include several connected with the CPTS, including Sytse Strijbos, Jan van der Stoep, Sander Griffioen and the late Arie
But perhaps most especially the late Heinz Klein, a 'father' of the information systems field, who is perhaps one of the best critical thinkers I have come across. Though not a Christian, and having expertise in Habermas and the Linguistic Turn, he valued Dooyeweerd's ideas and encouraged me greatly. Finally, the University of Salford, the then Vice Chancellor of which told me the university wanted me to "explore this Dutch philosophy in
Three questions there, but inter-related. Let me first say that I see Dooyeweerd as a human being who
That 'something' was a mix of radical ideas: everyday experience, diversity, coherence and meaningfulness taken seriously as starting-points for philosophy rather than being ignored or taken them for granted, the
Now, let me answer your three questions together
I might also have neatened the paths of Dooyeweerd's aspects, by trying to gain a more systematic understanding of each based on pre-theoretical intuition (which may
One of Dooyeweerd's paths, which I have seldom found helpful, is the one that takes us
With some surprise, however, I have found that most of Dooyeweerd's paths led me where I wanted to go, and needed little improvement.
In chapter 4 you develop Dooyeweerd's idea of meaning - could you briefly why this has been so important to your work?
There are practical, research, philosophical and theological reasons, which intertwine.
Practically and philosophically, life is full of meaningfulness. Meaningfulness is deeper than meanings that humans attribute (to things), interpret (sense-making in situations) or convey (by words), and even than the meaning of life. It refers to all things being meaningful
An emphasis on meaningfulness helps me in analysis: an emphasis on "Why?" rather than an emphasis on "What?" Dooyeweerd's aspects are spheres (or "modalities") of meaningfulness, not just law. Looking for meaningfulness via aspects opens up fresh ideas; often a paradigm shift occurs when some courageous thinker recognises an aspect of the meaningfulness of reality that previous thinkers had ignored or taken for granted.
Philosophically, it is this meaningfulness that enables all those above types of meanings listed earlier to occur, but philosophers have not realised this until recently. Dooyeweerd was ahead of them. Most of Dooyeweerd's 3000 mentions of "meaning", "meaningful", etc. in his New Critique were about meaningfulness, not the other kinds of meanings I listed above, and he explored
After centuries of ignoring meaning, philosophers
Only very few philosophers understand this meaningfulness, one being Michael Polanyi, who wrote that we "dwell" in meaning. I find it useful to think of the whole of reality 'swimming' in an 'ocean of meaningfulness' - something inescapable, something that enables and sustains all creation to be and occur, and something in which we are 'at home'. Theologically, I, as did Dooyeweerd, see meaningfulness as deriving from an Origin of Meaning, i.e. the Creator, God. (When Scripture mentions the Word of God, that which upholds all [Hebrews 1:3], think of meaningfulness!)
Sadly, Dooyeweerd never clarified what he meant, which led to misunderstandings (e.g. those who think he derived his ideas from Linguistic Turn philosophy and Phenomenology) and missed opportunities to engage with others and contribute value to mainstream thought. In the absence of any other
You speak of an 'adventure' — can you explain how Dooyeweerd transformed your thinking, your career and your life?
Dooyeweerd, especially his aspects, became a 'way of thinking' that affects all I am and do. Others have found similarly, even those with little interest in
It makes me open-minded and open-hearted because I can recognise that the 'other person' is finding a different aspect important, to the ones I do; and so I can and must respect their views. Conversely, it gives me confidence to respect my own ideas, seeing where they fit alongside those of others, so difference in viewpoint is no longer a conflict (win/lose) but a collaboration in bring good (of a variety of kinds) into the world. It suggests where they and I can make valuable contributions in our fields.
Dooyeweerd has encouraged my (academic) thinking to be much more interdisciplinary and open to new ideas. I can see where the wide range of ideas extant in a field fit.
Dooyeweerd has been central to my career; as I mentioned, the University
You seem to regard yourself more
Part III of the book is the 'practical' part, with three chapters. Chapter 9 is a systematic presentation of Dooyeweerd's fifteen aspects, designed to
Chapter 10 discusses the aspects of the fully human activity that is doing research, especially the less-obvious ones. This is to help researchers examine, and be critically aware of, their own research activity. It also explains my LACE approach to engaging with other thought: Listen, Affirm, Critique, Enrich.
Chapter 11 is the longest chapter. It collects together actual examples of use of Dooyeweerd in research, giving exemplars that others could adopt and adapt. I
The rest of the book sets the context for these. If "There is nothing so practical as a good theory" then Dooyeweerd provides that "good theory" and chapters 2 to 8 offer an understanding of that. This helps researchers
The book highlights fifty of the many opportunities that call for Dooyeweerd to
Your listen, affirm, critique and enrich
"Listen" comes from the command to love our neighbour as ourselves. "Affirm" comes from the idea that humanity
What things do you have on your bucket list?
A lot of repairs, redecorations and
Hmm. A random selection,
(a) Tom Holland's Dominion - a wonderful outsider's view of the blessing and curse that Christianity has brought into the world;
(b) Cromwell to Cromwell, a fascinating book I picked up in Oxfam about the English Reformation;
(c) Excerpts from
(d) The Noble Liar, a blast against the BBC;
(e) A children's story thriller Black Snow Falling.
I enjoy so many things that I might not need a luxury. So what would I choose? Scottish morning rolls freshly baked? Mashed potato? My wife Ruth's falafels? The Pennine Moors? The Scottish Southern Uplands? The Torridon hills? Glen Lyon? A pair of binoculars and a bird book? The complete works of