The Nature Of Man In The Amsterdam Philosophy -- By: William Young

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 22:1 (Nov 1959)
Article: The Nature Of Man In The Amsterdam Philosophy
Author: William Young


The Nature Of Man In The Amsterdam Philosophy

William Young

IN THE conclusion to the third volume of his monumental work, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Herman Dooyeweerd states that all his previous investigations have been nothing but a necessary preparation for what is called a philosophical anthropology. “What is man’s position in the temporal cosmos in relation to his divine Origin?” is for Dooyeweerd the ultimate and doubtless most important problem of philosophical reflection (III, 781). Elsewhere, he has defined the theme of philosophical anthropology to be “the investigation of the structural unity of human existence within cosmic time, in the light of the transcendental Idea of human self-hood” (I, 542).

Upon reading this impressive assertion of the paramount importance of philosophical anthropology, the inquiring student may feel a shock of disappointment when he is informed that this weighty theme will be treated separately in the third volume of Dooyeweerd’s new trilogy on Reformatie en Scholastiek in de Wijsbegeerte, of which Volume I alone has appeared, and that in 1949. A definitive discussion of the subject of the present paper, must, therefore, await the promised publication, in the absence of which a fragmentary and tentative discussion may be attempted on the basis of such deliverances of the Amsterdam philosophers, Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven, and of like-minded writers, as shed some light upon the subject.

Certain aspects of philosophical anthropology, as a matter of fact, were in the foreground of controversial discussion two decades ago. The brochure published by Valentine Hepp in 1937 on the continued existence, immortality and substantiality of the soul1 contained a severe attack upon the conception of the soul and its relation to the body which Dooyeweerd

and Vollenhoven were developing and which A. Janse had popularized, probably prematurely and in a misleading manner, in a small work on man as “living soul”.2 A work attacking Vollenhoven was published the same year by H. Steen under the title Philosophia Deformata (Kampen, Kok, 1937). The new philosophy was represented as introducing innovations in its doctrine of man, inconsistent with the teaching of the Reformed confessions and involving a denial of the substantial existence and immortality of the human soul. The present paper will not enter into a full discussion of these controversial issues, but will concentrate upon understanding just what it is that the Amsterdam Philosophy has asserted with respect to the nature of man. So far as discussions in the Neth...

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