An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Interview with Andrew Basden (part 2)

This is part 2 of the interview with Andrew Basden, whose book The Foundations of Information Systems: Research and Practice has just been published. Part 1 of the interview is here.

The book utilises the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd and Andrew maintains the Dooyeweerd Pages.




Dooyeweerd was  Christian philosopher - how have non-Christians responded to your use Dooyeweerd's ideas?

Interestingly, I found it was non-Christians rather than Christians who liked his ideas:  Humanists, Muslims and Hindus.  I think Humanists liked Dooyeweerd because his aspects provide a welcome holistic view of things, which gets over the usual dualisms that occur.  I think that Muslims and Hindus especially liked the fact that in Dooyeweerd's scheme the religious (pistic) aspect is laid alongside all the others, not as dominating them nor as ignored, but as of equal value.  It led me to be able to say in class, something like "In the pistic aspect, my own belief is that God has created all and that he sent Jesus to open up a way to himself; now, please tell my your beliefs ..."  With Dooyeweerd's aspects I can be open about my faith and its effects on my thinking without forcing it on others, and can recognise that religious or ideological beliefs affects thinking.  


What challenges have there been to your Christian beliefs working in a non-Christian academic setting?

None.  At least, it has not caused me to doubt or anything like that.  On the contrary, it has enlivened my Christian faith.  You see, alongside various other influences like Calvinism and the Charismatic movement, I was brought up on what some might deem pietistic theology, such as holiness or the ideas that were important in the East African revival of the 1920s, of deep honesty and fellowship of equals around the Cross of Christ.  This view challenges us to humility, gentleness, and all the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and all aspects of his fruit are very helpful in the living situation of a non-Christian academic setting.  How to be gracious, gentle, how to forgive, how to allow myself to be forgiven, and so on.  Listening and genuinely understanding is part of that.  Just as we might find in any church community if we are honest.  

It has *shaped* my Christian faith, even if not challenged it.  For example, I discovered that many non-Christians can actually do genuine good (which the Calvinistic streak in my upbringing would deny), so it challenged me to work this out theologically.  I also discovered that many non-Christian thinkers generate really good academic material.  Example:  J¸rgen Habermas, John Searle, Michel Foucault.  Each one has explored and opens up something of the wonder of God's created reality, helping us understand it - even though each one is constrained by his (what Dooyeweerd called) Immanence-standpoint or other such deep beliefs.  

As a result of seeing this, I began to really appreciate the beauty, power and usefulness of Dooyeweerd's ideas.  Dooyeweerd's ideas are both so practical and also so deeply philosophical, and are not so limited as conventional philosophers seem to be.  What I find is not that Dooyeweerd stands against these philosophers, but that he can affirm, critique and enrich them.  The key ideas of each one finds a resonance somewhere in Dooyeweerd's ideas.  

This sounds, of course, as though "Dooyeweerd is the answer to all questions".  Not so.  Dooyeweerd might have offered a framework for understanding philosophy, but he did not work out the details, and where he did work out the details, some of his thinking is at best unfinished and at worst, just wrong.  Many of the insights from mainstream philosophers can inform Dooyeweerdian ideas.  

Dooyeweerd himself recognised this.  He is accused by some of being too influenced by the Existential and Linguistic Turns in philosophy.  I would see it, rather, that both he and they recognised the importance of meaning.  He proceeded to work from the idea of cosmic meaningfulness, while they worked from what they could empirically experience, and Dooyeweerd and they met half way, and Dooyeweerd realised they could inform him.  


What advice do you have for Christians scholars working such a setting?

One is to get your relationship with Christ right; learn to walk with Father God in life, with Christ on the throne of your life, rather than yourself on the throne.  See yourself not as right, nor as being blessed by God (though both are probably true), but as having the responsibility to be used by God to bless the world He made.  Anything done 'to advance my career' or for other similar motives, will ultimately fail.  Treat all failures as gifts from your Heavenly Father to help you learn to walk with Him.  

Another is to recognise that the world that God is blessing, through you, the academic world of scholarship.  That reverses the direction of the last 100 years, in which Christians have retreated from contributing to the theoretical content of humanity's bodies of knowledge, and I believe there might be a move of God today towards engagement with His world that is new.  


Are there any other projects in the pipeline?

Too many!

1.  A book that introduces Dooyeweerd's philosophy in a way that researchers in a wide range of disciplines can find useful as a reference volume.  Hopefully to be delivered by end of 2018, to come out 2019.  

2.  To write several major papers in major international journals that apply Dooyeweerd's ideas in various ways - expanding on ideas in my book.  

3.  To establish a Dooyeweerd Research Fund, which will be funded by continuous subscription or donations, and will provide small amounts of funding to stimulate research in all fields using Dooyeweerd's philosophy.  I am sad at the very limited penetration of Dooyeweerd into the various fields, compared with other philosophers.  

4.  To not only keep developing the Dooyeweerd Pages website but to revamp it before I get senile!  ("http://dooy.info/") 

5.  To develop and promulgate a theology in which engagement with the world and especially environmental responsibility is not just a bolt-on but is central to God's Plan of Creation and Salvation.  We need a theology of this, which does not ignore the various movements of God throughout the centuries but incorporates their insights.  ("http://abxn.org/nv/")  

6.  To publicise all of these especially in the mainstream media.  

7.  Oh, and I would love to get the Dooyeweerd Pages and my books translated into Chinese and Arabic, so that people in other cultures could benefit from Dooyeweerd's ideas.  


What do you like to do for fun?


Walking in the Pennine hills and other places - I would love to get back to Scotland.  Seeing hills, streams, plants, birds, insects, etc.  Visiting historical sites.  Playing computer games with good content: ZAngband and Settlers on my Amiga computer, and Clash of Clans, Settlers of Catan and Minecraft on my tablet.  Playing non-computer games.  Listening to some comedy (love Henning Wehn).  Reading biographies of people who took God seriously.  Hearing music of nearly all kinds (love Sibelius, The Proclaimers).  Adding material to various websites, including the Dooyeweerd Pages ("http://dooy.info").  Electronics if I have time (which I don't).  And being a domain reseller, making up new Internet domains!

Friday, 26 January 2018

Interview with Andrew Basden (part 1)



Andrew Basden is the Professor of Human Factors and Philosophy in Information Systems at Salford University. He maintains the Dooyeweerd Pages and his book The Foundations of Information Systems: Research and Practice has recently been published by Routledge (full details here).

Here he responds to my questions about his influences, Dooyeweerd and the new book.



 Could you please tell us something about yourself?

Born and brought up in Scotland, I tend to like to integrate theory and practice, I value the 'everyday' side of life, and I love the natural world, especially wilderness.  Over fifty years ago, aged 12 at camp in the Scottish Highlands, I asked Jesus Christ to be my Saviour, as the way to acceptable to God, and my Master, so that my life since then has been governed by him more deeply than by myself or my own wishes.  At university I studied electronics and, while doing so, began to yearn for a faith that was relevant to my life here-and-now, rather than just for the future.  In the early 1970s, I received this and for the first time began to love God, not just obey him.  At the same time I became active in the environmental movement.  While undertaking a PhD in computer-aided design, I met and married Ruth.  We settled down into jobs and church life and during the 1980s we raised two lads.  I returned to academic life as researcher and lecturer in the late 1980s.  I felt called by God to stand for election for the UK Green Party, and began to take part in seminars on Christians in politics.  It was there, in the mid 1990s, that I heard of the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd, which has shaped my academic life ever since.  It is perhaps the best philosophy of everyday life that is yet to emerge.  I'll tell you more about myself in as the interview proceeds.  


Who or what have been your main influences?

In no particular order: Scotland, Asperger's Syndrome, my family, Jesus Christ, the Bible, C.S. Lewis, biographies of Christians, a love of games, the natural world, my brother Nick, and Herman Dooyeweerd.  

Scotland I have explained above.  When I was in my late fifties, I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome; I had it all my life, but this explained various of my traits, both annoying and valuable.  One of the valuable ones is that I have always been able to think out of the box, see the 'elephant in the room' and talk without threat about things most people would avoid.  I have a liking for unusual or unpopular ideas - and perhaps the uniqueness of Dooyeweerd's ideas added to its attraction.  

My family:  Parents, siblings, my wife Ruth and two sons.  Each have shaped me and I owe a considerable amount to them.  

Jesus Christ:  He is the one who has allowed me to know God personally, and he is the one to whom I owe my entire life.  He has shaped my whole life, character, personality, ideals, aims in life, and means.  He is the meaning of my life.  He is also my destiny: I believe that what I do here and now will 'translate' into the next life when I am with him in eternity; that is exciting, and it makes everything worthwhile.  

The Bible:  I love the Bible, as God's unique and important communication to the world he loves (the 'Word of God' is written form).  But I don't love standard Christian interpretations, each of which I see as a theorization of what God is or has been communicating.  Too often, Christians tend to take yesterday's theorizations for today, when God wants to emphasise something new.  

Take Romans chapter 8, for example.  In it, I find three Dimensions of Salvation, each of which has entered the world at a different time in history.  Dimension 1 is that in Christ there is no condemnation before God; this was rediscovered during the Reformation, 500 years ago.  Dimension 2 is that the Spirit of God leads us here and now, and we experience God as 'Daddy': a here-and-now dynamic relationship rather then merely a hope of forgiveness and eternal life; this was rediscovered about 150 years ago via the Holiness and Pentecostal movements.  Dimension 3 is that "Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the 'sons' of God"; this is being rediscovered today.  

For me, this takes two forms.  One is our responsibility for the non-human creation.  In these days that needed as never before, since humanity is destroying the earth at a faster rate than ever before because of increased population and demands, amplified by technology and economy.  The Bible suggests to me that if we are to truly address our environmental problems, then this cannot be done via education, media, economics, government policy and the like; it requires what used to be known as religious revival - with or without the emotion.  It requires people indwelt by the Holy Spirit to take the lead.  

The other form is academic life.  "The creation" includes the cultural worlds (perhaps nicely delineated by Dooyeweerd's aspects?).  One of these is academia.  After centuries of service to the world, academia is today losing its meaning.  But God's people, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, might take a lead in reforming it.  I see that is what God was using Dooyeweerd to begin to do - as a long-term project.  

This is what impels me towards both environmental sustainability and linking my faith with my academic work. 

In the midst of this, I find C.S. Lewis' writings very helpful.  Also, biographies of Christians especially missionaries who have taken God seriously.  Both inform my understanding of Dimensions 1, 2 and 3 of Salvation.  

Love of games:  I love playing games, both computer and non-computer.  This has kept me aware of issues that have been largely ignored by most academic discourses.  For example, the field of information systems is only just now waking up to computer games as a valid research area - and even so it distorts them into 'gamification' (serious games) rather than truly understanding the fun that computer games can be.  So I mention games a lot in my book.  

The natural world:  I feel at home in, and love, wilderness, plants of all kinds, birds of all kinds, most insects, and most animals.  Whereas some people spiritualize it as a stimulus to worship, I have a creational relationship with it that I believe God intended.  When Francis of Assisi called the animals his brothers, that rings true for me.  

My brother Nick:  Nick has modelled the love of our Heavenly Father, and how to see things in different ways, and how to cope with adversity.  

Herman Dooyeweerd:  At last I have found a philosophy of everyday life.  Interestingly, I adopted his philosophy not because it is a 'Christian' philosophy but because it 'works' better than others.  That Dooyeweerd shared my faith is a bonus - and also an explanation of why he was able to come up with such radical and useful ideas about meaning and everyday life.  

 How did you get introduced to Dooyeweerd's philosophy?

I was at a seminar on Christians in Politics at the Spring Harvest celebration in 1993 or 1994 and recommended Paul Marshall's book Thine is the Kingdom - the book that had inspired me to become involved in Green politics.  A guy at the back (Revd. Richard Russell, who runs the Christian Studies Unit) told the assembled company that the book had been remaindered and he had all the copies.  He then took me for coffee and asked me if I knew the background to Paul Marshall's ideas: the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd.  Richard gave me an overview of Dooyeweerd's aspects - which I immediately saw could help me understand the conflicts in the Green movement, and also the challenges of benefits and harm in using information technology.  

Your new book  The Foundations of Information Systems: Research and Practice has just been published. What is the main aim of the book? What prompted you to write it?

I am near the end of a very interesting career, during which I have found Dooyeweerd's philosophy to be extremely helpful in understanding all the areas of interest that I have worked in: computer science, artificial intelligence, knowledge-based systems, human-computer interaction, information systems, computer games, IT development, and societal issues - both technical and social areas.  Not many philosophers can achieve this, but Dooyeweerd did.  

So I want to leave behind a means by which people can understand Dooyeweerd and his usefulness.  That is primarily why I wrote the book.  It explains Dooyeweerd's philosophy to a degree that I think people would be able to work from even if I wrote nothing more, and it discusses how Dooyeweerd's philosophy can do two things in each of five areas.  One is to provide a foundational understanding of each area.  The other is to engage with discourses in the area - over 50 of them.  I don't want to reject or replace the ideas on which each discourse centres, but to affirm what is valid, critique the underlying presuppositions, and enrich the ideas, all using Dooyeweerd and the foundational understanding I have constructed.  

The five areas spread across both technical and social, and are seldom brought together:  the nature of ICT (information and computer technology) and the artificial intelligence question, ICT in use and its benefits and problems, ICT features that annoy or delight us, ICT and society, and ICT development.  A secondary aim of the book is to show how these things can be integrated rather than kept separated, using Dooyeweerd's ideas.  


How does it differ from your previous book  Philosophical Frameworks for Understanding Information Systems?

Both books offer a way to understand the five main areas of concern in the field of information systems, and the later book advances the older one.  However, the biggest difference is that, in the older book, that is almost all I did.  In the new book, I also discuss how these ideas can engage with extant (existing) ideas in each of the areas.  

I briefly examine over fifty discourses that are going on, ranging from computer programming and artificial intelligence, through the usefulness of information technology, to its impacts on society, to identify what issues are most meaningful in each.  Then I propose a Dooyeweerdian foundational understanding, and with that, I try to affirm, critique and enrich each of the discourses.  

For example, much of the discussion of the usefulness of ICT is about how it helps reduce costs or increase profits - a potential it has that is meaningful in the economic aspect.  However, there are fourteen other aspects in which it has potential for good or ill, such as enhancing (or confusing) communication (lingual aspect), promoting or undermining justice in society (juridical aspect), making people more selfish or more generous (ethical aspect), and so on.  All these potential aspectual impacts need to be taken into account when judging information technology - yet usually only a few are.  In such ways, Dooyeweerd can help the discussions about social media.  


And that is only one of the fifty discourses that I examine.  In the final chapter, I provide practical suggestions for over a hundred research projects that could be undertaken using Dooyeweerd's ideas - it would be great if Dooyeweerd's ideas will be taken up by many students who are looking for PhD projects to do.  



Saturday, 20 January 2018

Evidence for the increased interest in Abraham Kuyper #kuyperania

Data taken from https://books.google.com/ngrams - utilising books from 1800 to 2008. This shows the increased interest in the work of Abraham Kuyper:

Have books with the term 'worldview' peaked?

Data taken from https://books.google.com/ngrams - from books during the period 1800-2008: One thing looks obvious and that is worldview has taken over from world view or world-view as they way to write the term.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Journal for Christian Scholarship - special Reformational Issue vol 53 (2017)


The latest issue of Journal for Christian Scholarship is a special issue devoted to Reformational philosophy.

– Tinus van der Walt
An exploration of H.G. Stoker’s (1899-1993) contributions to methodology

– Renato Coletto
Khosrow Bagheri Noaparast and Islamic scholarship: a Calvinist appraisal

– Danie Strauss
Function laws and type laws – a significant link between philosophy and the special sciences

– Heinrich Alt
Platonism, nominalism and Christian philosophy

– Andries Raath
Politokrasie en staatsoewereiniteit. ’n Vals deuntjie uit ’n antieke fluit