Part 8:  Love in Finality, Love, and Marriage

by David Fleischacker

Further, love is the act of a subject (principium quod), and as such it is the principle of union between different subjects. Such union is of two kinds, according as it emerges in love as process to an end or in love in the consummation of the end attained. The former may be illustrated by the love of friends pursuing in common a common goal. The latter has its simplest illustration in the ultimate end of the beatific vision, which at once is the term of process, of amor concupiscentiae , and  the fulfilment of union  with God,  of amor amicitiae (“Finality, Love, Marriage,” 24)

Though there is more to say on finality, I am now turning attention to the meaning of love within the 1943 essay “Finality, Love, and Marriage.” On an initial review, and I think final as well, Lonergan was only beginning to move into a deeper explanatory account of love in 1943.  His use of terms derived from faculty psychology and his notion of appetite illustrate this beginning. We must remember however that the use of faculty psychology does not make something false.  What happens once one shifts into intentionality analysis is a transposition which sometimes results in a translation of a term into the intentional framework and, at others, an elimination of a term.  For example, I would argue that the potential intellect gets translated into the capacity for self-transcendence, and hence expanded and united within the light of all the transcendental notions.  Likewise, the agent intellect becomes translated into the transcendental notions, and thus more adequately expanded as well.  Thus, Lonergan’s formulation of love in 1943, even if in faculty psychology, can be transposed, something which Lonergan had done by the time he wrote Method in Theology.

First, let’s look carefully at the 1943 text.  This section is titled “The Concept of Love.”  Notice Lonergan is using the term concept. However, in his opening line, he identifies love as utterly concrete.

The difficulty of conceiving love adequately arises from  its essential concreteness and  from  the  complexity of the concrete.(23)

Love is neither a concept or an abstraction, but of course in talking about it, one does have to conceive it.

In conceiving of love, Lonergan develops four aspects, the first two dealing with the nature and act of love itself, and the second dealing with the subject who loves.  The first two clearly are formulated within faculty psychology.  Love is an act of a faculty.  A faculty is a kind of power that is constitutive of what a living thing is.  It gives the living thing the ability to carry out certain type of operations.  To get an insight into a faculty, one has to carefully analyze a whole landscape of operations and then in  examining the operations, discover fundamental characteristics that unite those operations.  So, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling all have a material element to them, such that the very operation itself regards a spatial-temporal element.  As well, these sensate operations allow one to be present and conscious of sense objects.  And hence recognizing that all of these sense activities both have a conscious element and a material element would allow one to then formulate a common power or capacity that one has in these types of activities.  This becomes the source of the insight into a particular faculty or power.  Other operations transcend certain material limitations, and the principle examples of this are the activities of understanding and knowledge.  One can posit a common power or faculty to these spiritual (non-material activities), such as the faculty if the intellect. Now on to each of the four aspects.

First Aspect: Love as an actuation of a faculty

Lonergan formulates love as a realization or actuation of faculty.  Specifically, it is a faculty of appetite, and love is the central appetite – “it is the pure response of appetite to the good” (23)  Other responses are derivative – desire, hope, joy, hatred, aversion, fear, and sadness.  Hope is the expectation to become present to that which is love. Hatred is toward that which has harmed the good that is loved.  Fear arises in response to the possible loss of the good that is loved.  Sadness is the response to that good as lost. Joy is the enjoyment of the good as present.  Love is key.  It is central.  There is nothing false in formulating love in this manner.  Identifying it with a faculty, and a fundamental appetite is to recognize that it is a real power or capacity of the human person.

Second Aspect: Love of a beloved as first principle

The second aspect is that it is the principle – “the first in an ordered series” – that initiates a process to its end, which is that which is loved. One can think of simple vital desires for example.  The desire for food is not only the “form” of the end process by which one goes out to find, hunt, or grow food, but it is the first principle of that entire process, and it has as its object the end, the food itself.  In the case of love it is the beloved.  The beloved becomes the first principle that moves the person in love to the beloved.

Third Aspect: Unification of subjects toward an end

The third aspect highlights that the act of love, the act of this fundamental appetite, this first principle of movement to the beloved as term, bonds the subjects who are in love based upon their common pursuit of an end.  Those who have not yet reached the end, and rather are still in pursuit of it, become bound when pursing that end collaboratively.  Lonergan draws this out further through Aristotle’s notion of friendship in a later section of his essay.  Notice that here, Lonergan does not specify the end that is pursued, because any good ends pursued can unite individuals to each other.  This pursuit also perfects the human subjects as such, and thus bonds them to each other for each other, but that is the point of the next aspect.

Fourth Aspect:  Love of Beloved as United, as Consummated

The fourth aspect highlights that love as realized unites subjects as mutual persons who enjoy the good that each is, a mutual unity that is based upon the good that each person is and has become.  The ultimate example of this aspect that Lonergan identifies is the beatific vision, “which at once is the term of process… and the fulfillment of union with God” (24).


It is important to note that Lonergan says these are simultaneous aspects (23). The differences between each is a different focus upon what is “utterly concrete.”  By simultaneous he means that one does not happen without the other, even if the individuals involved may be focusing in upon one of the aspects and not the others.

Contrast to love in Method in Theology

There is not only a clear difference of words between 1943 and 1972, but a clear difference in scope.  Lonergan by 1972, was able to formulate love in terms of insights that he had into the structure of consciousness, specifically in terms of the capacity for self-transcendence, and the different states of being of that capacity.  One not only has the notion of potency in a capacity, but it is a potency that has a directly relationship to states (which is derived from statistical notions – the difference between actual frequencies from ideal frequencies gives one an understanding of the state of something), and it includes a clear differentiation of the notions that constitute the capacity as a whole – the transcendental notions.  Lonergan thus could formulate love not as merely an actualization of a faculty, but one might say the actualization of the faculty of all faculties, the base of all bases.  Love is basic because it orientes all levels of consciousness.  All the questions that one pursues are guided by that which one loves.  In other words, the state of being orients all the operators of human development at all levels of conscious intentionality.  Love is the actuation of the capacity for self-transcendence, and the more profound it is, the more it underpins, penetrates, and transforms all of one’s horizon.

This does not negate the insights Lonergan had in 1943, but it does formulate these insights more clearly, and it expands upon what he understood of love.  It is still utterly concrete, and so concrete that nothing that human beings do escape it, because even getting up in the morning means there is some basic actuation of the capacity, some basic state of one’s being.  It is an actuation of a kind of faculty, but not just among others. Rather, it regards the capacity for any human intentional operator and operation. It is a central appetite, but it is also a the central finality of all human activities.  The transposition of faculty psychology into intentionality analysis reinforces what Lonergan says about love in 1943 and expands it.  Furthermore, the last two aspects can be understood more deeply.  When one understands that love is a realization of the capacity for self-transcendence, and that all other operators and operations thus emanate from this realization, then one comes to understand the more comprehensive scope upon which subjects can be bound to each other both as they self-transcend, and as they reach the fulfillment of their self-transcendence. This is especially true when one transposes the beatific vision into a perfection of the human capacity for self-transcendence by the gift  that is the Transcendent, the ultimate meaning and ultimate value because the Transcendent is the only true realization of the capacity.  Lonergan’s reflections upon Christology and Trinitarian theology draw this out even more (and one might add his work on grace).

Just a few things to think about as we start this exploration on Lonergan’s notion of love in “Finality, Love, and Marriage.”