Chronos & Clio

Time in history





Marinus Dirk Stafleu



© 2012 M.D.Stafleu

Weeshuislaan 31

3701 JV Zeist, Netherlands


Translation by the author of

Chronos & Clio, De tijd in de geschiedenis

Amsterdam 2011: Buijten & Schipperheijn Motief









1. Chronos & Clio: Time in history                                   

2. Transfer of experience as the engine of history

3. Artefacts: objective witnesses of the past

4. Associations as actors in history

5. Time and history on the public domain

6. Evaluation






Chronos & Clio intends to build a bridge between time and history. Clio or Kleio is the muse of history, of historiography, of history as one of the humanities. This book is concerned with history itself, with the events as these happened, with the history of mankind and its meaning. The former can be distinguished but cannot be separated from the latter. This book develops a philosophical model of history, with Chronos, time, as a directive theme. The presentation of the model opens with questions and with suppositions as beginnings of an answer.

For instance, it is a typical question in the philosophy of history, whether principles can be found that are or should be universally valid for history. Are such principles compulsory, like natural laws, or are values or universal standards besides culturalal norms determining the direction of history? Does it make sense to distinguish universal values from historically variable norms? It is obvious that time and history are connected, but how far does this connection reach?

Chapter 1 presents a hypothetical view of time in history. It introduces a spectrum of relation frames characterized by universal values, conceived of as aspects of time giving direction to human experience. This assumption leads to a normative ordering of past events, emphasizing their rich diversity.  It is intended to be a normative ordering of events from the past, emphasizing their rich diversity. Norms and values qualify human acts like the transfer of experience.

Chapter 2 considers the question: is transfer of experience to be considered the subjective engine of history? If so, is it different in each relation frame?

What have people made of their world? The third chapter investigates the character of artefacts, objects formed by people, like the languages. Can these be characterized by the same relation frames? Which instrumental part do artefacts play in history?   

Next the attention shifts to the social history of organized associations with members and a board, and of unorganized communities with a network structure. Does social history answer to the same universal values? Chapter 4 describes the steadily increasing importance of associations as historical persons, qualified by the described relation frames. Finally, chapter 5 investigates the field of history. Is this the public domain, conceived of as a complex temporal network of objective and intersubjective relations, expanding continuously into a world-wide system? What is the part of the state in this respect? Why does history often appear to be political history?

The end of each chapter reflects on the meaning of history. Does meaning make sense? Is the meaning of history a meaningful problem for the philosophy of history? Does it require a normative, subjective or objective answer, or a collective one, related to a common world view? 

The applied method may be called hypothetical-exemplary. Each chapter starts with one or more suppositions, to be elucidated by means of representative and argued examples on a wide historical scale. In each chapter all ten normative relation frames are discussed, sometimes short, sometimes in more detail. This does not constitute proof, but provides some empiric corroboration. In the evaluation at the end of the book, I shall return to this method.

For various helpful comments, I am grateful to Dr. Andrew Basden, Andries Boertien, Dr. Sander Griffioen, Dr. Bas Kee, Dr. Peter P. Kirschenmann, Leo M. Stafleu and Dr. Ir. Henk de Vries.







Chapter 1


Directive time








1.0. A spectrum of diversity

1.1. Technical progress

1.2. Aesthetic renewal

1.3. Significant recollection of events

1.4. Logical extrapolation of historical events

1.5. Conservation and reformation

1.6. Social integration

1.7. Economic differentiation

1.8. Policy as directive ordering of events

1.9. Justification of events

1.10. The transitive past

1.11. The temporal order gives direction to history


Chronos & Clio. 1. Directive time


1.0. A spectrum of diversity


What has Chronos with Clio? How are time and history related? In order to find an answer to this question, this book develops a model for a philosophical view of history.[1] It has both a religious and a philosophical starting point. The first is the realist religious view, confessing that God created the world according to laws which are invariant because He sustains them. We know God only through Jesus Christ, who submitted himself to God’s laws. Partial knowledge of His laws can be achieved by studying the law-conformity of the creation. The critical theoretical starting point will be that the diversity of temporal reality cannot be reduced to a single principle of explanation.

Like a prism refracts the light of the sun into a spectrum of colours, time refracts the unity and totality of reality into a wide variety of relations: among people, between people and their environment and all kinds of objects, between individuals and associations and of associations among each other.[2] Also someone’s relation with their God is a recurring theme in history.

This book supposes that these relations can be grouped into relation frames, mutually irreducible, yet not independent. The relation frames show a recognizable order of preceding and succeeding. For instance, genetic relations are based on physical interaction. Kinetic relations can be projected on spatial relations, and both can be projected on quantitative relations. Each relation frame presupposes the preceding ones (the spatial frame cannot exist without numbers) and deepens it (spatial continuity expands the set of rational numbers into the set of real numbers).

Because nothing can exist isolated from everything else, the relation frames constitute conditions for the existence of anything. The relation frames are also aspects of human experience, because experience is always expressed in relations. As a consequence, the relation frames can be considered to be aspects of being and experience.

To be developed in chapter 1, this hypothesis conceives of each relation frame as an aspect of time with its own directive temporal order. In this way, simultaneity may be considered the spatial order of time, preceded by the quantitative order of earlier and later in a sequence, and succeeded by the kinetic order of uniform succession of temporal moments, the uniform motion from one temporal instant to another.[3] In each relation frame the temporal order functions as a law or value for relations between subjects and objects, especially among subjects, as we shall see in the following chapters.[4] The relation frames each contain a number of invariant natural laws or normative principles, determining the properties of relation networks of subjects and objects. An inventory of time conceived as a diverse set of relations yields no less than sixteen temporal relation frames.[5] After all, relations appear in many variants.

Natural laws (including mathematical rules) are imperative, compulsory, and inevitably valid for natural things, events and processes, for plants and animals.[6] Natural laws determine the natural existence of all creatures, men included. In contrast, this book assumes that the normative relations between people and their associations are subject to invariant, but not compulsory, normative principles, universal standards or values, like ability to work, servitude or justice.

‘Values are central standards, by which people judge the behaviour of one’s own and that of others. In contrast to a norm, a value does not specify a concrete line of action, but rather an abstract starting point for behaviour. Therefore, values or principles are ideas, to a large extent forming the frame of reference of all kinds of perception. Often, a value forms the core of a large number of norms.’[7]

‘A principle is a universal and constant point of departure that can only be made valid through the actions of a competent organ (person or institution) in possession of an accountable free will enabling a normative or anti-normative application of the principle concerned relative to the challenge of a proper interpretation of the unique historical circumstances in which it has to take place.’[8]

In the course of history, people actualize values into changeable norms, determined by their culture and civilization.[9] Therefore, historical development occurs in all normative relation frames, not only at the subject and object side (as is the case in the evolution of natural characters), but also at the law side. Allowing of human acts and their experience, values are conditions for human freedom and responsibility.[10] Values and norms are not merely valid for people as individual persons, but just as well for their relations to their fellow people and other creatures, for human products, acts and social connections.

Diversity of temporal reality as a theoretical starting point for the philosophy of history implies more than the multitude of relations. The characters or types of individual things, events and processes, of activities, artefacts and associations, express the diversity of temporal existence in an alternative way.[11] In short, we shall assume that each character is primarily characterized by one of the relation frames and secondarily by a projection of that frame on a preceding one. Moreover, a character determines the disposition to have a function in some other relation frame, or to become interlaced with some other character. Characters being typified by relation frames in a similar way constitute a character type, a profile. For instance, various concrete, historically formed characters of widely different states satisfy the rather abstract universal character type of the state. Because the relation frames are supposed to be mutually irreducible, so are the character types. In the relation frames individuals and their properties are related to each other through subject-subject relations and subject-object relations. In this way individual diversity is strongly connected to the diversity of relations.

Character types of human acts, artefacts and associations can be considered to be invariant normative principles. However, this does not apply to the normative characters themselves. Actualizing these, people are active, not merely at the subject and object side, but at the law side as well, when they transform normative principles into actual norms for their daily practice.

Therefore, the question for the philosophy of history of whether principles can be found that are valid or ought to be valid for history has a provisional affirmative answer. The diversity of normative relations and characters shows law conformity besides subjectivity or objectivity. At the law side history means both the actualization of universal values into culturally determined norms and the development of invariant character types into variable characters. At the subject and object side this leads to the realization of a multitude of relations and the articulation of various acts, artefacts and associations. Let us see where this hypothesis will lead us.

Chapter 1 investigates whether the theory of relation frames is able to shed a new light on the connection between time and history. To begin with, the six natural aspects of time apply not only to natural evolution, but to human history as well. The natural relations order past events as follows.

a. The temporal order of earlier and later as represented in a numbered sequence places historical events in a diachronous order. As a basic form of historiography, chronology was popular especially during the eighteenth century. An interesting problem is synchronizing various chronologies, for instance the biblical with the Egyptian and Babylonian ones, or the European with the Chinese and pre-Columbian American history. Dating also indicates how much later one event occurred after another one, measured in centuries, years or days. Other quantitative data like statistics are also important for history.[12]

b. History is not only a sequence of events. Many historical processes occur in parallel and sometimes they cross over. The spatial order of simultaneity leads to comparing and connecting historical events occurring synchronously at different positions, applying spatial relations like distance and environment, for instance in geographical history.[13]

c. The kinetic order of the uniform flow of time is recognizable in historical processes, with a start, an end, a certain duration, a relative speed and even acceleration. Each historical change presupposes this order, which among other things indicates that all years are equally long. By means of clocks and calendars, the duration of events is objectively measurable. Social changes form an important part of historiography.[14]

d. Irreversibility as the physical order of time provides direction to causal relations between historical events.[15] Sometimes this ordering shows that one event can impossibly be the cause of another one.

e. Growth of the population is an important condition for historical development. Descent as biotic genetic order expresses itself in various historical relations, for instance in genealogies, in the metaphor of birth, rise, flowering, decline and fall of an empire, or in the genetic relationship of different languages, law systems or civilizations. In the concept of cultural development we recognize organic growth.[16]

f. With respect to any event, the question of its goal may be posed. The psychic temporal order of goal directedness forms the foundation of all human acts, wherein this order is opened up into goal consciousness, the purpose of human acts. The human will to act in freedom and responsibility surpasses animal behaviour, which is specific for its species and largely programmed.

Usually one assumes that time brings about no more than this natural ordering. In order to do justice to the diversity of human experience, besides the natural relation frames Chronos & Clio distinguishes ten more normative aspects of time, calling historical events to a directive order. Of these, five are concerned with culture, the other five with human civilization.

For the expressions culture and civilization so many different descriptions exist,[17] that I feel no scruples proposing another one. Culture means first of all cultivating, to bring nature into culture, the opening up of the natural relation frames. People do that by working. Labour is a cultural activity characterized by ability, skill or command, in which people make use of instruments. Karl Marx assumed that labour characterizes mankind.[18] He ascribed the misery of nineteenth-century labourers to their alienation from the means of production.[19] In his view, liberation of the proletariat would mean the redemption from labour. Although this stresses human labour one-sidedly, no doubt working constitutes the basis of human culture.[20] Therefore, it seems meaningless to rescue people from their work. They would lose their contact with nature and culture.

In contrast to animals of the same species, people differ strongly in their skills to perform various kinds of labour, as a consequence of their different talents, education and interests. The Greek word technè means skill or command. Therefore the first cultural relation frame may be called the technical one, even if the modern word technical especially applies to artefacts like cars and computers, and to their production and use. However, culture is more than technical activity. It also comprises aesthetic experience, interpretation, analysis and trust. Therefore I propose the other four cultural relation frames to be the aesthetic, the semiotic, the logical ones and that of faith or trust. Next five civilization frames follow, shortly indicated as company, economy, politics, justice and care.

Herein I understand by ‘culture’ the values by which people may differ: their skills, their aesthetic experience, their language, their reasoning and their convictions. ‘Civilization’ collects the values indicating what people ought to do with their differences: to respect each other, to be of service, to govern or to obey, to act just and loving. Civilization is living with differences, recognizing cultural equivalence. Culture and civilization are not contrary. They are two sides of the same coin, history.[21] Civilization can mean the disclosure of a monoculture, being a condition for a multicultural society, not by diminishing one’s own culture, but by respecting that of others.

History as development of culture and civilization takes place in time, in the diversity of relations and characters. The philosophical aim to map them first of all leads to the ambitious program of discovering ten normative aspects of time in history, which as temporal order also gives direction to historiography. For the five cultural relation frames we shall consider: technical progress, aesthetic renewal, significant remembrance, logical extrapolation and ideological reform (1.1-1.5). For the temporal order in the frames of civilization one might think of: societal integration, economic differentiation, policy, justification and vulnerability (1.6-1.10). This enumeration already suggests that the temporal order in each relation frame indicates historical meaning, the direction which history takes or ought to take (1.11).

In the following chapters, Chronos & Clio sketches the history of the development of norms from the values to be identified in chapter 1.



 Chronos & Clio. 1. Directive time


1.1. Technical progress


Ability to perform labour is a universal value, a condition for progress as the historical temporal order for the technical relation frame. An event, process, artefact or association and even a personality may be called ‘historical’ as far as they contribute positively or negatively to historical progress. The intuition of progress as a value is not due to the Enlightenment in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, or to the Renaissance, but is an all time value. The later belief in progress identified progress as a cultural value with the factual history of the seventeenth to nineteenth century science and technology.[22] This became a deep disappointment at the outbreak of the great European war in 1914, when science and technology turned out to be instruments of mass destruction.[23] Progress does not have the compulsory law conformity of a natural law, but is a value.[24] As a normative principle, progress acts as the temporal order for the technical relation frame, as directive meaning of technology. The history of technology concerns the elaboration of objects and invention of artefacts besides training and education as the engines of technical progress. After progress, this chapter explores nine other normative temporal orders giving direction to history. This already indicates that progress as a normative principle should not be considered the exclusive hallmark of history.

There are two extreme but common views of the historical relevance of technology.[25] The first is the optimistic belief in progress, that each problem can be solved by means of technology. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this technicism replaced belief in Providence.[26] The other view is inspired by pessimism about and even fear for technology. What people cannot master by means of their technology they declare divine or demoniac.[27] Misunderstood technical power is magic leading to taboos, not only in primitive societies. Our time too shows the inclination to hypostatize and fear technology as an independent power. However, neither technology, nor technical apparatus, machines or installations have power as such. Only persons or human associations are able to exert power.

The view of progress of humanity is not obvious. The natural experience of time is cyclical. It rests on a continuing repetition of events in days, years and generations. Many cultures have a cyclical view of history,[28] and some even see decline rather than progress.[29] In contrast, Aurelius Augustine in his The city of God views the history of salvation as a continuing process, from creation, fall into sin and redemption, to the rise of God’s Kingdom until the second coming of Christ. This history has its centre in the coming of Jesus Christ on earth, as marked by the zero point of the Western era. Only in the fourteenth century, Francesco Petrarch applied the linear image to secular history.[30] The view of a cyclical succession of empires, like the Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian and Roman ones, preceded the progressive division of the idealized antiquity, the ‘dark’ Middle Ages, and the New Era. Here the New Era is the Renaissance, followed by the Enlightenment, characterized by progress, since the nineteenth century by development.[31] Meanwhile, also this division is worn out.

Technical progress is the oldest hallmark of human history, starting with the development of natural characters of matter, plants and animals. Biological and paleontological research teaches that the body structure of humanlike primates has evolved in several million years to that of humans, but a sharp boundary is not to be found. Archaeological research directs itself both to fossils of hominids and humans and to the products of human labour. Even then it is not easy to indicate when the natural evolution of the hominids became the cultural history of homo sapiens, humanity. No more can it be established whether this occurred abruptly or gradually. If we rely on the use of fire and of tools like celts, history starts considerably earlier than hundred thousand years ago. Homo sapiens sapiens, the surviving subspecies of humans, dates from circa 200,000 to 150,000 years ago. Another subspecies, homo sapiens neanderthalensis, became extinct about 30,000 years ago. It is not clear whether earlier hominids knew a language. Finds of graves with burial gifts allow of the conjecture that people were aware of their calling from the animal realm at an early stage. At the burial or cremation the death returns from the human society to its natural descent, the bowels of the earth.[32] Cave-drawings are not older than 40,000 years. We know written texts from less than 10,000 years ago. Compared to the duration of the evolution of the hominids (between five and ten million years), of animals (more than five hundred million years) or of living beings on earth (about four billion years), the calling to being human, the cultural mandate of people, appears to be rather recent.[33] On the foundation of the evolution, in barely 50,000 years mankind built a tower of ten stories of history.

Probably the first humans were nomads, gathering fruits or hunting, moving from one place to another and never settling permanently. The oldest technology concerns baskets and pots to contain fruits and instruments for hunting: spears, bows and arrows, stone knives for dissecting captured wild life. Hunters used fire for protection against animals and preparing food. Nomads built huts or erected tents, as a temporal basis for hunting, cattle-breeding or predatory expeditions.

After the end of the last glacier, more than 10,000 years ago, around such bases people invented agriculture, with the accompanying skills and technical instruments. World-wide, though probably not simultaneously, the first agrarian or Neolithic revolution caused a historical acceleration.[34] Exhaustion of the soil caused the nomads to move regularly. Permanent dwelling-places emerged in areas where the annual inundation of a large river like the Nile compensated the exhaustion of the soil. In order to protect themselves against animals and robbers, the farmers took up their residence near each other. Between their settlements paths came around, they surrounded their area, and in this way the infrastructure developed hand in hand with the settlements. Besides agriculture, cattle-breeding emerged. Near rivers and coasts fishermen concentrated in villages. Such settlements, entirely determined by the labour technical infrastructure, are still recognized here and there, but most dwelling-places are now disclosed by relation networks that are not technical, like cult, commerce, government and justice, and in particular by the economical differentiation of labour.



 Chronos & Clio. 1. Directive time



1.2. Aesthetic renewal

and the designation of periods of events


Beauty is invariably a universal value. It is actualized in history in many cultural ways, not merely in the arts, but in sports and games, in clothes and furniture.[35] Variable aesthetic norms determine their temporal and cultural character, their style. In an aesthetic sense, events may be called historical if contributing positively or negatively to a change of style. From the continuously renewing fashion and style we recognize different past periods.[36] People show themselves to each other in a style depending on the circumstances, but also on history and culture. Initially, clothing and ornaments differed especially synchronously, according to region, status and wealth. Only later these started to succeed each other diachronously. I conceive the variation of fashion and style as the aesthetic temporal aspect of history. In the historiography it leads to the introduction of periods of events.[37] It is striking that successive periods become shorter in the course of time, from ‘antiquity’ and ‘the middle ages’ to ‘the golden age’, from generations to decades.

In a traditional society, celebrations constitute an aesthetic cyclical temporal order. The pagan cults provided the antique cities with a division of time.[38] Even now the Christian year, national holidays, jubilees, holidays and birthdays, are coupled to the natural rhythm of the year. The variable date of Easter and the start of Ramadan both depend on the phases of the moon. The celebration of the Sabbath, the Lord’s Day or the Friday Prayer interrupts the weekly rhythm of labour. Meals and coffee breaks mark the daily rhythm. Other celebrations are connected to the rhythm of a human life, like the first and last day of school, marriage, retirement.

Stylish celebrating, mourning, playing football or music, is only possible if one accepts the rules of play, in the sports carefully laid down. Even if these are human products, it is a universally valid normative principle to keep the rules. The fine arts as well as fashion answer to the norms of a certain style.[39] The text of a play, the script or scenario of a movie, the libretto of an opera, the musical score or the choreography of a dance, contain or presuppose historically determined stylistic directions. Recognizably, baroque music is subjected to different norms than romantic or atonal music.

Rules of play, styles and directions allow the performers much freedom to give their own playful expression, but that freedom is not unlimited. Musicians have to accept the style of the composer. Style determines a period in the aesthetic temporal order which the performers cannot easily ignore, but it also summons resistance. Creative artists cannot easily disengage from the stylistic conventions of their time, but they are free to introduce their own variant of the existing style or even a completely new style of their own. Artistic currents are sometimes characterized by new creative insights and technical possibilities, more often by artistic renewal of aesthetic norms.

Even if aesthetic norms are variable, it is possible to indicate normative principles or values recognizable in all times and cultures. These allow us to appreciate pieces of art and forms of play of different cultures and stylistic periods. Such normative principles consist of projections of the aesthetic relation frame onto the other relation frames. Simplicity may be considered a quantitative norm. Harmony, symmetry, proportion, composition and perspective are spatially characterized norms. Until the end of the Renaissance, philosophers of the arts considered these spatial projections to be the most important criteria for the plastic arts and architecture. Elegance and rhythm may be considered kinetic projections. A piece of art makes a dynamic, lively, animated or expressive impression, and may testify of an artful skill.[40]

It would be difficult to argue that successive styles give evidence of progress, except in the applied technology.[41] Rather we speak of renewal, applying terms like old-fashioned or advanced. Aesthetic renewal is irreducible to technical progress. Yet there is a strong historical and systematic connection between them. The Greek word technè and the Latin word ars mean technical ability as well as fine art, recognizable in the English distinction of an artisan and an artist. The difference only arose during the Renaissance. Arts and sports are always intertwined with techniques, and some kind of command forms an existential condition for both performers and spectators.

On the other hand, technical activity is deepened by anticipating succeeding relation frames, for instance when the imagination starts to play a part in inventions. Interpretation and theoretical insight are not necessary conditions for enjoying the arts, sports or games, but can deepen it. One achieves a better eye for a piece of art by interpreting it (‘what does it mean?’) and even more by putting it into a theoretical frame (‘why do you think that?’). Nevertheless, aesthetic imagination cannot be reduced to language or arguments. Therefore I believe that the aesthetic relation frame succeeds the technical one and precedes those of meaning and argumentation.



 Chronos & Clio. 1. Directive time



1.3. Significant recollection of events


Recollection, communication and interpretation of signs and symbols characterize the semiotic relation frame. The possibility to attach significance to all kinds of things and events, to store it in one’s memory and to share it with others as information, belongs to the universal values determining human existence. Signs and symbols, inscriptions and stories remind us of memorable events from the past. These are instruments to establish the truth about the past and the present. Truth is clearly a universal value. Events are only historical if stored in the form of signs in a collective memory. After technical progress and aesthetic renewal, I propose significant recollection to express the semiotic temporal order for history.[42] Anyone’s individual memory as part of the brain’s activity is psychically typified. People remember various facts and events from the past, as well as action patterns, acquired skills like reading or cycling, experiences, traumas and dreams, images resting on sensory observation and imagination, values and norms. The complement of memory is forgetting, together forming a filter for human experience, both individual and collective. To sustain memory and counteract forgetting people use symbols, in particular their language as instruments.

Written notes may be intended for a personal use or for a limited circle. Nevertheless, in principle each document is accessible to anybody commanding the language in which it is written. The collective memory of mankind is in the past especially laid down in inscriptions, symbols and stories; next in manuscripts copied and collected in libraries and archives; since the fifteenth century in printed books and periodicals and since the twentieth century on other information carriers. Thanks to the collective memory we understand our world better.[43] Without this collective memory each individual or each generation would have to start ever again.

The collective memory is immensely important to history. Historical research depends on signs, symbols and lingual acts preserved from the past. What we remember is not the past itself, but our interpretation of the past, and this also applies to an historian. Interpretation (the designation of significance) is one of the most important functions of all sign systems, in particular the languages. Historiography is the interpretation of signs from the past, in particular written texts. For this reason the period preceding the invention of writing is often called prehistory,[44] but this underestimates the significance of oral tradition and of unwritten signs for historical research. Since the invention of writing, the oral tradition of human experience has shifted to the background. In the context of nuclear and extended families and in tribes it still contributes to the collective memory.

Selection and interpretation of signs and texts determine the semiotic frame of historical research. Logical analysis, synthesis and rendering proof complete historical research to become history as a science.



 Chronos & Clio. 1. Directive time



1.4. Logical extrapolation of historical events


Logic is derived from the Greek logos, meaning rather word or conversation than reason, derived from the Latin ratio. Nevertheless, logic is the name of the science of reasoning, of analysis and synthesis, of drawing conclusions. The logical relation frame concerns the relevance of argumentation as a universal value for humanity. Everything we want to know, anything that presents itself to our experience, is object for our reasoning. The ratio of history consists of finding logical connections between events and their consequences, the explanation of recorded historical events based on earlier events, circumstances and human intervention. Therefore I suggest that extrapolation indicates the logical temporal order as well as the logical meaning of history, its ratio. Herein generalising, formulating an established or assumed regularity plays an important part.[45]

Reasoning always concerns the solution of a problem. In part, history consists of imagining and solving new problems, increasing insight. By generating and solving problems and communication of their solutions people create a rational order in their environment. In a logical sense, an event is historical if it contributes to a solution of a problem contributing to the growth of common knowledge.[46]

Whereas language is ambiguous, inviting interpretation, logic wants to hear arguments. In order to find out whether the truth of a statement can be proved, we have first to establish its semantic meaning. If we interpret the sun as the celestial body occupying the centre of the planetary system, the statement ‘she is the sun of my life’ cannot be true. Everybody will understand that the sun here has a metaphorical meaning, interpreted differently than in astronomy. Metaphoric expressions like ‘he takes his life in his hands’ are not logically true, but are significant. They provide insight, but cannot function in a proof. Logical reasoning presupposes the use of language,[47] but cannot be reduced to it. Argumentation requires a logical command of language with an unambiguous formation of concepts.

In a logical argument we want to establish whether a statement is or is not true, but that is only possible if the corresponding sentence is grammatically correct, having semantic significance. The statement ‘tonight the sun will set at 20.05 hours’ is grammatically correct and has semantic meaning. It can be true or false. But the grammatically incorrect sentence ‘tonight the sun 20.05 hours sets at’ or the meaningless sentence ‘tonight the roof sets at 20.05 hours’ are both neither true nor false. They cannot play a part in a logical reasoning. On the other hand, a logical argument may sustain a conviction. Therefore I think that the logical relation frame succeeds the semiotic frame and precedes the relation frame of trust, to which we now turn.



 Chronos & Clio. 1. Directive time



1.5. Conservation and reformation


The relation frame of faith is characterized by the mutual trust of people and their trust in all kinds of objects, in science and in their God.[48] This universal value has as time determining element the wish to reform the world while preserving what is good. In this frame we call events historical if promoting reformation or withholding it. Faith convictions have the image of being conservative, because believers resist changes which they do not consider progress. Indeed they request to trust what positive results have been reached, but everybody in their own way attempts to improve the world. They express the belief that a better world is possible and they hope this to realize by their acts and propaganda. An ideology that isolates itself, considering its views sacrosanct, shunning all criticism, is inclined to resist all reforms, and to petrify the society that it dominates. In contrast, a living culture is able to experience a renaissance, by reforming society and itself.[49]

Abraham, Moses and the Old Testament prophets are early examples of world reformers. Several important religions emerged about a half millennium BC.[50] Later Christianity and Islam caused revolutions. Since the Middle Ages, religious orders intended to reform the church from within or to defend the church against heretics. The Reformation aimed to renew Western Christianity. All religions and ideologies are based on prophecy or propaganda of their faith, often taking the form of provocation. Churches and political parties spend much time and energy to the spiritual education of their members and to propaganda among non-members. A church without a vision on the future petrifies. Each faith, each ideology, each political current has a world view, which has to be adapted to a changing world. Tradition hands down an inspired vision of the past in the form of a myth, a holy script, a confession, or a declaration of principles. In her world view a faith community shows that the contents of her faith have visionary meaning for the present and the near or far future.

Each faith and each ideology propagates reform. Without hope, without trust in the future, nobody can live. Hope makes patient[51] and believers need not be revolutionaries. Faith and ideology are based on an expectation for the future, whether or not argued. The prophets and apostles did not predict the future in the usual logical sense, but they preached reform as an ethical and religious mission: a new heaven and a new earth.[52]

Therefore an inalienable part of each faith and each ideology is an eschatology, a view of the future of mankind. The Christian tradition knows diverse variants. The apocalyptic vision, assuming that the world will perish in disasters, may lead to the avoidance of the world. Only after the apocalypse the kingdom will appear as a new heaven and a new earth. The teleological view believes that humanity is developing according to a preordained plan, according to laws inherent in the universe, with God’s kingdom at the end. The prophetic vision assumes that the development of humanity depends on the freedom and responsibility of human beings. The kingdom starts with the coming of the Messiah and develops as far as people are ready to work for it. Comparable views can be found in all faiths and ideologies, as well as in the literary genre of utopia.[53]


 Chronos & Clio. 1. Directive time



1.6. Social integration


Up till now we considered mostly cultural differences. Civilization starts with the way people deal with each other. I conceive of social integration of people being distinguished in many cultural ways to be the historical temporal order for events in the relation frame of social intercourse or companionship. The meaning of integration is to direct social development. Emancipation means the integration of backward, often discriminated groups. Integration within a city or country does not occur when people adopt each other’s culture (that is assimilation), but when they learn to associate with each other in a respectful way. Yet, integration means that a minority group adjust themselves to a dominant majority. This concerns in particular the relation frames following that of social intercourse: economics, politics, justice and care. Therefore one may have to learn to understand the dominant culture (in particular its language), but this should be possible without abandoning one’s own culture.

Mutual respect or recognition, accepting of each other’s differences, indicates the universal value for integration as the foundation of any society, even if a society without any kind of suppression is more the exception than the rule. Even after the Dutch Republic, the United States and revolutionary France accepted the equal rights of all their citizens, they defended inequality (for instance, slavery). Each movement of emancipation aims at abolishing the arrears of a group of citizens. Respect for women, for people of a different race, for people with a deviating sexual disposition or religion had to be forced at many places and times. Emancipation is strongly connected to social development. All emancipation and liberation movements in the nineteenth and twentieth century are born from protest against unjustified and unjust discrimination. Discrimination is based on a lack of respect for the differences between people. The part played by people in society does not merely depend on their specific properties, talents, schooling and interest, but also on the way they are integrated in society, the way they are able to express their specific responsibility in freedom. Where this integration is absent, one gets crime, gangs, hooliganism, class struggle, resistance and revolution. Successful integration of a more or less homogeneous group immigrants seems to take about forty years. Only the third generation is integrated, as appears from command of language, school performances, mixed marriages and the position at the labour market. However, the history of the black people in the United States proves that it may take a much longer period. Individual immigrants or small groups sometimes perform better.

Mutual respect presupposes a measure of mutual trust. In the course of history it was assumed that one faith or ideology should rule society as an integrating factor. This view leads almost inevitably to discrimination of people adhering to a different ideology, to suppression, persecution and religious wars. A characteristic of civilization is, however, that adherents of different ideologies respect each other and that members of various faith communities do not denounce each other. The freedom of faith or ideology should not be restricted by the norms for the relation frame of companionship. In contrast, the freedom of speaking about it in public ought to testify to mutual respect. By mutual tests one’s own faith is deepened, along with self-confidence and mutual trust. Therefore I believe that the relation frame of social intercourse succeeds that of trust.



 Chronos & Clio. 1. Directive time



1.7. Economic differentiation


Often history distinguishes between an undifferentiated or underdeveloped and a differentiated or developed society. In the first nothing happens, in the second everything is on the move. Probably, as extremes on a gliding scale both do not really occur. Human societies are not entirely stable or in every respect turbulent, entirely undifferentiated or completely developed, being in different amounts differentiated and developing. Differentiation is an ongoing historical process, characterized by the mutual rendering of services as a universal value. It may be conceived of as the economic temporal order for events in the history of mankind,[54] as the normative law for economic relations, which cannot exist without differentiation of skills, property and needs, without competition and marketing, without organized activity. Mutual rendering of services, made possible by differentiation, is a condition for the development of a society respecting cultural differences.

A more or less undifferentiated society is marked by people being exclusively members of a family, having a compulsory character. At a marriage one of the two partners transfers to the family of the other one. The distinction between norms and natural laws is weak or absent. At a somewhat higher level of differentiation several families are united into a tribe having a common faith, and several tribes into a state, initially keeping its organicist basis.[55] Rising economic relations stimulate this differentiation process.[56] Later on, free associations, being independent of family relationships take over many functions from the tribe or state, restricting the family and the household to their nuclear activities. Commercial companies and other emancipating associations often come into conflict with the vested interests of the state or families, even if these are mutually interlaced as in the case of family or government enterprises.[57]

Unorganised commercial relations, which are probably as old as human existence, further cultural relations sowing doubt of tribal norms.[58] The wish to regulate and protect traffic relations stimulated the formation of states from tribes. A differentiated society, in which people are economically dependent on each other, is a hallmark of civilization. Differentiation, the emergence of social diversity from original uniformity, has its historical source in the division of labour, followed by the exchange of goods and services. Long before the industrial revolution division of labour was applied in the construction of large buildings and in ship-building, textile industry and clock industry.[59] Yet the time that the majority of the population was involved in agriculture, cattle-breeding, fishery and domestic services is not very far behind us. Till the nineteenth century specialisation, the number of professions and mutual dependency increased slowly, but this process accelerated significantly since then.

Economic differentiation starts where society becomes dense, where the density of population increases, where villages grow into cities.[60] The mutual rendering of services starts from specialization, think of a smith, a miller or a fisherman, being willing and able to invest in an enterprise. This often started as a family affair, in which parents transfer their specific ability to their children. Sooner or later many family affairs were forced to employ or train able labourers from outside the family. As long as these were treated as family members, the character of a family business remained, but in modern countries this has virtually disappeared.[61]

In the medieval cities widely differing guilds emerged as organisations of specialised family enterprises. The guilds were and were not differentiated. They were differentiated with respect to each other as far as each guild represented its own specialism: jewellers, cloth weavers, farriers. They were not differentiated or independent as far as a guild was an organic part of the city government or the local church, partaking in the defence of the town or in processions. A guild educated and examined pupils, restricted mutual competition by price agreements, guarded the quality of its products, organised festivals and funerals.

Enterprises as organised economically typified associations only exist since the late Middle Ages, when trade and industry started to emancipate themselves from state, church and family ties. Besides the differentiation or specialisation of enterprises among each other, one observes an increasing differentiation within each company with respect to the tasks performed by the employees, especially if enterprises grow to such an extent that division of labour is both possible and necessary.



 Chronos & Clio. 1. Directive time



1.8. Policy as directive ordering of events


Keeping peace, good government, accountability and democracy or participation are universal political values, not reducible to one of the other relation frames. Historiography has long been dominated by political events. The policy of governments and their consequences, in particular for the public domain, still demand most attention. Politics derives its name from the Greek politeia, from polis (castle, city or state).[62] Usually it concerns the policy of the government of a nation or some other institute invested with sovereignty.[63] However, the political relation frame has a wider scope, concerning administration, decision-making, strategy and tactics, the relation of authority or leadership to discipline or obedience, and maintaining the peace. Policy as an act to take binding decisions is not restricted to the government of a state. The board of any association is competent to make decisions within its own sphere. It deliberates internally and externally to determine its policy. Each board is concerned with the control of conflicts, preventing, avoiding or settling them. Somewhat less structured all people take binding decisions about their properties, their relations and their behaviour. Almost every adult rules at least their own household.

To a large extent, the way people exert leadership, peaceful or violently, determines the level of civilization. A civilized society recognizes authority but not authoritarian command, obedience but not iron discipline. The members of an association should not function as objects, but as responsible subjects, even in the state or the church. Absolute authority should be rejected on several counts. Each association has its own government and ought to respect the authority of other associations. In particular the state ought not to dominate other associations. Discipline does not mean slavish subjection, but responsible participation by free people in common deliberation. In a labour situation people are not slaves but free labourers. In the church people do not believe what the pope prescribes but what their conscience tells them. In the state people are not subdued subjects but free citizens. Anybody should be subjected (as a ‘subject’) to laws, not to rulers. It may be clear that the course of history is often different.

Governing is looking ahead in the sense of providence, a word that we often reserve for divine government. As a substitute, the word policy may indicate the political temporal order: how, when and where to act and combining activities to achieve a given goal. Policy determines the meaning of political activity. Each kind of government is directed to the future, even if it intends to consolidate the status quo. On the public domain (res publica) the republic ought to establish, maintain and extend the public order, to which an important part of the policy is directed. The republic maintains and protects public networks, and extends them if changing circumstances make that necessary. The defence of the order, the maintenance of peace, is directed against individual trespassers and criminals, against illegally organised crime and terror, against crimes by other associations than the state and against attacks from other states.


 Chronos & Clio. 1. Directive time



1.9. Justification of events


Justice meets history as the unfinished past. The past cannot be undone, but sometimes one can do something about its consequences. The history of civilization means not only integration, differentiation and policy, but also correcting events, administering justice, restoring order, compensating wrong doing, rectifying a news item, as well as repairing a defunct apparatus, restoring a painting or reconstructing a document. In the course of time this leads to a system of conceptions of what is right or wrong, a directive legal justice, indicating the juridical meaning of history. The legal order is not given, but is developed by people in their history as a justification of cultural differences, social integration, economic differentiation and political decision making.[64] The legal order also rests on the acceptance of earlier judgements passed by judicial instances. However, the legal order is not restricted to the judiciary. In all human relations judgments about what is just play a part. People are daily involved in the justification and adjustment of their acts and decisions.

No doubt justice belongs to the universal values of humanity. It is a condition for human existence in each society. Justice is not an abstract idea, but concerns concrete acts, doing right or wrong, acting correctly or illegitimately, with the Roman line of action suum cuique, to each his own. The juridical relation frame is concerned with the attribution of rights and obligations, with retribution and distribution.[65] Legal relations, specified in positive law, determine the rightful position of everyone and each association on earth, their rights and obligations, their responsibility and liability.

The legal order is not reducible to one of the preceding relation frames. It states that a buyer and a seller are bound to their contract, but it does not determine what they deal in. It maintains the law, but does not prescribe the contents of the law. It keeps people to customary law, but does not indicate which habits belong to customary law. Justice making presupposes decision making. According to positivist legalism a rule or law is legal if justified by a higher law. The highest law is the constitution, derived from an earlier constitution and ultimately from a mythical social contract, succeeding the state of nature or ‘original position’.[66] According to romantic optimists like Jean-Jacques Rousseau this was an ideal situation in which no injustice occurred, according to pessimists like Thomas Hobbes a state of homo homini lupus, man is a wolf to man, a state in which justice does not exist.

In legalism the legal order is narrowed down to lawful order, reduced to the political relation frame of legislation. The legal positivists reject the rationalist natural philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, for instance. He considered justice to be of divine origin, knowable from human nature, in conformity with Aristotle’s philosophy. Plato derived justice from the unchangeable world of ideas and Hugo Grotius from human reason. A Protestant view is that justice as a normative principle or value is given in the creation, as one of the conditions of human existence. The actualization of this value into written and unwritten laws belongs to the human freedom and responsibility. This is the view that justice has a normative foundation in the form of principles of justice, like the principle of audi alteram partem, hear the other side.[67] In western culture there is a large amount of consensus about a complex of juridical principles, basic rights and human rights, although their concrete actualization differs quite a lot.

Although political philosophy is nowadays sharply distinguished from philosophy of law (and politics from the theory of law), it is still controversial to state that the political relation frame is irreducible to justice.[68] The best way to make this clear is to point to a number of unwanted consequences of their identification. Later on we discuss the relation between laws and justice, and the concept of a constitutional state. Now we pay attention to the subordination of justice to law, a remarkable piece of history.

Of old, the rule of law means that justice is bound to laws, not merely to the conscience and insight of judges and others.[69] The moderating principle of equity attempts to prevent unintended consequences of the application of a rule. According to Aristotle, the principle of equity allowed judges to moderate the rigidity of the law, without transcending the limits of the law.[70] The rule of law also means that the juridical process should proceed independent of political rulers.[71] Justice should transcend the specific interests of the parties involved in civil or criminal lawsuits. It should pass judgment neutrally and impartially.[72] Evidently, this is a norm, not to be confused with the fact that judges may be influenced by their class, their education or by the public opinion, and are sometimes corrupt.

In order to warrant legal security (secondarily characterized by the frame of faithfulness) and equality of rights, since the end of the eighteenth century Western states have codified existing law, by systematically collecting and revising laws into comprehensive codes. The Code Civil (Code Napoleon, 1804) has had a large influence on civil justice, like the Code Pénal (1810) on criminal law. Since the eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, legal positivism identified justice with the written laws of the country.[73]

Legal positivism or legism means overrating the laws of the state. It is the doctrine stating that nearly all rules of justice are legal rules, that in principle the law is complete and that a judge only has to apply the law.[74] Until the beginning of the twentieth century, Dutch judges were only allowed to administer justice based on written laws. Legism is inspired by utilitarian Enlightenment philosophers believing that simple and elementary rules, derived from reason and natural law, had to take the place of intricate traditional law ruling the society of their time.[75] This implies the separation of political formulation and juridical application of justice. Concerning the first, courts of justice are subjected to law-making organs of the state. Concerning the second, they are independent of the government, whereas the executive organs of the state are subjected to justice administered by the courts of justice. This separation and balance of powers (Charles Montesquieu’s trias politica, 1748) presupposes that the three powers (executive, legislative and judicial) are all organs of the state.[76] It intends to warrant the freedom of the citizens. Emerged in the sphere of humanist philosophy, it does not even consider the possibility that justice and authority with discipline may be mutually irreducible principles.

In the second half of the twentieth century legal positivism came under fire, however, first because it was established that courts of justice have the freedom to interpret laws. Jurisprudence is as much a source of justice as the laws of the country. Legism presupposes that only the legislature is allowed to interpret its own laws. It is the task of a judge to provide an interpretation of the law applied to the case in question. According to legism the judge may only administer justice according to the law, but usually he also takes into account principles of justice, jurisprudence, influential commentaries, the circumstances and interests of all parties, changing views and practices. He has a large margin, for instance if the penal law only indicates maximum penalties. He may interpret a law slightly different from the intentions of the legislative. In extreme cases he may even decide against a law. This means that administering justice is not an abstract activity, but a very concrete one. Though it is juridically typified, in principle the judge takes into account all aspects of human being.

Legism has two faces. From a liberal view, stressing the individual freedom of citizens with respect to the state, everything is just and therefore admitted that is not prohibited by law. In the name of this view a lot of injustice is committed, which new laws had to prevent. For instance, in the nineteenth century slavery and child labour were not lawfully prohibited and therefore admitted, until slavery was forbidden and child labour restricted by law. According to the liberal world view, only then child labour was unjust. People defending this variant sometimes say that what is not prohibited by law is just but not necessarily moral. It is a moral question whether one makes use of the fact that the government allows or tolerates certain matters.[77] It is a moral question whether one cooperates with slavery or child labour as long as there is no law interdicting it. This is a consequence of the view that the law determines what is right or wrong. It opposes the view that justice is a universal principle, to be actualized into norms, including state laws. This means that one makes laws because slavery and child labour are unjust, not to make them unjust. The distinction between just and unjust action is always part of ethics. It is immoral to act unjustly, whether this act is prohibited by law or not. Legistic attempts to slip through the meshes of the law, not only popular with tax payers, is immoral if it leads to behaviour contrary to the principles of justice. Formalistic legism sometimes means that a judge acquits a criminal because of mistakes made by the police or the attorney.[78] Of course, police and the attorney have to respect the rights of the accused, and the judge ought to penalize trespassers. However, it runs counter the common sense of justice when a criminal is acquitted because of a formal mistake.

In another variant of legism everything is prohibited what is not allowed by the state. In practice this leads to an abundance of rules and to suppression of inevitable resistance. The best illustration is the Soviet-Union, which ultimately collapsed under its top-heavy bureaucracy in 1990. However, we find this variant not only in a dictatorship, but also in a moderate form in countries influenced by social-democracy where many kinds of activities are subject to a licence by the government.

Both views identify justice with the law. They consider the state as the only source of justice. Legism is a consequence of statism, the overrating of the state, considered as representative of the volonté générale (the general will, the public interest) exclusively determining what is right. An extreme form is known as Befehl ist Befehl: someone who has done injustice defends himself by saying that he only obeyed a command from a higher level. This view, identifying justice with the political principle of authority and discipline, has become notorious since the Nazi-regime and has been abolished by Western justice.[79] However, it was not restricted to Germany, for it is a consequence of legism, reducing justice to laws given by the state. It deprives both individuals and associations the freedom and responsibility to act in all circumstances not only legally, but also just. Even if he finds justice in the laws of the country, a judge ought not to pass a sentence in the name of the law or of the queen or of the state, but in the name of justice as a universal value, irreducible to state or politics.

Legism can be warded off by recognizing that the juridical relation frame is irreducible to the political frame and that the state as a politically characterized association does not surpass justice but is subject to it, like any other association and each individual.


 Chronos & Clio. 1. Directive time


1.10. The transitive past


The final relation frame concerns all kinds of care, having the love for one’s neighbour as a universal normative principle.[80] Each human being is vulnerable and therefore everyone should care for their fellows. This leads to the suggestion that transitoriness is the historical temporal order for events in the frame of care. Besides humanity, the whole of creation is perishable, in need of care.

People have always tried to diminish their vulnerability, to make them invulnerable, independent, autonomous, complacent and immortal. Simultaneously people know to be dependent on other persons, on their environment and on their god. Therefore everyone looks for friends, colleagues, or allies, companies make arrangements and parties agree on coalitions. This may look like self-interest, but it is only possible if all parties concerned share their interests. However, in the frame of care more than the promotion of interests is at stake, which anyhow finds its place in the frame of companionship (1.6). The care for fellow men, compassion, misericordia or pity, means showing respect for people who suffer or are hurt, knowing to be vulnerable oneself. Contrary to care, people take advantage of each other’s vulnerability, by insulting, robbing, dominating, injustice, maltreating or murdering. The denial of dependence leads to the fall into sin.

Vulnerability does not merely concern the bodily or mental health of people, but also their labour, enjoyment, use of language, up till their rights. Loving care may be projected on all preceding relation frames. Besides caring for weak people in society (children, sick, old, or jobless people), this also concerns human relations like interest, hospitality, compassion, sympathy and antipathy, dislike and indifference. People lighten each other’s troubles by sharing them. In their love and care people strengthen each other in their humanity, which they deny in hate or neglect.

Since the rise of Christianity the care for vulnerable people like widows, orphans and the poor belongs to the core of the Gospel. The miracles performed by Jesus and his disciples according to the New Testament do not testify to divine power (Jesus rejected this emphatically during the temptation by the devil[81]), but to the care for vulnerable people. Jesus does not present himself as a mighty magician, but as a healer, a saviour. The early Christians expected a soon end of the times.[82] They were not concerned with the policy of the government. But they developed a new style of living and new forms of society, characterized by love for one’s neighbour, mercy and care for vulnerable people.[83] Besides justice, Christians accepted the principle of need as a fundamental value.[84]

In the West, until the second half of the nineteenth century, the care for the weak was brought about mainly by Christian initiatives.[85] Since ancient times, also Jewish and Muslim communities pay much attention to poor-relief, one of the five pillars of the Islam.

Stressing the autonomy of man, humanism has trouble with people requiring care.[86] Indeed, the humanist ideal is that everyone cares for themselves, able to manage their own, being independent of other people. In his book Madness and civilization, Michel Foucault (1961) states that the Enlightenment project of free and equal citizens could only be fulfilled by systematically keeping outside society ill, mad, old and handicapped people as well as criminals. Being placed in institutions, they were made invisible. From a religious experience that sanctified it, poverty became slowly but steadily a moral conception condemning it.[87] According to Foucault the emancipation of free citizens involves the seclusion of dependent people.

Care is not merely a relation of dependence between people, but also of people with their god. In the New Testament God asks for care. As the man Jesus he made himself vulnerable, up till the death. Who cares for a human being, cares for the Son of Men, Jesus tells his disciples.[88]

People are mortal, and they know it. At their death their active contribution to history ends. The vulnerability of people gives rise to fear, in particular death agony. According to Martin Luther a human being is thrown back onto himself when he dies. When you die, it is you who die, and no one else can do this for you.[89] He wanted to make clear that the relation of anyone to their god touches their heart, the kernel of human existence. Both the Bible and Greek antiquity considered the heart to be the seat of the soul, of the mind, of feelings, of love, of belief. In the heart the conditions of human existence are concentrated on one’s self, according to humanism on humanity as such, according to Christians on Jesus Christ. His suffering, slave death and resurrection form the core of Christian belief. Death is not the end of human existence, because Christ conquered death. Through the ages, for many people the prospect of resurrection has been the ultimate consolation at death, confirming anybody’s transitoriness. 

Death is a persistent theme in history. Commemoration reminds people of their dependence and transitory existence and places history in the relation frame of care. Leave-taking is a part of the ending of an important phase in one’s life, the parting of school, the end of a career, a removal or an emigration. A farewell is therefore not necessarily mournful. Sometimes people make it a party. A farewell involves an aesthetic celebration, a funeral or a cremation, a reception with speeches, flowers and presents, as signs of personal interest, compassion and comfort. The final care of a deceased often appears in their will, leaving their wealth or part of it to the poor, the church, or a good case. Reversely, the ultimate care given to or expected from our fellow men is the farewell of life, in particular if it concerns the temporal end of an intimate relation. We commemorate the death in gratitude by placing a tombstone or a monument or by organizing a memory service. We conserve their work in a museum or a library. We distinguish people by naming streets or buildings after them. By commemoration we take care of the transitive past. We experience that nobody is irreplaceable – in particular when we stand for the task to replace an irreplaceable person. 


 Chronos & Clio. 1. Directive time


1.11. The temporal order

gives direction to history


In this chapter we investigated the hypothesis that events from the past can be ordered into a spectrum of relation frames. Each frame is characterized by one or more natural laws or universal values and is subjected to its own directive order of time, determining in part the meaning of history. In order to account for the diversity of temporal existence we have found ten normative expressions for time in history, besides six natural orders of time. We indicated that the order of time in each relation frame gives direction to history. The diversity of human existence implies that this normative direction is very complex as well.

The diversity of the values and the presupposition of their mutual irreducibility lead to critique on and rejection of any form of monism or dualism. These attempt to reduce the diversity of temporal reality to a single principle or to an unbridgeable ‘dialectic’ opposition. To take one or more values in an absolute sense leads unavoidably to the diminishing of human freedom and responsibility to transform the values into norms dependent on historical and cultural circumstances.

The most striking one-sidedness in historiography is historism.


At the transition from the eighteenth century Enlightenment to Romanticism in the nineteenth century, Western historical notions were reinforced considerably.[90] This may be a sequel of the more or less simultaneously occurring French and industrial revolutions, the dual revolution according to Eric Hobsbawn. Together with historism a new historical view of time arose, the geschichtliche Zeit,[91] besides the naturalistic view of time based on natural science.[92] Johann Gottfried Herder, the first historist, stated: ‘Alles ist Geschichte’ (everything is history).[93] Historism is

‘… the approach of reality in which all phenomena and events are placed in a historical perspective, supposing that the essence of these phenomena and events can only be really understood from this perspective’.[94]

‘… it was believed that the understanding of x consisted in knowing the history of x’.[95]

‘Historism emphasizes diachronicism: historism dissolves everything into a continuous stream of historical development. Everything must be seen as the result of its history.’[96]

The emerging nationalism in the Napoleonic era furthered historism considerably.

After historiography was mainly practiced as a literary genre, since the end of the eighteenth century it became a scientific profession, by the nomination of professors in universities and grammar schools, the study of primary sources,[97] the opening up and investigation of archives and the rise of archaeology.[98] The science of history considers historism as the movement concentrating on the impartial establishment of past facts, abiding to Leopold von Ranke’s famous motto ‘bloss zeigen wie es eigentlich gewesen’ (only show what happened in fact).[99]

Besides this objectivism there are two other variants of historism. Historical determinism overemphasizes the law side of history. This concerns for instance Georg Hegel’s rationalistic idealism,[100] Karl Marx’s historical-materialism,[101] Auguste Comte’s positivism and Herbert Spencer’s social-darwinism, putting forward inescapable laws for history.[102] They consider these laws in a naturalistic way, not normative but compulsory, ignoring human freedom and responsibility.[103]

In contrast, Romanticism overemphasized the subject and object side of history, recognizing only the accidental, the contingent, the individual happening, an endless stream of unique events.[104] This subjectivism leads inevitably to relativism with respect to ‘the positive norms of evaluation’.[105]

The hypothesis of this chapter, that temporal reality with its evolution and history is subjected to invariant and universal natural laws, values and character types, provides sufficient matter to criticize historism. The astrophysical and biological theories of evolution cannot function without the supposition of the existence of invariant natural laws, allowing of extrapolation to the past. Likewise, normative principles which are not liable to historical development make history both possible and understandable. Therefore, norms and characters having been actualized starting from these principles by people in their culture and civilization, are recognizable for everyone. This view allows us to reject all variants of historism being one-sided. Simultaneously we can understand that each variant has an attractive nucleus of truth, respectively the recognition of objective facts, of subjective individuality and of normative law conformity.

Meanwhile we conclude that the meaning of history is to be found normatively in the order of time, determining the direction of history. This is not sufficient, however. In the next chapters we shall discuss the subjective attribution of meaning in the transfer of human experience (chapter 2) and the objective historical meaning of artefacts (chapter 3). In chapters 4 and 5 we shall investigate how the meaning of history comes to the fore in social relations.

[1] Philosophy of history concerns various views both on the writing of history (historia rerum gestarum) and on the past, the things that happened (res gestae), see Cairns 1962; Ankersmit 1983, 2005; Danto 1985; Ankersmit, Kellner (eds.) 1995; Bentley (ed.) 1997; Burns, Rayment-Pickard (eds.) 2000; Lemon 2003; Wiersing 2007; Tucker (ed.) 2009. In the first case it is also called theoretical history or metahistory (White 1973). Then it concerns the presuppositions, the structure and the methodology of the study of history and its connections to other fields. In the second case it is also called speculative or substantive philosophy of history (Danto 1985, chapter 1), if it is written from an ideological point of view and makes predictions about unavoidable future developments. Löwith 1949, 1 defines philosophy of history as ‘… a systematic interpretation of universal history in accordance with a principle by which historical events and successions are unified and directed towards an ultimate meaning.’

[2] The metaphor of a prism is taken from Dooyeweerd1953-1958,I, 22-34, 99-107; II, 6, 561. Chronos & Clio is inspired by Herman Dooyeweerd’s Philosophy of the Cosmonomic Idea, from which it differs significantly, however, as will be seen in the evaluation at the end of this book.

[3] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958,I, 31-32; II, 79-106; Stafleu 1980; 2002.

[4] Philosophically speaking, something is a ‘subject’ if it is directly and actively subjected to a given law. An ‘object’ is passively and indirectly (via a subject) subjected to a law. Therefore, whether something is a subject or an object depends on the context. With respect to the values and norms to be discussed in this book, only individual people and organized associations can be subjects. Everything else is object in human experience. If one wants to discuss individual subjects or objects, one needs typical laws in order to distinguish them from each other. These laws also determine typical relations between subjects and between subjects and objects. However, individual things and events have non-typical relations to each other as well. These ‘modal’ subject-subject relations and subject-object relations obey general or modal laws. Therefore, I prefer to call Dooyeweerd’s ‘modal aspects’ relation frames.

[5] Dooyeweerd 1935-1936, I, 5 mentions fourteen ‘law spheres’, which he considers to be fundamental modes of being and experience. Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, I, 3 mentions fifteen‘modal aspects of our cosmos’, one less and in a slightly different order than this book assumes. The order of the first six ‘natural’ aspects is the same, but Dooyeweerd (ibid.) presents the following order starting from the psychic aspect: logical, historic, linguistic, social intercourse, economic, aesthetic, juridical, ethical, and pistical (faith). The order of the quantitative up till the psychic frames is almost obvious and not controversial, but the order of the interhuman relation frames is disputed, see Hart 1984; Seerveld 1964, 1985, 2001; Dengerink 1986, 1989; Ouweneel 1986; Stellingwerff 1999;  Strauss 2000; Kuiper 2004.

[6] This does not imply determinism. Natural laws admit of variations and may also lay down possibilities and probabilities.

[7] Van Doorn and Lammers 1959, 99 (my translation).  

[8] Strauss 2009, 297. See also Hübner 1978, 108.

[9] Hoogerwerf 1999, 14; Kinneging 2005, 74-84.

[10] Kohnstamm 1948, 147; Popper 1945, 63-64.

[11] Stafleu 1989. Stafleu 2002, chapter 1 defines a character as a cluster of natural laws, values and norms, determining a class of similar individuals and an ensemble of possible variations. According to this definition, a character forms the typical or characteristic law side of Dooyeweerd’s ‘structure of individuality’, see Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, III. It is the law for individuality, in contrast to the subjective or objective and variable structure of an individual, in which it may differ from similar individuals. Clouser 1991, 220-222 calls a character a ‘type law’.

[12] After Clio, the muse of history, this is called cliometric in America, see Ankersmit 1983, 233-246; de Vries and van der Woude 1995, 17. In France the quantitative method is promoted since 1929 by the periodical Annales (with various subtitles), edited by Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch, later by Fernand Braudel.

[13] See e.g. Braudel 1949, according to Burke 2005, 15: ‘… a book with a good claim to be regarded as the most important historical work of the century’. Comparison is also an important method in social historiography, see Burke 2005, 21-26.

[14] Burke 2005, chapter 5.

[15] Fischer 1970, 183-186.

[16] Hegel 1840, 70-72; Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, II, 195-196, 250-251, 255, 266; McIntire 1985, 92-93.

[17] De Valk 2002, 22 mentions a collection of 160 definitions of culture in the humanities. In English and French ‘culture’ and ‘civilization’ have a different meaning than in German, see Elias 1939, chapter 1; Schilling 1968, 184; Toynbee 1972, 43-46; Huntington 1996, 40; Griffioen 2003, 76-77; de Jong 2007, 266-268. The large diversity of culture leads to a hardly less large variation in cultural history, see Conrad 1998; Burke 2004.

[18] Van het Reve 1969, 70-73; Sperna Weiland 1999, 26-27, 36; Wiersing 2007, 397-398.

[19] Van het Reve 1969, 70-85; de Jong 2007, 79-85.

[20] Coolen 1992, 276, 281.

[21] This distinction of culture and civilization differs from that of Kant, calling one external, formal or business-like, the other internal, moral or spiritual, see Griffioen 2003, 52-54. The difference is not very sharp. For instance, the frame of keeping company could belong to culture as well as to civilization.

[22]  The Eurocentric belief in progress considered the technical and scientific progress even as characteristic for the whole of history of mankind, see Toulmin, Goodfield 1965, chapter 5; Fukuyama 1992, 30-33; Hobsbawm 1994, 19; Doorman 1994. In 1931 Herbert Butterfield criticized the ‘Whig Interpretation of History’ describing history as a continuous progress after the model of the British Empire.

[23] Van Doorn 2009, chapter 20.

[24] As far as one can speak of progress in the natural evolution (for instance pointing to an increasing complexity), this is not a value or norm, but the effect of a natural process, having no normative character as such. Herein plants and animals do not play an active part comparable to that of human beings in technical progress.

[25] Hübner 1978, chapter 14; Verkerk et al. 2007, chapter 10.

[26] Löwith 1949, 8, chapter IV; Schuurman 1998, 3.3.

[27] Schilling 1968, 83.

[28] Berkhof 1958, 14-15; Cairns 1962; Harmsen 1998, 90-95, 129-137. In the nineteenth and twentieth century, a cyclical view was defended by Nietzsche, see Löwith 1949, 197, and by Spengler, Sorokin, Toynbee and Braudel, see Braudel 1949; Toynbee 1972; Geyl 1958, 140-178; Cairns 1962, 353-455; Fukuyama 1992, 91-93; Burke 2005, 158-159. Economists consider the cyclical succession of booms and recessions.

[29] Popper 1945, 20-22 about Plato.

[30] Aylmer 1997, 250; Baumeister 2001, 161-162.

[31] Huizinga 1937, 131-135. Compare the Marxist succession of historical societal types based on ‘forces of production’: original communism in an idealised primitive society; slavery society; feodalism; bourgeois capitalism; and finally the communist ideal state. See Van het Reve 1969, 70-85.

[32] Genesis 3:19: ‘dust you are, to dust you shall return’; Sloterdijk 1998-99, 202.

[33] Diamond 1997, chapter 1.

[34] Diamond 1997, part II.

[35] Taylor 1989, 373-378; Goldman 2001, 181: ‘The term ‘aesthetic’ was first used in the eighteenth century by the philosopher Alexander Baumgarten to refer to cognition by means of the senses, sensuous knowledge. He later came to use it in reference to the perception of beauty by the senses, especially in art. Kant picked up on this use, applying the term to judgements of beauty in both art and nature. The concept has broadened once again more recently. It now qualifies not only judgements or evaluations, but properties, attitudes, experience, and pleasure or value as well, and its application is no longer restricted to beauty alone.’ See Baumeister 2001, chapter 8. Kant’s ‘transcendentale Ästhetik’ has nothing in common with beauty or the fine arts, but concerns the a-priori conditions of our sensory experience (Baumeister 2001, 201). The emphasis on beauty as an ideal of perfection and a manifestation of unity (almost identical with truth and goodness) comes from the neo-Platonism of Plotinus and others, conceiving of beauty as an ideal that people may try to imitate but can never achieve. This view has influenced Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Dooyeweerd and other Christian scholars, see Baumeister 2001, chapter 4-6; Cassirer 1944, 140; Seerveld 1964, 32-39; 1985, 64-66; 2001, 160.

[36] Toynbee 1972, 46.

[37] Doorman 1994, 111-114.

[38] Lane Fox 1986, 65.

[39] Huizinga 1919, 77: Generally speaking, fashion is much closer to the fine arts than academic aesthetics is willing to admit.

[40] Seerveld 2001, 175.

[41] Fukuyama 1992, 96; Doorman 1994, 229-235.

[42] Von der Dunk 2007. I prefer the designation of ‘semiotic aspect’ (Greek sema = sign) above ‘lingual aspect’, because it also concerns all kinds of signs and symbols not belonging to a structured language, see 3.3 and Strauss 2009, 95.

[43] Von der Dunk 2007, chapter III.

[44] Jaspers 1949, 38. According to Kant the invention of writing marks the departure from a primitive, illiterate society characterized by immatureness or minority, but Lévi-Strauss relativizes this, see van Keulen 2005, 262.

[45] Hempel 1965; Ankersmit 1983, 108-128; Munz 1997, 857-863.

[46] Popper 1959; Stafleu 1987, chapter 4.

[47] Van Eemeren et al. 1978, 50-54.

[48] Armstrong 1993, 33, 229. According to Dooyeweerd the aspect of faith is the final modal aspect, anticipating religion. Each modal aspect transcends the preceding ones in the anticipating direction and religion transcends the modal diversity of meaning (Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, II, 298, 302-311. The aspect of faith being the last one points eschatologically outside temporal reality towards eternity (Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, I, 33; II, 53-54). According to Dooyeweerd faith directs the historical opening up in all preceding aspects. In my view, a leading part only applies to people and associations. It is not a relation frame, but people who can lead whatever process. Thereby, their faith or belief or trust is not dominating, but their religion or world view, their vision regarding the origin, meaning and coherence of human existence (5.11). In one’s religion everyone concentrates on his relation to the origin of all existence. This does not occur in the ‘transcending’ direction, anticipating religion via the aspect of faith, but within each relation frame, because each frame contains the relation to the origin. This view removes the most important reason to consider the relation frame of faith to be the final one. See 1.6 for the argument to position it as I do.

[49] Burckhardt 1905, 64, 71.

[50] Jaspers 1949, 14 calls this the Achsenzeit (pivotal time or axis time); Armstrong 1993, 42-43.

[51] MacIntyre 1981, 234: ‘… to be patient is to be prepared to wait until the promise of life is fulfilled.’

[52] Cassirer 1944, 55.

[53] Kuiper 2009, chapter 2.

[54] Taylor 2007, 256-263.

[55] Popper 1945, 190.

[56] According to the structuralist anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss the prohibition of incest forms the basis of culture, in particular the phenomenon of exchange: ‘The prohibition of incest is less a rule prohibiting marriage with the mother, sister or daughter, than a rule obliging the mother, sister or daughter to be given to others’, Boyne 2000, 166. See also Achterhuis 1988, 49; van Keulen 2005, chapter 3.

[57] Fukuyama 1995; Castells 2000, 188-205.

[58] Popper 1945, 194.

[59] Landes 1983.

[60] Gordon Childe calls the emergence of the first cities, in the Bronze Age (about 3000 year BC), the urban revolution, see Goody 2006, 28-29, 47-48.

[61] What is nowadays called a family enterprise is usually an enterprise owned by a single person or a family, not an enterprise in which mainly family members are occupied.

[62] Lane Fox 2005, 25.

[63] Schmitt 1963, 47; Rutgers 2004, 19-23.

[64] Hirsch Ballin 1999.

[65] Dooyeweerd 1931, 187-189; 1953-1958, II, 129-140; van Eikema Hommes 1982, 6-26. The Latin tribuo means to adjudge, to assign. These authors do not distinguish between the political and the juridical aspects, see Stafleu 2004.

[66] Rousseau 1762; Toulmin, Goodfield 1965, 144-148; Rawls 1971, 15-19; Graham 2004, chapter 8; Tebbit 2005, 94-102; Kuiper 2009, chapter 7; Fukuyama 2011, chapter 2.

[67] Franken et al. 2003, 38-41, 67-97; Hirsch Ballin 1999.

[68] Schmitt 1963, 46: Until recently, the European part of humanity lived in an era that derived its juridical concepts entirely from the state, conceiving of the state as a model of political unity.

[69] Tebbit 2005, 8. However, Fukuyama 2011, 245-246 (admitting that ‘... there are as many defintions of “rule of law” as there are legal scholars...’) defines the rule of law such that ‘... the individual holding political power feels bound by the law ... The rule of law is a separate component of political order that puts limitations on a state’s power.’ I consider this to be a definition of a ‘constitutional state’ (Rechtsstaat).

[70] Tebbit 2005, 9, 31. Equity should not be confused with charity, reconciliation or forgivingness, which concepts anticipate the frame of care.

[71] Tebbit 2005, 79-80.

[72] Tebbit 2005, 79.

[73] Franken et al. 2003, chapter 2; Dworkin 1967, 63-64; Rutgers 2004, 175-176; Böhler 2004, 28-30; Kinneging 2005, 381-398; Tebbit 2005, 15-48. According to Tebbit 2005, 18, the nineteenth-century utilist Jeremy Bentham was the first legal positivist, followed by John Austin and in the twentieth century by H.L.A. Hart in England and H. Kelsen in Austria. However, already in the sixteenth century, Jean Bodin developed a ‘naive legalistic variety of juridical positivism’, Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, III, 666; Lemon 2003, 116. Influenced by  pragmatism (Tebbit 2005, 21-32), American judges are more realistic and less legalistic than their European colleagues. For instance, for American commercial life rights and duties are not laid down in laws (as in Europe), but by jurisprudence.

[74] Franken et al. 2003, 115-116.

[75] de Tocqueville 1835-1856, 286.

[76] Montesquieu 1748, 219-231 (part II, book XI, chapter 6) himself did not discuss a separation, but a dispersal of powers, like he found in England. He also believed that the judiciary should not be an organ of the state.

[77] Tebbit 2005, 11: ‘For natural lawyers, the legal principles revealed by a purely descriptive account of law are inherently moral; for positivists, the law in its actuality is the practical expression of a political decision, the moral content of which is quite irrelevant.’

[78] Böhler 2004, 54-55.

[79] Tebbit 2005, 35-36.

[80] In Stafleu 2007, I argued why I consider it unfortunate and confusing to call this aspect ‘ethical’ or ‘moral.

[81] Matthew 4: 1-11, Luke 4: 1-13.

[82] Meijering 2004, 144-147.

[83] Hoogerwerf 1999, 16.

[84] Acts 4:35; Hoogerwerf 1999, 32-36, 97. Marx joined this with his characterization of an ideal society: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.’ Rawls 1971, 268; Kymlicka 2002, 172, 187.

[85] Verkerk 1997, 52-55.

[86] Cusveller 2004, chapter 4.

[87] De Swaan 1988, 47; Foucault 1961, 217-222; Taylor 2007, 173-175.

[88] Matthew 25:35-40.

[89] MacIntyre 1967, 121.

[90] Popper 1945, 18. Ankersmit 1983, 174; 2005, 141, 309-310 dates this between 1790 and 1800. Foucault 1966, 241 states that the transition from the classical to the modern epistèmè (world of thought)  took place between 1775 and 1825 in two phases, divided by the period of 1795 to 1800. In the modern epistèmè history plays a much larger part than in the classical one, says Foucault 1966, chapter 7. According to Wiersing 2007, 246 ‘die Entdeckung der Geschichtlichkeit der Kultur’ (the discovery of the historical character of culture) started in the middle of the eighteenth century.

[91] Koselleck, see Doorman 1994, 30-37; Reinhard 1997, 286, 288. See also Foucault 1966, 154.

[92] Simultaneously, time became an important theme in cosmology, geology and biology, see Toulmin, Goodfield 1965; Rudwick 2005, Introduction; chapter 4; Rudwick 2008, 554. Strauss 2009, 4: ‘... the emergence of historicism ... opened the way for Darwin to employ the idea of change in his theory of variation through natural selection (1859).’

[93] Safranski 2007, 23, 28; Toulmin, Goodfield 1965, 165-171; Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, I, 453-455, II, 272-280; Wiersing 2007, 274-282. From 1784 to 1791 Herder published four volumes of his unfinished Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (Ideas for the philosophy of history of humanity).

[94] Tollebeek 1990, 361-362 (my translation). Besides this ‘historism sensu latiore’ Tollebeek (ibid. 362-363) distinguishes ‘historism sensu stricto’, accentuating the specificity of each temporal interval.

[95] Danto 1985, 324.

[96] Ankersmit 2005, 143 (my translation).

[97] In this respect Edward Gibbon was a pioneer with his The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1788).

[98] Burke 2005, 5-6. In particular the excavations in Herculaneum and Pompeji, buried after the eruption of the Vesuvius near Naples in 79 and recovered in 1738-1748, made a deep impression.

[99] Geyl 1958, 9-25; Danto 1985, 130-133, 139; Bentley 1997, 419-423; Wiersing 2007, 369-394. Robert Fruin, the first professor of history in the Netherlands (from 1860 to 1894), was an adherent of Ranke. His most important works are Fruin 1857 and 1859. After that he only published papers, see Tollebeek 1990, chapter 1. The criticism of objectivistic historism is that the choice of primary sources is not free of values. Moreover one has to make do with secondary sources or copies if primary sources are not available.

[100] Hegel 1840, 23: ‘That this “Idea” or “Reason” is the True, the Eternal, the absolutely powerful essence; that it reveals itself in the World, and that in that World nothing else is revealed but this and its honour and glory – is the thesis which, as we have said, has been proved in Philosophy, and is here regarded as demonstrated.’ About Hegel’s historism, see Popper 1945, chapter 12; Wiersing 2007, 321-337.

[101] Popper 1945, chapters 13, 15. Van het Reve 1969, 48-85; Wiersing 2007, 413.

[102] Löwith 1949; Ankersmit 1983, chapter 2-4; Fukuyama 1992, 91-92; Doorman 1994, 38; Lemon 2003, part I. Popper 1945 and 1957 calls this ‘historicism’. (For Popper, ‘historism’ is historical relativism.) A recent example is Fukuyama 1992.

[103] This historical determinism was preceded by several naturalistic variants. Its radical and consequent elaboration in Spinoza’s Ethica (1677) caused much discussion in the seventeenth and eighteenth century, see Lovejoy 1936, 150-156; Nadler 1999; Israel 2001; Gaukroger 2006, 471-492. Also modern forms of naturalistic determinism exert influence on historiography, see Wiersing 2007, 969-989.

[104] Ankersmit 1983, 171-182; de Jong 2007, 181-182. The postmodern subjectivist variant is social constructivism (5.4).

[105] Huizinga 1937, 136-138 (my translation). According to Fischer 1970, 307-318, relativism with respect to the past leads inevitably to contempt of the science of history. Dooyeweerd considered historism to be an absolutization of the historical aspect of reality, which he introduced in order to criticize historism in the philosophy of the nineteenth and twentieth century, Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, I, 467-495; II, 205-207, 217-221, 283, 354-356; Dooyeweerd 1959, 53-104; Van Woudenberg 1992, 90-96; Stafleu 2008.










Chapter 2


Transfer of experience as

the engine of history









2.0. Intersubjective relations

2.1. Progress by instruction and education

2.2. Renewal by showing oneself

2.3. Transfer of information

2.4. Reasoning

2.5. Convincing

2.6. Education

2.7. To be of service

2.8. Leadership

2.9. Transfer of justice

2.10. Friendship and marriage

2.11. Attributing meaning to history



 Chronos & Clio. 2. Transfer of experience 


 2.0. Intersubjective relations


In chapter 1 we reconnoitred the diversity of the historical temporal order. Besides events, this time order also concerns relations between people, their experience and their acts. We have seen that directive time is normative. However, values and norms are not sufficient if people do not work actively at their realization. The second chapter investigates the question of what drives history. Would it be possible to consider the transfer and multiplication of experience from one person to another, from one generation to another, from one cultural sphere to another, to be the engine of history? Without transfer of skills technical progress is not imaginable. Renewal of style depends on the sharing of aesthetic experience. Does this apply to the time order in all relation frames? Is transfer of experience the motive force in the direction prescribed by the temporal order?

Chronos reminds one of chronometers, of sequences, simultaneity and duration of events, of clocks, calendars and diaries, of birthdays, youth and old age, of memory and loss of memory. Indeed the historical order of time may be projected on the six natural relation frames (1.0). Clio, too, dates and positions historical events to establish their numerical chronological serial order (diachronous) or spatial connectivity and simultaneity (synchronous). If in an historical discourse the chronology is wanting, we speak of an anachronism. The duration of an event, episode or process is a projection on kinetic time, the uniform flow of time. Irreversible historical causality refers to a physical relation. Genealogies rest on genetic relations. The family relation between languages indicates the descent of one language from the other one. Development, growth, flowering and decline of empires and cultures refer to the course of life of a plant or animal, views concerning historical cycles to the turn of the seasons. Finally, human beings are conscious of the goal of their acts, like animal behaviour is goal directed. In each normative relation frame historical experience is secondarily characterized by sensory experience.

In all these cases an intersubjective relation is subject to the temporal order, like for instance temporal difference is subject to the numerical serial order and distance to spatial simultaneity.[1] In normative relations only people and their associations are able to act as an active subject, as an active person. Supposing that each relation frame is an aspect of human experience, the following question arises. Would it be possible to point out an asymmetrical subject-subject relation as a form of transfer of experience, as a human act subject to the historical temporal order in that frame? Is this transfer to be considered as a driving force, as an engine of history, active in the normative direction indicated by the temporal order?

In this chapter we shall try to answer these questions for all ten normative relation frames successively. Concerning the cultural transfer of experience one might think of: instruction and learning as the engine of technical progress; players and spectators as actors in aesthetic renewal; transfer of information as source for the collective memory; reasoning as the engine of logical extrapolation; and conviction as the motive force of reform (2.1-2.5). For the propagation of civilization the following engines may be considered: education in keeping company; commerce in economic rendering of services; leadership; justice; and finally friendship and marriage (2.6-2.10). The transfer of experience is as diverse as human experience itself. Finally, section 2.11 reviews the subjective attribution of meaning to history.    


 Chronos & Clio. 2. Transfer of experience 



2.1. Progress by instruction and education


The widely shared opinion that homo sapiens would distinguish himself from animals first of all by the human mind is acceptable if we interpret sapiens in a wide sense as wisdom, not in a restricted sense of rational as in rationalism. Then human knowledge starts with know-how or expertise, to know how to perform skilful labour. By multiplying this practical insight and transferring it to others, people further technical progress. Next they deepen their practical knowledge by their imagination, interpretation and reasoning.

The skills that people may acquire or, if these are inborn, may develop, provide them with power. People are able to exert power over their environment and they preponderate their fellows by their ability to calculate, their spatial insights, their mobility, their ability to exert physical force, their talents for organization or control. They exert this power by using instruments, for instance their weapons. Sometimes they do that individually, but usually in a social connection. The history of mankind is full of power and people in power abusing their preponderance, confusing power with authority. It seems that history did not start when people began to use tools to command nature, but when they started to do that in order to exert power over each other.  

People acquire skills and transfer them to others. A skill can be learned. Transfer of skills happens in an asymmetrical subject-subject relation, distinguishing teachers from their pupils. A student is not a passive object of teaching, but an active subject in the acquisition of skills. The object of education is the (unfortunately so-called) subject-matter of tuition. The teacher teaches and the student learns, and each has their own responsibility, restricting each other’s freedom. The possibility to transfer skills from one generation to the next distinguishes people from animals and forms one of the fundaments of the history of mankind. It is the engine of technical process. The replacement of child labour by schooling in the nineteenth century laid the basis for the twentieth-century prosperity. All kinds of human labour require skills that are not inborn, but have to be invented or learned from each other, in the household, at school or in courses, or on the floor. In a society that is not yet strongly differentiated, transfer of skills, knowledge and insight takes place in a labour situation. Growing up children learn from their parents by imitation in the house. In other labour situations, like farms or monasteries, newcomers learn from experienced labourers. The medieval guilds organized the professional schooling in the cooperation of masters, paid journeymen and unpaid apprentices. Since the nineteenth century vocational tuition is in part organized outside enterprises replacing professional practice. Still, a large part of the instruction takes place on the floor. Meanwhile we see a historical shift of accent, from tuition on the floor to a job besides the school.

In a differentiated society teachers are professionals and learning is organized in schools. The Greek word scholè means free time. Students are temporarily exempted from labour in order to qualify for later labour. In an agricultural society children went to school in the winter. In the busy summer months they had no holiday, but had to assist in harvesting. In an industrial society the holidays (now free from school) are spread over the year. The connection between tuition and labour is often indirect. Primary school concerns skills anybody (as far as possible) has to master, like reading, writing and arithmetic. Secondary schools are more tuned to the wishes and possibilities of the child itself. The boundary is about the beginning of adolescence. In a modern society most pupils conduct a vocational study after secondary school. For instance, a medical school prepares for the practice of a doctor as well as for the practice of a medical investigator. After the school follows the real practice, sometimes so much different from what the school has taught that many experience a practice shock. Modern practices develop so fast that the professionals have to take a refresher course time and again.  

Without schools progress is impossible. Transfer of cultural skills occurs in the original hanicraf form by imitation, by giving examples. In a differentiated culture an increasing role is played by practical exercise (learning by playing), language (giving instructions), formation of theories (understand what you are doing), and trust on what you have learned. Yet even professionals learn their skills mostly in practice. In order to prove one’s skills, one takes a logically characterized exam. As a semiotically characterized sign of ability one makes an inventory of one’s learning, receiving a diploma, certificate or testimonial. Instruction is not only for technical skills, but also for skills characterized by the succeeding relation frames. Schools teach skills in making and using artefacts, aesthetic skills in the arts, sports and plays, and lingual skills in the native and foreign languages. Children learn to trust their teachers and themselves. They acquire logical skills like development of theories and argumentation, social, economic and political skills, etc.


 Chronos & Clio. 2. Transfer of experience 


2.2. Renewal by showing oneself


In chapter 1 I proposed aesthetic renewal of fashion and style as the historical directive temporal order for the aesthetic relation frame. Each aesthetic experience, piece of art or performance has a historically recognizable style, a norm that cannot be trespassed without consequences. In this section we study the transfer of aesthetic experience as an engine of history. Herein someone shows herself to someone else, directly or through one or more objects like clothes or ornaments, according to the fashion of the time.

People show themselves in a natural way by their facial expression, gestures and posture, recognizably expressing their joy and sorrow, their anger and regret, their love and abhorrence. People also show themselves in their plays and the arts. They represent themselves, others and the surrounding world in a playful way. They indulge in fancies and appeal to the imagination. People show themselves by adorning according to the reigning fashion, by their clothing, hair-do and make-up, by admiring and flirting, and many other kinds of behaviour by which boys and girls, women and men, homo- and heterosexuals attract each other or keep a distance. In the youth culture contemporary music and dance dominate, showing dawning sexuality.

People do not only show themselves, they also like to play a role, to imagine being someone else. They invent and make things, appealing to the imagination. People decorate their home, their products and the public space. They organize a procession or parade, disguising in a suitable way. They present an image of themselves, of the world, of their position in society or the time in which they live, of the god they believe. The spectator does or does not enjoy what others show. In all aesthetic acts someone represents oneself, by imagining their inner self, someone or something else, alluding or hinting.[2] Besides homo sapiens, knowing man, and homo faber, working man, Johan Huizinga distinguishes therefore homo ludens, playing man. He states that the ties between play and beauty are strong and manifold.[3] Therefore he wants not merely to describe history, but also to see and show it in a pictorial historiography.[4]

In aesthetic relations people do not show themselves directly. They appeal to the fantasy of the person to which they show themselves. Playfulness means that someone withholds something, showing themselves by concealing. That starts with clothing, a characteristic difference between men and animals. Aesthetic relations are exciting and playful. Relaxation requires excitement, but not every kind of excitement may be called aesthetic. A shooting, a traffic accident or an election may be very exciting, but is not an aesthetic pleasure. Who views a murder at the stage is not inclined to call the police, but looks on, fascinated by the fantasy of the playwright, the stage-manager and the players. If the actors do not play a murder rightly, this does not lead to prosecution but to boredom, not to a juridical but to an aesthetic condemnation. Art and play are not opposed to the earnestness of industrious life, but to boredom. Children, football players and chess players play in full earnest.[5] It is an aesthetic norm that plays and art should be exciting.

By their play, actors and football players transfer their aesthetic experience to the spectators. The role of a spectator does not differ much in a game or in a theatrical performance, except that spectators take sides in one case and rarely in the other. There is more difference between the public attending a performance or a game and someone who views the same from a distance, like on television. In the first case there is direct contact between the performers and the spectators, who may show their approval or disapproval. In the second case the spectator has no direct contact with the artist or sporting man. Also a historian takes more distance than a witness.

In the plastic arts, too, the transfer of experience is not direct. A piece of art is characterized primarily as an aesthetical and secondarily as a technical artefact. It may have an aesthetic or a non-aesthetic destination. I shall later return to the second possibility (3.2). The first is an interlacement of the activity of the artist and the art-lover. It is the disposition of a piece of art to be viewed by somebody else than the artist and to be appreciated as a piece of art. A piece of art or a performance is not merely an object for the artist. It is also an object for the spectator. A piece of art is intended to be observed, to fulfil an instrumental function in the transfer of aesthetic experience. Without spectators a piece of art is not finished.[6]

In each piece of art or performance, the perspective of the spectator, auditor or reader plays an important part, constituting a weighty criterion for judging its quality. The artist determines the perspective and the spectator has to follow him. One of the greatest discoveries in fifteenth century painting was the point of view or central perspective of the onlooker, with the corresponding vanishing point.[7] Earlier a painting only took into account the mutual spatial relations of the painted persons and objects, not the position of the spectator.[8] Since the nineteenth century a reader of a novel indentifies himself with the narrator or the protagonist. If correct, each narrative line has a fixed perspective. In the twentieth century in particular in film and television perspective is strongly developed, by close-up, zooming in and out, change of perspective and a moving perspective.

The aesthetic meaning of history can be found in the image of the time, a vision on one’s own existence, on showing oneself to contemporaries and later generations. In cults, arts and plays, people show themselves according to the fashion and style of the historical period in which they live. Each piece of art presents a world view. Thanks to preserved pieces of art we get an image of the past.

Someone shows oneself as an individual in their face, immortalized in a portrait. We recognize each other in many ways, but especially the face is an expression of human individuality or personality. In history a personality plays an imaginative part. The Latin or Etruscan persona meant originally mask and next (even nowadays) the part played by an actor, who plays a character, personage or personality in a recognizable way. A mask presupposes a face, a living or dead person hiding behind it.[9] By her facial expression a person shows and hides her inner self to other persons and in front of a mirror to herself.[10] By her facial expression someone delivers a personal judgment about good and wrong, by showing approval or disapproval. People often play a part, not only on the stage. In a sense they put on a mask, hiding their true personality. In contrast, as a person they show themselves. Clearly, the meaning of the word ‘person’ has shifted considerably.

Believers also show themselves to their god. They stand for God’s face, finding themselves in God’s presence. Or they hide themselves, like Eve and Adam did after the fall, when they discovered to be naked, unable to hide behind a mask.[11] Reversely, God shows himself in an epiphany, an appearance. In many cultures this is a historically important, repeatedly to commemorate event, in Catholicism more than in Protestantism. Epiphany is also a Christian festival, part of the appearance of the Lord, the Eastern-orthodox Christmas. Not only in Christianity, but also in many other religions the gods show themselves as persons.[12] Greek rationalism turned away from this. Preceded by Parmenides, Aristotle imagined his god not as a person, but as a sphere representing both being and reason. This outer, all compassing sphere rests in itself, keeping everything moving because all imperfect things strive after the perfection of the first mover, doing nothing but contemplate itself. In some polytheistic religions the gods are like people subjected to an impersonal moral power, like the ancient Greek anankè or the Hindu and Buddhist karma.[13]

However, in monotheistic religions God reveals himself as a person (according to Jewish and Muslim views) or as three persons (in Christianity). In the Bible, God presents himself sometimes as the other, as almighty, omnipresent or eternal. More often he shows himself in relations, as the creator of heaven and earth, as the lord of Israel, as the king of all peoples, as the father of his children. The Trinity shows God in the personal relations among Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and between each of them and all believers. The first great council of the Christian church (Nicea, 325) proclaimed that in Jesus, God really appeared on earth as a person, as the person of the Son. The council of Ephesis (431) confirmed that, however different the divine and human natures of Christ may be, he is still one person. Therefore this council allotted Mary the honorific title of the Mother of God. Next the council of Chalcedon (451) emphasized that Jesus is not only truly God, but also truly man. In a real man the real God appears.

The statements of the three councils have formed the Western concept of a person.[14] For the assumption that one God shows himself as three persons does not mean that God wears three different masks. The relation of Father and Son indicates as much. Each human being shows himself as a person, as a recognizable image of God, who reveals himself as a person. Anybody shows himself to fellow people and to God, who in Christ shows himself to people.

Meanwhile, the concept of a person achieved still another meaning. Besides individuals, also associations occur as independently acting persons. In a juridical sense one speaks of ‘corporate bodies’ (chapter 4).


 Chronos & Clio. 2. Transfer of experience 


2.3. Transfer of information


In chapter 1 I suggested significant memory to be the historical temporal order for the semiotic relation frame. An important engine of history is the human ability to remember and make sense of all kinds of things and events. People transfer these to each other in the form of information, the significant form of human knowledge.[15] Language is the most important instrument for the tradition, the transfer of semiotic experience, of meaning carrying information (3.3). When the tradition is one-sided, as is usually the case in history, we speak of tradition, otherwise it is communication. The semiotic normative principle for both is the value of mutual understanding. Communication of significant information characterizes more or less synchronous semiotic subject-subject relations, provided that all parties involved are wanting and able to understand each other. Interpretation, indication and elucidation characterize semiotic subject-object relations.[16] When a sign or symbol cannot be interpreted clearly it loses its semiotic meaning of transfer of information. Who deliberately gives unclear signs or a wrong interpretation uses language deceitful.  Only by responding to the norm of clarity people can understand each other and the world.

The semiotic meaning of history is the understanding and truthful interpretation of recalled signs and transmitted texts, leading to a trustworthy knowledge of history. Because truth is a concept laden with world views, the opinions about the semiotic meaning of history, about the interpretation of the past, widely differ. Lingual acts are functional if satisfying rules for the correct use of language, as well as other rules. A norm for meaningful use of language is that people speak the truth. When someone says ‘it rains’, this has only meaning if we assume that he intends to affirm that it rains.[17] Even lying is only possible in a context in which speaking the truth is the norm.[18] The meaning of the use of language is that people give significance to and speak the truth about the world, about their fellow people and their history, about themselves and about the god whom they proclaim.

But if language is an instrument for finding and communicating the truth, what about poems and novels, with their fictive characters and events? Even these lingual utterances ought to speak the truth, but because it concerns secondarily aesthetically characterized lingual forms their truth comes to the fore in the image they evoke. Like any piece of art, a novel or a poem ought to be veritable. This is not reducible to semiotic, logical or ideological truth.


 Chronos & Clio. 2. Transfer of experience 


2.4. Reasoning


Continuously people confer with each other, exchanging information and drawing conclusions for the future. The logical engine of history is the transfer of reasoned knowledge and insight, with logic as instrument to analyse past events and predict future events. In the West, Aristotle laid the basis for logic as a science.[19] His Organon reigned almost unchallenged until the rise of formal logic in the nineteenth century, which is more able to represent relations. Especially the transfer of systematic knowledge acquired in a scientific way has proved to be a strong engine of history.

Both a discourseand a dialogue is a typically logical way to transfer and propagate knowledge. Both consist of reasoning, making connections, drawing conclusions, explaining and predicting. The start situation is a difference of opinion or an uncertainty about a state of affairs. The aim is to evaluate the past and to get agreement about future behaviour. However, characteristic for a discourseor a dialogue is not the object of discussion, but the subject-subject relation and the context in which the discussion takes place. The context determines the rules and therefore the character of the debate.[20] In an actual discussion these rules are often implicit. They are called upon only when one of the parties transgresses a rule blameworthy. Then one asks for a time-out, in which first the rules are discussed. For instance, someone may object to an abundance of rhetoric, a wrong metaphor, or an ambiguity. It may turn out that people agree about many rules but far less about their application, a reason to call for a mediator.

In a debate, a conference or a discussion, the partners try to reach an agreement by argumentation about something that was at first contested or disputed.[21] The aim is to solve a problem and thereby to gain insight, to contribute to a rational order of the experienced reality and to decide about future behaviour, to common action. The discussion partners ought to keep the logical norm that one may contradict each other but not oneself.[22] This formulation seems to deviate from the law of excluded contradiction, which, however, is restricted to subject-object relations. A statement or an argument should not be internally contradictory. In that case the logical law is a norm for the reasoning subject, but it concerns an object, knowledge that should not contain contradictions. In contrast, contradiction has a dominating role in a subject-subject relation. Reasoning without contradiction makes no sense, because the aim is to solve contradictions. To prohibit contradictions in a discussion is authoritarian. To prohibit a difference of opinion leads to an untimely end of the discussion. On the other end, whoever catches somebody with a contradiction in their point of view wins the argument.

The law of excluded contradiction is a universal logical value. As a logical rule for behaviour it excludes contradictions, not because they do not occur, but because they should not occur. At first sight this may not look like an ethical rule, until we realize that each lie is a contradiction. Who lies, contradicts himself, knowing that the contrary is true. The interdiction to lie is not a natural law, but a universal normative principle, to be applied by everyone in freedom and responsibility. It is not only valid for individual people, but also for associations, because different spokesmen should not utter contradictory statements. In several situations this principle may collide with other values. Someone may tell something that is not true, for instance in order not to betray a friend. Values are only valid in combination and they relativize each other.[23]

As primarily logically characterized artefacts we shall meet concepts, statements or propositions and theories, used by people to prove that they are right(3.4). Human knowledge does not always arise indirectly, by means of such artefacts. Natural experience is immediately directed to the world and to fellow people. Often it does not ask for proof, but for practical knowledge, aesthetic recognition or semiotic information. We know a lot that we do not want or are unable to prove. Often our knowledge rests on hearsay, from television for instance. Since Parmenides it is usual to restrict ‘real’ human knowledge to the result of theoretical argumentation, reserved to a philosophical or scientific élite. Pure knowledge is then considered to be provable, scientifically founded. However, a great deal of human knowledge is not of a scientific character, and even scientific knowledge is not purely theoretical. Each form of knowledge can be used in reasoning, even if it is not a product of reasoning itself.


 Chronos & Clio. 2. Transfer of experience 


2.5. Convincing


Whoever has a mission to reform shall have to convince others. Believing is often understood as an individual and private act: I believe. ‘Here I stand, I can do no other,’ Martin Luther said.[24] But he added: ‘God help me’, and he did his uppermost to convince others of his faith. Indeed, everybody is responsible for their own beliefs. Neither the state, nor the church, nor any other authority should curtail the freedom of conscience. Yet many people experience their faith not as a private affair, but as an intersubjective assignment. Who insists on their opinion wants to convince others. Everyone is inclined to transfer opinions, sometimes in public. Both faith communities and political parties make propaganda, through mission or election campaigns. Of old, the faith stories are transmitted from generation to generation, orally in the past, later in writing. The Bible, too, may have originated in this way. One can convince someone by a logical argument, by an interpreting story, by a recognizable image, or by one’s works.

Faith has an important position, both in the personal life of people or in society. Declaring it absolute always has serious effects: crusades, pogroms, the inquisition and the slaughters under communist regimes. The cultural and social petrification influenced by the Islam is a recent example. Also Protestantism, though arisen resisting Roman-Catholic oppression, could not withdraw from religious suppression of dissidents. By interpreting biblical texts out of their historical or liturgical context orthodox Protestants (like no less orthodox Catholics, Jews and Muslims) know how to discriminate women and homosexuals and to restrict the liberty of many people.

The strongest form of transfer of faith occurs in the education of children. In the nuclear family education is influenced by their parents’ views. It is no accident that many people have the same faith as their parents. When that is not the case, they often experience the breach as painful. Also schools have their views on education and learning. In part this determines the choice parents make for the school of their children. Direct mission is maybe less convincing than giving good examples. Political parties and trade unions also make propaganda for their views. In art and science a common world view leads to the founding of schools, necessary to reject vested views or paradigms and establish new ones. For firm convictions constitute the engine of each kind of reform.

Reform may proceed gradually, by the painful process of convincing, or achieve the character of a revolution, in which an ideology is pursued with violence. The application of violence in revolutions, crusades and holy wars often results from an ideology, a reasoned faith, which adherents are so much convinced of its arguments, that they cannot understand that others do not share their opinions. Then the myth of conspiracy arises, the myth that the blinded adversaries are governed by Satan or by personal interest. When the adversaries cannot be convinced, they have to be subdued by violence.

Since the eighteenth century Romanticism has glorified revolution,[25] but history appears to show that gradual change is often more effective.[26] As far as a revolution succeeds in bridging social or economic contrasts, to counteract political misgovernment, to end juridical inequality or to fight poverty, this is often due to reforms started long before, such that the revolution at most causes acceleration, but more often a temporal deceleration.[27] Ideologies have a leading function in reforms, but may be very dangerous in the hands of extremists. These are both the revolutionaries and their reactionary adversaries, using the revolution in order to carry out a restoration or contra-revolution. The non-violent actions of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King may have had more effect.[28]


 Chronos & Clio. 2. Transfer of experience 


2.6. Education


Integration as the temporal order for the relation frame of companionship has education as its engine. The nuclear family is the home base of education or nurture, considered to be the transfer of experience in keeping company with others. The nuclear family (or its replacement) educates children to keep each other’s company and that of others. Sometimes called the origin of all virtues,[29] politeness lays the foundation for the discipline required by the household and the school. Education means making children able to keep company in a cautious way, with other people, with plants and animals, with properties and the environment. This ability also concerns the manner by which people have social intercourse in other associations than the family and in public, in harmony with the customs and the laws of the country in which they live. Who has been educated elsewhere shall have to get used to these, which is also a kind of education.

The norm for education is that children grow to adulthood, meaning the ability to arrange their life in freedom and responsibility. Education has a strong ethical component: how you ought to behave both in social contexts and in all human acts. If people have insufficient norm consciousness due to lack of education, they must be forced to learn it, for instance in their work situation, in the army, a hospital or in prison.

In a totalitarian society, the state or the church tries to take over the task of education from the parents, entirely or partially. Its failure points out that education is a civilization task for parents, even if they often fall short of the mark. Only in extreme cases where the parental education is evidently absent, the government ought to interfere. Even then a constitutional state does not take the education over, but it nominates replacing educators.

Besides parents educating their children, children educate each other, by keeping each other’s company, in particular by playing together. Grandparents and neighbours taking care of children educate them as well, under the parents’ responsibility. In a day nursery and at school, nurses and teachers adopt part of the pedagogic task. Education occurs in all situations in which children move, everywhere they meet others: at home, in the street, at school, in shops, in clubs, in the church, in a disco and in labour contexts. Nevertheless, the parents are responsible for the integral education, until their child has grown up. This responsibility comes to the fore in the choice of opportunities frequented by their children, the occasions where they seek each other’s company. Education succeeds best in the practice of keeping company, by practiced norm consciousness rather than by theoretical instruction.[30]

Like schools provide the children an entrance to culture, education introduces them to civilization. Education or shaping (the German Bildung[31]) is not the same as schooling, instruction or training, even if the latter is often called education. Therefore parents should not be concerned with the contents of instruction. Nevertheless, education is continued at schools. The Protestant view that the school should be supervised by parents finds its ground in the strong connection between education and learning, complicated by the fact that the school is responsible for the contents of learning (the curriculum) and the parents for education. Teachers are trained for the contents and for the didactics of their teaching, as well as for the pedagogy of education. As a result, the school is foremost suited to sustain the parents’ educational task. As a child grows older, at school the accent shifts from education to instruction. We call someone an adult when one’s education is finished, having learned to keep one other’s company. There is no necessary connection between education and learning in schools for adults.


 Chronos & Clio. 2. Transfer of experience 


2.7. Being of service


Philosophers, theologians and many other people have often judged negatively about economic activity, because they consider its motive to be greed (not entirely without justice). Yet it contributes significantly to human civilization and it constitutes a main factor in history. Instead of greed, being of mutual service ought to be the engine of economic differentiation. Since the classical school,[32] economists recognize economics as a universal aspect of human activity, characterized by the profitable exchange of goods or services. In this framework people place their labour and its products at each other’s disposal.[33] The exchange of services occurs seldom directly. Usually a service yields the transferable promise of a service in return. Thereby all kinds of intermediaries operate, like banks , as well as artefacts, like money.

The word economy has still another meaning, namely to act in an efficient and appropriate way with the means available.[34] This emphasizes economic subject-object relations at the cost of subject-subject relations. Surplus and deficit are relative concepts. For the buyer deficit is the most important, for he lacks something. For the seller the surplus dominates. In a good exchange both have a profit.

In an economic sense, people are not distinguished from animals because of acting efficiently with scarce goods, but by their versatility. Each animal species is characterized by its often unsurpassed specialism, developed between the species in the course of the evolution. No human being is able to spin like a spider, who with a minimum of effort achieves a maximum effect. In contrast, humanity as a species is not specialized. The development of the neocortex and of manual dexterity makes its many-sidedness possible. People can do almost everything, making specialization within humanity necessary. By dividing labour and exchanging services it is possible to cooperate in peace, achieving prosperity.[35] Economic acting expresses the mutual dependency of people. It is a condition for human existence, a form of civilization if all parties concerned profit from it. It surpasses keeping company, for people do not only show respect for each other’s diversity and interests, but profit from these in common interest. Because economic acting rests on giving and keeping promises, it also presupposes mutual trust. A promise ought to be faithful.

Trade 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. Trade is any transaction in which possession is transferred from a seller to a buyer. Often a merchant acts as an intermediary, like a broker. Banks mediate by providing credits.

In Western society, economic acting, in particular making profits, has always been viewed with suspicion. This probably rests on the supposition that goods have a fixed, objective value. In a fair trade the goods or services to be exchanged should have an equal value, subjecting trade and service to the norm of quid pro quo. This makes it difficult to imagine that in an economic transaction all parties may make a profit of their own. Aristotle and his medieval adherents did not object to the exchange of accidental surpluses, as long as for their livelihood the parties did not depend on goods only obtainable through exchange.[36] When exchange is necessary, traders will enter who only strive after a boundless profit, according to Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and even still Emil Brunner.[37] Even Karl Marx objected to trade by barter and the use of money.[38]

Apparently, in a feudal system no barter existed, because the farms were self-supporting. However, at least seasonal labourers, serfs and slaves got food and shelter for their labour. The medieval fortified farm or castle with a neighbouring settlement, successor of the Roman familia, was a relatively undifferentiated working community, qualified by the technical rather than by the economical frame. The leadership rested with the head of the family, and there was hardly any division of tasks. Philosophers and theologians inspired by Aristotle considered such a self-sufficient community as an ideal, to which monasteries strived as well. In reality, of old there were markets everywhere, realizing mutual trade, in which the farms and monasteries exchanged their surplus products for goods they did not produce themselves. Moreover, pedlars have always been around, trading between settlements. With the development of various crafts and the growth of settlements to cities mutual dependency increased, and commerce contributed to the increasing wealth making an end to the feudal Middle Ages.

The concept of a household, city or country being economically independent of others is called autarky or self-sufficiency.[39] Striving after autarky (mercantilism) played a part well into the twentieth century in the trade policy of some countries. A mercantilist state aims at realizing an internal uniform market, restricting imports and expanding exports, and to inhibit the export of money and raw materials.[40] Discussions about international trade, colonialism and development aid have long been dominated by the view that a country can only become richer at the cost of other countries.

Economic subject-subject relations we find not only in trade, but also in a production chain, connecting producers with consumers. No production process is possible without clients. Before the twentieth century only rich people were interesting consumers. They consumed the proceeds of land and enterprises, of soil and capital. France knew serfdom (binding farm workers to the landowner) till the end of the seventeenth century, Germany till the end of the eighteenth century and Russia till the end of the nineteenth century. Landowners considered the wages of their labourers as cost, to be restricted to the costs of sustenance to keep going the labourers as production elements. They did not consider it strange to employ women and children as parts of the production process, for they were eating as well. Capitalism, separating capital and labour, initially did not lead to the liberation of labourers. Liberal entrepreneurs treated their workers as economic objects like horses on the land and machines in the factory, which could replace the labourers if that would cost less. Only in the twentieth century one started to realize that all people as consumers are economic subjects, that consumers pull the production process, and that the profit of enterprises is sustained by a maximum spending power. Besides owners and entrepreneurs, employees are consumers. Moreover, there is a transfer of assets to consumers who do not partake in the production process: children, students, unemployed, sick and elder people. The assumption that production is served by low wages made place by the view that economy profits from the spending power of many.

The recognition of employees and consumers as economical subjects forced manufacturers to take into consideration their demands. Factory work changed from fordism, judging the work of labourers only by efficiency, wherein the producer decides what to put on the market, to toyotism, recognizing the responsibility of employees, and accepting that the consumer influences the product he wants.[41] The transition from supply-controlled fordism, featured by mass production at the assembly line and a hierarchical vertical leadership, to demand-controlled toyotism with a horizontal network structure in the factory, is possible by informatisation and automatisation of the production. Modern capitalism recognizes employees, suppliers and consumers to be indispensable participants in entrepreneurial production.


 Chronos & Clio. 2. Transfer of experience 


2.8. Leadership


To policy as the political order of time belongs giving and accepting leadership as an engine, an important figure in the history of mankind.  Max Weber distinguished three forms of leadership.[42] The first rests on the traditional order, like a monarchy or a family enterprise, sustained by members of the family. The second is legal authority based on rules and civil bureaucracy. The third is charismatic leadership, dependent on the personality of the Führer, surrounded by his likeminded followers, his Gefolgschaft (retinue). The third form was especially fashionable during the first half of the twentieth century, not only in Germany.

In this list at least two other kinds of leadership are absent. The first concerns the management of a process or a project. Within an association or in the cooperation of various associations one organizes a project with a finite duration and usually a previously arranged budget, directed by a manager, whose authority is limited to the process.

The second is advising leadership based on expertise. Between people the political subject-subject relation comes to the fore in mutual consultation about decisions to be made, in giving and accepting advise and assignments. Advisers base their authority on their expertise, their ability in a certain field, or on their experience. They have the freedom to advise, but if they do so they are responsible for the contents of their advice about the policy to be conducted. The advised persons are free to follow up the advise, remaining responsible for their own deeds.

Advising leadership can take any kind of forms. The transfer of skills is only possible if the pupils recognize their teachers as their superiors and if they follow their advices. In the arts the influence of well-known artists on their contemporaries is undeniable. For correct use of language people take their cue from the loquacious community of journalists and wireless and television speakers. Scholars write with authority about their field of science. Besides bishops and synods, gifted theologians and ministers conduct church life. Manners are subject to fashion, and it is not always clear who leads that, but time and again one experiences that it is difficult to ignore them. The influence of economic and juridical advisers on decision-making is large. A general practitioner may prescribe medicines to their patient, and a wise person follows that advise. In history the influence of individuals and associations is noted.

Otherwise than assignments, advises are noncommittal, not binding. Anyone can advise someone else, doing so whether asked or not. In contrast, assignments presuppose a relation of authority and discipline. In the state and in each other association the governing board acts with authority, which is compulsory, though not with violence, which is the privilege of the republic. Authority has its boundaries, any competence is limited. Usually it only concerns the members of an association. Its domain of authority and its regulations further limit it. The simplest boundary is literally the spatial territory of the association, the factory site, the school building, the territory of the state, outside which the authority does not count. In this case the authority is not restricted to members of the association, but applies to all present at the domain. On the public domain the state’s authority applies both to citizens and to foreign tourists or merchants. A headmaster may order an intruder to leave the school building, but not to replace a sick teacher. In this case he can only instruct an employee.

In a work group (within or outside an enterprise) authority is restricted to labour. Employers exceed their authority if they enforce a truck-system; or if they forbid their employees to join a trade union; or forcing them to visit the church at Sundays or to vote a certain political party. But within the limits of the labour contract, they can charge their employees with various tasks. The employee ought to fulfil such a charge. This has a juridical aspect as well. When employees do not perform their work satisfactorily, their boss may correct them by a scolding, by a penalty or by dismissal. In a well functioning enterprise this ought to be exceptional, however. When disciplinary measures are often necessary, something is wrong with the leadership. In practice, the management will be replaced and the first task of a new leader is to restore discipline.

When people do not want to exert a given order they may leave the domain of an association or make an end to their membership, if they cannot appeal to a higher instance. Because no one can withdraw from being a citizen and the use of violence is a state monopoly, compulsory orders given by the state should be surrounded by severe warrants.

According to Aristotle, honour is the meaning of public life in the polis, the most important part of the happiness of a free man, that is someone who is free to decide about his household, his wife, his children, his slaves, and his other possessions.[43] For someone in authority honour confirms that he has done well to others. Ambition is a vice, for honour should be presented by others. Someone being reprimanded because of one’s acts considers this to be dishonourable and shameful. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance honour played an important part too.[44] Georg Hegel considered the desire for acknowledgement as a human being as the most important motive in history. A veritable man is prepared to risk his life in a battle of pure prestige.[45] In some cultures, honour is still the highest good. Who loses honour has to take revenge (duel) or commit suicide (harakiri). Up till the eighteenth century, nobility considered its chivalrous task to defend its own honour and the honour of king and country, eventually with the loss of one’s own life or (preferably) that of others. Esteem only applied to nobility and clergy, the common people only deserved contempt. In a modern society people are honoured if having done something extraordinary or having an honourable past. Other remains of the former honour are found in etiquette and in titles like colonel, reverend, professor, majesty or excellence. Especially in a hierarchical organisation like the army these titles play an important part. In the past, honour was connected to one’s authority in the household or family, country or church. Nowadays there are much more associations of other kinds, and honour is no longer taken for granted, it has to be deserved. Honour is individualized and thereby marginalized, along with its complement, that is insult or defamation of one’s honour.[46] In the past, insult of an authority often led to violent conflicts between families or countries, to quarrels, feuds, duels, acts of revenge or wars. In a civilized society, one tries to settle insults amicably or one lets a judge decide.


 Chronos & Clio. 2. Transfer of experience 


2.9. Transfer of justice


Justice means to respect the rights of others and to meet one’s obligations. Both individuals and associations have rights and duties. The transfer of rights and duties is the engine of the juridical order. The juridical relation frame presupposes the validity of customs characterized by the relation frame of keeping company; of economically characterized agreements; or of politically characterized laws and rules, as far as these are binding, involving an obligation, having a legal effect. For instance, nobody is obliged to buy or sell a car. However, if an agreement is reached, the seller is obliged to deliver and the buyer to pay. Buyer and seller derive their rights and duties from the economically characterized agreement. In the contract the right of one party is the obligation of the other. In a modern society rights and duties are often described in a law, but as juridical norms they are also valid where such laws do not exist. Both individual persons and associations conclude contracts with legal effects.

Rights and obligations also follow from politically characterized rules (laws etc.), established by the authority concerned. This is not necessarily the state or a state organ. The board of any association has the authority to make rules within its limits. Such a rule is general, not particular, for then it would be an agreement, which may refer to a rule or law, however. The statutes of an association are binding to all its members. The church law is binding to all members of the church and an enterprise has rules binding to all employees. The republic and some of its organs may enact laws binding for everybody entering the public domain. Who becomes a member of an association or an employee of an enterprise achieves rights and accepts obligations.

When two persons or associations quarrel they might ask for mediation by a third party. Beforehand, they may agree to accept the judgment of the mediator as binding. Sometimes mediation is obligatory, as in a football match, where the referee takes a binding decision. Many associations like schools and churches have boards of appeal. Medical doctors, journalists, lawyers and sometimes trades have disciplinary committees. In a dispute between legal persons – adult individuals and/or associations having legal personality – a judge may intervene on request. Their judgment may create a precedent, functioning as a historical engine of justice.

The judiciary leaves the exertion of its judgments to the executive if coercion is required. It is not necessary that every law contains a sanction, but a legal system cannot exist without sanctions.[47] Retribution is an effect of the validity of customs, agreements or decisions having a legal effect, which may be enforced eventually with sanctions, or, in case of trespassing, with punishment.


 Chronos & Clio. 2. Transfer of experience 


2.10. Friendship and marriage


In a situation in which somebody needs care, there is an asymmetric relation between the care provider and the care receiver. This is a subject-subjectrelation, even if professional caregivers are inclined to objectify their clients or patients. In the course of history, providing care has become a paid job, but the care for friends and family remains. The expression ‘love for one’s neighbour’ indicates that the responsibility of anybody for one’s fellow human being is a function of their relative position in society. It starts close by, in marriage, in nuclear and extended family, with neighbours and colleagues, and expands from there. In the absence of neighbouring love loneliness looms. Without love a human being has no place on earth. Love is a condition of existence for everyone. Each human being needs love. Who does good encounters good. The motivation to do good may arise from the expectation of a remand in the future, close by or far away, or from gratitude for care experienced in the past.[48] Children take care of their parents, because their parents took care of them. People are grateful for their prosperity, willing to let others share in it; or for their health, taking care of ill people; or for their freedom, visiting captives. They thank God because he loves them, and they love others like themselves.

Friendship is a human subject-subject relation characterized by loving care, transferring the experience of love by sharing it.[49] Therefore, friendship is the engine reconciling us with our being perishable. Friendship does not give rise to the formation of some association, not even in the form of a marriage.[50] Friendship is not organised, it has no government, and is dependent on the identity of the friends. Friendship satisfies the norm of trust: once a friend always a friend, unless the other becomes unfaithful.[51] A long separation needs not be a hindrance. It is striking how easy people renew old friendship connections, sometimes after many years. Clearly friendship is based on shared remembrances. Friendship makes people strong; they can appeal to each other. Friendship is also vulnerable, if one deserts the other. A good friendship only ends with death, when we take leave forever, at the funeral or cremation.

Friends believe and trust each other. Often a friendship starts in the frame of keeping company. People meet each other in various circumstances and become friends, sometimes for a short time, sometimes for life. Co-workers keep company as colleagues and the accompanying solidarity develops into friendship. Also in professional groups, at parties and among neighbours friendships arise. Politicians consider the members of their party as friends. The members of a faith community call each other brothers and sisters and treat each other as friends. Friendship is often the start of a marriage.

For Plato and Aristotle friendship between free men was the highest virtue, the relation transcending all other relations and structuring the daily life in the Greeks polis.[52] They completely lacked a vision on a universal love for one’s neighbour. Since the twentieth century in the West homosexual relations left the sphere of taboo. They are no longer forbidden or even punishable.  Even Christians – at least in Europe – are less negative about them. It may be expected that this trend will continue in the twenty-first century.

If there is one Biblical refutation of the humanistic project of the autonomous person, it is marriage:

‘So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.’[53]

Marriage is a unique connection, a bi-unity, naturally founded in the sexual relation, in the psychic relation frame. Culturally it is secondarily characterized by mutual trust, hence by the relation frame of faith. It is not surprising that marriage between members of different faith communities encounter resistance and are rare. Loving care forms the strongest connection in any marriage (or cohabitation) of two individuals who have pledged each other their troth until death separates them.[54] Marriage is the most common, the most important, the surest, and simultaneously the most vulnerable relation two people may start. Since the Reformation, Protestants have emphasized that in marriage ordinary life is shown to full advantage.[55] The vulnerability of marriage is evident from the large number of divorces as well as many cases of humiliation, ill treatment, violence and rape in wedlock.[56] Because of its vulnerability, when a marriage goes wrong it is advisable to call in a third party, not to decide whether a marriage should be dissolved, but to determine the conditions for divorce, in order to protect the most vulnerable partner and eventually the children. In a constitutional state, the third party is a competent judge, lawyer or mediator. It appears that divorce (after the norm of love is no longer operative) is subject to justice, whereas marriage is not. Therefore in Western countries, the law and judges only pay attention to the juridical aspects of marriage (rights and duties), without touching its being characterized by the relation frame of loving care.[57]

The norm for marital troth excludes adultery, promiscuity, carelessness and neglect. Meanwhile it is clear that psychically typified sex (what people have in common with animals) should be distinguished from gender, the culturally developed human form of sexual differences. The distinction between men and women, which is not merely natural, is determined especially by culture and civilization.[58] This means that both are incomplete and need the other as a supplement. Marriage is more than its sexual foundation, more than a sexual relation. It is a community in which husband and spouse share their lives in the most intensive way imaginable. It remains even if a sexual relation is no more at stake.

Since Aurelius Augustine, the church connected sex directly with sin.[59] It interpreted Jesus’ virginal birth as immaculate conception, with the implication that ordinary conception is stained with sin. Priests ought to be celibate. The Catholic Church bases celibacy on the statement that the love of a priest, monk or nun should first of all be directed to Christ. The Council of Trent in 1563 condemned the Protestant view that ‘the married state excels the state of virginity or celibacy, and that it is better and happier to be united in matrimony than to remain in virginity or celibacy’.[60] Protestants reject resolutely the view that marital love should interfere with the love for Christ. Nevertheless, Protestants no less than Catholics were wary of sex. This has some truth as far as no interhuman relation is as vulnerable as love based on sex, requiring much care and easily being derailed.

A marriage does not derive its validity from the confirmation by the state and/or the church. Marriage is independent of and much older than church or state. A marriage has legal consequences laid down in laws or a contract. Civil marriage is no more than a registration, leading to lawful rights outside marriage. Since the Middle Ages, the public promise of marriage intends to establish that bride and groom marry each other in freedom, not forced by e.g. the family. The Catholic Church considers wedding to be a holy sacrament, the factual marriage contract. Protestant churches interpret it as the celebration of marriage, closed and often consummated by husband and spouse before.[61] During the civil and church marriage ceremonies they confirm in public the promise of marriage that they have given each other earlier, declaring that they want to operate on the public domain as a unity.

A marriage connects two families. Enforced marriages are characteristic of a family society and still play a part in countries governed by a dynasty. Here a marriage is not first of all an engagement of two persons, but a relation between two families, dominated by laws of inheritance. In each society family members exert pressure to prevent a misalliance, a marriage outside the family’s class or faith community. Most important for families is, however, to have children who can carry on the tradition. In this sense marriage is the most fundamental engine of history, for a society neglecting the care for children comes to nought.


 Chronos & Clio. 2. Transfer of experience 


 2.11. To attribute meaning to history


Subjective human activity is distinguished from psychic purposeful behaviour by having an external meaning besides an internal goal.[62] The purpose of eating food is to appease one’s hunger, but a shared meal has also meaning, for instance to strengthen a community. Is something like that also valid for history? Does the transfer of experience make sense? The meaning of something refers to something else, something lying outside it. Is the future the meaning of history? Or the hope for a better future? Is history concerned with insight in the present, wie es eigentlich geworden ist?[63] Or has every historical episode its own meaning, as Leopold von Ranke said: ‘jede Epoche ist unmittelbar zu Gott’?[64]

Indeed knowledge of the past is important for human conduct, think of expressions like ‘the moral of the story’ or ‘the lesson of history’. How you judge the past influences your view of the present and the future. Who looks for the meaning of history within time, as the objective realization of an ideal situation, may identify this meaning with the end or completion of history. Georg Hegel sought this completion in the liberal state, Karl Marx in the victory of the proletariat, Francis Fukuyama in the establishment of liberal democracy and a free market.[65] Also the view people have on the origin of their existence is relevant for their view of the meaning of history. Like the future, the origin lies outside history, whether one seeks this in nature or in the creation. The question of the relation of mankind to its origin can be posed within each relation frame, perhaps arriving at the same answer. That answer may involve the hope of a future after death.

Clearly meaning depends on a normative direction. In chapter 1 we recognized the order of time as directive. For believers, the meaning of existence may be the direction toward the Creator and Redeemer of the world, on whom they acknowledge to depend.[66] Others direct their fullness of life to culture and civilization, or to an aspect of it. In this way the meaning of history concerns to attribute subjective meaning to history,[67] in the framework of one’s religion or world view, conceived as the personal and shared view of the origin and destination of reality, of the completion of history and the position of people in it. Subjective attribution of meaning has much to do with ethics.

Everybody has the disposition (aptitude, talent, propensity or inclination) to act right or wrong. That is the field of research of philosophical ethics, the science of morals and normativity (6.2). By distinguishing natural laws from values and norms, ethics may give human freedom and responsibility their due. Like animals, people are bound to compulsory natural laws, which like the universal values are to be read from reality as conditions for human existence, even if people are capable of trespassing the normative principles. For instance, they ought to do justice, but often act differently. Norms are historically and culturally determined realizations of values, for which people bear full responsibility, both for formulating and for applying the norms in their situation. Ethics is also concerned with casuistry, the weighing of norms and normative principles in practical situations, in which different norms may lead to contradictory conclusions.

Because norms and values operate in all relation frames and in various kinds of human communities, besides the general philosophical ethics we know various specific ethics, like economical ethics,[68] the ethics of enterprise,[69] the ethics of science,[70] juridical ethics,[71] and the ethics of care.[72] Sometimes this is concretely elaborated into a code of behaviour or a professional code. Also associations like schools and companies ought to behave normatively, both in their internal functioning and their external relations. In this way individuals and associations contribute to the meaning of history, which cannot exist without subjectively giving meaning.

For individual persons the disposition to do good or evil comes to the fore in their character, their virtues and vices, for groups of people in their ethos. This is the subjective judgment of values, the attitude people display in a community with respect to human activity, the judgement they give of right and wrong, the calling they experience and communicate to each other to satisfy the norms. It is the mentality or attitude to life of a group of people with respect to values and norms valid for them.[73] Ethos does not depend on the belief in a personal god, for atheists and Buddhists share similar views. In vain, one has often attempted to derive the ethos, the motive or incentive of human conduct from the evolution of mankind, or to reduce it to egoism, to a social contract, to human ratio, to justice and to love.[74]

Within a labour community, the ethos of labour is the driving force of technical activity, the starting point of culture. It says that anyone should do one’s work properly, according to one’s talents and abilities achieved by education and practice. It is the responsibility all workers bear for their labour, for which they will be called to answer. The virtue of labour, the worker’s moral, is their skill, their craftsmanship. The reverse is to act sloppy, to deliver faulty work. The ethos of labour as the knowledge to be called to work in God’s vineyard is not a monopoly or invention of Protestants, even if the sociologist Max Weber ascribed it to them.[75] Japanese and other Asians have an extraordinary ethos of labour, too.[76] The spread of technology in Europe, leading to the prosperity of the Middle Ages, is especially due to some monastic orders, in particular the Cisterciensians.[77] They were not merely concerned with meditation, but also with labour. The monks sought a humble connection between prayer and work. In order to make the combination of praying and working possible, they had to learn to work efficiently. Mostly they worked for the monastery, but neighbouring farmers were pleased to follow their example. The sixteenth-century Protestants adopted the labour ethos from the monks in a revised way.[78] From antiquity to the Renaissance the high culture was characterized by contempt for ordinary work, whereupon nobility, clergy and clerks looked down. In contrast, the Protestants rehabilitated labour, small wonder, because many Protestants were artisans. Martin Luther and John Calvin interpreted a profession as a calling, making work the Protestant form of prayer.[79] They considered the meaning of labour to be the disclosure of the earth, of the relation frames preceding the technical one. Meanwhile, labour also derives meaning from the frames succeeding the technical one.

A striking historical development is the increasing professional skills of workers, the professionalizing of labour. It is not long ago when most people performed unskilled labour, in agriculture, in households and in factories. By our imagination, by interpretation and communication, by rational analysis and discussion, by technological research, we are able to organize our work ever more efficiently, developing new kinds of labour. By working more efficiently, sustained by many kinds of machines, we do not work less, but differently, achieving more. The introduction of the eight-hour working day, the five-day working week and holidays, the duration of labour diminished, but its productivity (the amount of labour produced every hour) relatively increased more than the number of working hours decreased. This professionalization is connected to education and learning, as well as to specialisation and division of labour, with economic differentiation. Specialisation means that people play different social parts: in their work differently from at home, as the manager of an enterprise otherwise than as a member of a chess club.

Besides by the technical relation frame, skilled labour is often characterized by a succeeding frame, think of sportsmen, scientists, ministers, managers, lawyers, and medical doctors. They have had a more or less intensive instruction, after which they have been trained in practice, developing to experienced professionals in the practical exertion of their profession. Often they have an exclusive right to exert their profession. Nevertheless we always find amateurs or volunteers besides these professionals, who do their work at a different level, but no less meritoriously. Professionals distinguish themselves from amateurs especially because their labour anticipates succeeding relation frames. They ought to have imaginative force; to command their professional language and literature; to keep informed about scientific research; to acquire the trust of their colleagues and their clients. They have to command their position in society; to be able to practice their job in the economic frame and to be aware of political, juridical and care aspects of their profession.

In all relation frames individuals become ever more professional, both in their practice and schooled in organized groups. This professionalization and specialisation explains the historical growth of differentiated associations (chapter 4) and their significance for the public domain (chapter 5), where professionals often have their own networks. Especially, their professional skills come to the fore in their products, the artefacts, with which we deal in the next chapter.

In the transfer of experience as the motive force of history, besides the transferring party also the receiving one becomes professionalized. In schools, for instance, teachers appeal to what students have learned before. Only small children have to manage initially with their inborn abilities. In all transfer processes discussed in this chapter they function as the far from passive tractors of history.

[1] Stafleu 2002, chapter 1.

[2] Seerveld 2001, 160. According to Gadamer 1960, 102-130 play is the anthropological basis of the experience of art, see also Graham 1997, 16.

[3] Huizinga 1938, XI, 10, 16. Earlier Friedrich Schiller declared: ‘… der Mensch spielt  nur, wo er in voller Bedeutung des Worts Mensch ist, und er ist nur da ganz Mensch, wo er spielt’ (man plays only when he is man in the full meaning of this word, and he is only completely human when he plays – my translation), Safranski 2007, 43; Taylor 2007, 483.

[4] Tollebeek 1990, 211.

[5] Huizinga 1938, 8.

[6] Gadamer, cited by Graham 1997, 16.

[7] Vedder 2002. Besides the spatial perspective there is also a historical perspective, discovered almost simultaneously. On medieval paintings of biblical scenes, clothing, landscape and building styles cannot be distinguished from those contemporary to the painter. Only during the Renaissance people became aware of the history of style and even later of style as history.

[8] Sometimes the proportions of ancient large statues or temples are adapted to the onlookers’ point of view.

[9] Arendt 1963, 132-134; Levinas 1987; Sloterdijk 1998-99, 902.

[10] Sloterdijk 1998-1999, I, chapter 2.

[11] Genesis 3: 9-10.

[12] Lane Fox 1986, chapter 4.

[13] Miles 1995, 108.

[14] MacCulloch 2003, 184-187, 249-250. Armstrong 1993, 138-142: The Greek text uses the word hypostasis, form or appearance. Augustine translated this by persona. More than their Western colleagues, Eastern theologians emphasize that God’s being (Greek: ousia, Latin: substantia) is not knowable. The dogma of the Trinity is not liable to rational analysis with the help of a theory (in the Western sense), but it is object of theoria, in the original sense of contemplation.

[15] Langer 1960, 8.

[16] Wittgenstein 1953, 304; Staal 1986, 261.

[17] Tarski 1944.

[18] MacIntyre 1967, 74, 92.

[19] In the course of history, other forms of logic have been designed, for instance in China and India, see Fischer 1970, 263.

[20] Perelman 1977; Van Eemeren et al. 1978.

[21] Van Eemeren et al. 1978, 12, 56.

[22] Van Eemeren et al. 1978, 51.

[23] A rationalist like Immanuel Kant believes that a lie is always rejectable, because ratio surpasses any other value.

[24] According to MacCulloch 2003, 131 it is a myth, constructed by the editor of Luther’s collected works, yet ‘… the most memorable thing Luther never said … can stand for the motto of all Protestants – ultimately, perhaps of all western civilization.’

[25] Doorman 1994, 67-69; Safranski 2007, chapter 2.

[26]See Popper 1945, 170-181 on the distinction of ‘utopian’ and ‘piecemeal social engineering’. 

[27] See the analysis of the French revolution by Groen van Prinsterer 1847; de Tocqueville 1835-1856, 235-313; Arendt 1963; Schama 1989. See also Solé 1997.

[28] Hoogerwerf 1999, 199-205.

[29] Comte-Sponville 1995, 19-20, 43.

[30] Verbrugge 2004, 22-24.

[31] Gadamer 1960, 8-17.

[32] The history of economy as a science distinguishes the pre-classics; the classical school from David Hume and Adam Smith to John Stuart Mill, circa 1750-1850; the neoclassical school, circa 1850-1930, in which Karl Marx inter alia played an important part; modern economy, personified by John Maynard Keynes; and nowadays probably postmodern neo-liberal economy having Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman as figureheads.

[33] Smith 1776, 21: the human ‘… propensity to truck, barter, and exchange one thing for another. Whether this propensity be one of those original principles in human nature, of which no further account can be given; or whether, as seems more probable, it be the necessary consequence of the faculties of reason and speech, …’

[34] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958 II, 66, 122-129, 135-137; Achterhuis 1988, 12-13, 34, 47-59.

[35] Smith 1776, book 1, chapter 1.

[36] Aristotle, Politeia, cited in Medema, Samuels (eds.) 2003, 11; Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, cited in ibid. 23.

[37] Hoogerwerf 1999, 63, 79, 151.

[38] Delfgaauw 1961, II, 156, 266-267; de Jong 2007, 84-85.

[39] Autarky (self-sufficiency, from autarkeia), not to be confused with autarchy (absolute sovereignty, from autarkhia).

[40] Smith 1776, 275-304; Medema, Samuels 2003, 30; Rutgers 2004, 57.

[41] Landes 1998, chapter 27; Hardt, Negri 2000, 289-290; Castells 2000, 166-172; Verkerk 2004, chapter 8.  ‘Fordism’ and ‘toyotism’ are named after the car factories applying the mentioned principles for the first time.

[42] Van Doorn 2007, 200-204. Weber wrote this long before Hitler entered the scene.

[43] Aristotle Ethics, I, 5.

[44] E.g. in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, see Carroll 2004, 20-37.

[45] Fukuyama 1992, 18-20, 169-178. For Fukuyama himself, the desire of recognition is the bridge between liberal economics and liberal politics.

[46] MacIntyre 1981, 116; de Kesel 2003.

[47] Hart 1958, 51.

[48] Cusveller 2004, 138.

[49] Olthuis 1975, chapter 5; Kuiper 2009, chapter 8.

[50] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, III, 305.

[51] Comte-Sponville 1995, chapter II.

[52] Aristotle, Ethics, VIII, IX.

[53] Genesis 1:27; Matthew 19:4; 1 Corinthians 11:11-12; Olthuis 1975, chapter 1; Vrieze 1977, 162. Feminists too have criticized the typically male idea of autonomy, see  Noddings 1995, 142.

[54] Olthuis 1975, chapter 2-3.

[55] Taylor 1989, 12-13.

[56] Verkerk 1997, chapter 7.

[57] Dooyeweerd  1953-1958, III, 304-322.

[58] Verkerk 1997, chapter 9.

[59] MacCulloch 2003, 610-611.

[60] MacCulloch 2003, 609.

[61] Clouser 1991, 282; Troost 2004, 459-460.

[62] Vrieze 1977, 73; Graham 2004, chapter 9.

[63]How it really has become’ (my translation), see P.J. Blok, cited by Tollebeek 1990, 82, 109.

[64]Each period is directly related to God’ (my translation), Tollebeek 1990, 363; Wiersing 2007, 393, 718-722.

[65] Hegel 1840; Russell 1946, 701-715; Fukuyama 1992, 14-15; Hardt, Negri 2000. 

[66] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, II, 31: ‘… “meaning” is nothing but the creaturely mode of being under the law, consisting exclusively in a religious relation of dependence on God …’.

[67] Popper 1945, 555: ‘Although history has no ends, we can impose these ends of ours upon it; and although history has no meaning, we can give it a meaning.’

[68] Graafland 2007.

[69] Verkerk 2004.

[70] Ziman 2000.

[71] Sandel 2009.

[72] Jochemsen, Glas 1997; Cusveller 2004.

[73] Aristotle Ethics II, 1; MacIntyre 1981, 38; Verbrugge 2001, 154.

[74] Midgley 1991; Kymlicka 1991; Baier 1991.

[75] Weber 1904-1905; Taylor 1989, chapter 13; Landes 1998, chapter 12.

[76] Landes 1998, chapter 23, 27.

[77] Le Goff 1964, 110-112. The order of Citeaux (Cistercium) was founded in 1115 by Bernard of Clairvaux.

[78] Weber 1904-1905, 80, 115-122; Schilling 1968, 136, 163-164.

[79] Weber 1904-1905, chapter III; Carroll 2004, 71-74. Foucault 1961, chapter 2, points out the back-side: since the seventeenth century people are forced to work.








Chapter 3



objective witnesses of the past









3.0. Historical objects

3.1. Inventions promote technical progress

3.2. History of the arts

3.3. Signs, symbols and languages

3.4. Concepts, propositions and theories

3.5. Contents of faith

3.6. Customs

3.7. Instruments for transactions

3.8. Making decisions

3.9. Rights and obligations

3.10. Circumstances

3.11. The objective historical meaning of artefacts



Chronos & Clio. 3. Artefacts



3.0. Historical objects


History concerns the world as people have made it. In this chapter we discuss the character of artefacts and their function in history, as witnesses of the past and as instruments in the transfer of experience, in chapter 2 recognized as an engine of history. For this purpose we shall distinguish two kinds of experience. The natural, naïve or intuitive experience is directly founded in sensory observation. Artefacts and their history, too, are objectively observable. Besides there is an indirect, detached form of experience, in which people make use of some kind of instrument. This may be a material expedient, like a microscope, with which people may reinforce their visual power. It may also be a logical makeshift, like a theory used to think about a problem. In Chronos & Clio, ‘artefact’ is the collective name for any manmade object of human conduct primarily characterized by one of the normative relation frames. This is a much wider definition than that applied in technology, where artefacts are technical products, or in archaeology, where artefacts are manmade material remains. In this chapter artefacts or constructions are often not primarily technical, and by no means always material. In each relation frame artefacts are distinguished from other objects which are not characterized by that relation frame. A painting, for instance, is a material aesthetic artefact. It is an object characterized by the aesthetic relation frame, an instrument in one’s aesthetic experience. As such it is not an economic artefact, though it can clearly be an economic object. However, its proceeds at an auction is an economic artefact, established by people, economically typified, not material. The price of a painting is primarily not characterized by aesthetic but by economic relations, and only secondarily by its aesthetic quality, rarity, and so on. Therefore, besides its primary aesthetic and secondary technical type, the painting also has an economic function. The price of a painting has a quite different history than the painting has as an aesthetic artefact.

Not only thing-like objects are artefacts. Events and processes playing an objective part in history (chapter 1) can also be considered as artefacts if produced or interpreted. Therefore artefacts show an enormous diversity. The theory of characters attempts to bring some order in this variety, by characterizing the artefacts according to the relation frames.[1] We shall assume that primarily technically typified artefacts have a singular character, secondarily typified by one of the natural relation frames. Next we shall assume that artefacts being primarily characterized by one of the succeeding relation frames satisfy a dual character, an interlacement of a generic and a specific character. The generic character is secondarily typified by the technical relation frame, because all artefacts are human-made, requiring technical ability to handle them. It distinguishes artefacts with a different primary characterization from each other, for instance aesthetic artefacts from semiotic or logical artefacts. The specific character distinguishes various types of artefacts from each other having the same generic character.

Hence, each artefact is characterized by at least two relation frames. In its own way, it can play an objective historical part, according to the temporal order of the relation frames concerned. Without signs and the languages as semiotically typified artefacts the collective memory would not even exist. In the following sections we shall illustrate this with many examples.


Chronos & Clio. 3. Artefacts



3.1. Inventions promote technical progress


The character of natural things and processes only exists of natural laws. In contrast, the characters of human products contain natural laws as well as values and norms. The character of a technical artefact is called its design.[2] An object made according to a design, satisfies natural laws and ought to satisfy the norms given in the design. Clearly, the design, the character of an artefact, is a collection of natural laws and norms. Nobody is ever completely free in making a feasible design, because its realization is bound to natural laws. As Francis Bacon observed, nature can only be controlled by obeying its laws.[3] Maurits Escher drew beautiful examples of impossible designs, being contrary to natural laws. The progress of mankind is reflected in the history of technical artefacts.

Sometimes a technical character is so new that it enters history as an invention. Often an invention is an improvement of an extant design, a renewal. Sometimes it concerns a not yet completed design, in need of further development before it is suitable for production and use. The boundary between inventing a new character and its subsequent development to a useful design is not always sharp.

Inventions and discoveries mark historical progress, extending human possibilities. They enable people to extend their freedom and responsibility. In designing, the human activities characterized by the succeeding relation frames play a leading part, first in playful imagination, next in language, experimental and theoretical research, and the trust people have in new technologies. Inventions alone do not suffice, people have to develop them and apply them in their practices, otherwise they remain toys. Only if tested and used in practice an invention has historical meaning. This process has a historical life time. Each technology starts as an invention, develops itself into an application, becomes obsolete and comes to its end when replaced by a new technology.[4]

A technical artefact is an object, designed, made and used by people in their technically skilled labour, individually or working in a group. It is secondarily typified by one of the natural relation frames. Projections of the technical relation frame on the preceding natural frames define six secondary types of technical activities. The following impression may illustrate that skilful activity is as old as humanity, almost everywhere present, historically grown, and showing an enormous progress especially since the twentieth century.

a. Counting and calculating are secondarily quantitatively characterized skills. As a science, mathematics researches the quantitative and the spatial relation frame with the characters qualified by these frames. Mathematics is also a skill, the technique of counting and calculating. Of old, children learn to count with their fingers or a bead frame. In mental arithmetic they apply all kinds of technical tricks, such as the multiplication tables and long divisions. An early application of arithmetic was book-keeping. Later on, mathematics was applied in the sciences and the humanities and in many practical situations. In order to solve a problem one makes a mathematical model, allowing of calculations and providing quantitative insight. Statistics is a well-known example. For making models and exerting calculations we use an abacus, a slide rule, an adding machine, a calculator, till or computer.

b. Orientating, measuring, forming and building are secondarily spatially typified acts. Labour leads to formation, transformation, and reformation, usually with the help of tools. Philosophers of technology sometimes restrict technical labour to material transformation, to production. However, forming refers to the spatial relation frame and is therefore unfit to characterize all technical labour. People try to bring order and orient themselves in space. For both they use instruments, like a compass or a measuring rod. The science of space is called geometry, long ago arisen as surveying in areas where a large river regularly overflows the country. The aim of measurement is to collect quantitative data fit for calculations, for instance for the collection of taxes. This is only possible if some kind of law conformity exists for the magnitudes to be measured, a metric system.[5] In the nineteenth century measuring instruments were mainly based on optics and mechanics, nowadays mainly on electronics, including finding the position of airplanes, ships and cars.

c. People move mostly with carriages. Human beings have much more freedom of moving around than any animal. The most natural motion of people is walking, but even that is learned and technically supported by shoes, pavement and staircases. A person may master many more ways to move, think of the motions required for a sport like volleyball. More often we move on a bike, in carriages, boats, airplanes, in lifts and on escalators. The wheel as the proverbial invention dates from about 3400 BC, but only in the sixteenth century the Spaniards introduced it in Central America.[6] Navigation is a technical problem for sailing rivers and seas, since the seventeenth century strongly improved by the development of clocks. Modern traffic came about when natural energy sources like running water, wind and animals were replaced by steam engines in trains and ships, petrol engines in cars and air planes, and electromotors everywhere else. Besides moving themselves, people transport goods and energy. Images, opinions and information move around the earth, nowadays in particular electronically, by telephone, radio, television and internet. In antiquity and the Middle Ages, too, news spread amazingly fast.

d. With machines people transform energy or matter. Many people associate technology with the use of machines. Therefore, the transformation of energy and matter, as in chemical industry, seems to characterize technology. Nevertheless this kind of transformation only determines one of six secondary types of technology. The use of fire is one of the oldest human skills. The inventions of processing stone, bronze, and iron mark the beginning of archaeological eras. In physical labour, too, people transform matter and energy. Corporeal labour is a physically founded technical act, even if supported by tools and machines. Tools are older than we know of, but machines to transform natural energy into a form useful for people date from the Middle Ages. The watermill and the windmill were not invented in Western Europe, but were applied here for the first time on a large scale, for grinding corn, sawing wood, making paper and tilling swamps. The industrial revolution started when the working of iron and winning of coal made the construction of steam engines both possible and necessary. The first steam engines were applied in coalmines.

e. Agriculture is a biotically founded technology. Agriculture as development of living nature has experienced several reforms, recognizable as such only after the fact.[7] The first land reform is the transition from nomadic cattle breeding to agriculture (1.1). The prosperity of the later European Middle Ages is reducible to the second land reform.[8] About 1100 agricultural production increased strongly, partly because of an improved climate, but in particular because of improved methods. One of these is the invention of the deep plough on wheels, allowing tilling the land much more effectively than before. Another one is crop rotation. By alternatively cultivating a field and letting it lie fallow the next year, one prevents plant disease and exhaustion of the soil. A better method turned out to be a cycle of three years: to grow one harvest in the spring of the first year, a different one in the autumn of the second year and to let the field lie fallow during the third year. This increased the production by one half. A third improvement was the introduction of shoes and a breast harness for horses. The older method of a harness around the neck is suited for oxen, but not for horses. Horses are not much stronger than oxen, but they are faster and able to work two hours a day more. Especially the latter aspect meant that the transition from oxen to horse traction did not occur everywhere without protests, for the labourers had to work longer. In Southern Europe oxen remained more common. Horses need different fodder (oats), which the farmers first had to learn to grow, but which introduction fitted into the three-year cycle. Increasingly, farmers started to grow materials like flax for the rising industry besides food for their own and for the growing population of the cities. Another agricultural reform occurred in the nineteenth and twentieth century, influenced by industrialization, mechanisation of agriculture and the introduction of artificial fertilizers.[9] By scientific research and by schooling, agriculture and cattle rising received a better theoretical basis. The ‘green revolution’ (about 1960-1980) meant the introduction of a new agricultural technology in the third world, such that there is sufficient food for the whole world population. Where there is still shortage of food, it is said to be caused by faulty distribution, disasters, wars, corruption, exploitation, managerial impotence and plain poverty.[10] In the final decennia of the twentieth century, information technology was introduced into modern agriculture. Fertilizing, irrigating, draining of land, feeding of cattle, milking of cows and processing of agrarian products are automated to a large extent. Although all agricultural technology is biotically founded, the word biotechnology received the more restricted meaning of genetic manipulation. Improving plant and animal species is as old as mankind, but the genetic influencing of breeding is specifically a twentieth century technology. Since the second agrarian revolution the number of agrarian labourers decreased, but only since the second half of the twentieth century less than half of the working population is employed in agriculture.

f. Control is a psychically typified technical act. People always used animals as a source of food and clothes, as a means of transport, to exert labour and to support various kinds of activities like hunting or safeguarding.[11] Except for food and the production of clothes, animals cannot be used directly, they have to be tamed and trained, domesticated and controlled. Cattle breeders try to increase the proceeds of meat, milk, eggs or labour performances. Genetic manipulation of animals is not modern, only some methods like artificial insemination are. In traffic and as a source of labour, animals have almost disappeared in modern countries. All the more they can be found as domestic animals and in many kinds of sports. The psychical relation frame is characterized by control, inter alia. Besides animal behaviour, all technical acts are controlled, too. This receives special attention if control is a separate part of a technical process. In particular during the twentieth century this has led to automated processes of many kinds. Automation is not only an instrumental phenomenon, it also occurs in individual human acts. Several kinds of activities or skills (like cycling) that we at first have to learn taking pains, we develop by habituation into automatisms, into the formation of fixed action patterns in our brain.[12]

Since the seventeenth century, scientific technology takes the lead of the development of technical practices. The overestimation of the natural sciences led to dating the rise of Western technology in the seventeenth century, when classical mechanics developed, or with the industrial revolution in the eighteenth century, marked by the invention of the steam engine by Newcomen in 1711-1712, improved by Watt in 1765. The view that technology as a science only started in the eighteenth and nineteenth century may apply to the scientific training of engineers. However, the science of mining dates from the sixteenth century[13] and the science of building even from a century before, in particular in Italy. The scientific research of mechanical clocks booked many successes in the seventeenth century.[14] The underestimation of medieval technology is no doubt connected to the view of the philosophers of the Renaissance on the ‘dark Middle Ages’ and of literates on technical labour.

In fact, the start of Western technology and the break with the developments outside Europe took place much earlier, since about 1100, when the second agricultural reform with its innovations caused a formerly unknown rise of prosperity, witness the building of the Gothic cathedrals.[15] One could make a long list of medieval inventions. The inventions of paper (cheaper than papyrus or parchment) and book printing (circa 1450: movable type, block printing being much older) are more peaceful and no less important than all the weaponry applied during the crusades, the Hundred Year’s War and the religious wars. The chimney, essential for heating in northern areas, has changed society remarkably since 1100. Together with the application of window glass it became possible to heat separate rooms, increasing the need of privacy. Next I mention the rudder, the compass and all other improvements in shipbuilding (where sailboats replaced galleys), wind and water mills, church bells, mechanical clocks, stringed instruments, the wheelbarrow, the spinning-wheel, an improved weaving-loom, the button and buttonhole, knitting, iron casting applying bellows, spaghetti, brandy and beer, stone pavement, spectacles, the lace driven by feet, the crank and fly-wheel, horse shoes and stirrups.

Changing ordinary life radically, many of these inventions were known in antiquity and outside Europe and were probably imported.[16] Outside Europe they often functioned only as toys, as curiosities. Apparently, only the Christian culture in Western Europe was able to bring inventions to practical use. In the twelfth century, the Byzantine, Arab, Indian and Chinese civilizations were more advanced than the Western-European one. In the thirteenth century, the first four stagnated, whereas Europe made a passing manoeuvre. Herein the technological progress has been an important, perhaps decisive factor.[17]

Medieval inventions like dykes, windmills, the cure of herrings and the superior shipbuilding laid the foundation of the prosperity of the Low Countries in the fifteenth and sixteenth century and the emergence of the Dutch Republic.[18] In all sections of the population, the widely applied technology requires a conscious and constant willingness to maintain and improve existing apparatus and to learn about it. This leads to a critical and inquisitive mind. In this way, the late-medieval technology contributed to the emergence of modern science in the seventeenth century, after people had liberated themselves from Aristotelian views.[19] Until the middle of the nineteenth century, technology developed independent of natural science, which like mathematics has long been tributary to technology.[20] One of the founders of seventeenth-century mechanics, Galileo Galilei was inspired by Italian shipbuilding, architecture and musical theory. Besides Italian artists-engineers like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo Buonarotti, in the Netherlands Simon Stevin, Cornelis Drebbel, Willebrord Snellius, Isaac Beeckman, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek and Jan Swammerdam were raised in the crafts.[21] René Descartes and Christaan Huygens maintained close contacts with instrument makers. Astronomical research forming the foundation of Isaac Newton’s mechanics, and biological research depended on the telescope and the microscope, both invented in the atmosphere of handicraft. The likewise handicraft invention and development of the steam engine in the eighteenth century stimulated thermodynamics in the nineteenth century. Only after physics and chemistry displaced the focus of their research from the first four relation frames to the characters of electricity, magnetism, atoms and molecules, these sciences were able to promote the technical development of plastics, electro technology, electronics and informatics. Technology accompanied by scientific research is first applied in the nineteenth-century chemical industry, electro-technology and electronics. Since then it has expanded to any kind of industry.[22] For their progress, scientists were, are and will be strongly dependent on technical appliances.

The techni­cal development since the end of the eighteenth century is known as the industrial revolution. An important difference, perhaps the most characteristic one, between handicraft and the industrial way of labour consists in the construction of identical, hence exchangeable parts of machines and other apparatus. In handicraft each product is unique and each part irreplaceable. The industrial revolution could only get going when one succeeded in making and reproducing parts so precisely that one part could replace another one. A theoretical condition for this is insight in the way a part functions in the larger whole. Therefore one should be able to abstract from anything of minor importance and to concentrate on the essential, meaning those properties which two different objects have in common such that they can replace each other.

A social consequence of the industrial revolution was that not only the produc­ts became exchangeable, but the people who made them as well. Each craftsman delivering a distinct product was as unique as their products. The industrial labourer delivers a prescribed product and is therefore as exchangeable as that product – exchangeable by another worker or by a machine. The standar­dising of parts led to an excessive division of labour, in which each labourer only made a part of the end product, becoming alienated from the total product. Karl Marx saw this sharply.


Chronos & Clio. 3. Artefacts


3.2. History of the arts


Art presents an image of history and the character of art has developed considerably in the course of time. Both provide sufficient reasons to pay it extensive attention in this section. Since the eighteenth century the word aesthetic refers to the perception of beauty by means of the senses (1.2), in particular, but not exclusively, in art. Someone may enjoy a sunset or its painting. In both cases it concerns an aesthetic subject-object relation, but only in the latter case one speaks of art. Only then the object of the aesthetic relation is primarily aesthetically typified. Art is always human-made. It is an artefact and is therefore secondarily typified by the technical relation frame.

Artistic objects and events as primarily aesthetically characterized artefacts are objective instruments in the transfer of aesthetic experience, subjected to the renewal of style as the aesthetic directive temporal order. We can research their various characters, both from the perspective of the viewer (2.2) and from that of the artist. A piece of art functions in two different aesthetic subject-object relations, the productive one of the artist and the contemplative one of the onlooker. Artists are in need of a public, to show their work to.[23]

All artists develop their own style, a set of norms ordering their acts and recognizable in all their works. Sometimes, but not often, an artist changes their style. Among various artists, often resemblances of style may be discerned. A style indicates a certain law conformity, a historically and culturally determined regularity, which does not prevent its individual realization. The style of a painter is expressed in their paintings, in their nuances, like the dimensions, the distinction of foreground and background, the way paint is applied, colour and brightness differences; next by the choice of the subject matter, of symbols, emblems or motives and the way the painter expresses these. The artistic style is a historically determined set of norms and values, regarding both the primary aesthetic and the secondary technical characteristic of the art. Considering the technical characterization this set even contains natural laws, as far as an artist has to take into account the properties of the materials he disposes of.

Besides its style, the character of a piece of art is relevant for understanding the history of the arts. Like many other artefacts, a piece of art has a dual character.[24] The generic character distinguishes art from whatever is not art, whereas the specific character distinguishes one kind of art from another one, for instance music from painting. No doubt, the generic character of a piece of art is primarily aesthetic. It is distinguished from other artefacts by the aesthetic command, the ability of the artist by which it is produced. Besides the piece of art itself, also the artistic act (the artistic production) is primarily aesthetic and secondarily technical. Aesthetic command, characterizing a good artist as well as good art, is both technical and aesthetic. Art cannot be merely aesthetic, because there are many other aesthetic activities. A strictly technical command is necessary but not sufficient. When the aesthetic command is absent, a purely technical command may still lead to good results. A technically able painter may be able to restore a damaged painting. Photos and pictures may be copied, paintings reproduced, a gramophone record or compact disc contains music and books have a small or large impression. That is almost pure technique. Its production does not require much aesthetic command. The aesthetic command, the force of imagination, determines the quality of the artist, who we call a genius if he excels in this respect.

The aesthetic disposition of a piece of art is to please an art lover. It has an important objective function in the transfer of aesthetic experience from the artist to the spectator.

This generic character, distinguishing a piece of art from other artefacts, is always entwined with a second, specific character, distinguishing the arts from each other. Depending on their secondary characterization – the projection of the aesthetic relation frame on the preceding ones – seven character types or profiles may be discerned.

a. Collecting as a primarily aesthetic act is a projection on the quantitative relation frame. A collection is not always intended to be aesthetic. The purpose of a university library differs from that of a museum. Collecting food is not an aesthetic activity, but real collectors have first of all pleasure in books or stamps. They get excited about a first imprint or a unique postmark, striving after a complete or representative collection on a well-described domain. The collection should not contain double copies, unless showing fascinating variations. Rarity and quality determine the aesthetic value of each copy, completeness and uniqueness that of the collection. At an exhibition a collector shows his collection and a museum shows the development of an artist or a style in a historical period. Collections form an important source of information, in particular for historical research.[25]

b. A piece of art may be a material or thing-like object, like a painting, with a specific aesthetically determined spatial shape, dimension and connection. The parts deliver simultaneously and jointly the intended aesthetic effect of beauty, projected on spatial relations. Usually the artist first makes an aesthetic and technical design. After the artefact is finished, in principle it has an unlimited duration of existence, giving a lasting impression of the style period in which it is made. These objects may be distinguished further by their fundamental form (painting versus sculpture) or the applied material (ceramics versus woodcarving).

c. Aesthetic productions or events are process-like or event-like artefacts, like the performance of a play, the presentation of a movie, the performance of music, cabaret or the recitation of a poem, in which the parts succeed each other. These objects projected on the time of motion have a start and an end, an aesthetically determined duration and timing. Events often proceed according to an aesthetic prescription, like the text of a play, the choreography of a ballet, the score of a piece of music, or the script and the screenplay of a movie. Such an artefact needs an actualisation, a performance, an interpretation.[26] An aesthetic prescript is therefore primarily typified by the semiotic relation frame and only secondarily by the aesthetic frame.[27] The playwright, choreographer or composer is to be distinguished from the performing artists. Their activity has the same generic character as any other art, having a specific character characterized by the semiotic relation frame. In the dramatic and musical arts the players follow the score or the text, the soloist, director or stage-manager providing an interpretation. Some stage-plays may be read as independent literary works. Originally a poem was a prescript for recitation or singing. A romance of chivalry was a prescript for a narrative.[28] Prescripts may become independent works, such that the relation between a poem and a recitation, a novel and a narrative gets lost. Yet novels and poems belong to this group. We are used to reading poems and novels instead of hearing them. Until the nineteenth century, poems and prose were intended to be recited in the theatre or in a small company, whereas one considered the theatre as a dramatizing of poetry and prose.[29] Hence, reading a novel is an aesthetic event, even if no performing artist is involved.

d. People have pleasure in their achievements, to accomplish something requiring an extraordinary effort. To test your abilities, to reach your limits, to establish a record, training and exercising, may be considered physically typified aesthetic activities which we like to show each other. Sport is here called a primarily aesthetic recreation, even if many people exert sport for other reasons, for instance to remain fit. Secondarily sport is a physical exertion. In each sport motion plays a part, but generally speaking it is characterized by dextrous exertion of force. A game is subjected to historically formed rules of play, determining the character of the sport.

e. People embellish their existence with flowers and plants, and gardening is easily recognizable as a biotically typified aesthetic act. The beauty of nature is often compared with beauty in the arts, but unlike a garden, nature is not an artefact. Only laid out landscapes and gardens have a cultural history, contrary to nature.

f. As in all human activities, in aesthetic acts the senses play an important part. We look at sport and plastic art, we listen to music, we taste our food, we feel each other for erotic pleasure, and often we combine various senses in order to project our aesthetic experience on the psychical one. It is a romantic view that art has the exclusive purpose to express emotions,[30] but of course it cannot be denied that a piece of art sometimes excites an emotion.[31]

g. We often admire the beauty of technical artefacts like steam engines, cars and airplanes, which designers expressly pay attention to the aesthetic aspect. At least since the seventeenth century painters displayed the beauty of sailing-ships. Working with and making artefacts yields aesthetic satisfaction, but it only becomes aesthetic pleasure if the artefacts themselves are playful, like toys, jokes and rhymes.[32]

The recognisability of these profiles and successive styles allows historians to make the history of art somewhat understandable.

Besides the mentioned internal aesthetic objective function in the transfer of aesthetic experience a piece of art can also be used for other purposes.[33] In a home, office or public space it functions as an ornament or decoration, which style provides us with an interesting view of cultural history. It enhances the social status of the owner. It is a present at a birthday or farewell party. It may act as an investment or as a security. It may have a liturgical function in worship or an educative function in schools. It is an object for historical research. It may have a function in commemoration, like a monument for slavery. Art may express an ideological message or an emotion. Art may be imitated, copied or reproduced and used in a commercial or as the jacket of a book.

This means that besides the artist and the art lover other parties may be involved in a piece of art. In particular the owner may give the piece of art or a copy of it a different destination than intended by the artist. Often a piece of art is not even intended as such. A medieval painting had first of all a symbolic function in the cult. Besides it had an aesthetic function, to embellish the church. The same painting now exposed in a museum we consider primarily as a piece of art, even if we recognize its symbolic significance.

This application of a piece of art in a non-aesthetic situation does not diminish its aesthetic value, but shows that the aesthetic experience is not isolated from other human experiences. Art is interlaced with all kinds of human existence.[34] This does not take away that art is first of all intended as an instrument in the transfer of aesthetic experience, conform the style of its time.

A piece of art, taken out of the context of utilities is a relatively modern phenomenon. A decoration is an aesthetic addition to a technical article of use. Art is distinguished from decoration because it is an independent aesthetic work. The separation of art from decoration can be seen in the shift of a mural painting to a framed painting that can be hanged anywhere. The recognition of pieces of art as such started when people began to collect, buy and sell art, when the art trade emerged. These activities make a piece of art to stand apart from its original context. It is still a form of recognition when a piece of art is made part of a museum collection or brings in a lot of money at an auction. When art was still decoration, artists were usually anonymous, like decorators usually still are. The independence of the arts implies the independence of the artist, signing one’s work. Medieval art often had a religious destination. During the Renaissance emphasis came to lie on allegories, with a moral purpose. All elements of a painting had a symbolic and ethical significance.[35] Only in the nineteenth century one started to judge art only on aesthetic grounds. The aesthetic value of a piece of art is no longer judged according to what it represents or its original destination. Art is not semiotic by signifying something, but aesthetic, by suggesting something, by invoking an image, by showing something. This does not mean that art can never be symbolic or should not contain symbols. But even if that is not the case, or if the symbolism of a piece of art has been lost, it remains a piece of art. This provides an argument to distinguish the aesthetic relation frame from the semiotic one.[36]

According to Immanuel Kant aesthetic judgments should be without interest.[37]

‘The aesthetic distantiation means that we can admire a piece of art as such, without desire or envy, hence also without anger about the circumstances enabling the piece of art, or the ideology, the reprehensible thought speaking from it or its purport.’[38]

The movement of l’art pour l’art, art for art, arisen in the nineteenth century, nowadays is called formalism.[39] It was especially a protest against the dominance of art by moral purposes or by the view, that art should have a message outside the aesthetic framework. This movement reached its zenith in the twentieth century, especially in the paintings by Piet Mondriaan. Alongside we find the view that art should be engaged, for instance in the emancipation of labourers, in nazism or communism. A more balanced view of art is to accept both the specific character of the aesthetic experience and its interlacement with otherwise characterized human acts.[40]


Chronos & Clio. 3. Artefacts


3.3. Signs, symbols and languages


Signs, symbols and languages play an important part in history, historiography and philosophy of history, and we cannot avoid discussing them extensively.[41] This section concerns languages conceived as primarily semiotic artefacts with a character of their own, to be distinguished from other semiotic artefacts like symbols or codes. We shall pay attention to both the lawfulness of a language and its historic nature, with the most intriguing question, whether or not the ‘natural’ languages confirm a universal character type. As instruments for the transfer of significant experience languages are so important that many people think that the semiotic aspect is no more than that, that semiotic is identical with lingual. Therefore we shall first make a few remarks on signs and symbols in general.

The semiotic relations arising because people assign significance to many cases constitute the field of study of semiotics, the science of the general principles of the structure of sign systems. The semiotic relation frame presupposes the technical one, for people make their symbols, their sentences and their texts themselves. Use of language presupposes forms of language and their command. The semiotic frame also transcends the aesthetic frame, for each symbol, each emblem, each word is not merely an image, but also signifies something. On the other hand, the semiotic relation frame enriches the technical and aesthetic frames. Complicated technical apparatus require naming their parts and explaining their functioning. Aesthetic experience is deepened when people are able to give it significance and to interpret it.

People symbolize and interpret their environment, their relations and their acts. People need to communicate their internal experiences to their fellow men, to utter themselves. They do not only express their feelings, but also their views, thoughts, insights, judgments, questions, their plans, assignments and reports, commands and prohibitions. They attribute significance to things and events, thereby understanding or misunderstanding the cosmos. By means of signs, symbols and especially language people allot themselves and others a place in the cosmos, in history and in the future. The use of signs, symbols and language is an existential condition for people and their history. By means of signs people understand, interpret and structure their world: their natural environment, their fellows with their acts, artefacts and associations, themselves and their relation to their God.[42]

Signs can be distinguished from symbols and language, artefacts that are characterized by semiotic relations. We call something a sign if it has an objective function in a semiotic act, but is itself not typified by the semiotic relation frame. A sign provides information, significant knowledge, based on interpretation. For a biologist, a fossil can be a sign of the existence of ammonites, extinguished sixty-five million years ago. We give someone a beautifully polished fossil as a sign of friendship. A car is a sign of someone’s prosperity and status. Family resemblance is a sign of biotic relationship. A sign never means something as such. It only exists for someone who assigns the objective sign a subjective significance. A sign is also called a symptom. During centuries, fever was understood as a sign of an excess of blood, hence the practice of bloodletting. Nowadays one interprets fever as a symptom of influenza.[43]

A sign is not a representation. Only a semiotic act transforms an object into a sign. A fossil is only a sign of evolution if a biologist interprets it as such. Because of a sign we understand a situation. In a restricted sense also animals can observe signs, if that fits their biotic and psychic needs. Apes are able to learn several dozen signs, sometimes more than a hundred, without forming combinations of signs with a new significance. Animals communicate with each other by means of signals, for instance warning shouts and marking a territory. These are not semiotic artefacts, but parts of reality as observed by the animals concerned. Such signals concern the elementary necessaries of life of individual animals and the conservation of the species. An animal signal acts immediately, for instance in a reflex, as a trigger in an action pattern. If the animal is not in the proper state to react, it ignores the signal. In their communication, only people use self-made symbols, having significance each apart or combined with other symbols.[44]

There is a direct relation between the sign and the signified. When the streets are wet, it is a sign that it has rained, we interpret the sign by means of a causal relation. Similarly, a sign may point to a biotic, psychic or mathematical relation. In contrast, if a sign rests on a convention, we call it a symbol.[45] No smoke without fire: smoke is a sign of fire. But a smoke signal is more than a sign. It is a symbol with a significance that people assign to it arbitrarily, after their own discretion, according to an agreement. A symbol is a sign to which people attribute a common significance, even if there is no non-semiotic relation at stake.

Historians, too, understand the past only by interpreting signs, symbols and texts. They gratefully make use of philology, the science analysing texts critically. Empiricists, assuming that science especially depends on unbiased observations, doubted the possibility of history as a science, arguing that the past is not directly observable.[46] Meanwhile it has become clear that the criterion of direct observability is not even applicable to the natural sciences. Electrons, quarks and black holes are no more observable than genetic relations expressed in DNA-configurations. In fact all sciences interpret signs. Therefore this cannot prevent history from operating as a full-fledged science.[47]

The ability to use language is inborn. Usually children learn speaking before their fifth or sixth year, independent of the culture in which they live or the language they learn. Yet ‘natural languages’ do not exist. What we call ‘natural’ is a language like children time and again invent or discover for themselves, and subsequently adapt to their environment.[48] Hence, a language is an artefact, grown in history. A ‘living’ language does not live in a biological sense, but is used by living people and changed in their culture. Classical Latin is not a living language, Church Latin is. Linguists estimate the number of living languages at 5000-7000, of which circa 440 will disappear within one or two generations.[49] Usually a language has two forms, spoken and written. The difference is connected to the applied means of communication: telephones use spoken language, e-mail is written. The relation between a spoken language and a written or printed one is sometimes fairly strong, as in the European languages; sometimes it is weak, as in Chinese; sometimes unknown, as in languages of which only the written form is handed down. Some languages merely have a spoken form. Sign languages form a separate group, each with its own grammar and semantics.[50]

The Western alphabetical principle is based on the agreement of a letter or syllable with a sound.[51] Because the number of sounds is limited, the number of letters in an alphabet can also be reasonably small, but large enough to represent an almost unlimited number of words. The relation between a written and spoken language is never unequivocal. Written Chinese is spoken in various ways. In England, Australia or America one pronounces the same written English text quite differently.

Spoken and written languages are not always exchangeable. More than written language, spoken language is fit for the expression of emotions, the transfer of skills and the description of art. The reverse is true for conceptual thought and the accumulation of knowledge in libraries. Therefore, written use of language contributes more to the history of mankind than spoken language. Especially the invention of the alphabet has led, in the languages that use it, to a relative autonomy of written language. This process is accelerated by the introduction of book printing, twenty-eight centuries later, and the ensuing becoming literate of the population. By the invention of telephone, film, radio and television, the relevance of spoken language increased. By the rise of fax, text processor, internet and e-mail written language recovers its position.

It seems obvious that written language is derived from spoken language, but sometimes the spoken form is lost and the written form preserved. Originally a written text was a prescription for a spoken text, or a mnemonic for the transfer of a message. Who is reading silently often speaks the words in their mind. In a developed society written language received a certain autonomy, a character of its own, independent of, though entwined with, the corresponding spoken language. The agreement between the spelling of a word and its pronouncement is often far away. Grammar is less binding for spoken than for written language. Spoken language is sustained by differences in pitch and emphasis, by gestures and facial expressions. Written language uses graphic means like initials, capitals, punctuation and illustrations. A spoken lingual act has the character of an event with a limited duration. A written text has the character of a thing and can be copied. However, nowadays also spoken language can be recorded and reproduced on thing-like bearers of information like a tape or a cd. A written lingual form like a book or an encyclopaedia may be much more voluminous than a spoken lingual form would admit.

In spoken language, the phonemes or sounds form a distinguishing element, in written language the letters (usually called ‘characters’, which might be confusing in the present book) play that part.[52] A collection of phonemes is not a language (it lacks both grammar and semantics) and it is not even a part of the language. Like the alphabet it is a separate code, a set of semiotic objects with a character of its own, interlaced with the character of the spoken language. Observe that a written language has no relation with phonemes, no more than a spoken language has with letters.

A code could be defined as a coherent system of symbols including rules for its use. Besides the alphabet, the number system is a code.[53]

Traffic signs, too, are symbols, yet do not form a language. They are part of a code, with the rules of traffic as its character. A traffic sign refers to a traffic situation, for instance a one-way-street. A sign with an arrow does not point to another sign, but indicates a traffic direction. You cannot explain the significance of a traffic sign with the help of other traffic signs.

In a real language, the applied symbols have not merely significance outside the language, but they derive their significance also from each other. Grammar indicates connections between the symbols, whereas semantics determines what these signify, in terms of the symbols themselves. A dictionary explains the significance of a word in words. Grammar (including syntax) regulates how words are declined or conjugated, how to put them together, how words are connected into sentences and sentences into a lingual act or text. The semantics determines the significance of words in the context of the sentence and is therefore not independent of the grammar. For spoken language formal or informal rules of pronunciation exist, and for written language more or less standardized spelling rules. All these rules are norms, not natural laws or normative principles. Some are old and persistent, like the grammar of an ordinary language. Others are recent and easy to change, like spelling rules. Semantics is much more plastic than grammar. In each language it is easier to add new words (often by borrowing from other languages) or to apply a new significance to words, than to change its grammar. The existence of norms for the use of language, for instance grammar, pronunciation and spelling rules, does not restrict the human freedom to use language, but makes it possible and meaningful. In each language, with the help of grammar people can generate an infinity of sentences from a finite number of words.[54] Only by commanding the rules of the language someone is able to apply them fruitfully and amend them creatively, like for instance poets and cabaret performers do. Someone who does not keep to a grammatical or semantic rule makes an error, unless he or she intends to renew the language, for norms are not invariant natural laws or normative principles.

Spoken language, written language and sign language each have their own character if standardized in one way or another. Such a character consists of more or less uniform rules (grammar, semantics, pronunciation, spelling and rhetoric[55]), accepted by a dominating group (usually the intellectual middle class) and disseminated via education. These rules emerged in the course of history. They continually change, usually gradually, sometimes abruptly, like in a spelling reform.

A language consists structurally of words, sentences, texts and narratives, of symbolic forms of language signifying something. Like pieces of art, lingual forms have a dual character. The generic character is primarily typified by the semiotic relation frame and secondarily by a projection on the technical relation frame, by the formation and command of language. In their lingual acts people understand, form and use semiotic artefacts like words, sentences and texts. These lingual forms are to be distinguished by their specific character, primarily typified by semiotic relations and secondarily by a projection on a preceding relation frame.

a. As the smallest unit of a language I do not consider a phoneme or sound, a letter or a gesture, but a word as the elementary bearer of significance.[56] As a projection on the quantitative relation frame a language is not a set of sounds or letters, but a set of words. The use of an alphabet in written language enables to order words in an alphanumerical sequence in a dictionary, describing their lexicographic significance. A dictionary does not provide a logical definition of a word, but a semantic description by a sentence or a synonym. A vocabulary summarizes the words belonging to the language and the semantics determines their ambiguous or unambiguous significance. The grammar determines how words can be declined or conjugated, and how one may derive one word from another by prefixes and suffixes, endings and compounds. A word is built from syllables, but usually these have no significance of their own. By replacing a syllable by another one, or by adding or omitting syllables, the significance of a word changes.

Each word has the disposition to become combined with other words into a sentence, in which words have a grammatical and semantic function. Only in its context a word gets its definitive significance.[57] Because of their function in a sentence, grammar distinguishes nouns and adjectives, adverbs, articles, verbs, and its various forms. In a sentence the words stand in a sequence, projecting language on the quantitative relation frame. However, the order is not quantitative, not primarily subjected to quantitative laws. It is a significant sequence, subjected to the lingual rules of the syntax.

Etymology is the science concerned with the history of words. For a long time, people thought that words could be reduced to the things they signify, but this turned out to be an illusion. The function of nouns is to name persons, matters, events, acts and their properties (‘the Middle Ages’) and to classify or categorize (‘this is a horse’). In the eighteenth century one wondered if a natural classification (like that for minerals, plants or animals) agrees with a natural choice of words.[58] Because the semiotic relation frame is irreducible and language a historically grown artefact, such a natural system is probably not possible.

b. In a sentence words provide in a grammatical order simultaneously and together a descriptive significance, which they could not give separately. According to syntactic rules a sentence connects words to a new unity, in which each word has its grammatical position.[59] The specific character of a sentence I consider to be primarily semiotic and secondarily spatial. A sentence has the disposition to take part in a spoken or written text, explicating its significance.

Although we speak a sentence as a succession of words, its significance is usually only clear when it is finished. A sentence is limited by the first and final word. A composed sentence has parts.[60] A sentence consists of a number of words, each with its own grammatically and semantically determined position. Change of relative position usually changes the meaning of the sentence. We sustain spoken languages by differences in emphasis, pitch, speed, rhythm, or by pauses; printed sentences by the use of capitals, underlining, bold printing or initials.

In each language the character of a sentence is determined by its syntax, the part of grammar giving rules for the structure of sentences. In a sentence words and word groups can be distinguished because of their function in the sentence, like subject, predicate, direct and indirect object.[61]

Each sentence deepens both the form and the significance of the words occurring in the sentence. The syntax determines the variable word form, for instance the personal form of a verb (e.g., I am, you are, he is). Very important in many languages is the tense in verbal forms, allowing us to distinguish between past, present and future, perfect or imperfect. For this purpose, many other lingual acts are available as well. Each language is not merely historically formed, but also expresses our common sense of history.

c. The specific character of a text like a chronicle is characterized primarily by semiotic relations and secondarily by kinetic ones. One sentence follows another, the significance of each sentence influencing that of the preceding and succeeding ones. The text forms the context of the sentence. The information contained in succeeding sentences is connected. Sometimes one uses copulatives, like ‘first’ or ‘next’.

Hermeneutics provides semantic rules for the interpretation of texts, the exegesis or lingual analysis, in which texts are compared to texts. Medieval Biblical exegesis distinguished literal from allegorical, and figurative from analogical exegesis. Modern is the difference between lingual, historical and theological exegesis of the Bible.

Besides narratives and texts also words and sentences have an exegetical function. A classifying noun refers to agreements and differences, not by definition but by interpretation. When calling an object a chair, we interpret it as such. As is well known, it is very difficult to form a logical concept of what we mean by a chair, to give a logical definition of a chair. But in our language the significance is clear and translation into other languages usually gives few problems. In a translation we use a dictionary, giving one or more translations of all or the most common words. Translating lingual acts does not occur word after word, not even sentence after sentence. The text and the context also determine the translation. Even then each translation involves rewriting, changing the significance somewhat. Traduire c’est trahir, translation is treason. Each translation rests on an interpretation.[62] Therefore it is difficult to design a program for a translating computer: interpretation is a human activity.

d. Inter alia, a narrative is distinguished from a chronicle or report because it gives a stylized interpretation and points to causal connections. A story concerns an event or a progressive series of events, a story line (a plot or act) giving an interpretation, with a beginning, a middle part and an end according to Aristotle. Each story or discourse is subjected to the norm of relevance. In the story only sentences ought to occur which are relevant, having significance for the course of the tale, no more and of course also no less. At the end of the story the listener or reader should be able to remember what the tale was about from the beginning. Therefore an oral story should not be too long, and it is advisable to structure the story in short parts. A complicated story like a novel has several narrative lines. People tell stories in order to bring order into their lives, to determine their identity, their position in society, their convictions, to justify their deeds and to give meaning to their existence, to explain what they do.[63]

We could proceed with this analysis of lingual forms, conceived as projections on preceding relation frames, with questions, commands, instructions and figures of speech. Possibly, these can be characterized as semiotic projections on respectively the biotic, psychic, technical and aesthetic relation frame. This concerns their generic character, which all languages have in common and distinguishes each language from whatever is not a language.

Besides, each language has its own specific character, its own grammar and semantics, indicating the differences between various languages. The agreements between languages not only point to their common descent (5.3), but according to Noam Chomsky also to the existence of a ‘universal grammar’,[64] being the unchangeable generic character type of the languages. This is expressed in the structure of words, sentences, texts and narratives, questions, commands, instructions and figures of speech, primarily characterized by the semiotic relation frame and secondarily by the relation frames preceding the semiotic frame. It appears that all languages have this law conformity in common, and that also the inborn lingual capacity of children (the start of their command of a language) is structured by the universal generic character type shared by all languages.


Chronos & Clio. 3. Artefacts


3.4. Concepts, propositions and theories


Conceptual or theoretical reasoning is to argue with the help of logically qualified artefacts, like concepts, statements or propositions and theories.[65] Often one experiences these instruments in the transfer of logical experience as being abstract, posing higher demands than words, sentences and texts. Nevertheless, besides science, ordinary life applies them often. In history ideas and theories exert a large influence.

In conceptual arguing, the use of language is indispensable. We cannot imagine concepts without words, statements without sentences or a theory without an elucidation, and daily parlance does not always make the distinction. We can establish the truth of a statement only after we have understood its significance. The statement ‘x + 2 = 5’ is true if x signifies the number 3 and is false if x signifies another number. It is neither true nor false if x would signify a person, for the statement ‘Peter + 2 = 5’ makes no sense. From the seventeenth century till the first half of the twentieth century, philosophers like Gottfried Leibniz, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell and Rudolf Carnap have tried to reduce logic to a universal unambiguous language.[66] This attempt at reduction turned out to be unsuccessful and seems to be abandoned by philosophy. Yet it has borne fruit, resulting in formal logic. This, however, is not a language but a code, a coherent set of symbols with rules that are not lingual but logical.

A theory is an artefact, people making, inventing, improving, using or rejecting theories. We use theories as instruments of thought to form concepts and to prove statements. Theoretical reasoning is a human activity, in which someone interrupts the direct relation, characterizing natural thought, by placing a theory between himself and the object of thought. A theory mediates between subject and object. It is an instrument with a logical character, in which only arguments play a part. Other ways to achieve experience, for instance, feelings, images and metaphors, are excluded.

This opposing and therefore critical attitude is not a privilege of theoretical reasoning. It occurs whenever someone uses artefacts in their acts. A clear example is the way by which somebody extends their observation capacity by the use of a teles­cope or a micros­cope. In this case, too, someone adopts an opposing attitude, taking distance and narrowing their experience. One sees further away, but decreases one’s field of sight. What one observes is disengaged from the coherence in which it naturally functions. This distance taking attitude is absent both in the natural experience of people and in the functioning of animals. It allows people to take part in nature and to take distance from it simultaneously. Often the results of theoretical thought have a strained relation with natural thought, contradicting common sense. For this reason, a theory requires proof. But in practice, theoretical thought is never separated from natural thought. Theoretical activity requires common sense and intuition as well.

Each theory functions in three logical relations. In a logical subject-object relation a theory is an instrument between the logical subject (the designer or user of the theory) and the logical object (the contents of the theory). Each theory has a logical form and a non-logical content. The latter category covers observations, for instance. A theory only contains statements, but a statement may describe an observation. In a logical subject-subject relation, such as an argument, a discussion or a debate, a theory functions as a proof. The participants in a debate should agree about the starting points and methods of proof, otherwise the discussion is meaningless. They try to convince each other about affairs in which they did not agree initially. The participants in the debate are bound to logical rules or laws. A theory is indirectly subjected to these laws, functioning in a logical law-subject relation. In all three relations, logical subjects are involved. We cannot consider theories apart from the people who make use of them.

What is a theory? The Greek word theoria means something like contemplation. Our word ‘theatre’ is derived from it. Often an unproven hypothesis is called a theory.[67] However, the earliest Greek philosophers already connected theoria to delivering proof, to deductive argumentation. Since then, a theory is an instrument for the delivery of proof, the logical deduction of propositions from presuppositions (premises), as a movement of thought referring to the kinetic relation frame. When the proof is correct and one assumes that the premises are true, then one ought to accept the derived propositions as true too. A theory is a deductively ordered set of propositions accepted to be true.[68]

Fundamentalist philosophers assume that a theory should start from well-known and generally accepted evident truths, in order to derive initially unknown statements. Fundamentalism or foundation thinking is an ideology supposing science to dispose of sources of absolute truth, not open to critical empirical research.[69] Examples are the rationalist view that the axioms of a theory should be self-evident; the positivist view that unbiased observations provide an undeniable source of truth; the firm belief of almost all philosophers that the laws of logic are inescapable, for people and for God as well; the standard view that mathematics is founded in logic; the authoritarian view ascribing authority to the utterances of great scientists; and the religious fundamentalism deriving scientific data from a religious text. A non-fundamentalist scientific world view rejects the pretension of science to be capable of leading to absolute truth. Critical-realists like Karl Popper believe that a theory should start from new and daring hypotheses, by logical reasoning arriving at testable conclusions.[70]

There is some agreement between logical and semiotic artefacts: concepts and words, propositions and sentences, a theory and a narrative. The question may rise whether various complexes exist (analogous to languages) of concepts, statements and theories having a character of their own? The answer is confirmative. Such a complex is called a special science or field of science, each having its own methodology and history, its own concepts and coherent theories, its periodicals, scientific society, conferences and university departments. The knowledge of a field of science is usable in other fields, if they apply similar concepts. Like the vocabulary of a language grows by finding new significances, each field of science continuously develops new concepts.

Like a language has a grammar, a field of science has a method to generate new statements and theories, to find solutions for its problems. Related sciences like physics and chemistry have corresponding methods. Unrelated sciences like sociology and mathematics have widely different methods. Historiography, too, has its own methodology.[71] Each method is logical, deductive and inductive, theoretical and experimental. The method determines the character of the field of science, such that one may speak of different cultures, like different languages agree with different cultures. The philosophy of a field of science does not only study its presuppositions, but also its methodology.

A part of science, intended as a practice, need not be a field of science. A field of science investigates the law side of reality and is as such a practice of its own.[72] Besides practices exist that do not investigate but apply the results of science. The practice of a court of justice differs from that of jurisprudence. In justice one uses concepts, statements and theories, often derived from jurisprudence. But the method of justice differs from that of jurisprudence and these have different characters. Likewise, a general practitioner has a practice applying medical knowledge. To exert pure medical science he leaves to others.


Chronos & Clio. 3. Artefacts


3.5. Contents of faith


In their endeavour to improve the world people make use of documents, like transmitted stories, manifests or programs, in which they express their belief in the future. Often this is a myth.

The word myth (from muthos, spoken word) has originally the meaning of a faith story, often concerned with the past, the emergence of mankind, of the tribe or village. Sometimes a myth also contains an expectation regarding the future.[73] In this case one sometimes speaks of a utopian scheme. A myth marks the transition from prehistory to history. Usually, a myth cannot be proved and therefore received the negative image of an unreliable story. Someone accepting its truth does so because believing the story. Such a myth we find in Genesis 1-3, the story of creation, fall into sin and the promise of a redeemer. A myth does not present verifiable historical facts. It presents a world view having a connective and inspiring function in a community. In an association the foundation or the mission statement sometimes plays a comparable part, like a confession of faith in the church, a statement of principles in a political party, or a scientific world view directing research in a field of science.[74]  

A myth is different from literary fiction, like John Tolkien's The lord of the rings. You may enjoy Tolkien’s book or the movie without believing anytime in the existence of hobbits, elves and orks, or the spell of a ring. Similarly, you may enjoy the literary quality of the psalms or Isaiah’s prophecies without accepting them as faith documents. But nobody can be a Christian without believing that the Bible as a faith story is the true foundation of their religion.

A faith story like a myth is not a scientific text. Since the nineteenth century, scientific research of the scriptures has sown doubt about the reliability of the Bible. This research supposed wrongly that for Christian faith the Bible acts as a historical book or a scientific discourse. The Bible has not the intention to write history in Leopold von Ranke’s objectivist sense (1.11). Just like Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey,the Bible books may be used as documents for historical research, for each faith document has an historical origin. It is delivered by former generations, or put into words by a prophet like Moses or Mohammed, an apostle like Paul, a preacher like Buddha, a reformer like Martin Luther, a philosopher like Karl Marx or a scientist like Charles Darwin. During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, mechanism and determinism were prevalent myths in physics and beyond, succeeded by evolutionism since the twentieth century.

For the church, the Bible is not first of all a historical document, but a normative directive for faith. Nobody needs to accept on historical grounds that Jesus is the son of God – the Bible itself indicates that this is a confession of faith, not a scientifically verifiable fact. No more does anybody need to believe on the basis of historical research that Jesus has risen from the death, even if the Bible mentions a large number of witnesses having met him alive after his death.[75] Christians accept the resurrection not primarily as a historical fact, but as the corner stone of their confession.[76] It is a dogma, a hopeful statement of faith. Meanwhile no Christian can doubt the historicity of the man Jesus. Because God became man, he is part of human history. We could say that a myth as a faith story is primarily characterized by the relation frame of faith and secondarily by the semiotic one. Dogmas (often accepted by the church or another authority after theological investigation) appear to be characterized secondarily by the logical frame, and icons by the aesthetic frame.

A faith story may be immanent or transcendent. An immanent myth is directed to someone or something within the observable world. Nature religions, ancestor worship, the Orange myth in the Netherlands or Northern Ireland, humanist stories about the social contract or the Enlightenment, and the Communist Manifesto (1848) are examples. Transcendent faith stories refer to someone outside the created world, about the creator and redeemer, about one or more gods. Theism and deism are transcendent faiths; pantheism and atheism are immanent.[77]

Some transcendental faith communities attract attention because being based on a book, a written revelation: Jews, Christians, Muslims and others. They believe the truth of their book, but like any text it requires an exegesis. Various currents within each of these faith communities differ by varying interpretations, from orthodox to liberal. Orthodoxy objectifies faith to a precisely described content of faith, guarded by ecclesiastical or scriptural authority, to which one can only subject oneself (Islam = submission). Jewish, Christian, Islamic and humanist fundamentalists show remarkable similarities, both in their literal interpretation of the Holy Scripture and in their intercourse with dissenters, characterized by intolerance, even if this does not necessarily deteriorate into violence.[78] Liberalism takes faith to be subjective and noncommittal, each human being determining what he believes. According to a third view, a faith story is neither objective nor subjective, but normative. It indicates according to which values people ought to believe and live. In the faith community they elaborate these values into norms, applying them in freedom and responsibility, taking into account the circumstances in which they live.

More than Catholics, Protestants emphasize the personal rather than the communal confession of faith. They become responsible members of the church by making a public confession. The French word protester does not mean to protest (that is protester contre[79]), but to witness or to confess. The word protestatio was used for the first time in 1529 as the name of a document presented by Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli at the diet of Speyer, as a confession of the faith they shared.[80] Je proteste que Jesus Christ est le Seigneur du monde: a Protestant is a confessor. Therefore, Protestantism started before the Reformation, for instance with John Wyclif in England and John Hus in Bohemia. The ‘modern devotion’, from Geert Groote and Thomas à Kempis till Desiderius Erasmus and Menno Simons, strongly influenced Dutch Protestantism, which is not so exclusively Calvinian as is often assumed.[81]

Also the image that people make of their god is an artefact. As far as this is literally a sculpture, a representation, it is aesthetically founded in the cults (5.2). Jews, Christians and Muslims base their image of God on their holy writ. The Bible teaches that man is created after the image of God, as his deputy on earth.[82] This has given rise to speculations about the analogia entis, the analogy of God’s being and human being. From neo-platonism, rationalist theologians and philosophers derive a logically founded rational image of God, imagined as a perfect being.[83] In particular the medieval proofs of God’s existence assume that God may be defined as a perfect being.[84] Since the thirteenth century these were influenced by Aristotle’s philosophy. He replaced the concrete fallible Olympian gods by the abstract ‘first mover’, who as an unchangeable and perfect being does nothing but contemplate himself (2.2). Muslim savants transmitted knowledge about Aristotle. With respect to the rational image formation of God, Muslim philosophers like Averroes may have influenced Western theology.[85] The Renaissance replaced the proofs of God’s existence by the theodicy, the justification of God’s acts on rational grounds, especially because of the question why the perfectly good God admits of evil.[86]

The view that real being is perfect and unchangeable is found in the theological proposition that God is perfect and therefore unchangeable, assuming that whatever is changeable cannot be perfect. The Bible presents an entirely different image. It is not strange that Jack Miles published a biography, in which God acts as the principal person in a literary work. The Bible nowhere indicates that God would be unchangeable in all respects.[87] God accompanies the history of people. He reveals himself in the Old and New Testament as a concrete person in historical situations. Compared to Homer’s epics, the Bible presents itself as a historical book.[88]


Chronos & Clio. 3. Artefacts


3.6. Customs


Exchanging presents is a universal form of companionship, to be distinguished from economic being of service.[89] The present (a book, for instance) is an object in this act, but it is itself not characterized by that frame. In contrast, customs, habits, manners and conventions may be considered to be artefacts qualified by the relation frame of keeping company, shaping social intercourse. In a petrified society, manners are formal and extensive. In a developing 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. Customs are norms which one ought to keep, based on the invariant and universal value of mutual respect. Whoever diverges from a habit without any apology shows lack of respect and is impolite. They should be ashamed, and their relatives or friends are ashamed because of one’s behaviour. Shame is a strong means for maintaining the customs of company.[90]

The words ‘habit’, ‘habitude’ and ‘habituation’ are related to ‘habitat’, the natural home of a species of plants or animals. The set of habits which someone achieves in one’s education and applies is called one’s habitus, determining one’s behaviour to a large extent, making it predictable.[91] Someone accepting the common habits finds a place, a living in the community. Who refuses to do so is not socially integrated. Guests accept the customs of their host, who respects the diverging habits of the guests. Immigrants ought to take up the customs of their new country. Somebody keeping the customs in all circumstances and respecting those of others has good manners and is a civilized person.


Chronos & Clio. 3. Artefacts


3.7. Instruments for transactions


In the course of time people have invented many artefacts to enable commerce. Each transaction rests on an agreement or contract between two or more parties. Besides contracts, price, money, capital and credit are economic artefacts, instruments in the transfer of possession.

I believe that possession of goods or services is the general expression for the economic subject-object relation, in which the object is not necessarily economically characterized. One can hardly speak of an economic good if nobody possesses it. In a tribal society, land belongs to a family or a village and cannot be transmitted, except by inheritance, when the land goes to the oldest son. In such a society land is not an economic good, it is not negotiable. Only in an economically differentiated society private possession is possible, in the hands of individuals or associations. Until the nineteenth century, possession was mainly a private affair. Since then it is concentrating in enterprises and banks, insurance companies and pension funds.[92]

Although economy primarily seems to concern the exchange of material goods, the economy of mutual servicing (neighbourship) may be older. Before one started to exchange products, farm workers got their due in the form of food and shelter. In an economic sense, possession is something someone may dispose of temporally or permanently and that they can transfer to someone else. Hence nobody possesses their head or hand in an economic sense, as long as they cannot transfer it or hire it out to someone else.

Possession is not necessarily a material object. For instance, people dispose of the power of labour, a specific skill or a patent, which he may place as a licence at the disposal of somebody else. Possession requires management, anticipating the political relation frame, whereas property is a juridical relation. Rightful possession implicates the existence of unjust possession, acquired by deceit or theft. One can possess something rightfully without being the owner, for instance by borrowing or renting it. Than one cannot sell it, though one may sublet it. Possession implies the duty of care, anticipating the relation frame of care. All natural objects and many kinds of artefacts can be objects for commerce, but one should not possess people. Trade of children, women and slaves ought not to occur. Human rights are inalienable and therefore no economic goods.

Someone may acquire possession by an economic act, by buying, renting or inheriting. Whatever someone possesses, he can sell, hire out, give away or leave. Whoever gets something as possession by cheating a commercial partner, by paying a too low price or by stealing or robbing, contradicts the economic norm: ‘thou shalt not steal’.[93] Possession, management and property are inalienable elements of economic acts. Who like Karl Marx considers property as theft, denies economic activity. In contrast, a civilized man satisfies the minimal economic norm of quid pro quo, or expands it into the norm that in any transaction all parties make a profit.

A transaction is an economic act in which people exchange goods and/or services for an agreed price. Philosophers and economists have deeply thought about the question of whether it is possible to ascribe an intrinsic or absolute value to an object or service, apart from transactions. This is inspired by the traditional view that the norm for economical conduct would be quid pro quo, such that the exchanged goods should have objectively the same value. They distinguish intrinsic utility (value in use),functioning in a subject-object relation, from relative exchange value, established in a subject-subject relation.[94]

However, utility is not a purely objective property of the object, for it depends on a subject-object relation. Someone may attach more value to an object than someone else may do, and the situation too determines value. The utility of a glass of water depends on your thirst. The law of diminishing surplus value says that the more you possess of something, the less its surplus value is. If an object would have the same value in use for anybody, trade would even be impossible. Barter is only profitable if the good acquired has more value than the good traded in. The exchange value is no more an objective property of a product. In an economical chain in which a product from the producer via wholesale and intermediate trade reaches the shops, the exchange value increases in order to allow the traders to compensate for their costs and to make a profit.

It belongs to the calling of people to place their given talents to each other’s disposal. To be of service is the meaning of economy and differentiation is the economic meaning of history. Someone may place their possessions to someone else by letting or hiring it out. This leads to a relation of debt: someone owes money and interest to someone else. Also this relation is subjected to the norm that both parties should make a profit. Who borrows money ought to pay it back with the agreed interest at the agreed time. Interest should not be excessive, not deteriorating into usury. Nobody ought to acquire so many debts that redemption becomes hopeless. Yet sometimes an occasion may arise that debts should be remitted partly or entirely, in order to give someone the opportunity to make a new start. In that case the duty of care surpasses the right of repay. An economic norm is that someone pays their debts, until they cannot do that anymore. A bankruptcy is a form of finishing a debt, which should never lead to slavery, as was quite usual in the past.

In suit of Aristotle, medieval philosophers assumed that money only serves as an objective measure for prices.[95] They considered it unnatural if money could bring forth young. Therefore it was forbidden for Christians (as it still is for Muslims) to ask for interest when making a loan, at least from co-believers.[96] Giving and accepting interest they left to believers of a different faith, in particular Jews, bearing the stamp of being usurers. The philosophers assumed that saving money makes only sense if it serves as a nest egg, an old-age benefit or insurance for adversities. They did not understand that in economy the perspective for the future plays another part. Entrepreneurs invest in order to make earnings later on. Giving and taking credit with interest is an economical transaction, from which both parties hope to profit.

Capital means investing in the future. Hunters investing time and labour in making a spear or a bow and arrows are early capitalists, their hunting gear being their capital. They run a risk, for if they do not catch anything they could better have spent their time and energy to collecting fruits. Capitalism in the modern sense of the word emerged during the Renaissance, stimulated by Protestantism, objecting less than others to taking interest and making a profit.[97]


Chronos & Clio. 3. Artefacts



3.8. Making decisions


Besides rules or laws, also decisions, plans and compromises are political artefacts shaping history. The difference between a law and a decision mainly concerns the way it is enacted, and therefore the authority they have. Their generic character appears to be secondarily characterized by the technical relation frame, in the ability to make decisions which a good manager ought to have. The specific characters of rules may widely differ. In a company these are usually economically characterized, in a church by the frame of trust, but even then economic decisions cannot be avoided. On the public domain government rules prevail above those of other associations. Recommendations, orders and instructions based on rules are primarily political artefacts as well

In a decision making process, one distinguishes the stages of preparing, making, exerting and evaluating of decisions. At the preparation one determines requirements, desirabilities and possibilities, when making decisions one makes a choice or states priorities.

A decision may have an incidental or a general, i.e., lawlike character. If someone decides to buy a car, or if the president nominates a minister, these are incidental decisions. If the government decides to increase income tax, it is a general lawlike decision. Lawlike decisions are called laws, rules or regulations and are often collected in constitutions, law books, statutes, articles, etc. Incidental decisions, such as appointments, are usually subject to general rules, like a collective labour agreement. In early history, incidental decision making preceded the making of laws, having priority sometimes. The next stage is that a government is itself subject to laws.

Both individuals and associations are competent to take decisions. In an association a competent board is in charge, sometimes delegating part of its authority to a lower organ or a subordinate. In a complex association decision making is complex too and often hierarchical. Sometimes decisions at a lower level require consent on a higher level. As a consequence, within an association a hierarchy of decisions exists. An international treaty is higher than the constitution that in turn has precedence over a law. National laws have precedence above local regulations. In case of contradictions, the higher rule prevails. If in concrete situations the application of decisions leads to contradictions or obscurities, a higher instance has to turn the scale. The specific character of decisions appears to be semiotically founded. Decisions are expressed in words, communicated, interpreted and evaluated. Often this happens in a meeting.

The laws or rules within an association, like a state, a church, a company or a club, form a coherent set. It did not exist always, it has grown in the course of history, it differs locally, and it changes continuously. In such a system, the philosopher of law Herbert Hart distinguishes two kinds of laws.[98] Rules of the first kind have content, prescribing, preventing, regulating or constraining human acts in the domain for which the law is valid. These rules grant rights or impose obligations upon members of the community. Rules of the second kind are only concerned with the status of the rules of the first kind. These determine how laws of the first kind are made or amended, uphold or abolished, pointing out which laws are legal and hence valid within the legal system. Apparently, the first kind of laws is primarily politically characterized, the second kind juridical.

According to Hart, the most fundamental of the latter rules is ‘the rule of recognition’. It rules how doubts and uncertainties are settled, providing the authority to resolve them. It is the source of legal validity, from which the legality of any law, minor by-law or legal document is derived, as well as the legitimacy of any court of law and its proceedings, and any action by a legal officer.[99] In some countries (like the United States, Germany and the European Union) a supreme court decides whether primary rules are valid according to secondary rules. In other countries (like the United Kingdom and the Netherlands) parliament has this privilege. In many countries, the way rules of the first kind are made is laid down in the constitution, often together with a Bill of Rights, a declaration of the rights and duties of the citizens. In clubs similar rules may be found in the statutes, less easily amendable than additional regulations.


Chronos & Clio. 3. Artefacts


3.9. Rights and obligations


Only people and associations can be juridical subjects having rights and obligations. Animals have no rights, but people have obligations with respect to animals, with respect to all what lives, the environment and valuable artefacts, being juridical objects. In general, these objects are not typified by juridical relations. In a lawsuit concerned with a house as part of a heritage, the house is a juridical object, although the juridical relation frame does not characterize a house. Rights and obligations, too, are not subjects but objects. They follow from habits, contracts or rules and are, therefore, juridically characterized human-made artefacts. Habits are artefacts primarily typified by the relation frame of keeping company, contracts by the economical one, and rules and decisions by the political frame. Only the rights and obligations following from these are primarily juridical artefacts. Also the fundamental rights, which do not follow from habits, contracts or rules, are artefacts formed in history. Besides in subject-object relations, as juridically characterized artefacts also play a part in subject-subject relations, when the right of somebody implies the obligation of someone else. Therefore, rights and obligations are not absolute. There are situations in which various rights contradict each other, or somebody cannot keep their obligations. Someone’s conscience is often decisive in the choice one has to make in such a situation. In other cases a judge makes a decision binding all parties.

In many societies unwritten law exists, sometimes called customary law, but in a modern society to a large extent rights and obligations are laid down in the constitution, other laws and rules given by a government, in statutes and regulations of associations and in agreements. They form the written sources of justice, to be found in official and non-official publications. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century many people subscribed to the legal positivist’s view that written law (the letter of the law) is the only source of positive justice (1.9), hence the equivocation of ‘justice’ with ‘law’ in English. Other sources of justice were only acceptable if the law referred to them. The argument for this formalism was the legal security and legal equality, which would be harmed if a judge would not stick to the objective, literal text of the law.

Principles of justice have been actualized into countless norms. As formal sources of justice one distinguishes, in order of prevalence: treaties, being agreements between states; the constitution, laws and other regulations ordained by an organ of the state; rules and decisions valid within an association; jurisprudence, being the interpretation of law texts, established in juridical practice, sometimes based on the intentions of the legislature, as follows from reports of its considerations; contracts and customs, which are not always documented. Besides, there are informal sources, like the principle of good or bad faith, and logical analyses by jurists, secondarily typified by, respectively, the relation frame of trust and that of logic.

Besides one speaks of historical sources of justice, like the French Code Civil (1804), Roman law (rediscovered in Bologna in the eleventh century);[100] the canon law of the Catholic Church, especially important for family law; and old German or Anglo-Saxon law, important for goods, neighbour and heritage law.[101]

Finally, material sources of justice may be called. These are political or societal developments forming the historical background for formulating justice. For instance, the Second World War gave rise to treaties laying the foundation of the United Nations and the European Union. Also changing views, for instance regarding homosexuality, may give rise to changes of the law.

In different countries, present-day laws differ quite substantially, though there are at least three causes why legal systems are similar. The first cause is the intuitive feeling of justice, the juridical consciousness for values, common to all people. The view that a sales contract has juridical consequences including rights and duties binding for buyer and seller is the same in all cultures, even if it is differently formalized in written laws. All cultures know some kind of property right, though private property of land is absent in some cultures. In a little differentiated society there is no individual right of property. This only belongs to the family or the tribe. A remains of this is the right of inheritance. The right of property of land in continental Europe (in contrast to the Anglo-Saxon countries) does not include the subterranean minerals. Secondly, the juridical systems in different states often have the same historical roots, like Roman law, laid down by emperor Justinian I in the Codex Iustinianus (534), or the Code Napoleon for continental Europe. In the Anglo-Saxon countries Roman law has had less influence than the common law tradition, valid for the whole state. It developed gradually from customary justice, which was often locally different.[102] Third, the increasing contacts between people in various countries and cultures necessitate a certain amount of harmonisation of different juridical systems.[103] For instance, the United Nations has formulated the fundamental human rights in a universal declaration binding for all member states. The European Union tries to harmonize justice on its territory.

People have, grant, receive and lose rights. Some rights are transferable, and sometimes a judge may take away someone’s rights, for instance one’s freedom of movement. Fundamental human rights are inalienable, as John Locke observed. In a free society these are due to all. They are irreducible to other values and cannot be founded rationally.[104] Medieval philosophers summarized the normative principles under the term natural law (ius naturale), in contrast to human lawgiving (ius positivum).[105] Sometimes one considered natural law to be the ordered structure of the cosmos, the law for the nature of things, plants, animals and men. In this case, the normative principles are conditions for human existence. Others identified the natural law with the divine law revealed in the Holy Scriptures, in particular the Ten Commandments. Since Hugo Grotius humanism transformed the idea of natural law into human rights.[106] Some assume that the fundamental rights are products of cultural development.[107] Protestant philosophy considers the fundamental rights to be temporal actualizations of irreducible and invariant normative principles of justice. This view is also expressed in the requirement of the United Nations that its member states subscribe to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Only the verdict of a court of justice can someone rob of one or more of one’s fundamental rights, for instance the right to move freely on the public domain.

Unlike civil rights, human rights are not granted by the state, but should be recognized by each state. In 1948 the United Nations laid down the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Men, inspired by the Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain.[108] In thirty articles, this declaration describes the fundamental human rights, since then accepted by all members of the UNO, at least on paper.[109] In fact human rights are still coupled to civil rights, such that refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons are without rights in many countries, having fewer rights than ordinary citizens in many other countries.[110] Several countries even deny their own citizens the human rights to which they formally subscribe. European citizens may appeal to the European Court of Justice if they believe that their government violates their human rights.

The right of life and self-defence appears to be biotically founded. Any person has a right to live and any person has the obligation to respect, protect or save the life of another person. The interdiction of manslaughter is one of the most fundamental in any society. In the course of history, the right of self-defence has shifted from the individual to the tribe, from the settlement to the state. Initially the rights of individuals were subservient to those of the larger community. In an underdeveloped society individuals and associations have no rights. They can only expect grace from the powers to be. Roman justice was the first to allow civil rights, initially conceived of as the right of self-defence against the state. It was restricted to the patres, the heads of established families, represented in the Roman senate, and it collapsed during the Byzantine empire. After Christianity became the state religion, the secular and clerical authorities struggled for power until the end of the Middle Ages. The Reformation actualised the right of insurrection. The right to make war (ius belli) is only allowed to sovereign states, not to other associations and not to parts of a state. The fact that the United Nations (uniting sovereign states) restricts this right, does not diminish this principle. When individuals and/or associations come into conflict with each other or the state, they have to turn to a court of justice, whose judgment will be carried out by the state, if necessary with the use of violence. Nowadays, conflicts between states are more and more subjected to the judgment of a court of justice.

In contrast to the rights of life and self-defence, freedom rights are usually not secondarily characterized by the biotic relation frame, but for instance by the political relation frame (freedom of association); the economic frame (the freedom to exchange goods and services); the frame of keeping company (freedom of meeting each other); the frame of trust (freedom of opinion and worship); the logical frame (freedom of scientific research); the semiotic frame (freedom of speech and writing); the aesthetic frame (freedom to express oneself in imagination, for instance in cartoons); or the technical frame (freedom of choice of profession). All these freedoms are accompanied by obligations, such that the freedom of somebody does not stand in the way of another one’s freedom. State laws restrict freedom rights in a political way. Obligations implied by a contract and respect for the freedom and responsibility of other persons restrict rights in an economic or social sense. Hence freedom rights are projections of justice on the preceding relation frames. They especially concern the functioning of individuals and associations on the public domain.

Besides freedom rights there are political rights, applicable to the members of a state as well as of any association. For instance, this applies to the right to vote, the right of information and consultation, the right of approval, the right to criticize governors and the right to end the membership of an association.


Chronos & Clio. 3. Artefacts


3.10. Circumstances


One could mention countless artefacts that are not characterized by the frame of loving care, but have their destination in this frame. Medicines belong to the oldest artefacts in health care. Eyeglasses were invented in the thirteenth century, the frame connecting the glasses with one’s ears only in the nineteenth century, when health technology started to soar highly. The performance and enjoyment of the arts can have an important therapeutic effect. A love letter is a lingual piece with a love destination. Much scientific research is directed to care. Faith utterances are meant as consolation for sick or dying people and their next of kin. People use artefacts like pictures to keep cherished memories of good and bad days.

Besides these artefacts having their destination or purpose in the frame of care, we can distinguish artefacts primarily typified by this frame. By this I mean the objective circumstances in which people (or objects) need precaution, care or after-care. Even somebody who gives help should be in the circumstance to do so. Someone who is in a situation of distress needs help from whoever is available and capable. Often this requires an amount of expertise or competence.

Circumstances requiring care are, for instance, one’s health, hygiene, appearance, or security; purity of air, soil and water; labour and the assurance of income in case of illness or unemployment. Next we know the care for the quality of technical products, building, schools, science, economy, decision-making, accounting and justice. In all these cases the obvious norm is to act carefully. It is not difficult to show that these examples are primarily characterized by care and secondarily by various other relation frames.

Circumstances are artefacts, because (except natural disasters) people cause them and they can be completely or partially prevented or remedied. People are responsible for the circumstances they live in. They ought to enlighten the circumstances of those who ask for care, which have to act on it as well. In the nineteenth century one realized that a good water supply and sewers could preclude contagious illnesses like cholera.[111] Maintenance of everything that we are responsible for belongs to household care: cleaning of the home, washing and repairing of clothes, servicing of a car, and gardening, maintenance of tools, utensils and pieces of art. For this we have all kinds of instruments, from dishwashing brush to washing-machine.

The relation frame of care characterizes the safety of people too. Safety as precaution means protection against natural dangers, against unwanted consequences of technology or undesirable use of power with technical means. By building a house we protect us against heat or cold, against wind and rain. We protect us and our children against the dangers of electricity by applying reliable isolation and a safe construction of electric appliances. We protect us against the risks of traffic by buying a well designed car, by servicing it regularly, by driving carefully, and by taking into account the behaviour of others. We protect us against burglary by reliable locks, and putting valuables in a safe. Safety is part of the labour circumstances, to which an employer should pay careful attention. Safety and maintenance appear to be secondarily characterized by the technical relation frame. Another form of protection as a precaution is insurance against the financial consequences of circumstances like unemployment, illness, fire or old age. Insurances appear to be not technically but economically typified.

In a developed society, the government formulates requirements to labour circumstances in factories and offices, with respect to safety, hygiene and health, wealth, labour time, and minimum wages. It is striking that in the laws concerned all relation frames play a part, both those that precede the technical one and those that succeed it.[112] In problems of safety and health, for instance, it concerns spatial, physical, chemical, biotic and psychic circumstances. In welfare besides social, economic, political and juridical factors, information and participation are relevant. Employers have an obligation of care for their employees and both are obliged to take care of the course of affairs in the company.


Chronos & Clio. 3. Artefacts



3.11. The objective historical meaning of artefacts


In each relation frame we can distinguish between artefacts being characterized by that frame and other objects which are not. Besides people and associations which always act as subjects, all things, events, situations and processes can be object in each normative relation frame. For instance, each thing and each event can be a sign as an object in the semiotic relation frame, if a person or an association recognizes it as such. Only if it is specifically made by men, we speak of a symbol as a semiotic artefact. Artefacts are not merely relevant for the relation frame by which they are characterized. They play an objective and instrumental part in all normative relation frames. Without signs, symbols and language, social relations, commerce, government and justice were impossible, and where necessary, we adapt our language. In this way, artefacts have an open character. Conceived as human-made objects or events caused by people, artefacts have an objective meaning for history as well. They function as instruments in the transfer of experience. They are subjected to the normative order of time in the relation frames by which they are characterized, like pieces of art showing aesthetic renewal. Because the technical relation frame characterizes all artefacts either primarily or secondarily, artefacts should at least satisfy objectively the historical norm of progress. Therefore artefacts have a history of their own, constituting an important instrument for historiography as the interpretation of signs from the past. Indeed, each artefact is an objective sign of the history of the activity of humans as subjective makers and users. Artefacts are objective witnesses of the past.

Although always being characterized technically – whether primarily or secondarily – artefacts are not always material. An historical narrative is an instance of an immaterial artefact. People give their history objective meaning by telling a story about it.[113] Some philosophers of history reduce historiography to a representative narrative interpreting the past (narrativism).[114] Hayden White argues that an historical narrative is bound to a literary form.[115] He distinguishes figures of speech or tropes like metaphor, metonym, synecdoche or irony, corresponding respectively with tragedy (Alerxis de Tocqueville), comedy (Leopold von Ranke), romance (Jules Michelet) and satire (Jacob Burckhardt), as applied by historians from the nineteenth century.[116] According to Arthur Danto a historical narrative is further distinguished from a chronicle because a narrative cannot be told by a contemporary of the narrated event.[117] A narrative sentence like ‘in 1533 the Dutch Father of the Fatherland was born’ cannot have been stated before or in 1533, or even many years afterwards, because William of Nassau only later became recognized as such. A narrative sentence describes an event by irreversibly connecting it in a historically relevant way with a later event.[118] In this way a historical discourse may give an explanation based on insights or concepts achieved much later than the event concerned.[119] Therefore history renews itself continuously.

Narrativism is probably influenced by analytical philosophy, having much support especially in the Anglo-Saxon countries. Since the linguistic turn (circa 1970), this philosophy considers lingual analysis to be the nucleus, if not the whole of philosophy. Earlier continental philosophy of inter alia Wilhelm Dilthey, Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer took hermeneutics (Verstehen, i.e., understanding, according to Dilthey) as the starting point or presupposition of the social if not all sciences.[120] In any case it is an important instrument for both lingual and historical research.[121]

A historical narrative is distinguishable from fiction because the author accepts a number of restrictions, according to rules forming a usually silent protocol for historiography.[122] These normative prescriptions surpass the semantic and aesthetic rules which an historical narrative has to satisfy as well. The difference between a biography and an historical novel (or between an historical documentary and an historical movie) is now which rules prevail. Artefacts are not entirely arbitrary and can only be used if people manipulate them responsibly, according to the norms valid for them, which they themselves have derived from invariant values. Only then artefacts can fulfil their objective historical meaning. In particular this applies to historical narratives.


[1] Stafleu 2003. In Stafleu 2002, chapter 1 and 8 the possibility of artefacts having a dual character is not yet mentioned.

[2] Schuurman 1972, 384. See Verkerk et al. 2007 about technical design.

[3] Bacon 1620, 39, Aphorism 3.

[4] Of course, this does not concern the life of an individual apparatus. One distinguishes the here mentioned technical service life from the economic one, determined by the demand of the apparatus.

[5] The metric of a magnitude (like length or weight) consists of a unit, a scale, and rules for making calculations with the magnitude, see Stafleu 2002, 1.2, 3.1.

[6] Diamond 1997, 251.

[7] Jonas 1979, 192.

[8] Duby 1961-1962, 13. Meanwhile in China agriculture developed in a no less revolutionary way, see Landes 1998, 41-46.

[9] In some European countries one more agricultural revolution is mentioned, occurring in the eighteenth century and characterized by the draining and irrigation of lakes and morasses and the expropriation of agricultural land (formerly in common property or property of churches and monasteries) in favour of more modern management. See Procacci 1968, 218-222, 230-245.

[10] Achterhuis 1988, 311-328.

[11] Diamond 1997, chapter 9.

[12] Stafleu 2002, chapter 7.

[13] Agricola 1556.

[14] Landes 1983.

[15] White 1962; 1978; Duby 1961-1962; le Goff 1964, 76-77, 245-276; Stafleu 1992, chapter 6; Eamon 1994; Landes 1998, chapter 4.

[16] Since 1954, the early development of technology in China is described in the multi-volume work of Joseph Needham (ed.), Science and civilization in China.

[17] Landes 1998, chapter 3.The influence of the Byzantine and Arabic culture on the Western-European one is demonstrable, that of the Chinese and Indian far less. Bala 2006, 62 calls the Western-European medieval culture a ‘sandwich’ of Chinese technology and Arab science.

[18] De Vries and van der Woude 1995.

[19] Science historians are not always aware of this. They usually consider the relevance of technology for experiments and instrumental observation subservient to the formation of theories. Widely divergent explanations of the rise of natural science in Western-Europe are to be found in Dijksterhuis 1950; Hooykaas 1972; Landes 1983; 1998; Cohen 1994; 2007; Gaukroger 2006.

[20] Gaukroger 2006, 35, 41-43.

[21] Romein and Romein 1938-1940, 178-205, 451-469; Dijksterhuis 1950, 358-368.

[22] Stafleu 1998, chapter 3; Jonas 1979, 195. Simultaneously natural science disengaged itself entirely from philosophy and theology.

[23] Graham 1997, 16.

[24] Stafleu 2003.

[25] Burke 2004, 92-93.

[26] Gadamer 1960, 141. This form of art, in which the serial order of symbols determines its identity, Goodman calls allographic. The earlier mentioned thing-like art and performances, which identity depends on a unique product, he calls autographic, Stalmaker 2001, 399-400; Carter 2001, 510-511.

[27] Wittgenstein 1921, 4.0141.

[28] Huizinga 1938, 176-177, 208. The Quran, too, is intended for recitation, which is one reason why it is difficult to translate, Armstrong 1993, 168.

[29] Seerveld 1964, 90. See also Gadamer 1960, 153; Eagleton 1983, 18; Burke 2004, 95-96.

[30] Graham 1997, 24.

[31] Graham 1997, chapter 2 and 70-73; Nussbaum 2001, chapters 5 and 14.

[32] A joke often rests on a play of words, or a playful combination of matters that are usually not connected, a bisociation or an incongruence, see Koestler 1964, 35; Cohen 2001, 377.

[33] Seerveld 2000, 11.

[34] Seerveld 2000, 124.

[35] Seerveld 2000, 90.

[36] In contrast, according to Seerveld 1994, 68, ‘“Symbolical” … is the norm for art … the criterion for whether something is art or not … the decisive factor for art.’ Hart 1984, 195, 405 goes even further by identifying the ‘aesthetic and semantic functions’.

[37] Kant 1790, 34-36; Graham 1997, 12-15; Baumeister 2001, chapter 9.

[38] Guépin 1983, 291 (my translation).

[39] Carroll 2001; Pappas 2001, 24.

[40] Seerveld 2000, 11, 58-60.

[41] Various views of language are influenced by nominalism, via positivism and analytical philosophy of language arriving at present day constructivism (5.4). This movement is characterized by the neglect of the structure of a language, which is also recognizable in artistic currents like dadaism, see Conrad 1998, chapter 5. In the twentieth century structuralism formed a counter movement, first in France (Ferdinand de Saussure: Cours de linguistique générale, 1915), later in America (Noam Chomsky: Syntactic structures, 1957), see de Witte 1970; Staal1986; Pinker 1994. See also Foucault 1966, who, however, does not want to be called a structuralist. Structuralism also plays a part outside the science of language, for instance in Bunge’s philosophy of the sciences (Bunge 1967a,b), in Lévi-Strauss’s anthropology (Boyne 2000; van Keulen 2005) and in the historiography of the Annales etc. (de Vries and van der Woude 1995, 18-19).

[42] Cassirer 1944, 27; Langer 1960, 35.

[43] See Foucault 1963 about the history of the ‘medical view’ on symptoms.

[44] Cassirer 1944, 31.

[45] Langer 1960, 39-42.

[46] Danto 1985, 94-95.

[47] The assumption that scientific observations should be unbiased is invalid for any science. Just like any other science, history works with hypotheses and theories, see Danto 1985, 96-111, besides applying methods specific for history.

[48] Pinker 1994, 32.

[49] Scientific American, August 2002, 64. Pinker 1994, 280-282 estimates that half of all languages are threatened, and that only ten percent is reasonably safe.

[50] Pinker 1994, 36-41.

[51] Foucault 1966, 136-139: Written language is based on one of two different principles, the first following the meaning of words, the second analysing and writing the sounds. See also Pinker 1994, 207; Diamond 1997, chapter 12.

[52] Each spoken language has a characteristic set of phonemes. In all spoken languages together linguists count at least 558 consonants, 260 vowels and 51 diphthongs. Till the age of six to eight months, children are able to distinguish all 869 phonemes. After that, their brain restricts itself to a much smaller set, occurring in their mother’s language. American English uses 52 phonemes, the Kalahari-desert language !Xũ (Khoisan) holds the record with 141 phonemes; see Scientific American, August 2002, 14. According to Pinker 1994, 187-188, Dutch uses 35 phonemes, English 40, Polynesian 11.

[53] The rule for our number system, invented in India, is that in a number the position of a digit determines in part its value. (This necessitated the introduction of zero). The character of a number system does not only consist of semiotic rules, but also of mathematical laws about addition and multiplication. The Roman number system has different semiotic rules (it lacks zero) and has therefore a different character than the position system. Digits are symbols, without constituting a language. Digits can be combined into numbers and numbers can be added and multiplied, but these combinations are quantitative, not semiotic. The symbols in mathematical formulae are connected in a mathematical way, but mathematical formulae do not form a language. Only metaphorically we can speak of a mathematical language. The statement that mathematics is the language of natural science is a metaphor, intended to express that many scientific relations can be projected on mathematical relations.

[54] Pinker 1994, 89-92.

[55] Rhetoric, the theory of eloquence, determines which metaphors, figures of speech and tropes (projections on the aesthetic relation frame) a language allows.

[56] Pinker 1994, chapter 5.

[57] Wittgenstein 1953, 43; De Witte 1970, 59; Smart 2000, 453-455.

[58] Foucault 1966, chapter V.

[59] In different languages the order of the words is often radically different, much more than the significance of the words, see Foucault 1966, 107.

[60] In terms of the theory of sets, contrary to a part of a sentence, a word is not a part, but an element of a sentence.

[61] De Witte 1970, 66-74. In a sentence the verb (in various forms) expresses a relation between the subject and the predicate, see Foucault 1966, 116-121.

[62] Gadamer 1960, 181, 307, 309, 386-390.

[63] MacIntyre 1981, 210-219; Somers 2001, 362.

[64] Pinker 1994, 20-22.

[65] On the character of concepts, propositions and theories, see Stafleu 1987; 2002, 8.3; on models see Stafleu 1998, 6.2.

[66] Carnap 1928, 1939. Reversely, there have been philosophers treating grammar as a part of logic.

[67] Popper 1959, 59; 1983, 33; in contrast, Popper 1983, 113, 178 and 292 affirms that a theory is a deductive set of statements.

[68] Stafleu 1987, 15-19; Braithwaite 1953, 12, 22; Bunge 1967a, 51-54; 1967b, I, 381.

[69] Wolterstorff 1976; van den Brink 2004, 44-45.

[70] Popper 1959; 1963.

[71] Fischer 1970; Bentley (ed.) 1997.

[72] Verkerk et al. 2007, 262 and chapter 9.

[73] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, II 325-330; Langer 1960, 188; Smit 1987, 83-85; Troost  2004, 232-233; Von der Dunk 2007, 157-234; Ankersmit 2005, 400-405.

[74] Stafleu 1998, 1.5.

[75] I Corinthians 15, 6.

[76] I Corinthians 15, 14: ‘and if Christ was not raised, then our gospel is null and void, and so is your faith.’

[77] Clouser 1991, chapter 3. Theism confesses a personal god being concerned with the creation; deism assumes that the creator does not meddle with the creation; pantheism identifies god with nature and atheism denies the existence of a transcendental god.

[78] Borradori 2003, 36, 50.

[79] MacIntyre 1981, 71 observes rightly that also ‘to protest against’ contains a confession of faith.

[80] MacCulloch 2003, xx.

[81] Huizinga 1919, chapter 14, 16; Romein and Romein 1938-1940, 31-56, 75-97; Duby 1961-1962, 252-253; Israel 1995, I, chapter 3; MacCulloch 2003, 22-23; 2009, 510-511, 535-543.

[82] Perhaps, in Genesis ‘image’ does not mean a picture, but a deputy, compare Genesis 1:26 with 5:1-3. Also outside the Bible, an image may count as a deputy, as representation, Baumeister 2001, 137.

[83] Lovejoy 1936; de Vogel 1967; 1974; Bos 1996. Strauss 2009, 192: ‘In his Summa contra Gentiles (I,34) and Summa Theologica (I,13,1), Thomas Aquinas explains that we can know God through His creatures because, in an eminent way, God bears all the perfections of things within Himself. We know God by means of these perfections as they flow from Him into creatures.’

[84] Kohnstamm 1948, 286-289; Taylor 1989, 140.

[85] Weinberg 1964, 128-139. Bishop Étienne Tempier of Paris’  condemnation (1277) of 219 rationalist propositions furthered a critical attitude towards the views of Aristotle and Averroes, see Weinberg 1964, 171-172, 235-238; Grant 1986, 54; Lindberg 1992, 236-240; Gaukroger 2006, 48-49, 59-77. One of these propositions was that the world is not created but eternally existing, a logical deduction from the perfectness of the first mover, who could impossibly be the creator of an imperfect world.

[86] Hegel 1840, 29; Arendt 1958, 284-285; Nadler 2008. In the twentieth century, existential philosophy posed the question whether nothingness would not be more perfect than the all compassing being.

[87] Miles 1995, 392; Armstrong 1993.

[88] Auerbach 1946, chapter 1. The Bible also has a history of its emergence, in contrast to the Quran, which according to the Muslims is revealed to Mohammed as an eternal and uncreated document.

[89] Burke 2005, 69-70.

[90] de Jong 2007, 271-272, 305.

[91] de Jong 2007, 387, 390-396.

[92] De Swaan 1988, chapter 6.

[93] Exodus 20:15.

[94] Smith 1776, 34; Jevons 1871, 424-425.

[95] Aristotle Ethica Nicomachea, book 5.5, cited in Medema, Samuels (eds.) 2003, 14-15; Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, cited in ibid. 25.

[96] Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologica, cited in Medema, Samuels (eds.) 2003, 24-29.

[97] Weber 1904-1905; Russell 1946, 198-199; MacCulloch 2003, 604-607; de Jong 2007, 194-205; Graafland 2007, 107-109. Contrary to Luther, Calvin did not object to taking interest. In Geneva he introduced a maximum rate of interest of five percent, Hoogerwerf 1999, 97. The Bible, too, only knew a prohibition of taking interest of needy fellow members of the nation, Graafland 2007, 221-223. Goody 2006, chapter 7 rightly observes that capitalism in a wider sense not only emerged in Europe.

[98] Hart 1961, 89-96; Dworkin 1967, 65-68. Hart calls these kinds of rules ‘primary’ respectively ‘secondary’ in a different meaning than applied in Chronos & Clio.

[99] Tebbit 2005, 41-42.

[100] Knowles 1962, 155-163.

[101] Franken et al. 2003, 101.

[102] Rutgers 2004, 50, 186; Fukuyama 2011, 254-261.

[103] Donner 1997; Hirsch Ballin 1999.

[104] Tebbit 2005, chapter 7.

[105] Tebbit 2005, 9-14; Haldane 1991. The medieval idea of natural law is strongly different from the modern idea of natural law in the natural sciences, arising since the seventeenth century

[106] Buckle 1991.

[107] Franken et al. 2003, chapter 2.

[108] Hoogerwerf 1999, chapter 7.

[109] Huntington 1997, 208-214.

[110] Kymlicka 2002, 254-255; Verschraegen 2003.

[111] De Swaan 1988, chapter 4.

[112] Brüggemann 1989.

[113] This form already dates from Greek and Roman antiquity, Partner 1995, 31: ‘The openly identified narrator who is the known author; the substitution of collected information for inspiration by muse or authorial omniscience; the use of prose for a complex extended narrative; close attention to causal relations, motive and fortune as the determinants of events; the organized state as the defining unit of human society, and the predominance of political action and war as subject matter are all legacies from antiquity.’ Fischer 1970, 130: ‘Narration is not the only form of explanation they [i.e. historians] use, but it is one of the more common and most characteristically historical forms … A story explains how and what – not why - … explaining is understood to mean … making clear, plain, and understandable ...’

[114] Ankersmit 1983, 182-190; Roberts (ed.) 2001. In contrast, Foucault 1963; 1966 prefers an ‘archaeology’, in which various layers in history are laid bare. Yet also his Birth of a clinic can be read as a story having the end ‘the medical revolution for which Broussais in 1816 laid the foundation’ (236), and the point of one of the story lines: Only when the death was accepted in the medical experience, illness could be separated from the counter natural and be incorporated in the living body of the individuals.’ (239, my translation.)

[115] White 1973, 2: ‘I will consider the historical work as what it most manifestly is – that is to say, a verbal structure in the form of a narrative prose discourse that purports to be a model, or icon, of past structures and processes in the interest of explaining what they were by representing them.’

[116] E.g. White 1973, 143: ‘The Romantics repudiated all formal systems of explanation and tried to gain an explanatory effect by utilizing the Metaphorical mode to describe the historical field and the mythos of Romance to represent its processes.’

[117] Danto 1985, 115-142, 354.

[118] Munz 1997, 852: ‘In order to do justice to time, it must be described in a narrative form. Any other form of description fails to take account of the fact that the past bears the mark of the arrow of time.’

[119] Ankersmit, in Danto 1985, 385.

[120] Gadamer 1960, 157; Hübner 1978, chapter 13; Burke 2005, 7.

[121] Ankersmit 1983, 130-156.

[122] Partner 1995, 33-34. Such a rule is the ‘Reality rule’: ‘that the historian writes about the past wie es eigentlich gewesen’ in the words of Leopold von Ranke, or: ‘historians are concerned and committed to tell about the past the best and most likely story that can be sustained by the relevant extrinsic evidence’, Vann 1995, 53.








Chapter 4



 Associations as actors in history








4.0. The generic character type of associations

4.1. Cooperation

4.2. Playing together

4.3. Speakers, writers and media

4.4. Research institutes

4.5. The profile of an organised faith community

4.6. Clubs and interest groups

4.7. Entrepreneurs, enterprises and organisations

4.8. Profile of the state as a republic

4.9. Legal persons and the character of a constitutional state

4.10. Institutes of care

4.11. Historical views on the meaning of associations


Chronos & Clio. 4. Associations



4.0. The generic character type of associations


Who are the players on the stage of history? Until the twentieth century only great men (sometimes also women) appeared to be eligible: mighty kings, emperors and popes, industrials, great scientists and artists, inventors and authors, heroes and saints. Because of the increasing impact of individualism, democracy and bureaucracy on society, the professionalism of vocations (2.11), and the organisation of enterprises and institutions since the second half of the twentieth century, the veneration of heroes is restricted mostly to popular music, sport, film and television. In contrast, both organised associations (chapter 4) and unorganised communities (chapter 5) achieve a growing importance in a fast differentiating society. Moreover, individuals playing a historical part do that in a community or on behalf of an association. A statesman, a pope, is not imaginable without a state or church, an author not without a lingual community, an artist not without their public. Therefore, philosophy of history cannot neglect social philosophy.[1] I shall argue that in particular the distinction between organised and unorganised social connections is relevant for understanding their influence on historical developments.

An unorganised group of people without leadership I shall call a community. Instances are a lingual community, a nation or people, a social class or caste, a culture or a civilization, but also a party during a reception or the public during a concert. These have a certain social coherence, forming a network, but not an organisation with a governing board.[2] We shall see that organised associations or institutions (alongside individual people) act as subjects in the normative relation frames, contrary to unorganised communities. A lingual community and the public opinion are not active subjects, no more than Christianity, the market, society, a (sub-)culture or a civilization. Communities cannot work, talk, act, show respect for each other, they cannot even collide. They do not bear responsibility and are not answerable. Sometimes a community is objectively determined by an artefact, like a lingual community by a language; sometimes by a common ideology, like communism; sometimes by a connection with an association, like a nation or people is connected to a state; sometimes it is related to an event, like a party with a birthday. The suggestion that an unorganised community may act as a subject is at most a metaphor. This does not mean that these communities do not have reality or would be unimportant, as will become clear in chapter 5.

Chapter 4 investigates the supposition that character types of associations, conceived as sets of normative principles, are constant factors in culture and civilization. In contrast, the norms determining the concrete characters, are formed in history. Before we investigate (starting from 4.1) the specific character type of a number of associations, we first discuss the generic profile of each association, being an organised social whole with members and a governing board.[3] Such an association is the state, the guardian of the public domain. If a state does not tolerate other associations besides itself, one speaks of state absolutism. The recognition of free associations independent of the state is called pluralism.[4] We shall discuss these and other historical views about the meaning of associations in 4.11. Free associations have flowered especially since the twentieth century. Because they also act on the public domain, this becomes ever more important.

In this chapter, our basic assumption will be that each association has a dual character. The generic character establishes an association as an organised whole, whereas the specific character distinguishes diverse types of associations from each other. Moreover, in particular large associations also have an economically characterized organisation,with a bureaucratic character of its own, Interlaced with that of the association itself (4.7). We shall see that the generic character of an association is primarily characterized by the political relation frame and secondarily by the frame of companionship. For most associations the specific character is determined by a different relation frame than the political one, for instance the character of the church by the frame of faith and the character of an enterprise by the economic frame. Only the character of the republic as the guardian of public space appears to be characterized both specifically and generically by the political relation frame (4.8).

As an organised whole an association has authority and discipline. Its board (that may be monocratic or collective) determines the course of affairs within the association and represents it outdoors. For that it is empowered and entitled. The board acts on behalf of the association in all relation frames as a subject. Because an association maintains its identity at the leave of members from the association and the resignation of members of the board, it may be considered as a subject itself, with its own character, actively subjected to the values and involved with their realization into norms.[5] Usually, the authority is restricted to members of the association (and to the objects possessed by the association) and within the association by the freedom and responsibility of the members of the association. The board has a restricted and temporal competence to act with authority within and on behalf of the association. The authorization for this rests on the recognition by the members, on discipline. Nobody can continue to act within a social whole if they fail to earn the respect of its members, for instance by neglecting to consult them. Moreover the members of an association ought to have respect for each other, expressed by mutual solidarity and sense of community, by connectedness, otherwise the association explodes sooner or later. These are normative principles, which not every association satisfies. Sometimes an association only exists by the grace of the exertion or threat of violence. This may occur in a state, a criminal gang or a terror group, but also in a household.

The authority within an association is restricted by its generic and specific character, by the values and norms valid for the group. In the first place the authority is restricted to the association itself: no association ought to rule over another one.[6] In a modern, plural society, the state does not rule over the church and the church not over the state. Enterprises should be able to display themselves freely and there is freedom of associating and assembling. In the second place in each association the authority ought to be restricted by agreements and rules, by division of authority and members’ participation. Third, the bearers of authority ought to account for their deeds. Fourth, it should be clear how bearers of authority are nominated, how long their term of office is and how they transfer their office to someone else. In the course of history, these general rules have been developed in various ways, conform the association’s specific character.

It is quite common to interpret the authority in an association in a juridical sense (1.8-1.9). Yet it seems better to consider the authority as a political form, not characterized by judgement and rectification, but by policy, by competitive decision making, directed to the realization of accepted goals, and on the prevention and solution of conflicts, the maintenance of peace within the association, with other associations and individuals the association connects with. In a football match the referee has a juridical function, whereas the leadership is allotted to the captain and/or the coach. The leadership in an association as policy determining, decision taking, executing and maintaining organ is generically characterized by the political frame, next by the relation frame characterizing the association’s specific character. The maintaining task of the authority means that it takes care that the members accept and execute the decisions taken. A leadership neglecting this task soon loses its authority.

To lead is a political form of keeping company (2.8). This also applies to discipline, considered to be accepting of guidance and respecting those who are in command. It concerns the integration of the members into an adequately functioning social group. In some associations discipline is more obvious than in others, compare for instance a jail or a barracks with a hospital, a school or an enterprise. However, leadership and discipline are both conditions for the existence of any association. Where leadership or discipline are lacking, the organized group gets lost. Therefore I propose to characterize the generic character of each association primarily by the political relation frame and secondarily by the frame of companionship, primarily by policy and secondarily by social integration.

Democracy, roughly conceived as the leadership’s obligation to consult the association’s members and to account for its deeds, is not merely a norm for the state, but for every other association as well. Democracy can have many forms, like direct democracy (in which all members of the association partake, for instance in a referendum). More common is representative democracy based on elections or representation. In the first case the elected is usually not directly accountable to the voters, in the second case this is a possibility. In order to prevent dictatorship, against de view accepting only democracy according to the principle of one man, one vote, one finds the pluralistic view looking for democracy in a multitude of decisive organs within the state, especially as grown in Protestant countries.[7] Here organs can be represented in other organs. In the Dutch Republic, the Provincial States consisted of representatives of the cities and the States-General assembled representatives of the Provincial States. In the German Bundesrat and in the European Council of Ministers the member states are represented. In the United States all important functionaries are elected, inclusive of the House of Representatives. As a consequence, the governments of the fifty states have no direct influence on the federal policy. Representation and democracy are different forms to realize the members’ participation in the rule of an association.

If the generic character of an association as an organized group of people is primarily typified by the political relation frame, it should be secondarily characterized by the frame of keeping company. When an association loses all its members it ceases to exist. The number of members indicates the association’s magnitude. The members of an association experience mutual solidarity, a sense of community.[8] This is expressed in mutual forms of social conduct, more specified by the characterizing relation frame of the association’s specific character. Solidarity in a labour group differs from the love between siblings in a nuclear family. In a faith community solidarity comes to the fore in a different way than in a football club. In a state solidarity is expressed in civic responsibility and patriotism. Many associations endeavour to promote solidarity, by means of facilities like a canteen, by organising events or communal festive or memorial days or by publishing a magazine.

An association can act as a subject, as a person, because it has its own continuous identity, independent of the identity of its members. Members can leave and new members can join the association. An association can remain to exist even if its first members, its founders, have withdrawn their membership or are deceased. Like any individual an association has a name and address. A flag, logo or ideogram and a mission statement symbolise the association’s identity. It is important if its members can identify themselves with the association, socializing them. In a household any member should feel at home. As a metaphor this is also stated about other associations. Immigrants are supposed to do their uppermost to struck root in their new country. This is no less true for new members of any other association.

The purpose of this chapter is to investigate whether invariant character types for associations exist. Only these types are apt to be described in a general philosophical framework. The characters themselves develop in history dependent on culture and civilisation. In this sense these are products of human activity. This means that within each given characterization an enormous variation of characters of associations is to be expected. Only if associations satisfy a common invariant profile, it will be possible to recognize them, to compare them and to write their history.



Chronos & Clio. 4. Associations


4.1. Cooperation


We start our investigation with labour associations (not to be confused with trade unions), characterized by collectively performed labour, like a factory or an office. These are often entwined with other labour associations or with associations characterized by a succeeding relation frame. Such interlacements are recognizable by looking at relations of authority. The more technical acts are interlaced with each other or with other activities, the more labour needs organization and leadership. This is accompanied by a shift from individual handicraft to organised and industrial production. Handicraft is directed to an individual product (3.1). Even if the maker uses previously shaped materials, he commands the process from the begin to the end. There is a direct relation between the maker and the user, customer or buyer. Technology not based on handicraft is organised production with division of labour and mass production, often conducted by scientific research.

Depending on the nature of the work, a labour association can be secondarily characterized by one or more natural relation frames. Besides quantitatively typified groups of collectors, hunters or fishermen, one of the oldest labour associations seems to be the household, consisting of all living together in a home. A household is by definition coupled to a house or some other building, meaning that it is secondarily spatially characterized. Schools have a caretaker. Large offices, factories and hospitals have a domestic service department. The character of a household could also be biotically founded in the provision of primary living needs, like food, health, clothing, safety and shelter. The nucleus of a common household is a nuclear family, which character is, however, not characterized by the technical frame, but primarily by the relation frame of loving care, and secondarily by biotic kinship and by education in the relation frame of companionship (4.10). The household is a real labour association in which all members – if correct – have their own task, in which they cooperate. The view that unpaid domestic work is not labour testifies of an overestimation of the economic relation frame and of working in a large organization in which one can make a career. Moreover, it is contradicted by the possibility to let others do domestic work, e.g. a charwoman, servant, housekeeper or butler (whether or not resident) taking part in the household without being a member of the family. In their household, children learn to work, to deal with instruments. They become familiar with the environment, having nowadays largely an artificial character. In their household the parents share the authority, but with respect to the domestic work, traditionally the housewife plays an executive role. Children learn discipline, to accept (and sometimes to exert) leadership. If the head of the household is the same as that of the family, the corresponding characters are interlaced in a natural way. The character of the household of a monastery or a student dormitory is not entwined with that of a family, usually yielding a looser tie.

Long ago the extended family and the tribe formed the basis of all working groups, in hunting, cattle-breeding, agriculture, commerce and early industry. We still recognize this in family enterprises. In a little differentiated society, a labour association often coincided with a household. The differences between Western societies and those of Africa or Asia still rest on the amount of interlacement of family and work.[9]

Originally a farm was a labour association having the character of a household, interlaced with a nuclear family. In that case the character of a farm is primarily technically characterized and secondarily biotically, providing the basic needs of life for the household. In a more differentiated society an agricultural enterprise produces for the market and is characterized by the economic relation frame. As a labour association an agricultural enterprise is biotically typified and a cattle farm psychically, both with an economic destiny. As an enterprise it is economically characterized, entwined with one or more labour associations. 

Other working groups, too, had in the past the character of a household. This applies in particular to the handicrafts, which already implied a differentiation of labour. Usually children got a place in the labour association and labourers from outside became members of the household and were treated as members of the family. For a long time, the household served as a model for any labour association, from a monastery to a royal court.

In a differentiated society, labour associations depart from households in order to develop into associations between an employer and one or more employees, in principle having no other relation but that of the labour association. In particular this is not necessarily based on a family or tribe. This process has clearly an economical character, being motivated by the differentiation of labour. Like we have seen with artefacts (3.1), we can distinguish between the technical nature of labour, secondarily characterized by one of the natural relation frames, and its technical or non-technical destiny. For instance, dependent on the kind of exerted acts and the produced artefacts, a labour association may have an economic destiny (a factory), an aesthetic destiny (an orchestra), a semiotic, information destiny (a daily paper), or an internal technical destiny (as part of a larger labour association). An enterprise that primarily produces for the market (not directly for a client), is economically characterized. With the character of an enterprise the characters of one or more labour associations are interlaced. These are still characterized by labour, but have an economic destiny.

After the tie with the household got lost, employers treated their employees on large estates and in factories often as parts of the production process, as was earlier the case with slaves. Workers did not earn more than the costs of their living sustenance. Well into the twentieth century these were considered as costs of labour, the costs to maintain the labour force. Women and children of labourers had to work too. Labourers were replaceable by animals or machines if these were cheaper. The scientific formulation of all this was given by Frederic Winslow Taylor with the introduction of the assembly line, in which the workers functioned as parts of a large machine.[10] Because of the professionalization of labour, gradually the insight broke through that labourers are co-workers, deserving to earn more than what is necessary for the sustenance of life.

Simultaneously one started to understand that labour which can be performed by animals or machines is not really fit for human life. In the twentieth century such kind of labour became more and more automated. Since the Middle Ages, labourers opposed replacement of people by animals or machines, for fear of losing their jobs and their income. At short notice, this happened often enough, but on the average, the introduction of machines increased the production. Not only the profits of the entrepreneurs advanced, but in the long run the general prosperity as well, leading to new employment on a higher human level. This higher level means that labourers in their work realise an important amount of freedom and responsibility. It requires a labour organisation different from the assembly line.

Transfer of technical skills, like making and using technical artefacts, finds a natural place in each labour association. Specifically for this purpose, educational institutes are serving.

As an association a school or university is a labour group of teachers and other employees, directed by a master or governing board. In class, teachers have authority over their pupils. To the disciplinary relations between the board and the teachers other norms apply than to those between teachers and their pupils.

The character of a school, its constitutive law, is its curriculum, an organized plan for teaching and learning. Having a curriculum distinguishes a school from all other kinds of associations, and different curriculums define different types of schools. The curriculum does not always indicate what is actually taught in the school, which, in fact, often deviates from the curriculum. Rather, the curriculum stipulates what ought to be taught and learned, leaving a more or less large margin of freedom and responsibility for both parties involved. It is a set of values and norms. Teachers should be familiar with the curriculum and command its contents. They should be trained in exerting the curriculum, with respect to both its contents and the required pedagogic and didactics.


Chronos & Clio. 4. Associations




4.2. Playing together


Artists are historically important aesthetic subjects for the transfer of aesthetic experience. In the twentieth century they experience competition of sport and entertainment. Historically seen, the professionalization and specialisation of artists is a relatively recent phenomenon of economic differentiation, displaying several mutually connected aspects. First, the distinction between a craftsman and an artist corresponds to the mutual irreducibility of the technical and the aesthetic relation frame. Next one recognizes the difference between, for instance, a painter and a musician, corresponding to various aesthetic character types. Third, the emancipation from moral and other restrictions illustrate the irreducibility of the aesthetic relation frame to the succeeding frames. Finally, there is the emancipation of the public. All this reflects the gradual development of the aesthetic aspect of Western culture.

In the Middle Ages there was no distinction between a craftsman and an artist, between a stone-mason and a sculptor.[11] Artists were many-sided involved in the decoration of a city, a church or a monastery. Michelangelo Buonarotti was a sculptor as well as a painter and an architect. The distinction between an artist and a craftsman emerged in the sixteenth century, when artists took distance from the guilds, uniting in academies, in which artistic norms prevailed. Whereas the guilds were often organized as productive institutes in cities, the academies were usually connected (if not subjected) to princes, usurping power during the Renaissance.[12] These academies distinguished between craft and art, they provided the artists with their identity, but not their freedom. Artists were bound to the academies as much as their medieval predecessors to the guilds. Both depended on whoever commissioned them or favoured them. Free artists manifested themselves only later, after the emergence of the trade of art, when also the artists started to become specialists.

Until the eighteenth century, to enjoy art was a privilege of an élite. The Victorian nineteenth century considered entertainment as inferior, something to be avoided or at most tolerated, if surrounded by many kinds of moral admonitions. This is no less true for socialists and liberals than for Christians with their avoidance of the world.[13] By creating a contrast between seriousness and diversion the nineteenth century rejected amusement as vulgar.

However, also in that century emancipation movements occurred, having the democratisation of art and entertainment as their goal. As a form of organisation they often adopted a free association. Many clubs and societies started to deal with the active exertion of art or sport. Besides, schooling in art and sport became a fixed part of the curriculum of many types of education. Since the twentieth century, mass communication became an enormous incentive, just like the possibility to multiply inexpensive texts, pictures and music.

This did not always concern the promotion of the aesthetic experience. Often it was coupled to utilitarian, moralist or nationalist considerations. Drawing was propagated because of its significance for the handicrafts and the industry. Musical education had to serve the national cause, or the Protestant cult. Conservative Protestants, Roman-Catholics, socialists and Muslims have long but in vain tried to blockade the emancipation of art and entertainment. Especially the night life and the mixing of the sexes in sport and dance met with distrust. Together with the emancipation of various parts of the population these objections disappeared entirely or mostly. Sport, entertainment and art are now less the privilege of an élite. It is striking that during the second half of the twentieth century the youth culture has emancipated, in particular in the age group of twelve to twenty. Before, adults determined what was good for the youth, often without inquiring after their opinion. Since about 1960 young people decide for themselves which music they prefer and play. Usually this is not classical music, folk songs or fanfare, but rock, beat and other pop music.[14]

As a consequence of the youth’s emancipation the ideological load of the artistic and sportive education is disappearing. In the nineteenth and twentieth century this was determined by alternating views on art and entertainment, successively aiming at the religious, moral, national, political or social elevation of the youth and the common people.[15] With the emancipation the insight breaks through that art and play are activities with their own intrinsic value, not requiring justification or control from outside. This underlines the irreducibility of the aesthetic relation frame, of the aesthetic experience as a condition for human existence.

A match may be considered an aesthetically characterized subject-subject relation, in which one or more players (chess or running) or two teams (bridge, soccer) compete with each other. The players share their aesthetic experience of the game. They display their skills by comparing these to those of somebody else, continuously seeking and finding creative solutions for problems offered by their opponents. Like that of the arts, the generic character of competitive sport appears to be secondarily characterized by the technical relation frame. The mutual challenge of the antagonists summons a tension styling competitive sport. Clearly, the generic character of a match is primarily characterized by the aesthetic relation frame.

All plays are aesthetically typified, but not all plays are competitive. Many people cultivate a sport in order to maintain their physical condition. Children and adults have to learn most games, they require specific skills, but there is a difference between playing to learn and learning to play. Especially children’s plays but also jokes and word plays are often spontaneous. Besides competition, a match between two teams presupposes cooperation within each team.

Though competitive sports were popular in ancient Greece and Rome, as well as tournaments in the Middle Ages,[16] the phenomenon of playing according to strict rules seems to be relatively recent. It mainly developed during the twentieth century, together with the separation of amateurs and professionals. No less than a play in a theatre a match is an event-like human-made object, hence an artefact with a character of its own. We distinguish competitive sports from artistic performances because they are competitive and do not proceed according to a written instruction like a score or scenario (3.2). Instead competitive sports are conditioned by strict rules of play, constituting the character of the play, directed to specific performances. Rules of play are not natural laws but norms, rules of style.

Associations which specific character is aesthetically characterized we find both in team sports and in the performing arts, for instance a soccer team, an orchestra or a dance group. Such an association acts as an aesthetically characterized subject in all relation frames, like individuals acting as a historically acting person. There is a clear division of tasks between the players, sustained by the accompaniment and the technical staff. Playing together requires guidance by a conductor, director or coach, as well as discipline of the players.

A soccer team acts like an aesthetically characterized subject. As a team it partakes in a league, it wins or loses a match. The team has an internal division of tasks (e.g., keeper or left back), leadership (the captain or the coach) and internal discipline. The team does not have a fixed composition, but it has its own identity.

In contrast, a soccer club is not an aesthetically typified subject, for it does not partake in matches or leagues. The club facilitates players, fans, trainers, technical staff and sponsors to keep each other’s company. Many people are member of a sports club (or of a musical or theatrical company) to enjoy company as much as sport. As a consequence, the relation frame of companionship characterizes the specific character of a sports club by customs, interests and rules of social conduct. The identity of a soccer club differs from the identity of the soccer team. This means that the specific character of a soccer team being aesthetically typified is interlaced with the specific character of the soccer club, being an association primarily characterized by the relation frame of keeping company.

Teams and clubs are subjected to different norms, having divergent specific characters. Often, a club has several teams, playing in separate divisions. Neither the leadership nor the membership of a soccer club needs to consist of soccer players and the internal division of tasks in a club has little to do with soccer playing. Besides soccer the club may organize other sports or display non-sportive activities. The club is not subject to the rules of play of soccer, as is the team. One of the tasks of the club may be to compose the teams, but the club should not determine how the game would be played. The competing teams should do that themselves.

A comparable analysis can be made of the distinct characters of a musical company and the orchestra, a theatre company and the cast of a performance; or a dance company and the performing group.


Chronos & Clio. 4. Associations


4.3. Speakers, writers and media


Someone commands one’s native language or a foreign language if being able to apply grammatical patterns automatically and without errors, with a relatively large vocabulary, which meaning is known in a given situation. Poets, cabaret performers and authors display a creative, aesthetically developed command of language. They deal with the grammatical rules in a playful way, forming new words or sentence constructions, or giving words a new meaning in a surprising context. Especially novel writers show their artistic command of language by their narrative ability. Also other professions require specific lingual command, like journalism or advertising.

In the course of history, besides libraries and bookshops typically semiotic associations emerged, like publishers and editors of books, papers, periodicals and other informative media. Sometimes these are entwined with public broadcasting, which is not merely concerned with spoken language, but also with plastic arts or music. Enterprises maintaining communicative networks (like the telephone), have an objective function in the semiotic relation frame. They do not communicate information themselves, but facilitate it. Also associations which are not specifically semiotically typified communicate with each other and with individuals.

In this way all these associations have a function in the collective memory of mankind and in the transfer of knowledge as an engine of history, with language as its most important instrument.


Chronos & Clio. 4. Associations



4.4. Research institutes


All people argue and argued insight is a condition for the existence of mankind. Of old, lawyers are the masters of rhetoric, with the clergy as the second best. Yet more than other logical subjects, in particular scientists and scholars strongly influenced Western history. In a logical argumentation besides people also human associations can be subjects. The board of an association will, if right, build its decisions on a solid argumentation. In this sense each association is a logical subject.

Transfer of knowledge takes place in the household and in schools, and the preservation of knowledge in libraries and other data storages. Special institutes with the purpose of achieving collective scientific knowledge are relatively recent. Until the seventeenth century, scientific research was not organised, but was exerted like a craft by usually isolated individuals. Only during and after the Renaissance learned societies or academies arose having no other purpose than to perform science. Sometimes they installed observatories or laboratories, usually connected to universities, enterprises or hospitals. Since the twentieth century, one knows independent enterprises doing contract research. Research is by no means always purely scientific, if we understand thereby the investigation of the lawfulness in nature and society. Many institutes are directed to the collection of data (e.g., for the benefit of hospitals or for forensic research), or for the development of new technologies. This is called applied research. The members of the board of such an institute and its co-workers are partly scientists, but the supporting staff plays an increasing professional part.

Because scientists specialise, more and more scientific societies arise, with the purpose to organise congresses, to publish scientific results and to award all kinds of prizes and medals. By means of peer-reviews, the editors of scientific periodicals pass a judgment of scientific work. Within an institute superiors, seniors or colleagues judge the work of students, junior or senior co-workers.


Chronos & Clio. 4. Associations



4.5. The profile of an

organised faith community


Besides free associations there are social groups which membership is not voluntary. Into the nuclear or extended family or the state a child is born, and in principle or in practice this also applies to a faith community. In a little differentiated society faith is unbreakably connected to the family, the tribe or the state. In most churches this is still expressed in infant baptism, in other faith communities by the circumcision of boys. With or without such rituals most people belong unasked for to a faith community from their birth. However, not every child is admitted to an organised faith community, though consciously or unconsciously parents educate their children according to their own convictions. If parents leave their children free in their choice of faith, this rests on the conviction that this ought to be done so, if it is not a matter of negligence.

History knows both organised and unorganised faith communities. Christianity, Jewry and Islam are not associations, but unorganised communities with a network structure (5.5). The originally Christian word ‘church’ (Greek: kuriakè, of the Lord) indicates an organised faith community, an association with members and a board. It may be a synagogue or a mosque, as well as a congregation, parish or diocese. A monastery or religious order, too, is an organized faith community. Like any other association, a local, national or international church has a dual character.

Its generic character is primarily politically characterized by authority and discipline and secondarily by the relation frame of keeping company. In this respect a church does not differ much from other associations. Almost all Christian churches base their official authority in the apostolic succession, the ordination of an office holder by one or more other office bearers, in the inverse course of history going back to the apostles being the first office keepers. Local congregations are united into a regional, national or worldwide connection. In Calvinian churches, one office bearer is not above another one, the church council being the head of the congregation. Other churches have an episcopal system, with an office hierarchy. The superstructure exerts authority over the congregations, coordinating many practical affairs, like the instruction of officials. In the Protestant churches one observes an increasing congregationalism, in which people are first of all members of the local parish, having little interest in the denomination and not caring very much about the central authority.

The specific character of a church, by which it distinguishes itself from other associations, is primarily characterized by the relation frame of faith, the transfer of experience of faith. I believe that this character is secondarily aesthetic, typified by worship, cult, the common celebration of the shared faith (5.2). When the church becomes less dogmatic, stressing its doctrines lesser, its liturgy as prescription for worship comes more to the fore. In Catholic churches, the pastor is a priest, with the most important task to serve the mass, conceived as a repetition of Christ’s sacrifice. In a Protestant church service, the ministry of the word is central and the pastor is called a minister. Rabbis and imams, too, are not priests but ministers of the word. However, the preaching of the word is part of the celebration, including prayer, singing, collects and sacraments as well, such that these associations, too, should be aesthetically typified rather than semiotically.

The common content of faith, the denomination, is usually laid down in a confession, in a series of faith statements or dogmas, determining the church’s specific character. It indicates what the faithful ought to believe. All faith communities distinguish the true doctrine from false ones. They would not be trustworthy if they would not hold their own faith to be true and trust would be lost. That does not take away that people may recognize organized and unorganized communities starting from different doctrines in their own right, if only because one should be aware of one’s own fallibility. Moreover many people are convinced that ecclesiastical dogmas are in part historically determined.

According to most Protestants a church cannot be identified with the Christian religion, with the relation to God, for then it would not be a human association. The intersubjective relation celebrated by a church concerns the shared beliefs about the relation to God and about the ways religion is expressed in the faith community and in ordinary life. For this reason, there are so many different denominations and differences within churches, each specifying their religion into a faith, consisting of various views which are by no means all formally laid down in a confession or a church law. Many believers experience the dissension of and within the churches as a deficiency, as a consequence of sin. Nevertheless, the diversity is also an expression of the liberty of conscience and the responsibility of all people for their convictions and the ways to celebrate them.[17]  

Religion or world view as the concentration point of human activity in all relation frames is not restricted to the frame of faith (5.11).[18] Of course, faith and religion have much in common. Inter alia, religion concerns the final certainty which a person trusts unconditionally. However, a world view is more than trust alone. Protestants believe that all of ordinary life is drenched with religion, which cannot be confined to any church. Like John Calvin and Immanuel Kant,[19] Abraham Kuyper distinguished the visible church as a temporal ecclesiastical institute, an association organized by men, from the invisible church as a religious community of all believers, the body of Christ. Kuyper reproached the Roman-Catholic Church for identifying its own visible church with the invisible one, not recognizing other churches. Until the twentieth century, the identification of the body of Christ with one’s own temporal organized faith community, conceived as the only true church, has led to charges of heresy and persecution because of faith. The ecumenical movement in the second half of that century led many churches to the mutual recognition of each other’s celebration of word and sacrament, of being a church, and of the offices. Since the second Vatican council also the Roman-Catholic Church recognizes each Christian faith community to be an expression of the body of Christ, celebrating community in the service of word and sacrament.

Freedom of faith is not restricted to Christian belief, for it includes each conviction, each ideology. It implies political freedom as well, the freedom to propagate political convictions on the public domain. Interest and action groups usually are restricted to a part of the public domain. In contrast, a political party is concerned with the public domain as a whole, and with the internal organisation of its guardian, the republic. A political party is an association specifically primarily characterized by the relation frame of faith, but it is not secondarily typified by worship. Therefore it is not a church. Sometimes a political party is based on state power, sometimes it is an interest group, but it ought to be free from the state and to serve general interest, according to its ideology. Its primarily ideologically characterized specific character is secondarily logically typified by a program of principles or political manifesto and an action program.[20]

A political party is exclusively directed to the public domain including the republic that administers the public domain, whereas the church is primarily concerned with the relevance of its faith to its members. The character of a political party is typically interlaced with that of the state, in a way that no longer exists for the church since the separation of church and state (5.5). The political ideology implies first of all an argued view of the state and public government. Nevertheless the similarities between faith communities and political parties are striking. For some people their party is a substitute for the church, for others a place where people from separated churches can meet each other. The members of a political party trust each other more than they trust members of a different party.


Chronos & Clio. 4. Associations


4.6. Clubs and interest groups


An unorganised group of people meeting with the purpose of keeping company is sometimes called a party. It is a community, to be distinguished from an organised association, secondarily characterized by the relation frame of companionship, but primarily by the political frame, by authority and discipline. A party also differs from a community which is not typified by companionship, but for instance by a shared language or belief. The manners in a small party differ from those in a large one, being less formal but with more social control. The norm for a party is cosiness, indicating the temporal order of integration. By their social conduct, all persons present should contribute positively to the group’s conviviality, excluding nobody. Whoever does not adjust to the party is ignored or expelled. Parties are observable at a coffee break, a visit, a reception, a wedding or a funeral. Someone’s presence at a party may be convenient or inconvenient. You cannot join a party just like that, that would not be respectful. You greet, looking or asking whether you are welcome. Leaving a party you excuse yourself and say goodbye.

A space where people meet is sometimes called an opportunity. A place to eat or drink, a restaurant, pub or club, is often more intended to keep company than to take food. Many institutes have a representative meeting place. A sports club has a bar. A church building has a cultic destiny, but it also has an important social function. Sometimes it includes a special meeting space. Churches and institutes of care exploit youth hostels and clubs for elder people. In all these places different customs prevail and those present should adapt to the atmosphere determining the opportunity

The relation frame of companionship primarily characterizes the specific character of a club, even if striving after an interest it has a destiny outside the relation frame of keeping company.  Associations specifically characterized by the relation frame of keeping company are first of all social clubs, like societies for students, the youth at large or elder people. These have their destination in the frame of companionship itself. A football club or a theatre company is typified by the frame of keeping company, having an aesthetic destiny (4.2).

Besides clubs, the relation frame of keeping company characterizes organised interest groups, even if these usually have their destiny elsewhere, for instance in the economic or political frame. Its members entrust the promotion of their interests to the association. Clubs and interest groups play a historically important part in the emancipation of minority groups.


Chronos & Clio. 4. Associations



4.7. Entrepreneurs, enterprises

and organisations


Producers, consumers, traders and entrepreneurs act as economical subjects, both individually and in groups. The household is nowadays mainly considered as a consumption unit, but as a labour group it functioned till the end of the nineteenth century as an economic model, not only for an enterprise but for the state as well. A small company was conducted like a household, a large one (like the Dutch United East-Indian Company) as a state.[21] Nevertheless, already long before the Renaissance economic enterprises existed, directed to taking risks and making profits or losses. Production in enterprises in which capital and labour are separated, is more modern. An enterprise is an association, directed by an entrepreneur instead of a head of family. It is secondarily typified by organised and differentiated labour. Gradually, enterprises have become the most important actors in the transfer of goods and services, with the market as a public place of trade (5.7).

The primarily economic character of an enterprise is interlaced with that of one or more labour groups like a factory. The entrepreneur disposes of the means of production, possessed by the enterprise. These are distinguished into invested capital (buildings, machines, transport means, stock) and the labour potential. The latter includes both the actually present labour force and skills and the potential employment offered by the enterprise. The ratio of capital and labour may vary strongly, from a more or less completely automated capital intensive enterprise to a labour intensive enterprise like an accountants firm. Especially in small enterprises the entrepreneur is often the co-owner of the capital as well as one of the co-workers. In large enterprises these functions are separated. The director of the enterprise is responsible to the suppliers of capital (for instance, shareholders) and to the employees. In practice, the influence of both is limited, the entrepreneur being in command. Entrepreneurs are responsible for the quality of their products and the production process. Responsible enterprise is more than making profit. It implies to create a good working climate, to maintain a reliable relation with suppliers and clients, and to prevent forged competition and pollution of the environment.[22]

In an undifferentiated labour group, the workers possess the means of production: tools, raw materials, intermediary and end products. In an enterprise, labourers are employees and the means of production are possessed by the enterprise, as property or hired. Both the invested capital and the labour potential have an economic value. As a consequence, it is possible to sell an enterprise. Usually the employees will stay with the enterprise, including the directors, although reorganization may follow the sale. Without a profit, an enterprise cannot exist for long, but making profit should not be the most important aim of an enterprise. That is to be of economic service to shareholders and to employees, as well as to suppliers and clients.

An entrepreneur as an economic subject considers all means of production to be economic objects. Labour too forms a kind of cost. Yet in an enterprise each co-worker as an employee is an economic subject placing their labour at the disposal of the enterprise, as well as being a technical subject as a labourer. A well functioning modern enterprise recognizes its employees as co-workers, as subjects, not as objects, as wage-slaves. Like other nineteenth-century economists, Karl Marx assumed that the value of a product is determined by the labour needed to produce it on the average.[23] However, labourers do not get paid for their labour, but for their labour potential. According to Marx this is the value of the goods that workers need to provide for their family and to reproduce. The labourers get paid less than the value of the goods they produce. Fear for unemployment and starvation forces the labourers to work a few hours a day more than would be needed for their livelihood. Marx calls the difference the surplus value of labour, i.e., the source of all incomes not derived from labour, constituting the heart of capitalism. Marx confirmed the view that entrepreneurs are exploiters, because they pay for labour less than it is worth. As a dialectical thinker, Karl Marx opposed the labourers, conceived as the possessors of labour force, against the owners of money or goods.[24] He did not recognize an enterprise to be a cooperation in which all parties make a profit, but he considered it the place of a continuous struggle between capital and labour, in which capitalists are parasites at the cost of workers. If right, however, both labourers and suppliers of capital put their possession together at the disposal of the entrepreneur, organizing both into a profit making venture, in which all participants bear their own responsibility.

Each association has a specific internal differentiation, a division of tasks and authority. We call this the organisation of the association. It has a character of its own, interlaced with but usually to be distinguished from the dual character of the association itself. Because the division of labour is economically typified, I think that the primarily politically characterized organisation is secondarily typified as a projection on the economic relation frame. Sometimes the members of the organisation are not members of the association, but employees. Therefore, in an enterprise, being specifically economically characterized as a whole and which members are employees, the organisation cannot always be distinguished from the association itself. The organisation of an association maintains economically typified relations with clients and suppliers. These relations are not based on authority but on contracts. The larger an association, the more important its organisation. Sometimes the organisation gets so much attention that an association which is in fact primarily not economically characterized is conducted like an enterprise. However, when a hospital starts behaving like an enterprise, the danger arises that the patients are treated like clients. Within an organisation a social order exists, influencing the social intercourse. Even the simplest association has an internal division of tasks and regulations of authority. Often these leads to the formation of departments within the association or the organisation. If an organisation acts according to strict lines from above to below (top-down), we speak of a centralized or vertical hierarchy, in which higher instances delegate authority to lower ones. If the authority of the departments is emphasized, the leadership having a mandate, we speak of a decentralized, horizontal or flat organisation having a network structure. In the case of delegation a higher instance may revoke each decision of a lower one, in the case of a mandate this is not generally possible. Then only the mandate can be withdrawn entirely or a great deal. The departments have a limited freedom and responsibility. They are obliged to account for their labour after the fact. The network structure confirms the increasing professionalism of highly schooled co-workers and their own responsibility. Therefore horizontal organisations appear to have more future than hierarchical vertical structures.

An organisation requires rules and an administration, if only a list of the members and a cashbook. In large associations, in particular the state, the organisation or administration has received a relative independence from the government, which was recognized only in the nineteenth century as the ‘fourth power’.[25] An abundance of internal rules gives rise to bureaucracy. Among other things, the organisation is important for the communication of the board with the members of the association. For external relations the association has a public relations officer. For enterprises advertising is mandatory.


Chronos & Clio. 4. Associations


4.8. Profile of the state as a republic


The characters of various states, as described in their written or unwritten constitution, being historically determined, display large differences. In the present section we investigate the universal profile of a state, considered on the one hand as an association, on the other hand as republic, as guardian of the public domain. I put forward that the political relation frame characterizes both the generic character of the state as an association, and the specific character of the state as a republic.[26] Unfortunately, this often prevents one from recognizing the dual character of the republic, which is nevertheless very important for understanding political history.

In common with other associations, the state has a competent authority (its government) and members (citizens). This is its generic character. According to its specific character, the state governs the public domain (the res publica) by means of a public network of rules. The specific character of the state as a republic is therefore primarily characterized by the political and secondarily by the technical relation frame with its objective networks (5.1).[27]

According to this characterization, the state is not characterized by the juridical relation frame. Not every state is a constitutional state or a welfare state. But a state without political authority on the public domain cannot exist. Legislature is not juridically characterized, but politically. Each association has its regulations, which are for its members no less binding than the state laws are for citizens. Democracy too, the people’s representation, is not characteristic for a state. Direct, non-representative democracy is invented in Athens by Cleisthenes (508 BC), functioning more than 180 years.[28] Its introduction did not influence the administration of justice. On the one hand, there are states that are not democratic and there are views of the state rejecting democracy.[29] On the other side, democracy is a form of participation in management, being a Western norm for any association, not only for the state. Democracy means more than majority rule. It means that the management respects the views of minorities, avoiding oppression.[30] In many cases a majority is no more than an accidental coalition of minorities. A democracy does not first of all mean that members are allowed to have a say in important decisions (anyhow, this is often quite impractical in large associations). It rather implies that people have the opportunity to check and to criticize the management, to call it to account for its deeds. Elections determine who will govern the country in the years to come, but the voters use their vote just as well to approve or disapprove of the policy of the preceding period.

Like any other association, the state’s generic character is secondarily characterized by the relation frame of keeping company. In this respect (for instance, military service and the right to vote), the state has no authority over foreigners present within the state’s boundaries, but it has so for its own citizens being abroad. (In contrast, the state as republic has authority over foreigners residing on the republic’s territory, and not over its own citizens staying abroad, for instance with respect to traffic rules.) The authority of the state over its citizens is comparable with the authority in each other association with respect to its members. It depends on the assent of the population (in a democracy expressed by the people’s representation) and of the mutual solidarity within it, expressed by a community feeling.[31] The view that the state is carried by its citizens, that the state keeps its identity when its form of government changes, is relatively young and Western.[32] Much more common is that the ruling élite (the monarch, the nobility or the bourgeoisie) detaches itself from the people, inter alia by a different use of language and courteous forms of intercourse. The ruling élite considers the state (as well as the church) as a source of income in order to increase their wealth and prestige. Louis XIV, with his ‘l’état c’est moi’, was no exception in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The identification of a state with a hereditary monarch as sovereign owner of the state led to bloody succession wars from the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century.

The state as republic is distinguished from other associations by its specific character, its authority to guard the public domain. This character is primarily characterized by the political relation frame and secondarily by the technical one. We shall see that the public domain is not a purely spatial affair, but is cultivated and opened up by human labour (5.1). Therefore, I assume that the specific character of the republic is secondarily technically typified, in the command and opening up of public networks. This does not mean that the government would be the owner of the public domain in an economical or juridical sense, or that its power over the public space would be unlimited.[33] The republic develops and maintains the public domain, but is not responsible for the way people use it. The republic does not guard the public subject-subject relations, but the objective networks. In order to warrant the freedom of the users, the republic maintains the public order, the rules pertaining to the public domain.

The republic exerts authority on the public domain on which it is sovereign. Conceived as administrative authority over the public domain, sovereignty indicates the primary characteristic of the republic’s specific character. In this respect the profile of the state differs from that of other associations, being sovereign in their own sphere (to use a Protestant expression), but having no authority outside it. As far as they act on the public domain they do so as subjects among other subjects, guarded by the republic.

The secondary characteristic implies that each state has a limited territory, such that different states do not overlap. Precisely indicated boundary lines between states are a relatively modern phenomenon. Even during the eighteenth century a boundary used to be a strip with a changing or shared sovereignty, or a defence line. Uncultivated areas, about which it makes no sense to dispute the sovereignty, hardly exist anymore. Only the Antarctic and the free sea and the air above it are not subjected to the sovereignty of states. Nowadays the republic’s sovereignty is also extended to the extraction of subterraneous minerals, the control of airspace and, for coastal states, a part of the adjacent sea. Ships and airplanes staying outside the territorial waters are considered to be the territory of the republic under which flag they travel, such that they are subjected to the authority of that state. According to the specific character of the republic it exerts authority over all people present in its public space. When using the public domain they ought to keep the country’s laws, even if they are not citizens of the state. This applies, for instance, to traffic rules or to education compulsory for all children living on the state’s territory.

It is a political dogma that sovereignty is one and indivisible.[34] In fact, the diversity of the public domain allows of various possibilities to share authority, leading to the distinction of a confederation of states, a federal state, a decentralized or a centralized unitary state, being subtypes of the specific character type of the republic. A confederation of states like the European Union is a union of sovereign states, based on one or more treaties. It derives its sovereignty from the member states. In a federal state like Germany or the United States, the separate states are sovereign on a number of designed areas, for instance education. In a decentralized unitary state like the Netherlands, the state delegates or mandates part of its authority to lower organs. A unitary state like France is completely or largely governed from the capital. The transitions between these four types, all having the character of a republic, are fluid. Clearly, sovereignty is not indivisible, as is often thought. Also one’s state membership is no longer exclusive: ever more people have a double nationality.

The fact that the specific character of the republic is secondarily typified by the technical relation frame implies that the republic has not only authority but also power on the public domain. In a civilized society it has a monopoly of the armed forces. This implies the obligation to protect citizens and associations against each other. The state maintains the public order and defends its territory by means of intervention forces, such as the police and the army. We call these intervention forces, because police and army only act when citizens or associations respectively other states do not stick to the rules or to treaties.[35] They may intervene whenever the public order is threatened. Intervention is legitimate in an exceptional situation of crisis. Intervention is a typical police matter, and it is not accidental that police differs only one letter from policy.

Armed force is not allowed to any association that has not the character of the state. However, the republic may leave its defence to another state, or to an alliance of states like NATO. Within a state member states, provinces or cities often have their own police, not subject to the authority of the central government. It may provide a private organisation with a license to maintain the order on a limited area. In many countries civilians have the right of self-defence and the right to carry weapons. Companies may have an internal security service. In civilized countries these exceptions are severely limited, subjected to a licence granted by the government and to juridical approval after the fact.

However important the monopoly of armed intervention may be, I believe it cannot primarily characterize the republic.[36] It is true that the disposal of armed forces characterizes a republic secondarily, for no state can operate without it.[37] Authority is not the same as armed power, however. Each association dissolves when its board loses its internal authority. This is also the case with the government of a state. It may happen if the state is invaded by the army of another state, or by an internal armed revolt. In that case the republic loses its authority over the public domain. However, a state can also disintegrate because the government loses the trust of its citizens, thereby  losing its authority as an association. In this way, in 1989 the German Democratic Republic ceased to exist without a single shot being uncharged.

The use of violence is only acceptable in emergency cases, ‘because of sin’.[38] Only in situations where others use violence, the state may violently interfere. Assuming that the state is not characterized by authority but by armed power, by the monopoly of violence, it is unavoidable to conclude that the state itself only exists because of sin. This view originates with Augustine, is contested by Thomas Aquinas and Calvin, but resurrected by Luther, Kuyper and Dooyeweerd.[39] A careful analysis of the generic character of the state as an association having authority over the nation and of its specific character being the guardian of the public domain, leads to an integral rejection of this view.[40]


Chronos & Clio. 4. Associations


4.9. Legal persons and the character

of a constitutional state


‘All natural persons are legal persons’ is a normative statement, recognized and applied only during the course of history. In a little developed society, justice is connected to the position one has in a tribe or settlement. Even with Plato and Aristotle it is just to take the correct position in the polis and to act accordingly, and it is unjust if someone does not know one’s place. Anybody’s right is bound to one’s caste, and who does not belong to a caste (slaves, foreigners) has no rights. Circa 450 BC Pericles first formulated the principle of equality for the law, but that only applied to the citizens of Athens.[41] In Roman justice, slaves and minors were objects, not subjects of justice. The legal personality of women was disputed and foreigners had no rights. In a civilized society slavery does not occur, foreigners have the same rights as citizens on the public domain, women share all rights with men, and minors are legal persons, though occasionally they should be represented by their parents or guardians. In the Netherlands women have the right to vote since 1922, and married women are only since 1957 ‘able to act’ and therefore legal persons. In some Islamic countries women and non-Muslims are not legal subjects.

In the past, the members of the board of an association were individually responsible for its acts. In a modern society an association may act as a legal person, as long as it is legally recognized or registered.  In order to act legally a legal person has to legitimise themselves, natural persons by an identity card or a passport, associations by their foundation documents and their articles.

In a humanist philosophy based on the autonomy of individuals, only natural persons can be legal subjects. The influence of the originally Protestant principle of sphere sovereignty (4.11) in Western society appears from the fact that the concept of a legal person or juridical subject is not only applicable to natural persons, but to associations as well. The principle of sphere sovereignty allows of the possibility to consider associations as subjects (not only in the juridical relation frame) and would lose its meaning if the concept of a legal person would be a fiction. In order to be able to act as a subject, an association ought to be registered as such, known to the government as the guardian of the public domain.

In a constitutional state this ought to be not a favour but a right, only to be withdrawn on the ground of a verdict, for instance if the association has a criminal purpose. In a country with an absolutist government (an absolute monarchy or a dictatorship) it is not a right but a privilege, granted by the republic. The Soviet-Union, for instance, did not recognize the right of people to form associations or to hold meetings without preceding consent by the government. On the other hand, the European Union requires its member states to be constitutional states. European citizens and associations have the possibility to appeal to the a European court if they believe that their government violates their rights.

Sovereignty is not a juridical but a political principle. The idea of the constitutional state implies that the state itself is a juridical subject, not an absolute sovereign. As a juridical subject, the republic is a party in the course of justice whenever the public order is at stake. For example, in criminal justice the attorney represents the state as a juridical subject, but he is not the judge.

In a modern society, besides persons associations are subject to justice. This ought to apply to the state and its organs as well. Only then a state may be called a constitutional state (Rechtsstaat in German and Dutch).[42] This is not contrary to democracy. An elected authority that is not subject to the power of a judge sooner or later escapes from any control, eroding itself continuously.[43]

Who like the legal positivists (1.9) assumes that the state decides what is right, identifying justice with laws ordained by the state, should consider any state to be constitutional, as long as the independence of the judge is warranted.[44] In particular since the Second World War one defines the constitutional state in a wider sense, implying that many states are not constitutional. The specific character of a constitutional state now concerns both the primarily political characterization and the secondarily technical one, considering the state’s authority on the public domain. The latter implies that the power of the state is constitutionally restricted, which is the original meaning of the term constitutional state. This emphasizes the protection of citizens and associations from the state’s power, which can only exert coercion after authorization by a judge, who in case of emergency gives a verdict after the fact. This supplies a necessary but not a sufficient definition of a constitutional state. The concept of a constitutional state is also an extension, a juridical development of the political concept of a state. It means more than the assumption that the state laws are just (which they are by definition, according to the legalists) or ought to be (according to people rejecting legalism). It means that the government itself is subject to justice, and cannot as a sovereign elevate itself above justice. A constitutional state does not derive the fundamental and freedom rights from the law but recognizes them.

A constitutional state is always a state; it cannot exist without government and without dominion of the public domain. A state can exist without being a constitutional state. A state that is not a constitutional state can function as a state, as the guardian of the public domain. This is the case, for instance, if a state has conquered another one, ruling unjustified over the conquered country and its population. The recognition of a state by other states does not rest on its justification (de jure), but on the factual political authority (de facto) that the government exerts on its territory.  A state ceases to exist when  the government cannot maintain the public order (for instance after a revolt or an invasion), even if the government originated in a legal way.

A constitutional state is a republic subjecting itself to justice. Therefore a constitutional state has courts of justice independent of the political administration of the state. The judge ought to have the competence to test a law or decision to a higher law or an international treaty. Politicians have a tendency to reject this possibility, assuming that it would contradict the primacy of democracy and violate the sovereignty of the people or the parliament. For them, the political principle of democracy (laws are established by the government together with the people’s representation) prevails over the juridical principle of the constitutional state.[45] For the same reason Jean-Jacques Rousseau rejected Charles de Montesquieu’s view about the separation of powers: the volonté générale shall always prevail.[46] In the United Kingdom, considering the sovereignty of parliament a ‘sacred dogma’, until 2009 no judge (except the European Court of Justice) could nullify a parliamentary law.[47] 

Only by distinguishing the political from the juridical relation frame it is possible to explain why in a constitutional state the courts of justice should be independent of the government; why in a constitutional state the courts are competent to judge whether the state adheres to its laws; why in a constitutional state the courts are competent to judge whether laws are consistent with the constitution; and why in a constitutional state the acceptance of international courts of justice does not infringe on the sovereignty of the republic.

Indeed, sovereignty is not a juridical but a political principle. A court of justice does not exert administrative authority but administers justice. Therefore the subjection of the state’s authority to justice does not imply a loss of sovereignty.

Democracy too is not a juridical principle, but a political one. It indicates that the population participates in the state’s government. Therefore democracy is not a hallmark of a constitutional state.[48] An authoritarian state, in which the power of the state is withdrawn from democratic decision making, can still be a constitutional state. Reversely, a democratically elected government, like that of Adolf Hitler in 1933, does not warrant a constitutional state. The constitutional state rests on the juridical principle that the power of the government ought to be restricted by justice and that the state subjects itself to justice.

A constitutional state subjects itself to international justice, rather than fight armed conflicts. In the past and present, states close treaties and a constitutional state recognizes a treaty to be binding for national law. In the twentieth century we see the emergence of a globalisation of justice, initially voluntarily, later compulsory. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the International Court of Justice was established in The Hague, gradually receiving more prestige and competences, and meanwhile being complemented with the International Court of Criminal Law. The Council of Europe has its own Court of Justice, and requires new member states to have the character of constitutional states.[49]


Chronos & Clio. 4. Associations


 4.10. Institutes of care


In 2006 in Germany a 4600 year old grave was found with skeletons of a man and a woman with their two children, as proved by a DNA-investigation. The four were killed by violent means and were buried in a loving position. It appears to be the oldest known nuclear family, dating from the Stone Age.

In a Western society, someone engaging in a marriage leaves the parental home, usually with the intention to start a family. Marriage has the disposition to grow into a nuclear family (2.10). In other cultures married persons remain part of a larger family or tribe. In some cultures polygamy or polyandry occurs, but in Western culture monogamy is the norm. In Western society the family – apart from the nuclear family – has especially the character of keeping company. This agrees with the fact that family members, in particular grandmothers, often take an important part in the education of children, because education is characterized by the relation frame of keeping company (2.6). In case of the death of one or both parents often a family member replaces them in their educational tasks. Although unorganized, also in the West the extended family connection remains important. Family history receives an increasing interest.

In a socially primitive situation the relations of authority between husband and wife rests on physical force, meaning that usually the husband prevails. The naturalistic view that the husband should be the head of the family finds no official support in Western culture, but is still widespread. For the male primacy, Jews, Christians and Muslims often invoke the Tenach, the New Testament or the Quran, books concerned with common life of 3000, 2000 or 1200 years ago, in a culture in which the task of the husband included the protection of his family against violent attacks. Views of male supremacy are derived more from Greek philosophy and Roman law than from the Bible.[50] However, Christianity and humanism pretend to bring freedom, also of naturalistic prejudices. In a differentiated family situation, in which husband and wife cooperate with each other and their children in many different ways, authority is divided.

The natural nuclear family is primarily characterized by the relation frame of care and secondarily by biotic descent.[51] However, by adoption or otherwise a child can also be placed in a foster family. In this case we distinguish the foster parents from biotic or birth parents. Like a natural nuclear family, a foster family as well as an orphanage or a boarding-school is primarily characterized by the relation frame of care, but secondarily by the frame of keeping company, by education (2.6).

It seems obvious that children are vulnerable and in need of the loving care of their parents, but it is a norm violated in many ways during history.[52] Children have been sacrificed, exposed, neglected, maltreated, enslaved, raped and murdered. In many cultures children have no rights and their parents can dispose of them arbitrarily, as if parents are the owners of their children, possessing them. Although each culture appeals to parents to educate them well, only since the seventeenth century the nuclear family is in the West more important than the extended family, because of the differentiation of society.[53]

The most important function of the nuclear family is the mutual care of all its members, not only the children. Therefore, the nuclear family is primarily characterized by the norm of careful love. This concerns providing food, clothing and protection, education and schooling, for which the parents are responsible until the children can bear the responsibility themselves, when they have come of age. It is already a part of education to make children increasingly co-responsible for the mutual care in the household.

Often a nuclear family forms the nucleus of a household in their home, in which each member has their own position and tasks (4.1). The home (also for singles) is the starting point for all labour and a daily resting place after ending this. It is the place where the nuclear family celebrates its coherence, in the daily meals, in reading books to each other and playing, in viewing television together. Family members tell each other their experiences and share their concerns. They consult each other and argue, sometimes leading to quarrels, but more often ending in agreement.

Even if the children become adults and leave the parental home, the family relation remains as a special relation of friendship, in which the parents feel responsible for their children. Increasingly the reverse occurs, the children taking care of their parents. Although the family connection ends when the children leave the parental home, the family relation remains as a special form of friendship (2.10). Its nature and intensity are historically and culturally determined. The family relation extends by the loving acceptance of daughters and sons in law and of grandchildren.

In a more or less undifferentiated society, collective or social care rests with the family, later becoming a sideline of the church, the guilds or the state. In a modern society, collective care is organized into free associations that are qualified by the relation frame of care itself. These associations take up a growing part of common means. This has led to the view that social care is the task of the state, called the ‘welfare state’. Another view grants the social responsibility to free associations, supervised by the state as far as they act on the public domain. We shall mention three character types of associations which as active subjects in the history of care become increasingly important: practices, institutions and insurances.

The practice of a general practitioner, a dentist, a physiotherapist or psychotherapist appears to be primarily characterized by the relation frame of care and secondarily by the technical one. Although singular practicing doctors still exist, a practice is increasingly a labour unit, in which several doctors with their assistants cooperate. It may be entwined with an institute like a hospital, if its co-workers are not employed by the hospital, but practice their job there partly or entirely.

A developed society knows numerous charitable associations for the care of the fellow men. Originally these had the character of a household, providing a shelter to homeless people. Hospitals, maternity hospitals, almshouses, orphanages, old people’s homes and psychiatric clinics are known in Western society since centuries, but their importance has increased enormously since the twentieth century. Besides, society has to care for prisoners, unemployed people, unmarried mothers, foreigners and asylum seekers.

Suchlike associations are primarily characterized by loving care and secondarily by the relation frame of keeping company. Often they are interlaced with a faith community like the Salvation Army; with a club typified by the relation frame of keeping company; with an economically characterized company; or with a training institute, like a university hospital.  In some cases an institute of care belongs to the state. There may be valid arguments for these kinds of interlacements, but in general one had better keep to the Protestant principle of sphere sovereignty, emphasizing the independency of associations.

Quite a few people believe that altruism (disinterested care) is characteristic for care, distinguishing people from animals. Evolutionists (in particular sociobiologists) have done their uppermost best to show that altruism occurs in the animal world as well and can be explained by the current evolution theory. However, care based on mutual interest occurs more often and is more efficient. A system wherein people are insured of care should be preferred above a system in which the poor depend on the rich for charity. Insurance is preferable above charity. People insure themselves for personal interest, in case of fire, burglary or an accident. As long as this does not occur to us, we pay anonymously for the misfortune of others.

When people insure themselves mutually they achieve a right on care if they need it. The exertion of care they leave to experts and specialized institutions. Insurance pays for care, and is therefore secondarily characterized by the economic relation frame. Insuring is a projection of the relation frame of care on the economical one and has right of care as a juridical consequence. Often insurance is part of a collective labour agreement. Many countries have compulsory collective insurances, in which all citizens take part. Even these insurances can very well be implied by social organisations licensed by the state. Especially in Europe, the twentieth-century development of a public system of ‘social’ (i.e. collective) insurance is an administrative and political renewal of the first order, an achievement of administrative technique which relevance, though severely underestimated, is comparable to representative democracy.[54]


Chronos & Clio. 4. Associations



4.11. Historical views on

the meaning of associations


Besides individual persons only associations, conceived as organised social groups with members and a board, can act as subjects in the normative relation frames. Therefore both are relevant as players on the stage of history. The historical meaning of associations is their part in the transfer of experience and the development of artefacts. This is especially the case for the republic as the guardian of the public domain and protector of the freedom. But also the historical significance of other associations increases explosively. Their mutual relation is under duress because of widely different views on the relations between the state and other associations, the relations among states and their sovereignty, the relations among associations and with individuals, international affairs and the freedom and responsibility of individuals and of associations. All these mutual relations promote the historical development of the characters of the associations, in particular where they meet each other on the public domain. The necessity to develop forces them to reflect on their characteristic identity, especially if this is threatened by external influences. The historical trend seems to be that associations become less intertwined. The church takes distance from the state, enterprises return to their nuclear activities, trade unions discharge activities which are not directly related to the promotion of interests, and families suffer the loss of functions.

Opposite to the Protestant view that each association has a character of its own, with sphere sovereignty independent of the character of a state, one finds the family based society, Catholic organicism, liberal individualism, and socialist collectivism.[55] We shall briefly review these ideologies with their mainly Western history and establish that the proposition, defended in this chapter, concerning the existence of various universal and invariant character types of associations, is still controversial, to say the least.

A tribal society based on a family or a tribe rests on subordination, on the distinction of men and women; of close and removed family members; of masters and servants or slaves; of patrons and clients; of believers and unbelievers. This old social form characterizes an undifferentiated society in which someone belongs exclusively to one community, the family or the tribe.[56] We find this in the past of all cultures, sometimes in the Third World, and it is still favoured in Christian, Jewish and especially Muslim orthodox circles. The relations within an undifferentiated society may be quite complicated.

The tribe has many kinds of functions which in a modern society are exerted by other associations. By the loss of these functions the family or tribe has generally speaking no meaning left as an organized community. Only the marital bond and the nuclear family as basis of the education of children remain. This is a relatively recent Western phenomenon. In many countries family relations still play an important part, for instance in family companies.[57]

In the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle too, the Greek polis is not differentiated. Their ideal city state (already out of date in their time) is a totalitarian community, a commonwealth, to which everything is subordinated and in which the citizens find their happiness (eudaimonia) and their destiny (telos). Outside the city boundaries the political community halts. Only free men have rights. Their mutual connection is not the family, but friendship. Family ties are subordinated to the polis.[58] The Roman Empire extended the polis to cosmopolis, in which an increasing number of people achieved citizen rights. It attributed larger independence to the familia, including slaves and clients besides family members.[59] The senate consisted of the most important family heads. However, the Roman Empire was as totalitarian as the Greek polis.

Social relations based on equality arise whenever free associations replace families. In this respect the organisation of the state does not suffice. The first association organizing itself independent of family and state was the Christian church, at first repressed, next tolerated, and then made into a state organ, again involved in power struggles. Ultimately, in the Western society, the church once more became separated from the state. This led to freedom of faith, the recognition that any person is free in one’s conscience, being fully responsible for their relation to God. Someone who is free in one’s conscience also requires freedom in other respects. The rise of free associations apart from family ties and the state does not accidentally coincide with the recognition of freedom of faith. It formed the basis of a republican and democratic society, not founded on tribal or nationalistic views, but on free associations.

Society as an organism is originally especially a Catholic view. The rise of Christianity stroke at the roots of the totalitarian Roman state. The young church only recognized the emperor’s authority on worldly affairs. Augustine’s book De civitate Dei assumes the existence of two communities, the city of God and the city of the world, separated because of the fall into sin.[60] After Christianity was elevated to state worship, medieval philosophers and theologians considered society to be an organic two-unity, consisting of the church equipped with the spiritual sword, and the subordinated state armed with the secular sword.[61] Their relation corresponds with that between anyone’s supernatural soul and natural body. The church is concerned with the eternal salvation of people, the state with daily wealth. The assumption that the state is subordinated to the church implies first that the state should not be concerned with internal affairs of the church, second that the church decides which matters belong to the domain of the church, and which matters belong to the state’s jurisdiction. According to Thomas Aquinas all communities, except the church, are organic parts of the state, like parts of a body. This apparently totalitarian view was toned down by the principle of subsidiarity, stating that each social activity is subsidiary. It ought to support the members of the social body.[62] The principle of subsidiarity assumes that society exists of a hierarchy of higher and lower communities or organs, of which the state is the highest and all embracing, with the most important norm that a higher organ should not be concerned with what a lower organ can do.[63]

Indeed, the principle of subsidiarity is applicable whenever an association as a whole has more or less autonomous parts. Such a relation of a whole and its parts we find in a state divided into provinces and municipalities; a national or international church with regional dioceses and local parishes; a national party with local branches; a holding company with more or less independent subsidiary companies; or a chain of shops. The principle of subsidiarity may be considered an important strategy for the internal organisation of an association, in which the separate parts receive as much freedom and responsibility as possible.[64] It determines the relation of the European Union to the member states. It opposes centralism. However, the organicist view on which it is based provides no insight into the relation of mutually independent associations, because it does not recognize them.

Because the Roman-Catholic Church circa 1965 abandoned the idea of an all-embracing society, some politicologists now consider the vertical principle of subsidiarity and the principle of sphere sovereignty (also called horizontal subsidiarity) as being slight differences within a converging view that they call communitarism.[65] It is the political philosophy of Christian-democratic and conservative parties in Europe. The principle of recognition of the independence of all kinds of associations is, however, not equivalent to an internal organisation principle within such associations.  

Liberal individualism recognizes only individuals to be original members of society.[66] These ought to have as much freedom of acting as possible. Each association is considered to be a voluntary set of individuals, no more than the sum of the members of the set. Individuals may form a union with a determined goal, based on a contract, which they can break or revise at any time. Liberals reject the specific character of associations. Humanist natural law scholars like Johannes Althusius, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant attempted to found the state in the myth of a social contract.[67] Hobbes preferred the reign of a single person, because he considered a strong government necessary to suppress haughty people.[68] However, this person should have the consent of their subjects. For Locke it was a small step to the sovereignty of the parliament.[69] The idea of a social contract forms the foundation of the constitution of the United States of America.[70]

The theory of the social contract rests on the humanist ideological principle that any individual is autonomous, having primacy above any association. Its critics observed that people never lived outside a community and contested the view that the state can be seen as a set of autonomous individuals.[71] Anybody is a member of the state without being asked, based on birth, not on a contract. Philosophers defending the idea of the social contract readily admit this to be a theoretical fiction, having no historical ground.[72] It appears to be more likely that the state emerged from a tribal community.[73] An intermediate form is a class or caste state, in which people are classified according to their birth status. Both the recognition of individual rights apart from tribe or state and the recognition of the independence of associations that are not bound to a family or the state, are more recent than the emergence of states apart from tribal ties. The liberation from tribal ties constitutes an important part of the historical development of modern society.

Humanism bases the sovereignty of the people on the contract theory. It often overemphasizes democracy, without understanding that this is not characteristic of the state, with its specific character of being the guardian of the public domain. Rather, democracy is a form of management that can be realized in many associations besides the state. Participation of the members in the leadership confirms the view that the generic character of any association is founded in the frame of keeping company. This does not depend on a social contract, but on the actual character of the association.

Socialist collectivism too does not allow of much room for independent associations, because it considers society to be the all-encompassing social reality. Collectivism overemphasizes the public domain. Karl Marx called man a social animal. Whatever a man does has the society as its perspective and should serve the community. About the character of the comprehensive community, opinions differ. According to nineteenth-century romantics and twentieth-century fascism, this was the people, determined by its language and culture. According to national-socialism this was the Volksgemeinschaft, determined by a common race.[74] According to communism it is the proletariat, represented by the party everything embracing. In some Islamic states it is the common faith, laid down in Quran and tradition. For socialists the collective is the labour community embracing all institutions and associations, not only the state, factories and companies, trade unions and political parties, but also families and schools, preparing children for their position in the society as a labour community, and clubs, if these fulfil a useful function in society.  None of these views has an eye for the existence of free associations, even if the social-democrats recognize the fundamental rights of individuals, such as the right of association and of assembly.

Opposed to the contract theory, Protestants (in particular Calvinists) maintain the principle that associations are characterized by normative principles laid down in the creation, actualised in the course of history. In the societal differentiation and integration process, neither individuals, nor free associations, nor the state or the church play a primary part. For the historical formation of associations people are responsible, and human freedom makes use of the possibilities presented by each character type.

Sphere sovereignty (soevereiniteit in eigen kring) is originally a typical Dutch term for an unsuspected widespread phenomenon. In particular during the twentieth century, the existence of free associations, independent of the republic which only exerts supervision of the public domain, has become the hallmark of the free Western society. Elsewhere it expands explosively too. The fact that Abraham Kuyper designed his view of sphere sovereignty in the nineteenth century, testifies to a prophetic mind.[75] In fact, this is historically a much more interesting phenomenon than the victory of neo-liberalism proclaiming the end of history, according to Francis Fukuyama.[76]

If in one respect Protestantism collides with Catholic, liberal, collectivist and totalitarian views, it concerns their insight into associations. Since the sixteenth century, Protestants argue and practice that associations have a character of their own; that these are irreducible to individual interests or to the interest of a collective; that associations are not subordinate but co-ordinate; that each person belongs to several associations; that no all-embracing association exists; that nobody is embraced completely by any association whatsoever; and that various mutually irreducible character types of associations exist.

The principle of sphere sovereignty is a societal principle, characterized by the way people treat with associations and keep each other’s company. It is a political principle too, because it indicates that an association does not derive its authority from other associations, but from the creational order, from God’s sovereignty, such that authority should never be absolute. It is not an organisational principle. Unlike the earlier mentioned principle of subsidiarity, it is not applicable to the mutual relations of the state with its provinces and local communities, as far as these are subordinate parts of the state.

Sovereignty presupposes some kind of authoritative rule. Therefore, the principle of sphere sovereignty only applies to associations, not to unorganized social communities.[77] Sphere sovereignty does not imply that associations are autonomous, independent of other associations. In fact, associations form many kinds of networks, in which they cooperate to achieve their goals. The meaning of sphere sovereignty is that any kind of authority is limited. It promotes the freedom and responsibility of individual persons. Because they belong to various associations, they can be alternatively leaders in one and subordinate members in another association.

The principle of sphere sovereignty does not in the least mean that each association should have an ideological foundation. The typically Dutch phenomenon of the ‘verzuiling’ (the compartmentalization of society from about 1850 to 1980[78]) could make that plausible, but Kuyper’s principle applies to associations having no relation to any worldview as well.

The initial view of Abraham Kuyper and his Anti-Revolutionaire Partij made insufficient distinction between the sovereignty of the state and that of other associations. Indeed, the sphere sovereignty of each association also applies to the state, according to its generic character as an association, primarily characterized by the political relation frame. The internal functioning of associations received much more attention than their external relations in public networks, where they inevitably meet the state. However, in contrast to other associations the specific character of the republic is also primarily politically typified, by the sovereignty that the republic exerts on the public domain. No other association acting on the public domain can avoid this. Its specific character provides the republic with a unique authority, something that the Dutch anti-revolutionaries did not always recognize sufficiently, however law-abiding they were. The state’s authority on the public domain should be restricted to the protection of freedom, without infringing on the sphere sovereignty of other associations, and without restricting their responsibility and that of individual persons.

The question of the character of associations is related to the question of the origin of the authority in associations, in particular the state.[79] In concrete cases the foundation, expansion, contraction, or disappearance of a state rests on conquest, revolution, rebellion or liberation from foreign domination.[80] This indicates how a state is historically arisen or disengaged from one or more other states, how a state came to power, but it does not answer the question of the origin of the republic as a character type. The answer to this question strongly depends on one’s world view and usually on a myth, a faith story legitimizing the authority. Without doubt, the question of the emergence of authority demands an historical answer, but in the course of history myths have played a large part in it.

Because family ties rests on blood-relationship, they are (like the marital bond and the nuclear family) considered ‘natural’. However, the application of this to tribal connections overlooks that these develop in history, often displaying a rich culture. The assumed, by no means always factual, biotic relationship of the tribe’s members with each other and with their ancestors constitutes a bonding myth.

Another old myth attributes the state a divine origin.[81] The first large empires deified the power of the kings.[82] In order to enhance their authority the rulers were worshiped as god or majesty. In some countries, hereditary royalty is a remainder of this, in particular if the head of state is simultaneously the head of the state church. Sometimes the myth assumes a social relation based on a covenant with God, legitimizing the authority. Sometimes the myth is a popular belief, like the view of many Americans that theirs is God’s own country. Some Dutch people still speak of the threefold string of God, the Netherlands and Orange.[83] Like the Byzantine emperors, Charlemagne and his successors believed that they received their authority directly from God.[84] In the twelfth century the Catholic myth emerged that the state derives its authority from the church and through the church from God. At the end of the Middle Ages, the myth of the divine origin was weakened by a theory about the right of insurrection.

According to the humanist myth of the already mentioned social contract, replacing the covenant of God with his people, the state is legitimized by a voluntary agreement of citizens, a contract in which the citizens transfer their natural rights in part to the collective state. Thomas Hobbes characterized the state of nature as an unlimited anarchy, but John Locke assumed that people have naturally certain rights.[85] The reason for the formation of a state is to warrant these rights. For Jean-Jacques Rousseau not the state, but the community (the people) is the bearer of authority. In the romantic period this became the nation.

The historistic myth legitimizes the state exclusively on the basis of historical developments, for instance its factual origin from a family or tribe, or a coalition of tribes.[86] The people are subordinate to the prince, like the Roman family is subordinated to the pater familias. In the Netherlands the house of Orange plays the paternal (in the twentieth century the maternal) part. The monarch is the owner and his successor the heir of the sovereignty.[87] Therefore there is no clear separation between the fortune and income of the monarch and that of the state.[88] The traditionalist or conservative current within historism (Burke, circa 1800 and Hayek, second half of the twentieth century) rejects both the theocratic view about the divine origin of authority and the rationalist contract theory. In a long process complex systems like states are made by and for people, ‘results of human action but not of human design’.[89]

According to the Protestant myth the state is an institution of God and the authority of the government is given by God.[90] In my view this cannot be valid for any concrete state, but it can be true for the character type of the state and, in fact, for all types of associations.[91] Any association is typified by relation frames in a way laid down in the creation. In this view the profile of an association originates from God, not its historic realisation. Nevertheless any board exerts authority by the grace of God, which does not provide a license to act arbitrarily. Each government ought to satisfy the universal political norm that it should not abuse its authority. If a government satisfies this norm, the members of the association ought to obey the authority.

However, there is an important difference between the specific character type of the state and that of other associations. Whereas each association exerts authority within its own sphere, the state as a republic also exerts authority on the public domain. The public networks are manifest in each relation frame in their own way. Chapter 5 will show a road to find the origin of the state not based on a myth, but on systematic and historical research in the directive order of time in the relation frames.

How did so much diversity of opinion about associations arise? This does not only appear to concern the structure, the dual character of associations and the assumed origin of authority, but also their mutual relations, especially with the state. The difference of opinion does not perhaps concern the associations themselves, but the way they operate on the public domain. Are associations like churches merely a private affair, or are they allowed presenting themselves in public as well? Indeed, the republic guards the res publica, but does it coincide with the public domain? To what extent should the state be allowed to meddle with public affairs? This is the subject matter of the final chapter. We shall see that the network structure, applied by ever more associations, is especially characteristic for their mutual relations on the public domain. Individual persons too experience being part in a growing number of networks, expanding over the whole world.

Therefore we shall have to account for the character, the history and the internal and external functioning of associations. All three are indispensable. Who lays too much stress on typology, on the character type of associations, is an essentialist. Who only believes the historical development to be important is a historist (1.11).[92] And who only pays attention to the functioning of associations in public, is guilty of functionalism. Let us try to avoid these three extremes.


[1] Burke 2005.

[2] In Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft (1887) by the sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies, Gemeinschaft corresponds especially with an unorganised community characterized by social cohesion, like a family or a circle of friends, whereas with Gesellschaft one should rather think of a businesslike organised association like a company. Tönnies assumes that in society an evolution takes place from a Gemeinschaft to a Gesellschaft.

[3] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, III, 177, 180-181; Griffioen and van Woudenberg 1996.

[4] Schmitt 1963, 74-78; Kuiper 2009, 231-242.

[5] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, III, 198, 472.

[6] Dooyeweerd 1962, 213-215.

[7] Daalder 1990, 407-408.

[8] Comte-Sponville 1995, 110.

[9] Fukuyama 1995, part II.

[10] Taylor 1911; Verkerk 2004, 63-83; Verkerk et al. 2007, chapter 8.

[11] Duby 1961-1962.

[12] Seerveld 2000, 47-58.

[13] Huizinga 1938, 282-284.

[14] Hobsbawm 1994, 372-388; Vos 1999, 186.

[15] Vos 1999, 371-387.

[16] According to Burckhardt, in ancient Greece the element of competition took a central place, see Burke 2004, 20.

[17] The problem of dissension arises from the identification of one’s own faith community with the true church or the kingdom of heavens. Protestants believe that the assembly of all believers is not a temporal association with an internal authority. They consider the body of Christ, the assembly of all believers, not as a temporal association  with an internal authority installed and maintained by men, but as a purely religious community, in which Christ himself assembles his disciples and acknowledging no other authority than God’s.

[18] Kant 1793 too distinguishes religion from ecclesiastical belief, assuming that religion is universally based on reason and hardly differs from ethics, whereas faith concerns the specific dogmas of the churches. Whereas Dooyeweerd as well as Kant merely distinguishes religion from faith, Karl Barth places religion as Unglaube (unbelief) over and against true belief, see Barth 1957, 51-53 (original edition: I 2, 327-330): Religion is an attempt of autonomous man to achieve knowledge of God, ‘… der ohnmächtige, aber auch trotzige, übermütige, aber auch hilflose Versuch, mittels dessen, was der Mensch wohl könnte aber nun gerade nicht kann, dasjenige zu schaffen, was er nur kann, weil und wenn Gott selbst es ihm schafft: Erkenntnis der Wahrheit, Erkenntnis Gottes.’ (The impotent, but also haughty, presumptuous as well as helpless attempt, by which a man should want to but is unable to achieve, because he only can do that when and if God himself gives it to him: recognition of the truth, recognition of God.) (my translation). 

[19] Calvin 1559, III, 16-17; Kant 1793, 142.

[20] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, 605-624.

[21] De Vries and van der Woude 1995, 499-538; Landes 1998, chapter 10.

[22] Graafland 2007, 177-183.

[23] Marx 1867, 380; Van het Reve 1969, 86-102.

[24] Arendt 1958, 160-161.

[25] Rutgers 2004, 66.

[26] In this book the word ‘republic’ does not indicate a form of government, but the specific public character of each state, by which it is distinguishable from other associations.

[27] At first sight one could assume that the state is secondarily spatially typified, by the territory on which it exerts authority. However, the authority does not concern the territory, but the public networks on the territory. Usually the authority of the land rests with its owner.

[28] Lane Fox 2005, chapter 8. In fact, Athens was not that democratic: women, slaves and foreigners had no say.

[29] Van Bommel 2003, 303: ‘Muslims consider democracy as a political system and a way of life contrary to the basic principles of the Islam.  When the people have the power of legislature, it is no longer God determining what is halâl (admitted) and harâm (forbidden), but people will do so.’ (my translation).

[30] Popper 1945, 136-137.

[31] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958,III, 436; Kymlicka 2002, 254.

[32] Arendt 1963, 334; Daalder 1990, 409-410; Kymlicka 2002, 262.

[33] Honoré 1961, 595.

[34] This dogma is due to Rousseau, see Berlin 2006, 139: ‘Hence sovereignty is one and indivisible: there is nothing on earth which can rightfully resist the sovereign when it is exercising its true will.’

[35] Hardt, Negri 2000, 17-18.

[36] This definition of a modern state seems to be due to Max Weber and still finds many adherents. See e.g. Reynolds 1997, 118. According to Schmitt 1963, 69, 90 the possibility to wage war characterizes both the state and policy.

[37] Also Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, III, 416 assumes that the state is founded in its monopoly of armed power.

[38] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, III, 423-424.

[39] Kuyper 1898, 64-66, 74-75; Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, III, 423, 506; Hoogerwerf 1999, 60, 71, 77-78, 103.

[40] Clouser 1991, 268-269.

[41] Popper 1945, 202.

[42] Fukuyama 2011, part III, calls this ‘the rule of law’.

[43] De Tocqueville 1835-1856, 106.

[44] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, III, 425-467; Daalder 1990, 381.

[45] Cliteur 2002; Franken et al. 2003, 375; de Tocqueville 1835-1856, 116-119.

[46] Russell 1946, 660-674; Van Caenegem 1995, 20.

[47] Van Caenegem 1995, 159-160, 196-200. In 2009 the ‘law lords’ departed as members of the House of Lords and a High Court of Justice was installed, that can test laws to European rules.

[48] Franken et al. 2003, 379; Cliteur 2002; Verbrugge 2004, 96.

[49] It is remarkable that the Council of Europe is an association of states, which (contrary to the European Union) does not have the character of a (constitutional) state itself.

[50] MacCulloch 2003, 609-612.

[51] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, III, 266-345; Olthuis 1975, chapter 4.

[52] Sommerville 1982.

[53] Taylor 1989, 289-294.

[54] De Swaan 1988, 158; chapter 6.

[55] Griffioen and van Woudenberg 1996; Woldring 2001. I shall not pay attention to anarchist views rejecting any kind of authority.

[56] Dooyeweerd 1931, 160-164; 1953-1958, III, 346-376; 1959, 70-84.

[57] In a modern society, enterprises in which the employees consist entirely or mainly of family members are usually very small. Enterprises being the property of a single family are more common.

[58] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, III, 198-214; Griffioen 2003, 13.

[59] Dooyeweerd 1962, 169.

[60] Hoogerwerf 1999, chapter 3.

[61] Luke 22:38. Luther too adhered to a doctrine of ‘two regiments’, Ruppert 1987; Hoogerwerf 1999, chapter 5. Eastern-orthodox theologians identified the church with the state. In many countries, Muslims adopted this view.

[62] Hoogerwerf 1999, chapter 7; Woldring 2001, 56-58, 72-76. In 1931 pope Pius XI confirmed the principle of subsidiarity in the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno. Next, in particular the Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain elaborated it.

[63] Boey 2002, 211-212.

[64] Griffioen 2003, 38. It is remarkable that the Roman-Catholic Church does not apply the principle of subsidiarity to its own organisation, Boey 2002, 212.

[65] Woldring 2001; Griffioen 2003, 56.

[66] Hobsbawm 1994, 167; Calhoun 2000, 534.

[67] Rousseau 1762, 68-69; Russell 1946, 601-610; Achterhuis 1988, part I-III; Tebbit 2005, 94-102; Fukuyama 2011, chapter 2. In contrast, Rawls 1971 uses the theory of the social contract to found justice (as did Kant too), not the state, see Sandel 2009, chapter 6.

[68] Achterhuis 1988, 28.

[69] Fukuyama 1992, 182-183.

[70] Hardt, Negri 2000, 164-166; Fukuyama 2011, 29.

[71] Burckhardt 1905, 20; Popper 1945, 122; Midgley 1985, chapter 17, 18; Fukuyama 2011, 30, 34, 439.

[72] Rawls 1971, 11; Von der Dunk 2007, 182-192.

[73] Popper 1945, chapter 4.

[74] Safranski 2007, chapter 15-17.

[75] Kuyper 1880; 1898, 72-80; Dooyeweerd 1959, 46-58; Clouser 1991, 290-302.

[76] Fukuyama 1992. Especially since the credit crisis since 2007 neo-liberalism seems to be past its prime.

[77] The view that sphere sovereignty applies to the authority in associations can be found both in Kuyper and in Dooyeweerd. Besides  Kuyper also speaks of sphere sovereignty in ‘spheres of life’, like art or science, which Dooyeweerd develops into the ontological principle of creaturely diversity or mutual irreducibility of modal aspects and character types, see Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, I, 101-102; II, 3-54; 1962, 213; Marshall 1985, 126. In order to avoid this ambiguity I prefer to limit the concept of ‘sovereignty’ to bearers of authority and authority having instances, and ‘sphere sovereignty’ to the board of an association, as defined in 4.0.

[78] Van Doorn 2009, chapter 7.

[79] Fukuyama 2011; Berlin 2006, 19 considers ‘the problem of obedience’ to be the heart of political philosophy.

[80] Burckhardt 1905, 20-24.

[81] Franken et al. 2003, 357-359.

[82] Schilling 1968, 104-105.

[83] Referring to Ecclesiastes 4:12: ‘a cord of three strands is not quickly snapped’.

[84] Duby 1961-1962, 24-26; le Goff 1964, 61, 336-337.

[85] Fukuyama 1992, 179-187.

[86] The transition from family groups (for instance of hunters/gatherers) via tribes to states is strongly connected to the increasing population density and the growth of settlements to cities, see Diamond 1997, chapter 14.

[87] Groen van Prinsterer 1847, 66.

[88] Even at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Dutch government did not succeed in separating these two.

[89] Hayek 1978; Fukuyama 2011, 251-253.

[90] Groen van Prinsterer 1847, 50-56.

[91] In Romans 13:1, Paul does not call the state but any government: ‘Every person must submit to the supreme authorities. There is no authority but by act of God, and the existing authorities are instituted by him.’

[92] Popper 1945, 81.








Chapter 5


Time and history

on the public domain








5.0. From Umwelt to public domain

5.1. Public works

5.2. Festivities shape communities

5.3. The language community and the public opinion

5.4. Public research

5.5. The separation of church and state

5.6. Society

5.7. The market

5.8. The public order

5.9. Public justice

5.10. Public welfare

5.11. Freedom and responsibility provide history with meaning


Chronos & Clio. 5. The public domain 



5.0. From Umwelt to public domain


In our discussion about values and norms in time and history up till now we have especially paid attention to the relations between pairs of subjects or between a subject and an object. However, relations constitute networks. If A has a relation with B, and B with C, than A has a direct or an indirect relation with C. In this way all people are connected in a global network. Associations form networks, among each other and with individual persons. In each relation frame such intersubjective networks are recognizable, as well as networks of objects (5.1-5.10). We find them in many kinds of associations, but the most important are public. Together these constitute the public domain, based on a technical infrastructure of objective networks, like the road system or the internet (5.1). The intersubjective networks play an important part in the history of humankind. Often they are experienced as a community with its own identity: the public opinion, socialism, society or the market. However, contrary to associations they do not function as subjects in the normative relation frames (4.0).

In the twentieth century the structure of an unorganized or organized group of people forming a network has been studied by the system theory of Talcott Parsons, Niklas Luhmann and others.[1] Luhmann was inspired by electric and electronic networks, Parsons by living organisms and both by cybernetics. According to Parsons an interactive system consists of a number of mutually interacting units, a set of rules determining their interaction, an ordered interaction process and an environment with which the system systematically interacts Interaction means that each participant is both actively and passively involved in the process. According to Parsons this can lead to a stable and orderly result if the participants in the process stick to a common normative basis. Luhmann denies that norms form a necessary element of the society system.[2]

In this chapter we shall discuss human networks, as well as human-made networks. Of course there are also natural networks, primarily characterized by the six natural relation frames. The numbers form a network in the order of larger and smaller, connecting all numbers to each other. Spatial figures occurring simultaneously in a plane or another space are ordered according to their relative spatial position. Motion is a relation connecting everything moving into a kinetic network. All physically typified things and events are in contact with each other by physical interaction. All living beings form a network of descent. In an animal we recognize the nervous system as a psychic network of nerve cells. The Umwelt, the environment in which animals live and procreate, is a network of experiences. The public domain is the human Umwelt.

People are conscious of their individuality as a person, their self in relation to others. Probably each animal has some idea of its identity, but human persons are able to take distance from their environment, from their fellow humans, and from themselves. Whereas the behaviour of any animal is largely stereotype, laid down in its character (the species to which the animal belongs), the acts of people are to a certain extent free. An animal is bound to its species dependent Umwelt. Herein it is specialized such that it has an optimal chance of survival and procreation. Instead, a human person is not established, they are weltoffen (open to the world), each a Mängelwesen (a lacking being).[3] According to Martin Buber being human starts when a person takes distance from their Umwelt, when they oppose the world.[4] The Urdistanzierung or Urdistanz (original distance) at the start of mankind repeats itself in the development of each child. After this movement follows a second one, the Beziehung, the relation with the world and especially with fellow humans. In the Ich-du (I-thou) relation every human looks for confirmation of themselves, Bestätigung. This ability, related to the consciousness of time, of the past and the future, enables them to cultivate and develop the earth. By taking distance people receive the freedom to develop themselves and the earth. But even if people can take distance, they cannot disengage themselves from reality. Human freedom goes hand in hand with the responsibility for themselves, for the fellow men, and for the whole world. A person can only realize oneself together with others and with one’s God. Freedom and responsibility give meaning to history (5.11).

People meet each other not only tête-à-tête and in associations, but also in public, often without intention. An important part of history is played on the public stage. The public domain means that the whole world is open to men and women. An animal’s experience is restricted to its Umwelt, limited by its experience and observation. In contrast, children soon experience that their world has no limits.[5] Sometimes people believe that they reach a boundary, but time and again they succeed in passing the boundary, to climb a mountain, to transfer an ocean, to reach the South Pole or the moon. By its spherical shape the surface of the earth is unbounded yet finite. Astronomy teaches us that the same applies to the physical cosmos. Since the middle of the twentieth century, the growth of the world population and wealth makes the finiteness of the world with its natural resources a problem. Yet the extension of the human environment is not the most striking. More important is the intension, the use people make of the space allotted them, and this has a network structure.

The human environment is not natural like the Umwelt of an animal, even if it is no doubt influenced by geographic circumstances and the climate. It is developed by technical labour. That is obvious in large cities, in which nature only artificially exists in gardens and parks and in which one characterizes natural growth to be weeds and vermin. However, the human environment determined by labour and technology is already recognizable in any settlement. Since the first agrarian revolution people have built houses and stables, founding settlements, in which the crafts flowered.

As a republic the state guards the public domain, the res publica. In a free society this means on the one hand that the state maintains and extends the objective networks, regulating their use in intersubjective networks. On the other hand the republic, if it is right, makes the public domain available to all people and associations to use it in freedom. The public domain is therefore pre-eminently the realm of freedom. This is not obvious, but must be fighted for continuously. The republic as guardian of the public domain ought to be the herd of the freedom of all who use it, both individuals (not only citizens of the state) and associations, which sphere sovereignty the republic ought to respect and to protect. In contrast, a totalitarian state recognizes neither free associations nor free citizens, because it identifies itself with the public domain. For instance, the Third Reich,with Adolf Hitler as charismatic leader, declared itself to be the exclusive domain of the national-socialist Volksgemeinschaft, after eliminating hostile people and forcing all associations to conform.[6]

The relevance of the public domain and the part of the republic appear inter alia from the fact that history is often conceived in the restricted sense of political history.[7] This chapter argues that the public domain is not restricted to the political frame, but has its own historically grown expression in each normative relation frame. On the public territory too, time gives direction to the transfer of experience using artefacts. By investigating the part of the republic as the guardian of public networks, we may gain more insight into the origin of the state, than can be derived from a myth (4.11). Meanwhile the public domain extends itself crossing the national boundaries, with globalisation of all networks as a consequence.


Chronos & Clio. 5. The public domain


5.1. Public works


Networks can exist of mutually connected objects or subjects. We shall call these objective respectively intersubjective. In the technical relation frame the emphasis lies on the objective networks constituting the technical infrastructure, but we should not overlook the intersubjective labour networks. Of old, employers and employees have formed networks, small-scale or large-scale, together forming the labour market. Besides individuals, many kinds of associations operate here too, like the labour exchange, temporary employment agencies, and trade unions. In a well functioning society each individual has an entrance to the labour market according to their capacities, as well as any association, as employer or employee. Because it concerns a public network, the government may proclaim rules to protect the weak, requiring relevant certifications for vital activities. Technical networks further the application of inventions and other renewals, contributing to progress.

The technical relation frame characterizes especially objective networks, by which people develop their natural environment promoting progress by their skilful labour. These networks ought to be available to anyone, whether or not on payment. Without gas, water and electricity, street lighting, sewers, telephone connections, networks for radio, television and internet, we cannot imagine a modern society. Yet most of these networks hardly existed before the beginning of the twentieth century, when electricity and electrical appliances became available at a large scale.[8] Before, the infrastructure was restricted to staircases, streets and roads, including dikes, bridges and waterways, since the nineteenth century railways and other kinds of public transport. In the twentieth century, lifts, conveyor belts, air lanes, tunnels and pipelines were added. No town or village could organize labour without some infrastructure, connecting various cities, villages, districts, suburbs and streets. The technical infrastructure is an expression of the interdependence of people in society. It arose and grew together with human settlements. Ultimately, networks connect people, and on an increasing level of abstraction, houses, buildings, settlements, quarters and cities. Ever more people work on the expansion and maintenance of the objective networks. Not without reason, this is called public works.

Objective networks exist of nodal points and connecting lines, made visible on a map.[9] In a road system a road connects one crossing with another one. Referring to the natural relation frames, the objective structure of a public technical network can be analyzed as follows.

The nodal points refer to the quantitative relation frame. The number of nodes and the number of connecting lines coming together in a node determine the magnitude of the network. The importance of a node, as in a telephone exchange, is quantifiable by the number of people or associations making use of it. In densely populated areas the network is finer branched.

The network consists of spatial connections. The distances between the nodes play an important part. Because of its spatial structure several types of networks can be distinguished. In one type (e.g., a road network) each node has a small number of direct connections with other nodes. In another type (e.g., airports) there is a small number of hubs having a large number of direct connections with other nodes. Some networks, like the water conduit, connect the clients only with the supplier, not with each other. In the intersubjective networks, to be discussed in the next sections, individual persons as well as associations act as nodal points of relations. Often associations like enterprises are comparable to hubs. Although networks often started from a centre (see the road-system of England or France), they all develop across the national boundaries into a non-centred and non-hierarchical system, without a central government.

The network is always kinetic. It concerns transport of people or goods on motor roads and railroads, over sea and through the air; transport of oil, gas, water and waste through pipes; of energy through the electric net; of signals through the telephone net and the cable. Networks allow of the distribution of goods, including information.

Transport through a network costs energy and needs a motor. Pedestrians, cyclists, cars and planes take their motor and energy along, an electric train the motor but not the energy. In other cases the network contains one or more pumps. Liquids and gases are literally propelled by pumps, sewage sometimes by gravity, electric energy by a power station, signals by servers and transmitting stations.

A public network is usually not static, but organic, it ages and is renovated, it requires sustenance. It branches off, new nodes are formed and the network becomes more detailed. The network differentiates itself. Bicycle lanes and footpaths appear besides car roads, where public transport gets its own lane. Local networks have the propensity to become connected, requiring mutual adaptation. Transfer stations connect different networks in the same area: an airport with a bus station, a train station with a bicycle store, a harbour with a railway-yard. The invention of the water closet flush at the end of the nineteenth century coupled the waterworks to the sewerage, probably decisive for the general introduction of both networks, called the ‘venous-arterial system’ for the municipal society.[10]

Transport and distribution require control, nowadays called logistics. The oldest form of control concerns traffic rules, but increasingly modern communication means are used to control transport. Control is part of the network and is not necessarily applied from a fixed centre, like air-traffic control.

The state may subject a network to rules for its use: rules, norms and standards, sometimes designed by international organisations (like the International Organization for Standardization, ISO). On the road one has to comply with the traffic rules. For the electricity net in households both a European (230 Volt, 50 cps) and an American (110 Volt, 60 cps) standard exist. For industry and commerce standard measures apply, for technology internationally agreed norms. Such rules, established and maintained by or on behalf of the government, are not intended to limit the freedom, but first of all make the freedom to use the network possible. The introduction of the metric system in the nineteenth century stimulated the functioning of networks. By the standardising of parts it became possible to adapt appliances made in different factories to each other and to couple them to the public networks.

In the following sections, we shall discuss more kinds of networks allowing of transfer in a differentiated society. The public networks form the basis of human culture and civilization. They connect people with each other and give them freedom to move, to develop, to differentiate and to meet each other. That requires a sense of responsibility. The functioning of public networks is only possible if people treat them responsibly. We owe the existence of networks to the efforts of our ancestors, and we ought to sustain, improve and extend them for the benefit of oncoming generations. In that case public networks are a piece of history satisfying the normative principle of progress.

Here we can recognize the original function of the government: the establishment and maintenance of rules (eventually using violence) for the safe use and maintenance of public objective networks, originally in particular of fences and entrances of settlements, of roads therein and between them, and of dikes serving irrigation. It seems obvious that initially the heads of family or tribe exerted the function of guardian of these networks, and that the historical origin of the state is to be found there.


Chronos & Clio. 5. The public domain


5.2. Festivities shape communities


Feasting and mourning are typically social activities displayed in an association or in a community, in the form of public celebrations, at the commemoration of an important event in the past or at a new start. In each settlement, weddings and burials alternate, where family members, friends and vague acquaintances meet each other and start new binds. At fixed times seed and harvest are celebrated, in which sports and art contribute. The significance of public festivals for the society is large and the state has always taken a large part in the cults. Hence we find in the aesthetic relation frame the second source for the emergence of the republic, after the management of objective networks (5.1). Each state seeks its legitimacy in the cult, usually by a myth about its divine origin (4.11), but also by promoting many kinds of celebrations and memorial days, wherein the state shows itself the bearer of authority on the public domain. In the Greek and Roman culture the performance of tragedies and comedies served a public interest. In Western countries, the government supports music temples, theatres, sports grounds and stadiums, where aesthetically characterized associations (4.2) show their arts. Each celebration has its own, in history formed and renewing, but always recognizable style.

Museums have an important function to make art available to anybody, but art also takes part in public life outside museums, theatres and concert halls. Architecture is the pre-eminent art of the public space. A city shows itself in its architecture, not only of buildings, but also of monuments, parks and squares. The gothic cathedral determines the appearance of a medieval city, like in our time the skyline does. Buildings with their towers or minarets draw the attention and enhance the status of the city population. The town government presents itself by a town hall showing the glory of the city. Besides, sport grounds and stadiums, theatres and cinemas, pubs and restaurants determine the outlook of the town. Public libraries and museums make books and art available to the public. Theatres and other public buildings each form a focus of aesthetic activity, which in a secularized world often assumes cultic forms.[11]

In the past celebrations often had a religious meaning. An old form of cult took place in the household, where the family members surrounding a hearth fire honoured their ancestors. A remnant is the set of family photos on the mantelpiece. Until recently the hearth in a home formed a focus of family life,[12] since the introduction of central heating replaced by the television. Another focus is the dinner table, where the family daily enjoys the meal.[13] In the Greek and Roman antiquity the hearth was the centre of the home cult, making visible the bond with ancestors and posterity. In Rome, where the senate initially consisted of family heads, the celebration of the hearth in the temple of Vesta on the Forum Romanum was the centre of the political cult, tended by the Vestal virgins.

Tribal gods were venerated at a holy place, eventually in or near a temple. In or near an antique public settlement one finds invariantly a holy place or building for the veneration of divine power. In a society not further developed than by the cultivation of land one finds a nature religion. Religious ceremonies were connected to agriculture and therefore cyclically to the seasons. The naturalistic veneration of the ancestors points to a beginning historical consciousness as an answer to the question: what is our origin? The father- and motherland is the land where the dead are buried. In such a culture the deity is typically locally or regional. Each settlement or tribe had its own God, pictured in an aesthetic way. At the formation of states the tribal Gods sometimes were united in a pantheon or one worshiped the head of state as a God. The monotheistic faith in a universal and personal God only broke through later, but it has never made an end to the nature worships and their remnants.

Of old, the centres of celebration form a network of aesthetic renewal.  Pilgrims marched from one holy place to another, theatre players and musicians move from one auditorium to another, and sports manifestations attract sportsmen and spectators from a wide environment. The cyclically returning competitions, games and championships are since the twentieth century expressions of national and international networks of sport associations.

One calls the rules for the worship or cult rites or rituals. They play a recognizable part in all faith communities, as well as in public celebrations associated with the state instead of the church, like a national memorial. Also sport manifestations and artistic events like concerts have their rites, as well as academic celebrations and sessions of a court of justice. There is a close connection between the cult and public feasts. Christmas and Eastern are highlights of the Christian year and a marriage is confirmed in a church service. In the cult myths are celebrated, the faith stories, keeping the past alive by continuous repetition. The meal, uniting the family, which Protestants use to open and close by saying grace, is in the church the Eucharist, assembling the congregation. In the worship service rites are exerted according to a carefully laid down script, using ritual cloths, decorations and pictures, with a lot of drama, poetry and music. In the cult so many aesthetic acts play an important part that one could consider the cult as a whole to be aesthetically typified, with an ideological destination. The cult itself is not an ideology, but in the cult people show their ideology, celebrating their belief and confirming their community.

To the cult belongs the mystery, the secret in which the deity conceals and reveals himself. Many faiths know mysteries or sacraments, which one can try to catch in words or to argue about, but which ultimately can only be experienced in an aesthetic way in the seduction to turn to God. In the worship someone shows oneself to one’s God expecting God to reveal himself in a picture, in bread and wine, in an epiphany or a revelation.

It may be difficult to discover in present day cults something playful and many children think the cult to be boring. But originally the cults were always connected to games.[14] Protestants restrict playing mostly to music, Catholic churches pay also attention to the plastic arts, to theatre and processions. Especially in the final decennia of the twentieth century we observe the differences between the church denominations to fade away.[15] In many services one sings modern songs besides the traditional psalms and hymns. For the musical accompaniment the monopoly of the organ is finished. In Protestantism the cult is subservient the preaching of the Word. At the other extreme stands the pagan religion, stressing cults, rites and ceremonies, whereas a sacred text, theology or ideology is absent or subservient.[16]

Speaking of a culture or a civilization we usually mean a socially integrated network (5.6) characterized by a cult and manifest in aesthetic artefacts.[17] Cultural is now almost identical with regional, we speak of the Indian or the Middle-American culture, dominated by one or more states with a mutually agreeing cultic style. Since the nineteenth century culture is becoming global. Especially film, music and sport have an international style, but also other arts are ever less connected to nations or regions. This applies for instance to classical music, originating from the European culture, but since the twentieth century performed and interpreted by non-Western musicians and conductors all over the world. Architecture and fashion are no longer national. The clothing people wear does no longer recognize national or class boundaries. Fashion works integrating, in contrast to the traditional costumes, which like uniforms act distinguishing. Sometimes one interprets globalisation as the domination of one (Western, American) culture over other cultures, but globalisation appears within Western culture too. Aesthetically typified means of communication, like radio, television, gramophone, cd and dvd, contribute significantly to the aesthetic renewal. Great events like the Olympic Games, the world championship soccer, and tennis tournaments draw world-wide attention. Among the arts especially music and film are globalised. That does not only concern Western products. There is also an increasing interest in non-Western art. Jazz and blues are examples of world-wide performed and appreciated music.



Chronos & Clio. 5. The public domain


5.3. The language community

and the public opinion


The native speakers of a language form a lingual community. It is not an association (an organized whole), for it has no government. Nor is it a semiotic subject, for a language community does not speak or write, it does not listen or communicate. Only people belonging to the lingual community and associations do that (4.3), being active lingual subjects. Each lingual community is objectively defined by a language or group language, as an artefact having its own character, founded in an objective infrastructure of texts referring to each other. The lingual community itself connects persons and associations and has thereby an intersubjective network structure. Translations connect the various language communities into a world-wide semiotic network.

Each language has emerged in history, sometimes from one or more other languages, and it develops continuously.[18] In the course of history a language changes together with the collective memory of the lingual community. The language provides the lingual community with a history. Related languages show typical agreements, both grammatical and semantic.[19] Dutch, Flemish, Surinamese and Afrikaans form a family, as well as Frisian and English. Both families are part of the Germanic group of languages, belonging to the Indo-European family of languages together with the Romanic, Slavonic and Greek groups. Circa 3000 year BC these still formed one language. Such a taxonomy (family tree) reflects the assumed history of the emergence of one language from another. This does not include all languages with certainty. The origin of Basque is unknown. Finnish and Hungarian and some other languages form a separate group. Sometimes the formation of a new language from existing ones is observable, for instance when a pidgin becomes a Creole language.[20]

All lingual communities maintain connections by means of bilingual or multilingual participants. Regional, national and world-wide languages can be distinguished by their communicative power, dependent of the number of people commands the language as mother tongue or as second or third language.[21] Usually one language functions as lingua franca, the local or international language of trade.[22] Since the second half of the twentieth century this is English, not the largest mother tongue, but far most the largest second language.

Because lingual acts can be translated, the collective memory constitutes an objective network of information, in principle accessible for anyone. For the history of humankind the development of communication networks is enormously important.[23] The lay-out of the Roman road system did not only serve the displacement of troops, but also the postal system. Post delivered by messengers is probably older than written texts. The South-American Incas communicated with each other without the use of writing. Writing was invented about 3500 BC by the Sumerians, circa 3000 BC by the Egyptians, about 2000 BC in China and before 600 BC in Mexico. The alphabetic script is probably invented only once, about 1700 BC by the Canaanites, only for consonants. The Phoenicians developed it further circa 800 BC and the Greeks added signs for vowels.[24] Perhaps the signs for scripts were initially intended as mnemonics for messengers. Written language is almost indispensable to the trade among settlements and in the organisation of political associations surpassing a single settlement. With written language, the first large empires emerged, and the first professional writers were perhaps imperial officials.[25] Since the fifteenth century technical inventions have improved semiotic communication: book printing, the optic and electric telegraph, telephone, radio and television. Technical networks, like the telephone net, are interlaced with semiotic networks like daily papers and periodicals, publishers and book shops, radio, television and internet. These inform us about history, showing and interpreting the past. As far as radio and television present interpreted information, they can be typified by semiotic relations. Rightly, broadcasting companies distinguish between aesthetic and informative programs, besides missionary broadcasts by churches or political parties, educative programs and commercials.

People utter their thoughts by their language, making them public and preserving them for the future. Until the fifteenth century this happened mainly orally, by addresses, proclamations and sermons. Since the invention of book printing the lingual forms made place for books, papers and periodicals. The public opinion in a modern society is formed by the press and since the twentieth century by other media too. Written language is more public than spoken language, printed work more than a manuscript. Thanks to radio and television spoken language has returned to the public domain. The Queen’s English is the language of the public domain in England. Daily papers, movies, radio and television are mass media, directing themselves unilaterally to a large public. Letters, telephone calls and e-mail are bilateral. Internet is an interactive system involving many people simultaneously.

As guardian of the public domain, the republic ought to protect the freedom of communication and expression of one’s opinions, though it is sometimes necessary to indicate limits in order to make the freedom of others optimal. The freedom to criticize the acts of the government has proved to be the best warrant against government arbitrariness on the public domain. With the rise of daily papers and periodicals, later of radio and television, since the eighteenth century the public opinion has a large influence on the policy of the government.[26]

Locally it is sometimes observable that the élite uses a different language than the common people. That language now does not serve to communicate, but to exclude people from functions in the administration and education.[27] In contrast to a lingual community a people or a nation is more subjectively than objectively characterized. Besides a supposed (usually dubious) common descent there is no objective criterion for it. Nevertheless the subjective feeling of tribal relationship can be extremely strong, especially if stimulated by a shared history of glory and heroism or of suppression and martyrdom. Sometimes one supposes however that a people or nation is or ought to be objectively characterized by a language. Then a people or nation is conceived as a lingual community. At the medieval universities students speaking the same language united themselves into a nation.[28] Nowadays someone’s nationality means that they are citizens of a state, irrespective of the language they speak. Especially in the nineteenth century, romanticism glorified both the people’s language as the nation.[29] It founded the state by the nation, identified with a lingual community. The organicist romanticism considered the vernacular as part of the popular culture, typified by the common descent. Nationalists defined the nation ethnically, by descent or race, with the vernacular as a criterion. The romantic ideology assumed that the nation can be formed most efficiently by pointing out a common enemy.[30] In the nineteenth and twentieth century this gave rise to serious conflicts, inclusive of genocide.

Since the seventeenth century the concept of the nation state emerged in Europe. Hence it is older than romanticism. It indicates that the state is meant for the citizens and is not the property of a ruler, that the state ought not to identify itself with the government, but with the citizens. In the nineteenth century one started to conceive the nation state as a state in which one nation or lingual community is dominant. In that case The Netherlands would be a nation state, whereas Belgium would not. Sometimes the state favours a lingual community and discriminates other ones, as has been the case in Belgium for a long time. The inclination to prescribe coercively the use of a single language in a state, not only for administration and justice, but also for education and other cultural events, is almost universal. It even applies for countries like Switzerland, Belgium and Canada, where the dominant language is not a national but a regional privilege.

In the twentieth century the romantic idea of the nation state was undermined by two contrary developments.[31] On the one hand, the result of regional conflicts was that parts of the people got a large measure of independence, like in Belgium or Great-Britain, or became entirely independent states, like in the Soviet-Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia, or fell into anarchy like in Afghanistan, Iraq and large parts of Africa. On the other hand states formed supranational units, like the European Union. Only at the end of the twentieth century one begins to understand that speakers of minority languages deserve respect and that civil rights should be independent of the language or dialect in which a citizen expresses himself.[32]


Chronos & Clio. 5. The public domain


5.4. Public research


From primitive societies dates the word taboo, a terrain of life that nobody is allowed to enter, a holy place, forbidden ground except for the initiated. It may be a subject matter about which one does not like to talk except in veiled words, or in which one is not allowed to do research. A modern, free society may be expected to exclude taboos, such that anything is accessible, discussable and researchable. The abolishment of taboos is a fruit of the view that the whole creation is given to people as caretakers of the public domain, and is therefore open to be investigated. This leads to an ever extending public objective network of systematically achieved knowledge and of theories. It ought to satisfy the norm of consistency, of excluded contradiction and to the directive logical temporal order of extrapolation. It supports networks of insights, views and opinions. In each field of science (3.4) scientists with their research institutes, laboratories and libraries, their conferences and periodicals form a public intersubjective network, in which they share results of research and methods.

Scientists publish their results and make these available to anybody for critical discussion, further elaboration and application. Publication is a condition for the recognition of a scientific result. Of course one often attempts to keep the achieved knowledge secret, for instance if military or industrial interests are involved. However, secrecy is not in the interest of science and no more in the interest of the public. Moreover, secrecy turns against the discoverer, because someone else who reaches the same result later but publishes earlier gets the credits.

Knowledge of a part of reality is called a fact if ‘everyone’ is convinced of its truth. A fact is therefore dependent on human activity, an artefact. ‘Everyone’ does not mean literally all people, because then no facts or data would exist. There is always someone to find who doubts everything. Here it concerns a consensus in a public network. In physics something is considered a fact if most physicists accept it as such. Clearly, facts are culturally and historically determined, even if some facts are better founded in scientific research than others.

Often facts cannot be understood by anyone who is not an expert, who can only accept these as given and sometimes apply them on the authority of experts. In particular facts have a public objective function in discussions. A fact is never entirely objective, for it is always part of a subject-object relation. It can be absolutely legitimate to doubt a fact, if one does so in an argued way. The truth of a fact depends on the context of the dialogue. What one accepts as a datum in one case (‘the earth has the shape of a sphere’), is in another case object of discussion (‘is not the earth flat at the poles?’). Sometimes one has to establish a fact by reasoning. Historical facts and data are only objective in a relation to a subject responsible for it. Yet they ought to be available to the public.

Each field of science knows a historically grown connected set of concepts, propositions and theories, subordinate to the directive temporal order of logical extrapolation.[33] This set has an objective network structure, because one theory derives propositions from another theory. Yet it is better not to identify science with theoretical thought. The use of theories and other logical artefacts characterises theoretical thought, not only in science but also elsewhere. Who measures the length and width of a room, calculating its area, applies a geometric theory, but this does not make him a scientist, designing and using theories in order to find law conformities. On the other hand, science is more than theoretical thought, as any investigator may confirm. Scientists build instruments, laboratories, observatories, libraries and computer programs; they observe, experiment, measure and calculate; they make drawings, photos, maps and graphs; they study, research literature and interpret texts; they carry out excavations, polls and apply statistics. Finally, when they have arrived at a logical conclusion, they enter the public domain by publishing their results, making these available for discussion.

Logical-empiricism emphasized the objectivity in science. It was only interested in the proof of theories, and not at all in the history of science or in heuristics, the method of finding theories.[34] This a-historical view of the performance of science came under attack during the second half of the twentieth century. Historians and sociologists of science[35] stressed that science cannot withdraw from historical and social influences. They called attention to the social relevance of networks of laboratories and other research institutes.[36] Especially in the social sciences, Thomas Kuhn made a deep impression with The structure of scientific revolu­tions.[37] Although this book deals with natural science, it received far less influence here than in the humanities, including history. Kuhn maintained that the adult exact sciences in each historical period depend on a paradigm. This is both an authoritative example for the performance of science, and a social network of scientists exerting research in the framework of this paradigm. The introduction of a new paradigm means a scientific revolution, which cannot be rationally founded. Imre Lakatos united the views of Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn by stressing research programmes and Paul Feyerabend radicalized their views.[38]

The later social constructivism states that each theory arises from negotiations between groups of scientists.[39] For instance, it considers it a misunderstanding to assume that deduction is the method of mathematics; that mathematics provides sure knowledge; that mathematical statements are always correct; that the structures of mathematics agree with its historical development; that the standard of proof is unchangeable; and that mathematical statements are in principle refutable.[40]

Social constructivism is a form of postmodernism or post-structuralism.[41] The term ‘postmodernism’, earlier used in the critique of the arts,[42] is in 1979 introduced into philosophy by Jean-François Lyotard, in his re extension modest book La condition postmoderne (The postmodern condition), which to his chagrin became his most popular publication. Postmodernism takes leave from the autonomous subject and of fundamentalism.[43] As a reaction to the horrors of the long European war (1914-1991) and the decline of Marxism and existentialism, postmodern philosophers and historians rejected the ‘great stories’, the all encompassing idealistic views on humanity and its history, which do not convince any more. More than original humanism, postmodernism stresses humanity in its social connections. The central question from antique to modern philosophy concerns the possibility of the autonomous man to achieve absolutely sure knowledge, on the basis of propositions which anybody can see to be true. In the twentieth-century philosophy human knowledge loses the central position which it had in philosophy since René Descartes.[44]

Social constructivism has much influence in education,[45] due to the stress it lays on the responsibility of each student for their own learning process. Social constructivism poses that each truth is bound to culture, dependent on the insights of individual scientists and of the scientific community. Nobody is a tabula rasa, an unwritten piece of paper absorbing knowledge from outside through the senses. According to social constructivism each human being constructs their knowledge from a tangle of experiences and anyone’s construction is not better than that of someone else. It values argumentation and social acceptance higher than proof, and accepts other ways of arguing besides logical deduction.

The social constructivist’s stress on subjectivity evokes much resistance among scientists, because it undermines the public character of science and underestimates the force of mutual criticism of the scientific community.[46] A correct balance of subjective and objective aspects of the performance of science can only be achieved by not losing out of sight the law side of reality. This is neither determined by an objective theory nor by subjective insight, but can be found in reality, open for research. The achievement of knowledge is not only objective or subjective, but also normative. Who wants to receive trustworthy knowledge ought to search for the truth in a critical way, otherwise one will only find confirmations of one’s own prejudices.

As could be expected, social constructivism also influenced the philosophy of history.[47] Constructivism or narrativism,[48] as it is called in this philosophy, denies the possibility to find universal laws or values in the past, thereby denying the scientific character of historiography – although constructivists too cannot leave aside historical scientific research.[49] Constructivists believe that historians should restrict themselves to writing stories about parts of history, for the time of the ‘great stories’ is over, according to the postmodernists.[50] Narrativism stresses that historians in their stories present their own interpretation by structuring the past.[51] But this invokes criticism too, for in historiography (as in justice) the finding of truth is foremost.[52]

The relatively large certainty, provided by the natural sciences in particular, is not derived from their ethos,[53] but from the object of research, the lawfulness of the creation. It cannot provide complete certainty out of itself. In particular it cannot account for the origin and validity of laws and normative principles conditioning human conduct and therefore science as well. Science can only derive certainty trusting that the laws and normative principles which it studies are universally valid, now, in the past and in the future. This includes the faith or conviction that antinomies do not exist, i.e., that natural laws (nomos = law) and normative principles do not contradict each other. This is not a logical, but a cosmological principle, surpassing the logical principle of excluded contradiction.[54]

The results of science are universally valid, yet not always true. Rather the critical character of science makes that it continuously reviews its results. For, the current Western science is not fundamentalist, if understood as a view accepting the absolute truth of some propositions (3.4). The force of modern science is not having a firm foundation, but its critical striving after consistency. Its network structure is open, liable to critical reflection and extension. Therefore there is no ‘unity of science’,[55] no uniform scientific method. Yet there is a coherence and mutual dependence among related fields of science, informing and inspiring each other. Freedom of the exertion of science means the freedom of having different opinions, to debate with each other continuously, to correct and to be corrected.

Not the sciences but the laws are universally valid. These are not the property of science, being valid for anybody. Who believes that the law is given in the creation, science has the character of a logical reconstruction, not of a construction of reality. It can discover the natural and normative principles, but not found them. Scientists investigate the law side of reality, what everybody concerns. Therefore the performance of science belongs to the public domain and scientists constitute an intersubjective public network, in which they freely use each other’s results in order to expand the shared knowledge by extrapolation. The mathematical and scientific network expanded since the twentieth century world-wide, for the other sciences this seems to be less the case.


Chronos & Clio. 5. The public domain


5.5. The separation of church and state


In the relation frame of faith and trust the public domain may be called oecumene, originally the inhabited world, now the as yet not realized norm for an intersubjective network of Christian, Jewish, Islamic or other faith communities. Ecumenism expresses that its members ought not to fight each other. On the basis of a common conviction, they ought to live together in a sphere of tolerance, respecting each other’s freedom of conscience. In each Western city churches form a network of social services, with an undeniable integrating function.

The view that on the public domain freedom of worship ought to exist is often considered a fruit of the Enlightenment. However, the Dutch Republic proclaimed the freedom of conscience already from its foundation in the Union of Utrecht on January 6th, 1579. It recognized the freedom of worship since 1650, albeit that only the Reformed church was allowed to preach its faith in public.[56] Also in the Middle Ages many examples can be given of countries and cities tolerating views of minorities. Yet the public domain has long been dominated by a single faith or ideology, repressing, persecuting or expelling those who believe differently. Countries with a state faith tolerate other faiths sometimes only if their adherents worship only in buildings not recognizable as churches, or segregate into a ghetto. Only in a differentiated, free, in particular municipal society, different faith communities can manifest themselves freely.

The separation of church and state, already in the early fourteenth century proposed by William of Ockham,[57] is adopted by the Enlightenment philosophers and laid down in the constitution of the United States after its foundation in 1776, almost two hundred years after the Union of Utrecht. In Europe it is gradually introduced after the French revolution. The Roman-Catholic Church reluctantly acquiesced in the separation of church and state since the second Vatican council (1962-65). In many Islamic countries, the state is not separated from the faith community, two countries with a large Islamic population (Indonesia and Turkey) being interesting exceptions. The Islam does not know an international co-ordinating authority, like the Catholic Church has. Comparable to Protestantism it is sometimes nationally organised, like in Morocco or Saudi-Arabia, where the king is also the head of the Islam.

Wherever a society displays tribal characteristics, the relation between faith and government is strong (5.2). In a little differentiated society the community coincides with the tribe or the settlement. The first settlements were faith communities as well. The majority of the inhabitants of many villages or quarters still belong to the same church. The first large empires arose from coalitions of tribes, each with its own God. Possibly for this reason they are characterized by polytheism, without separation of faith and government.  In the Greek polis and the Roman Empire too, state and religion were strongly interlaced. In contrast, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam (which binds itself to the state if circumstances allow it) emerged as popular movements, against state or tribe worship.

The medieval division of public authority between the church and the state was based on the dualism of mind and body. In this view the church is competent on the terrain of the salvation of the citizen’s soul and all spiritual matters. The state is almost exclusively concerned with the bodily affairs. This dualism almost obviously led to a totalitarian society, because it supposes that everything belongs either to the competence of the church or to that of the state. A matter of continuous concern was, whether education belongs to the domain of the church or of the state. This problem can only be solved by recognizing that church and state do not exclusively divide the terrains of life. With his vision of sphere sovereignty, Abraham Kuyper pronounced the independent character of social groups, deriving their right of existence neither from the state, nor from the church. In the struggle between state schools and church schools, Kuyper pointed out a third road of free, independent schools.

Earlier than others, Calvinists accepted the separation of church and state, being co-ordinate rather than subordinate. This does not mean that the Calvinists considered the state to be religiously neutral. They propagated the idea of a Christian state, like any association subject to divine ordinances rather than to the church.  Church and state take part in ordinary life, being religious in all respects.

The separation of church and state implies the recognition that the republic (rather than the church) is the guardian of the public domain, and the obligation of the republic to warrant the freedom of other associations than the state to manifest themselves in public, no less than individuals. Therefore, it implies by no means that churches do not have a public task. Like political parties and interest groups they have a message for society and a message for their members about society. Each church ought to have the freedom to testify in public of its faith, converting people according to reformation as the directive order of time for the relation frame of faith. Even if faith communities tolerate each other, they often react negatively to apostates, being rejected from the faith community and sometimes from society at large.[58] The propagation of faith by missionaries is not allowed in many countries. Where people or associations are not allowed to testify of their urge of reformation, society is in danger of petrifying into conservatism.

The separation of church and state since the Middle Ages has led to a continuing reinforcement of the position of the state at the cost of the church. Since the Enlightenment, with its belief in universal reason, the state has even taken over the function of the church as the all encompassing institute of faith, degrading the church to a part of the state. According to Georg Hegel, in the ideal state the private interests of the citizens coincide with the general interest.[59] Their freedom consists of acting in complete rational harmony with the state.[60] In the twentieth century this view constituted the basis of fascist, national-socialist and communist states.[61] It sharply contradicts the insight that the state as a republic only guards the public domain in order to warrant the real freedom of individuals and associations. This insight, that only in the second half of the twentieth century became common, leads to a decrease of the significance of the state in favour of other associations. As a consequence of increasing globalization these associations operate on the public domain ever more outside the boundaries of separate states.



Chronos & Clio. 5. The public domain


5.6. Society


In the relation frame of social companionship the public domain is called society, where individuals and associations ought to respect each other’s manners and interests. In this view society consists of public relations of social intercourse among individuals and associations, also called public relations.[62] Society is an intersubjective network integrating people and associations. Civilization requires respect for each other’s interests. An intensive way of taking care of interests is the formation of social networks. Making contacts, seeking support, being a member of boards and committees, visiting receptions, lobbying, demonstrating and striking are social activities on the public domain to promote interests.

Differences in social intercourse are expressed in classes and castes. Civilization leads to a public moral, often at variance with the morals of castes, classes and cultures. Class differences come to the fore especially in associations characterized by the relation frame of companionship. Pubs and restaurants adapt themselves to the social classes. With respect to one’s own class one behaves with solidarity, to a lower class condescending, to a higher class in a submissive or insurgent way. Sometimes the classes are so strongly separated that transitions are impossible, like the nobility and the bourgeoisie in Western-Europe, or the castes in India. Who does not belong to a caste is expelled, being a pariah.

On the public domain various interests meet each other. The general interest consists of the right functioning of the public domain. The republic guards this by balancing the interests of private persons and associations, protecting these and if possible promoting these. In particular the republic ought to enable the social integration and emancipation of diverse parts of the population. Whether it should also stimulate, facilitate or control these is disputed, in particular because its effects appear to be limited.[63]

Since several decades people consider themselves increasingly as world citizens and multiculturalism takes centre stage, as if it were a new phenomenon. However, multicultural societies existed also in antiquity, in large cities like Alexandria or Rome. In Jerusalem the apostle Peter surprised his audience by making himself clear to many groups of the population. In Athens, Paul met a multitude of Gods.[64] Chinese and Indian cities are old examples of a multicultural society. Cities in the United States, Canada, Australia and South-America present more modern examples. In villages and quarters one may still find small communities with a more or less homogeneous culture, but every large city displays a multitude of cultures. Therefore it should not surprise that immigrants feel better at home in a city than in a village. There culture prospers, like in the cities of the Dutch Republic, owing their wealth but also their welfare to an ‘official policy of partial tolerance of faith, giving rise to a reservoir of talent of both citizens and flocked in refugees’.[65]

Until the First World War both the Hapsburg and the Ottoman empire maintained a form of group tolerance in a multicultural society. After the Turks conquered a large part of Europe and the Near-East, they allowed the Greek-orthodox, Armenian-orthodox and Jewish minorities the freedom to exert their faith, and even to govern themselves according to their own norms, on the condition that they recognized the supremacy of the Islam.[66] Their relations with the Muslims were strongly regulated. In particular any missionary activity was prohibited. Moreover individual Muslims were not allowed to change of faith. Although the minorities as a group had a large measure of self-governance, the individual freedom of conscience was strongly restricted. This form of tolerance, later called repressive, is one-sided, imposed by the government which could anytime withdraw it, like Louis XIV did in 1685 with the Edict of Nantes (1598).[67] Real tolerance rests on mutual respect, which the republic does not enforce but protects.

From the Reformation to the French revolution, European citizens have liberated themselves from nobility and ecclesiastical hierarchy, taking over the leadership of the network culture. In the nineteenth century, when the cities displayed ever more differentiation without much integration, the idea of a cultural unity transferred from the settlement to the nation. Nationalists believed that the cultural differences within a country could be bridged by an often mystic unity.[68] In the nineteenth century Protestants were inclined to nationalism more than Catholics or Jews, and liberals more than socialists.[69] Often one emphasized the uniqueness of the nation by dissociating from other nations, getting these in wrong. In Protestant countries one identified the nation with Protestantism and Catholics and Jews were kept outside the nation, by calling them ‘transmontanists’ and ‘internationalists’ respectively. Nineteenth-century German anti-semitism was initially more nationalist than racist, but it became a fertile breeding-ground for the genocide of the twentieth century.[70] After the rivalries between settlements grew into conflicts between peoples, the search for the own identity degenerated into the glorification of the nation and atrocious wars. Outside the national borders one only recognized enemies and allies against enemies.[71] Nationalism is a perverse form of historism, because it disdains the history of other people, predominating that of its own. Georg Hegel and his adherents have provided this view with a philosophical justification.

‘The self-consciousness of a particular Nation… is the objective actuality in which the Spirit of the Time invests its Will. Against this absolute Will the other particular national minds have no rights: that Nation dominates the World ...’[72]

The national state, characterized by absolute power, cannot but strive after expansion. This view, influential not only in Germany but also elsewhere in Europe, has led to the great European war (1914-1991).[73]

Only later the European countries, having had in preceding centuries the pretention to export their civilization to their colonies, laboriously arrived at the insight that cooperation based on mutual tolerance should be preferred to nationalism. Then it also appeared that Europe’s main export product to the third world was not the pretended civilization, but nationalism.

Integration of newcomers takes place in the family, at school and on the floor,[74] in the direct environment and in shops, in churches and mosques, rather than in the state. Nationalism has proved to be a bad form of integration. It is an attempt to counter the integration of others. It does not contribute to the historical development of a free society, but is reactionary throughout. Nationalism is a modern form of tribalism, in which one’s own tribe is the measure of society. It does not lead to social integration, but to discrimination and expulsion.

As a competitor of nineteenth century nationalism, the industrial revolution induced the class struggle. Class formation as a social stratification of the poor, middle groups and the rich appears to be a consequence of economic differentiation. However, class distinctions come more to the fore in differences of descent, education, training, use of language, intelligence, faith, habits, wealth and income. Nowadays classes are also distinguished because of age. The youth culture differs considerably from that of adults or aged people. The aging of the population in Western countries leads to the emergence of a distinction between young and old, between employed and retired people.

According to Karl Marx the contrasts between the ruling and the oppressed classes, determining history, are entirely of an economical nature.[75] Different historical periods are distinguished by a dominant way of production. Therefore, class contrasts in a feudal system are different from those under capitalism. The activities of individual people are, according to Marx, so much determined by their class membership that they miss freedom to act and cannot be held responsible for their deeds. Marx identified the state with the ruling class. The nineteenth-century class state did not function as a constitutional state, but as a means to take care of the interests of the oncoming industry, without shame exploiting labourers, including women and children.[76] According to Marx this is unavoidable: under capitalism, the state is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. After the social revolution, for which class consciousness is a condition, first a temporal dictatorship of the proletariat will arise, which under Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin grew to the merciless dictatorship of the Communist Party.[77] Ultimately, in a classless society the state ought to die, according to the Communist Manifesto (1848).


Chronos & Clio. 5. The public domain


5.7. The market


A public network of trade relations is called a market, characterized by competition as an economically qualified subject-subject relation. There are many specific markets: gold market, fruit market, labour market, and the stock exchange, with payment networks like clearing banks. Old artefacts like money, and modern devices like credit cards, facilitate the function of the market. On the market both individuals and associations operate, in particular economically typified enterprises (4.7).

Although markets are as old as human society, it is a quite new insight that competition as a consequence of the freedom of choice is a condition for economic functioning on the public domain. On the market competition has a strong influence on prices, according to the law of supply and demand.  In transactions by private contract that do not take place on the market, without competition, this law plays a less important part. Supply and demand are not constants. Increasing the production increases the supply. Advertisement promotes the demand by publication of the availability of competing products, their quality and prices.

The public character does not mean that everybody is admitted. On many markets only specialised merchants are welcome. The public character of the market means that the prices, available stocks and other economically relevant data are public.[78] Someone who suppresses information relevant for the public functioning of the market contravenes the rules. The disclosure makes that different markets (for instance in different places) form an economic network. The prices for vegetables in one place influence those at other places. The offshoots of the network are the shops, where the consumers, the end users, buy their wares usually at a fixed price. Supply, price and quality differ in various shops, such that the consumer too has access to the market. International markets are not, as is often assumed, controlled by multinational concerns, but by networks of businesses.[79]

Competition and price setting aim at balancing supply and demand. When a market gets gravely out of balance one speaks of an economic crisis. The most well known crisis is the exchange crash of Thursday October 24th 1929, when the supply exceeded the demand to a very large extent.[80] In classical economical theory, the balance was the norm for the economic relation frame. According to Adam Smith, in a situation of balance on the free market the market price equals the ‘natural’ price.[81] This view is based on the traditional norm of quid pro quo, which I criticized before. The better norm that all parties in a transaction should profit is in accord with a growing economy. The motor of economic growth is on the one hand the push of technology, labour productivity and labour differentiation, on the other hand the pull of the growth of the world population as consumer and its prosperity.[82]

Classical economists connected wages to the necessaries of life of the labourers and their families.[83] They reduced the price of goods via the price of labour to the price of food. In a prosperous society, in which food is a diminishing part of one’s packet of expenses, this reasoning seems no longer tenable. According to the neo-classical theory of values the amount of labour used to produce something determines its price.[84] After a product is finished, labour costs only play a part if the product is replaceable, if it competes with a new product at the market. Labour costs seem to have hardly any influence on the price of land or of irreplaceable products, like art or antiques.[85] However, the quality of such products, very important for their price, depends on the labour performed.

From the eighteenth century dates the liberal view that the republic should be concerned with economy as little as possible, according to the device laissez faire, laissez-passer (let things slide). Private persons and their associations taking care of themselves will promote the general interest. In the classical economical thought since Adam Smith the relation of autonomous persons to the world is all-important. The market is not primarily a meeting between persons, but a meeting between any individual separately with a relevant price. The market is a mechanism. Human labour is not primarily considered

‘… as a mutual human relation and an expression of community, but as an individual effort to be exerted by anyone in a certain combination of labour, land and capital.’[86]

Adam Smith’s view expresses a form of egoism.[87] If everybody acts out of self-interest, Smith supposed that an invisible hand causes society as a whole to make the maximum possible profit.[88]

An opposite view is that the state has its own economical task on the public domain. Taxes and import duties are meant to provide the state with an income, but are also useful political instruments to control, stimulate or slow down economic developments. Besides, the government watches critically the interests of private persons and associations in administrative measures, letting them pay for it, if necessary. Sharper than before, the general interest is separated from all kinds of group interests. In the middle of the twentieth century, many economists believed that the influence of the government on the market is decisive, that the administration is the most important economic actor on the public domain, partly because the government has a large budget and is in control of extensive budgets for defence, education and care. Besides, some governments control the markets in some detail, by establishing minimum or maximum wages and prices; by giving subsidies or tax allowances to farmers, shopkeepers or starting entrepreneurs; by regulating the import and export of products; and by stimulating or obstructing competition. The government often attempts to control the amount of money, the interest rate and the exchange rate. By its economical politics, the government may serve various goals.[89]

Because a well functioning free market has a public character, the state as the guardian of the public domain ought to supervise it.[90] The republic opposes fake competition, enforcing public economical information. For instance, the government may take action when sellers conspire to keep goods out of the market in order to increase the prices. Yet, the surveillance by the government is limited. The market as a public network ought to be free. When the state tries to suppress free trade, illegal forms of trade occurs, like smuggling or black-market transactions.

Since the second half of the twentieth century, markets become more and more international, stimulated by the growing world trade and the release of trade barriers. Globalisation is usually considered an economic phenomenon, starting with trading on markets, next being expressed in the activities of enterprises crossing the boundaries. In particular this limits the influence of smaller countries, which is a reason why the European countries unite in a mainly economical union, and why almost all countries in the world are members of the World Trade Organisation. Globalisation started with the principle of the free sea, in the seventeenth century formulated by Hugo Grotius. In the twentieth century the term globalisation got a negative ring, caused by a global protest against the influence of internationally operating enterprises and the cooperation of the wealthy countries. Colonialism, after the second World War gradually abolished, is according to anti-globalists replaced by a system of post-colonialism, in which the rich countries still exploit the poor ones, among other things by excluding them from the Western markets.[91]

Despite all its shortcomings, since the Second World War the international economic system may be called a success story, considering the growth of the world population from about 2.5 billion in 1950 to 6 billion in 2000. In the twenty-first century, there is no significant shortage of food, international trade florishes, and the average wealth increases steadily.


Chronos & Clio. 5. The public domain


5.8. The public order


Each state governs a certain area, bordering to other states or the sea. Within its territory the republic is responsible for the functioning of the public networks. In order to stress this, one sometimes speaks of the ‘territorial state’, to be distinguished from the ‘nation state’. The first points to the specific character of the state as a republic, the second to its generic character as an association of citizens. On its territory, the republic ought to warrant the freedom of individuals and associations to make use of the public space. This statement opposes the absolutist view identifying the state with the public space, excluding other associations, which it expels to the private domain. A republic ought to make rules restricting one’s freedom, if necessary to make the freedom of others possible. The republic ought to establish the public order on the public domain, to maintain it and if necessary to expand it. The policy of the government to defend the order is directed to individual trespassers and criminals, to illegal organized crime and terror, to crimes of associations other than the state, and against attacks of other states.

In principle the boundaries of each state are established by treaties with other states, in particular neighbouring states. Sometimes boundaries change by a war, but even then a peace treaty ought to confirm the new status quo. Countries have often sought after natural, easily defendable boundaries: the sea, a river or a mountain range. This motivated the French policy in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. For the same reason England extended its power to Scotland and Wales and the Irish Republic propagates the union with Northern-Ireland. Politicians experience enclaves as unnatural.

The modern state as guardian of the public domain has a much more complicated organisation than follows from the system of checks and balances, the American name for the separation of powers. Indeed, the organisation of the republic reflects the public domain, consisting of a multiple system of networks. First of all this is seen in the spatial division of the state territory into provinces, cities and boroughs, each having its own government and people’s representation. Secondly, the republic displays a functional division, into more or less autonomous state organs, or independent enterprises like an electricity company having a license to exploit a public network. These organs or enterprises have an authority on a limited field restricted by law. They share a part of the government, on the public domain exerting tasks given them by the central government. Sometimes they are autonomous, meaning that they are authorized to establish public rules, to levy taxes and to inflict fines.

The state’s authority is intended to maintain the public peace. It is an old wisdom of unknown origin, that this requires a strong defence power: si vis pacem, para bellum: if you want peace, prepare for war. It is recommendable to prevent concentrations of power. Meanwhile the history of humankind shows more war than peace. The first Greek historians, Herodotus and Thucydides, even believed that only war deserves the attention of historiography.[92] It is striking that during wars ordinary life continues. War is often a challenge respectively defence of authority, motivated by maintaining the peace or the establishment of a new order. In practice the war faring parties intend to extend their authority or to defend themselves against it. War is a violent means of realizing policies.

Marxism believes that imperialism and capitalism are connected.[93] Even without economic motives, states with an imperial character are inclined to expand their internal power without restrictions and to intervene in other states. By the intervention an imperial state attempts to enforce peace, on conditions dictated by the empire.[94] The Roman state imposed the pax romana to its neighbouring states; the European countries did the same in their colonies; Japan tried it between 1900 and 1945 in South-East-Asia; the Soviet-Union in Eastern-Europe and elsewhere; and the United States with more success first in North-America, next on the Western hemisphere, and since the middle of the twentieth century around the whole world. An empire can also behave as isolationists, as imperial China did many centuries and Americans sometimes advocate.[95]

The Second World War, succeeded by the decolonisation of Africa, Asia and South-America, signified the end of European imperialism, of the extension of the sovereignty of European states beyond their own territory.[96] At the foundation and expansion of the European Union imperialistic motives are strikingly absent. The main political motive was to prevent wars among the member states by increasing their mutual dependence. By admitting Greece and Cyprus as member states, the European Union has decided to make no distinction between the Western and Eastern Christian culture, even considering the admission of Islamic Turkey. The European Union bases its unity not on a culture dominated by one faith or a common language, but on respectful social intercourse instead of war, on mutual free trade instead of autarky, on democracy, the constitutional state and the welfare state – in other words on a shared Western civilization recognizing a large variety of cultures.

The establishment of an international order may be a form of imperialism, whether or not indicated with the word globalisation.[97] Alternatively one finds a growing insight, that although each state is responsible for maintaining the public order on its own territory, it can no longer be completely autonomous for the maintenance of peace and safety.[98] The national networks constituting the public domain of each state are multiply connected, such that the mutual dependence increases. States have always concluded treaties in order to form political networks, i.e., alliances. Since the second half of the twentieth century more and more supranational organs arise, taking part of the sovereignty from the states concerned. The state ought to serve the public interest, but in international transactions self-interest often prevails. However, international organizations like the United Nations use the general interest of humankind as their line of action. This is globalisation in the right sense of the word. The role of the United Nations to maintain the peace is, however, restricted for the time being.


Chronos & Clio. 5. The public domain


5.9. Public justice


Historically, the common distinction between private and public justice has grown out of the humanist dualism of the individual citizens and the state.[99] In the Middle Ages one distinguished public law into clerical and state law, but according to humanist views church law is a form of private law. The principle of sphere sovereignty implies that each association has its own laws and justice that cannot be fitted into the dualism of private and public law. According to its generic character the state like any other association has its own organisation. Its rules are laid down in the constitution and other laws. It concerns the relation between the government and the citizens. It defines the rights and duties of the citizens as members of the state, as well as the division of competences between various organs of the state, and the way of arriving at valid decisions.

Public justice concerns the specific character of the republic as guardian of the public domain. In public justice the republic represents the general interest, and there is no equality between the state and other juridical subjects, in this case all individual persons (not only state citizens) and associations operating on the public domain, and their relations as far as these are public, such as those between an enterprise and its clients on the market. A constitutional state recognizes and protects the fundamental rights as far as these are operative on the public domain (3.9). For instance, the government protects the freedom of speech in public, but it shall not be concerned with a church board’s interdiction of a publication in its periodical. That belongs to the internal justice of that church.

Civil justice follows from contracts between legal persons, acting on the same level as juridical subjects.[100] These can be both individuals and associations, including the state according to its generic character. A citizen or an association may conclude an agreement with the local or national government. In this case there is no juridical difference between the state and any other association. Therefore civil justice concerns all juridical subject-subject relations.

Criminal law, too, is not restricted to the state. All associations exert disciplinary measures. But individuals and associations are not allowed to inflict punishment violently, that would be an exertion of vengeance, a war. The character of an association determines the nature of the penalty they mete out. In a nuclear family the penalty has an educational purpose, at school it aims at a learning effect. A penalty should always be accompanied by mercy,[101] anticipating the relation frame of loving care, taking into account the circumstances of the perpetrator. A punishment should always aim at reconciliation and remission. When that does not succeed, in each association a penalty may lead to an expulsion, in a labour situation to discharge, in a club to the end of membership, in a church to refusal of the sacraments, in a state to exile. Like any other association, the state punishes transgressions within its sphere, for instance by withdrawing the right of voting.

More important is that the republic protects the free use of the public space, acting correctively when people (not only citizens) infringe on the rights of other people, and prosecuting trespasses of the public order. The distinction of public criminal law of the republic and the right of correction within an association is also that only the government may use violence in the persecution, and that the judge may order to use violence at the punishment of criminals, for instance by restricting their freedom. This does not only concern the access to the public space, but also the free disposal of income and properties or the right to exert a certain profession.



Chronos & Clio. 5. The public domain


5.10. Public welfare


The republic oversees the care for public networks: construction, maintenance and free accessibility for anybody. Minimally the government takes care of public safety. In the eyes of many people, safety transcends rights. In times of war or threats of terrorism, the government may take measures having strained relations to the constitutional state. For this lawyers rightly require public attention, because it is of public interest that the government and its organs are subject to justice in all circumstances.[102] Moreover, besides combating any infringement of safety, the government ought to cooperate in taking away its probable causes – youth unemployment, to mention a single example. Therefore a modern state does not restrict its tasks to police and defence, but it furthers public welfare. In the fight of illnesses like epidemics threatening the public domain, the government has always seen a task for the state. To this also belongs the supervision of the networks for public health, care for the elders, and so on.

Poverty is not merely a problem for the poor, but it is also a threat to public order, the peace of labour and public health.[103] On the public domain charity lasts only if everybody can expect that others are charitable too.[104] Since the late Middle Ages this led to the foundation of many kinds of municipal institutes for the care of poor and ill people.[105] Gradually the care for vulnerable people became a state matter.[106] We speak of a welfare state if it does not leave organised care to free associations, but accepts the responsibility for care.[107] This ideal of the communist and socialist movement was abandoned almost everywhere at the end of the twentieth century. However, the other (liberal) extreme, that a republic should not be concerned at all with care, is no more acceptable in a modern civilized society. State supervision of the quality, price and accessibility of public care for all appears to be necessary.

Guarding the public domain, the republic offers protection to its citizens, in particular the vulnerable in society. For instance, the protective function of the state implies that nobody falls outside the system of insurances, on the one hand by making insurances obligatory, on the other side by compelling insurance companies to refuse nobody as a client, both with the motive to preclude an appeal to public funds. However, care supersedes right. This means that people should receive care, even if they have no right of care because they are not insured by their own negligence or otherwise.

We started this chapter by observing that the public domain is the human extension of the animal Umwelt, and people remain responsible for the environment. The republic cares for protection against natural disasters, for instance by constructing dikes, and it protects the environment. The care for the environment, the diminishing natural resources, the increasing world population, health care, and war on poverty, require ever more international cooperation. In this respect, the state has been preceded by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) like the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and many church organizations.



Chronos & Clio. 5. The public domain



5.11. Freedom and responsibility

provide history with meaning


History displays itself largely on the public domain. The transfer of experience, which we recognized to be the engine of history, is concerned with subject-object relations (for instance, we buy goods on a market) and with subject-subject relations (for instance of buyers and sellers). On the public domain associations besides individuals perform as active subjects. These relations appear to have a network structure. According to the hypothesis with which this book started, they express time at the subject and object side of the experienced reality, with the diverse universal temporal order at the law side. In time everybody is connected to anybody else and to anything, not amorphously, but structured by directive time.

The historical trend seems to be that these networks expand and condense. For each normative relation frame we have found objective and intersubjective networks. Its historical meaning is to be derived from what we have already found in former chapters. The directive order of time (1.11), the subjective applying of meaning (2.11), the objective meaning of artefacts (3.11) and the increasing significance of free associations (4.11) are all relevant for the public domain. The transfer of experience as the engine of history takes place both within the appropriate associations and in public. Artefacts play an indispensable part in the functioning of individuals and associations in the public networks.

The versatility of the values is reflected in the diversity of the public domain. It is not wise to deny any kind of restriction to a network like the functioning of the market or freedom of speech. First of all the public domain is the space of individual freedom, only if this does not stand in the way of its responsible use. Because the state as republic guards the public networks, the freedom to use it meets the state’s authority. Also in any association the freedom of acts is restricted by leadership and discipline. Denying this leads to anarchy instead of freedom. Both in public networks and in associations, human freedom is only possible by accepting norms and rules, leadership and obedience, civil sense and responsibility. In their networks individuals and associations are responsible for their deeds, not the networks themselves. The internet, the language, the society, or the market does not bear responsibility.

Responsibility always requires a certain amount of command, for nobody can be responsible for a situation which they do not command in any way. Freedom and command deteriorate into an unbridgeable contrast if taken absolutely, disengaged from values and norms. Humanism supposes that a person is completely autonomous, free of laws, values and norms, simultaneously being able to command the environment with the help of science and technology. This conflicts with the circumstance that other people belonging to this environment have the same claim of autonomous freedom. In this way historical determinism (1.11) undermines the autonomy of a person. Freedom and responsibility do not exclude each other if both are subject to norms, being historical (and therefore changeable) actualizations of generally recognized normative principles. As is usually the case with dogmas, the humanist ethos of freedom and command has been preached by philosophers, journalists and other writers more than exerted in practice. Practical people have always known that the freedom and responsibility of one person restricts and enables those of another person, in every situation in which people stick to the rules. Freedom and responsibility belong to individual persons and associations of people, and these do not easily consent in having their freedom and responsibility taken away.

Besides the objective networks like the road system, the public domain consists of intersubjective networks, each having the  character of an unorganized community, not of an association, in particular not of a state. A public network like the market has participants, but not an intrinsic board and no members. Of old, the republic according to its specific character guards the public interest, being the guardian of the networks and the freedom of individuals and associations to make use of them. In the past, networks had mostly a local or national character, but they internationalise fast. This globalisation forces the states to ever more cooperation.

Because history (conceived as res gestae, what happened) takes place mostly on the public domain, and the republics together or competing guard and protect the public networks, it is not surprising that the general history (now as historia rerum gestarum, writing history) is especially political.[108] It is a normative principle that the republic does not govern the public domain as its owner, but as its guardian, in order to promote the freedom of individuals and associations acting in their relations. This is not a statement of a fact, but of a norm, in the course of time derived from the value of good governance. Its validity is still not recognized everywhere. Each totalitarian state, each empire denies this norm, and also other states regularly sin against it. In particular, the freedom and responsibility of associations to operate besides individuals on the public domain, preserving their sphere sovereignty, is still disputed. The state is not an aim in itself and should not be identified with the public domain. This means that the republic cannot be the meaning of history, as Hegel and his multicoloured adherents believed, and certainly not one universal state.

The states themselves form regional and global networks, guarding the public domain together. If they keep each other in a peaceful balance, this can be a warrant for the freedom and responsibility of individuals, associations and communities throughout the world, if no religion or world view exclusively commands the republics.

[1] Vrieze 1977, 77-85; Dengerink 1986, 146-165; Strijbos 1988; de Jong 2007, chapter 6.

[2] Lechner 2000, 127-128. Besides in systems theory and in cybernetics, networks are investigated in the mathematical theory of graphs.

[3] Scheler 1928, 37-39; Gehlen 1940.

[4] Sperna Weiland 1999, chapter 10.

[5] Scheler 1928, 39.

[6] Van Doorn 2007, 184, 206-208, 212-217, chapter X. Japan too was a totalitarian state during centuries and China is still one, Landes 1998, 72-75, 111-116, chapter 22, 23.

[7] Popper 1945, 546-547. Ankersmit 2005, 421: ‘Again it appears that the political dimension dominates all. As always. Politics is the alpha and the omega of all history.’ (my translation). Hegel described history as the history of the state. The beginning of history is that of China, being the oldest state, Hegel 1840, 132.

[8] Stafleu 1998, chapter 3.

[9] Castells 2000, 501.

[10] De Swaan 1988, 140-151.

[11] Burleigh 2005, 316-320.

[12] Borgmann 1984: focus originally meant hearth.

[13] Borgmann 1984, 297-298.

[14] Huizinga 1938, 23.

[15] Fernández-Armesto, Wilson 1996, 138-142.

[16] Lane Fox 1986, 31.

[17] See Toynbee 1972, analysing the rise, flowering and fall of 31 civilizations.

[18] About the origin of the first languages next to nothing is known, no more than about the evolution of the larynx and the centre of speech in the brain as the biotic and psychic base of human ability to speak. Langer 1960, 138 and Staal 1986, 260-261, 298, 343 suppose that the spoken language emerged from wordless hymns and that rituals preceded the formation of language. During the Renaissance one has much speculated about an original paradise language, being lost at the building of the tower of Babylon, remnants of which would be traceable in Hebrew. In this ‘natural’ primitive language each word would have an immediate and transparent meaning, see Foucault 1966, 57-65. However, being artefacts languages are not natural but formed in history.

[19] Pinker 1994, chapter 8.

[20] Pinker 1994, 32-36. A pidgin is a strongly simplified mixed language without a grammar of its own, having a limited purpose, for instance to allow of trade on a market. A Creole language (of which several tens are known, among others in the Caribbean) emerges from a pidgin by an increasing complexity and semantic richness and ultimately receiving its own grammar.

[21] De Swaan 2001.

[22] Lingua franca was originally a medieval mixture of Italian, French, Spanish and Greek, spoken in the trade around the Mediterranean. In Indonesia, with active support of the government, Bahasa Indonesia (Malaysian) supplanted both Dutch and Javanese (the largest mother tongue) as second language, see de Swaan 2001, chapter 5. Latin is the lingua franca for the Roman-Catholic Church, Arabic for the Islam.

[23] Toynbee 1972, 288-295. Wiersing 2007, 769 mentions three ‘media revolutions’: the invention of written language, of book printing, and of electronic media.

[24] Pinker 1994, 207; Diamond 1997, chapter 12.

[25] Rutgers 2004, chapter 3.

[26] Taylor 2007, 268-281 restricts the public domain to public opinion.

[27] De Swaan 2001, 131-135 mentions Rwanda as a recent example, where nearly all inhabitants speak Kinyarwanda, but the élite sticks to French.

[28] Knowles 1962, 160, 165.

[29] Popper 1945, 302-311; Russell 1946, 651-659; De Swaan 2001, 85-87, 184-190; Safranski 2007.

[30] Arendt 1963, 99.

[31] Hobsbawm 1994, 489-497.

[32] India, South-Africa and the European Union experiment with a multilingual state, see de Swaan 2001, chapter 4, 7 and 8. In the European Union eight languages are spoken by more than twenty million inhabitants: German, French, English, Italian, Polish, Spanish, Dutch and Romanian. Outside their own boundaries only English, French and German play a part, followed at a distance by Italian, Spanish and Dutch, see de Swaan 2001, 200.

[33] Stafleu 1987, chapter 1: in a theory one derives propositions from other propositions, which are accepted to be true within the context of the theory.

[34] Logical-empiricism (i.e., positivism influenced by mathematics and physical science) believed that heuristics is not logical, belonging to psychology rather than to philosophy. Professional exertion of science history started laboriously, becoming recognized only in the second half of the twentieth century. As Koyré in France, Dijksterhuis in The Netherlands was a pioneer, with De mechanisering van het wereldbeeld (The mechanization of the world picture, 1950) as a highlight.   

[35] For instance the Frankfurter Schule, called after the Institut für Sozialforschung in Frankfurt am Main, with among others Th. Adorno, M. Horkheimer, J. Habermas and H. Marcuse.

[36] Heelan, Schulkin 1998, 139. See also Latour 1987; Galison 1987; 1997.

[37] Kuhn 1962. The epistèmès of Foucault 1966 are related to Kuhn’s paradigms. Kuhn confirmed his own paradigm by treating the facts from the history of natural science in a constructivist and not in an  objective way, i.e., according to the recipe of Ranke (‘bloss zeigen wie es eigentlich gewesen’, i.e., only to show how it has happened), as Dijksterhuis and Koyré did. In contrast Kuhn 1978 is a ‘classical’ historical work, not written according to his original paradigm.

[38] Lakatos, Musgrave (eds.) 1970; Lakatos 1976; 1978; Feyerabend 1975. Both Lakatos and Feyerabend defended the construction of historical facts, though Lakatos told in footnotes how history ‘really’ happened.

[39] Cole 1992, 5; Niiniluoto 1999, chapter 9; Winner 2003; Pinch, Bijker 1987, 222: ‘Within such a program all knowledge and all knowledge claims are to be treated as being socially constructed; that is, explanations for the genesis, acceptance, and rejection of knowledge claims are sought in the domain of the social world rather than in the natural world.’

[40] M.J. Crowe, cited by Howell, Bradley (eds.) 2001, 30.

[41] Social constructivism can also be considered a revival of positivist conventionalism, counting quite a lot of adherents in the first half of the twentieth century.

[42] Hobsbawm 1994, 591-594. See Lemon 2003, 378: ‘The origins of the postmodern movement, we should recall, were in the field of literary criticism and the fine arts, areas which Plato famously distinguished from the world of fact.

[43] Smart 2000; Cahoone (ed.) 2003, 1-13; Wiersing 2007, 660-687. Postmodern philosophy flowered between 1980 and 1995, afterward soon losing much adherence, see Wiersing 2007, 683-687.

[44] Landmann 1964, 45-46.

[45] Howell, Bradley (eds.) 2001, chapter 12.

[46] Cole 1992; Winner 2003.

[47] See Burke 2005, chapter 6 about postmodernism in historiography.

[48] Ankersmit 1983, 74-79, 182-190; Roberts (ed.) 2001.

[49] Even Hayden White, the most important representative of narrativism, bases his Metahistory (1973) on solid research of the works of eminent history writers and philosophers of the nineteenth century.

[50] Dray 1997, 774-779; Munz 1997; Burns, Rayment-Pickard 2000, 274-284; Bentley 1997, 487-495.

[51] Ankersmit 2001, 239: ‘… a historical interpretation projects a structure onto the past and does not discover it as if this structure existed in the past itself.’ Meanwhile one may wonder how historians judge about the way the Soviet-Union constructed its history. See also its clever caricature by George Orwell 1949.

[52] Lemon 2003, 378: ‘ … postmodernism never was about factual reality, and this runs like a corrupting core throughout postmodernist theorising about the discipline of history, however seductive it might otherwise be.’ Von der Dunk 2007, 17: ‘Each time and every historian has his own historical truth – which, by the way, also contains what others have written and thought. This does not take away that the idea of a general objective truth lying outside ourselves is undiminished the polar star of each meddling with the past and of all science, hence also of historical work. Hence anybody lays aside the truth nihilism at the moment he factually takes care of history itself ... It is the only valid legitimacy of his work.’ (my translation). Social constructivism is at variance with general civilized views concerning justice. In a lawsuit the constitutional state rejects the finding of truth based on proof constructed by the police.

[53] According to Merton 1973, 267-278, supplemented by Ziman 1984, 84-90; 2000, 33-46, the scientific ethos or code of conduct consists of: communalism (science is public knowledge, freely available to all); universalism (there are no privileged sources of scientific knowledge); disinterestness (science is done for its own sake); originality (science is the discoverer of the unknown); scepticism (scientists take nothing on trust). Ziman replaces Merton’s communism by communalism and adds originality.

[54] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, II, 36-49.

[55] Gaukroger 2006, 16. The irony of history is that the final but one volume of The international encyclopaedia of unified science (1938-1969) was the famous book by Thomas Kuhn (1962), making an end to the positivist ideas of the Wiener Kreis, constituting the starting point of this encyclopaedia.

[56] Israel 1995, 397-435, 539-560, 737-775, 1151-1199.

[57] Duby 1961-1962, 296-297.

[58] Hoogerwerf 1999, 71-72.

[59] Hegel 1840, 52-69; White 1973, 108.

[60] Berlin 2006, 247: ‘The perfect State is the perfectly rational structure in which men fully understand their inevitable relations to each other and to everything else, and which they perpetuate by freely willing it …’

[61] Berlin 2006, 124: ‘This is one of the most powerful and dangerous arguments in the entire history of human thought. … Objective good can be discovered only by the use of reason; to impose it on others is only to activate the dormant reason within them; to liberate people is to do just that for them which, were they rational, they would do for themselves, no matter what they in fact say they want; therefore some forms of the most violent coercion are tantamount to the most absolute freedom. This, of course, is the great justification of the State despotism advocated by Hegel and all his followers from Marx onwards.’ See also ibid. xxviii-xxix.

[62] Toynbee 1972, 43: ‘Society is the total network of relations between human beings.’ Marx, cited by Bentley 1997, 451: ‘society does not consist of individuals; it expresses the sum of connections and relationships in which individuals stand.’ See also Kuiper 2009, 14.

[63] Böhler 2004, 261.

[64] Acts of the Apostles 3:11-26 and 17:15-34.

[65] Fernández-Armesto, Wilson 1996, 173 (my translation).

[66] Kymlicka 2002, 230-231.

[67] Borradori 2003, 33-34, 60, 96-97, 158-162, 195-199.

[68] Calhoun 2000. See also 5.3.

[69] Burleigh 2005, 175-194.

[70] Burleigh 2005, 482-489; 2006, 220, 249-262.

[71] Schmitt 1963, 62-64.

[72] Hegel, cited by Popper 1945, 317.

[73] The ‘short twentieth century’, according to Hobsbawm 1994.

[74] Scheffer 2007, 409-419.

[75] Van het Reve 1969, 103-117; de Jong 2007, 73-79. Sometimes Marx distinguished three classes, the owners of land, capital and labour. Sometimes he only recognized a class if it is class conscious, Burke 2005, 33.

[76] Hardt, Negri 2000, 53, 156-157.

[77] Hardt, Negri 2000, 256 understand by ‘proletariat’ no longer the industrial working class, but ‘… all those who are subordinated to, exploited by, and produce under the rule of capital’.

[78] Jevons 1871, 427.

[79] Castells 2000, 208.

[80] Hobsbawm 1994, chapter 3, see also chapter 14.

[81] Smith 1776, 163-165.

[82] Graafland 2007, 163-173. Granting credits forms an indispensable part of the economical motions. Its stagnation led to the credit crisis since 2007.

[83] Smith 1776, 67; Ricardo 1817, 275.

[84] Smith 1776, 36-39; Ricardo 1817, 259. Marx observed that the price is determined by the required labour augmented by a surplus, the profit of the entrepreneur.

[85] Smith 1776, 67; Jevons 1871, 439.

[86] Goudzwaard 1976, 27 (my translation).

[87] Baier 1991.

[88] Smith 1776, 167.

[89] Rawls 1971, 244-249.

[90] The credit crisis since 2007 is inter alia ascribed to a failing supervision of the Western governments on the supply of credits by banks, who were more concerned with the trade in money and derived products than with their primary task, i.e., facilitating the activities of enterprises and private persons, in particular by providing capital.

[91] Hardt, Negri 2000, 244-249; Goudzwaard et al. 2009, chapter 8.

[92] Cartledge 1997, 25. This was still the opinion of Gibbon in the second half of the eighteenth century, when other historians already developed a broader vision of their profession, see Rudwick 2005, 181-194.

[93] Daalder 1990, 291-299; Hardt, Negri 2000.

[94] Guépin 1983, 218; Hardt, Negri 2000, 167.

[95] Besides isolationism, American foreign policy knows unilaterism and internationalism, i.e., unilaterally acting on its own authority or internationally consulting other countries, for instances in the NATO or the United Nations.

[96] Hobsbawm 1994, chapter 7.

[97] Hardt, Negri 2000, xi, xii understand by Empire not an organised empire, but the postmodern network of capitalist powers dominating the world, ‘… a decentred and deterritorializing apparatus of rule that progressively incorporates the entire global realm within its open, expanding frontiers.’

[98] Goudzwaard et al. 2009, chapter 6.

[99] Franken et al. 2003, 240-244.

[100] Dooyeweerd 1962, 160.

[101] Nussbaum 2001, section 7.6.

[102] Böhler 2004.

[103] De Swaan 1988, 15; Van Doorn 2009, chapter 17.

[104] De Swaan 1988, 18.

[105] Israel 1995, 389-396.

[106] De Swaan 1988, chapter 2.

[107] Van Caenegem 1995, 21-23.

[108] Specialisms like the history of technology or of science are not or only indirectly concerned with politics, yet they also act on the public domain, typified by the technical or the logical relation frame.







Chapter 6










Chronos & Clio. Evaluation 



The hypothetical-exemplary method applied in this book does not provide a proof, though it offers empirical tests. Chronos & Clio presents a hypothetical model of time in history, argued and documented with representative historic examples as empirical proof material.[1] By way of an evaluation I suggest the following considerations.

The model is inspired by Herman Dooyeweerd’s philosophy of the cosmonomic idea,[2] with some far-reaching amendments. Shortly summarized, these concern the mutually irreducible modal aspects, which I interpret as relation frames;[3] the characters and character types as the law side of Dooyeweerd’s structures of individuality; the distinction between the law side of reality and its subject and object side; the distinction between subjects and objects.[4] I assume a different order of the relation frames,[5] adding the political frame, and avoiding the name ‘moral’ or ‘ethical’ aspect for the aspect of care. Dooyeweerd’s idea of time I have more consequently elaborated than he did.[6] For this book it is most important that I do not share Dooyeweerd’s view of history as an aspect of human experience.[7]

Because of all these differences I prefer to present the starting points of my analysis as hypotheses, not as results of Herman Dooyeweerd’s philosophy. However, I share with Dooyeweerd the religious and philosophical starting points expressed at the beginning of section 1.0:

‘The first is the realist religious view, confessing that God created the world according to laws which are invariant because He sustains them. We know God only through Jesus Christ, who submitted himself to God’s laws. Partial knowledge of His laws can be achieved by studying the law-conformity of the creation. The critical theoretical starting point will be that the diversity of temporal reality cannot be reduced to a single principle of explanation.’

The first assumption is that events from the past can be ordered in a spectrum of relation frames. Because experience only occurs in relations, these frames are aspects of human experience as well.[8] Each frame is characterized by one or more natural laws or universal values and is subjected to its directive temporal order. This determines the meaning of history normatively. In order to account for the diversity of temporal existence I pointed out ten normative expressions for time in history, besides six natural orders of time.

There may be more than sixteen, for a criterion for the choice of the relation frame cannot be given a priori. This choice is based on intuition and should be empirically tested in philosophical investigation.[9] The values cannot be extracted from bare human existence, as if there are first human persons and then morality. On the contrary, each value and each type of character is a condition for human existence in its rich diversity.[10] Thinking about history, we can get an impression of these normative principles, but the pursued hypothetical-empirical method implies that the result is always tentative and liable to revision.

An empirical criterion may be that the suggested normative principles should be mutually irreducible. In this respect I made several remarks, most extensively about the irreducibility of policy and justice (1.9). However, a half century after Herman Dooyeweerd’s epoch-making work, a profound investigation of the mutual irreducibility of all relation frames is still not available.[11] This criterion excludes values like goodness, equality, freedom and responsibility, for these concern human acts in all relation frames. We have also seen that the mutual irreducibility of the relation frames and the character types sometimes only surface in the course of history, as in the case of craft and art. The normative principles ought to be universal too, valid for all times, cultures and civilizations. Whether this is the case is still an open question.[12] People articulate their intuitive insight in universal values only if they actualize them into specific norms. This is a historical process, and its results depend on place, time and circumstances.

Meanwhile, one may observe that in this book the concept of ‘time’ has been stretched quite a bit. To put it more positively, it has been enriched considerably if compared with the elementary concept of time being what a chronometer shows. This is the unavoidable consequence of the hypothesis that the order of time is directive for a large diversity of relations, not merely of kinetic relations. 

The distinction between the law side on the one hand and the subject and object side on the other hand does not only concern the relation frames, but also the characters. The first case concerns the law-like order for relations among subjects and between subjects and objects (chapters 2 and 5). The second case concerns the difference between characters and character types on the one hand and individuality on the other hand: individual persons, things, events, acts and communities (chapters 3 and 4). The law conformity for history is normative, radically differing from natural law conformity. Being normative principles, the values function as universal touchstones for historical events. This view leads directly to a criticism of historism (1.11).

Chapter 2 investigates the supposition that transfer of experience in each normative relation frame functions as an engine of history, occurring in asymmetric subject-subject relations. This discussion culminates in the question of the subjective attribution of meaning to history (2.11). Attribution of meaning has to start from a fixed point of view. Therefore the adherents of the neutrality of science are inclined to avoid the question of the meaning of history, or to state that history has no meaning. Even if we admit that the question of the meaning of history has no answer that is the same for anybody, it is still a question that the philosophy of history cannot circumvent. In the train of thought in this book, the subjective meaning of history has a normative direction, in each relation frame determined by the order of time. Guided by the universal values one can verify whether the transfer of experience conducts history in the right direction. Because people are responsible for the transfer of experience, the actual direction does not automatically satisfy the normative order of time. At the law side this responsibility concerns the historical development of norms from values and of characters from character types. At the subject and object side people assume their responsibility for actually performing their normative tasks, according to their individual character or collective ethos, their view of values and norms, their ethics.

The hypothesis in chapters 3 and 4 that artefacts and associations have a single or dual character, and that each character can be typified by two relation frames, is difficult to test empirically. The force of this hypothesis follows rather from the power to provide insight in the structure and functioning of these human products. The assumption of the existence of invariant character types opens up the possibility to compare their culturally and historically different forms of appearance. The words ‘generic’ and ‘specific’ (3.0, 4.0) may remind one of Aristotle’s logical distinction of genus proximum and differentia specifica, intended as ordering categories for a collection, in which a genus encompasses various species. The duality of a generic and a specific character surpasses this, however. The character of an artefact is a set of laws and norms, the design determining the structure, the production and the use of the artefact, and this is more than an ordering criterion. The generic character of all associations is not difficult to argue (4.0), no less than the primary specific character in the examples discussed. It turns out to be more difficult to indicate the secondary character of associations.[13]

Like the typology of Chronos & Clio unavoidably reminds one of Aristotle’s, the unchangeable values resemble Plato’s ideas, like truth, goodness, and beauty. Yet there are important differences. The distinction between values and norms is unknown to both Plato and Aristotle. New is that the values (with the natural laws) are primarily or secondarily typical for the character types distinguished in this book, and that historically determined norms actualise these. Therefore the values are different from Aristotle’s teleological forms, which in his form-matter scheme indicate how from a material principle things could arrive at their final destination. Both Plato and Aristotle attached much value to perfection. According to Aristotle each thing strives after a perfect form, which only God (the prime mover) is able to realise (2.2). Plato takes the values to be the only real and perfect beings, of which observable reality is merely a shadow. Ultimately both Plato’s ideas and Aristotle’s forms being essences are subject to the divine reason, in which only philosophers participate. Neither Plato nor Aristotle recognize that values and norms, characters and character types are laws, let alone the distinction between law side  and subject and object side. None of them has much eye for the historical and cultural impact of the freedom and responsibility of people to actualise values into norms, and character types into characters.

It is important to respect the balance of law conformity, subjectivity and objectivity. The artefacts, discussed in chapter 3, have an objective function in history, both in their historical development and in the transfer of experience, in chapter 2 identified as the subjective engine of history. Artefacts, in particular written texts, are the most important witnesses of history. They provide history with an objective basis, complementing the normative meaning of history, provided by the directive time, and the subjective attribution of meaning by individuals, associations and unorganised communities in their history shaping transfer of experience.

Chapter 5 argues that the public domain is foremost the domain of human freedom and responsibility. It consists of objective and intersubjective networks, having expanded explosively since the nineteenth century, not in the least because besides individuals also associations manifest themselves increasingly in public. The view developed in this book on the public domain as res publica leads to a new insight into the structure and the functioning of the state, which as a republic guards the public domain, without predominating it. Because the public networks become ever more related across national boundaries, also states become forced to cooperation instead of the past and present usual warfare. If this is a consequence of the increasing globalisation, it would be hard to object to it.  Who does so on nationalist grounds, testifies to having little insight into the devastating consequences of nationalism in the history since the nineteenth century.

In due course each human being and every association demand freedom and responsibility for their own functioning on the public and private domain, according to their own insight in values and norms. Both the individual character of a person and the common ethos is marked by a religion or worldview, by a historically formed view of the meaning of human existence.[14] Within the Western culture, influenced both by Christianity and humanism, the American culture is characterized by liberalism, the European culture also by Christian Democracy and socialism, and that of the former East Bloc as well as China and some smaller countries by communism. The Latin-American culture is less influenced by Protestantism than the North-American and Western-European culture, also recognizable in South-Africa, Australia and New-Zealand. Russia and its surrounding countries rediscover their Eastern-Orthodox roots. Hinduism characterizes the culture of India. Japan has Shintoism, a variant of Buddhism that also influences the culture in various other countries.[15] Islamic culture determines the daily life of more than a billion people.[16] Together these cultures dominate world history. Each culture has its own view of freedom and responsibility of individuals and of associations on the public domain. As far as I can judge, adherents to all these cultures recognize the same universal values mentioned in chapter 1, even if elaborating these into norms in their own way.

The normative, subjective and objective meaning of history may be distinguished but cannot be separated. In each culture, the subjective attribution of meaning ought to satisfy the values of directive time, whereas it is expressed objectively in artefacts and associations, privately and on the public domain. From all relation frames, being human concentrates itself in the heart of each person, in the attribution of meaning of human existence, directed by the order of time.[17] The word ‘religion’ usually depicts one’s relation to one’s God. In that case, religion concerns the transcendental, what transcends the creation, the origin of all that is.[18] However, not everyone finds this origin outside reality. Immanent world views, like humanism, look for the meaning of human existence within empirical reality. In humanism one finds various more or less radical currents, like communism, socialism and liberalism, fascism and nazism, positivism, existentialism and postmodern constructivism, each attempting to attribute meaning to history from their own point of view. The history itself of the religions, of life- and world views, of philosophies and ideologies is a much discussed and described subject matter.

In their religion or world view a person provides an answer to the calling to conduct a meaningful life, the calling to do well and combat wrong. Jews, Christians and Muslims derive this calling from revelation and prophesy. Others believe that their calling stems from the self-assuredness of any autonomous person. The choice someone makes provides meaning to all one’s acts and influences one’s character. The individual character of a person, their virtues and vices, concern their attitude towards the law side of the cosmos, towards natural laws, norms and values, with all implications this attitude has for one’s relations to fellow people and other creatures.

Many people believe that God governs history with an invisible hand, though this is perhaps difficult to uphold after Verdun, Auschwitz, Hiroshima, Cambodia and Rwanda, restricting ourselves to the twentieth century. For Christians ‘God’s history’ is a divine mystery, but it is also a revealed story about the creation, about God’s covenant with people and the continuing struggle between the heavenly and earthly realm.[19] This faith story provides religious meaning to the ‘human history’ as historians observe, investigate and describe it.[20]

Creation and completion encompass history, as inspiring visions lying outside time.[21] Between origin and completion human history is an open process, finding no beginning or end, but within time having normative direction and subjective meaning. People derive their responsibility for this fascinating process from their world view.


[1] The ‘hypothetical-exemplary method’ is not new, but recognizable in for instance Kuhn 1962, Toynbee 1972, White 1973, Lakatos 1978, Stafleu 1987, Fukuyama 1995 and Huntington 1996.

[2] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958; van Woudenberg 1992.

[3] Dooyeweerd discusses the modal aspects mostly in conceptual terms, paying much attention to the ‘meaning nucleus’ of each aspect and its ‘analogies’ referring to other aspects. Meaning nuclei are absent in the description of the relation frames in chapter 1, but I discuss several projections of relations from one frame to another.

[4] Otherwise than Dooyeweerd, I believe that the distinction between subject and object does not depend on the context of a modal aspect, but on a ‘nomic context’. This is the law to which the subject-object relation concerned is subjected, such that within a relation frame, in which different kinds of relations are operative, something or somebody might be a subject as well as an object. Furthermore I apply the distinction between the law side and the subject and object side both to relation frames and to characters. The primary and secondary characterization (qualifying and founding function) of characters and character types are applied more consequently than Dooyeweerd does.

[5] This concerns the position of the logical aspect and the aspect of faith (in Dooyeweerd respectively the first and the final normative aspect) and of the aesthetic aspect (according to Dooyeweerd succeeding the economic one). 

[6] Two trends are discernable in Dooyeweerd’s view of time (Stafleu 2008). According to the first, time expresses itself in the transcendental order of the modal aspects, anticipating religion via the aspect of faith. Chronos & Clio follows the second trend, in which Dooyeweerd conceives of each modal aspect as an aspect of time. I interpret this for each relation frame on the one hand as the directive order of time, on the other hand as relations between subjects and objects. The relational nature of time is absent in Dooyeweerd’s work. Conversely, I reject the transcendental character of time, supposedly transcending reality. Only the eternal God transcends temporal reality, albeit that in the person of Jesus Christ God is immanently present in the creation and its history.

[7] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, II, 181-365 considers history to consist of the ‘opening up’ of the modal aspects, to begin with the ‘historical’ or ‘cultural’ modal aspect (which I call the ‘technical relation frame’), guided by the aspect of faith as opened up by religion (Brüggemann-Kruijff 1981-1982; McIntire 1985). In Dooyeweerd’s conception of history, the serial order of the modal aspects or law spheres with their anticipations and retrocipations play an important part. In this context, Dooyeweerd pays no attention to his thesis that each law sphere is itself an aspect of time. Because that is precisely what I want to do, my treatment of the philosophy of history differs strongly from Dooyeweerd’s, see Stafleu 2008.

[8] In this respect, I agree with Dooyeweerd.

[9] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, II, 472-485.

[10] Van Woudenberg 1992, 106-107.

[11] The mutual irreducibility of the natural relation frames is discussed in Stafleu 2002.

[12] With their criticism of Eurocentrism in historiography, Bala 2006 and Goody 2006 show that many phenomena, institutes and values have more universality than is usually assumed.

[13] Dooyeweerd calls the primary characteristic the ‘qualifying aspect’, the secondary one the ‘founding aspect’. According to Dooyeweerd each association is founded in what he calls the historical aspect, because associations are historical products of human formation. This deprives him of an important distinguishing characteristic of associations qualified by the same modal aspect.

[14] Graham 2004, chapter 9.

[15] Huntington 1996, 46-47.

[16] Huntington 1996, 117-128.

[17] The relation frame of faith and trust is also concentrated on the origin of being and meaning, on what people trust as the firm ground of their existence (4.5). Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, I, 60: Like belief and worship differ from religion, loving care should be distinguished from the central command of love. In Jesus’ summary of the law (Marc 12:29-31; Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 10:26-28; Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8) the diversity of values and norms is concentrated toward the meaning of existence.

[18] Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, I, 57; Troost 2004, 159-163. Lane Fox 1986, 31: ‘The Greek language does not have an equivalent of the Latin religio, expressing reverence and awe, from which each religious cult starts. It contained a certain power counterbalancing superstitio, the excessive fear of the gods’ (my translation). The Romans considered their state worship as religio and all other faiths as superstitio, which they tolerated as long as its adherents respected the official rites.

[19] Augustine, The city of God; Dooyeweerd 1953-1958, I, 119; II, 294-295; Lemon 2003, 61-73. In the perspective of the history of salvation, Berkhof 1958 considers Jesus as the meaning of history.

[20] Smit 1987, chapter 5 distinguishes ‘first and second history’. Löwith 1949, 7 calls the philosophy of history ‘… a systematic interpretation of universal history in accordance with a principle by which  historical events and successions are unified and directed towards an ultimate meaning,’ see Danto 1985, 7-9. Löwith continues: ‘In this way, philosophy of history depends entirely on theology, i.e., the theological interpretation of history as history of salvation.’ Taylor 2007, 107-113, 280-281 distinguishes secular time from higher times, like Plato’s world of ideas, Augustine’s divine time, or a mythical time of the origin.

[21] This also applies to the belief in an afterlife or reincarnation, for many people determining the meaning of their existence, at least in part.