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Vollenhoven's Problem-Historical Method: Intro & Explorations

Dirk H. T. Vollenhoven (1892-1978) was professor of philosophy at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam from 1926 to 1963 and one of the founders of Reformational philosophy. Much of his work was devoted to the history of philosophy and the development of his problem-historical method.

Bril and Vunderink introduce this discussion of Dirk Vollenhoven's problem-historical method with a brief overview of his life, his connections with his brother-in-law Herman Dooyeweerd, and their influence on Reformational philosophy.

In Part One, Bril focuses on the process of historical transition by tracing allegiance to norms lying outside of, or behind, the cosmos, as Plato believed, to the more recent conviction that these norms are innate or internal to the human subject. Part Two highlights questions related to how one frames a history of culture or of philosophy. Bril reviews four models of historiography, namely those of Jan Hendrik van den Berg, Michel Foucault, Thomas Kuhn, and Dirk Vollenhoven. In the third section of this book, Bril unpacks the sense of Vollenhoven's distinguishing between various "types" as different traditions of thought. Part Four gets at the question, "What must I do?" Philosophers over the course of time have answered this question differently and taken different positions regarding the pertinent norms and criteria. In this section, Bril considers the place of religion and time-currents in this process.

Understanding Vollenhoven's problem-historical labors can be helpful to those searching for answers for their own historical investigations. Bril is also convinced that Vollenhoven's work can help one better grasp the background and confusions of our times.