Form as a Cause of Knowing in Aquinas and Lonergan

by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

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

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

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

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

Essence in Aquinas and Lonergan

 by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

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

Understanding the Proceeding of an Intellectual Emanation in its Uniqueness

 by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

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

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

 by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB 

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

Applying a Thomist Principle: Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur

by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

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

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

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

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

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

Being and Good as Primary Notions in Aquinas and Lonergan

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

Speaking about God’s Nature in Aquinas and Lonergan: A Question about Different Starting Points

by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB
 
In his The Triune God: Systematics, pp. 193-199, in a seeming contrast with Aquinas, Lonergan speaks about God’s attributes by using the infinity or unrestrictedness of God’s understanding as his first principle.  By working from a notion of infinity and as one applies this indeterminate notion to God, one can speculatively order a number of attributes which can be used to speak about God as he exists (as an unrestricted act of understanding).  However, in Aquinas, God’s attributes are analogically spoken about in a context which seems to work from a different first principle: from God who exists as a pure act (God as a pure act of understanding) from which comes a notion of simplicity that is proper to God and to no other being.
 
As Aquinas speaks about God as pure act, the complete absence of any potentiality in God’s divine understanding explains why the divine act of understanding is an absolutely simple thing and why, in its infinity, it possesses more understanding than any other act of understanding.  Cf. Compendium theologiae, 1, c. 9; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 14, a. 1; cf. q. 3, a. 1 & ad 2; 3a, q. 10, a. 2, ad 3.  The absence of any kind of potentiality explains why, in an especially eminent way, divine understanding is always immediately present and it is not discursive in any way.  Divine understanding does not have to work from what is known to what is unknown since, by always apprehending one intelligible form or one intelligible nature (sometimes referred to by Aquinas as the “form of being” or the “form of what is”), God (or God as an act of understanding) always understands all things in one single act.  The absence of potentiality explains the pure actuality of God’s being as a complete act of understanding.  From an operation that is always fully actual and complete, one comes to understand what is meant in any discussion which wants to speak about the infinity of God’s understanding.  This understanding is wholly infinite both with respect to its range and with respect to its depth.  It is totally lacking in any measure which one might use from the outside to judge and evaluate it, and so its infinity naturally makes it the measure of all other sorts of understanding (whether one speaks about the working of human understanding or about the understanding of separated substances or angels which exist ontologically as disembodied spirits).  In an analogy which draws from the simplicity of understanding as this can be understood by us when we think about the nature of an intuition, divine understanding is one completely simple act that is always permanently transcendent in the character and manner of its existence.  Its fullness does not depend on any relation which might exist between what it is in itself and the existence of anything which could possess any material and temporal coordinates.
 
In other words thus, as we compare how Aquinas speaks about God’s attributes with how Lonergan does the same, we find that Lonergan emphasizes a form of analogical proceeding which moves initially from inner experiences that we have about infinity as infinity exists within our cognitive self-awareness.  Even as we realize and know that the range and extent of our human knowing is always strictly limited (what can be properly known is properly proportionate to our acts of sensing, understanding, and judging), at the same time and as an indisputable datum of consciousness, we know about an infinity which exists within our natural desires for understanding and knowledge.  As Aquinas had noted and as Aristotle had noticed, as inquirers and questioners, we naturally want to know about the truth and cause of all things.  Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 50; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 12, a. 1; q. 12, a. 8, ad 4: “the natural desire of the rational creature is to know everything that belongs to the perfection of the mind, namely, the species and genera of things and their types.”  Lonergan quotes Aquinas to speak about a natural restless desire which exists within us for a complete understanding of things which can only be given if one finds oneself in the presence of God.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 3, a. 8; q. 94, a. 2: “man has a natural inclination to know the truth about God, and to live in society….[and also] to shun ignorance [and] to avoid offending those among whom one has to live, and other such things…”  From a natural desire to know the causes of all things, one can conclude that man naturally desires to come to a knowledge of God who, as a cause, is the first cause or first principle of all things from which everything else comes.  No other cause is more worth knowing about.  Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 25, 11 & 14; Sententia super Metaphysicam, 1, 1, 4.  As Aquinas elsewhere argues, the human ability to grasp the meaning of a universal and to know a universal implies a natural human ability to come to a knowledge of God who, in himself, is a universal.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 2a2ae, q. 2, a. 3.  However, because God can only be known as he exists in himself by an act of divine understanding and not by a created act of understanding which receives a created species or form from a created effect that is initially sensed, God can only be known by us in a supernatural way: by the reception of a divine essence, species, or form which can only enter our intellects in another life through a divine illumination which communicates a supernatural gift.  Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 47, 3; 3, 48, 12-16; 3, 51-53; William E. Murnion, “Intellectual Honesty in Aquinas and Lonergan,” (paper presented at the Third International Lonergan Workshop, Erbacher Hof, Mainz, Germany, January 2-7, 2007), pp. 8-9.
 
From an infinity thus that we already know about, we can more easily speak about an infinity which exists with respect to divine understanding.  The experience of unrestrictedness which already exists within our own self-understanding suggests that the complete understanding which exists only in God is characterized by an infinity that is solely proper to it but which does not belong to any acts of understanding as these exist in created, finite beings.  In thinking then about any difference which allegedly exists between Lonergan and Aquinas on how God’s attributes are to be discussed and distinguished from each other, if one’s compares what Lonergan says about the infinity of God’s understanding with what Aquinas has to say about the pure actuality of God’s understanding, one finds a difference which appears to be no more than conceptual.  But then too, as one thinks about it, one is tempted to think too that the difference may be no more than verbal.  If one attends to the attributes which Aquinas identifies and those which Lonergan identifies, one finds no significant differences.  One finds the same set of attributes.  In his discussions, Aquinas certainly speaks about the infinity of God’s understanding.  See Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 14, a. 6; q. 14, a. 11.  However, from the context of a metaphysical analysis which speaks about a total lack of potency in God’s being, a total lack of potentiality in divine understanding, he can conclude to a pure actuality which allows him to speak about the unrestrictedness of divine understanding.  In a sense, Aquinas can more easily move from talk about the pure actuality of God to talk about the infinity of God’s understanding.  However, from a perspective which wants to ground everything in palpable human experience and with how human beings experience themselves as inquiring, knowing beings, Lonergan chooses to produce an ordering of divine attributes in a manner which appears to be more intelligible.  He employs a starting point that can be immediately known by any reader who engages in some form of self-reflection.
 

Judgment in Aquinas and 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.

 In the explanation which Aquinas gives about what happens in judgement, in judging that something is so, an intellect composes or unites.  It compounds, joins, or puts together.  Cf. De Veritate, q. 1, a. 3; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 3, a. 4, ad 2; q. 16, a. 2.  In judgment, a predicate is truly united with a subject.  A form signified by a predicate is joined with a subject to form a proposition.  And so, similarly, in saying that something is not so, an intellect divides or separates.  It says that a form signified by a predicate is not truly joined with a subject.  In Aquinas, judgment is spoken about largely in metaphysical terms.  Cognitive operations are alluded to but they not too frequently directly spoken about.  When Aquinas, for instance, speaks about being or existence, he speaks about being or existence as the act or actuality of an essence, or as the act or actuality of being.

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.

Understanding Two Kinds of Emanation within God Through a Transposition of Meaning

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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.