Original Research - Special Collection: Wentzel van Huyssteen

On thinking

Dirkie Smit
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 42, No 2 | a2311 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v42i2.2311 | © 2021 Dirkie Smit | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 02 June 2021 | Published: 05 August 2021

About the author(s)

Dirkie Smit, Department of Religion and Theology, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa; Reformed Theology and Public Life, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ, United States


The paper engages Wentzel van Huyssteen’s lifelong fascination and occupation with thinking, for him particularly thinking as problem-solving. Responding to Van Huyssteen’s own invitation, it brings Hannah Arendt’s thinking on thinking in conversation with his own thinking by considering five crucial characteristics of the ways in which she both described and practised thinking over decades. These characteristics include: her thinking as responsibility, thinking in dark times, thinking without banister, thinking in public and thinking as thanksgiving. In the process the paper revisits all her well-known books and essays on these themes, whilst also pointing to some of the roots of her thinking in the similarly classic thinking on thinking of her mentor Martin Heidegger. It concludes by pointing to the major conflict between philosophical traditions concerned with rational problem-solving and unravelling puzzles, respectively, exemplified by the reputedly shocking ‘poker’ encounter between Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein, and expresses hope for ongoing conversation about this seeming conflict over thinking with Van Huyssteen and his work.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: Thinking about thinking, the essay addresses methodological questions in public theology, in interdisciplinary conversation with philosophy and political theory. Distinguishing faculties of the mind – thinking, willing, judging – it challenges which kinds of questions belong to public theology, with particular implications for doctrinal theology, theological ethics and political theology.


thinking; Hannah Arendt; Wentzel van Huyssteen; Martin Heidegger; Ludwig Wittgenstein


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