The relation frame of keeping
Philosophia Reformata 70, 151-164
3.1. The ambiguity of the word ‘social’
3.2. The meaning of the relation frame of keeping company
3.3. The relation frame of keeping company does not imply authority
3.4. The meaning of the economic relation frame
3.6. Normative and anti-normative acts
3.7. The foundation of associations
3.8. The serial order of the relation frames
The most striking of Andrew Basden’s ‘brief comments’
on my paper ‘On the character of social communities, the state and the public domain’(2004)
is his statement that my proposal to introduce a political relation frame preceding the juridical one
‘leaves the social aspect effectively empty of meaning’ (AB 72). Therefore, I shall make an attempt to clarify my view on this relation frame, which is the focus of his comments (AB 71). My analysis both of relation frames or
modal aspects and of characters or structures of individuality differs in many ways from Dooyeweerd’s, but I believe that my view on the ‘aspect of social intercourse’ remains quite close to his, as far as one is able to say that, for ‘the
philosophical analysis of the social aspect both by Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd is extremely concise’.
In the course of this paper, I shall try to answer Andrew Basden’s other comments as well.
3.1. The ambiguity of the word ‘social’
In writing, Herman Dooyeweerd
avoided using the term ‘social aspect’. In Dutch it is called ‘omgangszijde’,
which in the New critique is translated into ‘the aspect of social intercourse’,
but could better be translated by ‘the aspect of keeping company’ or ‘companionship’, or more freely, ‘meeting people’. However, in the New critique’s index of subjects and authors by H. de Jongste it is already
called the ‘social aspect’, probably because the English language
has no satisfactory equivalent for ‘omgang’, and this name has become customary.
So, what’s in a name? I am fully aware of the unavoidable ambiguity of words. For instance,
I know very well that in English ‘a company’ is an economically qualified enterprise, not to be confused with ‘keeping company’. Hence, one should feel free to stick to the label ‘social aspect’, if one is aware of the many
different and sometimes conflicting meanings of the word social. For example, in the political and societal use of language, the word social often refers to collective care, easily leading to the misunderstanding that collective care is qualified by the aspect
of social intercourse instead of by the relation frame of loving care.
The word social (from Latin, socius = companion or ally) usually corresponds to society at large, not to one of its aspects.
Social activity concerns what people do in communities or associations, which is most of the time not qualified by the relation frame of companionship. Hence, Dooyeweerd used the word social mostly not in connection to the aspect of keeping company, but ‘in
the general sense embracing all modal aspects of human society alike’.
As I shall argue below (3.3), Andrew Basden seems to have overlooked Dooyeweerd’s caution not to confuse the word social in the sense of the aspect of social intercourse or in the general sense embracing all modal aspects of human society alike.
Some people seem to believe that anything being done by two or more people together is ‘social’. In several papers and books since 1970,
I have argued that for the analysis of both modal aspects and structures of individuality, subject-subject relations are far more relevant than subject-object relations, being as important as law-subject relations. I believe that the modal aspects are mostly
concerned with these three types of relations within the aspects, to which one should add the mutual relations between the aspects, the anti- and retrocipations. That is why I recently proposed to call the modal aspects ‘relation frames’.
Now it will be clear that the subject-subject relations in the natural relation frames, such as the quantitative difference or ratio of two numbers, the kinetic relation of relative motion, or biotic genetic relations, cannot be called social. I believe
that in the normative relation frames, i.e., those succeeding the natural ones, subject-subject relations play a similar constitutive part. I shall give some examples later on. But if the ‘social aspect’ is to be distinguished
from the other eight or nine normative ones, one had better not consider the subject-subject relations in the latter aspects to be ‘social’. On the other hand, in line with Dooyeweerd’s preference for using the word social ‘in the general
sense embracing all modal aspects of human society alike’, one may consider which types of subject-subject relations should be called social. My suggestion would be to speak of social subject-subject relations if and only if they occur within unorganized
communities, within associations or within public networks, including society. I admit that this choice is arbitrary, but making it one had better avoid the expression ‘social aspect’, not because it would be wrong, but because it lacks precision.
3.2. The meaning of the relation frame
of keeping company
Both subject-subject and subject-object relations in the natural relation frames are subjected to natural laws, being coercive, imperative. In the normative relation frames,
such relations are subjected to norms, during history derived from normative principles or values. I assume that each normative relation frame is characterized by invariable normative principles. In the case of the relation frame
of keeping company, which I consider to be the foundation of civilization, I believe these principles are aptly expressed by respect. Keeping each other’s company in a decent way requires having respect for each other’s integrity, privacy
and dignity, for instance by being polite. In contrast to universal normative principles, given in the creation, norms are variable, man-made, historically and culturally determined. The normative principle of having respect for each other is expressed
in a great variety of norms, such as how to greet each other.
Human intersubjective relations find expression in many ways, depending on various circumstances. I discovered that in several
if not all normative relation frames asymmetrical relations between people indicate some kind of cultural transfer. In the technical relation frame this appears to be the transfer of skills from a master to a pupil; in the aesthetical frame the transfer
of e.g. musical experience from an orchestra to its audience; in the semiotic frame the communication of interpreted information from a speaker or writer to a listener or reader. In the frame of companionship, this transfer may be called called education:
how children and adults learn to behave as decent and civilized people, in order to get a place in society. It is the transfer of customs, manners and norms from one generation to the next. I submit that these various kinds of cultural transfer constitute
a large part of human history.
Next, subject-subject relations occur in all kinds of unorganized communities. I am surprised that my example of the community of all German speakers (MDS
125) does not convince my opponent (AB 72), and I cannot but reject his suggestion that this community may be seen as a set of entities possessing the same property. If this were the case, a language community would be on a par with the set of all
people having blue eyes. A lingual community is characterized by the intersubjective relation of speaking the same language, and no such relation is obviously present in the case of people having blue eyes. I tentatively suggested that as a community it is
characterized by the way its members have social intercourse with each other, which in this case is lingual, whence it is founded in the semiotic aspect. But one could also argue that it is primarily semiotically characterized. This apparent ambiguity arises
from the fact that such a community has no character (as I understand it) of its own. Rather, it is objectively determined by the genuine character of the German language, which however is neither a community nor an association, but a semiotically qualified
It does not seem to be difficult to point out unorganized communities characterized by the relation frame of companionship. People frequently join parties in which no specific
authority is present, like a coffee break at work or at a meeting, a birthday visit, a reception, a wedding or a funeral, in a canteen, pub, bar or restaurant. The manners in a small party differ from those in a large one, being more or less formal, displaying
more or less social control. The norm for a party is cosiness. By their manners, all present should contribute positively to the conviviality that nobody excludes. Someone not adapting himself is ignored or expelled. At a party one may arrive conveniently
or inconveniently. One cannot join a party just like that, that would not testify to respect. One greets, looking or asking whether one is welcome. Leaving a party, one apologizes and says goodbye. Someone who disobeys these unwritten rules is called uneducated
or uncivilised. A party is not an association, for it has no members and lacks a governing board.
Intersubjective relations are more formal in associations, i.e., organized
communities having members and some kind of government. In this context, the way one keeps each other’s company is determined by relations characterized by the association concerned, in particular those determined by authority and discipline. Each association
has its own social manners and someone becoming a member should make himself familiar with these manners. Becoming an employee in an enterprise, a member of a chess club, or visiting a café one will soon become acquainted with the ruling conventions,
customs and habits. It takes more time and effort to integrate into a new country after migration or into a local church after one’s move to a new city. The social norm for any association is coherence, solidarity or ‘social belonging’.
specifically qualified by the relation frame of keeping company are first of all clubs, like societies for students or elder people and sports clubs. Besides, the relation frame of keeping company appears to qualify organized interest groups. Its members entrust
the promotion of their interests to the association. In a differentiated society people have diverse interests, pursuing various goals. The members of a pressure group may be individuals or associations. Practitioners of the same profession unite into interest
groups. Like unions of employees or employers these are founded in the technical relation frame, in labour. Besides we know associations for the promotion of the interests of youth, students or elder people, of cyclists and car drivers, of animals, the environment,
nature conservation and a lot more.
Networks of normative subject-subject relations constitute the public domain. In my view, any normative relation frame characterizes such networks.
In the relation frame of companionship, the public domain is called society, where individuals and associations ought to respect each other’s manners, customs and interests. Hence, society does not exist of people, but of public social relations
between individuals and associations. An unstructured set of human beings does not constitute a society but a crowd. Civilization requires respect for each other’s interests. An intensive form of promoting interests is the formation of social networks.
Making contacts, seeking support, becoming a member of a board, visiting receptions, lobbying, demonstrating and striking are all activities on the public domain to promote interests. Hence, the public social network, called society, partly consists of what
is aptly called public relations. Civilization leads to a public social moral, often clashing with the mores of classes, standings and cultures. On the public domain various interests meet each other. The state government guards the general interest
by balancing, protecting and if possible promoting the private interests of individuals and associations. The general interest consists in the proper functioning of the public domain.
the twentieth century, the character of unorganized or organized groups forming a network was studied by the systems theory of T. Parsons, N. Luhmann and others. The systems theory exerts a large influence on the science of organizations, in which Luhmann
was inspired by electric and electronic networks, Parsons by living organisms and both by cybernetics, the science of control. According to Parsons, an interactive system consists of a number of interacting units; a set of rules determining its extension;
an ordered interactive process, and an environment with which interaction takes place continuously and systematically. Interaction means that each participant is both actively and passively involved in the process. According to Parsons, this may lead to a
stable and orderly result if the participants keep to a common normative base. Luhmann denies that norms form a necessary element of a social system.
(More about organizations in section 3.5).
Finally, for a Protestant philosophical anthropology, the relation of anybody with Jesus Christ is a decisive subject-subject relation. In
fact, any religion finds its expression in each normative relation frame, not only in that of faith. Intercourse with God requires reverence for God and respect for the faith of other people. Blasphemy and swearing injure believers and is therefore at least
uncivilized and ill mannered. Orthodox Jews expand the reverence for God unto his name, which they avoid to pronounce. The intercourse with God is sometimes called mystic, gnostic or esoteric. In all worships, prayer is a form of
keeping company with God. In Revelations, John compares the daily company of the parish with Christ as that of a bride with her groom – more intimately would not be imaginable.
the present paper, I prefer concentrating on subject-subject relations. This does not mean that I would consider subject-object relations unimportant for the understanding of the normative relation frames, as I have amply demonstrated in my paper on aesthetics. In fact, I believe that each normative frame qualifies artefacts,
being products, instruments or phenomena of human activity, including typical events, processes and circumstances caused by people. Briefly put, I consider customs, habits, manners and conventions to be artefacts qualified by the relation frame of keeping
company, giving form to social intercourse. In a petrified society, manners are formal, making an old-fashioned impression. In a developed society, customs (etiquette) allow people the freedom to keep each other’s company in a responsible way. Manners
are habits, they have been formed in the course of time, they differ locally, they change and are influenced by the situation in which one happens to be. Fashions and customs are differentiated norms, which one ought to keep within a large margin
of freedom, based on the unchangeable and universal value of mutual respect. Someone diverging from a habit without any apology shows lack of respect and is impolite.
Whether or not
one accepts my interpretation of the relation frame of keeping company, I believe that Andrew Basden’s allegation that my philosophy ‘leaves the social aspect effectively empty of meaning’ (AB 72) cannot be justified. There is no
need to be ‘concerned about the impact this (i.e., my proposal for a political aspect) would have on the social aspect’ (AB 74).
3.3. The relation frame
of keeping company
not imply authority
In my paper I proposed to divide the juridical aspect into two, separating the political from the juridical
one (AB 71). Therefore, I was quite surprised by Andrew Basden’s statement (AB 70, 72) that I would have suggested ‘… that the social aspect as currently constituted under Dooyeweerd, covers two distinct things: companionship
(and) authority and discipline, …’ I am afraid that this entirely wrong statement rests on the confusion mentioned above (3.1) arising from not heeding Dooyeweerd’s distinction of the word social in the sense of the aspect of social intercourse
and in the general sense embracing all modal aspects of human society alike.
As I read him, Dooyeweerd interprets authority as being social only in the second sense, as power within an association based in the historical aspect (AB 74), juridically qualified in the state, pistically qualified in the church, or economically
qualified for a company. By distinguishing the generic from the specific character, I argued that according to an association’s generic character, authority in any association is politically qualified. Hence I do not argue (and I do not believe that
Dooyeweerd would consider my proposal to mean) ‘… that authority should be taken out of the social aspect …’ (AB 73). Andrew Basden’s description of the social aspect as including authority and discipline besides companionship
appears to be his own interpretation, and the tension he says to have long felt ‘between the two parts of Dooyeweerd’s version of the social aspect that Stafleu refers to – companionship and authority - …’ [quid non]
may be his own invention. Of course, he is entitled to entertain this interpretation, but then he should take care of the ensuing tension himself.
My view, expressed in section 3.2 above,
that the relation frame of keeping company is ruled by respect as a normative principle should not be interpreted as being related to any kind of authority, except within associations. I admit that in authoritative cultures people make that connection.
According to Aristotle, honour is the goal of public life, the main part of the happiness or well-being (eudaimonia in Greek) of a free man, i.e., someone being free to dispose of his household, his wife, his children, his slaves and his
other possessions. Honour is the confirmation that one has done well to other
people. To be censured for his acts is considered to be dishonourable and shameful. In some cultures honour is still the highest good. Someone losing honour has to take revenge (like in a duel), or commit suicide (like harakiri). Up till the eighteenth
century, nobility considered it its chivalrous task to defend the honour of itself or of king and country, eventually with the loss of one’s life or that of others. Only the nobility and the clergy were worthy of esteem, ordinary people merely received
contempt. In a modern society honour is only given to people having done something extraordinary. Remains of the former honour can be seen in forms of address like colonel, father (for a priest) or professor, majesty, excellency or your honour. In particular
in a hierarchical organization like the army these titles play an important part. Honour is a public form of one-sided respect. In the past, honour corresponded to the position someone had in his household or family or society. Nowadays honour is individual
and marginal. This also applies to its complement: insult and defamation of one’s honour.
In the past, insults often led to violent conflicts: rows, feuds, duels, vengeance or wars. In a civilized society one tries to settle insults amicably or in court. Not one-sided honour, but mutual respect, esteem and appreciation form the foundation of a
modern, free and civilized society. A free society can only exist if besides individual persons, various associations respect each other concerning their own responsibility.
A social group has its own group culture distinguishing it from other groups. Usually, a cultural elite sets its fashion. Sometimes, a group within a group has a subculture. If it dissociates from the larger culture, it is called a counter culture. A society
displaying various cultures on the public domain is called multicultural. Such a society can only succeed if based on mutual respect for each other’s cultural differences.
3.4. The meaning of
the economic relation frame
find that stressing the relevance of subject-subject relations often leads to a richer (or at least a different) understanding of the relation frames than by seeking a ‘nuclear meaning’ besides retrocipatory and anticipatory, elementary and complex
abstract concepts as used in the various sciences. I illustrated this for the political frame in MDS 129-130 and for the relation frame of keeping company in section 3.2 above. Likewise, I arrived at a view of the economic aspect differing from Dooyeweerd’s
neo-classical one. In order to answer Andrew Basden’s comment on this
matter (AB 71, see MDS 130-131), I shall briefly explain this.
The word economic has at least two different meanings. The first meaning is to treat available means
efficiently or suitably. In this way Dooyeweerd conceived of the economic modal aspect.
His argumentation is not derived from an analysis of the economic relation frame itself, to which he paid very little attention, but from supposed analogies like the economy of thought, the sparing or frugal use of arguments.
However, abundance is just as characteristic for economy as shortage: the larger prosperity, the more commerce. The supposition seems to be that there is no commerce in abundant matters, like air. However, there is also no trade in things that are (almost)
completely scarce, like unicorns or moon stones. In my view, surplus or scarcity of any object makes only economical sense in subject-object and subject-subject relations. For a buyer, scarcity is most important, for he has a shortage. For a seller, surplus
dominates, for he has something left. In a good exchange, both make a profit (which is more than quid pro quo). Of course, they make choices, but that is not typically economical, but is part of human freedom and responsibility.
People do not differ from animals because they act efficiently with scarce means, but by their many-sidedness, their versatility. Each animal species is characterized by its often unsurpassed special skills, during
the evolution developed between the species. No man can spin like a spider, reaching a maximum effect with minimum effort. In contrast, homo sapiens as a species is not specialised. The development of the cerebrum and the manual skills make
human versatility possible. People are able to do anything, making specialisation within mankind necessary. This leads to the view that the exchange of services is a better characteristic of the economic relation frame than frugality.
In the second and nowadays more common sense of the word economy, economists recognize it to be a universal aspect of human acts, characterized by the profitable exchange of goods and services. In this frame, people make their labour and its products available to each
other. This exchange of services seldom occurs directly, usually money is involved, in which case a service earns a promise of a transferable service in return. By dividing tasks and exchanging services it is possible to reach prosperity if people
cooperate in peace. In this sense, economical activity expresses the mutual
dependence of people and is an existential condition for all human beings. It is a form of civilisation if all parties concerned gain a profit.
Trade is any transaction in which possession
is transferred from a seller to a buyer, even if a merchant acts as an intermediary. It is an economically qualified subject-subject relation, an asymmetric exchange relation between a buyer and a seller, in which both individuals and associations may be involved.
The more complicated chain from producer to consumer appears to be founded in labour, hence in the technical relation frame. Till the nineteenth century, the household (oikonomia in Greek)
as a working unit functioned as the economical model, both for an enterprise and for the state. In an undifferentiated labour unit, the workers possess the means of production: tools, raw materials, intermediate and final products. In a modern enterprise,
labourers are employees and the enterprise possesses the means of production. An enterprise is an association, directed by an entrepreneur instead of a head of family. The economically qualified character of a company may be interlaced with that of a labour
community like a factory. A large company is built up from units recognizable as technically qualified work or production groups, interlaced with economically qualified commercial groups (purchase, sales, marketing) and logically qualified research and development
groups. Such groups may have both internal and external suppliers and clients. In a modern company each department has its own management and responsibility within the organization, its own budget and a more or less well-described task.
Besides there are supporting services (personnel, staff, tax department, administration, controllers, cleaning, canteen, protection, reception), which are not typical for an economically qualified company, for these are found in any large organization (see
The age-old view that a household, city or country should be economically independent of others is called autarky or self-sufficiency.
Striving after autarky (mercantilism) played a part in the trade policy of many countries. International trade has long been dominated by the view that a country can only become richer at the cost of other countries. A better view is that commerce needs a
market, the economic expression of the public domain. Often entrepreneurs give the impression that their only aim is to make money for the shareholders, themselves and sometimes their employees. A more normative view is that a responsible company should be
concerned with the profits of all its ‘stakeholders’, including clients, suppliers, the environment and society at large, giving expression to the fundamental economic subject-subject relation of mutual service.
For to serve each other (not to be frugal) is the religious meaning of the economic relation frame, like Jesus Christ served humanity, and his disciples serve him.
Like Dooyeweerd, though
for different reasons, I assume that the economic relation frame succeeds that of keeping company, for people ought to show respect for each other before they can exchange mutual services. Obviously, the economic subject-subject relation requires negotiating.
In a politically qualified decision process, one has to negotiate too, taking into account a balance of costs and effects as well as the mutual interests of all parties concerned (MDS 130). Therefore, I suggested that the political relation frame
presupposes those of economy and keeping company (but see section 8). This may lead to a deeper understanding of the organization within an association.
The assumption that the generic character of any association is qualified by the political relation frame and founded in that
of keeping company may imply the economic frame lying between them to have a typical function for that character as well. Each association has a specific internal differentiation, a division of tasks and competences, which I call the association’s internal
organization (MDS 130-131). Because I consider division of tasks to be economically characterized (3.4), I believe that this politically qualified internal organization is founded in the economic relation frame, rather than in the technical
one. Its character is strongly interlaced with that of the association itself. The larger the association, the more important its internal organization. Within the organization often a social hierarchy exists, influencing keeping company. Even the simplest
association has an internal division of tasks and regulations of competence. Often these lead to the formation of departments within the association. If the organization follows strict lines from top to bottom one speaks of a central hierarchy, in which higher
instances delegate competence to lower instances. If the responsibility of each department is emphasized, such that its management has a mandate, we speak of a decentralized or flat organization. In the case of delegation, a higher instance
may recall any decision of a lower instance, in the case of a mandate this is not possible, only the mandate as a whole can be revoked. The departments have a restricted freedom and responsibility, having to account to the management of the association.
In large associations, in particular the state, the organization or administration has a relative independence with respect to the government, in the nineteenth century recognized as the fourth
power. An excess of internal regulations leads to bureaucracy. The internal
organization is especially important for the association’s members, not for its clients or suppliers, for which the association has a spokesman. This may be the manager or a specially appointed functionary or public relations department charged with
internal and external communication. For an enterprise this includes advertisement. The organization of an association maintains economically typed relations with clients and suppliers, but these relations are not authoritative.
The economically founded organization should not be identified with the association itself that I believe to be founded in the relation frame of companionship. The leadership of the association may be called its board,
that of the organization the management, although these terms are often interchanged. In many organizations people function who are not members themselves, but employees. The association’s board now acts as an employer, but it may delegate this task
to the management. Employees are not necessarily members of the association, though they are members of the economically founded organization that is interlaced with the association.
remark should make clear why I do not identify the organization within an association with power or command (AB 74). I did not state, and I do not believe that my notion of authority implies hierarchy, and I don’t believe that hierarchy is normative
for organized communities (AB 72) or that my view cannot account for network structures (AB 73). I am aware of the fact that some associations appear to have a network structure, though different from that of the public domain. But I disagree
with Basden that this would imply the existence of associations that do not necessarily involve authority, for the simple reason that I define an association to have some kind of government. I do not deny the existence of communities (like a lingual
one) or networks (like society) lacking government. (For both, see section 3.2, above.)
3.6. Normative and anti-normative acts
I do not assume that ‘… war and conquering is a normative (rather than anti-normative) activity …’ (AB 71). However, the normative relation frames
do not only characterize normative activity, but anti-normative acts as well. For instance, lying is a human act qualified by the logical frame, stealing by the economic frame, for they are contrary to the appropriate norms, without which one could not even
say that they are wrong. Defining philosophical ethics as ‘part of philosophical anthropology investigating the normativity of human acts’ in any normative relation frame, in any community or on the public domain, I assume that to lie or to speak
the truth, to steal or to be honest, to make war or to keep peace, to treat employees, clients, patients and civilians as persons instead of objects, are all ethical matters, not necessarily qualified by the relation frame of loving care (which in my view
is confusingly called ‘ethical’). On the one side, being concerned with what ought to be done, normative relation frames are ethical from beginning to end, as they are religious, historical and cultural. On the other hand, like philosophy,
anthropology and history, ethics cannot be qualified by a single relation frame. Hence, I am afraid I cannot agree with Basden’s statement that ‘the social-aspect authority is … pre-ethical’ (AB 73), for all normative
kinds of human acts can be right or wrong, and therefore cannot be pre-ethical.
3.7. The foundation of associations
During my investigation of characters, I discovered the duality of widely differing characters like those of physical particles, works of art, and associations. This empirical insight
is not based on some a priori hypothesis, but I believe and argue that it helps to understand these characters. The generic character of any association I believe to be qualified by the political frame, and to be founded in the frame of keeping company.
The specific character of an association may be characterized by any normative relation frame, and is founded in its projection on a preceding frame. This view allows of a much larger variety than Dooyeweerd’s and Basden’s, who hold that all associations
except the natural ones are founded in the technical or formative aspect (AB 73), or the cultural or historical aspect (Dooyeweerd). Hence, in Dooyeweerd’s analysis, the only distinguishing feature is the qualifying aspect: juridical for a state,
pistic for a church, economic in a company, etc. I find this unsatisfactory in several ways.
Besides the arguments given in MDS 128-129, and the argument given above
based on my analysis of the internal organization of an association, there is another reason why I do not agree with Dooyeweerd’s and Basden’s assumption about its foundation. It results from a slightly different view on the technical relation
frame. I prefer to call it the technical frame, qualifying skilful labour, referring to the Greek technè, meaning art, craft, ability or command. I put forward that one should not confuse the command based on technical skills (which, indeed
belongs to the technical frame) either with psychic control (as occurring in any nerve system) or with the command based on political power or authority. On the one side, one does not need to be skilful in a technical sense to exert authority, which requires
more wisdom than skills. On the other hand, to have acquired some technical skill does not entitle anybody with some kind of authority in an association.
Andrew Basden quotes my statement:
‘Dooyeweerd reduces authority to power, control or command over people … in my view authority cannot be reduced to power, control or command over people. If some authority has to resort to the exertion of power, it is a … testimonial
of incompetence, only excusable if the relation of authority and discipline is severely disturbed’ (AB 73, MDS 129). Next he observes that he largely agrees with my concern, but he does not believe that my proposal solves the problem,
which he assumes to arise from the fact that ‘the social-aspect authority is pre-juridical and pre-ethical’. Hence, my solution cannot solve the problem because the political is also pre-juridical and pre-ethical, according to Basden. However,
I am afraid that he does not understand my problem correctly. Basden appears not to deny that Dooyeweerd reduces authority to power, control or command over people, but he misinterprets Dooyeweerd by assuming that this authority is qualified by the social
aspect. In fact, Dooyeweerd refers here to the technical modal aspect, assumed to be foundational for all organized communities (with the exception of naturally founded associations like the family). I argued my disagreement by pointing out that authority
interpreted in this way cannot be distinguished from coercion. This has nothing to do with authority being pre-juridical or pre-ethical. Therefore, I believe Basden’s criticism is not to the point. In fact, I agree with his conclusion: ‘Therefore,
associations in which unjust [my emphasis] coercion occurs are rightly condemned, but they are condemned under the juridical rather than the social aspect’ (AB 74), though I would write ‘technical’ rather than ‘social’.
My argument in this context that there are states (in the course of history probably the vast majority of states) that do not consider themselves subject to justice does not imply that these states are justified in taking this view. It only implies
that the character of a state cannot be qualified by the juridical relation frame, for otherwise one should have to admit that such states are not states at all.
In contrast, it seems obvious that a state cannot exist without a government, qualified, as I argued, by the political relation frame.
The serial order of the relation frames
I fully agree with Basden’s statement (AB 74) that for a complete discussion of the political aspect, the
dual character of associations, the character of the state and the structure of the public domain one needs to consider all relation frames, requiring ‘… an extensive and sensitive survey of human living throughout diverse cultures and historical
periods’ (AB 71). Hence, I am not ‘… expecting too much of a single aspect’ (AB 74).
Andrew Basden points out that the aspects form a sequence
defined by dependency (AB 72), and he also asks me to explain why the frame of companionship is irreducible to other relation frames. Now because of the assumption that the aspects are mutually irreducible, I find the term ‘dependency’
unfortunate, unless it means that they presuppose each other, being related by retro- and anticipations, i.e. they can be projected on each other. I agree that the relation frames should be mutually irreducible, but in my experience it is quite difficult
to convince somebody of the mutual irreducibility of any two frames unless he or she is already convinced. Therefore, I prefer to show the fruitfulness of distinguishing these frames, in particular for the analysis of characters.
In the present context, I shall not give a full account of my views on the serial order of the relation frames. For the first six ‘natural’ frames, this order is almost obvious and not controversial, but
on the order of the other frames opinions widely differ. Natural things and events (like atoms or chemical reactions) occur as subjects in some frames (in the example given up till the physical frame) and as objects in all succeeding frames. This allows us
of finding the order of the natural relation frames quite easily. However, if one agrees with Dooyeweerd that both human beings and associations are subjects in all post-psychichal relation frames simultaneously, this method is not applicable to these
I have the strong impression that looking at the relation frames alone cannot solve the problem of their order. For instance, I suggest that the relation frames of keeping company
and of mutual service presuppose mutual trust between people, implying that
they are preceded by the relation frame of faith. But I am fully aware that this argument alone cannot be sufficient to argue my view on the position of the latter frame between the others, being strongly different from Dooyeweerd’s.
Rather, one should study the characters of things, events, acts, artefacts and associations, being qualified by some relation frame and founded in an earlier one. Only in this elaborate way one may arrive at
a satisfactory view of both the mutual irreducibility and the serial order of the relation frames. I have undertaken such an investigation for the natural frames, and I am preparing a treatise on Protestant philosophical anthropology, in which I intend to
discuss all normative relation frames and several character types characterized by these frames. This treatise will be concerned with the ordinary life of common people, since the Reformation ‘the very centre of the good life’,
taking into account Dooyeweerd’s views that ‘… emerged over many years of sensitive reflection on everyday life and on what others had written over 2,500 years …’ (AB 75), as well as developments and insights achieved
since the publication of his works, about half a century ago.
Andrew Basden [AB], ‘Brief comments on Stafleu’s proposal for a new political aspect’, Philosophia Reformata 70 (2005) 70-75. I like to thank Andrew Basden for his valuable comments, allowing me to clarify some of my views.
 Stafleu (2004) 125-139.
 van Woudenberg 1992, 100
(my translation). Compare Kuiper 2004, 25.
Arendt 1963, chapter 2, rightly observes that the nineteenth century ‘social problem’ had better be called the ‘problem of poverty’.
NC II, 70, 140-141, italics added.
Stafleu 1970; 1980. On the normative aspects: Stafleu 1991.
Kuiper 2004, 26 states that ‘intercourse’ is an unsatisfactory description of the meaning-nucleus of the ‘social aspect’, and he describes it as ‘social belonging’. This could be considered a synonym of ‘keeping company’,
though I would rather apply it to being a member of an association. Kuiper ibid. 25 considers individuation and socialization to be primary social norms (in the sense of the social aspect), customs and conventions being secondary. I would rather interpret
individuation and socialization to be social processes ‘in the general sense embracing all modal aspects of human society alike’, and customs and conventions to be artefacts qualified by the relation frame of keeping company, see below.
 Lechner 1996, 112-132.
 In Stafleu 2003 I make
clear why I agree with Calvin Seerveld’s proposal to position the aesthetic frame after the technical one and before the semiotic and logical ones. Hence, I do not ‘dispense with the aesthetic aspect’ (AB 70).
 Maybe Andrew Basden would refer to
NC III, 180-181, cited in MDS 126, footnote 3, where Dooyeweerd speaks of the societal relation of authority and subordination. But I believe that societal does not refer to the aspect of social intercourse, but to society
‘in all its modal aspects’, which are Dooyeweerd’s very words in this context.
Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea, I: 5.
MacIntyre 1981, 116.
Arendt 1958, chapter IV.5.
The view of characterizing the economical frame by frugality and maximizing of utility originates from the so-called neo-classical economic theory (in vogue circa 1850-1930), see García de la Sienra 1998. According to Achterhuis 1988, 12-13, 34, 47-59,
scarcity is a modern concept, since Hobbes a starting point of social (not merely economical) considerations. Ibid. part III, chapter 1: according to Romantics scarcity follows from ‘mimetic desire’ or envy, the desire to possess something
because other people have it (mimesis is imitation, see section 2.1). This view follows from the humanist idea of the fundamental equality of all people, ibid. part III, chapter 3.
 NC II, 66 (not in WdW).
 WdW II, 84-90; NC II, 66-68, 122-129, 135-137.
Haan 1972-1974, 22, 26-27.
 Aristotle and his medieval
adherents, who considered autarky to be the ideal situation of a household, a city-state or a monastery, did not object to the exchange of accidental surpluses, as long as for their livelihood the parties were not dependent on goods only obtainable through
exchange. When exchange is necessary, traders will enter who according to Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and even still Emil Brunner only strive after boundless profit. See Aristotle, Politeia and Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica,
both cited in Medema, Samuels (eds.) 2003, 11, 23; Hoogerwerf 1999, 63, 79, 151.
Hence, I do not agree with Dooyeweerd NC III, 434 assuming that without the juridical aspect qualifying it, the state ‘would degenerate into an organized military gang of robbers, because of its very foundation in armed force’. But I would
agree, if ‘juridical’ is replaced by ‘political’.