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Homo Respondens on the Historical Nature of Human Reason

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image of Philosophia Reformata

The central theme of this essay concerns the historical character of human nature and especially of human reason. This theme I will develop first of all by discussing briefly that aspect of the present-day philosophical debate, in which this theme takes pride of place. Thus, in the first section, I will try to show which predicament the participants of this debate face in the defense of their position. In the second section, I will discuss the main ideas of Herman Dooyeweerd’s transcendental critique of theoretical thought. This critique, which Dooyeweerd himself considered to be a Christian critique on the whole tradition of philosophical thought, is closely tied up with the theme of this chapter. The problem of the historical character of human rationality — or in the words of Dooyeweerd, ‘the problem of historicism’ — formed for a large part the setting in which he developed his critique. Although I fully accord with the main thrust of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy and especially endorse that which motivated him in his transcendental critique, there are, nevertheless, elements in his conception which have dissatisfied me for a long time. His critique needs to be revised, in my opinion. In section three, I shall attempt such a revision, by taking as a starting point the idea of the ‘answering nature of humankind,’ an idea which I have worked out elsewhere.


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