Workshop 7A philosophy

Dr. Dries Deweer – The Contemporary Philosophical Relevance of Personalism. A Reconsideration of Ricoeur

Christians are faced with the challenge to provide an alternative for the individualist and materialist outlook in contemporary societies. This alternative is contained in Christian personalism, the intellectual movement that sought to rethink the Christian vision of man and society and the place of Christianity in the twentieth century. The personalist focus on the relational and spiritual dimensions of personhood can still guide us in the twenty-first century. However, we are confronted with the fact that personalist philosophy ran dry somewhere around 1960, under the criticism of structuralist and postmodern thought. As a result, it now has a marginal status in philosophical circles. My paper questions the appropriateness of this evaluation, arguing for the contemporary relevance of personalism on the basis of an analysis of the position of Paul Ricoeur. Ricoeur was considered a representative of the personalist movement in his younger years. Nevertheless he later also supported the criticisms on personalism. The extent to which Ricoeur succeeded in integrating these two elements – loyalty and criticism – in his work shows us a way of regarding personalism as a tenable philosophical position and an important input in contemporary philosophy.

In my paper I will analyze Ricoeur’s criticism of personalism, in order to show how his work ultimately remains loyal to the personalist movement by developing a hermeneutical phenomenology of the human person that answers the problems of personalism in a way that respects its core ideas. These problems are (1) the neglect of the difference between interpersonal and institutional relations, (2) the lack of conceptual clarity, (3) the vulnerability to structuralist criticism, and (4) the dependence on a fixed Christian hierarchy of values. The first problem finds an answer in Ricoeur’s distinction between the socius and the neighbor, which he later elaborated in the threefold structure of his so-called little ethics in Oneself as Another. The second problem was resolved in the dissociation of the concept of the person from the personalist doctrine, by means of the characterization of personhood as an attitude. The third problem was addressed by Ricoeur’s confrontation with structuralism as a necessary detour for a new understanding of the human person. Finally, Ricoeur took the edge off the fourth problem by presenting personal commitment as a matter of a risky conviction that makes the person commit himself to a transcendent cause that only receives a hierarchical value on the basis of the commitment itself.

My conclusion is that Ricoeur’s late hermeneutical phenomenology enables us to breathe new philosophical life into an important Christian perspective on society. He provides a contemporary non-foundationalist basis for personalism, hence strengthening Christian social ethics to weigh in on the future of our societies.

Selection of consulted works:

Ricoeur, Paul (1965), History and Truth (Evanston: Northwestern University Press).

— (1983), ‘Meurt le personnalisme, revient la personne’ in Esprit 50 (1), 113-119.

— (1992), Oneself as Another (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

— (1999), ‘Approaching the Human Person’ in Ethical Perspectives 1, 45-54.

Dr. Andrew Basden – Dooyeweerd’s View of Meaning: Some Items for Debate

Despite the long history in the concept of worldview and the discussion around its role in the disciplinary context, few studies endeavoured to understand the nature of the notion of paradigm as used by Kuhn in his seminal work, ‘The Structure Scientific Revolutions’.  Although paradigm in history of science is one of the most widely used concepts, it is paradoxically also one of the least understood. Working toward a common shared understanding of such a widely used concept in the natural and social science societieswill allow us to know its essence. This will facilitate the development of a field of study and its research methods and lead to its progress as a scholarly discipline (Ronda-Pupo and Guerras-Martin, 2012).

In her classic and influential study of the notion of paradigm, Masterman (1979) has looked at the concept from the scientific perspective, Machine Learning. Masterman extracted 21 senses of paradigm such as ‘an Analogy’, ‘textbook’, ‘a device’ etc. She asked ‘is there anything in common between all these conceptions?” To the best of our knowledge, this question has not been addressed by Kuhn. The idea of the ‘disciplinary matrix’ introduced by Kuhn was not satisfactory. It was more of a box in which we put everything together, but it does not give us the common ground for integration.

Another 21 senses of paradigms were generated by Kindi (2012), as they ‘Give form to scientific life’, ‘Are adopted largely on faith’, etc. He tried to have a philosophical perspective by using Wittgenstein’s philosophy to understand the Kuhn’s notion of paradigm and its priority over rules in a scientific society. Yet, Wittgenstein relied on the ‘language games’ as the common ground/basis for all things, which leave us to ask the appropriateness of the ‘language games’ as common ground for all the senses of paradigms.

This paper aims to understand the notion of paradigm in relation to meaningfulness. Dooyeweerd’s philosophy assists by starting from a different presupposition. Dooyeweerd’s aspects are used as a tool for investigating and analyzing the 42 senses of paradigms. Revealing the multi-aspectual nature of paradigms suggests paradigms may be understood as multi-aspectual human functioning. Aspects are spheres of meaning and ‘what is meaningful’ directs researchers in a professional society to certain phenomena and the kind of phenomena centered on an aspect influences values and  assumptions that drive both research and practice in the scientific community. Findings of the analysis indicate that all senses of paradigms can be grounded on meaningfulness.


Ronda‐Pupo, G. A., & Guerras‐Martin, L. Á. (2012). Dynamics of the evolution of the strategy concept 1962–2008: a co‐word analysis. Strategic Management Journal, 33(2), 162-188.

Kindi, V. (2012).Kuhn’s Paradigms. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Revisited, 12, 91.

Masterman, M. (1970).The nature of a paradigm.In I. Lakatos& A. Musgrave (Eds.), Criticism and the growth of knowledge. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Dooyeweerd H. (1955). A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Vol. I-IV, Paideia Press (1975 edition), Jordan Station, Ontario.

Adrian Răzvan Șandru – An Alternate Overcoming of Heidegger’s Nihilism through Jean-Luc Marion

In the context of emerging technologies, which become more and more an immanent part of our lives, an investigation of the effects of technology on society is required. In doing so it is fruitful to search for the very structure of technology and for what defines it. Martin Heidegger investigates the origins of technology and his phenomenological method aims at discovering its essence. He takes inspiration from the Greek understanding of technology as techne, which involved both a practical as well as an intellectual know-how. Techne was thought in tight connection to aletheia (Truth) and physis (Nature) and was the way in which nature could be aided or brought to its completion. Starting from this Heidegger will eventually define technology as a Framework (Ge- stell), which forces nature to reveal itself, i.e. to present itself as aletheia. In order to do so, nature must present itself as being at our disposal (vorhandensein) or more exactly to present itself as by- us-determined and by-us-determinable. This has two consequences: the subject regards itself as the 1) ruler of nature and 2) as part of the Ge-stell. This leads Heidegger to conclude, that technology is the peak of nihilism, i.e. the absence of alterity. Heinrich Rombach shares Heidegger’s view and describes science and technology as the main symptoms of the modern relational-ontology. In his view, technology is the main tool of science in achieving its goal of describing the world as a mathesis universalis. Jean-Luc Marion expounds in Certitudes Negatives that sciences are always to be a certain and clear kind of knowledge, in order to avoid doubt. In this way every experience can be assimilated in to a universal Order. The empirical is reduced to objectity, which determines everything as being conceptual and measurable. The certainty of science excludes thus the contingency of empiricity. Because science only investigates such objects, it also experiences its limitations, as the day to day experience brings about certain phenomena, such as events, which are not objectifiable. This is to be seen in the propositions of science itself. Science only works with affirmative statements: they predicate that, what is logically and objectively valid. According to Marion progress is also a principle of science. This implies that each affirmative sentence is replaceable. This leads to two consequences: 1) the affirmative statements of science are temporary and limited; 2) they require negative statements, which determine the limitations of objectity. According to Marion, these negative statements are also a form of (negative) certainty. The limits of experience bring about a paradox: the possibility of the impossible. The impossible appears at the limits of possibility. This constitutes the grounds for the acknowledgement of the impossible as a phenomenon. Marion tries to ground a new phenomenality through this justification of the impossible, which is based on the giveness of phenomena and finds its ultimate place in Theology, namely in the figure of Christ. In this way Marion can ground a pure givenness, through which subjetivity and nihilism can be avoided.

Bibliographic sources:
  • Heidegger, Martin, Die Frage nach der Technik, in Gesamtausgabe; Band 7 – Vortrage und Aufsatze, Frankfurt am Main: Vittorio Klostermann Verlag, 2000
  • Marion, Jean-Luc, Being Given: Towards a Phenomenology of Givenness, Stanford:Stanford University Press, 2002
  • Marion, Jean-Luc, Certitudes negatives, Paris : Grasset, 2010
  • Marion, Jean-Luc, Gott ohne Sein, Paderborn, Munchen, Wien, Zurich: Schoningh, 2014
  • Rombach, Heinrich, Strukturanthropologie: „der menschliche Mensch“, Freiburg, Munchen: Alber, 1987