Contours of a Christian Philosophy
An Introduction to Herman Dooyeweerd's Thought
by L. Kalsbeek Mellen, Series C, vol. 2




edited by Bernard and Josina Zylstra
New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2002, 360pp.
ISSN : 0-7734-6950-8






Contours of a Christian Philosophy may be ordered from Mellen

This edition is a reprint of Contours of a Christian Philosophy: An Introduction to Herman Dooyeweerd's Thought, published by Wedge Publishing Foundation, Toronto, in 1975. It originally appeared in The Netherlands in 1970 under the title De wijsbegeerte der wetsidee: Proeve van een christelijke fiolsofie in the series Christelijk Perspectief edited by Johan Stellingwerff and published by Buijten & Schipperheijn in Amsterdam. Code ISBN 90-6064-104-3


What International Scholars say about Herman Dooyeweerd:

"Herman Dooyeweerd is undoubtedly
the most formidable Dutch philosopher of the 20th century
…As a humanist I have always looked at 'my own tradition' in search for similar
examples. They simply don't exist. Of course, humanists too wrote important books, but
in the case of Herman Dooyeweerd, we are justified in speaking about a philosopher of
international repute."
Dr. 11. B. Cliteur,
President of the 'Humanist League' in The Netherlands


"…the most original philosopher Holland has ever produced,
even Spinoza not excepted."
Professor G. E. Langemeijer,
Chairman of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences


"…the most profound, innovative, and penetrating philosopher
since Kant."
Giorgio Delvecchio








This book is an introduction to the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic idea, that imposing system which commands the respect of everyone acquainted with it. This introduction is not intended for philosophers but for persons with an interest in philosophy who discover that existing introductions and the extensive publications of Herman Dooyeweerd, the major founder of this philosophy, are initially too difficult. I have written this book for persons who desire to direct their life responsibly, in conscious awareness of the spiritually divided and spiritually confused world in which we live. A measure of philosophical insight contributes to the deepening of such an awareness.


It is often argued that philosophical insight is of little value, not even to students, teachers, and professors. This attitude is found especially among Christians, but not only among them. C. Veenhof, a Dutch theologian who has supported the development of a Christian philosophy for decades, has described this attitude well. There are scientists, he wrote, who argue emphatically that they are free from every philosophical taint, that they can engage in research and formulate their results independently of any philosophical constructions. Veenhof countered this argument as follows: "Such assertions only betray a deep and dangerous self-deception; for everyone engaged in scientific research proceeds from definite presuppositions, from certain basic convictions, and is tied to all kinds of conceptions and insights in his inner being. And the less a scientist is conscious of this inescapable attachment to certain presuppositions, the more is he chained to them and the more strongly is he dominated by them." (67:11)


This attitude of indifference to philosophical presuppositions is of course particularly harmful to college and university students; for if their professors give the impression that they start from facts and not from presuppositions, the students may readily be influenced by conceptions which they would reject as being in conflict with their own faith commitment if they had only discerned the spiritual roots and disastrous consequences of such supposedly neutral conceptions. For this reason this book is intended also for college and university students, not only as a text in philosophy courses but also for those in other disciplines who sense that religious and philosophical undercurrents structure the factual data of the special sciences. For if a student wants to see the deepest roots of philosophy and science exposed and brought to light, he will do well to turn to the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea.


I myself have been greatly enriched by the study of this philosophy. Do I consider myself as one of its adherents? This book itself is perhaps the best answer to that question; for in this introduction I have made no effort to hide the fact that Dooyeweerd and even his immediate followers do not form a completely homogenous group. Differences of opinion are entirely possible. But is there a limit to this tolerance? How far does it reach? I can wholeheartedly agree with certain fundamental conceptions. Nevertheless, I entertain a number of questions concerning parts of this philosophy which in my view have not been satisfactorily answered. I am thinking here especially of the theory of knowledge. Perhaps I can best describe my affinity with this philosophy in terms of spiritual kinship rather than adherence.
It is a well-known fact that the work of D.H.T Vollenhoven has been of great significance for the development of the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea. Vollenhoven's contributions, however, were mainly focused on the history of philosophy, especially in later years, while Dooyeweerd was the philosophical systernatician. For this reason I have confined this introduction to the latter's work.


Dooyeweerd's contribution to philosophy has been the subject of debate for many years. Upon the occasion of Dooyeweerd's seventieth birthday, G.E. Langemeijer published an evaluation of this contribution in the Christian daily Trouw (October 6, 1964). Langemeijer was professor of legal philosophy at the University of Leiden until 1957, when he received an appointment as prosecutor general with the Dutch Supreme Court. Before his retirement in 1973 he served as president of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences and Letters for several years. He is an eminent representative of the contemporary world of learning in The Netherlands. It seemed appropriate to me to include his evaluation here in its entirety. Persons not acquainted with the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea should perhaps take note of Langemeijer's assessment after reading this book.
I hope that this book, which offers only an incomplete representation of Dooyeweerd's work, may lead many readers to immerse themselves directly in the thinking of this philosopher. I rejoice in the fact that this English edition can serve as a stepping-stone to the four volumes of A New Critique of Theoretical Thought for interested parties in the English-speaking world.