The Future of Creation Order: Vol. 2, Order Among Humans: Humanities, Social Science and Normative Practices [1st ed.] 978-3-319-92146-4;978-3-319-92147-1

This book investigates humanities, social sciences and politics from the perspective of the concept of creation order. I

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The Future of Creation Order: Vol. 2, Order Among Humans: Humanities, Social Science and Normative Practices [1st ed.]

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-vi
Introduction (Govert J. Buijs, Annette K. Mosher)....Pages 1-18
Front Matter ....Pages 19-19
Creation Order in the Light of Redemption (2): Political Philosophy (Henk Geertsema)....Pages 21-45
The Shine on Things: Given Beauty and the Order of Creation (William Desmond)....Pages 47-67
The Beauty of Repetition, or: How to Become a Friend of Job (Renée D. N. van Riessen)....Pages 69-83
Nature, Kant, and God (Gordon Graham)....Pages 85-99
Unveiling the Aesthetic in Nature: A Response to Gordon Graham’s Aesthetic Argument for the Existence of God in “Nature, Kant, and God” (Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin)....Pages 101-114
Divine Commands as the Basis for Moral Obligations (C. Stephen Evans)....Pages 115-133
The Divine Command to Transcend Morality: Reply to C. Stephen Evans, Divine Commands as the Basis for Moral Obligations (Edith Brugmans)....Pages 135-141
Love and Justice (Nicholas Wolterstorff)....Pages 143-151
Macrostructures and Societal Principles: An Architectonic Critique (Lambert Zuidervaart)....Pages 153-177
Response: The Hermeneutics of Suffering, Creation Order, and Modern Society (Govert J. Buijs)....Pages 179-191
Front Matter ....Pages 193-193
Covenantal Ethics for Health Care (James J. Rusthoven)....Pages 195-217
Normative Dimensions of Corporate Communication (Jan van der Stoep)....Pages 219-230
International Legal Theory, International Community, and International Legal Order from a Dooyeweerdian Perspective (Romel Regalado Bagares)....Pages 231-261
A Practice-Based Theory to Explain Religion in International Relations (Simon Polinder)....Pages 263-282
Towards a Normative Model for the Practice of Cooperation in Development (Henk Jochemsen)....Pages 283-303
Back Matter ....Pages 305-308

Citation preview

New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5 Series Editors: Lluis Oviedo · Aku Visala

Govert J. Buijs Annette K. Mosher Editors

The Future of Creation Order Vol. 2, Order Among Humans: Humanities, Social Science and Normative Practices

New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion Volume 5 Series editors Lluis Oviedo, Pontifical University Antonianum, Roma, Italy Aku Visala, Helsinki University, Helsingin Yliopisto, Finland Editorial Board Helen de Cruz, Oxford Brookes University, UK Nathaniel Barrett, University of Navarra, Spain Joseph Bulbulia, Victoria University, New Zealand Miguel Farias, Coventry University, UK Jay R. Feierman, University of New Mexico, NM, USA Jonathan Jong, Oxford University, UK Justin McBrayer, Fort Lewis College, CO, USA

Introduction to the Series This series presents new approaches to the scientific study of religion, moving from the first generation of studies that try to ‘explain religion’ towards a more critical effort to explore alternative paths in correspondence with this highly complex human and social feature. The series supports the development of new scientific models that advance our understanding of religious faith, emotions, symbols, rituals, meaning, and religions’ anthropological and cultural dimensions, integrating them into more complex models. Recent decades have witnessed a growing interest in the study of religious mind and behavior from new disciplinary fields, such as cognitive psychology, neuroscience and bio-evolutionary science. The amount of published research is impressive and has reached a level that now calls for evaluation and revision of current models and developments. This new series supports this fast-moving development, encouraging the publication of new books that move on from current research towards larger horizons and innovative ideas. This series: • Increases academic communication and exchange in this multi-disciplinary research area. • Gives a new impetus to the science and religion dialogue. • Opens up new avenues of encounter and discussion between more scientific and more humanistic traditions. More information about this series at

Govert J. Buijs  •  Annette K. Mosher Editors

The Future of Creation Order Vol. 2, Order Among Humans: Humanities, Social Science and Normative Practices

Editors Govert J. Buijs Faculty of Humanities, Department of Philosophy VU Amsterdam Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Annette K. Mosher Faculty of Religion and Theology VU Amsterdam Amsterdam, The Netherlands

ISSN 2367-3494     ISSN 2367-3508 (electronic) New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion ISBN 978-3-319-92146-4    ISBN 978-3-319-92147-1 (eBook) Library of Congress Control Number: 2017962075 © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are reserved by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Springer imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


Introduction������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������    1 Govert J. Buijs and Annette K. Mosher Part I Fundamental Reflections  reation Order in the Light of Redemption (2): C Political Philosophy������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   21 Henk Geertsema The Shine on Things: Given Beauty and the Order of Creation ����������������   47 William Desmond The Beauty of Repetition, or: How to Become a Friend of Job ������������������   69 Renée D. N. van Riessen  ature, Kant, and God������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   85 N Gordon Graham  nveiling the Aesthetic in Nature: A Response to Gordon U Graham’s Aesthetic Argument for the Existence of God in “Nature, Kant, and God” ��������������������������������������������������������������  101 Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin Divine Commands as the Basis for Moral Obligations��������������������������������  115 C. Stephen Evans  he Divine Command to Transcend Morality: T Reply to C. Stephen Evans, Divine Commands as the Basis for Moral Obligations ����������������������������������������������������������������  135 Edith Brugmans  ove and Justice ����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  143 L Nicholas Wolterstorff




 acrostructures and Societal Principles: An Architectonic Critique��������  153 M Lambert Zuidervaart  esponse: The Hermeneutics of Suffering, R Creation Order, and Modern Society������������������������������������������������������������  179 Govert J. Buijs Part II Normative Practices  ovenantal Ethics for Health Care����������������������������������������������������������������  195 C James J. Rusthoven  ormative Dimensions of Corporate Communication ��������������������������������  219 N Jan van der Stoep I nternational Legal Theory, International Community, and International Legal Order from a Dooyeweerdian Perspective ����������  231 Romel Regalado Bagares  Practice-Based Theory to Explain Religion A in International Relations��������������������������������������������������������������������������������  263 Simon Polinder  owards a Normative Model for the Practice T of Cooperation in Development����������������������������������������������������������������������  283 Henk Jochemsen About the Authors��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  305 Index������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  307

Introduction Re-thinking the Idea of Creation Order Among Humans: Beyond Natural Law and Constructivism Govert J. Buijs and Annette K. Mosher

How do we arrive at the experience of normativity—of something that binds us, enjoins us, urges us to do something, and to stop or avoid doing other things? Throughout human history there seems to have been very different ideas about and interpretations of the sources of normativity: the options range from gods and spirits that embody a cosmic order via a transcendent, ordering instance—such as a Creator or an unmoved mover, to humanity itself, human emotions, or especially, human reason. When we speak about “creation order” in this volume, to which source(s) do we refer? Moreover, are not some of these sources simply outdated? Can there be any other source of order in the twenty-first century than humanity itself? Why talk about creation order, and this not only in the world of nature (largely the topic of volume one), but in the social world as well—the world that humans make together (the topic of this volume)? It is good to clarify from the beginning that when we speak about creation order we do not enter the field of statistical regularities and law like patterns in society, but enter a search into the vast domain of sources of normativity for societies and the humans within them. In this “Introduction” we will do a bit more than just introduce the content of this volume. A rather modest attempt—given the magnitude of the subject—to re-think creation order, which is the central idea of this volume (and of its companion volume), is presented. In this way, a defense of the relevance and consistency of the idea is given. After that, we will introduce the various contributions that are ­collected G. J. Buijs (*) Faculty of Humanities, Department of Philosophy, VU Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected] A. K. Mosher Faculty of Religion and Theology, VU Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



G. Buijs and A. K. Mosher

in this volume. The conclusion will briefly reflect on the contributions in order to point out some key themes for further discussion.

The Experience of Order Among Humans The experience that the world displays a certain order that is neither the result of human action nor of human design seems to be one of the universal experiences of mankind. This order is usually associated with and based on regularity and continuity, as well as reliability and trustworthiness. The Greek word cosmos has the double meaning of world and of order (even alongside shades of meanings that are expressed in terms such as ornament, jewelry, or beauty). This in itself should not surprise us. In spite of occasional, sometimes really terrible, disruptions, there is overwhelming evidence that our natural world is relatively ordered and stable, at least at the level at which we humans are able to experience it. There does not seem to be much evidence that this was not the case earlier in human history. Today it seems reasonable to assume that earlier in time the regularities that we have captured under the rubric of “laws of nature” also held. Of course, in modern physics, contingency plays a new role, but this manifests itself particularly at the sub-atomic level that is already beyond our everyday experience. Moreover, even Einstein had trouble affirming some implications of his own discoveries in the field and held to (the expectation of) stability: “God doesn’t play dice,” as he famously said. Therefore, the experience of stability and reliability of nature is a likely candidate for experiences of order, and hence can be assumed to have a universal appeal. It is no more than “natural” to attune our actions to this regularity. For example—for sowing, growing, and harvesting—there is not much to “construct,” but much to attune to—as has been known throughout history. However, in many experiences, as they are often elaborated in myths and in worldviews, the experience of order is accompanied by a certain awareness of the contingency and fragility of that order. Yes, the order is there. However, it may not always have been there, and it may perish again. The flipside of the experience of order is often the experience of a potential absence or failing of order; that is, chaos (Cohn 1993). Therefore, the experience of order very often is accompanied by a sense of awe, wonder, and/or joy. The world could have been otherwise. This means we have to choose sides, and to join the forces of order over against the possibilities of disorder. What is the source of this (experience of) order, and hence of the sensation of joy (over against the possibility of chaos)? The oldest, recorded interpretations of normativity that we have, describe the order of the cosmos as a divine whole. The world is divine, and “full of gods” as the Greek philosopher Thales formulated it. This indicates that the world has a somewhat personal character. However, of gods and spirits there are many. Some may be good, while others may be shrewd, cunning, malicious, or even evil. One may be less reliable than the other, or more reliable for some parts of the natural or political world than for other parts. Zeus is reasonably



reliable for the Greeks, but not for the Persians. When we speak about Bel or Marduk, this is vice versa. Not much difference is made between order in nature and order among humans in these oldest layers of experiences of order. They have the same structure of a certain stability, which is experienced against the background of the whimsicalness of the gods. The order is there, but it may not remain. Good gods may get weary, and they may let the order slip. Evil spirits may even take over in the long run. Rain may give way to drought, and one may begin to lose wars—the signs that the gods may be less attentive, strong, or are departing from us. That is the reason why order has to be both suspended and re-instituted regularly and symbolically. This occurs during feasts and rituals. The meaning of the rituals is not to— symbolically—create order, but to reconnect human reality to divine reality, and to attune human reality to the right order. Reality must be entrusted to the right gods— not to the wrong or evil order and the evil gods or spirits. The experienced order, therefore, is precarious. As humans, we cannot do much about it, except try to influence the gods through rituals, sacrifices, and/or even magic. Or by trying to attune ourselves, preferably collectively, to the right gods—the gods of the tribe, city, kingdom, or empire. Therefore, in the so called cosmological orders—as they developed, for example, in the Ancient Near East (Assur, Babel, Persia, Egypt), but as well in China, India, Japan, and what is called now Central America—the order among humans, in particular, the political order, is fully embedded in the order of the cosmos, which is an order of gods and spirits. Even kings and emperors can be gods, or at least directly appointed by the imperial god or gods.1 Society is not a human product, but is part of and participating in the order of the cosmos. Political rituals tend to be correlated to the rhythm of the cosmos, the seasons, as well as to the ordering of the cosmos with its four winds. Therefore, when it comes down to it, humans are unable to challenge the existing order. The existing power structures are imagined constantly as unchangeable, as is the cosmos itself. No protest is possible. A break with this type of cosmological order occurs in what Karl Jaspers has, somewhat misleadingly, called the Achsenzeit—the Axial Age—which takes place somewhere between the sixth and fourth century BC (Jaspers 1955). In the life and work of the prophets of Israel, Confucius in China, the philosophers in Greece, and the Buddha in India, a distinction is made between the immanent world—the world as it is, on the one hand—and a transcendent world—a higher world that somehow is normative for our world, but that we cannot attain unchanged. Therefore, the soul has to be re-formed. An inner transformation is needed to “see” or “hear” that other world together with its relation to this world. A tension occurs between two worlds. Protest against the existing order becomes a possibility—the new experiences allow for this, but finding the language to do it remains difficult. Moreover, how do we conceive of this transcendent world? Is it an eternal metaphysical order? Is it a God who speaks? Is it a state of the soul that is transcendence in the human depth? Is it a set of moral principles?

 See the classic Frankfurt (1948/1978), cf. Voegelin 1956.



G. Buijs and A. K. Mosher

In order to make his conception of one—time wise—well-defined Axial Age a bit more plausible, Jaspers had to leave out, on the early side, Moses (and hence as well the “Mosaic distinction” that Jan Assmann has singled out as a truly revolutionary distinction), as well as, on the late side, Jesus Christ. Moses apparently lived a millennium too early to qualify for the Axial Age, Jesus 300-odd years too late. And what about Mohammed? However, leaving aside the whole issue of the time frame, Jaspers seems to be correct in pointing to a new class of phenomena in the history of mankind. Additionally, it seems that the plural (phenomena) is as important as the singular (one Axial Age). The plural character of the Axial Age has been elaborated by the Israeli sociologist Shmuel Eisenstadt, who distinguishes between several ways to deal with the gap—the tension between the immanent and the transcendent—that developed since the Axial Age. He has named them as “thisworldly,” “otherworldly,” and “this-and-otherworldly” (Eisenstadt 1999). Confucianism has developed into an ethics for existing order and its bureaucracy in China, and hence, it has opted for a thisworldly solution of the tension. On the contrary, Buddhism went in the direction of characterizing this world as maya, as deceiving appearance. Salvation—enlightenment—is to be found in freeing oneself from this deceiving appearance and even move spiritually beyond the concrete self toward reaching an-­ atta, the non-I. Within the monotheistic religions, the many gods are replaced by the one, transcendent God—the true God—who speaks his word directly to mankind in order to save it. However, the gap between transcendence and immanence can never be absolute or final because the God who reveals himself in his Word as Savior is also the God who created the world in the first place by his Word. He does not abandon his creation nor his faithfulness to its order. Yet, the order is such that mankind apparently has to be saved from it. This tension between a present order that is good, but not perfect—or even fallen or broken, on the one hand—and a coming order of salvation that also becomes part of this world tends to result in dual orders: prophets with and over against kings, the church with and over against the state, the khalief and Umma with and over against the sultan (although in all cases there were tendencies to merge these different orders, most notably in Islam). Yet, another emerging option to articulate the experienced distinction between transcendent order and the immanent world is the philosophical attempt to evoke the idea of an impersonal, eternal, perfect order that is somehow present in our immanent reality and can serve as a yardstick to measure its relative goodness. Here a comparable problem occurs as in monotheism. It is the tension of the this-and-­ otherworldly. In Plato and in Aristotle the world as we experience it is not perfect, but it is at least a mirror—an image of the Good (Plato)—or it inherently strives toward the Good (Aristotle). Therefore, the Good is somehow present in the world, but dimly and partly, and in shadows. Of course, both in the monotheistic religions and in philosophy, a new temptation is felt, as a consequence of the gap between the transcendent and the immanent. It is the temptation to see the immanent world as inherently evil and dark, and perhaps even created by an evil God. What can emerge are radical dualisms; most notably, Gnosticism. The tension between immanence and transcendence can be



radicalized into a total rupture between a good god and an evil demon. The one saving us from the entrapment in the other and the imprisonment in this world. Plotinus and Augustine had to face quite similar challenges when faced with Manichean and/ or Gnostic dualisms.2 It may be clear that philosophy and monotheism are, in one respect, in the same boat. They experience immanent reality as somehow reflecting a transcendent originating order, and this may account for the millennia long mutual attraction and interaction—in Judaism, Christianity, Islam—between philosophy and theology. However, they are also in separate boats, as far as the Word spoken by God in his creative acts may not be the eternal, unchanging order of the philosophers, let alone the Word of scripture, spoken to save mankind, or the Word that becomes incarnate in a concrete human being. We will return to this below because what do Christian philosophers refer to when they talk about creation order? A third type of order, next to the immanent-spiritual and transcendent-spiritual experiences, is immanent-material. It is the experience of order that has begun to dominate the modern world. In the modern experience, nature has become pure extensivity—pure matter—without some involvement of spirits either in its genesis or in its continuation, an impersonal order. Therefore, it has no meaning or purpose that we as humans somehow have to relate to, or attune ourselves to. There is no mystery to respect, but only riddles to be solved. There is no intrinsic meaning or intrinsic worth apart from what we as humans assign to it extrinsically. We are now in the experiential space in which Pascal could formulate his famous exclamation, “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me.” The philosopher who tried to articulate a new type of human order in this infinite space was Descartes, who found in the truths of mathematics at least something to hold on to, although not much of moral ordering of human life and society could be derived from that. Against this background of a disenchanted experience of nature, Hume formulated his (in)famous rejection of the “naturalistic fallacy”: how things are does not give us any clue about normativity. Normativity arises only from our human sentiments. Kant would critically elaborate this point by replacing the sentiments by reason. Reality, both the order in nature and the order among humans, is silent. It is entirely up to us to construct meaning and order; that is, to construct normativity.

Contested Ideas of Order (Realism vs. Nominalism) Now what is, against the background just sketched, the status of creation order as contemporary Reformational philosophers speak about it? Is it a “Christianized” version of the eternal ideas of Plato or Aristotle’s teloi? Or is it a reference to spirits and gods and, hence, a reminiscence to that ancient world? Or is it just a reformulation of the laws of nature, with a kind of theistic or Christian topping, very much comparable to the impersonal, yet divinely created order of eighteenth century  For an analysis of the “experience-based” emergence of Gnosticism, see Voegelin (1974).



G. Buijs and A. K. Mosher

Deism? Let us focus on some basic contrasts with philosophical ideas of order, as they have turned out to be such a close rival to Christianity. We may first notice, as already referred to, the deep attraction of the philosophical ideas about an eternal, impersonal order for Christians (just to limit ourselves now to the Christian tradition). According to Augustine, it was Plato who discovered important truths; according to Thomas Aquinas, this was true especially of Aristotle. Therefore, they both tried to incorporate basic insights of, respectively, the Platonic and the Aristotelian traditions into their Christian philosophy. Whereas later in life Augustine, in his Retractationes, showed himself to have become a bit more skeptical about the viability of this endeavor, Thomas moved bravely ahead (and by the way never grew as old as Augustine, so he never came to write “retractions”). Especially Thomas’ solution that the order of this world, including its transcendentally-­originated teleology as described by Aristotle is an “analogy” of divine being, was an ingenious and attractive option to explore. It preserved both God’s transcendence as well as accounted for the divine origin and status of the order and stability of the world, as Aristotle had described it, including its inherent striving for the good. And yet, some urgent issues presented themselves time and again regarding this rapprochement between philosophy and Christianity, both in the early church as well as with the rise of the so-called nominalism, the great Christian rival way of thinking to Thomas’ synthesis. What were some of the key issues that eventually have led as well to the idea of creation order in Reformational thinking? What needs to be articulated in a Christian (or rather: biblical) account of transcendence in relation to immanence and what may perhaps be somewhat downplayed when one tries to fuse Christianity with philosophy? For the sake of brevity, we will focus just on some issues related to the rise of the nominalist movement (though similar issues came up earlier regarding the incorporation of Platonic insights). Apart from the usual points that were clearly identified by Thomas himself (such as the eternity and hence uncreatedness of the world in Aristotle’s thinking) there were—and are—the following points to be mentioned. First of all, transcendence itself! To be sure, in Thomas’ account the transcendence of God was maintained, but at a price. The price was exactly the “analogy”: the freedom of God over against his creation is, in the end, very limited. The creation is an analogical expression of his nature, his divine essence. Therefore, it could not have been otherwise. It becomes very difficult to articulate a spiritual critique of the status quo. The world as it is, especially all its hierarchical structures—the “chain of being” - is an analogical expression of God’s own being. So how could it be wrong? How could it be criticized? Perhaps a bit more distance is required to account for the presence of evil and distortion in reality. Perhaps not everything, and not all hierarchical orderings, are divine. The nominalist solution to this is well known. It took the biblical insight that God created the world by his word and in that way ordered the world into reality and provided for its stability by his own faithfulness to his word seriously. The world is not an analogous expression of God’s inner being, but an act of his will that is expressed in his commanding word and maintained in existence by his covenant-guaranteed faithfulness to the



world. Moreover, above all, a commanding word can be disobeyed. Perhaps the present world has traces of disobedience. God may have created all human beings equal, and yet they may now, in the actual world, be treated unequally. There may thus be a gap between the world as God wanted it and the world as it is now. Secondly, there was the issue of the historical freedom of God. How can an Eternal Being that is analogous to all of reality ever decide to become incarnate in this world in historical time? In the realist account, heavily borrowing from Aristotle, it becomes hard to imagine God being involved in something like “salvation history” because that seems to presuppose a “before” and “after” in God, a God who changes and decides to act in a way He didn’t act before. The idea of God as “Unmoved Mover” weighs (too) heavily. In this realist framework, it is very hard to even think of the appearance of Christ or the final consummation. Yet, Christ had been there as simultaneously vere Deus, vere homo, and in historical time among us humans. Thirdly, the uniqueness of each individual creature, as something truly positive, can hardly be articulated in the Aristotelian-Thomistic framework nor in the Platonic-Augustinian framework. In both accounts, which both can be considered realist, the particular always remains subsumed under the universal and is always a somewhat lesser state of being. The haecceitas—the “thisness” of this concrete reality in its full dignity and integrity—cannot really be accounted for within the Thomistic-Aristotelian “realist” framework. Yet, it is this concrete reality that is created by God from the beginning. Fourthly, there is the issue of human responsibility in ordering the world. In nominalism, the abstract universals do not exist outside the human mind. They are human constructions to order the world that exists of all these wonderful particulars. We give names, and we employ the abstract concepts ordering the world. Behind this is a sense that humans are indeed responsible human beings, created in the image of God in order to give response to what God has created and looking carefully and closely into what it is and how it “works”. Our knowledge is not and cannot be “pre-given” in general concepts. In brief, in nominalism we have a defense of divine freedom and, at the same time, human freedom as well as human curiosity. In a way, late medieval nominalism tried to accommodate these various concerns. However, it also had its price. The most fateful part of the price that loomed was the distinction between the potentia absoluta and the potentia ordinata—God’s absolute power that is hidden from us (and who knows what is in there? Is it trustworthy and loving? Or threatening or indifferent to humans?)—and God’s ordained power—his creative word that has ordered the world into existence, and that he has promised to be faithful to as an act of his will (but when it is an act of his will in time, who guarantees that He will not revoke this act in time and act differently?) Some of these concerns have also become central in the reflection of Reformational philosophers on creation order. Therefore, is the way that Reformational philosophers have come to understand creation order just a continuation and elaboration of nominalism? Partly, but not quite. In its later development, nominalism was not able to keep at bay the idea that humans somehow had to construct the world by means of their reason. One could even claim that all modern thought, from Descartes and


G. Buijs and A. K. Mosher

Hobbes to Kant and everything that derives from him, is nominalist—humans “giving names” and ordering the world by means of what is at their disposal—reason and/or language.3 Eventually—we are making unjustified big steps here, but we cannot elaborate this because of lack of space—it is exactly the modern experience of a meaningless extensive world, over against which humans have to construct their own meaning, that could be interpreted as an outgrowth of nominalism. This demands the question in what way Reformational philosophers do build on nominalism, and where do they depart from it?

Creation Order in Reformational Philosophy As indicated, Reformational philosophy wants to retain some deep intuitions of nominalism, but it emphatically wants to avoid the implications of having to accept a chaotic universe that we humans can only “conquer” by our constructed concepts. What the analytical, Reformational philosopher Alvin Plantinga dubbed (and rejected as) “creative anti-realism” is also rejected by Reformational philosophers in the line of Dooyeweerd. Dooyeweerd coined the short, but pregnant, dictum that “Meaning is the mode of being of all that is created”(Dooyeweerd 1953, 4). At first, this may sound as a revived “status quo-realism” of ancient philosophy (and its Christianized versions). However, this is not the case. This can, perhaps, be clarified by referring to the work of Henk Geertsema (who tried to re-think Dooyeweerd’s basic categories). Geertsema has coined the expression “promise-command to be.” In the Dooyeweerdian-Geertsemaian account, creation order does not refer to eternal substances or essences underlying all of reality that determines their being. Instead, it refers to creative words spoken by God (that seems to be a nominalist strand). The words invite a response, but do not determine what that response will be. A command (for example, “there is a fire, so leave the building”) may invite an entire class of actions that are somehow related in the way Wittgenstein talks about “family likeness,” but the individual actions may turn out to be actually very different, even contrary, depending on the particular context in which the recipients find themselves (someone in the cellar has to go up in order to leave the building, someone on the higher floors will have to go down, people on the ground floor have to move sideways; people may as well start to help each other moving out, may start to take risks to achieve the result that is desired in the command “leave the building”). It follows that the idea of “promise-command” preserves and emphasizes human, creational responsibility and freedom (Geertsema 1992, 47ff; 131ff). Moreover, metaphorically speaking, this approach would give a rather different valuation of particularity over against universality than is possible in the Platonic-­ Aristotelian experience of order. When God says, “let there be birds,” he did not 3  This is probably the reason why philosophers in the Reformational tradition sometimes tend to be very critical of nominalism. See, for example, Danie Strauss, “Is the idea of ‘creation order’ still fruitful?” in volume one of this project.



have one “master-idea” of “the ultimate, true bird” in mind, which all existing particular birds only mirror imperfectly. Instead, the creative word intends to call forth a multiplicity of particulars, with “family likeness” but without a fixed essence. Let there be many! This completely fits the biblical imagery of God speaking—for example, “let birds fly above the earth”—and then the sky filling itself with a multiplicity of them. Each according to its kind, and yet, they are all birds. Therefore, the Reformational idea of creation order does not refer to fixed and prescribed or predetermined courses of action, but to invitations to certain “classes of actions,” each according to its kind, that, when they are developed and developed well, may lead to enhanced human flourishing. The promise-command, or “promising invitation,” evokes new types of action that are irreducible to other types. “Develop your emotions” is different from “develop your rationality,” and different from “develop justice” or “develop care,” etc. The idea of creation order brings together, on the one hand, a sense of real difference between “classes of actions” that may be thought to correspond to certain classes of laws and properties that do not determine, let alone pre-determine, what the particular actions are in their individual particularity that belong to this class. “Being artistic” is something distinctly different from “establishing justice” in a society. The call to develop good art is very different from what a judge or policewoman is doing. And yet, the call does not say anything at all about what Rembrandt should paint or Henry Moore should carve out in stone. There is full freedom, and yet, this freedom is located within a certain class of actions. And each type of action also has its own requirements and internal standards of goodness. We may safely assume that Rembrandt knew when he painted a good painting (and was disappointed when he did not represent on canvas what he intuitively had in his mind) as much as a judge knows when she has delivered a skilled and just verdict. Creation order as developed by Reformational philosophers deepens this in several ways. Over against the nominalist “metaphysics” of an essentially arbitrary potentia ordinata in the background of which we always sense a dark potentia absoluta—a framework that primes the relationship between God and humans easily as that of power and sovereignty, and hence easily evokes a sense of power-­ rivalry between God and humans4––in Reformational philosophy the background of the promise-command is God’s love—God’s agape, as unconditional love—desiring to establish a loving relationship with humans that will bring both partners to a new phase in their history together. The creation order has an index of “… that it may go well with you” (cf. Deut. 5:16) if you act in this way in this domain. It has an “index of human flourishing.” As an alternative to both metaphysical realism and nominalism, the idea of creation order sees reality as a response to a divinely creative word that points toward shalom, a situation of flourishing and bringing forth fruit. The status quo is not a reflection of God’s nature, but contains clues toward flourishing, while, at the same time in the actual presence, this flourishing may be violated and obstructed. Creation order calls for human responsibility to actualize shalom-bringing structures.  Cf. the trenchant critique on this aspect of nominalism by Milbank (1990), 13ff.



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However, to get at these shalom-bringing structures, an attitude of creativity is required as much as an attitude of receptivity—carefully listening to what can be the shalom-bringing potential of what is given to us in reality. Being is an index of meaning, or being is an index of shalom—to paraphrase Dooyeweerd’s dictum, which was referred to earlier, “Meaning is the mode of being of all that is created.” It requires creativity and receptivity from humans, and antennae for suffering and distortion as well as hope because there is a promise in each part of creation. Against this background, the distinction and sometimes distance that is constructed between the word of creation and the word of salvation, between the word that is incarnated in reality and the word that is written in scripture, becomes less stringent. The one illuminates the other. There is a mutual, hermeneutical relation between the so called “two books of revelation.” Both aim at shalom-like relationships between God and humans, humans themselves, humans and nature, and humans and the societies they make and/or find themselves in. The promise-­ command to be or promising invitation or—why not?—pregnant invitation is a constant source of hope, sometimes against all odds. It cuts right through the modern idea of a meaningless universe to which we heroically have to give meaning, while at the same time realizing that it does not have any meaning after all.

Why Talk About Creation Order: A Brief Apologia Why should we speak of anything such as “creation structures” in the first place? Why bother at all? What motivates this search for an order that is somehow beyond us? Is this to gain argumentative advantages, and to have an edge in the debates over our opponents by dressing our own viewpoints with some added, preferably superhuman, authority? As if we are saying to opponents: “you are cooking up your own views, you constructionists, but I am speaking about creation order, so you may as well go home?” It is conceivable that for some this may be have been a motivation, but it probably does not work this way. Neither is it, nor should it be, an attempt to sanctify a particular status quo in terms of divine creation, as if the actual existing order as we see it around us—either pre-modern, or the modern Western, European, American way of life—is somewhat closer to God’s intentions than other ways of life. Sometimes it has functioned that way, and that is an inherent danger when we invoke the idea of creation order.5 Creation order is primarily meant as a critical call to examine the status quo, not to uncritically sanctify it. 5  See, for his danger as it manifested itself in the work of Abraham Kuyper—next to parts of his work in which he seemed to have escaped the danger—the two introductions to the new translations of Pro Rege, that of Clifford Anderson in the first volume and Buijs’ introduction to vols. 2 & 3. See John Kok & Nelson Kloosterman (eds. 2016 and 2017), Abraham Kuyper, Pro Rege. Vol.1. pp. vii–xxi; Vol. 2. xiv–xxxiii. Bellingham: Lexham Press (part of Jordan J. Ballor & Melvin Flikkema (eds.). Abraham Kuyper. Collected Works in Public Theology).



Is it then an attempt to escape from human responsibility; an attempt to escape from the duty to make norms ourselves or to design guidelines to direct our actions? If we make our world to such a great extent, shouldn’t we make the norms that guide us in that world construction as well? Shouldn’t we limit ourselves instead of looking for outside limits that are heteronomically imposed on us? Isn’t “norm-creation” the human task par excellence? Therefore, shouldn’t we sit together either in a Rawlsian “original position” or in a Habermassian herrschaftsfreie Diskurs to construct our own norms? This is a valid point to make. Talking about creation order should not function as a way to diminish human responsibility. It is always “we” who have to make the judgments, to articulate the normativity that holds for a particular context and situation. Nothing and nobody, no God or creation order, can exonerate us. To refer to the creation story once again: Adam has to give the names to the animals; it is he who has to find the right language for what is around him. There is another way in which we can justify speaking about creation structures. Placing the idea of creation structures on the table is, first of all, an exercise in limiting our fantasies about a fully transparent world that we can remake and organize ourselves. It is an exercise in humility, and an exercise in detecting what cannot and should not be part of our rational self-production or our design. It is an exercise in opening up ourselves for what is given to us—the world that was there before we were there. It is sensitizing ourselves to what is given to us, and to the simple fact that even Calvinists are more like Mary than like Martha. Ultimately as human beings we are first receivers before we are doers and thinkers. Secondly, the idea of creation order calls upon us to respect and preserve the present goodness without turning it into an occasion for whimsical “innovation” and exploitation. The climate issue may be a point in case here as an illustration. “We,” as activist Westerners, simply have not given any consideration to the givenness of the earth. We have simply turned it into exploitable matter that is to be at our ­disposal without any limits. The Earth for us is not our Mater (Lat. mother), but matter—a world of difference. The creational balance between receiving, making, tilling, and keeping has been excruciatingly distorted. But actually,  as Westerners, aren't we doing this all the time? We may well ask whether this attitude only has the natural environment as its victim. We do the same to humans whom we also tend to exploit in unjust economic or political structures and institutions. We are revolutionaries through and through—from the French Revolution (and its many victims) to the Communist and National-Socialist killing fields. Time and again, we start from scratch in order to build a perfect society, while not accepting anything what Hannah Arendt would call the “human condition.” The symbol of creation order is a call to not hide in solitude but to be our “brother’s keeper,” till and preserve the earth, and be creative with our talents in mutual service because we are thoroughly relational beings and thoroughly creatively responsive to our world with these creative responses which tend to cluster in certain recognizable types (biological, emotional, rational, social, lingual, aesthetic, political, moral, spiritual, etc.). Historically, these types seem to manifest themselves in various classes of action and related institutional shells to preserve the integrity of these classes.


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Creation order is a way to bring the human condition into play as something we do not make but belong to. However, it is not a call for an adoration of the present situation, the static status quo, but calls us to keep, till, maintain, develop, and, in summary: (1) gratefully preserve the shalom-enhancing elements in the depth of our present, the depth of reality, and (2) be attentive to the distortive elements, and (3) try to bend the distortive elements toward a new and perhaps deeper flourishing of humans and the earth. But what if the world is not “created” at all, and no Creator “exists”? Without going into this too deeply (this is a huge debate in itself, of course), we could just state that the proof of either the existence or the non-existence of a Divine Creator is not conclusive (let alone the thorny question of what “proof” in this context would mean). In the meantime, what we cannot avoid doing is giving an account of reality-­ as-­we-encounter-it. It seems that some accounts are richer, and do justice to more of our experiences. They better befit our intuitions, and are better in opening a future of hope and flourishing than others. Behind the choice for the creation order discourse is a kind of Best Account Principle in Charles Taylor’s sense (Taylor 1989, 58ff; 69ff). It would go too far to elaborate this further, but let us just emphasize Taylor’s other conclusion (in A Secular Age) that the knock-down and out argument against Christian theism has not yet been delivered by its two main rivals, “exclusive humanism” or “anti-humanism.”6 Therefore, some forms of theism are viable intellectual options. One final comment—compared to speaking about “natural law,” the idea of creation order refers to a Creator that is not a distant Deus absconditus nor an Unmoved mover, but is the God who desires to relate to humans as a friend and as a covenantal partner in history. Where the idea of natural law sometimes has tendencies to an inadequate universality as well as an inadequate unchangeability, the discourse of creation order is both more dynamic as well as contextually attuned. Noblesse oblige. Discussing creation order calls for a well-developed hermeneutic—the practice of the “art of judgement”—in order to look at what is given to us in reality, and what change is required from us in a particular context.

One Recent Application: Normative Professional Practices There is one area in which the idea of shalom-oriented social structures has been elaborated in considerable detail by Reformational philosophers during the last two decades. This is the area of what has come to be called “normative practices.” It seems fit to give a brief elucidation of this approach here since several authors explicitly make use of it in their contributions (Jochemsen, Polinder, Van der Stoep, Rusthoven). One source of inspiration for the development of this approach is the work of Alasdair MacIntyre, notably his After Virtue (1981). In this work, he introduced the  Cf. Taylor (2007) about being “cross-pressured” between these various options, 594ff; 639ff.




conception of “practice” as “any coherent and complex form of socially established cooperative human activity through which goods internal to that form of activity are realized in the course of trying to achieve those standards of excellence which are appropriate to, and partially definitive of that form of activity, with the result that human powers to achieve excellence, and human conceptions to the ends and goods involved, are systematically extended” (MacIntyre 1981, 187). What we called classes of actions closely parallels what MacIntyre is referring to here. A second source of inspiration is the work of Dooyeweerd who articulated his plural ontology of various “aspects,” which is elaborated in the introduction to volume one of this project. Dooyeweerd does not begin with the classes of actions, but begins at an ontological level: all of reality exhibits certain aspects, and the particular concretely existing things or practices are characterized by a particular constellation of these aspects. Our “eating” is a class of actions that is primarily a biological affair, but at the same time, it also has economic significance (we buy food) and juridical (when we buy it, we own it; the provider has the legal obligation to provide healthy food, etc). Therefore, the different classes of actions can be distinguished by means of the various roles that the aspects play within them. With the approach of Dooyeweerd, a much richer account can be developed of the various classes of action than what MacIntyre’s conception of a practice allows for. The “standards of excellence” that MacIntyre talks about are woven into the call to enhance shalom, and to enhance human flourishing among fellow-human beings, society, and/or nature. The physician, as well as the artist, is not just pursuing “excellence” as a mode of self-expression or self-development—either personally or collectively—but as a way to serve others. The “telos” of a practice is always specific to that practice, but it is also deepened by a sense of shalom, which embeds it in the entire web of relationships in which humans find themselves as part of the human condition. It is deepened as well by making explicit the very different roles that specific persons and specific skills play in each practice. Speaking about a hospital, one immediately and exclusively may think about physicians and operation rooms— perhaps as well about nurses—but one may then easily overlook managers, financial administrators, cooking personnel, etc. Therefore, the practices are always multi-layered, as different classes of action come together and have to relate to each other. But how? Is the manager in the lead? Or the lawyer (perhaps because in an organization there is fear for being sued)? Or the financial administrator? Or the practitioner on the shop floor, whether the physician, diplomat, journalist, nurse, or teacher, etc.? With the Dooyeweerdian framework one can establish some method in the madness by identifying within a certain practice what is “qualifying,” what is “constitutive,” and what is “facilitating.” We modern Westerners may easily think that we create or construct practices. But is this an adequate interpretation of what we see? Practices tend to be given. We place ourselves within them and internalize the standards of practice by education and practicing. Sometimes one practice develops out of another or becomes more or less independent. However, then again, the standards of practice more or less impose themselves in these new practices as well. They tend to have their own logic that


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nobody seems to have invented or constructed, but perhaps they have been discovered. We may hit upon creation order—a well-developed art of judgment has to give interpretative guidance here. The Normative Practitioner Model aims to develop this art of judgment.

Key Themes in This Volume: A Preview This volume contains fifteen essays on normativity and order in the social world— the world of humans living together. In these essays, the idea of a more or less stable normative order for humans is evaluated differently. The first part of this book contains Fundamental Reflections on transcendent origins of order among humans. The second part explores how the notion of created or given order illuminates certain fields of human action. Most of the contributions in the second part explicitly draw on the Normative Practitioner Model as just presented above. Let us briefly run through the various contributions. In his contribution, Geertsema moves beyond his earlier reflection on creation order as promise-commands eliciting a response of being(s), that we briefly—all too briefly—referred to above, to reflect upon the promises of eschatological renewal of the world as they are conveyed in Scripture. The theme is very topical as contemporary continental thinkers, some of them explicitly atheist, take up the theme. As it turns out, some of the old discussions return here: the concreteness and reality of the biblical teaching is given up in favor of an absolutized transcendence, and the personal character of God’s presence in the world is given up in favor of an impersonal philosophical idea. The uniqueness and dignity of the particular is given up in favor of a universalist abstractness regarding power, law, and justice. Therefore, for contemporary thinkers the eschatological becomes more a utopian impossible possibility than a real hope that radiates in our present. Two authors draw on the aesthetic experience of the world to evoke a sense of binding authority, and of commanding respect that is inherent in the world of things (Desmond), and inherent in nature (Graham). The world, nature impinges on us, is not just a neutral collection of atoms and molecules to be manipulated at will by human reason and human action. Inspired by the phenomenological approach, William Desmond challenges the modern experience of order as meaningless res extensa. He points to a shine on things that cannot be taken to be a shine of things, but that points to a given beauty and ultimately may refer to the Platonic good or to God. We may acknowledge this but, at the same time, be very conscious about the risk of idolatry. Graham argues differently. He begins by addressing the search for deep sources that may inspire respect for nature and hence environmental responsibility beyond utilitarian calculations. This source could be found via revisiting Kant’s arguments for the existence of God, and by providing an alternative, aesthetic line of argumentation that circles around Kant’s notion of aesthetic ideas and can also be applied to our experience of nature. For Kant, these ideas are always the product of genius. Since humans do not create nature (unlike works of art), one



c­ annot avoid assuming a supernatural genius, which may give some inkling as to how to avoid shallow ecology. Are these perspectives that somehow bring together the aesthetic and the ontological, including the transcendent, convincing? In her response to Desmond, and drawing from Kierkegaard and Primo Levi, Van Riessen points to the experience of interruption or disruption as being outside the law and which cannot be classified as belonging to a beautiful order. Instead, it brings home our vulnerability in the face of evil and distress, and hence awakens our subjectivity and engagement as an alternative to indifference. Dengerink, in her response to Graham, sees an unresolved tension in Kant, and, per consequence, in Graham as well. It is between the human mind that sets out to understand and ultimately control nature (the idea of freedom), on the one hand, and the awareness that nature threatens human freedom when humans find out that they are controllable matter as well. Hence a certain competition between man and nature ensues, which is hard to resolve even by the aesthetic route that Graham explores. Following Dooyeweerd, Dengerink calls for reconsidering the fundamental distinction between Creator and creation, which gives a legitimate and limited place to both human freedom and nature. Evans argues that normativity, or—more specific—ethical obligation, is not based so much on a creation order as on commands given by the Creator, who reveals himself to mankind and enters into a social relationship that carries obligations. People may not always recognize this source of their obligations since the commands come via different routes (theologically speaking: both general and special revelation can be involved). In a way, Evans follows the route that nominalists were trying to follow and was outlined above that gives a more personal grounding for morality than a pre-established impersonal order (as, for example, is often done in the natural law tradition). But in this account, the image of God becomes a crucial matter, as Brugmans points out in her response. Is He ultimately the lawgiver (in the domain of morality) characterized by justice, or the One that saves us from moral judgment out of his compassionate mercy and goodness (in the realm of religion)? It seems that the Divine Command Theory does not sufficiently reckon with human frailty and brokenness, which religion deals with in a transformative way—even beyond moral judgment. In the discussion between Evans and Brugmans, a tension arises between justice and love. This issue is exactly the theme that Wolterstorff picks up while addressing the relation between love and justice in the biblical tradition. Often, a conflict is constructed between these two demands. Love, it is said, pays no attention to what justice requires; justice, it is said, is often unloving. Critiquing this idea of tension between love and justice, Wolterstorff argues that the encompassing biblical command of love actually incorporates justice because it seeks to advance the good of the other while always respecting the worth and the inherent dignity of the other. Love may go beyond justice, but it at least does what justice requires. Zuidervaart moves the debate about the foundation of order into the realm of institutions and societal structures, which is in line with Abraham Kuyper’s “architectonic critique.” Criticizing the actual direction in which the tradition of “creation ordinances” has developed—and formulating ontological, epistemological, and


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theological objections to it—Zuidervaart develops a different account from the same inspiration and distinguishes three societal macrostructures that organize contemporary social life—civil society, proprietary economy, and the administrative state. Three societal principles are singled out that can function as normative standard for evaluating these macrostructures: solidarity, resourcefulness, and justice. On this basis, Zuidervaart calls for a normative and emancipatory transformation of Western society as a whole. In his response, Buijs focuses on the experience of suffering as a hermeneutical key to creation order. He proposes an interpretation of the idea that may counter the ontological, epistemological, and theological objections of Zuidervaart by calling on the long (Christian) tradition of identifying evil as privatio boni, absence of the good. He also sees this as the basis for caution regarding our critical and redeeming task in modern society: pushing back the influence of evil is already very worthwhile, but a full scale redirection of society with even an eschatological scope may well be beyond our reach and runs the risk of utopian overheating. In the second part of this collection on normative practices, a series of essays are collected in which some practical implications of the idea of creation order as outlined above are drawn for various professional fields; that is, various “practices.” Rusthoven argues that for medical ethics and the medical practices an approach that takes its bearings from the idea of creation order is richer than the principled-­ based ethics that is currently dominant. The relationality that is fundamental in the human creational condition is especially crucial in understanding medical practice. Instead of a physician applying (or at least staying within the confines of) certain basic principles, valuable as they may be in themselves, the medical practice is now seen as a “web of relationships” in which the physician-patient relation is only one next to the relations with other caregivers, relatives, medical institutions, and even the pharmaceutical industry. All these relationships have a different character; yet, they all come together around the needy patient. Van der Stoep explores an entirely different field altogether—a field that is often associated with moral lousiness and hypocrisy; that is, corporate communication. Based on a creation order approach, he shows that even this field can be internally “redeemed,” as it were, by focusing on norms that hold for this practice, i.e., trustworthiness and non-manipulativeness. In order to achieve this, corporations need to do some “soul-searching” to find out “who” they are, “what” their competence is, and what they see as the reason for their existence in a particular time and context. In other words, they need to discover the “why.” Only then their communication can be sincere and fit the needs of customers and society. The next three contributions focus on the field of international relations. Bagares deals with the nature of the international legal order. The present-day parlor about “the international community” suffers from an unsolved tension between “state-­ individualism” and communitarianism. An approach that applies a Dooyeweerdian framework might well be able to overcome this tension by the notion of an “inter-­ commmunal legal order” that ultimately moves beyond state-exclusivism and is able to incorporate the many non-state actors, such as NGOs that are currently active on the international scene.



Polinder focuses on international relations where a wide-ranging debate on whether to incorporate “religion” as an independent factor in International Relations theory is occurring. Based on an analysis of the arguments of two key authors—one an influential representative of the old main stream theory, the other one of the “challengers”—Polinder sees possibilities for moving beyond the deadlock by introducing an approach that is inspired by the practice-approach of Reformational philosophy. Jochemsen deals with international development cooperation. He argues that a normative analysis of this practice is qualified by what Dooyeweerd called the “formative aspect,” where meaning-oriented deliberate shaping holds as a normative principle. Religion and world view play an important role in the direction in which the practice develops. The view of “development” forms an important element in the directional side of development cooperation. Development in this view is not primarily economic growth, but value realization as the result of cooperative human action in social practices and institutions.

Conclusion We have, in line with the theme of these volumes, quite naively continued to speak of creation order without giving attention to the situation that when we say “creation” today a whole range of associations and debates arise about how to interpret Genesis 1. The notion of creation order in Reformational philosophy is not dependent on any particular interpretation in this respect. Therefore, a term such as “given order” may do as well, and precludes these Genesis debates. Dooyeweerd did not use the term creation order often, but rather referred to the relation between “law” and “subject” (what Geertsema refers to as promise-command and response). This volume displays a plurality of approaches; nevertheless, it bears witness to the richness of reflective and practical insights that can be derived from the articulation of the basic intuition that we do not—almost aggressively, in modernity—create our world and its order, but receive it in order to bring it to further flourishing. At the same time, the tradition of creation order or given order clearly has become reflexive. It is as if when one author is positive about the idea of a God-given order or God as somehow the origin of our sense of order and normativity, another author immediately stands up and acknowledges the importance of these insights, but at the same time, issues a warning—a warning for the danger that we too easily may identify the given order with the status quo and not give enough attention to the dark sides of life, human failure, human brokenness, and human suffering. It seems that this is par excellence the way a tradition of thought, and a community of thinkers, can move forward into the unknown future. Not with big dogmas, but contextually responding to the call to promote human flourishing as shalom.


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References Cohn, Norman. 1993. Cosmos, chaos and the world to come. The ancient roots of apocalyptic faith. New Haven: Yale University Press. Dooyeweerd, Herman. 1953. A new critique of theoretical thought. Vol.1. The necessary presuppositions of philosophy. Amsterdam/Paris/Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Company. Eisenstadt, Shmuel N. 1999. Fundamentalism, sectarianism and revolution. The Jacobin dimension of modernity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Frankfurt, H. 1948/1978. Kingship and the Gods. A study of ancient near eastern religion as the integration of society and nature. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Geertsema, Henk G. 1992. Het menselijk karakter van ons kennen. Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn. Jaspers, Karl. 1955. Vom Ursprung und Ziel der Geschichte. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer. Milbank, John. 1990. Theology and social theory. Beyond secular reason. Oxford: Blackwell. Taylor, Charles. 1989. Sources of the self. The making of the modern identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ———. 2007. A secular age. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. Voegelin, Eric. 1956. Israel and revelation (vol. 1 of order & history). Baton Rouge: Lousiana State University Press. ———. 1974. The ecumenic age (vol. 4 of order & history). Baton Rouge: Lousiana State University Press.

Part I

Fundamental Reflections

Creation Order in the Light of Redemption (2): Political Philosophy Henk Geertsema

Abstract  This chapter is the second part of a diptych on creation order in relation to new creation. It takes its starting-point in New Testament teaching about the reality of the kingdom of God and new creation in the here and now. Its main concern is to understand the philosophical implications of this teaching. For that reason, it analyses a contemporary discussion in political philosophy which connects a social-­ political critique with basic themes of Jewish and Christian faith, and as such, is part of “philosophy’s turn to religion.” Much attention is paid to the wider philosophical background of this discussion. Three issues especially come to the fore: (1) The interpretation of transcendence in its connection with the highest good and the impact of the critique of religion in this respect; (2) the continuation of the transcendental urge of Kantian philosophy in Heidegger and his critical followers such as Derrida and Agamben, and its connection with the theme of the particular and the universal (Badiou); (3) the ideas of sovereignty and power (Benjamin). It is argued that the philosophical idea of transcendence leads to an understanding of “messianic hope” and “ultimate redemption” which necessarily differs from New Testament teaching about the kingdom of God because transcendency is interpreted in impersonal terms. Furthermore, an interpretation of justice, sovereignty, and power is suggested by making use of the creational perspective of promise-command and response, the correlation of law-side (universal) and subject-side (particular), and the idea of the good as intrinsic to relations. Keywords  Creation order · Kingdom of God · Messianic hope · Transcendence and the highest good · Critique of religion · Philosophy’s turn to religion · Agamben · Badiou · Derrida

H. Geertsema (*) Department of Philosophy, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



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Introduction In Part One, creation and new creation were discussed in relation to the natural world and human identity. The focus was on continuity and discontinuity between the world as it is now and new creation. However, the New Testament teaches that new creation already began in the present era. This becomes clear when we realize that within New Testament teaching new creation is closely related to the kingdom of God. The heart of Christ’s message was that this kingdom was coming and did come with his teaching, life, death, and resurrection (cf. Wright 1996). The apostle Paul mentions the Holy Spirit as the reality of new creation in the present time: its first fruit (Romans 8: 23). In his second letter to the Corinthians, he uses even stronger language: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5: 17). Therefore, our main concern in this part is to understand the implications of New Testament teaching about the present reality of new creation (redemption) for creation order in the here and now. The focus is on the social and political world. In relation to the natural world and human identity, we concentrated on structural issues to develop a possible theoretical framework for understanding continuity and discontinuity between first and new creation. This time our central theme will be the understanding of what is truly good. I will follow the same pattern as in Part One. My starting point is a contemporary philosophical discussion which connects social-political concerns with central themes of the Jewish and Christian tradition. After a sketch of this discussion I add some biblical comments, and then focus on philosophical comments. This time, though, the sketch of the contemporary discussion will be more extensive than in Part One. The sketch itself will have the nature of an analysis, be it in broad strokes. Some basic philosophical themes will be discussed and will be elaborated upon in the philosophical comments. The issue of the relation between theoretical analysis and concrete experience, with the connected distinction between appearance and reality, mentioned in Part One will appear again. This time it will relate to the understanding of what is good as developed in philosophy over against religious faith. The topics of the particular and the universal and of power and authority are connected. Concurrently the interconnection between philosophical analysis and biblical message concerning the reality of new creation within the present world and its meaning for our understanding of creation order will be at the background of our discussion. I close with some concluding remarks.

Contemporary Discussion One of the surprises of contemporary continental philosophy is the attention given to the apostle Paul and his writings. The reason for this is not a sudden interest in his central message about Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of all creation. Paul has become a center of interest in philosophy because of the social and political

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implications of his teaching. Typical in this respect are Alain Badiou, St. Paul. The Foundation of Universalism (French 1997) and Giorgio Agamben, The Time that Remains. A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans (Italian 2000). They are preceded by Jacob Taubes, The Political Theology of Paul (German 1993).1 In a wider sense, they are part of philosophy’s turn to religion for which Emmanuel Levinas, Jean-Luc Marion, and also the later Jacques Derrida can be mentioned as representatives (De Vries 1999).2 Obviously, I cannot discuss these books and their authors in any depth. It is even hard to give a general characteristic because of the diversity and their disagreement among each other. Their views appear to be rather complex, and their texts are often not easy to interpret. To give some idea of what is at stake, I try to indicate the complex philosophical background before I mention some ideas as an illustration. In my philosophical comments, I will come back to what I see as the main issues. I distinguish three strands. In the first place, I want to connect with the distinction between appearance and true reality in classical Greek philosophy as mentioned in Part One. There the distinction was discussed in relation to contemporary science. As such, the classical distinction was shaped by Cartesian philosophy and its focus on the certainty of knowledge: theory and science may suggest a potential knowledge of true reality over against the limitation of concrete experience to the world of appearances. However, the original distinction also implies another element: that of the good and perfect—the ideal world as true reality over against the deficient and limited nature of everyday life. These two elements were combined in traditional philosophy. Science as theory was ultimately directed to the highest good, the ideal world, the perfect and divine. Immanuel Kant’s accomplishment was to make a sharp distinction between these two elements. He related certainty to the sphere of science and theoretical reason and the “good” to the sphere of ethics and practical reason. As a typical result of the critical turn in Kant’s philosophy, the former is limited to the world of appearances; only the latter aspires to what Kant calls the “noumenal” world, which concerns human freedom, immortality, and God. By assigning the ideas of God and the human good exclusively to practical reason, Kant began a development that, with an expression of Ernst Bloch, could be called a movement “from upward to forward” (Geertsema 1980). In traditional philosophy, the highest good—the perfect divine being—was understood as transcendent to our temporal world, given to be known by theoretical reason or metaphysics. Kant distinguished between the “highest good” in the primary sense, which is God, and the highest good in the secondary sense, which is what humankind may hope for. Through a complex history that via Hegel and Feuerbach ended with Marx, the highest good was connected exclusively with concrete existence of humankind in the social-political world, and no longer with God as a transcendent reality nor with  For some comments on these books see—for example, Milbank et al. (2010) and Harink (2010).  De Vries (1999) focuses on Derrida, but also discusses Marion and Levinas at some length. Actually, a reaction against this turn to religion in philosophy has started already; e.g., by Quentin Meillassoux, a former student of Badiou. 1 2


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human hope for life after death. “Philosophy should not interpret reality anymore but change it.” The attempts of communism to realize this highest good within temporal reality were not very successful though. Part of the reason why post-modern philosophy developed in France was this failure of radical leftist politics. However, the urge to reflect on the good and a human life that is true to this—and therefore critical towards the actual conditions of society—could not be suppressed indefinitely. It is this philosophical concern with the good and its implications for a critical understanding of the social and political world which I want to mention as the first element of the philosophical background from which the contemporary discussion we are treating should be understood. This first element itself forms the background for the other two which I will mention. The second strand also begins with Kant. It concerns the transcendental nature of his philosophy: the search for the transcendental conditions for the possibility of knowledge, which—at the same time—account for the possibility of the world of appearances. Both, according to Kant, are to be found within human consciousness. In this respect, the development through Husserl and Heidegger becomes important. To a great extent, Husserl’s phenomenological method remains focused on human consciousness, even though—in his later development—he tended to some realism of ideas. The real turn was accomplished by his former student Heidegger. Heidegger raised the question about the meaning of Being because of his discontentment with the Cartesian turn towards the subject and the focus on consciousness as its corollary. Human subjectivity needs an orientation outside of itself. At the same time, the idea of historicity, as developed within the nineteenth century, receives a more radical meaning as “History” is now connected to Being itself. In Heidegger’s later development “Language” became crucial for the understanding of humankind’s relation to Being: Being speaks through Language. Much energy is spent, therefore, on the analysis of language in the form of literary or philosophical texts. Concurrently, the transcendental urge of Kant’s philosophy is somehow continued. Philosophy is pursued as “fundamental ontology.” It searches “behind” or “beneath” the ontic given for a deeper structure, both in ordinary life and in written texts. Only in this way can philosophy ask the question about the meaning of Being (Sein) as distinct from being (Seiendes). It should be added, though, that the distinction between theoretical and practical reason—so crucial within Kant’s transcendental philosophy—does not function within this context, maybe as a continuation of an earlier result of Hegel’s influence. There is no longer a clear separation between theoretical and practical philosophy. Philosophy’s analysis of depth-structures does concern the meaning of Being. At least implicitly “fundamental ontology” aims at the understanding of what is truly good. It may be that the ethical concern in this practical intent appears only in a limited way in Heidegger’s search for the meaning of Being. Although the practical intent is certainly there, it is not without reason that Levinas criticizes Heidegger because his emphasis on ontology suppresses the radical ethical question. In later development—as represented, for example, by (the later) Derrida and Agamben—this

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r­ adical ethical concern is at the heart of the discussion. Although the transcendental urge of Kant’s philosophy is constantly maintained in one way or another. The question remains, though, how far this search can be pursued. Is it really possible to ask the deeper ontological questions about Being by leaving behind the concreteness of “beings”? In terms of traditional philosophy, is it possible to grasp the “universal idea” by means of theoretical thought without contaminating it through our understanding of the concrete particular or, the other way around, without doing injustice to the unique singularity of that very particular? In terms of Kant’s transcendental philosophy—leaving behind both its strict separation of theoretical and practical reason, and its starting point in human consciousness—is it possible to grasp what is ultimately good in a concrete sense by means of a (quasi-) transcendental analysis? Will this analysis be able to rise above a suggestion of formal structures? Or will its theoretical nature prevent it from pointing to concrete ideals or social-political goals? Anyhow, Heidegger’s attempt to search for the meaning of Being by means of an analysis of the depth structure of being and language is often not far away in the contemporary discussion with which we are dealing. It is sometimes in the background, and sometimes is the actual topic of discussion. The third strand centers around Walter Benjamin. Four elements are of relevance here. In the first place, Benjamin’s relationship with the Romantic movement, which is connected with his concern for a deeper experience of reality than available in everyday life. Together with his lifelong interest in the Jewish mysticism of the Kabbala, the second element, this accounts for the mystical element in his thinking. Our everyday life can be interrupted by a mystical experience. This opens up an unfathomable depth of universal significance in a concrete moment of time. In other words, our everyday time is transcended by an experience of eternity. The “now” of this moment (Jetztzeit) interrupts and transcends the flow of time from past through present to future. A different element is Benjamin’s confrontation with the idea of sovereignty as developed by Carl Schmitt. Schmitt argued that true sovereignty manifests itself in its right to make exceptions to the law. If necessary, the sovereign can decide that the law does not apply to a concrete situation. Real “power” is exhibited by being above the law. However, this shows that the law itself is just an instrument in the hands of the sovereign to exercise and maintain his power. Over against this Benjamin pleads for a “transfiguration” of the law. As “spiritual” over against “natural,” it should relate to the intrinsic meaning of life instead of only being instrumental for power structures. In this manner, it is able to serve true justice (Poettcker 2010, 99). The fourth element is Benjamin’s idea of the “messianic.” This idea connects the mystical element of the “now” with the transfiguration of the law into true justice. Messianic power is “weak,” and it can reveal itself at every moment since, in the words of an old rabbinic saying, “every second of time is the small gateway through which the Messiah might enter” (Kroeker 2010, 53). “Messianic time” does not refer to a specific time in the future; it is the (impossible) possibility of each moment: the potential that is hidden as eternity in the now, interrupting the steady flow of


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time from past to future. It is the opposite of Carl Schmitt’s sovereign, which is the characteristic of ordinary politics. At the same time, messianic time, as hidden, is the secret potential of the social-political world and the radical critique of a politics of power in Schmitt’s sense. It is against this background that I will point to some ideas from the texts I mentioned before as an illustration of the contemporary discussion. Badiou finds a foundation for a new understanding of the universal in the writings of the apostle Paul. In what way? Crucial for Paul is the event of the resurrection of Jesus and his appearance to him on the road to Damascus. This event changed his life, and he was committed to live out the meaning of what had happened to him. In the understanding of Badiou: the unique event of the resurrection of Jesus constituted Paul as a subject. At the same time, the event has a universal significance. Paul commits his life to it in order to make it affect all people without distinction: Jews and Greeks, slaves and masters, and men and women. The universal significance of the unique event relativizes all social conditions in which people are caught. They lose their meaning. The unique event (the particular) has a universal meaning by being constitutive for the subjectivity of all who let themselves be addressed by it. It is not the resurrection of Jesus, as such, that counts for Badiou. He does not believe in its reality. What is important in the writings of Paul is the formal structure of a unique event with a universal significance that overcomes the conditions of established society both in terms of patterns of thought and political practice. The “event” sets the law aside. Here we touch an idea that is important for others too. Law in its connection with sovereignty in the sense of Schmitt characterizes contemporary (capitalist) society. This law needs to be made “inoperative.” In the footsteps of Benjamin, Badiou—as well as Agamben—refer, in this context, to the apostle Paul and his treatment of the law: through Jesus Christ the law has lost its power for those who believe. In this way, true redemption has become possible. Paul becomes a witness to the (impossible) possibility of “redemption” in the midst of oppressive politics (and economics) in terms of law and power (cf. Zimmermann 2010). Derrida is more ambiguous about the law. He admits it’s necessary role for the functioning of society; yet emphasizes that it always falls short of true justice. Both Agamben and Derrida—although in different ways—speak, in this context, of messianic time or “messianicity” to refer to a “redemption” that overcomes the limitations of our actual world: the “coming community” (Agamben) or “justice to come” (Derrida). Agamben remains close to Benjamin and the mystical element in his thought by relating messianic time to a redemptive potential which is hidden in the now of every moment, but is primarily a critique of actual social and political reality (Agamben 2005; cf. Murray 2010; Kroeker 2010; Hansen 2010). Derrida is more aligned with messianic tradition in a wider sense as a horizon of ultimate justice and human fulfilment. However, he also rejects the messianic pretense of any concrete historical person or religion. His “messianism” is without a messiah, or, in other words, Derrida defends a messianicity without messianism (cf. De Vries 1999). To summarize, the contemporary discussion which I have tried to sketch in rough terms aims at thinking about the possibility of true meaning and hope in the midst of a world of evil, especially in terms of the contemporary capitalist social-political

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system. The issue is whether there is still the possibility of redemption for those who are oppressed, not just—but as well as—in terms of the social and political conditions, but also in terms of being truly human. Elements of the Jewish and Christian hope resonate as far as philosophy has turned to religion for new inspiration, and to think through the depth of the issues at stake. At the same time, the basic context of the discussion is determined by philosophical development as sketched above in the three strands of trying to think about the good and its potential in philosophical terms within a modern/post-modern context.

Biblical Comments Essential to the authors mentioned is that our relationship to the good—the universal with its redemptive quality—does affect us in our present conditions. It is not hard to see that this also applies for the New Testament message of the kingdom of God: the reality of the new creation within the present world should change our lives in a radical way. However, in what way is new creation a present reality according to the New Testament? To give some indication I mention a few points, and compare the New Testament emphasis with the philosophical approach I referred to. Badiou connects the power of truth as founded in an event with its universal address in his book on Paul. “Evental truth” does not only speak to a particular individual, such as Paul, but has universal significance, “addressing itself to all the others” (Badiou 2003, 92). Indeed, one could mention this as the first way in which new creation, the kingdom of God, is present in the broken conditions of our present world: through the proclamation of the good news, its acceptance in faith, and as a consequence a life out of love (cf. Badiou 2003, 87f.). It is important, though, to realize that the good news of the kingdom of God does not primarily concern the social-political world, although it certainly is included. Evil and its destructive impact goes deeper. As stated in Part One, in the biblical perspective the primary relationship from which we should understand all of reality is the relationship with God, the Creator. It is this relationship which is distorted by evil and sin in the first place. God’s relationship with humankind especially needs to be restored because of humankind’s special position in his creation. The restoration of this relationship is, therefore, at the heart of the coming of the kingdom, including the radical turn of conversion, atonement, and reconciliation. At the same time, according to biblical teaching, evil—as directed against God and his creation—has a source beyond humankind. It is this power, the evil One, which needs to be overcome (Wright 1996, 196, 200). Only in this way can God’s original intention for all his creatures be realized. In this sense, the battle for the kingdom of God is truly spiritual—even if it affects all of reality, including the social-political world. The second point I want to mention pertains to the nature of the kingdom of God in its present manifestation. The content of the good news is that the kingdom of God has come with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—the Messiah. This is the message to be proclaimed. Evil and the evil One are basically overcome.


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Through faith we now can be united with Jesus Christ and participate in the kingdom of God and new creation. In agreement with Badiou, one can indeed say that our subjectivity is constituted in a new way by our relationship with Christ. Our identity, as founded in the answering relation to the promise-command to be of the Creator-God, is reconstituted by our unity in faith with Jesus Christ. However, this being “in Christ” relates both to his suffering and death and his resurrection. According to the New Testament, the messianic time has indeed come. However, in the present time, the power of the resurrection is intricately connected with the suffering of the cross. In this respect, it is remarkable that in the book of Revelation, once the visions about what is going to happen have begun, Christ is first and only once called the lion from the tribe of Judah—an image of power and strength (Revelation 5: 5). Afterwards, he is always called the Lamb, often with the addition “as slaughtered”—an image of his suffering and death (e.g. Revelation 5: 6; 7: 10, 17; 21: 22–23). Evidently, the risen Christ rules as the crucified—the cross remains characteristic for the way he rules, certainly for the present time. On this point, Benjamin with his idea of “weak power” is closer to the New Testament than Badiou, for whom the cross and death of Christ do not mean very much (Badiou 2003, 65f.). The third point concerns the relation between redemption and transcendence. All authors under discussion somehow take the possibility of redemption to be dependent on a transcendent source. From a purely immanent perspective, redemption is impossible. This appeal to transcendence applies to the event of Badiou, to messianic time (Jetztzeit) of Agamben (and Benjamin), and to messianicity as a gift of Derrida. The precise way transcendence is understood may be different; the common element is that redemption requires an origin that transcends (ordinary) human subjectivity. The regular flow of historical time from past to future somehow needs to be interrupted from the outside. This emphasis on transcendence in relation to redemption certainly agrees with the biblical view. Redemption through Jesus the Messiah, the coming of the kingdom of God, living the new life of faith—in short— the reality of new creation, all of them are not a human possibility. They are a gift from God. However, there are important differences too. In the first place, according to the New Testament, new creation within the present world is connected with ordinary time. It is not understood as an “interruption,” just an “incident,” but as working itself out in the midst of our life. Exceptional healings may take place. However, they restore life as part of the original creation. The same is true of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5; cf. Colossians 3). New creation works itself out in terms of the original creation, even in its broken condition. The New Testament even speaks of the beginning of a new time (aeon)—the provisional start of new creation within our present conditions. In the second place, our present life is made relative because of what we expect to come: the full manifestation of new creation (cf. Romans 8: 18f, 1 Corinthians 7: 29–31; cf. Agamben 2005, 23f.). Redemption and new creation in the New Testament are characterized by the tension between the “already” and the “not yet”: the kingdom of God has come and is still expected to come. But this “expected to come” itself refers to a real event which will bring an end to our present history. This event may change the time of first creation (as dis-

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cussed in Part One), yet it is more than an interruption of the regular flow of time which then continues basically as before. It will forever change human history into the new heaven and the new earth as depicted in Revelation 21 and 22, and as implied all through the New Testament (cf. Wright 2007). To summarize this last point, according to the authors under discussion, redemption depends on a transcendent source. It is not a possibility immanent within regular history. It will only appear as an interruption of ordinary time. In that sense, redemption itself remains part of a transcendent reality. Within the New Testament, redemption is also dependent on a transcendent source. Yet, it appears and works itself out within our present history in a provisional form. It will finally appear in its full glory and make everything new. Redemption has a transcendent source, but it does affect our present reality and someday it will be completely “immanent.”

Philosophical Comments Let me first emphasize the importance of the discussion I have referred to. Its philosophical nature may help us to think through the implications of the biblical message concerning the “already” and the “not yet” of the kingdom of God, the new creation, for our philosophical understanding of the world we live in. Reading these texts may sharpen our sense that our social and political world is in need of true redemption. The idea of event as an interruption of ordinary time may point to potential experiences of a deeper human fulfilment. At the same time, our biblical comments have clarified that we also need a critical attitude. We cannot just take for granted the philosophical background from which this discussion arose. In what follows, I will make some comments concerning three topics relating to the three strands of the philosophical background which I have tried to sketch: the turn from upward to forward concerning the idea of the highest good (strand one); the relation between universal and particular, or between transcendental condition and concrete realization concerning redemption and justice (strand two and three); and the understanding of sovereignty and power (strand three). All three seem, to me, to be important for a Christian philosophical approach in which the implications of the reality of new creation in our present world are thought through. They are complex issues, though. I have to limit myself, therefore, to what I see as essential. This may imply that I have to simplify matters and leave out nuances.

 rom Upward to Forward and the Understanding of What Is F Good In my rough sketch of the philosophical background, I referred to the movement from upward to forward in relation to the idea of the good. Instead of referring to a transcendent reality beyond our ordinary world, the “highest good” was now being


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used to encourage the realization of human hope within our historical world. In this development, the critique of religion by Feuerbach and Marx played a crucial role. It is important to realize that this critique has a double edge. It implies both a critique of the religious belief in a personal God who is to be trusted and obeyed, and a critique of the philosophical idea of a perfect and infinite reality which transcends human finite existence, yet functions as its ultimate horizon to understand true humanity and its destination. The critique of religion aims, at the same time, at biblical faith and at Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy. Even though the target of the critique does not primarily concern faith in a heavenly afterlife as a comfort for present misery, it certainly is included because of this double edge. The ultimate good for humans should no longer be sought in the relationship with God, nor in an integral new life with him in a new creation, nor in an ultimate intellectual vision of “God” as perfect and highest being. Evidently, in the critique of religion, these two targets were not distinguished. It was for a good reason because within the Christian tradition they were often closely connected. Within theology, Greek philosophy has been used to interpret the relationship between creature and Creator as pictured in scripture. For the understanding of faith, this implied an important shift, though. The concrete relationship with God in personal terms was replaced by a primarily intellectual relationship. The primacy of concrete experience as guided by faith within the fullness of everyday life was superseded by a theoretical reflection attempting to grasp the being of God by philosophical means.3 At the same time, there was a strong awareness of the limits of these attempts as the discussion about negative theology illustrates. How could it be possible for finite beings to grasp the infinite? How could there possibly be an idea of being that encompasses both the finite and the infinite? No wonder that the ultimate visio dei was connected with life after death. In Part One—about science and eschatology—I mentioned the tendency towards a God’s eye point of view in both philosophy and science. My contention is that this tendency also characterizes the theological attempt to think of God in terms of being.4 The problems exemplified by negative theology are the result of using philosophical ideas concerning the highest good to think of the being of God himself. The implicit tendency for a God’s eye point of view within those philosophical ideas could only lead to unsolvable problems for theology. In my earlier analysis, I indicated that our finite existence forbids, in advance, the possibility of a God’s eye point of view because we can never transcend our being as a creature. Our ability to reflect is itself only possible as a creaturely given. If this applies to our knowledge of created reality, this will be even more so in relation to our knowledge of God. We cannot reflect on this relationship from outside, as if we can abstract by means of theoretical concepts from its concrete givenness. Here, if anywhere, theoretical reflection is possible only on the basis of concrete experience as guided by faith; in this case, on the basis of faith itself. Biblically speaking, we are only able to know God by faith because he has revealed himself, addressing us by 3  However, the “theoretical” nature of this reflection does not exclude existential enjoyment and depth. 4  This attempt is what I see as the heart of onto-theology.

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words—mainly through his messengers—and acting in our behalf. We cannot transcend this kind of knowledge or give a rational foundation to it by means of a theoretical reflection. Neither should we understand God’s revelation of himself primarily in terms of theoretical truths. In philosophical terms, our knowledge of God is basically determined by a second person perspective: answering in responsibility—as the creatures we are—to God’s speaking and acting in creation and history (cf. Geertsema 1993). The third person perspective of philosophy (and theology) can never leave this second person perspective behind as if we could attain a meta-­position. In relation to God, philosophy and theology necessarily take place within the second person perspective as answering to the Speaker of the promise-command to be. Returning now to the beginning of this paragraph, we should conclude that the two elements of the critique of religion should be taken apart. God as creator and redeemer in the biblical sense cannot be identified with the highest being of philosophy in which the being of God and the being of creation are included in one theoretical concept. Such an all-encompassing concept of being would presuppose the possibility of a God’s eye point of view in relation to God and creation together. In relation to the Platonic world of ideal forms, a philosophical critique from a third person perspective is to the point. In relation to the biblical God, a critical attitude ultimately is based within the second person perspective where the response to God as Creator and Redeemer finds its proper place whatever factors may be of influence in relation to the actual response—personal, cultural, or historical. However, I should add another element. Thinking about the highest good in terms of being easily leads to a specific view of evil. If the highest good is understood as the highest level of being, evil can be understood as a lack of being, ultimately as non-being. Evil then is the lack of good. It is understood in negative terms, and not as a positive power. “Positive” evil in the sense of demonic destruction is easily lost from view. Of course, there is a great diversity in forms of evil. It can be result of ignorance, impotence, deception, or making absolute what is only relative. However, evil can also aim at destruction as such—just to destroy what is (intended to be) good, and to make creatures suffer as an end in itself. One may wonder whether this limited understanding of the nature of evil does not come back as a consequence of the critique of religion when all emphasis is laid upon evil as the result of social and economic power relations and their sedimentation in social structures.5 Undoubtedly, a lot of injustice can be pointed out this way. However, it cannot account for all evil, not even between humans. For Christian faith, it is essential that we take our starting point in the relationship between us as creatures and God as Creator, and that this relationship be understood in personal terms. In a strict sense, there is no ultimate good as a transcendent reality such as the Platonic forms or ideas which we may hope to attain in some other life or, for that matter, from which the ordinary course of things in the present 5  That the critique of religion does not necessarily lead to a limited view of evil can be illustrated by a story about Ernst Bloch. He was an outspoken atheist. However, in a discussion with theologians Bloch protested against their view that the devil was just a “myth.” Evidently, he thought that evil in all its brutality was not taken seriously enough in this way.


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world may be interrupted. God can indeed be called ultimately good. However, this does not make him into the highest good for humankind in a philosophical sense. The good for humans, both as gift and calling, finds its place ultimately within the relationship between us and God—a relation from person to person between God, our Creator, and us, his creatures. From there it extends to all other relationships as they are founded and encompassed by this foundational relationship. This is true for our present condition with all its brokenness. It is also true for new creation to come. Moreover, although this new creation will be different from the first, as we have seen in Part One, it certainly will not look like a Platonic heaven of ideal forms, but will be as “material” as creation has ever been. Moreover, although God will be all in all—and we will see him face to face—this does not mean that our ultimate happiness will be a purely intellectual visio dei. Rather, we will live with God, and enjoy him in all aspects of life. This view also has implications for our understanding of evil and its defeat. As we have seen, evil finds its original place within the relationship between God and his creation. It is a distortion of that relationship, and ultimately aims at a total perversion and radical destruction of all that is good both in relation to God and his creatures. The good cannot be understood primarily in philosophical terms. The same is true for what is evil. Both require our integral experience as guided by faith. Even so, they are hard to fathom in their heights and depths. Yet, it is only on that basis that philosophical analysis can deepen and even correct our understanding. When we apply this analysis to the thinkers under discussion, the situation appears to be rather complex. I mention three points. In the first place, there is—in some sense—a return movement to the position of Kant once the modern turn towards the subject has come under critique—for example, by Heidegger. The highest good is no longer completely identified with its social-political realization. The latter requires some kind of transcendent anchorage. One may even wonder whether this new understanding of transcendence moves back behind Kant, possibly as a result of the fact that there is no longer a clear distinction between theoretical and practical reason. The idea of transcendence remains strongly connected with practical-­ethical concerns, but sometimes the impression is given that it is more than a regulative idea, necessary to think the depth of the issues involved, both in terms of critique and in terms of hope and redemption. Transcendence seems to have a reality of its own. Derrida returns to the issue of negative theology (De Vries 1999). Badiou’s idea of the universal reminds us—in some sense—of Platonic ideas. Agamben’s mystical element is also more than a practical postulate. Yet, even though elements of traditional metaphysics may reappear, this certainly does not mean that the critical turn of Kant’s philosophy is totally abandoned. The idea of transcendence is not pursued for its own sake, but for its implications for understanding our human position in the midst of our social-political world, both in terms of misery and hope. In the second place, all three thinkers have a strong, practical motivation based in concrete experience. There are even clear traces of a second person perspective. Derrida speaks of call and promise in relation to his idea of messianicity (Derrida

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and De Cauter 2006, 268). For Badiou, the notion of “address” is crucial for his understanding of truth (Badiou 2003, 90). Yet, one may wonder whether epistemic primacy is still not given to philosophy as a theoretical endeavor over against concrete experience as guided by faith. One could say that, on the one hand, the philosophical element of the Marxian critique of religion is redressed, at least to some extent. This implies, as we have seen in our third biblical comment, that redemption remains transcendent: the truly good cannot become immanent in concrete reality, except as an interruption of ordinary time. Transcendence has again received a reality of its own, even if it still functions pretty much as a practical philosophical idea. On the other hand, it seems that the religious belief in a personal God remains on target. Derrida’s defends a messianicity that for its universal nature transcends concrete religions. Badiou is clear about his atheistic position. None of the three thinkers take a starting-point in a relation of faith as characteristic for concrete religion, let alone in the revelation of the biblical God in his words and deeds both in creation and history.6 There certainly are traces of religious hope and redemption connected with the idea of transcendence. However, the philosophical “turn to religion” (Hente de Vries) remains caught within the boundaries of a philosophical position. It does not imply a move towards a concrete religious conviction. Finally, the idea of transcendence evidently needs to be understood against the background of traditional metaphysics, not in terms of the biblical relation between creature and Creator. The good, therefore, is also not understood on the basis of this relationship. At the same time, it should be more than what is involved in our ordinary understanding of the social-political world. There needs to be a transcendent element in the understanding of what is truly good. Otherwise, the whole idea of transcendence, and its corollary of an “event” that interrupts the ordinary course of time, would lose its meaning. Ultimate redemption, both in relation to a critique of the actual social-political world and to the hope for a better one, transcends our common understanding of factual reality. It is not clear, though, how this transcendent dimension of the good should precisely be understood. Derrida’s connection with negative theology suggests that the transcendent reality of the ultimate good cannot be known in a positive sense. One may wonder whether the mystical element in Agamben’s thought, because of its relationship to Benjamin, points to a combination of religious elements with the Romantic longing for the extraordinary. The idea of the ultimate good as implied in the notion of transcendence may, therefore, be the result of one or another mixture of religious, traditional metaphysical and Romantic elements within a (post)postmodern context. The same may be true in relation to the understanding of evil. There certainly is a deep intuition of what is wrong in our world. Yet, its precise understanding may be shaped by influences of Jewish and Christian religion, (traditional) metaphysical theology, and the Romantic movement. How this affects the understanding of ultimate redemption—and, possibly, law and justice—are the topics of our next section.

 For Agamben, see Murray (2010), especially chapter one.



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 he Particular and the Universal: Understanding Ultimate T Redemption and Contemporary Justice At the end of what I called the second strand in the philosophical background of the contemporary discussion under analysis, I asked how far “it is possible to grasp the ‘universal idea’ by means of theoretical thought without ‘contaminating’ it through our understanding of the concrete particular or, the other way around, without doing injustice to the unique singularity of that very particular?” Or, more in the words of Kant’s transcendental philosophy, “is it possible to grasp what is ultimately good in a concrete sense by means of a (quasi) transcendental analysis?” In this section, I want to apply these questions to our understanding of ultimate redemption (a), and the implementation of justice in our present world (b). The first part relates to both Badiou and Derrida, the second focuses on the tension between law and justice, especially as discussed by Derrida. In both parts, the relationship between philosophy and concrete experience as guided by faith, which had a central place in the former section, will return. The notion of transcendence as related to the idea of the (highest) good will also reappear, especially in part one—this time in relation to the realization of what is good within concrete reality. (a) Badiou’s book about Paul aims at a new understanding of universal truth; that is, truth having a redemptive quality. For Derrida, the idea of the universal (or the quasi-transcendental) is part of his understanding of messianic time. In both cases, the intention is to connect the universal with the particular—the abstract “idea” with ethical implications for practical life. For Badiou, the “particular” Christ-event in the New Testament changes the life of Paul. At the same time, it is proclaimed for its universal meaning. Its proclamation should also change the life of others. Yet, Badiou is not really interested in the Christ-event as such. His actual concern is the truth-event as a formal structure (Badiou 2003, 11, 15, 84). For all its existential implications, the truth-event is still primarily a “universal” with the possibility of many particular exemplifications. Derrida’s messianicity also aims at existential and practical consequences. Yet, his “messianicity without messianism” also refers to a universal phenomenon without commitment to a particular conviction concerning a historical messiah (Derrida and De Cauter 2006, 268). The emphasis also appears to be on a formal structure for Derrida (de Vries 1999, 327f.). For both philosophers, the universal still receives priority over the particular in this way. Neither Badiou’s analysis of the “truth event” nor Derrida’s idea of messianicity implies a particular conviction concerning a concrete event or action in an ultimately redemptive sense. Redemption is not concretely considered. In both cases, the universal claim of particular religious convictions concerning a historical messiah or a unique redemptive event is denied. At most they can be called limited illustrations or pointers to a truly universal redemption. In this way, abstract philosophical analysis is given priority over against concrete convictions of particular religions. When one asks about the reasons for this choice, the first thing that comes to mind is what we discussed in the former section: the, at least implicit, agreement with the modern critique of religion as to concrete religious convictions. As a philosophical

Creation Order in the Light of Redemption (2): Political Philosophy


critique, it implies that a meta-position can be taken in relation to concrete religions. In other words, that a third person perspective is possible in relation to religious positions as such. This very position implies a rejection of the claims of ultimate truth as included in these religions.7 Whatever appreciation there may be concerning real insights within these religions, these insights can only be valued for their general or structural depth, not for their unique significance. And as far as concrete events are concerned, at most these can be understood as particular interruptions of ordinary time, not as of all decisive significance. However, there is also a connection with the other element of the critique of religion: the redress in relation to its philosophical element and the return to a positive view of transcendence. If transcendence—from which ultimate redemption needs to come—is not understood in the sense of a personal actor, any possible actor, or historical event for that matter, would be limited to human possibilities. The claim for universal redemptive power would then indeed be unacceptable. It would far transcend human possibilities. Anyhow, for both Badiou and Derrida, it appears to be impossible to use philosophical means to think about a particular historical messiah or a unique historical event as having universal redemptive meaning. The truly universal cannot be identified with a concrete particular. Philosophy is given priority over against concrete religion. As a result, the abstract universal idea is given priority over against concrete particular religions, and their view of ultimate redemption, and the latter cannot be fully accounted for in their claim of universal significance. What happens when we start from the other side; for example, the universal claims concerning Jesus in the New Testament, who—according to the Christian faith—not only acts on behalf of God, but is—in a way we cannot understand—God himself? One could say that, in these claims, the universal and the particular are intrinsically connected. In relation to a particular, historical messiah, universal significance is proclaimed. Within the New Testament, the message about Jesus concerns all people, even the whole creation. At the same time, this message is not just “theoretical,” it intends to motivate people to a new kind of existence. That is the reason why Badiou refers to the New Testament teaching in his attempt to connect the particular with the universal. Yet, as we saw, he does not actually accept this universal claim. It is only an illustration of the universal as having concrete effect. It appears that the all-encompassing scope of the significance of Jesus cannot be understood in traditional terms of a universal concept or idea of which the particular is just an illustration. Over against Badiou, the universal message of the New Testament does not concern the formal structure of an event that changes lives, but the unique historical event of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus which inspires people. Over against the messianicity without messianism of Derrida, the New Testament claims universal significance for a particular historical messiah. However, how should we understand the universality of this claim? Can it serve as a model for the connection between the universal and the particular in general? If we look at the New Testament, it appears that the universal claim about Jesus is 7  Of course, as such this position implies also a negative second-person response in relation to these claims.


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as broad in scope as the overall biblical claim concerning the foundational relationship between God as Creator and all creatures. In fact, it can only be understood as the restoration of this relationship. In that sense, it is all-encompassing, and, therefore, unique. It differs from any other historical event. Universal and particular, therefore, receive a special meaning when applied to redemption in the ultimate sense. There is a unique connection between the two: the particularity of Jesus the Messiah as such is universal in scope because it concerns the foundational relation of our very existence. For this reason, it is not accessible for philosophical reflection by means of conceptual or structural analysis in the usual way, not in the traditional sense, nor in the sense of Badiou and Derrida. It is not one of many concrete cases from which a general nature can be abstracted. It can also not be understood on the basis of a structural possibility in a transcendental sense. By its very nature it is unique. In other words, to do justice to the claims of the New Testament concerning Jesus as the Messiah, the third person perspective of philosophical analysis does not suffice. What is needed is the second person perspective of answering to a call, whether in a positive or a negative sense. Only in this way can the full depth of the claims of the New Testament be accounted for. They are either accepted or rejected. It is possible, of course, to apply a similar analysis to the claims of other religions. All religions or worldviews, including secular ones, require a response to their ultimate claims of truth, not just an analysis from a third person perspective. However, this fact does not make the content of these ultimate convictions just particular exemplifications of a universal idea. Redemption in an ultimate sense cannot be understood as a universal that transcends concrete particulars. By its very nature, it is itself particular and unique, even if it is, at the same time, universal in its scope. That is the reason why there is no possibility to completely refrain from taking a standpoint in relation to the claims of these different religions or worldviews.8 Some “answer” needs to be given, if only in agnostic terms. If redemption in an ultimate sense is involved, the third person perspective of philosophical analysis cannot be maintained. Necessarily, some choice in terms of a concrete worldview with an ultimate position will be included. The second person perspective of answering to a personal call is decisive, not the third person perspective of theoretical reflection. (b) The second point I want to discuss relates to the tension between a law as issued by a government, and justice that satisfies our deepest longings. The ­intention of the law, ideally at least, is to promote justice by both restricting evil and enhancing the public good. Yet, there always seems to be victims of these laws because their general nature tends to ignore the particular circumstances to which they apply, or they favor some groups at the expense of others. Here we again touch the relation between the universal and the particular, now in connection with the possibility of a just order within society—how it is possible for a political law as necessarily phrased in general terms to do justice to the unique character of people and to the

8  I do not deny that different religious and secular worldviews have elements in common. The choice needs to be made in relation to the basic claims as to which they differ.

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diversity of concrete situations?9 Actually, the question does not only apply to political laws. It holds in its own way for ethical rules as well. I limit myself to two remarks. In the first place, we should realize that order in the world does not have a theoretical or even a logical nature. In Part One it was argued that creation order should first be understood as the order in which we live and experience, not as the abstract order which we formulate in terms of scientific laws and philosophical theories. This also applies to normative order as expressed in ethical rules and political laws. Normative order becomes real in the full sense only when ethical rules and political laws are made concrete in actual life. However, actual life is never just an illustration of general ideas as if a concrete situation can be deduced from a general principle by the rules of logic. To implement an ethical rule or a political law, there is always the need for hermeneutical activity: understanding its meaning in a specific context with its particular conditions. Actually, to formulate a political law or ethical rule requires hermeneutical activity itself. Ethical rules and just laws are never given as such. They always need to be formulated in relation to specific cultural and historical contexts. Political laws require the political process of law-formation. Ethical rules may develop more informally, but they also need some process of formation. Since these processes take place within specific cultural and historical contexts, different contexts may have different political laws and ethical rules. At the same time, we have an intuition about principles or ideas according to which these political laws can be assessed as just, and these ethical rules as good. In that sense, we may speak of a universal as given, or the transcendental necessity of assuming principles. Otherwise, the normative force of political laws and ethical rules would just be a matter of subjective preferences. Be that as it may, the ultimate “norm” or principle needs to be understood by itself, and then receive a positive form for its actual functioning. In this process, the first hermeneutical activity is at work. Political laws cannot be deduced from assumedly universal principles just by way of (formal) logic. They need to be understood. The second step is the application of these laws to a concrete situation. This is what a judge is supposed to do in court. This application also requires a hermeneutical activity: understanding how a general law applies to a specific context. However, the same task is there for any civil servant who applies political laws to concrete situations, whether of social care or economic support. One side of the tension between law and justice may be the understanding of law as universal in a conceptual or procedural (formal) sense. By the universal, we are supposed to grasp the essence of the particular situation, which—as such—is just an illustration without a specific meaning of its own. However, this approach can never do justice to the particulars of a concrete situation. At the end, it may be the result of the old distinction between “true reality” and the “world of appearances” which was discussed in Part One. True reality, understood in rational terms, is projected into the social world, just as scientific laws are supposed to give a complete explanation of nature. Even if this is meant to be only tentative, it does not do justice to the nature of reality. 9  This is also the background for the Hegelian dialectics between concept and idea as observed within historical development.


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Let me try to explain what is at stake in terms of law-side and subject-side as used in Reformational philosophy. To understand the universal as the “essence” of which the particular is only a limited illustration means, in the first place, that the law-side (in the sense of the universal) is understood in terms of the logical or analytical aspect. Supposedly, (normative) order can be grasped fully in a universal concept. This leads to the second element: the subject-side (the concrete particular) is seen as, in essence, reducible to the law-side (the universal). The only relevant elements of the particular or subject-side are supposed to be grasped by the universal or law-side. Only on these two conditions could the concrete application of political laws (or ethical rules, for that matter) be logically deduced from the general principle, or—more concretely—be controlled by formal procedures. However, neither is true to reality. In the first place, although there is a necessary correlation between law- and subject-side, they cannot function without each other; they are not reducible to one another. What is particular (subject-side) about the concrete is as important as its universal element (law-side). In the second place, lawful relations, with all the diversity we can find in our world, can indeed be logically analyzed in conceptual terms. However, this does not mean that these laws themselves have a logical nature, not the laws of science nor the normative “laws” of politics and ethics.10 In the case of science, the actual content needs to be discovered empirically. Although these laws as such are never found within the empirical world, but always need a process of abstraction from integral concrete reality, both their discovery and justification cannot work without a relation to empirical observation. In the case of politics and ethics, normative principles need to be related to concrete human experience. This holds for the basic intuitions concerning what is just and good, for their elaboration in relation to concrete historical and cultural contexts, and for the application of the latter in concrete situations. None of these can be understood just in logical terms. Nor should the relationship between them be taken in the sense of a logical deduction of the particular from the universal. This would ignore the need for hermeneutical activity, which I referred to before. Practically, this means that it is impossible to control the just implementation of ethical rules or political laws in a formal way. There is always the necessity of an appeal to human responsibility. To summarize this point, one could say that part of the tension between justice and law is the result of misunderstanding the nature of normative order. For whatever reason, it is assumed that order can be formulated in general rules and implemented according to formal procedures without an appeal to concrete human responsibility. It is ignored that order for its concreteness requires the extra dimension of human understanding and application: the subject-side besides the law-side. If we use the terminology of human nature as responding to a promise-command to be as developed in Part One, we should say that normative aspects should also be understood as “structures of answering.” By our very being we respond as creatures to the Creator. The different aspects with their law-side make this answering possible and gives form to it. However, actual life always implies the subject-side of  In the technical terms of Dooyeweerdian philosophy: they have a logical object-function, but their qualifying nature is not logical.


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concrete being. The law-side cannot function without the actual answer by concrete persons. In the case of normative aspects, this answering takes the form of concrete responsibility. Normative order should be understood as the unity of answering structures with a normative dimension together with the concrete answering in which human responsibility is fulfilled. This implies that normative order is also only complete when it is lived and experienced, not as an order that is just “out there.”11 However, I need to mention a second point. The tension (or dialectics) between law and justice, as pointed out by Derrida, cannot be fully explained by the misunderstanding of normative order in terms of logical concepts and rules and theoretical ideas. Within our present condition, the tension will remain—because even with the best intentions of both the law-maker and the law-implementer—solutions will not be perfect for every situation. Because of our limitations, even apart from the nature of our intentions, our understanding in terms of the two hermeneutical activities we discussed will remain limited. Moreover, the situation in which we live suffers from structural distortions as a consequence of evil and sin in the past which we will never be able to repair completely. This would require beginning anew which, if tried, will only worsen the situation. At this point, the tension between the “already” and the “not yet” in relation to the reality of the kingdom of God becomes relevant. New creation appears in our present condition, but its full manifestation is still to come. The kingdom of God has appeared as connected to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet, it has not arrived in the full sense. This will only happen when Christ returns. We are called to live as witnesses to the reality of the kingdom of God in the here and now, also with regard to the social and political world. Biblical expectation does not make passive, but active. Witness to the kingdom of God that we hope for implies concrete activities in order to have laws accepted and implemented that protect the weak and fight injustice. We may even form “subversive” Christian communities that express both a critical attitude as to mainline society and a positive alternative in their social practices. However, we should realize that any attempt to realize the perfect order to come under the present conditions is not only doomed to fail but will lead to new means of oppression and violence. This applies as much to these special Christian communities as to the political world at large. As far as our present reality is concerned, the kingdom of God appears as a limited restoration and healing. With all its limitations, this restoration and healing may be a witness to new creation. Only when new creation appears in its full glory, will healing and restoration—together with a newness that far transcends what we understand by these terms—be complete. Redemption, in the sense of healing and restoration, necessarily relates to the nature of first creation. Shalom, in its social-political dimension, can only be realized in present conditions as a restoration and implementation of God’s original intentions with his creation. Therefore, it is important to ask about the nature of  We should not make the opposite mistake, of course, of reducing the law-side to the subject-side with the result that ethical rules or political laws are only seen as descriptions of actual practices or subjective human preferences.



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these intentions, both for social and political relations and their institutional embedding. Here the twofold hermeneutical activity, mentioned before, has its proper place. Normative principles with universal significance, given as guidelines for all cultural and historical development, need to be sought for, understood in their meaning for the actual historical and cultural context, and implemented according to our best abilities. In this sense, it is also meaningful to speak of creation order in relation to the social-political world. Even in its law-side, it is not given as such, but requires the activity of responsible human interpretation. For our understanding of this order, our basic intuitions as guided by faith are foundational. These intuitions themselves need to be elaborated into actual political laws and ethical rules depending upon the historical and cultural context. Actual implementation of these laws and rules may help to improve on them. However, theoretical analysis—both in social science and philosophy—may also be helpful to deepen and even correct both our understanding of these intuitions and their elaboration in laws and rules. In this respect, the theoretical analyses of the normative aspects and of the structural patterns of society in Dooyeweerd’s philosophy may prove to be fruitful (cf. Chaplin 2011) because they are based upon these intuitions, attempt to remain close to empirical observations, and want to do justice to reality as God’s fallen creation. Yet, the limitations I mentioned before in relation to our twofold hermeneutical activity apply here as well. However worthwhile its insights, social philosophy can never give a blueprint that just waits for its realization. These insights can only be provisional. Moreover, the real challenge is to apply them in the concrete social-political world. I will elaborate on this in the next section.

Sovereignty and Power In the contemporary discussion of political philosophy, we are concerned with here a crucial role is played by the view of sovereignty and the correlative understanding of politics and law as instruments of power in the sense of Carl Schmitt. This view is seen as characteristic for the actual political practice and, at the same time, as target for a radical critique. In this section, I want to suggest a different understanding of both sovereignty and power against the background of the creational perspective that I indicated before. I have to limit myself to a few notes. When we understand created reality as a response to God’s promise-command to be, we can distinguish two elements, especially in relation to humankind. To the promise-side of God’s creative word corresponds a longing for and expectation of fulfilment. Responsibility and obedience relate to the command-side. Actually, experiencing fulfilment and living responsibly go together. This becomes clear when we take into account that the good in human life is part of living in relationships: the ultimate good in the relationship with God, and the closely related good in the inter-creational relationships. Seen in this light, human existence can no longer be characterized by a conatus essendi (Spinoza) focused on the self because the longing for fulfilment and the call for a responsible life relate to the same good. This

Creation Order in the Light of Redemption (2): Political Philosophy


good is implied in relationships, which are constitutive for our being human, and includes the fulfilment of both partners simultaneously. Being able to act responsibly within these relationships is itself part of our longing and leads to fulfilment. From this perspective, a different understanding of sovereignty, or—rather— human authority, arises. Authority should no longer be understood primarily in terms of power or self-manifestation. Authority becomes subservient to the good implied in the relationships within which it functions; primarily, the all-­encompassing relationship with God and -immediately connected with this—the rich diversity of inter-creational relationships. Authority is a special kind of responsibility which, as such, implies its own way of fulfilment. It relates to the good that is intrinsic to the relationship within which it functions, whether or not this relationship has received an institutional form. As such, it concerns all those who are part of this relationship. For the right exercise of authority, therefore, it is important to understand the nature of the (institutional) relationship and the normativity by which it is characterized because of its intrinsic good. Authority requires “power” in order to be effective. However, this power should be understood in terms of having the appropriate means at one’s disposal, being shaped by the right competence, and used only as foundational to authority as specific responsibility for the wellbeing of all parties involved (Geertsema 2008). Evidently, the actual practice of authority often shows a very different nature. Power, in the sense of self-manifestation, may appear most of the time to be much more characteristic than serving the wellbeing of everyone involved. Yet, to understand what is wrong here, we need the creational perspective as indicated. Besides, its reality is not completely suppressed. It still functions, to some extent, in many places. Moreover, within the limited possibilities of our broken world, we may try to act even more from this alternative understanding. As far as a normative view about how laws should be phrased and implemented is implied in this approach of authority, my view is akin to Benjamin’s idea of a “spiritual law.” This also aims at the intrinsic good of society and politics instead of being an instrument of power for the benefit of particular parties. I should add some remarks that relate to Benjamin’s idea of “weak power.” The element of the good, mentioned so far, refers to the restoration of the original creation as a witness to new creation in which it will continue. However, there is a second element which concerns the specific shape that new creation takes on in the present conditions of evil and suffering. From a creational perspective, as such, the proper use of authority and power will serve the interests of all people involved. There will be harmony in terms of responsibility and fulfilment. The serving of one another, which belongs to the kingdom of God in its present condition, implies a willingness to suffer for the sake of the other; if necessary, to the point of death. Within the kingdom of God in its present condition, love for our neighbor includes our enemy, as Jesus preached in the Sermon on the Mount and showed powerfully in his life and death. Within our broken world, love always makes us vulnerable (“weak”), but especially so in relation to enemies. Within our present world, mutual good may not result as a matter of course, even if we—from our side—function properly within our relationships. It may be necessary to go the extra mile or take an extra risk for the well-functioning of both sides


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within the relationship, or to win our enemy. If successful, this will be beneficial for ourselves too, but costly, if not. This applies to all the relationships we exist in, each with its own typical nature. This attitude of serving with risk should be especially practiced within Christian communities—internally, but particularly in relation to the outside world. However, we should also try to understand what this means in relation to the specific kind of relationships we connect with public policy. In a normative sense, we may characterize the political sphere as aiming at public justice or the common good. This requires a balance between political self-interest and the interests of others. From the perspective of the kingdom of God in its present condition, self-interest may come in at second place, both within the national and the international arena, in order to restore a relationship for the benefit of the other party. Taking risks in this regard, including the uncertainty of the outcome, should be an essential part of Christian politics, even if the necessity of prudence never should be ignored. Abraham Kuyper is famous for his pronouncement that Christ claims all areas of life to be subjected to him. He connected this belief with his idea of sphere sovereignty. The sovereignty of Christ over all of life is divided over the different spheres of society and delegated to the people within those spheres that have authority or sovereignty within them. What is easily missed in this formulation is the way that Christ rules this world: not in terms of power, but in terms of service and weakness; the characteristic name for Jesus in the book of Revelation is the Lamb as being slaughtered. Only if sphere-sovereignty is understood in this way can it become a Christian principle which, as part of the creational order, witnesses at the same time to the kingdom of God and new creation.

Concluding Remarks In Part One, the focus of our discussion was on the relationship between the present world and new creation as a future reality. In this part, we began by mentioning the connection between new creation and the kingdom of God in New Testament teaching. The kingdom of God is also understood in this teaching as a present reality, and this understanding is also applied to new creation by Paul. Therefore, we formulated “to understand the implications of New Testament teaching about the present reality of new creation (redemption) for creation order in the here and now” as our main concern. Against this background, we looked at a contemporary discussion within political philosophy in which social-political concerns are connected with central issues of the Jewish and Christian tradition. We pointed out how some ideas correspond with New Testament teaching, such as “messianic hope,” in connection with a critical stance toward the actual social-political world and the constitution of subjectivity in a new sense by a historical event. Yet, the differences with New Testament teaching appeared to be of basic importance. All the emphasis is on redemption in terms of the social-political world without openness for its religious and spiritual

Creation Order in the Light of Redemption (2): Political Philosophy


dimension. Different from the New Testament, messianic hope cannot become historical in a real sense. Ultimate redemption remains transcendent to ordinary time. In our analysis, the philosophical background of this discussion played center stage, especially in relation to the idea of transcendence and the connected understanding of what is truly good. Transcendence is understood in the sense of a philosophical idea, not in personal terms as in the Jewish and Christian faith. As a result, ultimate redemption cannot become concrete in an actual event or a historical Messiah. Evidently, philosophy receives priority over against religious conviction. The primacy of philosophy may also play a role in the next point—the relation between law and justice. We pointed out that the actual tension between the two may partially result from a misunderstanding of the relation between the universal and the particular as applied to concrete reality. The particular should not be seen as just an “instantiation” of the universal, as if the unique properties do not really matter. The relationship is better understood in terms of the correlation of law-side and subject-side—where both are equally important, and hermeneutical activity is needed as much in relation to understanding the law-side itself as to its implementation at the subject-side. Besides, within our present world, justice—in a full sense— will not be possible because of the remaining tension between the “already” and the “not yet” of the kingdom of God. Finally, we interpreted the ideas of sovereignty and power in the light of both creation and new creation. Here Benjamin’s ideas of spiritual law and weak power appeared to be fruitful. Because the focus of Part One was on new creation as a future reality, a central issue was the relationship between continuity and discontinuity between the first and new creation. I suggested that we interpret continuity and discontinuity in terms of some basic theories of Dooyeweerdian philosophy. Aspects and structures, as such, may account for continuity; the specific laws and properties of these aspects and structures for discontinuity. In Part Two, the focus was on new creation as a present reality, our understanding of what is good or evil, and its being overcome. Therefore, continuity and discontinuity did not come up as an important issue, except in relation to the already and not yet of the reality of the kingdom of God (new creation) in the here and now. Yet, it may be interesting to ask the question of whether we could also apply the theoretical framework of Dooyeweerdian philosophy to the problem of continuity and discontinuity between first and new creation in relation to the social-political world  (cf. Dooyeweerd 1957). In terms of modal aspects, I tend to answer this question in a positive way. I already suggested in Part One that all aspects—from the numerical to the pistic—will indeed characterize us humans in a structural sense in new creation as well. Although, at least for some and probably for all, in a way that differs from our present existence. Can we also apply this analysis to the structural patterns of social and political institutions? If we want to function in all aspects in new creation, this means—at least—that we will also have relationships with each other within these aspects. We will not only speak with one another, we will also have economic and legal relationships. However, will there also be economic and political institutions with, in principle, the same structure as today? That is, in Dooyeweerdian terms, with a foundational and a qualifying function that shape all other aspects into a typical


H. Geertsema

unity, whatever differences there may—and will—be in a concrete sense? According to the New Testament, there will be no marriages and families (Luke 21: 34–36). However, what about the state, business enterprises and factories, universities as institutions of learning and research, associations that organize sporting activities, and orchestras and choirs? The state, if it will be there, will certainly be different since the monopoly of military and police force to fight injustice and crime will no longer make sense. However, there may be such a thing as an institution that facilitates the public good. At least, there is some suggestion in the New Testament that there will be nations living in new Jerusalem (Revelation 21: 24). Moreover, if I may say so, I will certainly not be surprised if there will be enterprises and factories, institutions for art, organizations for sporting activities, and schools of learning and research. The study of history may even have a special place next to making unheard of new discoveries and learning about them. Yet, if the continuity may not lead to surprises, the discontinuity certainly will—beyond our imagination. Throughout Part One, the concreteness of creation order was emphasized. The order of creation is, first of all, lived and experienced. It is primarily known in concrete practices and in the concrete world. The order of creation is not complete without its actual implementation. It encompasses the law-side together with the subject-side (the third concluding remark of Part One). The inner connection between new creation and the kingdom of God may illustrate this point. The kingdom of God, as the New Testament speaks about it, needs to be established. It is only there when it is actually lived in concrete lives. It is also there in the preaching of the kingdom message (Matthew 13). Certainly, but it is within the actual preaching in all its concreteness in which the kingdom is present. This concreteness also applies to the order of new creation. It will only be there when it is established— when in all human practices the holy and perfect will of God will shine through so that God will be all in all. This is how we should also look at the creation order. In all its brokenness it is the actual order which is there and which still supports reality in its continuous existence. However, we know it only partially. Moreover, it is broken. Therefore, our ultimate hope is for new creation.

References Agamben, Giorgio. 2005. The time that remains. A commentary on the letter to the Romans. English translation by Patricia Dailey from the Italian Il tempo che resta. Un commento alla lettera ai Romani. Bollati Bolonghieri 2000. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Badiou, Alain. 2003. Saint Paul. The foundation of universalism. English translation by Ray Brassier from the French Saint Paul: la fondation de l” universalisme. Presses Universitaires de France 1997. Stanford: Stanford University Press. de Vries, Hent. 1999. Philosophy and the turn to religion. Baltimore: Jon Hopkins University Press. Derrida, Jacques, and Lieven De Cauter. 2006. For a justice to come: an interview with Jacques Derrida. In The Derrida-Habermas reader, ed. Lasse Thomassen, 259–269. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

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Dooyeweerd, Herman. 1957. A new critique of theoretical thought III the structures of individuality of temporal reality. Amsterdam: Presbyterian and Reformed Company. Geertsema, Hendrik Gerrit. 1980. Van boven naar voren. Wijsgerige achtergronden en problemen van het theologisch denken over geschiedenis bij Jürgen Moltmann. (From upward to forward. Philosophical themes and problems of Jürgen Moltmann’s theological thought about history). Kampen: Kok. Geertsema, Hendrik G. 1993. Homo respondens. On the historical nature of human reason. Philosophia Reformata 58: 120–152. Geertsema, Henk G. 2008. Power and conflict in human relations. Tentative reflections from a Christian perspective. In Philosophy put to work. Contemporary issues in art, society, politics, science and religion, ed. Henk Geertsema, Rik Peels, and Jan van der Stoep, 70–99. Amsterdam: VU University. Hansen, Ryan L. 2010. Messianic or apocalyptic? Engaging Agamben on Paul and politics. In Paul, philosophy, and the theopolitical vision. Critical engagements with Agamben, Badiou, Žižek, and others, ed. Douglas Harink, 198–223. Eugene: Wipf and Stock. Harink, Douglas. 2010. Paul, philosophy, and the theopolitical vision. In Critical engagements with Agamben, Badiou, Zizek, and others, ed. Douglas Harink. Eugene: Wipf and Stock. Kroeker, Travis. 2010. Living “as if not”: messianic becoming or the practice of nihilism. In Paul, philosophy, and the theopolitical vision. Critical engagements with Agamben, Badiou, Zizek, and others, ed. Douglas Harink, 37–63. Eugene: Wipf and Stock. Milbank, John, Slavoj Žižek, and Creston Davis. 2010. Paul’s new moment. Continental philosophy and the future of Christian theology. Grand Rapids: Brazos Press. Murray, Alex. 2010. Giorgio Agamben. London: Routledge. Poettcker, Grant. 2010. The Messiah’s quiet approach: Walter Benjamin’s messianic politics. In Paul, philosophy, and the theopolitical vision. Critical engagements with Agamben, Badiou, Žižek, and others, ed. Douglas Harink, 90–115. Eugene: Wipf and Stock. Wright, N.T. 1996. Jesus and the victory of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Wright, Tom. 2007. Surprised by hope. London: SCPK. Zimmermann, Jens. 2010. Hermeneutics of unbelief: philosophical readings of Paul. In Paul, philosophy, and the theopolitical vision. Critical engagements with Agamben, Badiou, Žižek, and others, ed. Douglas Harink, 227–253. Eugene: Wipf and Stock.

The Shine on Things: Given Beauty and the Order of Creation William Desmond

Abstract  Generally, where scientistic attitudes towards the order of creation tend towards the reductive, postmodern attitudes tend towards the deconstructive. The given order of beauty tends to be made problematic. The surface of things is often invested with an equivocity that, whether reductively or deconstructively, we can only approach with epistemic-ontological suspicion. In the following reflections I focus on the connection between given beauty and the order of creation in light of issues connected to this. Beauty itself is inseparable from some sense of formed wholeness. Is there is a givenness to beauty in nature which belies the (postmodern) claim that order is just an imposition of (our) power on flux? The notion of creation is inseparable from the origination of order, but the order comes to be, arises from originating sources that allow forms of beauty to be that are more than our determination or self-determination. Something marvelously original comes to be, comes to shine. There is a shine on things. But what shines on things when we come to appreciate their given beauty? Is it just our shine on things, as if we were the sole source of light? Is it the shine of things, as if the things were luminescent in their own being there? Is it a shine on things, such that the source of the light was not just ours, nor confined to the thing of beauty? These questions will be explored. Keywords  Beauty · Creation · Givenness · Construction · Deconstruction · Shining

W. Desmond (*) Philosophy Department, Villanova University, Villanova, PA, USA Philosophy Department, Maynooth University, Maynooth, Ireland Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



W. Desmond

Opening Recurrently throughout modernity, certain scientific orientations to nature have tended towards the reductive.1 Of course, one might immediately object that it is a scientistic rather than scientific orientation that exhibits this tendency. Moreover, it is true, we must make a distinction between the scientific and the scientistic. I take the scientistic to be a philosophical interpretation of science which claims that the scientific approach can solve, at least in principle, all the essential questions or problems. The scientific approach, by contrast, can well be more chaste in its claims to be the measure, if only in principle, of all essential questions. Open to the real as it is, true science is willing to confess its fallibility. Yielding in the acknowledgement of the limits of its knowing, it may also grant that there are certain perplexities not in essence scientific. The curiosity of science participates in a more primal and open wonder at the astonishingly intricate intelligibilities that come to show themselves in the order of creation. Surely that order, and the intelligent astonishment that is opened to it, is not betrayed by the determinate curiosity of scientific inquiry.2 Granting such an epistemic-ontological openness of science, one might still ask if the opening is itself twinned with a tendency towards the reductive. Scientism, in one form or another, seems to be a recurring default position haunting science, a besetting temptation when the larger significance of science itself is philosophically, and indeed theologically, in question. We find something such as the following from the beginning of modern science: The surface of things, with all the qualitative textures things exhibit, tends to be relativized in the direction of a more neutral, valueless objectification. Accompanying this, our pre-scientific orientation to what is given is often subjectified, and in the language of earlier modern science, the surface of things yields merely secondary qualities rather than primary.3 True, in due course science comes to find astonishing orders at work in nature. The primal epistemic-­ ontological opening to the being of nature as it is cannot be gainsaid. Nevertheless, the given beauty of creation tends to be subjectified, if not ontologically weakened. One might say: The shine is taken off things. What stands before us is a valueless, neutral thereness. And what the beauty of creation communicates, if it communicates at all, tends to be deprived of metaphysical and theological significance.  A somewhat shorter version of this chapter appeared in an earlier form in William Desmond, The Gift of Beauty and the Passion of Being: On the Threshold between the Aesthetic and the Religious (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2018), chapter 3. Permission to reproduce is acknowledged. 2  It is crucial to keep in mind important differences between wonder in the modalities of astonishment, perplexity, and curiosity. Curiosity is more related to objectifiable determinations of given being, perplexity to indeterminacies we cannot quite make univocally determinate, astonishment to ontological porosity to given being in its wonderful overdeterminacy. Beauty is to be correlated with the modality of astonishment, as its incarnational companion. On these three modalities, see my The Intimate Strangeness of Being: Metaphysics after Dialectic (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2012), chapter 10, “Ways of Wondering: Beyond the Barbarism of Reflection.” 3  A. N. Whitehead’s account of this in Science and the Modern World (New York: Macmillan, 1925) is still marvelously fresh. 1

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Generally, postmodern attitudes to order might seem quite different to more scientistic orientations. One might put it thus: where the scientistic tends towards the reductive, the postmodern tends towards the deconstructive. Yet, there is a kind of overlap in their different stresses; namely, that finally there seems to be no given order of beauty. The surface of things is invested with an equivocity that, whether reductively or deconstructively, we can only approach with epistemic-ontological suspicion. That is, given orders are said to be invested with a kind of false sacredness, or “naturalized,” such that their origins in human construction or will to power are disguised. The point now is said to be an unmasking of given order, and a revelation of the secrets of power. If there is an order of creation, this postmodern orientation does not seem very hopeful in approaching it. More often than not, such an order of creation is denied outright. Of course, there is a side to postmodernism where art and the aesthetic play a huge role, and one could well ask whether that role could be played at all without some sense of order, or aesthetic form. I think not myself. While celebrating the aesthetic, postmodern thought tends to be equivocal about the religious. And yet, one can ask if there is a secret familial bond between the aesthetic and the religious which points to something beyond deconstruction or complete reduction: the given order of creation, as itself presupposed by all human claims to creativity. One could well ask if given creation, and the endowed creativity of the human being, communicate something of the giving source, or the ultimate endowing power. In the following reflections, I want to focus on the connection of given beauty and the order of creation in light of these issues. Beauty itself is inseparable from some sense of formed wholeness. One must grant, of course, that such aesthetic wholeness does not preclude the possibility of disorder; and yet, there is consonance in the dissonance, harmony in the struggle of opposition. The question is whether there is a givenness to beauty in nature which belies the (postmodern) claim that order is just an imposition of (our) power on flux. I would say that the notion of creation is inseparable from the origination of order, but the order comes to be, arises from originating sources that allow forms of beauty to be that are more than our determination or self-determination. Creation is more than an imposition on flux, for something original, something marvelously original, comes to be, comes to shine. Things come to shine; there is a shine on things. However, what shines on things when we come to appreciate their given beauty? Is it just our shine on things, as if we were the sole source of light? Is it the shine of things, as if the things were luminescent in their own being there? Is it a shine on things, such that the source of the light is not just ours, nor confined to the thing of beauty? Postmodern thought has inclined to look on beauty as something merely domesticating, and has tended to stress the sublime and its excess to every formed whole.4  A sample: Jean-François Lyotard, The Inhuman: Reflections on Time, trans. Geoffrey Bennington and Rachel Bowlby (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991); also Lyotard’s Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994); Christine Battersby, The Sublime, Terror and Human Difference (London: Routledge, 2007); Jean-François Courtine, ed. Of the Sublime: Presence in Question (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993); Hugh J Silverman, and Gary E. Aylesworth, eds. The Textual Sublime: Deconstruction and Its Differences (Albany: State 4


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The beautiful tranquilizes, the sublime disturbs. Perhaps this attitude is taken to counteract the valueless thereness of the objectivizing reduction mentioned above. The sublime liberates from aesthetic staleness. This is not untrue; but beauty, I will argue, does not domesticate being in terms of a closed whole, but witnesses to the promise of what one might call an “open whole.” Beauty reveals no merely tranquilized totality, nor need there be any exclusive “either/or” between beauty and the sublime. Finite wholes, in the aesthetic happening of things, open beyond themselves to what gives them to be. Revealed as creations, a light shines on things from beyond every closed whole. The shine on things has metaphysical and theological significance, beyond reduction and deconstruction. We behold the lilies of the field, but does the shine on things tell of a light that endows our power of enlightening? Does this light, neither of us nor things, give things of beauty whose luster wakes in the soul a song of praise?

Creation and Postmodern Order(s) In connection with the theme of creation order and postmodernism, normally we think of postmodernism as assaulting order, in the sense of deconstructing orders that, supposedly, have been “naturalized,” even “fetishized,” while their origins in human construction or will to power are disguised. The unmasking of such orders— the deconstruction of the secrets of power they disguise—more often than not are said to reveal some covered-over otherness, more inhuman than human. As I already put it, order is an imposition on flux, and when we see through the imposition as our imposition, no order can give orders. Something of its credibility is weakened. We cannot surrender to it without suspicion. At most, order is a provisional and transient stabilization of flux. If there is a given order of creation, this cannot be the last word. We must ask: Who or what gives the order? Are we giving the orders, or are we given order, perhaps even under order? The gift of beauty can offer some illumination here. More, it can offer opportunities for reflection that need not be “merely” aesthetic. The gift of beauty relative to the order of creation has some bearing on crucial metaphysical, and indeed, theological matters.5 The foregrounding of the aesthetic in postmodern thinking often co-exists with the recessing of the religious, indeed metaphysical and theological dimensions of the issue, but it is a question if, finally, these can be avoided in a (renewed) postmodern thinking of the order of creation. Given the prominent role that art and the aesthetic play in postmodernism, we cannot avoid asking from the outset whether this role is possible without some sense of order, or aesthetic form. We do note a recurrent trend that seems more intent to deform the form, break the frame, desanctify the fetishized given, and in one way or University of New York Press, 1989). Not quite postmodern, but illuminating and engaging, Paul Crowther, The Kantian Sublime: From Morality to Art (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991). 5  See notably, Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics. I: Seeing the Form, trans. Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, edited by Joseph Fessio S.J. and John Riches (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1982).

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other, reduce to the status of a false exaltation everything claiming to elevate and ennoble. Aesthetic order seems, again and again, to be put in the doghouse. As a revealing instance, I think of how a book on beauty edited by Umberto Eco, though respectfully noted by critics and readers, was not a huge publishing success; by contrast, its companion volume on the ugly was hugely lauded and brazenly outsold its more demure sister.6 We seem to find an elective affinity for the ugly, the monstrous, the execrable, just to the extent that order seems defeated by disorder, form by formlessness, purity by blemish, and serenity by horror. I think of how in the paintings of Lucien Freud human flesh is on the verge of mud—humus with the divine breath withdrawn, or withdrawing; while in those of Francis Bacon flesh is meat, screaming meat. The traditional argument is that it is hard to make proper sense of the ugly without its secretly being parasitical on some sense of the beautiful. How to make sense of disorder without some hidden sense of order? How to make intelligible the (non) sense of deformation without some operative form, albeit incognito? Some sense of aesthetic order must be at work, even if we are to enjoy the thrill of transgressing aesthetic order. The case is analogous to evil and good. It is undoubtedly true that in recent centuries humanity has “supped full of horrors,” to borrow a phrase from Macbeth. We are like Macbeth who says: “Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts/Cannot once start me” (V, 5, 14–15). However, have we hugged the horror too much? Have we become too yielding to slaughterhouse thoughts? Have we grown direly suspicious of any consent beyond horror?7 There is a trend where we reveal ourselves to be engaged obsessively and (oddly) easily with radical evil,8 while all the while we remain mum about the astounding question of radical good. Who poses that question? Silence about this question should not exist at all, if we are honest about the evil itself which, it is reasonable to argue, cannot be made sense of without as honest an exploration of the promise of the good. This issue of evil is also connected with creation, and indeed the good of creation as given. If we have a diminished feel for the beauty of given creation, it is not surprising that we have an enfeebled sense of the goodness of creation as given. Relevant here is the concern of postmodern currents with the sublime rather than the beautiful. After all, the sublime ruptures form and brings a breach to our more domesticated forms. Its breach provides an opening to something of excessive otherness. This is true and very important, but—of course—much hangs on the sense of the excessive otherness that might be glimpsed in the breach of finite order.  Umberto Eco, ed. History of Beauty (New York: Rizzoli, 2004) and On Ugliness (New York: Rizzoli, 2007). 7  I want to thank Renée van Riessen warmly for her very engaging and thoughtful remarks in response to an earlier version of my reflections, and am at one with her in granting that we cannot avoid the horror. Admittedly, my search here concerns more the consent than the horror. 8  A sample: Joan Copjec, ed. Radical Evil, (London and New York: Verso, 1996); María Pía Lara, ed. Rethinking Evil: Contemporary Perspectives (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001); Susan Neiman, Evil in Modern Thought: an Alternative History of Modern Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002); Richard Bernstein, Radical Evil: A Philosophical Interrogation (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002); Martin Beck Matuštík, Radical Evil and the Scarcity of Hope: Postsecular Meditations (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2008). 6


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Someone such as Lyotard draws attention to this, and draws on Kant, a point well-­ known.9 The unrepresentable is somehow presented. The unrepresentable is reminiscent of the God of monotheism of whom no graven image is to be made, but there are multiple ambiguities here. If we connect the transcendent with the religious, in the rupture of the sublime we are also breaching the circle of aesthetic autonomy, and rightly so. However, this runs against the grain of both modernist, and to a degree, postmodernist aesthetics. The modernist wants an art freed of the religious; though, in fact, the modernist invests the aesthetic with something of the displaced ultimacy of religious transcendence, and in my view, the religious passes into art in an often unnamed way. There is resistance to bringing that name of religion out of anonymity. You might say the postmodern breaches the autonomous order of modernism’s aesthetic form, and yet there is a sense of uneasiness in being forthright about the religious as such. It is as if our dissatisfaction with modernist autonomy is still in thrall to the same (aesthetic) autonomy, though this is now lacerated. We cannot come quite clean on naming the religious dimension of the issue as such. Remember also that the postmodern sublime is more often than not a wrought sublimity. One thinks of some works of artists such as Mark Rothko and Lyotard’s engagement with Barnett Newman.10 The given order of nature as creation is not the originating occasion of the postmodern sublime, but the image of the imageless wrought by artistic construction, or deconstruction, or perhaps abstraction or subtraction. The rupture of the unrepresentable seems to owe more to the constructing/ deconstructing “activity” of the artist, albeit shrouded in the enigma of its own night, than to the sublimity of nature as other and given. It is a sublimity that strangely remains too tied to the human, even as it seems to free the human into the inhuman or the transhuman. I think it prompts a query concerning the extent to which postmodern thought or art is the thought or art of the city rather than that of the country. If this is so, such thought or art is always distanced from creation as given, and hence from a sense of order which, while not human simply, invests (the) human order with its distinctive potencies. Such a thought or art would be more concerned with human constructions rather than given orders in which human construction participates, orders in which the human shares rather than overarches.11 In the city in its familiar ­strangeness the human being is reflected back to itself, in the wrought order. This seems so even when the face reflected back is a strange face—the alienated face is still our own. Where there is an inhumanity to the city, this inhumanity is still humanity’s own inhumanity. By contrast, the face of nature (as creation) is not simply our own. Even

 See Lyotard’s Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublime.  See Barnett Newman, “The Sublime Is Now,” Tiger’s Eye 1.6 (1948): 51–3; Lyotard, “The Sublime and the Avant-Garde,” in The Lyotard Reader, Andrew Benjamin, ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989) chapter 10; also “Newman: The Instant,” chapter 13. 11  On technological sites, skyscrapers, the Golden Gate Bridge, and such, as places of spectacle and tourism, see David Nye, American Technological Sublime (Cambridge, Mass. and London: M.I.T. Press, 1994). On technology and the sublime in contemporary American writing, see Joseph Tabbi, Postmodern Sublime: Technology and American Writing from Mailer to Cyberpunk (Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 1995). 9


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when we do our utmost to humanize it, there is an otherness to it beyond human determination and self-determination. The order of country creation, if I might so call it, is not the mirror in which the human is so easily confirmed, or as now seems, more beloved on the terms of postmodernism, disconfirmed. Remember Kant’s moralization of the sublime: the sublime may seem to make small the human being as a creature of nature, but it really leads to the elevation of the human being as a moral being.12 The otherness of the sublime is moralized, even morally tamed. In postmodernism we do not find the moralization of the sublime, but more the demoralization. Witness Nietzsche: he would de-moralize all of being, and return us to the so-called innocence of becoming (die Unschuld des Werdens); but return to homo natura is also return to the inhuman, if moralized humanity is our measure. The equivocity of the sublime otherness so granted by some currents of postmodern thought seems to remain too equivocal to be given an honestly religious name. The breach of autonomy yields a lacerated autonomy rather than a different freedom that releases us to the fullness of creation as other. It is worth remembering that the (re)emergence of concern for the sublime in the eighteenth century itself had strongly religious overtones. Mixed in with it was a reaction, religious as well as aesthetic, to the anorexic abstraction of the deistic transcendence and the dead thereness of a mechanistic nature. In question was something of the glory of creation as other to us. Sublimity, thus approached, is something on the boundary between the aesthetic and religious. That boundary is important for rethinking the aesthetics of creation and the kind of order that is at stake here. It is interesting to recall that Hegel had a sense of the sublime which touches on this issue. It is especially bound up for him with the majestic transcendence of the Jewish God, a God who for him is also connected with the doctrine of creation. While he calls Greek religion, the “religion of beauty,” he calls Judaism the “religion of sublimity.”13 However, it is the transcendent otherness of the sublime that is, for Hegel, both its greatness and deficiency. For Hegel, Jewish transcendence is superseded by Christian immanence, and hence the sublime God must give way to a divinity more self-determining in immanence, an immanent God also more modernly compatible with humanity’s own immanent self-determination. The old order of creation and its sublimity are surpassed in spirit’s cultural self-determination. Creation is the self-creation of God, and there ensues the relegation in spiritual ultimacy of the sublime. The spiritual domestication of its aesthetic happening qua happening is not pursued by Hegel in the direction of postmodern disorder, and yet he submits to the secular evacuation of the aesthetic happening of the sublime of its religious significance. Hegel’s dialectical-speculative evacuation of divine

 Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, ed. Paul Guyer, trans. Eric Matthews, Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant in Translation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), § 27. 13  Hegel, G.W.F. Lectures on the Philosophy of Religion: One Volume Edition, The Lectures of 1827, trans. and ed. Peter Hodgson (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1988), 328–74. 12


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t­ranscendence yields, I would argue, a counterfeit double of God, and this applies from a Christian point of view, as well as a Jewish.14 Whichever way we turn, and to underline the present point: the postmodern does not seem so hospitable to the idea of order as such, since the spirit of suspicion lingers that claims to a given order are false faces of hidden powers. Their surface beauty conceals brutal realities. Apply this thought to creation in so far as there is beauty in its given order, and we must suspect that this seducing face of beauty hides a darker Medusa-like visage, into whose eyes we look with peril. For what we then see in truth is horror, and our chilled souls are instantly turned to stone. I have just named something that lies very close to the heart of Nietzsche’s vision of the dark Dionysian origin from whose more exposed truth we need art to save us; the same Nietzsche who alternatively is the patron saint of postmodernism or its mischievous Peter Pan. In short, then in relation to the ontological status of order, we find a certain doubleness. The postmodern is both a breach with and continuation of the modern: order as the determination of “geometry” in one becomes order as the surface of chaos in the other; autonomy as first lauded in one then becomes autonomy lacerated in the other, at the end becoming autonomy that is not so much self-legislating as self-lacerating and self-cannibalizing. The break and continuity of the modern and postmodern has something to do with a loss of the sense of the order of creation as given. It has something to do with the need for a finessed beholding that would follow from a different sense of the aesthetics of happening.

Creation, Modernity, and Beauty’s Eclipse Of course, one might argue more generally that what has happened as modernity has unfolded is a certain eclipse of beauty. As I put it elsewhere,15 in Romantic and post-­ Romantic aesthetic culture a subjectivity in excess of all finite objectivity comes to dominance, and it can find no balancing consonance between itself and the beauty before it. I will return to this point. It is true that in popular culture and entertainment physical beauty is a thing massively sought after, but in cultural circles of a more avant-garde character, beauty is treated with diffidence, if not disdain. It revels in the dubious consolation that serves to tranquilize the false consciousness of the bourgeoisie—so it might go. One of the sources of the revolt against beauty in some aesthetic quarters is the perception that it panders to a philistine bourgeois culture. In being assaulted, such a culture (putatively) is provoked into betraying itself in philistine reactions—reactions allowing a second gesture of outrage to the dim aesthetic taste of the “boobs” (H.L. Mencken’s term for a member of the “Booboisie”). Admittedly, the case is more complicated in that beauty is, in fact, often instrumen See my Hegel’s God: A Counterfeit Double? (Aldershot: Ashgate Press 2003).  See my Art and the Absolute: A Study of Hegel’s Aesthetics (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1986), chapter 6.

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talized by capitalist culture to sell commodities. Beauty addresses us, and gets our attention, and hence is an easy servant to shanghai or press gang the consumer into collusion with the capitalist need to sell. Beauty is groomed as the consort goddess who serves the last god of the religion of shopping. All this is quite true. While some aspects of this are to be decried, there is another sense in which the whole thing pays a secret tribute to the power of beauty, even as it uses it for purposes which are not always very beautiful. Beauty moves us. There is something elemental, and deep, and not understood about our being so moved. It is this moving or being moved that is deflected in the direction of the shopping mall and the cash register. Bait and switch, I think it might be called in the jargon of the salesman—a very distasteful experience, even for a shopper (speaking as a shopper). You want to buy one thing, but the seller, having one fish in the bag already, wants to sell you something else also. Beauty is made to serve the lying and dissimulating—all in the name of the highest moral imperative, to sell to the customer who is always right—another lie. It is quite understandable why lovers of true beauty would hate this. What they love is being prostituted. However, of course, it is part of the power of beauty to beautify—and this is essential to human existence. It is important to remember how pervasive beauty is in human life. Recall how one half of the human population spends a lot of time looking at the other half with more than half an eye to beauty. I am thinking of the way man looks at woman and woman looks at man. Without beauty, would we look at each other at all? Less intensely but not insignificantly, even the most functional of relations (the useful) are lifted to another level by coming under the transforming power of beautification. If the useful were merely the useful and the beautiful only the beautiful and the twain should never meet, then use would degenerate into an ugly functionality within which humans could not make a home or find themselves at home. This would be a degradation of the useful into the merely instrumental. Meanwhile, the beautiful as useless would pine away in its preciousness, protecting us from intrusion by anything other, but now destined to vanish into the consumptive impotence of the beautiful soul. I think we need to take a view broader than the instrumental exploitation of beauty. I would connect what looks like the slow eclipse of beauty in philosophical reflection with a certain denaturing of the human being in modernity. The human being does not find peace in the otherness of given creation, overreaches, overtakes, and reconfigures its givenness. Our technē becomes more ultimate than any given beauty of creation. This is usually presented as a great advance in some quarters. Finally, it is said, we are freed from natural necessity and can assert our power over the conditions of our life. We can forge ahead for the only prize purportedly worth fighting for—our own autonomy. It is notable, how in modernity, freedom has become perhaps the only uncontested value, while freedom in turn is very frequently identified univocally with autonomy. It remains contested as to exactly what true freedom is. This denaturing has sometimes been attributed to or blamed on the notion of creation—God has made us lords of nature and by divine endowment we assert our overlordship. What is given serves us. We are not the steward who serves, but the


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lord who dictates. Perhaps often we find ourselves caught in an equivocity here between an attitude of superior sovereignty and one of generous, respectful service. Nevertheless, the accusation against the notion of divine creation is too equivocally formulated. The service of the steward is not the determination of the dictator. There is a just dominion that is not tyrannical domination. As is agreed by many, the premoderns dwelled in the world with some sense of it as a cosmos. This is explicitly inseparable from the aesthetics of being, as the word “cosmos” (cosmetics) indicated—a well-wrought, harmoniously ordered whole—a thing of beauty. Recall the demiurgic art of Plato’s god—he works the world as a work of art. One might say this is a matter of technē, but it is not a neutral imposition of form on matter. The fitness of the whole is in view. The demiurge as the best (aristos) makes the most beautiful (kallistos) cosmos possible (Timaeus, 29a). The demiurge looks to geometrical paradigms, but geometry seems subsumed into aesthetic and religious finesse for the beauty and goodness of the wrought cosmos. The cosmos is likened to “an aesthetic god that is an icon of the noetic” (Timaeus, 92c).16 “It is everyway necessary that the cosmos be an icon of something” (Timaeus, 29b).17 Geometry and finesse are twinned in the divine art. We might say that human beings are called to a certain finesse for immanence that attends to the beyond of finitude—finitude signed as divine art. The order of nature in modernity seems tilted more and more towards a God in whom predominates the esprit de géométrie rather than the esprit de finesse (in Pascal’s terms). One recalls the mechanism to which we are accustomed in earlier modernity. This is no cosmos, no beauty, and its aesthetics reveal merely secondary qualities. The aesthetic is not invested with ontological weight, or indeed with any sense of the sacred that we find in the sacramental universe of the medievals. We also find a kind of breach between being and the good. Our objectification of being purports to offer a neutralized thereness, while subjectivity as autonomous purports to be a source of value and indeed to invest things with what worth they possess. However, beauty is the sister of the good, and the sister is even more subjectified than the good in this now stripped down cosmos. As Yeats put it: “Descartes, Locke, and Newton took away the world and gave us its excrement instead. Berkeley restored the world.”18 Leaving aside the interpretation of Berkeley, loss of the world, restoration of the world is somehow at stake in the eclipse of beauty, and the return of the light that shines on things. In this context, the reaction of Romanticism to Enlightenment is understandable. This was a reaction to the loss of the world by, so to say, a rampant esprit de géométrie. Enlightenment rationalism often went hand in hand with a deism which superficially granted a God beyond the immanent mechanism of nature, though at the price of making the immanent mechanism threadbare of divine intimacy. I would defend a form of superior transcendence, but there are forms of oppositional transcendence that want to safeguard divine transcendence and yet end up generating  eikon tou noētou theos aisthētos.  pasa ananke tonde ton kosmon eikona tines einai. 18  W. B. Yeats, Explorations, selected by Mrs. W. B. Yeats (London: Macmillan, 1962), 325. 16 17

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the opposite—the vanishing of God as transcendent. The king (now suitably modernized as a clock-maker) is secure in his high castle on the high hill, but a wall of brambles grows around the height, and nothing seems to be communicated any more to the sublunary world, and at a certain point of non-communication the silence turns us away from transcendence on high to immanence all around us. In this light, one might see pantheism as an understandable reassertion of the signs of divinity in immanence itself—an effort to restore the world, to see something of the divine shine in and on it, or from it. There are theological issues here into which I cannot go more fully, not least in connection with the sacramental sense of the world, assaulted alike by the religious iconoclasts and the scientistic secularizers. The religious iconoclast can share with the scientistic secularizer the domineering urge to reduce the equivocity of the religious image to imageless univocity.19 Suspicion of the aesthetic can look on the image as the temptation of an idol, and the aesthetics of being can be devalued in consequence. While the iconoclast has an important justification in connection with the God beyond all aesthetic images, it is still the case that the emptied space produced by extreme iconoclasm can just as easily become the focus of nothing, as the focus of the God beyond all images. Protecting God from the aesthetic image can generate its own atheism. There is also the fact that, in the emptiness, other images can come to be generated, and these are not necessarily friendly to the God beyond all images. They blank out transcendence, but the hunger of the soul does not rest, and it reaches out into the emptiness, and alas tends to people it with itself, or even with monsters that spring forth from its own darkness. Out of itself can come not pure piety but also deconsecration, then alas desanctification, and then even the desecration of all that is glorious in the aesthetics of the given happening of creation. In desecrated creation, the shine on things that might aesthetically tell of the divine is not only dulled but execrated. The loss of the creation, coupled with the subjectification of the human being and the objectification of the given otherness of nature, readies the space for the release of a certain project of human autonomy. The work of autonomy, not the gift of unmasterable grace, is thought to become the engine and master of history. I see the shadow of this even in the moralization of the sublime with Kant, short-circuiting the religious possibilities of the sublime. After Kant and Hegel, a related secularization proceeds much more radically. There is a deep paradox here. The more art has proclaimed its autonomy from religion, the more it has tended to smuggle in earnest concern with an incognito sacrality, in order to sustain its own claims to ultimate seriousness. As I have detailed it elsewhere,20 there is a displacement and migration of ultimacy from traditional religious form into the aesthetic. In all this, the name of the religious becomes harder to utter, since in the regime of immanent autonomy,  If the imageless univocity of the scientistic is believed to come with the rational perfection of science, the imageless univocity of the iconoclast is held to come, say, in an assault on Catholic veneration of sacred images or supposedly “Papist worship” of images of the saints. 20  See my Art, Origins, Otherness: Between Art and Religion (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2003). 19


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religion is thought to be too tainted with the bad repute of repressive heteronomy and old transcendence.21 Could one venture that there is a loss of exposure, so to say, to the flesh of things in modernity? As I implied before, our stress on human construction reflects how so many of us live in cities, where given creation and the otherness of its materiality always shows the stamp of our technē. We have already worked on it, and in it what comes back to us is only ourselves. There is a loss of the exposure to the otherness of creation, and undernourished for nature as other we tend to sentimentalize it—as if it too were like us and a grizzly bear could become a teddy-bear and be one’s friend.22 Of course, one is often a truer friend to it by letting it alone. We leave nothing alone. Things as other are massively objectified, while we are as hugely subjectified. This too is reflected in the way the otherness of things is held to an objectified standard, and then there is nothing in their beauty that answers to this standard, and hence beauty also must be handed over to the other side of the dualism, to subjectivity and its feel for things—to the side of so-called secondary qualities, as it was earlier put. One has to wonder if this objectifying mode of approach is still secretly embedded in our way of thinking—even when it is critiqued in the name of the aesthetic. We have not come back to the ontological robustness of the aesthetics of the happening of given creation which cannot be completely fitted into an objectivizing or subjectivizing frame of things. Is the eclipse of beauty, then, to be called a lunar eclipse? Do we become a hindering moon that comes between the sun and the light it shines on things? Remember how in Romantic and post-Romantic culture an excessive subjectivity, claiming (quasi-)religiously a kind of infinite inwardness, ceases to find itself aesthetically at home in given beauty as other to it. Its inwardness, as (quasi-)religiously infinite, exceeds all finite being, and no object, even one that is a beautiful formed whole, can stay its infinite restlessness and striving (Streben nach dem Unendlichkeit).  In the German infatuation with the Greeks from the latter part of the eighteenth century onwards, we find a hunger for rich (spiritualized) sensuousness in immanence. Is it because one was barred from going back to medieval Catholicism that pagan Greece became the shining beauty on the hill? This shine is as much a projection of the German lover of Greece as anything else. Yet, it is testament to the impossibility of separating the religious and the artistic, though the name of religion might not always be uttered in this connection. After all, the Greeks were not atheists. As pagans they were religious, perhaps even too religious. Kunstreligion, religion in the form of art, is what Hegel called their form of religion. He also called it the “religion of beauty.” We find something not entirely dissimilar in Wagner and Nietzsche and others. Nietzsche’s hope for the renewal of tragic culture had a sacral side; it was not just merely aesthetic. A different liturgy was sought—an aesthetic pagan liturgy, so to say. One thinks of the ersatz liturgy of the Wagnerian opera—a sacrament without a god—with the opera as Gesamtkunstwerk creating itself as its own redeeming divinity, a kind of causa sui – als ob (mar dhea, as we say in Irish). 22  See Werner Herzog’s film, “Grizzly Man.” Herzog seems to want to communicate the violence of amoral nature. Nature is not good, not evil, though often it is more like evil than good from our perspective. We are tempted to see something blind and merciless. However, there is a kind of ecology of fittingness in the interchange of life and death, and one wonders if the amoral way of approaching things remains also too anthropocentric, all appearances notwithstanding. 21

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However, does the light this subjectivity claims to cast not, in fact, blind it to the finite beauty of given being? It seems to shine on things, but there is no shine of things. As such a hindering moon, paradoxically, it takes the shine off things, and they sink into shadowy secondness. The infinitely restless subjectivity can find no rest in things, and indeed no rest in itself either. Any given beauty is not enough for it, just because it is given. Moreover, any beauty it constructs itself is only prelude to its own deconstruction. I come back to something about the postmodern sublime: ostensibly a breach of humanistic self-satisfaction, and hence a rupture to excessive objectivism and subjectivism. However, if postmodernism is more hyper-modernism or later modernism, one wonders sometimes if it is an accentuation of just the twin pillars of modernity, objectification to an extreme, subjectification to a matching extreme. Thus, we find together these two sides: on one hand, a tendency to reductionism in which the human presence seems to be absent (the death of the author, the death of man); on the other hand, a difficulty in seeing the aesthetic sources of origination in anything other than human making. Human constructions maybe testify to something other, something even inhuman. However, given that we cannot name this other without circling back to ourselves, in practice the high priest remains the human being—even if a strange priest. As I put it above, the work remains the work of the city—but it is the work of the city of man rather than the city of God. The sun and the earth both grow shadowy in the eclipse. The hyper-reflection of the human to itself in the artificial city results in the loss of the human to itself in the infinitely multiplied reflections of itself, for in these infinitely multiplied reflections there seems no longer to be any original true selving. Self-infinitization produces a false double of the divine in which, at the end, the divinity of the human itself goes under in its own self-proliferation. Can such proliferation and undergoing really be called creativity? Or do they too risk being the counterfeit doubles of creation?

Given Beauty Relevant to the matter under consideration is the question of the significance of a certain givenness to beauty. Just as the given order of creation is made problematic by attitudes to nature that would reconfigure the conditions of life in accord with our desire, so beauty as given is less well attended to in an ethos where we stress the constructive activity of the human being. Yet, the givenness is notable in that there is something striking about beauty. A beautiful face, say, stops us, arrests us, and opens a porosity and receptivity on our part which is less a languid passivity as a being taken out of ourselves in relation to the face itself as beautiful. It calls us out of ourselves (to kalon, it has been suggested, is related to the call). In beholding something beautiful, there is a kind of “beholding from”: something is communicated to us. There is also in such beholding a resting in something worthy to be affirmed; indeed, something worthy of a kind of festive consent and celebration. The offering of beauty is not simply a result of our activity—it comes to us. Hence,


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perhaps it is inevitable with the triumph of subjectification, mentioned above, that there should be a kind of eclipse of beauty. However, the power of beauty is to return that triumphant subject to a more primal receptivity. I would connect this receptivity with what I call the passio essendi. There is a passion or patience of being, a being given to be, before there is an endeavor to be (conatus essendi). Vis-à-vis creation, there is a coming to be before a becoming. This brings us back to a more original ontological porosity, where beauty most deeply strikes home. When in connection with eros and beauty, the Greeks spoke of the arrows of Cupid, they were right about being struck. However, there is beauty beyond even the arrows of Cupid. The strike arouses the passion of being, and in that passion we may construct new images of beauty. However, the passio of being is not just in what we construct in response to being struck. We might say that all our use of things is subtended by a more original gift of being to us. If use is subtended by gift in relation to the givenness of being, so our using is subtended by a more original opening to what gives itself for use. What shows itself opens our more original porosity to what shines in the givenness. There is here something beyond reduction and beyond both construction and deconstruction. Being struck by what is beautiful—being struck has something of a violence to it. However, there can be something paradoxically peaceful about this violence. In one sense, one is struck by nothing; for when we rub our eyes and look at what as beautiful has thus struck us, we find it impossible to pin down anything in a fully determinate way. Yes, there is this determinate, beautiful thing or person before us. It is as if something “more” streamed from it, striking us, impressing us, in the literal sense of pressing itself into us, but there is nothing that presses, such as an unwelcome intruder. There is a passing into us of the beautiful that is, so to say, benignly violent. It benignly violates our autonomy when this tries to hug itself auto kath’ auto. Let me illustrate this more original porosity, and passion with respect to music. This is a human art, of course, and as communicating a wrought beauty it requires our activity in a way not quite the same as given beauty. One might ask, of course, if there is a given music of creation that has already sounded or called in our souls, before our souls even wake up to themselves. Music, one might say, is perhaps the most powerful art to return us to the porosity, while at the same time moving a passio essendi, prior to any rationalization of the movement of desire, and exceeding complete self-determination of it. We do not first move, we are moved. I think of Kant and music. Kant uses a very revealing image: he compares music to a gentleman pulling a perfumed handkerchief from his pocket—the smell of the perfume spreads everywhere indeterminately and one has no choice about being subjected to it. “In poetry,” he says, by contrast, “everything proceeds honestly and uprightly.”23 The words of poetry are subject to public scrutiny; they can be made more or less determinate; they seem relatively controllable. There is something not quite above board about music. He does not quite like the way it moves us before we move ourselves. It sweetly violates our autonomous self-determination. Music comes upon us, steals upon us, as it were. It moves us without asking prior approval 23

 Critique of the Power of Judgement, § 53.

The Shine on Things: Given Beauty and the Order of Creation


of our reason or our will. We find ourselves caught up and moved. It is beyond rational will. Music communicates to and with the passio essendi, the passion of being which, like Platonic eros and mania, is responsive prior to and exceeding the sway of determinate reason or will. Kant sees only an unasked intrusion in this involuntary responsiveness of the passio essendi, and does not like it. Notice that there is nothing here that one can absolutely fix with univocal determinacy. There is, indeed, determinacy, often very intricate, but it is communicated in the passage of a dynamic forming which has a kind of wholeness to it, but it is not a closed whole. I would say that beauty communicates an open wholeness, or opening of transcending in a surplus wholeness that cannot be enclosed in itself. It is what it is in addressing what is other—the address to the other, and perhaps more elementally, the address of the other that is communicated in the aesthetic whole itself. There is a kind double relativity in this dynamic forming. The opening in the relativity recalls us to the more primal porosity of our being. In this porosity, once again the passion of being is called forth. This is the basis of the disproportion that excites the proportionate towards something beyond the order of merely finite form. Perhaps here we might find a permeable threshold between the beautiful and the sublime. Perhaps here also one might say that beauty is an offering of something hyperbolic in the immanent; a transcendence that yet is offered in what remains at home with itself—at home with itself in arousing a not-being-at-home, and a movement beyond self. If we were to speak here of the passion of transcendence, we would have to note a certain doubleness of the “of.” Is it just of our transcending—which then comes back to itself, and the whole binds itself to itself? Or is it of a transcendence which arouses our transcending—not our opening to transcendence, but our being opened by transcendence as other to us? I think we are enjoined in this second direction. Everything about beauty, in view of the erotics of our being, turns us inside out and upside down. However, upside down is downside up, for it carries us as upended to what is above us. The open wholeness of beauty, in the language I use, testifies to a being in the metaxu, a being between. The beautiful as given, as well as the art work as a wrought beauty, offer a kind of between-space for transcendence. Of course, once we think more closely on the idea of an open whole, it is not at all a mere contradiction between the closed and the unclosed. Every being, as an endowed singular integrity, and as communicatively in relation to beings other than itself, is an open whole. This is especially so with the human being: a singular integrity who is just what it is in being beyond itself in relation to what is other—openly whole and transcending. Something beautiful pleasingly calls us in its open wholeness into the passion of transcending that cannot be completely finitized. This we find in the given beauty of the aesthetics of happening. The beautiful artwork also gives us some image of this, one that is not exhausted either by simple imitation or sheer self-creativity. There is always a double relativity: self-relation and other–relation. This is also the basis for the surplus equivocity of the beautiful and of the art work. If we return to the order of creation, we would have to speak of the aesthetics of happening, but “aesthetics” would not just have a bearing on our senses as s­ ubjective


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epistemic powers. Aesthetics would bear on the sensuous showing of the happening, as itself saturated with a radiance or shine, more than any reductionist analysis into this univocal determinacy or that, and more than any expression of our own powers of self-determination. The aesthetics of happening is of happening—not just of our sensory and intellectual faculties, nor indeed of our power at all. We are moved to affirm that this “is” beautiful, but this “is” of beauty reveals a transcendence to the thing itself. Again, what is given there as other is not determinable as a mere fixable this or that. There is an overdeterminacy at work in what shows itself as beautiful— this is not simply an indeterminacy but a “too muchness” that, while determinate and not hostile to our efforts at self-determination, exceeds all univocal determinability and our claims as self-determining beings to be its ultimate measure. The point with the shine of beauty, then, is not a matter of the univocal certainty of a scientistic and geometric sort. It is more a matter of finesse for the overdeterminate which communicates to us in the sensuous ambiguity of aesthetic happening. This finesse is a matter of the reading of signs, of designs as signs that are not a matter of the fixation of rigid univocal orders. There is an aesthetics of order as well as a geometrics. It is not the case that geometric order necessarily excludes aesthetic order. I think of William Blake’s great poem which speaks of the tiger, “burning bright, in the forest of the night,” and of the hazardous question it poses for us: “What immortal hand or eye dare frame thy fearful symmetry.”24 “Fearful symmetry”: this brings us to pause on a hazardous threshold. There is order—yes, symmetry—but it brings fear, perhaps even awe. However, fear of the Lord is also the beginning of wisdom. Atheists of a neutralized nature deconsecrate the symmetry and do not feel the fearfulness. Pascal did—and was terrified. Creation is bound up with glory and terror. Even if we cry out, like Rilke, to the angel, we know that beauty too is the beginning of terror. Job is silent before the Voice who does not answer questions but multiplies unfathomable perplexities. Questions are answered by unanswerable questions. Where were you when I laid down the foundations of the heavens? Have you descended to the springs of the sea or walked in the unfathomable deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Could you lead the Leviathan by the nose? Or keep it on a string like a song-bird for your maidens? These are questions from the hyperbolic dimension of the overdeterminate. They are from the hyperbolic and about the hyperbolic, and themselves so hyperbolic that no determinate science with an order made to human measure could answer them truly. It could answer, but it would still find itself in the “too muchness” that could never at all be diminished. This is something disproportionate. Hence, one must query the search for an order that is only proportionate to us. Creation tells against this. This is not to deny, as beauty so powerfully witnesses, that there is an affinity between us and orders in things. Leibniz was not entirely  The opening stanza is: “Tyger, Tyger burning bright/In the forests of the Night/What immortal hand or eye/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” The last stanza repeats this opening stanza, except the last line now is: “What immortal hand or eye/Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?” (emphasis added).


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wrong. However, the harmony is exceeded by something more than our measure. There is a permeable threshold between beauty and the sublime. Beauty witnesses to the beyond of wholeness. Moreover, there can be both glory and horror in the intimate things, in the small things. Or religiously put: creation itself testifies to an open wholeness which tells of something beyond all finite wholes: the God beyond the immanent whole.25 Paradoxically, that sense of the beyond can be communicated in a tiny particular. I recall a confession from Whitaker Chambers: atheist that he was, that on seeing the ear of his new-born child he immediately was convinced: God is.26

The Shine on Things I would like to conclude with a meditative reflection on beauty and the shine on things. Rather than a univocal argument or a linear exposition, I would like to call on the aesthetic suggestiveness of this metaphorical way of speaking. I note the word “on.” We think of one thing on another, and it is a plurivocal notion. We say: a mood of despair lay on the gathering; the wall collapsed on him; he was on top of her; peace was on the sea. The shine on things is more like the last. On: but in a mode of pervading presence—a presencing, nevertheless, impossible to fix or pin down. The shine on things is not just a matter of the shine of things. For then “of” would mean a confinement to the things, as if they possessed the shine, and it was theirs and theirs alone. It is not that there is not a shine of things, but the shine on things is more than that. There is a certain radiance that, at first, might seem to come from things, but that more truly comes to things—it comes from things because it has first come to them. They have first been endowed with what comes to shine before that endowment itself comes to shine from them. This sense of radiance is connected with beauty. For beauty has much to do, as we suggested, with a certain radiant wholeness. Wholeness reminds us of a har See my God and the Between (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008), chapter 12, “God beyond the Whole: On the Theistic God of Creation.” 26  Being struck: this is an example I recall from Whittaker Chamber’s autobiography, Witness (New York: Random House, 1952). He was a card-carrying communist, with the programmatic atheism that went with that. He saw the ear of his new-born infant and was immediately struck by the thought: God exists. The birth of his first child was “the most miraculous thing that had ever happened in my life.” I would say there is a kind of revelatory power to the beauty of such surplus immediacy: a too-muchness in almost nothing; something more. It was not the functional design of the ear that struck him—this is not an inference, an argument from design, though it may be the intimate source of this argument which itself becomes orphaned in the development of the argument. There is a strike of beauty, a being struck, and a being called out—and nothing is the same afterwards. The same is the same, and yet not at all the same. One not only looks differently, not only do things look different, but as the same world looks different, one lives in the world differently. 25


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mony that is formed, but something of the energy of forming, or coming to form, is in the radiant whole itself. Therefore, there is nothing merely static about it, even though there is a kind of repose about the beautiful thing. If there is such a repose, it is the poise of an energy rather than the going to sleep of a dynamism. Radiant beauty is this double thing: in repose and entirely energetic, a reverent stillness and an appealing motion. What shines on things? One might perhaps give three main answers. First, things themselves shine; second, we shine on things; third, (if I may be permitted to speak religiously) God shines on things. I know this is too bald for some philosophers, but sometimes we should not beat around the bush. Sometimes beating around the bush with much philosophical fuss serves only to hide the fact that, for all the beating, there is nothing in the bush. The first answer—things themselves shine—is important: there is a radiance to the things themselves—a thereness that is not valueless or neutral—a givenness that is alive with qualitative worth—a singular concretion of the good of the “to be.” However, there is nothing self-enclosed or self-contained about this shine of things. Quite to the contrary, the more we dwell with the shine of things, the more we come to wonder about the shine on things. The things themselves are there, but they are not self-derived. They become from other things, but all the things carry the mark of not being self-derived. They tell of coming to be—beyond all the complications of their becoming themselves, from this or that antecedent sources. Coming to be: the shine of the idiocy of being, the marvel “that they are at all.”27 If this idiocy does shine, it is not a merely absurd idiocy—there is something of a more benign idiocy. The shine on things, all idiotic, comes on things from what is beyond all things. That said, it is still a very important vocation today to recuperate the shine of things—given the objectification, the reification, the reduction to valueless thereness so pervasive in western modernity. We are called, perhaps, not just to recuperate but to glorify. Think on the witness of pure praise in the poetry of Czesław Miłosz: “It seems I was called for this: To glorify things just because they are.” Pure praise is graced consent beyond horror. Though we cannot do it, come to it alone, we can try to be in readiness for it. The second answer—we shine on things—is one that has been quite pervasive in modernity. We shine on things because we are the source of the light. Then things are as just above described—valueless therenesses, but we invest them with value, we project into them what otherwise is not to be found at all in the things themselves. The world of things remains in its dull thereness till we enliven it with our energies, our projections. Of course, taken in one direction, this means that there is no shine of things and indeed no shine on things, if we withdraw our light. The things are darkness; we are the light shining in the dark. This might sound marvelous, but it means there is no community between us and things, or between us and creation. There is no creation; we are said to be creative. The view is widespread, but lurking in it is a kind of nihilism—without our shining,  More fully on the specific sense of what I mean by the idiocy of being, see, for instance, chapter 3 of my Perplexity and Ultimacy (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995).


The Shine on Things: Given Beauty and the Order of Creation


there would be no radiance of intelligibility or truth or good or beauty in things. One thinks of the constructivist claims made for cognition—we know what we make— until we shine, until we project and make, there is no light there in the things. One might even try to erect it into a revolutionary principle. Think of the Copernican revolution in the Kantian style: this has to do with the shine on things, but there is no shine of things, and we, the active constructive knowers, are the sun that shines on what otherwise lacks light. If we become the sun, this is very un-Copernican, I would say. The Copernican view is heliocentric, not anthropocentric. Plato is heliocentric—is Copernican in that sense. The sun is the analogon of the good, Plato says (Republic, 508c). However, the sun shines on things. It is not simply we who shine. In the Kantian way, we are “suns”—but we are strangely sterile suns, since we do not know the shine of things (only mere appearances), and we do not know the shine on things, except it be our own. Where is the sun in Kant that shines on all things, ourselves included? If one answered that Kant has his moral God, this is an “as if” God. How does an “as if” sun shine on all things? However, we are moons, not suns: we shine with a reflected light—and when the other sun sets, the moon has no light of its own to cast. In modernity—generally— and after Kant—especially, we are moons who pretend to be suns. We do not grant the borrowed nature of our light. We claim for ourselves the privilege of being the sole source. We are moons who purport to be “as if” suns. Coming between the earth and the sun, we occlude the sun above us, and create a lunar eclipse, and the earth grows dark. This is reflected also in the understanding of beauty and its eclipse. It is neither the shine of things, nor the shine on things—it is our shine on things, which as other to us, hardly count as things—they finally count as mirrors in which we come to know ourselves more lucidly. There are no beautiful things; there are no sublime things. There are occasions in which we cater for the harmony of our faculties of imagination and understanding; occasions where the seeming excess of the scene other to us, by a detour of seemingly humiliating the human being, serves rather to elevate the human being even more, beyond all measure relative to the things of nature themselves.28 We are, so to say, subrepting als ob “suns,” who darken further our own lunar finitude. Afloat in spaces of emptiness, spellbound by ourselves, we rotate in the nocturnal orbit of ourselves. This is to make a sham of the shine on things. The third answer looks to a source of shining more than things and more than ourselves. Plato calls it the good; the monotheistic religions call it God. It is transhuman, and more than a natural thing or the complete totality of things. Who or what is it? In order to approach it, I think we have to grant two things at least: that things do shine, and that there is a light on them; that the human being is not the  I am thinking again of the way Kant describes the sublime as entailing a subreption—a subreption, as he says, attributes to the object what is properly of us. Hence, it can be recuperated for us, from its alienation in another (to speak Hegelese). The otherness qua otherness does not ultimately count but serves as the occasion of a mediating circuit of self back to self.



W. Desmond

creator of this light, though we may participate in the gift of this light—be “creative” in a relative sense, while not being the creator. “Shining” may not always describe radically enough what is at issue here: perhaps “creating” is a better word—and all that “creation” entails in a metaphysical and theological sense, especially in regard to the given beauty of creation and the endowed creativity of the human being. This third response also means that one has to grant the worry about idolatry. The worry about idolatry is not the same as the enjoinment of iconoclasm. The idol is not the same as the icon, as Marion challengingly argues.29 We must attend on the icon, as well as the idol, with the appropriate religious finesse. Creation may be God-given, but it is not God. As evidencing a kind of fertile equivocity, shining can be potentially duplicitous.30 What glitters is not always gold. There is fool’s gold even though it gleams and bewitches.31 The iconoclast displays a suspicion concerning the aesthetics of happening generally, and this is, in part, understandable since there is a kind of equivocity constitutive of the aesthetic. This is one reason why we require something such as a religious poetics of nature as much as a geometry, an aesthetic hermeneutics as much as a dianoetic science. This would be in the services of finesse for the metaphysical and theological dimensions of creation that strike us outside the frame of geometric univocity. However, neither a poetics nor hermeneutics as reading signs can deliver the precise univocity so demanded by the scientific ideal. Forms of scientism fetishize this univocity, and, oddly, they can be guilty of their own idolatry in demanding from the image what the image cannot give. There can be idolatries of theory as well as of paint and sound. An idol can be made of concepts as well as wood. Scientistic theory can falsely invest the finite with the ultimacy of the infinite. Is this not something we have to reckon with in every claim of the divine to reveal itself? Revelation is not the evaporation of the mystery, but its  Inter alia, see Jean-Luc Marion, The Idol and Distance: Five Studies, 2nd ed., trans. Thomas Carlson (Bronx, NY: Fordham University Press, 2001); In Excess: Studies of Saturated Phenomena, trans. Robyn Horner, Vincent Berraud (Bronx, NY: Fordham University Press, 2002). 30  On thinks of how, in German, Schein carries something of the meaning of dissembling appearance, Erscheinung a more positive sense of appearance, a doubleness of which, for instance, Hegel makes some dialectical use. 31  On a plea for a retrieval of the Greek gods without God, see H. Dreyfus and S. D. Kelly, All Things Shining: comment: this space in the full title of the book should be closed up and the margins fixed. I was unable to use the comments function so I am writing this here to flag it. Delete the flag when the corrections have been made. WD Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age (New York: Free Press, 2011). Is this plea for a renewed polytheism credible? Do its authors religiously believe in the Greek gods, or is the matter only aestheticized religion without religion  – in Hegel’s terms Kunstreligion without true conviction of religious reverence? (One sometimes wonders if postmodern “polytheism,” like Lyotard’s for instance, is paganism without the blood, an “as if” polytheism that nobody believes in a truly religious sense.) If the title of this book above recalls the closing lines of Terrence Malick’s 1998 film, The Thin Red Line, for a theological-metaxological interpretation of all things shining, see Christopher Simpson, “All Things Shining: Desmond’s Metaxological Metaphysics and The Thin Red Line,” in Between System and Poetics: William Desmond and Philosophy After Dialectic, Thomas Kelly, ed. (Aldershot: Ashgate Press, 2007), 239–259. 29

The Shine on Things: Given Beauty and the Order of Creation


shining in a non-reductive way. The hyperbolic is a showing of the mystery that carries mystery in showing itself. There is no dissolution of the mystery, though it is named, and, indeed, more truly praised in wonder and rejoicing. It seems to me that an incarnational religion must rejoice in the glory of creation as aesthetic happening—notwithstanding the risk of aesthetic idolatry. There is also scientistic, philosophical, and, indeed, religious idolatry—is not all idolatry finally religious?—and hence, even aesthetic idolatry pays its tribute to what it mimics. This is part of the hazard of participating in the cooperation of creation in its becoming. The given beauty of creation and the endowed creativity of the human being together point to this. We sing in the sublunary world, but the source of the song comes to us from above the moon.

The Beauty of Repetition, or: How to Become a Friend of Job A Response to William Desmond Renée D. N. van Riessen

Abstract  In reaction to William Desmond’s article, “The Shine on Things,” I argue firstly that Desmond’s approach is on some point similar to the approach of early idealism, and secondly, that the intrinsic connection Desmond perceives between beauty, order, and creation leaves no room for experiences of a reality that is outside of order. Using Kierkegaard’s account of the biblical story of Job I argue that Christian philosophy should be responsive to experiences of God that are not similar to experiences of order in the first place. Keywords  Art · Beauty · Creation · William Desmond · John Donne · Herman Dooyeweerd · Lucian Freud · Sigmund Freud · Sander Griffioen · God · Interruption · Job · Søren Kierkegaard · Primo Levi · Emmanuel Levinas · Immanuel Kant · Repetition

… repetition is a beloved wife of whom one never wearies, for one becomes weary only of what is new. One never grows weary of the old, and when one has that, one is happy. He alone is truly happy who is not deluded into thinking that the repetition should be something new, for then one grows weary of it. It takes youthfulness to hope, youthfulness to recollect, but it takes courage to will repetition … He who does not grasp that life is a repetition and that this is the beauty of life has pronounced his own verdict and deserves nothing better than what will happen to him anyway … (Kierkegaard 1983, 132).

R. D. N. van Riessen (*) Protestantse Theologische Universiteit, Groningen, The Netherlands Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



R. D. N. Van Riessen

Introduction In contemporary philosophy and academic discourse, the notion of creation is rarely mentioned; it seems to only be meaningful for a restricted group of Christian scholars who, from an already lost position, defend themselves against Darwinism and evolution theory. The same goes for the notion of beauty: in the past decades, philosophy and aesthetics paid more attention to the bad and the ugly—and thus, to experiences with a startling character—than to the comforting ones. Is there a connection between the two? Could beauty give us another access to reality that also bestows a new meaning to the notion of creation? Beauty can make things shine by themselves, and thus, create a room in which they appear as new and unexpected. Could this phenomenon—when perceived with the eye of the philosopher—lead to the acknowledgement that there is also a shine on things that makes the shining of a thing possible? The connection between beauty and the notion of “shine” could open new ways to speak and think about creation in philosophy and aesthetics. This is the path of William Desmond who, in “The Shine on Things, Given Beauty and the Order of Creation” (see elsewhere in this volume) offers an original contribution to the debate about the philosophical and academic significance of the notion of creation. It is an honor and a joy for me to respond to his intriguing reflections on the relation between beauty and creation. My answer is structured as follows: first, I will go into Desmond’s account of the decline of the notion of creation and beauty that is influenced by modernism and postmodernism. After that, I will indicate the parallels between his approach and that of early idealism. In the second part of my response, I will go into a more fundamental problem that touches the ontological, ethical, and existential implications of Desmond’s position with respect to order, creation, and beauty. I will discuss the possible meaningfulness of an experience of being “outside of law” as described by Søren Kierkegaard and Primo Levi. My question will be how this reality of an outside of law and order can be related in a meaningful way to the proposition of an essential intrinsic connection between beauty, order, and creation as formulated in Desmond’s The Shine on Things.

Modernism and Postmodernism According to Desmond, both modernism and postmodernism affected the possibility to experience and reflect upon reality as created. In modernism, this is caused by the strong tendency to objectify the things outside us. The effect of this is an enhanced emphasis on the part of the subject to the creation of reality; modernity made us aware of that. As a result of that, Desmond observes that modernity suffers of a loss of exposure to the flesh of things. Their reality evaporates under the influence of the life in cities; and eventually, we are only able to perceive the result of our own

The Beauty of Repetition, or: How to Become a Friend of Job


technè. In modern thought, this leads to the illusion of the autonomy of (human) subject. In accordance with the self-interpretation of the “father” of postmodernism, Jean-François Lyotard, William Desmond interprets postmodernity in a certain continuity with modernity.1 In postmodernity, the idea of the order of objects is lost, or placed under critique. Order does not offer an idea of things as they are in themselves, neither does it reflect the meaning that we give to things as subjects. For postmodernism, order is no more than an imposition on the flux (Nietzsche); any given order could be the false face of a hidden power. The autonomy of a subject that is capable to create a certain order, lauded in modernity, is now also lacerated in acts of self-cannibalizing. According to Desmond, postmodernity must thus be seen as a form of hyper-modernity that accentuates the two pillars of modernity, being extreme objectification (presence/absence) and extreme subjectification. In this hyper-modernity, the divinity of the humane disappears in its own self-projections. On both sides (subject and object) Desmond indicates a “loss of the creation,” and with it we experience the loss of sensibility for the beyond. As a result, we stick to the capacity to perceive what is proportionate to us alone, and we seem to have lost the sense of the beyond that sometimes comes to us in tiny particulars (as Whitaker Chambers confesses-as an atheist-to be convinced of God’s being by looking at the ear of his new-born child). Often, this “beyond” was defined and understood in a religious way, or it was taken to refer to “the religious.” With respect to both modernism and postmodernism, two problems can be indicated—and here I still follow Desmond’s line of thought. First: Modernism glorifies autonomy, and therefore has a problem with the heteronomous side of religious belief; think of Kant and his idea of a religion within the bounds of reason alone, which means a moral confinement of the religious. Therefore, Kant even moralizes the sublime, as Desmond rightly observes. Second: However, the vivification of the sublime in postmodernism is not helpful in this respect. Although this leads to a certain re-assessment of the role of the aesthetic for subjectivity, and despite the break-up of rational subjectivity that is forced by the aesthetic sublime, other problems are created. Postmodernism tends to confine this experience and the notion that is derived from it to the realm of the aesthetic, whereas the relation to the religious is neglected. Obviously, postmodernism also eschews the connection of transcendence to religion; it shows a certain uneasiness to be forthright about the religious. Moreover, the sublimity of postmodernism does not give us access to the order of nature and the aesthetic experience that is connected with it because it is still a wrought sublimity—the result of artistic action—as is shown in the works of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman. It is the activity of the artist that leads to such an experience of the sublime: its origin in postmodernism being not the sublimity of nature, but the activity of the artist. We seem to be banished from country-life to city 1  See especially Lyotard’s, Le postmoderne expliqué aux enfants (1986) where he develops the notion of a postmodernism that is far-reaching infolded in modernity.


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life in both modernism and postmodernism. The city—not the “city of God” (Augustine), but the city of man where we meet only “our own technè,” and where the human face is constantly reflected back to itself.

Creation, Order, and Beauty The path that Desmond indicates out of these problems makes use of notions such as creation and order in a new constellation that has to do with “beauty,” “the beautiful,” and with the experience of “feeling at home” and “being welcomed in being,” rather than with the sublime. On the side of the object, there is the reference to creation that is understood as a given order in relation to beauty. It is this concept of a given order that makes possible the idea of a shine on things that exemplifies and testifies for the shine of things. On the other side, that of subjectivity, Desmond develops a conception of the self as a porous and receptive self. This receptivity is not, as in postmodern subjectivity, the result of a violent intrusion into the self; it is more a reaction, and—if I may say so—a natural reaction to the experience of the world as a world that is not strange, uncharitable, inhospitable, but prepares for us a warm welcome with the givenness of beauty. These intriguing observations with respect to creation, order, and beauty ask for an analysis of Desmond’s proposal of a “return to beauty.” The attempt to articulate another access to order and to the notion of given-ness than the paradigms of both modernism and postmodernism provide us with seems fruitful because it forges a bridge between the subject- and object pole that seemed to be in a necessary opposition since modernity. On top of that, the notion of beauty seems to be more promising with respect to a religious attitude than the notion of the sublime that was re-introduced by postmodernism. Here, Desmond’s argumentation is in line with early idealism with respect to aesthetics. Kant and Schiller were also of the opinion that beauty refers to order, and—in this way—gives a for-shine—a clue to the absolute. It gives no certainty, but forms a thread that can be followed, and that enables us to project and possibly realize a higher stage in human development. In this respect, there is a direct line between Kant’s notion of the aesthetic and Schiller’s Letters upon the Aesthetic Education of Man that allude on this possibility of development. Moreover, both Kant and Schiller acknowledge that neither the narrow scientific order (reductionist, meaningless) nor the moral order (as self-imposed on an autonomous subject that has become a stranger in the world by the reductionist-­ scientific development) can successfully account for the full possibilities of humanity. In reality, we consider purposefulness, and we react on the perception of a beautiful order, “as if” God has ordered the universe and still gives harmony. For Kant, things shine, as if there is a purpose, purposefulness, and a creator. Nature of itself shows more then we can account for in scientific propositions. However, how does an “as if” sun shine on all things (one of Desmond’s more poignant questions)? With this question, a certain distance grows between his

The Beauty of Repetition, or: How to Become a Friend of Job


p­ osition and that of early idealism. Because, from Kant and Schiller’s point of view, one could say that the as if is a gesture in its own right. A philosophical gesture that aims to make room not only for faith (as in Kant’s well-known expression from the Preface of the second version of the Critique of Pure Reason), but also for the supposition of the existence of a creator, although it is not the proof for his existence. For Kant and Schiller, it is beauty that in itself creates a link between human creativity and the supposed existence of a God for whom creativity is not only a matter of craftsmanship, but also a matter of imagination. Man’s possibility to imagine a world that is well ordered and made for a purpose refers to and answers God’s imaginative power. This imagining not only has to do with what we can see, what is before our eyes, as given beauty, but also with everything that is not-yet, that is unfulfilled and could-be, with the possibility to play with imagination [Einbildungskraft]. The as-if, the faculty of imagination, refers to a possible God, as the origin of a possible world, a world yet unseen and yet unthought-of. Thinking along these lines, we can conclude that beauty—given beauty—not only reminds us of transcendence, but also invites us to become co-creators in this universe. As it is said in Desmond’s essay: “to be ‘creative’ in a relative sense; while not being the creator.” One of the good reasons to return to beauty, and to prefer this notion to that of the sublime, is that it gives inspiration to activities that can give a beautiful or orderly form to the world, play with form, or represent aesthetically. In this respect, I appreciate Desmond’s plea for a return to beauty in relation to order as an antidote against the postmodern emphasis on the sublime along with its connotation of the unrepresentable. Nevertheless, I wonder whether he gives enough grounds to turn from early idealism, with its seeking for a delicate balance between man’s and God’s creative powers, to his own position that is more in line with the Platonic and Neo-platonic experience of the cosmos. As a matter of fact, this tension between the modern and the pre-modern in Desmond’s essay gives rise to two critical questions from my side. First: I admit that Desmond’s question “how does an ‘as if’ shine on things” is an appropriate and poignant one. On the other hand, I have my doubts about the ontological implications that are suggested. Why would it, in the first place, be the experience of beauty that gives us the possibilities or the tools to go beyond the as if? What should we think of other experiences—originating in the reverse of order and beauty—that ask for our attention as well? Therefore, a cautious “as if ” could help to make us more reserved, and it could also help us to avoid rash conclusions that lead from the experience of beauty, especially in nature (cf. opposition of city and country, mentioned above) to God as the source of the shining. Second. My suggestion is that, rather than pointing to a source beyond the as if, more attention could be given to the possibilities that are created by the use of the expression “as if.” Rather than going beyond the “as if”, we could playfully endorse finding room for imagination that is opened by this notion; on the side of God as well as on the side of man. Given beauty as referring to God’s creative and imaginative power reminds us of our own imaginative possibilities; and inspires us to act and co-create in the trace of divine imagination.


R. D. N. Van Riessen

Being Out of Order Having said this, and thus having underlined a general agreement that exists between Desmond’s perspective and my approach with regards to the significance of beauty for the notions of both creation and order, I feel the urge to dig a bit deeper in an attempt to lay bare a more fundamental kind of disagreement between William Desmond’s approach and my own. Therefore, I will introduce another point of discussion that remained hidden until now. The field of problems that is introduced here places the project of Desmond, as such, into question—a project that gives attention to the supposition or imagination of God as the hidden source of both order and beauty. This approach raises the question of how “strong” this experience of order and beauty is in itself when it is linked with another experience that is taken to refer to God in another way; that is, the experience of the interruption or disruption of the beautiful order. Can order—being lawful, harmonious, and beautiful alike—be seen as the ontological fundament of all that exists? Indeed, this seems to be Desmond’s point of view, and it partially overlaps with a certain common view in “Reformational philosophy,” where— although more from the perspective of knowledge—the law of God is seen as the ontological basis of human experience of reality.2 One of the questions that is raised, both by the perspective of Desmond as well as by the perspective of Reformational philosophy, is how this experience of order leads to a notion of God in accordance with the biblical perspective. To put it otherwise: could one say that the biblical experience of God is an experience of order in the first place? Or is the experience of God in the light of scripture more of the kind of an interruption, followed by perplexity that calls for a rational account afterwards? Think of the God-experience of Abraham: a voice that calls him to leave his own country (Gen 12), and the voice that first calls him to sacrifice his son Isaac, and, later on, not to sacrifice Isaac (Gen 22). The calling of Moses by a voice from a burning bush that declares itself to be the voice of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob also testifies to the centrality of this experience of God in the biblical text. So, from the perspective of the philosophy of religion, my first question would be to what kind of religion does Desmond’s project refer. Is it biblical religion, or is his approach more an attempt to bring together the biblical expressions of the God-experience with expressions and reflections from a Platonic and Neo-platonic character? However, my point refers not only to the biblical origins of Christian experience, but also to actual forms of God-talk in biblical perspective. How can they be understood philosophically? Even if we have to admit the primary and original character of the shine on things, and the beautiful order it reveals—even then we could ask what the interruption of the experience of beauty could mean to us. In my view, the

 See Herman Dooyeweerd, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, 1953, especially part III, 499–566. For an extensive review of William Desmond’s philosophy of religion from the perspective of Reformational philosophy, see: Sander Griffioen, “Towards a Philosophy of God. A Study in William Desmond’s Thought” (Griffioen 2010: 115–140).


The Beauty of Repetition, or: How to Become a Friend of Job


possibility of such an interruption or disruption of the beautiful order raises several questions. First problem: is such an interruption real, and if so, how can we relate this reality to the reality of beauty? Of course, as long as the order is there, and as long as we can have confidence in it, we do not really care whether the shine we perceive is an illusion, or a reality that can suddenly disappear to make place for an experience that is totally different in character. However, when it comes to something that more immediately touches us, in our frailty and singularity; when the beauty is broken by illness or disaster, this situation also changes. In the following, I will first examine this experience of disruption of order in itself. Then, I will bring up a second problem with a more architectonic character: how can we bring together both perspectives—that of the existence of a shine on things, and the possibility that this shine is broken or interrupted? Or, is it impossible to bring these perspectives in one frame, and are we condemned to forever go from one point of view to the other? Would our attempt to construct such a frame represent an original sin (the original sin of philosophy) that we need to be aware of? This (second) problem will prompt me to bring forward some thoughts about life as repetition (with reference to Kierkegaard), and the possibility of a return to beauty.

Primo Levi: The Reality of Being “Outside of Law” However, first, the experience itself, and the reflection on this experience. What I am talking about is the experience of being not-at-home in creation: to be pushed out of the order, of any order, and the experience of being a stranger to whatever is presented as an ordered totality. In philosophy, when this is addressed, one tends to think of the notion of the sublime, but—for the moment—I prefer to concentrate on more concrete examples. I came across the expression “outside of law” recently while reading Primo Levi’s Moments of Reprieve. In this book, the Italian-Jewish chemist and writer describes the 2 years when he was in Auschwitz in Nazi-Germany as a prisoner with an existence “outside of law,” outside of any order, and deprived of beauty. However, in the introduction to the book, Levi states that while writing the short stories of Moments of Reprieve his attention did not go to the circumstances of the concentration-­ camp in general—to “the anonymous, voiceless, faceless mass.” (Levi 1987, viii) On the contrary, the stories in this book are a response to a call; friends and other people he came to know in this sad period of his life rose up in his memory and begged him to help them survive by giving them a voice. They became characters, each with his own capacity to react to the deplorable circumstances. The scenarios that Levi selected were thus “hardly ever tragic,” but rather testify of “bizarre, marginal moments of reprieve” in which the lost identity of the persons he tells about reacquires its lineaments.


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As a writer—not by choice, but being chosen to it by circumstances—Primo Levi is the indefatigable witness of the conditions of life in the camps, where order, morality, and beauty almost completely disappeared, leaving place only for the tiny “moments of reprieve” that can be experienced in the unexpected virtues of his comrades, the characters, and the friends he met. The experience of being expelled from creation and “outside of law” called for another action in Levi’s case—the action of the writer. As survivor of concentration camps, Levi belonged to the group that did not repress the past en bloc. With him the memory of the offence persisted, and it continued to restore events, faces, words, and sensations. Levi declares that he has not forgotten one single thing of these years of life “outside the law”; he interprets this enhanced attention not only as a symptom (for instance, a symptom of some-one who is unable to forget), but also as an important factor of “spiritual and physical salvation” (Levi 1987: 11). For Levi, the cause of the experience of being outside of law, and thus out of order that indicates the end of the “shine on things” is the socially and politically qualified evil of Nazi Germany. Evil can also have its cause in nature—such as the earthquake of Lisbon that startled Voltaire and others, or the tsunami of Fukushima. They remind us of the other, ugly side of nature. However, the evil that takes place between people—evil that has a social structure; evil that is cruelty often mixed with indifference—often touches us even more.

The Sweet Violence of Erotics In Desmond’s perspective, social violence is not totally absent, but it is invoked in a rather unexpected context: the context of the erotic. Hence, a beautiful face can confront us with its sweet violence, and thus even be intrusive. In this context, Desmond has to admit that the erotic experience does not totally overlap with the experience of beauty. However, in this respect, he also turns too quickly from the passionate to a more general account of our being struck by the peacefulness of the violence that is in the confrontation with that which is beautiful. To push things a little bit further—is the erotic really so peaceful? Or should one admit that, in the combination of the beautiful and the erotically attractive, something else is at stake. Something that is more confusing because it not only strikes me, but strikes me in my singularity and causes a certain loneliness because I cannot clarify what exactly it is that attracts me. Indeed, not every beautiful face is erotically attractive. However, at the moment that beauty and erotic attractiveness come together, the universe changes. What seemed to be orderly is not an ordered whole anymore. There is—in the erotic experience itself—a certain delightful disorder and confusion; the confusion that prompted John Donne (in his daybreak-poem, The Sun Rising) to scold the sun. First, for shining on him and his bed-friend, suggesting the sun to do a better task to shine on other places rather than awaking him here in this bed, where he wants to lie

The Beauty of Repetition, or: How to Become a Friend of Job


undisturbed by daybreak for more than a few spare hours.3 However, in the next moment, an opposite suggestion gains ground when the poem asks the sun not to go away, but rather to “shine here to us, and thou art everywhere/ this bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere”—which means another, if you like Copernican, turn: the whole task of the sun is done by shining on the two lovers in their bed because here the sun itself will find the center of the universe. “Nothing else is.” (Donne 1966, 55) This is clearly the voice of someone who is, by the experience of the erotic, thrown out of the common order where the shine on things tells us that we share in the same sense of beauty, the same order. Something comparable can be seen in certain religious experiences. In the above, the story of Abraham being tested by the call to sacrifice Isaac was already mentioned—an enigmatic story that was re-told four times by Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling—to gain access to the New-Testament notion of Abraham as a champion of faith (Hebr. 11: 17,18). However enigmatic, the story forces us to acknowledge that there are also moments in which a person experiences being thrown out, or even spit out, of the given order as religiously meaningful. Therefore, Kierkegaard referred to the fear and trembling as a characteristic of religious experience, and Desmond himself mentions the “fear of God” as the beginning of wisdom. It is also possible to characterize these experiences as religio-ethical or to take them to refer to the erotic realm. Common to all experiences mentioned is that it is difficult to classify them as belonging to a beautiful order that refers to God, or the Good, as the source of beauty and order. Therefore, I propose to give attention not only to the notion of beauty and the ordered whole, but also to this experience of being out of order that can remind us of Kant’s analysis of the sublime as another aesthetic experience that is in opposition to the experience of beauty. This notion accounts with more emphasis for the disproportionate and the possibly utterly strangeness of the One who, at the same time, assumed to have ordered the order and given the beauty that comes with order. Desmond’s essay does not completely negate these notions; it gives attention to the “disproportionate” and the too-muchness that is at work in what shows itself as beautiful (see, for instance, where Blake’s poem of the tiger is brought into connection with Job’s silence before the Voice from the storm). Nevertheless, Desmond’s proposal as a whole seems to bypass the real impact of the estrangement it could possibly cause; an uncanny feeling that cannot be harmonized by referring to beauty itself as a witness to the “beyond of wholeness.” If there is both an affinity and a disproportionate relation between us and the order in things, how do we account for the relation between the two? In other words: the experience of “being at home, being welcomed” can suddenly turn into the experience of being not at home; and both have religious, ethical, and aesthetic meaning. Is it possible to accept not only the beauty and the shine on things, but to conceive of the strangeness as another sign as well? Indeed, John 3  Here the experience of being out of law is expressed by the observation that love does not obey the laws of time: “Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime/Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.” (Donne 1966, 55)


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Donne and Job perhaps will find themselves bien étonnés de se trouver ensemble. John Donne, the erotic lover, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, Job, who curses God because God seems to be after him. What can these stories tell us about order or beauty? Perhaps they tell us that even God is sometimes out of order— suffering in a rage of jealousy,4 or in a mimetic conflict with the devil.5 Moreover, that we can, with our adventures, become the target (or imagine we are the target)— the object of a hand that we experience not only as a hand that arranges a certain beautiful order, but rather as a hand that is making up something that is—in our eyes—messy, strange, and repulsive alike.

Is a Return to Beauty and Order Possible? How do we return to the common world? How do we regain hope? How are we able to perceive something as attractive as the shine on things again? This is, for me, the central and most urgent question that comes directly after Desmond’s observation that a philosophical account of the experience of beauty and of the shine on things would help us to overcome the limitations of both modernism and post-modernism in relation to the notion of creation and order. However, from the perspective of disharmony and estrangement, the question is no longer how we can adequately perceive the shine of and on things philosophically; but also—and even more—how can we possibly return in the thus revealed beautiful order without negating (and thus doing wrong) to that other experience— the experience of being banished from the beautiful, well-ordered universe? Moreover, if there are grounds to connect the experience of a beautiful and well-­ ordered given universe, with the experience of God as the Creator and Giver, then the question is also what the consequence could be of this experience of disorder and horror for the experience of and relation to God. The same could also be said in other words. For example, the words of Kierkegaard when he thinks about the possibility of return and repetition. Following Kierkegaard, should we then ask for the condition that enables a return to the world of beauty and order after the experience of disruption, disorder, and distress? As Kierkegaard introduced, as a burning question both in Fear and Trembling and in the related book Repetition: what can hope, order, and the connection of order with the experience of beauty mean for Job—after the ordeal—and for Abraham—after the interrupted sacrifice of Isaac? Or, to mention a few more contemporary examples, was the return to the experience of beauty possible for these tiny groups of Amsterdam Jews that survived the concentration camps and returned to a city that did not afford them a quite ­hospitable welcome? Will it be possible for victims of sexual abuse and their 4  Not only in the second of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20), but also in the time of the prophet Elijah, when idolatry was punished by drought (1 Kings 17–19). 5  As in the prologue to Job; see the interpretation of Philippe Nemo in Job et l’excès du mal (1978).

The Beauty of Repetition, or: How to Become a Friend of Job


relatives? Will there be such a return for Palestinians who were first driven out of the places where they lived for ages, each “under his own wine and his own fig tree,” and who are now enclosed in territories, humiliated by Israeli soldiers at the border crossings, and sadly see their dwelling-places systematically destroyed?

Kierkegaard on Repetition For Kierkegaard, Job was a great example. In Repetition a young man, who is in a state of emotional confusion, writes letters to a certain Constantin—his “silent confidant”. The young man repeatedly invokes Job (although he doubts that he will be able to follow him): My unforgettable benefactor, tormented Job! Do I dare to attach myself to your following, may I listen to you! (Kierkegaard 1983: 198)

Thus, Job changes into an example. The young man sees himself as someone who is in the same situation as Job, although he may be mistaken in this. Similar to Job, he is tormented by what befalls him, and he questions his place in the universe: Who am I? How did I get into the world? Why was I not asked about it, why was I not informed of the rules and regulations and just thrust into the ranks (…)? How did I get involved in the big enterprise called actuality? Why should I be involved? Isn’t it a matter of choice? If I am compelled to be involved, where is the manager—I have something to say about this. Is there no manager? To whom shall I make my complaint? (Kierkegaard 1983: 200)

In order to obtain an answer, reflect over his situation, and have at least one example, he reads Job: If I did not have Job! I do not read him as one reads another book, with the eyes, but I lay the book on my heart and read it with the eyes of the heart, in a clairvoyance interpreting (Kierkegaard 1983: 204)

What the young man admires in Job are two things. First, Job is the hero of the ordeal. He is tested, put on trial, and he desires to fight out his case with the highest authority—God. Second, after the ordeal, he is able to perform the movement of repetition. Job has understood that “life is a repetition, and that this is the beauty of life” (Kierkegaard 1983: 132). He not only grasped this, but lived according to this insight. After having complained vigorously to God because of his torments, and receiving severe sermons from his friends about God’s might, His government, and the impossibility for any human to complain about—let alone revolt against—it, Job is admonished by God in the thunderstorm. This is an incomparable poetic text that proclaims and testifies to the sublime beauty of creation with different, often astonishing concrete and seemingly farfetched illustrations such as the spawn-methods of


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the ostrich and the leviathan—whose “undersides are like potsherds,” and who can “make the depth churn like a boiling caldron.” (Kierkegaard 1983: 205).6 In his letters, the young man of Repetition takes the whole story of Job as a trial and an ordeal (Prøvelse). (Kierkegaard 1983: 209) In the thunderstorm, Job is admonished and blamed, but also justified because he was wronged vis à vis God and not before his “friends.” After this dialectic of being condemned and justified, a new confidentiality between the Lord and Job arises, underlined by what Kierkegaard/ Constantius calls “repetition”; that is, to receive back/again what has been taken from you, even doubled. However, this did not include his children “for a human life cannot be redoubled in that way” (Kierkegaard 1983: 220/1). What is repetition, and what prompts Kierkegaard in the voice of Constantin Constantius to state that repetition is “the new category that will be discovered”— the modern view of life (against the old, ethical view of life that was qualified by “recollection” and the interest of the metaphysical?) (Kierkegaard 1983: 149). It is not easy to deduce a unanimous answer to this question from the rich, ambiguous, and ironic text of Repetition, but one clue is the story of Job. There repetition, and the return to life took place when every human certainty of the possibility of such a return was lost. This means that Job also lost the hope of regaining his life after the disaster—everything seems lost now. Repetition, thus understood, is not the restoration of what has been (recollection), nor is it hope that foresees a situation that is not-yet and places faith in it. Neither recollection, nor hope, but repetition is “the reality and earnestness of existence”. In the story of Job, repetition takes the form of reconciliation or atonement.7 One interpretation is that repetition is only possible for someone who has had the experience of being expelled from the ordered universe; who has complained not only to his friends, but above all to God—the highest authority— and has received a reply beyond imagination (although it appeals to the imagination) from a thunderstorm. “How blessed it is to be rebuked by God”. In every other situation, “man becomes defiant when censured; when God judges, he subsided and, surrounded by the love that wishes to educate him, he forgets the pain.” (Kierkegaard 1983: 133). We may not be able to follow Kierkegaard and the young man in all the aspects of his admiration for Job. In fact, both the young man and Constantius declare that they are unable to follow Job. Kierkegaard’s Repetition does not present Job as an example that one has to imitate, but as the hero of ordeal and repetition who is always seen from a distance. Nevertheless, Kierkegaard’s re-reading of Job in the setting of Repetition can be helpful to obtain an answer to the question of how a 6  See Job 39 and 41, and compare William Desmond “The Shine..” where the bond between creation and glory and terror is conceded. “the harmony is exceeded by something more than our measure.” However, this insight seems to be almost absent in the whole of his approach to creation, beauty, and order. 7  See Kierkegaard, Pap IV B 117: “freedom takes on a religious expression, by which repetition appears as atonement, which is repetition sensu eminentiori [in the highest sense] and something different from mediation..” (Kierkegaard 1983: 320).

The Beauty of Repetition, or: How to Become a Friend of Job


return to beauty and order can be thought about after a disaster. A return that—as with Primo Levi—is not forced to forget or negate the disaster, and is ready to testify for what happened in the past. This means that we seek a possibility to value order and beauty while acknowledging the sometimes overwhelming reality of disorder, evil, and ugliness. In agreement with Primo Levi—not to be forced to repress the past when you are not able to, and to ignore the smell from “down there” that cannot and should not be ignored.

Conclusion The experiences that are recounted both by Primo Levi and in the story of Job confront us and ask for another perspective on beauty that is understood in Desmond’s approach as the shine on things and its relation to order. Because, indeed, certain experiences of solitude—in reaction to violence, illness, or in relation to erotic experiences—can cause a different reaction to this notion of a shine on things. The difference is the emphasis on the singular, the individual. Not only is there a light that shines on “things,” there is also a light—another light, not only beautiful and not only good—that shines on me, and thereby takes me out of the beautiful order. I would like to hide and exist somewhere in a fixed place in the common order, but it seems that there is no place to hide, no safe place. My argument is not that this experience is real—we will all acknowledge that it is real, and that it has something to say or is meaningful. What I want to state is that it gives access to another, even more fundamental, type of meaningfulness than that of beauty. Beauty can give us an access to the idea of a meaningful order that welcomes the subject in the universe. The experience of evil and distress can awaken subjectivity in its impossibility to withdraw and to hide in a safe place.8 This subjectivity is rooted in vulnerability, and it is different from the porosity that is underlined by Desmond as the effect of the experience of beauty. How could we relate the two: porosity and vulnerability? With other words—the idea of vulnerability, as an awakening of subjectivity in the midst of its porosity, is needed in order to intensify the experience of order and to make it meaningful. Without this notion of a subjectivity that is vulnerable to experiences of violence, shock, and evil, the idea of a given, harmonious order, and even the idea of a shine of things that intensifies this experience of order, runs the risk to become meaningless in itself. It becomes something that is indifferent to me, the others who are in relation to me, nature, and even to God.

8  As Levinas says of evil and of transcendence, see “Transcendance et mal” (Levinas 1982, 189– 207. In another essay on transcendence, Levinas presents psychism (finite inner conscience) as being awakened by the “irreversible affection” of the infinite; this is, in his eyes, a “more original spirituality.” (Levinas 1984: 26/7)


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Indifferent to me because beauty can touch me only superficially without really addressing me in my individuality. Indifferent in relation to others—humans, but also animals and non-human nature—because a beautiful order sometimes hides injustice and disorder. Think of a beautiful landscape, a farm in the countryside. We can see the cattle graze and certainly enjoy it, but we also have to ask how milk and meat are produced. A further question is how we want to be engaged in this chain of production and consumption. Indifferent towards God because the good sun is shining even after a disaster. Does it refer to God’s goodness or to His indifference? We need more than the sun, and more than beauty alone to obtain the beginning of an answer to this question with respect to the Jewish and Christian “God-talk.” It is my conviction that such discussion about God in relation to beauty and order should always be judged in some respect by the possibility to talk to God (and to complain to God—shouting and cursing included). Of course, this is not part of ordinary philosophical language and reflection, but when God is involved this means, as Levinas rightly observes, a constant break-up of the ordinary conceptions and language of philosophy.9 Philosophy, and not only the philosophy of religion, can also be seen as an effort to relate to that what absolves itself from conceivable relations. To what is and remains “inappropriate.” To think about the effect of the inappropriate on our thinking and conceiving. Therefore, in my view, any “Future of Creation order” will only be possible when we do justice to the inappropriate, the reverse of order, and the way this reverse touches us. Moreover, I think we need both. We need the notion of a meaningful order that is given outside of our own constructions of order and meaningfulness—a given meaning we yearn for and quest after—in science, ethics, and culture. An order that presents itself in the experience of beauty and that gives comfort and affirmation. Schools and universities can give this order, but sports training programs, institutions that help parents to raise their children, street corner-workers in disadvantaged urban areas, and cultural programs can also contribute. However, we also need experiences that awaken the subjectivity in order to prevent that the order will be perceived as an indifferent order. The last word is about art. When it comes to art—not given beauty, but concrete artistic reflections on and expressions of our experience of being in-the-world— then we should not only give attention to the need for affirmation and being welcomed (by beauty), but also to the reality of discontent. Think of Sigmund Freud’s Das Unbehagen in der Kultur, and the experience of being discontent, exiled, and estranged that often gives rise to strong and impressive works of art. Other examples are the paintings of Francis Bacon (man lost in the universe, looking in vain for order and boundaries) or Lucian Freud. As often as I see their paintings, they confront me with the confusing experience of being in the flesh, and being no more than my body. Thus, a stranger in the world.10  See, for instance, the essay “Dieu et la philosophie” (Levinas 1982, 93–127).  And thus, it is especially this kind of art, possible perceived as ugly, that would give us the possibility of re-gaining of reality, of the flesh of things. See Desmond’s complaint of modernity



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References Donne, J. 1966. The selected poetry of John Donne. New York: The New American Library. Dooyeweerd, H. 1953. A new critique of theoretical thought. Paris: Amsterdam. Griffioen, S. 2010. Towards a philosophy of God. A study in William Desmond’s thought. Philosophia Reformata 75: 115–140. Kierkegaard, S. 1983. Fear and trembling & Repetition. Howard V.  Hong; Edna H.  Hong red. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Levi, P. 1987. Moments of reprieve: A memoir of Auschwitz. London: Penguin Books. Levinas, E. 1982. De Dieu qui vient à l’idée. Paris: Vrin. ———. 1984. Transcendence et intelligibilité. Genève: Labor et Fides. Lyotard, J.-F. 1986. Le postmoderne expliquée aux enfants. Paris: Galilée. Žižek, S. 2001. On belief. London: Routledge.

as a loss of creation that is interpreted as a loss of exposure to the “flesh of things.”

Nature, Kant, and God Gordon Graham

Abstract  This paper draws on some lines of thought in Kant’s Critique of Judgment to construct an aesthetic counterpart to the moral argument for the existence of God that Kant formulates in the Critique of Practical Reason. The paper offers this aesthetic version as a theistic way of explaining how the natural world can be thought valuable independently of human desires and purposes. It further argues that such an argument must commend itself to anyone who is as deeply committed to the preservation of nature as to the promotion of justice. Keywords  Intrinsic value · Natural magnificence · Kantian sublime · Shallow ecology · God and aesthetics

In Search of the “Intrinsic Value” of Nature The environmental movement has attained moral and political prominence across the globe with astonishing speed. Accompanying the call to environmental responsibility is the search for a philosophy to undergird it. An early contributor to this search, J. Baird Callicott, observed that “the central and most recalcitrant problem for environmental ethics is the problem of constructing an adequate theory of intrinsic value for nonhuman entities and for nature as a whole.”1 It is easy to see why this question is crucial. There are undoubtedly many human benefits to be wrung from nature, and simple prudence endorses an attitude of intelligent stewardship as a counter to pollution and wastefulness. But environmentalists have generally looked beyond simple stewardship and have sought to root attitudes to nature on what they sense to be its intrinsic value. Just how we should conceive of “intrinsic” value is a complex philosophical issue. Is intrinsic value the same as “good in itself?” Are intrinsically valuable  Callicott, “Intrinsic Value,” 257.


G. Graham (*) Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ, USA e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



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things always good in themselves, or is their goodness conditional upon the ends to which they are put? These and related questions have generated a very considerable philosophical literature.2 At a minimum, however, we can say that intrinsic value is to be contrasted with instrumental value in just this sense: intrinsic value both transcends and puts limits on the uses human beings may make of it. To say that the natural world has intrinsic value, then, is to say that it has a value other than its capacity to serve human ends. However deep-seated the intuition that nature has intrinsic value in this sense, on inspection it often turns out that attempts to articulate and defend it do in the end rely on connecting the natural world with human well-being. Currently, the commonest and most persuasive argument in favor of environmental responsibility makes appeal to anticipated ecological crises—notably global warming, coastal flooding, environmental pollution, soil erosion—and it lays the emphasis firmly on concern for future generations. These two features—the invocation of crisis and the focus on a relatively distant future—can undoubtedly serve as a powerful counter to the claims of short- or even medium-term material benefit. They prompt us to base our deliberations on considerations beyond the calculable economic and technological advantages that can be obtained from the exploitation of, for instance, fossil fuels, tracts of virgin forest, potentially arable land, or deep sea fishing grounds. Nevertheless, though the welfare of future generations wholly unknown to us provides a perspective that may be said to look beyond our customary moral parameters and to call for a rather wide-ranging conception of responsibility, insofar as it is grounded in future human benefit, it still qualifies as “shallow” rather than “deep” ecology, to employ Arne Naess’s useful distinction.3 In seeking to avoid such “shallowness,” an alternative approach rests its case on the beauty, grandeur, and profusion of the natural world (what I shall henceforth call its “magnificence”). Of course, to the extent that this approach grounds the value of natural beauty in human recreation and pleasure—wildlife tourism, arctic cruises and the like—it too fails to transcend the limits of anthropocentrism, and it has the further weakness that, since it need make no appeal to any ecological crisis, it has much less traction in contemporary moral and political debate. Yet for the purposes of this paper, a focus on nature’s magnificence is philosophically more promising, and more interesting, than environmental causes centering on impending disasters and the human suffering that will flow from them. The conviction that natural magnificence has intrinsic value is for the most part a matter of intuition, and intuitionism of any kind invites philosophical suspicion, because appeals to “intuition” so easily mask simple prejudices. At the same time, it is plausible to hold that with respect to certain matters, the very attempt to explain or defend their value is deeply misguided. Consider, for instance, the innocence of children. The person who sees nothing wrong with lewd drawings of children, 2  See for instance, Harman, “Toward a Theory of Intrinsic Value”; Korsgaard, “Two Distinctions in Goodness”; Hurka, “Two Kinds of Organic Unity”; Wielenberg, “Goodness without Qualification”; and Kagan, “Rethinking Intrinsic Value.” 3  Naess, “Shallow and Deep.”

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p­ rovided no rights are violated or harm done, thereby displays a kind of insensitivity that in all likelihood no argument could remedy. More importantly, any attempt to supply an argument could itself be regarded as too great a concession to depravity, because it supposes that the value of innocence is derived from something else. And that is precisely the supposition that those who value the innocence of children want to resist. A similar point, without the language of depravity perhaps, might be made about nature’s magnificence. The person who requires an explanation as to why such magnificence should be valued, it could be said, thereby exhibits the mind of the vandal, someone already deficient in the sensibility that matters. This is someone to whom no persuasive explanation can be given, and to whom none should be offered. If they remain unmoved by landscape, seascape, and so on, then the only available argument is one that points away from nature to its parasitic benefits—the profits of ecotourism or the sale of cameras, for example. But these arise from the fact that other people relish such things. Whether or not this defense of intuitionism is correct, it does seem to be the case that the urge to preserve natural magnificence, and to resist its destruction, rests very largely on a basic evaluation that people have come to share, rather than relying on a calculation about anticipated future benefit. It is certainly possible to be or to become hardened or indifferent to natural magnificence. Moreover, people can reasonably disagree about just what things do and do not possess it. Nevertheless, it is comparatively easy to find clear instances in which we can both uncover and rely on a sensus communis about the value and importance of nature in some of its aspects. The wholesale slaughter of African elephants, the near extinction of the Siberian tiger, and the destruction of the Amazonian rainforest and the Great Barrier Reef are widely regarded as serious losses by people who are ignorant of the long-term consequences of these losses. And this attitude persists even in those cases where it can be shown that human welfare is largely unaffected. Perhaps truly disastrous prospects for human life might rightly compel us, reluctantly, to accept such losses. Nevertheless, this extreme possibility is compatible with holding that in the normal case the value of natural magnificence cannot properly be offset or compensated for by increased medical or economic benefits. It is in virtue of this common, basic and non-instrumental attitude that we may speak of the magnificence of nature having transcendent value, a value, that is to say, that is not derived from human good and bad. Still, even those who could not be accused of a vandalistic attitude to nature, or indifference to its beauty and magnificence, might reasonably ask for some account of this intrinsic value. The reasonableness of this request explains the centrality of the question for environmental ethics. How is such an account to be given?

A Possible Route: God, Practical Reason, and Nature in Kant The previous paragraph employed the expression “sensus communis,” a term that makes a well known appearance in Kant’s third critique—the Critique of Judgment. For the larger part of this work, Kant is concerned with the subject of beauty and its


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relation to art, but in an important appendix he returns to a topic that figures prominently in the second Critique, namely, arguments for the existence of God. Kant aims to undermine the traditional ontological, cosmological and teleological arguments and to offer a moral argument in their place. This new argument has three features that are of special significance for my purposes. First, it grounds religious faith in practical rather than speculative or theoretical reason. That is to say, it connects the existence of God with rightness and the rationality of action, rather than with truth and the rationality of belief. Second, the argument takes as its starting point an intuitive conviction—that the demands of the moral law are inescapable. Third, here (as elsewhere) Kant’s purpose is to uncover presuppositions necessarily required by practical rationality, rather than to draw inferences validated by deductive, or inductive, reasoning. Despite the fact that Kant’s later, and lengthier, elaboration of this moral argument is to be found in the appendix to a book devoted for the most part to aesthetics, the connection between the two is, at best, something towards which he merely gestures. On a straightforward reading, the main text’s treatment of taste, beauty, imagination, genius, and so on, seems largely independent of the arguments about God that follow in the appendix. At the same time, occasional remarks suggest the possibility of forging a rather closer connection between the two. If the existence of God is a necessary presupposition required to validate our basic conviction that the moral law is inescapable, might it not also be the case that the existence of God is a necessary presupposition required to validate our basic conviction about the magnificence of nature? My aim in this paper is to explore precisely this question, and to ask whether a Kantian argument might provide an answer to environmental ethics’ central question. Plainly, the cogency of this question rests upon the validity of Kant’s moral argument—or rather, on the supposition that an argument of the kind that Kant elaborates could be valid, even if the specific version he offers us is not. For my own part, I believe that there is indeed a valid version of the moral argument,4 but it is evidently beyond the scope of this paper to defend such a contention. Instead, I shall be concerned solely with the issue of whether or not there could be an aesthetic parallel to Kant’s moral argument. On the face of it, it seems there could not be. Kant’s argumentative strategy relies crucially on a radical distinction between theoretical and practical reason, and it is only within the sphere of practical reason that the argument can be shown to work. Famously, however, Kant declares aesthetic judgment to be non-practical. As his now familiar doctrine has it, aesthetic judgment has only “the form of purposiveness,” which is to say, purposefulness without purpose.5 Subjective aesthetic pleasure can be combined with objective aesthetic judgment only if the intentionally purposeful form of something is wholly separated from any purpose that we might make it or want it to serve. Such at any rate is Kant’s claim, and if this is true, the conviction that nature has aesthetic value cannot serve as a starting point for an argument about the presuppositions of practical reason. Aesthetic judgment is not,  See Graham, Evil and Christian Ethics.  Kant, Critique of Judgment, §§10–11.

4 5

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and cannot be, an exercise in practical reason. Since it concerns only the form of purposiveness; it is, he says, “in no way practical.”6 There are a number of replies that might be made to this objection. One obvious response is simply to reject the radical distinction between practical and theoretical reason. Another is to deny that the value we intuitively perceive in nature is aesthetic. Neither of these responses seems to me promising. First, the distinction between practical and theoretical reason is crucial to the argument we are trying to parallel, so abandoning it would leave us with no argument at all. Secondly, the conviction upon which any parallel argument would rest is the intuition of a value in nature that is wholly non-utilitarian and yet sensuous. Natural magnificence transcends both human welfare and human pleasure, but nonetheless elicits our admiration and wonder. This is exactly how Kant conceives of beauty, so that aesthetic value, or something very like it, seems the most plausible candidate for the content of our intuitive conviction about nature. A third possible response to the difficulty I identified accepts the centrality of practical reason, but questions Kant’s contention that aesthetic judgment is non-­ practical. This is not an entirely novel move to make. Kant clearly wishes to locate aesthetic judgment somewhere between cognition and action, and his account of this middle ground has been so influential, that it has made the Kantian aesthetic the preferred philosophy underlying most versions of the belief in “art for art’s sake.” Nevertheless, Kant’s conception of the purposelessness of art has regularly been called into question by the existence of architecture. Function and purpose seem no less intrinsic to a work of architecture than form. This is demonstrated by the fact that an architectural folie is defective, but in purpose not in form. It is conceptually indistinguishable from a “walk-through” statue precisely because it serves no function. If Kant is right, then, architecture cannot be an art, properly speaking. That is to say, insofar as it is purposeful it is not aesthetic in the fullest sense.

The Role of “Aesthetic Ideas” That architecture is not, properly speaking, an art is an implication Kant appears willing to accept. Insofar as architecture is a fine art, he says, a drawing of a building is as good as the building itself.7 A little later, he remarks that any useful purpose a building serves necessarily imposes a limit on its aesthetic value. Its beauty is “attendant,” but never “free.”8 “One would be able to add much to a building that would be pleasing in the intuition of it if only it were not supposed to be a church,”

 Kant, Critique of Judgment, §12.  Ibid., §14. 8  The distinction between “free” and “attendant” beauty is not necessarily to be interpreted as normative—i.e., “superior” and “inferior.” Still, “free” beauty clearly has an autonomy that “attendant” beauty lacks. 6 7


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he tells us.9 This reveals something very important about his account. Aesthetic judgment is essentially a matter of contemplation. The perspective is always that of a viewer, never the user. This explains why the example of a rose appears again and again in his account of aesthetic taste. No one knows, he says, what a rose is for. It just is. And though we can of course use roses as gifts or decorations, and make money out of selling them for these purposes, the aesthetic attitude is one of pure contemplative delight in the form of the rose as it is. The existence and nature of a distinctively aesthetic attitude of this kind has been debated ever since, but whatever view we take on this subject, there is no denying that art and beauty have at least this connection with action; they are not merely encountered or cultivated, but made—in the form of paintings, poems, pieces of music, and so on. Nor does Kant mean to deny this. Indeed he devotes a significant part of the third Critique to the subject of “genius” which he characterizes as “a talent for art, not for science.”10 It is not easy to say exactly how, on Kant’s account, the “genius” of the artist relates to the “taste” of the audience. He addresses the point explicitly in §50. This is entitled “On the combination of taste with genius in products of beautiful art,” and it concludes with this sentence: “For beautiful art, therefore, imagination, understanding, spirit, and taste are requisite.”11 The general idea seems to be that the artist is inspired to make works that freely flow from the imagination. By itself the necessarily “lawless freedom” of this imagination can produce “nonsense,” so it needs to be “brought into line” by the judgment of taste, which determines whether there is aesthetic value to be discovered in it. If anything must be sacrificed in the conflict of the two properties in one product, it must rather be on the side of genius: and the power of judgment, which in matters of beautiful art makes its pronouncements on the basis of its own principles, will sooner permit damage to the freedom and richness of the imagination than to the understanding.12

In a post-Romantic art world that tends to value artistic “expression” over “tastefulness,” this decidedly unequal relationship between artist and audience is unlikely to win much support. But it should be noticed that Kant does assign artists a key role. Genius is not necessary for beauty—there is the rose, after all—but it is uniquely productive of beauty. That is to say, beauty can be made as well as found, and at the heart of its making lies a distinctive act of mind that produces “aesthetic ideas.” “Aesthetic idea” is another notably Kantian conception. He defines it as follows: The aesthetic idea is a representation of the imagination, associated with a given concept, which is combined with such a manifold of partial representations in the free use of the imagination that no expression designating a determinate concept can be found for it, which therefore allows the addition to a concept of much that is unnameable, the feeling of which animates the cognitive faculties and combines spirit with the mere letter of language.13  Kant, Critique of Judgment, §16.  Ibid., §49. 11  Ibid., §50. 12  Ibid. 13  Ibid., §49. 9


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This passage is difficult to understand. For present purposes, however, I shall draw the following inference from it. Beautiful art (or a lot of it) has quasi-cognitive as well as sensuous content. When we contemplate a great work of art we do not merely delight in its appearance—color, shape, tone, organization, and so on—but in the profusion of thoughts and imaginings that it stimulates within us. Kant finds aesthetic ideas at their most evident in the art of poetry: The poet ventures to make sensible rational ideas of invisible beings, the kingdom of the blessed, the kingdom of hell, eternity, creation, etc., as well as to make that of which there are examples in experience, e.g. death, envy, and all sorts of vices, as well as love, fame, etc., sensible beyond the limits of experience, with a completeness that goes beyond anything of which there is an example in nature.14

This concept of “aesthetic idea” is helpful in explicating an important dimension of artistic and aesthetic assessment that a simple reliance on beauty cannot accommodate. Within the category of the beautiful, it seems, we can distinguish between the more and less profound. A simple folk tune and a major symphony can both be beautiful, as can a short story and a novel on the scale of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. To rank the second above the first, therefore, we need to find some criterion other than beauty. At the same time, this second criterion must not remove either object from the realms of the aesthetic, as say, an appeal to their respective contributions to recreation, historical knowledge, or moral improvement would do. Kant’s conception of the degree to which they make things “sensible beyond the limits of experience” is just such a criterion, though he gives no indication that he would use it in this way. Still, it seems right to say that if beautiful productions do give sensuous expression to things that are beyond the limits of human experience, then they do not merely have aesthetic form, but also realize or embody aesthetic ideas.

The Insufficiency of the Sublime The intuitive sense we have of nature’s magnificence seems to require a similar sort of distinction. A single rose is not any less beautiful than a sunset over snow-­covered mountains, and yet in contemplating the latter it is difficult to think that its beauty exhausts the experience, and tempting to find in it what Wordsworth describes (in the Prelude) as “a sense of something far more deeply interfused.” What should we say about this difference? In common with many writing in the eighteenth century, Kant combines his philosophy of beauty with a philosophy of the sublime, and it might be supposed that in what he says about it there is material that could address this question, especially since he expressly locates the “feeling of the sublime” in the experience of nature. 14



G. Graham Bold, overhanging, as it were threatening cliffs, thunderclouds towering up into the heavens, bringing with them flashes of lightning and crashes of thunder, volcanoes with their all-destroying violence, hurricanes with the devastation they leave behind, the boundless ocean set in a rage, a lofty waterfall on a mighty river, etc., make our capacity to resist them into an insignificant trifle in comparison with their power. But the sight of them only becomes all the more attractive the more fearful it is, as long as we find ourselves in safety, and we gladly call these objects sublime because they elevate the strength of our soul above its usual level, and allow us to discover within ourselves a capacity for resistance of quite another kind, which gives us the courage to measure ourselves against the apparent all-­ powerfulness of nature.15

In this (unusually) eloquent paragraph, Kant’s concluding sentence is especially significant. The experience of the sublime is not meaningful for anything that it communicates about nature, but for what it tells us about ourselves. Such experiences show that the human mind need not be dominated by an immediate fear of nature’s dynamic power. It has a way of accommodating the terrors, namely, by apprehending them in the imagination. Kant distinguishes between experiences of the sublime prompted by nature’s dynamism, and those prompted by nature’s magnitude. The great wildebeest migration, a simultaneous movement of well over a million animals that takes place in Northern Tanzania and Kenya each year, is an example that fits Kant’s account well. The person who sees this torrent of animals apprehends their magnitude, but cannot comprehend it. That is to say, as we watch the migration we see at a glance a number so great that we know we could not count it. The feeling of the sublime—of a sensuous apprehension that somehow goes beyond the limits of experience—arises because this spectacular natural event prompts us to rejoice in a fact about ourselves. We find in ourselves a power to apprehend that which seemingly we cannot comprehend, and yet at the same time we know that this is an illusion. There is no mystery; we could in principle count all the wildebeest, no matter how many there may be. Contrary to what we might initially suppose, then, “the sublime,” at least by Kant’s account, will not serve to explicate the transcendent value of natural magnificence. Insofar as we are seeking to articulate a widely held intuitive conviction that the magnificence of nature presents us with a value that sets a limit to human aspiration and endeavor, there is no resource that will help us in the Kantian sublime. That is because the feeling of the sublime, as Kant analyses it, arises precisely from an understanding of how nature in all its power and magnitude does not limit us. The apprehension of the sublime reveals to us something about our own nature, not the nature by which we are surrounded.


 Ibid., §28.

Nature, Kant, and God


“Aesthetic Ideas” in Nature and a Supernatural “Genius” Let us return to the question that prompted this brief exploration of the sublime. Kant gives us a conceptual framework in which to articulate the idea that “great” works of art differ from simple works, not by being more beautiful, but by expressing or embodying “aesthetic ideas.” That is to say, such works have the ability to give sensuous representations of rational ideas a sort of “completeness” that is greater than is ever to be found in everyday experience, even when that experience is summarized in empirical generalities. So, for instance, in Shakespeare’s Othello, we find the intertwining of love and jealousy more adequately represented in the imagined events and poetic language of a drama than it could ever be in the recounting of an autobiographical episode from real life. One important result of this is that our minds go beyond merely aesthetic delight in the acting and the scenery, or even in the poetic beauty of the speeches. We are prompted to think about the theme of the play in relation to human experience as a whole. Could there be aesthetic ideas of this kind in nature? In an interesting footnote to the section on aesthetic ideas, Kant refers admiringly to a picture inspired by the inscription over the temple of Isis (or Mother Nature). The inscription runs “I am all that is, that was, that will be, and my veil no mortal has removed.” The “vignette” Kant describes as “rich in sense” was printed as the frontispiece of an introduction to the theory of nature by the physicist and mathematician Johann Andreas Segner. Kant’s footnote suggests that he shared Segner’s view that this visual representation was the most effective way to “dispose the mind [of the student] to solemn attentiveness.” Now it is plausible to think that, whether intentionally or inadvertently, Kant has here articulated something very close to the idea that nature can have a value that transcends and so puts limits on human action. This is not entirely surprising, of course, since the original inscription to which Kant refers had religious purposes. Rich sensual experience (of the picture) prompts thoughts about the natural world (that its deepest secrets must remain hidden from human investigation) while inducing a certain feeling or state of mind (respect and solemnity) that is properly in accord with these thoughts. Segner’s frontispiece is a sensible representation of an abstract idea, and its being a representation makes it a work of art, not of nature. The difference is this. By judging it beautiful, we attribute to the picture the subjective purpose of aesthetic judgment—finding it beautiful. But we can also attribute an objective purpose to it, namely the artistic genius’s purpose in making a representation that embodies aesthetic ideas. Kant thinks that natural objects can be beautiful, and thus be objects of the subjective purpose of aesthetic judgment, but he is emphatic in his contention that no empirical observation of nature’s teleology—which is to say, its internal functionality—can warrant the attribution of objective purpose, however careful or comprehensive that observation might be. As evolutionary biology has shown, the most impressive functional relations in nature can be explained without recourse to the objective purpose of a divine (or any) designer. Strictly, though, art and nature


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are not mutually exclusive in this respect. If a natural object were also a representation of an aesthetic idea, then it could have objective as well as subjective purpose. It is at this point that we might try to find an aesthetic counterpart to Kant’s moral argument. Evolutionary biology has indeed shown, let us agree, that even the most intricate and impressive functional relations in nature can be explained without recourse to the objective purpose or intentional design of a supernatural Creator. If this is the case, then contrary to the proponents of Intelligent Design, it is futile to try to undermine Kant’s contention about the impossibility of inferring an objective purpose from the evident teleology of nature. If we parallel the moral argument, however, a different prospect opens up. It now seems that we might uncover the conditions of the possibility of practically significant intuition with respect to natural magnificence. Such an argument would proceed as follows. 1. We have an intuitive conviction that there is something about the magnificence of nature—its beauty, grandeur and profusion—that demands to be accepted and respected as a deontological limit on the pursuit of human benefit. 2. Such a conviction is intelligible only if the phenomena that prompt it—sunsets, seascapes, teeming forests, spectacular movements of wild life, and so on—are more than merely suitable objects for judgments of taste. 3. To be more than this, they must embody aesthetic ideas, and can only do this if they are emanations of “genius.” 4. Human genius is powerless to embody aesthetic ideas in such natural phenomena. 5. Therefore, it is a necessary presupposition of our intuitive conviction about the magnificence of nature that there exists a supernatural “genius.” When Aquinas lays out his “five ways” to the existence of God, he concludes each “proof” with some such remark as “and this is what everyone understands by God,” or more simply “and this we call God.”16 My “aesthetic proof,” it seems plain, requires a similar move—the addition that the supernatural genius presupposed by natural “magnificence” is what everyone understands by God. On what basis is such an addition to be grounded? Furthermore, there is a critical question lying just below the surface of proposition 3 in the argument as it stands. Kant is clear that the nature studied by science is “mechanical” in its operations. If this is true, it seems impossible to regard it at the same time as an embodiment of “free beauty.” Yet if, as step 3 supposes, that which can be explained by naturalistic processes can also be a “representation” of the idea of those same processes—if a particular seascape can, for instance, represent the sea’s boundlessness—it must be the case that that which is “mechanical” can also be “free.” In short, there is a problem about how the law governed character of the natural world that science discloses could be compatible with the freedom that is required for the same natural world to embody the “aesthetic ideas” that emanate from God’s “genius.”


 Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Ia Q. 2, A. 3.

Nature, Kant, and God


A satisfactory response on both these matters—the identification of “the supernatural genius” with “God,” and the tension between mechanical nature and “free beauty”—is crucial to this aesthetic argument’s being truly analogous to the moral argument for God’s existence that Kant offers us in the Critique of Practical Reason. With respect to the first we may, at a minimum, say this. It is a recurrent theme in theology that God’s creative activity has an importantly aesthetic component that sits alongside wisdom and goodness. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork,” Psalm 19 famously declares, and Psalm 50 tells us that “Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory.” “Where were you,” the LORD asks Job, “when the morning stars sang together” (Job 38:7)? This is just one of a long series of rhetorical questions whose effect is to underline the truth that the grandeur and magnificence of God’s creation vastly exceed both the knowledge and the moral righteousness to which humans (rightly) aspire. In the Book of Revelation the same theme comes to a kind of culmination. John’s description of the City of God is replete with references to beauty. Precious stones, pure gold and clearest crystal are called upon as images which, despite their acknowledged inadequacy, may nevertheless point towards the glory of God. More strikingly perhaps, in the envisioned City, the glory of God replaces the sun and the moon, with the implication that our appreciation of their beauty in the created world is a poor reflection of the glory of God yet to be revealed in the world to come. In other words, the sum of God’s perfections comprises not only omniscience, omnipotence, and omnibenevolence, but glory. This fact usefully connects the idea of God with the supernatural “genius” whose aesthetic ideas, on my reconstructed Kantian argument, are embodied in the magnificence of nature. With respect to the tension between the “mechanical” nature disclosed by science and the “free” beauty the natural world invites us to contemplate, it is worth observing that this is simply one more dimension of a tension within the whole framework of Kant’s thought, one that even he himself acknowledged. It arises even more markedly in his moral philosophy. Human beings are both rational agents and physical objects. How is the freedom that their moral agency requires to be made compatible with the physical determinism that must govern them as bodies? In the Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant accepts that he cannot resolve this tension. He argues, however, that this is not to be regarded as a debilitating failure. In these matters, he says, “human reason in general cannot make comprehensible [the moral law] as regards its absolute necessity,” but we “nevertheless comprehend its incomprehensibility” and that “this is all that can be required of a philosophy that strives in its principles to the very boundary of human reason.”17 The same strategy might be employed with respect to the apprehension of aesthetic ideas in nature. We cannot show that the laws of science allow the freedom within nature that such ideas necessarily require. What we can show, however, is that the assumption of such freedom is a necessary condition of apprehending the magnificence of nature. It follows that this orientation to the natural world is thus radically different to the one that science adopts. But this is no more (nor less) troubling than the agent/object duality of human nature with which we are obliged to live. 17

 Kant, Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals.


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Countering a Nietzschean Challenge Two further aspects of the parallel between Kant’s moral argument and the aesthetic version I have sketched are worth noting. Kant regards the inescapability of the moral law, the proposition on which his moral argument rests, as beyond debate. We cannot avoid that which morality requires us to do by the simple strategy of denying that we are under an obligation to do it. For most of us, this is probably a supposition we are unlikely to question. But the philosophical significance of Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality is that it persuasively opens up the possibility that this modern sense of inescapability is socio-psychological rather than logical, a product not of rational understanding but of deep-seated fear and resentment. These psychological dispositions have become institutionalized in social formations shaped by the distorting dichotomy of moral good versus evil. Nietzsche’s purpose is to liberate us from this dichotomy, by going “beyond good and evil.” If he were successful in this, it would show that the cogency of Kant’s moral argument is entirely dependent upon our acceptance of its basic assertion. Freed from our obsession with absolute good and evil, we would no longer accept the condition upon which it rests, and thus have no reason to subscribe to its necessary presuppositions. Now whether Nietzsche is right or wrong in his ambitious contention, the mere possibility he has uncovered shows that the familiar dictum “One person’s modus ponens is another person’s modus tollens” applies in this case. Consequently logical validity cannot settle the matter by itself. “If the moral law is inescapable, then God must exist” is not logically superior to “God does not exist, so there is no inescapable moral law.” And as Nietzsche also rightly contended, atheists (such as “the English moralists” he despised) rarely see the full implications of the second contention. They have got rid of the Christian God, and now feel obliged to cling all the more firmly to Christian morality… [O]ne has to reassert one’s position in a fear-inspiring manner as a moral fanatic… Christianity is a system, a consistently thought-out and complete view of things. If one breaks out of it a fundamental idea, the belief in God, one thereby breaks the whole thing to pieces: one has nothing of any consequence left in one’s hands.18

Among the things that one no longer possesses, on Nietzsche’s account, is the morality that lays special emphasis to the plight of the poor and the vulnerable, as well as the morality that believes in human equality and proscribes the violation of human rights. Suppose that Nietzsche is right, not in the details of his genealogy, but in his claim about its implications. If so, we are presented with a choice. Shall we abandon our moral convictions on the strength of his genealogy (modus tollens), or shall we reject his genealogy on the basis of our moral convictions (modus ponens)? In most minds, I conjecture, a commitment to justice, to the relief of suffering, and to the protection of the vulnerable runs so deep, that there is a powerful motive for favoring modus ponens over modus tollens. If atheism means relinquishing justice and charity, subscription to it is too high a price to pay. 18

 Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, §5 (emphasis in original).

Nature, Kant, and God


Now it is not so obvious (to me) that a similar point holds when applied to the demands of “respect for nature.” Should it prove to be the case that the basic conviction that we have about nature’s magnificence is incompatible with atheism, it is much less clear that there would be something inhuman about reasoning in accordance with modus tollens rather than modus ponens. Though it would be difficult to demonstrate, somehow a concern for justice seems much more basic to our evaluative consciousness than the urge to protect the magnificence of the natural world. There appears to be a major moral difference between, for instance, the exploitation of nature and the enslavement of human beings. The latter seems evil in a way that the former, however reprehensible, is not. Still, the extent and rapidity with which “green” movements have found support in widely differing social and political contexts does indicate that many people have (perhaps increasingly) profound commitments to what are called “environmental values.” Such people will have as good reason to favor modus ponens over modus tollens in the aesthetic argument, as the advocates of justice and rights do in the moral version. A further important issue is this. Kant’s non-consequentialist morality is often interpreted, mistakenly, as implying subscription to the (supposedly ancient) slogan Fiat justitia ruat caelum (“Let justice be done though the heavens fall”). But in the second Critique, Kant’s explication of the moral argument relies no less heavily on the rationality of the pursuit of happiness than it does on the rationality of morality. Indeed, what brings the existence of God into view is the all-important fact that justice and prudence can come into radical conflict. Kant does not conclude (as some interpretations of “Kantianism” suggest) that rationality requires us, whenever such a conflict arises, always to take the side of morality. On the contrary, he thinks that rationality requires us to relinquish neither our duty nor our happiness, but to have faith in their ultimate harmonization. This is not a “conceptual” harmony in which “virtue is its own reward,” nor a material harmony brought about by human law or political organization since it is not achievable in this world. The reconciliation of virtue and happiness can only be accomplished by a God whose justice and benevolence extends beyond the grave. [I]n the mere course of nature happiness exactly proportionate to moral worth is not to be expected and is indeed impossible.…[T]herefore the possibility of the highest good from this side cannot be granted except under the presupposition of a moral Author of the world.19

It is at this point we can identify an important parallel with the duality of human need on the one hand, and the profusion and magnificence of the natural world on the other. Those who make nature a God after the fashion of (for instance) James Lovelock’s Gaia can suppose no such harmonious resolution to environmental ­crisis. The result is that their message is “either concession or defeat.” “There are no grounds for thinking” Lovelock tells us, “that what we are doing [with our environmentally destructive lifestyle] will destroy Gaia, but if we continue business as usual, our species may never again enjoy the lush and verdant world we had only a hundred years ago. What is most in danger is [human] civilization.”20 By contrast, 19 20

 Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, 150.  Lovelock, The Revenge of Gaia, 60.


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the God who is a necessary presupposition in the aesthetic argument I have sketched is a God who has made the earth a fit habitation for human beings, and therefore a God who may be relied upon to harmonize the furthering of human welfare with the preservation of the natural world’s integrity. The form, and timescale, of this harmonization falls beyond the scope of meaningful speculation, of course. God’s time is the best time, but not our time, we might say. That is why, in emulation of Kant’s moral argument again, the basis of action with respect to nature has to be faith rather than calculation or prediction. The “aesthetic argument for the existence of God” that I have fabricated out of elements in Kant’s Critique of Judgment will evidently be found unpersuasive by those who do not share the conviction that natural magnificence has transcendent value. For those in whom this conviction is correspondingly strong, on the other hand, its theistic conclusion may be unwelcome. This does not rob it of all interest, however. The central issue in environmental philosophy, in my estimation, is how to escape “shallow” ecology. If the argument just elaborated is indeed a cogent one, this shows that theism is one way of avoiding shallow ecology. An intellectual obligation thus falls on those who venerate the natural world and want to protect it against human exploitation, but do not want to call upon God. They have to show that there is some alternative, because in the absence of such an alternative, they face a suitably amended version of Nietzsche’s accusation against the English moralists—that however deeply felt their conviction about the importance of nature’s magnificence, they are merely “reasserting their position in a fear-inspiring manner as environmental fanatics.” Without a theistic grounding for that conviction, so my argument goes, they are open to the accusation that their moral affirmation is little more than table pounding. Princeton Theological Seminary

References Aquinas, Thomas. 1963. Summa Theologica, Volume 2: Existence and nature of God. Trans. O.P. Timothy McDermott. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode. Callicott, J. Baird. 1985. Intrinsic value, quantum theory, and environmental ethics. Environmental Ethics 7: 257–275. Graham, Gordon. 2001. Evil and Christian ethics. New York: Cambridge University Press. Harman, Gilbert. 1967. Toward a theory of intrinsic value. Journal of Philosophy 6: 792–804. Hurka, Thomas. 1998. Two kinds of organic unity. The Journal of Ethics 2: 299–320. https://doi. org/10.1023/A:1009795120631. Kagan, Shelly. 1998. Rethinking intrinsic value. The Journal of Ethics 2: 277–297. /10.1023/A:1009782403793. Kant, Immanuel. 1956. Critique of practical reason. Trans. Lewis White Beck. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill. ———. 1998. Groundwork to the metaphysics of morals. Trans. Mary Gregor. New  York: Cambridge University Press.

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———. 2000. Critique of the power of judgment. Trans. Paul Guyer, and Eric Matthews. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Korsgaard, Christine. 1983. Two distinctions in goodness. Philosophical Review 92: 169–195. Lovelock, James. 2006. The revenge of Gaia: Earth’s climate crisis and the fate of humanity. New York: Basic Books. Naess, Arne. 1973. The shallow and deep long-range ecology movement. Inquiry 16: 95–100. Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1990. Twilight of the idols. Trans. R.J.  Hollingdale. New  York: Penguin Books. Wielenberg, Eric. 1998. Goodness without qualification. Journal of Value Inquiry 17: 93–104.

Unveiling the Aesthetic in Nature: A Response to Gordon Graham’s Aesthetic Argument for the Existence of God in “Nature, Kant, and God” Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin

Abstract  The chapter responds to Gordon Graham’s aesthetic argument for the existence of God as presented in his essay “Nature, Kant, and God”. Drawing on Kant’s moral argument, Graham argues that it is a necessary presupposition of man’s intuition about the intrinsic value of nature – its “magnificence” – to assume a divine being as the guarantor of the ultimate harmony between “useless” nature and human welfare. In this response I will, first, highlight some differences between Kant’s and Graham’s uses of the terms “aesthetic ideas,” “genius” and “the ­sublime.” Second, with reference to Kant’s interpretation of the figure of the goddess Isis, I will highlight a tension in Kant’s view of nature that, I suggest, also underlies Graham’s premises. This tension consists of (and assumes) a basic conflict between, on the one hand, a sense of awe and respect for nature’s mystery and otherness and, on the other, a need and desire to grasp and utilize it. I will argue that this tension is rooted in a dichotomous model of nature that fails to acknowledge that humans are themselves part of nature and, together with nature, part of a larger multi-dimensional order of creation. I will draw on Reformed philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd’s critique of Kant to show how an emphasis on the Creator-creation distinction and the multi-dimensionality of the order of reality can reconceive “magnificence” as an aesthetic dimension. This conception allows for a broadening of the conception of human welfare to include the need for aesthetic contemplation and experience.

A. Dengerink Chaplin (*) Independent Scholar and Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King’s College London, London, UK e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



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I ntroduction: Graham’s Aesthetic Argument for the Existence of God Is it possible to defend the preservation of apparently “useless” nature without recourse to a God who can be trusted to harmonise nature’s intrinsic value with human welfare? This is the key question explored by Gordon Graham in his stimulating essay “Nature, Kant, and God” and the question that prompts him to construct his “aesthetic argument for the existence of God.” Graham begins his essay with the claim that there is a basic shared intuition – a sensus communis  – in contemporary environmental thought that nature has an intrinsic value independent of its potential usefulness to human beings and that this value is worth protecting and preserving. Graham locates this value in nature’s “beauty, grandeur and profusion” or what he subsequently collectively refers to as nature’s “magnificence.” The value of magnificence transcends the utilitarian value of nature as a resource for human survival or, indeed, mere pleasure. It is a transcendent value of magnificence that sets a limit to human aspiration and endeavour. According to Graham, the intuition that nature’s magnificence is something to be valued in itself can only be properly explained on the basis of the assumption of a divine being who sustains the ultimate harmony between man and nature, thereby precluding any conflict or competition between them. Unless we have a prior belief in God we end up in shallow notions of ecology that are ultimately still motivated by human interest and utility or, alternatively, by a sense of duty or obligation. That being so, what is required is an argument for the existence of a divine being or, more precisely, for the existence of God as a “necessary presupposition of our intuitive conviction about the magnificence of nature” (Graham 2019, 94). In order to build such an argument Graham turns to Kant’s moral argument for the existence of God. Kant had formulated his intention for this argument as follows: This moral argument is not meant to provide an objectively valid proof of the existence of God. It is not meant to prove to the skeptic that there is a God, but that he must adopt the assumption of this proposition as one of the maxims of his practical reason if he wants to think consistently in morality (Kant 1987, 340).

Based on above, in the same way that Kant set out to prove that, practically, it is not possible to submit freely to the moral law without an a priori idea of God as the guarantor of ultimate justice in the afterlife (in case moral behaviour on earth does not deliver the deserved reward), so Graham sets out to prove that, aesthetically, it is not possible to hold to nature’s intrinsic value without an a priori idea of God as guarantor of the ultimate harmony between man and nature. Drawing on Kant’s notions of aesthetic ideas and genius, Graham builds his aesthetic argument in five steps: first, he posits that there is a widespread intuitive conviction that nature’s magnificence needs to be respected irrespective of its benefit to humans; second, he claims that we can only make sense of such a conviction if the phenomena that prompt it are more than merely suitable objects for judgments of taste; third, he states that, to be more than this, they must embody aesthetic ideas,

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and thus be products of “genius”; fourth, he asserts that no human genius could produce such phenomena; fifth, he concludes that it is therefore a necessary presupposition of our intuitive conviction about the magnificence of nature that there exists a divine genius. Graham’s suggestion of God as ultimate harmoniser recalls Kant’s early Leibnizian God as the guarantor of the world’s pre-established harmony. More broadly, Graham’s project as a whole can be seen to correspond with that of Kant in his desire to create space for a sense of the divine without claiming to understand more than we can know within the limited structures of our human faculties. While positing God as a regulative idea in the realm of cognition and as a postulate in the realm of ethics, Kant has no equivalent account of God in the realm of aesthetics. In that sense Graham may be seen to complete for the Third Critique an insight developed by Kant in his first two. Yet Graham also parts from Kant in significant respects, sometimes explicitly, at other times implicitly. As he puts it himself, his aesthetic argument for the existence of God has been “fabricated out of elements in Kant’s Critique of Judgment” (Graham 2019, 98). In other words, his primary aim has not been to follow Kant exactly but to borrow some of his concepts and ideas for the purpose of building his own argument. In my response I will take the following steps. First, even though it has not been Graham’s primary aim to follow Kant in all details, in view of his extensive use of Kantian concepts and ideas, it seems important to highlight some of the differences between his and Kant’s uses of some key terms. In particular, Graham’s term “magnificence” combines a number of aesthetic features – beauty, grandeur and profusion – which, in Kant’s Critique of Judgment, are typically distinguished. Second, to the extent that Graham does work in the spirit of Kant, I will address some problems in Kant which I believe also trouble Graham’s approach. These problems are related to a tension in Kant’s attitude towards nature: on the one hand, a sense of awe and respect for its mystery and otherness and, on the other, a need and desire to grasp and control it. This tension is echoed in Kant’s conception of the sublime  – on the one hand a figure of overwhelming otherness, on the other a reminder of the superior role of the free thinking mind – as well as his conception of genius – on the one hand a fertile source of human creativity, on the other a dangerous and uncontrollable force of nature that needs taming by cultivated taste. I will explore this tension by means of a closer examination of an intriguing footnote in Kant’s Critique of Judgment also mentioned by Graham. The footnote refers to an ancient saying attributed to the Egyptian goddess Isis and to an ­eighteenth-century print depicting Isis as Mother Nature. I will suggest that Kant’s reflections on Isis reflect his own ambiguities and conflict about nature. Third, and finally, I will suggest that Kant’s attitude towards nature is informed by a dichotomous model of man versus nature that does not acknowledge that humans are themselves part of nature and, together with nature, part of a larger multi-dimensional order of creation. Drawing on Reformed philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd’s critique of Kant I will suggest that an emphasis on the Creator-­ creation distinction and the multi-dimensionality of the world can challenge this


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traditional philosophical dichotomy. Following from that, I will argue that nature’s “magnificence” can be reconceived as an expression of one dimension of the world, i.e. its aesthetic dimension. Aesthetic experience can provide intimations of a divine creator but does not, as such, provide an argument for the existence of God. Moreover, I will propose that there is no sharp dividing line between utilitarian uses of nature informed by human need and so-called “disinterested” approaches. Human needs are many and varied and include the need for artistic expression and aesthetic contemplation.

Aesthetic Ideas, Genius and the Sublime Although, as I already noted earlier, it is not Graham’s main intention to provide a close analysis of Kant’s Critique of Judgment, the way he uses Kant nevertheless calls for a comparison with the original text. This applies especially to his use of the terms “aesthetic ideas,” “genius” and “the sublime.”

Aesthetic Ideas Graham claims Kant’s framework suggests that “‘great’ works of art differ from simple works, not by being more beautiful, but by expressing or embodying ‘aesthetic ideas’.” (Graham 2019, 93) and that “within the category of the beautiful ... we can distinguish between the more and less profound” (Graham 2019, 91). By analogy, he introduces a distinction in nature between phenomena that are “merely suitable objects for judgements of taste” and those that “embody aesthetic ideas” (Graham 2019, 94). However, it is difficult to find any support for this kind of hierarchical distinction between more and less profound in Kant. For him, any object of beauty that serves as a candidate for judgment and taste – whether a vase, an ornament, or even wallpaper – embodies aesthetic ideas. Aesthetic ideas consist of the imagination’s free play of thought as reflected in the beauty of the harmonious interplay of forms and shapes in the object. That this applies both to man-made objects and to nature is clear from the following comment: “We may in general call beauty (whether natural or artistic) the expression of aesthetic ideas” (Kant 1987, 189).1 The main difference between aesthetic ideas in man-made objects and in nature is that aesthetic ideas in man-made objects have been deliberately designed to look as if they are natural and spontaneous, whereas in nature they are perceived as if they were purposefully designed. The free play of thought as occasioned by the beautiful object is also a condition for moral reasoning. Like aesthetic judgments, moral judgments for Kant need to be 1  For a detailed discussion of aesthetic ideas in nature see Chapters 10–12 in Henry E. Allison, Kant’s Theory of Taste: A Reading of the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, 219–301, 2001.

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free from outside obligations or interests. This is why, in an oft-quoted but equally often misunderstood phrase, Kant refers to beauty as “the symbol of morality” (Kant 1987, 225). By means of our “disinterested” attitude to them, both beauty and the good are able to promote man’s ultimate goal and meaning in life: the attainment of autonomous freedom independent from any outside goal or interest. Graham, as noted, mistakenly employs Kant’s notion of aesthetic ideas as to refer to a distinction within the realm of the beautiful between works that are profound – those that contain aesthetic ideas – and those that are not – those lacking aesthetic ideas. It is in that same context that he evokes the idea of a supernatural, divine genius as the producer of profound ideas. Although Graham explicitly rejects any argument from design, – “contrary to the proponents of Intelligent Design, it is futile to try to undermine Kant’s contention about the impossibility of inferring an objective purpose from the evident teleology of nature” (Graham 2019, 94) – his “aesthetic argument” for the existence of God does not look entirely different. While the argument from design deduces a master designer from the seeming purposefulness of nature, Graham’s “aesthetic proof” for a supernatural “genius” postulates God as a “necessary presupposition of our intuitive conviction about the magnificence of nature” (Graham 2019, 94). Both positions argue for the existence of God from a natural theology, the first (Intelligent Design) starting with the purposive form in nature, the second (Graham) with aesthetic ideas or content.

Genius As we saw in the previous section, Graham claims that since the beauty and magnificence of nature indicate the presence of aesthetic ideas, we must assume the existence of a super-human, divine genius as the creative producer of all this profusion. This particular conception of genius, however, is more Romantic than Kantian. Genius, in Kant, does not refer to any individual entity as a whole, whether human or divine, but to a mental faculty. It represents a craftsman’s natural disposition for spontaneity and originality that enables him to make fine art. It allows him to make beauty in art look as natural as nature even though it has been carefully designed. Beauty in art is the reverse parallel of beauty in nature which looks as if it is purposefully designed but is in fact “merely” natural. Beauty in art, moreover, always needs to combine such creative spontaneity with good taste, as a measure of decorum. Taste, Kant says, disciplines and trains genius: “It severely clips its wings, and makes it civilized, or polished” (Kant 1987, 188). Genius on its own is too whimsical and uncontrollable. Like Plato’s poets, those of Kant cannot even explain how they go about their art: [O]ne cannot learn to write inspired poetry, however elaborate all the precepts of this art may be, and however superb its models. The reason for this is that Newton could show how he took every one of the steps he had to take in order to get from the first elements of geometry to his great and profound discoveries; he could show this not only to himself but to everyone else as well. ... But no Homer or Wieland can show how his ideas, rich in fancy


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and yet also in thought, arise and meet in his mind; the reason is that he himself does not know, and hence also cannot teach it to anyone else (Kant 1987, 176, 177).

This unruly nature of genius makes it an unlikely candidate for the harmonising divine genius as proposed by Graham. Instead, Kant’s genius has more in common with Plato’s mania – creative madness – than with an order-producing mastermind. We will return to the power of genius later.

The Sublime As Graham rightly reminds us, Kant distinguishes between two kinds of aesthetic judgments, those of the beautiful and those of the sublime. Beauty, whether natural or artistic, typically refers to classically bounded forms with satisfying compositions evoking a sense of peace and harmony. It usually refers to something small: a vase, a feather, a bird, a flower arrangement and so on. The sublime, by contrast, confronts us with an experience of unbounded formlessness  – threatening cliffs, thundering clouds, raging rivers, lofty waterfalls – creating an unsettling sense of visual disorientation and unease that confronts us with our own fragility and transience. Although initially being overwhelmed by such experiences, provided the subject is in a safe place, these feelings of powerlessness can however be superseded by the conscious mind realising that it can think what it cannot physically feel and apprehend by means of the senses. Unlike animals, humans are not determined by their circumstances and can respond in a free and rational way. This, for Kant, shows man’s moral superiority as a rational and free-thinking animal. As noted earlier, in order to capture the aesthetic character of the natural world – its “beauty, grandeur and profusion” – Graham settles on the word “magnificence” (Graham 2019, 94). Based on the above, however, the question must be raised: What seems to come closer to the environmentalist’s intuition of the magnificence of nature; Kant’s notion of beauty as the object of cultivated taste or his notion of the sublime as the incommensurable other? Is it not precisely the experience of nature’s unbounded and untamed otherness which is considered to have transcendent value and be in need of preservation?2 The reason that Graham rejects the sublime for the purposes of his argument is that, as he correctly points out, for Kant the experience of the sublime does not remain in this sense of disorientation but moves on to an awareness of the superior nature of the super-sensible, rational mind which can resist being overwhelmed by the senses. Kant’s sublime does not respect nature as a power that limits man. As Graham rightly observes: “the feeling of the sublime ... arises because [a] spectacular natural event prompts us to rejoice in a fact about ourselves” (Graham 2019, 92) 2  For Kant’s view of the difference between beauty and the sublime see I.  Kant, trans. Werner Pluhar, Critique of judgment, 72 and 125.) Kant even argues that there is no place for emotion in the experience of beauty but only in the experience of the sublime.

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Even so, the natural phenomena referred to by Graham as displaying magnificence – sunsets, seascapes, teeming forests, spectacular movements of wild life, and so on – seem to have far greater affinity with the ones that prompt an experience of the sublime than that of beauty.

The Goddess Isis and Kant’s Nature-Freedom Dialectic Having pointed out some important differences between Kant’s and Graham’s uses of the concepts of aesthetic ideas, genius and the sublime, there is nevertheless an underlying affinity of spirit between them in terms of their overall goal – to postulate God as a necessary regulative idea in order to make sense of the intrinsic value of, respectively, morality (Kant) and nature (Graham). As Graham puts it, it is not possible to hold to nature’s intrinsic value without an a priori idea of God as guarantor of the ultimate harmony between man and nature. In that context it is worth noting that Graham himself identifies a tension in Kant’s very concept of nature: Kant is clear that the nature studied by science is “mechanical” in its operations. If this is true, it seems impossible to regard it at the same time as an embodiment of “free beauty”. Yet if ... that which can be explained by naturalistic processes can also be a “representation” of the idea of those same processes ... it must be the case that that which is “mechanical” can also be “free”. In short, there is a problem about how the law governed character of the natural world that science discloses could be compatible with the freedom that is required for the same natural world to embody the “aesthetic ideas” that emanate from God’s “genius”. (Graham 2019, 94)

I want to suggest, however, that the problem identified by Graham in Kant is carried over in his own “aesthetic counterpart.” In order to tease this out I will start by taking a closer look at a footnote by Kant which, according to Graham, articulates “something very close to the idea that nature can have a value that transcends … human action” (Graham 2019, 93). In Pluhar’s translation Kant’s footnote reads as follows: Perhaps nothing more sublime has ever been said, or a thought ever been expressed more sublimely, than in that inscription above the temple of Isis (Mother Nature): “I am all that is, that was, and that will be, and no mortal has lifted my veil.” Segner made use of this idea in an ingenious [sinnreich] vignette prefixed to this Naturlehre [Natural Science], so as first to imbue the pupil, whom he was about to lead into this temple, with the sacred thrill that is meant to attune the mind to solemn attentiveness (Kant 1987, 185, footnote 51).3

The vignette shows a female figure veiled in a long cloak representing the goddess Isis representing for Mother Nature.4 Turned away from the viewer she only shows a glimpse of her face. In her right hand she holds a sistrum, an ancient 3  Graham, following Paul Guyer & Eric Matthews’ translation, uses the adjective “rich in sense” as a translation of the German word “sinnreich.” in front of the word “vignette.” Critique of the Power of Judgment, 194. A more common translation of “sinnreich,” however, is “meaningful,” “witty,” “clever” or, as in Pluhar’s translation, “ingenious.” 4  For further reading see Pierre Hadot, The Veil of Isis: an essay on the history of the idea of nature.


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p­ ercussion instrument.5 In the background we spot a pedestal with the ruins of a Greek urn and, further back, a city on a hill. In the foreground are three putti. In eighteenth century prints putti are often taken to represent scientists’ assistants. One of them carries a compass and is measuring the footsteps that the female figure has left behind. Another is about to lift a tip of her veil while a third stands on guard with his finger on his lips warning the others not to alert Isis to the commotion behind her back. Traditionally, Isis’s veil has been taken to stand both for the protection of virginity as containing the mysteries of life and nature, as well as an invitation to unveil and penetrate those mysteries which are otherwise hidden from sight. This ambiguity is imaginatively captured in Heumann’s engraving: on the one hand the putti are trying to gain access to the secrets of nature; on the other hand, there is a sense that some sensitive boundaries are about to be crossed. The picture suggests a sense of furtiveness in trying to catch Isis unawares from behind. Underneath the picture is written “qua licet” which can be translated as “by which means one is permitted” or “to the extent one is permitted.”6 This, presumably, applies to the study of nature. As a frontispiece to a textbook on natural science the picture can be seen to represent the shift in attitude towards nature in the eighteenth century. This shift signals an attempt, as Cassirer put it, “to deprive nature of its carefully guarded secret, to leave it no longer in the dark to be marvelled at as an incomprehensible mystery but to bring it under the bright light of reason and analyze it with all its fundamental forces” (Cassirer 1951, 47). Or, in the words of Montesquieu: One would say that Nature acted like those virgins who long preserved their most precious possession, and then allowed themselves to be ravished in a moment of that they had preserved with such care, and defended with such constancy (Cited in Cassirer 1951, 47).

That said, what was it exactly that drew Kant to this figure of Isis? What did it represent to him? First, I suggest, Isis as Mother Nature represents to Kant the “world-in-itself” – the Ding-an-Sich – i.e., the hidden, noumenal world underlying the world of external phenomena. This is the world which no mortal has ever unveiled or, according to the Critique of Pure Reason, will ever unveil. Second, Isis’s divine status, as well as her sayings, correspond with Kant’s idea of the unknowability and unrepresentability of God. The wording of Isis’s self description – “I am all that is, that was, and that will be” – contains clear echoes of God’s self description in Exodus – “I am that I am” (Ex. 3:12). Kant, interestingly, refers to the Jewish ban on images as possibly the most sublime passage of the Old Testament: 7 5  The instrument consists of a wooden or metal frame fitted with loose disks of metal that jingle when shaken. It was used in religious ceremonies and is still used in Coptic services today. 6  The print is signed as “Heuman[n] fecit Göttingae.” Heuman[n] is most likely to be the engraver and illustrator Georg Daniel Heumann who lived from 1691 to 1759. 7  The passages referring to Isis’s self-description and the injunction on graven images are the only passages where Kant uses a superlative expression – “most sublime,” and “nothing more sublime than”– in conjunction with the sublime. On this topic see James Rasmussen, “Language

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Perhaps the most sublime passage in the Jewish Law is the commandment: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven or on the earth, or under the earth.8

Third and finally, Isis, for Kant, represents the moral law as the site of free, rational thinking. This is made explicit in one of Kant’s lesser known, later works, i.e. his essay, “On a Newly Arisen Superior Tone in Philosophy” (1800). Written ten years after the Critique of Judgment he writes: The veiled goddess before whom we of both parties bend our knees is the moral law in us, in its inviolable majesty. We do indeed perceive her voice and also understand very well her command. But when we are listening, we are in doubt whether it comes from man, from the perfected power of his own reason, or whether it comes from an other, whose essence is unknown to us and speaks to man through his own reason. ... But the didactic procedure of bringing the moral law within us into clear concepts according to a logical methodology is the only authentically philosophical one, whereas the procedure whereby the law is personified and reason’s moral bidding is made into a veiled Isis ... is an aesthetic mode of representing precisely the same object (Kant 1993, 71).9

Based on the above, the three meanings of Isis for Kant – nature as Ding an Sich, as divine being, and as the moral law – can now be seen to represent Kant’s three regulative or transcendental ideas mentioned in the Critique of Pure Reason: the world as a whole, God as the origin of the world, and the soul as the source of rational knowledge and moral freedom.10 Put differently, the figure of Isis serves as the symbolic representation of all three ideas of reason which, even though they cannot be known logically, can nevertheless be shown aesthetically. Yet, a significant ambiguity remains. This is well illustrated by Heumann’s print. On the one hand we have nature that conforms to mathematical and geometrical causal mechanic laws and is open to scientific investigation, while on the other there is the mysterious nature of mother nature Isis who is reluctant to give away her secrets. This tension reflects the ambiguity towards nature in Kant’s own work. On the one hand he is in awe and admiration of nature in its mysterious otherness. He praises Segner for leading his pupils into the “temple” of nature and imbuing them with “the sacred thrill that is meant to attune the mind to solemn attentiveness.” The same sentiment underlies the familiar closing paragraphs of his Critique of Practical and the Most Sublime in Kant’s Third Critique.” The Journal of Aesthettics and Art Criticism 68.2 (2010), 155. 8  Kant, Critique of Judgment, Trans. Werner Pluhar, 135. For an extended discussion of the similarities and differences between Isis’s saying and the Mosaic command see Philippe LacoueLabarthe and David Kuchta, “Sublime Truth” in Cultural Critique 18 (1991), 5–31 and 20 (1991–1992), 207–229. 9  Kant rejects the “newly arisen superior tone” of the Sturm und Drang movement in philosophy. For a discussion of Kant’s and Hegel’s uses of the Isis figure see Jacques Derrida’s essay in P. Fenves, Raising the Tone of Philosophy, 117–171. 10  In the Critique of Pure Reason Kant writes about the transcendental ideas as follows: “Pure reason thus furnishes the idea for a transcendental doctrine of the soul (psychologia rationalis), for a transcendental science of the world (cosmologia rationalis), and, finally, for a transcendental knowledge of God (theologia transcendentalis). The understanding is not in a position to yield even the mere project of any of these sciences, not even though it be supported by the highest logical employment of reason.” 323.


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Reason (1788) where Kant describes his “ever new and increasing admiration and reverence” for the “starry sky above me and the moral law within me” (Kant 2002, 203). On the other hand, however, this passage is immediately followed by the (far less quoted) lines: “Neither of them do I need to seek or merely suspect outside my purview, as veiled [sic] obscurities or [as lying] in the extravagant. I see them before me and connect them directly with the consciousness of my existence” (Kant 2002, 203). This oscillating movement, then, between, on the one hand, awe and wonder for the otherness of nature and, on the other, the need and desire to connect it with himself and his own consciousness characterises much of Kant’s thought. This ambiguity reflects two different conceptions of nature. In the first, nature is conceived as a system of causal mechanical processes that could be grasped by means of mathematical laws and formulas. This was Newton’s great contribution to modern science, highly admired by Kant. But Kant had also read Rousseau’s Emile, which had made a similarly deep impression on him. On this view, nature was an innate source of spontaneity and feeling, unspoiled by culture and convention.11 Rousseau’s nature was akin to Kant’s faculty of genius. As we saw earlier, for Kant, genius is “an innate productive ability of the artist and as such belongs itself to nature” (Kant 1987, 174). Unlike the scientific mind which sets the rule to nature, genius is “the innate mental disposition (ingenium) through which nature gives the rule to art” (Kant 1987, 174). In other words, something unruly sets the rule.12 As such genius was able to make art appear “natural.” This “lawless freedom” of artistic genius makes it an uncontrollable and unpredictable force (Kant 1987, 188). That is why Kant wants it to have its wings clipped. If not, the “genie” may escape from its bottle. Philosopher William Desmond even speaks of the “terror” of genius for Kant. Like the sublime, it evokes both admiration and fear (Desmond 2003, 64). The sublime, likewise, is frightening, but in the experience of the sublime we can at least remind ourselves that, even though nature may appear to overwhelm us, we can, as free rational agents, ultimately understand and control it.13 In the end, Kant  For an essay on the role of feeling in Kant see Calvin Seerveld, “Early Kant & Rococo Spirit: Setting for the Critique of Judgment,” in Philosophia Reformata. 43 (3,4), 145–167 12  An earlier, arguably less threatening, version of genius can be found in the “blind” function of the productive imagination (Einbildungskraft) in the Critique of Pure Reason: “Synthesis in general ... is the mere result of the power of imagination, a blind, though indispensable function of the soul, without which we would have no knowledge at all, but of which we are scarcely ever conscious.” (B103; italics mine). The Einbildungskraft is responsible for synthesising the forms and categories of the mind with the chaotic manifold of the world of sense impressions. The reason that, although blind and mediating between the “extremes” of sensibility and understanding, the productive imagination is not as dangerous as genius is that it is ultimately a faculty of the a-priori, transcendental functioning mind and thus on the side of the “active” understanding rather than the “passive” body (A124). It is a “productive” rather than merely “re-productive” imagination (A 123). 13  Kant mentions volcanoes and raging storms as examples of phenomena which can create an experience of the sublime. Yet, as Calvin Seerveld observes, after the fatal Lisbon earthquake and subsequent tsunami over Europe’s west coast in 1755 Kant felt compelled to explain the natural causes and effects of earthquakes in the newspapers so as to challenge the prevailing views that natural disasters were judgments of God. Kant wanted to encourage people to study nature and “prescribe laws for the course of natural things” rather than accepting catastrophes like these fatal11

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privileges human rational knowledge over unknown irrational nature. Desmond comments: In sum, the suggestion of the transgression of rule in genius, the suggestion of transcendence of determinate concepts by aesthetic ideas, and the threat of rupture to aesthetic form by the sublime, all testify to Kant’s equivocal uneasiness, finally laid to rest by reinstatement of the Enlightenment paradigm of rational, autonomous self-determination, and supremely in its moral form (Desmond 2003, 83).

Creation Order and Magnificence as an Aesthetic Dimension That said, even rational scientific control over nature cannot fully safeguard human autonomy. Something else is at stake. The more the scientific mind encroaches on the realm of nature the more that same science becomes a threat to human freedom. Man himself is now understood in terms of the same mechanistic laws and causality that had been so effective for the understanding of non-human nature. Man’s freedom thus becomes thwarted by the very means he initially used to expand it. In his book Roots of Western Culture Dooyeweerd refers to this tension as the humanistic ground motive – an unresolved antinomy between the ideal of absolute human freedom and the ideal of scientific control. As he explains this tension: When it became apparent that science determined all of reality as a flawless chain of cause and effect, it was clear that nothing in reality offered a place for human freedom. Human willing, thinking, and acting required the same mechanical explanation as did the motions of a machine. For if man belongs to nature, then he cannot possibly be free and autonomous. Nature and freedom, science ideal and personality ideal  – they became enemies (Dooyeweerd 1979, 153).14

If so, it could be argued that Kant’s caution regarding the unveiling of Isis might not have been motivated by respect for Mother Nature’s hidden mysteries, but by fear for a loss of human freedom and autonomy. Kant was afraid that, if uncovering the secrets of nature implied uncovering the mystery of the soul, man’s freedom would be exposed as non-existent. As Dooyeweerd puts it: When Kant called a halt to the further expansion of the science ideal by keeping it out of the “suprasensory realm of freedom” – the shelter of the humanistic personality ideal – he was motivated not by a respect for God’s creation order but by the humanistic freedom motive (Dooyeweerd 1979, 173).

istically. Calvin Seerveld, “Early Kant & Rococo Spirit: Setting for the Critique of Judgment,” in Philosophia Reformata, 148. 14  In Art, Origins and Otherness Desmond observes a similar tension and comments: “I do not think the dilemma is a historical curiosity, for we still live between Enlightenment and Romanticism. The first is taken up by scientific and technological development. The second takes the form of cultivation of the expressive self – all pervasive in aesthetic modernity – in richer and more vulgar forms. ... The tension emergent in Kant’s time is still with us, though since him we have seen a variety of possible relations between the two.” 66.


A. Dengerink Chaplin

Dooyeweerd’s challenge to Kant’s idea of absolute human freedom is rooted in the fundamental distinction between Creator and creation. Following Augustine and Calvin, Dooyeweerd emphasises the “radical dependence” of all things on God’s order and laws for creation. Such an emphasis challenges the putative equivalence of Kant’s three transcendental ideas – God, the world-in-itself, and the autonomous moral self – as represented by the goddess Isis. God cannot be put on a par with anything within his creation. For Kant, such a radical dependence on God’s laws would seriously undermine human freedom and independence. Any submission to an alterior entity or being entails a violation of man’s autonomy and dignity. As he said in Metaphysical Principles of Virtue: “Kneeling down or grovelling on the ground, even to express your reverence for heavenly things, is contrary to human dignity” (Kant 1983, 99). That also explains why, when asking the question whether the moral voice we heard came from the outside or the inside, he was quick to answer that the voice of the moral law is one’s own free conscience as the only true voice of reason. To posit any other source would run the risk of “falling into an exalting vision (Schwärmerische Vision), which is the death of all philosophy” (Kant 1993, 71). For Dooyeweerd, by contrast, the risk runs the other way. Unless we listen to the voice of the other, to the Revelation of the Word, we cannot unveil nature’s secrets. As he put it: “Only in faithfully listening to the Divine Word is the true meaning of God’s revelation in ‘created nature’ revealed to man” (Dooyeweerd 1969, Vol. II, 307). It is precisely this dependence that provides created reality with its proper orientation and meaning. From this perspective, subjection to a heteronomous law is not seen as a restriction of human freedom and thought, but a condition for its meaningful existence and flourishing. Once the Creator-creation distinction is accepted as foundational, all distinctions within creation become relative to this one. This also holds for the distinction or, indeed, tension and competition, between man and nature. Dooyeweerd holds that the world is made up of multiple entities, each functioning within a richly woven web of irreducible aspects or dimensions. Each of these dimensions discloses a different facet of God’s created ordening of the universe, each responding in its own way to God’s laws and norms for that dimension. In his words: The classical ideal of science does not take into account the order of reality set by God the creator. In this order we detect the great diversity of aspects, each with its own irreducible nature and law, which proclaims the astonishing richness and harmony of God’s creative wisdom. The classical science ideal rejects this great diversity in the order of reality (Dooyeweerd 1979, 173).

This picture of a multi-dimensional “order of reality” set by God the creator challenges any putative dichotomies (as opposed to distinctions) between things within creation, including a dichotomy between “useless” nature and human welfare, which would require a harmonising balancing act from a divine genius. Instead, nature’s “magnificence” in the sense of its combined “beauty, grandeur and profusion,” can be reconceived as an instance of one of creation’s irreducible dimensions, in this case its aesthetic dimension. This dimension of nature can be understood as

Unveiling the Aesthetic in Nature: A Response to Gordon Graham’s Aesthetic…


a unique dimension alongside other, equally distinctive and irreducible, dimensions such as its physical and biological processes, its social and psychological aspects, its political or economical causes, and its ethical or religious significance. Magnificence, moreover, is not unique to nature. Man-made objects and activities can be magnificent too. One could speak of a magnificent building or ceremony. Like magnificence in nature, magnificence in objects or events may evoke feelings of a “higher” reality – a reality that transcends our day-to-day routines and preoccupations. It may take us “out of ourselves” by evoking broader realms of meaning. When seeing man-­made buildings such as the Egyptian pyramids or the Taj Mahal, or natural phenomena such as the Grand Canyon or the northern lights, we are presented with reminders of the unexpected hidden richness of God’s world. As such, this may instill in us a sense of awe and admiration. However, although these phenomena may provide intimations of a divine creator of all this profuse magnificence, this, I suggest, is something fundamentally different from an argument for the existence of God as the guarantor of the world’s pre-established harmony. Finally, once we let go of the traditional assumption that man and nature are typically in tension or in competition with each other, we can start to re-evaluate the notion of human need itself. There may, after all, not be such a stark dividing line between nature as “useful” and “useless,” between nature either fulfilling a practical human need or serving as an object of “disinterested” contemplation. Indeed, if human needs are reconsidered in the context of a multi-dimensional order of creation, one may be able to identify a broader range of concrete human needs to include the need for aesthetic contemplation and experience. Such broadening of needs not only opens up a very different perspective on the intrinsic value of nature and its beauty or “magnificence,” it redefines what makes us human.

References Allison, H.E. 2001. Kant’s theory of taste: A reading of the critique of aesthetic judgment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Cassirer, E. 1951. The philosophy of the Enlightenment. Trans. Fritz C.  A. Koelln and James P. Pettegrove. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Derrida, J. 1993. On a newly arisen apocalyptic tone in philosophy. In Raising the tone of philosophy: Late essays by Immanuel Kant, transformative critique by Jacques Derrida, ed. P. Fenves, 117–171. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press. Desmond, W. 2003. Art, origins, otherness: Between philosophy and art. Albany: State University of New York Press. Dooyeweerd, H. 1969. A new critique of theoretical thought. Vol. II. Trans. David H. Freeman and William S. Young. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company. Dooyeweerd, D. 1979. Roots of Western culture: Pagan, secular, and Christian options. Trans. John Kraay. Toronto: Wedge Publishing Foundation. Graham, G. 2019. Nature, Kant, and God. In The future of creation order, eds. Govert J. Buijs and Annette K. Mosher, 85–99. Cham: Springer. Hadot, P. 2006. The veil of Isis: An essay on the history of the idea of nature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


A. Dengerink Chaplin

Kant, I. 1980. Critique of pure reason. Trans. Norman Kemp Smith. London: The MacMillan Press. ———. 1983. Metaphysical principles of virtue. In Kant’s Ethical Philosophy. Trans. James W. Ellington. Indianapolis: Hackett. ———. 1987. Critique of judgment. Trans. Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett. ———. 1993. On a newly arisen superior tone in philosophy. In Raising the tone of philosophy: Late essays by Immanuel Kant, transformative critique by Jacques Derrida, ed. P.  Fenves, 51–81. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press. ———. 2000. Critique of the power of judgment. Trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 2002. Critique of practical reason. Trans. Werner S. Pluhar. Indianapolis: Hackett. Lacoue-Labarthe, P., and D. Kuchta. 1991. Sublime truth (Part 1). Cultural Critique 18: 5–31. ———. 1991–1992. Sublime truth (Part 2). Cultural Critique 20: 207–229. Rasmussen, J.  2010. Language and the most sublime in Kant’s third critique. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 68 (2): 155–166. Seerveld, C. 1987. Early Kant & Rococo Spirit: Setting for the Critique of Judgment. Philosophia Reformata 43 (3,4): 145–167.

Divine Commands as the Basis for Moral Obligations C. Stephen Evans

Abstract  This paper explains and defends a divine command account of moral obligations. A divine command account of moral obligations is distinguished from a general theological voluntarism which grounds all moral truth in the divine will. God’s commands ground moral duties, but truths about the good are grounded in the nature of God and God’s creation. Such an account does not see a divine command account as a rival to a natural law view of the good or as a rival to virtue ethics. The three types of account are complementary. A divine command account of moral obligation is attractive for both theological and philosophical reasons, and those strengths are made clear. In conclusion the paper considers and responds to a number of objections often raised against such an account, including the so-called Euthyphro objection—an objection that stems from Cudworth, and an objection that hinges on the way God’s commands are promulgated. Keywords  Divine commands · Moral obligations · Euthyphro objection · Cudworth objection · Promulgation problem

Grounds for Developing a Divine Command Theory The theme of this volume is “The Future of Creation Order,” and I wish to address the meaning of this theme for the area of ethics. In some sense, any account of ethics will be an account of order—an attempt to say what are the key concepts, principles, and themes which structure our lives as ethical beings, and Christian philosophy surely must look to God as the ultimate source of the order found in God’s creation. There are, of course, various dimensions of ethics in which we look for order. Ethics attempts to answer questions about the good and also about the good life for humans. C. S. Evans (*) Department of Philosophy, Baylor University, Waco, TX, USA Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



C. S. Evans

The latter concept is often associated with an account of happiness and of the excellences (or virtues) required to make a human life happy, though there is much disagreement about the nature of happiness, what virtues there are, and how they are related to happiness. Most ethical theories also attempt to give an account of ethical or moral duties, obligations to perform or refrain from performing actions of various kinds, as well as obligations to seek to develop various character traits. It would be impossible to treat all of these dimensions in one paper. I shall therefore limit myself to the important subject of ethical obligations.1 For simplicity I shall limit my discussions to obligations to perform or refrain from performing actions, though I believe that much of what I say about obligations to act in certain ways would also apply to obligations to seek to develop character traits. I choose this focus both because of the intrinsic importance of obligations, and also because I believe that this dimension of ethics plays a significant role in biblical ethics. In this chapter, I shall defend the view that the best way of understanding our ethical obligations is to see them as divine commands. There are those who would prefer to speak of obligations as grounded in God’s will rather than his commands.2 I have no real quarrel with this view, so long as God’s will is in some way communicated to us so that it is possible to know it. In my view, a divine command simply is an expression of God’s will; that is, God’s will insofar as it has been communicated to us. Once we understand the nature of God’s authority, then any communication of his will for humans can be seen as constituting a command or requirement for his human creatures. I shall also speak at times of God’s law instead of divine commands, with God’s law understood as an expression of God’s settled will and thus to consist of divine commands. A divine command account of moral obligations can be recommended on two kinds of grounds. First, there are a number of reasons why such a view can be argued to be superior to secular alternatives on purely philosophical grounds. Second, there are reasons why a divine command account of obligations should be especially attractive to Christians. I shall begin with reasons of the second kind, and then, after a brief sketch of the theory, I shall describe some reasons of the first kind. One reason a divine command account of obligations should be attractive to Christians is that God’s commands and the law that those commands create play such a large role in the Bible. The Old Testament contains repeated exhortations to obey God’s commands or laws, along with assurances that to choose the way of obedience is to choose blessing. Deuteronomy 11:1 is typical: “Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always.” Such exhortations are usually accompanied by promises of blessing for those who keep God’s laws, and it is therefore not surprising that Psalm 119 celebrates the joys and delights of keeping God’s law: 1  In this chapter, I shall treat “morality” and “ethics” as synonyms, unlike many philosophers, especially those in the Hegelian tradition. 2  The defenders of this view often qualify it by speaking of a particular kind of will; for example, morality is determined by God’s “antecedent will” rather than his “consequent will.”

Divine Commands as the Basis for Moral Obligations


I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom For I have sought out your precepts. I will speak of your statutes before kings And will not be put to shame, For I delight in your commands Because I love them. I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, And I meditate on your decrees. (Ps. 119:44–48)

Nor is this joyous embrace of God’s commands limited to the Old Testament. Both the Gospels and the Epistles are full of exhortations to keep God’s commands, whether given through the Hebrew scriptures, or through the words of Jesus and the apostles. Jesus’ words in John 15:10 express this powerfully: “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” Much contemporary Christian ethical thinking has focused on the virtues. I judge this revival of interest in virtue ethics to be important and valuable. It seems to me, however, that Christian virtue ethics goes wrong if it understands the virtues as providing a rival or replacement to God’s law. Other contemporary Christian thinkers have worked hard to revive the tradition of natural law ethics—a type of ethical theory dominant in scholastic thought, but also present in some Reformed thinkers such as Francis Turretin. I believe that the revival of natural law ethics has also been salutary. However, just as is the case with virtue theory, I think natural law theory goes wrong if it sees itself as a rival to a divine command account of obligations. I will argue that, at least as far as moral obligations are concerned, the natural law requires a lawgiver. Virtue theory, natural law theory, and divine command theory should not be viewed as rivals. Rather, all provide complementary and essential parts of an overall Christian ethical view.3 A second reason why Christians should find a divine command account of obligations attractive is that such an account highlights the nature of God and makes evident how we humans should relate to God. This can be clearly seen, for example, in some of John Calvin’s comments from the section of the Institutes in which Calvin introduces his account of the Decalogue: In giving a summary of what constitutes the true knowledge of God we showed that we cannot form any just conception of the character of God, without feeling overawed by his majesty, and bound to do him service. In regard to the knowledge of ourselves, we showed that it principally consists in renouncing all idea of our own strength, and divesting ourselves of all confidence in our own righteousness, while, on the other hand, under a full consciousness of our wants, we learn true humility and self-abasement. Both of these the Lord accomplishes by his Law, first, when, in assertion of the right which he has to our obedience, he calls us to reverence his majesty, and prescribes the conduct by which this reverence is manifested; and, secondly, when, by promulgating the rule of his justice, (a rule, to the rectitude of which our nature, from being depraved and perverted, is continually opposed, and to the perfection of which our ability, from its infirmity and nervelessness for good, is far from being able to attain), he charges us both with impotence and unrighteousness. (Calvin 1845, Book II, Chapter 8, 301–302)  For a more developed argument for this claim, see Evans (2013, 53–87).



C. S. Evans

Here Calvin says that when we properly understand God and his majesty we will recognize God’s authority over us, as someone who has a “right to our obedience.” God’s law is not just a set of rules to live by, but the means whereby we are intended to come to know who God is, and how we can relate properly to God. We might say that understanding our obligations as divine commands is a way of recognizing God’s sovereignty over us. Calvin emphasizes that an encounter with God’s law not only helps us understand God, but ourselves as well. When we encounter that law, we discover how far we are from being able to relate to God as we ought. If we do not give proper attention to the role of divine authority in ethics, these functions of the moral law are obscured from view.

A Sketch of a Divine Command View of Moral Obligations Recently, divine command theories of moral obligations (DCT for short) have been revived, in large measure, due to the work of Robert Adams, and my account of a DCT follows his (Adams 1999, 231–276).4 Adams sees moral obligations as identical to the commands of a good and loving God, or the commands of God understood as essentially good and loving.5 It is important to recognize that this account is only an account of moral obligations and thus should not be confused with a general “voluntarist” view of ethics, in which all ethical truths are grounded in the divine will. In the past, divine command theories were thought to be vulnerable to what is called the Euthyphro objection, which is a claim that a DCT makes morality arbitrary. By limiting the scope of the theory to moral obligations, Adams successfully meets this problem. God’s commands are not arbitrary because they are directed at the good. Adams himself rests his account of moral obligation on a Platonic theory of the good.6 Other divine command theorists, such as John Hare, while not rejecting Platonic views altogether, presuppose a more Aristotelian view of the good (Hare 2002, 134–153). It is obvious that some view of the good must be presupposed by this kind of DCT, however, since an important part of what makes God’s commands binding is that God is himself essentially good, and thus his commands are directed to the good. Part of the motivation for a DCT is the intuition that there is something distinctive about obligations. To say that I have a moral obligation to X is not simply to say 4  In Evans (2004), I argue that Kierkegaard holds a view similar to Adams and defend the plausibility of the view against secular rivals. 5  Other divine command theorists think of moral obligations as produced by God’s commands or as supervening on God’s commands, rather than being identical to those commands. For the sake of simplicity of exposition, I will assume in what follows an Adams type view, in which moral obligations and divine commands are identical. 6  The rest of this section of the paper, as well as some of the next section, are taken with some modifications from Evans (2013, 26–32). Used by permission of Oxford University Press. This book was published subsequent to the conference for which this paper was written, but prior to the publication of the volume in which this paper is appearing.

Divine Commands as the Basis for Moral Obligations


that I have a reason to do X, or even to say that I have a decisive reason to do X. Rather, an obligation is a distinctive kind of reason, with several important features. It is the kind of reason that can bring closure to deliberation, since even to think about whether I should do what I am morally obligated to do is a prima facie sign of moral weakness. To say that I have a moral obligation to X is to say that I must do X, and it is to say that there is someone who has the right to expect me to do X, someone who may rightly be disappointed in me and blame me if I fail to do X. To be subject to a moral obligation is to be liable to a kind of claim that someone has on me, a claim that has a binary, verdict-like character; it either holds or it does not hold. Although moral obligations are aimed at the good, they are not reducible to the good. An act might be good to do, even the best act a person could possibly do in some situation, without necessarily being a moral obligation. Adams accommodates this insight that obligations are distinctive by defending a social theory of obligations, which is an attempt to explain moral obligations by situating them in relation to obligations in general, which come in several varieties, including legal obligations, social obligations, and family obligations. How do these special kinds of claims we call obligations come into existence (Adams 1999, 231– 248)? The particular obligations that fall into these categories overlap partially (though by no means completely) with moral obligations and with each other generally. On a social theory of obligations, the distinctive kinds of claims that persons can make on other persons are all the result of the particular social institutions and relations in which persons participate. Being a parent, for example, is a social role that is partly constituted by the obligations one takes on by becoming a parent. Hence, it is not accidental but essential that children have the right to certain things from their parents, and that parents have obligations to their children. There are normative truths about parenting that arise from the institution of parenting, and do not depend on the volitions of particular individuals. Someone who understands what it is to be a parent also understands that certain things are required of parents. Though I am far from claiming to understand Dooyeweerd well, I believe that this view that there are norms built into the structure of various institutions fits well into his philosophy. If social relations in general give rise to norms, there is no reason to think that this will not hold for the relation of creature to Creator. If God exists and is a genuine person, then the relation between creature and creator is a genuine social relation, and like other such relations, carries with it distinctive obligations. On the theistic conception of God, God is essentially good and loving; he has created human persons and given them every good they have, including their very existence. He has also given them the potential for the greatest possible good, an eternal life characterized by friendship with God and others who are friends of God and therefore love the good. A proper social relation with God is one that requires humans to recognize the enormous debt of gratitude they owe to God, as well as the value of an on-going relation to God. Most religious believers have seen this relation to God as one in which God rightly has authority over them. God has a rightful claim on humans and so they have good reasons to obey his commands.


C. S. Evans

On Adams’ view, the obligations that arise from this relation to God turn out to be identical to our moral obligations. The claim is not that “moral obligation” and “divine command” have the same meaning, for clearly, they do not. Rather, the claim is that the two expressions refer to the same reality. The reason for thinking this is the case is simply that viewing moral obligations as divine commands makes more sense of these obligations than any alternative account.

Strengths of a Divine Command Theory of Moral Obligations I shall briefly describe a number of ways in which seeing moral obligations as divine commands helps make sense of this kind of obligation.7 I will first list some desiderata for a good candidate to be the foundation of moral obligation.8 Obviously, this account is philosophically controversial, and some may be skeptical about one or more of the features I here identify. However, I believe that most people who believe in morality at all will agree that these are genuine features of morality as they experience it. One important feature of moral obligations is that they are objective, the kind of thing that people can be mistaken about. An adequate account of moral obligation should be able to account for this objectivity, and explain how people can have true and false beliefs about their moral obligations. A second important feature of moral obligations is that they provide compelling reasons of a distinctive kind for actions. A simple case of obligation will suffice to illustrate the point. Perhaps I have borrowed money from a friend. I now have the money to repay the friend and am obligated to do so. If I am morally obligated to perform an action, then not only do I have a reason to perform that action, the reason is (at least normally) an over-riding one. It will not do to say that I don’t need to repay the money because I don’t want to, or because I can think of other things to do with the money. If I have a good reason for defaulting on my obligation (say, my children will starve to death if I pay back the money), then the over-riding reason must itself be a moral. An account of moral obligation should help us understand the over-riding, serious character of a moral reason for performing an action. A third feature is closely related to the second. An account of moral obligation should not only explain why we have reasons to perform our moral duty; it should also explain why we should be motivated to do so. It should help us understand why we should care about morality, why moral reasons should (and often do) move us to action. This is particularly important since moral subjectivists, such as emotivists

7  The argument that follows parallels the one Adams himself gives for his view. See Adams (1999, 252–258). 8  The following paragraphs overlap with modifications, from Evans and Roberts (2013, 211–229). Used by permission of Oxford University Press. The material is also found in a somewhat different form in Evans (2013, 29–32).

Divine Commands as the Basis for Moral Obligations


and prescriptivists, often argue that moral theories that are realist and objectivist cannot account for the motivating power of morality. Finally, an adequate account of moral obligation should help us understand the universality of morality. I think that morality is universal in at least two ways. First, all humans are subject to the claims of morality. No one is so “special” that he or she gets a free pass and can ignore those claims. Second, some of our moral obligations extend at least to all human persons. (Some, in fact, certainly extend further than this, incorporating animals.) If some racist member of my society believes that the world would be a better place if the population were reduced, and proposes to achieve this end by killing people who are members of another race, I have an obligation to oppose this and do what I can to stop such evil, even if I do not know the people he proposes to eliminate or have any relation to them except that they are fellow humans. So, part of what we want explained is why all humans are subject to moral obligations, and why we have some moral obligations that govern how we should relate to all people, including people we don’t even know, and people who cannot benefit us in any way. The strengths of a DCT are readily apparent when judged by these criteria. First, moral obligations can be objective in relation to human beliefs and emotions since there will be a fact of the matter about whether God has given some particular command, as well as about the content of the command. We can thus see why people can be correct or mistaken in their moral beliefs, and why their moral feelings can be both appropriate and inappropriate. Second, we can understand why moral reasons are over-riding in character. If God has created humans such that their final goal is to enjoy a relationship with himself, then establishing and maintaining such a relation is supremely important to humans. If moral obligations are constitutive of this relation, much as other kinds of obligations are constitutive of other kinds of social relations, then those obligations take on an over-riding importance. For the same reasons, we can explain the motivating power of moral obligations. It makes perfectly good sense that I should want to satisfy the requirements of a being to whom I owe an unlimited debt of gratitude, and whose love for me is such that he intends me to enjoy an eternal happiness in communion with himself and others who love him. This does not imply that all humans necessarily want to do what is morally right; the evidence that they do not is, sadly, all too compelling. A good account of moral obligations should explain why they have motivating power, why much of the time many of us care about being moral, and why all of us should care about being moral. However, it should leave open the possibility that people sometimes do not care about morality, or care enough, and a DCT allows for this as well. To begin, some people may fail to realize that moral obligations are divine commands, and so miss the motivating power that comes from recognizing moral obligations as divine requirements. However, even people who do realize moral obligations are divine requirements may not always be moved to do what is morally right. For some people do not care or care enough about God or a God-relationship, even if it is the case that such a relationship is the greatest good a human can have.


C. S. Evans

Finally, we can easily see why moral obligations are universal, in both senses identified above. All humans are God’s creatures and thus all participate in the social relation that grounds moral obligations. All of them are thus subject to God’s laws. Further, if God gives human persons some commands that apply to their relation to all humans, then they will have moral obligations towards all humans. Are there reasons to think God would give any such commands? There certainly are, if we assume, as Judaism and Christianity do, that all humans are made in God’s image. God’s commands must be directed to the good since God is essentially good and loving. It is certainly good to love and appreciate the good. It thus makes sense that God would command humans to love God himself, who is supremely good, but also to love all human persons who share in the divine image, and thus must also be good in some deep way. Thus, the command to love our neighbors as ourselves, common to Judaism and Christianity, understood in such a way that all human persons are our neighbors, is precisely what one would expect from a good and loving God who creates all humans in his image.

Objections to a Divine Command Theory Objections to a DCT can be mounted from many different directions. Obviously, atheists are unlikely to consider such a view plausible unless they are “error theorists,” (such as Sartre and J. L. Mackie) who think that there are no objective moral obligations, although there would be such obligations if God existed. However, many of those who believe in God have problems with a DCT as well. These kinds of objections come from two different directions, so to speak, from those who consider such a theory to be too weak and from those who consider it too strong. One type of objection argues that a DCT that is limited to moral obligations does not go far enough in recognizing divine authority and sovereignty because it sees God’s commands to us as constrained by God’s recognition of the good. Such an objector would like something stronger, a God who not only determines our obligations but decides what is good. I shall not give a detailed response to this type of objection, for several reasons. First, in the end I think the limits on divine sovereignty that an objective theory of the good entails are unavoidable. Even if we accepted a voluntarist account of the good, there will still be truths of logic, including truths about God’s own nature that seem, insofar as we can tell, to be such that it would be impossible for them to be otherwise. Second, I think the alleged objectionable character of the limits to divine sovereignty can be dealt with in the classical Augustinian way: God is not limited by any truths that are in any meaningful sense external to his reality since the truths that cannot be otherwise are truths that are grounded in his nature or being. Finally, I think the limited version of a DCT I shall defend preserves the kind of divine sovereignty that is worth caring about. As the remarks from Calvin I have quoted make clear, we must understand God as the Lord, the one who has rightful authority over us, if we are to understand him truly. However, a DCT sees God as having just this

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kind of authority over us, in that his expectations of us rightfully determine how we should live our lives and relate to him. A DCT implies that God has the kind of authority that matters—regardless of whether or not God by his will might change the laws of arithmetic or alter seemingly necessary truths about the good. The other type of objection that religious thinkers commonly raise against a DCT is that it is still too strong because it implies that our moral obligations could be vastly different than they are if God’s will had been different. I shall pose one version of this type of objection and respond to it by offering a more refined analysis of what counts as a DCT. As will become apparent, it turns out that the question of how different God’s law could be is an open one that a DCT does not have to settle precisely.

Divine Command Theory and the Arbitrariness Objection So, is it the case that a DCT introduces an objectionable arbitrariness into morality? Surely, the objector maintains, it would not become morally right to commit acts of cruelty, such as rape, even if they were commanded by God. Part of the response to this criticism has already been given. A DCT in the form defended by Adams maintains that God could not command what is ultimately against the good, and thus it is logically impossible for God to command things that are horrible.9 However, this reply may not be completely satisfying to critics because with respect to many types of situations there are many alternative actions that can be seen as directed to the good. God’s choice to command one such action rather than another in this kind of situation would then seem to have a degree of arbitrariness. It must be admitted that most proponents of a DCT, such as Duns Scotus, and more recently John Hare and Robert Adams, have affirmed that God has some choice about which acts to command, and this apparently gives some basis to a charge of arbitrariness. However, even those proponents of a DCT who hold that God has some discretion with respect to some of his commands do not normally believe that this discretion holds for all of God’s commands. Scotus, for example, who takes the Decalogue as a summary of God’s commands, holds that some of the commands, such as the command to worship God, are ones that God necessarily gives.10 God necessarily commands humans to worship him and worship him alone because no alternative to this could possibly be directed to the good. Scotus generally holds that the first commands in the Decalogue, the so-called “First Table of the Law,” are of this sort. Once we recognize that not all of God’s commands are ones that he has some choice about, we can distinguish two aspects to a DCT. For Scotus thinks that even 9  For a fuller account of this objection and several others as well, along with more fully developed replies, see Evans (2013, 88–117). 10  See Scotus (1986), Ordinatio III, suppl. Dist. 37, 268–87. Wolter also provides a useful summary and discussion of this section of Scotus on pp. 60–64 of the same volume.


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those acts that God necessarily prescribes or forbids still attain a special status by virtue of God’s commands. It is true that the actions prescribed would have been good—indeed, the only possible good—even if God had not commanded them. Nevertheless, once God commands them, the actions acquire a new moral status because of God’s commands. As a result of God’s commands, a person who performs an act that is forbidden not only does something that is bad, but harms his or her relation to God. The act is thus bad for two distinct reasons. Let us call the claim that an action acquires a special moral status by virtue of being commanded by God the “modal status thesis,” and the claim that God has some choice as to what commands to issue the “discretion thesis.” Once the distinction is made between the modal status thesis and the discretion thesis, it is clear that the former could be affirmed even if the latter is denied. For suppose that God has no discretion about what he commands—that all of his commands are fixed by the good. Suppose that once God has created things and endowed them with their natures then the good is fixed, and God’s commands are in turn determined by the good. Even in that case the modal status thesis could be true; all the acts God has commanded or forbidden would still acquire an additional moral status as a result of God’s commands. As I see things, such a view would still be a version of a DCT, though perhaps a limiting case. For those who hold this weaker version of a DCT, the arbitrariness objection would have no purchase since God would have no choice about his commands, given the creation he has decided upon. Let us call this modified, weaker version of a DCT a “no-discretion DCT.” I do not think it is problematic to claim that God has some discretion over what he commands humans to do. For it seems plausible that in some cases there are equally good alternatives which would be open to God. If one asks why God would command one of these rather than another, one possible answer might be that such situations, where it is only God’s command that distinguishes two actions, provide an especially clear test of our devotion to God. So, I think God might well have some choice about what he commands, and his decision to require one alternative to another may be no more arbitrary than that of a great artist who decides between two equally good colors for a section of a painting. However, someone who believes that God’s commands are fixed, either by his knowledge of the good or by (logically) prior decisions God has made about the character of the created order (or perhaps by both of these jointly), can still affirm a no-discretion DCT. Such a view still allows for God’s commands to play a significant role in ethics, and still recognizes the importance of divine authority. Even on a no-discretion DCT, humans still come into relation with God as the Lord whenever they become aware of their moral obligations—a claim that has significant implications for religious epistemology. For one might think that such a knowledge of God’s requirements might well be one of the ways God gives us knowledge of his reality—one of the ways the sensus divinitatis might function. I conclude that the arbitrariness objection does not undermine a DCT. Such a line of thought—for those who find it appealing—would at most provide a reason to adopt a no-discretion version of a DCT, but such a view still holds that God’s will, through his commands, provides a crucial dimension of morality, and allows for the

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attractive possibility that humans, through their moral lives, can acquire some knowledge of both God and themselves.

Divine Command Theory and the Cudworth Objection I wish to consider one additional objection often raised against a DCT, and then conclude with some reflections on how God’s commands might be promulgated. The arbitrariness objection to a DCT we have considered began with a worry that a DCT might imply that acts that are immoral are in fact morally obligatory. The objection was essentially that a DCT is not restrictive enough. The second objection to a DCT I wish to consider is an attack from just the opposite viewpoint: It is rooted in a worry that a DCT is too narrow and does not account for all genuine moral obligations. A full-fledged DCT holds that all moral obligations are divine commands. (Or, on some versions, that they stem from divine commands.) There is a line of criticism that goes back at least as far as Ralph Cudworth that argues that there must be some moral obligations that are not grounded in divine commands.11 Specifically, Cudworth argues that humans have a moral obligation to obey God. This obligation is not itself grounded in God’s commands. Rather, it is precisely because there is a prior obligation to obey God that God’s commands can create new obligations. There must therefore be some moral obligations other than those that are created by God’s commands. Now there are a number of ways a proponent of a DCT might reply to this objection. The defender of a DCT might argue that these “prior obligations” to obey God are not actual obligations but just hypothetical ones: We are obligated to obey God if God issues commands, but there is no actual obligation until a command is issued. The hypothetical itself can be understood as simply spelling out the meaning of the claim that God has moral authority. To say that God has moral authority (as the proponent of a DCT certainly must) is just to say that he has the right to issue commands that ought to be obeyed. There are certainly moral truths (such as “God’s commands should be obeyed”) that do not stem from divine commands, but a DCT does not deny this. The DCT says only that there is a certain category of moral truths, truths about actual moral obligations, that stem from divine commands. There is certainly a sense in which it is true, antecedently to God’s actual commands, that humans ought to obey any commands God issues, but the truth of this “ought” statement is not one that a DCT finds troublesome. If someone does not find this line of response compelling, there is one other interesting line of response. If we look at the actual commands God gives to his people as recorded in the Bible, we find that one of the more frequently expressed  For a clear discussion of this line of argument, found in Cudworth and many other thinkers, see Wainwright (2005, 80–83). Cudworth’s own argument is found in Cudworth (1976, 20–26). For a contemporary version of the argument, see Manis (2006).



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commands is that God’s people should obey all his commands. For example, in a long list of specific commands given in Leviticus 19 we encounter this one: “Keep my decrees” (v. 19). In several chapters of Deuteronomy, Moses repeatedly represents God as commanding the Israelites to “be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you” (Deuteronomy 5:32). These repeated commands from God to “keep all my commands” we may find initially puzzling, as we no doubt would if a human legislature were to pass a law requiring citizens of a state to obey all the laws of the state. However, if a DCT is correct, and our moral obligations are identical to divine commands, then by issuing such a command to obey his commands, God would convert the antecedent fact that humans ought to obey his commands into an actual moral duty, in what we might call a “bootstrapping” manner. I therefore do not find the Cudworth objection to be a strong objection to a DCT. Note, however, even if one accepted this Cudworth objection, much of the substance of a DCT would remain. One could still hold that God’s commands are sufficient for moral obligations, even if they were not necessary. God could still create obligations for humans by giving commands, even if not all moral obligations arise in this way. This means that it is still possible that many of our moral obligations either are identical to or stem from divine commands, and awareness of such obligations could make possible both an awareness of God as authoritative Lord and of ourselves as subject to that authority and failing to live up to God’s expectations.

 ow Are God’s Commands Promulgated? A Special Problem H for a DCT I wish to conclude by considering one final objection to a DCT, one that centers on the question as to how God’s commands are promulgated. If God’s commands constitute moral obligations, they must be made known to people in some way since a command is not merely an inner willing of a certain act, but requires that what the commander wills be expressed in some way to those who are subject to the authority of the commander. Richard Mouw takes a broad view as to how this might happen: “natural law, the magisterium of an ecclesiastical body, specific commands God might communicate to individuals in some way, ‘examining our natural inclinations,’ and listening to our conscience” (Mouw 1991, 8). Robert Adams endorses all these ways and accepts an even more expansive view (Adams 1999, 264). One can easily see the advantages of this kind of view over a more restrictive view that holds that God communicates his commands only through some special revelation. For if God’s commands can only be known through special revelation, this would seem to imply that those who, because of accidents of time or geography,

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have no access to that revelation would have no way of knowing about their moral obligations, and this would seem to undermine the intuition that morality is a fundamental feature of human existence. Despite this advantage, this expansive view of how God makes his commands known makes a DCT vulnerable to a particular type of objection, which has recently been developed in somewhat different ways by Wes Morriston and Erik Wielenberg (Morriston 2009, 1–10; Wielenberg 2005, 56–64).12 I shall discuss Wielenberg’s version of the problem. Wielenberg admits that “if God did exist, He would be authorized to impose certain moral obligations on human beings” (Wielenberg 2005, 56). For example, Wielenberg agrees that if God has created us, then we might owe him a debt of gratitude that would make obedience to God’s commands obligatory. However, the problem is that for this to happen, the recipients of the commands must know that the commands come from God. Otherwise no obligation is generated (Wielenberg 2005, 61). Wielenberg gives the following kind of analogy to support his point. Suppose I owe my friend Dave a favor, and Dave wants me to repay him by loaning him my car. If Dave asks for the car in that situation, perhaps I ought to loan it to him. However, if Dave were to leave an anonymous note asking for the car, no obligation would be generated. I need to know that the note comes from Dave in order for Dave’s request to generate any obligation (Wielenberg 2005, 60–63). Similarly, Wielenberg claims, “if God is to impose moral obligations on humans by way of his divine commands, He must get his intended audience to recognize that the commands are coming from Him” (Wielenberg 2005, 61). The problem is that this seems impossible, at least in the case of reasonable non-believers in God, for it seems hardly possible for such a person to recognize a command as coming from a being that he does not believe exists.13 A command contained in a special revelation from God that clearly came from God would appear to meet the requirement that the source of the command be obvious, at least for those who can recognize the revelation as genuine. However, for divine commands communicated through such means as reason and conscience this would not appear to be the case. Arguments such as this one appear to pose a dilemma for the defender of a DCT. One can hold that God’s commands are promulgated through special revelations only. In that case, the commands do generate genuine obligations, but the obligations seem only to bind those who can recognize the revelations as authentic. Alternatively, one can say that God’s commands are promulgated in more general ways, but in that case, it is not clear how the commands can successfully generate obligations.

 The rest of this section as well as the next section of this paper is taken with modifications from Evans (2013, 111–117). Used by permission of Oxford University Press. 13  Morriston’s argument similarly presupposes the existence of reasonable non-believers—an assumption that could be challenged, and has been in Henry (2001, 75–92). 12


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A Response to the Problem I believe the defender of a DCT must grasp the second horn of this dilemma by defending the claim that God’s commands can generate obligations even for those who do not recognize those commands as coming from God. To do this, two distinctions must be made. First, one must distinguish between the recognition of a moral obligation and the recognition of a moral obligation as a divine command. This distinction in turn requires that one distinguish a recognition of a moral obligation from an explanation of the existence of a moral obligation. The defender of a DCT who wants to affirm that God’s commands are promulgated through general revelation must hold that it is possible for a reasonable non-believer to recognize a moral obligation without realizing that the obligation is in fact a divine command. This ignorance on the part of the non-believer may prevent the non-believer from being able to give an adequate explanation of the existence of the moral obligation, but there are many cases in which a person may reasonably accept the existence of something but lack an adequate explanation of the existence of this something. So how might God give those who do not believe in him the ability to recognize moral obligations? One way this could happen would be for God to make it possible for an individual directly to perceive moral obligations. Suppose, for example, that a person walking by a pond sees a young child who is drowning, and thereby acquires a feeling like this: “I simply must try to save this child.” One might take this emotional perception as a recognition of an obligation.14 In this way (and perhaps in others) a person who cannot perceive a moral obligation as a divine command might still be able to perceive it as an obligation. One reason this is possible is that, on Adams” account, being a non-believer does not bar an individual from having the concept of an obligation. Adams’ version of a DCT is built on his social theory of obligations, which holds that there are obligations of many kinds, all of which are constituted by various kinds of relationships. Non-believers in God know what obligations are by virtue of being citizens in a community, parents, and so on. Therefore, a person’s ignorance of God’s existence would not necessarily prevent that person from recognizing that he or she is under an obligation of some kind, by way of a direct perception of the obligation, even if the person fails to perceive the obligation as a divine command. Here is an analogy that might help illuminate the situation. Suppose I am hiking in a remote region on the border between Iraq and Iran. I become lost and I am not sure exactly what country I am in. I suddenly see a sign, which (translated) reads as follows: “You Must Not Leave This Path.” As I walk further, I see loudspeakers, and from them I hear further instructions: “Leaving the path is strictly forbidden.” In such a situation it would be reasonable for me to form a belief that I have an obligation to stay on the path, even if I do not know the source of the commands. For all I know the commands may come from the government of Iraq or the government of Iran, or perhaps from some regional arm of government, or even from a private 14

 For a defense of the claim that emotions can be perceptions of moral value, see Pelser (2011).

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landowner whose property I am on. In such a situation I might reasonably believe that the commands communicated to me create obligations for me, even if I do not know for sure who gave the commands. I might, of course, have doubts about the authority of whoever it is who has issued the commands, but such doubts are always possible in any case where commands are communicated, and in some cases, might well be unreasonable. Of course, I could be mistaken in thinking that I have the obligations I believe I have, but this possibility will always be present, given human finitude and fallibility, and such an abstract possibility is not necessarily a good reason for me to doubt the existence of these obligations. If I violate the commands and stray from the path, it would be reasonable for me to believe that I am risking adverse consequences. In a similar manner, it would seem possible for God to communicate commands that would be perceived as authoritative and binding without necessarily making it obvious to all recipients that He is the source of the commands. For example, God might communicate that an act is forbidden through conscience, understood as a faculty that directly perceives the rightness or wrongness of certain acts or types of acts. God could give humans such a faculty without necessarily making it evident to all that he is the source of conscience. Why might God do this? There are several possibilities. One lies in the thought that God has good reasons to remain partially “hidden.” Many thinkers have believed, with Pascal, that God wants humans to serve him freely and that this requires a certain degree of epistemic ambiguity because if God’s reality were too obvious, it would be difficult or impossible for any human persons to go against his will. Those who think this is the case normally think that God grants humans some evidence of his reality, but that the evidence is not so clear and undeniable that belief is inescapable. If this is the case, we can easily understand why God might communicate his commands to humans in ways that do not make his own existence as the source of the commands undeniable. Another possible reason is this: If God makes the source of his commands somewhat obscure, this may alleviate the guilt of those who disobey those commands. Think again of my hiking analogy. Suppose I do know that the source of the commands is the Iranian government, and, because I despise the government, decide to disobey by leaving the path. If the government later apprehends me, it would rightly see my behavior as an act of conscious defiance and perhaps judge me more severely. If, however, the government knows that I was somewhat unsure of the source of the command, it would be reasonable for it to regard this as a mitigating factor. Similarly, if I violate what I perceive to be my obligations, I have done wrong. However, if I do so knowing that those obligations are divine commands, I may be guilty in a deeper way for I have failed to show gratitude to the one who created me and gave me every good I have. A God who knows that humans will often disobey might then have reason to hide the source of his commands, and thereby lessen the guilt of those humans.15


 I owe this last point to a paper of Travis Dumsday. See Dumsday (2010, 357–371).


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The fact that God does not make his reality as the source of his commands undeniable does not mean that those commands could not be a way in which humans come to know him. There are various ways this could happen. I have recently argued that our experience of moral obligation is a “natural sign” that points to God’s reality (Evans 2010, 107–148). Natural signs do not provide irrefutable proof, and they leave open the possibility of doubt. However, when interpreted properly they point to the reality they are a sign of, and can provide reasonable belief and even knowledge in a direct, non-inferential manner. Alternatively, one might recognize the reality of moral obligations and argue inferentially to the existence of God as the best explanation of that reality. In both these cases, moral experience could provide knowledge of God, while still allowing for the possibility that non-believers could recognize the reality of moral obligations. If God does not make the source of his commands completely evident, does this undermine the advantages of a DCT? One might think that some of the advantages are lost, or at least lessened. For example, one of the pluses for a DCT is that it provides us a powerful motive for being moral since humans have very good reasons to desire a happy relationship with God. However, if someone does not realize that God is the source of moral obligation, or does not even believe in God, then it looks like this motivation will be lost. I think the proper conclusion to draw from this is that something is indeed lost when a person fails to realize that a moral obligation is a divine command. However, all is not lost, and the fact that something is lost is not a problem for a DCT, once we think about the nature of a philosophical theory. As I see it, a DCT is indeed a philosophical theory, an attempt to explain what a moral obligation is. If a DCT provides the true account of moral obligations, then it does follow that someone who fails to know that truth misses out on something of importance. This is a feature that I think a DCT will share with many other metaethical theories. In general, it is a good thing to have a deep understanding of the nature of morality, and a person who lacks such an understanding definitely lacks something good. I will try to say below just what is lost, but the fact that something is lost does not imply that all is lost from a moral point of view. A person who does not have a good explanation of morality may still recognize the reality of morality, and also have reasons to be moral. What reasons to be moral might such a person have? One reason might simply be the emotions inspired by conscience itself, understood as a kind of perception of what is morally obligatory and forbidden. Humans are so constituted that when they do what they know is wrong, they have a disposition to feel guilt and shame, and both guilt and shame are emotions that we rightly want to avoid. Another reason might lie in the goodness and badness of the acts commanded and forbidden. Recall that for an Adams-type DCT, God’s commands are directed towards the good, and thus we should expect that those acts we are commanded to do will generally be recognizable as good or leading to good and those that are forbidden as bad or leading to what is bad. Thus, even though someone who does not realize that moral obligations are divine commands lacks some reasons to be moral, such a person might still have reasons sufficient to motivate moral behavior.

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A DCT as I have described it is an ontological claim about the relationship between God and morality. One might think that a DCT would also support an epistemological dependence between God and moral obligations. Perhaps, someone might think, if it can be shown that God provides an explanation of moral obligations, and no alternative explanation is available, this would provide those who do not believe in God with a reason to doubt the reality of moral obligations. This seems to have been the view of Elizabeth Anscombe, who urged her secular colleagues to simply drop belief in moral obligations if they can since without belief in God they cannot make rational sense of them.16 I disagree with Anscombe here, at least partly. It is true that a person who cannot, ontologically, explain or make sense of moral obligations has some reason to doubt their reality. However, as I have already claimed, it also is the case that people can have good reasons to believe in the reality of something they cannot explain or make sense of. Imagine a person who is ignorant of chemistry and comes from a tropical climate. Assume that this person has never seen snow or ice, and is for the first time shown ice by a visitor. The fact that the person cannot explain or make sense of the transition from liquid to frozen water is not a very good reason to doubt the reality of ice. I believe that a person who is aware of moral obligations but who cannot explain them may be in a similar situation. It is important to remember that a person who does not believe in God still can have a clear understanding of what an obligation is and might therefore be able to recognize an obligation. If we suppose that moral obligations depend on God ontologically it does not follow that belief in God is necessary to believe in moral obligations. Of course, from a psychological perspective, even if God is necessary to explain morality, it is obvious that someone might believe both atheism and in the reality of moral obligations simply by being irrational. However, I believe that both truth and charity demand more than this; I want to say that someone might well be reasonable to believe in moral obligations without belief in God. If I am right in my claims about the dependence of moral obligations on God, and the necessity to relate these obligations to God in order to understand them properly, it will follow that failure to believe in God will normally put some pressure on a belief in moral obligations. That pressure may be so severe that some will follow J. L. Mackie and accept an “error theory,” which sees objective morality as an illusion. This is not surprising. Even Kant, who thought that morality was something reason required, said that a person who is an atheist will be tempted to think that morality is “a mere figment of the brain” (Kant 1965, A811/B839). However, Kant thought, and I agree, that this is a temptation that should be resisted. Naturalists who are aware of moral obligations may well have a keen sense of a lack of fit between  This advice is offered in Anscombe’s famous article, “Modern Moral Philosophy.” Actually, I think Anscombe has a more complex reason than this for her advice. She thinks her secular colleagues would be better off dropping the concept of moral obligation, not just because they cannot make sense of it, but because in their attempts to make sense of it they transform the concept in ways that are morally corrupting. For example, she argues that contemporary moral philosophy must seriously inquire as to whether it might be morally right judicially to punish a person known to be innocent. See Anscombe (1981, 26–42).



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their beliefs about morality and their general worldview. They may indeed recognize what Mackie calls the “queerness” of morality in their world. My own view is that this tension in their worldview is best alleviated by doubting naturalism and considering the possibility that there is a divine lawgiver. However, I can well imagine that there are people who take themselves to have very strong reasons to reject theism. My own advice to such people would be as follows: Do not give up your belief in morality, even if it does not make sense to you. I think that such people are not only likely to be morally better off, but perhaps also more likely eventually to see the problems with naturalism. I conclude that a defender of a DCT can hold that moral obligations are promulgated by God through general as well as special revelation. This means that a DCT does not have to be seen as a sectarian theory that implies that non-religious people cannot recognize their moral obligations. Such a communication of God’s commands to humans through general revelation could, in fact, be one of the ways whereby humans can gain a natural knowledge of God’s existence. Those who experience themselves as morally obligated might well on reflection come to see these obligations as pointing to a moral lawgiver. Alternatively, those who recognize the reality of moral obligations might realize that they are best explained as divine commands. In either case, it will be possible for non-believers to recognize moral obligations. If those non-believers are not dogmatically committed to metaphysical naturalism, they might well be led by their moral experiences to question naturalism. Even if they are not moved by morality to reconsider their naturalism, non-­ religious people may still be reasonable to accept the reality of moral obligations, even if they do not understand the true nature of those obligations.

References Adams, Robert. 1999. Finite and infinite goods: A framework for ethics. New  York: Oxford University Press. Anscombe, G.E.M. 1981. Modern moral philosophy. Reprinted in The collected papers of G. E. M. Anscombe, vol. iii, Ethics, religion, and politics. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. Calvin, John. 1845. Institutes of the Christian religion, Trans. Henry Beveridge. calvin/institutes. Cudworth, Ralph. 1976. A treatise concerning true and immutable morality. New York: Garland. Dumsday, Travis. 2010. Divine hiddenness and the responsibility argument. Philosophia Christi 12 (2): 357–371. Evans, C. Stephen. 2004. Kierkegaard’s ethic of love: Divine commands and moral obligations. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2010. Natural signs and knowledge of God: A new look at theistic arguments. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2013. God and moral obligation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Evans, C.  Stephen and Robert C.  Roberts. 2013. Kierkegaard’s contributions to ethics. In The Oxford companion of Kierkegaard. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Hare, John. 2002. Why bother being good: The place of God in the moral life. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. Henry, Douglas. 2001. Does reasonable nonbelief exist? Faith and Philosophy 18 (1): 75–92.

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Kant, Immanuel. 1965. Critique of pure reason. Trans. Norman Kemp Smith. New  York: St. Martin’s Press. Manis, R.  Zachary. 2006. Virtues, divine commands, and the debt of creation: Towards a Kierkegaardian Christian ethic. Ph.D. dissertation, Baylor University. Morriston, Wes. 2009. The moral obligations of reasonable non-believers. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 65 (1): 1–10. Mouw, Richard. 1991. The God who commands: A study in divine command ethics. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. Pelser, Adam. 2011. Emotion, evaluative perception, and epistemic goods. Ph.D. dissertation, Baylor University. Scotus, John Duns. 1986. The Decalogue and the Law of nature. In Duns Scotus on the will and morality. Selected and translated with an introduction by Allan B. Wolter, OFM. Washington, DC: Catholic University of American Press. Wainwright, William. 2005. Religion and morality. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing. Wielenberg, Erik J.  2005. Value and virtue in a Godless universe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Divine Command to Transcend Morality: Reply to C. Stephen Evans, Divine Commands as the Basis for Moral Obligations Edith Brugmans

Abstract  This paper discusses the thesis, central to Divine Command Theory, that ethical obligations are best seen as divine commands. In reply to C. Stephen Evans’s defense of that thesis, it is argued, first, that the concept of divine command is not necessary for a true moral theory. The moral philosophy of Iris Murdoch is presented as an example of secular ethics that claims to be true. Second, it is argued that the image of God suggested by Divine Command Theory is deficient in reflecting God’s absolute generosity. The arguments offered thus amount to a plea for differentiating religion from morality. The need for distinguishing morality and religion is further supported by reference to the problem of evil and to religious practice. Accordingly, a religious reading of the concept of divine command is called for. In conclusion, the paper suggests that a purely religious interpretation of this concept may help explain why Christian faith has more to offer than moral philosophy. Keywords  Divine command · Secular ethics · Ontological explanation · Moral judgment · Religious faith · God’s supreme goodness · Religion transcends ethics

Introduction: Contrary Theses The central thesis discussed by Evans is that “a divine command account of moral obligations can be argued to be superior to secular alternatives on purely philosophical grounds,” or, more simply stated, “the best way of understanding our ethical obligations is to see them as divine commands.” This thesis is most challenging since the concepts of ethics and Christian religion implied in it can be contested with good reasons. In fact, I shall defend the contrary thesis that, for philosophical and religious reasons, ethical obligations are better not seen as divine commands.

E. Brugmans (*) Philosophy in Catholic Perspective, Leiden University, Leiden, The Netherlands Philosophy of Law, Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



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As to moral reasons, I shall argue that the concept of divine command is redundant for a true moral theory. Regarding religious reasons, I shall argue that Divine Command Theory (hereafter DCT) seems to suggest a somewhat deficient and misleading picture of God. Finally, I contend that these objections do not amount to a total refutation of DCT; rather, they point toward a religious interpretation of the concept of divine command. I suggest that such religious interpretation is more useful to Christians and non-Christians alike in showing what Christian faith has to offer over and above moral philosophy.

The Strength of Secular Ethics In his chapter, Evans stresses that the person who does not recognize moral obligations as divine commands is not therefore a-moral. Neither the concept of moral obligation nor the motivation for being moral depends exclusively on believing DCT to be true. The question therefore arises as to the added value or sense of DCT: how is our understanding of ethical obligations improved when we see them as divine commands; what philosophical truth is gained when the focus “ethical obligations” is put in the frame of “divine command”? As Zachary Manis (2009) argues, any answer to this question seems to involve two aspects of DCT, the identity claim and the causality claim: ethical obligations really are divine commands and as such depend on God or are created by God commanding. The identity claim and the causality claim both relate to the ontological status of ethical obligations. Therefore, “although it is possible for a reasonable non-believer to recognize a moral obligation,” as Evans argues, it is impossible for him to explain ethical obligations ontologically, in terms of the divine reality, as identical with divine commands and as caused by God commanding. Now the question can be stated more precisely: what is the philosophical extra value of the ontological explanation offered by DCT as compared to secular ethics? The answer, I suggest, must highlight the theological or religious dimension of DCT and cannot be merely that DCT offers an ontological explanation whereas secular ethics would refrain from ontology altogether. Of course, the non-believer will not appeal to the ontological explanation warranted by DCT, but other types of ontological explanation are open to him or her. To mention only one example, I refer to the moral philosophy of Iris Murdoch. Murdoch defends a sort of modern Platonist ethics and sees human life as a moral pilgrimage in the light of the Good. Murdoch argues that morality, including moral obligations, is constituted by the basic fact that the world as we know it is a world where other people exist. This situation means that human life is a moral affair, our condition is such that we must learn to love the other; that is, to see the other really, justly, and with compassion. According to Murdoch, this requires continuous effort: “Love is the extremely difficult realization that something other than oneself is real”

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(Murdoch 1997, 215).1 She insists that moral progress calls for a realistic, truthful vision of our world: “Of course virtue is good habit and dutiful action. But the background condition of such habit and such action, in human beings, is a just mode of vision and a good quality of consciousness. It is a task to come to see the world as it is” (Murdoch, 1997, 375). Murdoch’s moral philosophy offers a reasonable account of the nature of moral obligations and presents a Platonist ontological theory that explains morality, including ethical obligations, quite sufficiently. This case proves that DCT is redundant for explaining moral obligations ontologically; secular philosophically sound explanations are possible. Now the DCT defender may reply that this possibility is certainly not ruled out by DCT; in particular, when the theory allows for general revelation. In that case, the human world, human relations, and human nature (reason, passions, conscience) are seen as the near causes that explain morality truly and superficially, while DCT adds that God’s commands are the far but logically primary causes that explain morality truly and deeply. On this view, DCT is to a very large extent compatible with secular theories such as Murdoch’s, yet includes a “deep” perspective that is meaningless to the secularist. This deep perspective must be religious or the compatibility-­argument would be senseless. The secularist holds that the word “God” does not refer to reality or a reality; for him, God is a figment of the imagination, perhaps a successful meme, maybe a product of particular brainwaves or something like that. The secularist denies that religion refers to a distinct reality that cannot be explained in a naturalist way. Therefore, if we want to validate the superiority of DCT in explaining moral obligations, we shall have to look into the religious perspective proper to DCT. In doing so, however, we meet a new problem and that problem will appear to constitute a religious reason against DCT.

A Problem Relating to DCT’s Image of God One aspect worth noting is the way in which DCT profiles God. DCT suggests that the concept of moral obligation has epistemic features which can be used to picture God. A case in point is Evans’s analysis of the concept of moral obligation which shows objectivity, universality, motivating and compelling force as its distinct characteristics. The thesis that ethical obligations are to be seen as divine commands then leads to profiling God as sovereign authority, real, omnipresent, and loving Creator. Actually, Evans argues the other way around and states that the characteristics of moral obligations are accounted for by God’s nature. Apart from its logical difficulties, the reasoning from features of moral obligations to God’s nature and  The 1997 collection of Murdoch’s essays, edited by Peter J.  Conradi, includes the essays that were published in 1970 as The Sovereignty of Good. 1


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vice versa turns out to be highly problematic when the concept of moral judgment is brought to the fore. To explain this, we first have to clarify why the concept of moral judgment needs to be discussed at all in this context. At first sight, moral judgments seem to play a mere secondary role with regard to moral actions. Moral judgments are reactive and reflective; they are consequent upon moral actions. Praise and blame, approval and disapproval, and reward and punishment express moral responses to preceding moral behavior and attitude, including actions that count as meeting or failing to meet one’s moral obligations. Again, moral judgments seem secondary in a more serious sense. In our world, it is quite common that moral judgments are mistaken or lack altogether; as a matter of fact, we do not receive all the praise and blame we really deserve. Yet, the role of moral judgment is more fundamental than these two observations suggest because although in the order of action moral judgment is reactive, in the order of moral knowledge judgments come first. As Adam Smith explained extensively in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759/1790) and P.F. Strawson emphasized in his landmark essay Freedom and Resentment (1962), moral judgments are primary when it comes to assessing a person’s moral worth. Further, although as a matter of fact moral judgments are fallible, the norm of true moral judgment justly assessing a person’s moral worthiness is valid. The idea of this norm is, in fact, validated by our normal practices of moral evaluations since we do succeed in distinguishing false and true, erroneous and correct, and deserved and undeserved judgments. Thus, the idea of the norm of true moral judgment necessarily accompanies the concept of ethical obligation. The next step is to connect this conclusion with the claim that epistemic features of ethical obligations can be accounted for by referring to God’s essential qualities. If we apply the line of reasoning offered to make that claim, then the notion of moral judgment as being distinctive of ethical obligations—just like the notions of objectivity, universality, compelling and motivational force—must be connected with the concept of divine judgment. In particular, with the image of God as infallible moral judge. Yet, this is where things start to go wrong, or so I sincerely believe. In my opinion, the concept of divine judgment, instead of strengthening DCT, weakens it severely. Religiously speaking, divine judgment is highly paradoxical and therefore the concept must be discussed extensively and carefully. Here I shall only point out the major difficulty involved in our reflections on divine judgment. The problem is not that God’s judgment can well be contrary to our human notions and criteria of merit and demerit because this constitutes merely a variation of the well-known Eutyphro discussion. Rather, the very concept of a judging God appears inconsistent. In our moral (and legal) practices, to judge means to discriminate, compare, and differentiate; the process of judging necessarily involves the measure of proportionality, and it results in relative negations and affirmations. All these aspects belie God, who—in Christian religion—is believed to be perfect, absolutely generous Being. God’s very being excludes nothingness, and God’s perfection is beyond measure. Therefore, God surpasses judgment as we conceive of it. The tension between human understanding of judgment, on the one hand, and Christian faith in God, on the other, is most piously expressed by St. Anselm of Canterbury when he discusses in Proslogion (1077–78) the question of whether

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God’s mercy is inconsistent with his justice. Justice seems to demand reward to those who acted righteously and punishment to those who have done wrong, yet God is believed “to spare the wicked.” Justice, for St. Anselm, is the decisive moral judgment assessing merit and demerit, and precisely this type of judgment is set aside by God’s compassionate “kindness to the wicked.” St. Anselm argues that the inconsistency between compassion and justice only appears at the level of human understanding and not in God’s nature. St. Anselm concludes that, therefore, we must believe that God’s mercy agrees with his justice, even though it is hard for us to understand how that works. Yet, we know that God is both truly just and compassionate out of his supreme goodness. In my view, St. Anselm’s theological argument is extremely important because his reflection on the relation between justice and compassion offers a clear insight into the difference between the moral sphere of judgment (measuring merit and demerit), on the one hand, and the religious sphere of absolute goodness, on the other hand. According to St. Anselm, we, being human, are not capable of comprehending God’s goodness, but we are capable of noticing the limits of our understanding and the transcendence of our belief. Therefore, we must acknowledge, first, that our human notions of justice and compassion—that is both our conceptions of judgment and of non-judging kindness—are limited; second, that our belief leads us toward a partial yet true knowledge of God’s being. St. Anselm describes the knowledge proper to religious faith in chapter IX of Proslogion: The depth of your goodness, o God! The source of your compassion appears, and yet is not clearly seen! We see whence the river flows, but the spring whence it arises it not seen. For, it is from the abundance of your goodness that you are good to those who sin against you; and in the depth of your goodness is hidden the reason for this kindness.

St. Anselm’s thought helps formulating the argument I wish to emphasize here. The religious standpoint proposes that God’s absolute goodness grants us to be confident that his judgment is just and merciful, but above all grants us to conceive of “divine judgment” as a non-judging, loving welcome beyond the limits of ethics as we know it. What follows from this argument about moral judgment for DCT? I think it shows that DCT leans towards an inadequate portrait of God. If it is true that the identification of ethical obligations as divine commands enforces the image of God as moral judge, and if it is true that this picture is all too human and at odds with God’s absolute goodness, then DCT suggests an inadequate picture of God. Therefore, for religious reasons it is better not to see ethical obligations as divine commands.

Toward a Religious Explanation of “Divine Command” The main result from the discussion so far is the thesis that religion (religious life, spirituality) is essentially different than morality. With reference to St. Anselm, we formulated the theological argument that since God’s supreme goodness surpasses


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ethics as we know it, religion must be conceived of as distinct from morality. In this paragraph, I shall consider two arguments from experience that may lend support to the differentiation thesis. The first argument refers to the philosophy of Gordon Graham, who clearly defends the differentiation thesis: “The fact is that the great religions of the world are not principally concerned with ethics at all, but with the religious life for its own sake. Their aim is not to make men and women good or successful, but to bring them into a relationship with the divine” (Graham 2004, 190). The second argument refers to religious practice. Finally, I shall suggest a religious reading of the concept of divine command. A first and striking fact is that in the experience of suffering and evil, people “turn to hopes of a loving God, turn indeed to religion in general,” as Gordon Graham (2004, 189) notices. Graham rightly stresses that what happens here cannot be explained in ethical terms. He insists: the philosophical “problem of evil” assumes that suffering and evil count as evidence for or against God, but “when we look more carefully at how religious belief actually arises and what sustains it” the philosophical picture proves to be false (Graham 2004, 190). In other words, although the philosophical discussion on evil is constructed along the lines of just proportional retribution proper to moral judgments of (de)merit, the experience of evil and suffering moves people toward religious belief beyond ethics. People do not seek ultimate moral satisfaction or final ethical justification. Rather, they turn to God as to the one being who can bear all reality, so that they may lay down their anger, their grief, and their sorrow before Him. A second fact illuminating how the religious horizon stretches beyond ethics is the distinctiveness of religious language and religious practice. Prayer, worship, and ritual bespeak our relationship with the divine and have little to do with ethics. Let us consider, for example, the following stanzas from The Doubter’s Prayer (1848) by Anne Brontë: Eternal Power, of earth and air! Unseen, yet seen in all around, Remote, but dwelling everywhere, Though silent, heard in every sound; If e’er thine ear in mercy bent, When wretched mortals cried to Thee, And if, indeed, Thy Son was sent, To save lost sinners such as me: Then hear me now, while kneeling here, I lift to thee my heart and eye, And all my soul ascends in prayer, OH, GIVE ME – GIVE ME FAITH! I cry. ….. If I believe that Jesus died, And waking, rose to reign above: Then surely Sorrow, Sin, and Pride, Must yield to Peace, and Hope, and Love. And all the blessed words He said Will strength and holy joy impart: A shield of safety o’er my head, A spring of comfort in my heart.

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Perhaps this poem seems naïve and over-romantic, and its literary merits may deemed to be small compared to, say, T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, yet it beautifully demonstrates that religious life seeks more than ethics can grasp. Anne Brontë speaks of peace, hope, love, safety, comfort, and holy joy—of feelings and states that the soul may attain when ethical interests give way to Christ’s words. Almost a century later, Four Quartets tells the same story once more. This time in sublime, modern lines. The poetic verses differ, yet the poetic prayers are essentially the same. Both poems state that religious quest is a far cry from moral concern. Therefore, the drift of my argument is a plea for differentiating religion and ethics. Ontologically, ethics can be sufficiently explained from the fact that the world of human beings, as we know it, exists. Essential to morals is proportional judgment which bestows praise and blame, and reward and punishment on good and evil actions and attitudes. Religion opens a new horizon to the ethical realm. Religion transforms the fact that our world exists into the event of God’s gift. In religion, all of the world proclaims God’s abundant goodness. Moreover, against this horizon of God’s creation, Christ’s words create order in our world: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. … Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 5:48; 7:1–2, King James Version). Here, in these passages of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, we find “divine commandments” that teach us our foremost obligations. Christ preaches that at some point we have to leave ethics behind and turn to love God. Yet, we cannot not judge; judgments are essential in our moral (and legal) world. However, then again, religion demands to acknowledge the limits of our ethics and be perfect—true to God’s true image. Therefore, the future of creation order is ours when we act with non-­judging love and compassion toward one another; particularly in cases where we have reason to blame and punish others and ourselves for not meeting ethical obligations.

References Brontë, A. 1848. The doubter’s prayer. Accessed 1 June 2011. Graham, G. 2004. Eight theories of ethics. London: Routledge. Murdoch, I. 1997. Existentialists and mystics. Writings on philosophy and literature. London: Chatto & Windus. Smith, A. 1976. In The theory of moral sentiments, ed. D.D. Raphael and A.L. Macfie. Oxford: Oxford University Press. St. Anselm. Proslogion. asp#CHAPTERIX. Accessed 1 June 2011. Strawson, P.F. 1962. Freedom and resentment. Proceedings of the British Academy XLVIII: 187–212. Zachary Manis, R. 2009. Kierkegaard and divine-command theory: Replies to Quinn and Evans. Religious Studies 45: 289–307.

Love and Justice Nicholas Wolterstorff

Abstract A common theme in twentieth century Christian ethics was that the agapic love for the neighbor that Jesus commands is to be understood as gratuitous benevolence, and that love, so understood, is in tension with justice. The author argues that this is a misinterpretation of Jesus’ love command, and that when agapic love is rightly understood, there is no conflict between love and justice. Jesus’ second love command is a quotation from Leviticus 19. When we look at the context of the command in Leviticus, we see that doing justice is not pitted against love but is instead an example of love. The author concludes by proposing that agapic love be understood as care rather than gratuitous benevolence. When we care about someone, we see to it that they are treated justly. Keywords  Agape · Benevolence · Care · Jesus · Justice · Love · Niebuhr · Nygren Two concepts long prominent in the moral culture of the West are love and justice. One can imagine a society in which one or the other of these (or both) was absent; in such a society, nobody would think in terms of love or nobody would think in terms of justice. In our society many of us, probably most, think in terms of both. The reason for this is that we are the inheritors of two comprehensive imperatives issued by the writers of antiquity that employ these concepts. The imperative to do justice comes to us from both the Athens-Rome strand of our heritage and the Jerusalem strand. “Do justice,” said the Hebrew prophet Micah in a well-known passage (6:8). The ancient Roman jurist Ulpian said that we are to render to each what is his or her right or due (ius in Latin). The imperative to love comes to us only from the Jerusalem strand: love your neighbor as yourself, even if that neighbor is an enemy. These two imperatives, do justice, and love your neighbor as yourself, do not reveal on their face how they are related to each other. Thus it is that over and over N. Wolterstorff (*) Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



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the question has been raised in the writings of the West—in philosophy, theology, and literature: how are these two imperatives related to each other? The fact that it is only in our Jerusalem heritage that both of these imperatives are to be found, and not in our Athens-Rome heritage, has the implication that the topic of love and justice was not discussed by the ancient Greek and Roman writers. The ancient Stoic, Seneca, wrote a small book titled De Clementia. “Clemency,” as used in present-day English, refers to foregoing the appropriate punishment for some crime out of mercy for the offender or his family, out of concern for the common good, or whatever. Therefore, one would expect Seneca’s topic to be that sort of relation between love and justice. However, that is not his topic. By clementia Seneca did not mean foregoing the appropriate punishment of some wrongdoer out of mercy; he meant choosing the lesser of the punishments specified in law for some crime. Perhaps the most prominent theme in the literature on love and justice is the theme of tension or conflict. Sometimes this theme takes the form of writers arguing that it is impossible to follow the two imperatives simultaneously; it is argued that they are inherently conflictual. To act out of love is perforce not to act as one does because justice requires it; to treat someone as one does because justice requires it is perforce not to act out of love. At other times, the theme of tension or conflict takes the weaker form of writers arguing that following the love-imperative will sometimes wreak injustice, or that following the justice-imperative will sometimes be unloving. The examples offered of love wreaking injustice fall, for the most part, into three types. First, the way generosity is sometimes dispensed is unjust. This is the issue posed by Jesus’ Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20: 1–16). Second, the way in which benevolent paternalism is sometimes exercised is unjust. Third, a persistent charge against forgiveness, pardon, amnesty, commutation of sentence, and the like is that in foregoing or diminishing punishment of the wrongdoer, justice is violated. This charge is at the center of the controversies swirling around truth and reconciliation commissions of the past 30 years or so. It is also the issue Anselm raised when he discussed the relation between God’s love and God’s justice in Chapter IX of his Proslogion. Addressing God, Anselm asks, “How do you spare the wicked if you are all-just and supremely just?” (Anselm 1965, 125). There are both different kinds of justice and different kinds of love. Therefore, a question that comes to mind, once one has noted this theme of tension between love and justice, is what kind of justice and what kind of love do those writers have in mind who see tension between these two? The major distinction within the field of justice is that between retributive or corrective justice and primary justice—meaning by primary justice, the sort of justice whose breakdown makes retributive or corrective justice relevant. What kind of justice is thought to be in tension or conflict with love? All kinds. Sometimes the justice that a writer has in mind is retributive or corrective justice; sometimes it is primary justice. Within primary justice, sometimes it is distributive justice, sometimes it is so-called commutative justice. The situation with respect to the idea of love in these discussions is different. One thing that the English word “love” refers to is love as attraction: the love that

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consists of being drawn or attracted to something on account of its worth or ­excellence—as when one says, “I love Beethoven’s late string quartets.” A classic discussion of such love is Plato’s Symposium. Another thing that the English word “love” refers to is love as gratuitous benevolence or generosity—the love that consists of seeking to advance the well-being of another as an end in itself, paying no attention to whether or not justice requires this. To the best of my knowledge, whenever a writer talks about the tension or conflict between love and justice, it is always love as gratuitous benevolence that he has in mind. Writers don’t usually say that this is the sort of love they have in mind; they just talk about love. However, when one looks closely at what they say, it becomes clear that it is love as gratuitous benevolence that they have in mind. Perhaps justice sometimes comes into real or apparent conflict with love as attraction, but I know of no case in which it is love as attraction that the writer has in mind when he talks about real or apparent conflict between love and justice. Always it is love as benevolence, love as gratuitous generosity. Cases of real or apparent conflict between justice and benevolence are often ethically important and intellectually intriguing, as are many of the proposals for resolution that writers have offered. However, on this occasion I want to set such cases aside so as to raise a prior question: if love as gratuitous benevolence so often yields real or apparent conflict with justice, forcing the person either to choose between love and justice or to analyze the case in such a way that the conflict is only apparent and not real, may it be that we are misinterpreting our Jewish and Christian inheritance? May it be that when the Torah and Jesus issued the imperative to love our neighbor as ourselves, it was not gratuitous benevolence that they had in mind but some other form of love? May it be that between justice and this other kind of love there is not tension but unity? May it be that we must re-think our understanding of love—and that some of us must also re-think our understanding of justice? The Greek word that the New Testament writers used to report Jesus’ injunction to love our neighbors as ourselves is agapê. The view that what Jesus meant by agapê was gratuitous self-sacrificing benevolence or generosity was never more thoroughly developed than it was by the members of the so-called agapist movement in late nineteenth and twentieth century Protestant ethics. Taking a brief look at what the modern day agapists had to say will be a good way of identifying the fundamental issues. Among the prominent members of the modern day agapist movement were Søren Kierkegaard, Anders Nygren, Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Reinhold Niebuhr, Paul Ramsey, and John Howard Yoder. I recently read Free of Charge by my former Yale colleague, Miroslav Volf (2005). Volf takes it for granted in his book that the sort of love that Jesus and the New Testament writers had in mind is gratuitous generosity. The two great documents of the modern day movement are Kierkegaard’s Works of Love and Anders Nygren’s Agape and Eros. Let me, on this occasion, take Nygren rather than Kierkegaard as my main example of the movement—mostly because, though Kierkegaard was the more profound, Nygren was not only more influential


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but also more relentless in drawing out the implications of the agapist understanding of New Testament agapê. Nygren saw three great motifs as locked in a struggle for dominance in Western thought. One motif is that of eros—eros being love as attraction. The motif of eros is dominant in the Platonic tradition; it’s the topic of Plato’s discussion in his Symposium. Nygren argues, implausibly in my view, that eros is at bottom a form of self-love. A second motif is that of nomos, law. Nygren associates nomos with justice, and he holds that the motif of nomos is dominant in the Old Testament. The third motif is agapê, understood as gratuitous self-sacrificial benevolence that pays no attention to what justice requires. The motif of agape, so Nygren argues, is dominant in the New Testament; it is the love that Jesus attributes to God and enjoins on us in the second love command. Nygren unhesitatingly affirmed the implications of this scheme, including the implication that in the New Testament the Old Testament “motif” of justice has been supplanted by the New Testament “motif” of agapic love. He even goes so far as to say that, though Marcion may have gone to extremes, basically he got it right: the New Testament understanding of God is fundamentally different from the Old Testament understanding. The Old Testament God is a god of justice; the New Testament God is a god of love. Jesus, says Nygren, “enters into fellowship with those who are not worthy of it.” His doing so is directed “against every attempt to regulate fellowship with God by the principle of justice” (Nygren 1953, 86). “That Jesus should take lost sinners to Himself was bound to appear, not only to the Pharisees, but to anyone brought up and rooted in Jewish legal righteousness, as a violation of the order established by God Himself and guaranteed by His justice” (Nygren 1953, 83). For them it was “a violation not only of the human, but above all of the Divine, order of justice, and therefore of God’s majesty” (Nygren 1953, 70). Nygren’s point is unmistakable: the agapic love displayed and enjoined by Jesus does not incorporate or supplement justice but supersedes it. ““Motivated” justice must give place … to “unmotivated” love” (Nygren 1953, 74). We are not to love the neighbor agapically in addition to treating her as justice requires; we are to love her instead of treating her as justice requires. Why did Nygren see love as supplanting justice in the New Testament? Why not love and justice? Nygren’s answer to this question was admirably clear. He held that the paradigmatic New Testament example of God’s love, the example that should shape all our thinking both about God’s love and about our love of neighbor, is God’s forgiving and covenanting love of the sinner. God’s forgiveness is not a case of doing what justice requires; the wrongdoer cannot claim that justice requires that God forgive him. From this Nygren concluded that the love that Jesus and the New Testament writers had in mind expels any note of doing what justice requires. New Testament love is blind to justice and injustice. New Testament love is an utterly gratuitous self-sacrificing concern for the wellbeing of the other. Here is how Emil Brunner puts the point in his Justice and the Social Order: love “does not render to the other what is his due, what belongs to him “by right,” but gives of its own, gives precisely that to which the other has no right” (Brunner 1945, 17).

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Nygren took the argument a step farther. In its blindness to justice and injustice, agapic love may perpetrate injustice. Nygren regarded that as the point of Jesus’ Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard. The landlord, on Nygren’s interpretation, acknowledges that when he paid the late-comers the same amount as those who worked all day in the heat, he was being unfair and unjust to the early workers. However, the landowner dismisses their complaint with the remark that he has a right to be generous as he wishes. Nygren drew the lesson that we must expect that agapic love—gratuitous self-giving generosity—will sometimes wreak injustice. No matter. The follower of Jesus is called to remain faithful to love and say farewell to justice if that proves necessary. After Nygren, the figure in the modern day agapist tradition who thought most deeply about the relation of New Testament love to justice was Reinhold Niebuhr. Niebuhr joined Nygren in interpreting New Testament love as gratuitous self-giving generosity that pays no attention to what justice requires, and he agreed with Nygren that such love might perpetrate injustice. However, Niebuhr thought that Nygren’s response to the possibility of conflict was glib and naïve. Stick with love, said Nygren. Niebuhr thought that as a social and political policy agapic love was a calamity. Try responding to Hitler with agapic love! A major part of Niebuhr’s lifelong opposition to liberal American Christianity was his opposition to what he saw as its naïve assumption that if Christians just loved people enough, people would respond in kind and love would rule the world. In this present age, said Niebuhr, we must expect that love will not evoke love, but will both perpetrate or abet injustice and get run over. The life of Jesus ended on the cross (Niebuhr 1935, passim). So what to do? Niebuhr thought that it was deeply irresponsible to be content with abetting or perpetrating injustice. Yet as a Christian theologian and ethicist he could not give up on love. His solution was to argue that justice is for this present fallen world of conflicting interests whereas agapic love is for the eschaton of “frictionless harmony,” as he called it. To this he added the qualification that here and now, in small-scale situations where conflict is absent, agapic love can be practiced without aiding and abetting injustice. I judge that Nygren’s line of thought is untenable—and Niebuhr’s as well, for somewhat different reasons. On this occasion let me focus on Nygren. First, Nygren’s line of thought is exegetically untenable. Justice is not supplanted by love in the NT.  Even a casual reading of the New Testament will reveal that, rather than being supplanted in the New Testament, justice is at the heart of the New Testament. I argue this point in detail in Justice: Rights and Wrongs (Wolterstorff 2008); here is not the place to repeat that argument. Let me instead confine myself to noting that Nygren has misinterpreted the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard—this being his main textual basis for saying that New Testament love may conflict with justice and that, when they do, the Christian must remain faithful to love and say goodbye to justice. The landowner in the parable does not say to the complaining all-day workers what Nygren interprets him as saying; namely, it’s true that I have treated you unjustly but I have a right to dispense my generosity as I wish. Let me quote what the landowner does say: “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with


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me for the usual daily wage?. . . I choose to give to these last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me?” (Matt. 20:13– 15, New Revised Standard Version). The Greek word translated here as “wrong” is adikos. I am not treating you unjustly, says the landowner to the complainers. Rather than agreeing with the complainers that he has treated them unjustly, but then insisting that this is an acceptable consequence of his generosity, the landowner contests their understanding of justice. Not only is Nygren’s line of thought exegetically untenable; it is also systematically incoherent. We are always to think of love on the model of God’s forgiveness of the sinner, says Nygren. However, reflect for a moment on the nature of forgiveness. One cannot just spread forgiveness hither and yon. One can only forgive someone if he has wronged one, and only for the wrong he did one. However, to wrong someone is to treat that person unjustly, to deprive him of what he has a right to. Therefore, forgiveness cannot be blind to justice and injustice. To the contrary: forgiveness presupposes attentiveness to injustice. The reply may be forthcoming that though it’s true that forgiveness cannot be inattentive to injustice—Nygren was mistaken about that—nonetheless it remains the case that forgiveness is not motivated by what justice requires. True. But now take note of another and deeper incoherence in Nygren’s position—that it is acceptable to perpetrate injustice out of agapic love. If in loving someone agapically I treat him unjustly, then I violate his right not to be so treated; I wrong him. Moreover, if he has a right not to be so treated by me, then I ought not to treat him that way. In general, it’s the case that if someone has a right against me to my not treating him that way, then I have a correlative obligation toward him not to treat him that way. If I have an obligation not to treat him that way, then I am not permitted to treat him that way. Nygren’s position implies that I am sometimes permitted to do out of love what I ought not to do; sometimes it is even the case that I should do out of love what I ought not to do. However, that is incoherent. If I ought not to do it, then not only is it the case that I should not do it; I am not permitted to do it. Let us now back up, and rather than just assuming that what Jesus meant by agapê was justice-blind gratuitous self-sacrificial benevolence, let us look for clues in the biblical text as to what he did mean. All three of the synoptic gospels report the episode in which Jesus presented the two love commands (Matthew 22:34–40, Mark 12:28–34, Luke 10:25–37). The episode is described a bit differently in the three gospels. However, in their report of the two commands themselves, there are only slight rhetorical differences—with two exceptions. Mark reports Jesus as introducing the first command with the Shema: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Matthew reports Jesus as saying that the second command is like the first. Therefore, consider the two commands. The first says that we are to love God with our whole being. Nygren saw this as posing a difficulty for his interpretation of love as gratuitous generosity. Treating God with gratuitous generosity seemed to him impossible. With the courage of his convictions, he concluded that Jesus and the New Testament writers were speaking loosely when they said that we are to love

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God. What they meant, strictly speaking, was that we are to have faith in God. In the first command Jesus was enjoining us to have faith in God with our whole being. What then are we to make of Jesus’ statement, in Matthew, that the second command is like the first? Given Nygren’s interpretation of the first commandment, the second is quite unlike the first. I am not aware that Nygren ever took note of this problem. Now consider the second command: love your neighbor as yourself. The rhetorical structure of this command is the familiar just as … so also structure. Just as you love yourself, so also, love your neighbor. You love yourself, right? Love your neighbor as well. The second command presupposes the legitimacy of self-love and enjoins us to love not only ourselves but our neighbors as well. However, love of self is obviously not self-sacrificial gratuitous benevolence. Karl Barth often described agape as “being for the other.” However, love of oneself is not being for the other; it is being for oneself. In this case, Nygren does not resort to saying that Jesus must have been speaking loosely. Instead, he emphatically declares in various passages that Christianity is opposed to all forms of self-love. I am not aware of any place in which he asks how this position can be squared with the fact that the second love command takes for granted the legitimacy of self-love. Now for a point that is more important for our purposes here than either of the preceding two points. The two love commands are not just statements of the essence or heart of Torah. They are quotations from the Torah. The first is a quotation from Deuteronomy 6; the second, a quotation from Leviticus 19. Suppose we look at the context in which these two commandments occur in the Torah in the hope that the context will illuminate their meaning in the Torah. Context doesn’t always illuminate meaning, but often it does. Suppose that in this case it does. I submit that it would have been likely that Jesus and his interrogators understood the commands with the same meaning that they had in the Torah. It’s possible that they understood them differently, but the burden of proof lies on the person who holds that they did understand them differently. On this occasion let’s confine ourselves to looking at the context in which the second commandment occurs in the Torah. The situation is Moses delivering the divine law code to Israel. The context extends over several chapters. It will be sufficient for our purposes here to quote just a few of the immediately preceding verses. You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until morning…. You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. You shall not go up and down as a slanderer against your people, and you shall not stand forth against the life of your neighbor…. You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19: 13–18, Revised Standard Version)

What we have here is a number of more or less detailed injunctions concluding with the love command.


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A question that comes to mind is whether that final command, love your neighbor as yourself, should be interpreted as just one injunction among the many. That is not how Jesus and his interrogators regarded it; it was for them the heart of the Torah. Moreover, that is not how the Jewish tradition to this day understands it. The love command is the generalized summation of what has preceded. We are to read it as if it were prefaced with the words, “in short.” “In short, love your neighbor as yourself.” Now for the point relevant to our present concerns. In this passage from Leviticus, love is not pitted against justice. To the contrary: treating one’s neighbor justly is cited as among various ways of loving one’s neighbor. Justice is an example of love. My conclusion is that the love that Jesus enjoins on us for our neighbors is not to be understood as sheer gratuitous benevolence that pays no attention to whether or not it wreaks injustice. We have to re-think love so that love incorporates justice. We have to understand love in such a way that treating the neighbor justly is an example of loving the neighbor. How do we do that? Begin with this question: why is it that gratuitous benevolence sometimes wreaks injustice? What is it that love as benevolence does not take account of in such a case? To answer that question, I must explain—all too briefly— how I understand justice. I hold that justice is grounded in rights; justice is present in society insofar as the individual and social members of society enjoy what they have a right to. In turn, I hold that to understand what a right is we must distinguish between, on the one hand, how well or poorly a person’s life is going—her wellbeing—and, on the other hand, the worth or value of that person herself. A truly admirable person may find that her life is going poorly; these are the Job’s of the world. Conversely, a person whose life is going very nicely may not be an admirable person; this gives rise to the ancient complaint, why do the wicked prosper? The complaint presupposes a distinction between the worth or admirability of the person and the worth or admirability of her life. Rights, as I understand them, are an interweaving of these two phenomena—the phenomenon of how well or poorly a person’s life is going (his wellbeing), and the phenomenon of the worth or dignity of the person herself. That to which one has a right is some life-good of being treated a certain way. Specifically, one has a right to the life-good of being treated a certain way just in case not being treated that way would constitute being treated in a way that does not befit one’s worth. In other words: to deprive a person of her right to the life-good of being treated a certain way is to treat that person with under-respect. An ethical framework, such as classical utilitarianism—that works only with the idea of life-goods, and not also with the idea of the worth or dignity of persons—cannot give an adequate account of rights, and hence not an adequate account of justice. Here then is my suggestion as to how the love that Jesus attributes to God and enjoins on us should be understood. Such love for the other or for oneself seeks to advance the good of the other or of oneself. However, the good of the other and of oneself has two dimensions: the dimension of the wellbeing of the person, of how well or ill the person’s life is going, and the dimension of respect for the person’s

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worth. Love attends to both dimensions—not just to the former. Love does indeed seek to promote the wellbeing of the person, but love also sees to it that the worth of the person is honored and that the person is treated with due respect. The rule to be followed is this: never seek the wellbeing of someone at the cost of treating that person or anyone else in a way that does not befit their worth or dignity. The English word “care” is commonly used to express exactly this understanding of love—not caring for but caring about. When one cares about someone, one not only seeks to advance their wellbeing; one also seeks to insure that they are treated with due respect for their worth—that they are not demeaned, not treated with under-respect. Love that seeks to promote someone’s wellbeing but at the cost of wronging that person or some other may be an exemplary case of benevolence, but it is a malformed instance of care. I suggest that the love Jesus enjoined on us is not love as self-sacrificial gratuitous benevolence that pays no attention to justice and injustice; the love that Jesus enjoined on us is love as care. Many lines of exploration now beg for attention. For one thing, we will want to go back and look once again at the cases of tension that I mentioned at the beginning—unjust paternalism, unjust distribution of goods, etc. Now we will look at them differently, however. Rather than analyzing them as cases of conflict between justice, on the one hand, and love as benevolence, on the other, we will analyze them as cases of malformed care. The practical goal of our analysis will be to see if we can form some generalizations as to how to prevent love as care from being malformed in such a way as to wreak injustice. However, that’s for another occasion.1 Let me close by re-stating my main point: we should re-think love—and if necessary, also re-think justice—so that we no longer think of love and justice as in tension with each other. When love is well-formed care, there is no conflict. Care often goes beyond what justice requires, but well-formed care always does at least what justice requires.

References Anselm. 1965. Proslogion. (trans: Charlesworth, M.J). Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. Brunner, Emil. 1945. Justice and the social order. Trans. Mary Hottinger. New York: Harper & Brothers. Niebuhr, Reinhold. 1935. An interpretation of Christian ethics. New York: Harper & Brothers. Nygren, Anders. 1953. Agape and Eros. Trans. Philip S. Watson. London: SPCK. Volf, Miroslav. 2005. Free of charge. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. Wolterstorff, Nicholas. 2008. Justice: Rights and wrongs. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

 I have, in fact, done this in my 2011 book Justice in Love. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.


Macrostructures and Societal Principles: An Architectonic Critique Lambert Zuidervaart

Abstract  What role should the Kuyperian idea of creational ordinances play in a Reformational understanding and evaluation of the contemporary social order? This essay attempts a critical retrieval of that idea for an architectonic critique of Western society. After describing several problems with the idea of creational ordinances, the essay maps three societal macrostructures that organize much of contemporary social life—civil society, proprietary economy, and administrative state. Then it discusses solidarity, resourcefulness, and justice as societal principles that can sustain a critique of societal macrostructures. Next, it identifies normative deficiencies within and between these macrostructures. On the basis of this architectonic critique, the essay concludes by calling for a normative and emancipatory transformation of Western society as a whole. Keywords  Abraham Kuyper · Administrative state · Architectonic critique · Capitalism · Civil society · Reformational philosophy · Social criticism · Social transformation · Societal macrostructures · Societal principles

[A social question] does not exist for you until you exercise an architectonic critique of human society itself and hence desire a different arrangement of the social order and think it possible. —Abraham Kuyper

Addressing the First Christian Social Congress in 1891, Abraham Kuyper urged his audience to take up the pressing social question of their day; namely, the problem of economic injustice. A social question arises, he said, when people have serious doubts about “the soundness of the social structure in which we live” and disagree about the basis for “a more appropriate and more liveable social order.” The violence and poverty that accompany capitalism lay at the center of Kuyper’s L. Zuidervaart (*) Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto, Canada Graduate Faculties in Theology and Philosophy, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



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concern. To address these manifestations of societal evil, he said, heightened piety and greater charity are not enough. Rather, Christians need to engage in an “architectonic critique of human society.” Such a critique will help people “desire a different arrangement of the social order and think it possible” (Kuyper 1950, 39–40; translation modified).1 His own critique pointed toward a uniquely Kuyperian form of Christian socialism, toward an organic national society that is “a God-willed community.”2 Four features stand out in the social philosophy Kuyper presented in 1891. First, compassion toward those who suffer and solidarity with fellow human beings motivate his critique of the existing social order. Second, he bases this critique on an appeal to God’s will and ordinances for human life. Third, Kuyper takes seriously the patterns of historical development that give rise to specific social arrangements. Fourth, he believes that human beings can transform the existing social order—they can “repattern” society “according to God’s Word” (Kuyper 1950, 57). However, he does not work out the tensions these features involve; for example, between compassion and obedience, or between the past and the future. One hundred and twenty-five years later, and eighty years after Kuyper’s followers founded the Association for Reformational Philosophy, the need for an architectonic critique of the social order remains urgent. At the same time, the tensions in Kuyper’s social vision, which he passed along to his Reformational successors, also need to be addressed. I wish to take up this challenge by proposing an approach that emphasizes societal macrostructures and societal principles. Let me begin by commenting on the notion of creational ordinances, around which the tensions in Kuyper’s social philosophy revolve.

Creational Ordinances Kuyper bequeathed to his followers a robustly normative vision and critique of the social order. By “robustly normative” I mean the following: how society is organized, and how this organization emerges and changes, are not merely matters to be described and explained. Rather, in addition to descriptions and explanations, and in the very process of describing and explaining, we need to evaluate a society’s organization and point out how it can be improved. For a society’s organization makes a real difference to the quality of human life and the well-being of other creatures.

1  The Dutch title of Kuyper’s speech is “Het sociale vraagstuk en de Christelijke religie” (The Social Question and the Christian Religion) (Amsterdam: J.A.  Wormser, 1891). A more recent translation by James W. Skillen has the title The Problem of Poverty (Washington, D.C.: Center for Public Justice; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991). 2  “[I]mprovement undoubtedly lies—I do not shrink from the word—along the socialistic path, provided only you do not mean by socialistic the program of Social Democracy; but merely express this idea, in itself so beautiful, that our national society is … a God-willed community, a living, human organism” (Kuyper 1950, 41).

Macrostructures and Societal Principles: An Architectonic Critique


Such a robustly normative project raises questions about the basis for evaluation and advocacy with respect to the social order. In response, Kuyper and his followers often appeal to the notion of creational ordinances, to the notion that the divine Creator has mandated from the very beginning—and continues to mandate—how society should be organized, and that these mandates are given in the very structure of creation. In Herman Dooyeweerd’s social philosophy, for example, this notion underlies his emphasis on universal modal principles that humans must positivize as norms, his account of societal disclosure as a process of differentiation and integration, and his insistence that the major social institutions of modern society—such as the state, the family, and the organized religious community (“church”)—each needs to fulfill and uphold its own “structural principle.” The notion of divine creational ordinances also pervades Dooyeweerd’s account of the fundamental social conflict of his day as a directional “antithesis” between either serving God or serving an idol.

Recent Debates Recent debates within Reformational philosophy indicate that the notion of creational ordinances needs to be reexamined. Three features of the classical Kuyperian conception have especially come into question. Ontologically, it has become hard to reconcile the supposed “givenness” of creational ordinances with the evolutionary path of human development and the historical character of society itself. Epistemologically, doubts have arisen about our ability to discern what the relevant creational ordinances are and what they mean. Theologically, the appeal to creational ordinances has come to seem insufficiently Christological, pneumatological, and eschatological, as if a salutary emphasis on a good creation has come at the expense of sufficient attention to redemption and fulfillment. Such debates leave several options for contemporary social philosophers in the Reformational tradition. Either we can uphold the classical Kuyperian conception and simply modify it to accommodate some of the criticisms; or we can abandon this conception and perhaps find new formulations for whatever insights it offered; or we can incorporate the classical conception into a new understanding that addresses the most persuasive objections to it. One can label these options as defense, rejection, and critical retrieval. I propose to take the path of critical retrieval.

Three Concerns Three concerns are central to the critical retrieval I wish to pursue. First, when it comes to social order, it is problematic to regard so-called creational ordinances as straightforwardly “given” in an ontological sense. If human existence is itself the outcome of a long evolutionary process of hominization, and if the social


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organization of human life undergoes distinct historical stages and takes many discrete forms, then we need an evolutionary and historical conception of how God’s will for human life emerges over time and within the changing fabric of social existence. For such a conception, the notion of creational ordinances as the Creator’s original mandates is too simple and too static. Nor do I think that Jonathan Chaplin’s otherwise congenial suggestion goes far enough when he proposes to anchor the “normative design of social structures” in the “given, stable, but dynamically unfolding, created structure of the human person” (Chaplin 2011, 106–7), for two reasons. First, what it means to be a human person is inextricably tied to the gradual emergence of certain social structures, minimally of a legal and ethical sort. Second, human personhood is not so much a “created structure” as it is an historical achievement: hominids have become human over a long process in which they themselves have taken an active and creative role. My second concern pertains to the epistemology of creational ordinances. Traditionally Kuyperians have said that God reveals God’s will for human life in three interconnected ways: in creation, scripture, and Jesus Christ. This threefold emphasis helps distinguish the Kuyperian tradition from both “fundamentalist” and “modernist” forms of Protestant Christianity. More ecumenically oriented Kuyperians might add other revelatory sources to the list: human wisdom, for example, or church teachings, or the work of the Holy Spirit. No matter how short or long one’s list, however, all such sources of revelation unavoidably need to be interpreted. Moreover, so long as there are two or more sources, they need to be interpreted in light of the others. In addition, “creation” is an expansive notion in the Kuyperian tradition. It includes not only the so-called natural world but also culture, society, and human life. Therefore, when one turns to creation for insight into what God wills for human life, one inevitably turns to intrinsically hermeneutical matters—to cultural practices, social institutions, and human relationships that embody interpretations of who we are, what we need, and what our lives mean. Hence the discovery and enactment of so-called creational ordinances are hermeneutical through and through, and it is a fundamental mistake to treat these as epistemological “givens.” Although we may be confident that, all things considered, a specific decision or action or mode of organization is in line with God’s will, such confidence must be won rather than assumed, and arrived at through nuanced interpretation rather than postulated as the starting point for deliberation. Theologically, Kuyperians recognize their most encompassing hermeneutical situation to be a good, broken, and redeemed creation headed toward the eschaton. However, we have not always known how to let this hermeneutical situation, in all its complexity, inform how we talk about God’s will for human life. This leads to my third central concern; namely, that the traditional Kuyperian notion of creational ordinances is soteriologically static and eschatologically thin. It does not sufficiently acknowledge the redemptive unfolding of God’s will in response to human suffering and the promissory character of God’s will in relation to God’s own future. God’s will for human life is not simply what God has mandated or, better, taught from the very beginning. It is also what God asks us to be and do in the midst of creation-wide brokenness, and it is what God promises as the fulfillment of

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c­reation-­ wide and historically developed potentials. That is why, in line with Vollenhoven’s Trinitarian conception of the “threefold law” (Vollenhoven 1998), I prefer to speak of God’s will as divine instruction and invitation and guidance. It is also why, in keeping with James Olthuis’s eschatologically informed theology (Olthuis 1993, 1997), I think of God’s will as both God’s gift and God’s call. Each of the three concerns just mentioned is comprehensive, such that to elaborate them and respond to them would require a longer discussion of ontology, epistemology, and theology. However, that is not my brief in this essay. Therefore, let me turn from these introductory remarks to my main topic; namely, an architectonic critique of the social order. I hope to show how one can have a robustly normative Reformational vision and critique of the social order without employing the Kuyperian conception of creational ordinances in its classical form. This is not to say, however, that I simply abandon the Kuyperian conception. Rather, I seek to incorporate it, through critical retrieval, into a new conception of societal principles and differential transformation. In what follows, I first describe the macrostructures that organize much of human life in Western societies. Next, I discuss three societal principles that must be in effect in order for these macrostructures to foster the interconnected flourishing of all creatures. Employing these principles, I then point out normative deficiencies both within each of the macrostructures and between them. I conclude by calling for a thorough transformation of all three macrostructures in their interrelation.3

Societal Macrostructures I should say at the outset that my systematic description of societal macrostructures has a normative horizon. The concept of social order is fundamentally about how human life in society is organized. As Kuyper recognized, this is not merely a descriptive notion. The concept of social order is unavoidably linked to normative questions. In Kuyper’s terms, one can always ask about a social order whether it is “sound” and whether “a more appropriate and more livable social order” can be envisaged and achieved. Certainly, for purposes of analysis, one can distinguish a more descriptive approach from more historiographic and evaluative approaches. However, these approaches feed into each other. In A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, for example, Dooyeweerd introduces several systematic distinctions in order to think about how (modern) society is organized: distinctions between modal laws and positivized or positivizable norms; between structural principles and societal forms; between institutional communities and voluntary associations; between interlinkages and enkaptic interlacements; and, within the category of institutional communities, between natural communities (e.g., the family) and organized communities (e.g., 3  Many passages in the remainder of this essay derive from two books that contain more extensive explanations and arguments—see Zuidervaart (2007, 2011).


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the state).4 So too, Hegel’s Elements of the Philosophy of Right draws systematic distinctions between persons and things, morality and ethical life, and, within the realm of ethical life, among the family, civil society, and the state. Yet these systematic distinctions have historiographic underpinnings and a normative point. In Dooyeweerd’s social philosophy, the distinctions rest upon a story of cultural development in which criteria of differentiation and integration play a crucial role, and structural and confessional pluralism provide the story’s normative point. Hegel’s systematic distinctions, by contrast, draw upon a historiographic account of everexpanding freedom, and the reintegration of modern society serves as a normative telos. Similarly, as will become apparent, a historiographic dialectic between structural differentiation and normative distortion undergirds my own systematic distinctions, and the prospect of interconnected flourishing is the dialectic’s normative horizon. Now let me introduce some systematic distinctions and describe three societal macrostructures.

Triaxial Model To answer the question of how life is organized in contemporary differentiated societies, I begin with the following premise: human persons exist in relation to others, and these relations are constitutive for who they are. We could call this the premise of interpersonal identity.5 Accordingly, I give social-theoretical priority to the category of intersubjective “interaction” over such categories as individual “action” and “behavior.” Assuming this premise of interpersonal identity, I have developed a triaxial model of contemporary Western societies. The model distinguishes three vectors along each of three axes. The three axes of society, which intersect, are the levels at which interaction in society is configured, the macrostructures within which social life occurs, and the societal principles that obtain for social life in its configuration and structuration. The three levels of interaction are institutions, practices, and interpersonal relations. The macrostructures of contemporary social life consist of economy, polity, and civil society, along with the interfaces or intersections among them. Moreover, the most relevant societal principles that obtain for social life at these levels and within these macrostructures are ones of resourcefulness, justice, and solidarity. So far as I can tell, there are no clear precedents in Kuyper, Vollenhoven, and Dooyeweerd for the notion of societal macrostructures. Because of a shared systematic emphasis on sphere sovereignty, a social-critical concern to uphold societal differentiation and structural pluralism, and the state of social theory when they wrote, they do not ask whether distinct social institutions—for example, in the areas 4  For succinct and illuminating accounts of these categories and distinctions, see Chaplin (2011, 62–70, 86–155). 5  See the chapter on “Relational Autonomy” in Zuidervaart (2011, 207–240).

Macrostructures and Societal Principles: An Architectonic Critique


of art, education, economy, polity, kinship, and faith life—might themselves belong to larger patterns of organization. If, however, we wish Reformational social philosophy to be “integrally empirical,” to borrow a phrase from Dooyeweerd,6 and if we want to address both current social problems and the contemporary state of social theory, then we cannot avoid asking this question. For claims about societal differentiation and advocacy of structural pluralism will come to little if, in fact, contemporary society, as currently theorized, does not fit the projected pattern of multiple differentiated spheres.

Economy, State, Civil Society After reflecting on this question for many years, I have come to the conclusion that, for better and for worse, contemporary differentiated societies such as we find in Europe and North America are indeed organized into three macrostructures; namely, the for-profit or proprietary economy, the administrative state, and civil society.7 These macrostructures might not encompass all social institutions: kinship patterns and faith communities, for example, might be either only partially encompassed or not at all. Yet I do not think we can adequately grasp or critique the contemporary social order, at least in Europe and North America, if we do not understand the pervasive role of these macrostructures.8 6  “[W]e reject in principle every speculative metaphysics and demand an integral empirical method in philosophic investigations.” Dooyeweerd (1969, vol. 1, 548). Jonathan Chaplin provides an excellent summary of Dooyeweerd’s conception of social philosophy in the Appendix to Chaplin (2011, 311–317). 7  In prepared comments on the conference paper from which this essay derives, Govert Buijs suggests that I portray two of these macrostructures—economy and state—in a negative light and that my adjectives “proprietary” and “administrative” have negative connotations. Although my descriptions of these macrostructures are not “neutral”—no architectonic critique could be neutral—my criticisms are directed toward all three macrostructures and their interrelations, and I do not intend my adjectives to be pejorative. “Proprietary” points to the fact that organizations and transactions in the economic macrostructure follow principles of private ownership and private profit. “Administrative” indicates that the primary political power within the states and suprastates of contemporary Europe and North America (elsewhere too) resides in the agencies of administration and not in the legislature or judiciary. There are both advantages and disadvantages to the proprietary and administrative character of these two macrostructures. I am especially interested in normative deficiencies that affect all three macrostructures. 8  In thinking about the proprietary economy, administrative state, and civil society, I have drawn most heavily on the work of Bob Goudzwaard and Jürgen Habermas. From Goudzwaard I have gained a better understanding of the religious underpinnings to these macrostructures and their normative distortions. See especially Goudzwaard (1979). From Habermas I have learned to reflect more systematically about the pressures that economic and political systems exert upon civil society—what Habermas describes as “the colonization of the life world.” See especially Habermas (1984, 1987). My attempts to think through dialectical relations among societal macrostructures and among social institutions derive in part from a critical engagement with Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1991).


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To describe the three macrostructures, I need to introduce a distinction between systemic and informal macrostructures. The economic and political macrostructures are systemic, but civil society is not. This means that the proprietary economy and administrative state are operationally self-contained. In Habermas’s terms, they follow their own “logics” and have their own “steering media”—money in the proprietary economy, and power in the administrative state. The advantage to this systemic mode of organization is that proprietary-economic and state-administrative operations can proceed without continual communicative interaction by human agents. The disadvantage, however, is that these systems are prone to nearly intractable crisis tendencies and resistant to normatively motivated critique and redirection.9 Civil society, by contrast, is not a system. It is not operationally self-contained; it does not follow its own “logic”; and it does not have its own “steering medium.” Instead, it is a diffuse array of organizations, institutions, and social movements that have a variety of tasks and retain direct ties to cultural practices and interpersonal relations. Yet civil society is a macrostructure, a large-scale structuration of contemporary social life. Schools, museums, public media, non-commercial arts organizations, non-governmental social agencies, and advocacy groups are just a few examples of agencies within civil society. The advantage to civil society’s informal mode of organization is that it engenders communicative interaction among those who participate in it. However, the disadvantage is that civil society is vulnerable to systemic pressures of an economic and political sort and often unable to have its legitimate concerns registered by the proprietary economy and administrative state.10

Civic Sector and Public Sphere The intersections between civil society and the proprietary economy, on the one hand, and between civil society and the administrative state, on the other, have special significance for an architectonic critique of contemporary society, as we shall see.11 I call the first of these intersections “the civic sector.” The civic sector is the economic zone of cooperative, nonprofit, and mutual benefit organizations 9  As will become apparent, however, I do not share Habermas’s view of these systems as congelations of “norm-free sociality” that we can access only in the objectivating attitude of the social sciences. See Habermas (1984, 1987, vol. 2, 171–179). 10  The most important sources for this all-too-brief account of civil society are Cohen and Arato (1992) and Habermas (1996), especially Chapter 8, “Civil Society and the Political Public Sphere,” 329–387. 11  As important or perhaps more important is the intersection between proprietary economy and administrative state, as Bob Goudzwaard rightly pointed out in comments from the floor after I presented this paper in August 2011. Habermas recognizes this as well, as can be seen from his work on “crisis tendencies” during the years leading up to The Theory of Communicative Action. See especially Habermas (1975). Although I acknowledge this point, it would require a separate treatment beyond the scope of this chapter.

Macrostructures and Societal Principles: An Architectonic Critique


within national and international economies. It is the primary way in which civil society achieves both economic differentiation from and economic integration with the proprietary economy and the administrative state. The civic sector is the space in society that is most conducive to a “social economy”—an economy in which considerations of solidarity take precedence over efficiency, productivity, and maximal consumption. I call the second intersection—that between civil society and the state  – “the public sphere.” The public sphere is a continually shifting network of discourses and media of communication that supports wide-ranging discussions about social justice and the common good. It sustains widespread participation in the shaping of societal structures. It facilitates challenges to the operations of the economic system and the administrative state, and, within civil society itself, it serves to promote democratic communication. The proprietary economy and administrative state are complementary systems heavily dependent upon each other. Contemporary capitalism requires a high degree of state regulation, intervention, and support, as on-going attempts to deal with a global financial crisis have shown, and governments have much of their agenda set by the demands of maintaining national and global economies.12 Hence, whatever flows from civil society toward the proprietary economy via the civic sector—such as new modes of organic farming—has direct implications for the public sphere— such as advocacy for new agricultural policies and health regulations. Similarly, whatever flows from civil society toward the administrative state via the public sphere has direct implications for the civic sector. The same holds for movements in the opposite direction, from the proprietary economy through the civic sector and from the administrative state through the public sphere. In order for civil society to remain intact, and not simply to become a pawn of economic and political systems, the interfaces among these macrostructures must maintain their identity and integrity. Specifically, the civic sector and public sphere must remain responsive to the imperatives of civil society and not become fully colonized by the proprietary economy and administrative state. For civil society is the space of social interaction and interpersonal communication where economic alternatives can thrive and where informal political publics can take root. To forestall possible misunderstandings, let me add two remarks about economic and political systems. First, I specify the economic macrostructure as the for-profit or proprietary economy. However, I do not think the proprietary economy is all-­ inclusive. Rather, countries in Europe and North America have a mixed economy that includes, along with the proprietary economy, a governmental economy and a social economy. One can say something similar about the global economy. So, although the proprietary economy is systemic and dominant, it is not the only way in which economic life is organized. Second, although I use the label “administrative state,” I do not regard democratic constitutional states as merely administrative institutions. They are administrative institutions, to be sure, and bureaucratic c­ ontrol  For prescient analyses of how crises in economic and administrative systems reinforce each other, see Habermas (1975) and Offe (1984).



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tends to be a dominant imperative within them. However, they are also institutions for public justice, and securing and maintaining public justice are their primary normative task. Taken together, these two remarks suggest that tensions might inhere within and between the macrostructural systems of contemporary society. These tensions could provide sites for normative critique and redirection. At the center of such critique lie the societal principles I discuss next.

Societal Principles Solidarity, Resourcefulness, Justice Three societal principles are central to the critique I wish to propose; namely, solidarity, resourcefulness or stewardship, and justice. Although not the only relevant societal principles, these three need special attention in an architectonic critique of contemporary macrostructures. By “solidarity” I mean “the expectation, indigenous to modern democratic societies, that no individual, group, or community should be excluded from the recognition we owe each other as fellow human beings” (Zuidervaart 2011, 161). “Resourcefulness” refers to our “carefully stewarding human and nonhuman potentials for the sake of interconnected flourishing” (Zuidervaart 2007, 129). “Justice” is the requirement that the legitimate interests of every bearer of rights and responsibilities—whether individual, communal, or institutional—should be honored in proper relationship to the interests of others.13 These descriptions of solidarity, resourcefulness, and justice are not intended to be comprehensive definitions. They are preliminary approximations for the purpose of further discussion. Moreover, this is how it should be, given my general conception of societal principles as historically emergent, hermeneutically textured, and eschatologically open. Let me discuss each of these characteristics.

Three Characteristics First, societal principles are historically emergent. This means that they are not creational ordinances as understood by Kuyper. They are not simply what the divine Creator has mandated from the very beginning and in the very structure of creation. Rather, they have taken shape and gone into effect as human beings have responded to God’s gift and call—the call to love God, themselves, fellow human beings, and all creation—and have given responses within their cultural practices and social institutions. What various societal principles mean and how we should enact what  This description resembles the concept of justice as “tribution” that Jonathan Chaplin, drawing from a proposal by Paul Tillich, offers as a refinement to Dooyeweerd’s understanding of justice as “retribution.” See in particular Chaplin (2011, 192–193).


Macrostructures and Societal Principles: An Architectonic Critique


they require emerge historically in our attempts to be faithful to them. What solidarity means and requires today, for example, would have been unavailable and incomprehensible in a premodern world, even though one can trace its emerging meaning and effect back to premodern societal formations.14 From the vantage point of systematic Reformational philosophy, one can best regard societal principles as “modal principles” rather than as individual or typical “structural principles.” The societal principle of justice, for example, pertains to all levels of interaction and all societal macrostructures, not simply to, say, political organizations and the administrative state. Yet, unlike Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven, but in keeping with my own stance on “creational ordinances,” I do not regard justice as a divinely given principle that must then be “positivized” by human effort. Rather, God comes to call us to justice and to gift us with justice as, within historically emergent practices and institutions, human beings work out the flourishing to which they are invited. Human responses to God’s gift and call become constitutive for what justice means and what it requires. This suggests, in turn, that societal principles are hermeneutically textured. Not only do we need to interpret them in order to be faithful to them, but also, they themselves embody human interpretations of who we are, what we need, and what our lives mean. I try to get at this hermeneutical texture by describing societal principles as both commonly holding and commonly held. We experience justice, for example, as something in which everyone has a stake and to which everyone can contribute. We also experience it as a site of social struggle, however, such that the task of doing justice is never finished, and what justice means and requires is always in need of interpretation. As I have said elsewhere, “human fidelity to societal principles is ongoing and never finished, and part of such fidelity is to continue giving shape to societal principles. The ways in which people hold principles in common are significant for how societal principles hold people in common. What people actually hold in common at a particular time might not be in line with such principles. Yet they cannot hold something in common without appealing or gesturing toward societal principles, no matter how self-serving the appeal or how ideologically distorted the gesture. Conversely, in order for a principle to hold people in common, they must hold something in common.” Hence, fidelity to societal principles “always involves people struggling over principles for human existence. At stake in the struggle is whether the commonly holding/held sustains and promotes life” (Zuidervaart 2009, 6–7). Historically emergent and hermeneutically textured, societal principles are also eschatologically open to a future we do not control. We do not know now what solidarity, resourcefulness, and justice will mean and require in a hundred years. Yet being faithful to these societal principles now has implications for the future: such fidelity is a way in which God redeems suffering humanity and a broken creation and ushers in an advent of interconnected flourishing that we can barely  See, in this connection, Brunkhorst (2005). It would be interesting to compare Brunkhorst’s historical-philosophical genealogy of “solidarity” with the genealogy of “justice” as involving inherent rights in Wolterstorff (2008).



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imagine. That is why I think fidelity to societal principles properly occurs in dynamic correlation with a life-giving disclosure of society. Societal principles themselves, which have emerged historically through human interpretation, manifest the call of God’s own future—a future when, as the psalmist promises, justice and peace embrace. Yet this call from the future addresses us now. Reformational social philosophy articulates that futural address in Dooyeweerd’s notion of “sphere universality” and the idea of a “simultaneous realization of norms” used by Bob Goudzwaard. In my own terms, the dynamic correlation of societal principles and societal disclosure means that solidarity, resourcefulness, and justice, as well as other societal principles, need to be in effect across the board in contemporary society, and that we cannot be fully faithful to one without being fully faithful to the others. Let me call this dynamic correlation “the nexus of faithful disclosure.” The nexus of faithful disclosure plays a crucial role in my critique of normative deficiencies and my vision of differential transformation.

Normative Deficiencies Many critics of the contemporary social order take a functionalist approach. The economy or the state or civil society is not working well, they say, and we need to improve the internal operations of these macrostructures. Some critics will go farther than this and identify dysfunctional relations between macrostructures—for example, the failure of governments and international agencies to regulate the proprietary economy or the tendency of the proprietary economy to undermine and dominate civil society. Relatively few critics offer substantial normative criticisms of all three macrostructures in their interrelations. That, however, is central to a Reformational architectonic critique. Three general claims sustain this critique. First, each of the three macrostructures suffers from normative deficiencies. Second, these deficiencies are complementary and mutually reinforcing, such that to address one we must simultaneously address the others. Third, to remove such deficiencies will require both normative redirection of all three macrostructures and a structural transformation of society as a whole. Therefore, an architectonic critique must indicate the normative deficiencies, demonstrate their complementarity, and point toward normative redirection and structural transformation.

Proprietary Economy I begin with the proprietary economy, which, so far as I can tell, has become the dominant macrostructure in contemporary society. Its dominance is not surprising, given two prominent features of capitalism. First, capitalism has an inexorably

Macrostructures and Societal Principles: An Architectonic Critique


expansive character: it needs to keep growing in order to survive, and it is very effective at finding new ways to grow, new resources to develop, new markets to create and control. This drive to expand presupposes a second feature; namely, the imperative to channel “intrinsically collective and public goods into private and privileged pockets. … [Capitalism] must continually generate excess returns for those who occupy positions of economic power, whether they be individual investors, transnational corporations, or the most prosperous countries in the world economy. Attempts to rectify resulting imbalances in the distribution of wealth – charity, progressive taxation, debt relief, foreign aid, and the like  – do not challenge the continuation of this inherently exploitative system” (Zuidervaart 2007, 126). Taken together, the expansive and exploitative features of capitalism go a long way toward explaining the normative deficiency of the contemporary economic system. This deficiency involves two mutually reinforcing normative failures. First, as Bob Goudzwaard has argued, the economic system gives priority to certain sorts of economic expansion and technological innovation, and it does so at the expense of justice and solidarity, turning such considerations into mere means to achieve so-­ called progress. Second, the capitalist economic system also distorts the societal principle of resourcefulness. Instead of fostering a society where human and nonhuman potentials are carefully stewarded so that all the earth’s inhabitants can flourish, contemporary capitalism twists the principle of resourcefulness “in the direction of efficiency, productivity, and maximal consumption for their own sakes.” The second failure reinforces the first because it turns considerations of justice and solidarity into “economic afterthoughts”—into “belated attempts to alleviate the damage necessarily done by a system that does not prize resourcefulness in the first place” (Zuidervaart 2007, 129). When unrestrained, contemporary capitalism shows itself to be an exploitative and unsustainable system.

Administrative State and Civil Society Often the critics of capitalism turn to either the administrative state or civil society to make up for normative deficiencies in the economic system. Unfortunately, this not only helps secure the economic system as it is but also presupposes that the state or civil society is itself normatively intact. I see little reason to endorse this presupposition. Both the contemporary state and today’s civil society suffer from normative deficiencies that complement those of the economic system. Just as capitalism prioritizes “growth” at the expense of justice and solidarity, distorting the meaning of resourcefulness, so the administrative state gives priority to certain types of bureaucratic control at the expense of resourcefulness and solidarity. In tandem with this failure, the contemporary administrative state also distorts the societal principle of justice. Instead of providing legal frameworks and democratic governance that would ensure just distributions of resources and meaningful participation in the affairs of state, it redirects the justice it should uphold toward positions of power and privilege.


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So too, contemporary civil society gives priority to diversity and charity and thereby distorts the societal principle of solidarity. Rather than provide a robust array of avenues for intercultural dialogue and social inclusion, organizations in contemporary civil society tend to equate solidarity with tolerance and kindness.15 This tendency not only undermines democratic participation and recognition but also gives short shrift to considerations of resourcefulness and justice that cannot simply be relegated to the proprietary system and administrative state.16

Mutual Complementarity In other words, the three macrostructures suffer from two types of mutually complementary normative deficiencies. They distort the meaning of resourcefulness, justice, and solidarity, and they make it less likely for these societal principles to be in effect across society as a whole. Instead, the principles are relegated to separate zones, as if, for example, justice is of little concern to proprietary businesses, or solidarity does not count in governmental matters, or resourcefulness need not be an important consideration in civil society. In fact, the two types of deficiency reinforce each other because resourcefulness, justice, and solidarity themselves are mutually complementary: the intrinsic meaning of each societal principle depends on the others also being in effect at the same time. Instead of mutual normative complementarity, we have a society whose macrostructures both distort the meaning of specific societal principles and render other societal principles inoperative. The economic system distorts resourcefulness while downplaying justice and solidarity. The political system disfigures public justice while thinning out the meaning of resourcefulness and solidarity. Civil society reduces the scope of solidarity while underemphasizing considerations of resourcefulness and justice. Yet the three societal principles at issue here cannot have equally decisive roles in all three macrostructures. Just as resourcefulness and justice set the primary tasks of the institutions within economic and political systems, respectively, so solidarity is the primary normative consideration within civil society. An economic system that gave greater weight to considerations of solidarity or justice than to careful  This is not intended as an exhaustive characterization of normative deficiencies in civil society. Because civil society is not a system, its normative deficiencies tend to be more varied and diffuse than those one can identify in the proprietary economy and the administrative state. In Art in Public I describe three sets of pressures—external, internal, and technological—that create or reinforce normative problems in civil society, and I discuss these pressures, respectively, as economic hypercommercialization and administrative performance fetishism, cultural balkanization and exclusion, and technologically induced pastiche and neomania. Tendencies toward balkanization and exclusion, in particular, hinder solidarity in civil society by pointing its institutions and organizations away from intercultural dialogue and social inclusion. See Zuidervaart (2011, 176–190). 16  These concerns add complexity to the debate between Nancy Fraser and Axel Honneth (2003) about whether socio-economic justice requires redistribution, recognition, or both, and in which order of priority. 15

Macrostructures and Societal Principles: An Architectonic Critique


mobilization of the earth’s resources would be no less problematic than one that blindly pursues efficiency, productivity, and maximal consumption, no matter what the social and political costs. Similarly, a political system that gave greater weight to considerations of resourcefulness or solidarity than to achieving and maintaining public justice would be no less flawed than one that pursues administrative power for its own sake. So too, a civil society that made resourcefulness or justice its highest consideration would quickly turn into an economic system or administrative state. That would be no less destructive of civil society than is diluting solidarity into the mere promotion of tolerance and kindness. In other words, what Goudzwaard calls “the simultaneous realization of norms” (1979, 65–68)17 cannot mean that the three societal principles have equal weight in all three macrostructures. However, it does mean that the decisive weight of solidarity, resourcefulness, and justice, respectively, in civil society, economy, and state cannot come at the expense of the other societal principles. That is why normative redirection and structural transformation must go hand in hand—in a process I call “differential transformation.”

Differential Transformation By “differential transformation” I mean a process of significant change in contemporary society as a whole that occurs at differing levels, across various structural interfaces, and with respect to distinct societal principles. As I indicated earlier, the primary levels in question are social institutions, cultural practices, and interpersonal relations. The primary structural interfaces lie among economy, polity, and civil society. The most relevant societal principles in this context are those of resourcefulness, justice, and solidarity. Because no single societal site can suffice as an arena in which to promote creaturely flourishing, and because the various levels and macrostructures intersect, the change must occur in society as a whole. Yet changes in many diverse sites also will not suffice if they do not move in mutually reinforcing directions. Hence the change in society as a whole needs to be an internally differentiated and complementary process. Moreover, given the role of macrostructures in organizing social life and their mutually reinforcing normative deficiencies, this process must involve both structural transformation and normative redirection. I believe that the differentiation of levels, macrostructures, and principles in Western society provides a historical basis for such a process. Let me illustrate the required structural transformation by discussing interfaces among civil society, the proprietary economy, and the administrative state. Then I will consider normative redirection.

 Goudzwaard derives the idea of a simultaneous realization of norms from the work of economist T. P. van der Kooy and the philosopher and legal theorist Herman Dooyeweerd.



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Structural Transformation Arguably an achievement of modernization has been to create societal macrostructures that follow their own imperatives. The result is a society in which, for example, law and politics are not supposed to serve merely private economic interests, and the organizations and agencies of civil society are not supposed to serve merely the interests of state. Admittedly, the integrity of these macrostructures is under constant threat. Indeed, the economically and politically powerful regularly subvert it in their pursuit of greater wealth and control. Yet the macrostructures remain mostly intact, and their boundaries are relatively clear. This provides a basis for evaluating patterns of social order. As Habermas’s thesis about the “colonization of the life world” suggests, patterns that subsume one macrostructure under another are inherently destructive and unstable. Two obvious examples are economic imperialism and political authoritarianism. Yet a critique of imperialism and authoritarianism needs to go beyond simply identifying and rejecting violence. It must insist on the integrity of distinct macrostructures, and it must detect those spots where structural interfaces have been weakened or overridden. A macrostructure cannot maintain its integrity if it does not open in appropriate ways to the imperatives of other macrostructures. Here the civic sector and the public sphere, as intersections between civil society and the proprietary economy and administrative state, become especially important for structural differentiation and integration. To achieve sufficient focus, let me concentrate my remarks on the civic sector and leave the public sphere out of consideration.

Structural Integration The apparent dominance of the economic macrostructure in contemporary society raises questions about the relationship between differentiation and integration. Some types of integration, while allowing for functional differentiation, can nevertheless hollow out differentiated spheres, destroy the earth, and foster oppression on a massive scale. This seems to characterize contemporary turbocapitalism. It provides global integration that sparks and supports functional differentiation, but in a hollowing, destructive, and oppressive fashion. So how are we to conceive of a proper structural integration under conditions of economic globalization? In line with my previous comments about “the nexus of faithful disclosure,” I think a proper structural integration will have as its horizon a life-giving disclosure of society: a historical process “in which human beings and other creatures come to flourish, and not just some human beings or certain creatures, but all of them in their interconnections” (Zuidervaart 2004, 97). This idea of societal disclosure relativizes the achievements of functional differentiation. It encourages us to ask to what extent and in which respects the current array of differentiated levels and macrostructures supports, promotes, hinders, or prevents the interconnected flourishing of human

Macrostructures and Societal Principles: An Architectonic Critique


beings and other creatures. The idea also enables one to engage in an internal critique of specific differentiated levels or macrostructures with a view to the larger historical process and structural constellation in which they participate and to which they contribute. All of this has implications for how we understand the civic sector’s social economy. Although it is an economy, and neither a polity nor a set of values, the social economy of the civic sector is one in which solidarity needs to inflect considerations of resourcefulness and justice—just as resourcefulness needs to inflect considerations of justice and solidarity in the proprietary economy, and justice needs to inflect considerations of resourcefulness and solidarity in the political economy of the administrative state. From a normative perspective, then, one can distinguish between a social economy of solidarity-inflected resourcefulness and a political economy of justice-inflected resourcefulness. In the proprietary economy, by contrast, resourcefulness should play the leading role, inflecting considerations of solidarity and justice. This normative understanding supports a more-than-pragmatic conception of how the three economies would properly intersect. Intersections with the civic sector’s social economy would not be thought to arise as mere responses to what economists call “market failure.” Rather, we would regard the social economy as the sort of economy that is especially appropriate for the civic sector—one that enables civic-sector organizations to foster solidarity in society, always with a view to considerations of resourcefulness and justice, but not as a substitute for what the proprietary economy and administrative state should properly accomplish. Because the latter systems are normatively deficient, as is civil society too, pressures have built for civic-sector organizations to take on what these systems fail to provide, such as sustainable sources of energy or universal health care. It would be better for agencies of civil society to call these systems to account than to act as the de facto dumping ground for systemically generated problems.

Submerged Social Economy Part of calling economic and political systems to account is to point out the social economy submerged within them. I realize it is controversial to claim that these systems have a hidden social economy; initially the claim might strike other social theorists as implausible. Nevertheless, I think a hidden social economy is what gives some credence, for example, to American sociologist Jon Van Til’s concept of the “social entrepreneur.” Van Til cites the example of the University College of Cape Breton. In the 1990s it developed an array of collaborative partnerships with businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies and thereby helped revitalize the economy of a traditionally impoverished region in Nova Scotia (Van Til 2000, 153–158). A hidden social economy also confers some plausibility to Jeremy Rifkin’s proposal that governments should forge a new partnership with the civic sector via tax deductions for the time workers volunteer to tax-exempt organizations


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and via “a social wage for community service” that would provide the unemployed with “meaningful work … in the [civic] sector to help rebuild their own neighborhoods and local infrastructures” (Rifkin 1995, 256–267). However, Van Til does not comment on the macrostructural conditions that allowed the Cape Breton experiment to succeed. Nor does Rifkin uncover sufficient impetus within the administrative state for forging his new partnership. In my judgment, Van Til’s social entrepreneurial experiment would not succeed if proprietary businesses had only their financial “bottom lines” in view. Nor could Rifkin’s two-sector partnership thrive if government agencies sought only to extend the economic reach of their administrative power. There must be something like a social economy submerged in proprietary and political economies—submerged both because the imperatives of such systems do not allow them to make solidarity their primary focus and because the reduction of resourcefulness and justice within them hides from view the need for solidarity to be in effect there at the same time.18 Yet one can find evidence of a submerged social economy in both systems.19 Thanks in part to examples and advocacy stemming from the civic sector, proprietary businesses often use the language of “social responsibility.” They develop procedures of social accounting and undertake social audits. They also adopt voluntary codes of conduct within specific branches of industry and commerce that go beyond business ethics toward something like a social ethic. In other words, there is a growing recognition, at least among socially enlightened firms, that the proprietary economy has a social-economic moment, and that showing solidarity toward the workers, customers, and communities that sustain these enterprises and are affected by them cannot be an economic afterthought. So too, government agencies regularly use the language of “community involvement.” They develop procedures of consultation with stakeholders and undertake impact studies before launching new projects. They also put in place self-regulatory guidelines that go beyond minimal legal requirements toward something like a social ethic. In these ways politicians and civil servants, at least in some branches and departments of government, demonstrate awareness that the political economy has a social-economic moment, and that showing solidarity with citizens and with the beneficiaries of government programs cannot remain on the margin of government operations. To point out this hidden social economy in economic and political systems is not to deny that they need redirection. Nor is it to suggest that systemic economies should become full-fledged social economies. The point instead is to indicate a social-economic basis within economic and political systems for giving appropriate weight to considerations of solidarity, considerations that their own focus on  If our focus were the public sphere, we could also point toward what I have called “hidden elements of a social polity—a tendency toward genuine democracy—in both of these macrostructural systems” (Zuidervaart 2011, 236). 19  Here I disagree with Hauke Brunkhorst, who claims that differentiated social systems “use human substance without replacing it” and that “functional systems like the market economy or sovereign state power, taken in themselves, represent new forms of social integration without solidarity” (2005, 82–83). 18

Macrostructures and Societal Principles: An Architectonic Critique


efficiency-­reduced resourcefulness and administratively diminished justice would seem to preclude. There is a social-economic basis within the proprietary and political economies for a differential transformation of all three macrostructures and their interfaces. Civic-sector organizations need to highlight this social-economic basis. They need to call for significant restructuration of both systems, even as they pursue a redirection of the civic sector.

Normative Redirection My critique of normative deficiencies in societal macrostructures envisions a different social order. The social order I envision would promote the interconnected flourishing of all earth’s inhabitants. To move toward such a social order will require normative redirection throughout society and especially within and across society’s macrostructures. The societal principles of solidarity, resourcefulness, and justice provide substantial guidelines for the normative redirection required. Let me describe this normative redirection first within, then across, and finally beyond societal macrostructures.

Internal Redirection I said earlier that solidarity is the decisive societal principle for civil society, and I criticized contemporary civil society for reducing the scope of solidarity and underemphasizing considerations of resourcefulness and justice. There are many sources to such normative deficiencies, some of them internal to the organizations that make up civil society, and others stemming from external pressures exerted by the proprietary economy and administrative state. Philosophically, however, the dynamic that most undermines solidarity in civil society today is a dialectic between abstract individualism and identity politics. Organizations in civil society find themselves pushed and pulled between individuals pursuing their own self-interests and cultural or religious groups promoting their own agendas. The typical response from those who see the destructive consequences of this dialectic has been to promote greater tolerance among the various groups and more charity toward individuals who have fewer chances to pursue their own self-interests. Unfortunately, this response fails to challenge the mistaken approaches to individuality and community that underlie the dialectic. I believe that solidarity requires a new direction in civil society. If every individual, group, and community deserves recognition, then our schools, arts organizations, and media of communication need to develop patterns of critical and creative dialogue where all are welcome to participate. In education, for example, the old division between state-funded and faith-based schools is outmoded, even when supplemented by interest-based charter schools and commercial learning


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centers. We need to envision a different way to organize truly public and inclusive schooling, and this will not occur unless other organizations in civil society also embrace a vision of robust solidarity. I also have claimed that resourcefulness is the decisive societal principle for the economic system, and I have criticized the current proprietary economy for distorting the meaning of resourcefulness while downplaying considerations of justice and solidarity. One way to counter these deficiencies is, as I suggested, to strengthen the system’s hidden elements of a social economy through social accounting and voluntary codes of conduct. Yet the central problem from a normative perspective is that the proprietary economy pursues the twin goals of continual growth and private profit. Nor do I think that the classical socialist approach of state ownership can solve this problem: it does not challenge the goal of continual growth, and it introduces patterns of administrative coercion that run counter to genuine resourcefulness. Therefore, we need to imagine a different economic order, one where stewardship for the sake of interconnected flourishing, not continual growth or private profit, is the overriding consideration. Similarly, I have suggested that justice is the decisive societal principle for the political system, and I have criticized the administrative state for disfiguring public justice while thinning out the meaning of resourcefulness and solidarity. Again, normative redirection is required, and for this we need a normative vision of the state’s task in contemporary society. On my own view, which derives mainly from the work of Dooyeweerd and Chaplin, the state’s primary normative task is— through legislation, administration, and judicial decisions—to achieve and maintain public justice for all the individuals, communities, and institutions within its jurisdiction. Matters of public justice occur in three domains. One is the plurality of distinctive institutions—religious, ethical, economic, educational, and the like— that need societal room to pursue their own legitimate tasks and that have a claim to state protection from illegitimate incursions by other institutions. I call this the domain of institutional pluralism. The second domain of public justice is that of cultural pluralism. Many different cultural communities have claims to public recognition from other communities. Such claims need to be adjudicated within the context of statewide legislation. The third domain of public justice pertains to the diverse needs and concerns of all the individuals who live within a state’s jurisdiction. The state must protect persons from gross injustices at the hands of others, and they can expect a rightful share in the benefits afforded by government policies and programs. It is not easy to reconcile this normative conception of the democratic constitutional state with the fact that national governments today take the shape of an administrative system—a system of governance in which the primary political power resides not in the legislature or judiciary but in a complex and self-regulating bureaucracy largely impervious to influence from citizens (Habermas 1996, 505). The administrative system makes it more difficult to see how the state can be an institutional framework for public justice and not simply a hegemonic center of political power. Yet the power of the administrative state is not unlimited, nor is the task of achieving and maintaining public justice unconstrained. Rather, the state’s

Macrostructures and Societal Principles: An Architectonic Critique


power remains subject to the requirement of public justification. State power needs to prove justifiable before the court of public opinion if it is to be sustained. Even as an administrative system, then, the state’s task is to pursue enforceable public justice on the basis of publicly justifiable force and thereby to provide political and legal integration in a pluralist society.

Interlinked Redirection The public sphere, as the intersection between state and civil society, is crucial in this regard. This fact is just one indication that normative redirection must occur across the interlinked macrostructures and not simply within them. That this is so follows from the claim that each societal principle holds for all three macrostructures and that these principles are mutually complementary. However, it also follows from the practical challenges of pursuing normative redirection within existing organizations and interpersonal relations. Perhaps I can illustrate the challenges with reference to “art in public,” the topic of my book by that title. According to this book, non-commercial arts organizations make important cultural, economic, and political contributions to society, but cultural, economic, and political pressures threaten their ability to make these contributions. The proper response to such pressures, I argue, is for arts organizations to pursue their properly artistic tasks by participating in the social economy of the civic sector and by fostering democratic communication in the public sphere. To do this, I claim, arts organizations need to resist the normative deficiencies of civil society, the proprietary economy, and the administrative state and, in their very structure and operations, to provide creative alternatives to such deficiencies. Yet it is readily apparent that arts organizations cannot provide these alternatives all on their own. They need compatible efforts by other organizations in the civic sector. They also need appropriate support from organizations in the proprietary economy and the administrative state. Government funding for the arts can be one channel of such support, provided the rationale and delivery of such funding do not simply reinscribe “business as usual.” Similarly, enlightened corporate and foundation funding would also help. In turn, civic-sector arts organizations, seeking to remain true to the principle of solidarity, can expose elements of a social economy lying latent in economic and political systems. This example illustrates that the societal principles of solidarity, resourcefulness, and justice pertain to all of the levels and macrostructures of a differentiated society, even though each principle holds in a special way for a distinct range of levels and macrostructures. The theoretical challenge, and a practical one as well, is to envision normative integration across these differentiated zones without either allowing one to dominate the others or exempting any zone from the requirements of all three principles. In other words, we need to pursue normative redirection not only within but also across all three macrostructures.


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Faithful Disclosure The sheer scope of the redirection required raises the question whether it is historically possible. That question forces us to look beyond the current social order both toward the past and toward the future. Looking toward the past, we can see that no social order has been inevitable or permanent and that our own social order has emerged from a complex process of social change. This insight allows us to ask whether and to what extent the current patterns of macrostructural differentiation and integration are historical achievements or historical failures. Looking to the future, we can envision possibilities for structural transformation and normative redirection that build on the historical achievements and repair or remove the historical failures. In the midst of such historical orientation and reorientation, people can hear a call to life-giving disclosure that resonates in historically embedded societal principles and in our attempts to be faithful to them. In other words, within our organizations, institutions, and interpersonal relations, we can undertake faithful disclosure.20 Yet, given the preponderance of normatively deficient macrostructures in the current social order, and the extensive ways in which they organize all of social life, faithful disclosure cannot be the prerogative of one community or tradition. It requires concerted efforts and what Theodor Adorno called the “transparent solidarity” of humanity as a whole.21 Unlike Adorno, I do not believe such efforts in solidarity are in short supply. Rather, along with economic globalization and transnational governance, we are witnessing the gradual emergence of a global civil society in which many communities and traditions can fashion and enact a global ethic. This emergence holds potential for both structural transformation and normative redirection in countries around the world. Reformational social philosophers can contribute to this process by articulating societal principles in the direction of life-giving disclosure. We can present a vision  James Skillen asked from the floor, Who is responsible for bringing about the change I envision? and my response was “All of us.” Clearly there is more to the issue than that. Structural transformation occurs both via and despite intentional human effort, and human effort occurs in many different contexts and ways. My main point is that all the inhabitants of a social order are in some sense responsible for that order and in some sense capable of contributing to the change of that order, not simply as individuals but as members of organizations and institutions and as participants in traditions and communities. Moreover, these organizations, institutions, traditions, and communities also should and can contribute. Both an individualist “You can make a difference” and a collectivist expectation of a vanguard class or sector are insufficiently nuanced on the topic of large-scale social change—as are privatist resignation and structuralist determinism. See in this connection the chapter on “Widening Ways of Economy, Justice, and Peace” in Goudzwaard et  al. (2007, 169–205). 21  According to Adorno, the telos of the social order both required and prevented by the capitalist economy lies in “the negation of the physical suffering of even the least of its members, and of the internal articulations [Reflexionsformen] of such suffering. This negation is the interest of everyone, [and] ultimately to be achieved only by a solidarity that is transparent to itself and to every living creature” (Adorno 1973, 203–204; my translation). 20

Macrostructures and Societal Principles: An Architectonic Critique


of significant social change. The change I have envisioned would be a society-wide transformation and not simply a modification at one level or one structural interface. Yet this transformation would be differential, involving mutually reinforcing developments across the various levels and interfaces and strengthening the legitimate differentiation of macrostructures and societal principles that, on my view, is a historical achievement in Western society. Normatively, differential transformation would redirect the proprietary economy away from the maximization of private profit toward the societal principle of resourcefulness. It would redirect the administrative state away from merely bureaucratic power toward a genuinely democratic pursuit of public justice. It would also allow societal principles such as resourcefulness, justice, and solidarity, which are distinct and pervasive, to be in effect across the board and not be relegated to separate zones within society. The envisioned redirection of economic and political macrostructures, along with complementary changes in civil society, would generate freedom to pursue a life-giving disclosure of society. Structurally, political and economic systems would become more open to the legitimate concerns of civil society. However, they would also foster within themselves elements of democratic communication and a social economy that are mostly latent at present. If the state would place priority on the task of promoting and securing public justice, it could give appropriate attention to concerns for economic resourcefulness and social solidarity as well. So too, if the economic system would give priority to pursuing resourcefulness and not to exploiting people and habitats for private gain, then hidden elements of a social economy could become stronger, and considerations of economic justice could find their proper place. In tandem with these structural transformations and normative redirections of the political and economic systems, the institutions of civil society would need to become robust sites for social solidarity and not be mere release valves for pressures generated by normative deficiencies in the administrative state and proprietary economy. In its networks of public communication and its social economy, civil society would provide solidaristic inflections to justice and resourcefulness that political and economic systems need but cannot themselves fully provide. A differential transformation along these lines would result in a more genuinely life-giving society across the board, within and among all three macrostructures. In the end, the question all members of society face—as citizens, workers and consumers, and educators, artists, and scholars—is whether we want a life-giving society. Such a society would go beyond one in which the state is formally democratic to one where the state pursues and maintains justice for all. It would be a society in which the resources everyone needs in order to flourish do not continually flow into the private coffers of the most wealthy and powerful. It would also be a society where the solidaristic norms of participation and recognition prevail in the institutions and organizations of civil society. The macrostructures of such a society would have undergone internal transformation; the conflicts among them would have been resolved; and people would enjoy justice, resourcefulness, and solidarity across the entire range of their social lives. We might not arrive at such a society in


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the foreseeable future. Imagining it, however, and disclosing the potential of a life-­giving society will remain worthwhile endeavors. Contemporary Reformational social philosophers might not seek an organic national society that is a “God-willed community,” as Kuyper did. However, we do desire a social order where, in the words Jesus taught his disciples, God’s will is done.22

References Adorno, T.W. 1973. Negative Dialektik. In Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 6. Frankfurt: Suhrkamp. Brunkhorst, H. 2005. Solidarity: From civic friendship to a global legal community. Trans. J. Flynn. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Chaplin, J.  2011. Herman Dooyeweerd: Christian philosopher of state and civil society. Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press. Cohen, J., and A. Arato. 1992. Civil society and political theory. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Dooyeweerd, H. 1969. A new critique of theoretical thought. Trans. D.H. Freeman, et al. 4 vols., rpt. ed. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing. Fraser, N., and A.  Honneth. 2003. Redistribution or recognition? A political-philosophical exchange. London: Verso. Goudzwaard, B. 1979. Capitalism and progress: A diagnosis of Western Society. Trans. and ed. J. Van Nuis Zylstra. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Goudzwaard, B., M. Vander Vennen, and D. Van Heemst. 2007. Hope in troubled times: A new vision for confronting global crises. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. Habermas, J. 1975. Legitimation crisis. Trans. T. McCarthy. Boston: Beacon Press. ———. 1984, 1987. The theory of communicative action. Trans. T.  McCarthy. 2 vols. Boston: Beacon Press. ———. 1996. Between facts and norms: Contributions to a discourse theory of law and democracy. Trans. W. Rehg. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Hegel, G.W.F. 1991. Elements of the philosophy of right. Ed. A.W.  Wood. Trans. H.B.  Nisbet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kuyper, A. 1950. Christianity and the class struggle. Trans. D. Jellema. Grand Rapids: Piet Hein Publishers. Translation of Kuyper, A. (1891). Het sociale vraagstuk en de christelijke religie [The social question and the Christian religion]. Amsterdam: J. A. Wormser. Offe, C. 1984. Contradictions of the welfare state. Ed. J. Keane. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Olthuis, J.H. 1993. Be(com)ing: Humankind as gift and call. Philosophia Reformata 58: 153–172. ———. 1997. Crossing the threshold: Sojourning together in the wild spaces of love. In Knowing other-wise: Philosophy at the threshold of spirituality, ed. J.H. Olthuis, 235–257. New York: Fordham University Press. Rifkin, J. 1995. The end of work: The decline of the global labor force and the dawn of the post-­market era. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

 This essay began as a keynote lecture given at the conference on “The Future of Creation Order” at the VU University Amsterdam in August 2011. I wish to thank the conference organizers for their invitation, Govert Buijs for his informative and probing response to the lecture, the conference participants for a lively discussion, and two anonymous referees for their instructive comments on an earlier version of the essay. Much of this essay appears within the journal article “Critical Transformations: Macrostructures, Religion, and Critique,” Critical Research on Religion 1.3 (2013): 243–269, published by SAGE Publications Ltd. I thank the journal editors and publisher for permission to republish these materials.


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Van Til, J. 2000. Growing civil society: From nonprofit sector to third space. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Vollenhoven, D.H.T. 1998. The unity of life. In Dirk H.  T. Vollenhoven reader. Trans. and ed. J.H. Kok, 146–156. Manuscript. Wolterstorff, N. 2008. Justice: Rights and wrongs. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Zuidervaart, L. 2004. Artistic truth: Aesthetics, discourse, and imaginative disclosure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 2007. Social philosophy after Adorno. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 2009. Unfinished business: Toward a reformational conception of truth. Philosophia Reformata 74: 6–7. ———. 2011. Art in public: Politics, economics, and a democratic culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 2013. Critical transformations: Macrostructures, religion, and critique. Critical Research on Religion 1 (3): 243–269.

Response: The Hermeneutics of Suffering, Creation Order, and Modern Society Govert J. Buijs

Abstract  In this response to the contribution of Zuidervaart, the idea of creation order, which is an important element in the Kuyper-tradition and which Zuidervaart criticizes, is defended. However, the grounds for this defense that are offered here, are not often called upon in relation to the idea of creation order: our human experiences of suffering. They may give us a hermeneutical witness to something like “creation order.” For suffering to be experienced as suffering, a goodness has to be presupposed as ontologically prior. It is argued that, ethically speaking, restoring the goodness of creation (including its developmental potential) is to be preferred above an ethic that is composed in an eschatological key. Zuidervaart’s terminology of “macrostructures” is questioned for systematic reasons but the critical impetus of the terminology is acclaimed especially for its connection to “societal principles” that may give orientation to our actions in the late-modern world. Keywords  Creation order · Suffering · Kuyper · Macrostructures Inspired by, and in its scope and thrust, comparable to Abraham Kuyper’s “architectonic critique”—given well over 125 years ago in 1891—Lambert Zuidervaart now offers a renewed and updated “architectonic critique” of our contemporary society. In an illuminating blend of Reformational and neo-Marxist, particularly Habermassian, thinking, he critically analyzes our present condition of a globalized world that suffers from many injustices and distortions. His line of critique is informed by a very suggestive yardstick for healthy social development that is summarized in three basic societal principles: justice, resourcefulness, and solidarity. These three more or less correspond to the three “megastructures” that Zuidervaart distinguishes—the administrative state, proprietary economy, and civil society.

G. J. Buijs (*) Faculty of Humanities, Department of Philosophy, VU Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



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Although very much inspired by Kuyper, Zuidervaart distances himself, however, from one of Kuyper’s central notions—that of creation order (and thus addresses the key theme of this book). This is one of the main reasons that he speaks about a “critical retrieval” of Kuyper’s work, as a characterization of his own work. In his view, it is hard to maintain the idea of creation order in the light of what we now know about the development of the cosmos and of humankind in time, nor does the notion account for the contextuality of social problems (and the hermeneutical problems that come with that). Moreover, the idea is “soteriologically static” and “eschatologically thin.” In short, he has ontological, epistemological, and theological problems with the idea. In this response, I would like to give a new (and at the same time rather old) argument in favor of the notion of creation order that can hopefully pass the critical tests that Zuidervaart lays out.1 I proceed with some reflections on the helpfulness of Zuidervaart’s concept of “macrostructures” for the critical analysis of contemporary society and conclude with some comments on the hub of Zuidervaart’s reflections: societal principles and the idea of “differential transformation” where his critical reflections come together.

Human Suffering as an Index of Creation Order Admittedly, the notion of “creation ordinances” is a highly contested notion. Moreover, Zuidervaart is certainly not alone among its critics. As a matter of fact, I can relate to his ontological, epistemological, and theological lines of objections against it (although I believe that Kuyper’s interpretation of creation order in his Pro Rege is much less static than Zuidervaart assumes; it explicitly combines a discourse of “origin” with normative historical development—there is plenty of nineteenth century, historicist, even somewhat Hegelian influence in Kuyper, perhaps even too much2). Yet, I think there is another line of argument that may support the notion (I would not dare to say: would “save” the notion). That line is not primarily ontological, epistemological, or theological, but—if I may use the word—“experiential,” or even “empirical.” Of course, this could immediately bring us back to the ontological level, and so it will in my view. However, then I probably have a slightly different idea of what ontology is about than Zuidervaart apparently has. For him, given the reference to evolutionary theory in relation to creation, ontology has at least partly to do with (theories about) the origin and emergence of our cosmos. In my perspective, ontology does not primarily have to do with theories, let alone scientific theories, but with experiences of existence, existential experiences, and especially experiences of meaning. Therefore, I am afraid I am a bit more in the phenomenological tradition than Zuidervaart is, and this is as well my entrance toward the notion of creation 1  This can be seen as complementary to the more general “apologia” for creation order, as given in the introduction to this volume. 2  See my introduction ‘On Entering Kuyper’s cathedral of everyday life’ to vols. 2 & 3 of Kuyper’s Pro Rege. John Kok & Nelson Kloosterman (eds. 2017), Abraham Kuyper, Pro Rege. Vol.1. pp. vii – xxi; Vol. 2. Bellingham: Lexham Press/Acton Institute (one of the volumes of Jordan J. Ballor & Melvin Flikkema (eds.). Abraham Kuyper. Collected works in public theology).

Response: The Hermeneutics of Suffering, Creation Order, and Modern Society


order and toward the broader tradition of systematic thinking that has developed using this notion in the line of Kuyper and especially Dooyeweerd. Coming from this angle, I agree with Zuidervaart that it is not very useful to approach creation order as something given in a particular point of time, a kind of historical “beginning” of cosmic or human history—once upon a time, as a static starting point. I would rather say that creation order has something to do with the depth-structure of existence, as it shows itself right now, in our experience. There is one type of experience that is particularly suggestive in the direction of something such as creation order, which I would like to briefly explore in this context. That is the experience of suffering (and related “negative” emotional responses as anger, indignation, cynicism, even indifference) as we find throughout the world and throughout world history. It is this class of experiences that gives strong empirical or “experiential” indications for the existence of something such as creation ordinances. Suffering can only be understood, it seems to me, as an experienced gap between an experienced goodness, on the one hand, and a sense that exactly that goodness is absent in the present, on the other hand. The critical issue is: how can something be experienced that is not present? How can we experience absence? It can only be experienced as we assume that in our very experience of suffering (or anger or indignation, etc.) the good is somehow hiddenly present. It is presence in the mode of absence. We could also experience something bad as just another experience, on an indiscriminate level of indefinite experiences that come to us—just one after another, without the index “bad” or “good.” It would be equally conceivable that our experience wanders in an endless grey zone, without clair-obscur, in an ultimately indifferent universe. However, that is not how human experience is structured (with the exception of cases where deep psychic problems manifest themselves, as in severe depression, but even then, this is exactly why we call it and experience it as a problem). Our experience is structured in tones and colors. Some things we encounter with joy and surprise; other things we experience in shock, awe, disgust, sadness, remorse, etc.3 The second series can only be understood when we assume that goodness was first. Moreover, goodness is actually first in our experience. The crying baby expects the breast, and immediately knows that when the breast is given things are okay. As it grows up, it expects—assumes—that it has an “ontological right” to live, to be embedded in nurturing relationships, and to be embraced. If this expectation of goodness is met, it will have a very good chance of developing into a reasonably stable and mature adult able to be attached to others and to the world (as psychologist Bowlby would say). However, when this basic embrace is not given, children often will grow up as severely wounded beings— often existentially unable to experience trust, love, and joy in later stages of life (or only after sometimes very time consuming and painful healing processes). Even in 3  Systematically, I could have explored the experiences of joy and surprise and analyze their ontological structure as well, but then it is harder to make the “counterfactual presence,” or a presence that is somehow beyond human construction (though not beyond human interpretation), visible. We usually do not choose the experiences of suffering; it is more like they “hit” us. That is what talking about “creation order” or “given order” is about.


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these distorted processes, we must assume a kind of fundamental awareness that this is not what it matters are supposed to be. Therefore, people experience the “abnormality,” and do not—what could have been possible as well—experience the distorted situation as just another option within an indefinite range of options. Therefore, the experiences of suffering and distortion presuppose the ontological primacy of goodness—which closely mirrors the heart of the Christian confession of creation. In the Christian tradition this ontological primacy of goodness, as I just pointed at, has led to the designation of the manifestation of evil as privatio boni. We suffer when the good that was supposed to be there has gone away, been taken away—or even stronger: has been stolen or destroyed because evil is sometimes a destructive force. However, exactly because of this, the goodness is still there, counterfactually, present in the mode of absence. Therefore, talking about creation order does not have as much to do with a chronological point in time when everything was okay, but with the always and everywhere present structure of suffering. Creation order does not refer to the depth of historical time, but to the depth of the present— the depth-structure of existence in the here and now. In the Christian witness, this viewpoint has another implication as well: where suffering occurs, God is there to share in our suffering. The Cross is also an ontological reality (apart from being an historical event); that is, God participating in our suffering. Additionally, the Resurrection (apart from being an historical event) is a witness to the ultimate victory of goodness over evil, and hence, a second—now eschatological—confirmation of the primacy of goodness. Suffering therefore is an ontological crown-witness for the existence—I would prefer to speak of the presence, or the continuous “presenting”—of something that we may call creation order. For this very reason, suffering is also a hermeneutical highway to receive a glimpse of this creation order. Therefore, it is the highway that reveals itself in the depths of our life experiences. I am not claiming that these experiences of suffering are the only witnesses for something such as creation order, but they certainly are important witnesses. Now the manifestations of suffering are rather similar throughout history, and although there are some cultural variations, at the end of the day it does not make much of a difference whether we live in pre-modern, modern, or so called postmodern times. We can as (post)moderns readily relate to one of the oldest poems in human history—the Egyptian “Dialogue of a Man Who Contemplates Suicide with his Soul,” which was written in 2000 BC! (Of course, in the long chronological history of the hominids as it is now presented to us by biologists, this is like yesterday. Nevertheless, it still is quite old). Just to get a flavor of it, I will quote some verses (the poem is much longer). To whom shall I speak today? Brothers are bad, the friends of today do not love. To whom shall I speak today? Hearts are greedy, everyone robs his neighbor’s goods.

Response: The Hermeneutics of Suffering, Creation Order, and Modern Society


To whom shall I speak today? Kindness has perished, violence rules all.

The poem goes on, pointing to crime, as well as praise for crime instead of punishment, (armed) robbery, plundering, indifference between people instead of mutual assistance, etc. In this dreadful situation, the poet begins to contemplate suicide. Death seems so much more attractive than life. Listen to these verses, for example: Death is in front of my face today, {like} health to the sick, like deliverance from detention. Death is in front of my face today, like a man’s longing to see his home, having spent many years in captivity.

We find a similar list of causes of suffering in Hesiod’s poem Works and Days, 800 years before the Christian Era: disease, disaster, early death, hard work, political turmoil (both the absence of political structures, what we would call failing states as the oppressive presence of political structures, especially global empires), the disruption of intimate relationships, and the injuries that the weaker must suffer at the hands of the stronger. That is a pretty exhaustive list that is as short on paper as it is deep and wide in reality. Moreover, we may, as a further indication, refer to what Nicholas Wolterstorff (2008, 75ff) has called the “quartet of the vulnerable” in the Old Testament—the widow, the orphan, the poor, and the stranger—who can find themselves easily in a position of suffering and of being “wronged” (actually, the list can be found throughout the Semitic cultures, even earlier than the biblical texts). As these lists are remarkably constant throughout history—we “late-moderns” can readily relate to it—we can safely assume that the underlying creation order is remarkably constant throughout history as well. Apparently, people experience injustice as injustice, oppression as oppression, sickness as sickness, as well as joy as joy, depression as depression, etc.4 This seems to be a rather stable group of experiences. Recent cross-cultural research in the physiognomy of facial expressions of emotions also shows a remarkable universality.5 Moreover, if we take Frans de Waal’s research into account, some of these experiences even seem to be present among other higher primates—I mention all this to answer Zuidervaart’s worries about the evolutionary inadequacy of the notion of creation order (although the argument here should be spelled out in much more detail). A certain genetic relationship as well as behavioral and experiential parallels between humans and animals should not surprise Christian believers because they assume one creator of the world who has created both humans and animals. However, the insight that humans and animals are at the same time rather different—in that humans are called forth to 4  See, for example, the report of Richard Layard and Ann Hagel on the global occurrence of mental disorders among youth in the World Happiness Report 2015. The recent developments in happiness research as a whole are very interesting in this respect. 5  See, as an example, the wide-ranging research of Paul Ekman as reported, for example, in Ekman (2003).


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be in special partnership with their creator in a way that animals are not—is perfectly consistent with the existential depth structure of existence that scripture is addressing. This leaves untouched all kind of questions about historical emergence of various species as they are rightly on the agenda of biology (working not in the existential but in the subject-object mode).

 schatological Thinness, “Eschatological Overheating,” E and Our Human Task Zuidervaart seems to have some problems with a “static” world—it is one of his arguments against the notion of creation order. I do not see the problem here. I myself do not particularly mind living in a static world. However, I do note that many people in our modern world get very nervous when things are static. Economists especially become very annoyed when there is no growth. I think philosophers can have a bit more patience and not be too troubled by a static order. Philosophers may realize that things are as they are: if some things are static, we have to accept them as static; if other things are dynamic, we have to accept them as dynamic. The sun rising every day, for probably millions of years by now, is a rather static phenomenon, but there is nothing intrinsically problematic about this. There is not much use in throwing around “likes” and “dislikes” about reality. Therefore, although it seems to be a bit strange for Reformational philosophers (who often claim that nothing is “neutral”) to say so, “static” and “dynamic” seem, to me, to be in themselves entirely neutral indexes of reality. Of course, we then touch on the very complicated issue of how it is possible that something which is “there,” “from the beginning,” or—as I would prefer to say— always in the depth of our experience is not always recognized in history and may even be a late discovery. Let me briefly illustrate this by means of one of the central “discoveries” of Christianity—the concept of agape, love (which in my view is closely related, even at the heart, or perhaps even being the very heart of the notion of creation order).6 The concept is coined for the first time in the Septuagint, as the translation of the Hebrew ahava. In the New Testament, this concept is elevated to the ultimate hermeneutical key to understand reality (“God loves the world”), ultimately God himself (“God is agape”). All kind of “agapeic parallels” are drawn in order to illuminate this (father-children; husband and wife, etc.). Now the question is: is this an historic innovation or an invention of the New Testament writers? Did they discover something that had been the case all along, but had been hermeneutically neglected and not given its due significance in understanding our human condition? Moreover, what then is the role of revelation and Scripture in this process? Just very briefly: I would venture the hypothesis that agape has been p­ resent all 6  For a broader elaboration, see my inaugural lecture (not yet available in English): Publieke liefde. Agape als bron voor maatschappelijke vernieuwing in tijden van crisis. Amsterdam: VU-University 2012.

Response: The Hermeneutics of Suffering, Creation Order, and Modern Society


along in our existence (a rather static phenomenon—happily so, I would say), but that it is revelation that makes us “see” what is there and attaches ultimate significance and meaning to it. Mothers most probably did love their children well before the ultimacy of agape was articulated, and yet, that this experience is indeed our guide for understanding the depth of reality was not known. In a short formula: the biblical, creational drama is ontologically and “creationally” informed by agape; however, our understanding of agape is epistemologically informed by the biblical drama. Therefore, yes, agape is an historical “innovation” (in the order of knowledge), but at the same time, it was always there (in the order of being), in the depth-­ structure of reality. The interpretation of these notions of creation order (and the closely related notion of agape) as I present this here, places them in the rubric of what Jean Luc Marion has coined as phénomènes saturés—saturated phenomena. Marion uses this term to point to phenomena (and concepts) that are so full of meaning that their meaning as given in intuition exceeds human intentionality. Therefore, they can never be discursively exhausted and always produce (or better, call for and call forth) new shades of meaning and new directions of interpretation, in an often surprising and thus discontinuous continuity (Marion 2002). One can think of the Crucifixion or an icon in the Eastern-Orthodox tradition, the human face, or any face. Saturated phenomena are constantly puzzling, disturbing, escaping—and yet: giving. They therefore require (or make unavoidable) “endless hermeneutics”. My interpretation of creation order has some ethical implications: when goodness is ontologically present in the world, and yet is often suppressed and covered by evil that results in suffering, it is our task to call upon this hidden goodness, similar to a midwife perhaps—or better as a physician, trying to conquer disease, but not being able to create (out of nothing, ex nihilo) health. It is already very worthwhile, in that we can push back the evil a bit, and are able to uncover the underlying goodness, alleviate suffering, and so assist in making human flourishing possible (again). Given this approach, I wonder whether I share Zuidervaart’s criticism about the “eschatological thinness” of the notion of creation order. I rather would say that this is something to be appreciated, especially in politics and society. The world has suffered immensely from utopian projects that aimed at creating a totally new future. Eschatology may easily become too thick because in an eschatological perspective every existing present will always fall short. The future is even inexpressible. If we apply that to the existing order in which we concretely live, there is not really much to say in favor of it. We may end up then with an almost Gnostic “Sehnsucht nach dem ganz Anderen” as Max Horkheimer expressed this at the end of his life in the famous Spiegel interview. Over against this possibility of eschatological “overheating” (and its destructive tendencies), it may be wise to recall a saying of Karl Popper: “The attempt to make heaven on earth invariably produces hell”.7 Or in the words of contemporary economist McCloskey: there is the danger that an impossible best is made into the enemy of an actual good. In both quotes, one can easily 7  Franz Stark (ed. 1971), Herbert Marcuse/Karl Popper. Sociale revolutie/sociale hervorming. Een confrontatie.Baarn (NL): Wereldvenster, 5.


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hear an echo of Augustine’s warning that in the present dispensation the civitas Dei and the civitas terrena can, at best, only partially and temporarily meet each other. In my view, a critique of creation ordinances in the Kuyperian tradition would not need to target a lack of eschatology, but rather, would need to object against too much eschatology, as if a pure, pristine creation can be restored—“creation regained”, in hoc saeculo—in the present dispensation. It seems to me that in the present time, in this ordo temporalis, we have to acknowledge the actual and remaining presence of evil. It seems wise to stick to the created, yet fallen world, in which goodness is present, but often, to use Pauline phrases, “suppressed” and “substituted.” In this world we have to critically and very specifically analyze what the exact mixture of good and evil is in this specific situation, contextual and concrete. The “Sehnsucht nach dem Ganz Anderen,” which we all share as Christian believers, should not guide us too much in our present condition. Rather, it is the concrete experience of suffering that we should focus on, and then get involved in, in the hope of Resurrection and renewal in efforts to enhance shalom. The key question then becomes: do we make the right distinctions; do we discriminate well enough between good and evil—between what frustrates human flourishing, and what enhances human flourishing? How then can we push back, a little, the evil while not doing away with the relative good?

Macrostructures? That brings me to my next point which is much briefer, but very much related. Is Zuidervaart’s key analytical term, macrostructure, helpful in discriminating between good and evil in contemporary society? Or is the term perhaps too massive, monolithic, and not contextual and differentiated enough? The term is part of a larger “triaxial model” for analyzing modern societies that draws attention to “levels,” “macrostructures,” and “societal principles.” Zuidervaart lists the macrostructures but does not define them, at least not in this paper. He only gives a further distinction between systemic and informal macrostructures, the “proprietary economy” and the “administrative state” as operationally self-contained systems, civil society as a “diffuse array of organizations, institutions and social movements” that remain tied to cultural practices and interpersonal relations, and hence allow for communicative interaction among the participants. In the context in which Zuidervaart proposes this, it should be judged by comparing it to the insights offered by Reformational philosophy as articulated by Kuyper and Dooyeweerd, which it is supposed to improve. In their framework there are more spheres (at least nine, I would say: family, religious organizations, economy, politics, the judicial sphere, the sphere of art, the sphere of education, the sphere of science, and the sphere of the media), none of which are singled out as in principle more important than the other. All may have a tendency to lose or even pervert their own internal normativity as well as extending and transgressing their boundaries and intrude in other spheres. For this reason, the state may have a somewhat special

Response: The Hermeneutics of Suffering, Creation Order, and Modern Society


normative role as “referee” to deal with these transgressions and even, with much caution, with the internal failure of spheres—for example, when individuals are hurt within a sphere (in the third of his 1898 Stone Lectures, the one on “Calvinism and politics,” Kuyper therefore talks about the “sphere-sovereignty of the individual person” that has to be respected within each sphere).8 To be honest, I do not yet see how singling out two of these as “systemic macrostructures” and all the others as one “macrostructure of informality” would help us very much. Of course, I see the immense role that the proprietary economy plays in contemporary society. The same holds for the administrative state. However, in itself, being “macro,” or for that matter being “system,” is a-normative. Zuidervaart acknowledges this. However, what exactly is then the gain when one speaks about the state and the market in terms of “macro” and “systemic” structures? And what about the media? Does the immense role they now play in the ordinary life of all of us in this world earn the media the role of “macrostructure” or not? People now often become symbiotically connected to media, screens, images, unidentified “networks” via social media such as Twitter and Instagram, making “selfies,” and blogging and vlogging. The influence of these new ways of constructing and hiding identities—in many cases not internally regulated by any idea of truth in the production of reality, especially in politics—is immense. Of course, one could say that the media are very much part of the system of the proprietary economy. However, this is only partially the case and may well miss the point. Islamic terrorism is an immense force in our contemporary society only by virtue of the media (even the most spectacular attack, 9/11, killed no more than about one-­quarter of the number of people killed annually through private gun violence in the US, which only creates a small media outrage in the relatively rare cases of “mass killings” at schools, etc. that account for only 1% of this total). However, one can hardly say that this is part of the “proprietary economy.” Is it “civil society” then— the sphere of communication? Is “terror” communication or is sleaze and slander? I feel the urge to elevate the media into a fourth “macrostructure,” especially when one also considers the immense symbolic power of “transparency” (as one might become aware of by reading Dave Eggers’ novel The Circle). Moreover, what about the church(es) and religious players? The Catholic Church with its about one billion members, and the way in which it was instrumental in overthrowing communism and other dictatorships since the late 1970s (the pontificate of John Paul II) especially deserves the name “macrostructure,” it seems to me. Or not? Why does it; why not? It certainly can “colonize” other spheres, if that is a criterium, as the example of the Catholic resistance to HIV/Aids prevention shows. Moreover, I didn’t even mention Islam in this respect.

8  For the undue intrusion of one sphere into another, one could well use the very telling phrase of Habermas: colonization. However, in Habermas’ framework this almost inevitably evokes the image of an a-normative “systems world” intruding into a normative “life-world,” whereas in the Reformational-philosophical account this concerns one normative sphere intruding into another normative sphere and with that very act becoming (partly) a-normative.


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Thus far, in my view, the term macrostructures does not constitute a major leap forward in understanding our world. Does it perhaps even throw us back a bit? Let us pause for a moment to look at the term administrative state. Zuidervaart, in fact, follows Dooyeweerd as well as Habermas here by not distinguishing two spheres (or perhaps sub-spheres, or sub-structures) that I would very much like to distinguish here: the judicial sphere and the sphere of politics. The emergence, or better, creation of an independent judicial sphere is one of the greatest achievements of civilization. This should be sharply distinguished (and in the better constitutions that have been produced over the last centuries this is carefully done) from the sphere of what I would call the political-administrative state. Therefore, I would call for more differentiation than even Dooyeweerd tends to give, and not less, in an overarching macro-structure. Moreover, the very generic term administrative state may also too easily equate authoritarian and dictatorial states and democratic rule-of-law states. Both are part of the “administrative state macrostructure,” it seems to me. There is a tendency in contemporary continental philosophy to blur this distinction as, for example in Foucault’s view, all states are disciplinary power structures anyway, almost indiscriminately. One cannot be cautious enough here. There is a huge difference, at least I would think so, between an administrative state that treats each citizen equally, according to the rule of law—in spite of all the red tape this may take sometimes— and a dictatorship or totalitarian state, in which the basic human rights of citizens are violated or at least not guaranteed. Moreover, I do not even need to mention the equally bad situation of having no functioning state at all—the dreadful condition of “failing states”. Our philosophical language and systematics should reflect these essential distinctions, not blur them. Therefore, in conclusion, I do not have the feeling that the term macrostructures, as (not defined, but) indicated by Zuidervaart is a substantial advance over the theory of differentiated spheres, with their manifold possibilities of internal distortions and external transgressions of boundaries. However, what I do buy from Zuidervaart is a much stronger emphasis on these real possibilities of distortion, and hence the call for a much more critical elaboration of the theory of differentiated spheres. I wholly concur with the gist of his “rapprochement” between Reformational thinking and critical theory. Reformational thinking is not out there to justify the status quo, but to critically investigate where the status quo contributes to human flourishing and especially where it hampers human flourishing and inflicts suffering—on humans, peoples, relations, or nature.

 he Guiding Ethos: Societal Principles and Differential T Transformation For me the heart of Zuidervaart’s essay lies in the sections on “societal principles” and “justice, resourcefulness, and solidarity,” and what he calls the “nexus of faithful disclosure” that comes to a climax in the idea of “differential transformation.”

Response: The Hermeneutics of Suffering, Creation Order, and Modern Society


Although, on a slightly different basis (see above), I wholeheartedly concur with a great deal of what he has to say here, especially about the “hermeneutically textured” and also the “historically emergent” and “eschatological open” character of these principles, that address us now in the present. His reflections on the interconnectedness of the three principles and the ways in which various actors in the contemporary world obstruct their implementation is intellectually insightful and politically right on the mark. Here a critically informed visionary speaks out. I have three final comments. My first observation concerns the evaluation of the present condition. In the notion of creation order as I have tried to interpret it, the good is always present in the depth-structure of existence. Distortions at the surface are therefore parasitic on some deeper principle that is violated but that one still can and must appeal to— empirically and experientially, not as an external principle. In Zuidervaart’s view, when we see—for example, in the sphere of economics c.q. the proprietary economy—some instances of normative behavior, it almost comes as an anomaly, as a surprise (probably due to the somewhat massive character that he gives his systemic macrostructures). However, what he calls the “social economy” therefore is, for me, close to the heart of what economy is all about: resourceful cooperation between people to facilitate human flourishing. Moreover, when we look closely, we see an awful lot of that in our economies. It may even be the secret of “success.” As it turns out, “social virtues” much better explain the working of a reasonably well-­ functioning economy than theories that take their bearings from the homo economicus.9 In this way, perhaps a fruitful dialogue can start with the science of economics, as well as with companies and business people about the inherent moral character of markets, which they are supposed to heed in their action, but which so often is suppressed. Moreover, even at a macro-level we see very strange manifestations of justice, where we expect it the least, and even where this does not seem to play any role in the apparent motivations of the actors. Once we had a student from India in Amsterdam. The very first thing he said to me, right at the airport where I picked him up, was “Thank you so much for all the jobs we are getting from you!” At the same time, in the Netherlands, we had only labor unions complaining about the “loss of jobs.” There I was, dreaming of a large-scale global redistribution of wealth to be brought about by an almost revolutionary concerted international government action—and here it was happening right before our eyes. In three decades the world has become more just, not thanks to “development cooperation” that regrettably has been rather marginal, but thanks to the globalized markets. There is still an immense way to go, but we should be open to counting our blessings as well. My second comment refers to the thorny question as to where people can learn the content and relevance of the societal principles that Zuidervaart tries to invoke. Zuidervaart does not discuss this issue, so I bring it up here as a necessary complement. Where do people learn what justice is, why it makes sense to be “resourceful,” 9  Cf. the older work of Fukuyama (1995) as well as the recent trilogy of Deirdre McCloskey (2006– 2016) on The bourgeois era.


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or to act on the basis of solidarity? That is not automatically in civil society or in the “civil sector,” nor automatically in the Habermassian “public sphere,” as Zuidervaart himself points out as well. Moreover, it is also not automatically in communities such as families, neighborhoods, churches, or villages—as is assumed by the so called “communitarians.” To think this can easily bring in a false romanticism. That is not only because civil society is focusing too much on charity and identity, as Zuidervaart rightly is worried about, but also because civil society also can be as much the carrier of evil forces as can the state or the market. Civil society can be the scene of hate-movements, of what John Keane has called “uncivil society”. This is all to say that, ultimately, there are no structural solutions for directional problems. There are, in the words of T.S. Eliot, no “systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.” However, then the question of how these societal principles can become part of our moral framework again becomes acute. I think we cannot circumvent the observation that, to a great extent, we learn morality from inspiring others. Structures do not teach us how to live; others do— significant others who have walked a path before us, and we follow their footsteps— in our own context and our own present. Every now and then in history there are these highly remarkable figures, as strange gifts to mankind, who tread new paths. Karl Jaspers talked about this when he was referring to the “Axial Age.” Arnold Toynbee talked about it when he spoke about the historic role of creative minorities. Ultimately, it is, for ordinary human beings, a matter of who you are following— of imitatio. However, then you need a community of fellow-followers. Therefore, there is an intrinsic quarternarian chain here of inspiration, embodiment, imitation, and communion or even a pentagonal chain, as we add “reflection” to it, and even a hexagonal structure if we add repentance/renewal. I do not need to argue at length here that the Christian tradition has understood this structure of morality and moral growth in a very deep way, as it gives a central place to the imitation Christi as well as to philosophical reflection in the universities to formulate balanced judgments. One final comment—Zuidervaart criticizes the overabundance of charity in civil society. There are too many Good Samaritans out there who focus on isolated cases. I agree with that—with some qualification. It is all highly contextual. There are situations in which being a good Samaritan is the only thing you can do, or is the immediate thing you have to do. However, when the Samaritan becomes a commuter between Jerusalem and Jericho—traveling there every morning on his donkey, and every morning is loading a slain victim and bringing it to the shelter house—then he becomes a bad Samaritan, especially when he lives in something like a democracy or in at least a somewhat responsive state. He should then go to the mayor of Jerusalem and the mayor of Jericho and address the issue of violence and safety in the area. Rather, he may get involved in politics himself. If he does so, he is not giving up his being a good Samaritan, nor would I say he is becoming a better Samaritan. He is just giving the best contextual answer to the same basic question: what can I do concretely about the suffering that I encounter? These answers vary, from a Samaritan’s donkey to Kuyper’s or Zuidervaart’s architectonic critique. However, they all are still a response to the same basic question: Adam, where are you?

Response: The Hermeneutics of Suffering, Creation Order, and Modern Society


References Ekman, P. 2003. Emotions revealed. Recognizing faces and feelings to improve communication and emotional life. New York: Henry Holt & Co. Fukuyama, F. 1995. Trust. The social virtues and the creation of prosperity. New York: Free Press. Layard, R., and A. Hagel. 2015. Healthy young minds: Transforming the mental health of children. In World happiness report 2015, 106–130. New York: UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. Marion, J.-L. 2002. In excess. Studies of saturated phenomena. Trans. Robyn Horder and Vincent Berraud. New York: Fordham University Press. McCloskey, Deirdre. 2006–2016. The bourgeois era. (3 vols.: The Bourgeois virtues, Bourgeois dignity and Bourgeois equality), Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Wolterstorff, N. 2008. Justice. Rights and Wrongs. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Part II

Normative Practices

Covenantal Ethics for Health Care Alternative to Principles-Based Ethics and Convergence with Normative Practices James J. Rusthoven

Abstract  Biomedical ethics has been dominated by principles-based ethics (PBE). PBE focuses on the process of moral problem-solving by rational consensus but suffers from minimal ethical content and inattentiveness to relational aspects that constitute the core of medical care. Grounded in a Reformational philosophical view of the created order, the Normative Reflective Practitioner (NRP) model acknowledges constitutive (structural and aspectual) as well as regulative (directional) dimensions of medical practice. Medical practice is qualified by the ethical principle of care for relational activities in medicine, which are most meaningfully expressed within a biblical covenantal ethical framework (CEF). CEF helps to transform the disparity in knowledge and power between caregiver and patient toward a covenantal disposition of caring for the vulnerable and needy. This model acknowledges creationally ordered individuality structures of medical practice, provides dynamic and normative direction to changes in the expression of those structures, and maintains focus on patient needs in light of techno-formative advances. Both the NRP model and the CEF help to reinterpret the principle of beneficence within medicine as the ethical core aspect of all medical encounters, providing overarching moral force for maintaining relational cohesion in patient care. Keywords  Covenantal ethical framework · Principles-based ethics · Care ­principle · Dooyeweerd · Social philosophy · Normative reflective practitioner

Introduction Biomedical ethics is a discipline whose contemporary form has historically developed through the input of contributors from other disciplines. Once the domain of theologians, in recent times biomedical ethics has been altered and often enriched by formative ethicists from disciplines as diverse as philosophy, anthropology, J. J. Rusthoven (*) Department of Oncology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



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sociology, and medicine. As a disciplinary interface of such diverse areas of academic and practical endeavor, biomedical ethics has changed in its expression and conceptual framework. For several centuries, ethics in European culture was the domain of theological language and content, expressing views and positions grounded in the Jewish or Christian scriptures. Since the Enlightenment, and particularly in the last 50 years, biomedical ethics has been transformed in response to societal concerns over the impact of new biotechnologies on society, the world, and the larger cosmos. Contemporary biomedical ethics has developed linguistically and conceptually into a discipline that seeks to accommodate and avoid offense. Such accommodation has often been pursued at the conscious exclusion of past and contemporary religious traditions. Biomedical ethics also reflects the historical divergence of linguistic and conceptual developments among these disciplines since the Enlightenment wherein a variety of worldviews and philosophical perspectives vie for dominance. The influence of such perspectives among the contributing disciplines has added to the difficulties in sharing bioethical views and in developing content-rich bioethical concepts and positions. In response to these developments, the dominant theoretical and operative paradigm in biomedical ethics has become principles-based ethics. This ethical framework has been most fully developed and promoted by Tom Beauchamp and James Childress in Principles of Biomedical Ethics. This framework distills biomedical ethics into basic, universally agreed upon principles that can be practically applied to the full breath of situations that arise for ethical consideration. However, such a practical framework has been extensively criticized for its emphasis on deliberative process at the expense of moral content. This has been attributed, at least in part, to a conscious or unconscious effort to ignore or significantly alter basic beliefs among those participating in bioethical discourse and decision making for the sake of decisional consensus. Ethical principles have been acknowledged by many to be useful aids or reminders to include several basic ethical concepts during bioethical reflection. Unfortunately, there have been relatively few efforts to recontextualize these ethical principles in an ethical framework that gives focused attention to the relational nature of medicine and its practice. Given this backdrop, and out of concern for the directional and structural inadequacies of principles-based ethics, an alternative covenantal ethic framework linked to a Christian social philosophy of medical practice will be presented in several ways. Firstly, following a brief historical review of the current state of biomedical ethics, an analysis of the influence of modernist and postmodern worldviews on various aspects of principles-based ethics will be provided. Secondly, the importance of a unifying philosophical view of the discipline within the cosmic order will be promoted. Particular attention will be paid to incorporating insights of Christian social philosophy into medical practice as articulated in the Normative Reflective Practitioner (NRP) model developed by Henk Jochemsem (2006), Gerrit Glas (2006), and others in the Netherlands. Thirdly, a covenantal ethic will be explored as an alternative to a principles-based ethical framework. Rationale will be provided for its adoption as a complement to the NRP model, both as a philosophical ethic and as a reflection of the ethical modality inherent in the Christian philosophical

Covenantal Ethics for Health Care


framework of the NRP model. Finally, examples will be provided to show the breadth of applications of such a model for medical practice and biomedical ethics. In this way, two fundamental dimensions of creation order regarding medicine and its relational nature will be addressed. Medical relationships have relational norms that can be understood in light of Christian social philosophy as developed previously by Herman Dooyeweerd and more recently refined by Jonathan Chaplin. These norms must be conceptually flexible according to the differentiation of practice expertise and function necessitated by the growth of medical knowledge in the historical unfolding of the practice of medical care. Furthermore, it will be argued that covenantal promise and obligations are a second dimension also inherently normative for medical relationships through the creational covenant established between God and humankind.

A Brief History of Principles-Based Ethics Ethics has been a distinct part of medical practice since ancient times. The classical Hippocratic Oath, possibly originating around the fourth century B.C., is the best known document of the Greek medical tradition. Its composition has both covenantal and codal elements (Edelstein 1967, 4–20). Evidence suggests that its contents reflect considerable Pythagorean influence, perhaps as a statement of reform for medical practice of the day (Edelstein 1967, 38–48). The Oath has been altered over the centuries and adapted to Christian, Islamic, and secular medical contexts (Jones 1924, 22–27). In recent times, new graduates of medical schools pledge adherence to ethical conduct in their future practices using modified versions of the Oath. However, contemporary variants of the Oath reflect contemporary worldviews that often omit overt references to transcendent authorities and implicitly adhere to a concept of moral truth that is relativistic and more codal than covenantal in nature (Orr et al. 1997, 374–385).1 When Christianity arose within pagan culture, Christians often responded to the needs of their neighbors with compassion not common to that culture. For example, there are recorded incidents of caring for others during outbreaks of the plague. Such expressions of risk-taking for the sake of one’s neighbors were seldom practiced in pagan society wherein self-preservation generally took precedent (Ferngren 2009, 96–98). Even as early as the late first century, handbooks of distilled Christian teaching such as the Didache taught the protection of the unborn and infants (Ferngren 2009, 101).2 By the thirteenth century, ethics was becoming integrated into the discipline of rhetoric in the new universities across Europe, often through a 1  References to the Greek deities or the Judeo-Christian God are often omitted and references to perceived morally negative behaviors are retained in codal form. 2  Also known as the “Teachings of the Twelve Apostles”, the Didache (Greek for “teaching”) speaks of the fetus as the molded image of God.


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merger of the ethical teachings of the Stoics, of the newly re-discovered ethics of Aristotle, and of the Church as the interpreter of Scripture (Jonsen and Toulmin 1988, 123–124, 130). The Roman Catholic scholastic concept of natural law developed during this time, also heavily influenced by the Stoics as well as by the writings of Cicero and the Roman jurists under Justinian. Theologians taught that moral discernment and judgments were derived from norms, basic principles, and axioms of natural law while canon lawyers conceived of natural law as the capacity for judgment. However, the relationship between such principles, specific moral rules, and the capacity to make judgments was often unclear among theologians and lawyers alike (Porter 1999, 68–69, 90–91). Thomas Aquinas tried to synthesize and contextualize these concepts within biblical teachings. For Aquinas, the command to love God and ones neighbor in the Summary of the Law was a self-evident principle of natural law, knowable by all human persons through rational reflection. While all creatures participate in God’s law through general processes, only human beings follow natural law rationally and virtuously (Porter 1999, 92–93, 163–164). At the same time, casuistry developed as a perceived extension of Jesus’s ethical teachings wherein he reinterpreted familiar rules and laws that taught moral behavior beyond the letter of the law. Addressing specific situations often required reflection on prior practices and teachings for the purpose of reinterpreting those situations in that context (Jonsen and Toulmin 1988, 91–95). Wrestling with the concept of moral certitude, a blend of conscience– directed, prudentially contextualized natural law with casuistic thinking became mainstream moral teaching of the Church (Jonsen and Toulmin 1988, 127–136, 164–175). This teaching was detached from its transcendent grounding during the Enlightenment and reduced to a secularized casuistry. Contemporary principles-­ based ethics has postmodern elements stressing acceptance of moral truth as individual rights and preferences while a persistent modernist thread finds moral authority in a common morality of minimal moral content (Beauchamp and Childress 2001).

The Dominant Paradigm in Biomedical Ethics Under the influence of Enlightenment thinking, faith in God the Creator and Redeemer as the moral grounding and authority of ethics was replaced by faith in the capacity of the human faculty of reason to resolve moral problems. Self-evident, immutable moral principles of natural law were no longer considered revealed and apprehended by general or special revelation from God. Over time, moral principles have become moral guides that are intuitively derived from a common morality on which all seriously moral persons can agree. Such claimed self-evidency often marginalizes moral positions offered by religious citizens who profess moral grounding in the Word of God. In rebuttal, Alvin Plantinga (1983, 48, 55–58, 64, 78–82) has argued that properly basic beliefs such as the belief in God do not require proof of self-evidency, propositional proofs, or sensory-mediated evidence. Rather, such

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beliefs can be justified through empirically perceived circumstances on their own epistemic merit. In her critique of the foundationalist search for absolute certainty, Sissela Bok (1995, 69–80) proposes the concept of moral grounding derived from a search for common moral ground through dialogue, debate, and iterative accommodation of moral positions. Like Beauchamp and Childress, for Bok the goal of morality is survival through the identification of minimal, basic moral values. As for the method of casuistry developed by the medieval Church, it was transformed into a process by which particular situations could be assessed and compared with previous, similar situations. Whereas casuistry initially was developed to find truth based on scriptural teaching, contemporary casuistry has become a means to tease out the truth contingent on each situation. Each moral participant can now claim a position of valid moral truth without requiring transcendent justification. Thus, moral truth has become secularized and relativized under the influence of the postmodern worldview that is disillusioned with modernism. However, the search for minimal truth continues for the sake of human peace and survival. Richard Rorty has expressed this idea well. Rather than belief in a power beyond our temporal experience, Rorty believes in truth resulting from group efforts to reach moral consensus, pinning eschatological hope on an eventual social utopia within a global democratic and tolerant human community. His coherentist anti-realism contrasts with the realist approach of Nicholas Wolterstorff wherein moral truth is realized through God’s revelation in creation and in scripture (Louthan 1996, 179–183). Principles-based biomedical ethics arose out of these historical changes and worldviews that developed through the middle of the twentieth century. In 1974, the Belmont Commission was constituted by the United States Congress following startling revelations of ethically dubious or outright unethical behavior involving human subjects engaged in clinical research (Beecher 1966). Made up of physicians, medical researchers, lawyers, an ethicist, and an at-large member of the public, the commission was mandated to identify ethical principles that could guide the behavior and actions of clinical investigators engaging in research involving human subjects (Jonsen 1998, 99, 100). After 4  years and multiple consultations from formative bioethical leaders of the day, the commission’s report identified and articulated three principles: “respect for persons,” “beneficence,” and “justice.” By their definitions, respect for persons includes respect for autonomous choice and protection of those with diminished autonomy. According to former commissioner Albert Jonsen, these principles were meant to serve as rational justification for decisions and policies (Jonsen 1998, 103). Among the numerous consultants solicited by the commission, seven were asked to define and distinguish basic ethical principles relating to research involving human subjects. Of these, Alasdair MacIntyre, Tom Beauchamp, and H. Tristram Engelhardt, Jr. became the most influential contributors in the final distillation of basic principles in the commission’s final report. Alasdair MacIntyre (1978) writes that the classical notion of society as a community professing shared goods has been replaced by a moral pluralism that puts autonomy of the individual in the forefront. Moral fragmentation has spawned small communities, each with their own shared goods, and each supporting their own professionals that are trained to pursue those


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goods. However, in society at large, the rights of individuals have largely replaced the trust in those professionally empowered to exercise goods. The concept of individual rights has become a negative and minimalist notion of personal moral preferences in contemporary society in an effort to fill the moral gaps left by such moral fragmentation. As a result, individuals in our society relate as strangers to strangers, lacking a societal sense of virtues and goods. MacIntyre notes how these societal perceptions of morality are reflected in contemporary views of the basic character of professions. One rival concept of the character of a profession stresses a right of professional autonomy to determine its own standards for practice. An alternative, more classical concept begins with the identification of particular societal goods that typify the telos of such professions, the pursuit of which is entrusted to particular citizens. In contemporary society, argues MacIntyre, professional autonomy has dominated in the face of moral plurality, professional standards have lost their connection with more general societal beliefs, and professions claim the right to declare what is ethical or unethical for their members. In this setting, any attempt at conceptual reconstruction of the meaning of morality and ethics would be construed as morally partisan. In his essay, Beauchamp (1978) focuses on distributive justice and the need for moral standards of fairness for just distribution of resources that adjudicate conflicting moral claims and principles. He avoids committing to any one “right” theory of justice, seeking rather to develop an ethical process framework that could apply to any preferred ethical theory. Engelhardt (1978) proposes specific ethical principles for human research, these being mutual respect, supporting the best interests of research subjects, and maximizing societal benefits of human research. Acknowledging societal diversity of values resulting in disputes over rights and duties, Engelhardt finds the pursuit of basic ethical principles as the best attempt to map out territory for rights and values. In later writings, this is presented as a necessary, but a morally hollow one, for the functioning of a fragmented, pluralistic society. Of the stated principles in the commission’s final report, known as the Belmont Report, respect for persons and beneficence seem most influenced by Engelhardt’s contribution, while justice is heavily influenced by Beauchamp. A year following publication of the report, the first edition of the Principles of Biomedical Ethics appeared (Beauchamp and Childress 1979). Its authors, and commission consultants, Tom Beauchamp and James Childress, add a fourth distinct principle of nonmaleficence, and expand the applications of these principles to the broad spectrum of issues within the discipline of medicine. They claim moral grounding for their ethical framework in the notion of a common morality (Beauchamp and Childress 2001, 402, 352). Such a morality is claimed to be free of traditional sources of moral authority such as religious belief and natural law. Its moral authority rests in consensus achieved by rational reflection. When reflective moral equilibrium is achieved, all levels of moral belief remain revisable over time based on the contingencies of changing societal and cultural norms. Beauchamp and Childress also acknowledge private moralities, defined by moral communities with their distinctive moral goods and beliefs. However, private moralities must not interfere with moral claims of the common morality, nor should

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they be given the opportunity to determine public policy. What Beauchamp and Childress do not acknowledge is that their common morality is also a private morality. Their principles draw moral justification and authority from human consensus of moral opinions based on iterative, rational dialogue. It is from rationality itself that moral justification and authority is derived. From a Christian perspective, such an approach to moral decision-making ignores moral authority and justification derived from God as the Creator of the cosmos, including teaching of God-glorifying moral conduct. Here lies in my opinion the fallacy of moral justification and authority claimed by the principles-based ethical framework.

 Christian Critique of the Theoretical Roots of Principles-­ A Based Ethics The principles-based ethical framework of Beauchamp and Childress is drawn from theories of common morality laid down by predecessors W. D. Ross and William Frankena, as well as from the political theory of John Rawls. Ross considers principles to be the product of intuitive inductions implied in previous moral judgments. Awareness of such principles constitutes knowledge, not just opinion. When obligations conflict and judgments need to be weighed and balanced, the situation must be reflected upon until a considered opinion is reached (Ross 1930, 1939). Frankena draws much of his ethical framework from Hume, particularly his concepts of beneficence and justice. Morality is seen as a sentiment derived from reasoning, comparing, examining, and discriminating. He sees practical rationality as beyond the caring of morality, respecting reason for its ideals of consistency and integrity. Reason determines no preferences and holds beliefs as matters of facts or relations of ideas. Frankena (1973, 47ff) distinguishes levels of beneficence which include nonmaleficence but these levels are expressed as moral obligations rather than degrees for sacrificial giving. According to this framework, all moral theories and perspectives have equal validity, a notion with postmodern overtones. However, each perspective has elements that can be co-opted into the common morality. Iterative rational deliberation thus leads to moral consensus, an outcome that they claim embodies a universal, modernist character. This ethical framework can be understood as an expression of the philosophy of Jürgen Habermas. In his model of communicative interaction, moral decisions are rooted in the “universality of an uncoerced consensus achieved through deliberation between free and equal individuals” (Habermas 1985; Dallmayr 1997, 65). However, this communicative interaction resembles a contractual construct of mutual agreement toward intersubjective understanding and consensus in the Hobbesian tradition (Dallmayr 1997, 65–68, 84). Their moral standards have transcendent status only by virtue of their openness to critique and revision that has moral grounding in reason. Habermas’ modernist hope is that competing ­worldviews will eventually become obsolete and the unfinished project of modernity will be


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finally fulfilled. At that time, Kant’s enlightened consensus (sensus communis) will be realized in a purified form and will dominate moral thinking (Norris 2000, 8, 135). Lifeworlds will be replaced by formal structures of conscious-rational designs including universal principles of ethics (Dallmayr 1997, 87). Criticism of principles-based ethics came quickly after the publication of the first edition of Principles of Biomedical Ethics and has been wide-ranging over the subsequent three decades. Also known as principlism, a term coined by Clouser and Gert (1990, 220), this ethical framework provides a common language for bioethical dialogue but lacks robust moral content. For them as well as for others, biomedical ethics had been loosed of fundamental moral beliefs for the sake of consensus by which moral problems are solved and public policy is formulated. The principle of autonomy has become the dominant principle—in large part—because focus on individual preferences avoids judgments about moral justification (Jonsen 1998, 393–401). From the presuppositional backdrop presented above, it can be argued that this dominance of autonomy and the pursuit of universal norms from a common morality are remnants of the individualism promoted by modernity (Mouw 1990, 45–55). At the same time, however, this universality is grounded in the postmodern consensus of subjective expression and persuasion that denies primacy to any specific set of beliefs as truth. The process toward consensus incorporates the Rawlsian pursuit of reflective equilibrium. The latter involves iterative attempts at reflective testing of moral beliefs and theoretical postulates grounded in subjectivist preferences (Daniels 1979, 258; Beauchamp and Childress 2001, 398; Rawls 1971, 20ff, 46–50, 579–80). According to Beauchamp and Childress, the common morality is the product of human experience and history, yet it paradoxically transcends both culture and individuals (Beauchamp and Childress 2009, 3–5). As this process-driven ethical framework has become incorporated into medical school teaching, physicians, previously in a similar social class to many of their patients, have become more socially upper class. With this widening social and economic distance, they have become more relationally isolated and estranged from their patients while armed with increasingly complex technical armamentaria (Jonsen 1998, 336, 382; Rothman 1991, 247, 257). Consequently, physicians and patients have increasingly become moral strangers in a pluralistic society, and the nature of their relationship has become more contractual, leading to increasing mistrust and suspicion of motives and goals. In response to these historical and societal changes, Robert Veatch (1981) criticizes this relational breech and proposes more power to the patient through social contractual arrangements to offset the persistent paternalism of physicians. Edmund Pellegrino addresses this widening relational gap in his direct critique of principlism. He puts forward a Thomist critique wherein he gives credit to its common language that encourages moral engagement, but then recontextualizes its principles, beginning by dethroning autonomy in favor of beneficence (Pellegrino and Thomasma 1996, 117; Pellegrino 1994). For Pellegrino, love is the overarching principle of medicine that forms the core of medical practice, expressed as the principle of care.

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Though not critiquing principlism directly, Protestant ethicist Paul Ramsey introduces the concept of covenant within a claim that true human dignity is an overflow of God’s dealings with humankind, not an attribute inherent to human beings alone. The inherent value of every human being is evident as a unique and unrepeatable opportunity to praise God (Ramsey 1952, 89, 148, 1967, 44; Camenisch 1974, 73, 81). Protestant bioethicist William F. May (1983, 119–120, 128–30, 1996, 7, 68–70) articulates a more comprehensive and systematic covenantal ethic, emphasizing that covenantal human relationships are only truly meaningful when they reflect the divine-human relationship. As theologian Gilbert Meilaender points out, May sees the created world as the stage setting for human relationships. Adopting Karl Barth’s understanding of the relationship between creation and covenant, May sees creation is the external basis of covenant while covenant is the internal basis for creation (Meilaender 1993, 114; Barth 1958). May acknowledges the tempting attraction of principles-oriented approaches for Christians who seek to address moral problems in a larger societal context, particularly Christians in health care policy-making positions. However, he expresses deep concern that such approaches deemphasize the importance of the character and virtuous expression of the moral agent. For May, moral principles are procedural tools that are helpful only in the hands of properly dispositioned caregivers who practice a covenantal ethic (May 1996, 56; Pellegrino and Thomasma 1996; Mount 1999, 141–142). He speaks of closet Christian and Jewish moralists who suppress the resources of their religious convictions in their writings in medical ethics (May 1983, 24–25). This is regrettable because the images of shelter and rescue from suffering, sickness, and death by which caregivers are often portrayed can only become clear in a religious milieu. For May, in contrast to contractual relational models wherein self-interest guides time-limited interactions, covenantal relationships have a “gratuitous, growing edge” that comes from fundamental change in a person’s being in a growing relationship (May 1983, 119–120). Unfortunately, after several decades of criticism, in-depth critiques of principlism coupled to alternative ethical frameworks that address these numerous concerns have remained wanting. Rather than exploring the root beliefs behind principlism, critics have often used their own preferred moral theories and have tried to redeem principlism in light of those theories. As a result, the principles simply seem adaptable to one or more existing moral theories, many of which are anthropocentric in their moral authority. Even critics who provide sound analyses have not probed the presuppositional roots of principlism (Green 1990, 180–90; Brody 1990, 168–73). They have failed to show the need for an alternative ethical framework and seldom articulate their faith tradition from which their critique emerges. As a refreshing exception, Pellegrino proposes his own philosophy of medicine and links it firmly to his Thomist virtue schema. However, his philosophy has been criticized for lacking philosophical rigor and for focusing almost exclusively on the physician-patient relationship at the level of virtuous moral intention and action. In short, Pellegrino’s philosophy provides considerable direction but lacks the recognition and articulation of normative relational structures in medicine.


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Dooyeweerd’s Social Philosophy and the Practice of Medicine In light of the shortcomings of the worldviews and philosophies out of which principles-­based ethics has emerged, the Normative Reflective Practitioner (NRP) model was developed to provide insights into creational structures for professional practice while giving biblical direction that draws from the Reformed Christian tradition. As a specific adaptation of Herman Dooyeweerd’s philosophy, this model seeks to understand normative aspects of medical practice in order to properly approach the ethical problems from within its relational settings. It presupposes that medical relationships are expressed through a limited number of irreducible modal aspects that reflect the reality of the created order (Chaplin 2011, 59; Dooyeweerd 1965, 7, 1969a, b).3 Danie Strauss (2009, 67–103) gives a concise explanation of each of these aspects. Each social structure functions in all of these aspects over time. However, each structure also has a qualifying modal aspect or function that distinguishes one type of social structure from another as well as leads the proper functioning of other modal aspects within that structural type. For medicine, the qualifying aspect functions in the ethical mode, concretely expressed as caring for the needy (Jochemsen 2006, 105). The NRP model rejects the privileged position of secular liberal beliefs of which principlism is an expression. It is grounded in Scripture and acknowledges the sovereignty of relationships within medicine that interrelate through a communicative network (Jochemsen 2006, 101). This model also responds to the abstract and situationalist character of principlism. It identifies its conceptual inadequacies and probes the nature of normative professional medical practice from a Reformed Christian perspective. The constitutive and regulative sides of medical practice reflect structural and directional dimensions, respectively. On the constitutive side, the relational structures of medical practice have historically and culturally opened up in response to techno-formative knowledge about aspects of the created order that are relevant to human need and healing (Chaplin 2011, 75–76, 119; Seerveld 1985, 76 n. 60).4 Dooyeweerd’s exposition of social structures suggests that they are universal and unchanging, though subject to differentiation manifesting as increasingly complex and varied structural diversity in light of directional influences. However, the ontic reality of structural principles remains the same since creation and the functions that such principles take on are normatively linked. Attempts to force other structures to perform such functions may lead to undesirable ethical consequences. Hoogland and Jochemsen (2000, 464) and Jochemsen (2006, 103) address this with the notion 3  These aspects include numerical, spatial, kinetic, physical, biotic, psychic, logical, historical, lingual, social, economic, aesthetic, juridical, ethical, and pistical (or faith) aspects. 4  Seerveld introduces the idea of a techno-formative control or a techno-formative aspect in his attempt to clarify Dooyeweerd”s articulation of the normative opening process. For the former, what Dooyeweerd calls the historical or cultural modal aspect might be better captured as the techno-formative aspect or activity of community expression over time. I use the term here to connote human activity involving the opening of medical knowledge that leads to adjustments in human activity for the sake of improved human care and healing.

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of constitutive rules. These are related to the telos or normative goals of the practice and define the competences and standards of the practice. Their idea of practice goals resonates with MacIntyre’s internal goods of a practice. However, they prefer the term “finality of a practice” to internal goods and distinguish the goals of the practice from those of the individual caregiver. The two can diverge, as in the case of a physician who focuses on making money from the practice at the expense of good patient care. A relatively static understanding of social structural principles within the created order has been challenged by Wolterstorff and Jonathan Chaplin. Wolterstorff (1983, 62–63) is uncomfortable with what he sees as static and invariant structural principles in Dooyeweerd’s social ontology. Functions, he argues, need not be inexorably linked to specific social structures in all time periods. Chaplin, on the other hand, is more concerned with confusion over the exclusive association of certain functions to only specific social structures versus the allowance of additional functions by those same specific structures. He acknowledges that social structures may have structural principles that are universal over time and in various circumstances. While he gives the state and its administration of justice as an example, such universal functional linkage to structural distinctiveness would apply to other social structures as well (Chaplin 2011, 98–100). Unless identified with a qualifying or defining function, certain structures fail to express their distinctive creational identity. However, Chaplin concedes that room must be left for variation in function and perhaps in the structural principles to which they are linked in order to accommodate historical circumstances. Such “unfolding of normative possibilities,” as Chaplin calls it, reflects “the unveiling of already existing normative potentials” as historical disclosure of the existing created order (Chaplin 2011, 101). Rather than dismissing Dooyeweerd’s structural distinctions and his purpose for such distinctions (which was to resist the claims of relativism of his day), Chaplin suggests focusing on a normative understanding of relational differentiation as contributing to human flourishing. As applied to medicine, this perspective of relational structures gives a more dynamic and unfolding character to relational differentiation while maintaining the root integrity of relationships within medical practice (Chaplin 2011, 140–44, 176–80). It draws more focused attention to philosophical ethics by way of a Christian anthropology that sees human beings as act-structures through which human action is mediated. In Dooyeweerd’s words: “It is this very structure which makes the human body the field of free expression for the human spirit, i.e. for the religious centre of human existence.” (Dooyeweerd 1969b, 88). This dynamic can also be seen in Andreas Troost’s praxeology, the science of the human activity of practice (Troost 1993, 232, 236). Its character is reminiscent of Dooyeweerd’s description of the supratemporal heart or soul as the dynamic source of all human activity and the presupposition of all human conceptualization. The unity of human existence is only properly understood in terms of such religious dynamism. This is an anthropological presupposition wherein the human person points beyond itself toward God as Creator (Glas 2010, 160–161).


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The spirit of Chaplin’s correction is understandable. Indeed, this dynamic character of religious self-knowledge is linked to the distinctiveness of human beings as image-bearers of God. By virtue of this special status, humans respond responsibly to God. In their relation to God and neighbor, humans deepen their ontic destination (Glas 2010, 170–173). However, the historical association of human flourishing with the eugenics movement of the early twentieth century and the quest for competitive qualitative human perfection through genetic selection detracts from a Christian concept of normative flourishing. Its lack of overt connotation as God-­glorifying service begs an alternative terminological corrective, an example of which might be the pursuit of fully meaningful human relating. If applied to medical practice, such a correction envisions a dynamic unfolding character to relational differentiation while maintaining the root integrity of relationships within the practice. Inherent limitations of human expertise and obligations to maintain covenantal fidelity in non-medical relationships necessitate relational differentiation of caregiver roles. Such differentiation is the normative means to meet the human care needs in our time while allowing caregivers to be true to relationship outside of practice. The NRP model can also give greater meaning to the insights of other Christian bioethicists. For example, one can envision Pellegrino’s recontextualization of the principle of care, as the core of practice, as the qualifying ethical modal aspect of medical practice (Pellegrino and Thomasma 1996, 74–75). In all medical relationships, other irreducible modal aspects of human existence and expression such as the social, psychic, aesthetic, linguistic, and juridical aspects should function under the guidance of this qualifying ethical aspect. The latter guides the expression of other modes of function so that the focus of all practice activities remains on meeting patient needs. For example, seen in this light, pharmaceutical and medical supply companies that aspire to be in relationship with medical care practice cannot normatively support that claim, given the economically qualified nature of these institutions as profit-making businesses. Corporate policy may allocate a proportion of profits toward new medical care infrastructures in developing countries in an attempt to satisfy the perception of a shift from an economically to an ethically qualified enterprise. However, since the company would no longer be a business with complete replacement of the economic with the ethical (care) aspect, a tension between ethical and economic interests remains that strains relationships with caregivers and patients in health care practice. In addition to its constitutive side, the regulative side of practice is also its interpretive side (Jochemsen 2006, 106–107). This is expressed when relating to patients, communicating preferences through personal beliefs, and making treatment and care-plan decisions. Troost is careful to point out that human actions are led only in part by ethics “or by any other science” (Troost 1983, 36). Religion and faith ground a basic motivation or ethos that drives human action. Thus, the regulative side of practice reflects larger worldview beliefs and motivations of practice participants regarding human life in general. Such beliefs and motivations give meaning to a practice for the human society within which it functions, regulate practice performance, and are reference points for critical assessment of alternative practice performance.

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In short, the constitutive rules of practice are influenced by a regulative framework that flows from the worldview and faith commitment of the practitioner. This model is valid because it acknowledges distinct creational relational structures and can be recognized by those with diverse worldviews and basic beliefs. As will be shown below, these creational structures require conceptual flexibility in light of historical unfolding of medical knowledge and resultant differentiation of caregiver types. However, problems in providing care can occur among relational participants whose basic beliefs and worldviews are fundamentally divergent.

A Biblical Covenantal Model for Biomedical Ethics Complementary to this Christian social philosophy of medicine is a biblical covenantal ethical framework. Such a framework redirects the ethical focus of medicine from the mid-level principles of principlism to relational structures that reflect the creation order and inspired direction as revealed in Scripture. A covenantal ethical framework also provides a covenantal ethos to medicine and to reflections on biomedical ethical issues. Troost and Stafleu have suggested that a distinction should be made between philosophical ethics as a part of human anthropology and the ethical modal aspect that grows out of differentiated sciences, practices, and vocations (Troost 1983, 108–113; Stafleu 2007, 25–27). Care for vulnerable fellow human beings is not restricted to medical care, but is at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this sense, ethical virtue and action as a component of anthropology encompass the directional disposition of all human activity. In the context of the medical profession, the ethical aspect expressed as caring both defines and directs the relational activities of caregivers of all kinds within a vocational context. Consequently, whether anthropological or aspectual, the fullest meaning of ethical expression is understood in a covenantal ethical framework grounded in the teachings of the Word of God. This distinction between philosophical and aspectual ethics can also be helpful in interpreting the ethical roots of Pellegrino’s philosophy of medicine. Pellegrino’s overarching principle of love in his philosophy of medicine can be seen as part of the anthropological center of the philosophical ethics of medicine, embedded in the ethos of medical practice. This can be distinguished from his principle of beneficence or care as the qualifying ethical aspect of medicine. Theologian Oliver O’Donovan (1994, 201) also speaks of the overarching love-command, represented in the summary of the law, as supreme among the ­principles of order that unify obligations of the moral law. A biblical covenantal ethic acknowledges the relational core of our humanness before God. It recognizes the dependency of its normative expression on our unique creational status as image-­bearers of God within our covenantal relationship with him. The latter, transformed through the new covenant in Christ, guides human relationships through the mutual relational interdependence and vulnerability of human beings. Such mutual vulnerability cries out for reciprocal compassion and love that is modeled by God’s gracious love for us.


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As a concrete expression of that faith in a covenantally grounded relationship with God, normative medical practice has relationality at its core. As mentioned above, this core is reflected in the ethical qualifying aspect that provides foundational guidance for the normative practice of medicine. The aspect guides the actualization of founding and conditional rules which together express a fully normative and competent practice (Jochemsen 2006, 105–106). Such a practice is founded on techno-formative developments that give incentive and momentum to necessary opening up and differentiation of functions within a practice. In recent times, appeals have been made by various types of caregivers and medical educators to develop covenantal practice relationships (Brothers 2002; Coffey 2006; Li 1996; Nisker 2006; Cassel 1996). Such appeals often have been grounded in pagan Greek medicine, yet they acknowledge creational norms for relational trust that resist tendencies to self-interest at the expense of covenantal caring in a still broken world. Such appeals to covenantal relationality have in common the desire to supplant formal contractual models of individual rights that bind moral strangers by developing deeper, more trusting, and more empathic relationships. The Hippocratic Oath alludes to a covenantal relationship between the oath-taker and his mentor, offering to provide care to his family and medical education to his sons. By contrast, however, the relationship between oath-taker and patients primarily consists of a codal list of behaviors contrary to good practice. The gods are acknowledged and appeals made for their assistance, but no covenantal relationship with them is acknowledged (Edelstein 1967, 6–51; May 1975, 29). A biblical concept of covenant, on the other hand, gives normative ethical expression to medical practice at the level of practice ethos that permeates the daily relational activity of the members of a practice network. That is, the covenantal ethos influences relationships in medical practice just as the worldview of participants regulates the constitutive aspects of the practice. In its fullest expression, a covenantal ethical model draws moral guidance and strength from the relationship between God and human beings as originally established at creation. That covenant was established by God’s grace but required obedient reciprocation by human beings. The origin of this covenant has been debated since the Reformation, with some theologians adhering to a post-Fall covenant of grace origin whereby the covenant was instituted for redemptive purposes. Peter Lillback argues (convincingly, I think) that the covenant between God and humankind began at creation with Adam, citing intimations of such an origin in John Calvin’s writings (Lillback 2001, 1, 27, 135–39, 224–25). While broken repeatedly over time by human beings, the c­ ovenant has been renewed for all time through Jesus Christ. That covenantal relationship with Christ is the norm for our interactions with fellow human beings. However, in a still fallen world with both believers and non-believers engaging in medical practice, a covenantal ethic for medical relationships offers an imperfect, yet still more normative alternative to principlism. For caregivers who adhere to the other Abrahamic faith traditions, Islam and Judaism, covenant is also a major theological theme. Seeking mutual understanding of covenant relationships among caregivers of these Abrahamic traditions can help to bind their ethical commitments to the practice of patient care. Caregivers promise to provide competent and sensitive

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care to patients in close concert with professional colleagues, keeping vigilant to resist temptations to take advantage of their position of power. In response, patients provide truthful information about their care needs and their fulfilment of obligations of therapeutic compliance with mutually developed treatment plans. Finally, a covenantal ethic based on the original covenant at creation appeals to an inherent human need for relationships, a characteristic of the human status as image-bearers of God. Thus, even non-Christians may appreciate the relational rewards of covenantal disposition and commitment by understanding and sharing its variations of meaning among caregiver colleagues of Christian, Islamic, and Jewish faith traditions.

 iblical Covenantal Biomedical Ethics Complements Medical B Practice Seen Through Dooyeweerd’s Social Philosophy Principlism claims no dominant principle. Rather, particular circumstances determine whether the moral obligations guided by one principle should be overridden by another. As a result, there is no guidance for choosing moral options when they conflict. As mentioned earlier, Pellegrino (1983, 154) has called love the ordering principle of other principles. Similarly, O’Donovan argues that agape love is the ordering principle whose love–command interprets the application of other moral principles for moral situations and decisions. All other commands and moral principles fall under its umbrella; love takes priority when principles conflict. This ordering principle has universal inclusiveness and is supreme among principles of order. In looking for created moral structures and order in Scripture, Christians look for principles of order such as those taught by Christ. He gives an example of one such principle of order as found in Hos 6:6: “For I desire mercy, and not sacrifice….” (O’Donovan 1994, 200–04).5 A biblical covenantal model recognizes agape love as the overarching principle that both binds other practice principles and gives ethical direction to the expression of modal aspects of practice. Medical practice can be understood as social relationships constituted under the realization of normative social principles while human social interactions and ­activities are guided by a covenantal ethic of caring. Together, they capture the relational richness of practice while being attentive to the particular ways of functioning within that relational sphere. Covenantal ethics enriches the elements of the normative structure of medical practice (Hoogland and Jochemsen 2000, 463–72). The requirement of professional competence through the adherence to constitutive rules is part of the fiduciary aspect of a covenantal relationship between a caregiver and patient. These rules are derived from normative principles of order that should be expressed through normative actions of, and interactions between, the irreducible aspects of reality (Dooyeweerd 1969a; Jochemsen 2006, 104–08). However, while  See also Mt. 9:13 and 22:37–40.



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medical practice encompasses all aspects of reality to varying degrees, its aspect-­ expressing constitutive rules do not always function in the same way in all practices. Connected with this, the internal goods of medical practice demarcate the standards and goals necessary for meeting medical needs. The normative principle of benevolence or caring concretely expresses the qualifying ethical aspect of medical practice. That practice is the core of a web of relationships in the medical encounter, the focus of which is the needy patient. The practice, in turn, is part of a larger web of relationships that constitute public expressions of health care. The constitutive rules of practice are influenced by a regulative framework that flows from the worldview and faith commitment of the practitioner. Chaplin coined the term covenantal voluntarism that connotes a conceptual contrast to an instrumental voluntarism of liberal thought, a voluntarism embodied within principlism (Chaplin 2011, 141–142). He sees covenantal voluntarism as activities willfully pursued as human responses to a divine invitation to community service. Applied to medical relationships, it recognizes the central role of human thriving in the opening up of structural principles for such relationships. Taking Dooyeweerd’s typology of social structures, medical relationships involving caregivers and patients can be understood as enkaptic interlacements. These are freely constituted, voluntary relationships of unequal parties (unequal by virtue of one party in need and the other party having the expertise to provide that need) (Chaplin 2011, 67–70). This inequality is functional and subservient in nature, pitting the experience and knowledge of a caregiver against the vulnerability and needs of the patient. Such relationships are qualified by beneficence as care and are established because of need and available expertise that can meet that need. On the other hand, relationships between caregivers serving the same patient are equal in that each caregiver has a distinct function within medical practice but chooses to establish a voluntary association with other caregivers; neither being subservient to the other, but rather both providing service to the same patient. Such relationships are qualified by mutual respect and social professional kinship. Care of individual patients form a network of both types of relationships, each network distinguished by the needs of a specific patient. A given medical practice will be then be linked to different patients and their network of care. Both types of relationship have in common an interdependence of parties that attracts the formation of the relationship. For the patient-caregiver relationship, the caregiver is dependent on serving needy patients for practicing medicine while the patient is dependent on caregiver expertise. Caregivers are interdependent in that they refer patients to each other; a primary care physician seeks expertise for her patients outside of her capabilities, and a specialist needs referrals to apply expertise. In recognition of this, Chaplin has proposed the replacement of Dooyeweerd’s term interlinkages with that of interdependency (Chaplin 2011, 133–35, 284–87). In the relationships between caregivers and patients, interdependence is based on a principle of subsidiarity wherein one party holds up the other in time of need. In inter-­ caregiver relationships, dependence is based on mutual support and maintenance of competence.

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Within a biblical covenantal ethic, relationships are formed toward the primary purpose of meeting the healing needs of vulnerable patients. Around each patient forms a network of such relationships. As such, Chaplin’s covenantal voluntarism is an overarching notion that encompasses each patient-defined network of human relationships that constitutes medical care for each patient. While specific relationships must balance the expression of different modal aspects, they all are driven by the motivation to serve fellow human beings in human response to divine invitation for community service. In this sense, the entire network of relationships is covenantal and is ethically qualified in its overall focus on a particular patient’s care. In summary, within a covenantal ethical model, a covenantal ethic connotes the overarching care qualification through the covenantal voluntarism of all participants, but also includes the different dimensions of ethical guidance inherent in each relationship. Some relationships, such as those between pharmaceutical company employees and caregivers, are established with an economic qualifying aspect. They should not be considered primary relationships within the relational network of care. Such secondary relationships must not directly influence patient care but should involve a caregiver whose primary motive is preservation of care as that which serves the best interest of the patient. However, in such an intermediary position, caregivers need to be vigilant in discerning therapies offered by economically qualified companies and their employees that primarily serve patient interests and not caregiver gain. The case of the unborn, particularly the human embryo, is a special case of interhuman relationality. In his warning against technicism in medicine, Strauss (2009, 138) calls the human embryo “the minimal enkaptic structural whole of a person as a human being.” In interhuman relationships, a person relates primarily to a co-­ subject, not to an object. Strauss fears the functional disruption of the embryo, biotically and as a whole, by experimental manipulations in human embryonic stem cell research programs (Strauss 2009, 141). Regrettably, he fails to address whether and how the lack of, or reduced expression of, social, relational, psychical, and other modal aspects affects the status of the human embryo. In my view, the creationally grounded special status of humans as imago dei provides biblical justification for accepting a human embryo as a fully human, albeit extremely vulnerable. A human embryo is one of us who requires nurturing and care despite the inability to fully function modally in all ways.

 he Expanding Network of Relationships in Contemporary T Practice Using this schema, relationships of medical practice can now be construed within a biblical covenantal ethic as an expanding network of relationships. In such a network, relationships form and mature between individuals, between institutions, and between individuals and institutions. In addition, these relationships interact with other relationships. A format for such interactions would include patient-focused


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case conferences involving caregivers, family members, hospital staff, and others. In such conferences, lessons learned from the dynamic interplay of responsibilities for a patient’s care can be tabled and shared so that future relational interactions can be improved both for the particular patient and for future patients. As the techno-formative aspect grows in knowledge of disease mechanisms, new diagnostic tools and therapeutic interventions are developed. These might supplant existing tools or interventions or may add to them. As this knowledge increases, caregiver expertise changes, becoming more specialized by necessity because of human intellectual limitations and the need to maintain the focus of the entire relational network on providing competent care. At times, new specialists appear with unique expertise or develop and recontextualize expertise previously practiced by a different caregiver. Specialist caregivers interact with primary caregivers as equals, yet they serve each other by way of distinct expertise that collectively serves the needs of patients common to them. Each caregiver, on the other hand, at different or overlapping points in time, engages with the same patient whose needs may be changing. Such relationships are often intensely personal yet time limited, risking a loss of continuity of care unless caregivers remain attuned to their role in the overall care of the patient over time. As participants in enkaptic interlacements, caregivers serve patient needs while patients pledge compliance in order to be served well by the relational network of care. Within a biblical covenantal ethic, professional intrarelational activities in medicine could be seen as human responses to divine invitations to community service, as callings or vocations that focus on addressing human ills and diseases. Caregiver vocations within medical practice are equally valuable. Occupational therapists and social workers collaborate with physicians and nurses but engage with patients within sovereign, enkaptic relational entities. In addition, their unique expertise gives them equal professional status in providing services complementary to those of other caregivers while focusing on providing one of many aspects of a patient’s care. With such an ethic comes responsibility not only to serve in close professional association with caregiver colleagues, but to help colleagues avoid enticements that may replace a focus on patient needs with one on self-interest. Institutional participants such as administrators of health care facilities and leaders within certain corporations should also be disposed to a covenantal ethic if they desire to be included in the matrix of medical practice. Working closely with clinicians, hospital administrators should adopt service policies that minimize risk and maximize care for patients in hospital and for those attending outpatient clinics. However, fiscal considerations should be subservient to patient needs, sometimes necessitating increased fundraising or, in government-funded healthcare systems, appeals to funding authorities. Otherwise, decisions made in the primary interest of economic efficiency may jeopardize patient care and thus the covenantal validity of institutional participation in the network of care. The health of caregivers is also critical but often insufficiently considered. Work hours and conditions should engender long-term caregiver enthusiasm and satisfaction, balancing attention given to both medical and personal, non-medical relationships.

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Fig. 1  Relationships of the medical encounter. Circles represent individual parties of a relationship. Overlapping circles signify primary medical care relationships between parties. Arrows indicate secondary relationships between parties supporting the patient or parties such as pharmaceutical companies with a primary interest other than patient best interest. DTC refers to direct-to-­consumer and represents a relational connection that can be ethically dubious due to the risk of profit-­making influences on patient decisions

A covenantal ethic can also serve global health care by encouraging the sharing of resources to meet global health needs, particularly for economically challenged communities and countries. For example, members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) develop ethically motivated investment choices through shareholder activism (Cahill 2005, 66; Robinson 2002, 343). Exemplifying specific corporate efforts to contribute meaningfully to societies with urgent care needs, Avant Immuni-therapeutics directs their profits generated from developed regions toward subsidizing therapies in developing countries (Brower 2003, 3; Cahill 2005, 68). A schematic representation of the complexity of medical relationships is shown in Fig.  1. Patients relate directly to different caregivers, supporting others help patients in understand and interpret caregiver views and presented care options, and health-related corporations should communicate through caregivers but often try to communicate and persuade directly. As already mentioned above, a covenantal ethic for medicine must also include relationships outside of practice and outside of the profession of medicine. Relationships with family members, church, civic groups, and neighbors have their own sovereign structures. Some, like marriage and family, are biotically founded, but unfortunately are often neglected when responsibilities of relationships within a practice become anormatively demanding (Dooyeweerd 1969b, 179; Chaplin 2011, 117–19). The sacred nature of marriage demands special priority in terms time and relational commitment.


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In this conceptualization of medical practice, a covenantal ethic demands constant vigilance to keep the multiple, irreducible relationships directed toward patient care needs. Primary care physicians or nurse practitioners function to coordinate both the establishment and discontinuation of interrelational associations as needs arise and cease over time. Each participant is responsible for maintaining empathic dispositions in a spirit of humility that guard against abuses made possible by the knowledge and power disparity between caregiver and patient. Such abuses may come in the form of financial incentives to pressure patients to participate in clinical studies or as patient noncompliance to mutually agreed-upon treatment. A covenantal ethic can breed shades of trust, mutual respect, and relational bonding not evident in contractual models of relationality wherein the preservation of self-­ interests plays a primary role in its founding. While it has been argued that human covenantal relating is an inherent gift of God to humankind at creation, its fullest appreciation and expression in an imperfect world subjected to the ravages of sin is achieved through the guidance of scriptural teaching regarding the relationship between God and humankind. A Christian interpretation of a covenantal ethic with colleagues and patients should emphasize the inherent relational nature of human vulnerability that has marked human existence since the beginning of time. Such an interpretation also has a missional character. That is, Christian medical caregivers should seek windows of opportunity for witnessing to the love of God and our covenant with him as the essence of our motivation for helping others. For believers in principlism and the common morality, moral authority and the power of persuasion lie in rational consensus. For believers in the moral authority of Scripture, the power of persuasion lies in the Holy Spirit. A biblical covenantal ethic relies ultimately on faith in the grace of God to provide moral wisdom and strength of character. Christian morality is grounded in that divine–human relationship from which all human relationships gain true and ultimate meaning. More power and authority comes from outside of, from beyond, the human power of rational persuasion. The apostle Paul puts persuasion in its proper place in his teaching on the role and power of the Holy Spirit: “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom but on God’s power.” (I Cor 2:4, 5). Let us be assured that the Spirit will not abandon us if our persuasive efforts come from hearts bent on bringing the truth where truth has never been recognized before or where it has been lost and might be regained.6

6  This article contains the early beginnings of ideas whose further development can be found in Rusthoven, J. (2014). Covenantal Biomedical Ethics for Contemporary Medicine: An Alternative to Principles-Based Ethics. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.

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References Barth, K. 1958. Church Dogmatics, III/1. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark. Beauchamp, T.  L.. 1978. Distributive justice and morally relevant differences. In The Belmont report: Ethical principles and guidelines for the protection of human subjects of research (6-1-­ 6-20). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Beauchamp, T.L., and J.F. Childress. 1979. Principles of biomedical ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2001. Principles of biomedical ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ———. 2009. Principles of biomedical ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Beecher, H.K. 1966. Ethics and clinical research. New England Journal of Medicine 274 (24): 1354–1360. Bok, S. 1995. Common values. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. Brody, B.A. 1990. Quality of scholarship in bioethics. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 15: 161–178. Brothers, K. 2002. Covenant and the vulnerable other. Journal of the American Medical Association 288 (9): 1133. Brower, V. 2003. Finding biomedicines for infectious diseases. Genetic Engineering News, 23. Cahill, L.S. 2005. Theological bioethics. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press. Camenisch, P.F. 1974. Paul Ramsey’s task: Some methodological clarifications and questions. In Love and society: Essays in the ethics of Paul Ramsey, ed. J. Johnson and D. Smith, 67–89. Missoula: Scholars Press, University of Montana. Cassel, C.K. 1996. The patient-physician covenant: An affirmation of Asklepios. Annals of Internal Medicine 124 (6): 604–606. Chaplin, J.  2011. Herman Dooyeweerd: Christian philosopher of state and civil society. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. Clouser, K.D., and B. Gert. 1990. A critique of principlism. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 15: 219–236. Coffey, S. 2006. The nurse-patient relationship in cancer care as a shared covenant: A concept analysis. Advances in Nursing Science 29 (4): 308–323. Dallmayr, F. 1997. The discourse of modernity: Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Habermas. In Habermas and the unfinished project of modernity: Critical essays on “The philosophical Discourse of Modernity”, ed. M.P. d’Entreves and S. Benhabib, 59–96. Cambridge: MIT Press. Daniels, N. 1979. Wide reflective equilibrium and theory acceptance in ethics. The Journal of Philosophy 76 (5): 256–282. Dooyeweerd, H. 1965. In the twilight of western thought. Nutley: The Craig Press. ———. 1969a. A new critique of theoretical thought. Vol. Vol II. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company. ———. 1969b. A new critique of theoretical thought. Vol. Vol III. Philadelphia: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company. Edelstein, L. 1967. Ancient medicine: Selected papers of Ludwig Edelstein. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Engelhardt, H.T., Jr. 1978. Basic ethical principles in the conduct of biomedical behavioral research involving human subjects. In The Belmont report: Ethical principles and guidelines for the protection of human subjects of research (8-1-8-45). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Ferngren, G.B. 2009. Medicine & health care in early Christianity. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Frankena, W. 1973. Ethics. 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall. Glas, G. 2006. Persons and their lives: Reformational philosophy on man, ethics, and beyond. Philosophia Reformata 71 (1): 31–57. ———. 2010. Christian philosophical anthropology. A reformation perspective. Philosophia Reformata 75 (2): 141–189.


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Normative Dimensions of Corporate Communication Jan van der Stoep

Abstract  In this chapter, it is argued that corporate communication is not an arbitrary affair, but an activity with its own intrinsic normativity. Communication is part of a creation order, which means that one has to obey specific norms and rules in order to present oneself in a convincing way. First of all, organisations need to have a clear sense of self and have to be accountable for their actions. They must know “who” they are, and to which principles they adhere (directional dimension). Second, organisations must have a clear sense of the intrinsic good that is at stake in their professional field. They need to have a clear understanding of “what” they are doing (structural dimension). Third, organisations must have a clear understanding of what is required in their specific context. They must have a sense of “why” they exist in a particular time and place (contextual dimension). All three normative dimensions are important. If they lose sight of any one of these dimensions, organizations risk losing their credibility. Keywords  Corporate communication · Organizational identity · Trust · Standards of excellence · Spiritual marketing

Introduction Organizations cannot exist without communication. They must make themselves known and need to build relationships of trust with customers, employees, interest groups, and other stakeholders. Every organization tells a story about itself, be it in a more implicit or a more explicit manner. In our current mediatized society, corporate communication has become a complex and highly professional activity. Communication professionals, however, often have a bad reputation. The general impression is that they frame reality in such a way that organizations may profit

J. van der Stoep (*) Ede Christian University of Applied Sciences, Ede, The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



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from it. They stimulate people to buy products and give a rose-colored picture of their organization. Their only concern is the interest of the organization, not the interest of society at large. In this chapter, I will argue that corporate communication is not—by definition—a dirty business, but an activity with its own intrinsic normativity. Corporate communication is not just about telling lies. One cannot unrestrictedly manipulate the minds of people. In order to tell a coherent and convincing story, communication professionals must obey laws of human communication. They cannot just construct stories or distort facts, but must deal with a reality that is already given. Corporate communication is part of a creation order. If one does not obey this order, sooner or later this will backfire on the credibility of organization. By corporate communication I mean all possible ways in which an organization communicates, externally as well as internally, including the fields of management communications, marketing communications, and organization communications (Van Riel and Fombrun 2007, 14–21). The use of the adjective “corporate” in this definition must be interpreted in relation to the Latin word “corpus” or “body.” This means that it refers to the whole of the organization. Corporate communication is not restricted to business enterprises. It is relevant for business enterprises as well as for non-profit organizations and governmental institutions. Not only the adjective “corporate,” but also the noun “communication” needs further elaboration. Communication is an activity in which people share their experiences and opinions, and make sense about what is going on. It is a way in which people exchange meaning and build a communal world (Aula and Mantere 2008, 168–172). In order to get people involved, organizations have to make sense of what they are doing. Making sense is not only necessary for external purposes; it also serves important internal needs (Weick 2001, 36). It gives organizational members a rationale for action and helps them to orient themselves in the world. Organizations are vehicles in which people share goals and commit themselves to a collective task. They activate the individual commitments of people and orchestrate their actions. The primary concern of corporate communication is the social legitimacy of organizations (Van Ruler and Verĉiĉ 2005, 255–256). Organizations must convince the public that they contribute something to society. They need to show that they not only pursue their own interests, but also the interest of society at large. This presupposes an element of trust. Conversation partners have to assume that one is telling the truth about a current state of affairs, committed to maintaining a good relationship, and truthful about one’s inner motives (Habermas 1983, 137). If conversation partners cannot trust each other, communication will be obstructed. What are the norms and rules, which organizations must obey in order to tell a convincing story about themselves; a story that resonates in the hearts of the public? In order to formulate an answer to this question, I make use of the distinction of Mouw and Griffioen (1993) between three dimensions of reality: directional, structural, and contextual dimension. In each of these dimensions, the normative order of corporate communication is revealed in a specific way. First of all, organizations have to convince the public that they act according to their core identity. They must present themselves as organizations that keep their promises and take responsibility

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for their actions. This is the directional dimension (section “Directional Dimension”). Second, organizations must show that they act in a professional way. They must show that they meet the standards of excellence of their professional field. This is the structural dimension of the organization (section “Structural Dimension”). Third, organizations need to prove their actual relevance. They must show that they add something to the life of people and make their life more meaningful. This is the contextual dimension of corporate communication (section “Contextual Dimension”).

Directional Dimension The directional dimension of corporate communication is related to the way in which an organization envisages its past, present, and future and views the world. It is involved with the vision of the good life that guides the activities of the organization (Jochemsen 2006, 106–107). In the directional dimension, the organization discloses its core identity. Sometimes the vision of the good life is made explicit; most of the time, however, it remains rather implicit. If an organization sticks to its core values and its core principles, it will be seen as an organization with a high level of integrity. The general public knows what to expect from the organization, and where it is going. If it does not stick to its core identity, sooner or later the organization will reveal that it is not true to itself. The importance of a vision of the good life especially becomes apparent in the study of so-called “visionary companies” such as—for example—3 M, Apple, and Walt Disney. Visionary companies, according to Collins and Porras (2005, 1–2), “are premier institutions—the crown jewels—in their industries, widely admired by their peers and having a long track record of making a significant impact on the world around them.” The world is frequently changing, and leaders come and go. In order to be successful, what is really necessary is that one has an idea of the basic fundamentals of the organization—the core ideology that binds all those involved in the organization together—and at the same time, sets forth what one aspires to become or to achieve in the future. The corporate identity of an organization gives employees, customers, and other stakeholders a sense of belonging. It also gives them a sense of direction because it gives them knowledge about what to expect from the organization. It tells them “who” the organization is and to which principles it sticks. The presentation of a corporate identity is an inevitable part of the way in which an organization communicates. When one addresses other people, be it as a person or as an organization, one necessarily makes oneself known and, willingly or not, tells something about oneself (Avenarius 2008, 73). What a corporate identity exactly is, however, is not so clear. Balmer and Greyser (2003, 15–29), for example, distinguish between the actual identity, communicated identity, conceived identity, ideal identity, and desired identity of an organization. Without going into detail, their work at least proves that corporate identity itself is a complex concept and also that the various identities of


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an organization must be consistent with each other. The way in which an ­organization presents itself and thereby communicates its identity must be more or less in alignment with its actual identity or the identity as others conceive it. A corporate identity cannot just be invented. It is something that has to be discovered and has to appeal to a shared understanding of the core values and the core purpose of an organization (Collins and Porras 2005, 228). The corporate identity has to appeal to something that is already there before it is made explicit. This is in line with a fundamental characteristic of our human condition. Human beings, religious or not, cannot live without an idea that their life is intended by someone (Ferry 2002, 15–17). They are in need for something that is already given and that transcends their lives. An organization, however, may easily lose sight of its core values and core purpose. Therefore, a healthy identity formation of an organization always involves openness to critique. Critique may bring organizations back to the core of who they are, and how they were meant to be (Walzer 1987, 87–88). It also helps organizations develop a corporate identity that is robust enough to survive unfavorable circumstances (Hauerwas 2001). The self-presentation of an organization is not without risks. By presenting oneself, one puts oneself at stake. Other stakeholders will contest the integrity and trustworthiness of the organization. One enters an arena in which one has to struggle for recognition. That such a struggle for recognition is not always fair was experienced by Shell when in 1995 it planned to sink the oil platform Brent Spar. According to them, this was the best thing to do in the actual situation. Greenpeace successfully protested against the plans of Shell. Afterwards, however, it turned out that Shell and not Greenpeace was right. Greenpeace had to admit that it had used the wrong information and that the sinking of the Brent Spar was more appropriate from an ecological point of view than the dismantling of the oil platform in a Norwegian fjord as Greenpeace had advocated. In the meantime, however, the public image of Shell was seriously damaged. Shell had to learn—to its own cost—that being in the right does not automatically entail that you win your case. The example of Shell and Greenpeace shows that communication is always a two-way, and not a one-way process. The public is also an active party in the communication process, which implies that the sender does not have full control over the reception of the message. The situation is even more complex. Long before the organization starts to communicate about its identity, there is already a dialogue going on in which people share meanings with each other and make sense about the world. Corporate communication is itself part of a circuit of communication (Edwards and Hodges 2011, 3–6). This means that organizations are just one of the conversation partners in a dialogue. In such a dialogue, the reputation of the organization is also at stake. The reputation and the identity of an organization are two sides of the same coin. A corporate identity is related to how an organization defines itself in terms of continuity and discontinuity or change. It defines the core self of the organization (Aula and Mantere 2008, 56–59). The reputation of an organization, however, is the way an organization is perceived by others. It has to do with the stories that people tell about the organization and is built up in dialogue with various stakeholders.

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In order to build up a good corporate reputation, organizations need to relate to various audiences and a variety of stakeholders. This shows that the self of an organization is always a dialogical self. The identity of an organization is not a product of solitary reflection within the organization, but it is developed in dialogue with the stories that other people tell. It has to appeal to a common framework of understanding in order to articulate what is really significant (Taylor 1991, 31–53). However, that does not mean that the identity of an organization is just a plaything of what other people are saying. In the same way as an organizational self always exists in dialogue with others, a dialogue can only exist between parties that have an identity of their own. Without others who may reject or refuse what you are saying real communication is not possible (Habermas 1996, 18–19). In this section, I have argued that organizations have to be aware of their core values and their core identity. The identity of an organization, however, does not always need to be the same. The character of an organization may change according to the circumstances. New circumstances require that you critically examine what you are doing, and your reasons for doing it. Therefore, an organization needs to have a clear sense of direction. It has to know where it is going. This means that it has to identify with the commitments with which it entered into. An organization must take responsibility for its actions and keep its word.1 A company such as Shell may change its strategy time and again, according to what circumstances require, but through this it must show that it acts according to its principles. Moreover, at the moment it changes its course, for good reasons or not, it has to be accountable for that. If an organization is not faithful to its promises or promises things that it cannot keep, it devours the confidence that people have in this organization. It throws its credits away.

Structural Dimension The normativity of corporate communication not only has a directional, but also a structural dimension. “Structure” refers to the specific type of the organization at hand—the art, trade, or profession that it carries out. Professional quality or craftsmanship is a quite powerful ingredient of corporate communication. It shows that an organization is competent enough to solve a problem, or that it is able to perform a specific task in a professional manner. Because professionals are specialized in a specific field, they may reach a standard that ordinary people are not able to reach. Therefore, it should not come as a surprise that in advertising many companies make an appeal to their specific expertise. Being a professional is a way of living that is worthwhile in itself, with its own intrinsic value. Professionals are not just driven by economic interests, but also by the intrinsic good of the profession itself. They have, as Pierre Bourdieu calls it, an interest in disinterestedness. Their 1  Here I make use of a distinction made by Ricoeur (1992, 2–3; 115–125) between idem identity and ipse identity.


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profession provides them with a sense of dignity and pride that goes beyond their material concerns (Bourdieu 2000, 125). The professional competence of an organization is what distinguishes an organization from other types of organizations. One may easily imagine that a government organization needs another type of corporate communication than, for example, a business enterprise or a media organization. Therefore, one must be very much aware of the professional field in which an organization functions. If different professional fields are mixed, this often leads to serious trouble. An example of this is the magazine called “Gerda,” published by the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture in March 2010. The name of the magazine refers to the first name of the Minister of Agriculture at that time, Gerda Verburg. The magazine was meant to promote the activities of the Ministry of Agriculture. Other politicians and opinion leaders, however, accused Gerda Verburg of using the magazine for her own personal campaign, especially because of the upcoming elections. The problem in this case was the blurring of the boundary between political communication and government communication, and the personal profiling of a political representative and the communication of a government institution. In order to distinguish itself from others, an organization has to be very much aware of the professional field in which it is operating and the rules that structure that field. An organization needs to have a clear understanding of “what” it is doing, and “how” it is functioning in a proper manner. In most fields, professional competence is meticulously monitored in a system of audits, accreditations, and certifications. Each professional field has its own standards of excellence. These standards of excellence, however, are not just a set of requirements to be complied with; they also incorporate an idea of the intrinsic good of a profession, an idea about what is at stake in the profession at hand. When it comes to the heart of the matter, an organization not only needs to have a good story or has to meet a certain set of criteria; it has to distinguish itself by its good deeds (Aula and Mantere 2008, 137–139). It has to show that it is keeping a high standard and takes its professional task very seriously. One of the reasons that corporate communication has such a bad reputation is that people doubt that organizations deliver the professional quality they promise. They are not convinced that it is the search for high professional standards rather than the reduction of costs that drives the organization, for example. This also explains, in part, the formation of accreditation systems, mentioned before, in which the performance of organizations is carefully monitored. Skepticism among the general public about the good intentions of organizations is especially fueled by ideologies like those of Milton Friedman, who argues that the only social responsibility of companies is to maximize profit (Aula and Mantere 2008, 139). As soon as suspicion arises that an organization is just acting out of economic concern, however, its credibility is seriously damaged. In an age of privatization, this not only casts doubt on companies and business enterprises, but also on NGOs and other organizations with a public function. The public assumes that organizations only boast about their craftsmanship in order to sell more products or services.

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The problem with the view of Friedman is that it identifies the professional task of an organization with the means by which this organization has to reach its goals. Instead of analyzing organizations as entities that serve important social goods, such as food production (in the case of a farm), risk protection (in the case of an insurance company), or health care (in the case of a hospital), it maintains that organizations are machineries that maximize profit. Referring to MacIntyre (1985, 187– 191), it might be said that in such a case the external goods replace the internal good of a profession. According to MacIntyre, the internal good is an inalienably part of that specific type of profession and cannot be achieved by professions of another type. In order, however, to achieve this internal good, an organization needs to obtain money, power, status, and other means. MacIntyre calls these the external goods of the organization. Money, power, and status are a necessary requirement to make an organization ready for operation, but as such they only are of instrumental value. You need them to operate professionally, but you cannot use them to legitimize your activities. Thus far, I have argued that an organization has to distinguish itself from other organizations by its standards of excellence. It has to show its craftsmanship and specific competence in order to acquire a place in a specific professional field. This may be done in various ways. It may be that the products or services of the organization are of such a good quality that it beats the professional standards of its competitors. It may also be that an organization sells a very specialized product, or serves a specific target group. Another way to distinguish itself from its competitors is by developing a corporate social responsibility strategy in which an attempt is made to balance the interests of people, planet, and profit. This last strategy, in particular, has become increasingly important. In our mediatized society, the public wants to be involved in the development of products and services and holds companies and other organizations accountable for their actions. Corporate social responsibility programs are based on the idea that organizations exist not only for themselves, but also for the good of society. According to James E. Grunig, this means that organizations not only have to pursue their own objectives, but must also balance the interests of the organization with the interests of society at large. Organizations must start a dialogue with other stakeholders and, through negotiation and compromise, search for the mutual benefit of the organization and its social environment. Such a symmetrical approach is not only more ethical, it is also more desirable and profitable for the organization because it produces long-term relationships with other stakeholders (Grunig et al. 2006, 47). This again shows that, in order to communicate well and effectively, you need to enter into dialogue and seriously take into account the concerns of other parties. You may try to persuade people by using force or coercion, but then you will never reach their hearts. You will only achieve short-term results. In order to really convince people, you must not overpower them but search for a shared understanding (Chambers 1996, 5–9). Your conversation partners must have the option to reject your arguments and come up with their own point of view. However interesting Grunig’s theory may be, it overlooks one important point. The added value of an organization is more than an exchange between the interests


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of society and the interests of the organization itself. As experts in their field, organizations know very well how to run an enterprise, educate students, or care for people in a professional manner. They usually have sophisticated intuition about what a high-quality product looks like. It is, of course, very important that organizations listen carefully to the various stakeholders. By incorporating various points of view, they may even improve their products. This is indeed why corporate social responsibility programs are a good strategy for raising one’s professional standards. However, ultimately it is the professional quality or craftsmanship of the organization that is decisive, and not what society is asking for. That is what gives the organization its social legitimacy. The best way to prove that an organization is really competent is by delivering high quality products. It is the intrinsic good of the profession that is at stake here, and not the interest of the organization, or the people.

Contextual Dimension The last dimension in which the normativity of corporate communication is revealed is the contextual dimension. The corporate communication of organizations must fit the actual situation in which people live. Organizations have to question time and again whether people are in need of their products and services. What is the relevance and social impact of what they are doing? How can they make a difference in the lives of people or contribute to society as a whole? In the preceding sections, the contextual dimension was already present as a kind of background against which the corporate identity and professional competence of an organization was defined. It was argued that organizations depend on others in the framing of their corporate identity in the public debate. They also are in need of input from others in order to acquire a fuller understanding of their professional task. Therefore, they must consult public opinion repeatedly and consider the peculiar circumstances of their time. The contextual dimension has its own normative significance. We may envisage something of the fullness and beauty of human life in the various historical situations and cultural forms (Mouw and Griffioen 1993, 154–155). Being sensitive to the way people live and express who they are takes them seriously as a human being. It is acceptance of them as people with their own worth and dignity. The worst thing we may do is to ignore the individuality of people, or to misrecognize them in their particular way of being (Taylor 1994, 25). Nevertheless, this does not necessarily imply that every historical form or lifestyle is of equal worth. Taking other ways of life seriously also means that you critically examine them and not just accept them at face value (Taylor 1994, 69–70). Organizations must not simply adapt to what people are saying, but must search for the appropriate answer to the urgent issues of their time. The contextual situatedness of an organization becomes apparent at the moment that one asks “where” and “when” an organization is active, and what the organization is assumed to do in this particular time and place. An organization must be sensitive to the expectations of the public and the main issues of their time. What

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counts as a good or effective way of communication depends upon the specific local and historical circumstances. A way of communicating that is appropriate in one situation is not automatically also appropriate in another situation. To stimulate contextual sensitivity, communication professionals often ask what people would miss if the organization wasn’t there. This shows that, in addition to the “where” and “when” of an organization, the “why” of an organization is also important. By questioning “why,” it becomes immediately clear how urgent it is for an organization to know what its specific contribution to society is. By questioning “why,” one asks for the purpose or reason of existence of an organization; the ideal that keeps an organization running (Sinek 2009, 39). One has to project oneself ahead and discover what one wants to contribute in a particular time and place (Ricoeur 1992, 85–86). The question “why” an organization exists has become more and more important in corporate communication. In our information age, we are becoming acutely aware of our contextual situatedness. We live in an age in which all places on earth are connected with each other, and in which an overwhelming number of incentives are available and our local circumstances are constantly changing. In order to attract the attention of people and build long-term relationships with them, organizations must touch their hearts and connect to their life purposes. Kotler et al. (2010, 20) argues that spirituality is increasingly replacing survival as the prime need of human beings. Supplying meaning and embedding values in your business model are, according to them, the new focus points in marketing communication. We are entering an age of participation in which people want to be involved in the creation of the brand, and do not only want to be consumers who buy products. Where in the 1980s and 1990s, an appeal for authenticity and quality of life dominated, nowadays marketers try to commit customers to their products and services by using socio-­ideological motifs: caring for nature, the ill, poor, and deprived. With their products and services, business enterprises want to open up new worlds and add meaning to people’s lives. Organizations want to give the impression that they are not just consuming goods, but also are participating in a struggle against evil (Žižek 2010, 356–357). In order to understand what is happening in spiritual marketing, it is important to have a better understanding of what “spirituality” means in this context. Quite often the term “spirituality” is used in opposition to the term “religion.” Whereas religion is associated with hierarchical control and clearly demarcated choices, spirituality is often associated with personal freedom and self-realization (Heelas and Woodhead 2005, 5–6). In the case of religion, it is especially important to know “who” you are and to which group you belong. Religion therefore often functions as an identity marker. One is part of a specific group that has its own history. In the case of spirituality, however, the personal quest for a life that is meaningful becomes more important. The question “why” you exist in this particular time and space becomes the central focus point. Spirituality begins with the life purposes of people and the way in which they want to realize their goal. Spiritual marketing provides organizations with a new powerful tool to involve people. Even spiritual values, one may argue, are now incorporated into the capitalist system. The opposite, by the way, seems also true. Religious organizations seem to turn more and more into lifestyle brands on the global market place (Schofield


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Clark 2007). The problem with spiritual marketing, however, is that it easily turns into manipulation. Slavoj Žižek offers the example of Starbucks. When you buy Starbucks, you are buying something that is greater than a cup of coffee. You are buying a product from a company that cares for its customers, as well as for the world as a whole. However, what Starbucks does not mention is that the price of their coffee is higher than elsewhere. You buy an authentic and meaningful experience, but it also costs you more (Žižek 2009, 52–55). This shows that a one-sided emphasis on social impact and spiritual value may lead to compromising the trustworthiness of your organization. An organization may involve people in its organizational project in such a way that it loses its credibility and sense of direction. Not only the “who” of the organization may be compromised by a one-sided emphasis on the actual relevance of the organization, also the “what” of the organization may be lost from view. Everything that people do, then, becomes a search for meaning. The only thing that counts is the way in which organizations help people to realize their purpose in life. Less relevant from this point of view is the question of whether the organization stays true to its own field of competence. This especially becomes apparent in culturalist approaches that hold that marketing, spirituality, and religion are essentially one and the same thing. From a culturalist point of view, the nature of a business enterprise or a media company is not essentially different from that of a church. Both communication and religion are a way in which people make sense of the world (Stolow 2005, 125). Let me try to demonstrate how problematic such a culturalist approach is by referring to the introduction of the iPhone by Apple that was carefully documented by Campbell and La Pastina (2010). When Steve Jobs, the former director of Apple, first introduced the iPhone in January 2007, he promised that the phone would “work like magic.” A few hours later people on the web were already talking about the “Jesus phone.” News media took over this notion, thereby fueling the suggestion that Apple is not a brand, but a cult. Steve Jobs was pictured as a religious leader, and the users of Mac computers as his believers. Interestingly enough, the Apple company also embraced the religious imaginary. The religious language used by bloggers, journalists, and Apple, however, is of a metaphorical nature. Nobody would seriously consider Steve Jobs as a religious leader. Moreover, even if people were to claim that Apple has acquired a religious status, they must admit that this is a departure from what a company should be. Even if organizations are aware in their corporate communication of the importance that people are creatures that are in search for meaning, this is not the whole story. A company is not a church, and one should carefully distinguish between these two types of organizations.

Conclusion In this paper, I have argued that corporate communication is not an arbitrary affair. In corporate communication, one necessarily needs to search for the social legitimacy of an organization. This is only possible if one acknowledges the intrinsic

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normativity of corporate communication. Communication is part of a creation order. That means that one has to obey certain rules in order to communicate properly. First of all, organizations must have a clear understanding of “who” they are. They must be accountable for their actions in order to be a trustworthy interlocutor (directional dimension). Second, they must have a clear understanding of “what” their specific professional competence is. They must search for the intrinsic good of their profession in order to show their craftsmanship (structural dimension). Finally, they must clarify “why” they exist in their particular time and place. They must show the actual relevance of their organization (contextual dimension). In all three normative dimensions, organizations must refer to something that transcends their organizational interests. They cannot just frame their message any way they like; otherwise—sooner or later—customers, employees, and other stakeholders will unveil the corporate story of the organization as a more or less sophisticated form of propaganda. In addition, they must pay attention to the directional, structural, and contextual normativity of corporate communication in a well-­ balanced way. If one of these dimensions is lost from view, the credibility of an organization is at stake. Time and again organizations have to ask “who” they are, “what” they are doing, and “why” they exist.

References Aula, P., and S. Mantere. 2008. Strategic reputation management. Towards a company of the good. New York: Routledge. Avenarius, H. 2008. Public Relations. Die Grundform der gesellschaftlichen Kommunikation. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. Balmer, J.M.T., and S.A. Greyser. 2003. Managing the multiple identities of the corporation. In Revealing the cooperation. Perspectives on identity, image, reputation, corporate branding and corporate-level marketing, ed. J.M.T. Balmer and S.A. Greyser, 15–29. New York: Routledge. Bourdieu, P. 2000. Pascalian meditations. Cambridge: Polity Press. Campbell, H., and A.C. La Pastina. 2010. How the iPhone became divine. New media, religion and the intertextual circulation of meaning. New Media & Society 12 (7): 1191–1207. Chambers, S. 1996. Reasonable democracy. Jürgen Habermas and the politics of discourse. New York: Cornell University Press. Collins, J., and J.I.  Porras. 2005. Built to last. Successful habits of visionary companies. 10th Anniversary ed. London: Random House Business Books. Edwards, L., and E.M. Hodges. 2011. Public relations, society and culture. Theoretical and empirical explorations. London: Routledge. Ferry, L. 2002. Man made god. The meaning of life. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Grunig, J.E., L.A.  Grunig, and D.M.  Dozier. 2006. The excellence theory. In Public relations theory II, ed. C.H. Botan and V. Hazleton, 21–62. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Habermas, J. 1983. Moral consciousness and communicative action. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. ———. 1996. Between facts and norms. Contributions to a discourse theory of law and democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press. Hauerwas, S. 2001. A story-formed community. Reflections on watership down. In The Hauerwas reader, ed. S. Hauerwas, 171–199. Durham: Duke University Press.


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Heelas, P., and L. Woodhead. 2005. The spiritual revolution. Why religion is giving way to spirituality. Malden: Blackwell Publishing. Jochemsen, H. 2006. Normative practices as an intermediate between theoretical ethics and morality. Philosophia Reformata 71 (1): 96–112. Kotler, P., H. Kartajaya, and I. Setiawan. 2010. Marketing 3.0. From products to customers to the human spirit. Hoboken: Wiley. MacIntyre, A. 1985. After virtue. A study in moral theory. London: Duckworth. Mouw, R.J., and S. Griffioen. 1993. Pluralisms and horizons. An essay in christian public philosophy. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Ricoeur, P. 1992. Oneself as another. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. Schofield Clark, L. 2007. Religion, media, and the marketplace. Piscataway: Rutgers University Press. Sinek, S. 2009. Start with why. Why great leaders inspire everyone to take action. New  York: Penguin. Stolow, J. 2005. Religion and/as media. Theory, Culture & Society 22 (4): 119–145. Taylor, C. 1991. The ethics of authenticity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ———. 1994. The politics of recognition. In Multiculturalism. Examining the politics of recognition, ed. A. Gutmann, 25–73. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Van Riel, C.B.M., and C.  Fombrun. 2007. Essentials of corporate communication. Abingdon: Routledge. Van Ruler, B., and D. Verĉiĉ. 2005. Reflective communication management, future ways for public relations research. In Communication yearbook 29, ed. P.J.  Kalbfleish, 239–274. Mahwah: Erlbaum. Walzer, M. 1987. Interpretation and social criticism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Weick, K.E. 2001. Making sense of the organization. Malden: Blackwell. Žižek, S. 2009. First as tragedy, then as farce. London: Verso. ———. 2010. Living in the end times. London: Verso.

International Legal Theory, International Community, and International Legal Order from a Dooyeweerdian Perspective Romel Regalado Bagares

Abstract  This chapter discusses how the radical social ontology inaugurated by the late Dutch, Christian, philosopher, Herman Dooyeweerd—hitherto largely unexplored for this purpose—may help illuminate contemporary debates on notions of an “international community” in relation to the international legal order. In Dooyeweerd’s social ontology, extrapolated into a legal one, various associational spheres with their respective “sphere sovereignty” or differentiated responsibilities are themselves bearers of rights, thus inviting a renewed discussion on the philosophical foundations of international legal personality as well as of the sources of international law. Here, a state-centric international law is avoided, although states play an indispensable role in upholding public justice on the international plane. Moreover, the interrelations between these various spheres in what the philosopher calls the process of “enkapsis” is at the heart of what might be termed a Dooyeweerdian international legal theory. His theory of enkapsis promises to provide a better account of the problematique of the structure, composition and values of the so-called “international community.” Keywords  Dooyeweerd · International legal theory · International community · Sources of law · Enkapsis · United Nations · International law · Sovereignty · States · Sphere sovereignty · Reformational philosophy · Private international law · Public international law · International society

Introduction Any discussion on the notion of an “international community” inevitably involves the notion of the international legal order. Thus, we may ask—for example—the following questions: what are the necessary components of an international community? On what bases—on what appropriate philosophical and legal R. R. Bagares (*) Center for International Law, Manila, Philippines e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



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justifications—do we decide that certain entities are components of such a community? How do these elements correspond to a legal order in the international realm? Or to begin with, does it make sense to speak of an international community even though discussions on it may well be ubiquitous in international politics? Finally, how does the notion of an international community square with an international organization such as the United Nations? These questions are ever relevant in the contemporary scene where long-­standing, state-dominated international relations have increasingly come into question in the context of proposals for an expanded notion of such an international community whose components have legal personality of some sort. Indeed, the tension between state-dominated law-making in the international realm, on the one hand, and the over-arching normative claims of an international community limiting such assertions of state sovereignty, on the other, increasingly come into play. Thus, the theme of this volume—The future of creation order—is at the very heart of any project to provide a Christian philosophical and legal account of an international legal order and of an international community on which it is founded. This essay explores the application of the philosophy of the late Dutch jurist and philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd—hardly considered for the most part—on theorizing on the international legal order and the notion of an international community. Thus, in section “Theorizing the ‘international community’”, I will first discuss how much contemporary international legal theory looks at the concept of an “international community.” One important development in thinking in this area is the recognition that the international community is no longer the exclusive preserve of states. For the most part, this development is undergirded by formalist or sociological accounts of inclusivity. Explored here in brief are contemporary concerns about composition, structure, and the underpinning values of this so-called international community. This section then raises the need for a philosophical, even ontological, account of the increasing diversity of actors—or if you will, of subjects—in international law, promising to expand the international legal order beyond a state-­ dominated system. In section “Dooyeweerdian building blocks of a pluralistic international legal orders”, I will show that in Dooyeweerd’s social ontology, various associational spheres—along with individuals—are themselves bearers of rights. Important in this discussion is the need in international law to rethink notions of international legal personality as well as the sources of international law. Dooyeweerd’s social ontology anchored on “sphere sovereignty” offers a viable if truly radical account of the place of non-state actors in international law that is not available in contemporary international legal theory. In section “From ‘international community’ to ‘inter-communal legal order’”, I will investigate an alternative conception to the notion of an “international community, Dooyeweerd’s “inter-communal legal order” which, although state-based, appears able to account ontologically for current moves to expand the former notion into an inclusive international legal order that embraces civil society groups, families, churches, associations, along with individuals, as actors/participants in interna-

International Legal Theory, International Community, and International Legal Order…


tional law. Here, his notion of societal sphere sovereignty lays bare the misconceived foundations of an “international community.” After this, in section “An application: re-imagining the United Nations”, a possible and still preliminary, application to Dooyeweerd’s notion of an “inter-­ communal legal order” is given, relating it to an understanding of the United Nations. Section “Concluding notes: international law-making, international civil society, and the international communal legal order” offers concluding notes on the place of non-state actors in Dooyeweerd’s inter-communal legal order.

Theorizing the “International Community” Well over a decade ago, the international legal scholar Andreas Paulus noted how in a globalized world the idea of international community “appears omnipresent,” but “the frequent use of the concept…is not matched by any clarity of content” (Paulus 2003). Yet, as Nicholas Tsagorias has aptly explained, the concept of an international community is a “constructive abstraction”—one that is packed with a “powerful and privileged meaning” such that it “establishes the international community as a legal agent that is personified empirically in relevant decisions and actions” (Tsagorias 2004). Paulus notes how the distinction made between international society and international community echoes the thought of the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies. In fact, he shows just how “popular” it is in international legal writing. Indeed, it is taken for granted that the distinctions made by the German sociologist between Gesellschaft and Gemeinschaft apply to the international legal order. The former corresponds to society or association (mechanical solidarity) while the latter corresponds to community (organic solidarity) (Paulus 2004). I now, therefore, attempt to sketch an outline of the various ways in which the international community is conceived. That the international community exists is, for the most part, taken for granted, but international lawyers disagree about what it exactly consists of, or what it means to have one. Three main themes surface in contemporary discussions on the idea of an international community; namely, composition, structure, and values. Perhaps an examination of these divergent narratives can help us clarify what we want to achieve when we invoke it.

The Problem of Composition Positive international law abounds with references to the idea of international community. While they do not give a uniform conception of what constitutes such a community, a trend that emerges in such references is that of a community no longer limited to an organization of states. Art. 53 of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) invokes it with respect to jus cogens, or a norm “accepted and recognized by the international


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community of States as a whole as a norm from which no derogation is permitted.”1 A year later, the International Court of Justice, in a famous obiter dictum in the Barcelona Traction case, would speaks of erga omnes obligations or legal obligations of states towards “the international community as a whole,”2 thereby apparently expanding the VCLT’s notion of an international community beyond that composed solely by states. A more recent multi-lateral treaty, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, speaks of “the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole”3—an inclusive language that is as well used in Art. 48 (1)(b) of the Draft Articles on State Responsibility; that is, “[a]ny State other than the injured State is entitled to invoke the responsibility of another State in accordance with paragraph 2 if…the obligation breached is owed to the international community as a whole.”4 The commentaries, however, stress a continuity between Art. 48 and the court’s ruling in the Barcelona Traction case, saying the Draft Articles recognize the “essential distinction” between obligations owed to particular states and those owed to the international community as a whole (Crawford 2002).5 What seems clear is that, as far as the components are concerned, the traditional notion of the international community as constituted solely by states is no longer adequate to describe the complexity of a globalized world. Debates surrounding the wording of Art. 486 of what was then the Draft Articles on State Responsibility clarifies this. Among scholars there is a growing consensus for the idea of an expanded international community. For example, adopting a sociological stance, the noted international legal scholar Rosalyn Higgins (a former judge of the International Court of Justice), while maintaining that states are still the principal actors in the international realm, argues against the traditional divide between states as subjects and all other institutions as objects in international law: …[T]here are a variety of participants, making claims across state lines, with the object of maximizing various values… Now, in this model, there are no “subjects” and “objects”, but only participants. Individuals are participants, along with states, international organizations

 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, UN Doc. A/CONF.39/27 (1969).  Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Company (Belgium v. Spain), Judgment (1970) ICJ Reports 3. 3  See Preamble and Art. 5 of the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court, adopted and opened for signature 17 July 1998, UN Doc. A/Conf/183/9 (1998). Art. 48 may still be treated as part of lege ferenda, or the progressive development of international law. 4  While yet to be codified into a multi-lateral treaty, the draft articles may be treated as indicative of state practice or evidence of customary norm in international law. 5  In an earlier report, Crawford rejected suggestions that the article be rephrased so as to say that the obligation is owed to “the international community of States as a whole.” Instead, he argued that “the international community includes entities in addition to States; for example, the European Union, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations itself.” See A/CN.4/517, Fourth Report on State Responsibility, 31 March 2000, para. 36. 6  Cf Art. 42 (b), which talks of when a state is entitled as an injured state to invoke the responsibility of another state; that is, with respect to a breach obligation that is owed to “[a] group of states including that State, or the international community as a whole…”. 1 2

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(such as the United Nations, or the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the ILO), multinational corporations, and indeed private non-governmental groups. (Higgins 1995, 50)

The Problem of Structure A second important question is the structure of an international community—its institutional make-up. When scholars speak of such a community, do they mean the world community, the United Nations, or an all-encompassing organization that includes non-state actors, the United Nations, supra-national organizations such as the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the African Union—in other words, a centralized organization that integrates everything into itself? Franck speaks of an “emergent sense of global community” that is concentric and overlapping (at the same time, he manages to conflate such a community with society, a point I will also discuss below): Society is starting to perceive itself as a community of states and simultaneously, as a community of persons. It is not a matter of abandoning concepts of state sovereignty but of recognizing in law what is increasingly evident in social and cultural practice: the striation of identity to accommodate multiple identifications…each of which performs different communitarian functions. Each will manage and allocate some of the interests of persons. (Franck 1999, 13)

Increasingly, a distinction is made between “international community” and “international society.” Tsagorias says that international society is made up of states connected by voluntary rules that regulate their mutual external interaction, “constructed upon the recognition of the pluralistic personality of its members and the rational necessity of regulating their relations” (Tsagorias 2004, 102). Meanwhile, the international community refers to “a political unit of ideational substances, which enables states in their internal and external configuration and which has the authority to set operational and normative rules.” Such a community then requires a “consensus arising from communal principles” more than voluntaristic consent (Tsagorias 2004, 108). An important further structural consideration is the phenomenon of diversification and fragmentation in international law and international institutions, or what scholars of international law relations refer to as “new medievalism, defined as “a system of overlapping authority and multiple loyalty, held together by a duality of competing universalistic claims” (Friedrichs 2004, 16) In other words, the globalized network. Friedrichs primarily characterizes these competing claims in terms of the “homogenizing role” of the nation-state system, which he considers as an important ordering principle, and that of the transnational market economy (Friedrichs 2004, 19–20). Here, world politics is seen as the interaction of three distinct but interdependent realms; namely, politics, economics, and society. In analyzing the structure of the international community, special attention is often given to the issue of American hegemony. Paulus argues that “US perspectives


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have exerted a decisive influence on the concept of international community, gearing it away from governmental analogies towards the propagation of liberal values in an inter-State setting” (Paulus 2003, 89). Kwakwa says that while it is to be expected that the world’s most powerful state will seek to direct international law according to the demands of its own national interests, it is also true that “[t]he international community remains a critically important instrument for the advancement of US national interests and foreign policy objectives” (Kwaka 2003, 47). When it withdraws from multi-lateralism, it weakens international law, but—at the same time—it also makes the US “more vulnerable to risks and dangers posed by a more globalized Post-Cold War” (Kwakwa 2003, 55). Meanwhile, the International Law Commission dealt with fragmentation in terms of “the emergence of specialized and (relatively) autonomous rules or rule-­ complexes, legal institutions and spheres of legal practice”—in other words, “functional differentiation.” This phenomenon has both an institutional aspect as well as a legal one, and opens itself to conflicts both in the structures and systems of institutional authority as well as in the structures and systems of legal norms, rules, and principles (Koskenniemi 2007).7

The Problem of Values What values can be seen to undergird the process of an emerging international community? Paulus and Simma detail three value-reception approaches, borrowing from the British international relations theorist Hedley Bull (Paulus and Simma 1998, 269). In the first approach—the Hobbesian “realist” tradition—states are taken as being in a permanent situation of war in a world of power politics, temporary alliances, national interest, and win-or-lose and zero-sum games (Paulus and Simma 1998). The second, the Kantian view, is defined as universalist and stresses the primacy of an international civil society over the state in the building of a community of mankind (Paulus and Simma 1998). The third, the Grotian internationalistic view, upholds an international society of states who must cooperate to achieve common values and ideals. A further refinement is seen in the neo-Grotian (Friedmannian) perspective, a communitarian system of an organized state community built on common interests and institutions. Another variation is the Vattelian approach, a narrow internationalism where multilateral or bilateral relations are limited by national interests (Paulus and Simma 1998). From this framework, Paulus and Simma advance a mixed approach—of Grotian, Kantian, and Vattelian perspectives—one that is cautiously optimistic about the shape of things to come: the famous “Lotus principle,” according to which states are only bound by their express 7  This also appeared earlier as International Law Commission, Fragmentation of International Law: Difficulties Arising from the Diversification and Expansion of International Law—Report of the Study Group of the International Law Commission UN Doc. A/CN.4/L.682 (Apr. 13, 2006), as corrected and finalized by Martti Koskenniemi UN Doc. A/CN.4/L.682/Corr.1 (Aug. 11, 2006).

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consent, is apparently gradually giving way to a more communitarian, more highly institutionalized international law, in which states funnel the pursuit of most of their individual interests through multilateral institutions –a development that contains as “much aspiration as reality” (Paulus and Simma 1998, 270).

 ooyeweerdian Building Blocks of a Pluralistic International D Legal Order The Hangover of Liberalism Glossing over contemporary theoretical reflection about the international community, it becomes apparent that a plausible and fruitful framework for understanding the international order is necessary and lacking. This has partly to do with the hang-­ over of a liberal approach to institutions. There is, as the Reformational political philosopher Jonathan Chaplin remarks—borrowing from the legal philosopher Mary Ann Glendon—a missing dimension of “sociality” in much of liberal theorizing on institutional rights, which has been decidedly individualistic in orientation. “Because contemporary liberalism lacks an adequate notion of sociality,” says Chaplin, “liberal legal, constitutional, and political [theories] have proved unable to generate a convincing account of the reality and character of the legal rights of institutions” (Chaplin 2005). As Chaplin argues, “[t]he empirical observation that many social institutions themselves do have positive legal rights is indisputable, yet liberal individualism seems unable to offer much beyond an implausible contractualist explanation of their origin and status” (Chaplin 2005, 148). Liberal theorists tend to construe the phenomenon of institutional rights as merely derived from the rights of associating individuals rather than as having some independent foundation and status not finally reducible to individual rights. An institution is defined from a clearly Dooyeweerdian perspective by Chaplin as “a broad category embracing most organized and relatively enduring social bodies, corporations, communities or associations—such as marriages, families, religious organizations, business corporations, trades unions, and voluntary associations” (Chaplin 2005, 149). Thus, the Finnish international legal theorist Martti Koskenniemi argues that the discourse on the international legal order has been characterized by a binary opposition; it is an opposition that, he stresses, is an irreconcilable doctrinal contradiction between the individualistic and the communitarian visions of international law. Indeed, the main thesis of his path-breaking 1989 book From Apology to utopia: The structure of international legal argument is that international law, insofar as it comes under the influence of liberal political theory, is an assemblage of contradictory, if not ultimately indeterminate, set of doctrines. The structure of international legal argument, he says, is such that doctrine “is forced to maintain itself in constant movement from emphasizing concreteness to emphasizing normativity and vice versa without being able to establish itself permanently in either position…This…is ultimately explained by the contradictory nature of the liberal doctrine of politics.” (Koskenniemi 1998, 46)


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The position is seen in how liberal doctrine assumes a given conflict between individual freedom and communal order, and solves this by thinking of one in terms of the other. The individualist, he says, lays stress on the “ultimate freedom” of the state to participate in any project to build a community where a beneficial order is one based on “freely concluded cooperative arrangements” realized out of the state’s “enlightened interests” (Koskenniemi 1989, 429). Ultimately, in Koskenniemi’s eyes, the individualist is forced to resort to a communitarian position. On the other hand, the communitarian cannot explain “why her postulated community would avoid becoming a negative utopia otherwise than by referring back to freely concluded agreements between States.” For the moment she does this, he says, she steps into the shoes of the individualist: for, to be able to successfully argue for such a community, she first needs to assume “that the existence of free and individualistic states with a given right to make a social order of their liking is prior to any community between them” (Koskenniemi 1989, 429).

Dooyeweerd’s Radical Social Ontology From a Reformational standpoint, the traditional opposition between individual rights and community rights simply fails to grasp the idea of various societal spheres with their respective competencies. Both are reductionist approaches so that, in their scheme of things, there can be no principled balance between the individual and society. In contrast, Dooyeweerd argues that individualism absolutizes the inter-­individual relations while universalism (or collectivism) absolutizes the communal bond. Yet in his pluralistic social ontology, founded on the principle of societal sphere sovereignty, communities and inter-linkages presuppose each other; indeed, he shows that wherever such communal wholes exist, there also exist relationships between such communities (inter-communal relations) and between members of such communities (inter-individual relationships) (Dooyeweerd 1997). Developing the Kuyperian line further, Dooyeweerd’s idea of sphere sovereignty posits that beyond it being a sociological principle designed to guarantee the independence of various spheres of life, it expresses an ontological, or as he preferred to say, a cosmological principle, which guarantees the irreducibility of the various aspects of reality. However, how does Dooyeweerd account not only for the individual and the state but also for non-state actors belonging to civil society? In his social ontology, there is no single communal whole that absorbs everything else—in contrast to the Aristotelean polis or Hobbes’ Leviathan state. The state is but one of many societal spheres with their respective areas of material competence. The same can be said of inter-individual relationships—these are coordinational relationships, not communal wholes. Thus, in the case of the state, contra those who accord to it unrestrained power, in Dooyeweerd’s normative theory, while power is foundational to its

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e­ stablishment, it is balanced by its indissoluble tie to justice, which is its leading function, or its intrinsic purpose qualifying its internal structure (Van Woudenberg 2006). This intrinsic purpose is expressed through norms of public justice, which is shorthand for those norms that pertain to the common good and the various multiple collective, communal, and coordinational interests that the state is to balance (Strauss 2010). For Dooyeweerd, the sphere sovereignty principle dictates that what is internal to each sphere is determined by its leading function and its structural nature. The limits to the state are found in the structural principles that govern its functioning: “[t]he state is led by norms of justice, not ethics; the accomplishment of public justice is the structural principle of the state, not the enforcement of non-public morals” (Dooyeweerd 1997, 385). In the words of Clouser, Dooyeweerd’s theory of the state—while agreeing that the state’s duty is toward the whole society—restricts state power not by some supposedly external limit set by another institution (the church, or business, for example) and enforced by the competing power of the other, but by the very nature of the state itself. “It is the state’s own internal structure which sets its proper limits” (Clouser 2005, 94). Within the sphere of that task, the state is sovereign, but so are the other non-­ political entities in their own spheres of competence. This means that the state may, in fact, require the support of non-political spheres for the viability of public life (Clouser 2005). That is why Dooyeweerd assiduously argues against theories that conceive of society from its supposed basic elements—the allegedly elementary interrelations between human individuals—so that communities they form are merely legal fictions. Dooyeweerd argues that “the civil legal personality is only a specific component of the full legal subjectivity. This latter is equally constituted by various internal legal relationships implied in the membership of various communities.” Moreover, for him, the “human I-ness” transcends every temporal societal relationship so that it is totally wrong to think of human beings as an organic member or part of any temporal social whole (Dooyeweerd 1997, 280). For this reason, he considers universalistic conceptions of society as more dangerous than individualistic ones, inasmuch as the former, in contrast to the latter, is “in principle a totalitarian ideology which implies a constant threat to human personality” (Dooyeweerd 1997, 196). In any case, both approaches flatten societal relationships in distinct ways. Universalistic theories cannot conceive of communities distinct from the state; individualistic ones, on the other hand, cannot conceive of genuine communities distinct from individuals, whom they consider to be free and autonomous. The radical implications of Dooyeweerd’s social ontology (and by extension, his legal ontology) for international law may be glimpsed in the following words by Skillen: “[d]ifferent social relationships have different characters, different kinds of law-making requirements, different foundations” (Skillen 1973, 388). Societal sphere sovereignty in this context means that each societal sphere has an intrinsic jural competence as an entity, community, or institution. In other words, each— state, church, school, non-governmental organization or civil society group,


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museum, or school—has original legal personality. Now, this is a decidedly more radical theory of legal personality than what individualism or universalism can offer. Legal personality is not dependent on the grant of recognition by the state or any other institution. Legal personality springs from that particular sphere’s given-­ ness and competence to make laws for its own benefit, from the sovereignty it exercises in its own sphere or orbit. Because, for the most part, international law has been dominated by the Westphalian model, where states are the only source of law-making, it has been difficult for many international legal scholars to conceive of a type of international law where the state is not the only entity that matters. In the still dominant paradigm, the state is ultimately the only entity that really matters—to the exclusion of almost every other entity. Therefore, a new ontological basis is required for the wider inclusion and participation of other, non-state, entities in international life. An appeal to democratic participation will not be sufficient.

 orporations: No Mere Creatures of Legal Fictions C in International Law One hotly-debated topic in contemporary international legal theorizing—the place of corporations in the process of law-making—may further illustrate the power of Dooyeweerd’s radical social ontology. Corporations, according to the standard liberal view, should not be treated as imbued with social responsibility, inasmuch as they exist solely because of a convenient “legal fiction”: Those who argue that corporations have a social responsibility … assume that corporations are capable of having social or moral obligations. This is a fundamental error. A corporation … is nothing more than a legal fiction that serves as a nexus for a mass of contracts which various individuals have voluntarily entered into for their mutual benefit. Since it is a legal fiction, a corporation is incapable of having social or moral obligations much in the same way that inanimate objects are incapable of having these obligations. (Fischel 1982, 1273)

Yet, the widespread presence of corporations in international commerce has been recognized in international law through the establishment of regulatory mechanisms. The earliest of these mechanisms is the International Labor Organization, established in the first part of the twentieth century. South African international legal scholar Jeremy Sarkin notes that, today, African human rights litigants, borrowing from the lessons of World War II, are increasingly turning to multinational corporations for reparations: The individual bad actors are often dead, missing, beyond the jurisdictional reach of domestic courts, or unable to satisfy large damage claims. The immortality of the multinational corporate entity, its size, wealth and omnipresence in a variety of jurisdictions make it uniquely attractive as a defendant. (Sarkin 2004, 70)

He offers two reasons for the shift. First, he refers to the “clear position from 1948,” when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. This instrument

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demands that “every individual and every organ of society … promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance.” Second, Sarkin argues that although “companies may not be in the habit of referring to themselves as “organs of society,” they are a fundamental part of society. As such, they have a moral and social obligation to respect the universal rights enshrined in the Declaration” (Sarkin 2004, 72). These developments in the thinking on the responsibility of multinational corporations under international law for breaches of fundamental human rights norms provides some empirical support to the radical Reformational concept of a separate legal personality for non-state actors in the international realm. In fact, we can say Dooyeweerd was much ahead of his time as far as theorizing on international legal personality is concerned: before there ever was any discussion about such matters as democratic participation as a legitimating praxis, he said that we should grant “being”—if we can phrase it that way—to other spheres of life, and not just to the state or individual. His theory of diverse societal structures points to the diversity in reality and its basic unity in the created order.

A Radical Legal Ontology Dooyeweerd’s social ontology is also his legal ontology; that is, his theory of the sources of law springs from his theory of societal sphere sovereignty, of the structural principles that arise from the integrity of different societal spheres. These structural principles that govern each of the different societal spheres and relationships in Dooyeweerd’s social ontology ground an original competence to produce law; in other words, their spheres of competence are, properly speaking, the material sources of law. These associational spheres, to borrow from Chaplin, “have the power to establish valid legal norms within their own spheres” (Chaplin 2005). As Dooyeweerd expounds on his theory of the sources of law: All law displaying the typical individuality structure of a particular community of inter-­ individual or inter-communal relationship, in principle falls within the material-jural sphere of competence of such a societal orbit, and is only formally connected (in its genetic form) with spheres of competence of other societal orbits. (Dooyeweerd 1997, 669)

As he argues, societal structural principles rooted in the creational order—norms that delimit the bounds of the differentiated spheres—“lie at the basis of every formation of positive law and [it is only these principles that make the latter] possible” (Dooyeweerd 1997, 669). For Dooyeweerd, a source of law is any jural form in which material, divine, jural principles are positivized by the competent lawmaking organs of a jural community or a sphere of legal relationship into binding positive law within that community or relationship (Skillen 1973). Dooyeweerd’s observation—that inasmuch as the various spheres in society are inter-twined in various structural interlacements their original spheres of c­ ompetence


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bind and limit one another—applies as well to the international legal order. For now, I will confine myself to a brief discussion of the role of what Dooyeweerd calls “enkapsis” on law-formation. In general, in the Dooyeweerdian scheme of things, enkapsis is the binding of a certain institution or structure with another, without canceling the peculiar character of the former (In contrast to a part-whole relation, where the whole encompasses the parts). As Dooyeweerd would put it, it is the “complicated manner in which the simple individuality-structures are interlaced with each other by the cosmic order of time and through which they are united, in part, within complex structural totalities” (Dooyeweerd 2002). This guideline is anchored in the mutual intertwinement of differently qualified societal spheres and relationships. There are different types of enkapsis. We can speak of the correlative and the unilateral. In a correlative enkapsis both structures presuppose each other, as in the case of the interlacement between communal and coordinational relationships. A variation of correlative enkapsis is territorial enkapsis, where all differentiated societal structures are territorially bound to the state in whole or in part (Dooyeweerd 1997, 662). In this way, Dooyeweerd can account for the Roman Catholic Church, which transcends the territorial boundaries of the state—an example that clearly shows that other societal structures cannot be a part of the state. He explains this reality by another example: [T]he relations between the state and its citizens may cut straight across the other societal structures…The members of the same family or kinship may belong to different political nationalities; and all international organizations and inter-individual societal relations overarch the territorial boundaries of the individual states. As far as the internal structures of the other societal relationships are concerned, the enkaptic territorial connection with the state remains of an external nature. (Dooyeweerd 1997, 662)

Moreover, when one speaks of law, there is what may be called—for lack of a better term— “legal” enkapsis: as indicated earlier, there is a mutual interrelationship of different sources of law requiring an investigation of the external relationship and connection of the sources of law which in their internal spheres are sovereign. Stated in another way, positivized laws found in the various spheres of competence, are interlinked with one another in complex ways through enkapsis. According to Dooyweerd, insight into the nature of enkapsis, appears to be of fundamental importance for the theory of human society because, in current conceptions, the difference in principle between sphere sovereignty and autonomy is consistently misunderstood. (Dooyeweerd 2002, 310)

This insight, according to Dooyeweerd, has a fundamental bearing on any theory of the sources of law, because it is only by making a sharp distinction between the internal sphere sovereignty of radically different societal structures (such as for example, state, church, and business organization) and the autonomy of parts of one and the same societal whole (such as, for example, municipality and province within the state) can proper jural insight be obtained into the mutual relationship of the original material spheres of competence with respect to the area of law formation.” (Dooyeweerd 2002, 310)

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How does enkapsis happen in law-formation? First, it must be understood that Dooyeweerd rejects a purely formal law in which all positive law is material; under the positivist scheme, according to him, civil law is identified with private law and the latter is set against public law (in turn, the latter is classified into state and administrative law, penal law, etc.). In this scheme, then, private law is supposed to regulate mutual relationships between citizens, as opposed to public law, which regulates relationships between the state and citizens (Dooyeweerd 2002). However, he argues that: This is a completely inaccurate representation of matters because in the first place, there is a great deal of private law that does not have the character of civil law, and in the second place civil law is in principle independent of the citizenship of a particular state and instead regulates civil-legal interactions between people, independently of their membership of the national community. (Dooyeweerd 2002, 203–204)

Rather, Dooyeweerd proffers a material classification of law according to the internal nature of the different legal spheres; in other words, the differentiated material classification of law is dependent on the variegated structural principles of human societal relationships, and Dooyeweerd agrees with the Kelsenian school that the material classifications of law are of a nonjural kind (Dooyeweerd 2002). Here, we have to make a distinction between the formal source of law and material competence.8 The formal source of law is determined by the different enkaptic relations that happen in the interlacement of different societal structures and relationships. Material competence, meanwhile, refers to the invariant structural principles of the various societal relationships that are sovereign in their own spheres; in other words, the material sources of law (Dooyeweerd 2002). Thus, one and the same genetic form (that is, a formal source of law) posivitizing jural principles, says Dooyeweerd, may be an original source of law in one sphere 8  It is interesting to note that, in international law, a distinction is often made between formal and material sources of law; one that roughly corresponds to the general distinction Dooyeweerd makes between formal law and material sources, albeit with a key difference, as will be discussed shortly. As a Filipino international law scholar says in his compact but highly useful primer on the fundamentals of international law of this divide in the sources of international law: Formal sources consist of methods and procedures by which norms are created, and material sources are the substantive evidence of the existence of norms. A rule, for example, will be considered legally binding as customary norm or custom on account of the process or method by which it has created through the formal of general practice accepted as law. Hence custom as norm-creating process is a formal source of law. Its content in terms of state practice arising from a sense of legal duty is its material source (Magallona 2005, 11). Magallona then quotes the work of the early twentieth century jurist John Salmond, whose work appears to have been echoed by Dooyeweerd’s distinction between the formal and material sources of law: “the material sources supply the substance of the rule to which formal sources give the force and nature of law” (Salmond 1924). What Dooyeweerd adds to Salmond’s definition of material sources of law is that, for him, the latter springs from the invariant structural principles of the various societal relationships that are sovereign in their own spheres, based on the latter’s material competence. Dooyeweerd can very well agree with one contemporary philosopher of international law’s contention that material sources of law pertain to all the moral or social processes that give rise to the content of international law and that the formal sources of international law refer to the formal processes through which such content is identified and transformed into law (Besson 2005).


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of competence but may be a derived source of law in another sphere. Indeed, inasmuch as such spheres are inter-twined in various structural interlacements, their original spheres of competence bind and limit one another. While a formal source of law is inextricably bound with a law-forming organ (say, a criminal statute emanating from the legislature), such an organ is interwoven with various material spheres of competence, so that it can never be the source of validity of all positive law (Dooyeweerd 1997). Hence: An internal ecclesiastical legal relation, e.g. does not exist “in itself”, i.e., in isolation, but only in an enkaptic interlacement with constitutional State-law, civil law, inter-individual law, internal law, and family relations law, and so on. Therefore, every internal jural relation within a particular sphere of competence has its counterpart in jural relations within other spheres of competence. Such a jural relation has inter-structural aspects that are interwoven with each other. (Dooyeweerd 1997, 669)

Thus, it may well be that a law of civil character may also include provisions that are drawn from public law. An example from the Philippine Civil Code9 is instructive. The following are relevant provisions that are apropos to the present discussion: … Art. 6. Rights may be waived, unless the waiver is contrary to law, public order, public policy, morals, or good customs, or prejudicial to a third person with a right recognized by law. (4a) … Art. 8. Judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the Constitution shall form a part of the legal system of the Philippines. (n) Art. 9. No judge or court shall decline to render judgment by reason of the silence, obscurity or insufficiency of the laws. (6) Art. 10. In case of doubt in the interpretation or application of laws, it is presumed that the lawmaking body intended right and justice to prevail. (n) Art. 11. Customs which are contrary to law, public order or public policy shall not be countenanced. (n) … Art. 14. Penal laws and those of public security and safety shall be obligatory upon all who live or sojourn in the Philippine territory, subject to the principles of public international law and to treaty stipulations. 9  Otherwise known as Republic Act No. 386, The New Civil Code of the Philippines, which took effect in 1950. The new Philippine Civil Code finds roots in Spanish conquest, although it draws from the wider civil law tradition (Rivera 1977), and also exhibits some innovations taken from the American tradition, such as in the area of notions of individual autonomy, torts, actions for damages for violations of constitutional rights, and the constitutional right to privacy (Agabin 1991). Balane observes that around 57% of the 2270 articles in the new civil code were either verbatim translations or adaptations from the Spanish Code, and which Spanish derivation pertains to the “most basic provisions, like the law on persons, the law on property, on succession, and on obligations” (Balane 1979, 43). In 1988, a new Code on Persons and Family Relations subsequently amended the 1950 Civil Code, but the above provisions remain in force, along with many other books and chapters of the latter. If anything, Agabin’s essay noted here further underscores the significance of Dooyeweerd’s theory of legal enkapsis, as the noted Filipino constitutionalist shows how concepts drawn from both American common law and constitutional law have been grafted into the Philippine civil law system.

International Legal Theory, International Community, and International Legal Order…


The provisions above underline Dooyeweerd’s point that (a) civil law regulates mutual relationships between people within a territory, and not just between citizens, and (b) it is not only public law that has something to say about the relationship between state and citizens but also private law; or rather, civil law intersects public law and is therefore not to be understood as a self-contained system sealed off from public law. They also illustrate the enkaptic interlacement between civil law and public law: here, while the civil code contains provisions drawn from public law or pertain to public justice or the common good, such provisions do not invalidate the nature of the statute in question as civil law. In addition, Art. 14 demonstrates the interlacement of a domestic law provision with international law, without the latter invalidating the status of the former as civil law. Legal enkapsis may also take place in the international realm between two different genetic forms, or between different formal sources of law. An example is the intersection between treaty law and customary international law. It can be the case that a treaty may also embody principles long considered as binding—the principles being long part of customary international law. Another way of saying it is that a treaty may simply be restating a rule that already exists independently as a norm of customary international law. This has been recognized in the landmark case of Nicaragua v. the United States,10 litigated before the International Court of Justice. In this case, the ICJ held that the Charter of the United States cannot be said to exhaust all principles dealing with the use of force, as the latter is also addressed by customary international law, which exists contemporaneously with treaty law—albeit the former may also be grafted into the latter by way of codification. A ruling predating the Nicaragua case and stating the same principle has been expressed in the Philippine case of Kuroda v. Jalandoni,11 which concerned the trial of a Japanese officer for war crimes during World War II. In this case, lawyers for the Japanese officer argued that, under the principle of legality, he could not be tried for war crimes under the Hague Convention on Rules and Regulations covering Land Warfare because the Philippines was not a party to it. However, the Philippine Supreme Court held that while it is true that the Philippines was not a party to the Hague Convention, it was nevertheless bound to it because its provisions are also part of customary international law, which in turn becomes domestic law through the Incorporation Clause of the 1935 Philippine Constitution.

 Case Concerning the Military and Paramilitary Activities in and Against Nicaragua (Nicaragua v. US) 1986 ICJ 1 11  G.R. No. L-2662 (En Banc) March 26, 1949. 10


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 egal Enkapsis and the Development of an International Ordre L Public This notion of legal enkapsis may be elaborated further in the public nature of the international legal order, which is an important insight from Dooyeweerd. The significance of such insight, in my view, has been confirmed since the second half of the twentieth century by, first, the developing international law on state responsibility which addresses the illegal acts of states (Crawford 2005) and, second, by the growing consensus among states on the need to conceive of international law as imbued by considerations of public interest, as expressed fundamentally in the UN Charter itself (De Wet 2006). Indeed, as discussed earlier, the ICJ itself has recognized the existence of erga omnes obligations or legal obligations of states towards “the international community as a whole,” which obligations, by their very nature, are the concern of all states. Four converging strands of development in international law and international relations may serve to underline this. First, some of these obligations involve, on a first-order level, jus cogens norms that have reordered the structure of international law as a horizontal normative system into a hierarchical one. Second, the establishment of the International Criminal Court through the Rome Statute, which, in itself, points to two key developments: one, the creation of the world’s first permanent, international tribunal implementing classical criminal law in the international plane, and two, the full realization of the individual as a direct bear of rights and obligations in international law. Third, though not without its discontents, the growing role of the Security Council in the international legal order in the exercise of its powers under Chapter VII of the UN Charter concerning international peace and security, Fourth, the move of international law away from the “orthodoxy of enforcement by sanction” to “a framework of cooperation for working out approaches to humanity’s predicaments and crises” in pollution and environmental law, as states recognize the common dangers the world faces in climate change. This is exemplified in the mechanism of the Meeting of Parties utilized in various environmental law conventions (Magallona 2005, vi–viii). Thus, an older era in international law, as exemplified in the famous Lotus principle,12 according to which states are only bound by their express consent, has gradually given way to a more communitarian, more highly institutionalized international law, in which states funnel the pursuit of most of their individual interests through multilateral institutions—a development that contains as “much aspiration as reality” (Paulus and Simma 1998, 277).

 S.S. Lotus (France v. Turkey) 1927 P.C.I.J (ser. A) no. 10, at p. 18 (Sept. 7), says: “Restrictions upon the independence of States cannot be presumed….”and that that therefore, states “have a wide measure to act” under international law, subject only to express prohibitions.


International Legal Theory, International Community, and International Legal Order…


Of course, non-political spheres exist on the international plane, but—as in the case of non-political spheres in the national or municipal level—such spheres become inter-twined in some way with the international legal order. This is another important insight extending from the first because generally, by most accounts of international law, a sharp divide is made between private and public international law. Hence, we have a commercial treaty between two states that may contain provisions borrowed from civil law and public law as one example. In fact, a commercial treaty, if it is shown that its provisions conflict with jus cogens norms or peremptory norms that may not be derogated from pursuant to Art. 53 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties may be invalidated, in whole or in part.13 Another example is the intertwinement or interlacement of human rights law and corporation law. As pointed to above, transnational corporations now come under heightened scrutiny for their business activities that violate human rights norms, especially in third world or underdeveloped contexts (Nowrot 2006). This is an example of a non-political sphere intersecting with the sphere of public interest. A third example is the presence of the “public morals” clause in Article XIV(a) of the General Agreement on Trade in Services, which authorizes countries, under certain specified conditions, to impose trade-restrictive measures “necessary to protect public morals.”14 Indeed one may ask how an international commercial treaty could embody such a clause addressed to the protection of public morals, a concern that decidedly arises from public law? A fourth example: “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” are an inter-­ communal concern of the international legal order; hence, under international law, any state has a duty to prosecute perpetrators found within its territory even if the crimes were committed elsewhere, as these crimes are subject to universal jurisdiction (Wald 2007); or, if it is not possible to do so, the state has an alternative obligation to extradite the perpetrators to the next available state, otherwise known as the aut dedere, aut judicare principle (Enache-Brown and Fried 1998). Here, international law finds interlacements with municipal law through the principle of universal jurisdiction. A fifth example: Dooyeweerd’s theory of legal enkapsis also finds resonance in contemporary theorizing on the public dimensions of private international law. This pertains to the recognition that, on a global level, there are now many areas in private international law that no longer involve purely private interests but “strong state policies or substantive values perceived as fundamental by the global community”; hence, “it is mistaken and indeed harmful to continue to represent the rules designed to respond to these conflicts as being ‘neutral,’ since this leads to the [underestimation of] the needs generated by the novel ways in which national laws inter-relate in

 See Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties art. 53, May 23, 1969, U.N.T.S. 331.  See General Agreement on Trade in Services art. XIV(a), Apr. 15, 1994, Marrakesh Agreement Establishing the World Trade Organization, Annex 1B, Legal Instruments-Results of the Uruguay Round, 1869 U.N.T.S. 183, 33 I.L.M. 1167 (1994). In fact, disputes have already arisen on the matter of interpreting this clause in the context of gambling regulation (Marwell 2006).

13 14


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a global setting and prevents private international law from being fully invested with an appropriate regulatory function” (Muir-Watt 2008). An interesting aspect of this development in private international law actually concerns the conflict in public laws, in respect of regulatory mechanisms in Europe that involve public, administrative or regulatory law. Thus, this situation: “[s]uch law is given extraterritorial effect, through mutual recognition; independent regulatory authorities appear, with a duty to cooperate transnationally; elaborate schemes allocate regulatory authority among the Member States,” as, for instance, in the area of securities regulation or of global capital markets (Muir-Watt 2008).15 Indeed, from a Dooyeweerdian perspective, the sphere of private international law rests on the framework of public international law. Many more examples can be drawn from contemporary international law to illustrate this point about enkapsis as it develops in the formation of the sources of international law.

 From a Dooyeweerdian standpoint, it is argued that, even prior to these developments, the sphere of private international law has always rested on the framework of public international law. One can point, for instance, to the work of the Hague Conference on Private International Law—an intergovernmental organization that, since 1893, has worked for the progressive unification of the rules of private international law. Indeed, it now calls itself the “World Organization for CrossBorder Cooperation in Civil and Commercial Matters.” With 81 members consisting of 80 states and one regional economic integration organization (the European Union), it is arguably the largest among such organizations working for such a unified system of private international law rules. In addition, 68 other states, while they are not members of the conference, have signed, ratified or acceded to one or more Hague Conventions, or are in the process of becoming a member. Consider the list of conventions, protocols, and principles it has given birth to, 39  in total, listed in the Appendix to this chapter. Space constraints do not allow here a treaty by treaty analysis. Suffice it to say that the work of the Hague Conference underscores a key Dooyeweerdian insight about the interlacement of civil, commercial, and public legal issues, even at the international level. It also highlights how public justice undergirds state obligations towards ensuring that civil and commercial matters that implicate the interests not just of individuals, but of states, achieve harmonization as much as possible. Further, it shows—in no uncertain terms—how private international law intersects with public international law in many ways, and how, in fact, the former cannot exist without the framework provided by the latter. Indeed, the mere device of the treaty to further the aims of private international law already assumes the former’s reliance on the latter. Recall that Art. 2(1)(a) of the 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties defines a treaty as an “international agreement concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments and whatever its particular designation.” See the Hague Conference’s official website at . All information discussed in this paper concerning the conference have been taken from this website.


International Legal Theory, International Community, and International Legal Order…


 rom “International Community” to “Inter-Communal Legal F Order” I will now turn to how a Dooyeweerdian perspective would treat of the concept of “international community.” First of all, the uncritical appropriation by theorists of the state of Tönnies’ terminology neglects the former’s romanticist tendencies. In his pessimistic theory, modernity leads to Gesellschaft, into a societal differentiation (if not decline) marked by contractual relations, at the expense of an organic unity of the Gemeinschaft—for him the true community (Dooyeweerd 1997). As Dooyeweerd notes, Tönnies employs the terms Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft to sharply contrast an essential “social organism,” where an individual arises spontaneously as in an ingrown organic process from the mechanical aggregate of transitory social ties and relations, which the German sociologist viewed as artificial products of human arbitrariness (Dooyeweerd 1997). In modern life, according to Tönnies, there are only residues of the true Gemeinschaft in family life, the state, church, trade-unions etc. Gemeinschaft is now officially over, and we are now beyond hope as modernity ushered us into the unstoppable march of Gesellschaft, with its prospect of the dissolution and decline of human culture (Dooyeweerd 1997). If we therefore follow the logical conclusion to Tönnies’ theory, in the highly differentiated international legal order as we have today, the building of an organicist “international community” is impossible, given that from the German sociologist’s romantic philosophy of history, the differentiation that inevitably takes place in the process of modernization leads to eventual breakdown of community—of Gemeinschaft. As it is, Tönnies’ Gemeinschaft is a “thick” account of communal life, where members are deemed parts of the larger whole. In such a community, there is a clear hierarchy of authority so that the members cannot simply opt out of the relations. It is the result of more than a consensus; in fact, it can be said that legal compulsion is involved. There is a top-to-bottom imposition of authority that no one can escape. The parts cannot exist without the larger whole. Yet, I would argue that a clear, different conceptualization of an “international community” is needed. There is mismatch between the philosophical roots of concepts such as “community” (Gemeinschaft) and the uses for which its proponents would want to invoke it. In order to develop a coherent and workable formal institutional structure for the international legal order along constitutional lines, a framework is needed that is no longer (overtly or subconsciously) dependent on this particular “communitarian” background.

The Inter-Communal Legal Order Dooyeweerd’s writings on international law are few and far between. In his massive three-volume work New critique, he only makes scattered references to the idea of an international legal order and international law, and its justification and analysis.


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It is always in the context of his general theoretical construction of societal structures. Dooyeweerd’ theory of international law and international legal order is succinctly, if perhaps cryptically, summarized in a few sentences of the New critique: Here we meet with an indubitable correlative type of enkapsis. It makes no sense to assume that the rise of international relations between [and among] States is irreversibly founded [on] the rise of the separate body politic. And the reverse assumption is equally meaningless. The truth is that the structure of the body politic has always been realized in a plurality of States, so that the rise of the latter implied their international political relations and vice versa. The idea of a civitas maxima, a world-State embracing all nations without exemption, has up till now been of a speculative character. From the juridical point of view this state of affairs implies that any attempt to construe the validity of the international public order from the constitutional law of the separate States or vice versa contains an intrinsic contradiction. Kelsen’s opinion that from a scientific viewpoint these alternative constructions are of equal validity is incompatible both with the inner nature of the State and with that of the international political relations. The hypothesis of the sovereignty of the constitutional legal order of the State, as the ultimate origin of the validity of, is tantamount to the fundamental denial of international law as an inter-­ communal legal order. And the reverse hypothesis results in the denial of the inner communal character of the Constitutional State-law, which is the very presupposition of international public law as an inter-communal legal order. (italics in the original, Dooyeweerd 1997, 661)

At this point, we can be certain that Dooyeweerd rejects the idea of an all-­embracing “civitas maxima”—“a world-State embracing all nations without exemption”—as an historically supported proposition; in fact, he says it is a matter that has not gone beyond the sphere of the speculative, and we might add, the existence of the United Nations notwithstanding (Dooyeweerd 1997, 661). This is a conclusion that needs elaboration. Indeed, when he speaks of international (public) law, Dooyeweerd refers to it as an “inter-communal legal order.” Hence, Dooyeweerd rejects the idea that international law could arise from a single state or “the single body politic” (Dooyeweerd 1997, 661). A corollary to this is that, according to Dooyeweerd, could not be the basis of constitutional law and its validity, nor is constitutional law the basis of international law and its validity. To subscribe to the idea that constitutional law and its validity are based on international law, according to him, is “tantamount to the fundamental denial of international law as an inter-communal legal order” (Dooyeweerd 1997, 661). Meanwhile, to subscribe to the idea that international law and its validity is based on constitutional law, says Dooyeweerd, is “the denial of the inner communal character of the Constitutional State-law, which is the very presupposition of international public law as an inter-communal legal order” (Dooyeweerd 1997, 661). From his brief description of the international legal order the following inter-related propositions can then be reconstructed: First, the inner communal character of the “Constitutional State-law” is the very presupposition of international law as an inter-communal legal order, the latter being founded on the former as an interlinkage of communal constitutional legal orders.

International Legal Theory, International Community, and International Legal Order…


Second, such an inner communal character of the state finds full realization in a plurality of states, so that the rise of the latter implied their international political relations and vice versa. This means that without a plurality of states, there can be no. Third and fourth, the relations obtaining in this inter-communal legal order (that is, international law) illustrate a “correlative type of enkapsis,” which in the end— our fourth proposition—runs counter to the idea of a civitas maxima—an all-­ embracing world-state. Dooyeweerd differentiates between communal relations and social relations as transcendental categories. On the one hand, there are communal relations, which bind people together as members of a whole. On the other hand, there are social relations—be they of cooperation, complementation, indifference, or hostility—that make it possible for people to coexist in society (Dooyeweerd 1986). These relations are only possible in correlative enkapsis (Dooyeweerd 1986). Social relationships are interlinkages between individuals, communities, or communities and individuals. Dooyeweerd identifies two types of social relationships: the inter-­ individual and inter-communal. It is interesting to note that Dooyeweerd provides an identical function for both inter-individual and inter-communal relations: By inter-individual or inter-communal relationships I mean such in which individual persons or communities function in coordination without being united into a solidary whole. Such relationships may show the character of mutual neutrality, of approachment, free cooperation or antagonism, competition or contest. (Dooyeweerd 1997, 117)

The state—as a differentiated public, legal community—unites its subjects in a more or less permanent way as members of the same social whole (the public, legal community). States are communities in their own right. Yet states, in their historical formation, also engage in relations among one another. Dooyeweerd says states are intertwined in enkaptic inter-communal relations in which communities interact in friendly cooperation, mutual competition, or enmity. Yet, they do not bind their peoples into a social whole or part-whole relations as these relations are by mutual consent, in the nature of a voluntary association. Moreover, there are no relations of authority and subordination in these relations; although, certain groups and classes can exert a powerful influence through these interlinkages. Dooyeweerd also holds that, generally, it is only in inter-structural intertwinements with other individuality-structures where any single structure of individuality is realized. According to him, both the sphere sovereignty of modal aspect as well as the sphere sovereignty of structural types of individuality only reveal themselves in an interstructural enkaptic coherence, barring any attempt to absolutize them (Dooyeweerd 1997). But “[a] lack of insight into the principle difference between social relations of enkapsis and the social whole-part relation,” he warns, “leads to a universalistic view of society” (Dooyeweerd 1997, 627). In the case of the inter-­ communal legal order of states, Dooyeweerd specifically identifies what kind of enkapsis is involved: correlative enkapsis. Correlative enkapsis as a structural relation is one where the interlacement has a reciprocal character. It is a definition that echoes the nature of inter-communal


R. R. Bagares

relations. “Correlative enkapsis assumes greater significance with the increasing differentiation and division of labor in society,” says Doyeweerd. “This in turn leads to an increasing mutual dependence of communities” (Dooyeweerd 1986). In the technology-­ dominated increasingly differentiated, globalized world of the present, Dooyeweerd’s words should not be difficult to understand.

 orrelative Enkapsis as Reciprocity and the Possibility C of International Law We shall now turn to the dynamics of correlative enkapsis in the international legal order as Dooyeweerd envisions it to be. If the international legal order is characterized by correlative enkapsis, what does this entail specifically? Dooyeweerd strongly defends the possibility of international law when he discusses the state’s monopoly of the power of the sword within its territorial area in relation to the popular view of Hegelian thought, which grants that a nation proves its right to exist in war. However, he says that Hegel, in “dangerously” confusing might with right and arguing that the comity of nations is nothing but a contest won by the “law of the strongest,” also wrongfully denied the validity of international law (Dooyeweerd 2003, 89). However, as Koyzis notes, the genius of Dooyeweerd’s political philosophy is that it can account for both power (might) and justice (right) as “indispensable and complementary elements in understanding the nature of the state of the governing authority within the state” (Koyzis 2004, 11). Indeed, they are integral aspects of the state, expressed in its founding and qualifying functions. Hence, if correlative enkapsis is to work as it should, might and right must also go together in the inter-­ communal relations between and among states. The states forming the international legal order have a common duty to observe and uphold the norm of public justice in their individual and collective acts. What they must not violate as individual states within their own spheres, they must not violate as well as a collectivity. The protection given to the differentiation of spheres on the national level must also be observed in the international level as they integrate themselves into an international legal order through correlative enkapsis, which is characterized by mutual interdependence and reciprocity. Reciprocity and interdependence in the international legal order, for Dooyeweerd, also means that no state ought to absolutize its own interests at the expense of its relations with the other states. In saying this, Dooyeweerd is mindful that the state’s external relations are qualitatively different from its internal relations. “The rules of private inter-individual legal intercourse do not suffice here,” he says (Dooyeweerd 1997, 474). Why so? In the first place, he says, there is the reality of unequal positions of power among states. In the second place, the primary interests involved in international relations are “of a characteristically public societal nature” (Dooyeweerd 1997, 474). However, national interest, all too often, is used as an excuse for national selfishness. In fact, what happens in such a case is that a naturalistic theory of raison d’etat—in the sense of an unlim-

International Legal Theory, International Community, and International Legal Order…


ited and egoistic pursuit of national interests—elevates the “sacred egotism” of states to a kind of natural law (or natural justification) in international relations (Dooyeweerd 1997, 476). However, as Dooyeweerd reminds us, “[t]he internal vital law of the body politic is not a law of nature but bears a normative character” (Dooyeweerd 1997, 476). Such a normative character springs from the guiding hand of public justice. Might exercised on its own and apart from right is nothing but an “absolutely selfish international policy of the strong hand with an appeal to its vital interests” (Dooyeweerd 1997, 476). (We can well say he might as well have been writing about the present state of affairs in international relations!) Internal policy that works well within the state—or, at least, is within its power to implement some control—cannot readily apply to inter-state relations. “For in this case the different states have external inter-communal societal relations to each other of a very different kind, which implies neither the internal communal structure of the state, nor that of private inter-individual relations” (Dooyeweerd 1997, 474). For this reason, Dooyeweerd criticizes Kant for reducing inter-state relations to the level of the individual (that is, treating states as individuals). Kant’s idea of law, he says, was exclusively focused on civil legal intercourse (Dooyeweerd 1997, 474). True, there are international private relations for which states must provide international legal arrangements but these do not approximate the “essentially public interests” involved in inter-state relations. For in the latter situation, we must consider that states are first and foremost, bodies politic made up of the respective public legal communities they consist of. An individualistic natural law view such as that which Kant propounds clearly cannot adequately account for it. In the end, the “public” as embodied in the inter-communal legal order is the network of public legal communities imbued with public interest. Indeed, no state can claim that its foreign policy is determined solely by its own interests. States must realize that “the vital interests of the nations are in a great many ways mutually interwoven” (Dooyeweerd 1997, 474). After all, in international legal relations, “the internal public juridical structure of the individual body politic is necessarily correlated with that of the other states in public juridical, inter-communal relations” (Dooyeweerd 1997, 474). In a globally integrated world of various state and non-state networks, exceptionalism cannot hold out for long. Inevitably, states will have to reckon with the many enkaptic relations a global economic order calls for. It is a world where governments of many states need to fight transnational and international crimes, protect the environment, regulate financial markets against predatory practices, guarantee civil rights and liberties, regulate financial markets and provide social security, ensure the safety of consumer products, and represent the interests of their citizens fairly and accurately. Yet, as Anne-Marie Slaughter argues, this does not mean the states are outright losing their sovereignty to the new world order, “although they would certainly recognize that with respect to some specific problems, only genuinely powerful supranational institutions could overcome the collective action problems inherent in formulating and implementing global solutions” (Slaughter 2004, 270).


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An Application: Re-imagining the United Nations Where does the United Nations find its place in correlative enkapsis? Dooyeweerd is not clear on this point. What Dooyeweerd does not tell us is whether the UN arises from the nodal point of correlative enkapsis among states or whether, as an institution, it stands apart from such enkapsis. Yet, from Dooyeweerd’s description of correlative enkapsis, it can be inferred that the UN is the product of mutual relations among states; that is, the structural interlacements that result from correlative enkapsis. If it is, then it can be said that correlative enkapsis does lead to the positivation of a radical type societal structure such as the UN. Dooyeweerd also says “all of these types of [enkaptic] structural intertwining find their nexus in the different social forms in which these idionomies [individuality-­ structures] are realized. If the social forms are abstracted from their internal structural characteristics and absolutized, the natural differences between various [structures] in society are levelled” (Dooyeweerd 1986, 68). From this discussion, it would appear that the UN is a social form arising from the correlative enkapsis of states. The UN, says Dooyeweerd, is indeed susceptible to such notions of an “all-­ inclusive society embracing all human societal relationships in a supreme unit,” considering its seemingly far-reaching goals: achieving international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character; promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without regard to race, sex, language, or religion; and harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of common ends (Dooyeweerd 1997, 600). Dooyeweerd maintains that both the state and the UN belong to the same category; that is, they are the result of human form-giving activity and both are jurally-­ qualified. However, he also differentiates them from each other. The UN, he says, is only a voluntary association of individual states. Indeed, its internal structure is qualified by an international public legal function and founded on an historical international organization of power (Dooyeweerd 1997). Yet he argues that the UN lacks the institutional character of the state, nor does it have any independent monopolistic armed forces and a territory so that it cannot exercise real governmental authority over the states which are its members (Dooyeweerd 1997). It must be noted that at the time Dooyeweerd was writing the UN was barely 10 years old. Since then, beginning with the Korean War, it has organized—in various ways—joint military and police forces from various member-states in order to address international conflict situations—with varying effectiveness. At present, the UN maintains multi-national military and police forces in various areas of conflict, largely for peace-keeping missions in the name of the protection of communal interest (Alexandrov 1996). Dooyeweerd maintains that the UN’s established purposes and means cannot define its inner nature; that is, the inner structural principle that limits its integrating task in regard to international relations in the non-political spheres of society. The inner nature of this integrating function must be directed by the jurally qualified principle of international public interest (Dooyeweerd 1997). The integrating func-

International Legal Theory, International Community, and International Legal Order…


tion of the UN “displays a promoting and supporting political character and not the compulsory trait of a governmental State regulation, which eventually can impose an ordering deemed necessary from the viewpoint of public interest though the binding force of such a measure cannot exceed the inner boundaries of the State’s competence” (Dooyeweerd 1997). Membership by states in the UN does not cancel or invalidate the former’s character as states; the members of the UN are not absorbed into the latter in a part-­ whole relation. Yet states that are part of the UN may freely yield certain of their prerogatives as members of the international organization; insofar as they are called to implement within their territories agreements they entered into as part of the latter. It can now be seen that notions of correlative enkapsis and the inter-communal order presuppose the existence of a plurality of states, and not a single, all-­ encompassing international or world state. In the theory of structural enkapsis as applied to the inter-communal legal order, states function in coordination with one another without being absorbed into a solidary whole. Recall that, in an enkapsis, states retain their internal structural principle as communities in their own right, subject only to the requirement of public justice, which the association of states in the international legal order is also bound to observe. Therefore, the relation among states can properly be called inter-communal. Dooyeweerd warns against interpreting the “integrating tendencies” in both the inter-individual and inter-communal relationships as a process of socialization where the inevitable end result is the formation of an entirely new community that absorbs the constituent parts into a larger whole (Dooyeweerd 1997). The problem, according to him, is that, in this case, the normative structural principles that mandate the positivization of a differentiated social order is set aside which results in an “overestimation of the integrating role of the national and international political communities” (Dooyeweerd 1997). Indeed, as a voluntary integrative association, the UN needs to mature so as to effectively discharge its task of assuring public justice in the international level. Yet, making the system work effectively does not mean the abolition or the withering away of the present plurality of states to pave the way for a single, world-state.

 oncluding Notes: International Law-Making, International C Civil Society, and the International Communal Legal Order In terms of structure, it is clear that Dooyeweerd’s inter-communal legal order, by definition, is state-based. Does this mean that in his system of international law, all the others then, are excluded from the discourse—non-state actors, for instance? Does this not contradict the clear implication of his theory of societal sphere sovereignty that posits that all societal spheres, from the state to the various associations, stand on the same ground? If we say that the radical insight we can glimpse from his


R. R. Bagares

social ontology is that all entities have original legal personality, how does this cohere with an inter-communal legal order that is, for all intents and purposes, a state-based affair, strictly-speaking? I can only provide a most tentative answer that needs to be developed further. I believe there is no contradiction here. Dooyeweerd proffers the concept of an inter-­ communal legal order as necessary implication of his theory of the state as a jurally-­ qualified institution. The inter-communal legal order, therefore, refers to that jurally-qualified order where the states are of necessity the principal actors. What is in the state that assigns to it such a special role? Dooyeweerd’s answer is that the state, as a jurally-qualified institution, is tasked to pursue public justice. In the international level, this calls for that network of states working together to pursue public justice in the inter-communal legal order. As Malanczuk says, while increasing global interdependence and the emergence of new players has put to question the role of the state in international affairs, it remains the case that “international law is still predominantly made and implemented by states”: International organizations are to a large extent dependent upon these territorial entities and the willingness of their governments to support them. Only states can be members of the United Nations, only states are entitled to call upon the UN Security Council if there is a threat to international peace and security, only states may appear in contentious proceedings before the International Court of Justice, and only states can present a claim on behalf of a national who has been injured by a state, if there is no treaty to the contrary. The individual has no rights in this respect under customary international law and is dependent on the political discretion of the home state as to whether or not to present the claim. In other words, the international legal system is primarily geared towards the international community of states, represented by governments. (Malanczuk 1997, 2)

Here an argument for the “normative peculiarity” of the state by Risse becomes relevant, inasmuch as it also echoes Dooyeweerd’s point about the state’s orientation towards the principal task of doing public justice. Risse argues that this normative peculiarity is characterized by an “immediacy” in the state’s coercive function not otherwise displayed by other institutions in the international legal order. There are two dimensions in which such immediacy is expressed: in law enforcement and in politics, according to Risse. The first pertains to the fact that people in a given territory live in an environment where enforcement agencies pervasively have such immediate access, and where it is up to internal political processes to regulate what specific shape such access takes and what constraints it is subject to. The second deals with the fact that, of all the institutions in the domestic realm, it is the state that provides the environment in which individuals” basic rights are brought to reality. While international organizations may be interested as well in both questions— in the proper enforcement of rules and in the protection and the promotion of the basic rights of citizens and other entities within a state’s territory—at the most basic level, it is the state that provides both the environment and the structures that make these twin concerns possible (Risse 2006). In addition, Dooyeweerd’s notion of enkapsis as applied to law-formation at the international level provides a better framework for understanding the interlacement of different sources of international law than current positivistic or formalist ones

International Legal Theory, International Community, and International Legal Order…


allow. A proper analysis of the public-private divide in international law-making requires this new understanding offered by Dooyeweerd of the material conditions arising from the inner nature of the variegated human societal spheres and relationships. Yet, at the same time, as to the question of composition of the inter-communal legal order, we must not also lose sight of what his theory of societal sphere sovereignty says. When we consider closely what societal sphere sovereignty means, we can also say that the state is not everything; or better yet, the state cannot do everything—precisely because it was never meant to do everything. It is due to the societal structures in their full diversity that the state is jurally-qualified as a public legal community. It has a special role to play; in fact, a lead role to play in public life. In dispensing this role, it needs the help of other associational spheres that, though not jurally-qualified, contribute towards the deepening of the state’s performance of its task of public justice. Various associational spheres, as in the case of NGOs, are not founded on the monopolistic exercise of the power of the sword as the state is, and therefore could not be jurally qualified. Yet, they assist towards the deepening of the state’s appreciation of its task to render public justice, which is the shared value of an international ordre public. However, following Dooyeweerd’s theory of societal sphere sovereignty to its logical conclusion, we can now say that differentiation also calls for an interdependence and cooperation between the various non-state actors, international organizations, and states in working towards public justice in the international realm. This all comes together in an integrative vision of associational plurality that is at the center of Reformational thought on the diversity of relationships, institutions, and communities.16

 ppendix: Conventions, Protocols and Principles A of the “World Organization for Cross-Border Cooperation in Civil and Commercial Matters” 1. Convention of 1 March 1954 on civil procedure; 2. Convention of 15 June 1955 on the law applicable to international sales of goods; 3. Convention of 15 April 1958 on the law governing transfer of title in international sales of goods; 4. Convention of 15 April 1958 on the jurisdiction of the selected forum in the case of international sales of goods;

 Working within the field of international relations, Lucas Freire points to the need to study the sort of politics—the kind of pluralistic ordering that now obtains in the international realm—zeroing in on, among other things, the ontology of such order and the centrality of Dooyeweerd’s notion of enkapsis to such an order (Freire 2011).



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5. Convention of 15 June 1955 relating to the settlement of the conflicts between the law of nationality and the law of domicile; 6. Convention of 1 June 1956 concerning the recognition of the legal personality of foreign companies, associations and institutions; 7. Convention of 24 October 1956 on the law applicable to maintenance obligations towards children; 8. Convention of 15 April 1958 concerning the recognition and enforcement of decisions relating to maintenance obligations towards children; 9. Convention of 5 October 1961 concerning the powers of authorities and the law applicable in respect of the protection of infants; 10. Convention of 5 October 1961 on the Conflicts of Laws Relating to the Form of Testamentary Dispositions; 11. Convention of 5 October 1961 Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents; 12. Convention of 15 November 1965 on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law and Recognition of Decrees Relating to Adoptions; 13. Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters; 14. Convention of 25 November 1965 on the Choice of Court; 15. Convention of 1 February 1971 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters; 16. Supplementary Protocol of 1 February 1971 to the Hague Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters; 17. Convention of 1 June 1970 on the Recognition of Divorces and Legal Separations; 18. Convention of 4 May 1971 on the Law Applicable to Traffic Accidents; 19. Convention of 18 March 1970 on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters; 20. Convention of 2 October 1973 Concerning the International Administration of the Estates of Deceased Persons; 21. Convention of 2 October 1973 on the Law Applicable to Products Liability; 22. Convention of 2 October 1973 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Decisions Relating to Maintenance Obligations; 23. Convention of 2 October 1973 on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations; 24. Convention of 14 March 1978 on the Law Applicable to Matrimonial Property Regimes; 25. Convention of 14 March 1978 on Celebration and Recognition of the Validity of Marriages; 26. Convention of 14 March 1978 on the Law Applicable to Agency; 27. Convention of 25 October 1980 on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction; 28. Convention of 25 October 1980 on International Access to Justice;

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29. Convention of 1 July 1985 on the Law Applicable to Trusts and on their Recognition; 30. Convention of 22 December 1986 on the Law Applicable to Contracts for the International Sale of Goods; 31. Convention of 1 August 1989 on the Law Applicable to Succession to the Estates of Deceased Persons; 32. Convention of 29 May 1993 on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption; 33. Convention of 19 October 1996 on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children; 34. Convention of 13 January 2000 on the International Protection of Adults; 35. Convention of 5 July 2006 on the Law Applicable to Certain Rights in Respect of Securities held with an Intermediary; 36. Convention of 30 June 2005 on Choice of Court Agreements; 37. Convention of 23 November 2007 on the International Recovery of Child Support and Other Forms of Family Maintenance; 38. Protocol of 23 November 2007 on the Law Applicable to Maintenance Obligations; and 39. Principles on Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts

References A. Books and Articles Agabin, Pacifico A. 1991. The philosophy of the Philippine civil code. Philippine Law Journal 66: 1. Alexandrov, Stanimir A. 1996. Self-defense against the use of force in international law. The Hague: Kluwer Law International. Balane, Ruben F. 1979. The Spanish antecedents of Philippine civil code. Diliman: University of the Philippines Law Center. Besson, Samantha. 2005. Theorizing the sources of international law. In The philosophy of international law, ed. Samantha Besson and John Tasioulas, 170. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chaplin, Jonathan. 2005. Towards a social pluralist theory of institutional rights. Ave Maria Law Review 3: 147–149. Clouser, Roy. 2005. The myth of religious neutrality. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press. Crawford, James. 2002. The international law commission’s articles on state responsibility: Introduction, text and commentaries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———, ed. 2005. The creation of states in international law. Oxford: Oxford University Press. De Wet, Erika. 2006. The international constitutional order. International & Comparative Law Quarterly 55: 51–76. Dooyeweerd, Herman. 1986. A christian theory of social institutions. Grand Rapids: Paideia Press. ———. 1997. The collected works, 1953–1958, the new critique of theoretical thought series A. Vol. 3. London: Edwin Mellen Press. ———. 2002. The collected work: Encyclopedia of the science of law. Vol. 8. London: Edwin Mellen Press.


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———. 2003. The collected works, 1953–1958: Roots of western culture: Pagan, secular, and christian options, series b. Vol. 3. London: Edwin Mellen Press. Enache-Brown, Colleen, and Ari Fried. 1998. Universal crime, jurisdiction and duty: The obligation of Aut Dedere, Aut Judicare in international law. McGill Law Journal 43: 614–433. Fischel, Daniel R. 1982. The corporate governance movement. Vanderbilt Law Review 35: 1259–1273. Franck, Thomas. 1999. The empowered self: Law and society in the age of individualism. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Freire, Lucas. 2011. Opening up space for a reformational approach to the study of world politics, unpublished conference paper, (on file with the author), 14–15. Friedrichs, Jorg. 2004. The neomedieval renaissance: Global governance and international law in the new medieval ages. In Governance and international legal theory, ed. Ige F. Dekker and Wouter G. Werner, 17–19. Leiden: Brill Publishers. Higgins, Rosalyn. 1995. Problems and process: International law and how we use it. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Koskenniemi, Martti. 1998. From apology to utopia: The structure of international legal argument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 2007. Fragmentation of international law: Difficulties arising from the diversification and expansion of international law, report of the study group of the international law commission. New York: United Nations. Koyzis, David T. 2004. Political theory in the calvinist tradition. In The collected works: Political philosophy, series D, ed. D.F.M. Strauss and Herman Dooyeweerd, vol. 1, 11. London: Edwin Mellen Press. Kwakwa, Edward. 2003. The international community, international law, and the United States: Three in one, two against one, or one and the same? In United States hegemony and foundations of international law (31, 47, 55), ed. Michael Byers and Georg Nolte. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Magallona, Merlin. 2005. Fundamentals of international law, vi–vii, 11. Quezon City: C & E Publishing. Malanczuk, Peter. 1997. Akehurt’s modern introduction to international law. 7th ed, 11. New York: Routledge. Marwell, Jeremy. 2006. Trade and morality: The WTO public morals exception after gambling. New York University Law Review 81: 802–842. Muir-Watt, Horatia. 2008. Guest editorial: Reshaping international law in a changing world, Conflict of Laws.Net, available at Last visited 7 Apr 2010. Nowrot, Karsten. 2006. Reconceptualising international legal personality of influential non-state actors: Towards a rebuttable presumption of normative responsibilities. Philippine Law Journal 80 (4): 564–573. Paulus, Andreas. 2003. US influence on the concept of “International Community,”. In United States hegemony and foundations of international law, ed. Michael Byers and Georg Nolte, 57–58. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ———. 2004. From territoriality to functionality? Towards a legal methodology of globalization. In Governance and international legal theory (42, 60), ed. Ige F.  Dekker and Wouter G. Werner. Leiden: Brill Publishers. Paulus, Andreas, and Bruno Simma. 1998. The international community: Facing the challenge of globalization. European Journal of International Law 9: 266–269. Risse, Mathias. 2006. What to say about states? Social Theory and Practice 32: 671–698. Rivera, Juan F. 1977. The Jorge Bocobo terminal work: The civil code of the Philippines: His interviews, articles, speeches, lectures and commentaries. Diliman: University of the Philippines Law Center. Salmond, John. 1924. Jurisprudence. 6th ed., para. 44. London: Smith and Maxwell.

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Sarkin, Jeremy. 2004. The coming of age of claims for reparations for human rights violations in the South. Sur International Journal of Human Rights 1: 67, 69–70. Simma, Brunno, and Andreas L. Paulus. 1998. The international community: Facing the challenge of globalization. European Journal of International Law 9: 277. Skillen, James W. 1973. Development of calvinistic political theory in the Netherlands, with special reference to the thought of herman Dooyeweerd (unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Duke University) (on file with the Free University of Amsterdam library). Slaughter, Ann-Marie. 2004. A new world order, 270. New Jersey: Princeton University Press. Strauss, D.F.M. 2010. Philosophy: Discipline of the disciplines. Grand Rapids: Paideia Press. Tsagorias, Nicholas. 2004. The will of the community as a normative source of international law. In Governance and international legal theory, ed. Ige F. Dekker and Wouter G. Werner, 100, 102, 108. Leiden: Brill Publishers. Van Woudenberg, Rene. 2006. Theories of things-structures. In Philosophical foundations I reader, international masters in christian studies of science and society program (3). Amsterdam: VU-University Amsterdam Press. Wald, Patricia M. 2007. Genocide and crimes against humanity. Washington University Global Studies Law Review 6: 621–633.

B. Legal Sources and Materials 1969 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. UN Doc. A/CONF.39/27 (196). Barcelona Traction. Light and Power Company (Belgium v. Spain), Judgment (1970) ICJ Reports 3. Case Concerning the Military and Paramilitary Activities In and Against Nicaragua. (Nicaragua v. US) 1986 ICJ 1. International Law Commission. Fragmentation of international law: Difficulties arising from the diversification and expansion of international law—Report of the Study Group of the International Law Commission UN Doc. A/CN.4/L.682 (Apr. 13, 2006), as corrected and finalized by Martti Koskenniemi UN Doc. A/CN.4/L.682/Corr.1 (Aug. 11, 2006). Kuroda v. Jalandoni. G.R. No. L-2662 (Philippine Supreme Court En Banc) March 26, 1949. The Hague Conference On Private International Law. n.d. Official website, en/home. Last visited 8 Apr 2016. The Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court. adopted and opened for signature 17 July 1998, UN Doc. A/Conf/183/9 (1998).

A Practice-Based Theory to Explain Religion in International Relations Simon Polinder

Abstract  There has been a growing realization among international relations theorists that religion plays an important role in world affairs. Many of them began criticizing international relations theory for neglecting the role of religion in international relations; some of these critics have also developed alternative theoretical approaches to account for religion. A prominent critic is Scott Thomas, who argues against current mainstream international relations theories and presents an alternative theory. One of the thinkers who is criticized by Thomas is Kenneth Waltz, the main representative of neorealism—a prominent and influential theory of international relations. One could say that Waltz and Thomas are complete opposites when it comes to religion and theorizing: where Waltz ignores religion almost entirely, Thomas explicitly sets out to incorporate it in his work. I will demonstrate that the opposite positions of Waltz and Thomas can be explained by three points: their view on the possibility and meaning of a religious explanation; their respective views on a interpretative versus an explanatory approach; and their positions on what a theory of international relations should address. On the basis of these differences, I will also argue that each approach has its weaknesses and strengths. I will also demonstrate that the practice-based theory that I propose overcomes the weaknesses of both theories and combines their strengths. Keywords  Religion · International relations (theory) · Neorealism · Normative practices

Introduction The rise of various forms of fundamentalism and the increase of religiously inspired terrorism leading to 9/11 made many scholars aware that religion can have a huge impact on international relations. As a result, the topic of religion and international S. Polinder (*) Christian University of Applied Sciences (CHE), Ede, The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



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relations and international relations theory has become an object of study; many scholars within and outside the field of international relations criticize mainstream international relations theories for neglecting religion, arguing that these theories should be revised or be replaced by more adequate ones.1 One of the representatives of this critical position is international relations scholar Scott Thomas, who has developed an alternative theory of international relations and religion in his book The global resurgence of religion and the transformation of international relations. The struggle for the soul of the twentieth-first century.2 One of the thinkers criticized by Thomas is Kenneth Waltz, who is a wellknown representative of one of the prominent theories of international relations called neorealism. I discuss Thomas because he is one of the people who not only criticizes mainstream international relations theory but also proposes an alternative. Partly due to his writings, religion has been placed on the agenda of international relations theory. I chose Waltz because he is one of the most influential international relations theorists.3 Another reason to choose Waltz is that his theory has been strongly criticized for neglecting religion. In this chapter, I will discuss three points in order to explain why Waltz’s and Thomas’s theorizing on religion in international relations are different. First of all, I discuss their respective views on the possibility and meaning of a religious explanation. Secondly, I sketch the main differences between Waltz’s explanatory approach and Thomas’s interpretative approach. Thirdly, I lay out how they differ on the question what the aim and scope of a theory of international relations is. After that, this chapter discusses the strengths and the weaknesses of these theories. I further argue that the social theory of the British philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, in combination with the insights of the Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd (1894–1977), offers a theoretical framework that overcomes the weaknesses of the two approaches and combines their strengths.

 homas and Waltz on a Religious Explanation T of International Relations The first point that explains the difference between Waltz and Thomas is their willingness to explain religion in religious terms. While Thomas aims to explain religion by a religious explanation, Waltz strictly limits himself to a non-religious or  In the context of this chapter, I use religion according to the definition international relations scholar Daniel Philpott who defines religion as: “a set of beliefs about the ultimate ground of existence, that which is unconditioned, not itself created or caused, and the communities and practices that form around these beliefs.” See Philpott (2002), 68 2  Thomas 2005. I use the term theory loosely in this chapter to include Thomas’s interpretative as well as Waltz’s explanatory approach. 3  “The most important international relations theorist of the past half century,” “the pre-eminent international relations theorists of the post-World War II era,” the pre-eminent theorist of international politics of his generation,” and “the King of Thought.” See Ken Booth (2009), 179. 1

A Practice-Based Theory to Explain Religion in International Relations


“scientific” explanation. In his writings, Waltz seems to imply that a scientific explanation is superior to a religious explanation. In his view, a truly scientific explanation should be based on non-religious (e.g., rituals) or non-theological concepts (e.g., God). Thomas, for his part, does not distinguish clearly between a scientific, religious, or even theological explanation. In his writings, Waltz discusses the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971) and the secular thinking of Baruch de Spinoza (1632–1677).4 Waltz says, in the first chapter of his book Man, the State and War: “There was a lot of Spinoza in the original, which doesn’t appeal much to students of international relations.”5 At the same time, Waltz states that Niebuhr has had a tremendous influence on him.6 Reinhold Niebuhr, a theologian who in the last twenty-five years has written as many words of wisdom on problems of international politics as have any of the academic specialists in that subject, has criticized utopians, Liberal and Marxist alike, with frequency and telling effect. (Waltz 1959a, 20)

Immediately after these positive words about Niebuhr, Waltz uses four pages to set out how the religious explanation of Niebuhr and others differs from Spinoza’s secular explanation (Waltz 1959a, 23–26). It seems, therefore, that Waltz wants to show how the secular explanation of Spinoza is able to replace a theological or a religious explanation. Consequently, I assume that Waltz follows Spinoza in his thinking that “God has become nature” (Deus sive Natura). This also has implications for the explanation of evil. In earlier (Christian) theological thought (see Augustine), evil was explained by the concept of original sin. In Spinoza’s philosophy, this religious explanation becomes a proposition in logic and psychology. That men are defective then becomes an empirical datum requiring no explanation from outside; indeed, there can be no more explanation from outside because God has become nature. (Waltz 1959a, 23, 24). The fact that Waltz follows Spinoza in his conclusion that God has become nature does not mean, however, that Waltz holds that God does not exist or that religion is something superfluous. He just takes the Spinozist assumption as a given for his explanation of human behavior.7 The fact that Waltz says that Niebuhr had a tremendous influence on him means that he has taken ideas from him without necessarily taking Niebuhr’s theological perspective.8 Waltz, for example, admits that his preference for balanced power instead of concentrated power is partly based on Niebuhr (Waltz 1986, 341). The latter derived his ideas about power from his view on the egoism, pride, or, in theological terms, the original sin of 4  I follow Waltz in his description of Spinoza’s thinking as secular, and I consider Waltz’s description of Spinoza’s idea that God has become nature as a secularizing move. 5  Fred Halliday and Justin Rosenberg (2000), “Interview with Ken Waltz,” 372. 6  The Q&A session during the Waltz Conference “King of Thought” at the Aberystwyth University in 2008., consulted at 24 November 2015. 7  This view leads me to the question in what way Waltz is able to defend “that men are defective” in a natural immanent reality. Is defectiveness possible from the perspective of natural immanency or does it still point at a kind of transcendence? 8  Kamminga (2012) convincingly argues that Waltz’s neorealism strongly relies on certain theological motions of Niebuhr”s Christian Realism.


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human beings. As a theorist, though, Waltz does not use religion in order to explain his position. Therefore, Waltz’s position could be described as methodological atheism or methodological naturalism: he aims at a scientific explanation that leaves out religious or theological concepts. Before I discuss Thomas’ position in more detail, I want to emphasize that Waltz’s avoidance of a religious explanation does not mean that his theory could not be inspired by theological ideas. On the contrary, in Theory of International Politics, Waltz says that theories are made creatively by means of intuition and ideas. If I interpret this statement in light of what philosopher Karl Popper (1902–1994) writes, and to whom Waltz often refers, to justify his approach to theory, it means that these intuitions and ideas can also be religious9: The fact that value judgments influence my proposals does not mean that I am making the mistake of which I have accused the positivists – that of trying to kill metaphysics by calling it names. I do not even go so far as to assert that metaphysics has no value for empirical science. For it cannot be denied that along with metaphysical ideas which have obstructed the advance of science there have been others – such as speculative atomism – which have aided it. And looking at the matter from the psychological angle, I am inclined to think that scientific discovery is impossible without faith in ideas which are of a purely speculative kind, and sometimes even quite hazy; a faith which is completely unwarranted from the point of view of science, and which, to that extent, is “metaphysical.” (Popper 1972, 38)

Popper’s argument that scientific discovery is impossible without faith in ideas which might be speculative or unwarranted from the point of view of science and to that extent metaphysical also applies to an important assumption in Waltz’s theory. In chapter five of Theory of International Politics, Waltz introduces philosopher and economist Adam Smith (1723–1790) to explain how there can be order without an orderer because Smith’ theory describes how order is spontaneously formed from the self-interested acts and interactions of individual units. According to Waltz, states within the international system function in the same way: no state intends to participate in the formation of a structure, but ultimately states are constrained by the structure that results from their individual striving for security. The co-action of the units creates a structure that transcends the egoism of the individual states. Curiously enough, Waltz does not mention that Smith used the notion of “the invisible hand.” According to economist Bob Goudzwaard, the “invisible hand” can best be seen as the deistic version of God’s providence, because in the book The theory of moral sentiments (1759) Smith states: “by acting according to the dictates of our moral faculties, we necessarily pursue the most effectual means of promoting the happiness of mankind, and may therefore be said in some sense to co-operate with the Deity and to advance, as far as in our power, the Plan of the Providence.” 9  Cf. Kamminga (2012) who states the following: “Whereas Waltz insists that theory is to be built ‘creatively’ from a ‘brilliant intuition’ or ‘creative idea’, and so is ‘artifice’, the doctrine of original sin entails the foundational ‘creative’ assumption for his neorealism to work. ‘Original sin’ cannot claim conclusive proof - although Niebuhr suggested strong empirical evidence for this ‘obvious fact’ - but it should be no problem for Waltz to ‘see’ a sin-constituted human nature without being able to prove its existence. Presuming its presence gives him the ultimate explanation of international-political action”.

A Practice-Based Theory to Explain Religion in International Relations


(Goudzwaard 1997, 22). As this quote shows and the theologian Gerrit Manenschijn indicates, the notion of the “invisible hand” refers to a metaphysical presupposition (Manenschijn 1979, 285). It seems that Waltz has cut this presupposition from his theory, although it is an important presumption. That means that his theory of international politics is, strictly speaking, not religiously neutral because there seems to be a metaphysical or a religious assumption present that is not articulated. Another indication that Waltz’s neutral scientific theory is not as neutral as he suggests, appears from the political theology that can be seen behind realism. As political scientist Nicolas Guilhot (2010, 235) argues, realism is based on a political theology that aims at a de-theologized form of politics because it embodies a politics that does not want to accomplish eschatological goals. It defends the autonomy of the political whereby the state is considered as the historical counterforce to chaos. Guilhot refers to the political philosopher Carl Schmitt (1885–1988), who uses the word katechon to describe this pessimistic view on the state. The term katechon refers to the second epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians wherein Paul seeks to curb the eschatological enthusiasm of the local Christians that threatens to disrupt public order. Katechon is often translated as “restrainer,” “delayer,” or “withholder” and functions as the mundane force that delays the arrival of the Antichrist, the lawless one that would precede the return of Christ (Guilhot 2010, 234). According to Guilhot, realism provides a sort of middle-range theory by avoiding the illusion of both absolute perfection and absolute evil and in this way positions politics on realistic ground that is immune to utopian cues. This so-called third position is at the heart of the realist position about morality and politics (Guilhot 2010, 235). It is evident that Waltz belongs to the realist tradition and that he subscribes to its political theology, even though he never used the theological language that is part of it. If Guilhot’s argumentation holds, it shows that Waltz’s theory, though it purports to be neutral and scientific (not based on religious ideas) has a theological inspiration in the background. That most people are not aware of this is because Waltz has successfully transferred this political theology into a scientific theory. Thomas’ position is somewhat different from Waltz’s because at some points he suggests that the absence of religion as an empirical fact in theories of international relations is also the result of the disappearance of a religious or theological perspective. According to Thomas, the realist tradition dating back to the 1940s and 1950s was, to some extent, rooted in a religious perspective. The religious dimensions of political realism with its emphasis on sin, the limits of human nature and knowledge, and he likelihood of irony and tragedy in political outcomes began with the rediscovery of Augustine’s ideas, which were introduced into the American study of international relations by Niebuhr.10 While Waltz does not see any problem with replacing a religious explanation with a scientific one, Thomas considers the disappearance of a religious or 10  Thomas (2005), 57. Thomas also gives other reasons why religion has been neglected by international relations theory. Ibid., 47–69. At another place, Thomas argues that the so-called “theologians of a new world order” such as Niebuhr have shaped the goals and nature for U.S. hegemonic leadership and foreign policy in the early years of the Cold War. ibid., 158.


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t­heological explanatory or interpretative framework as a reason that religion has become marginalized in international relations theory. However, as I have shown, the fact that Waltz aims at a scientific explanation of international politics does not mean that his theory is cut off from religious or normative assumptions at all. On the contrary, directly or indirectly, Waltz’s realism seems to be embedded in a political theology. Besides this, Waltz’s strict scientific explanation of international politics should not necessarily lead to the negation of religion as an empirical fact in world affairs, although this might be the case in practice as Thomas correctly points out. Realist political theology is rather reserved with respect to religion’s claims and wants to maintain the autonomy of the political sphere, but that still leaves open the possibility that religion as an empirical fact is included in a theory of international relations because of its theoretical weight.

 homas and Waltz on a Scientific Explanation of International T Relations The second difference between Waltz and Thomas has to do with what they each understand as a scientific explanation because Waltz has a much more limited view on science than Thomas. The former bases his theory of international politics on a natural science approach and on an instrumentalist and pragmatic epistemology. According to Waltz, a theory does not explain or predict anything; it finds its justification in the success employed. A theory, though related to the world, is not the same as the world because explanatory power is gained by abstracting from reality. Otherwise it will remain only descriptive and not become explanatory. Waltz maintains that a theory or a model is never congruent with reality because theories are mediators between reality and the observer: “If we could directly apprehend the world that interests us, we would have no need for theory” (Waltz 1979, 1–7). Waltz states that his definition of theory corresponds to the definition as used in the natural sciences and in some of the social sciences such as economy. It does not correspond with a more philosophical interpretation like much of traditional political theory. The reason for Waltz’s preference for theories with explanatory power comes from the desire to control or at least to know if control is possible (Waltz 1979, 6). Although Waltz prefers an explanatory approach modelled after the natural sciences, he does not disregard other more interpretative approaches. The latter are important because they point to a variety of ideas and concepts that may be needed to recognize that different phenomena are part of a greater coherent whole (Waltz 1979, 9). While the natural scientists look for simplicity, elemental units, and elegant theories about them, students of international politics complicate their studies and claim to identify more and more variables (Waltz 1979, 68). Although a high regard for systematic theory is often coupled with disdain for more interpretative political philosophy, Waltz, on the contrary, finds history and political philosophy very important (Halliday and Rosenberg 2000, 373, 382 and 386; Waltz 1959b, 52).

A Practice-Based Theory to Explain Religion in International Relations


An important contribution of political philosophy is that it helps to discover how the images entertained by different people lead them to select, filter, and interpret data in different ways (Waltz 1959b, 60, 61). Theory, on the contrary, intends to identify why the range of expected outcomes falls within certain limits and why certain patterns of behavior recur. Such a theory has elegance when its explanations and predictions are general. A theory of international politics will explain why wars recur and will indicate some of the conditions that make war more or less likely, but it is not able to predict the outbreak of particular wars (Waltz 1979, 69). Such a realist theory is better at saying what will happen than in saying when it will happen because international political theory deals with the pressure of the structure on states and not with how states will respond (Waltz 2008, 213; Halliday and Rosenberg 2000, 378). Although Waltz maintains that the emphasis of theory is not prediction, but explanation, he also says that a theory indicates what actors likely will try to do and what will likely happen to them if they do not manage to do it.11 Thomas has a much broader understanding of science because his theory is much more interpretative than Waltz’s. Although Thomas does not write as much about his view on theory as Waltz, he nevertheless criticizes international relations theorists who want to produce theories with explanatory power and reject the interpretative method. According to Thomas, the lack of predictive capacity of the interpretative method does not mean that it is irrelevant to policy analysis. He therefore speaks about an explanatory narrative instead of an explanatory theory because a narrative indicates what moves people, their reasons for choices, and their hopes and aspirations. Thomas’ position is bottom-up, focusing on the individual and understanding social action from the inside. Thomas clearly prefers interpretative theory because it helps to locate the points of decision where different actions might have produced different results and shows which policy interventions may help to produce different outcomes. In order to identify these points of decision, it is necessary to take the beliefs, virtues, and practices of faith communities seriously; religious ideas, doctrines, or concepts have explanatory power in international politics (Thomas 2005, 74, 79, 80, 248 and 249). As a result of this view on theory, Thomas is able to take religion into account. The consequence of Thomas’ interpretative theory is that it remains unclear how important religion is in comparison with other factors because there is no clear theory that selects or orders the data. The result of Waltz’s choice for the natural science approach is that a factor such as religion is left out. Another consequence of Waltz’s empirical theory modeled after the natural sciences is that it remains purely descriptive. As he writes in the final sentence of his book, his theory is not about how to manage the world, but about describing “how the possibility that great power will constructively manage international affairs varies as systems change” (Waltz 1979, 210). Waltz does not describe the world one might want, but the world as it is likely to become irrespective of what anybody may want (Waltz 1993, 189). In short, he claims that his theory only describes and does not prescribe. His emphasis  Institute of International Studies, Conversation with Kenneth N. Waltz, 2. http://globetrotter., consulted at 1 December 2015 and Halliday & Rosenberg, Interview with Ken Waltz, 377.



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on how it is instead of how it ought to be clarifies why he argues that you cannot go directly from theory to application (Halliday and Rosenberg, 385). This means that, even if he would have included religion in his theory, it remains unclear what the consequences would be for policymaking.

Thomas and Waltz on a Theory of International Relations While Thomas prefers a narrative approach, Waltz sees theory as an important tool to select the most relevant factors in international relations. Especially in the latter case, the question is which factors should be included. In contrast to Thomas, who writes about international relations, Waltz consistently uses the term international politics. This is related to the fact that Waltz limits international relations to international politics. He does so in the following way. The basis of Waltz’s theory is the distinction between three images through which international politics could be explained. The first image is the individual level; the second image is state and society; and the third image is the international system. According to Waltz, without the first image and the second image, there can be no knowledge of the forces that determine policy, but he also argues that without the third image it is impossible to assess the importance or predict the results of the first and second images.12 According to Waltz, it is the international system that explains the outcome of international politics best. The international level is distinct from the individual and state level because of its “anarchy” which means that a supranational authority is missing; it is a system of self-help.13 This system is based on power relations, whereby bipolar systems are more stable than multipolar ones. In that context, it is irrelevant what the ideologies or beliefs of the leaders are because it is all about the relative power situation. In this way, Waltz limits the theoretical reflection on international relations as basically consisting of power relations between states. Waltz’s core message is that when a state does not see to its own survival, its existence will be in danger. He is, therefore, very skeptical about states that aim at higher goals, such as freedom and justice. When Waltz mentions the word freedom as one of the possible goals of the state, he immediately adds “that if freedom is wanted, insecurity must be accepted.” He also discusses the relation between might and right. He then states that “if might decides, then bloody struggles over right can more easily  Waltz (1959), 238. The term image is important here because Waltz uses the term for “it suggests that one forms a picture in the mind; it suggests that one views the world in a certain way” Waltz (1959), ix. 13  Self-help means: “No other state can be relied upon to guarantee your survival. In international politics the structure of the system does not permit friendship, trust, and honour; only perennial condition of uncertainty generated by the absence of global government. Coexistence is achieved through the maintenance of the balance of power, and limited co-operation is possible in interactions where the realist state stands to gain more than other states.” Tim Dunne and Brian C. Schmidt, “Realism,” in The globalization of world politics. An introduction to international relations, ed. John Baylis and Steve Smith, 2nd ed. (Oxford etc.: Oxford University Press, 2001), 155. 12

A Practice-Based Theory to Explain Religion in International Relations


be avoided” (Waltz 1979, 112). Waltz suggests that it is irrational to fight for right while might decides. In sum, Waltz’s theory teaches the important and prevailing role of power, but does not give much guidance for the use of power besides that it should serve the survival of the state. The approach that Thomas prefers is social constructivism as it was outlined by the early interpretative tradition of the English School.14 In Thomas’ view, ideas and material factors constitute each other. The identity of states and their social actions must be explained by an appeal to the system of structural dynamics of what can be called an international society. The English School and social constructivists recognize the existence of a deeper prior agreement or intersubjective bond or understanding among states, which implies that they form an international society rather than merely an international system. The English School does not believe that compliance with international rules, norms, or laws is what determines the existence of international society because rules, laws, and the working of common institutions are intellectual and social constructs that states accept as belonging to international society. This solidarity is socially constructed through the interaction between states. The existence of regimes such as the international trade regime, the Geneva Conventions, or the law of the sea are good examples that social constructs are not less real than material facts.15 According to Thomas, current social constructivism has not adequately considered the role of culture and religion in their shaping of identities, interests, and norms. Thomas argues that the intersubjectivity between states emerged in the norms, concepts, and principles that are derived from the cultural and religious context of different types of state systems in history. Many of the social diplomatic practices began as religious norms and practices in the statecraft of historic state systems. Thomas finds it necessary to include the question of how social interactions are part of greater narratives or stories. That question shows what in particular cultural or religious traditions is considered to be the “good” and the virtuous (Thomas 2005, 93–96). The preceding considerations make clear why religion is excluded from Waltz’s theory of international politics: power and not religious ideas, states and not non-­ state actors, the international system and not the individual person or the domestic domain are taken into account. Inversely, Thomas includes religion because he also focuses on non-state actors, norms, ideas, culture, and the underlying narrative that constructs international society.  The English School is a distinct academic tradition on international relations which originated at the London School of Economics and Political Science in the 1950s. It consists of scholars influenced by the earlier works of Martin Wight, C.A.W. Manning, Hedley Bull, F. H. Hinsley, Michael Donelan and others and focuses on the societal aspects of international relations rather than seeing politics in purely abstract, systemic terms. Power, law, customs, institutions, and rules based on enlightenment self-interest and emergent global norms are all part of an anarchical international society. See Evans and Newnham (1998), 148 and Viotti and Kauppi (1998), 477. 15  Thomas (2005), 81–83. “A regime is a voluntarily agreed-upon sets of principles, norms, rules, and procedures around which actor expectations converge in a given area of international relations.” Viotti and Kauppi (1998), 493. 14


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Waltz and Thomas Evaluated The preceding comparison of Waltz and Thomas on three points not only indicates how their assumptions shape their theorizing, but also the respective strengths and weaknesses of their approaches. In this section, I list these strengths and weaknesses and after that I also present an alternative approach that is meant to overcome the weaknesses and to combine the strengths because, in my view, neither approach suffices as it stands now. The weaknesses and strengths that I see are as follows. In the first place, Thomas sometimes confuses a religious or theological explanation with a scientific explanation of religion. He also suggests that a non-religious perspective leads to the neglect of religion in theorizing. As I have demonstrated, it is not necessarily true that a strict scientific theory that excludes a religious explanation also neglects religion, though this might often be the case in practice. In my opinion, what is needed is a view on science that does not exclude the religious factor out of a secular bias and which also makes a distinction between a theological and a scientific explanation. Secondly, Waltz dares to choose between various factors, and he limits the domain in which theorizing is possible. A theory becomes stronger when it is clear what the object of explanation is and what characterizes it in comparison with other domains. The consequence, however, is that while Waltz leaves out many factors and therefore explains much about less, Thomas includes many factors and as a result explains less about much. A theory that navigates between these extremes would be desirable. Thirdly, Thomas clearly defines how religion shapes and influences international relations, but his theory loses focus. Waltz strictly limits his theory to the political domain, but does not indicate how other factors such as economics, culture, law, and religion are related to the power structure of international politics. For example, does he consider religion to be totally irrelevant or is its influence still strong and comparable with economics? If we want to understand the role of religion in relation to international politics, it would be helpful if theory would identify how the political relates to other important domains. Fourthly, while Thomas acknowledges that theorizing is never neutral and seems to overlook the distinction between pre-scientific and scientific assumptions, Waltz separates these too strictly by suggesting that a scientific theory can be neutral. As I have argued, Waltz’s theory seems strongly inspired by certain theological ideas, while not acknowledging this. I prefer a theory that acknowledges that it is indebted to non-scientific ideas, especially when this theory is about religion, but which also remains and operates within the discourse of science. Fifthly, while Thomas’ theorizing primarily seems to serve good policymaking, Waltz claims that his theory only describes and does not prescribe. In his view, theory isolates a domain of reality in order to make it more intelligible while policymaking has to deal with complex interwoven phenomena that require contextual analysis. In this way, Waltz clearly defines what the function and scope of a theory is in relation to a policymaking analysis which prevents too-easy conclusions about

A Practice-Based Theory to Explain Religion in International Relations


the applicability of scientific theories. In my view, it is worthwhile to distinguish between a scientific theory and the application of theory in policymaking, but the two cannot be separated since people will always draw conclusions from general scientific explanations for policymaking.

 Practice-Based Theory to Explain Religion in International A Relations The practice-based theory that I propose aims at combining the strengths of both theories and overcoming their weaknesses. It includes the points that I mentioned above in that it distinguishes between science and theology, but is open to a religious explanation; it maneuvers between explanation and interpretation by accounting for the relation between religion and politics, but also other fields such as economics and law; it acknowledges that science is not neutral or free from presumptions, though still a distinct human endeavor with its own rules; it accepts that theorizing cannot be isolated from the question of what we ought to do and the quest for guidance in policymaking; and it makes theorizing possible by distinguishing between the various spheres or aspects of reality. The practice-based theory that I propose is built on an approach developed by the philosophers Gerrit Glas and Henk Jochemsen for the practice of medicine (Jochemsen and Glas 1997, 64–99). Later on, Jochemsen and political philosopher Buijs also applied this approach to development cooperation (Buijs and Jochemsen 2001, 298–319). The innovate element is that they combine the idea of a social practice as developed by MacIntyre with the philosophy of Dooyeweerd. An important question that characterizes this approach is: what qualifies a certain activity? For example, what qualifies medicine and development cooperation as such? Is it possible to distinguish those spheres from other domains, and if so, what makes the difference, or in MacIntyre’s words, what kind of practice is this? Applied to international relations, the question is what qualifies international relations as international relations or what kind of practice is international relations? In order to answer that question, it is important to know how MacIntyre defines a practice: Any coherent and complex form of socially established cooperative human activity through which goods internal to that form of activity are realized in the course of trying to achieve those standards of excellence which are appropriate to, and partially definitive of, that form of activity, with the result that human powers to achieve excellence, and human conceptions of the ends and goods involved, are systematically extended. (MacIntyre 2003, 187)

This definition speaks about human activities that are socially established. These human activities are often part of institutions and consist of socially established patterns of actions into which human beings have to be initiated so that they understand the goal of that pattern and the rules that pertain to it (Jochemsen and Glas 1997, 67). In this definition, MacIntyre makes a distinction between internal goods and external goods. The latter are goods that are contingently attached to the practice by


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the accidents of social circumstances, such as prestige, status, and money. Conversely, internal goods can only be acquired through participation in the practice for its own sake. Such goods can only be recognized by people who are trained in the practice (MacIntyre 2003, 188). Unlike MacIntyre, Jochemsen and Glas do not find the distinction between external and internal goods particularly clear or useful and prefer to speak of the “goal” of a practice, or its telos. According to Jochemsen and Glas, a practice has a goal that determines how it unfolds. For example, although someone can play soccer in order to achieve financial gain, the game itself always forces the player to play well and win the game based on a good soccer strategy and the skills needed to play well (Jochemsen and Glas 1997, 67). The concentration on the game itself, its “internal goods,” places all other considerations, the “external goods,” aside. Another element of MacIntyres definition is the concept of standards of excellence, which Jochemsen and Glas interpret as the rules that people have to follow in order to realize the goal of the practice. These rules can be explicit or implicit, such as so-called tacit knowledge. Jochemsen and Glas call these rules constitutive because they define and limit the practice. The more adequately they are applied the better its goal will be realized (Jochemsen and Glas 1997, 69). Constitutive rules differ from regulative rules. Constitutive rules facilitate the realization of the goal, but the interpretation and application of the constitutive rules depend on the regulative rules of the human person involved because the way people act in concrete situations depends on their worldview and beliefs. In other words, the constitutive rules determine the structure of the practice, whereas the regulative rules determine the direction of its development. The constitutive side of a practice is its structure and its regulative side explains what moves people to participate in a practice and to contribute to the development of it. Regulative rules also give an external point of reference from which the constitutive rules and their interpretation can be judged. Moreover, a practice can only be realized when it is guided by a point of reference that is based on an idea of the broader meaning and coherence of human actions and reality in general because these ideas and convictions regulate the performance and unfolding of the practice (Jochemsen and Glas 1997, 70–72). Jochemsen and Glas divide the constitutive side in three types of rules: qualifying, conditioning, and foundational. It is at this point that, next to MacIntyre, the philosophy of Dooyeweerd comes into play. This distinction is based upon the idea that everything which is part of reality functions in various aspects or modalities of experience such as the social, economical, or juridical, whereby each aspect of reality has its own most characteristic rules or norms.16 For example, it makes a  Jochemsen and Glas use the philosophy of the Dutch philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd here. Dooyeweerd distinguishes fifteen irreducible aspects, modalities or ways of being which are ontological structures that determine how things exist and how can experience them. Many of the aspects agree with the various practices that MacIntyre distinguishes. The aspects stand in a successive order and they presuppose each other. All aspects have a governing kernel. Over time, these kernels have been debated so the list that follows is open for changes. Natural side of reality: numerical (discrete quantity), spatial (continuous extension), kinematic (movement), physical (energy), biotic (life), and psychical (feeling, emotion). Cultural side of reality: logical (analytical


A Practice-Based Theory to Explain Religion in International Relations


d­ ifference whether we approach international relations from the juridical or the economical aspect because each of these represents a different facet of reality. According to Dooyeweerd’s theory of modal aspects, it is impossible to reduce the economical aspect to the social or juridical aspect because each aspect has its own kernel which defines the rules that are relevant in that sphere. In economics, for example, the kernel is frugality; a company can only function properly when it takes into account the costs of every product. Additionally, for each thing or entity in reality, not all rules and aspects are equally relevant. Rules that belong to the qualifying aspect which define the goal of a specific practice and the responsibility of the actors within it are most important. The foundational aspect comes after the qualifying aspect and indicates on which rules the practice is based. The remaining aspects are conditional, meaning that they condition or shape the development of a practice indirectly (Jochemsen and Glas 1997, 73–75). Coming back to the question of what defines international relations as such, the question is what are the qualifying, foundational, and conditional rules of international relations and to which aspects or modalities those rules belong. A common definition of international relations is “[T]he total of political, social, economic, cultural and other interactions among states (and even non-state actors)” (Viotti and Kauppi 1998, 483). As this definition shows, there are various interactions possible between states, such as military, cultural, and religious. All these relations are relevant and important, but the question is which relations are most essential to define international relations as a separate sphere. The most characterizing difference is that international relations do not have a supranational authority as exists in domestic politics; international relations are characterized by anarchy which defines, to a large extent, how states operate. As Waltz argues, the result of anarchy is that states are in a situation of self-help because there are no other states to rely upon for their survival. The fact that international relations are characterized by anarchy leading to a self-help situation wherein the relative power situation counts makes it plausible to understand international relations in the first place as international politics. Unsurprisingly, international politics is one of the most important sub-fields in the study of international relations (Evans and Newnham 1998, 274). This does, however, not mean that cultural, religious, and economic relations are irrelevant. However, I consider them as less determining than the political relations between states. What is the kernel of international politics then? It is on this point that Dooyeweerd and Waltz differ. As Waltz has made clear, justice and right are the aims of power in national politics, but in international politics bloody conflicts tend to be decided by might only and not so much by right. On a national level, the force of government is exercised in the name of right and justice, but internationally there are no relations of authority and thus force is used to guarantee the survival of the state itself (Evans and Newnham 1998, 112). Hans Morgenthau (1904–1980), who also belongs to the distinction), historical (mastery, control), lingual (meaning, symbolic signification), social (interaction), economic (frugality), aesthetic (harmony), juridical (retribution), ethical (moral, love), and pistical (certitude).


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tradition of political realism, argues that national survival is a moral principle given the circumstances of international politics and the absence of supranational government (Morgenthau and Thompson 1985, 12). In Waltz’s thought, the kernel of the political would be survival because, as he states, Beyond the survival motive, the aims of states may be endlessly varied; they may range from the ambition to conquer the world to the desire merely to be left alone. Survival is the prerequisite to achieving any goals that states may have, other than the goal of promoting the own disappearance as political entities. (Waltz 1979, 91)

Dooyeweerd acknowledges that the international realm differs from domestic politics. When discussing the United Nations, he calls it a voluntary association of individual states, qualifying the internal structure of the United Nations as an international public legal function and founding it in the historical international organization of power. According to Dooyeweerd, the United Nations’ structure is similar to that of the state, but it lacks the institutional character of the latter including the monopolistic use of armed force and a territory. Dooyeweerd also mentions that the juridical qualified principle of international public interest does not have the compulsory trait of a government, which can eventually impose an order (Dooyeweerd 1984, 600). Dooyeweerd is aware of the fact that vital interests play a role in international relations. He writes that “during the whole history of the modern system of states since the Westphalian Peace until the second world-war no great power has been prepared to have questions of really vital interest withdrawn from its own sovereign final decision” (Dooyeweerd 1984, 475). Dooyeweerd, however, does not draw the conclusion that the kernel of international politics should be survival. In fact, he strongly rejects this notion: The Christian view of the State must never capitulate to a naturalistic theory of the “raison d’Etat” elevating the “sacred egotism” of the States to a kind of natural law in international relations. Such a theory is intrinsically false and contrary to the individuality structure of the States as well as to the basic structures of the international order. The internal vital law of the body politic is not a law of nature but bears a normative character. A State can never justify an absolutely selfish international policy of the strong hand with an appeal to its vital interests. God has not given the States such a structure that, with a kind of natural necessity, they are compelled to carry on a Kain’s [sic] policy for the sake of self-preservation. Only a blind man does not see that the vital interests of the nations are in a great many ways mutually interwoven. It is not the political structure of national life but the sins of the nations that have caused the individualistic selfish power of the States to dominate international politics. (Dooyeweerd 1984, 476)17

In my view, the difference between Dooyeweerd and Waltz can largely be ascribed to their view on theory. Waltz aims at a descriptive theory such as in the natural sciences and not at a normative theory. Waltz warns his readers not to extrapolate from his observation of how things are to what they ought to be; his theory only predicts  It seems that Dooyeweerd’s ideas about international relations have not been fully developed. In his book, he states that the subject would require a separate study, but that he included a passage about the subject in order to avoid the misunderstanding that he was absolutizing the internal structural principle of the individual body politics at the expense of the international public relations between the various states, Dooyeweerd 1984, 475.


A Practice-Based Theory to Explain Religion in International Relations


what will happen if the role of power is not taken seriously, so he claims.18 Dooyeweerd’s theory of the modal aspects presupposes a reality created by God whereby human beings are responsible for the development of this reality in accordance with the purpose of this creation order. This understanding of reality leads to a normative theory and differs from Waltz’s seemingly descriptive-only theory. In my view, the theoretical assumption that the survival motive is always prerequisite for states to pursue all kind of goals could be seen as the descriptive part of Waltz’s theory. His theory does not, however, account for the fact that the relations among states are often about issues of justice. It would also be incorrect to call this window-­ dressing, as political realists tend to do. The fact that the use of the term justice is often used to cloak the power ambitions of states only affirms that justice is something people and states care about, which is a descriptive observation. However, the observation that justice as well as power play a role in the relations among states is not meant to obscure the possibility that power often predominates. For that reason, power is often a more interesting topic for theorizing than justice. In sum, Waltz is correct that from a theoretical and strictly descriptive point, power is what explains the behavior of states best, but Dooyeweerd is correct that the desire for justice cannot be overlooked because it is something that generally matters to all states. The practice-based theory I propose admits Waltz’s theoretical insights about the importance of power, but does not neglect the ideals and goals that states are striving for. That makes it possible to include justice as well as power, where justice is the qualifying function and power the foundational function of international politics.19 In this view, politics is the sphere where power and justice come together. The difference between the domestic and the international domains is that, in the latter justice is less relevant and significant from a theoretical point of view than power, although the former is not absent. As Waltz has shown, the primary means by which states are able to survive in international relations is power. Dooyeweerd considers power to be the kernel of the historical aspect which means that the historical aspect is taken as the foundational aspect: it is primarily through the use of power that states are able to realize their security and survival. The way in which the foundational and qualifying rules are successively used also depends on the conditioning aspects which do not qualify, but enable, guide, and limit the enfolding of the practice (Jochemsen and Glas 1997, 83). It is not helpful to explore all thirteen aspects that Dooyeweerd differentiates and relate them to international politics, but I touch upon a couple just to point to the relevance of the conditioning aspects. Economics does not qualify or ground international relations,  The Q&A session during the conference The King of Thought: Theory, Subject, and Waltz at the Aberystwyth University in 2008. 19  I know that Dooyeweerd did not distinguish a political aspect. However, as the physicist M.D. Stafleu has made clear in his article, this is not convincing. In his view, the state is qualified by the political aspect and founded in the social aspect. M. D. Stafleu, “On the character of social communities, the state and the public domain,” Philosophia Reformata (2004). I differ from him on the latter point and found the state in the historical aspect. 18


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but economic relations limit or enable the unfolding of the practice of international relations. Economic relations between states can create interdependence and reduce the willingness to use power or to go to war. Economic relations, however, differ from juridical relations, as established in very different branches of international law. Another aspect is the ethical or moral one. The kernel of this aspect is love, or care, because people can love their country and family members, and feel a moral obligation to people in need who live in other countries. Although ethics and morality play a role in international relations, they are not leading or foundational for international relations. It would not be workable if international relations stated as a goal that everybody should love his or her neighbor, but that does not mean that this norm should be abolished; it still conditions the use of power. Dooyeweerd argues that: It is an absolutely un-Christian thought that the commandment of temporal societal love of one’s fellowmen is not valid in international intercourse between the nations organized in States. International relations are also subject to the moral law: they cannot be ruled by a purely egotistic principle. But the structure of the international norm of love is not identical with that of private moral intercourse between individual men. The moral relations between the States remain bound to the structural principle of international political relationships, which presupposes that of the body politic itself. The norm of love can never require a State to resign itself to a foreign attack on its independence and to deliver its own subjects to the violence of the usurper. The moral duties of a body politic cannot be measured according to private standards. (Dooyeweerd 1984, 476)

This agrees with Morgenthau’s view: [T]he individual may say for himself: “fiat justitia, pereat mundus” (let justice be done, even if the world perish), but the state has no right to say so in the name of those who are in its care. Both state and individual must judge political action by universal moral principles, such as that of liberty. Yet while the individual has a moral right to sacrifice himself in defense of such a moral principle, the state has no right to let its moral approbation of the infringement of liberty get in the way of successful political action, itself inspired by the moral principle of national survival. (Morgenthau and Thompson 1985, 12)

Through the conditional aspects, it is also possible to take the role of religion in international relations into account. Dooyeweerd called this aspect the pistical aspect—from the Greek word pistis which means faith or trust. Dooyeweerd makes a distinction between religion and faith whereby the first is understood more substantively and the latter more functionally. According to Dooyeweerd, the faith commitments that human beings have influence the way the other aspects are interpreted such as the biotic, ethical, juridical, etc. (Van Woudenberg 1992, 109f). The pistical aspect can also be apply to ideologies because its kernel is certitude, belief, or ultimate commitment. Many ideologies are also centered around a belief or ultimate commitment. This is functionally similar to religions, but substantially different when it comes to religion. An example how this practice-based theory helps to explain international relations is the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in 2009. The reason for the meeting in Copenhagen was a sense that life was threatened by climate change (which relates to the biotic aspect). However, there is also a spatial

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or geographical dimension to the discussion because developing countries suffer more from climate change than Western countries. At the same time, large countries did not want to limit their industrial capacities because that would harm their economy which relates to the economical aspect. There was also a juridical aspect involved because no head of state would go home and tell his citizens that they would have to make more or bigger sacrifices than other countries. All the preceding aspects played a conditioning role and shaped the extent to which the goal of the practice was realized, although in the end the outcome of the negotiations was largely determined by the degree to which states felt that climate change directly threatened their security and survival (relative power position). An adequate explanation of the Copenhagen Summit requires that all the aspects are taken into consideration and that their importance and relevance are weighed. Political leaders who want to base their policies on this practice-based theory should ensure that an adequate policy addresses all these aspects, requiring what Jochemsen and Glas call the simultaneous realization of norms (Jochemsen and Glas 1997, 86). In the paragraphs above, I also introduced the regulative side of a practice. The regulative rules are necessary to develop the goal of the practice. This development takes place through the influence of the basic beliefs and worldview of the participating human actors. In international politics, the principle of justice has to be realized under conditions of anarchy—which creates a situation of self-help. However, the interpretation and application of the principle of justice will be influenced by the basic beliefs of the people involved and the use of power will be guided by the worldview of the human person. It requires a specific competence, or a virtue such as prudence as Morgenthau called it, to reconcile the political power principles with someone’s personal worldview. There can be no political morality without prudence; that is, without consideration of the political consequences of seemingly moral action. Realism, then, considers prudence -the weighting of the consequences of alternative political actions- to be the supreme virtue in politics. (Morgenthau and Thompson 1985, 12)

Morgenthau did not believe that the Christian religion could be of relevance here. He saw an inescapable discrepancy between the commands of Christian teaching, Christian ethics, and the requirements of political success. … it is impossible, if I may put it in somewhat extreme and striking terms, to be a successful politician and a good Christian. (Rice 2008, fn 276)

Niebuhr, in contrast, argued that it was possible to be a Christian in politics. I do not think we will sacrifice any value in the “realist” approach to the political order (…) if we define the moral ambiguity of the political realm in terms which do not rob it of moral content. (Rice 2008, 276)

What both thinkers make clear is that the ideas and beliefs of the participants are relevant for the unfolding and realization of the practice, though Morgenthau considers it impossible to combine a religious worldview with politics while Niebuhr considers it possible. Waltz also notices the responsibility of the participants in the development of the practice of international politics because virtuosity, skills, and


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determination can help to transcend the structural anarchical constraints of the system (Waltz 1986, 344). The pistical role of religion on the conditional side of the practice differs from religion’s influence on the regulative side, though they influence each other. The regulative influence of religion is about the worldviews and the basic beliefs of the participating human beings, which are substantial as well as functional: it is their personal, religious conviction or way of living that influences how they act responsibly. The pistical aspect of the conditional side refers, in particular, to the functional dimension of religion; namely, the ultimate commitment. This faith commitment can be of a religious or a secular nature. The pistical aspect of the conditional side is influenced by the regulative side. More specifically, the ultimate commitment of the pistical aspect unfolds in close relation to the worldview and basic beliefs of the participating human being at the regulative side. In terms of the example of the Copenhagen Summit, there are, among others, political, juridical, economical, and pistical aspects to the case. These aspects condition or qualify the practice of international politics. In this case, the pistical aspect could play a role through a particular ultimate commitment which could have been based on a religious confession, but it could also be a religious ideological commitment to protect the earth. The exact role of this pistical aspect depends on the regulative side; the basic beliefs of the worldviews that the involved human actors have. The result of the influence of the regulative side on the pistical aspect conditions the political practice as the place where might and right meet. As a result, the outcome of the negotiations depends also on the worldview or basic religious beliefs that the participants of the negotiations hold. These participants have to weigh prudently their religious principles, convictions or values in relation to the requirements of political success.

Conclusion There are three reasons why Thomas and Waltz have or have not paid attention to religion in their theory of international relations. The first reason is that Thomas, here and there, suggests to aim at a theological, religious, and a scientific explanation of international relations, while Waltz aims at a strict scientific explanation and cuts off every metaphysical element. Another reason is that Waltz equates a scientific theory with the natural science approach while Thomas has a much broader understanding of the scope of science. As a result of this, the third reason is that they differ about the factors that should be included in a theory of international relations. After a short evaluation of the weaknesses and the strength of both theories, this chapter introduces an alternative practice-based theory on religion and international relations. It builds on the practice ideas as developed by MacIntyre and combines this with the insights of Dooyeweerd. It leads to a practice-based theory which distinguishes between conditioning, qualifying, and foundational factors. This distinc-

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tion makes it possible to weigh the different factors that play a role without simplifying in such a way that the theory becomes reductionist. In this way, it integrates the explanatory power of Waltz’s theory and the interpretative wisdom of Thomas. The three different sides of a practice become visible in the definition of international relations as the total of political, social, economic, ethical, religious, cultural (conditioning), and other interactions among state (and even non-state) actors which, because of anarchy, live in a situation of self-help and therefore have to rely on the use of power (foundational) directed by justice (qualifying). As said in the introduction, the aim of this chapter was to present a theory that would combine the strengths of both Thomas’ and Waltz’s theories and overcome the weaknesses. The theory as set out in this essay overcomes the weaknesses of Waltz’s and Thomas’ theory because it: does justice to the role of religion in international relations as an aspect of human reality and as part of people’s worldview and basic beliefs; does not confuse a theological explanation with a scientific explanation, but gives space to a religious explanation; navigates between explaining much about less and explaining less about much; relates the political domain with economical, juridical, ethical, and religious fields; avoids the suggestion of a neutral, value free scientific approach and is open about its normativity; limits and characterizes the domain of investigation and selects and prioritizes the various factors; respects the distinction between a scientific theory and policymaking, therefore avoids drawing (over)simplified policy implications from a scientific theory.

References Booth, Ken. 2009. Introduction. International Relations 23 (2): 179. Buijs, G.J., and H. Jochemsen. 2001. Op weg naar een herijkt ontwikkelingsbegrip. In Als de olifanten vechten... : denken over ontwikkelingssamenwerking vanuit christelijk perspectief, ed. Govert J. Buijs. Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn. Dooyeweerd, Herman (1984), A new critique of theoretical though, Vol. III and IV.  Ontario: Paideia Press. Dunne, Tim, and Brian C. Schmidt. 2001. Realism. In The globalization of world politics. An introduction to international relations, ed. John Baylis and Steve Smith, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Evans, Graham, and Jeffrey Newnham. 1998. The Penguin dictionary of international relations. London: Penguin Books. Goudzwaard, Bob. 1997. Capitalism and progress. A diagnosis of Western society. Carlisle: Paternoster Press. Guilhot, Nicolas. 2010. American Katechon: When political theology became international relations theory. Constellations 17 (2): 224. Halliday, Fred, and Justin Rosenberg. 2000. Interview with Ken Waltz. Review of International Studies 24 (3): 371. Jochemsen, H., and G. Glas. 1997. Verantwoord medisch handelen. Proeve van een christelijke ethiek. Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn. Kamminga, M. 2012. Structure and sin: The Niebuhrian roots of Waltz’s neorealist theory of international politics. PHILICA.COM Article number 335.


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MacIntyre, Alasdair C. 2003. After virtue: A study in moral theory. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. Manenschijn, Gerrit. 1979. Moraal en eigenbelang bij Thomas Hobbes en Adam Smith. Amsterdam: Rodopi. Morgenthau, Hans J., and Kenneth W. Thompson. 1985. Politics among nations: The struggle for power and peace. 6th ed. New York: Knopf. Philpott, Daniel. 2002. The challenge of September 11 to secularism in international relations. World Politics 55 (1): 66. Popper, Karl R. 1972. The logic of scientific discovery. London: Hutchinson. Rice, D. 2008. Reinhold Niebuhr and Hans Morgenthau: A friendship with contrasting shades of realism. Journal of American Studies 42 (2): 260. Stafleu, M.D. 2004. On the character of social communities, the state and the public domain. Philosophia Reformata 69: 125. Thomas, Scott M. 2005. The global resurgence of religion and the transformation of international relations: The struggle for the soul of the twenty-first century. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Van Woudenberg, René. 1992. Gelovend denken. Inleiding tot een christelijke filosofie. Amsterdam: Buijten & Schipperheijn. Viotti, Paul R., and Mark V.  Kauppi. 1998. International relations theory: Realism, pluralism, globalism, and beyond. 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Waltz, Kenneth N. 1959a. Man, the state and war. A theoretical analysis. New York: Columbia University Press. ———. 1959b. Political philosophy and the study of international relations. In Theoretical aspects of international relations, ed. William T.R. Fox. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press. ———. 1979. Theory of international politics. Boston: McGraw-Hill. ———. 1986. Reflections on theory of international politics: A response to my critics. In Neorealism and its critics, ed. Robert O. Keohane. New York: Columbia University Press. ———. 1993. The new world order. Millennium: Journal of International Studies 22 (2): 187. ———. 2008. The emerging structure of international politics. In Realism and international politics. New York: Routledge.

Towards a Normative Model for the Practice of Cooperation in Development Henk Jochemsen

Abstract  The development cooperation of wealthy with poor countries—whose modern version started in 1949—is currently much debated. Despite improvements in some countries—notably China—and significant results in social sectors, development cooperation has not, in a sustainable way, eradicated massive severe poverty. Moreover, it never could have since it is a manifestation of modernity-gone-wild with its unsustainable systems of mass production and consumption and unequal power relations. This situation raises the question of whether a normative view of development work could be formulated to avoid the pitfalls of unrealistic expectations, on the one hand, and a reduced economistic approach, on the other. A normative analysis of the practice of development cooperation leads to the conclusion that this practice is founded in and qualified by the formative aspect with meaning-oriented deliberate shaping as normative principle. Religion and worldview play an important role in the direction in which the practice is developing. The view of “development” forms an important element in the directional side of development cooperation. Development in this view is not primarily economic growth, but value realization as the result of cooperative human action in social practices and institutions. Development cooperation should support people in such value realization. Keywords  Development · Aid · Cooperation · Poverty · Sustainability · Modernity · Normative practice approach · Value realization

H. Jochemsen (*) Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands e-mail: [email protected] © Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



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Introduction The development aid1 of wealthy to poor countries is currently much debated, if not criticized. The aid does not seem to further economic growth in “developing” countries—many of the poorest countries have actually seen their real per capita incomes decline since the 1970s and more than one billion people still live on less than $1,25 a day (Ovaska 2003, 175; World Bank 2013).2 Hence, when the goal has been the eradication of severe poverty, the official development assistance (ODA) has failed so far. It should be noted, however, that donor countries have had various goals in providing support to poor countries. Ovaska lists the following motives: Part of any aid flows back to donors through procurement contracts; aid has increased the potential for donors to buy preferential future treatment for the business firms of their own nationality; aid can be seen as serving to buy increased international and regional clout through new political allies; and aid may bring more stability to world affairs, assuming it increases economic growth in recipient countries. Finally, development aid is also seen as a way to advance some core values of the donors (Ovaska 2003, 175). All this does not mean that the aid that has been given, not least the cooperation provided by civil society organizations (CSO), did not have any effect. The report of the Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) clearly states that in social sectors advancements have been realized, such as decreased infant mortality and increased rate of enrollment for basic education (WRR 2010, 97–107). Similarly, the recent report on results of development cooperation by CSO, working with government subsidies, reports important results in several sectors of society (Rijksoverheid 2011). At the same time, it cannot be denied that in many countries severe poverty continues to be a major problem. While in some other so-called middle income countries such as India and China the latest decade demonstrated significant economic growth, a large percentage of the population continues to live under or just above the poverty line.3 The question of what has gone wrong is not easy to answer, at least not at the level of financial political and socio-economic factors related to a development that is accompanied with a substantial reduction in poverty. There is a dearth of literature on this complex of issues that cannot be dealt with in this paper. At a more general level, it has been argued that not taking into account cultural differences between modern cultures of the major donor countries and the often premodern cultures of beneficiaries of ODA in the developing countries has been a major reason why development cooperation has not had the desired effects (VanderWalt 2006, 55ff; cf. Haenen 2012, 109–133). From a Reformational philosophical point of view, this raises the question whether these disappointing results indicate that some form of normativity has not 1  Support to poor countries has been called “aid,” or “assistance” for many years. More recently in The Netherlands, the term “development cooperation” has become standard, even though in 2010 the WRR argued that it would be more realistic to speak about assistance (WRR 2010). 2  “It means that 1.22 billion people lived on less than $1.25 a day in 2010, compared with 1.91 billion in 1990,…”;; accessed 25–11–2013. 3  “In all, 2.4 billion people lived on less than US $2 a day in 2010” (World Bank 2013).

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been observed. Reformational philosophy recognizes in created reality a diversity of normativity that manifests itself in the flourishing of life if observed and in the frustration of life and social structures if not observed. More specifically, with regard to development cooperation, the question can be raised whether the results of 60 years of development cooperation are so disappointing because the cooperation and cooperation in development has not observed relevant normativity. In order to answer this question, it is first required to obtain insight in the normativity of development cooperation for which an understanding of the concept of development is a prerequisite. The achievement of this insight is the task we will try to accomplish in this chapter. In doing so, we will build on an earlier developed model of normative practices (Jochemsen 2006). However, before presenting and elaborating that model, we will give a general evaluative description of development and subsequently of development cooperation as it has been practiced during those 60 years. This description is necessarily a generalization at a rather high level of abstraction which recognizes that in the actual realization there has been a large variety of approaches. However, analysis of the literature leads to the conclusion that at the level of basic cultural characteristics those approaches largely share the same cultural ethos. This thesis is elaborated in the next section.

 haracter and Background of Modern Development C Cooperation Often the inaugural address of United States President H. Truman in January 1949 is seen as the beginning of development cooperation in its present form (Truman 1949). In this address, he says: …… we must embark on a bold new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped areas. …….

He said so with good intentions, we may presume. Because somewhat further in his speech Truman asserts: The old imperialism—exploitation for foreign profit—has no place in our plans. What we envisage is a program of development based on the concepts of democratic fair-dealing.

With respect to the driving forces that are to bring about the growth and improvement of the underdeveloped areas (he does not speak of countries), he is not unclear: Greater production is the key to prosperity and peace. And the key to greater production is a wider and more vigorous application of modern scientific and technical knowledge.

The presupposition that non-industrialized countries are underdeveloped is not an invention of Truman, even though it could be argued that his speech put the distinction of developed and underdeveloped areas on the political agenda. Right from its start, today’s development cooperation holds a largely implicit notion of


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development. An analysis of development cooperation, therefore, requires an understanding of this notion of development. To this we turn in the next section.

Development In his informative study, Adams explains that the concept of “development” that started to be used in the English language in the eighteenth century had the meaning of a process of organic growth. However, in the nineteenth century, development became associated with a theory of linear progress that was closely related with capitalism and western cultural hegemony (Adams 2009, 8). The thought of improvement in other parts of the world, and hence implicitly of underdevelopment, was fundamental in European colonial expansion. In fact, this already brings us to the core idea of the concept of development in the predominant discourse. What matters is progress in scientific knowledge, technical power, and economic growth and wealth. These three dimensions are in close relationship and mutually reinforce each other. In words of John Gray, “The core of the idea of progress is the belief that human life becomes better with the growth of knowledge” (Gray 2004, 5). The pursuit of progress was the fruit of the cultural movement of modernization and Enlightenment. In light of the situation in which many Europeans found themselves in those days, there were strong reasons to pursue progress and hence improvement. Indeed, the improvement in the conditions of life for most people in the now “developed” world has been achieved with the use of science and technology, and its fruits in industrialization. Modernization and modern science are closely related with each other, as well as with “development” and “progress.” For our analysis of the cultural background of development cooperation and its implicit notion of development, it is important to point out that modernity and modern science are very much connected with a specific view of the world and of mankind as these originated in the course of European history. It is a view that very much informed the concept of development and the project of development cooperation. That is why it is important to elaborate on that view of the world and of mankind.

Modernity European culture was clearly a religious culture until the late Middle Ages. Central in it stood a historical form of Christianity that was often influenced, if not deformed, by other religious influences. Reality and life in that culture were understood and shaped on the basis of a relation with the spiritual world. This entailed an acknowledgement of a certain order in reality as it can be perceived by the senses. In this view, meaning and order precede (individual) human existence. A consequence of

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this idea of order is the conviction that human action should take the given order within reality into account. In the Jewish and Christian religions, that order is not a fixed prescription or an immovable fate, but primarily the intended meaning of things and relationships that should be given shape in human life and history. That given order is not independent from the Creator—in this respect the medieval view differed from classic Greek thinking—but rests in Gods providential work. This vision allows for interventions in creation in order to limit evil as a consequence of disorder in creation or of human disobedience, and to continue pursuing the realization of the destination of things. In this attempt, it should be recognized that the meaning and destination of all things and structures in created reality are not immediately clear from actual reality due to disorder and evil that are also engrained in reality, as well as to human tendencies to seek self-interest and fail to do the good one should do. During the course of the Middle Ages, a different attitude towards reality developed. The awareness that meaning and destination precede individual existence was replaced by the idea that individual and collective human existence precede meaning. This latter position holds that reality does not harbor meaning; individually and collectively people should give meaning to their lives if life is going to have any meaning. This position constituted an important cultural background to the rise of modern science and technology. Modern science owes much to the Jewish-Christian belief in creation and the Greek philosophy on order, but it also is rooted in the fundamental shift just presented. Due to that shift, a new scientific method developed that filters out the meaning embodied in natural and social structures and focuses on functional relationships between objects that are considered to be value-­ free. Visible reality is thus disconnected from spiritual reality. This scientific-­ technological approach has influenced modern mankind into viewing the world as value-free matter on which to found the construction of a world according to its own views and with the cooperation of modern technology.4 This has opened the door to much good, but not without new problems.

Advantages and Problems Modernization and the advancement of science and technology has led to an improvement of life’s circumstances for most people in wealthy parts of the world. We see this, for example, in the houses that we live in—we can protect ourselves against bad weather, our clothing, and the abundance of food. Furthermore, we also see it in the possibilities of medicine and health care to treat all kinds of physical 4  Even though in philosophy the fact-value split and the character of moral law continues to be debated, in scientific technical as well in public policy discourses the modernist view as presented appears to be predominant. Cf. (Staudinger and Behler 1976; Schuurman 2003; Hottois 1996).


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and psychic disorders and to alleviate suffering. However, modern developments have also produced possibilities for human flourishing by using the spheres of knowledge, science, and culture. (Unfortunately, they are often badly used.) It seems to me that nobody can honestly deny that our society has advantages that one would not want to miss. However, modernization also led to very serious problems. The success of science and technology gave rise to their overestimation. The scientific technical approach to reality has become the decisive perspective on the world and society. Public policy and economic life have been captured by scientific technical rationality leading to a relentless pursuit of happiness in the form of material wealth, in other words to “progress.” In the technical scientific view of the world, reality is just an instrument for satisfying human needs and wants. Reality is no longer seen as a valuable creation, but, at least in the first instance, an accidental entity to which value is attributed subjectively by mankind (Guardini 1963). Hence, by and large, modern and post-modern experience lacks the capacity to sense the notion of given normative orders. Ethical values and virtues such as faithfulness, concern, and self-­ sacrifice—as well as assertiveness, justice, and wisdom—are subjectivized into concerns in which, if it comes to conflict, each person serves his own well-­understood interests. New technological possibilities are often exploited with a view to an immediately served interest benefiting certain or even many people. In the longer term, the disadvantages become obvious, which are often more diffuse and do not serve the interests of influential groups. Therefore, they are not given a powerful focus. In this context, we can think of environmental damage done by developments in industry, mobility, and agriculture. The various crises we presently experience— finance, food, and fuel (all broadly understood)—have their background in modernization-­gone-wild, with its unjust and unsustainable systems of mass production and consumption (Goudzwaard et  al. 2007). This is even apart from the moral and spiritual sequels of the marginalization of religion that also is a consequence of modernization. The critical tone of this analysis is not meant to deny that alongside this predominant character of modern culture other cultural currents can be distinguished; e.g., a new awareness of the value of our natural environment and animal welfare, and the appreciation of local food traditions and of “slow food”—to mention just a few examples. However, so far, these other movements have not really changed the predominant thrust of the techno-scientific and economic-monetary systems. Necati Aydin, a Turkish–American Muslim gives a telling summary of the problems of modernization from a different tradition than mine (Aydin 2010), These dark sides of the Enlightenment project have resulted in ……the ‘Enlightenment paradox.’ The paradox is such that we have produced and consumed more but enjoyed less. We have multiplied our material possessions but lost our spiritual dimension. We have learned how to make a great living but forgotten how to live a great life. We have built bigger houses but destroyed bigger families. We have gained more knowledge but are left with less truth. We have discovered the far edges of the outer universe but dismissed the inner universe. We have found our way to the moon but lost our way to our neighbors (Aydin 2010, 99)

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A Project of Modernity It is not difficult to see modernization’s concept of development, and the relation between humankind and the world that is reflected in mainstream thinking in development cooperation. (Even though the development cooperation discourse contains influences of Romanticism and related views on nature conservation and ecological sustainability.) We list a few central characteristics of mainstream development cooperation (cf. Adams 2009, 116–140). • Its emphasis on material economic growth and the dominant role of the market in it, • The unresolved tension between such growth and sustainability, • The anthropocentric and techno-centric approach to the development of poor countries, • The emphasis on individual (human) rights, although in practice this is often mitigated by participatory approaches, • The idea that existing physical and social structures are essentially value-free and can be reorganized according to the preference of (the majority of) those involved. In sum, since 1949 development cooperation as we know it can be seen as one of the great projects of modernity and of modernity gone wild, for that matter.5 However, if this is the case, this should have consequences for the way in which we give shape to development cooperation. Would it not be illogical, then, to define development as “fast modernization” as the Dutch scientific council for government policy has done (WRR 2010, 61, 62)?6 If developing countries would achieve the same level of economic production and consumption as the “developed countries,” the crises would be worsened. At the same time, it has recently become clear that modernization and implied globalization have produced economic growth and increased welfare for certain groups of people in large areas in the world, not least in the new or emergent economies in the so-called BRICS countries.7 Often the wealth gap has also increased in those countries, and the vast majority remains poor or even extremely poor. However, those who see themselves at the brink of a kick off to greater wealth may not be eager to limit economic growth with its share in natural resources as well as in pollution; e.g., of CO2. They may argue that wealthy

5  The present crisis in development cooperation in many traditional donor countries could well be a symptom of the crisis of certain aspects of modernity; notably, the belief in the rationality and makeability of the world and the role of big institutions. 6  This council provides the description of development in the report mentioned above. It should be noted that the WRR describes modernization primarily in terms of the great institutions of modernity, such as the democratic state with its rule of law and governance bodies, the system of economic production, education, health care, and civil society organizations, etc. It does not deal with the cultural/philosophical backgrounds as presented above. 7  Brazil, Russia, India, China; and sometimes South Africa is also mentioned.


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countries have produced the crises and should be the first to provide solutions, not those people and countries that are only starting to enjoy more material wealth. With what right could one argue that people in India or China—for example— should not continue on their way to a form of modernity, even though it will contribute to the global problems of sustainability and justice? In response to this delicate issue, I would like to make two statements that I will elaborate in the remainder of this contribution. First, any honest and serious study of the present condition of the global situation and tendencies with respect to the use of natural resources demonstrates that we cannot proceed in this manner without leading to dramatic problems, not least for people in developing countries. We need a system change. Developing countries and emerging economies will also see this. However, the question is: who goes first in “paying” for a change in the system and accepting a reduction in material wealth? This will only be achieved if we succeed in developing a shared normative view of what development, and hence development cooperation, should mean under present global circumstances. Of course, such a shared view can only be achieved at a high level of abstraction—if at all— which leaves a great variety of possibilities to elaborate it into more concrete concepts of a “good life.” These two points will be developed below.

System Change It will be clear by now that we need a transition from an economy based on exploitation and waste to an economy based on precaution. This means that the economy based on exhaustion of natural resources, such as fossil fuels, should be shifted into one based on renewable resources, such as sun and wind energy, bio-fuel, and bio-­ materials. Initiatives in the area of bio-economy and cradle-to-cradle are manifestations of this transition, but must gain in volume. This also pertains to a more sustainable and ethically responsible agriculture. Both should be realized in the supply of energy and of agriculture production at various levels of scale (Berg, van den and Nijhoff 2009). The same again applies to ecological agriculture (De Schutter 2010). This entails—for example—no or less use of artificial fertilization, closed circuits of minerals as much as possible, and the use of biological agronomic methods of pest control (Visser 2010; Lin et al. 2011; Vonk and Bloemhof 2011, 37–58; Richards 2010; Ruivenkamp 2008). In developing countries such a transition can only occur if people want to commit themselves to a normative view of life, community, and society. A necessary— though not sufficient—precondition of such a commitment is an inspiring and convincing view on one’s own place in society, and the way in which one can participate and contribute. In my opinion, such a view should primarily depart from an understanding of reality in which meaning and order precede existence, as explained above. Normative social structures have an important place in this understanding of the world. In the following sections, I will present a view on development and on the practice of development cooperation that is based on this approach to reality. Before

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the model of normative practice is elaborated for development cooperation, it will be explained in general.

Normative Practice Structure The concept of normative practice will be explained under the headings that indicate its structural characteristics—socially established human activity, the telos, standards of excellence, and regulative side.

Socially Established Human Activity When we look at professional performance—for example, a nurse, teacher, entrepreneur, or politician—we can see that (professional) practice is a form of socially established human activity. This means that the practice exists before the individual practitioner enters the practice. For instance, the practice of medicine has developed during a long historic process and is the result of many decisions and processes that embody normative choices. In this sense, medicine and other caring practices are in themselves already normative practices and practitioners are subject to that normativity. However, this is also true for newer practices such as accountancy, business management, and education or journalism. The individual practitioner is initiated into the practice by learning a certain way of doing things. The practice shapes the behavior of individual practitioners before they can begin to reshape the practice.

Telos Secondly, practices have a certain finality, a reason, a core value for which the practice exists. Probably the Aristotelian term telos suits best here—without taking on board the whole Aristotelian metaphysics. The activities making up a practice are directed at the realization of this finality, this telos of that actual practice. It is important to distinguish this finality from goals that individual practitioners may have. The telos of a practice belongs to the very nature of the practice and is not founded in the intention of the practitioner or the client/patient/user. Goals set by individual or collective actors—for example, in medical practice—do not necessarily contribute to the realization of the telos of medical practice simply because one is a practitioner. A physician may want to make much money, but trying to realize this goal probably does not serve the optimal realization of medicine.


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Standards of Excellence The third structural element of a practice is that human activities in a practice can be seen as rule-guided behavior in which the “rules of the game” are understood as the standards of excellence for that practice. Professionals have a certain way of doing things, and a good professional follows this way almost intuitively. That way of doing things can be interpreted and described as following a set of standards or rules. These standards or rules constitute the practice and, at the same time, define excellent practice and provide criteria to evaluate the activities of individual practitioners. The whole constellation of those rules can be referred to as the constitutive, or structural, side of the practice. In this context, the concept of “rule” includes rules in the sense of “knowing how,” consisting in the ability to act according to a rule and to assess the correctness of this application even without making the rule explicit. One can easily see that performing a practice—for example, playing the violin, practicing medicine, or managing a company—cannot be learned just by theoretical instruction about the practice even to the point of “showing how.” Actually engaging in the rule-governed “forms of activity” of that practice is indispensable. When the rules of the practice are well observed by carrying out those forms of activity, the telos of the practice is realized; the practitioner is a competent practitioner.

Constitutive Rules An important question that arises from this description of practices is: How can the different types of professional standards that are embodied in competent practices be characterized and ordered? Several ways of ordering are possible. In the first place, we can think of the professional standards and ethical codes that some professions have. Useful as they can be, they often are limited to general ethical principles and give a specific content that differs from one profession to another. What I try to do here is to identify general structural characteristics of professional practices in which practitioners can agree independent from their specific world view or religion. Hence, we have chosen to draw on some elements of the Dooyeweerdian philosophy that has elaborated a view of reality that provides a framework for ordering different types of principles and rules that professionals appear to observe in their practices and are considered part of the professional standard. That philosophy distinguishes, in reality, a number of modal aspects that represent at the same time irreducible ways of being, ways of experiencing, and of normative perspectives on reality. All entities, including social structures such as practices, function in all the aspects. Of immediate importance for most professional practices are principles entailing the scientific (logical) and technical (formative, historical), the psychic, lingual, social, economic, juridical, esthetical, and ethical aspects. Each of these modal aspects or perspectives has a core value that can function as a normative

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principle in the exercise of a practice. Since social entities such as practices function in all the modal aspects, all the core values of the modal aspects can be understood as normative principles for the performance of the practice. Furthermore, the (implicit) rules that can be identified in a reflected observation of practices can be ordered meaningfully under those normative principles. Since those rules explicitly define what competent professionals do, they can be interpreted as normative rules, or norms for each specific practice. Together these rules constitute the practice, form its normative structure, and are called constitutive rules.

Qualifying Constitutive Principles It is important to point out here that the normative principles that are related to all the aspects mentioned above do not function in the same way in all practices. One of these will function as the qualifying principle of a certain kind of practice. For example, it can be argued that caring practices are qualified by the ethical aspect implying that its normative principle, the principle of “care,” is the telos of all caring practices and therefore qualifies them. That one normative principle is qualifying implies that the other normative principles should be observed under the guidance of that principle. Extrinsic motivations, such as becoming a famous physician, are subservient to the qualifying principle of care. Other examples are the practice of a musician who is aesthetically qualified; the practice of an entrepreneur who is economically qualified; and the practice of education that is qualified by the formative aspect and its normative principle of “formation.” For a further elaboration of this formal normative structure of practices, we refer to earlier publications on this topic. We just want to add here that an adequate, competent performance of a practice requires the simultaneous realization of all the normative principles, thereby observing an integral normativity. In an assessment of the way in which a certain practitioner performs his practice, those constitutive rules function as norms. An additional observation is in place here. The presentation just given may suggest that the normative principles and norms that apply for a specific practice are obvious. However, this is often not the case. In real life, good and evil are often blended. This implies that the normativity that practices embody often is elusive. It needs to be (re-)discovered and (re-) elaborated by human beings and given shape in their everyday life. Hence, our understanding of social reality must be based on painstaking analysis of the situation and the normativity entailed in it, undertaken in the light of all the empirical evidence available. This process of learning how to interpret the validity of ethical norms in a particular situation is a journey of discovery, not one of mere construction. In this journey, a Christian will seek the light of the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.


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Rules and Virtues Competent performance of a practice requires the observation of the principles and rules of the practice, and thus realizes its finality—its telos. As we saw, the rule-­ governed behavior has an implicit, tacit character. This means that rules can be followed even without a conscious decision of the practitioner at each moment they are applied. Here we can establish a link to the role of virtues in the performance of practices. Practitioners need to have certain virtues in order to competently perform a practice or, in our terminology, to competently observe the constitutive principles and rules. In our view, virtues can be considered as the embodiments of the normative principles in stable normative attitudes of the practitioner. Hence, virtues are crucial for a competent performance of practices.

Directional Side of Practices So far, we have dealt with the constitutive side of social practices. This presentation suggest that the performance of practices is completely independent of the worldview and beliefs of the practitioner. This, in fact, is the dominant opinion in the secular cultures of most countries that are donors of development cooperation. However, in my view, this is a mistake. Social structures such as practices do not only have a constitutive (that is, structural) side but also a regulative (directional) side (Wolters 1985, 72–96). What does this mean? Typical for the human condition is that human beings seek to interpret their life and find meaning in it by relating it to what is considered to have unconditionally non-dependent reality (Clouser 1995, 23). In this anthropological sense, religiosity characterizes human existence. From what is considered as unconditionally non-­ dependent reality, people collectively and individually, explicitly and implicitly, derive control beliefs and normative convictions on what is considered the good life. These control beliefs and normative convictions are often not immediately apparent, yet they strongly function in the form of unwritten, sometimes even unspoken, codes of conduct and customs, and convictions on what is decent and indecent. This also applies to professional practices and pertains to what we called the regulative side. How does this work out for the performance of (professional) practices? This can be briefly explained in the following points. (a) The constitutive side of a practice as described above embodies the normative constitutive principles and rules that (should) guide the performance of the practice and provide the norms required to assess that performance. However, any performance and assessment involves a specific interpretation of the rules (cf. the interpretation of a piece of music in a particular performance). Such an interpretation departs from a wider interpretative framework concerning the meaning of that practice for human life and for society, and, hence, on the direction that performances of that practice should have. The actual performance of a practice will always reflect not just the normative structure in one way or

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another, but it also somehow embodies the control beliefs, motivations, and normative convictions that form part of the practitioners’ worldview. It will also manifest the practitioner’s understanding of the virtues required to competently perform practices (MacIntyre 1985, 185–187). (b) Any performance of a practice is regulated by those worldview beliefs and religious beliefs. There is no “neutral” performance of a practice, even though the secular liberal understanding of society tends to claim a neutral point of view that should govern the public discourse. Particularly in our pluralist society, the beliefs and ideas that regulate the performance of practices should be open to debate. Christian professionals will draw on their Christian beliefs and motives when dealing with issues in their professional work. There is nothing unprofessional in relating one’s view of the professional practice to one’s world view and religious faith. (c) These beliefs pertaining to the directional side also form the reference points for a critical assessment of existing ways of performing practices by practitioners and of innovation and improvement of practices. This is a very important point. Without this explicitly critical function of the directional side, being an integral part of a full description of a practice, the concept of normative practices easily obtains a conservative and self-referential character. The fact that a certain community of practitioners accepts certain standards of excellence does not mean that those standards are the best possible. In the light of other regulative ideas, they may need revision. This implies that the renewing of the practice of development cooperation requires an appeal on one’s broader view of life and of the role the profession plays in one’s view of the good life. (d) This view of the role that worldview and religion play in practices also should imply that the people involved are taken seriously in their view on their own life in the broader context of their religion (see below). From these considerations, it is concluded that it belongs to the normativity of structural development cooperation at the level of the population, as civil society organizations do, to build relationship of trust that enable a dialogue in which the more fundamental beliefs and convictions can also be discussed. Only in this way can the worldview of modernity that is often implicitly transferred to, if not imposed on the communities receiving development cooperation, be critically considered in order to reinterpret the cooperation in terms of one’s own worldview. Moreover, where this implicit worldview is rejected, development projects easily fail. Where it is not critically reconsidered, it may seriously disturb the receiving communities (VanderWalt 2006; Jochemsen and Reinecke 2011).

Development as Value Realization What does this model of normative practice mean for development cooperation? What would be a normative view on this practice? The first step in describing a normative view of a certain practice is the identification of its telos. The


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identification of the telos of development cooperation requires an analysis of the concept of development. The understanding of this concept belongs to the directional side of the practice and strongly influences the way the practice is conceived and performed. The understanding of development as modernization and economic growth and welfare is clearly found among governments and international institutions (mainly the UN institutions such as the World Bank, IMF, UNHDP, FAO) (McNeil and St Clair 2009, 34–41), even though it is also clear that, in this view, such growth should be sustainable in economic, social, and ecological respect (the broadly accepted, but not always practiced, triple P concept of sustainability). However, we saw that the modernization-gone-wild has led to major global problems of today and continuing on this same road cannot be sustained. A good starting point for a different view is a remark made by Goudzwaard and colleagues (Goudzwaard et al. 2007, 106). They pointed out that, in industrialized countries in the course of history, a fundamental change has occurred in the predominant value hierarchy. The values of economic growth, welfare, happiness, security, and protection of one’s (group) identity have been given pride of place. If only these are realized then, it is believed, a just, caring, secure and sustainable society will follow. However, the reverse is true. We should pursue, first of all, those fundamental values for people and environment. This will bring forth the fruit of welfare, well-being, and security. If this is true—and I think it is—development should not primarily be directed towards tangible goals such as economic growth, but should, first of all, be concerned with fundamental values such as justice, care, responsibility, and stewardship. What does this mean for the view of development and subsequently for the practice of development cooperation?

A Normative View of Development In my view, development—in its core—can best be seen as value-realization in which the hierarchy of the values that are pursued is crucial. People, in general, pursue values individually and collectively in a variety of practices and institutions. Each of the practices and institutions (here mainly seen as the broader formal societal structures that (should) facilitate practices as described above) pursues the realization of an important value, viz. each one’s telos. Hence, development can be understood as the process that is the fruit of human action in which values pertaining to the variety of society’s practices and institutions are realized (Jochemsen 2009). In other words, development as value realization is not so much the result of goal–oriented rational human action; but rather, a process in which human actions in practices and institutions that observe the pertaining normativity result in the realization of values such as justice, care, stewardship, honesty, and respect. Pursuing the realization of the core values (telos) of practices in a way that respects the normativity embodied in those practices (its normative structure) leads to meaning disclosure and a positive development. For example, education that is

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directed at the formation of students and not primarily at making a financial profit; health care that focuses on the health interests of the patients irrespective of their gender, social status, health status, etc.; courts that respect the equality before the law of everybody (justice); and farming that does not corrode the natural and cultural basis of agrarian production (careful production), etc. According to the normative practice model, the telos of different practices should be realized in specific ways that respect the specific constellation of normative principles and their norms for each practice. Parents will maintain justice in their family in a different way than a state maintains justice in society, and that will differ again from the way in which a church exercises justice. The way in which a university deals with its students differs from a business dealing with its employees or clients. Different social structures have different normative structures; i.e., different value patterns that guides each one of them. These different normative structures correspond to different fields of language. In health care and social care, the language of the (commercial) market is not adequate— which is not to say that health care institutions should not work economically; the same applies to education. Similarly, development cannot be described adequately in terms of the market nor in terms of public policy and legislation only, important as these sectors are. The language of values, of well-being and experience of meaning, is indispensable. Not just of values derived from more welfare and political freedom, but primarily fundamental values that people pursue in a diversity of social structures. Whenever the intrinsic normativity of social practices is not observed, but made subservient to a neoliberal view of economic growth or of a socialist collectivist view of social development, meaning will be foreclosed and development will be disturbed.

A Normative View of Development Cooperation For development cooperation/cooperation as a field and a practice, this view on normative practice and development implies that such cooperation aims at the promotion of the value realization pertaining to the practices and institutions that are relevant in a certain setting. One can think of public policy/good governance, private economic sector, financial services, farming, education, and health care. The well-functioning of these practices and institutions in mutual adjustment, and hence the realization of their values (telos), provides a good starting point for furthering human well-being. Mutual adjustment is important since whenever one social sphere dominates the other spheres—be it the private corporate sector or an organized religious body—human freedom and responsibility is truncated, and the realization of certain values will be frustrated. In short, developmental work supports meaning-oriented creative shaping of social practices and institutions that deal both with the physical and social reality. I conclude that, in terms of Reformational philosophy, structural development cooperation is qualified by the formative aspect.


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This implies that development cooperation is principally cooperation, and giving cooperation in that context is based on equality between the developmental workers and the local people in the practices that are furthered and improved. How the work will be performed in the diverse practices belongs to the competency of the professionals in those practices. The professional in development cooperation may have her or his ideas and present them in a proper moment, but the responsibility should remain where it belongs; that is, with the people in the specific practice that is supported with the development cooperation. The development agency professional should facilitate, educate, and train—but not take over the direction. This is not easy if that agency is also the donor of the development work in which it cooperates with institutions in the developing countries. The receiving NGO or local institution easily is inclined to find out what the ideas of the donor are and work according to them in order to secure as much continuation of donor money as possible. Their own responsibility and views are frustrated, and the donor’s role easily becomes too directive. This maintains an attitude of dependency or of claiming. Development cooperation should aim at the establishing and strengthening of practices and institutions in which the people involved will be encouraged to think about the way they themselves would like to develop their practice and should be helped to realize that. Cooperation in the primary process (partner role)—be it farming, education, or whatever—should be distinguished, if not separated, from the donor role. Certainly, the cooperation requires affinity with respect to the main values and ways of working between the partners. If the missions of the partners no longer sufficiently coincide, one may need to decide to stop the cooperation. What should be avoided, in general, is that the (northern) donor organization uses a southern civil society organization as an executing vehicle for its own programs which aim at quantifiable results required by the back donor (such as governments of donor countries, or major institutional donors such as the EU or US Aid). Such an approach may in itself be adequate if the southern organization is a consultancy that performs projects on a commercial basis. However, if this would become the major modality of development cooperation, the development in that country would become too externally driven. True development in the sense meant here can only occur if the people and their institutions (can) take ownership of their own developmental process. Too strong of an influence of (back) donors frustrates that. Development cooperation should also really be cooperation because “we” as much as “they” should “develop,” or rather, change. Economic development in the receiving countries will never really be achieved by support of certain economic sector such as agriculture only. International economic relationships should become more just; the poor countries should receive the opportunity to trade and to temporarily protect their own production capacity in order to make it sufficiently robust to stand international competition. This means that the wealthy countries must be willing to share economic and financial power. Cooperation with people and organizations in developing countries in the form of exchange of people, ideas, and practices can further the acceptance of such a loss of power among the population in the rich countries (Jochemsen 2012).

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Such an approach may not lead to the same rise in overall GNP in donor and developing countries in the short term. It should be realized, however, that such a growth is not a valid measure for development (as understood here) and is not sustainable in either of the three p’s. This phenomenon is especially clear in countries with oil-led development—such as Indonesia and Nigeria, for example. In the World Bank statistics, Indonesia is going through successful development (World Bank 2012). However, other studies indicate that this development demonstrates significant social and ecological problems (Miller 1990; Karl 2004). Terry L. Karl (2004) concludes: “More than any other group of countries, oil-dependent countries demonstrate perverse linkages between economic performance, poverty, bad governance, injustice, and conflict. This is not due to the resource per se, but to the structures and incentives that oil dependence creates.” Economic growth and wealth for small groups of people receives priority over social justice and practices of governance; entrepreneurship is performed in an anti-normative way that results in social injustice, suffering, and ecological damage. Similar reasoning applies to forms of land grabbing, though here the picture is somewhat more mixed (Cotula et al. 2009). These examples demonstrate that if development is understood as economic growth and increase in welfare, development cooperation becomes primarily, if not only, a matter of investments that raise the GNP and the profits of the investor. In this way other practices and the realization of their values—such as governance that maintains equal access to education and health care facilities, agricultural practices for small holders to realize food and nutrition security, and social practices in which socio-cultural customs and expressions of cultural identity are celebrated—are abandoned and the population at large goes through an anti-normative development.

Christian Directional Notions The argument so far makes it clear that practices do not just have a normative structural side in which a diversity of normative aspects can be distinguished—each with its normative principle that should be observed—but also a directional side. Control beliefs that influence the performance of practices belong to the directional side. We saw that an important control belief in the context of development cooperation is the view on development. I have argued for a view of development in which a broader range of values form a part over against a predominant view that places economic growth at the center. However, the directional side is broader than the view of certain key concepts for the practice at stake. In this section, I will present a few Christian notions, in addition to a view of “development,” that can have a directional role in development cooperation. First, the creation motive asks for respect and care for people and for created reality. This rejects the absolutization of anything in created reality, whether it is economic growth, total control of life and health, or happiness. Valuable as these things are in their correct context, their absolutization would imply that the


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f­ undamental values of justice, service to God and neighbor, and care for people and nature would be made subservient to those absolutized values. As we saw, this is precisely one of the backgrounds of today’s crises (cf. Goudzwaard et al. 2007). Taking people seriously in their historical and cultural situation requires respect for people in their religion. Here we meet another contrast between a central directional notion in the predominant view of development cooperation and a Christian view. The predominant view, in line with a secular liberal view of public policy, relegates religion to the private sphere and does not pay much attention to it. At least, until recently. It is dawning on the sector of development cooperation in mostly secular donor countries that most people in “developing” countries adhere to a religion even though the degree of identification with religious institutions may vary greatly (Alkira 2006, 502–509; James 2009; Aiken 2010; Duncan and Rees 2010; Petersen 2010). As a consequence, the interest in religion has increased in donor countries—partly due to a sincere effort to improve cooperation and partly because awareness has increased that is it wise to take religion into account to enhance the efficient use of funds. The view of the role that world view and religion play in the directional side of practices that demonstrates itself in actual performance should also have implications for the way practitioners deal with those who are addressed in their practice. The emphasis that is rightly placed on partnership and ownership for the people involved in development cooperation should imply that they are taken seriously in their view on their own life in the broader context of their religion. Taking people seriously in their religious conviction can imply a serious dialogue about those religious convictions. First of all, it shows understanding. However, in such a dialogue there should be space for a critical discussion from both sides. Religious and world view beliefs are not beyond respectful critical interrogation. However, that can only be done fruitfully in an atmosphere of respect and trust. A second fundamental Christian notion pertaining to the regulative side of development cooperation is the notion of evil and disorder that also characterizes human life and the world. Evil has its ultimate root in mistaken religious beliefs implying that evil and disorder will never be fully overcome with science and technology, even though these can often remediate consequences of evil. The Christian faith is anti-utopian. This implies modesty with respect to our understanding of what is really happening in human lives and society. It also implies the awareness that technical intervention can be very beneficial but also appears to have a price in negative side-effects. All endeavors to improve practices entail a trade-off between different values—e.g., agriculture, required to produce food, seems to imply an unavoidable loss of biodiversity; measures should be taken to limit that as much as possible, but a trade-off is unavoidable. Third, this does not mean that Christianity is pessimistic. The motive of salvation and liberation by Christ implies that people can be liberated from whatever power frustrates the flourishing of life—be it mammon (wealth), the spiritual world of animism or ancestor spirits—by recognizing that the (spiritual) reality that is involved can have a proper place in a Christian understanding of the world. The work of Christ has placed the world on its way to full salvation and the

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realization of its destiny, even though full salvation is to be realized in the future. As responsible beings, people can be involved if they commit themselves to the king of that future, Jesus Christ. This notion forms the reason why cooperation in development from a Christian point of view cannot, in principle, be separated from communicating the gospel—even though in the organization of the work these activities can be separated. Fourth, the full realization of Christ’s kingship awaits his intervention in history. This expectation rejects fanaticism and triumphalism as well as resignation. It motivates and causes people to move to alleviate suffering and resist injustice in the way of trying to understand and life according to God’s intentions for life.

Summarizing Remarks Development cooperation in today’s sense can be seen as a project of modernization by rich industrialized countries to tag along poor countries in a similar process of development that is directed at (material) economic growth through industrialization with the aid of science and technology. Justified moral motives and well-­ understood self-interest formed the background of this project. However, that same modernization-gone-wild that led to our high level of production and consumption, and—through the process of globalization—increasingly impacts the whole world has also brought our present world a number of related crises that seriously threaten the future of billions of people. The development model of the industrialized countries and of the emergent economies has reached its limits and now constitutes a threat. At the same time, the continuation of the often appalling poverty is morally unacceptable. In this contribution, an attempt is made to present a normative view of development and development cooperation that could be the beginning of a normative framework for a more just and sustainable development, both in the rich and in the poor countries. In this view, development is seen as the realization of a series of values that are important for people and are the fruit of the performance of a diversity of practices and institutions in accordance with the constellation of principles and rules that characterize them. Respect for the intrinsic normativity of those practices and institutions forms a precondition for such a more just and sustainable society.

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About the Authors

Romel Regalado Bagares, a lawyer by profession, is Executive Director of the Manila-based Center for International Law-Philippines and professional lecturer in international law at the Lyceum Philippines University College of Law. He also taught a course on the Philosophy and Law of Free Expression at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication.  

Edith Brugmans is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy in Catholic Perspective at Leiden University and Philosophy of Law at the Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands.  

Govert J. Buijs holds the Kuyper Chair in Political Philosophy & Religion as well as the Goldschmeding Chair of Civil Society & Economics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  

Adrienne Dengerink Chaplin is an independent scholar in philosophical aesthetics who previously taught at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto and at King’s College London, UK.  

William Desmond is professor of philosophy at the Higher Institute of Philosophy at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium and also at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, USA.  

C. Stephen Evans is University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Baylor University, Texas, USA and a Professorial Fellow at Australian Catholic University.  

Henk Geertsema is Professor Emeritus of the Dooyeweerd Chair at the Department of Philosophy, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.  

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,



About the Authors

Gordon Graham is Henry Luce III Professor of Philosophy and the Arts at Princeton Theological Seminary, Pennsylvania, USA. Henk Jochemsen is Special Professor of Christian Philosophy at Wageningen University, The Netherlands. Annette K. Mosher is Assistant Professor of Ethics at the Department of Theology, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Simon Polinder taught International Relations at Groningen University and is now Associate Professor of Christian Identity in Health Care Organizations at Ede Christian University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands. James J.  Rusthoven is Professor Emeritus, Division of Medical Oncology, Department of Oncology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Renée D. N. van Riessen is Senior Lecturer of Philosophy of Religion at Protestantse Theologische Universiteit, Groningen and Professor of Christian Philosophy at Leiden University, The Netherlands. Jan van der Stoep is Associate Professor of Media, Religion and Culture at Ede Christian University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands. Nicholas Wolterstorff is Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, USA. Lambert Zuidervaart is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto and of the graduate faculties in theology and philosophy at the University of Toronto, Canada.


A Agamben, 23, 24, 26, 28, 32, 33 Art, 9, 14, 49, 50, 52, 54, 56, 57, 60, 61, 77, 89–91, 93, 166 B Badiou, 23, 26–28, 32–36 Beauty, 2, 14, 48–67, 70–82, 86–91, 93–95, 226 C Care principle, 247 Construction, 7, 10, 11, 49, 50, 52, 58–60, 82, 181, 200, 250, 287, 293 Cooperation, 17, 67, 189, 246, 248, 251, 254, 257–259, 273, 284–301 Corporate communication, 16, 219–229 Covenantal ethical framework (CEF), 207 Creation, 1, 22, 48, 70, 86, 115, 141, 155, 180, 197, 220, 232, 277, 287 Creation order, 1–17, 22–44, 48–67, 82, 141, 176, 179–190, 207 Critique of religion, 30, 31, 33–35 Cudworth objection, 125, 126 D Deconstruction, 49, 50, 52, 59, 60 Derrida, 23, 24, 26, 28, 32–36, 39 Desmond, W., 14, 15, 48, 70–82 Development aid, 284 Differentiation of religion and ethics, 139–141 Divine command, 15, 115–132, 135–141

Donne, J., 76–78 Dooyeweerd, H., 8, 10, 13, 15, 17, 40, 74, 119, 155, 157–159, 162–164, 167, 172, 181, 186, 188, 197, 204–207, 209–211, 213, 232, 238–247, 249–257, 264, 273–278, 280 E Enkapsis, 242–248, 250–257 Euthyphro objection, 118 F Freud, L., 51, 82 Freud, S., 82 G Givenness, 11, 30, 49, 55, 59, 60, 64, 72, 155 God, 1, 22, 52, 72, 88, 115, 136, 144, 154, 182, 197, 265, 287 God’s supreme goodness, 139 Griffioen, S., 74, 220, 226 I International community, 16, 231–257 International law, 232–237, 239–241, 243–250, 252–253, 255–257, 278 International legal theory, 231–257 International relations (theory), 16, 17, 232, 236, 246, 250, 252–254, 263–281 International society, 233, 235, 236, 271 Interruption, 15, 28, 29, 33, 35, 74, 75

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018 G. J. Buijs, A. K. Mosher (eds.), The Future of Creation Order, New Approaches to the Scientific Study of Religion 5,


308 J Job, 62, 70–82, 95, 150, 228 K Kant, I., 5, 8, 14, 15, 23–25, 32, 34, 52, 53, 57, 60, 61, 65, 71–73, 77, 85–98, 131, 253 Kierkegaard, S., 15, 70, 75, 77–80, 118, 145 Kingdom of God, 22, 27–29, 39, 41–44 Kuyper, A., 10, 15, 42, 153–155, 157, 158, 162, 176, 179–181, 186, 187, 190 L Levi, P., 75, 76, 81 Levinas, E., 23, 24, 81, 82 M Macrostructures, 16, 153–176, 180, 186–189 Messianic hope, 42, 43 Modernity, 17, 48, 54–57, 59, 64, 65, 70–72, 82, 201, 202, 249, 286–287, 289–290, 295 Moral judgment, 15, 138–140, 201 Moral obligations, 115–132, 135–141, 201, 209, 240, 278 N Neorealism, 264–266 Normative practice approach, 291 Normative practices, 12, 16, 208, 285, 291–295, 297 Normative Reflective Practitioner (NRP), 196, 204, 206 O Ontological explanation, 136, 137 Organizational identity, 223 P Philosophy’s turn to religion, 23 Poverty, 153, 154, 284, 299, 301 Principles-based ethics (PBE), 196–198, 201–204 Private international law, 247, 248 Promulgation problem, 126, 127 Public international law, 244, 247, 248

Index R Reformational philosophy, 8–10, 17, 38, 74, 154, 155, 163, 186, 285, 297 Religion, 4, 15, 17, 23, 26, 27, 30, 31, 33–36, 52, 53, 55, 57, 58, 65–67, 71, 74, 82, 135, 138–141, 154, 176, 206, 227, 228, 254, 263–281, 287, 288, 292, 295, 300 Religious faith, 22, 88, 139, 295 Repetition, 70–82 S Secular ethics, 136–137 Shining, 58, 64–67, 70, 73, 76, 77, 82 Social philosophy, 40, 154, 155, 158, 159, 164, 196, 197, 204–207, 209–211 Sources of law, 241–243, 245 Sovereignty, 9, 25, 26, 29, 40–43, 56, 118, 122, 137, 158, 187, 204, 232, 233, 235, 238, 239, 241, 242, 250, 251, 253, 255, 257 Sphere sovereignty, 42, 158, 232, 233, 238, 239, 241, 242, 251, 255, 257 Spiritual marketing, 227 Standards of excellence, 13, 221, 224, 225, 273, 274, 291, 292, 295 States, 4, 16, 44, 126, 153, 155, 158–175, 179, 183, 186–188, 190, 205, 231–257, 266–271, 275–279, 289, 297 Suffering, 10, 16, 17, 28, 41, 78, 86, 96, 140, 156, 163, 174, 179–190, 203, 288, 299, 301 Sustainability, 289, 290, 296 T Transcendence and the highest good, 43 Trust, 30, 181, 200, 208, 214, 219, 220, 259, 270, 278, 295, 300 U United Nations, 232–235, 250, 254–256, 276, 278 V Value realization, 17, 295–301