Marinus Dirk Stafleu 1980, Time and again, A systematic analysis of the foundations of physics, Toronto: Wedge Publishing Foundation; Bloemfontein: Sacum Beperk, 237p.

Marinus Dirk Stafleu 1987, Theories at work, On the structure and functioning of theories in science, in particular dring the Copernican revolution, Lanham: University Press of America, 310p.

Marinus Dirk Stafleu 1989, De verborgen structuur. Wijsgerige beschouwingen over natuurlijke structuren en hun samenhang, Amsterdam: Buijten en Schipperheijn, 136p.

Dick Stafleu 1992, En toch beweegt zij. Geschiedenis van de natuurkunde van Pythagoras tot Newton, Meppel, Amsterdam: Boom, 207p.

Dick Stafleu 1998, Experimentele filosofie. Geschiedenis van de natuurkunde vanuit een wijsgerig perspectief, Amsterdam: Buijten en Schipperheijn, 188p.

Dick Stafleu 2002, Een wereld vol relaties. Karakter en zin van natuurlijke dingen en processen, Amsterdam: Buijten en Scipperheijn, 302p.

Marinus Dirk Stafleu 2002, A world full of relations,

Marinus Dirk Stafleu 2006, Relations and characters in Protestant philosophy,

Dick Stafleu 2011, Chronos & Clio. De tijd in de geschiedenis, Amsterdam: Buijten en Schipperheijn, 239p.

Marinus Dirk Stafleu 2015, Laws for dynamic development,  

Marinus Dirk Stafleu 2016, Theory and experiment, Philosophy of science in a historical context,

Marinus Dirk Stafleu 2016 (revised 2017), The open future, Contours of a Christian philosophy of dynamic developement,

Marinus Dirk Stafleu 2018, Nature and Freedom, Philosophy of nature, Natural theology, Enlightenment and Romanticism, 


Philosophical autobiography

During my student years at Leyden University (1955-1961), I read several introductions to Calvinian philosophy, sometimes in discussion groups organized by the Societas Studiosorum Reformatorum Lugdunensis. I also attended to the weekly philosophical course by Johan Mekkes.

Quite soon it became my ambition to make a significant contribution to the development of Herman Dooyeweerd’s philosophy of the cosmonomic idea (PCI), which I studied more thoroughly since the appearance of his A new critique of theoretical thought (1953-1958). During my tenure as an experimental research physicist at the University of Nijmegen (1961-1971) I received my PhD in 1967. Besides, my attention was directed to the philosophy of physics, later to philosophy of science at large. After a brief period of teaching physics at a secondary school, I became a staff member of the institute for teacher training at Utrecht, now part of Hogeschool Utrecht, teaching physics and philosophy of science (1973-1998). An extension of my educational tasks made it necessary to study the history of the physical sciences, leading to a philosophial view of history. Only after my early retirement in 1998, I became a full time philosopher.

Herman Dooyeweerd’s attempts to arrive at a Christian philosophy have always fascinated me. His philosophy is first of all known to confess that God created the world according to invariant laws. His realist conception was very critical of current mainly nominalist views. As a natural scientist I wanted to follow up his challenge to elaborate this idea for the physical sciences. My view of natural laws as an extension of Dooyeweerd’s emphasizes the reality of laws and their relation to perceivable subjects and objects. Rejecting determinism, it stresses that laws do not eliminate individuality or variability, but make these possible. From the outset I nurtured the view that history of science is an indispensable companion to philosophy of science. Being an experimental physicist, I could not avoid analysing the method of metric and measurement in the exact sciences, and the relevance of experiments.

Next, Dooyeweerd’s philosophy is known for his introduction of fourteen (later fifteen) ‘law spheres’ or ‘modal aspects of being and human experience’. In particular his idea that these are also ‘aspects of cosmic time’ challenged me. Based on an analysis of the physical aspect and the preceding mathematical ones, my first philosophical paper was a confrontation of quantum physics with Dooyeweerd’s philosophy of the cosmonomic idea.

However, I soon started to make amends. I observed that Dooyeweerd stressed subject-object relations, but overlooked subject-subject relations. Dooyeweerd assumed that time expresses itself at the law side in the temporal order in the modal aspects, and at the subject side as individual duration in ‘structures of individuality’. In contrast, I suggested that within each modal aspect the temporal order at the law side governs relations at the subject side. In the succeeding years I developed my view of the temporal order for the natural aspects, gradually arriving at the insight that the modal aspects are first of all concerned with relations. Because nothing exists without having relations with anything else, the modal aspects are also aspects of being and becoming. And because human experience likewise depends on relations, the aspects turn out to be aspects of human experience as well. Hence, what Dooyeweerd considered primary is secondary in my view.

I have always been quite critical of Dooyeweerd’s epistemology, with his emphasis on a transcendental critique of theoretical thought. Contrary to Dooyeweerd, I consider theoretical thought to be thinking with theories as instruments, with a much more modest part to play in Christian philosophy. Part of Dooyeweerd’s view is his idea that theoretical thought requires first the abstraction of the modal aspects from each other, in particular from the logical modal aspect, which is ‘opposed’ to the other aspects in the ‘Gegenstand relation’. This should be followed by the ‘opening up’ of the modal aspects in the ‘anticipatory’ or ‘transcendental’ direction. From an analysis of the history of physics and chemistry I found that disclosing the ‘rectrocipatory’ direction is initially far more important, and that the direction of abstraction should be complemented with the contrary direction of unification. Hence the opening process as found in the history of a field of science occurs in four complementary directions: abstraction (the search for general laws for relations) and synthesis (the search for structure), retrocipation (the search for objectivity and basic properties) and anticipation (the search for dispositions and propensities, leading to technical application). My case studies showed that scientific worldviews accompany the work of the physicists and chemists involved decisively. Moreover, theoretical thought is in my view far less prominent than Dooyeweerd assumed. Scientists use many more methods than theoretical thought alone. Because Dooyeweerd identified science with theoretical thought, he never developed a theory of science.

After my retirement in 1998 I set out to modernize PCI. I started to call the aspects ‘relation frames’, assuming that each frame expresses a directive order of time for intersubjective relations and subject-object relations. Soon I applied this idea not only to the natural, but also to the normative relation frames.

In the third volume of his main work, Dooyeweerd introduced the theory of ‘structures of individuality’. I replaced it by the concept of a ‘character’, being a set of general and specific laws determining things and events. I applied Dooyeweerd’s theory relating these ‘type laws’ with the relation frames more consequently than he did, first with respect to natural characters, next to mathematical structures, and finally to normative character types. Contrary to Dooyeweerd, I argued that the physical aspect is not the first to qualify structures, because the mathematical aspects do so too. 

When I turned my attention to the normative aspects, in particular the philosophy of history, I was surprised to find much difference of opinion with Dooyeweerdian views. First, in a paper on the aesthetical relation frame, I joined some earlier authors suggesting that the order of the modal aspects is different from Dooyeweerd’s. Next I discovered that the political relation frame should be distinguished from the juridical one, with consequences for the theory of the state and other associations. I had to take distance from Dooyeweerd’s interpretation of ‘sphere sovereignty’, returning to Abraham Kuyper’s original views. I presented different views on the aspects of keeping company and economy, and I criticised Dooyeweerd’s views of ethics and the ‘moral modal aspect’. Finally and most importantly, from my study of Dooyeweerd’s theory of history, I discovered to my surprise that I always had misinterpreted Dooyeweerd’s philosophy of time. This turns out to have two different and contradictory trends. I rejected one and favoured the other, arriving at a new philosophy of history.

This critique appears to have consequences for a quite different view on religion. In particular I believe that only God transcends the created and temporal world, although he is also present in that world, in the person of Jesus Christ. Nobody and nothing else is able to transcend reality. Therefore I reject transcendental thought, transcendental time, and any other transcendental idea. There is no Archimedean point outside reality from which one could view the world. A Christian may believe that the meaning of reality is concentrated in Jesus Christ, but in order to make that possible he came into the world. Considering Jesus Christ to be the concentration point of all human activity does not imply an Archimedean point of view outside the world.

Looking back, I conclude that in the development of my philosophy, I arrived at more scientific views than Dooyeweerd’s visionary, but somewhat romantically inspired insights. Although I diverted quite a bit from Dooyeweerd’s philosophy, nevertheless I remained  fairly consistent in following his guidance on my pathways to a Christian philosophy.

I shall now present my philosophical papers in chronological order.

*1966, ‘Quantumfysica en wijsbegeerte der wetsidee’, Philosophia Reformata 31: 126-156. (‘Quantum physics and PCI’, translation by H. Kiefte of *1966, only available in digital form.)

In my first philosophical publication, the influence of Dooyeweerd, editor in chief of Philosophia Reformata, was heavily present. It starts with a dictate of five basic ideas from his philosophy, from which I later took some distance. It is followed by a somewhat hesitating discussion of Dooyeweerd’s formulation of the meaning nucleus of the physical aspect. The English term ‘energy-effect’ does not appear to be a correct translation of the Dutch term ‘energetische werkingswijze’. This is not much improved when Dooyeweerd states that ‘… energy implies causes and effects’, followed by the complicated explanation that causality is always an analogical concept, an energetic movement, a dynamic relation between energetic action and its energetic effect. Dooyeweerd used the word energy (energeia) in its original Greek meaning, but as a physicist I had to take into account its physical and technical meaning achieved since the nineteenth century and now quite common. Energy as a measurable quantity cannot serve as a modal meaning nucleus. Later I would propose that energy in its modern sense expresses a quantity of interaction, referring from the physical to the quantitative aspect.

Next I introduced the physical order of time, my first original contribution to PCI: ‘If one distinguishes between a kinematic and a physical aspect, one should also distinguish their respective aspects of time. We shall see that not before the physical aspect the irreversibility of the temporal order can be recognized.’ I don’t know whether Dooyeweerd realised that I started to deviate from his view of time (expressed in the second proposition of *1966) – anyhow, I believed then to operate completely in his line of thought. This also applies to the distinction of modal aspects and structures of individuality, which I sharpened in this paper more than Dooyeweerd ever intended. I illustrated this by the difference between modal thermodynamics and structural statistical physics. According to me both have a law side and a subject-and-object side, whereas Dooyeweerd insisted that individuality is situated at the subject side of the modal aspects.

I introduced three groups of physically qualified structures of individuality, respectively arithmetically founded elementary particles of matter; spatially founded ‘enkaptic material structural totalities, in which elementary material particles are enkaptically bound’; and ‘structures of individuality of physically qualified events, typically kinetically founded’. In a footnote I observed that this distinction according to the founding function is not due to Dooyeweerd. Apart from the rather clumsy formulation I always maintained this distinction, later also for the other modal aspects.

For physics the three mathematical aspects are foundational, and in *1966 I paid much attention to these. I suppose that what I wrote about quantum physics went wide over the head of Dooyeweerd, because he hardly commented on this part. No doubt the same would have applied to most readers of Philosophia Reformata.

*1968, ‘Individualiteit in de fysica’, in: D.M. Bakker e.a. 1968, Reflexies, opstellen aangeboden aan Prof. Dr. J.P.A. Mek­kes, ter gelegen­heid van zijn zeventigste verjaardag, Amsterdam: Buijten en Schipperheijn, 287-305. (‘Individuality in physics’, translation of *1968, only available in digital form.)

Eight of his former students at Leyden wrote this Festschrift for Johan Mekkes, then professor of Calvinian philosophy at Leiden. He replied with Radix, tijd en kennen, proeve ener critiek van de belevingssubjectiviteit, Amsterdam 1971: Buijten en Schipperheijn. My contribution was the shortest, and clearly more freely written than the former and the next one, without the influence of Dooyeweerd as an authoritarian editor.

I argued that natural philosophers have the wrong inclination to deny elementary particles individuality, but also that science systematically abstracts from individuality because it is interested in law conformity. Science ought te be conscious of that, and should not suggest that something does not exist because it falls dliberately outside its domain. The paper shows that the discussed problems are closely related to the conflict between classical physical determinism and the stochastic tendency of modern physics, enforced by experiments on Brownian motion, radioactivity, and the absorption and emission of light by atoms and molecules, and finally established by quantum physics.

*1970, ‘Analysis of time in modern physics’, Philosop­hia Reformata 35: 1-24, 119-131.

 This article was written while I was a visiting scientist at the H.H. Wills Physics Laboratory, Bristol, England, in a postdoctoral fellowship, granted by the Royal Society in its European Science Exchange Programme. This paper, the first one in English, was announced as the third part (after *1966 and *1968) of ‘an investigation into the foundations of modern physics, within the framework of the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea (PCI).’ My view of time started to deviate from Dooyeweerd’s, with the question ‘Is time at the subject side exclusively individual time duration?’

‘Because the modal structures of the aspects are structures of time, also their mutual relations are relations of time.’ I referred first (like Dooyeweerd) to the order of the modal aspects with their retro- and anticipations, and to subject-object relations. Next I presented subject-subject relations as the subject side of modal time, apart from individual temporal duration, to which I returned at the end of the paper.

Originally I stated that the concept of subject-subject relations would be new in PCI. Dooyeweerd nowhere mentions this concept in his New critique of theoretical thought, but as editor in chief of Philosophia Reformata he wrote in the margin of my manuscript that this relation occurs in his Encyclopedie van de rechtsgeleerdheid. This is an unpublished set of notes, an introduction to the science of law, of which several variants exist, collated by students, and only in the twenty-first century published in English. I never read it, because I do not care very much about unpublished student’s notes. However, I surmise that it only refers to relations between persons, and that Dooyeweerd never recognized the significance of subject-subject relations in the natural aspects. Certainly, he would have had no sympathy for a relational view of subjective time, as I started to develop.

Next I introduced arithmetical relations between numbers with he help of the theory of groups, and geometrical relations between spatial figures.

After this introduction I applied the result to the special theory of relativity, with the interval as objective temporal relation in the space of motion, and on the general theory of relativity. Einstein’s principle of relativity is compared with Mach’s.

The next section discusses the irreversibility of time as physical temporal order, with interaction as the abstract physical subject-subject relation. This is aplied in thermodynamics and in the concepts of energy, momentum, and entropy. Energy, force, and current are proposed as the universal abstract retrocipations on the quantitative, spatial and kinematic aspect.

The article concludes: ‘The analysis of time according to the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea proceeds in several steps. The first one is the recognition of cosmic time as a presupposition of theoretical thought, having two fundamental structures, modal time and typical time, in brief. The second step is the discovery of the mutual irreducibility of the modal aspects, the investigation of their relations, and the designation of the modal order of time in each of them. … The third step is distinguishing the law and subject sides in each modal aspect and the analysis of the modal subject-subject relations.’ In short, this describes my research program for the succeeding years.

In July 1970, Ted Fackerell from Australia and I assisted at Henk Hart’s seminar on the philosophy of science at the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto.

 *1972, ‘Metric and measurement in physics’, Philosop­hia Reformata 37: 42-57.

 This is a sequel to *1970. The significance of metrics for measurements in the natural sciences and their mathematical analysis (and, of course, for technology and commerce) has occupied me many times.

Since 1973 I was an active member of a discussion group hosted by  J.G.Knol at Utrecht. I also attended to a natural philosophical group hosted by Nico Minnaard in Hilversum, and to J.B. Ubbink’s seminar at the University of Utrecht, where I consulted the university library extensively. From 22-25 augustus 1979 I was present at the Huygens-symposium in Amsterdam.

Between 1972 and 1978 I published nothing, being mostly involved in the history of physics, culminating in a trilogy of papers:

 *1978, ‘The mathematical and technical opening up of a field of science’, Philosophia Reformata 43: 18-37.

*1979, ‘The isolation of a field of science’, Philosop­hia Reformata 44: 1-15.

*1980a, ‘The opening up of a field of science by abstraction and synthe­sis’, Philosop­hia Reformata 45: 47-76.

 According to Dooyeweerd history is a process, disclosing the anticipations in the modal aspects which would otherwise remain in a closed state. In these three papers I show that in classical physics the opening up took place in a number of isolated fields of science, into four directions, two by two complementary. Therefore it would be wrong to restrict the opening process to anticipations. I was not aware then that this would undermine Dooyeweerd’s philosophy of history.

For lack of sufficient competence, I have never said nor denied that this model also applies to other sciences. The contents of these papers would return in *1998.

 *1980b, Time and again, A systematic analysis of the founda­tions of physics, Toronto: Wedge; Bloemfon­tein: Sacum, 237 p. Digital version: *2014. Since 2018 on

Some friends in Canada and South-Africa made the publication of my first book possible. It is a revised composition of *1966, *1968, *1970 en *1972. For several natural scientists in The Netherlands and abroad, it became their first introduction to PCI. It was discussed during a summer seminar at the Institute for Christian Studies, 1975, where each attendent commented on a chapter of the book. Arie Leegwater edited the manuscript as a whole. Time and again intended to investigate whether Dooyeweerd’s systematic philosophy is applicable to physics, and to a lesser extent, to mathematics.

*1981-82, ‘Theories as logically qualified artefacts, Philos­op­hia Reformata 46: 164-189; 47: 20-40.

My first contribution to the theory of science takes distance from  Dooyeweerd’s epistemology, his quite complicated transcendental critique, strongly influenced by Immanuel Kant and his adherents, which he considered the nucleus of his philosophy. My proposition is much simpler than his: theoretical thought is thinking with the help of theories, statements, and concepts. These are artefacts designed, made, and used for this purpose. Theories are in no way transcendent. Therefore it is wrong to identify science with theoretical thought, as philosophers influenced by Kant generally assume. Instead I argued that science is a human activity with a purpose, namely to discover the lawful structure of the universe and of human society The contents of these papers is elaborated in *1987 and *2015b.

From 1982 to 2006 I was a member of the editorial board of Philosophia Reformata, since 1998 acting as its chairman, successor of Herman Dooyeweerd and of Johan van der Hoeven.

*1983-84, ‘Kritische studie: Popper’s Postscript’, Philos­op­hia Reformata 48: 50-65; 49: 71-91.

This is an extensive review of Popper’s postscript (in three parts) of his The logic of scientific discovery. I have learned a lot from Popper’s critical realism, as much as from Dooyeweerd’s philosophy.

*1984, ‘The kind of motion we call heat’, Tydskrif vir christelike wetenskap 20: 1-43.

In 1981 I was invited to present a course at the University of Potchefstroom, South-Africa. I replied that I could in no way defend apartheid, expecting that the invitation would be withdrawn. On the contrary, I was told that any criticism would be welcome. So from August to October 1981 I was six weeks their guest lecturer. I had many discussions about apartheid (though that was not the subject matter of my lectures), always on the initiative of some of my hosts, both adherents (among whom H.G.Stoker) and criticists. During a week-end I presented a lecture at Bloemfontein, published a few years later as *1984. Its contents are elaborated in *1998. In 2001 I presented again guest lectures at Potchefstroom, observing how much South-African society had changed after the abolishment of apartheid.

*1985, ‘Spatial things and kinematic events (On the reality of mathema­tically qualified structures of individuality)’, Philosophia Reforma­ta 50: 9-20.

For a long time PCI assumed that structures of individuality could only be qualified by the physical or later modal aspects. In this paper I also recognize spatial and kinematically typed structures. Only later I added quantitatively qualified structures, because I initially assumed that a structure of individuality requires a founding aspect, which the quantitative aspect lacks. For me this was an eye-opener, throwing a new light on physical structures and their interlacements.

*1986, ‘Some problems of time - some facts of life’, Philos­op­hia Reformata 51: 67-82.

This is a very critical review of Willem Ouweneel’s book (1986) about Dooyeweerd’s anthropology. I argued that the biological theory of evolution is fairly acceptable. As a natural scientist I could not ignore the twentieth-century astrophysical theories, and I found the methods, applied by biologists, and their results legitimate and convincing. Because many adherents of PCI remained critical of evolution, I returned to this problem in *1989, *1991, *1995, *1997, *2000, *2002a, *2002b.

*1987 Theories at work, On the structure and functioning of theories in science, in particular during the Copernican revolution, Lanham, New York, London: University Press of America, 310 p.

In July 1985 I presented guest lectures at a summer school at the Institute for Christian Studies at Toronto. This book is based on these lectures and on a course given at the teacher training institute at Utrecht. Discussions with colleagues, students, and attendents at the summer school, and later with some Canadian friends about the concept text have helped a lot. It builds on the series of papers *1978, *1979 and *1980. Second revised edition: *2015b. The book attempts to base a Dooyeweerdian philosophy of science on the history of classical physics. It is the historical companion to Time and again (1980b).

*1988, ‘Criteria for a law sphere (with special emphasis on the ‘psychic’ modal aspect)’, Philosophia Reformata 53: 171-186.

Referring to Willem Ouweneel’s Psychologie (1984) and De leer van de mens (1986), in which he proposed to divide the psychic aspect into a perceptive and a sensitive aspect, I attempted to present criteria for a law sphere, using them to criticize Ouweneel’s proposal (supported only by André Troost).

To the Dutch series Verantwoording, edited by Bas Kee et al. and published by Buijten & Schipper­heijn,I contributed 4 books (*1989, *1998, *2002b, and *2011), as well as one chapter to another book (*1996). The first was:

*1989, De verborgen struc­tuur, Wijsgerige beschouwingen over natuurlij­ke structuren en hun samenhang, Amsterdam: Buijten en Schipper­heijn, 136 p.

This short book (critically read by Bas Kee) emphasizes the empirical character of natural science, discovering any kind of hidden structures (like electricity and atomic and sub-atomic particles). The theme is that natural structures are hidden, because strong forces (electric, nuclear) keep stable things together, warding off external influences. Before the eigteenth century, electricity was considered a curiosity, and nuclear forces were not discovered before the twentieth century.

In June 1989, I lectured (together with Willem Drees) at the Internationale School voor Wijsbegeerte in Amersfoort, about  philosophical cosmology.

*1991, ‘Being human in the cosmos’, Philosophia Reformata 56: 101-131.

This is my first excursion into philosophical anthropology. It contains some speculative ideas which I later dropped.

*1992, En toch beweegt zij, Geschiedenis van de natuurkunde van Pythago­ras tot Newton, Meppel etc.: Boom, 207 p.

This richly illustrated book, more history than philosophy, is a summary of some of my lectures at the teacher training college.

*1994, ‘De structuur der materie in de wijsbegeerte van de wetsidee’, in: H.G. Geertsema e.a. (red.), Herman Dooyeweerd 1894-1977, Breedte en actualiteit van zijn filosofie, Kampen: Kok, 114-142.

This volume was published on behalf of the Free University at Amsterdam on the occasion of Dooyeweerd’s centennial. I was the only contributor not connected to the Free University, probably because nobody in the faculty of mathematics and science was willing to contribute. Mine is a summary of the most important elements of PCI’s theory of structure (see also *1989), and may be considered one more step towards *2002b.

*1995a, ‘The cosmochronological idea in natural science’, in: S. Griffioen, B.M. Balk (eds.), Christian philosophy  at the close of the twentieth century, Kampen: Kok, 93-111.

My contribution to a conference at Hoeven in 1994, where I shared a workshop with Roy Clouser and Danie Strauss. It discusses Dooyeweerd’s conception of time.

*1995b, ‘Modelvorming als heuristisch instrument in het weten­schappe­lijke ontsluitingsproces’, Philosophia Reformata 60, 1-15.

Based on a lecture given at a seminar of the Vereniging voor Calvinistische Wijsbegeerte at Utrecht (1994), together with Alys Koekkoek.

*1996, ‘Filosofie van de natuurwetenschap’, in: R. van Wouden­berg (red.), Kennis en werkelijkheid, 177-202, Amsterdam: Buijten en Schipperheijn.

A collection of papers intended to supplement René van Woudenberg’s Gelovend denken (1992), a popular introduction to the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea.

*1997, ‘Comments on anticipations’, Philosophia Reformata 62, 129-144.

This paper discusses some consequences of Dooyeweerd’s concept of anticipations, in particular with respect to evolution.

*1998, Experimentele filosofie, Geschiedenis van de natuurkunde vanuit een wijsgerig perspectief, Amsterdam: Buijten en Schipper­heijn, 188 p. Translation in *2006a.

Based on lectures in the master’s program of physics at the teacher training college, a sequel to *1992. The philosophical perspective is that of *1978, *1979, *1980, and *1987.

*1999, ‘The idea of natural law’, Philosophia Reformata 64: 88-104.

Herman Dooyeweerd’s first edition of his main work was entitled De wijsbegeerte der wetsidee (1935-1936). Literally ‘philosophy of the idea of law’, it is commonly known as ‘philosophy of the cosmonomic idea’. Though the title of the book’s translation, A new critique of theoretical thought (1953-1958), lacks the expression ‘idea of law’, this still plays a determining part in all of Dooyeweerd’s works. Dooyeweerd was a Dutch reformed philosopher of law. Therefore it should not be surprsing that his philosophical idea of law was insprired both by the Biblical law (the Torah), and by law in a political and juridical sense. In *1999 I wanted to show that the idea of natural law as used in natural science since the seventeenth century conforms his idea of law as well.

In Dooyeweerd’s philosophy, theoretical thought played an important part, witness the English title of his main work. He more or less identified it with science. On the one side, I believe that science is much more than theoretical thought, for it also includes observations, experiments, measurements, interviews, statistical investigations, archeology, research of literature, and so on. On the other hand, I believe that science is less characterized by these methods than by its aim. In line with the spirit of the idea of law, I propose that the aim of science is to investigate the law side of reality, systematically, but with all methods available. Therefore, for a Christian philosophy of science, the question of the status of laws is paramount. This is not only relevant for natural science, as I would argue later on.

Dooyeweerd assumed that God governs the creation by giving and maintaining its laws. Only God is able to transcend his laws, to which everything else (including mankind) is subjected. He made the important distinction between the ‘law side’ and the ‘subject and object side’ of reality. Dooyeweerd took distance from the common philosophical view that only people can be subjects and everything else is object for human experience. Instead, he considered a subject to be actively subjected to a law, whereas that law only governs an object via a subject. In fact, this formulation is mine. Dooyeweerd connected the concepts of subject and object firmly to the modal aspects. According to Dooyeweerd only humans and their associations are subjects in all modal aspects. Material things are subjects in the first four modal aspects, being objects in all others, living beings in the first five aspects, and so on. A consequence of this view would be that something cannot be both a subject and an object in the same modal aspect. However, stressing subject-object relations, it is not difficult to find counter examples. A triangle is a subject in a twodimensional space, but an object in a threedimensional space, for instance acting as a boundary of a tetraeder. As a predator, an animal acts as a subject, but as a prey, it is an object in the biotic and psychic aspects.

Dooyeweerd extensively discussed subject-object relations, but he neglected the subject-subject relations, which in my view are much more relevant. He opposed the Enlightenment idea of man as an autonomous rational and moral subject, being himself to a law. However, he did neither pay much attention to the distinction between laws and law statements, nor to the way science arrives at knowledge of laws. In the twentieth century, these topics became quite controversial in the philosophy of science, though the struggle between realists and positivists is much older.

*2000, ‘The idionomy of natural kinds and the biological concept of a species’,  Philosophia Reformata 65: 154-169.

*2002a, ‘Evolution, history and the individual character of a person’, Philosophia Reformata 67: 3-18.

The concept of natural kinds plays an important part in the problem of evolution. Both papers are preparatory for *2002b.

*2002b, Een wereld vol relaties, Karakter en zin van natuurlijke dingen en processen, Amsterdam: Buijten en Schipperheijn, 302 p. (translation *2006, part IV; *2010).

An extended update of *1989, also including *2000. Gerard Nienhuis made many helpful remarks on the initial text. In October 2002 and January 2003 I presented this book at a small conference respectively workshop of the Vereniging voor Reformatorische Wijsbegeerte.

Chapter 1 defines the concept of a character. I also argued that sets like groups have a character as defined in chapter 1. Later I revised my view on artefacts as expressed in chapter 8. Chapters 2-7 discuss the characters primarily characterized by the six natural relation frames.

In this book I proposed to change ‘modale aspecten’ (modal aspects) into ‘relatiekaders’ (relation frames), and  ‘individualiteitsstructuren’ (structures of individuality) into ‘karakters’ (characters), in an attempt to modernize the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea for use in the twenty-first century.

That was also my purpose in the following three publications, arguing that the new concept of a character equally applies to mathematical, natural, and normative structures. Together with *2007 and *2008b these papers are preparatory for *2011.

*2003, ‘On aesthetically qualified characters and their mutual interlacements’, Philosophia Reformata 68: 137-147.

Because my wife is a creative artist, we always visit museums, galleries, and exhibitions, in the Netherlands and abroad. It led me to a philosophical contemplation of the artistic experience. It occurred to me that aesthetics is not limited to the arts, but includes many more forms of human experince, like fashion, celebrating, and mourning. Studying aesthetic artefacts, I discovered these to have a dual character, which I later applied to all kinds of artefacts except the purely technical ones.

*2004, ‘On the character of social communities, the state and the public domain’, Philosophia Reformata 69: 125-139.

*2005, ‘The relation frame of keeping company. Reply to Andrew Basden’, Philosophia Reformata 70: 151-164.

Besides my teaching duties, I became more and more involved in the management of various projects, and of the institute for teacher training as head of department at an increasing level. This made me reflect on the structure and functioning of management. I became aware that it is quite different from justice, though it should subject itself to justice. Therefore I became convinced that the philosophy of the cosmonomic idea should distinguish the political from the judicial relation frame (*2004). Andrew Basden had some objections, to which I replied (*2005).

*2006a, Relations and characters in Protestant, on line.

Steve Bishop’s web site allows of publishing many texts on PCI. My piece on the ‘Stafleu-pages’ has four parts. Parts I and II contain a first work on a philosophical anthropology, later revised into *2011; part III is a translation of *1998, and part IV of *2002a.

*2006b, ‘Infinity and continuity’, Tydskrif vir Christelike Wetenskap 2006, 163-174.

Contribution to a Festschrift for Danie Strauss, who (like many other philosophers) experiences difficulties with the mathematical concepts of infinity and continuity.

*2007, ‘Philosophical ethics and the so-called ethical aspect’, Philosophia Reformata 72: 21-33.

In this paper I criticized Dooyeweerd’s conception of an ethical or moral modal aspect. I proposed that all normative aspects are ‘ethical’, and that philosophical ethics does not merely concern a single modal aspect, but the activity of people in all normative aspects.

In January I met Paul Robinson from Northern Ireland, with whom I had many contacts via the internet, in Amsterdam.

*2008a, ‘Time and history in the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea’, Philosophia Reformata 73: 154-169.

My radical criticism of Dooyeweerd’s philosophy of history. I studied his extensive treatment of history in A new critique, volume II, looking for his view that time expresses itself in all modal aspects, but I did not find it. Instead he treated time only as the order of the modal aspects, which I recognized as the first trend in his philosophy of cosmic time. The second trend, that each modal aspect expresses time in it own way, is only rudimentary present in volumes I and II of his main work (in the original Dutch text only in volume II). From the start I was mainly interested in this second trend, not realizing that it plays a minor part in Dooyeweerd’s work. This insight led me to a fundamental new view of history, quite different from Dooyeweerd’s.

*2008b, ‘Isaac Newtons Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica’, Radix 34: 39-53.

Written (in Dutch) after a request from the editors of Radix. It is an update of the final chapter and epilogue of *1992.

*2010, A world full of relations, (pdf, translation of *2002b), on line.

Steve Bishop published my translation of *2002b on the internet site of scribd.

*2011a, Chronos & Clio, De tijd in de geschiedenis, Amsterdam: Buijten en Schipperheijn, 239p.

This book on time and history is the Dutch text of a revision of *2006a, part I and II, prepared by *2003, *2004, *2005, *2007 and *2008a. The text was editorily commented by Henk de Vries. In January 2011 I gave a lecture on this book for the Vereniging voor Reformatorische Wijsbegeerte, and on June 17 the book was presented at the Free University, with critical comments by Sander Griffioen and Peter Kirschenmann.

 *2011b, ‘Bestaan driehoeken en cirkels echt?’, Sophie 1, nr.4, 44-47.

 *2011c, ‘Emergence and the physical world’, Proceedings, not published.

From 16-19 August 2011 I delivered for the Free University conference on The future of creation order three contributions (a fourth was cancelled, because the main speaker, Prof. Cunningham, withdrew his contribution): seminar 3 with Danie Strauss about his  recent book (*2014); seminar 4 with Jitse VanderMeer and Arnold Sikkema about evolution (*2011c); and invited workshop 9 (with Danie Strauss) about the philosophy of mathematics (*2011b is a popular exposition of my contribution derived from *1985).


Shortly after this conference I asked the Reformational Publication Project whether they would be willing to publish my work. On their behalf, Kerry John Hollingsworth replied:

‘Well, everybody in the consultation group has had their say and I am afraid the result is not good regarding the publication of your recently submitted manuscript. In essence, the response comes down to the following. The Reformational Publishing Project is based in the USA where the very hottest issue among the Christian community right now is the "Evolution Problem." After two recent court cases banning the teaching of Intelligent Design, the broader Christian community is, to quote the famous old movie, "mad as hell and ain't gunna take it any more." I expect that you know all about this sort of mentality. Even the mention of Evolution in a favorable fashion is considered a complete cave-in regardless of how careful you frame the problem. In the English speaking world it basically comes down to a knee jerk reaction of "you are either for us, or agin us." There really is no middle ground, no possibility of a more nuanced statement. Indeed, there is no thought involved at all, you are either one of them, or one of us.

Because your work appears to accept a number of Evolutionary tenets, the owner of the operation who is quite ant-Evolutionary was not particularly open to nuanced arguments on this score. Other readers were more cautious. I made a half-hearted suggestion to ask whether you would be open to removing the Evolutionary material but just about everyone thought this was unsatisfactory. I say half-hearted as I could not imagine that you would be open to such a procedure in any case. I myself would not be open to such a procedure.’

So it appears that the Reformational Publication Project has been kidnapped by the creationists.

*2014a, ‘Nuances in the Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea’, Koers, 79, nr.3, on line.

This is a comment on Danie Strauss’ book Philosophy, the discipline of disciplines, emphasizing some differences between my views and both Dooyeweerd’s and Strauss’. In the same issue of Koers, Andrew Basden, Danie Strauss, and Maarten Verkerk present comments on my paper.


In 2011 I started a program of translating and revising some earlier books.


*2014c, Time and again, A systematic analysis of the founda­tions of physics, revised edition, digital, not published.

This new edition of Time and again (*1980b) updates the text, the references and the terminology. A revised version is now part I of Laws for dynamic development.


Part II of Laws for dynamic development contains four revised chapters from A world full of relations (*2002).


*2014d, Acts, artefacts, and associations, A Christian social philosophy of ethics, history, and policy, not published.


My revised and updated translation of *2011 was in 2011 offered for publication to John Kok, editor of Dordt College Press, but in 2015 it was decided to abandon this project. Part III of Laws for dynamic development is a further revised version.


*2015, Laws for dynamic development, pdf.

This is a digital compilation of my philosophical work, initially published on my website,, now only available on pdf. It consists of three parts:

I: Time and again, A systematic analysis of the foundations of physics

II: Emerging structures, The development of natural things and events

III: Acts, artefacts and associations, Dynamic principles for historical development (revised 2017 as III: Dynamic development of humanity, Normative principles for human conduct)

*2016a, Theory and experiment, Christian philosophy of science in a historical context,

Revised edition of *1987 combined with *1998, initially (2014) intended to be published in cooperation with the Institute for Christian Studies at Toronto, but in January 2016 ICS called this off.

*2016b (revised 2017), The open future, Contours of a Christian philosophy of dynamic development (, is a short and informal introduction. A copy on pdf was mailed to a number of correspondents.

*2018 Nature and Freedom, Philosophy of nature, Natural theology, Enlightenment and Romanticism, is a new book on the history of the philosophy of nature in the age of Enlightenment and Romanticism.

*2018 Encyclopedia of relations and characters replaces parts II and III of Laws for dynamic development on this site. Part I, Time and again can still be found on this site.