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five A Philosophy of Cultural Development dooyeweerd’s ambitious project to construct a comprehensive philosophy of social pluralism was conceived in the 1920s and 1930s and achieved mature formulation in the 1950s. The task of envisaging a social philosophy grounded in the notion of a universal order of reality was challenging enough at that time, and subsequent developments in social theory, especially the ascendancy of social constructivism and deconstructivism, have hardly made it any easier. The complex set of questions arising from these contemporary approaches lies beyond the scope of this book. In this and the next chapter I confine myself to one fundamental issue confronting the enterprise Dooyeweerd set himself, namely, his controversial proposal that social institutions possess an “invariant structural principle.” In the next chapter I consider the objection that such a notion implies a static essentialism that closes off historical and social variety. In this chapter I consider the related charge that Dooyeweerd’s social theory baptizes the institutions of the modern West and so lapses into occicentrism, rendering it vulnerable to conservatism. The force of both criticisms is that an imperious ontology squeezes out historical contingency and human freedom. In the next chapter I point toward a response aiming to avoid the equal and opposite problem of a thoroughgoing social constructivism.1 Dooyeweerd’s conception of cultural development and history has at its heart the notion of the “process of disclosure.” An appreciation of these is indispensable background for an adequate treatment of the 71 72 h e r m a n d o o y e w e e r d­ central problem just identified. In the next chapter I examine closely his general account of societal structural principles, consider a major objection , and propose a critical reformulation. I hope to show that once the notions of the opening process and of societal structural principles are properly understood, the force of the charges of essentialism, ahistoricism , and conservatism is muted though far from entirely blunted. Human Normative Disclosure Dooyeweerd’s notion of cultural disclosure flows from his account of the normative modal aspects, those aspects requiring the mediation of human agency (considered in chapter 4). It is essentially an account of how human historical action uncovers ever deeper layers of cultural possibility and moral meaning through a dynamic engagement with the order of creation. It generates a rich and sweeping account of societal development and historical forward movement. To make sense of it, we must first delve a bit deeper into the theory of modal aspects. An important feature of the normative aspects not yet considered emerges from the distinction (also noted in chapter 4) between the foundational and transcendental directions of time. The distinction in fact refers to the entire modal order, not only to the normative aspects; both prelogical and normative aspects can be viewed from the foundational and the transcendental directions of time. Viewing the order of succession of the aspects from the numerical through to the pistical, we envisage time in its “foundational direction” and conceive of each aspect as necessarily presupposing earlier ones.2 In the “transcendental direction” of time we envisage the directedness of the aspects forward toward their “fullness of meaning.” We concentrate on the fact that each aspect can come to be oriented to the other aspects that it looks forward to (or “anticipates ”).3 This process occurs over time; it is a temporal process. One aspect begins to be oriented to a later one at a certain period in history. The “total structure of an aspect is . . . not given at one time, it calls for disclosure in time.”4 By being oriented to later aspects, each aspect discloses dimensions of its structure that are out of view when only its foundational direction is considered. When, for example, we view the biotic aspect purely from A Philosophy of Cultural Development 73 its foundational direction, we envisage its relation only to the earlier physical, kinematic, spatial, and numerical aspects (its “retrocipations”). The relationship between the modal kernel and its retrocipations constitutes the “primary structure” of a modal aspect. This primary structure is necessarily always present. In itself it undergoes no change through history , since retrocipations by definition do not come to be oriented to later aspects.5 When viewing an aspect such as the biotic from its transcendental direction, we conceive of its relation to later aspects. What we see when viewing an aspect from the transcendental direction of time is a process whereby it comes to be...


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