Transcendental Pragmatism

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search

More information

See also: Religious Ground Motives Behind Human Thought

Bibliographic Guidance

Matthew McNatt:


"One way to think of Dooyeweerd is as a transcendental pragmatist, who explored not (as Kant did) what beliefs we must hold in order to make sense of our recurrent encounters with what we cannot deny but, rather:

1. Ways in which all of us are already acting to make sense of our world(s),

2. Conditions under which each way of acting stop reliably working,

3. Ways that new ways of acting (have) thereby emerge(d), and

4. Ways that these later ways of acting—including those through which we develop distinctive ground motives—(have) then spill(ed) back into and, inevitably, continue(d) to shape what any of us do when our actions are "led" by prior ways of acting.

These ways of acting, for Dooyeweerd, were and are always meaningful, and they constitute how each of us—as thoroughly interdependent creatures—carry forward in the world. It is not that primarily, we consciously "make meaning" of things (though of course we come to do so), but rather that from our earliest moments we are already enmeshed in a network of meaning, of which our activity is a part. "Meaning is the being of all that is created," he wrote, "and even of our selfhood and the nature even of our selfhood." Dooyeweerd saw rationalism—and, especially dualism—as an idol that had displaced, in the hearts of too many Christians, a sense of responsiveness to and participation in and with the Divine already at work in the world. In logic and mathematics, Dooyeweerd's project is related to Brouwer's intuitionism, which was carried forward by Arend Heyting's (and, independently, Andrey Kolmogorov's) intuitionist logic and, later, carried forward by Martin-Löf type theory.

If you're interested in exploring Dooyeweerd further, the gateway I recommend is not actually by a scholar of Dooyeweerd but by a more contemporary philosopher whose work I also consider "transcendental pragmatist": Eugene (Gene) T. Gendlin. Rob Parker has provided a very helpful introduction to Gendlin's Philosophy of the Implicit (which Gendlin laid out in "A Process Model") here: Dr. Parker also acts as sherpa for "deep dives" into Gendlin's "A Process Model." I participated in one for over three years and benefited immensely.

Once you can "think with" a transcendental pragmatist mindset, the resources that Dr. J. Glenn Friesen recommends for exploring Dooyeweerd are a great launching pad:

You can also dialogue with others interested in Gendlin and Dooyweerd at Nondual Spirituality and Gendlin's Focusing Approach and Reformational Philosophy, respectively."


"Eugene Gendlin, Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, and Ruth Millikan ground their process philosophies in observable patterns of human development, which the emergence of life prefigures and the structures of human society recapitulate. These patterns have been thoroughly documented by developmental psychologists Kurt Fischer and Zheng Yan of Harvard.

I think the universality and predictability of these patterns—along with their immense explanatory power—lends hope for a *public epistemology* worthy of the name (and part of a larger "transcendental pragmatism") . Fleshing out such an epistemology, and ensuring it actually facilitates personal and group decision-making among non-philosophers, has been a large part of my life's work for the past two decades.

A philosophy that carries forward the aforementioned patterns allows for resourcement of such thinkers as:

• Gabriel Marcel, and existentialist who emphasized intersubjectivity more than self-determination (contra Nietzsche and Sartre); • Anthony Steinbock, one of my favorite contemporary philosophers, whose phenomenology builds on Marcel and Levinas; • Moshe Feldenkrais, whose philosophy of life is best understood through the movement-based meditations he created to bring people back in touch with our bodies, dreams, and movement-into-life; • Paul Kockelman, a process-oriented, systematic anthropologist at Yale, who writes on agency, subjectivity, and affordances; • Herman Dooyeweerd, a transcendental thinker who drew upon theosophy, Dutch Neo-Calvinism, and his own version of phenomenology to propose a process philosophy with "modes of being" that anticipated the structures of emergence proposed by Gendlin; • Michael Polanyi and Esther Lightcap Meek, who (consonant with Marcel and Steinbock) highlight the shortcomings of materialism and the role of love in knowing; • Robert Rosen and A. H. Louie, who used mathematics to ground an expectation of stages of emergence from process; • Julián Marías, from the "Generation of '36" in Spain, who postulated four-generation cycles prior to Strauss and Howe; and • Enrique Dussel, architect of transmodernism and a coherent philosophy of liberation, which draws upon Levinas to reframe history and invite attention to ways of knowing that have too often been kept at the margins of dialogue."