. . . an electronic memorial

This site has information and links about Daantjie (see the 'Pages' on the right), as well as the more personal recollections which follow below.   Please help this site to grow by adding further comments or stories, and please send this on to anyone else who knew Daantjie (or was affected by him) and who might want to add something also. 

Wonderful news: Catherine Botha (who is Head of Department at Johannesburg University) has translated a paper of Daantjie's on Husserl, and it has been published in Husserl Studies, Volume 31, No 3, under the title: "D. C. S. Oosthuizen on Husserl’s Doctrine of Constitution". We are hugely grateful to Catherine for the care she took in the translation, and for bringing this paper back to life.

It is with great sadness that we heard of the death of James Moulder in November 2014.  James provided a huge amount of practical and moral support in editing and translating Daantjie's papers for publication, which should be later in 2015.

Earlier in 2013 Daantjie Oosthuizen's family began to discuss republishing 'The Ethics of Illegal Action', a project which has grown into finding and making available Daantjie's complete works, which we are expecting to publish later in 2014. With much help, we have been able to find copies of everything we think was published - though we have not yet found his unpublished lectures, talks and sermons. 

As we were asking people for papers, James Moulder came up with a wonderful extra suggestion, of collecting recollections and stories for an electronic memorial - and then followed it up by sending a message through the Rhodes University Alumni Office to a number of his old students.  The first responses follow below.  This is a work in progress - you can start a conversation on any entry by clicking on the title to open it, and then using the comments box. You can also send us an email - see the 'contact us' page.

Johan Degenaar

I remember well that [N.P.van Wyk Louw] spoke with great respect about a mutual friend, the philosopher Daantjie Oosthuizen, who with his keen analytical focus had impressed us both as the South African philosopher who had succeeded in applying the Socratic method of critical questioning. We called him the Socrates of South Africa.  Louw had learned to know Daantjie in Amsterdam, while I had already become friends with him while a student in Stellenbosch in the 1940's. He was the first Afrikaner I met who questioned the politics of apartheid in a convincing manner.

[Ek herinner my goed dat hy met groot waardering gepraat het van 'n gemeenskaplike vriend, die filosoof Daantjie Oosthuizen, wat met sy skerp analitiese instelling ons beide beindruk het as diƩ Suid-Afrikaanse filosoof wat daarin geslaag het om die Sokratiese metode van kritiese vraagstelling toe te pas. Die Sokrates van Suid-Afrika het ons hom genoem. Louw het Daantjie in Amsterdam leer ken terwyl ek reeds met horn as student op Stellenbosch bevriend geraak het in die veertigerjare. Hy was die eerste Afrikaner wat vir my op oortuigende wyse die politiek van apartheid tot vraag gestel het.]

(from J. J. Degenaar, 'Die betekenis van N. P. van Wyk Louw vir my eie denke', Standpunte)

Frederik van Zyl Slabbert

Each one of us who has attempted to take intellectual life seriously can quite easily reflect on moments of insight and remarkable individuals who helped one to experience them. No matter how busy one is, there are those quiet moments during the course of a day when one can nurse back into memory the excitement of such encounters . Such a person in my life was Daantjie Oosthuizen. He was one of the very important reasons I came to Rhodes University as a young lecturer in 1969. A gentle, humorous, kind person with an extraordinary compelling intellect .

He had a seminal influence on my own intellectual development. From him I learnt that intellectual life is about the non-stop subversion of orthodoxy and dogmatism, whether in politics, academia and civil life.

(Taken from the 1975 Academic Freedom Lecture at Rhodes University, and the  2003 Academic Freedom Lecture at the University of Cape Town).

Michael Nuttall

As a lecturer in History at Rhodes from 1959 to 1962, I remember Daantjie well and with awe. I don't have any particular anecdotes to record, but simply a grateful memory of a warm, thoughtful, modest and deeply learned human being whose quiet example as a brave, solitary Christian helped me (without his knowing it) in the formation of my vocation in exceedingly difficult times.

Ian Blyth

I have a few recollections that made an impression on my life because of my connection with the Philosophy Department. I write them randomly as they spring to mind. 
We used to go round to Daantjie's house on a Sunday evening after our church services and share coffee together. On one particular night we had finished our discussions and were about to leave when he told the story of the people watching his house. As soon as all the lights of the house were extinguished there was a car that started up its engine across the road and drove off. It was obviously the special branch aka the security police who were watching to see who went in and who left the house. It was something that must have been on Daantjie's mind every evening; yet it did not seem to have an effect on the person he was. Although I do not remember any of the specific topics we discussed, I do remember that we discussed a wide range of ideas; and the discussions were frank and stimulating. The warmth of the welcome was always appreciated. I think that these evenings together with the person he was have had a lasting effect on me and the way I think about issues. He was such a gentle thoughtful man. 
Another discussion I remember must have been during one of the tutorials we shared. I was his only student in my final year of philosophy, and we talked about his responsibilities as a father. It has also stuck with me since then and I have repeated it often: because he married late in life, he was concerned that he was going to be paying for his children long after he had retired. Unfortunately he did not get to that point in his life. 
I also remember looking at one of his talks that he was to give. I was particularly struck by the neatness of his handwriting and that there were no mistakes crossed out and corrected. He had a most clear ability to put his ideas down as if he had thought about them for a long time and only then could write them down. 
On one of my scripts (if I remember correctly, it was like a mid-year examination) for which I had not prepared because it was (I thought) not important he had written down the mark followed by TPYM. When he was asked what it meant he said: To Please Your Mother. I did not let that happen again. 
On one of the occasions when he was giving a speech at a Theological Students' final dinner he used as the subject of his speech the story of Rip van Winkle. This too has remained with me for many years and I have often thought about the importance of not letting daily events pass us by because we were fast asleep and did not realise they were happening around us. 
At the end of my first year of Philosophy, Daantjie came into the lecture in his gown and with his lecture notes in the file that he always carried with him into the lecture and asked the question: What was the purpose of Philosophy? A few answers were given until one of the students said "It is a pleasurable pursuit for those who are interested in it." I remember the student's name, Daniel Jacquet, not that it is important. There was a ripple of laughter. With that Daantjie closed his file, turned to the door and left the room. That was the last some people would see of him because they did not have to continue to Philosophy 2. 
Daantjie and his wife were two people who had the most lasting effect on me as a young student and I will never forget the man. His integrity, his gentleness and his intellectual ability to think clearly were examples that I hope have become part of the way in which I conduct myself. I was honoured to have studied under him and only sorry that I did not make more effort during the years I studied under his guidance. I sometimes pick up my copy of his The Ethics of Illegal Action with the introduction by Ian Bunting and reflect on his ideas because of the clarity of the thinking contained in it. I know that he carried the burden of Apartheid heavily on his shoulders and that he did his best to put across his ideas to those of us who were privileged to listen to him. I am sure that his not being arrested for whatever reason (and I have no idea as to why) weighed on his mind. Despite the people in his department who were arrested during the years I was at Rhodes, he continued to uphold his integrity and Christian witness. I will say that I have not been humbled by many people I have met during my life, but Daantjie was a person in whose presence I felt humble. I will always be grateful for what I learned from him as a person, although as a young person at the time I struggled to understand philosophy because of my technical background and lack of philosophical stimulation. I think that much of who I am and the way I preach today still reflects something of what I learned from my time with him. He always had the courage to speak the truth. We sometimes discussed the issue of 'half-truths' and the effect they had on others. 
I hope this helps. If I see or hear what others say I might remember more. I must say I have felt a tinge of sadness amongst the nostalgia as I have written this, because South African history could have been different had some people in power listened to him during his lifetime.

Trevor Cohen

I was at Rhodes from 1965 to 1969 when I graduated with an Honours degree in Philosophy.  I have been living in Australia since 1970 and completed a PhD in Philosophy at the University of NSW in 1975.  Your father made an enormous impression on me and it is probably not too extravagant to say that my desire to continue with philosophical studies was in large part due to him.  He taught me the Socratic method of testing philosophical points of view via the use of dialogue, and also fostered my ongoing interest in the Philosophy of Language and Philosophical Psychology via his tutorials on Ryle’s Concept of Mind and Merleau-Ponty’s  Phenomenology of Perception.  After his sad and unexpected passing, I built on what he had taught me through my studies of Wittgenstein’s works and my PhD thesis on Wittgenstein was a direct result of the thinking he had induced in me at Rhodes. 

I’m sure you have been told by many that your father was not only an acute and incisive philosopher but also a humble man who displayed none of the hubris one sometimes finds in academics.  This, coupled with his keen sense of humour, enabled him to be an  outstanding leader.   

Basil Moore

What I remember most about Daantjie, and which also has had the greatest impact on me, were the informal philosophical/political/social discussions held in his house over a cup of coffee every Sunday evening. Daantjie would get us to focus on some topic and away we would go. He would provoke, challenge, and encourage us. I can remember as if it were yesterday our arguments about the existence of God. That this was a frequent topic is not surprising given that many of us were theological students. I have particularly lucid recollections of our argument about whether the universe is finite. Against my argume
nt that the universe is infinite and that therefore there was no need for the idea of creation, Daantjie argued that every event in the past must have happened; and thus that logically - although the number of events in the past might be very, very large - there necessarily is a finite number of them so we need a point in the past when the universe came into being.
I know that I learned more about philosophy and life from those Sunday evenings that I learned anywhere else. Also important was that our partners were also invited to those Sunday evenings and treated as valuable contributors to the discussions.
I also remember Daantjie addressing the student body on a whole range of topics. Whenever he was the speaker there would be standing room only. He was respected for his intellect, his wisdom, his commitment, and his integrity. 

Peter Storey

I'm in the US at the moment and by happy coincidence, I happened to quote Daantjie in my sermon in a downtown Washington church this past Sunday. It is such a good thing to pause and remember him. In 1957, I and two others became Daauntjie's initial Philosophy II students after his arrival at Rhodes. The following year, in Philosophy III there were just two of us, my opposite number being intent on joining the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield when he graduated. I was a fairly indifferent scholar but was nevertheless treated with utmost respect by Professor Daantjie. Philosophy III focussed largely on Kant's Critique and, because there were so few of us in Philosophy II and III, our meetings with him were more like Oxford tutorials than Rhodes lectures. The first and most lasting impression of Daantjie was of his humility and the quietness of his spirit. He was a very centred person, comfortable in his own skin and quite without need to show off his intellectual brilliance or to impress in any other way. He was quite thoughtless of his dress - any crumpled clothes would do - and I seem to remember that he had rather large feet for someone of his stature. This combination made him a slightly comical, almost Charlie Chaplin, figure walking down the corridors. He was not tall, and while not quite as absent-minded as his predecessor, Professor Barrett (who offered me a lift downtown and when we got to the Post Office, exited the car and thanked me for the lift), was not one to fret over life's less important details. In those days, contacts across the colour line were few, but Daantjie had a good friendship with Adam Small,who was at the University of Fort Hare, and ensured that we were exposed to Adam's thinking about Kant in a number of meetings with him. When Daantjie arrived I was somewhat suspicious, having my own views of Afrikaners, and I recall being impressed that he would be so open to someone of colour sharing the leadership of his class. He was indeed the first Afrikaner I had met with this kind of openness and it left a lasting impression, opening doors in my own thinking. Daantjie was an unapologetic, practising Christian. I do not have the text of his Inaugural Lecture, but I recall the electric atmosphere in the tiered ranks of the packed main lecture theatre, when after a lengthy journey through the jungles of philosophical thought - much of which very few of us had been able to follow - he arrived at the Cross - the meeting place of time and eternity. The incident I quoted last Sunday also related to Daantjie's faith: cornered once by a colleague in the Philosphy Department (which was not known for sympathy to the Faith) and asked why someone of his obvious intellect and learning should bother to follow Jesus, Daantjie thought for a moment, then squinted at him through his thick spectacles and said, 'Who else would you recommend?' I drew sketches of all our faculty members to hang on the wall at our leaving dinner and still have a photo of the one I did of Daantjie. If you would like to have it, Jannie, when I get home to Simon's Town in August I can scan and send it.

James Moulder

i don't have anything your father wrote - but you've triggered memories of him and reminded me of the influence he's had on me 

i remember you from a day in october 1963 - we were enjoying a sunny day on the lawn of your home in grahamstown - you were upset that sarel kept winning the walking races the two of you were having - daantjie suggested you would have to accept that sarel walked faster than you did - with impeccable logic you wanted to know why you and he couldn't have a slow walking race 

because it's such a wonderful example of the unexpected way in which your father's mind worked, i've never forgotten the incident 

your question was absolutely in line with his reply to a bible-punching student who wanted to know how he could smoke while claiming to be a christian - very patiently, he explained that smoking helped him to stay awake and staying awake helped him to read and reading helped him to improve his mind and god wanted him to love him with all of his heart and sold and mind - so why aren't all christians smoking? 

but best of all, and still very comforting on a bad day, was a moment on the steps of the rhodes library - i was depressed because of my inability to understand heidegger - i said something about wishing i had a better mind - he asked me why i thought it was my mind that was the problem 

so, although i don't have anything your father wrote - i have memories of his greatness as a teacher and a human being - memories of having him introduce me to philosophy and setting a standard that nobody who taught me in oxford came close to matching 

according to don maclennan, daantjie believed he hadn't taught me anything - on the contrary, i tell people he's the ONLY person who taught me anything - so, for sure, he IS the person who taught james moulder - the others were simply people i enjoyed talking to 

here are some more stories about daantjie 

a trivial one - there was a day when in a tutorial with about five of us daantjie and i shared my last marlboro - i took the end with the filter - he took the more robust half 

a serious one that shaped by attitude to teaching for the whole of my career - that same tutorial situation - daantjie didn't give us lectures - we sat around a table and read the classics - we were doing locke's essay on human understanding - staple fare for second year students - until the day i'm talking about, i prepared for the classes by reading the bit we had to prepare while walking the 800 yards or so from my residence to the tutorial room - on that day, daantjie arrived a bit late - he told us susan was ill and he and ann had been up all night looking after her - he postponed the class to another time because he hadn't had time to prepare for teaching us 

he could have winged it - he had read that passage every year he taught locke - to say nothing of reading it when he was a second year philosophy student - i've never forgotten how that moment felt - in future, i prepared for the class more seriously - more importantly, that experience became the bench-mark for my attitude to my students 

one in the middle - at the beginning of that year, i asked daantjie how much of gilbert ryle's concept of mind we would be studying - he told me it depended on how the discussions went - the previous year they had gone quite quickly - over the two meetings a week for about 13 weeks they had covered about the first 60 pages 

this again was something that shaped my teaching even in situations where i was supposed to lecture - having been taught by your father, i preferred to go slowly and to put the emphasis on identifying questions rather than on pontificating with answers 

one more - daantjie discouraged us from reading secondary literature - when i asked about this he gave me an answer that's saved me from wasting a lot of time - he said that if one's going to rub one's mind against someone else's mind, one should try to see that it's a great mind - so, for sure, there isn't that much reading that needs to be done - and this too was carried over into my approach to teaching and research 

what this all means, jannie, is that i didn't leave daantjie when i left rhodes in 1961 - he went with me into my career and my life - and i know that i'm the richer for having been taught and inspired by him 

here's one that daantjie would have enjoyed - we were waiting for a symposium to begin - the one in which he said that the two greatest south africans were adam small and paul kruger and that they were both basters (afrikaans for bastards) - but to get back to the story - before the proceedings began two students in front of me were talking about daantjie - the one said, all i've heard is that he's a clever little bugger! 

it's 1959 - adam small and daantjie are discussing a point in kant's philosophy in front of uncomprehending first year philosophy students - adam objects and tells daantjie that kant never said what daantjie had said he said - daantjie doesn't lose a beat - perhaps adam - but let's pretend he did and see where it takes us - a wonderful strategy - i used it many times to hide my ignorance - including when writing essays for daantjie and stuff for my oxford tutors 

it's still 1959 - during the first half of the second semester daantjie had convinced me - and probably everyone else - that everything bertrand russell had told us in the problems of philosophy was as close to the truth as we were going to get - in the first lecture after the mid-semester break he apologised to us for creating the impression that russell was the go - he spent the rest of the semester helping us to see why russell hadn't got it - wonderful! - doing philosophy is playing a game - perhaps living is too - i never forgot the moment - it was another arrow on target - doing philosophy isn't about searching for the truth - it's about learning to listen to what a text or a person has to say to you - it's about experimenting with answers to the questions you are given - it's a process man - and it's playful 

one more on the same theme - but from 1961 - i can't remember why, but he tells us that someone said that it's wise to take a relative approach to the absolute - he also tells us that he doesn't know what it means - i decide it means that the more convinced you are about something the more playful you should be about it - why? - playing with it will give you more angles on it - more importantly, it will save you from taking yourself too seriously - it was a timely word - later that year, when the vice-chancellor asked me to come and see him and told me he would expel me if i organised another protest against apartheid, i got it and didn't 

in one of my last conversations with daantjie he told me about the trial sermon he preached in his final year at the seminary where he prepared for the ministry of the dutch reformed church - it's called a kweekskool - literally and unkindly, a cultivation school - daantjie didn't get any positive feedback either from his lecturers or from his fellow students - his sermon contained traces of all kinds of unholy isms - like communism and liberalism and existentialism and whatever - when all the bad news was in, daantjie confessed - it wasn't his own sermon - it was abraham kuyper's - and kuyper was a highly respected and respectable dutch theologian whose work had been studied in the first half of that year - he had translated it from dutch into afrikaans - he apologised for his plagiarism and left the room - so, yes - the more convinced you are about something the more playful you should be about it 

there it is jannie - i haven't tried to tidy-up these memories - that would have falsified them - but it does raise a question - have i remembered DAANTJIE? - or are these anecdotes simply my take on who he was and what he said? - being half of what a naive realist is, i've never understood this kind of question - the only daantjie that has ever stood up for me is the real daantjie - the one captured in these memories and translated into how i've lived and done philosophy - or, more better, as one says in singlish - perhaps the daantjie i've talked about isn't the real daantjie - but, as he said to adam small, let's pretend it is and see where it takes us 

Photos from Amsterdam - 1950s

With Ann, Amsterdam

Daantjie & Ann with N.P. van Wyk Louw and others, Nederlandse Zuid Afrikaanse Vereeneging, Keisersgracht, Amsterdam. Please comment if you can identify other people!

Images from Stellenbosch University

Playing for the Maties (mostly 3rd team, but occasionally 1st team).  Danie Craven was coach.

Probably while working as Junior Lecturer, filling in for Johan Degenaar.

Graduation.  Is that Prof Kirsten in the middle?
Please comment if you can identify other people!

Daantjie's mother

Daantjie's mother, Delina Charlotte Oosthuizen, nee van der Merwe