Proposals for New Aspects
Dooyeweerd proposed there were fifteen aspects of reality or meaning, aspects in which we function. But the question remains: was he right? He did not claim that his list of fifteen was the final absolute list, but rather that he had been thinking long and hard about it and found that these fifteen withstood all the tests he made of them. This page has two parts. In Part 1, we look at proposals made by thinkers in the Dooyeweerdian community for modifying Dooyeweerd's suite of aspects. In Part 1 we discuss principles for discussing and deciding such issues as whether a given candidate should be accepted as a new aspect or whether a couple of aspects should be merged.
See also tabular comparison with other suites.
Part 1 - Specific:
Part 2 - General:
A number of thinkers have suggested departing from Dooyeweerd's fifteen, normally by proposing extra aspects. This page attempts to bring together various proposals for different sets of aspects based on Dooyeweerd's original set. (For totally different sets of aspects, not based on Dooyeweerd's set, see other.suites.html.)
To help us critique proposals that modify Dooyeweerd's own, see guidelines in aspectuality.html. If Dooyeweerd's suite of aspects is a tier-2 proposal (i.e. trans-cultural positive proposal), then we should be rather cautious lest our desire to change things stems from our misunderstanding of Dooyeweerd's ideas.
In his book 'Understanding our World: An Integral Ontology', Hendrik Hart gives a list of aspects which is very similar to Dooyeweerd's but omits the lingual aspect. I think this is because, at one stage, it was thought that language was a necessary prerequisite to thinking.
Donald de Raadt works in systems theory and management, and has sought to integrate Dooyeweerd's aspects with the Viable Systems Model of Stafford Beer. He has been closely involved in practical situations, and has come across various things that seem to him not to fit the fifteen aspects well. For these he has proposed extra aspects, and he has also moved the analytical aspect to first in the list. His proposed changed (to date) are:
- Epistemic aspect. This is the aspect of 'knowing'. Since each aspect refers to some active functioning, and since 'knowing' seems to be some active functioning that we participate in, what aspect is it of? It is more than reasoning (analytical aspect), because it involves at least the commitment to memory and linking it with other things in memory. It doesn't seem to fit any of the standard fifteen. Hence a new aspect, the epistemic. Place this somewhere above the lingual.
- Operational aspect. What about the operations side of an organization? The achieving of things, planning, etc. This is a kind of practical knowing and experience. Where does it fit? Donald de Raadt suggested it is a new aspect, somewhere around the formative (which he restricts to the cultural).
- Logical aspect the earliest. Mathematicians believe that number is founded on logic and set theory. Therefore the quantitative aspect should be later than the aspect that refers to logic. This is the analytical aspect, so place it first.
Some support for the idea of new epistemic and operational aspects emerges when we consider the institutions of society, of which the different types seem to centre around aspects. If this is so, then what aspect qualifies a university and a technical or management college? Answer: epistemic and operational.
But I am cautious about these, for a number of reasons:
- Dooyeweerd spends 200 pages in NC discussing knowledge, and so I do not believe he would have missed such an important aspect out if he had thought it were properly related to a single aspect.
- Dooyeweerd's view of knowledge is that it is cross-aspectual, and that each aspect has its own distinct epistemology. Therefore there is no one single thing, or functioning, that we can designate as 'knowledge'.
- Theoretical knowledge is closely bound up with the analytical aspect whose kernel is not logic but distinction. Practical experience is multi-aspectual, according to Clouser, rather than qualified by a single aspect. (However, it could be that its multi-aspectualness is actually analogical echoes?)
- Achievement and planning are, IKHO, with the formative aspect, but de Raadt seems to have too narrow an understanding of this aspect that precludes technical things. So it is no wonder that he seeks another resting place for achievement.
- Concerning placing the logical aspect at the start. I suspect that de Raadt's view of the quantitative aspect is awry; its kernel is quantity rather than number. So set theory should be part of the quantitative aspect not the logical. The kernel of the analytical aspect is distinction-making rather than logic as such.
However, the discussion is far from ended, and my caution does not prevent me from sometimes thinking that de Raadt really has something here.
Arthur Jones, a biologist, has suggested that the kernel of the biotic aspect is not life functions but rather generativeness and differentiation. Uko Zylstra (Dept. of Biology, Calvin College) replied with the following interesting email (Oct 2000):
Arthur Jones comments about differentiation as linked to the biotic
sphere's kernel of "generation" does get at an important element of the
biotic modality. The recognition of
differentiation/generation/morphogenesis as a "kernel" of the biotic
sphere led me to argue for it as a distinct modality from the biotic
modality. I made that argument in my paper entitled: "Dooyeweerd's
concept of classification in Biology" as one of the essays in the
Festschrift for Evan Runner, "Life is Religion". In that essay I argue
for a three kingdom classification of living things with the biotic,
morphegenesis/differentiative, and sensory as the kernel modalites for
the three kingdoms respectively. Although present classification
theories in biology are usually based on a five kingdom classification
model, I think the criteria for such a classification is less
foundational than the one based on a modal analysis.
He therefore seems to be suggesting that there should be an aspect between the biotic and the sensitive whose kernel is morphogenesis.
Note that his argument is linked to the idea that kingdoms of natural entities are qualified by specific aspects. The argument seems to be as follows:
- Our researches have detected what appear to be three very distinct sets of pre-human living things (in addition to the two kingdoms of physical things and of human beings).
- According to Dooyeweerd the major kingdoms of entity types are qualified by aspects. (Entities of a kingdom can function as subject up to the aspect that defines that kingdom.)
- It is an important principle of Dooyeweerdian thought that theoretical analysis should defer to good empirical evidence.
- Therefore this suggests an extra aspect in between the biotic and the sensitive.
However, on the other hand, we can expect the boundaries between kingdoms to be blurred. So maybe these entities that seem intermediate are just part of that blurring?
The aesthetic aspect Dooyeweerd defined as centred on harmony. Seerveld criticised this for being too heavily influenced by classical views on aesthetics. Looking at what aesthetics has been more generally, he proposes that the kernel of what he would call the aesthetic aspect is nuancefulness, that is the nuance or suggestiveness of one thing found in another.
Roper, in an email, took a similar view. From his experience with music, he said, "In the first place, what is usually meant by musical harmony ... is something that is distinguished from melody, rhythm, polyphony and timbre. In other words it usually means the 'sounding together of different pitches'. I don't really think that you use the word 'harmony' in respect of music in this narrow sense. My problem then is, what do you mean by it? My point would be that all of the features of melody, harmony, rhythm, polyphony and timbre involve nuance or suggestiveness. Furthermore, even a simple melody or rhythm involves a unity and multiplicity of nuancefully qualified sounds, that may or may constitute a harmony. "
Seerveld's (and Roper's) view is important, in identifying nuance or suggestion as being something very important and distinct enough to require its own aspect. However, it may be criticised on the following grounds:
- He seems to lose any aspect of harmony. Harmony, no less that nuance, requires an aspect of its own. See brief discussion of the need for harmony-centred aspect. Of course, if we wish to retain an aspect of nuance, perhaps we could have both.
- His discussion of aesthetics seems too bound to Western culture [Does it? Check]
- His discussion of aesthetics seems too oriented towards 'high' or 'fine' art, or art of the leisured classes. Does he give enough credence to folk art, to art of the non-leisured classes, such as grafiti?
- He starts from the word or concept 'aesthetics', and asks himself "What is aesthetics?" rather than starting from our functioning and asking himself "In what distinct ways do we function meaningfully?" The former seems still bound to the presupposition of Existence, while the latter seems more in line with Dooyeweerdian thinking centred on Meaning.
To ask "Is nuancing and suggesting a distinct aspect from harmonizing? Can one be subsumed into the other, or do we need both?" would seem the better question, and one which can perhaps help us to resolve this debate.
However Roper's comment on that suggestion of splitting into two aspects, of harmony and nuance, is that:
"I agree with it [my statement that 'So, I do not believe that nuance can encompass the whole of harmony, even though it does anticipate it.']. That is because I do not think that kernel of what we
might call the aesthetic aspect is to be found in harmony. The latter, by
virtue of the retrocipations to what I think is its kernel - unity and
multiplicity - is differs from the aesthetic but, on the other hand, has a
very important role in the aesthetic.
"My problem with your wanting to split the aesthetic in two is that there is
no distinctive clarity in respect to the identification of the modal kernel
of harmony. ... As I've indicated above musical nuances do not exist apart from their
harmony (or disharmony). However, the same is of legal provisions, economic
interests, and historical developments of various kinds. This does not
mean that the latter are aesthetic."
The sensitive aspect covers two main things: sensory activity and emotion. These two things would seem markedly different, even though connected. So Roper (1992) proposed that it be split into two distinct aspects:
- Percipient aspect: to do with sensing
- Affective aspect: to do with emotion
He also adopts Seerveld's redefining of the aesthetic aspect, and reorders the whole so that the aesthetic aspect of nuance lies before the analytic and not after it.
His view may be criticised as follows:
- Just as Seerveld, he ends up depriving the aspectual suite of the aspect of harmony, and seems to have asked the same Existence-oriented rather than Meaning-oriented question.
Stafleu's Political Aspect
In "On the character of social communities; the state and the public domain" [Philosophia Reformata 69(2):125-39, 2005] Marius Stafleu has suggested that the social aspect as currently constituted under Dooyeweerd, covers two distinct things:
and that the latter should become a new aspect, the political, placed after the economic and before the juridical. (Stafleu seems to have dispensed with the aesthetic aspect that currently lies between those two aspects, largely taking Seerveld's line.)
- authority and discipline
Companionship is, says Stafleu, the basis for such social groupings as 'all German speaking people' and 'all Christian believers'. Authority and discipline are what characterise organized communities ('associations'), of which the state is the main example he discusses. He says in the abstract to the paper, "The view that organized social communities or associations differ from unorganized communities by having a kind of government or management exerting authority over the community appears almost obvious. Nevertheless it contradicts Dooyeweerd's view, distinguishing organized communities from natural communities because of their being founded in the technical relation frame (or modal aspect)", and argues that "associations have a dual character", "the principle of sphere sovereignty is the primary characteristic of an association", "the analysis of associations requires the recognition of the political relation frame", "the political relation frame is irreducible to the economical one", "the political relation frame is irreducible to that of justice" and then gives some application and noting that the state is of a special type.
I have long felt the tension between the two parts of the social aspect: companionship and authority, and I think Stafleu is right to open up discussion about it. It is a pity that the main type of association he refers to, the state, is "exceptional", as he admits, which makes me wonder whether his thinking has been overly influenced by what is exceptional. Be that as it may, I can also understand something of Dooyeweerd's own thinking as he kept them together, and I have the following reservations about Stafleu's proposed solution, of splitting off a political aspect from the social one and placing it after the economic aspect:
I have great difficulty in deciding what learning is aspectually. Learning is the taking on of knowledge, coming to know, coming to experience, coming to understand, practicing, the storing away of information, the storing away of memories, memorizing, the taking in of new information and linking that meaningfully with what we had there before, being transformed in various ways, changing our habits, changing our attitudes, changing our world views, and many other things.
- It leaves the social aspect effectively empty of meaning. The unorganized community such as that of all German speakers is not a matter of companionship but may instead be seen as a set of entities possessing the same property. If this is so, then such sets are defined by the analytic or at most formative aspect, not the social one. There is then no useful meaning left in the social aspect.
- Dooyeweerd's founding of organized communities in the technical (formative) aspect is valid because of the element of organization, which is precisely what the kernel meaning of that aspect is: formative power. It is a forming, shaping not of physical material but of social relationships. Therefore, one could argue that:
- All communities possess social relationships (approx. companionship).
- In organized ones, these have been shaped or formed.
- Dooyeweerd's view leaves open the possibility that though the shapes of some organized communities might be hierarchical (implying authority), others may have other structures such as networks (implying structure but no authority). Stafleu's proposal cannot allow that possibility. Whether Stafleu is right to disallow it is still an open question, and can only be answered by seeing whether, over the long term, non-hierarchical organized communities 'work'.
- Stafleu says [p.128-9] "Dooyeweerd reduces authority to power, control or command over people ... in my view authority cannot be reduced to power, control or command over people. If some authority has to resort to the exertion of power, it is a .. testimonial of incompetence, only excusable if the relation of authority or discipline is severely disturbed." I also have had concerns that Dooyeweerd's social-aspect authority, being pre-juridical and pre-ethical, lend validity to harsh, unjust forms of coercion. But:
- First, I cannot see that Stafleu's proposal solves that problem because his political aspect is also pre-juridical and pre-ethical.
- Second, I believe that Dooyeweerd's current proposal already contains a sufficient solution to this problem. As I understand it, while each aspect possesses its own norms, these are of limited scope and should not be expected to encompass our full-orbed notion of what is right and wrong without bringing in all the other aspects. Dooyeweerd stressed that all the aspects should be taken together. If this is so, then it is invalid to argue against Dooyeweerdian social-aspect 'authority' on the grounds that, on its own, it cannot guard us against improper coercion.
- Real life associations (concrete, entity-side ones that actually happen) function in all aspects. They are responsible (e.g. ultimately to God) in all aspects for their life as associations, and this responsibility is in all aspects. Therefore associations in which unjust coercion occurs are rightly condemned, but they are condemned under the juridical rather than the social aspect.
- Stafleu seems to be expecting too much of a single aspect. A single aspect enables us to function in a way that has a particular type of meaning, and provides norms related to that meaning. Each aspect thus contributes a different enabling or potential, and, though it might anticipate that of later aspects, it does not provide the enabling provided by those later aspects. Thus the social aspect enables companionship, including an organized form of that to form associations in which some control is exerted, but does not provide enabling for just or unjust versions of those.
- Finally, I wonder whether the problem lies in our use of the word authority for the structuring we find in organized communities.
Those who would say that learning is analytic ignore the formative element of it. Learning by rote has an important lingual element. Learning by practice, especially in a sport, has an important pre-analytic, sensitive element.
If learning is meaningful primarily within one aspect (i.e. qualified by a single aspect) then it is clear that this aspect must be after all these aspects (because of Dooyeweerd's theory of aspectual dependency). But it is not clear which one. Yes, we can make a case for placing it within various aspects (e.g. the pistic since learning involves a commitment) but this seems like squeezing a round peg into a square hole.
One problem is that Dooyeweerd himself did not seem to discuss learning. The word 'Learning' does not appear in his index, and 'Education' only three times, all within the context of his discussion of the family as a social structure (NC III: 267, 274, 275). (It seems that a Dooyeweerdian view of learning and education is long overdue.)
I tend to the idea that learning is multi-aspectual, trans-aspectual, rather like 'being', 'becoming', 'functioning', and, especially 'knowing'. Learning's close association with knowing also suggests this.
It has been claimed that Dooyeweerd himself never set out a clear list of all the aspects. Others derived the list from what he wrote. Therefore, it is claimed, we should not see his fifteen as absolute.
As we have seen, De Raadt (1997) kept on adding new aspects and rearranging them because he kept finding things in modern life that do not seem to him to easily fit into Dooyeweerd's proposed fifteen. He points out, quite reasonably, that when Dooyeweerd was working (mid twentieth century) neither systems science nor informatics had emerged as important areas of study, so we can expect to keep on finding new aspects as society moves forward and new technologies and ways of thinking develop.
De Raadt's reasoning is plausible. But it hits at the very root of Dooyeweerd's concept of aspectuality because it implies that we can never arrive at anything near a complete set of aspects, not even a good set. It could be argued that if new aspects need to be added every few decades then Dooyeweerd's concept of aspect is flawed.
Dooyeweerd does in fact list the aspects, both as a full list of fifteen (as on the first page of his Prolegomena of his New Critique of Theoretical Thought, and also at various places throughout the work, as either sub-lists or full lists. What he does not do is to claim an absolute truth for his list. However, it is clear that he at least believes these fifteen to cover all the aspects that he, in his years of thinking, has encountered.
I believe that Dooyeweerd's set of fifteen is pretty good, and will stand the test of time if properly understood, because (this is summary of a fuller discussion).
- Other suites of aspects seem to be a subset of Dooyeweerd's, which has wider coverage; see our comparison.
- Dooyeweerd's suite is well thought-out.
- Most suites have the role of being little more than distinct categories. Dooyeweerd's suite is far more than mere categories.
- Aspects are no mere scientific or logical categories but are of the rich everyday lifeworld.
- Dooyeweerd investigated the characteristics of aspects.
- Dooyeweerd's notion of aspects has a philosophical underpinning.
- Dooyeweerd proposed explicit ways of testing and refining his suite.
- He spent a life's work thinking about the aspects, with little intellectual axe to grind within the conventions of the time.
- He took into account what others had written over the past 2,500 years.
- His suite is coherent with the rest of his philosophy.
- Dooyeweerd's aspects are grasped by intuition rather than theoretical thought. They are easy to understand.
Therefore we are justified in adopting his suite as a starting point, even though we may refine it sensitively as we use it.
Situation: we have a concept of something we experience in life around us, e.g. 'knowledge', e.g. 'humour'. We find it doesn't quite fit into the current list of aspects very naturally. Is a new aspect to be created for it? Or what do we do? We certainly do not want to 'force' things into the aspectual system. Here are some suggested tips on how to approach it; below we have specific guidelines; see also the new page on Identifying Aspects:
- Remember that the aspects are intuitively grasped, rather than logically defined. So give some priority to intuition.
- Remember that the aspects "do not refer to the concrete what of things or events, but are only the different modes of the universal how" (Dooyeweerd, New Critique, p.3). So, is my concept of a thing or an event, rather than of a 'how'? If so, I am bound to have difficulty if I go any further.
- Try to see if our single label actually refers to a number of different things. e.g. 'knowledge' probably speaks of at least two main activities: analytical thinking and communication of the results of thinking. In doing this, try to find a wide range of instances of the use of the concept, in a wide range of contexts and purposes. If we do find there are several things, then ask: does each now fit an aspect naturally?
- See if our understanding of an aspect is limited. For instance, for a time humour did not seem to fit anywhere. But then, in discussion I discovered the view that true harmony (kernel of aesthetic aspect) requires a certain amount of 'disharmony' (as it was first called), by which was meant, difference. Thus the element of surprise we find in life is of the aesthetic aspect. Hence so is humour. After that I found that Seerveld had written much on the element of play and humour in the aesthetic aspect.
- Maybe the concept is one of those few that are across all aspects. For instance, meaning and time are across, and outside, all aspects. So is behaviour and knowledge (in its widest sense).
In the case of knowledge, it is likely that it is not confined to a single aspect, though de Raadt proposes the epistemic aspect for it, because Dooyeweerd was certainly not unaware of it (taking 200 pages or more to discuss knowledge). If Dooyeweerd had believed that knowledge were of an aspect he would surely have given it one.
How to Propose a New Aspect
We might think that something in life is not covered by the existing aspects, or we might believe a current aspect needs splitting in two. Here are some guidelines for what a proposal for a new aspect needs to contain before it can be appropriately judged and discussed. (Example: Gareth Jones is proposing a new Integrative aspect, splitting aesthetic 'beautiful harmony' into two aspects.)
See Tips on Identifying Aspects.
(I did make up a list of guidelines here. But then found a better list there, which I structured a bit.)
This is part of The Dooyeweerd Pages, which explain, explore and discuss Dooyeweerd's interesting philosophy. Questions or comments are very welcome.
Compiled by Andrew Basden. You may use this material subject to conditions.
Written on the Amiga with Protext.
Created: 4 October 2000.
Last updated: 7 February 2001 copyright, email. 18 September 2001 Added Seerveld's aesthetic, subsection on need for harmonic aspect, and Roper's splitting of the sensitive. 17 September 2002 added contents and link to tiers. 25 November 2002 need.harmonic subsection moved to aesthetic.html. 26 December 2002 added Roper's cmts on aesthetic. 27 December 2002 added label. 3 March 2003 .nav, brought in only.15, trust.dy, new.aspect from aspectuality.html. 9 April 2003 rewrote why we can trust suite. 16 April 2004 Learning. 13 January 2005 Stafleu's political aspect. 11 May 2005 added that other suites are subset. 20 March 2006 Proposal for new aspect - then removed to idasp; links to idasp. 17 September 2010 more reliance on suite#good. 28 June 2011 error analytic+al. 11 April 2012 Stafleu's political aspect in contents (thanks to Rob Nijhoff). 3 September 2015 corrected '../'; rid counter; new .nav.