Part 1: Finality, Love, and Marriage: Gender, Fecundity, and Horizontal Finality (Z’ to Z”)

May 21, 2015   |   by admin

by David Fleischacker

I have been re-reading “Finality, Love, and Marriage” written by Lonergan in 1943.[1] It is quite an interesting piece once you explore the details and interconnections of the work. Given the upcoming Synod of the Family in Rome, I would like to begin exploring what Lonergan might contribute to a deeper understanding of family life.  Just to get started here are a few of the terms in the piece that I would like to begin commenting upon though not necessarily in the order given,

  1. fecundity,
  2. semi-fecundity,
  3. the passive aspect of love,
  4. the immanent aspect of love,
  5. the active aspect of love,
  6. natural law,
  7. statistics,
  8. concrete plurality,
  9. horizontal and vertical finality,
  10. hierarchy,
  11. organistic spontaneity,
  12. friendship,
  13. charity,
  14. projection,
  15. transference,
  16. the three ends of life,
  17. three levels of life,
  18. grace,
  19. reason,
  20. sexual differentiation.

I will start with fecundity since it is crucial for developing a “viewpoint of marriage.”[2] More specifically, I would like to start with the horizontal finality of fecundity to adult offspring at the organistic level and its differentiation into two sexes, what Lonergan symbolizes as; Z–> Z’ –> Z”.[3]

…. As far as human operation is concerned, [fecundity] is primarily on the level of nature, and its ultimate term is the repetitive emergence of adult offspring.  but sex is more complex.  Not only is it not a substance but it is not even an accidental potency as intellect or sense.  Rather, it is a bias and orientation in a large number of potencies, a typical and complementary differentiation within the species, with a material basis in the difference in the number of chromosomes, with a regulator in the secretions of the endocrinal glands, with manifestations not only in anatomical structure and physiological function but also in the totality of vital, psychic, sensitive, emotional characters and consequently, though not formally, in the higher nonorganic activities of reason and rational appetite. But for all its complexity sex remains on the level of spontaneous nature, and there, clearly, one may easily recognize that in all its aspects it definitely, if not exclusively, has a role in the process from fecundity to adult offspring.  For elementally sex is a difference added to fecundity, dividing it into two complementary semi-fecundities.[4]

Fecundity is the real capacity to generate a new central potency-form-act of the same species.[5][2] And because fecundity involves activation of the fecundity to effect the emergence of a new thing of the same species, and that new emergence has to undergo development from an indeterminate but directed dynamism to a determinate mature adult offspring, the fecundity has a horizontal finality to adult offspring.  And in human beings, like all higher level organic creatures, this fecundity is differentiated into two semi-fecundities or “sexes” which then need to come together in “organistic union” in order to activate the realization of fecundity.

In all organisms that have sexual differentiation, the differentiation involves the creation of complementary gametes that then need to be united to form some kind of a seedling or egg, and then this seedling or egg needs to develop into a mature adult.  Thus, there are a number of steps along the way by which fecundity is both real and then by which it is realized.  It is real if it has formed gametes and there exists a way for the unification of those gametes and this unification can then grow into an adult offspring. In plants, sexual reproduction involves the formation of pollen and ovules.  It is quite a beautiful process to learn about.  Fecundity is partially realized once these gametes are united.  In plants, these gametes can be united in a variety of ways, through the wind for example (grasses) or through water currents (seaweed) or through animal vectors (bees). As well, the “parents” might help to facilitate that unity, such as do the stigma and style in plants.  Following the formation of the seed, it then needs to be formed until it is ready to be released.  And the release of the seed may make use of wind or animals for dispersal.  Think of the exciting helicopter seeds that float down from maple trees or the pine cones that fall from pine trees. Once that seed is “planted” and then grows and differentiate into a mature adult, fecundity has been fully realized. With animals, the process is improved and differentiated because of motor-sensory operations. The chaos of the wind and water is reduced by the motor-sensory union that takes place through mating schemes that involve “attraction and locomotion” as Lonergan noted in order to enhance the effectiveness of reproduction and thus reducing the amounts of bio-energy needed while increasing the collaborative unity between the parents that works toward the successful generation of adult offspring.  After mating, in the simple animals, the formation of the egg is usually the end of the parent’s role.  The process of development is short, and a simple egg is sufficient to provide the “womb” needed for maturity (many fish leave the eggs hidden in the rocks).  But in more differentiated organisms, the development following the formation of the egg is more complex just as it was with the union of the parents in mating schemes or ritual. And so more help is needed. A simple unattended egg is not sufficient. Parents may need to be present not only to protect the egg (or warm it if they are warm blooded) but to be presented after being hatched in order to feed and, in higher animals (including birds), train their young in basic skills.  In general, as one moves to higher and more differentiated organisms, one has to introduce more elaborate schemes for the unfolding of fecundity to adult progeny, from mating rituals to raising the young.

Stage Simple organisms – single celled Plants Simple animals More differentiated animals
Pre-conception interactions Not really relevant. May grow flowers to help attract carriers but no interaction of parents. Simple mating rituals with little to no connection formed between the parents. More elaborate mating rituals that involve a more vibrant union of the parents.
Post-conception interactions Not really relevant. None. Very little if any post-conception protection or care. More elaborate post-conception protection and care with a differentiation of parental roles and tasks.

In short, the more developed the organism, the more elaborate the process from fecundity to adult offspring, and the more differentiated the roles of the parents in mediating that movement from its beginnings to its end.  A rich and differentiated fecundity sets up different roles and tasks in the parents who produced the complementary gametes. And as one thinks about it for a minute, Lonergan could not be more right in saying that with sex (as in gender–a semifecundity–not the act) “one may easily recognize that in all its (gender sex) aspects it definitely, if not exclusively, has a role in the process from fecundity to adult offspring.”

My next commentary will be one week from now, Thursday, May 28,2015.

[1] Bernard Lonergan, Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, volume 4, Collection, University of Toronto Press, 1988, 17 – 52.

[2] Finality, Love, Marriage, 42.

[3] Finality, Love, Marriage, 41.

[4] Finality, Love, Marriage 42.

[5] Central potency, form, and act are the metaphysical formulation of the notion of a thing (a unity, identity, whole). Lonergan argues as well that this notion is one of the most development and principle meanings of substance.  See Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, chapter 8 and chapter 15, sections 1 – 2.

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