Part 4a: “Conjoined Union” in Finality, Love, and Marriage

by David Fleischacker


As I was thinking about the meaning of a “conjoined union,” the key kind of potency in such a union is not merely finality, but a kind of realized finality. Realized because it is then sublated within the higher levels of being and/or consciousness.  The “conjoined” refers to a set of conditions that converge, and out of which convergence some type of event emerges.  All conditions arise from previous conditions except when something is created from nothing, which is accomplished solely by a divine act.  The conditions can be completely unique, hence fully non-systematic, or they can arise with various kinds of regularities.  In Insight, Lonergan called these regularities “schemes”.  I would like to note three types of regularities.

1. Source regularity.  When a regular set of events arises from a resource that has a significant supply of the conditions needed for the occurrence of the event, then we have source regularity.  Examples include the energy emitted from the sun and gasoline — though there is a circular scheme with this later examine but we are developing schemes upon it which are beyond the circular rate of renewal.  You can think of this as a one way trip.  It is a kind of entropy, but along the way things happen.   We are not talking of circular schemes here, in which the sets of conditions end up replenishing the originating point.  Rather, this is a sufficient pool that then provides a regularity of subsequent events that can be calculated statistically, although usually there is a slow decline of the statistical regularity until the source is depleted.  These are non-renewable resources, and depending on the overall structure of the universe, it may be on this kind of a course.

2. Circular schemes of recurrence.  This is what most reader’s of Insight think about in terms of regularity.  When we think of event A fulfilling conditions for the occurrence of B, and B of C, and C of A, or any more complicated sequence such that the conditions form a cycle or circuit.  These would be renewable resources. However, Lonergan would say that these schemes of recurrence fall within a larger non-systematic environment.  Hence, as long as the conditions remain the same, this circular or even flexible range of circular schemes will remain intakes.  The “remain the same” means both that the positive conditions remain in place, and that no interfering conditions come online.

3. Schemes of development.  Some things become “regular” because of regular schemes of development.  Examples include the regular formation of adult offspring, or the regular sequence of ecosystem development (for example when a fire burns a number of acres), and the ecosystem undergoes a kind of rebirth.  One of the more interesting and recent discoveries is that of stems cells. These have a development relationship to matured functional cells within multi-cellar organisms. These system maintains the cell/organ systems in multi-cellular organisms.

Whenever conditions come together and an event or new thing arises, they form a conjoined union of a plurality.  One can calculate the statistical probabilities of such conjoining of conditions that leads to an event or a thing–though sometimes this proves to be impossible on a practical level.  And, in every case, one can discover a finality in the potency of the pluralities.  Whether the plurality is one of hydrogen and oxygen molecules in an kind of aggregate that contains some electrical energy being exchanged, or one is speaking of the male and female semi-fecundities, there is a finality in all of these conditions that includes both horizontal–if these stay within the same genus of correlations and functional relations (and this would include both deductive and homogenus types of expansions — see chapter 1 of Insight)–or vertical if one examines the relationship from a lower to a higher genus.

With these convergence of conditions whether through source regularity, circular schemes of recurrence, or schemes of development, we can further clarify Lonergan’s introduction of conjoined plurality in his 1943 essay.  He notes that a specific finality arises in the conjugal act (conjoined plurality of two semi-fecundities) that is to adult offspring on the one hand and to higher orders of reason and charity within and between the man and the woman on the other.  The conjugal act follows the pattern of a source regularity that then follows up with a scheme of development. Why this specific act?  Because this specific act is the coming together of two correlative pluralities (male and female semi-fecundities), that is then a realization of the finality of these pluralities. Why a realization? Because this conjoining in the conjugal act is what can be sublated into the higher orders both of reason and charity that constitute the relationship of the man and woman properly as husband and wife (there are other ways of conjoining man and woman as well, but these have other horizontal and vertical finalities), and that is then a realization of a key step in the horizontal finality to adult offspring, and a vertical finality with the adult offspring to an educated adult offspring and a Christianly educated adult offspring.

I will treat more about this relationship of horizontal and vertical finality in the next blog.