Lonergan’s Notions of Consciousness Derived from St. Augustine’s Notions of Presence

In the De Trinitate, 10, 3, 12, St. Augustine distinguishes between two kinds of presence (which have been interpreted as two kinds of object). A first kind refers to something which exists as the terminus or term of a cognitional act (whether one speaks about an act of sense or an act of reason). As Augustine notes, this is the kind of presence which exists if one sees one's face in a mirror. One's face, as seen in a mirror, is experienced as an object, an external object. It exists cognitionally as an other. It is other than one's act of cognition although it also exists as the term of one's cognitive act. A second kind of presence or object, however, refers to an experience of self-presence. As Lonergan translates the wording of Augustine’s discussion as he cites Augustine's text in The Incarnate Word, p. 182: “But when it is said to the mind: ‘Know yourself,’ then it knows itself in the very act in which it understands the word ‘yourself’; and it knows itself for no other reason than that it is present to itself.” In his Summa Contra Gentiles 3, 46, 8, Aquinas refers to this insight of St. Augustine: “And so, according to Augustine’s meaning, our mind knows itself through itself, in so far as it knows concerning itself, that it is. Indeed, from the fact that it perceives that it acts it perceives that it is. Of course, it acts through itself, and so, through itself, it knows concerning itself that it is.” On the basis of the kind of wording used, Augustine and Aquinas do not speak directly about consciousness although, if one refers to how Lonergan talks about these two kinds of presence as they were known by Augustine and Aquinas, he refers to presence by way of a transposition which speaks about consciousness and the existence of different theories about consciousness. Presence, the presence of something suggests a metaphysics; consciousness, an understanding of cognition.


Before venturing into a more specific explanation that one might allude to in the context of Lonergan's work and interests, an historical note helps us understand why, for instance, Augustine and Aquinas did not explicitly speak about consciousness and self-consciousness (as we directly speak of these things and as Lonergan also speaks of them). Owen Barfield’s History in English Words (Inner Traditions International, April 1986), pp. 169-171, looks at the vocabulary of the “self” and notes how developments in our concept of the human self (especially since the 16th Century) have had fructifying consequences for developments in language so that we can now speak more precisely about the interior life of the human self in a manner which can distinguish between different parts and elements and which can also speak about the relations which also exist between different parts and elements. Citing one summary that speaks about this development (Fr. John Eudes Bamburger, “Retreat conference given at St. Anselm’s Abbey, Washington, DC,” August 22, 2009, unpublished):


Plato and other Greek philosophers had but a partial grasp of the concept of the self as we know it. Although the first glimmerings of the modern self appear in the High Middle Ages under the form of such words as the individual and the person yet it functions under many occult influences. It is only after the Reformation and especially at the end of the 16th Century that such a series of words as self-consciousness, self-conceit, self-love, self-liking, self-command, self-esteem, self-knowledge, and other hyphenated forms of self appear. Descartes, in 1664, made the thinking self the source of knowledge and most philosophers since his time have assumed the same stance. It was shortly before this date that Locke…adopted the new word “consciousness” and defined it as “perception of what passes in a man’s own mind.” Coleridge was the first to use the term “self-conscious.”


In turning then to proximate reasons which can be identified in Lonergan's thought, because consciousness exists as a human experience which all persons can relate to and identify, it can be regarded as a fundamental point of departure for discussions which would want to move through consciousness to whatever can be known about a human subject. But, if Augustine and Aquinas speak about two kinds of presence or two kinds of object, they are referring to a metaphysical difference which translates into a cognitional difference that distinguishes between two notions of consciousness. The experience of one kind of object suggests a particular species of consciousness and the experience of another kind of object, another species of consciousness. But, without a clear understanding of differences, one will not understand how these two notions or two kinds of consciousness are ordered to each other and how one species of consciousness conditions another. One will not understand why one cannot have one species of consciousness without also having the other. Difficulties in this area create problems for theology if an inappropriate notion of consciousness is employed as an analogy to find deeper meanings than that what is initially given through the proclamation of a revealed truth. The unity of God's being is not well understood if the unity of God's consciousness is not adequately fathomed, if its unity finds no echo in how we, as human beings, experience and find unity within the orientations that we find in our own consciousness. In Christology, Christ's incarnation and suffering death cannot be too well understood if it is not possible to argue that Christ's consciousness of self should be regarded as a precondition for a consciousness which refers to a consciousness of objects that is other than a consciousness of self as this is given in Christ's acts. Without this prior consciousness of self as this occurs through specific acts or by reason of specific, no consciousness of objects can be properly attributed to Christ's consciousness. On the cross, it cannot be said that Christ truly knew pain, that he truly suffered from any pains that were inflicted on him by the kind of death he suffered. Without a good understanding of consciousness that we each have as human beings, we cannot so easily join ourselves to Christ's consciousness in a manner which more fully joins us to the life of a divine being. The availability of our consciousness coupled with its malleability or changeability reveals a point of access which encourages forms of self-examination. We ask about the kind of person which we have become through our acts and we also ask about the kind of person which we can become through our acts. Through changes of consciousness, we can draw closer to God. We become more conscious about the depths of our interiority.

Aquinas’s Distinction between Natural Being and Intentional Being

by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

In Aristotle, De Anima, 3, 4, 430a 3-4, one finds a discussion which argues that in human cognition, if material coordinates or material properties are somehow omitted or abstracted out (perhaps one can say “bracketed”), an identity exists between an act of understanding and what is understood.  The act of understanding possesses a spiritual or immaterial nature as does also what is understood as this refers to a spiritual or immaterial intellectual nature.  According to an editorial translation of Aristotle’s text (as this is given in Lonergan’s Verbum, p. 84, n. 118), it is said that “in the immaterial order, the understander and the understood are identical.”  Another translation reads: “…in things separated from the material, intellect and what is understood by it are identical.”  Cf. Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle’s De Anima, trans. Kenelm Foster and Silvester Humphries, p. 216.  In the Latin of a translation which Lonergan gives both in “Christ as Subject: A Reply,” Collection, p. 179, n. 50 and in Verbum, p. 84: in his quae sunt sine materia idem est intelligens et intellectum.  Turning to Aquinas’s commentary, however, one finds an elaboration and specification of meaning which goes beyond what Aristotle had said when, in a more simple way, he had spoken about the presence of an identification.  Citing Aquinas’s Latin: species igitur rei intellectae in actu, est species ipsius intellectus; et sic per eam seipsum intelligere potest.  Cf. Sentencia Libri De anima, 3, 9, 724.  In a more accurate English translation than would otherwise the case if species were to be translated as “concept,” because of a real distinction which exists between an intellectual form or nature and a concept as an inner word (species and concept do not refer to the same reality), one best avers that, according to Aquinas: “the species or form of something which has been understood [referring to the intelligible nature of a given thing] is also a species or form [an intelligible nature] which exists within one’s understanding.”  An identity exists between what is being understood and one’s act of understanding (provided, as Aquinas notes, that what is being understood through one’s act of understanding is what is being truly or actually understood in one’s act of understanding). One’s act of understanding should not be understanding something else (something which is other than what one’s act of understanding should be understanding).   The introduction of a qualification in Aquinas points to a difference which opens up a discussion on what distinguishes Aristotle’s understanding of cognition from that which one finds in Aquinas and Lonergan.

In terms of the difference between Aristotle’s understanding of human cognition and what Aquinas and Lonergan understood about understanding, it is to be noted as a point of departure that, in Aristotle, a human knowledge of reality occurs through a kind of participation which gradually reaches down into the depths of a person’s soul.  If, on the other hand, knowing were to be understood as something that is akin to some kind of confrontation which occurs between an act of sense and what sense experiences in terms of some kind of datum (a datum of sense), in this kind of knowing, all knowing would occur through an externalized sensible form of extroversion.  Reality would exist as some kind of external world which one sees or contemplates.  Now, if one shifts into an Aristotelian interpretation about what happens when acts of sense are operative in a human person as a subject, one begins to get into an understanding of human cognition which begins to think in terms of identity.  On the level of sense, knowing occurs through an interchange which occurs between acts of sense and the various possible data of sense.  Aristotle would more familiarly speak about agent objects who act from without to move or elicit an act of sense in a human subject.  In any given act of sense, what is sensed exists as the term or the content of an act of sense.  In the familiar Latin phrasing which summarizes this position: sensible in actu est sensus in actu (“the sensible in act is the sense in act”).  Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 14, a. 2, cited by Lonergan, Verbum, p. 84, n. 115.  By identity at a sensible external level, a human subject begins to participate in something which is other than himself.  To a sensible degree, this other becomes part of a person’s subjective being, part of a person’s subjective life (through a form of consciousness which is characterized by acts of sense).

However, later, through an act of abstractive understanding (or “simple apprehension” as many Thomists would say), in abstracting a form from matter, at an intellectual level, a second kind of identity is experienced and known.  The inner sense or meaning which belongs to something that is other than a knower begins to live within the inner life or the inner consciousness of a knower.  The intelligible in act is the intellect in act.  Intelligibile in actu est intellectus in actu.  Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 14, a. 2, cited by Lonergan, Verbum, pp. 83-84, n. 114.  At a deeper level within the human soul, at an intellectual level, a person is joined with something that is other than himself.  A sensible material identity is succeeded by an intellectual immaterial identity.

However, as questions arise which now ask if a knower knows that he or she is cognitionally joined to something which is other than him or herself and which is truly known (something which exists independently of whether or not it is being known by him or her as a knower), a species of reflection is initiated which begins to reveal that the principle of identity cannot be employed as a sufficiently satisfactory explanation for the kind of knowing which occurs in human cognition.  By itself, the principle of identity cannot explain why, in human knowing, a form of self-transcendence exists (a form of self-transcendence which unites human knowers as subjects to objects which are other than subjects but which, through knowing, are participated in by human subjects).  Admittedly, as questions arise about truth and as individuals engage in acts of inquiry which can lead to acts of judgment about the truth of a given idea or theory, through a truth that is rationally affirmed, a person is joined to a world of real things which is ontologically other than one’s being (either as simply a being or as a being who also exists as a subject).  In the reflective understanding of judgment, a second form of immaterial identity makes its presence felt.  Through the mediation of a truth, something of reality enters into a person’s soul.  In a judgment, a person knows that he or she is joined to something which exists in its own right (it is real) and that such a thing does not exist as a function of its being known by one’s activity as a knower.  The reality of something, however, which exists independently of whether or not it is being known by a knower is not to be exactly equated with the reality which comes to exist within the knowledge of a given knower.  A cognitive identity exists between a knower and what is known but this cognitive identity is not to be equated with a perfect form of identity which would exist if adverts to the meaning of an ontological or metaphysical identity.

 The distinction which exists here is a real distinction that Aquinas adverts to when, in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 56, a. 2, ad 3, he distinguishes between the natural being of a thing and the intended being of a thing as this exists within the cognition of a knower: esse naturale versus esse intentionale. The intended being of any given thing, by its being intended, points to the intentionality or the spirit of inquiry which exists within human cognition.  A cognitive desire works through an ordered set of different cognitional acts to move a potential human knowers toward a knowledge of real objects (or real things) which are other than a given knower.  Knowing occurs through an immaterial form of appropriation which creates an identity between a knower and what is known.  However, at a more fundamental level, one cannot provide an adequate account of human knowing if one cannot speak about the role of intentionality within the performance of human cognition.  Through various forms of reflection that are intended by the questions that one asks, certain distinctions can be made which, otherwise, would not be made.  Cf. Verbum, p. 84, n. 116.  In the distinction which Aquinas draws, one finds a point of departure for the intentionality analysis which Lonergan undertakes in his Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas although this analysis is most fully done in his Insight: A Study of Human Understanding where one finds that a clear distinction is drawn between a notion of being and a concept of being.  Lonergan’s notion of being, as a cognitive intention, is directed toward knowledge of reality and this notion is to be identified with Aquinas’s esse intentionale.  

Matter as a Cause of Knowing in Aquinas and Lonergan

by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

In conformity with Aristotle’s understanding of human cognition, Aquinas argues, with respect to human cognition, that “it is as ridiculous to say, the soul alone understands, as to say, alone it builds or weaves.”  Cf. Aquinas, De Veritate, q. 19, a. 1.  Knowing exists as a co-operative effort which involves both a formal principle and a material principle since human knowing occurs in a being that is formed by two principles.  Soul (anima) is united to body in a way which takes a body and then converts it into a certain kind of body which lives as a result of the soul’s causality.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 75, a. 1.  The body is needed by the soul if the soul’s intellectual operations are to occur (if they are to be in act).  Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 129, 7; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 4.  In other words, through acts of sense, human beings have something to begin to think about, ponder, and understand; and also, through sense, human beings have something to go back to when they need to ask about the validity or the probable truth of an idea that has been grasped and understood in an initial act of understanding.  Cf. De Veritate, q. 12, a. 12, ad 6; q. 12, a. 3; q. 10, a. 9; Quaestio disputa De anima, a. 13, para. 7.  All human understanding and knowing begins with sensing and with what is known through acts of sense.  Cf. De Potentia, q. 3, a. 5, ad 1; Sententia super Physicam, 1, 1, 8; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 12, a. 12.  In the kind of language which Aquinas uses: sense knowledge functions as the matter of the cause.   Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 6, as cited roughly by Bernard Lonergan, Triune God: Systematics, pp. 577-579.  For these reasons then, it can be argued that what is known initially as matter through acts of sense functions serves as a first or initial cause of knowing.  As a point of departure, it can be viewed as both a remote cause and an extrinsic cause of human cognition (among other remote and extrinsic causes which can also be identified if one engages in cognitive self-reflection)

However, as one turns to thinking about material causality as one moves more closely to experiences of acts of understanding, one encounters an analysis in Aquinas which Lonergan takes up and formulates in his own way.  See, for instance, Lonergan, Caring About Meaning, pp. 1-2.  As Aquinas had argued: when a sense is acted upon by an external object, a phantasm or sense image is produced and this phantasm or immaterial sensible image exists in a bodily organ as an immaterial sensible trace, impression, or likeness that cannot exist without the receptivity of an incarnate, embodied sensing organ.  Cf. Quaestio disputata De anima, a. 1, para. 11; Sentencia Libri De anima, 2, 24, 551.  About phantasms, when Aristotle talks about the meaning of phantasia [N"<J"FÆ"], fantasy, or imagination in the De Anima, 3, 3, he notes that it is a word which derives from phaos, the Greek word for light since, of our five senses, sight is the “most highly developed.”  Hence, when we think about our five external senses (our seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling) we tend to think that seeing is paradigmatic and, so, we tend to take the words which aptly refer to seeing and apply them to our other senses.  In this context, “phantasm” immediately suggests an image that is derived from something that is seen although, subsequently, this term has been used to refer to any impression that has been created by the receptive activity of all our other senses.  However, as Aquinas argues in the Summa Contra Gentiles, 4, 11, 4 and in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 78, a. 4, this sensible impression does not remain in the senses (the organs of sense).  Through the impact that it makes, it touches the human imagination and, as a consequence, it passes from the imagination into the recollection of things past which is human memory.

In his analysis, Aquinas distinguishes between phantasms which are produced by sense as a receptor and phantasms which are not produced by sense but by activities which transcend sense and which are not essentially passive but active.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 6, ad 2.  In a context that is formed by acts of inquiry and reasoning, the received matter of sense is taken and played with; its is reshaped and reconfigured in a manner which tries to encourage the reception of a possible act of understanding.  In his literal expression, in the Sententia super Metaphysicam, 7, 17, 1668, Aquinas speaks about “cause of the matter” which, in Lonergan’s interpretation, can be interpreted as a cause which disposes a phantasm or image to be ordered or to have a form or structure which than acts, as a material cause, to help trigger an act of understanding within the human intellect.  Cf. Lonergan, Triune God: Systematics, pp. 593-595.  See also Lonergan, Topics in Education, p. 171.  In other words, within a given thing which exists as a composite of matter and form, the intelligible ordering of things which exists within a given thing in terms of its form accounts for how conjoined matter is itself ordered or configured.  By imaginatively attending to possible configurations of matter in a manner which works initially from one’s acts of sense, conditions are created whereby possibly apt images can be discovered.

As Aquinas and Lonergan speak about what is happening, images function as necessary points of departure.  An object is imagined before it is understood.  Images are sought: apt images since apt images (as constructed by our acts of imagining) readily suggest a relation of parts or elements which cannot be sensed but which can be apprehended by an act of understanding.  An act of understanding emerges once one has constructed an image which moves one’s understanding to apprehend a meaning which goes beyond a particular image but which is somehow reflected by an image.  Images function here as representative carriers of meaning.  Cf. De Veritate, q. 2, a. 5, ad 5, ad 7.  Cognitionally speaking, they differ from any datum of sense (as matter) and, as a rarefied abstracted form of matter, they also differ from any form or nature that is understood through an image.  Within cognition, images communicate more than what is simply given in the likeness of an image.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 2a2ae, q. 180, a. 5, ad 2.

For a bit of corroboration and by way of examples, this symbolism of images which exists as a datum of human consciousness can be verified in aesthetic experience and in common religious practice where believers are encouraged to venerate images which function as icons to reveal an unseen, higher world of meaning.  In Aquinas’s words: motus autem qui est in imaginem, prout est imago, non consisti in ipsa, sed tendit in id cujus est imago (“movement to an image does not stop at the image, but goes on to the thing it represents”).  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 2a2ae, q. 81, a. 3, ad 3.  In other words, an imagined object reveals an object which cannot be entirely imagined but which is grasped because it is understood as imagination works to present an object that is understood within a proffered image or phantasm.  Cf. Aquinas, Quaestio disputata De anima, a. 15; Lonergan, Understanding and Being, p. 165.   An act of understanding grasps a meaning or an intelligibility that exists immanently within an image.  As through the medium of light, the sense of seeing beholds objects that are now seen, in the same way, through a form of intellectual light manifest in an act of understanding, a phantasm is informed by a meaning as, at the same time, this same phantasm triggers an intellectual act which grasps a meaning in the phantasm which has been imaginatively presented to it.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 15, a. 2; Lonergan, Verbum, p. 91; Triune God: Systematics, p. 579; Incarnate Word, p. 171.  The phantasm, as an agent object, moves the human intellect.  Cf. Lonergan, Verbum, p. 150.

However, about speaking about the role of material causality in human cognition, Aquinas and Lonergan both argue that acts of understanding cannot be adequately explained if one only attends to experiences of matter as these can be given through the action of material causes.  As Aquinas notes in the Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 26, a. 2, every act of understanding is an operation, and because it is an operation, it cannot be caused by something which is not itself an operation.  What a given thing is in terms of its nature conditions its operations since the reception of a form within a given thing specifies what kind of operation can properly occur in a given subject.  Cf. In 4 Scriptum super libros Sententiarum, d. 49, q. 3, a. 2 sol, cited by Lonergan, Triune God: Systematics, p. 551.  However, if one wants to identify all the different causes that account for acts of understanding as they occur in human subjects, beyond noting how the inquiries and questions of agent intellect play a positive role in leading a person to acts of understanding and how apt images help to trigger acts of understanding by working through one’s imagination, one must also look for operations which are correlative for the occurrence of acts of understanding in contingent human beings.  Like explains like.  Like causes like since what is less in being or reality cannot explain what possesses more being or reality.  What exists cannot be explained by what does not exist and so, for this reason, for a complete understanding of what happens in human cognition, other acts of understanding must be postulated and identified if human acts of understanding are to be fully accounted for: acts of understanding as these occur in teachers and instructors and the kind of understanding which already always exists in God’s understanding.  As Aquinas briefly states his position (in metaphysical terms): “potency is actualized by something already in act.”  Cf. Sentencia Libri De anima, 2, 11, 372.  Nothing in a state of potency is able to transcend its potency through its potency.  Hence, in the final analysis, since contingent acts of understanding are not able to account for themselves, a full explanation demands the postulation of an ever present non-contingent form of understanding within which all human acts of understanding participate.  Human understanding always exists as a participation in divine understanding (cited by Aquinas as a “remote cause” in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 4, ad 3).

Form as a Cause of Knowing in Aquinas and Lonergan

by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

When commenting on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Aquinas repeats what Aristotle says that form (forma) is ratio.  Cf. Sententia super Metaphysicam, 8, 1, 1687.   Form is an “intelligible structure.”  In Aquinas, species as “intelligible species” (species intelligibilis) commonly refers to form. Form as species, as Lonergan speaks about it, refers to the “intelligibility of data.”  Cf. Lonergan, Collection, p. 284.  Or, to use a term that originally derives from Aristotle, form is eidos or morphê.  Cf. Lonergan, Caring About Meaning, p. 45; Topics in Education, p. 171.  For both Aristotle and Aquinas, eidos as form refers to what is known not through sense perception but through an act of the mind, through nous.  Cf. Patrick H. Byrne, Analysis and Science in Aristotle (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), p. 198, p. 200. Even if some intellects can engage in acts of understanding without using any images or phantasms, no intellect is able to understand anything apart from an intellectual species or form.  Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 3a, q. 11, a. 2, ad 1.  Form, like essence, refers to a principle of explanation but in a manner which says that by first understanding a form or intelligible species, one then understands what something is in terms of its essence.  Form is the quo est; it is that “by which something is” (quo aliquid est).  Cf. Sententia super Metaphysicam, 5, 10, 904.  As the cause or mover (movens) of understanding, it is that “by which the understanding understands” (quo intelligit intellectus).  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 85, a. 2.  It exists as a principle or cause of understanding (it is a causa cognoscendi) whereby one moves from the order of knowing toward the order of being, reality.  Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 1, 53, 2 & 4.

As a cognitive tool or, more precisely, as a reason or explanation, form is not to be identified with what is understood or known, signified as the id quod intelligitur, which is the proper object of the human inquiry and the primary object of human understanding, and which also exists outside the mind as that about which questions are being asked.  In the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 56, a. 2, ad 3, Aquinas distinguishes between the form or species of a thing that exists within somebody’s  mind and the natural or real existence of a thing which exists apart from whether or not it is understood and known by anybody’s understanding (i.e., an intelligent being).  The form or species of a thing, as it exists in the mind of a knower, is referred to as an “intelligible existence” which is cognitively intended.  Hence, “intelligible existence” is to be associated with “intentional existence.”  See also Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 85, a. 2.  In discussing the difference between form as a reason or intellectual principle and what is being understood through form as a reason or intellectual principle, in “Intellectual Honesty in Aquinas and Lonergan,” (a paper presented at the Third International Lonergan Workshop, Erbacher Hof, Mainz, Germany, January 2-7, 2007),  p. 11, William Murnion elaborates on Aquinas’s meaning by distinguishing between what is secondarily understood and what is primarily understood.  A species or intentional likeness is what is secondarily understood while a thing to which an intentional likeness or species refers is what is primarily understood.  By means of form, an embodied form is understood and this embodied form refers to a world that exists beyond the reasoning of a human intellect although this same world is encountered in a self-transcendent way through a self-transcending acts of understanding. Cf. James B. Reichmann S. J., Philosophy of the Human Person (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1985), p. 106.  In attending then to what Aquinas says in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 85, a. 2, Aquinas draws a critical distinction which allows him to escape from a form of subjectivism that would regard the human knower as a self-enclosed subject whose understanding and knowing is a purely private affair that is disconnected from possibly understanding and knowing anything which exists outside the human mind.  Form as “that by which something is understood” must be clearly distinguished from “that which is understood” since their identification would imply that what is understood exists only within the operations of the human mind and not also outside of it.  Cf. Giorgio Pini,  “Scotus on the object of understanding,” pp. 6-10; “Scotus on concepts,” pp. 5-6 (two unpublished papers).

To understand a bit more clearly how form functions as a principle of mediation in human knowing, in his The Divine Initiative: Grace, World-Order, and Human Freedom in the Early Writings of Bernard Lonergan (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), pp. 100-102, J. Michael Stebbins discusses how Lonergan explains how quod and quo are to be clearly distinguished from each other.  Quod refers to the object of a rational operation.  It is, for instance, something which is grasped in terms of its meaning or intelligibility.  However, quo refers to a reason which explains why something has been grasped as the term of an act of understanding or willing.  For one’s initial acts of understanding, for one’s judgments, for one’s acts of faith, hope, and charity, one has reasons of some kind.  Rational acts are distinguished from all other kinds of acts because of this difference in consciousness.  In every rational act, there exists an awareness or an experience of reasons and an awareness or an experience of the sufficiency of one’s reasons.  With respect, for instance, to ethical decision making, reasons specify a motive or purpose which explains why it is right and good that a given object should be desired and sought for in the willing which one does because of the understanding that one come to enjoy.  In Phenomenology and Logic: The Boston College Lectures on Mathematical Logic and Existentialism, ed. Philip J. McShane (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), p. 105, Lonergan argues that, in both Aristotle and Aquinas, in explanatory syllogisms, one finds a middle term which refers to an act of understanding that apprehends a form or meaning and that through the mediation of an act of understanding (cognitively speaking) or through the mediation of a form (metaphysically speaking), persons move from sensible experiences of data to meanings as these are experienced in acts of conceptualization (which spring from prior acts of understanding).  Form, as a metaphysical principle, is to be correlated with a species of intellectual act which refers to acts of direct understanding that detach a form as an intellectual or spiritual component from matter which exists as a material principle or material component.

In contrast thus with form, the id quod intelligitur (the “that which is understood”) is an essence.  It is the quiddity of a material thing (quidditas rei materialis) which is constituted by a form joined to matter (i.e., matter as common matter).  While the form of a thing can exist both within a mind and within data of sense, its embodiment as essence precludes the proper functioning of any form of human understanding which ceases to be joined to a world that exists extramentally (outside the mind).

Essence in Aquinas and Lonergan

 by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

 
Given a certain indebtedness that one finds in both Aquinas and Lonergan toward Aristotle, one best attends to developments in meaning as regards essence if one first begins with Aristotle and, from there, move to changes that occurred in Aquinas and Lonergan.
 
In Aristotle’s Metaphysics (1017a 8-35), one finds two notions of being where, on the one hand, being refers to an affirmation which says that something is true and, because it is true, real and, on the other hand, being also refers to an attributed property where being is identified with essence (the essence of a thing).  A thing’s being or its substance is its essence.  Cf. Aquinas, Sententia super Metaphysicam, 5, 9, 885-897.  For Aristotle, being is form and form is being (in Greek,  ousia).  Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics, 7, 17; Lonergan, Insight, pp. 390-391.  Why this is so is because form causes being by giving being to matter within the physical or material order of things that is constitutive of the naturally existing world.  Cf. Sententia super Metaphysicam, 5, 2, 775: “form gives being, and matter receives it.”  Nothing exists apart from its specific determination through the agency of an active principle which is the causality of a form.  This form unites itself to what is able to receive it (and so some kind of passive principle is indicated).  Matter and form, in joining together to constitute an essence (or what is an essence) constitute a specific kind of being or thing, a specific kind of substance.  A “this” instead of “that,” comes into existence.  Substance is essence, the “what it is” of a given thing.  For a full explanation of the reasoning which led Aristotle to identify substances in terms of essences, see Michael Novak’s, “A Key to Aristotle’s ‘Substance’,” Substances and Things: Aristotle’s Doctrine of Physical Substance in Recent Essays, ed. M. L. O’Hara (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1982), pp. 188-208.  
 
However, as one shifts into Aquinas, one finds a differentiation or a shift in interpretation which effects changes in the meaning of essence.  Two points can be distinguished through both refer to changes in understanding which have to do with the meaning or nature of form.  In the first change, for a particular reason, it is argued that essences can no longer be viewed simply as substances (as a given union of form and matter).  Previously, in the history of thought, for both Plato and Aristotle, forms were seen to exist in an eternal way.  But, as the world ceased to be seen as an eternally existing thing, when it was seen as a purely contingent thing (given Christian belief in the world’s creation by God), form lost its primacy as an adequate principle of explanation.  A higher, explanatory principle was needed and, for Aquinas, this principle referred to act as an act of existence or being which is to be correlated with an act of rational judgment that affirms whether or not a proposed understanding or meaning is a true understanding or meaning: true or real because of a reduction to first principles of sense and intellect which ultimately specify an extrinsic cause which, in itself, is wholly lacking in any contingency.  Cf. Bernard Lonergan, The Ontological and Psychological Constitution of Christ, trans. Michael G. Shields (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), p. 53.  In metaphysical terms, act of existence is to be sharply distinguished from essence or, more specifically and properly, it is to be sharply distinguished from a finite essence which refers to the essence of a contingent thing (as this exists as a union of form and common matter).  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 54, a. 3.  Understanding a finite essence does not necessarily include understanding its being or existence.  Concrete or real being or existence cannot be caused or derived from a nature or essence (with respect to the being of contingent things) even if, admittedly, one can say that natures and essences exist in a qualified sense as hypothetical entities which have been discovered or postulated and which can be employed by minds as explanatory conjugates.  Cf. Lonergan, Ontological and Psychological Constitution of Christ, p. 11; p. 53; p. 164.  However, an explanatory principle is not a concretely existing being or thing.  It lacks the fullness of reality which belongs to the simple existence of concretely existing things although its existence is ordered in some way toward receiving an act of being or existence, an act which is the existence of a given thing or being.  As referred or ordered toward possibly receiving an act of existence, an explanatory principle or essence exists as “either as an accident, or as an intrinsic principle of being, or as a possible being, or as a being in the mind.”  Cf. Incarnate Word, p. 165.  Hence, as an explanatory, second kind of being by which that combines with a first, explanatory being by which that exists in form, nature, or essence (cf. Incarnate Word, p. 157), an act of existence or an act of being adds something to a finite essence by joining with an essence as that by which something is to create a new situation: a being or substance now fully is or exists.  A substance or thing is thus not simply an essence.  It is not an embodied form.  It is not that by which it is but it is what is or that which is (a union which joins essence with act).  An Aristotelian understanding of substance is supplanted by a Thomist understanding which associates what something is with the fact of its being or existence.  What something is does not always refer to a nature, form, or essence.  Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 29, a. 4, ad 2; 3a, q. 17, a. 1, ad 7; q. 17, a. 2 & ad 4; Lonergan, Incarnate Word, p. 151; p. 158.
 
In a second point, while, admittedly, Aquinas retains language which says that form is the cause of being (see Aquinas, Sententia super Metaphysicam, 7, 17, 1667-1668), in other texts, Aquinas engages in an analysis which cognitionally speaks about form as the cause or mover (movens) of understanding.  It is that “by which the understanding understands” (quo intelligit intellectus).  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 85; Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 75, 13.  It is a mode or a principle of understanding: it is a causa cognoscendi.  Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 1, 53, 2 & 4: “though this species the intellect comes to be in act.”  It is a cognitive tool which is not to be identified with what is understood or known (the id quod intelligitur which exists as the proper object of the human inquiry and the primary object of human understanding, and which also exists outside the mind as that about which questions are being asked).  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 56, a. 2, ad 3; 1a, q. 85, a. 2.  In contrast with form, the id quod intelligitur is an essence.  It is the quiddity or “whatness” of a material thing.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, aa. 7-8; q. 85, a. 5, ad 3; a. 8; q. 86, a. 2; q. 89, a. 1.  While form and essence both exist as principles of explanation, a real distinction can be drawn between them which helps us understand why a real distinction should be drawn between acts of understanding and acts of conceptualization which proceed from originating acts of understanding.  By first understanding a form, one then understands an essence.  Form exists as the quo est; it is that “by which something is” (in Latin, quo aliquid est).  Cf. Aquinas, In 1 Scriptum super libros sententiarum, d. 8, q. 5, a. 2; De ente et essentia, 4; Sententia super Metaphysicam, 5, 10, 904.  From an apprehension of form comes an initial act of understanding.  However, as acts of conceptualization proceed from prior acts of understanding, an inner word or definition is formed which unites an abstracted, universal form with a generalized species of matter which is typically referred to as “common matter.”  As Aquinas argues in one place, in moving from an act of understanding about what a human being is, one moves from an intelligibility or a form that has been abstracted from a particular instance of human beingness (from “this flesh and these bones” as this exists in a given human being).  But, in then moving to a general definition which specifies an essence (a definition which applies to all human beings whatever or however they exist), one joins a universal formal component to a material component which must refer to all possible instances of human embodiment: to “bones and flesh” rather than to “this flesh and these bones.”  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 85, a. 1, ad 2.  By an analysis which delves into the order of human cognition, form and essence are more clearly distinguished from each other through a form of real distinction which carries over into better understanding about why a real distinction exists between acts of understanding and acts of conceptualization.  Essences exist as correlatives of conceptualization; forms, of acts of understanding.
 
In the more differentiated analysis of Lonergan, essences fall into classifications which distinguish one kind from another.  Lonergan speaks about three kinds which appear to be basic (different kinds of essences being determined by different kinds of conceptualization).  Cf. Lonergan, Understanding and Being, pp. 165-168.   The humanity of a given person is not the same as humanity in general or humanity per se which, as a general property or predicate, refers to what you have if a certain species of intellectual nature is joined to a certain kind of body which is common to all human beings.  However, as should be obvious, one cannot speak about the humanity of a given human being in any kind of critical way unless one begins with a critical understanding about what is meant by humanity.  In establishing a meaning for humanity as this thus exists in a definition, one takes an abstracted form or idea and one conceives of it or one speaks about it in a way which joins it to a species of common matter.  An abstract essence refers to the kind of conception which one has if, in one’s acts of conceptualization, one attends to only those aspects or conditions which are crucial and which must be operative if, in any given instance or experience of material conditions, one is to come to an understanding which grasps a universal significance (as this is present in the apprehension of an intelligible form).  If, for instance, one attends to how one has obtained an insight into the circularity of a circle (an understanding about what is the circularity, the intelligibility of a circle), one must attend to relations which exist on a plane surface if one looks at how a center point is related to a circumference through radii that are all equal in length and of an infinite number.  Equality in length combined with infinity in number reveal an intellectual necessity (an intellectual necessity which points to a mathematical law) and this intellectual necessity explains why a circle must always be perfectly round.  Once this necessity is understood, one has grasped the nature of roundness or the nature of circularity as this exists with respect to a circle.  The common matter in this case refers to any size of circle which can be drawn or imagined to exist on a plane surface.  From any imagined circular configuration of points and lines on a plane surface, one can come to know the essence of any or all circles.  See Lonergan’s Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, pp. 31-37, for a fuller account about how one can move from images or phantasms to a self-transcending act of understanding which grounds an act of conception that is able to generate an explanatory meaning for what exactly is a circle.
 
On the basis then of an abstract essence, one can take this kind of essence and apply it to particular instances and thus, by such an application, obtain a meaning which refers to a particularized essence. In thinking about the humanity of any given person, an abstract meaning is joined with an instance of individual matter and, from the union of these two principles, one gets a meaning for specific humanity which exists as a function of these two principles in how they interrelate with each other.  The humanity of any given person always varies and differs as one moves from one person to another and, yet, the humanity which one person has is not necessarily less than the humanity which another person has.  In other words, as one moves from person to person, humanity exists as a concrete variable which changes as persons change in how they live and act.  In the transfer or shift which occurs as one moves from an abstract notion of essence to a particularized notion of essence, a reverse kind of return is made to the experience and data of sense.  However, as Lonergan notes, if one attends to what Aquinas refers to when he speaks about the formal object of the human intellect (which is being or truth) but what Lonergan identifies as a notion of being (an intention of being) which shapes and moves all human inquiry toward a knowledge of being or truth, a third kind of essence can be identified: an essence which exists in itself as a species of being.  Cf. Understanding and Being, pp. 167-168.  For examples, Lonergan speaks about “man” or “this man” and not about any kind of humanity which can exist in either an abstract or in a particularized way.  In other words, as one thinks about the finality of human understanding (as human knowing undergoes a completion which it receives when affirmative judgments are made), abstract and particularized essences becomes realities or beings in their own right (things or substances which exist in more than a conceptual way) although they do not exist as only as compositions of form and matter.  In his day, Aristotle had conceived of substances as compositions of matter and common form.  But, in the understanding which Lonergan proposes, it is now possible to identify essences with concretely existing substances (or concretely existing things). In a way, it can be said that Lonergan returns to an earlier association which one finds in Aristotle although with a key difference which refers to an isomorphic relation which exists between human judgment, as a cognitional principle, and act, as a metaphysical principle.  Essences are real; they exist as things if constituted by a material component, a formal component, and an actual component.

Understanding the Proceeding of an Intellectual Emanation in its Uniqueness

 by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

If intellectual emanation cannot be properly understood in terms of cause and effect, it follows that, if one is to understand the meaning or nature of an intellectual emanation, one must identify some other kind of relation which properly exists (a relation which allows us to understand how it can be properly said yet that, from an act of understanding, another act emerges). As has been noted, from every act of understanding, a word (an inner word) is produced. In a processio operati, a verbum comes or “flows from intelligere.” Cf. Frederick E. Crowe, The Doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity (Willowdale, Ontario: Regis College, 1965-66), p. 145-146. But, what is the nature of this flowing? How does it differ from any kind of causal relationship?
 
To understand this, one might begin by adverting to an insight which Aquinas had about the relation which exists between natural law and natural reason. One the one hand, if one thinks about the meaning of natural law as this applies to the created order of things, one can conceive of it as something which already exists. The natural order of things is governed by natural laws and, if one wants to live wisely within the created order of things, one attends to the natural laws of things. The intelligibility of things is something which one tries to understand. In this school of interpretation, if is also argued that human reason exists as a contingent, created thing. And so, if one is to think and reason about things in a proper way, one must abide by the natural laws of human reason (laws which already exist and which govern how our reasoning should properly function). However, by way of contrast, let us attend to what Aquinas says about the relation between law and reason. From the intrinsic reasonableness of law, one should be able to argue that its origin lies in reason which functions as the basic principle of law. As Aquinas briefly puts it: “natural law is constituted by reason.” Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 94, a. 1. Natural law exists as a work of reason. It is an opus rationis. It is an ordering of the natural reason: an ordinatio rationis naturalis and, because it is such an ordering or ordination, it can be properly argued that this ordering “reflects the inner dynamics of human knowing, and all the flexibility and plasticity to be found there.” Cf. Martin Rhonheimer, Natural Law and Practical Reason: A Thomist View of Moral Autonomy, trans. G. Malsbary (New York: Fordham University Press, 2000), pp. 276-278. Hence, from this, it can be argued that the functioning of human reason exists as a subjective principle which is to be equated with natural law: natural law not as an external known order of things, but as a knowing act of the human reason or intellect which knows other things (not excluding itself). Cf. Rhonheimer, pp. 11-12. Natural law should not be viewed as an objective order of things that is then subjectively known by our human reasoning and knowing since the ordering of reason which occurs in our reasoning activities also suggests that natural law can be properly identified with human reasoning in its acts of ordering and directing. Human reason exists as a natural act. And so, its term is a natural law of some kind (natural reasoning constituting the natural law). In other words, as one attends to the origins of law as one finds this in reason, one realizes that human acts of reason function as a point of origin for laws in general. Our acts of reasoning and understanding are constitutive of law; they are constitutive of intelligibility in a manner which points to a real distinction between intelligibility and intelligence.
 
By attending then to the intelligence or law originating abilities that are constitutive of human understanding (and which function as an analogy for moving toward a partial understanding about the sense and meaning of divine understanding), one can begin to understand why the intelligence of our understanding is so unlike the existence and character of any other point of origin that can be possibly identified in the created order of things. Created human understanding possesses a freedom which does not belong to any other created thing which exists in the world that is given to us through our experience. One can properly argue that it possesses a certain kind of autonomy. In concrete instances that one can advert to, for instance, intellectual emanations occur when acts of defining arise from acts of understanding, acts of judging from acts of grasping the sufficiency of evidence, and acts of choosing from the practical judgment.” Cf. Bernard Lonergan, The Triune God: Systematics, p. 143. Where questioning spontaneously emerges within human subjectivity as an act that can lead to acts of reasoning in a search for possible experiences of understanding, acts of conception, judgment, and choice emerge in a context that is already being conditioned by understanding and the freedom which comes with understanding. If one wants to talk about law, understanding qua understanding reveals a law that is peculiar to acts of cognition of general. While a given act of understanding can possibly reveal a specific law which intelligibly relates two or more things that exist within the material order of things, an understanding of one’s understanding reveals an all encompassing transcendental law that is operative within human cognition–a transcendental law which intelligently and reasonably joins one kind of act with another in an emanating or radiating series of acts. Each succeeding act exists proportionately as each act corresponds with the act which had been its proximate point of origin. Cf. Lonergan, Triune God: Systematics, p. 143. In the word used by Frederick Lawrence (while apparently quoting and translating from the Latin text of Lonergan’s Triune God: Systematics):
 
The kind of lawfulness operative here is not fully determined by any nature, genus, or species, but is ordered to transcendentals: “being (= the concrete, whole, existing), the one, the true, the good….” “For this reason, the intelligent part is the mistress of itself, determinative of itself, autonomous…” (emphasis added) The transcendental desire to know is the instance in the created universe of an entity that “gives itself the law.”
 
Cf. Frederick Lawrence, “Expanding Challenge to Authenticity in Insight: Lonergan’s Hermeneutics of Facticity (1953-1964), Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy & Education vol. 15, no. 3 (2004): 430-431. As human cognition accordingly moves from acts of understanding into an order of conceptualization which defines or formulates what has been understood, as it moves into judgments about truth and falsity following acts of understanding that have grasped a sufficiency in evidence, and as it also moves into selections or choices that are grounded in practical judgments on what it is that one should do in the course of one’s life, it reveals a shift in human consciousness as a human being moves from spontaneity into forms of deliberate self-constitution. As Lawrence speaks about what exactly is happening here (and as I try to summarize what he says):
 
As emanating acts emerge from acts of understanding and as different acts of understanding gradually move a person through different kinds of knowledge, a trajectory is revealed within the life of human persons. We begin to constitute a proximate proportionate principle within ourselves (a habitual form of thinking and acting) which bestows an autonomy upon our intelligence, our reasonableness, and our freedom. The flow of intelligible emanations, as these proceed, constitutes acts which steadily grow in consciousness and which become more autonomous than they would otherwise be. A material order of living (which is governed by a way of life that largely responds to outer circumstances) is replaced by a spiritual order of living (which is governed by personal decisions that decide about how one should think, understand, and know). Even human inquiry becomes less spontaneous as later questions are asked after they have first been considered and carefully thought about.
 
For these reasons then, as one attends to the unique kind of causality which exists with respect to understanding (a causality which should not be understood in terms of cause and effect), one can begin to speak about a real distinction which exists between the proceeding of intellectual emanations and all other kinds of proceeding. From a model which attends to causal or natural processes, one has a very inexact approximation which one could try to use in order to understand the kind of process which exists in an intellectual emanation. But, with such an approach, one will not attend to the fact that, in intellectual emanations, a process exists which is creative of law (a process which exists as “the very idea of intelligible law”). It is “the pure case of intelligible law” as acts of understanding exist which are already in act. Cf. Crowe, pp. 145-146. From understanding, relations can be found which think in terms of cause and effect or relations can be brought into being which are ordered in a manner which thinks in terms of cause and effect. 

Understanding the Proceeding of an Intellectual Emanation in its Uniqueness Employing a Thomist Distinction

 by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB 

In attempting to understand the nature of an intellectual emanation as one kind of intellectual act comes from another kind of intellectual act, in the kind of analysis that Lonergan engages in and in the kind of language that he uses, he says that, from an act of understanding which is itself conscious, a second conscious act emerges in a procession which occurs within one’s conscious understanding–a procession which is intrinsically and entirely rational and which, because of its intrinsic rationality, is to be identified as an emantio intelligibilis–an intelligible or rational emanation which belongs to the intelligence in act of an intelligent subject. Cf. Lonergan, “Consciousness and the Trinity,” Papers 1958-1964, p. 136; Edward M. Mackinnon, “Understanding according to Bernard J. F. Lonergan, S.J.,” The Thomist 28 (1964): 103; Frederick G. Lawrence, “The Hermeneutic Revolution and Bernard Lonergan: Gadamer and Lonergan on Augustine’s Verbum Cordis – The Heart of Postmodern Hermeneutics,” Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy & Education vol. 19, nos. 1-2 (2008): 61. As a rational emanation, conception is thus not best identified or understood in terms which prefer to speak about some kind of causation (involving a relation between cause and effect) or about some kind of “automatic or quasi-mechanical process.” Cf. Mackinnon, p. 103. A word, an inner word, “proceeds because of understanding.” It reflects an act of understanding–a conscious rational awareness which knows that something has been understood through an act of understanding which is being revealed–from an act of understanding which has already occurred. In a way, this word receives from an act of understanding. It is occasioned but it is not caused by an act of understanding even if one can say that the proceeding of an inner word is produced by an act to understanding. Cf. Frederick E. Crowe, The Doctrine of the Most Holy Trinity (Willowdale, Ontario: Regis College, 1965-66), p. 145-146.
 
To understand, however, why certain critical distinctions need to be made here which, apparently, do not need to be made, one can perhaps turn to a distinction which Aquinas makes that can shed some light on how or why one should avoid language which thinks about intellectual emanation in terms of cause and effect. With respect to the difference then between causality and the kind of proceeding which exists in an intellectual emanation, in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 33, a. 1, Aquinas defines what he means by “principle.” He says that it is “that whence another proceeds.” But, a principle is to be distinguished from a cause (q. 33, a. 1, ad 1 & 3) because cause suggests that a difference exists between a cause and an effect: an effect is something lesser than a cause (it is a different kind of being) and an effect depends or relies upon its cause. Causa portior est effectu; the cause is greater than the effect. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 16, a. 1, ad 3; q. 88, a. 3, ad 2; q. 95, a. 1. See also Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 77, 6. However, a principle possesses a wider meaning since it refers to what is first, or to what is a point of origin for a given set or order of things. As Aquinas notes as an example taken from mathematics, “a point is the principle of a line.” While a principle can be a cause, in its wider significance, it primarily refers to a first term which orders subsequent terms into an ordered set of related elements. In the language that Lonergan uses, “more generally, principle has been defined as what is first in any ordered set, primum in aliquo ordine.” Cf. Lonergan, “Natural Knowledge of God,” Second Collection, p. 126. On the basis thus of this understanding, a principle as a first term does not imply that any second or third term ad infinitum is of lesser importance or value than the first term. No difference in reality is to be postulated or concluded. A principle admittedly refers to a point of origin but not necessarily to a specific cause. Hence, if one thinks about the relation between an act of understanding and an emanating act of conceptualizing, one can legitimately speak about one act coming after another. However, one does not speak about a lesser stature that belongs to an act of conception even as it comes after or proceeds from an act of understanding. An act of understanding exists as a point of origin. But, the intelligibility that is grasped by an act of understanding is not greater than the intelligibility that is experienced in an act of conception as one apprehends the meaningfulness of a concept or inner word which is the term of an one’s act of conception. With respect then to how one might think about processions within God, by thinking in terms of principle and avoiding any talk about cause, one avoids a theology of the Trinity that recalls the earlier theology of Origen (d. c. 254) who had spoken about divine processions in terms which suggest a cause and effect relationship. In the eternal generation of the Son from the Father, the divinity received by the Son from the Father is less than what the Father more fully possesses. And so, for these reasons, Origen had encouraged views which suggested that, respectively, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit possessed a lesser divinity than that belonging to God the Father. Heretical consequences naturally ensued through theologies which were touched by subordinationist assumptions and Arian conclusions. Cf. Lonergan, The Way to Nicea: The Dialectical Development of Trinitarian Theology, trans. Conn O’Donovan (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1976), p. 60.
 
By taking Aquinas’s understanding of principle (the difference between principle and cause) and by adapting Aquinas’s notion of principle in a manner which combines it with created experiences of rational consciousness, one creates conditions that should further reveal why, in intellectual emanation, a kind of proceeding exists which stands on its own, apart from every other kind of proceeding.

Applying a Thomist Principle: Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur

by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

Not infrequently, in different texts, Aquinas refers to a principle which he uses as a principle of explanation–a principle which avers that “whatever is received into something is received according to the condition of the receiver.”  Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 75, a. 5; 3a, q. 5.  In the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 12, a. 4, a more specific application of this principle is proposed in terms which say that “a thing known exists in a knower according to the mode of a knower.” Cogitum…est in cognoscente secundum modum cognoscentis.  For further references, see Summa Theologiae, q. 14, a. 1, ad 3; q. 16, a. 1; q. 19, a. 6, ad 2; Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 79, 7; De Veritate, q. 2, a. 3.  In knowing anything, or in thinking that one knows anything, something is known by a prospective knower according to the mode of a knower’s being where what is understood and known is regulated or determined according to how a thing is known by a knower.  In the context of his systematic theology of the Trinity, Lonergan takes this Thomist principle and uses it to explain why ongoing development sometimes fails to occur in theology.  See Lonergan, The Triune God: Systematics, p. 25.  Seminal insights are not always well understood (as these insights come from major thinkers in the theological tradition as in St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, or Cardinal Newman) and the result can be a tradition of misunderstanding (constituted by truncated understandings) which introduces a distortion into the development of later theology.  Pseudo-problems are generated and, to address them, provisional solutions are attempted which create new theological traditions, traditions which jar with the received theological tradition and which emerge as a miscast tradition.  As Lonergan argues his case in more than one context, Aquinas’s thought is replaced by Thomistic interpretations that present a sometimes consistent misunderstanding of things although it is claimed, at the same time, that everything is grounded in Aquinas’s texts and the true meaning of his texts.  False controversies take center stage as inquiries move toward apprehensions of meaning that lead to a sense of skepticism which acts to encourage an attitude of disbelief with respect to the sense or meaning of the Church’s teachings in matters having to do with faith and morals.

To cite only one notable example as one looks back into the history of Catholic theology, in the De ente supernaturali: Supplementum schematicum (On Supernatural Being: A Schematic Supplement), Lonergan argues that the dispute which irrupted in the 16th Century between Molinists and Bannezians about the relation between grace and human freedom should be regarded as a false controversy because it proceeded on the basis of a number of shared misunderstandings.  To cite a particular glaring instance, both schools adhered to a theory of human understanding which cannot be squared with Aquinas’s stated views.  When human understanding is understood as a vital act, it is said that human understanding causes itself.  It is essentially self-caused or self-willed.  Cf. J. Michael Stebbins, The Divine Initiative: Grace, World-Order, and Human Freedom in the Early Writings of Bernard Lonergan (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), pp. 107-110.  But, the self-actualization of human knowing is not only a mistaken notion in itself but one which is doubly false if one tries to claim that it represents Aquinas’s understanding of human cognition.  As Aquinas himself says, “the knower as such is not an efficient…cause.”  Cf. Aquinas, De Veritate, q. 8, a. 6.  Human knowing is not to be equated with the activity or efficient causality of the agent intellect.  Human knowledge is not essentially a product of human effort (as a human knower moves from not knowing or not understanding to knowing or understanding).  As essential as is the reasoning process for moving toward understanding, no one can know if understanding will ever enter into one’s conscious experience.  The absence of any guarantees accordingly distinguishes understanding from any kind of human making or human producing.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 85, a. 2.  There is nothing which a person can do whose term is necessarily an act of understanding (even if an act of understanding is personally possessed by a knower when it is enjoyed).  Hence, as a consequence, understanding presents itself as something which can only be elicited (and not produced) by what human beings do.  It cannot be earned.  While given to persons who ask questions, understanding exists as essentially a reception.  It is a “being-acted-upon.”  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 79, a. 2.  It is an act, not an action.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 28, a. 3, ad 1; Sententia super Physicam, 3, 5, 320. While an action is something which is produced (it comes from a subject or agent as its source or point of origin), as an act, understanding is properly a passion (passio).  It is a passive potency.  It is something which a subject receives or accepts.  It is the act of a subject which exists within a subject who, as a patient, undergoes and experiences what is undergone and experienced, but who can only receive certain operations according to the form or nature which specifies a subject’s operations in terms of what can be received and what cannot be received by a given subject.  Cf. De Veritate, q. 26, a. 1; a. 3; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 41, a.1, ad 2; Stebbins, p. 107.  In Lonergan’s own words, “act is limited by the potency in which it is received.”  Cf. Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, p. 147. Every form possesses an inclination of its own which specifies what it may properly receive.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 6, a. 4, ad 2.  Hence, until understanding dawns, one must continue to work and hope for it and, until it dawns, one cannot say what one has understood.  The receptive character of human understanding accordingly explains why Aquinas speaks about understanding as a “movement to the soul” from an agent object instead of a movement “from the soul” to outer things.  Cf. De Malo, q. 6, a. un., arg. 14a.  Intellectual knowledge is received from external things in a way which shows that understanding operates “from things to the soul,” via a rebus ad animam.  Cf. De potentia, q. 9, a. 9.  If the receptive character of human understanding is not properly understood, it will lead to a false notion of human autonomy (an exaggerated notion of it) and, as a result, God’s grace will not be understood with regard to its full efficacy.

By attending then to the wording of Aquinas’s principle (“whatever is received into something is received according to the condition of the receiver”)and as one thinks about its meaning, one can begin to sense that this principle probably explains why Lonergan moved into an intentionality analysis of the human subject after spending years reading into Aquinas’s thought.  Aquinas sometimes explicitly refers to inner experience which human beings can have of themselves when they are engaged in certain acts.  For instance, as a prime example which Lonergan often refers to in one or more various texts, in the ST, 1a, q. 84, a. 7, Aquinas avers: “Anyone can experience this for himself that when he tries to understand something, he forms certain phantasms to serve him by way of examples in which, as it were, he examines what he is trying to understand.  For this reason, when we wish to make someone understand something, we lay examples before him from which he can form phantasms for the purpose of understanding.”  Cf. Aquinas as cited by Giovanni B. Sala S.J., “From Thomas Aquinas to Bernard Lonergan: Continuity and Novelty,” http://www.workofgod.org/dialogue_partners/Sala/from_thomas_aquinas_to_bernard_l.htm#_ftnref10; Lonergan, Understanding and Being, p. 44.  But, while Aquinas does not frequently refer to inner human experience in preferring to use a method of analysis which moves from exterior objects to inner human acts (our inner conscious experience of these acts), Lonergan prefers to work conversely through a form of analysis which moves from our inner experience of human acts toward transcendent objects that are intended by our desires and the different kinds of questions that we ask.  Where Aquinas distinguishes between different kinds of acts by distinguishing between different kinds of objects, Lonergan moves from our experience of questions and the existence of different kinds of questions to objects by way of acts.  By attending to questions and by distinguishing them, one can determine an order of different intended objects and then, by attending to this order of intended objects, one can specify the different kinds of acts which come into existence, or which can come into existence, in order to meet these different intended goals.  Differences within the order of human intentionality reveal a normative structure and a connatural order which exists within the larger world of being or reality–a connatural order which refers to a correspondence or a proportion which exists between the order of our human knowing and the order which exists within the world of being (as this is proportionate to the order of our human knowing).  Two types of analysis can be contrasted as we think about the kind of analysis that Aquinas prefers to use and the kind that Lonergan prefers to use.  But, within Aquinas, one finds principles which lead from one kind of analysis to another: from the metaphysics of Aquinas to the theory of human cognition present in the work of Bernard Lonergan.

From Human and Angelic Understanding to Divine Understanding in Lonergan and Aquinas

by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB
 
In the kind of analysis which one finds in Lonergan’s The Triune God: Systematics, much is said about how it is possible to move from one’s created, finite self-understanding toward an analogical knowledge about what can be said about God as an unrestricted act of understanding.  However, in the analysis which one finds in Aquinas, much is said there about what we can say about the understanding of angels before one moves to what can be said about divine understanding.  In contrast, Lonergan does not speak about how an understanding of angelic understanding can possibly help one move toward a better analogical knowledge that would want to speak about the nature of divine understanding, although, if one attends to Lonergan’s Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, one finds that he could not have been unaware of the kind of analysis that one finds in Aquinas.
 
By way of illustration, in Verbum, p. 197, Lonergan notes that, while Aristotle speaks about one kind of separate substance, Aquinas speaks about two kinds of separate substance: God as subsistent understanding or understanding itself (ipsum intelligere), and angels which exist as subsisting essences or subsisting “quiddities.”  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 54, aa. 1-3; Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 93, 2; Super Librum De causis, prop. 9.  As regards angels, the nature or essence of an angel is not its existence or act of being.  Existence is something quite other and distinct as is also the case with the difference between the intellect or mind of an angel and its acts of understanding.  The understanding or intellect of an angel, on the one hand, refers to its form as an intelligible principle.  But, its actualization is an act or operation of understanding that is received by an angel’s formal essence in a way which indicates that a degree of potentiality exists in an angel (a potentiality which is to be equivocally understood as Aquinas notes in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 54, a. 4) since no angel exists as a pure act of understanding which has always existed and which has never, at any time, come into being from not being.  With respect to all these spirits or separate substances (whether one speaks of God or angels), no material component exists, and so this absence of a material component explains why angels possess only one form of potentiality which is the potentiality of a form to receive an act.  Cf Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 98, 10.  In contrast, anything having a material component is characterized by two forms of potentiality: a potentiality of matter to receive a form and a potentiality of form to receive an act.  The absence of materiality in an angel and the fact that an angel is not a pure subsistent act of understanding which has always existed accordingly explains why angels exist as subsisting essences that are strictly formal or intellectual.  In the Sententia super Metaphysicam, 7, 17, 1669, Aquinas speaks about “separate substances” as “simple substances” since they are not composed of matter and form.  Because they are not known to us through any act of sense, a knowledge of them cannot proceed through any typical form of human inquiry which directly moves from acts of sense to acts of understanding.
 
A question accordingly arises about why Lonergan does not prefer to speak about angelic understanding in order to speak about divine understanding.  Perhaps, at some point Lonergan was asked this question and perhaps he addressed it in some way.  However, until we can find any kind of explanation which he directly provides, one is left to hazard an answer that can be gained by thinking about his general method of procedure in terms of his intentionality analysis.  In contrast thus with Aquinas, Lonergan does not begin to speak about the nature of human cognition by an initial comparison that is drawn with respect to the possible nature of angelic understanding.  In the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 58, a. 3, Aquinas says that, in contrast with human knowing, an angel, as a purely intellectual being, has a created intellect that can immediately grasp the unity and relation of things. For an angel, reason is essentially simple; it is a simple, single act.  When an angel perceives a cause, it immediately perceives all its effects; and, when it perceives any effects, it similarly immediately perceives all pertinent causes.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 58, a. 3, ad 1-2.  An angel does not have to work for any understanding or knowledge (cognitio) since all meanings are obvious and given.  Cf. De Malo, q. 16, a. 5.  For an angel, reason exists as a form of intuition.  The knowing is instantaneous.  Or, in other words, in contrast with as human knowers, angelic knowing is not discursive.  No process of thinking is needed in order to come to an understanding of anything.  In the manner of Aquinas’s exposition as this exists in the Summa Theologiae, in moving through the order of being as things exist (beginning with God and then as one moves through a hierarchy which exists in the created order of things), it is best for him to speak about human understanding on the basis of comparisons with angelic understanding and with what is known about angelic understanding (even if, in other places and in other texts, Aquinas admits, when speaking about the nature of human cognition, that its proper object precludes the possibility of having any direct understanding of God and angels).  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 12, a. 11: “A thing’s mode of knowing depends on its mode of being.  But our soul, as long as we live in this life, has its being in corporeal matter; hence, naturally, it knows only what has a form in matter, or what can be known by such a form.”
 
In other words, because Lonergan begins and works from a phenomenological analysis of human cognition and because he encourages readers to begin with thought experiments that promote growth in one’s own self-understanding, any discussions about the nature of angelic understanding appear to be premature.  One should only speak about angelic understanding after one has first understood the nature of human cognition (as this exists in its own way).  However, for a possible explanation on why Lonergan does not advert to angelic understanding as a heuristic for moving toward a better understanding of divine understanding, a possible reason lies in the radicalness of questions that could be asked about human understanding.  If angelic understanding exists as a kind of halfway house between human and divine understanding (an analogical understanding about it coming from posing certain questions and responding to them), divine understanding can be analogically understood if one works directly from human understanding and if one’s questions are sufficiently apt.  In Aquinas, some evidence exists to the effect that the created existence of discursive understanding raises questions about a species of created understanding which is non-discursive.  A fuller, more perfect world exists if it contains beings who possess a purely spiritual or intellectual nature and who are lacking in the material kind of potentiality which exists among human beings.  Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 46, 2; De Spiritualibus Creaturis, a. 5; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 20, a. 4, ad 2; q. 50, a. 1; q. 54, a. 5. However, in both Aquinas and Lonergan, one can find arguments which suggest that one can easily move from created human understanding to uncreated divine understanding if one asks questions about the causality of human knowing.  In human cognition, a material cause can be identified in terms of phantasms which, to some extent, trigger created acts of understanding.  Cf. Aquinas, Sententia super Metaphysicam, 7, 17, 1668; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 15, a. 2; q. 85, a. 1, ad 1; Lonergan, Triune God: Systematics, pp. 593-595; Topics in Education, p. 171.  But, as one thinks about this material causality, one realizes that material causes cannot explain formal causes.  What exists in formal causality cannot be explained by what does not exist in material causality.  Or, to state the case a bit differently, acts of sense and acts of imagination cannot explain acts of understanding which have a wholly different nature (a nature which transcends whatever is given in acts of sense and imagination).  In our world, events at a lower level of activity help to create favorable conditions.  But, if one to account for any given act of understanding as an act of understanding, one must postulate some kind of understanding which always exists–an act of understanding which points to something which is uncreated and which is responsible for all acts of understanding as these occur in a contingent way in contingent beings.  Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 4, ad 3; 1a2ae, q. 19, a. 4, & ad 1 & ad 2.  By taking human understanding and by removing any limitations which can possibly restrict its operation, one moves toward a species of understanding which is wholly lacking in any restrictions.  One begins to conceive of God as an unrestricted act of understanding.
 
By this type of inquiry, one bypasses any discussion which one might want to make about angels and the nature of angelic understanding.  However, in order to have an understanding of things which presents a wider perspective, it is not without merit to delve into the details of Aquinas’s analogical understanding as this exists first with respect to angels before considering what can be said about divine understanding.  The more carefully one can distinguish angelic understanding from human and divine understanding, the more carefully and exactly will one understand what can be said about God as a unique act of understanding.  See Aquinas’s argumentation in the. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 79, a. 2 for a little illustration of this where all three kinds of understanding are spoken about and related to each other.

Being and Good as Primary Notions in Aquinas and Lonergan

by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB
 
 
In the order which one finds in Lonergan’s intentionality analysis, moral deliberation succeeds acts of reflective understanding which have concluded that certain things are true and other, false.  Good presents itself as a more comprehensive notion.  A person can begin with a desire to know the truth of things.  As persons begin to ask what and why questions about the data of their experience, they begin to move toward possible receptions of understanding which, later, are judged through acts of reflective understanding which bring knowing to a terminus.  In judgments about facts, something real is known.  A person begins to participate in a real world.  But, when persons begin to ask about how they should respond to a world whose being they have come to know, desires for good begin to supplant desires for being and one soon concludes that good is a more comprehensive notion.  Being loses its status and one might try to argue that being ceases to be a primary, basic motion.  On the basis of the succession which one finds in Lonergan’s thought, one can then try to argue that Lonergan’s analysis moves into a tradition of thought which breaks with a tradition as one can find this in the earlier work of Aquinas.  But, if one reads into Aquinas, one can wonder if one can so easily come to such a conclusion.
 
In turning to the work of Aquinas, with respect to the greater comprehensiveness of good as a basic notion, good can be said to transcend being in more than one way.  In the order of human cognition with respect to exercises of theoretical human reasoning, good precedes being because a basic desire for good orientates a person toward cognitional operations where the imminent object is an understanding which knows reality through judgements which grasp truths.  Cf. Aquinas, De Malo, q. 1, a. 2; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 5, a. 2; 1a2ae, q. 9, a. 1, ad 2.  In the arguments which Aquinas proposes, a natural inclination toward a knowledge of reality or being is reinforced and sublated when potential knowers decide as a good to give themselves to a life that is wholly given to an understanding and knowledge of truth.  Cf. De Veritate, q. 22, a. 12; Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 16, a. 1, ad 3; q. 57, a. 1; q. 58, a. 1, ad 2; 2a2ae, q. 166.  Persons seek to know being because they believe that it is good to know being.  As an inclination which functions as a first principle for operations which move one toward what one wants or desires (even if what one wants is something which exists outside oneself), “will wills the intellect to understand.”  Cf. Summa Theologiae, q. 16, a. 4, ad 1.  Or, in other words as Aquinas elsewhere notes: “I understand because I will to do so.”  Cf. De Malo, q. 6, a. 1.  Hence, while it can be properly argued that knowing moves willing (by indicating a good which is understood to exist as a good and which should be achieved precisely because, as a possible good, it can be brought into being as a good), in an even more fundamental way, one can try to argue that willing moves knowing for the good which can be achieved either purely in understanding and knowing, or by and through a knowing that leads to other operations and activities which transcend human acts which are purely or wholly cognitional in nature.
 
Within a context, however, that is determined by acts of practical human reasoning, good transcends being as a primary notion or first term.  Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 94, a. 2; 2a2ae, q. 10, a. 4, ad 2.  Good supplants being as an ultimate end or objective.  The goal-directedness of our human life then becomes a basis and a justification for any studies that would want to think about the nature and the structure of human intentionality.  Our intentionality is constitutive of our human subjectivity.  If good exists as a final or exemplary cause, it precedes and orders all subsequent causes in an ordering which creates a world.  It gives reasons to explain why anything acts in the way that it does.  
 
However, as one enters more deeply into Aquinas’s analysis (in a way that is perhaps less directly influenced by the order of Lonergan’s intentionality analysis as this order may simply present itself), one finds that being functions as a basic precondition for every kind of cause since the good, as a final or exemplary cause, cannot exercise its influence unless it happens to be or exist.  Cf. De Veritate, q. 1, a. 1; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 13, a. 11, ad 2.  From such a standpoint in the context of Aquinas’s analysis and if one personally engages in this kind of analysis, one finds that being exists as a more primary and universal notion (see Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 65, a. 3) although, on the other hand, it should be noted that, for Aquinas, good and being can be seen and should be seen as convertible with each other.  Ens et bonum convertuntur; “being is convertible with good.”  Cf. Martin Rhonheimer, Natural Law and Practical Reason: A Thomist View of Moral Autonomy, p. 21.  Good can be understood in terms of being and being, in terms of good.  Being and truth are sought and desired as goods and good exists as a truth or reality through its intelligibility or its inherent reasonableness.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 79, a. 11, ad 2.  How one will understand the priority of being or good in Aquinas depends on Aquinas’s context of argument in a given text although, as one attends to these different contexts and as one attempts to compare them, one should find a mutual priority in the relations which exist between being and good.  For different reasons, each precedes the other or is of greater importance and value than the other.  Each conditions the other in a relation which probably best reveals what exists as a true state of affairs if one wants to understand the nature of moral human willing which only exists, in its full humanity, if one thinks about a union which should obtain between truth as a harmony or correspondence between being and understanding, and goodness as a harmony or correlation between being and desire within a human person.  Cf. Frederick Crowe, Three Thomist Studies, pp. 116-117.  An inclination or desire which exists within a person’s consciousness exists as a virtue to produce good deeds (it becomes a virtue) if it is informed by right understanding and judgment, or by what Aquinas more simply means when he speaks about a conformity to “right reason.”  Cf. Sententia libri Ethicorum, 2, 2, 257; Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 55, a. 4, ad 2; q. 58, a. 2; q. 59, a. 4; 2a2ae, q. 128, a. 3.  But, in every moral deliberation which occurs in the context of one’s human life, every person thinks about being as possible being: the kind of being which exists if one thinks about it where, from apprehensions of possible being, one can move toward choices about what possible being should be brought into full existence.
 
In conclusion then, on the basis of arguments which one can find in Aquinas, an understanding of the human person presents itself which clearly suggests that good exists as a more comprehensive notion.  Being or truth properly exists as the good or the perfection of a person’s thinking and understanding.  But, good exists as the goodness or virtue of one’s entire being.  Good perfects a person in one’s wholeness and entirety (which includes a person’s thinking and understanding) because of a union which emerges or which should emerge between two interacting components: being or reality (the being or reality of truth as this is known in judgment), and desires (or appetites) which exist within a person to incline one’s living toward actions that can realize commendable achievements and deeds.  Knowledge of being exists as only one species of achievement or deed.  Cf. De Veritate, q. 1, a. 1.  On the basis of what one finds in Aquinas, one finds a line of reasoning in Lonergan’s analysis which takes up the kind of arguments which Aquinas was making.  Good exists as a more comprehensive notion.  However, from a metaphysical perspective, as one attends to what Aquinas has to say about the primacy of being as a basic notion, one finds another line of reasoning which clearly suggests that, without being, one cannot speak about anything which is good.  In such context, it is an obvious truth to say that, outside of being, nothing exists.  Cf. Crowe, Three Thomist Studies, p. 125.  Being exists as a more comprehensive principle.  Within a world which already exists and which exists as a good, other things can be brought into being and these things also exist as goods.  In terms of a perfect equivalence between being and good, one perhaps should say that such a thing can only be found in God (who exists in a perfectly simple way as both an unrestricted act of understanding and willing).  In thinking then about the order of Lonergan’s intentionality analysis, if one takes it and if one tries to transpose it into metaphysical terms, one will probably find that being emerges as a more fundamental notion.  To resolve any questions that can arise about the priority of good or the priority of being, one best attends to how Aquinas speaks about a mutual priority which exists between being and good.