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Affirm: Affirming What is Valid

To engage with other thought we need to LACE: Listen, Affirm, Critique and Enrich. The previous piece showed some of the importance of Listening, to truly understand what is meaningful in other thought and ideas. Having understood, we look for what we can affirm.

"What valid insights are there here?"

True understanding can reveal a plethora of issues that are meaningful to the other, and many of those are ones that might also be meaningful to us, and what we also value. Identify them, so they don't get thrown away when we critique them. Sift grain from chaff.

Example: In our page on Listening, we used the classic example of Feminism, which, it turns out, wishes primarily to restore aspects of life and reality that had for long been overlooked or denigrated. Aspects like mind, reason and law had long been emphasised, but aspects like body, emotions, sociality, loving care and wisdom have been downplayed. So feminists tend to emphasise them. Can we not affirm such aspects, along with the others?

Having decided that something meaningful or important to the other thought is value, we can then work out the reasons why it is meaningful and important from our perspective - where it might fit in - and understand how this relates to the reasons in the other thought. For example, the issue of loving care might be important to feminists as a manifestation and development of the care a mother naturally has for their child. The issue of loving care, to Christians, can indeed link to that, but is it not supremely shown in Christ? We have good reason to affirm loving care, wisdom, sociality, emotions and body, especially when we take the Jewish roots of Christianity into account.

Affirmation thus involves a What and a Why: What we can affirm and Why we can affirm it.

As with other parts of LACE, I find Dooyeweerd's aspects a useful conceptual tool to help separate out the issues to affirm and understand what makes them meaningful. For example, loving care is meaningful in the ethical aspect, wisdom in the aesthetic, body in the biotic and emotions in the psychical. Logic is meaningful in the analytical aspect, togetherness in the social, and law in the juridical. So, taken together, we find six of Dooyeweerd's fifteen aspects valued in the two streams of thought. Given that Dooyeweerd argued that all aspects work together for good and in harmony with each other, we can see both feminist thought and that which it critiques as different parts of the overall picture of Creation, which is richer even than both together. (The other nine aspects are: quantitative, spatial, kinematic, physical, formative, lingual, economic, pistic.)

However, if we are to make contributions to the other's thought, or even alongside the other, we need a proper critique of the other. Otherwise, there is little contribution we can make. That is the next piece.

Here are the elements of LACE:

Author: Andrew Basden.

First created: 18 January 2021 Last updated: 29 May 2022 question, recommendations.