Knowledge of Christ seminar, message from Sam Pell

It was great to meet you all a few weeks ago and discuss St. Thomas Aquinas. We will continue our study this month with a discussion of Lonergan’s appropriation and development of St. Thomas’ cognitional theory.

First off, let me start by saying our group seems to consist of two groups of people (1) Lonergan experts who have been studying this kind of thing for years, and (2) people who are now being introduced to Lonergan for the first time. I guess I’m kind of in the middle, since I’ve only been reading Lonergan for three years.

Our goal for this next meeting is to bridge that gap between the two groups. I’m envisioning a discussion much like we had last week, where we all familiarize ourselves with the broad outlines of Lonergan’s cognitional theory. Our goal should be less to exhaust the topic, and more just to familiarize ourselves with the terms Lonergan uses and the relations between them.

Lonergan’s “canonical” summary of his cognitional theory can be found in Chapter 1 of Method in Theology. Let’s start by reading that (you can skip the introduction): ​
Method in Theology – Intro and Chapter 1 – actu…
​Br. Thomas Martin has published a paper attempting to condense Lonergan’s cognitional theory into a single diagram. We can also discuss that:


Both these articles should serve as an introduction to Lonergan’s thought. If you’re a beginner, I would focus mainly on these two texts.

I’ve also compiled a list of sections of Lonergan’s Verbum, for the more experienced members. These sections should serve to illuminate some of the more complicated aspects of Lonergan’s cognitional theory, and should also demonstrate how Lonergan appropriates Thomist theories of cognition. I specifically picked sections that address some of the questions we had last week about St. Thomas’ theory, so we can see how Lonergan develops Thomist ideas. Let me know if you have any other suggestions to add to this list:

1. Chapter 1, Sections 2 (Definition) and 3 (Quod Quid Est). Here Lonergan describes the different types of questions one can ask of being.
2. Chapter 4. Here Lonergan breaks the act of understanding into immaterial assimilation, formative abstraction, and apprehensive abstraction. This threefold distinction between potency, form, and act is paralleled in the other levels of knowing, as Ron explained last meeting.

As usual, let’s have everyone think of a couple of questions to get the discussion rolling.

Since this is a lot of material, and since Br. Thomas Martin cannot make it on December 31, I would like to propose we meet on Saturday, January 14, at 10:00 AM. This is the Saturday of Martin Luther King weekend, so I’m assuming we’ll have a little extra time. Let me know if this works for you.