Monthly Archives: March 2015

On philosophy as a photograph of nature

havana cigarOne of the things I appreciate about reformational philosophy is the rightful place it gives to our ordinary, naïve experience. Naïve experience does not mean in a pejorative sense,  the gullibility of our experience of the everyday, but rather, it refers to the way in which human beings experience things in their seamless totality: Herman Dooyeweerd’s favorite box of Havana cigars, in ordinary experience, is a box of Havana cigars, in the concreteness of reality. But the moment we confront it with theoretical thought, we start abstracting from it certain of its various sides: the aesthetics, the legal, the economic, the social, the historical, and so on. Naïve experience is not dismissed, but properly accounted for, as part of the the task of theorizing about reality.

Thus, in his first major work, Encyclopedia of the Science of Law, he criticizes what Richard Rorty would call the view of philosophy as” the mirror of nature,” for reducing created reality to a matter of sensory perception:

 For my untheorized conception of reality, this little table is no longer this little table as soon as theory attempts to reduce what is given to a system to a system of abstract psycho-chemical formulas. The full reality of the thing as we experience it in everyday reality also has its objective-sensory form, its objective coherence of logical attributes by which it is differentiated from other things, its objective meaning in language, its function in social intercourse and interaction, its economic value (I can immediately observe whether it is an expensive or a cheap article), its objective beauty or ugliness, its function as a legal object (it belongs either to me or to someone else), etc.

Insofar as a thing also functions in the normative aspects of reality, naïve experience subjects it without objection to norms, not as a responsible subject, but as an object, as a thing. The table, for example, is well or poorly formed, pretty or ugly, nice or not nice, expensive or cheap, etc.

The peculiarity of naïve experience reveals itself in the fact that our thought does not set its logical-analytical aspect over against the distinguished nonlogical aspects of reality; it does not make an aspect into a problem – into a Gegenstand, as the Germans call it – of knowledge, but reveals itself in the fact that our thought instead remains naively incorporated into full temporal reality, that is to say, it experiences the psychical, logical, and the remaining normative functions of things as indissoluble constituents of an in reality.

Wherever, in some fashion or other, we abstract in our thinking a Gegenstand out of concrete reality, we are not dealing with the naïve but with the theoretical attitude of thought. This is the source of the error in the view which seeks a kind of theory of knowledge in naïve experience, such as, for example, the “copy theory.” Epistemology understands this to be the view that a (physical) thing-reality, enclosed within itself, is reproduced in our consciousness like a photographic image, As if all of temporary reality could be reduced to sensory impressions!

It is scientific thought that initially separates temporal reality into its various aspects and sets the nonlogical aspect as a Gegenstand, as a problem, over against the logical function of concept-forming. To this end it must abstract these aspects out of their given indissoluble coherence by way of theoretico-logical analysis. It should certainly be clear that theoretical thought is indeed thought that subtracts something from full reality. The special sciences have broken up reality into compartments; but all of the special sciences together, in their mutual complementing of one another, cannot bring us to a knowledge of reality in its unbroken unity. Piecing together the slices cut from an apple does not give us back the original piece of fruit (HD, ESL, The Collected Works, 27-28, Series A, Volume 8/1 ed. Alan M. Cameron, 2012) [emphasis supplied].

Other reformational philosophers after Dooyeweerd have of course, taken issue with his  discussion of the place of the logical aspect in the Gegenstand relation, but that is for another post. For now, it suffices to note the important implications of Dooyeweerd’s approach to the interdisciplinary approaches to the study of reality: it is not only necessary but inherent to the multi-aspectual nature of reality itself.


for the source of the image, click here.


Filed under Dooyeweerd, reformational philosophy

Filipino human rights group brings case of detained Thai poet to UN body

ThailandThe Manila-based free expression advocacy group Center for International Law asked the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention Wednesday to press the Thai Royal Government to free a Thai poet and blogger being tried by a military tribunal for writing articles that allegedly insulted King Bhumibol Aduljadej.

The cyberactivist, the poet Sirapop Korn-A-Rut, has been detained at the Bangkok Remand prison since June 2014 and faces up to 45 years in prison under his country’s restrictive lèse majesté laws, or laws penalizing any publication deemed offensive to the Thai King.

“Sirapop has written about a wide range of issues dealing with the contemporary political and legal climate in his country, a brave act that cannot be honestly done without dealing with the institution of the Office of the King of Thailand,” said lawyers Harry Roque and Romel Regalado Bagares, chair and executive director, respectively, of CenterLaw. “In doing so, he has run afoul of the lese-majesté laws of the Kingdom of Thailand, which he has also considered to be a long-standing instrument of political repression and oppression in his country.”

The Thai cyberactivist, whose situation was brought to Centerlaw’s attention by the Thai internet freedom group Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), is accused of publishing several allegedly libelous poems online against the Thai King sometime between November 7, 2009 and June 30, 2014 under the pseudonym “Rungsira.” One poem (Shut the news, closing the eyes, buffalos are tearful, because the tiger may die) Pid-khao-bod-khloa, Kra-bu-ram-hai, Duay-wa, Pa-yak-ka-jak- ka-wai, was posted on the web board of the“Prachathai” website (

This carried a caricature of an crowned old man with a Swastika on his military uniform sleeve accompanied by the text “…being an angel, why does one have to walk on the soil, overlook the ground surface, even if having normal food every meal, being modest, because we are faithful, with two hands we build up ourselves…”

The same caricature with the text “Prince Baworndesh the head of the rebels, Din Tarab the army leader of the rebel, Sulayut Julanon the Grandson of the rebels, the Angel the King of the rebels, Suthep Thaugsuban the Southern rebel, Sondhi Limthongkul the Chinese rebel,” also appeared on his blog ( All of these were purportedly placed and made available online by Sirapop during Martial Law in Thailand.

The human rights group Amnesty International reports that around 511 activists, students, academicians and journalists have been arrested and arbitrarily detained, in violation of their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, since Martial Law was declared in the country last May 20, 2014.

Authorities have used security legislations and lese-majesté laws to suppress even peaceful dissenters to such extents that enforced disappearances, torture and inhumane treatment were carried out, prosecutions of criminalized political activities were hastily made, media was bullied into silence and self-censorship, and human rights safety mechanisms were set aside.

In their 16-page petition to the Working Group, the Filipino lawyers said Sirapop is clearly being arbitrary held and tried simply because he has chosen to exercise his right to free expression and to participate in public affairs in his country, which rights are protected under international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which Thailand is a party. The Thai cyberactivist is also being denied his right to a fair trial, according to the petition.

The UNWAD is a specialized UN human rights mechanism dealing with urgent cases of arbitrary detention any where in the world. While its rulings are non-binding, these are considered authoritative on the state of international law dealing with fundamental human rights. Over the years, its interventions in the situation of many human rights activists in repressive states have yielded positive results.

Centerlaw cited a view issued by the UN Human Rights Committee in the case of jailed Filipino broadcast journalist Alexander Adonis, which Centerlaw had brought before the Committee. “In its view in the Adonis case the UNHRC said that criminal libel is incompatible with the freedom of expression protected under Art 19 of the ICCPR,” it said in its Petition filed on behalf of Sirapop.

Thailand’s ruling military junta has scrapped the country’s old Constitution and replaced it with an interim charter that denied the right of appeal to citizens convicted of violating its lese-majesté laws. As in Sirapop’s case, it has increasingly used military courts to prosecute alleged offenders without a public trial. Centerlaw argues that thailand’s military tribunals are not independent of the Executive and the lack of an appeal removes any possibility of a remedy against its judgments.

*image from

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Filed under Free Expression, Human Rights, International Law, martial law