Holistic Alethic Pluralism: A Reformational Research Program

  • Philosophia Reformata, October 2016, Brill
  • DOI: 10.1163/23528230-08102002

Holistic Alethic Pluralism: A Reformational Research Program

What is it about?

This essay lays out a research program on the idea of truth. First it describes challenges to the idea of truth in contemporary philosophy and gives reasons why a robust conception of truth is needed. Next it presents two overriding concerns that such a conception should address. In addressing these concerns, I plan to take up three sets of issues: relations between propositional truth and the discursive justification of truth claims; distinctions and connections between propositional and nonpropositional truth; and the sorts of cultural practices and social institutions within which truth occurs. My detailed response to these issues, as sketched in the last section of the essay, is to propose a holistic, normative, and structurally pluralist conception of truth, one that I call holistic alethic pluralism. Propositional truth is important but not all-important, and reformational philosophy needs to show why that is so.

Why is it important?

The essay serves as an introduction to my decades-long attempt to provide a new understanding of truth that is much broader than standard notions of factual truth. Because factual truth and scientific work are under attack, it is crucial for philosophers to explain, in a culturally relevant way, why factual truth is important, and also why there is more to truth than factual truth. I have begun to do this in two books—Artistic Truth (Cambridge UP, 2004) and Truth in Husserl, Heidegger, and the Frankfurt School (MIT Press, 2017)—and I will complete the project in a new book that interacts more prominently with analytic philosophy.


Lambert Zuidervaart
Institute for Christian Studies

My conception of truth arises from the tradition of reformational philosophy that goes back to the Dutch philosophers Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977) and Dirk Vollenhoven (1892-1972). Those who are interested in finding out more about this tradition and how my idea arises from it can consult my book Religion, Truth, and Social Transformation: Essays in Reformational Philosophy (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016). The Introduction provides a succinct summary of central themes in reformational philosophy, and the book contains two chapters, originally published by the journal Philosophia Reformata in 2008 and 2009, that explore Dooyeweerd’s conception of truth (ch. 3) and show how my own conception relates to the work of Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven (ch. 14).

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The following have contributed to this page: Lambert Zuidervaart