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Reith Lecture 2000 by HRH The Prince of Wales

On 17 May 2000 His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales gave part of the 2000 Reith Lecture. It was an excellent lecture, in which almost every sentence said something important, and the argument ranged across many themes, yet all were connected.

This table consists of phrases and thoughts from that lecture, linked to Dooyeweerdian philosophy and other Christian thought. I did not manage to record the phrases verbatim, but sought to set down the most important ideas, concepts and messages. Some of the main issues discussed here include:

I trust it is useful. Comments, queries welcome, to "Dooy @ basden . u-net . com".

(Page to be completed.)

HRH Prince of Wales'
Concepts, Ideas, Messages
Links to other thought Various notes
Common theme in all lectures: Sustainable Development is enlightened self-interest. (We harm ourselves if we don't follow its tenets.)


Sustainability is wide-ranging, covering many diverse issues in a way that must be interrelated and yet not reduced to each other. The philosophical framework thus far proposed that best supports this is that of Herman Dooyeweerd, who proposed, among other things, that there are fifteen aspects in which we function.
  • They are irreducible to each other.
  • They are intertwined with each other.
  • Each has a distinct set of laws to which we respond.
  • If we respond in line with the laws of all aspects, then what we do and achieve will be beneficial, health-giving and sustainable.
See below on 'shalom' concept to explain why it is enlightened self-interest.
Patrizia Lombardi's Thesis (University of Salford, 1999) presents a close argument for Sustainability to be seen in these terms, especially in the context of urban planning.
But not all self-interest leads in the right direction. Putting self in a primary position ('pride', 'self-seeking') is root of evil. "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
We need to recover a sense of the sacred, the spiritual. Integration of sacred with secular. Dooyeweerd's critique of the Nature-Grace dualism that split them apart in the Middle Ages, and Christianity of all kinds still feels the results to this day.
Humankind has a sacred trust from our Creator. We are neither determined objects (as physicalist, positivist, rationalist science assumes), nor free agents (as anti-physicalist, interpretivist, anti-rationalist thinkers claim) but we are responsible agents. To God.
That trust is stewardship of the Creation. Hebrew word radah in the Cultural Mandate of Genesis 1:28, often translated as 'have dominion over', means "manage, but for the good of the one managed." See exposition of creational mandate and especially the word radah.
For Sustainable Development we must re-acknowledge the sense of the sacred. Because only seeing things from God's perspective, or at least the human-sized version of it that God has given us, will enable us to see all things in balance.
Without a sense of the sacred, we will come to treat the world as just one great laboratory of life. The cosmos is not ours to play about with; we are responsible agents, responsible to God. However, that does not prevent scientific endeavour; it puts it in its rightful place, as we shall see below.
The falsity of the reasoning that says that lack of scientific evidence of scientific effects gives us permission to proceed with whatever we wish to do.

On Science

According to Clouser science is the isolation of one aspect from the others, in order to study its laws. Each aspect is centre of a distinct scientific area. Given fifteen aspects, say, there are fifteen major scientific areas, each with different ways of knowing and proof (e.g. maths, physics, biology, linguistics, sociology, theology).

On How This Operates

The 'isolation' of a scientific endeavour breaks the relationships with all others aspects - which narrows our thinking. And leads to the false reasoning that HRH mentioned.
The Precautionary Approach is not a sign of weakness, but of strength and wisdom. When we act, we function in all aspects. And our activity has repercussions in many of those aspects - some good, some detrimental. But the aspectual laws still pertain, even when we are unaware of them. So the repercussions continue. Many are unexpected or hidden, especially if we focus on a single aspect, as we often do. Many repercussions via the later aspects take considerable time to take effect (e.g. those of the pistic aspect can take 100 years). Therefore we must take the Precautionary Principle. See Donald de Raadt's book Information and Managerial Wisdom.
The prevailing approach: to reduce all phenomena to mechanical process. (Betrand Russell: "All spots and jumps; without order or coherence.") Two of Dooyeweerd's aspects are:
  • The analytical aspect of distinction, or breaking things down; it is also the aspect of logic and the 'gegenstand' relation which gives life and power o science and theory. Spots and Jumps. It would be the aspect that Russell liked.
  • The aesthetic aspect of harmony, coherence (and also surprise, fun and allusivity). This is the aspect that brings things together, not as mere synthesis but as rich harmony in which everything is inntertwined in a meaningful way.
But both are relative, not absolute. So both play their proper part. Neither should dominate over the other.
Inability - or is it refusal? - to acknowledge a guiding (divine) hand. (Huxley: "Must rule out divine guidance ...") God as central to theoretical thinking. Interestingly, Dooyeweerd started with God. Not in a theological way, nor picking our Bible verses. But rather making sure the basic presuppositions of his scheme were God-friendly rather than anti-God. For example, that all that we experience is fundamentally meaningful and dependent on God, rather than that all we experience can be explained in terms of form and matter (ancient Greeks) or in terms of is and ought (Kant).

Note: Clouser explains why this is not a fundamentalist way of thinking.

"We must seek to work with the grain of nature, in everything we do."

The Shalom Concept.

Each aspect has its distinct set of laws; mainly determinative laws like gravity in the earlier aspects, mainly normative laws (that we can choose to go against) in later aspects. But even if we go against the laws of any aspect, those laws still pertain - and our going against them has repercussions. Negative, harmful repercussions if we go against the laws.

If we 'go with the grain' of all the aspects, our activity and living will yield 'shalom' - a sustainable state of health, deep prosperity, peace, joy, not only for ourselves but for all Creation around us.

Need to discover a reverence for the natural world. Reverence means holding in respect. If we hold the diverse Creation, and all its aspects in respect, then we will bring 'shalom' to all - and thus fulfil our sacred trust of stewarship. Note that reverence is natural to us, even though our pride rebels. Note also that reverence is not worship; we worship only the Creator, but we love, reverence and gently steward his Creation.
"Interdependence, interpenetration and reciprocity between God, Man and the Natural Universe." Central the the Biblical message, and also to Dooyeweerdian thinking, is interconnectedness and interdependence. Between all things in Creation (Dooyeweerd's aspects, though irreducible, are intertwined with each other). And between Creation (including us) and God. Two ways in which God 'penetrates' his Creation.
  • He 'upholds' it continuously.
  • Far more intimately and wonderfully, he entered his Creation, though being infinitely transcendent, in the person of Jesus Christ. We human beings cannot begin to understand what the nature of this is; but Jesus was fully human and fully divine.
It has been said that the interdependence we see in things around us is a reflection of our dependence on God and also of the relatedness in God.
More knowledge and fewer chemicals for our cropping. Organic farming. No comment. (Except that I am involved with knowledge based systems.)
Inner heartfelt intuition -


While theoretical thinking relies on abstracting an aspect from the situation in which we find ourselves, and in the extreme isolating that aspect (see above), everyday thinking involves functioning in all aspects, without being aware of them. Tacit knowing and tacit acting. That rich harmonising of all aspects of our functioning is the root of intuition.

Contrary to common assumptions, intuition is a 'higher' form of thinking than theory, not lower, because of its richness.

- telling us we are intimiately bound up with the mystery of life. As above, intuition is all about harmony.
The heart, not reason, experiences God. In a way that is so: the pistic aspect is the one 'open' to God, and also the human heart is that which responds, and the heart is beyond analysis. But in a way it is not true, in that if God has designed the aspects and their laws to reflect something of himself, then we can experience the characteristics of God in all aspects of our everyday living, In all these ways we can experience something of God's eternal nature (Romans 1).
Heartfelt instinct is a reliable guide. Wisdom of the heart. We must be careful to properly distinguish 'intuition' from 'instinct' as well as from 'intellect' (which Strijbos did well):
  • Intellect: theoretical thinking, making distinctions, science. Centred on the analytical aspect. Its validity lies in its ability to make clear distinctions and go into detail.
  • Instinct: centred on the sensitive aspect of feeling and sensory response. Its validity lies in its speed of operation, bypassing the mind.
  • Intuition: Rich harmonising of all aspects. Its validity lies in the richness with which it keeps all aspects and does not ignore any. Therefore intuition can be the most reliable guide of the three.
But note 'can be'. Intuition can be distorted, especially by our world views and ground motives. And then it is dangerous, rather than a reliable guide.
Socrates: "Wisdom is knowing that you do not know." God's diverse Creation is beyond our ever fully grasping it by means of theoretical thought. Therefore we should be clear that we do not know.
Information gained from science is essential ... As above, science allows us to discover and study the laws of an aspect in detail. The resultant knowledge can be very useful.
.. but there must be a balance between both the rational and the intuitive. Again, as above, the better knowledge is that which keeps all aspects harmonised, rather than isolating them.
.. if we are to fulfil our sacred trust given to us by our Creator/Sustainer. Our sacred trust is our stewardship of the Creation. This involves high quality ('shalomic') functioning in all aspects; that is, it means ensuring that all the repercussions in all aspects are all positive. Science, with its tendency to isolate, reduce and narrow, cannot achieve that. Only good quality intuition, as that mode of thinking that expressly involves all aspects, can enable us to fulfil our sacred trust.
Lessons of history: the past is relevant. In Dooyeweerdian terms, history is centred in the formative aspect. (Dooyeweerd sometimes called it the historical or cultural aspect, and included in its scope, with these two, technology.) Dooyeweerd has an interesting notion that embraces both the value of the past and the need to open up the future.
Self-control to use knowledge wisely. Self-control is part of the fruit of the Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22,23). In Dooyeweerdian terms it is centred in the economic aspect, whose kernel meaning is not finance or commerce but frugality, skilful use of limited resources. Hence self-control. Self-control should be seen as a very positive thing, that brings shalom, rather than a negative, constraining thing that we are best rid of.
Approach to education that balances the rational and the intuitive. See above. The rational is merely our functioning in just one aspect (the analytical). Intuition (when high quality) crosses all aspects.
The visible and the invisible world. No comment.
It's not about redesigning humanity nor re-engineering nature, but about reconnecting with the natural world. Design and engineering are centred on only one aspect, the formative. Reconnecting is something that occurs across all aspects - and therefore is hugely more important.
Chasm between cynical secularism and traditional religion. Dooyeweerd provided an excellent critique of this, as being part of the Nature-Grace dualism which was the ground motive of the Middle Ages up to the time of the Renaissance.
Three main thrusts:
  • Listen to our hearts.
  • Biodiversity.
  • Stewardship.
Balance is never as as much fun as the alternatives, but we must seek it for Sustainable Development. I believe HRH is wrong here. Balance, when it is harmony rather than mere numerical weighings, is of the aesthetic aspect, which also has within it fun and surprise. So this kind of balance can provide the best kind of fun there is.

But perhaps the type of 'fun' that is being referred to here is that distortion of fun that relies on taking advantage of the other, on gaining at the other's expense. In that case, the statement might be right.

This page is part of a collection of pages that links to various thinkers, within The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Email questions or comments would be welcome.

All but His Royal Highness' words and content (in the left hand column) is Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 2000.

Written on the Amiga and Protext.

Created: 2000. Last updated: 7 February 2001 copyright, email. 17 June 2010 .nav, .end, rid unet, corrected copyright date from 1999 to 2000!