Necessity of a New Kind of Thinking?

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Necessity of a New Kind of Thinking?

R. Krismer,

Translation with the help of the Lonergan Institute Washington D.C.


1 Introduction

By attending to the history of science, we know about conceptual paradigm shifts which, here and there, have been occurring in human history. Discoveries and insights have arisen which have not only inserted one or more new insights into a generally recognized system of coordinates within a given field of knowledge but also, as a consequence, at the same time, formerly accepted general frames of reference have come under review and have been questioned. Points of view have shifted in a manner which now makes it possible to ask completely new questions and to entertain new solutions which, before, had not been considered or thought about. At the same time, shifts have occurred in terms of the coordinates within which human beings have viewed their history. In this connection, one can possibly speak more appropriately about a shift of horizon. Approximately 500 years before Christ, such a shift in horizon occurred. An explanation of the world that had been grounded in mythical narratives and images seemed no longer to suffice for human beings in the lives that they had to live. From ancient China down through to India and Persia and then on to Greece, we see a development as traditional myths were displaced by a new kind of rationality. Names such as Buddha, Confucius, Parmenides, and Deutero-Isaiah stood for this new way of explaining the world. About 500 years ago, a shift of horizon occurred in the wake of the breakthrough of scientific thinking. A completely new kind of rationality began its initial triumphant advance. Then, for multilayered sets of reasons, this new kind of rationality began to impose on itself a kind of self-restraint–a self-restraint which has been expressing itself since the late Middle Ages through the work of individual exponents within the intellectual life and, in time, down through the Enlightenment, this self-restraint has become the common property of educated persons within our current academic life as it exists today.

The reasoning capacity[1] of the human person exists in two ways, or perhaps one can say that it has two sides. On the one hand, a human person can reflect on himself or herself and thus, by this self-reflection, discover that one is reflecting on something which exists as a whole. In one's understanding of this, one finds that one's reasoning exists, in certain respects, in an unlimited way and that it should not be seen as something that exists in only a partial way. And then, secondly, on the other hand, a human person can discover intelligible structures within data and then verify insights. In the wake of these activities, another sphere of activities can then present itself in terms of acts of conceptualization, making, and doing.

To take but a simple example with respect to the first capacity (the ability to engage in self-reflection): the seeing eye apprehends colors and is aware of external objects but it can never see itself by an act of seeing. But, on the other hand, the thinking person always already knows itself in its every act of thinking.[2] However, blinded and dazzled as we have been by the march of scientific progress and, above all, given the success which we have enjoyed in converting our scientific insights into practical technological achievements, a displacement has occurred in our thinking as our thinking has increasingly moved toward a focus which thinks in terms of objects and the object side of things. Today, as our collective sense of humanity moves toward a greater sense of international world community, it is becoming more obvious to us how helpless is this one-sided understanding of human rationality–how helpless it is when we begin to think about all the many problems which present themselves to us and for which, at the moment, we have no solution.

The Canadian thinker, Bernard Lonergan,[3] trained as a philosopher, theologian, mathematician and physicist, offered, in his innovative and groundbreaking work, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding,[4] a comprehensible way for non-philosophers on how both capacities of the human reason could be united and brought together into a higher unity–a higher unity which points to a common denominator or a common pattern of acts which exists in all instances of thinking and inquiry and which justifies all higher orders of thinking and reasoning. On the basis thus of a simple example, we want to acquire a few basic insights for ourselves.

2 Structure of Insight

2.1 The Task

Let us put aside, for the time being, our school knowledge about geometry and put ourselves to the task of working things out to determine the conditions which account for the existence of a perfectly round circle. As implements, take a pencil and any available sheet of paper. We can perhaps thus proceed in the following way:[5]

We first draw a circle on our flat sheet. In our free hand drawing, however, the circle will not appear to be very round. But, perhaps we can place a midpoint in the center in the circle and, from there, begin to draw a number of long equal lines outward from it. The more lines we draw out, the more approximately will a round circle begin to appear. But, what, on the other hand, is a perfectly round circle? However, as we have progressed in our drawing and drawn more lines, we have perhaps arrived at the following insight. If we draw ten evenly distributed lines, we obtain a decagon. Now, while this might help us in seeking to draw a perfectly round circle, we find, in the results obtained, that we do not really have a perfectly round circle. If we draw a thousand lines, we will obtain a figure with a thousand corners. But, what would result if we could draw an infinite number of lines? But surely, this is it! Is this not the answer? With infinitely many long equal lines which radially go out from a center, we can obtain a perfectly round circle. But now, a new question immediately presents itself. How do things stand with respect to the midpoint? The solution with respect to lines only holds if the midpoint is itself perfectly round. However, as we think about this, we cannot presuppose a perfect roundness in looking for a solution that we are seeking here. However, again, after further thought and reflection, we might arrive at the following second insight. The midpoint, in itself, is something which should be seen as devoid of any width or length. Suppose that it has no dimension. And so, if it has no width or length, this would jive with what we have come to realize about the nature of the lines. The lines, as radii, can also be devoid of width or extension since, otherwise, one would not be able to return to one's conception here that is able to think about the possibility of perfect roundness (a perfectly round circle). And so, in a manner which recalls how we had formulated our first solution: a perfect circle presents itself if, on a plane or flat surface, from a point that is without dimension, we radially draw out an endless number of long equal lines which are themselves lacking in any dimension (they have no width). But, now, having done this, we pause to pose a new kind of question. With respect to the factuality of all these conditions, do they yield a totally round circle? But then, in addition, other questions present themselves with respect to the validity of our conditions within non–Euclidean geometrical systems. However, if we restrict ourselves to the limited task at hand that we have set ourselves to, we will be able to arrive at an insight which says that our enumerated conditions are actually sufficient in order for us to think about a perfectly round circle. As an historical note which may be of some interest, please note here that Euclid, the Greek mathematician, in the context of similar conditions, had already thought about the possible existence of geometrical lines and points that are devoid of any physical size or dimension.

2.2 Steps in Problem Solving

2.2.1 Experience

Let us look at the steps that we performed in solving the above problem. Given the task at hand, we moved from there to try to determine the conditions which need to be known to know exactly what is a perfectly round circle. As a precondition that had to be already in place, we first needed to start from a preliminary understanding–a pre-understanding or initial cognitive awareness about the meaning of the words "circle" and "round" and "perfect" if we are to tackle the problem at hand. This preliminary understanding did not need to be worked out. It existed or was found to be already given to us in a rather simple way. But, in seeking to solve the problem at hand (given the question that is being asked), we took a pencil in hand in order to arrive at an insight on the basis of different sketches that we could draw. Without using paper and pencil, the finding of a solution would have been much more difficult. In fact, in this case even, we would have found no solution without some kind of material which has been imagined as an aide to our thinking). By only using our minds, we would have only succeeded in generating images without any drawing on paper in order to obtain a perfectly round circle. If we now want to specify a proper designation for the preliminary datum which is present to us in our thinking–from the Latin datum meaning "the given"–we can formulate it in the following terms. Put bluntly, our human thinking always exists as an insight into data. In other words (and perhaps a bit more precisely), something material always lies ahead and before our thinking,[6] and from it, our thinking then arrives at insights. In addition, it has also to be said that the abstract thinking of a logician, a physicist, or mathematician presupposes something a material base of some kind–a material point of departure. For a mathematician admittedly, a drawing or sketch may no longer serve as a sufficient datum for one's thinking in mathematics. Instead, in such a situation, the datum would be a highly developed symbolic language.[7]

2.2.2 Understanding

When we had first drawn circles on a sheet of paper, we did not yet know how we would move toward a solution of our problem. A decisive step occurred, however, on our way forward through having an insight into the connection between a midpoint and equally long radii. This first insight into the construction of a circle, functioning as a prerequisite cognitive datum, had only then to be refined and improved upon. And so, in the course of this refinement and improvement, we arrived at a second insight with respect to a dimensionless point and an infinite number of radii which, admittedly, have length but no width. But, before proceeding any further, let us stop here and attempt to present ourselves with a dimensionless point and an infinity of radii. We try, but we cannot it. We can imagine an ever smaller point but we cannot imagine a point that is without width (which is totally lacking in any dimension). Similarly, we can imagine a further number of radii but we cannot imagine an infinite number of radii. We accordingly come to a new step or stage because our ability to think exceeds our sensuous powers of imagination, although this imaginative ability remains as a datum which exists alongside (or in conjunction) with our thinking. The "going beyond“ which occurs and results and which transcends anything that we can imagine does not arbitrarily happen since what has happened here emerges from our need to think about a perfectly round circle. The having or grasping of an insight into something which exists in a material way is a step or stage that we can refer to as understanding or intellection–from the Latin intelligere meaning "to see inwardly" or "to read inwardly."

2.2.3 Reflective Judgment

In the first step of our search and inquiry, we found a datum, something which exists as a precondition for our thinking. Then, in the second step, we attended to this material. We looked into the material in order to obtain insights which could possibly fulfill conditions that are needed if we are to have and know what is a perfectly round circle. At this point thus, on a two-dimensional level, we have arrived at a result[8]. But now, in the following question which is directed to the result, we enter a third step in our journey. For the first time now, we encounter the reflective performance of our human reasoning. In this third step, we no longer directly search for additional, new insights into data since now we return, as it were, to the first and second steps and ask ourselves a new question: in our solution, have we have truly fulfilled all the conditions which make for a perfectly round circle? If again, before our eyes in our construction, we can produce an infinite number of radii from and with a midpoint that is lacking in any dimension, we can then say to ourselves that, within a context of meaning that is determined by the parameters of Euclidean geometry, we have found all the sufficient conditions which make for a perfectly round circle.

A simple example from everyday life may again clarify what these three steps are. On our way to work we catch a glimpse someone's face. Suddenly, a question presents itself to us: have we not just seen Mr. X? Is this not Mr. X? But, in the reflection which follows our questioning here, at the end we conclude that the person encountered cannot have been the Mr. X that we know because this Mr. X that we know is currently away on a journey and so we could not have just now seen him on our way to work. By attending thus to this cognitional incident, we notice three steps or stages in the order or structure of human knowing. The datum of a sensation–step one–is prerequisite for asking any questions. The search for answers to the question which presents itself (as in, have we not just seen Mr. X?) distinguishes step two. In this step, an awakening of intellectual life occurs within a person. The object now is understanding–an experience of understanding. Then, in step three, in deliberative reflection, one tries to respond to a question which asks if all relevant conditions have been fulfilled so that one can validly and properly say that we have probably not just seen Mr. X now on the street. The kind of answer which is given, as step three draws to its close, will be one that depends on the rationality or the compelling power of the proof which exists in the evidence that is at hand and which can be found-evidence with a meaning which says that, in fact, Mr. X is abroad and not at home.

2.2.4 Knowledge in three steps – Experience – Insight – Reflective Judgment

Not only do these three steps manifest an external structure which can be exhibited on the basis of a few freely chosen examples but, at the same time, it can be shown that these three steps express or point to an internal reality which refers to the life and activity of the human spirit (something which exists from within a person). The human thinking which exists within one moves one toward engaging in these three steps. A datum of sense wants to be penetrated or seeped with some kind of intelligible pattern. The human spirit is not satisfied with itself if it only lives within sensible impressions and knows nothing more. The solutions which arise from experiences of intelligibility yearn for some kind of confirmation. They want to find themselves again within conclusions which arise as a consequence of reflective judgments. These modes of functioning within human thinking beautifully show themselves in the spontaneous questions of children. As soon as a child bumps into something that is unknown to it–a datum of sense–, the child asks: What is that? Why is that so? And, in the third step, a child asks: Is that really so? Can it be so, etc.? If one looks at the findings of developmental psychology, one can see that it can stipulate exactly the age when the thinking of a child awakens to a point that it can ask "what?" questions belonging to the second step, and "is it so?" questions belonging to the third step. In the further development of a person, two additional steps can be averted to and identified.[9] However, for the sake of simplicity, we content ourselves with speaking about these three steps which we have identified and we ask ourselves what we have obtained as a result. As a matter of fact thus, we know about these questions that are posed by children and we also know that every scientist always thinks and knows by engaging in these three steps. A scientist searches for intelligibility within something having a material nature; he constructs and articulates hypotheses; and then he attempts to verify or falsify his hypothetical conclusions. And so, in considering these matters, a new question presents itself. After having explored these three steps, what can we take from it? What is the possible benefit for us given the insight which we have had that the process of gaining knowledge in any field is always a procedure which consists of these three steps-experiencing, understanding, and judging?

2.3 Theory and Practical Understanding in Daily Life

As human beings, we all know a number of anecdotal stories about absentminded scientists which reveal a common pattern amongst them: a scientist, on the one hand, is able to solve the most difficult of equations but, on the other hand, he is unable to tie the laces on his own shoes. Behind such harmless and humorous anecdotes, a contrast presents itself in terms of a sharp cleavage between theoretical thinking, on one side, and everyday practical thinking, on the other–a contrast that can impede the progress of a culture if the different representatives who belong to each side are increasingly unable to understand what the representatives of the other side are saying and doing. A highly complex culture lives from an interaction–if different layers of theory and praxis in everyday life are able to fertilize each other in a reciprocal and mutual way. Such a situation obviously best works when representatives belonging to the world of theory and everyday praxis gradually know more and more about each other's manner of thinking. However, in the midst of these complexities, how does theory differ from common sense? When a housewife, for instance, thinks about how she should best deal with the current tasks of a given day which need to be addressed and resolved, she does not differ in principle from the thinking of a physicist who must carefully attend to phenomenal and material data in order to gain some new insights. A thinking which arrives at conclusions on the basis of observations which say that the earth circles about the sun does not basically differ from the thinking of a Stone Age farmer who, after making his own observations, would draw conclusions about the brightness of sun's light and when he should best plant his seeds if they are to yield their maximum growth. Our neolithic farmer, admittedly, would hardly understand what a physicist would want to prove to him in terms of saying that the earth moves around the sun. For the farmer, the daily experience of the sun's rising is just too obvious. It is too indisputable. However, later, if, up from a certain age, when we have been educated to realize that, yes, the earth turns around the sun–can we then conclude that our language has incorrectly spoken about a rising of the sun? What does all this say about the probity of our human language?[10] However, as we turn to Lonergan's reflections about these matters, what we actually do in our thinking allows us to understand and recognize what is both common and what is different in the understanding which occurs in theory and praxis. In thinking itself, the difference between theory and praxis does not exist. It is only with regard to a different frame of reference that one can speak about a difference. Let us recall the construction of a circle. We recognized a number of constructive elements which are constitutive in belonging to a circle–a midpoint and a radius–and we aligned these elements with each other in an ongoing series of new variations. But, this is what theory is all about! This is what is to be found in theoretical operations. Within the material that one works with, one determines a set of basic elements–a midpoint and a radius (in the example that we are using here) and then one determines precisely what relations exist between these elements in a manner which then allows one to express one's insights in an unambiguous definition so that one's insight can begin to serve as building blocks that can lead to new insights. On the other hand, our neolithic farmer and the housewife that we have spoken about both look at the world from a perspective that is determined by the practical purposes of daily living and the need to find one's way within very many circumstances. A physicist asks about the relation between heat and evaporation with respect to the life of a fluid–a relation about how the different elements relate to each other. But, on the other hand, in the context of daily life and with respect to another relation of elements, a housewife asks about how long it will take to cook a meal and if the food that she is preparing will be appreciated by her family. With respect to the rising of the sun, the physicist and our Stone Age farmer are both right in their understanding of things provided we admit that each is thinking with a different frame of reference. In knowing about this difference and by adverting to it, it becomes possible to know about the strengths and weaknesses of theory and praxis and so see how things stand. However, after saying all this, a disturbing questions remains. Why has theoretical thinking led us to such a dead end? Why, in our day, have we not benefitted more richly from its notable and startling advances?

3 A Narrowing in Theoretical Thinking

The transition from myth to a higher degree at rationality corresponded to a multilayered need which exists among human persons. On the one hand, a desire existed for wanting to engage in activities that can possibly lead to insight (to growth in understanding) whenever this can occur (whether in mathematics or in astronomy). In any discipline, a desire can be identified which refers to a pure desire for the joy of experiencing acts of understanding–a desire which does not exist principally to meet any religious or practical purposes. Then, at the same time or on the other hand, rational thinking is increasingly required as varying forms of trade, warfare, and living become more complex (both in themselves and in terms of how they relate with each other). The meaning of theoretical thinking for the acceleration of progress within the western world cannot be viewed too highly. Long before the triumphant advance of theoretical thinking within modern science, theoretical thinking effected leaps of development within philosophy and theology. As one accordingly looks at the history of this development and its major contributors, one encounters Aristotle and discovers that he was the first person to turn his mind toward a systematic resolution of theoretical problems within philosophy. In the high Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas takes the method of Aristotle and, by refining and adapting it, he constructs a new methodological base for the practice of theology (theology as faith seeking understanding). A theology of the Trinity arises only if a theologian is able to transcend images and to think only and purely in terms of relations within the Trinity. In a kind of parallel, in the physics of our day we can see how a quantum physicist is able to transcend images and attend only to the relations which exist within his quantum equations. And so, at this point, we pause as a question presents itself, a question which arises in the course of our reflections. Why, in the course of modern times, has theoretical thinking led to the results which it has produced? If we think about Aristotle and Aquinas, both knew about the basic principles of reason and, by using them, they knew how to grasp the movement of the stars and the movements of the plants and the movement of thinking as this occurs within the human soul. Both thinkers were able to think about the whole which is revealed whereby, through self-reflection and self-understanding, one's understanding can think about itself in a manner which can move toward an understanding of understanding.

The narrowing of theoretical thinking within our modern age is not explained by the nature of theoretical thinking. If it had been, Aristotle would not have been able to come to a comprehensive theory which could account for the life of the highest reason and which also account for the principle of movement as this exists with respect to stones. The narrowing which we refer to is explained by reasons which have to do the history of the human spirit-reasons which are very multilayered and which have yet to be fully clarified and understood. The Middle Ages had understood itself as a continuation and as a completion of Antiquity. The Church Fathers had no difficulties in seeing Plato or Aristotle as harbingers of Christianity. But, on the other hand and from the onset, modern times have defined themselves in opposition to the heritage of classic philosophy as this has come down to us from antiquity and the Middle Ages. An additional reason which can be adverted to is one which points to the split between subject and object in modern philosophy. The three steps which are revealed by an act of understanding which can distinguish between experience, insight, and reflective judgment were torn apart in favor of one of these steps and to the exclusion of the others. In all empiricist philosophies, insights are reduced to experience. In rationalist philosophies, by a converse form of reduction, everything is reduced to the inner intellectual life which exists in a person's mind. And then, through the different currents which exist in constructionalism and by reducing all things to judgment, it is believed that human beings can create themselves independently of what may be given to them in terms of external conditions.

Now, as we think about these theoretical subtleties among natural scientists, we find that these subtleties tend to remain strange to them. They are usually not attended to nor thought about. So impressively has scientific and technical thinking moved from one scientific insight to another that the main currents of philosophy and the human sciences have all adjusted themselves to the method of science. Hence, today we stand before a salient fact. A human being has so objectified himself in terms of the knowledge which has come to surround him that he no longer knows himself as a subject.

3.1 Knowledge of the Subject about Itself

What meant is by statements which say that the human person no longer knows about himself as a subject? Every scientist, for instance, knows about himself that, as a subject, he is the doer of his own inquiries and research. Every psychologist, who really wants to prove that the human person is not a free being, also knows about himself as a subject, and that he can perhaps provide this proof or perhaps this other proof or argument for the argument that he wants to make. In seeking thus to delve and clarify these matters, we will first initially look at the relation which exists between part and whole and then go from there.

If, in a fruit salad, we see slices of an orange, we immediately know that what we see are parts of an orange. Is it also the case, if the following task is given to us, that we can join together into a meaningful whole the fragments of many documents which remain after they have been torn into many pieces by a paper shredder? On the one hand, we would know about the whole which is in question that it refers to what remains after one or more documents have been shredded. But, on the other hand, we would not know about the whole which refers to the individual parts. We would not know which parts should be properly assigned to a given document (rather than some other document). Perhaps, in searching for how we could allocate here this piece with another piece, we could examine whether parts differ from one another on the basis of the type of paper fiber. Or, perhaps another criterion could be the style or configuration of the printed type. Without a criterion for organizing things in terms of lower and higher units, it would not be possible to master the task of joining all the parts into a coherent whole or unity. As this example accordingly clearly indicates, we cannot recognize a whole without understanding and knowing its parts and, at the same time, we cannot organize and coordinate parts without a knowledge of wholes. The two go together (the way of analysis and the way of synthesis).

The following question now arises. What do our thoughts about the mutual dependence between part and whole (what is called a hermeneutic circle) have to do with our statement which says that a person no longer knows about himself although such a person very probably knows about himself that he is the subject (the doer) of an investigation? This question, as stated, suggests that knowledge about a person as a subject is a different species of knowledge which is to be contrasted with all other kinds of knowledge. To speak of this difference metaphorically, man has shifted his knowledge about himself towards the periphery of a circle. To be sure, he knows that he himself is the author of all this knowledge. However, he is not able to critically ground his self-knowledge as he is able to do with reference to the midpoint of a circle. For a long time, as long as a tradition is able to sustain and carry how a person is thinking and understanding, the absence of thinking in terms of self-knowledge will not present itself as a deficiency. However, as we think about these matters, we find that the current mediating functions of our western intellectual tradition (in terms of how think and understand things) is now facing dissolution and a measure of self-destruction. This deficiency will become manifest all the more as mankind is faced with a historical situation where a rational grounding of the human person will become more and more necessary (if we to transcend our current state of difficulties). In our inquiry here, let us look at our modern society with respect to three important constitutive pillars. Let us look at our legal system, our current economic order, and how science and technology are interacting with each other. Let us look for any needs or requirements that need to be attended to with respect to these three primary sectors.

3.1.1 Law and Justice

In specifically different forms which have been expressed over time, basic laws about fundamental rights have arisen in the wake of the Enlightenment and Anglo-Saxon notions about the Rule of Law. German constitutional law specifically vouches for the inviolability of human dignity (article 1).[11] No legislator can possibly define and establish what are the basic rights and what is the dignity of a human person. However, everything depends on what concept of man is being presupposed by a lawgiver at any given time how the administration of justice is acted. If, for instance, in a given situation human rights should no longer apply to all manner and class of persons within our society, part of the population will cease to have any real legal protection. Through such situations thus, as inherited notions about human dignity are gradually being undermined, agreements about the scope and depth of human rights will begin to waver and increasingly come under scrutiny. Explanations which attend to human beings from the side of the object (or, in other words, where explanations regard human beings as objects), they work from a position that is not able to speak about the inviolability of the human dignity. With the logic of such explanations, only a lesser difference exists between primates and persons than any difference which exists between an infant and an adult.[12] On the one hand, someone speaks about the difference between a life that is worth living and one that is not worth living and then, on the other hand, someone speaks about criteria which need to be invoked in order to speak about this difference: criteria which refer to the maximizing of external goods and the reducing of suffering if human life is to have a purpose which comes with an acceptable price. In such a situation thus, from the context of such a perspective, it is no longer unthinkable and without reason for a judicial system to make use of torture as a means for determining truths which could be of interest to the state.

3.1.2 Economics

In the self-regulation[13] which one finds in economic activity, a science is needed which, in a strictly methodical fashion, would be able to investigate and sift out all the mechanisms and forces that are constitutive of economic activity within the marketplace. However, as one thinks about economic management as a species of human activity which works to properly achieve a human good, one soon realizes that, in the long run, economic management does not exist purely for its own aggrandizement but for the sake of effecting the common good of all persons who live within a given economic order. Even economists who have been mainly guided by the self-interest of the economic order have been increasingly saying to one another that, today, all wealthy industrial nations need to practice voluntary self-restraint in their economic activity and in making economic demands. Voluntary self-restraint is needed because of problems which have been created by a growing scarcity in natural resources and by difficulties which have been encountered in the distribution of these scarce resources. However, as one attends to the kinds of arguments which are being used by economists, one finds that their insights about the importance of voluntary self-restraint are caused less by worry about a growing scarcity of raw materials and the problems of finding suitable replacements than they are caused by worries about the financial costs: costs directly related to shortages in raw materials, costs related to finding new technological substitutes, and costs related to what the consequences would be for development in developing countries. These countries would always be achieving results that would be at a lower vantage point.[14] They would be less able to contribute to the development of the world economy and so, on the basis of these economic considerations, it is decided that these consequences are not desirable. From a point of view that is determined by considerations of justice, this would be simply unjust.[15]

Such self- restraint, however, is not justifiable in a society that, to a large extent, decides and determines what is common for it according to criteria which applies to requirements that are set by desires for unending enjoyments and increases in material prosperity. The argument which says that, in the long run, the undirected prosperity of the world community best leads to one's own prosperity, seems to lose its cogency the more it appears to be the case that fewer and fewer persons are able to share in these promises in the context of their lives and in the context of any life expectations which may be enjoyed. Material self-restraint for the benefit of others can only be justified in the long run on the basis of an understanding which acknowledges the justice of the fact that all persons share in the same basic rights. One's fellow man has the same rights as those which one also has. However, a way of thinking which considers human beings from their object side (as if they existed as external objects and not as subjects) is not able to be of much help with respect to the kind of understanding which is now needed.

3.1.3 Science

In the Renaissance we see a remarkable development. Branches of science which had given themselves a very rational formation in the course of the late Middle Ages were suddenly falling into esoteric and irrational apprehensions of meaning. Through and from a collapse in the medieval conception of the world, a need emerged for new coordinates of meaning. The order of nature presented itself as a new general orientation (as a new model) for understanding things. By means of the natural sciences and the way that one engages in these natural sciences, one discovers the wisdom of nature. In the wake of pressures that were exerted from desires for meaning, these natural sciences exceeded their proper range (the proper scope of their inquiry as this was determined by their proper methodology) and so, in an unfounded and uncritical way, it was concluded that a partial knowledge of things should be equated with an adequate and full knowledge of the same things. However, the consequence was a backward step into irrationality and today we see the initial stages of a similar development. As the number of persons lessens who are able to move toward a more meaningful understanding of things, more is needed from the development of science and technology as a means of filling out the gaps that are created by our desire for increases in meaning. Thus today, for example, the branches of sciences which exist in biology and medicine have become joined to expectations of well-being which have meanings that are more or less religious despite a lack of rational justification. It is therefore thoroughly in the interests of all the exact sciences that a tradition of thinking should be encouraged which reflects about the whole which is accessible to reason in order to be able to indicate to human beings what conditions are properly constitutive of human history and of the life of the universe within which human beings live and have their being.

3.1.4 Struggles within Cultures

Another word needs to be said in view of questions raised by the presence of religions and the question of religion. We know today about different cultural battles which are being fought about the meaning of key words which are being used as slogans within a given cultural matrix and most especially, in this respect, are we familiar with talk about an essential incompatibility that exists between secular western culture, on the one hand, and certain forms of Islam, on the other, which have assumed a definite cultural shape and mode of expression. As the inevitability of these struggles increasingly comes to light within western cultures, the more clearly does a sense of helplessness present itself in terms of how one should try to find some kind of solution. The disentanglement of religion from politics emerged as the consequence of an important achievement in the history of European jurisprudence. In the course of the Wars of Religion[16] in the 17th century, the insight grew among many men and women that it is not task of politics to decide questions which ask about the reality of ultimate truths. Instead, more humbly, it belongs to politics that it should act to create a basis for lasting peace and justice so that individuals living within a given society should be able to live by the truths which their conscience recommends to them. However, as we have come to sense and realize, the living out of such a policy can only continue as long as fundamental social agreement exists about the existence of basic rights that all share in and which all persons must recognize. However, as we have already noted, it is impossible to establish grounds for rational consent if human beings are understood from a viewpoint which thinks of them from the side of the object[17] and not as subjects.

4 The Foundations of Theoretical Thinking – Interiority

As over time human beings have gradually come to realize that mythical apprehensions of meaning are not truly sufficient if one is to go on to live a truly good life, today an awareness is gradually growing which also senses an analogous insufficiency that exists with respect to theoretical apprehensions of meaning where, as it were, as a consequence of it, human beings disappear from view. At a certain point in human history, human beings living within mythical consciousness began to press for a further development of their rational human capacities. But, in this journey, a question immediately arises which asks about the next step. What is the next step to take in the development of our human rationality given the requirements which present themselves in terms of both the present and the future? How can an order be found within our fragmented knowledge of things (a fragmentation which has been caused by the workings of our theoretical reason)? How can a whole be thought to which all parts can be brought into a relation with each other?

Should we evoke or conjure up a new myth in order to attain a new horizon of meaning? This question becomes more urgent and more painful if we hold ourselves up before our eyes and see how much and how greatly a cultural vacuum has arisen in the wake of a breakdown which has occurred with respect to traditional views of the world and man and which, in our history, has spawned a number of powerful ideological developments. Various forms of nationalism, fascism, national socialism and historical materialism have all been imposing themselves as replacements of meaning and, to an amazing extent, they have conquered the hearts and minds of many persons in both their everyday thinking about the meaning of life and with respect to how one should engage in theoretical thinking.[18]

Myths successfully give persons a compact interpretation of things with respect to what may be happening from the heavens above to the earth below. But, these interpretations only work for persons if, in some way, persons are living within their myths. A rationality, however, which begins to reflect about myths dissolves a mythical conception of the world.[19] However, a new conception of life cannot be attained by taking any backward steps but only through an increase in rationality whereby, through the rationality of theoretical reasoning, theoretical reason is able to understand itself from its center or root. How then can such a development be attained?

4.1 The Move toward Interiority

Since we already suggested the direction wherein we should move–it remains for us now to unfold what we have indicated through a number of hints and sketches. A look at the shift in coordinates as this marks the beginnings of modern physics is possibly of some help here. In the physics of Newton, space was thought of as an infinite, empty, and immovable container within the heavenly bodies were able to move in a manner which could be indicated by referring to coordinates. However, in the physics of Einstein, such a conception does not exist. A new system of reference comes from an insight which grasps that physical quantities exist in a certain relation to each other. In the well known formula E = mc2, the speed of light presents itself as a constant, although not as a static whole but as part of a structure of relations.

In a similar way, the horizon of meaning which once existed in a society and which has endured in layers of the population up to our days has come across as some kind of static entity from which particular meanings are derived and, with these meanings, a conjoined hierarchy of values. However, this horizon of meaning, has not shown itself to be a constant for human beings but as something which exists as a variable in human history and which can be dissolved as historical conditions change and undergo alteration. The dissolution which we have known of our inherited world views and idea of man has also acted to free a number of positive historical forces although this freeing, as an unfortunate consequence, has revealed also a potentially lethal susceptibility which is open to the influence of ideologies or the influence of ideological movements. And, in the main, as we look at the situation, we find that the positive forces which have been unleashed have not shown themselves to be too adequate in forming a firm foundation for adequately dealing with many major problems which have been presenting themselves in our present day. Such a foundation cannot exist as some kind of static system (functioning as a frame of reference) but as a surety that would order a general structure of relations. However, where or how does this structure of relations exist with regard to a horizon of meaning? In thinking about this question, let us recall the aforementioned example of the circle and the three steps which we performed in looking for a solution to the problem that we were trying to resolve.

Under theory (whenever we engage in any theoretical form of reasoning), we seek to discover basic elements within a set of material conditions which would allow us to exactly specify relations which exist among these elements and which would then allow us to express our insights in clear, unambiguous definitions so that they could be used as building blocks for later insights. If, however, we speak about a structure of relations in connection with a horizon of meaning,[20] a question arises. Do we not fall back to a level of theory without attending to another level of rationality which transcends theory? On the one hand thus, we do not want to shun the advantages of theoretical thinking and yet, on the other hand, we also want to move toward a new basis or foundation for thinking.

Let us think here about the two sides of reasoning which exist here. One refers to our ability to engage in self-reflection: to reflect about our ability to engage in acts of understanding and reflection. The other refers to our ability to gain insights with respect to an object or to be able to construct objects. Let us ask further questions. Do we experience ourselves when constructing a circle as the midpoint of a circle? Do we experience ourselves, at the same time, as a radius? In doubting Einstein's formula, do we experience ourselves as the square of the speed of light? Certainly not.

However, do we experience ourselves as experiencing in these activities? Do we experiences ourselves as knowing and judging? If we respond negatively to these questions, a contradiction will present itself between our denial as this is given in an assertion and our denial as this is given in our cognitive performance because, in our statement of denial, we are experiencing ourselves again as thinking and judging. And so, a further question arises. What are we seeking through the questions that we are asking? The difference in the relation which exists between the elements of a circle or in those which exist in Einstein's formula and in the relation which exists among the elements that are constitutive of our aforementioned three steps simply lies in the fact that we come to the first relation by way of its existing as an object while, with the second, we apprehend a second kind of relation by reflecting about the mode of operation which exists in our thinking. And, if we have any doubts about this mode of operation, in a precise manner, we can carry out or perform what we are doubting in the activity of our doubting. In our doubting, we experience ourselves again as experiencing, thinking, and knowing–if we allow ourselves to reflect on our acts of doubting. In the context of uncovering the structure of our thinking, Lonergan speaks about interiority as a distinct stage or sphere of meaning. In our self-reflection, we can come to know about its structures (structures which we can verify within ourselves).

The discovery of this structure resembles a similar discovery which had occurred with the earlier discovery of logic. We know that Aristotle formulated the laws of logic for the first time in a somewhat comprehensive manner. However, long before Aristotle explicitly formulated any of these laws, human beings were already thinking and functioning according to these laws of logic. A handbook about the rules of logic cannot be seen as an essential precondition which first needs to be met before any human being can begin to think in a logical way. A biologist, for instance, can function as a biologist without having to be trained in logic although one cannot do any of the formal sciences[21] (as one finds these, for instance, in formal logic or mathematics) without being trained in logic. In the same way then, since time immemorial, human thinking has always occurred through a structure of the three interrelated steps which we have been looking at and talking about. However, as we begin to advert to how Lonergan methodically spoke about this structure or mode of operation as it exists within human cognition, we can now begin to organize all the various fields and kinds of human thinking and knowing which exist. We can begin to organize them in a newer, more critical way.

4.1.1 Transcendental Precepts

An initial question presents itself. What do we gain by unearthing what relations exist as we move into interiority? For individual fields of knowledge, the consequences and conclusion are extensive and far reaching. For the moment, we must be content with only a couple of references. If we know, for instance, that human beings always carry out the same steps in responsibly seeking solutions for problems as these are encountered–the same steps whether one is a workman, a physicist, a psychologist, a philosopher or a theologian working in one's area of expertise–, we can formulate a rule whose fulfillment is the condition for responsible thinking. Because this rule is restricted neither to ordinary, everyday thinking nor to any field of theoretical thinking, Lonergan is able to speak about transcendental rules or transcendental precepts. In a simple formulation, these rules[22] can be read and understood as follows:

·     Be attentive–collect materials which suffice for solving a problem!

·     Be intelligent–investigate sufficiently the what and why questions which apply to solving a problem in any given field!

·     Be reflective–try to verify any answers given to what or why questions by referring to one's materials!

In thinking then about these precepts, if we know that we are not dealing with conventional rules which have been purposefully created in order to accomplish a limited objective–as is found, for example, in rules which say that "when a light turns green, cross the street" and that "when a light turns, red, stay in your place"–if, instead, we know that we are dealing with rules which must be observed if our thinking is to conduct itself in a manner which is always correct, then we have obtained a highly useful diagnostic tool which will allow us to solve any kind of difficult problem which can come upon us in the course of our human lives.

Let us recall to mind and imagine again the questions of a child. A child in his or her curiosity and attentiveness, in posing what and why questions and asking is-it-so questions is revealing, as it were, a dynamics that grounds the meaning of these precepts. Whoever constantly refuses answers to the questions of a child can be held responsible for the fact that the thinking of a child will not develop and unfold in a good and right way. What a child is able to do by him or herself in terms of always being attentive and in then seeking answers for what and why questions and is-it-so questions which are being posed, an adult must similarly do if, as an adult, one is to live in a truly human way. By a means which leads to the solution of problems, it can be determined on what level an adult has come to a stop in the dynamics of his inner development. Is a person shielding himself from possibly having certain experiences? Is a person not interested in having certain insights? Is a person afraid of engaging in acts of reflective understanding? What applies to individuals also applies to groups and cultures. A given culture, in its self-consciousness, can impede and obstruct its own progress and development if it blocks certain necessary experiences and insights, or if it refuses to make certain judgments that it needs to make. Within cultures, there are movements which align themselves according to the dynamics of these precepts and who contribute to the progress of history, and there are groups who suppress this dynamic as it exists within themselves and so they become a cause of decline and lack of progress.

At this point now and by way of summary, we suggest how the workings of theoretical thinking can be reconciled with policies that are current in our modern culture today. Let us see how this can be done by adverting to interiority and by trying to fruitfully unearth its meaning as a distinct stage or sphere of meaning.

4.1.2 Purpose in itself – Founding basic rights

With respect to the following considerations, the course of our thoughts grows in steepness and difficulty. Whoever prefers a more peaceful and easy approach can omit this section.

We have concluded that, with the dissolution of inherited notions about who and what a human being is, the foundations of basic rights has become something that is now subject to fluctuations. And so, a question is asked. How can a foundation be secured for basic human rights? The following train of reasoning accordingly points out a possible direction for us.

As a last step that we had taken to determine the nature of a circle, we had asked a question about whether or not all conditions making for a perfectly round circle had been fulfilled. We found that, at least with respect to the task placed before us, some conditions making for a round circle are already given (they are already verified) through the relations which we have found and discovered. Yet, immediately, new further questions present themselves. How can terms such as "radial" and "plane" be more clearly understood and expressed? Today, modern logic and mathematics understand themselves as axiomatic systems which have arisen from a number of simple axioms that cannot be proved. In the natural sciences, one only speaks about certainty with respect to one's insights if one is operating within a closely defined field. Hypotheses rank among themselves only in terms of a greater or a lesser degree of probability. Every science runs into difficulties to the degree that each tries to validate the existence of its own field of research. Physics looks for intelligible structures within matter but not for a proof of existence of matter.

When we attend to ourselves in terms of our activities that are given in experiencing, understanding, and judging, and as these activities become the matter about which we ask what/why questions and is-it-so questions[23], we make two astonishing discoveries. A little while ago, we had noticed that an eye sees objects but it cannot see itself. Only in a mirror is an eye able to see itself as an object. The thinking which occurs about a circle as an object is concerned with an object and so it follows that it is not concerned with itself (which would occur if one's thinking were to occur in a reflective manner). However, the thinking which occurs in self-reflection discovers a certain species of certainty about itself. In the mode of the reflection which exists in self-reflection, we perceive in our acts of experiencing, questioning, thinking, and judging a certitude which exists within us as we engage in these acts of experiencing, questioning, thinking, and judging. The certitude which exists within us about ourselves in such acts always already exists as a hidden ground which accounts for our doing. But, it is only through our reflective thinking that we have a bending backward on the self which brings this concealed ground into a clear light–a clear light which refers to an intelligibility that is revealed in a word.

The second astonishing discovery lies in the fact that any thinking that is done by us about external objects is, as a rule, easier than any kind of thinking that attends to itself even if this thinking is closer to itself. The more closely we move toward thinking and reflecting about ourselves, the more we tend not to want to walk in the steps of rationality (as this applies to ourselves). A possible reason for this probably lies in the fact that the insights which we have obtained with respect to the relations which exist connecting a midpoint and a radius and a curve have hardly any implications for us with respect to insights that can come to us from reflection about ourselves and what we do as human subjects. Admittedly the fact of a clear awareness of ourselves about ourselves might come across as rather banal to a person of everyday life. Yet, as soon as growth in understanding and knowledge is achieved in this area, with respect to the intellectual and ethical implications, a quantum leap occurs in terms of appropriating what it means for us to exist as human beings.[24]

The certainty which exists in one's sense of self as a cognitive thinker and knower presents its wondrousness more clearly if one looks at it from a historical perspective. We earlier noted that it was amongst the Greeks for the first time that thinking in mathematics was done not for other purposes but for the sake of mathematics itself. We earlier noted that it was amongst the Greeks for the first time that thinking in mathematics became abstract (working not for purposes other than mathematics but for the sake of mathematics itself). Similarly, a good scientist is distinguished from other scientists by the fact that understanding is sought purely for the joy that comes with it. An unrestricted striving for understanding and knowledge grounds one's inquiries and research. But, it was only in the 20th Century, after a long prehistory,[25] that interiority was first opened up and exposed with respect to all its different layers and its implications.

As long as the reasons which explain our actions remain hidden and do not become conscious and as long as their implications are not methodically unfolded and brought to light, what before could be formulated now easily falls out of view: the purposiveness of our freedom and even the certainty of our sense of self in the actions that we perform ceases to be something that we are aware of. But, the thinking which reflects back on itself finds certainty of itself in this activity.

Let us call to mind again now two possibilities about reason and the functioning of our human reason. In the development of one of these possibilities, the object of thinking is an external object. One's thinking attends to matter in order to look for some kind of intelligible pattern within it and then, in a third step, it tries to come up with an explanation which can account for the probity or the certitude of one's concluding judgment. However, with respect to the other possibility and the question of its development, the object of one's thinking is now the activity of one's experiencing, thinking, and judging. In this matter–the performance of experiencing, thinking, and judging (what one is doing in one's cognitive acts),–this second kind of thinking discovers intelligible patterns–for example, the three steps which are operative in coming to have an insight and knowledge–and achieves in a concluding step–in a reflective judgment about oneself–a certainty which refers to one's self.

This explicit self-certainty which one can come to in self-knowledge does not exist as an incidental determination of one's human thinking[26] since, in contrast with any kind of knowing that seeks to know about other objects, this kind of thinking exists as a fundamental unearthing of the structure of human reason. In whatever kind of reasoning that any human being engages in, this knowledge about one's being as a knower always exists implicitly as a general background and source. It always accompanies one's cognitive activity (wherever or however this cognitive activity exists). Without it, a person would fall under the complete sway of objects which would be the several objects of one's activities and one would soon cease to exist as a center of activity. A person experiences his or her own doing and thinking. To this extent then, one can say that this layer of activity which exists in our implicit self-knowledge serves as a basic reason or motive which accounts for our human doing and acting. But, if, in addition, a person can move into an explicit form of self-certainty that would exist in itself (as a first principle or primary foundation for every other kind of knowing), having its own purpose[27] or function as a point of departure for all other kinds of thinking and as a point of return for one thinking, then this explicit form of self-certainty would exist as an explication which refers to foundations of human reason that, in some way, are operative in all the reasoning activities which human beings engage in.

From here it is only one more small step[28] in order to establish human rights on a firm foundation although, admittedly, many intermediate measures need to be attended to. What has meaning and purpose in itself as a basic determination of reason may not be used simply as a means for an end (for another purpose). On this basis or from the viewpoint of such a perspective, an ethics can be developed which would lead to a number of important insights which, in turn, would put utilitarian and deontological ethics on a firm foundation.

4.1.3 Arrangement of the Sciences

In their increasingly limited fields of research (as scientific study and research has become more specialized), to the degree that scientists seriously take up their individual tasks, all of them thoroughly adhere to what is required of them with respect to the aforementioned transcendental precepts. However, these precepts are violated if insights belonging to a given field of study are ordered to insights that belong to other fields of knowledge having to do with human life. What we want to say here, however, will become clearer if we try to look at the question of gradations as this applies to the manifold which exists if one attends to all the different sciences.

A chemist enters into his research material with questions which can no longer be solved with insights that come from physics although, as a grounding for chemistry, one finds a conformity which exists with respect to physical natural laws. A cell biologist similarly enters into his research field with questions that cannot be solved with insights borrowed from physics nor with insights borrowed from chemistry although biological processes cease to exist if the intelligibility of chemical and physical laws is no longer operative. Hence, as we think about these problems, we see that the sciences in a graduated manner. Stages arise within the order of science as a consequence of the fact that, at a certain point (within a given science), questions will arise which cannot be solved by appealing to insights that belong to any preceding science. A need emerges for finding a method which is appropriate for dealing successfully with its own specific materials of research within its own field of research.

With respect to human beings, however, we find something that cannot be explained through the insights of either physics, chemistry, biology or psychology. Our tradition expresses the uniqueness of the human being by ascribing reason[29] to it, and by speaking about a being who is blessed with spirit. Being speaks. It communicates itself in some way. Thus, nothing obscure is being intended but simply the fact that human beings experience themselves as beings who cannot be explained by sciences that are determined by a focus on outer objects and which demands that one must try to develop methodologies which correspond with the kind of experience that properly belongs to this type of science. Hence, as a result, in this context, a human being learns to reflect about him or herself as a thinking being with the possibility of being able to reflect about oneself and so see that one's actions exist in a way which shows that one is a being of freedom and responsibility. Here, one's reason in its openness exists not only as the fruit of one's thinking but, at the same time, it also exists as the expression of the fact that one's reason exists as the chief principle of design for living a truly human life. In one's reasoning, one knows guilt and a sense of debt. Yet, is it truly the case that a human being is a thinking being blessed with a free nature? In order, however, to be able to ask this question, through a decision, a human being must begin to put his or her intellectual power into motion. In the performance of asking and answering questions, a person then begins to experience himself or herself as someone who already exists as a thinking being with a free nature.[30] As no physicist can prove the material of his investigation but, instead, takes certain materials as a point of departure for his research whereby he arrives at certain insights and then again turns to this material for purposes of verification, in the same way, strictly speaking, no human being can prove[31] the experience of his or her own thinking nor prove the freedom of his or her actions. However, this self-experience does serve as material for further research in a science which has worked out an adequate method for it.

If we undertake a kind of journey now which goes through the different sciences, from the viewpoint of our perspective in the inquiry that we have been conducting, we will always encounter two common errors that are not compatible with correct methodical procedure and which can thus be viewed as violations of the transcendental precepts that we have been referring to. Among scientists who are highly regarded as experts within their respective fields, many of them are inclined to overvalue the insights which they enjoy in their given special disciples. Sometimes, insights belonging to one field of study in a given science are seen as properly applicable to human life in an absolute sense. Some scientists propose statements about things which they would probably not propose if they were to strictly adhere to the methodology which properly belongs to their given fields of scientific expertise. However, by espousing positions which they regard as scientific (which are not truly scientific, lacking in critical ground), the result is an irrational combination. Scientific knowledge about things is joined with base opinion. And so, as scientists fasten onto insights belonging to one science and not another, they end up engaging in methodologies which do not properly apply in a given inquiry. They begin to withdraw from a more adequate kind of methodology which urges that, in attending to any question, one attend to all relevant data in any possible explanations of things that one wants to make.

If we realize that a gradation exists among the different sciences in terms of how they are related to each other and that acts of understanding and reflective judgement account for a hierarchical ordering of sorts which exists among the different sciences (where the results of one science function as a basis and material for other sciences whose methodologies transcend the methodologies of preceding sciences), we can begin to see, how, in relation[32] to human beings and the nature of the human being, seminal insights which belong to all the sciences focused on outer objects can all be related to each other. If, in addition, representative practitioners of science belonging to the different outer directed sciences can be open to insights which come from a reflective science which takes the experience of human beings in its self-givenness as its fundamental point of departure for research that attends to human beings as naturally free, responsible, thinking persons, they will then understand the results of their research as not only part of a whole but rather or in addition–since now they know that they cannot give answers in an absolute kind of way that seem to be based on quasi-religious expectations–they will gain freedom for their particular fields of research. In addition, representative practitioners of the exact sciences should be able to understand that statements about the value free neutrality of science are based on premisses or beliefs whose foundation cannot be proved by them as representatives and practitioners of the various exact sciences which exist within the scientific world.

4.1.4 Hierarchy of Goods

In the science of economics, with our diagnostic tools we can raise a question which asks if the economists of our day have been paying sufficient attention to the choice of research materials which they have been making in their work: especially if they are properly dealing with strictly theoretical relations or other economic phenomena in which they can recognize regularities (existing as intelligible patterns) which they can then posit as (economic) laws. Or, it can be asked whether they can sufficiently justify the extent to which the validity of these laws depends on conditions which cannot be proved by them in a strictly theoretical way. In thinking about these questions, it should be noted that a number of well-known economists refer to the weak foundations on which many of these sciences stand.[33]

In this context, we are more likely to ask a question which asks whether a hierarchy of goods can be set up in order to assign the different goods which exist within an economy their appropriate place within it. The word "hierarchy" may tempt one to think in terms of some kind of whole or design from which one can then derive the rank or precedence of one good over another. However, we will see soon that a fitting hierarchical ordering of goods can be obtained on the basis of relations.

If we want to determine the good as that which is desirable for human beings because such goods are necessary or beneficial for the development of human life, then we can enumerate as necessary the following goods: food, clothing, housing, and so on. Now, admittedly, some of these basic goods are freely available and are at our disposal–for example, the air that we breathe. However, most goods of this type must be created. For instance, in the production and distribution of bread as a commodity, let us think about the required logistics that needs to be in place: the roles that are played by many different actors and variables who all work together. One thinks about the experience of the farmer and the training of apprentices in conjunction with the conduct of research in a context which refers to a technological infrastructure and the order of an economy. In recalling to mind all the transcendental precepts, we immediately grasp that a connection exist between all these different variables and an intelligibility[34] which belongs to the whole order of things if any given commodity is to be produced and distributed to a range of consumers. From a standpoint which is determined merely by life's necessities and the need for biological survival, the first step or stage appears to be more fundamental than the second. But, from the viewpoint that an individual is not able sufficiently to provide for himself all the basic goods that are necessary for life but requires the collaboration of many persons on the level of intelligibility in order to make available these basic goods in that way that they can serve as foundations for a cultural progress, then the second level succeeds and sublates the first level. By a simple example which refers here to the production and distribution of bread, we can see how a differentiated, hierarchical ordering of goods is presupposed in the structuring which occurs within human society (an ordering of goods which corresponds with the relations that exist within the structured order of human striving and which exists before any meaning or design is thought about or constructed as a means for effecting new forms of human collaboration.

With decisions that must be made by an individual or by a family or by a culture about how different things are to be judged and evaluated (as far as any given thing falls within anyone's purview or field of judgment)–for instance, how is bread to be integrated into the stream of life as a commodity? are the forms of exchange appropriate or are they outdated?–we enter a third stage. A culture receives its form in the long run from the decisions of human beings. We recall that progress and decline in human history depend upon whether or not human beings and groups align themselves according to transcendental criteria. The intelligent stage breaks altogether if the majority of persons do not hold to fundamental decisions of the following type: a person must not become a means to an end; lies for the sake of an ulterior purpose may not serve as a basis for dialogue, etc. Without basic decisions of this kind, the intelligent stage would increasingly break up and dissolve into a system of injustice and tyranny which, in the long run, would endanger the procurement of basic goods in a relation of cause and effect which evidences the priority of this stage of meaning in economic life. Its ranking is such that stands over the two other orders although, admittedly, its operation at the same time presupposes the operation of these other orders.[35]

It should again be noted that this hierarchy is not reached by deriving of a closed order of things from a conception of the world but by developing relations and steps in one's procedure that are obtained by reflecting on the dynamics of our inquiring, thinking, and deciding.

4.1.5 World Community

Lastly, another word needs to be given about the relation which exists between religion and rationality. Admittedly, this relation might not be of much interest but, from the viewpoint of developing a world community, it is of highest importance. If we direct our attention toward an inquiry that asks about the dynamics of our human questioning, we can ask ourselves if there is something which exists that brings our inquiring to a halt. If we are able to give an affirmative answer, then again a question could force itself upon us and we would find ourselves asking why we could give this type of answer and not some other kind of answer, etc. However, this situation does not exist so that it is not possible for our thinking to attain any certainties (or because our thinking cannot attain any certainties) but so that the certainties that we do have will appear like small islands[36] in a sea of questioning. And, as we stop to think about it, we find that we are always searching for new islands. Knowledge about the most comfortable islands is something that we probably owe to the testimony and wisdom of the major religions which exist in the world. To these religions belongs the interpretation of transcendental experience (experience as it would refer to some kind of transcendental reality) or, at least, the interpretation of the human being and person who is someone who has a transcendental nature. If, at the start, our reason should oppose or block these insights which are common[37] to all the major religions, it would run into contradiction with itself since our human reason exists as an unlimited thing and so it must be open to the interpretation of a transcendental reality (at least in the sense of being able to pose questions about such an interpretation). If our reason were to refuse this openness which is germane to its spirit, it would exist in contradiction with itself and it would hardly be able to resist temptations to work for the construction of an immanent reality[38] which it would regard as an absolute (as an absolute reality). The ideologies of the 20th Century indicate to us what fatal consequences can come from ways of thinking and believing that absolutize immanent reality.

A fundamental openness toward the wisdom present in religion is thus required of human reason if our human reason does not want to obstruct itself in its dynamic orientation. In the mode or way of openness, human reasoning can then ask about which religion can give our human reasoning a foundation so that our reason (which is always searching for its own foundations) can then find itself grounded in something which exists and which can be understood as a form of super-reasonableness. In connection with these questions, we have already noted that the highest Christian reality is something which wants to be understood both as Logos and as love.


[1] Anderson Bruce and Philip McShane. Beyond Establishment Economics. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Axial Press, 2002.

[2] Paul Erbrich. Grenzen des Wachstums im Widerstreit der Meinungen [Limits of Growth in the Conflict of Opinions] Kohlhammer, 2004.

[3] Martin Kriele. Einführung in die Staatslehre [Introduction to Political Science]. Kohlhammer, 6 edition,


[4] Bernard J. F. Lonergan. Insight. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988.

[5] Bernard J. F. Lonergan. Method in Theology.New York: Herder and Herder, 1973.

[6] Karl Rahner. Grundkurs des Glaubens [The Foundations of Christian Belief]. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau,


[7] Bruno Snell. Die Entdeckung des Geistes [The Discovery of the Mind]. Vandenhoeck And Ruprecht, Göttingen, 7 edition, 1993.

[8] Bernhard Sutor. Politische Ethik [Political Ethics]. Schöningh, 1191.

[1]   Bruno Snell. Die Entdeckung des Geistes [The Discovery of the Mind]. Vandenhoeck And Ruprecht, Göttingen, 7 edition, 1993. [7]

[2]   It is a fact which should be noted here that every human person is not only blessed with consciousness but, in addition, in contrast with animals, is also blessed with self-consciousness. In other words, a person is always present to himself or herself by means of the acts which are present in a person's acts of experiencing, thinking, and judging.

[3]   Time: "Lonergan is considered by many intellectuals to be the finest philosophic thinker of the twentieth century." Newsweek: "Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan has set out to do for the twentieth century what even Aquinas could not do for the thirteenth… It may take another generation for his thought to be fully felt within the church that nourished him, but Lonergan's reach is already far wider." Source:

[4]   Bernard J. F. Lonergan. Insight. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988. [4]

[5]   Please note here that completely different ways of proceeding probably exist in attempting this type of exercise. However, they would probably all lead us to the same basic insights that we would come to us as we would work with this simple example.

[6]   Be it, for instance, an experience of sense, a prior knowledge about words, an image, or a symbolic language, etc.

[7]   For this reason, a symbolic language does not exist as an arbitrary thing since it is more or less suited as material which can lead to the solving of certain problems. Try, for instance, to solve a complicated problem in arithmetic with Latin numeric notation.

[8]   Please note here that we need not be interested in how or why a mathematician would probably technically speak about the conditions of a perfectly round circle in a quite different manner from how we have done it. In the last analysis, what is crucial to note is the fact that, in seeking to solve any problem, the same three steps always function together as a common, recurrent pattern of distinct acts (distinct operations).

[9]   The adult person discovers, at a certain point along the way, that how he arranges his life is not unimportant for him with respect to his state of health and general sense of well being. Such a consciousness of this responsibility eventually imposes itself upon one's self. And so, as a fifth step, a person can be encouraged to work from a question which asks about the meaning or sense of life-a question which wants to come to a decision between two alternatives. Is there an intelligent cause of the universe or is there not?

[10] We know that, on the part of some "theoreticians," attempts have been made to expunge from the common language that we use whatever can be regarded as a "language of lies."

[11] The Austrian constitution contains no formulation that is at all concerned about human dignity. No specific reference is made to it. However, in an indirect way, a meaning for human dignity is referred to as it derives from other legal provisions and specifications that have been passed and approved by Austrian legislators.

[12] "In an ethics that is governed by a desire for maximizing the extent of one's good fortune and which seeks to reduce experiences of sorrow for reasons of empathy, animals legally are to be regarded as persons and persons, as animals. 'The life of a newborn child has thus less value than the life of a pig, a dog or a chimpanzee.' (P. Singer, Praktische Ethik, 1984, S. 169)." Martin Kriele. Einführung in die Staatslehre [Introduction to Political Science]. Kohlhammer, 6 edition, 2003. [3]

[13] With respect to the rationality of this self-directedness, a later note will be given.

[14] See: Paul Erbrich. Grenzen des Wachstums im Widerstreit der Meinungen. Kohlhammer, 2004. [2]

[15] For Adam Smith, whom many regard as the "father of economic liberalism," economics was nothing more than a form of applied ethics. From within such a perspective, it was obvious and natural for everyone to believe economic management is conducted within a context which thinks in terms of moral self-delimitation and justice. Cf. 8, p. 189.

[16] The more appropriate designation (in German speaking countries) speaks about wars between rival confessions. However, despite the controversies and disputes which existed then about ultimate truths in matters of faith and religion, substantial agreement existed among these different confessions about what it means to be a human being. This agreement accordingly existed as an unspoken precondition which was needed to bring about the political solution which finally emerged to end the Wars of Religion in the 17th Century.

[17] In our world today, political ethics is dominated by two main currents. One approach works from a utilitarian perspective; the other, from a concern with rules and duties as one finds this in deontological ethics. As one looks at different kinds of play from a utilitarian perspective, all actions are judged according to criteria that asks about the usefulness or utility of a given action. In the different kinds of play which exist within the context of a perspective that speaks about abiding by certain rules or standards or which is concerned with possibly formulating rules to govern activity, one seeks to determine how some type of dialogue can be brought into being so that persons will be able freely to move toward a common consent about what should be done to address a given issue or solve a particular problem. Both orientations regard human beings as it were "from the outside" and so, in the long run, they are not able to explain why some actions are not useful or why they are irregular if, for instance, a majority of persons living in a given country clearly expresses its opposition to any rights that are being enjoyed by a minority of persons living within the same country.

[18] In thinking about this situation, it should be admitted that, in our day, not much has been written and published about this phenomenon: why, worldwide, so many intellectuals should have fallen under the spell of historical materialism despite the contradictions which exist within its theoretical exposition.

[19] In an impressive way, we find that, in the history of ancient Greece, the step was taken which moved from myth to Logos. Within a generation, the rationality of philosophy had replaced the symbolism of the old traditional myths. In the transition, however, from myth to Logos, the meaning of Christianity had not yet to be fully grasped and sufficiently appreciated. For Christians, the Logos exists as the highest reality – one can easily speak about a highest reason among Christians -, but this Logos is not something which exists in isolation (apart from everything else) since, in contrast, it is to be identified with love. This love is flush with Logos. For this reason, Christians were accused of impiety by persons whose thinking was governed by mythical apprehensions of meaning.

[20] The elements of the three steps – experience-understanding-judgment – , which we have mentioned, stand always in exactly the same relation with each other. Thus, no insights or acts of understanding can exist without prior experience. And, in the same way, any pronouncement which declaims a judgment apart from any prior act of understanding only produces something which exists as some kind of supposition or postulation, or as some kind of prejudice.

[21] The formal sciences present in formal logic and mathematics have been basic for the development of computer science which has so revolutionized our world as it exists today.

[22] For reason of simplicity we do not deal here with Lonergan's fourth or fifth level

[23] Lonergan systematically proceeds to ask a number of further questions which are all related. Do we experience ourselves experiencing, thinking, and judging? Do we understand ourselves to be experiencing, understanding, and judging? Do we judge ourselves to be experiencing, understanding, and judging.

[24] The human person exists not only as a knowing but also as a desiring, willing being.  In this context or in this connection, Lonergan works toward a concept of conversion and the possible meaning of conversion. The self-appropriation of one's thinking and understanding cannot occur without a basic attitude of openness which is consciously and deliberately desired and willed.

[25] In the pioneering work of St. Augustine, one finds an early philosopher of interiority. Then, later, in the analysis of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine's early insights about the meaning of interiority were recast into a systematic presentation of meaning which could begin to remove a number of ambiguities. However, in the later work of Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984), it was only by means of his work that a major shift could begin to emerge. A form of analysis could reveal all the different layers that are constitutive of interiority and also deal with any objections about any possible implications.

[26] The fact that human beings cannot arrive or have not arrived at this explicit insight is no argument against the possibility of such a determination. Though an apple tree may bear no fruit in a given year is no argument that a given tree is not an apple tree.

[27] For reasons of simplicity, we omit any discussion here about how or why, in the development of theological understanding, some interest is shown about the interface which exists between implicit self-knowledge and a thematization of this self-knowledge which expresses itself in words and concepts.

[28] It would have to be shown here that the unearthing of pure reason which we speak about is not only a fruit of thinking but is also its expression, exhibiting a principle of design and formation for the meaning and existence of human life.

[29] The discovery of reason was one the great achievements of Greek thinking. See again Bruno Snell's Die Entdeckung des Geistes [The Discovery of Spirit]. Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen, 7th ed., 1993.

[30] Let all proofs which want to deny the existence of free will in human beings exist as statements of scientists which approach the human person purely on the object side of things (excepting, however, the self-experience of persons as human beings). In a reflection about this self-experience, these same scientists would have to admit that they are engaging in their activities of research and inquiry as free beings, having a free nature – no investigation occurs under any obligation of necessity.

[31] Every proof of this kind, in the last analysis, would end in conclusions that are absurd and lacking in rationality – we recall here that every insight is always an insight into some kind of material (which exists as a kind of substrate). A person searching for proofs with respect to the existence of the world would be running after proofs that he can never catch up to. However, on the other hand, one can very reasonably and probably make a statement to the effect that no contradiction exists in saying that, to human beings, belongs the power to think and a power of free action.

[32] It is quite astonishing that, with only a few exceptions, the human sciences totally disregard the fact that human beings experience themselves as free beings, having a free nature.

[33] For instance, Milton Friedman: "According to Milton Friedman, 'there has been little change in the major issues occupying the attention of economists: they are very much the same as those that Adam Smith dealt with more than two centuries ago. Moreover, there has not been a major sea change in our understanding of those issues.'" M. Friedman, Old Wine in new Bottles, in: [1, p. 75].

[34] Speaking here, however, about the level of intelligibility does not means that the first and third levels are being excluded. Altogether, however, the basic goods belong to the first level (the material that one deals with) and the level which deals with how to manage and improve the operations of harvesting, storing, and other related logistics belongs to the level of intelligibility.

[35] Think again here about the relations which exist between physics, chemistry and biology.

[36] Karl Rahner. Grundkurs des Glaubens [The Foundations of Christian Belief]. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1984. "In the ultimate depths of his being man knows nothing more surely than that his knowledge, that is, what is called knowledge in everyday parlance, is only a small island in a vast see that has not been traveled. It is a floating island, and it might be more familiar to us than the sea, but ultimately it is born by the sea and only because it is can we be borne by it. Hence the existentiell question of the knower is this: Which does he love more, the small island of his so-called knowledge or or the sea of infinite mystery? Is the light with which he illuminates this island–we call it science and scholarship–to be an eternal light which will shine forever for him? That would surely be hell" [6, p.. 22].

[37] "Friedrich Heiler, in considerable detail, has described seven common insights that belong to all the major religions […] Hardly is it possible for me to indicate the whole wealth of his thinking in these matters although I can present a list of the topics that his analysis attends to: there exists a transcendental reality; it is immanent in a person's heart; it is highest in terms of beauty, truth, justice, and goodness; it is love, compassion, and empathy; the way toward union with it is by means of sorrow and regret, self-denial, and prayer; one follows this way through acts of charity and brotherly love, love of one's enemies being especially desirable and necessary; this way is directed to love of God so that blessedness is understood as knowledge of God, as union with him or as resolution into him." [5, p. 117]

[38] It is not possibly simply to construct a transcendental reality. 

Identity in Human Cognition

It is no easy task to try to understand the principle of identity in human cognition. In order to do so, I would like to proceed by first looking at how confrontation exists in human cognition. In our individual lives and also in the history of philosophy, an understanding of human cognition which talks about confrontation predates a later understanding of cognition which talks about identity. But, if we begin with a contrary viewpoint about the nature of cognition and about how this viewpoint has been articulated in a theory of confrontation, this should make it easier for us to understand how one can properly talk about identity in human cognition. A conception which speaks about confrontation is sublated by a conception which speaks about identity. A concluding discussion will speak about an isomorphic structure which should exist between knowing and being: between the order and elements present in the structure of human knowing and a like order and elements which is present in the structure of what is known in the known. From cognition, one moves into metaphysics.


To begin with what is meant by confrontation, instead of thinking about a definition which one can always attend to (a definition that I can always devise and immediately put out to be read), let us be still for a moment and think about what we are doing right now in our work. As you read these words, you are looking at a flat surface with markings that are etched on it. You are looking at marks which stand or lie before you. You close your eyes and you no longer immediately see them though, no doubt, you remember them and can picture them to yourself. Then, you open your eyes and, readily, you see the markings again. With the seeing, you can return to what you were doing before and you can resume your reading. On the one hand, you are the subject. You are the person doing the seeing. You are opening your eyes and focusing on what stands or lies before you. Walk away from your desk or put aside this present reading, and you see something else. In your seeing and in your walking, you are experiencing yourself seeing and you are experiencing yourself walking. But, on the other hand, when you think about what you are experiencing or about what you are seeing when you are seeing, you can speak about colors, shadows, and shades that you see. You exist on one side as a seer and what is seen exists on the other side. What is seen exists as the object of your seeing. It is other than your seeing. You perceive, you see what you see but you do not assume that what you see exists within you. Yes, you see what you see. There is a kind of communion which exists in this seeing. Both Aristotle and Aquinas speak about a communion between one's seeing or sensing and what is seen or what is being sensed. But, your seeing is always of things that exist outside of you. The seeing, one's sensing always has an extroverted orientation. If we remember anything that we have seen or sensed in some other way, we have an experience which appears to be more interior than what we experience in our acts of sense. But, even with remembering what we have seen or what we have witnessed, the reference is to an experience of some kind that is directed toward something that exists externally or outside of who or what we are.


In thinking then about ourselves and our sense of what it is like to be a seer or a senser, we find that we have an experience which grounds or explains what is meant by confrontation. Subject and object exist in a relation which is juxtaposed with each other. An opposition of sorts exists as a subject sees, touches, hears, smells, tastes something which is other and which exists or comes from the outside. In this type of interpretation or conception, human knowing thus exists as a form of visual seeing. We are in contact with reality if we can see it, if we can contemplate it, behold it. In contemplation, we have a word which is usually used to refer to a kind of spiritual seeing that we can experience in an inward way. In the praxis of contemplation within religion, if we are engaged in contemplative prayer, with the eyes of our mind, we behold, we conjure a sacred scene or tableaux that we are visualizing as we use our imagination. By this means, we attend, we direct our attention to religious mysteries. The attention which we give makes these mysteries more present to us. Our consciousness expands as it attends to things that are seen, metaphorically, with the eyes of our minds (as distinct from what is seen when we refer to the eyes of our body).


In thinking about human cognition in terms of confrontation, two key points are crucial. These need to be remembered if one is going to think about the difference which exists between a notion of human cognition which thinks in terms of confrontation and one which thinks in terms of identity. First, on the model of confrontation and as a conclusion, human knowing is viewed and is thematized to exist essentially as an act of sense. Its activity does not differ from what happens in an act of sense. Or, to put this in another way, the intelligibility which is present in all acts of knowing is an intelligibility that can be reduced to the nature of an act of sense. All acts of cognition exist fundamentally as acts of sense. The same kind of nature obtains. Second, human knowing occurs with an immediacy which is akin to the immediacy which exists in all acts of sense. In the seeing which occurs as one opens one's eyes, in the same sort of way, one's knowing occurs with an immediacy which suggests that human cognition occurs without any kind of struggle or labor. In this type of conception, not much thought is given to any kind of mediation which occurs when, through our acts of cognition, something is being cognitively experienced. From the immediacy that we enjoy in our acts of sense, one easily concludes that knowing is to be equated with intuition (the seeing of intuition). Through an intuition, knowing occurs or it is reduced to some kind of simple act that immediately moves a person from a condition of not knowing to one of knowing.


Having said these things then about how one can speak about human knowing as a species of confrontation, one can now begin to think about how one can move from this notion to one which speaks about identity. In thinking thus about this question and by referring to a transition which one can find as one moves from Plato's philosophy of human cognition to Aristotle's philosophy of human cognition, one can find a pivot (a point of departure) if one attends to a discussion which one finds in the Meno, one of Plato's dialogues. In the Meno, a question and answer conversation takes place between Socrates and a young slave boy who has had no formal training in mathematics. Socrates wants to make a point about the nature of human cognition and how human learning should be understood. He takes a slave boy and begins to solve a mathematical problem by drawing a diagram in the sand as, at the same time, he asks the slave boy short questions as he draws specific lines. By drawing lines and by asking the slave boy questions, he brings the slave boy to the solution of a geometrical mathematical problem. The boy correctly solves a problem though, as noted, this boy is lacking in formal mathematical instruction. For Plato, the whole point of this story is to show that the slave boy knows how to solve a mathematical problem because, in a previous life, before the boy's soul has fallen or been incorporated into a body, the boy's soul, through spiritual eyes, has beheld or has contemplated mathematical forms or mathematical ideas which possess a purely spiritual or intellectual nature and which exist apart from any kind of material incarnation. In the context of an earlier pre-incarnate life, all human beings behold separately existing spiritual or intellectual forms and, in the context of a later incarnate life, when certain experiences awaken one's spirit or one's soul within, one remembers what one has seen and known in an earlier life. Human knowing occurs through remembering the contents of what one has previously seen (what one has previously contemplated).


However, in contrast with this interpretation, Aristotle offers a different kind of argument. The marks or lines which Socrates draws in sand do not awaken a slave boy's memory. The marks serve another purpose. They act as clues (as heuristic clues). As material causes, they help trigger an act of understanding which occurs in the mind of the slave boy. An act of understanding grasps a form or an intellectual content which somehow exists within the drawn image. A drawn image does not direct an inquirer toward a form, an intellectual content, which exists apart from matter. Instead, the drawn image directs an inquirer to grasp that an invisible form or an invisible meaning somehow exists within visible, sensible matter. The forms exists within matter and not apart from matter. If some kind of cognitional proof needs to be alluded to in support of this argument, all one has to do is to think about how one's questioning leads to an imaginative play with material images. All knowing begins with experiences of raw data. But, with inquiry and questions, one imaginatively plays with raw data to produce constructions which exist as rarefied images. One continues to see images or pictures but the images or pictures exist as refinements of raw data. Construct an apt image or phantasm and one will have a material cause which can act to trigger a cognitional act which is not an act of sense but an inner act of understanding. With one's mind, one's understanding receives a form that can never be seen. In the form or nature, an equation joins a set of variables that are understood. An act of understanding has dawned and this act goes beyond, it transcends all acts of sense and all acts of imagination. And, whenever acts of understanding dawn, they grasp a content that can never be seen. It is only understood. An act of understanding possesses a nature of its own; it exists in the way that it does because its intelligibility (its form or structure) is other than the kind of intelligibility which exists in acts of sense.


To understand directly what is meant by identity, one must first attend to the relation which exists between a question which asks about reasons and how, through inquiry, it is possible to find reasons which answer a question that one is asking about a reason which probably explains why something is the way that it is. Take, for example, a question that was posed in the 17th Century by Galileo Galilei. What is the nature of a free fall (the free fall of a falling object)? What is the nature of the free fall of an object falling close to the earth? When we walk outside and see hail falling from the sky, we see that heavy droplets of hail fall at the same time as lighter droplets of hail. Heavy objects fall as the same time as light objects. But, is there not something strange here? Should heavy objects fall sooner than lighter objects? Heavy objects should fall with more speed. Heavy objects and light objects should not fall at the same time. What we see here conflicts with our commonsense expectations. Hence, what is a free fall? What is the nature of a free fall? What is its intrinsic intelligibility? What is its inherent rationality? And so, if we think about the kind of question that is being asked here, we find that a question is being asked that wants to go behind the sensible appearance of things. The object of interest is not how things look or how they appear. One wants something deeper. One wants to know how things are in themselves, how things exist in themselves. One wants to understand something that is known behind, beyond, or despite any appearances. One wants to move from the external, changing appearances of things to something that exists within a thing, something that is constitutive of what a given thing is. In the language of Aristotle, one wants to know about the form or nature of a thing or the form or cause of an event. One wants to know about a formal cause. In the language of modern science as this has developed since the 17th Century, one wants an equation which can state how a set of variables can be related to each other: the relations determine the meaning of the individual terms and the meaning of the individual terms determine the relations. In a context that is common to both Aristotelian science and contemporary modern science, one wants to know about a none obvious principle which does not exist as a datum of sense. It is never seen with one's eyes but it is understood by one's mind. It can be understood through an act of understanding.


To identify what happens in understanding so that one can begin to talk about how identity exists in human cognition, one perhaps best returns to what we do when we take raw bits of data and then imaginatively construct images (sometimes with pen and paper). As noted, this process produces a refinement in the data that we are working with. At some point, an apt image presents itself and this image triggers an internal event within the consciousness or experience that we have of ourselves: an internal event which is experienced as a dawning act of understanding. A solution is grasped in the middle of efforts to solve, for example, a mathematical problem. But, what exactly happens when an act of understanding comes our way and we have an experience of intellectual consciousness?


Please note that, in speaking about the reception of an act of understanding, we are not speaking about acts of understanding as if these are produced by us at will (by our wanting of them). A theory of understanding does exist which claims that our acts of understanding exist essentially as humanly willed products: we produce them as we would want to produce any given thing that we make. As human beings, we are good at making things which satisfy our needs and desires. And so, human acts of understanding have been seen in a similar way. They are actions that we do. We work for an understanding of something by asking questions and gathering information. We work and play with what he have and, according to this view, we come up with an insight, an act of understanding, which reveals a meaning which is not seen but understood. However, if we attend closely to ourselves when we are engaged in acts of understanding, we might begin to realize that our acts of understanding come to us when we least expect them to come. We can spend long periods of time engaged in inquiry and yet we do not come up with a desired solution. The work that we expend does help us; our work conditions us to be able to experience acts of understanding. But, when we see that acts of understanding come to us at unexpected times and often during times of leisure or when we are doing something else that is quite different, we can begin to realize that understanding comes to us as a gift. Aquinas used to speak about acts of understanding coming to us by way of “divine helps.” We properly speak about grace in order to speak about the salvation of our human souls. Grace is also a gift but it is a supernatural gift. It is something that we receive. But, in speaking about our human lives as we try to live in a human way in a manner that is distinct from questions having to do with our eternal salvation, it is best to talk about divine helps which we must suppose if we are to adequately understanding the nature of human cognition in terms of how it happens.


This reception or giftedness of acts of understanding accordingly points an activity or an achievement which refers to what the reception of an act of understanding effects. An act of understanding supervenes. It comes from above and moves within us. As it works with apt images, it separates a material component from an intellectual or spiritual component. As every act of understanding removes or abstracts a formal or intelligible element from any attached material or empirical elements, it immediately presents a meaning which is apprehended as the term or the content of one's act of understanding. In every act of understanding, something is being understood. One cannot have an act of understanding without a term or content which refers to what is being understood in one's act of understanding. What is understood refers to an intelligibility. Intelligence refers to one's acts of understanding. Act and term stand together or they fall together. Nothing is understood without an act of understanding and no act of understanding exists apart from what is understood in a given act of understanding. In other words, a perfect coincidence exists between act and term. Or, in yet other words, in an act of understanding, one can speak about an identity between act and content. Aristotle used to say that the intelligence in act is the intelligible in act. An intelligible only exists if it is the term of an act of understanding and an act of intelligence only exists if its term is an intelligible that is being experienced from within.


But, before we proceed any further, please note that, in acts of sense, one can also speak about an identity between an act of sensing and a content which is being sensed. In Aristotle's language, sense in act is the sensible in act. No act of sensing can exist unless something is being sensed. For instance, if one stands in a dark room that entirely devoid of light, one's eyes may be open but there is no seeing. One's eyes are not seeing anything. But, if any light begins to enter the room, one begins to see something. The image might not be too clear but, whether it is clear or not, one will experience the fact that a perfect correlation exists between one's seeing and something that is seen. A perfect identity exists between them. One cannot have one without the other. With one's mind, one can distinguish between an act of seeing and what is seen by one's act. But, when one must make a judgment about the reality of an act versus the reality of a content (do they each refer to the same thing?), one soon realizes that act and content are inseparable. If you have one, you always have the other. In acts of sense, an identity exists at the level of sense which is other or which is different than the identity which exists in an act of understanding (at the level of understanding). In these identities, one experiences cognitive identities: a cognitive identity between what is being known in sense and understanding and the sensing and understanding that one is experiencing as an internal kind of experiencing. However, a cognitive identity is not the same thing as a metaphysical identity. What is seen by an act of seeing can exist independently of whether or not it is being seen by any one who is engaged in an act of sense. In fact, it exists separately from its being seen by a given act of seeing. And, in the same way, what is being understood by a given act of understanding can exist separately from whether or not it is being understood by a given human subject. If one wants to speak about any identity between a cognitive form of identity and a metaphysical form of identity, one can only begin to speak about such things if one thinks about what happens in human self-understanding. In self-understanding, what is being understood is the self who is engaged in self-understanding. Admittedly, more often than not, the self-understanding is incomplete. Not all of one's self is being understood. And so, if we want to talk about perfect self-understanding, we have to talk about God. Only in God's self-understanding do we have a perfect identity between God as he exists in his reality and God as he exists as an act of understanding.


The raising of a question which asks about the kind of relation that exists between the understanding of something and the being of something accordingly serves as a point of departure for talking about a third kind of cognitional human act. If questions asking about what and why help lead persons to forms of thinking and analysis which can lead them to the possible reception of an act of understanding, a second kind of question asks if something is really so. Is something really true or is it false? Instead of what or why, the object of focus shifts to questions that ask about truth. If an idea is true, a potential knower cognitively participates in reality. A cognitive form of identity exists between what one is doing as a knower and something which happens to be real. The pivot or point of mediation is a truth which is known to be a truth or, conversely, a falsehood which is known to be false. Any falsehood which is known to be false is known through a reflective act of understanding which exists as a judgment, a reflective act of understanding which knows a truth to be true and a falsehood to be false. In either case, in a judgment, in a reflective act of understanding, a potential knower participates or communes with something that is found to be real. Without an act of reflective understanding, a knower could be participating, a knower could be in communion with an order of real objects. But, such a person would not know if he or she is truly in communion with a world of real objects. For a full discussion then about how we can speak about identity in human cognition, no account can be complete without attending to the nature of a reflective act of understanding and what happens in a reflective act of understanding.


In turning then to the nature of reflective acts of understanding, it is not without point to note that it is one thing to be aware of reflective acts of understanding and another thing to be able to speak intelligently about the nature of reflective acts of understanding. It is an achievement to be able to realize or to sense that reflective understanding differs from acts of abstractive understanding. In his Posterior Analytics, Aristotle speaks about a first operation of the human mind and a second operation of the human mind. In the philosophy of mind which one finds in St. Augustine, material acts of sense are distinguished from another kind of act which refers to acts of the mind. Judgment occurs if or when one refers to a set of eternal reasons that one looks at or inspects. We know truths by looking at ideas from a viewpoint which refers to eternal reasons. In the language of St. Augustine, a language is employed which is derived from Plato and from how Plato spoke about the difference which exists between the world of sense and the world of ideas. A real or critical knowledge of things is only given if one works from a viewpoint which refers to ideas as these exist in a transcendent manner (as these exist apart from or beyond a world which is constituted by material objects and which can be known by us in a material way if we refer to spatial and temporal coordinates). Plato's understanding of judgment presumes or perhaps we can say that it assumes that truths are known by a species of human activity that is fundamentally akin to what happens in acts of sense. The confrontation which occurs or which exists whenever anyone sees or looks at an external, outer object is replicated at a higher level by a mental, intellectual, or spiritual form of seeing which is imagined to exist when we think about outer, external, eternal ideas and how we can speak about our knowledge of them. The awareness that we have of ideas which never change is explained by a species of apprehension which suggests that we have had some kind of inner mystical experience. In the context of our current lives, we somehow see the truth of things. A light has shone within our minds. A light has been cast upon us or upon our world to reveal where real truth exists. We have mysteriously seen this light and the mysteriousness of our experience helps to explain why it is so difficult to us to speak about what has happened (what we have experienced). An awareness of truth exists within us. But, if we work with language, with a conceptuality which is grounded in acts of sense and which has arisen to explain what happens in our acts of sense, we cannot too easily explain what happens when we want to speak about the reflective understanding of judgment and how judgment exists as a specific kind of activity.


However, if we turn to the kind of discussion that we can find in Aquinas and if we can attend to what we do when we need to move toward a critically grounded act of reflective understanding, we can speak about how judgment operates as an act which differs from an act of sense or any later act of understanding which brings an idea or theory into our consciousness of self. As Aquinas used to speak about these matters in the De Veritate, in every perspective judgment, we have to think back on ourselves. In a way, we need to examine ourselves. We need to examine our cognitive conscience, our cognitive consciousness. We look at how, in an initial act of understanding, we have moved from an experience of sense to the experience that comes to us as an idea or theory. A transition has occurred. But, if we need to be sure about the rightness of what we have done through our cognitional acts, we need to move back toward a basis or foundation which functions as our cognitive ground (a basis or foundation whose truthfulness no one can dispute). And so, Aquinas speaks of judgment as a reduction to first principles: first principles as these exist in grounding acts of sense and first principles as these exist in basic laws of the mind which are common to all human beings (to the degree that a given human being exists as a rational human being). As our thinking through understanding has moved from what we already know as something which is not questioned to something new which we think that now we know as a consequence of the questions which we have been asking, can any contradictions be found? Is our thinking in our understanding consistent with the demands of a first principle which says that it is impossible for something both to be and not be in the same way and at the same time? Are there any rational gaps in how we have moved from one bit of knowledge or understanding to another? And then, after engaging in a logical form of self-reflection, as we work back from the kind of understanding that is given to us in possible answers to what and why questions, can we point to a basis which refers to a datum of sense? Is there a grounding act of sense that each of us can possibly experience and which points to the verification of a proffered idea or theorem? In judgment, verification exists in a public way through acts which all persons should be able to participate in. As a reflective act of understanding, judgment always exists within individual persons. But, each individual should be able to refer to the same set of logical laws which all are to observe (they are common to all) and each individual should be able to experience the same acts of sense which move a potential knower to an awareness that experiences the same set of material conditions. From acts of sense our human cognition begins and toward acts of sense our cognition moves or concludes. A recurrent cycle or circuit is continually operative.


The reduction that we find in Aquinas finds a reflection in a similar kind of reduction which we find in Lonergan's understanding of judgment. In an act of reflective understanding, as Lonergan understood this species of act, one moves into a form of self-reflection which notes that something is true if certain conditions have been met, if certain conditions have been fulfilled. Among contingent things, things are true or things exist because certain conditions exist. Nothing exists in an absolute sense. Nothing exists in a manner which is wholly without prerequisite conditions. If one wants to talk about the existence of something which is wholly lacking in any contingency, then one must speak about God. Only God exists in an uncaused manner. Only God exists as an absolutely unconditioned. But, if one turns to the existence of conditioned things and if one asks about the truth of conditioned things, then one must speak about prospective acts of understanding in judgment which think about conditions and which say that, yes, this is true on the basis of these conditions and if they happen to be fulfilled. In judgment, one first notes that a relation exists between a conditioned and conditions. When we think about the possible truth of an idea or theory, one looks back and, as one attends to one's initial acts of understanding, one notes what relation exists between a conditioned and conditions. An “if…then” type of structure or order presents itself. Then, as one adverts to conditions, one turns to one's experience to see or to ask if it is possible to speak about fulfilled conditions. If something is true if and only if because a particular condition has been fulfilled or is given in some way and if, for instance, the condition is one's experience of a certain datum of sense, if one then notices in one's experiencing that one is experiencing the datum in question, then one can move into a rational affirmation which says that something is indeed the case. Something is so. An idea exists as more than an idea. It now exists as a truth (as a true idea). In the technical language which one finds in Lonergan's analysis, a true idea exists as a virtually unconditioned. An idea is conditionally true but its conditions happen to be fulfilled. In the transition which occurs as a person moves from the experience of a bright idea to an idea which is known to be true, a person participates in something which is real. In a cognitive manner, an identity exists between a knower and what is known by a knower. In every reflective act of understanding, a measure of self-transcendence takes a knower from a prior world of data and a later prior world of ideas into a world of real things (a world of real objects). A knower shares in a world which is greater than him or herself. This world ontologically or metaphysically differs from him or herself (philosophers speak about a real distinction which is other than a verbal difference or a difference which can exist between thoughts or concepts). But, through acts of self-transcendence that are present in human cognition, a knower enters into a universe of being. In a judgment, an existence of something is posited. An existence is known.


Between the universe of being or, more precisely, between the universe of being which is intended by human desires for understanding and knowledge and which is known in an piecemeal fashion by human acts of sensing, understanding, and judging, an ordered relation can thus be adverted when we think about a possible correspondence or a possible correlation which exists between one kind of cognitive act and a correlative which refers to a metaphysical element. In the analysis which one finds in Aquinas, Aquinas speaks about a proportionality which exists between human acts of cognition and a set of metaphysical principles which refer to what is known in a given kind of cognitive act. Put bluntly, human acts of experiencing are to be correlated with potency as a metaphysical principle; human acts of understanding are to be correlated with form as a second metaphysical principle; and human acts of judgment are to be correlated with act as a third metaphysical principle. Potency, form, and act exist as metaphysical principles while experiencing, understanding, and judging exist as cognitional principles. Aquinas speaks about a proportion between these two orders. The Latin refers to proportio. In the language which one finds in Lonergan, it is said that an isomorphic structure exists in the relation between the structure of human cognition and a parallel structure which refers to the order of being, the order of reality. An understanding about the structure of human cognition leads to an understanding about the structure of being or reality. From a critical understanding of human cognition, one moves to a verifiable metaphysics.


Please note in closing, however, that one must take great care in the language that one uses in speaking about this relation. When we speak about correspondence or correlation, we can begin to think in dualistic terms. Rather easily, we can begin to think in terms which assume that, in human knowing, a confrontation or an opposition exists between a knower and what is known. But, this is not the type of meaning which we should grasp with our understanding if we are going to understand why Aquinas speaks about an order of proportion between knowing and being and why, in turn, Lonergan speaks about an isomorphic relation within the context of his analysis. In human cognition, by the self-transcendence which exists in it and which is proper to it, a union exists between knowing and being. Being is greater than knowing although, at the same time, it has to be admitted that knowing participates in being which, to some degree, it always knows through the limited judgments that it is making at any given time. An overlap between knowing and being can be properly adverted to. Two kinds of being can be spoken about if we think about cognitional being and ontological being. If human cognition is not understood in terms of an identity which exists within it through the different kinds of acts which occur within it, then a severance is introduced between human cognition and metaphysics. The world of real objects or real things would exist in a manner that would be apart from human cognition. If a world of real objects exists, it would exist as an unknowable and if a world of real objects exists as an unknowable, there is no point in thinking that metaphysics exists as a legitimate science. One best attends to other things.

Eric Voegelin, Order and History, Volume One: Israel and Revelation – Part IV – chap. 11 – The Deuteronomic Torah

08/21/2010 – Joanne Tetlow on Eric Voegelin, Order and History, Volume One: Israel and Revelation – Part IV – chap. 11 – The Deuteronomic Torah


    Voegelin’s important distinction between Israel’s paradigmatic and pragmatic history returns in full force under the Deuteronomic Torah. We are reminded again that when the people of Israel were constituted as the Chosen People under the Sinaitic Covenant in Exodus a “leap in being” occurred. As such, Israel was differentiated from the compactness of the cosmological civilizations, and under this paradigmatic experience, God became divinely transcendent. This “inner form of existence” under God experienced as a leap in being survives and carries Israel through the recession and despair of its own idolatry, rebellion, and disobedience. Despite the deep level of corruption and idolatry under Manasseh, King of Judah, recorded in 2 Kings 21, the discovery of the Deuteronomic Torah by Manasseh’s 2nd successor Josiah and his immediate and complete repentance and institutionalized reform held hope of restoration of true order in Israel’s pragmatic history.

But, the compactness of Israel’s identity as a collective people under God in history prevented openness to the spiritual universalism that Yahweh was the one God of mankind, and that the history of Israel was world history. A further differentiation of the individual soul under God did not occur for Israel as it did in Hellenic philosophy.  An explanation why is the Deuteronomic Torah.

According to Voegelin, the Deuteronomic Torah is the symbol in which the spirit of the prophets blended with the Judaite will of collective existence. The universal monotheistic God of Israel was contained by the words of Moses. Apparently written during the late 7th century B.C., Deuteronomy was the new Torah found and made public by Josiah in 622 B.C. Instead of the words of Yahweh spoken to Moses at Sinai, the book of the covenant, or Deuteronomy, were the words of Moses recounting what happened at Sinai and Israel’s subsequent history before entering the promised land. Moses’ authorship of Deuteronomy is a myth of political order, because, of course, Moses could not write a book about his own death. While Exodus is about the paradigmatic event of Moses and the people being spoken to directly by Yahweh creating the “inner form” of existence, Deuteronomy contains the words of Moses telling the people about their own history of the Exodus, covenant, and desert experience. Voegelin does not see this as a relapse in being into cosmological myth, but he interprets the Deuteronomic Torah as mythical in the sense that the immediate existence under God is broken by the mediation of a fictitious author of the Torah. This Torah of Moses is not the living constitution of Israel, but a myth by which Moses attempts to reconstitute Judah who is falling into Sheol. The depth of the fall from true order is such that the people have the capacity to respond to only an artifice, not the real source of being in the Sinaitic covenant.

The effect of this myth is twofold. First, Mosaic authorship of Deuteronomy was not discredited until the 20th century, and second, holding onto the myth of Moses supported the bible as the “word of God.” In actuality, then, the problem with the Deuteronomic Torah was ignored for centuries, but now it has come to light. That problem is that the Deuteronomic Torah changed the inner form of existence under God qua the Sinaitic Covenant to existence under God in the form of written law. The Deuteronomic Torah transformed the “word of God’ into the words of Moses. Voegelin earlier observed that: “The “nature of Israelite compactness can be summarized, therefore, as a perpetual mortgage of the world-immanent, concrete event on the transcendent truth that on its occasion was revealed.” (164) This mortgage occurs when the historical circumstances of revelation are given the authority of the word itself, and made permanent because the concrete events become the content of revelation, rather than its context. The instructions of Yahweh become permanent regulations suppressing the inner form of existence to a life of law.

In other words, the historical context of God’s revelation to Israel has become the content of revelation ending the narrative history of Israel. This added content is both the Book of the Covenant of Deuteronomy 5 and 12 consisting of Yahweh’s words and the ordinances spoken by the prophets in 9th century B.C., and the later regulations applicable to kings, priests, and prophets of the Kingdom of Judah in 7th century B.C.  As such, Deuteronomy is a symbol of the border between the original order of Israel as the inner form of existence and the Jewish community. Despite the flattening of the life of the spirit by the instantiation of the leap of being into a written law book, the living order of Israel endured, and Deuteronomy became the symbol of Jewish communal existence and preservation of the Sinaitic tradition. However, that tradition is Law and Prophets for a particular ethnic-religious community, a contraction of the universal potential of the Sinaitic revelation to all mankind. Still, the survival of the Sinaitic tradition and the “positive communal consciousness” the Jews experienced from the negative aspects of religious warfare and the end of the Israel’s worldly existence, gave rise to the Old Testament and the “spirit” of Christianity.

One of the most provocative claims by Voegelin is the dating of Deuteronomy in 7th century B.C., and that Moses is not its author.

Moving through Conceptuality with Acts of Understanding: Augustine, Aquinas, Lonergan


To understand a bit better what could be meant by saying that acts of understanding, by their very nature, always transcend material variables and conditions, one can verify the meaning of such a claim or, on the other hand, one can discover the meaning of such a claim, if, for instance, as a thought experiment, one moves into the theology of St. Augustine and one carefully reads and studies it in order to locate and identify some of St. Augustine's principal insights (insights as one finds these in the understanding which he evinces in his theology). For instance, if one takes St. Augustine's understanding of moral evil and sin, an understanding is offered which refers to moral evil and sin as the absence of any meaning or significance. Sin, evil is the absence of any kind of intelligibility. Sin, evil exists as a privation, as an absence of being. It is that which should not be. At times, in his texts, Bernard Lonergan refers to moral evil as a “false fact.” Hence, as one encounters understandings of this kind which cut across historical and cultural barriers, one realizes that, by their very nature, acts of understanding possess a degree of ahistoricity. Yes, they are conditioned by their circumstances of origin and emergence but, no, they are not determined by the influence of these same circumstances. An act of understanding is one thing. A proffered conceptualization is another. Acts of understanding exist in a self-transcending kind of manner and this self-transcendence explains why they can be enjoyed by any person who experiences degrees of self-transcendence in one's own life through the acts of understanding which one may happen to have.


In looking back into the theological tradition, it can be admitted that an insight or an act of understanding can be expressed in the words and the language of an inadequate philosophy. The conceptuality which is employed might not be too sound or accurate. Misleading connotations can be suggested. Witness, for example, how St. Augustine speaks about human judgment in a manner which relies on Platonic cognitional conceptions. One knows a truth by contemplating or by looking at a set of higher eternal reasons which, in some way, one sees or beholds from a distance. From the context of a lower viewpoint, one ascends or looks upwards toward some kind of higher viewpoint that is given or beheld by a seeing which now occurs within one's mind. Cf. Lonergan, Verbum, p. 85. In the kind of language which Augustine uses, in our human knowing one does not simply believe or hold to what one's bodily eyes may see since “what is not so seen is more truly seen, for what is [physically] seen belongs to time, but what is seen with the mind and soul belongs to eternity.” Cf. Augustine, Tractatus de Mysteriis, nos. 8-16, as cited by Matthew Lamb, Eternity, Time, and the Life of Wisdom (Naples, Florida: Sapientia Press, 2007), pp. 32-33.


When speaking about his own analysis, Augustine refers to a process of self-reflection which leads him to speak about a cognitional movement which he finds within the depths of his soul (a cognitional movement that takes him from instances of sensible experience to instances of intelligible experience as this is given to him through lightning flashes or quick glimpses that suddenly and unexpectedly reveal the presence and workings of a higher “intelligible and intelligent light.” Cf. Lamb, p. 32. As Augustine had noted in his Confessions: although the mind “generates all images,” it is not itself an image. It possesses a “totally different nature.” It exists as a “spiritual presence or light” which is able to know that what is real is not to be identified with what exists as a body. Cf. Confessions, 7, 1, as cited by Lamb, p. 32; 7, 1-13, as cited by Lamb, n. 16, p. 35. The human mind exercises a specific causality of its own and in a manner which verifies a traditional maxim (in the words which Leibniz uses to express this maxim): “there is nothing in the intellect that was not first in the senses, except the intellect itself.” Cf. Loemker, G. W. Leibniz 556, as cited and quoted by Tim Lynch, “Human Knowledge: Passivity, Experience, and Structural Actuation: An Approach to the Problem of the A Priori,” Method: Journal of Lonergan Studies 17 (Spring 1999): 77.


In the words of Augustine's conceptuality, in the human knowledge of any truth, a “changing mind” is contrasted with what never changes. It is changed by “unchanging, eternal truth.” Tentative acts of understanding, to the degree that they exist as true acts of understanding, are all grounded in eternal reasons which, in Augustine, are to be regarded as first principles although, in the conceptuality of his language, Augustine does not speak about first principles, “first principles” being a designation which Aquinas uses in order to speak (in a more differentiated manner) about grounding acts of sense and intellect (acts of sense and intellect which function as the first principles of one's human cognition in all its subsequent acts). Acts of human reason are normed by fundamental laws of thought that govern how one's mind can rationally move from one proposition or thought to another proposition or thought without risk of contradiction. Through this kind of approach, however, which moves from Augustine to Aquinas, a transposition is effected which allows one to move from the philosophy of mind present in Augustine to the philosophy of mind present in Aquinas (in a manner which transcends what differences may exist). The context is a prolongation or a continuity which is to be adverted to and which exists more profoundly and more deeply than the existence of any difference.


By way of the understanding which Aquinas brings to his discussion, the eternal reasons of Augustine undergo a kind of shift because of how they are being interpreted. In Aquinas, they come to exist as a set of cognitive first principles that one normally observes as fundamental precepts whenever one is engaged in good cognitive praxis in one's human cognition. By an analysis that speaks about first principles and different kinds of first principles, the eternal reasons of St. Augustine receive an articulation which adds to what is known about them as one thinks about how they were understood by St. Augustine. Or, if one wants to speak in another way about the kind of change that is occurring here, one can say that Aquinas's analysis unpacks a meaning for eternal reasons which, perhaps, Augustine had been attempting in vain to identify and to spell out in the context of his theology. He could not do certain tasks too well with the kind of cognitional philosophy which he had inherited and which he was borrowing from the Platonic tradition in philosophy that was then prevalent in his day.


In Augustine's philosophy of mind, one finds that human knowing does not exist as some kind of simple, single act which is to be equated with a philosophy of mind which thinks about knowing in terms of a simple act of intuition. Augustine's distinctions with respect, for instance, to the difference between “understanding and judging, conception and truth” all point to a philosophy of cognition which realizes that human knowing exists as an ordered structure of different kinds of acts which are all necessarily related to each other. Cf. Lamb, n. 12, p. 34. Not only, on the one hand, does the human mind have a nature which differs from that which belongs to acts of sense but, on the other hand, it has to be said that the human mind has a nature which points to a number of different operations that cannot all be reduced to each other. If, for instance, one looks at how, in the De Trinitate 15, 11, n. 20, Augustine distinguishes an inner or mental word (a word which exists as a concept) from words which exist as audible sounds and from words which exist as remembered, imagined audible sounds (an “inner word” is other; it exists as the term of rational or mental operations), then one finds evidence which indicates that, in Augustine, beyond sensible activities and operations, one can find operations that point to a higher level of cognitive activity which is specifically mental, rational, or intellectual. One kind of operation accounts for images; another, for concepts. Cf. Crowe, “Some Background Notes to Lonergan's Insight,” Lonergan and the Level of Our Time, p. 18; p. 25.


In conclusion then, as these examples may well thus illustrate and perhaps demonstrate, acts of understanding function as privileged points of access for anyone who is interested in moving into the understanding and wisdom which has come down to us from earlier developments in philosophy and theology. The intellectuality or the spiritual character which belongs to acts of understanding explains why, through later acts of understanding which other persons can have, a person in one age and time can begin to enter the mind and soul of other human beings who have lived in earlier ages and times and who have yet also truly enjoyed acts of understanding which have united them to a world of real objects – a world which exists whether or not it is known by any given human being through human acts of understanding and judgment.

Summary – Part 2, Ch. 4-6

03/13/10 – Joanne Tetlow – Voegelin – Order and History, Volume One: Israel and Revelation – Part II – chaps. 4-6 – The Historical Order of Israel Summary The emergence of Israel as a historical form occurs when God chooses a people under the Mosaic covenant. Exodus from Egypt and its cosmological society to Canaan, the promised land is a differentiating event. The experience of the Israelites in Canaan ending in destruction and not permanence reveals that the symbol of Canaan is not the kingdom of God. As a result of the ambiguity of Canaan, which represents the historical form of Israel and the end of Israelite history because of conquest, there is no Israelite civilization residing in a permanent territory, but a people constituted in covenant. Voegelin distinguishes between pragmatic and paradigmatic events, or sacred and profane history. The Old Testament is about the Jews relationship with God; they are the carrier of truth. Cosmological societies did not produce an Old Testament, because their experience of order was undifferentiated. With Israel, “history as an inner form of existence” emerges in contrast to the cosmological myth. What Spengler and Toynbee miss is the understanding that the experience of order and symbols is not a product of a civilization, but its constitutive forms. This eclipse of God is blind to understanding Israel as “a form of existence of a society under God.” Pragmatically, Israel exists in time; paradigmatically it is the inner form which constitutes a society. Israel as an historical form expands its meaning beyond the present into the past with the following problems: (1) ontological reality of mankind: the process of human history is ontologically real, because the historical truth contained in compact symbolism becomes articulate, and the past inarticulate form can be seen; (2) origin of history is a historically moving present: Israel is the first, but not the last history. Because faith is not subjective, but a leap in being, the historical form is an ontologically real event in history represented by symbols, which can be generalized as “Either-Or” or “Before-After.” Gentiles, Jews, and Christians experience this in different degrees of clarity, i.e., the Gentiles in the law of divine creation; Jews in the covenant and divine command; and Christians in Christ and the law of the heart; and (3) loss of historical substance: historical form can be lost when men and society reverse the leap and reject God. Both “emergence” and “recession” occur in Israelite history. By wanting a king and establishing a kingdom, the Exodus is reversed and the Sheol of civilization revisited. The kingdom “recession” evokes the Yahwism of the Prophets. Israel’s historical form is not regained by the kingdom, but by the Prophets retaining a community under God who does not reside in Canaan. Ironically, the kingdom and covenant are pairs in and out of sequence. Chronologically, the kingdom is second; motivationally in pragmatic history, the kingdom precedes the covenant; but in content, the covenant dominates the kingdom. It is this break of the initial compact order that creates the reversals in hierarchy. Monarchy was necessary to preserve Israel, but the Mosaic instructions were violated. The principle is that political success was no substitute for life in obedience to the divine law. Relation between the life of the spirit and life of the world remains unresolved, but the emergence from the compactness of the Mosaic period to the Prophetic differentiation actualized the life of the spirit and substantive order under the covenant. The nature of Israelite compactness was the “perpetual mortgage of the world-immanent, concrete event on the transcendent truth that on its occasion was revealed.” This new community was to integrate into mankind pursuant to the Abrahamic promise, and though the Talmudic Jews separated from mankind, Christianity became “one mankind under God.” The idea of history has its origin in covenant, and we are currently living in the present of that covenant. Israel has become mankind, and thus, Israelite history is world-history. The Old Testament is paradigmatic world-history—the compactness of cosmological symbolism broken by the Prophets and universalistic understanding of divine transcendence, albeit burdened by Israelite pragmatic existence; nevertheless, provided paradigmatic symbols of relation of order to covenant. As such, Israel is a symbol of revelation.

Summary – Part 1, Ch. 1-3

02/27/10 – Joanne Tetlow Voegelin – Order and History, Volume One: Israel and Revelation Part I – chaps. 1-3 – Mesopotamia, Achaemenian Empire, and Egypt Summary Voegelin begins his study of Israel and Revelation with an introductory chapter about his philosophy of symbolization of order. There is a dialectical interplay between “order” and “history” in that, according to Voegelin, “the order of history emerges from the history of order.” Circular reasoning is not an issue in this apparently tautological statement, because the “order” in history emerges from man’s participation in the divine transcendent being. Knowledge of God, man, world, and society is only available through the perspective of participation, because “participation is existence itself.” Man cannot attain knowledge of the “whole,” but only partial understanding of the mystery of being; thus, it is impossible to stand objectively outside of our own experience of existence and look at history or philosophy as objects for examination. From this “participatory” understanding, Voegelin elaborates the process of symbolization man uses to express experiences of the unknown. Before Israel came into existence, the cosmological societies of the Ancient Near East, i.e., Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Persia, or “microcosmos,” were predominated by “myth.” Importantly, these cosmological societies of the Ancient Near East were representative of mankind. In cosmological symbolization, the experience of participation in order is mythical. As pre-philosophical—before the Greek discovery of reason—Mesopotamia, Persia, and Egypt existed under a cosmic-divine order symbolized politically as “empire.” Empire and cosmos were interchangeable; theology and politics were fused, because the gods were the world itself. The many Mesopotamian city-states symbolized political polytheism. Various symbols were rationalized into “political summodeism,” where local gods subordinated themselves to the one highest empire god. Other symbols of the analogical relation between the divine and man were the zodiac, the number twelve, the sun, and the New Year’s Festival. A pluralism of symbols appeared as society resembled the celestial, cosmic sphere. Each symbol was a partial representation of the same truth of the divine being. Persia’s Zoroastrianism modified the strict correlation between cosmological and societal experience by introducing a dualism that operated at the immanent level of a divine king eradicating evil. The later experience of Egypt in its Pharaonic symbolism of “one- God, one-King” moved from compactness toward differentiation in preparation for the existence of Israel. Egypt achieved “consubstantiality,” or the experience of a community of being with its origin in “divine” substance. Still hierarchical, the divine flowed into the mundane, human existence. While polytheism is not broken within the mythical existence of Egypt, Voegelin observes a movement toward differentiation, because there is one divine substance that co-exists within the community of being. God is seen as “one” and “spiritual.” Divine kingship, a rarity, did not result in a leap of being, but did allow a manifestation of god in human form, rather than god being in human form. Memphite theology of the Pharaonic order—One God, One World, One Egypt—leans toward monotheism in the theogonic speculation that other gods originate through creation by the one truly highest god, and that Egyptian society is attuned to being by ordering itself under the king as the emanation of the god. Consubstantiality meant that the creation of world as a divine idea was of the same substance as the creation of Egypt as the royal idea. Nevertheless, man does not break out of the compact world, because there is no experience of transcendence. The subject can participate in the divine substance only by obedience to Pharaoh. The stage is set for the breakdown of cosmological order and the understanding that the mythical symbols are inadequate representations of the divine being.

Part III – Chap. 7 – From Clan Society to Kingship

Summary by Joanne Tetlow

Ambiguity exists in the symbols of Israelite history. According to Voegelin, the compactness of the cosmological myth holding together Israel’s community prevented a “leap in being” prompted by the Yahwist prophetic experience. Particularist beliefs as a Chosen People always thwarted the universal impulse inspired by the Prophets. The tension between the particular and universal is part of Israelite history as a symbol of revelation.

The trail of symbols begins with Yahweh’s covenant with Abram in Genesis 15 preceded by the battle between Mesopotamian and Canaanite kings in which Abram rescues his nephew Lot from Sodom. The blessing of Abram by Melchizedek, the priest analogized to Christ in the book of Hebrews, is interpreted by Voegelin as a priest-king, or El Elyon, representing Baal. By later rejecting the loot offered by the King of Sodom, Abram shows his belief in Yahweh. Politically, Abram is subject to the political compacts of the Canaanite system; however, this changed by God’s covenant with Abram. Referring to the covenant, Voegelin states that, “The symbol of bondage has become the symbol of freedom.”  A “leap in being” occurs within Abram; he is now called Abraham. The Abrahamic covenant stands in contrast to the cosmological compactness of Canaanite civilization. Covenant, not kingdom, predominates the biblical narrative as the former is permanent while the latter is temporary vanishing during the 8th century B.C. when kingdom is destroyed by the Assyrians.

In further tracing Israel’s development prior to the Davidic kingdom, Voegelin identifies three events whose symbols represented a movement away from compactness toward differentiation: (1) the Deborah Song; (2) Gideon as a form of kingship; and (3) the Samuel-Saul relation.

After the conquests of Joshua, pockets of the promised land remained unconquered. This fact and the constant threat of foreign enemies put the Israelite confederacy under serious pressure. Since the Israelite Confederacy was not a political organization with a military, Yahweh did not have the resources to fight holy wars.  Deborah’s Song in Judges is a symbol of Yahweh’s power to deliver the Jews from Canaanite attack, and shows a break with the cosmological myth. Yahweh revealed himself as the source of true order, since there was no human mediator to “transform the cosmic into social order.” Yahweh fought holy wars in defense of his people against aggressors, not against other gods. Voegelin notes that Israel’s history follows a double course: God comes to the aid of his people waiting in passivity for his intervention, while Israel at certain times also engages as a politically organized people acting under the guidance of God. Throughout Israelite history, the people do not trust until after Yahweh has gained victory. The cycle of disobedience, idolatry, and bondage requiring Yahweh’s divine rescue from pagan domination is ongoing. Unfortunately, success in Canaan meant syncretism with foreign gods. By 1100 B.C., Israelites and Canaanites had formed a people in the same country. As a result, polygamy was adopted and became prevalent.

Following Deborah, Gideon served as a bridge figure who acted as the political form of a king setting the stage for national monarchy under Saul. The clan society was moving towards kingship. Voegelin notes especially Gideon’s institution of a “temple” as a new symbol of political order. It served as a cult center for the kingdom and the people. The problem, though, was that God became politicized. But, Yahweh was no Baal. According to Voegelin, “it was the Yahweh of Israel who, as a political god, put the first imperial stamp on Syriac civilization.” Yet, the theopolity created during the Israeli kings to keep the nation alive changed under the prophets, who became the representatives of true spiritual order. Under the Prophets, Yahweh was represented as the universal, nonpolitical, god who could create order in the soul moving the focus away from monarchy back to covenant.

Voegelin outlines two views of the rise of Saul, Israel’s first king: (1) royalist; and (2) antiroyalist. The royalist position holds that Yahweh instituted Saul’s monarchy, not the people or Saul himself. Yahweh anointed Saul, not Samuel, the priest. Yet, the prophets referred to were part of orgiastic cults revealing the influence of Baalic ecstatism into Yahwism—more evidence of Israelite syncretism. Later prophets opposed the monarchy and its support for a democratic spiritual experience, which adulterated a pure relation with God. Saul’s direct violation of his own ordinance not to consult other spirits by calling upon the witch of Endor to give him guidance on the eve of the battle of Gilboa represents a disordered soul. Unlike the Greek belief in various spirits working in the afterlife, Israel believed in a transcendent God who had imposed death. For the Greeks, immortality could perfect mortality, but for the Jews, only in life could the soul be ordered and perfected.

Thus, the state of the soul and salvation remained ambiguous for Israel. Voegelin analyzes two symbols representing the difference between the Hellenic and Israelite civilizations: (1) historical realism; and (2) development of philosophy. Despite Israel’s syncretism, it was predisposed against other cosmic spirits. That is why it developed the symbolic form of the History of the Patriarchs—real people as important figures who functioned in a similar manner as the cosmic spirits of Hellas. In fact, Isaiah writes that no man can help Israel, except Yahweh himself who will return into history and redeem his people. As the prophets spoke, the divide between God and man, and the secular nature of the world and suffering of life could only be resolved by the return of God into history. There were no cosmic-divine spirits to help.

Israel gained historical realism, but not philosophy. Voegelin attributes this to Israel’s compact experience of the soul through clans and tribes, not as individuals. The spirit of God is present in Israel’s community, “but it is not present as the ordering force in the soul of every man, as the Nous of the mystic-philosophers or the Logos of Christ is present in every member of the Mystical Body, creating by its presence the homonoia, the likemindedness of the community.” (240)  The spiritual relation of the individual soul to God self-interpreted is philosophy, and this was not possible for the Hebrews and the intramundane compactness of the tribe. Still, even though there was not philosophy, an Israelite humanism developed from the reality of a people formed under the existence of God providing a sensitivity and awareness to the importance of individuals in humanity.

Under the royalist version of Saul’s monarchy, theopolity is supported despite all of Israel’s problems with it, including the kings. Apparently, theopolity does not guarantee obedience to the covenant.

The second antiroyalist view of Saul’s monarchy is interpreted as the people’s rejection of Yahweh and his rule over them as a king in a theopolity. It was the people, not Yahweh, who instituted kingship. Voegelin notes the paradigmatic symbol of Samuel and Saul, or the spiritual and temporal control over politics. Samuel warns the people of changing from judges to a king, one that replaces the divine King. Obedient to God’s command, Samuel as priest anoints Saul as king. Now that Israel has a king apparently blessed by God, is theopolity undermined by a royal institution? Does the antiroyalist position resolve the theocratic problem? Is a temporal polity (national monarchy) indirectly under Yahweh an advance toward differentiation and spiritual order? Is politics spiritual or temporal, or both? Israel’s pragmatic history reveals that monarchy did not last. Voegelin points to the individual experience of the transcendent God as a differentiating event. No institution, church or state, mediates this experience of the Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants. If that is the case, a direct relation to Yahweh is the objective. Thus, Israel’s monarchy, while politically necessary, was not paradigmatic.  It is the covenant that is eternal and universal as spoken by the Prophets, and as revealed in Scripture. God is the direct ruler and king in a theopolity over Israel; the differentiation, or leap in being, occurs when God becomes the universal, nonpolitical God to the individual soul.

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).