by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB
by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB
by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB
Not infrequently, in different texts, Aquinas refers to a principle which he uses as a principle of explanation–a principle which avers that “whatever is received into something is received according to the condition of the receiver.” Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 75, a. 5; 3a, q. 5. In the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 12, a. 4, a more specific application of this principle is proposed in terms which say that “a thing known exists in a knower according to the mode of a knower.” Cogitum…est in cognoscente secundum modum cognoscentis. For further references, see Summa Theologiae, q. 14, a. 1, ad 3; q. 16, a. 1; q. 19, a. 6, ad 2; Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 79, 7; De Veritate, q. 2, a. 3. In knowing anything, or in thinking that one knows anything, something is known by a prospective knower according to the mode of a knower’s being where what is understood and known is regulated or determined according to how a thing is known by a knower. In the context of his systematic theology of the Trinity, Lonergan takes this Thomist principle and uses it to explain why ongoing development sometimes fails to occur in theology. See Lonergan, The Triune God: Systematics, p. 25. Seminal insights are not always well understood (as these insights come from major thinkers in the theological tradition as in
To cite only one notable example as one looks back into the history of Catholic theology, in the De ente supernaturali: Supplementum schematicum (On Supernatural Being: A Schematic Supplement), Lonergan argues that the dispute which irrupted in the 16th Century between Molinists and Bannezians about the relation between grace and human freedom should be regarded as a false controversy because it proceeded on the basis of a number of shared misunderstandings. To cite a particular glaring instance, both schools adhered to a theory of human understanding which cannot be squared with Aquinas’s stated views. When human understanding is understood as a vital act, it is said that human understanding causes itself. It is essentially self-caused or self-willed. Cf. J. Michael Stebbins, The Divine Initiative: Grace, World-Order, and Human Freedom in the Early Writings of Bernard Lonergan (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), pp. 107-110. But, the self-actualization of human knowing is not only a mistaken notion in itself but one which is doubly false if one tries to claim that it represents Aquinas’s understanding of human cognition. As Aquinas himself says, “the knower as such is not an efficient…cause.” Cf. Aquinas, De Veritate, q. 8, a. 6. Human knowing is not to be equated with the activity or efficient causality of the agent intellect. Human knowledge is not essentially a product of human effort (as a human knower moves from not knowing or not understanding to knowing or understanding). As essential as is the reasoning process for moving toward understanding, no one can know if understanding will ever enter into one’s conscious experience. The absence of any guarantees accordingly distinguishes understanding from any kind of human making or human producing. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 85, a. 2. There is nothing which a person can do whose term is necessarily an act of understanding (even if an act of understanding is personally possessed by a knower when it is enjoyed). Hence, as a consequence, understanding presents itself as something which can only be elicited (and not produced) by what human beings do. It cannot be earned. While given to persons who ask questions, understanding exists as essentially a reception. It is a “being-acted-upon.” Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 79, a. 2. It is an act, not an action. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 28, a. 3, ad 1; Sententia super Physicam, 3, 5, 320. While an action is something which is produced (it comes from a subject or agent as its source or point of origin), as an act, understanding is properly a passion (passio). It is a passive potency. It is something which a subject receives or accepts. It is the act of a subject which exists within a subject who, as a patient, undergoes and experiences what is undergone and experienced, but who can only receive certain operations according to the form or nature which specifies a subject’s operations in terms of what can be received and what cannot be received by a given subject. Cf. De Veritate, q. 26, a. 1; a. 3; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 41, a.1, ad 2; Stebbins, p. 107. In Lonergan’s own words, “act is limited by the potency in which it is received.” Cf. Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, p. 147. Every form possesses an inclination of its own which specifies what it may properly receive. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 6, a. 4, ad 2. Hence, until understanding dawns, one must continue to work and hope for it and, until it dawns, one cannot say what one has understood. The receptive character of human understanding accordingly explains why Aquinas speaks about understanding as a “movement to the soul” from an agent object instead of a movement “from the soul” to outer things. Cf. De Malo, q. 6, a. un., arg. 14a. Intellectual knowledge is received from external things in a way which shows that understanding operates “from things to the soul,” via a rebus ad animam. Cf. De potentia, q. 9, a. 9. If the receptive character of human understanding is not properly understood, it will lead to a false notion of human autonomy (an exaggerated notion of it) and, as a result, God’s grace will not be understood with regard to its full efficacy.
By attending then to the wording of Aquinas’s principle (“whatever is received into something is received according to the condition of the receiver”)and as one thinks about its meaning, one can begin to sense that this principle probably explains why Lonergan moved into an intentionality analysis of the human subject after spending years reading into Aquinas’s thought. Aquinas sometimes explicitly refers to inner experience which human beings can have of themselves when they are engaged in certain acts. For instance, as a prime example which Lonergan often refers to in one or more various texts, in the ST, 1a, q. 84, a. 7, Aquinas avers: “Anyone can experience this for himself that when he tries to understand something, he forms certain phantasms to serve him by way of examples in which, as it were, he examines what he is trying to understand. For this reason, when we wish to make someone understand something, we lay examples before him from which he can form phantasms for the purpose of understanding.” Cf. Aquinas as cited by Giovanni B. Sala S.J., “From Thomas Aquinas to Bernard Lonergan: Continuity and Novelty,” http://www.workofgod.org/dialogue_partners/Sala/from_thomas_aquinas_to_bernard_l.htm#_ftnref10; Lonergan, Understanding and Being, p. 44. But, while Aquinas does not frequently refer to inner human experience in preferring to use a method of analysis which moves from exterior objects to inner human acts (our inner conscious experience of these acts), Lonergan prefers to work conversely through a form of analysis which moves from our inner experience of human acts toward transcendent objects that are intended by our desires and the different kinds of questions that we ask. Where Aquinas distinguishes between different kinds of acts by distinguishing between different kinds of objects, Lonergan moves from our experience of questions and the existence of different kinds of questions to objects by way of acts. By attending to questions and by distinguishing them, one can determine an order of different intended objects and then, by attending to this order of intended objects, one can specify the different kinds of acts which come into existence, or which can come into existence, in order to meet these different intended goals. Differences within the order of human intentionality reveal a normative structure and a connatural order which exists within the larger world of being or reality–a connatural order which refers to a correspondence or a proportion which exists between the order of our human knowing and the order which exists within the world of being (as this is proportionate to the order of our human knowing). Two types of analysis can be contrasted as we think about the kind of analysis that Aquinas prefers to use and the kind that Lonergan prefers to use. But, within Aquinas, one finds principles which lead from one kind of analysis to another: from the metaphysics of Aquinas to the theory of human cognition present in the work of Bernard Lonergan.
by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB
When Lonergan speaks about judgment in terms of affirmation and negation (one affirms, for instance, that something is so or one affirms that something is not so), he speaks differently from Aquinas who had tended to speak about judgment in terms of notions which refer to composition and division (compositio et divisio). Cf. Giovanni B. Sala, “Intentionality versus Intuition,” Lonergan and Kant: Five Essays on Human Knowledge, trans. Joseph Spoerl, ed. Robert M. Doran (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994), p. 101. As Aquinas, for example, speaks about two basic operations of the human intellect (which is his way of speaking about the structure of human understanding), in the Super Boetium De Trinitate, q. 5, a. 3, he says as follows:
The intellect has two operations, one called the “understanding of indivisibles,” by which it knows what a thing is; and another by which it composes and divides, that is to say, by forming affirmative and negative enunciations. Now these two operations correspond to two principles in things. The first operation has regard to the nature itself of a thing, in virtue of which the known thing holds a certain rank among beings, whether it be a complete thing, as some whole, or an incomplete thing, as a part or an accident. The second operation has regard to a things’s act of existing (esse), which results from the union of the principles of a thing in composite substances, or, as in the case of simple substances, accompanies the thing’s simple nature.
In his St. Thomas Aquinas Philosophical Texts (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960), p. 221, n. 604 , Thomas Gilby translates this same text as follows:
Of the two phases of mental activity, the first is the understanding of essential meanings, while the second is a judgment, either affirmative or negative. A dual reality corresponds to these activities: to the former corresponds the nature of a thing, according to its state of being, complete or incomplete, part or accident, as the case may be; to the latter corresponds the existence of the thing.
However, in turning to Lonergan, one finds an account which clearly distinguishes between a synthetic element which always exists in any given judgment and a process or act of affirming or denying a proposed synthesis in a given judgment–a synthesis which has already been understood or grasped by prior acts of understanding before questions later arise which ask about the truth or falsity of one’s prior act of understanding. Cf. Lonergan, Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, pp. 62-63. When Aquinas uses the language of Aristotle to speak about judgment, an initial meaning which is communicated suggests that every judgment creates or discovers a synthesis or relation which, before, had not been known or experienced as a rational possibility. But, when Lonergan speaks about the difference between acts of direct understanding and acts of reflective understanding, he speaks about judgment in a manner which gives to it a more precise, a more specific meaning. Acts of direct understanding as acts of understanding reveal or present connections or relations between things that are not sensed but which are understood within one’s acts of understanding. In every act of abstractive understanding, one can speak about a mental synthesis which reveals itself. Cf. Verbum, p. 63. But later, through a judgment as an act of reflective understanding, a connection which has been understood and which is first inwardly postulated within one’s act of understanding is either affirmed or posited or, on the other hand, it can be denied or negated. In every affirmative judgment, a synthesis which is first given in an idea and as an idea is taken and then, through one’s discursive self-reflection which goes back and attends to what one has done in one’s thinking and understanding, this synthesis is converted into a rationally known truth or a rationally known fact. Through the truth which is affirmed, a person as a knower is then joined to a world of real objects.
Hence, through a differentiation which Lonergan introduces into how Aquinas speaks about the nature of human understanding (through a differentiation which is introduced into Aquinas’s understanding of judgement), in his theology of God Lonergan is able to say that God is not simply ipsum intelligere (Intelligence itself or Understanding itself). Cf. The Triune God: Systematics, p. 187. It is true, of course, to say that God is ipsum intelligere. He is the source of all understanding as an unrestricted uncreated act of understanding from which all else comes and flows. However, if understanding properly exists as a rational positing or as a rational affirmation of intelligible relations, one can speak of God not only as ipsum intelligere but also as ipsum affirmare (as an unrestricted act of affirming or as an unrestricted act of judging). To speak of God as the highest being, the highest truth, and the highest good means that one can speak of him as an unrestricted act of understanding (an unrestricted act of meaning), as an unrestricted act of judging, and as an unrestricted act of loving. The meaning, the truth, and the goodness all exists supremely in God–God as an pure act (actus purus) whose lack of potentiality is such that it is wholly lacking in any restrictions or limitations.
by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB
For an initial understanding about what is meant by a “transposition of meaning,” as Matthew Lamb argues in “Lonergan’s Transpositions of Augustine and Aquinas: Exploratory Suggestions,” The Importance of Insight Essays in Honour of Michael Vertin, pp. 3-21, it is one thing to understand or to come to grips with a theological understanding which had been enjoyed by someone like Augustine or Aquinas and which they had spoken about within an earlier context of meaning. But, after one has truly and properly understood what another has understood and said, one must then find a way to take this same understanding and bring it into a new context of meaning–a new, broader context of meaning which is the result of later achievements in the history of science and philosophy. By means of what is new, one takes the old and raises it to a greater degree of perfection. As Pope Leo XIII had urged in his encyclical Aeterni Patris: Vetera novis augere et perficere. Augment and perfect the old by what is new.
Turning then to how Lonergan speaks about the existence of more than one kind of intellectual emanation within God, Lonergan opens an initial argument by moving from the created order of things to the uncreated order of things. By a positive or affirmative analogy, he moves from created acts of understanding, knowing, and willing to the reasonableness of concluding that, in God, understanding, knowing, and willing must exist to an extraordinary degree. If, among human beings (and angels), understanding, knowing, and willing exist in a self-transcending manner as spiritual acts, to an even greater degree, such things (these acts) must exist in God (God as the creator and ultimate source of all understanding, knowing, and willing). For this reason, as Lonergan argues in his The Triune God: Systematics, we can speak of God as an unrestricted act of understanding, or as an unrestricted act of knowing, or as an unrestricted act of loving and doing. The infinity of each act explains why each species of act includes the other species. From an explanatory viewpoint (or, in other words, from a divine point of view), only a conceptual distinction exists between these different kinds of acts in God.
However, as one attends to a close reading of Lonergan’s argument and at how he applies his analogy and speaks about it, one finds a juxtaposition of words and meanings which suggests that, to some extent, Lonergan is attempting to introduce a transposition of meaning in his discussion. With respect to how Lonergan speaks about God in terms of understanding, knowing, and willing, he juxtaposes (to some extent) a traditional way of speaking about God with a manner which directly and more properly comes from his analysis of the structure of human cognition. As Aquinas had spoken about God in the language which he uses, God exists as a totally self-subsistent being, as pure act (actus purus), or pure being (esse tantum), or as being itself (ipsum esse). No other being is more fully in act. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 25, a. 1. Being by participation is sharply distinguished from simple being (being per se), or being by nature or essence which only belongs to God as a being whose essence is simply to be or to exist (in contrast with the essence of every other being whose essence is not simply to be but to participate in some limited way in the act of being or existence which is God). As Aquinas also notes, as subsistent understanding or understanding itself, God is ipsum intelligere. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 54, aa. 1-3. By and through His understanding, God exists in His being. Cf. De Malo, p. 16, a. 3. God confers being or existence on all other things. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 44, a. 1. Hence, and as Lonergan repeats, it can be said that God is truth or reality itself. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 16, a. 5. God’s existence as a disembodied, disincarnate form (which is to be equated with an unrestricted act of understanding) precludes the possibility or need for any kind of existence which must exist or rely in anything else. Cf. De Veritate, q. 21, a. 5. The self-subsistence is entirely absolute and not relative in any way since, as other things emerge and relate to God and as they depend for Him for their own being and existence, in no way does God depend on them for anything which could be needed by him. Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 18, 2; 2, 18, 4; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 3, a. 7.
However, from a Thomist understanding and insight which speaks about God as pure act or as an unrestricted act of understanding and loving, Lonergan is able to speak about God in a more fully differentiated manner–in a manner which speaks about acts by way of acts of understanding, affirming, and loving. God as intelligibility is an unrestricted act of understanding. God as truth is an unrestricted act of judging or affirming. God as love is an unrestricted act of loving. As we accordingly distinguish between different kinds of intellectual emanation which exist within ourselves (our souls), we can then think about the question of emanations in God. Yes, God is one. God exists, in himself, as an unrestricted act of understanding which, in its infinity and perfection, encompasses every kind of proceeding or emanation that can exist. Everything unfolds from within. In turning to our human experience, we are aware of inner words which proceed from prior acts of understanding (be they acts of direct understanding or acts of reflective understanding) and we are also aware of acts of willing or doing which also proceed or emanate from prior acts of understanding as these exist within moral deliberation. However, as Lonergan argues, these different emanations all exist in a relation with each other which points to an unmistakable, fundamental unity. As much as real distinctions exist among these different emanations, each emanation exists in a manner which naturally either elicits the need for another species of emanation or which points to the necessity and value of having earlier, prior emanations. The proceeding of an inner word from a prior act of direct understanding elicits a desire and need for a second form of proceeding which is the emanation of an inner word of judgment from a prior act of reflective understanding. But, as understanding and knowing lead to loving and doing, the proceeding of any act of willing or doing from a prior act of reflective understanding in ethics not only presupposes a proximate act of reflective understanding about goodness or value but, at the same time, this same emanation also presupposes prior, earlier emanations with respect to truths of fact and being which refer to a world that is always the context of our moral deliberation.
In adverting thus to truths of faith which speak about a coming or a proceeding of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and in also adverting to different kinds of proceeding which exist in our own souls, in this way, we can think about the possible existence of more than one emanation in God. We can think about two basic species of emanation. One refers to the proceeding of an inner word from an act of understanding (whether the act of understanding is an act of direct understanding or an act of reflective understanding). The other refers to a movement which shifts from understanding and knowing to an expression or communication that exists in willing and doing. In some mysterious way, one can think about two possible emanations which exist within God–two emanations which do not contradict with each other as love naturally and rationally emerges from understanding and as understanding also naturally and rationally arises from the kind of love which exists in any desires that yearn for understanding. Because of mutual or reciprocal relation which exists within human subjectivity as regards how our understanding and knowing relate to our desiring, loving, and willing, in an analogical way, one can think about the kind of unity which must exist in God with respect to how divine understanding is related to divine willing. A perfect unity can be thought about. It can be conceived by us though, truly, it cannot also be imagined by us. Within this context, two emanations can be conceived: the proceeding of God as Word and the proceeding of God as Love. In a very real sense, no emanation can exist without the other. Always, where there is the proceeding of a Word (an inner Word), a proceeding of Love exists and where there is the proceeding of Love, the proceeding of an inner Word also exists. As Lonergan concludes his argument here: “…two divine processions…can be conceived through the likeness of intellectual emanation.” Cf. Triune God: Systematics, p. 189.
by Dunstan Robidoux, OSB
In the works of Aquinas and, sometimes, even in some of Lonergan’s writings, one finds references to human conscious life in words which traditionally belong to a psychological language which today is not viewed with much favor. In the bulk of his work, in the context of his intentionality analysis, Lonergan adverts to human conscious life in terms which usually speak about acts of experiencing, understanding, judging, deliberating, and doing. But, in contrast, Aquinas tends to speak more simply about intellect and will, or about the difference between theoretical and practical reason. Cf. Lonergan, Second Collection, p. 79. In Aquinas, a faculty psychology can be detected. Intellect and will are viewed as distinct faculties and, as one attends to them, other distinctions can be made so that one can say that this is not that. One is not the other.
In some descriptive language that Lonergan uses, with respect to what is meant by faculty psychology, Lonergan notes that faculty psychology tends to separate things when it speaks about the inner life of human beings. Cf. Method in Theology, p. 120; Philosophical and Theological Papers 1965-1980, p. 37. The distinctions made tend to detract from grasping how very many things are related to each other in the life of the human psyche and how different elements all rely and depend on each other. In Lonergan’s own words (p. 37):
A faculty psychology divides man up; it distinguishes intellect and will, sense perception and imagination, emotion and conation, only to leave us with unresolved problems of priority and rank. Is sense to be preferred to intellect, or intellect to sense? Is intellect to be preferred to will, or will to intellect? Is one to be a sensist, an intellectualist, or a voluntarist?
Then, in moving to an explanation, Lonergan notes that Aristotelian psychology existed as a kind of deduction or subordinate science. Cf. Papers, p. 395. Its basic terms were crafted as adaptions of basic principles as these were derived from metaphysics as “first science” or “first philosophy.” The human soul is a special kind of form; the body, a special instance of matter. One reaches the human soul by adding specifications or differences that distinguish the human soul from other kinds of souls. The human being is soon defined as a rational animal. Rationality sets human beings apart from plants and animals. And so, by this approach, a hierarchy gradually manifests itself with respect to the structure of the human psyche. A rational human soul tends to present itself as a basic first principle. This principle is identified as the mind or intellect. All various human desires or appetites are then understood in terms of how they relate to the life of the human mind. An ordering of desires is postulated in a manner which tends to separate purely intellectual desires from other kinds of desire. Intellectual desires are commonly distinguished from purely volitional or appetitive desires. Lower desires serve higher desires or, by a mediation that is effected by higher desires which sustain the life of the mind, lower desires are subordinated to serve higher purposes and goals. In the wake of Socrates’s footsteps, it is said that reason rules will. If one knows the good, one does the good. But, from a contrary standpoint which works from Christian belief and an Augustinian teaching which speaks about the formative power of love within human individuals and human history, it is suggested that our desires or passions rule our reason. Our desires move us ultimately either toward God or toward our ruin and self-destruction. It is said thus that “a person ‘is’ what he or she loves.” Cf. Augustine, Tractates on the First Letter of John 5.7-8; 2,14. Without love, we are lost.
Hence, as Lonergan argues, by an analysis which attempts to grasp how one thing leads or follows from another, linear relations are postulated in arguments which cannot too easily speak about a play or interaction that reveals a far much more complex reality which is constitutive of the life of human beings as subjects. By not attending to our experience of consciousness through our self-consciousness, interrelated intentional operations are not attended to. They are commonly not noticed and identified.
In thinking then about Lonergan’s account and as one compares it with contemporary accounts, one finds that, by and large, it agrees with contemporary understandings which speak about separations and a lack of relation between elements. According to an interpretation gleaned from internet sources (http://employees.csbsju.edu/esass/facultypsychology.htm):
Faculty psychology conceived of the human mind as consisting of separate powers or faculties. It viewed the mind as a separate entity, as something apart from the physical body. A popular form of this theory held that the mind consisted of three separate powers: the will, the emotions, and the intellect. The mind (especially the intellect) was seen as a kind of muscle and, by exercising it, one could strengthen to control the will and the emotions.
However, as one engages in a close and careful reading of Aquinas’s texts, one might wonder if Aquinas is being adequately understood if one places too great a weight on his use of a language which speaks about faculties. Yes, certainly, Aquinas speaks about intellect and will and about the difference that distinguishes theoretical reasoning from practical reasoning. However, at the same time, textual evidence can be cited to the effect that Aquinas also speaks about necessary, ongoing interactions between acts of sense and acts of the intellect and necessary, ongoing interactions between acts of the intellect and acts of the will in the life of human beings.
On the necessity of a constant, ongoing interaction between acts of sense and acts of understanding, Aquinas notes that the proper object of human inquiry is always an intelligibility that is embedded in materiality. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 12, a. 11. The nature of this object helps to explain why human knowing always requires an interaction between the exteriority of sense and the interiority of intellect– as Aquinas often speaks of it. Cf. In 2 Scriptum super libros sententiarum, d. 20, a. 2, ad 3; In 3, d. 14, a. 3, sol. 3; Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 96, 10; Sententia super librum De caelo et mundo, n. 2; and Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 8. Because the human intellect relies on what sense can do to help and encourage its reasoning activities, it can then be argued that thinking and reasoning is done by human beings and not by minds or intellects. Human personhood cannot be identified with the existence of the human intellect, mind, or soul. Cf. Francis Selman, Aspects of Aquinas (Dublin: Veritas, 2005), p. 105. In a self-assembling way, human understanding discursively functions through a constant, ongoing interaction a rebus ad animam, “from things to the soul” by way of reception and, conversely, ab anima ad res, “from the soul to things” by way of motion. Cf. De Veritate, q. 10, aa. 5-6; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 8. Acts of sense continually interact with acts of understanding. The composite structure of human cognition explains why human knowing knows things that possess a like composite structure.
Similarly, with respect to interactions between intellect and will, Aquinas argues that the human will does not exist separately from a life of the intellect. Knowing and willing move each other in a reciprocal relation between the two which excludes the primacy of reason over the will (as, since Socrates, the Greeks would have it) and also excludes the primacy of the will over the intellect (as many modern thinkers would have it: Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Nietzsche, and Freud). In one’s understanding, one’s desires and inclinations are known and, in one’s desires and affections, one moves toward inquires which seek understanding. Cf. De Veritate, q. 9, a. 10, ad 3, 2ae ser. Willing moves knowing for the good which can be achieved either purely in knowing, or by and through a knowing that leads to other kinds of activities. Cf. De Veritate, q. 22, a. 12; De Malo, q. 6, a. 1: “I understand because I will to do so.” Two partial causes act together in the life of the will to move human willingness. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 9, a. 1; a. 3. Though reasoning and understanding, a particular object or end is specified as something which should be desired by our willing it. But, at the same time, the will moves itself in possessing an intelligible nature of its own. A distinct set of first principles is constitutive of its inner life. In the order of our desires, some kind of concrete good is always being desired by us as often as we may err in determining what goods we should desire and seek to attain. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 1, a. 7. An order of actions which is constitutive of the life of the will gives the will a characteristic form or structure that is normative for all of its operations, although, at the start of things, an appetibile or “seekable” specifies the object of a particular striving. Cf. Rhonheimer, Natural Law and Practical Reason, p. 26; p. 32; p. 71. Will exists within reason even as it can never be compelled by any act of reasoning and understanding to do a given task. Cf. In 2 Scriptum super libros sententiarum, d. 25, q. 1, a. 2; De Veritate, q. 22, a. 6; Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 10, 17; De Malo, q. 3, a. 3; Peri Hermeneias, 1, 14; and Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 81, a. 3, ad 2; q. 82, a. 2. Knowing and willing condition each other in a mutually causal way through a form of reciprocal or mutual priority which Aquinas explicitly identifies. As Aquinas argues in the De Veritate, q. 14, a. 5, ad 5 (trans. F. Crowe, Three Thomist Studies, p. 82):
…will and intellect have a mutual priority over one another, but not in the same way. Intellect’s priority over will is in receiving (in via receptionis), for if anything is to move the will it must first be received into intellect…. But in moving or acting (in movendo sive agendo) will has priority, because every action or movement comes from the intention of the good; and hence it is that the will, whose proper object is the good precisely as good, is said to move all the lower powers.
More succinctly, in the Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 83, a. 3, ad 3, the same point is averred:
The intellect precedes the will, in one way, by proposing its object to it. In another way, the will precedes the intellect, in the order of motion to act, which motion pertains to sin.
Hence, as one compares Aquinas’s position with that of Lonergan on the relations which exist among the different elements that, together, are constitutive of human psychic life, one finds substantial common agreement. Both acknowledge a mutual conditioning which exists in the interior life of human beings. In the reality which exists, everything happens through a constant interaction that obtains between different material and spiritual elements. As much as one might want to distinguish elements apart from each other and then determine why one element should not be confused with another, one must acknowledge the reality of basic relations which are necessary if anything at all is to happen. Each element exists so that another can properly exist and function. The sensing is for the sake of understanding and, for the sake of growth in understanding, one must return to one’s sensing. Similarly, with respect to knowing and willing, each exists for the sake of the other. Without knowing, willing cannot build or construct anything and, conversely, without willing, no one can give their lives in efforts that are dedicated to a search for knowledge and wisdom.
Lonergan admits that, yes, he engages in an intentionality analysis. He argues that, by doing so, he can accomplish two tasks. He can distinguish a hierarchical ordering of things which exists in the life of the human psyche. Cf. Papers, p. 396. In borrowing from Aristotle an understanding of human inquiry which distinguishes between different types or sets of questions, he can distinguish distinct levels or stages of human conscious operation in the structure of human cognition. Cf. Lonergan, Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, p. 26. Certain things do normally follow from each other or come after each other. And yet, within this same ordering, a mutual conditioning accounts for interactions that move things forward in the life of human beings. No element exists separately from another even if all the elements can be properly distinguished from each other. In Lonergan’s intentionality analysis, a development presents itself but as an achievement that is grounded in a number of earlier achievements in the history of catholic thought.
by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB
The Thomism of Lonergan’s philosophy and theology is accepted by some and rejected by others. On the one hand, Lonergan says about himself that he spent eleven years “reaching up to the mind of Aquinas.” Some of his writings are replete with references to Aquinas. But, at the same time, others argue that something is very wrong with Lonergan’s study of human cognition (his intentionality analysis). Lonergan is accordingly often referred to as a Kantian. He is seen as a promoter of subjectivism and so, as a Kantian, it is said that, in Lonergan, no joining exists between subjectivity and objectivity. From Lonergan’s subjectivity, one cannot move into objectivity. Metaphysics has no foundation.
Now, in addressing this question, it has to be admitted that a fully adequate discussion is no small undertaking. One would have to understand Kant’s own position thoroughly before entering into a similar study of both Aquinas and Lonergan and about how the thought of all these thinkers relates. Such a project cannot be attempted here. However, in order to raise a few questions and to suggest where lines of convergence can possibly be detected, I would like to speak about Aquinas and Lonergan in terms of a number of restricted issues and topics. My presupposition will be the thesis that Lonergan’s thought is not as original as some would believe. In order to understand Lonergan’s thought, one best begins with Aquinas. While some admittedly argue that, to understand Aquinas, one best begins with Lonergan, I will argue to the converse. By reading Aquinas, one best creates conditions that will lead to a better understanding of Lonergan’s thought and a grasp of its true significance.
In Lonergan’s Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, principally in the context of a discussion which speaks about metaphysics as science, it is argued that an isomorphic structure exists between knowing and being. Or, in the words of a more traditional language, a connatural relation exists between the order of human knowing, on one side, and the order of being or reality, on the other. For every element that can be distinguished in the structure of human cognition, a correlative element can be identified in the structure of the known (a known which Lonergan refers to as “proportionate being”). Every metaphysical element is grounded in a corresponding element or act that, as individual, is partially constitutive of the knowing which belongs to human cognition. In Insight (and elsewhere), Lonergan argues against a theory of knowledge which alleges that human knowing is some kind of simple, single act (i.e., a species of intuition). On the contrary, human knowing is complex and, at times, cumbersome. It is constituted by a number or a series of different acts that have each different natures and which are all related to each other in a self-assembling pattern that is normative for human beings. Where Lonergan speaks about experiencing, understanding, and judging as three levels that succeed and sublate one another in the structure of human knowing, three correlative metaphysical components can be distinguished in terms of potency, form, and act. A critical metaphysics is grounded or established on the basis of a critical understanding of human cognition–an understanding that is arrived at through a very personal form of inquiry which emphasizes the importance of self-understanding. Begin an inquiry into metaphysics by first developing a strategy of inquiry which leads toward self-understanding.However, given Lonergan’s theory of an isomorphic relation between the structure of human knowing and the structure of what is known (which can be articulated in a much more sophisticated fashion than what is given here), let us look at Aquinas’s notion of proportionality as this relates to what he has to say about how human knowing is related to what human knowing is able to know. On understanding this notion of proportionality (as Aquinas understood it through his own acts of understanding), one can then think about it and ponder it and ask if a connatural relation exists between it and Lonergan’s theory of isomorphic relations. Is Lonergan’s theory of isomorphism a development of Aquinas’s notion of proportionality?
With respect then to Aquinas’s notion of proportionality, it should be noted that Aquinas begins with an understanding which Aristotle had had. “It is as ridiculous to say, the soul alone understands, as to say, alone it builds or weaves.” Cf. De Veritate, q. 19, a. 1. Knowing is a co-operative effort. It involves both soul and body since human knowing occurs in a being that is formed by two principles. Soul (anima) is united to body (corpus) whereby the soul takes a body and then converts it into a certain kind of body which lives and functions 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. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 4. Hence, human beings exist as incarnate spirits. Anima mea non est ego. “My soul is not I.” Cf. Expositio et Lectura super Epistolas Pauli Apostoli, In II ad I Cor., 15, lect. 2, no. 924. The soul gives a form or structure to the materiality of the body in order to order the body to the soul and, from this form or structure, the knowing of the human soul derives its characteristic form or structure. Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 83, 26. Human knowing emerges as a function of the structuring of the human soul in terms of how human beings exist as embodied beings.
Hence, given the structure or nature of human knowing, Aquinas argues that certain conclusions can be properly drawn about a relation or proportion which exists between knowing and being. As Aquinas notes in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 12, a. 4:
A thing is known by being present in the knower but how it is present is determined by a knower’s way of being. How something knows depends on how it exists. Hence, if the way of being of a thing which is to be known is beyond what belongs to a knower, knowing such a thing would be beyond the natural power [or natural potency] of the knower.
Cognitive activity, as performed by human beings, has its own proper object (specified as an intelligibility that exists within matter). “A thing’s mode of knowing depends on its mode of being. But our soul, as long as we live in this life, has its being in corporeal matter; hence, naturally, it knows only what has a form in matter, or what can be known by such a form.” Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 12, a. 11. Between the mode of being and the mode of knowing, a proportion, proportio, or correlation can be discovered and this proportion between the mode of a subject’s being and the mode of its knowing carries over into a proportion that is reflected in the order of being or reality which is the subject matter of ontology or metaphysics.
In different texts Aquinas speaks about a proportionality in the structure of knowing. One text in the Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 96, 5 directly speaks about proportionality when it says that “the mode of a thing’s proper operation corresponds proportionately to the mode of its substance and nature.” Italics mine. And then, with respect to a proportion which exists between the order of knowing and an order or structure in that which is known, in the In 4 Scriptum super libros sententiarum. d. 49, q. 2, a. 1, ad 6, an earlier text, Aquinas refers to a proportion which should exist between the order or structure of knowing and a like order which should exist in the order of what can be properly and connaturally known. “The potency of the one knowing has to be on a level with the knowability of the thing known.” In the Super Boetium De Trinitate, q. 1, a. 2, ad 3, the same kind of point is reiterated when it said that “some kind of proportion is needed between the knowing power which exists in a knower and what is known as a knowable object.” The reason given is that “the knowable object exists as a kind of actuality within the knowing power of a knower.” Later texts in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 7; a. 8; q. 85, a. 1; and a. 8 specify how a connatural, proportional relation should be understood to exist between human knowing and what a human knower knows. A proportion or correlation naturally and properly exists between the embodiment of the human soul (the soul informing a body) and the embedded existence of forms within matter which are the proper object of human knowing. As Aquinas goes on to note in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 88, a. 1, “our intellect in its present state of life has a natural relationship to the natures of material things,” or, more precisely, as Aquinas states it in Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 108, a. 5, “something is said to be in a certain thing by the proper mode when it is adequate and proportionate to its nature.” Cf. Frederick E. Crowe in Three Thomist Studies, ed. Fred Lawrence, p. 223, nn. 51-52.
With respect to human beings then, and also with respect to angels and God, a distinct strict proportion exists between the knowing of a certain type of subject, on the one hand, and what is being known by the same subject, on the other hand. In the context, for instance, of a strict proportion which exists between a created intellect and a created form, a created intellect can possibly come to exhaustively understand a created form but, with respect to an uncreated form, this is impossible. Cf. Lectura super Ioannem 1, 18, lect. 11, nn. 208-21, as cited by Jean-Pierre Torrell, Saint Thomas Aquinas Volume 2 Spiritual Master, p. 51, n. 69. Uncreated forms can only be properly and adequately understood by uncreated acts of understanding.
On the basis then of the embodiment which properly belongs to the character of incarnate human existence, given then what Aquinas says about human sensible experience and first and second operations of the human mind, Aquinas distinguishes between objects of sense and objects of intellect in a way which indicates that, for every element which exists in the cognitional order, a corresponding element can be posited in the ontological or metaphysical order. See Crowe, p. 212. While, for instance, the object of human sensible experience is an object as it exists in corporeal matter (presenting itself as a form as it exists in corporeal matter; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 85, a. 1: forma prout in materia corporali existit; [forma] prout est in tali materia), the object of human understanding is a form that has been grasped as a quiddity, essence, or “whatness” which exists in corporeal matter (cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 7; Super I Sententiarum, d. 19, q. 5, a. 1, ad 7). In the context of inquiry, a sensible or material form, present in an image or phantasm, is first grasped by an act of sense, but it is grasped in a manner which then hopefully triggers an act of understanding that then apprehends the meaning of an intelligible form which specifies what something is. Cf. Sententia libri Ethicorum, 6, 9, 1239. Sensible form is to be distinguished from intelligible form. And then, thirdly, when a second operation of the mind begins to ask about the possible truth or reality of a given essence or form, in the reflective understanding which occurs in judgment, its term is the positing of existence or being: esse or actuality. Cf. Super I Sententiarum, d. 19, q. 5, a. 1, ad 7; De Veritate, q. 4, a. 2; q. 3, a. 2; q. 14, a. 1, pp. 208-9; Sententia super Metaphysicam, 6, 4, 1232. As Aquinas summarizes his thesis in the Super Boetium De Trinitate, q. 5, a. 3:
The intellect has two operations…which correspond to two principles in things. The first operation has regard to the nature itself of a thing, in virtue of which the known thing holds a certain rank among beings, whether it be a complete thing, as some whole, or an incomplete thing, as a part or an accident. The second operation has regard to a things’s act of existing (esse), which results from the union of the principles of a thing in composite substances, or, as in the case of simple substances, accompanies the thing’s simple nature.
In a species of proportion which speaks about a correlation between the order of knowing and the order of being, acts of sense are correlated with potency (they reveal potency), acts of understanding with form (they reveal form), and acts of judgment with act (they reveal act or actuality).
However, as the ordering which exists within knowing also reveals a like ordering in the structure of reality, a mutual or reciprocal form of proportion can be specifically identified. It informs the species of proportionality which, in Aquinas, correlates every cognitional act with a corresponding metaphysical principle or element. In this specification, acts or elements within a set cannot be understood apart from each other and how each relates to the other. As every act of sense is ordered to first acts of understanding which, in turn, are ordered to second acts of understanding present in judgment, their metaphysical correlatives are also similarly ordered. Potency is ordered to form and form to act. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 54, a. 3. Everything which exists in material things exists as a composite of potency, form, and act and, conversely, every act of knowing is a composite of experiencing, understanding, and judging. Each act or element exists as it is because each is mutually ordered to all the other acts or elements. Citing some of Aquinas’s own words, “what is intrinsically ordered to something else ‘cannot be understood apart from that other’.” Cf. Super Boetium De Trinitate, q. 5, a. 3.
In turning then to how Aquinas goes on to speak about this ordering, in the Sententia super Metaphysicam, 9, 5, 1827-9, he notes that one discovers relations of mutual proportion among metaphysical principles through correlative relations of mutual proportion which also exist as differentiations within the structure and process of human cognition. The difference, for instance, between potency and act is illustrated and paralleled by the difference between sleeping and being awake. Capability or potentiality is distinguished from an act or operation which refers to a realized state of being. Since, cognitionally, for instance, the form of a material thing can only be understood (or apprehended) if it is detached from a material thing through an act of abstraction which functions by way of an interaction between sense and intellect, the form of a material thing (as a metaphysical principle) is understood as something which cannot exist apart from its union with matter (although the form of an immaterial thing can be understood apart from any union with matter). Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 79, a. 7. An awareness of transitions in human cognition reveals a metaphysical principle which speaks about transitions that move from potency to act. Hence, by way of application in metaphysics, it can be said that potency stands to form as the organic body to the soul, the will to habitual righteousness, the possible intellect to habitual knowledge, the ears to hearing, and an eye to sight. Cf. De Potentia, q. 1, a. 1, Sententia super Metaphysicam, 9, 5, 1827-9; Lonergan, The Incarnate Word, p. 140, an unpublished manuscript translated 1989 by Charles C. Hefling, Jr. from the Latin of the De Verbo Incarnato. Form is act (first act) in relation to potency, but in relation to an act of being or operation (second act), it is a second species of potency. The first act of form is not to be confused with the second act of being or operation. By extension, in the relation which exists between form and act, it can be said that “as sight stands to actually seeing, [the faculty of] hearing to actually hearing, habitual knowledge to actually understanding, habitual righteousness to actually willing rightly, soul to actually living,…form stands to act.” Cf. Incarnate Word, p. 140. Through a reflection that is grounded in cognitive self-consciousness, metaphysical principles can be identified and all can be understood in terms of how they are all ordered to each other.
By way of conclusion then, Aquinas’s notion of proportionality derives from Aquinas’s experience of himself as a thinking, knowing subject. The subjectivity of his understanding is seen to participate in a wholly natural way in an objectivity that his understanding is naturally directed toward. No inherent, unbridgeable gap necessarily exists between the subjectivity, on the one hand, and objectivity, on the other. The subjectivity of a thinking, knowing being is joined to the objectivity of what can be known through a person’s subjectivity. The human spirit moves into objectivity through its self-transcending operations. Through our initial desires and aspirations, we are immediately joined to a world that is greater than ourselves. And then, by our activities which emerge as responses to what we want and desire, we can be joined ever more intimately to this same greater world which transcends our finite human existence. Within ourselves, unrestricted desires serve as a point of connection. In thinking about Aquinas’s notion of proportionality, we can rightly ask if Lonergan’s theory of isomorphism is essentially taken from Aquinas’s notion of proportionality. Is Lonergan’s theory genuinely Thomist?