Part 7: Finality, Final Cause, and the Good in “Finality, Love, and Marriage”

July 19, 2015   |   by admin

by David Fleischacker

“For the final cause is the cuius gratia, and its specific or formal constituent is the good as cause.” (Finality, Love, Marriage, 19)

This quote” falls within the section on vertical finality in “Finality, Love, and Marriage.” In the paragraph before this quote, Lonergan was introducing the difficulties in apprehending finality. It is something that can be easily overlooked by the positivist because “quite coherently, any positivist will deny final causality.”  Instead, the positivist will only admit efficient causality.  Lonergan in short, defines finality in terms of final causality.  One wonders if he had yet broken from Aristotelian science sufficiently to provide an adequate account, even heuristically, of marriage and the marital acts.  I suspect many would say no.

To restate this difficulty, if vertical finality is defined in terms of final cause, it would seem that Lonergan has not adequately defined finality yet.  There is some truth in this as I stated in the last blog — since it seems that in light of Lonergan’s formulation of horizontal finality, he had not yet reached his more general formulation of finality that one finds in Insight, where it is isomorphic with the notion of being, and not related to essence alone (though it is related since essence or form is a component of being).  Just as one can expand on the notion of horizontal finality, so one can do the same with vertical. Let us push this a bit in this blog to see where it goes.

As the quote up top indicates, Lonergan is defining final cause in terms of the good.  In this section on vertical finality where he criticizes the positivist, Lonergan notes that the positivist can acknowledge  motives and terms, but only as efficient causes. The blindspot of the positivist is the denial of these motives as good and these terms as good.  In short, Lonergan is saying that in the potency, there is an orientation to the good that he calls finality.

One can find this orientation to the good throughout Lonergan’s later writings. In fact, it becomes more prominent, not less, as he formulates in a clear fashion the fourth level of consciousness and delineates the capacity for self-transcendence not in terms of one notion (being) as he does in Insight, but in terms of three transcendental notions — intelligibility, being, and the good (Method in Theology, 34 – 35 or 104- 105). As well, one can think of his formulation of the human good in chapter 2 of Method in Theology, especially the notion of the “terminal good” (Method in Theology, 51). In both cases, whether one thinks of the transcendental notion of the good/value or in terms of terminal value, these operate in the same manner as Lonergan’s formulation of a final cause in 1943.  In other words, the transcendental notion of value operates like the notion of being, and hence it is isomorphic with the good. And terminal value is the good as a term that is truly good.

Though their is a similar heuristic element to final cause in 1943 and Lonergan’s formulation of the notion of value later, there is an expansion.  Just as an expansion occurs in relating finality (whether horizontal or vertical) to the notion of being in Insight, so now one can isomorphically relate finality to the entire capacity for self-transcendence, which is constituted by the three transcendental notions–intelligibility, being, and the good.  To do this is not to say that what Lonergan defined as finality in 1943 is wrong, but rather it is to open up its meaning to the entire nature of the universe of intelligible and existing goodness.

Think about how Lonergan’s development of the capacity for self-transcendence actually points out a limitation in Insight.  Lonergan would have formulated the good in Insight in a manner similar to Aquinas, as convertible with being.  This point would be true later as well, but it receives some nuances.  The good  as a distinct transcendental notion in later writings, hence distinct in the human subject’s apprehension of the good, especially the hierarchy of the good/value, indicates the differential of something as existing (or some occurrence of a conjugate form as occurring) versus something as good.  In 1943, Lonergan introduced this goodness to being in terms of a final cause.  In other words, being and the good are more explanatorily developed in later writings but still operative in earlier writings. Final cause is not eliminated so much as explanatorily developed.  The manner that he used it in 1943 is still valid within its frame work.

Why was it and is it still valid? This validity is similar to how the Newtonian formulation of gravitation is valid within general relativity, but it is a more limited account. One can transpose the 1943 Lonergan into 1983 by formulating finality as the metaphysical and meta-ethical isomorphism with the capacity for self-transcendence.  This would further open the heuristic exploration of marriage and love that he formulated in 1943, and place his insights within a larger framework.  Already in the last blog, I have started to do this by uniting horizontal and vertical finality in terms of potency as one finds in Insight.   One can do more by relating finality to emergent probability as the emergent good.  The upwardly directed dynamism of finality for intelligibility, being, and the good/value (I have been using good partially because I do get tired of the relativistic overtones of the term “value” in modern culture).  Such a finality would apprehend the universe in its proportionate existence as an emerging good.  This recognizes the universe as an ultimate friendly universe in its very nature.  This also means that the entire intelligibility and being of marriage is not only real but good — and so getting that meaning right is crucial if the historical and traditional breakthrough into marriage is not to fade into the shadowland of scotosis or individual bias or group bias or the general bias (on the notion of scotosis and bias, see Insight, chapters 6 and 7).