Understanding the Proceeding of an Intellectual Emanation in its Uniqueness

 by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

If intellectual emanation cannot be properly understood in terms of cause and effect, it follows that, if one is to understand the meaning or nature of an intellectual emanation, one must identify some other kind of relation which properly exists (a relation which allows us to understand how it can be properly said yet that, from an act of understanding, another act emerges). As has been noted, from every act of understanding, a word (an inner word) is produced. In a processio operati, a verbum comes or “flows from intelligere.” Cf. Frederick E. Crowe, The Doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity (Willowdale, Ontario: Regis College, 1965-66), p. 145-146. But, what is the nature of this flowing? How does it differ from any kind of causal relationship?
To understand this, one might begin by adverting to an insight which Aquinas had about the relation which exists between natural law and natural reason. One the one hand, if one thinks about the meaning of natural law as this applies to the created order of things, one can conceive of it as something which already exists. The natural order of things is governed by natural laws and, if one wants to live wisely within the created order of things, one attends to the natural laws of things. The intelligibility of things is something which one tries to understand. In this school of interpretation, if is also argued that human reason exists as a contingent, created thing. And so, if one is to think and reason about things in a proper way, one must abide by the natural laws of human reason (laws which already exist and which govern how our reasoning should properly function). However, by way of contrast, let us attend to what Aquinas says about the relation between law and reason. From the intrinsic reasonableness of law, one should be able to argue that its origin lies in reason which functions as the basic principle of law. As Aquinas briefly puts it: “natural law is constituted by reason.” Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 94, a. 1. Natural law exists as a work of reason. It is an opus rationis. It is an ordering of the natural reason: an ordinatio rationis naturalis and, because it is such an ordering or ordination, it can be properly argued that this ordering “reflects the inner dynamics of human knowing, and all the flexibility and plasticity to be found there.” Cf. Martin Rhonheimer, Natural Law and Practical Reason: A Thomist View of Moral Autonomy, trans. G. Malsbary (New York: Fordham University Press, 2000), pp. 276-278. Hence, from this, it can be argued that the functioning of human reason exists as a subjective principle which is to be equated with natural law: natural law not as an external known order of things, but as a knowing act of the human reason or intellect which knows other things (not excluding itself). Cf. Rhonheimer, pp. 11-12. Natural law should not be viewed as an objective order of things that is then subjectively known by our human reasoning and knowing since the ordering of reason which occurs in our reasoning activities also suggests that natural law can be properly identified with human reasoning in its acts of ordering and directing. Human reason exists as a natural act. And so, its term is a natural law of some kind (natural reasoning constituting the natural law). In other words, as one attends to the origins of law as one finds this in reason, one realizes that human acts of reason function as a point of origin for laws in general. Our acts of reasoning and understanding are constitutive of law; they are constitutive of intelligibility in a manner which points to a real distinction between intelligibility and intelligence.
By attending then to the intelligence or law originating abilities that are constitutive of human understanding (and which function as an analogy for moving toward a partial understanding about the sense and meaning of divine understanding), one can begin to understand why the intelligence of our understanding is so unlike the existence and character of any other point of origin that can be possibly identified in the created order of things. Created human understanding possesses a freedom which does not belong to any other created thing which exists in the world that is given to us through our experience. One can properly argue that it possesses a certain kind of autonomy. In concrete instances that one can advert to, for instance, intellectual emanations occur when acts of defining arise from acts of understanding, acts of judging from acts of grasping the sufficiency of evidence, and acts of choosing from the practical judgment.” Cf. Bernard Lonergan, The Triune God: Systematics, p. 143. Where questioning spontaneously emerges within human subjectivity as an act that can lead to acts of reasoning in a search for possible experiences of understanding, acts of conception, judgment, and choice emerge in a context that is already being conditioned by understanding and the freedom which comes with understanding. If one wants to talk about law, understanding qua understanding reveals a law that is peculiar to acts of cognition of general. While a given act of understanding can possibly reveal a specific law which intelligibly relates two or more things that exist within the material order of things, an understanding of one’s understanding reveals an all encompassing transcendental law that is operative within human cognition–a transcendental law which intelligently and reasonably joins one kind of act with another in an emanating or radiating series of acts. Each succeeding act exists proportionately as each act corresponds with the act which had been its proximate point of origin. Cf. Lonergan, Triune God: Systematics, p. 143. In the word used by Frederick Lawrence (while apparently quoting and translating from the Latin text of Lonergan’s Triune God: Systematics):
The kind of lawfulness operative here is not fully determined by any nature, genus, or species, but is ordered to transcendentals: “being (= the concrete, whole, existing), the one, the true, the good….” “For this reason, the intelligent part is the mistress of itself, determinative of itself, autonomous…” (emphasis added) The transcendental desire to know is the instance in the created universe of an entity that “gives itself the law.”
Cf. Frederick Lawrence, “Expanding Challenge to Authenticity in Insight: Lonergan’s Hermeneutics of Facticity (1953-1964), Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy & Education vol. 15, no. 3 (2004): 430-431. As human cognition accordingly moves from acts of understanding into an order of conceptualization which defines or formulates what has been understood, as it moves into judgments about truth and falsity following acts of understanding that have grasped a sufficiency in evidence, and as it also moves into selections or choices that are grounded in practical judgments on what it is that one should do in the course of one’s life, it reveals a shift in human consciousness as a human being moves from spontaneity into forms of deliberate self-constitution. As Lawrence speaks about what exactly is happening here (and as I try to summarize what he says):
As emanating acts emerge from acts of understanding and as different acts of understanding gradually move a person through different kinds of knowledge, a trajectory is revealed within the life of human persons. We begin to constitute a proximate proportionate principle within ourselves (a habitual form of thinking and acting) which bestows an autonomy upon our intelligence, our reasonableness, and our freedom. The flow of intelligible emanations, as these proceed, constitutes acts which steadily grow in consciousness and which become more autonomous than they would otherwise be. A material order of living (which is governed by a way of life that largely responds to outer circumstances) is replaced by a spiritual order of living (which is governed by personal decisions that decide about how one should think, understand, and know). Even human inquiry becomes less spontaneous as later questions are asked after they have first been considered and carefully thought about.
For these reasons then, as one attends to the unique kind of causality which exists with respect to understanding (a causality which should not be understood in terms of cause and effect), one can begin to speak about a real distinction which exists between the proceeding of intellectual emanations and all other kinds of proceeding. From a model which attends to causal or natural processes, one has a very inexact approximation which one could try to use in order to understand the kind of process which exists in an intellectual emanation. But, with such an approach, one will not attend to the fact that, in intellectual emanations, a process exists which is creative of law (a process which exists as “the very idea of intelligible law”). It is “the pure case of intelligible law” as acts of understanding exist which are already in act. Cf. Crowe, pp. 145-146. From understanding, relations can be found which think in terms of cause and effect or relations can be brought into being which are ordered in a manner which thinks in terms of cause and effect. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *