Perfection in Suffering on the Cross: A Transcendental-Metaphysical Analysis

[If you had seen this piece during the first hour it was posted, I apologize for the confusion. I dictate these blogs into a program, and then edit them.  What you saw was the unedited version.]

by David Fleischacker 

“….and he was made perfect through suffering”

Hebrews 2:10

Good Friday seems to be an obvious misnomer, at least when I was a kid I always thought so. Once one realizes that the crucifixion of our Lord is the greatest act of love, then one begins to glimpse why it the greatest and most perfect good. But why through suffering? Lonergan’s insight into sin as an act of inauthenticity can shed light on the magnitude of this goodness, and on why it must take place through suffering.  To see this, we must first understand the nature of inauthenticity, which means we must understand the nature of the transcendental notions and why these are so important.

Setting the Stage of Suffering: The Transcendental Notions

The transcendental notions are at the root of why the transcendental precepts ring true to all of us. Just to recall those precepts–they form a hierarchy-[and I do mean a sacred order by this term, not its degradation in today’s culture to a negative bureaucratic term.]

The Transcendental Precepts

  • be loving (highest)
  • be responsible
  • be reasonable
  • be intelligent
  • be attentive (lowest)

 For those who have studied Lonergan, you know that these precepts articulate the way of perfection of the levels of consciousness. Each level is distinct because it is governed by a different fundamental operator and integrator of development (see chapter 14 of Insight for more info on operators and integrators). One gets a first glimpse into these operators when attending to the wonder at the root of our questions–hence as Lonergan distinguished in Insight-wonder sorts into questions for -understanding and questions for reflection–the first leads to insights, the second to judgments. Hence asking questions for understanding and getting insights is equal to being intelligent. And asking questions for reflection and making true judgments is equal to being reasonable. As those of us who have been around Lonergan for a while know, he later added questions for deliberation and decisions which when perfected are equal to being responsible. He also suggested a fifth level which is really tied to the entire capacity for self transcendence and its actuation in a state of being in love. This fifth level is a bit different than the others, because it not merely emerges from them, but both is a comprehensive perfection of one’s horizon and it is the starting point and orientation of every level of one’s horizon. It completely embraces every operator or integrator, and every operation and integration in the human subject from the lowest levels to the highest. It is a kind of alpha and omega of human existence. This is why it is a little bit more than a level. In any case it is what underpins the precept “be loving.”

 To expand one’s apprehension of these acts of wonder so as to see that these are not merely questions but operators and integrators, one can shift one’s attention to the interior fact that the same wonder is also the same that gazes upon an answer, and it is the same that moves beyond any finite answer. In Plato and Augustine, this is why wonder is more aptly called an interior spiritual light–the light of being. With Aristotle and St. Thomas, it is called the agent intellect. The symbol of light is a wonderful image because a light source is that by which we are able to look for something, and then, it is the same reality by which we gaze upon something found, and finally, it is the same reality by which we can look again for something new.

Realizing that questions really are operators and integrators is not easy.  We all start in the world of the senses and I, like many others, became trapped in that world. Plato describes this in his book the Republic.  All human beings are born in the cave.  They do not understand how they know, what they know, or the source by which they know.  Only with great difficulty does a brave soul break the chains of the cave, and then move from the cave into the bright light of the sun.  This is a wonderful description of what it is like to turn to and then discover the landscape of interiority. But once one does make this leap, the world of one’s own soul begins to open into something far more grand than anything seen with the eyes.

Included in this grand interior landscape is the lights that illuminate it. Those lights are the wonder that is both the operator and integrator of that landscape, and as Lonergan argues, it sorts into three types already mentioned–questions for understanding, questions for reflection, questions for deliberation. The union of these three into a whole is the real character of the essence and heart of the human subject, a character which is defined by Lonergan as the capacity for self transcendence (see chapter 1, Method in Theology). And if this capacity is not actualized by a love that is the true alpha and omega of one’s soul, one dwells in a dark abyss staring off into the unrestricted reaches of nothingness.

Lonergan more precisely called these fundamental operators and integrators the transcendental notions. They underpin, penetrate, and go beyond all operations and integrations in the subject. They start as questions, discover answers, and through these the subject transcends to new questions. In short, they are transcendental because they make it possible for a subject to self-transcend and even yearn for that which is absolutely Transcendent, our Lord, and more supernaturally, to receive the absolutely Transcendent as a gift called the beatific vision.

Linking the Transcendental Notions to the Finality of All that Exists

In Insight, Lonergan makes an amazing statement about the human mind that helps us to move an inch closer to understanding the kind of suffering Jesus experienced on the cross. Namely, Lonergan writes that in human beings the finality of the universe becomes conscious.  Linking this to the transcendental notions reveals a profound unity in the whole of the created world.

In order to move toward this link, let us first say something about the nature of finality. Finality is rooted in the potency of the universe, in each of its parts and as a whole.  That potency is one of emergent probability. In transcendental terms, it is an emergent probability of intelligibility, being, and goodness. Are you beginning to see the link to the human person? When the human being as part of that emergence is infused with the transcendental notions, then there emerges a creature that is a self-conscious intelligibility that is intelligent, a self-conscious being that is reasonable, and a self-conscious good that is responsible. And the unity of it all? A potentiality that is actuated in love.  The actuated orientation of finality in its highest reaches is a state of being in love. If you have been following these points, hopefully you can see what individuals like St. Thomas are thinking about when they say that all things have God as their end. 

Transcendental Notions: Created Participations in the Divine Light

There is a profound mystery in the transcendental notions. Nothing in this world can cause them. They emerge almost as if from nothing.  There are just there.  And they are a great power in us.  What begins to dawn on the humble soul is that these lights must come from something great.  And as one discovers that they have no intrinsic bounds, and they give us that yearning to understand all that could be understood, and know all that has being, and enjoy all that is good, we begin to wonder about the “hither” of all things and of these yearnings.  It is the question of God that arises when we move to this state.  And when we begin to discover the good without bounds, the true without conditions, the intelligible that is total, we discover as well the real source of these interior lights, the transcendental notions.  They are created participations in the Good, the True, the Intelligible, that is responsible without bounds, reasonable without conditions, intelligent that is total, and loving with mercy that embraces death on a Cross.  This discovery sheds a more magnificent light upon the finality that has become conscious in us.

Oh what a great good each child, each woman, each man is in this world! We are in the image and likeness of our Creator.

Sin and Evil as a Violation of Finality

Human beings as illumined by the transcendental notions have a radical freedom that introduces the potentiality for the sinister. That radicality is the possibility of violating finality. Human beings can turn against the transcendental notions, they can betray the interior lights. In short, they can fail to be intelligent, to be reasonable, to be responsible, and to be loving. This betrayal reverberates into the fabric of the entire universe of being.  Even the quarks that are sublated in our atoms and cells, in our neurons, and elevated into the realm of consciousness are privated by sin of a vertical finality that they were made to enjoy.  This is the nature of evil. And this is just one person. We could go on to discuss how these acts of inauthenticity are then mutually self-mediated to others and the fabric of our universe.

Original Sin and the Deformation of the Finality of the Universe

The doctrine of Original Sin tells us that at the beginning of the human race, sin entered the world through one man and one woman that led them from the harmony and joy of the garden into the cities of Cain. Speculating on how that sin is transmitted from one generation to the next, St. Augustine narrowed the culprit to a disorder that exists between men and women in the procreative act–concupiscence. The heaven and earth were doomed to be corrupted until the end of time.  This reality led the inspired prophets to hope for a new heaven and a new earth.

The Revelatory discovery of the fallen state is complemented by a profound inverse insight that helped the Greeks to discover evil as a privatization of being. With Lonergan we can transpose this privation into a violation of the finality of intelligibility, being, and goodness. A surd is introduced into history and the cosmos. Things really are not as they should be. In our own souls, we directly recognize such violations as a turning away from the light, a light that is a voice which we commonly know as the voice of conscience. And because those lights are a created participation in the divine light, conscience is also recognized as the voice of God in our own souls.

To summarize, inauthenticity is a betrayal of the finality of one’s own soul, and since one’s soul is a conscious realization of the finality of the universe, it is a betrayal of the finality of the universe. Every sin is such a betrayal.

Authentic Suffering as a Response to Evil and Sin

Now we can turn to the character of suffering. I remember the first time that I began to realize that suffering was not intrinsically evil. I was brought up in life to think so and of course, I was a good son of our world.  Suffering was the great evil to be avoided, and  in mercy, we must help others to avoid it too.

There is a truth in this. Suffering is not where we should be. However, St. Augustine taught me something different about suffering. He helped me to understand the church’s disposition to suffering that had always puzzled me. Why embrace the cross? Why lift our sufferings up to the Lord? Why did Jesus suffer unto his death?

St. Augustine taught me that suffering is not intrinsically evil but good. It is that which is good responding to evil. Suffering is the seeking and yearning for healing. This is why it is good. Even our physical bodies operate this way. Pain sensors tell us something is wrong. They prevent further harm. They get us to change behavior to avoid damage and/or to allow for healing. If my hand did not hurt when I put it on a burning stove, I would destroy it.

Suffering the Evil in Others

Human beings can suffer the evils of others. This should be a kind of surprise until you realize that the interior lights, the transcendental notions, mean that we are the kind of creature in which potentially the entire universe that exists could dwell. And that which is more beautiful and profound will dwell in us in a way more beautiful and profound manner. This is why our friends and family are so much a part of us. And what hurts them hurts us. If a good friend dies, part of us dies. When we encounter violations of the finality in others or in creation, this violation is ours because of the nature of who we are. It becomes and is my privation, even if it was your sin. Your sin becomes my sorrow [just as is the opposite true — your good becomes my good (if I do not have envy).]

 So suffering evil is the yearning that evil be overcome and that goodness be restored. This is why authentic suffering is actually good. We should be sorrowful over any and all acts of inauthenticity, and any and all violations of the finality of creation.

Jesus’ Suffering on the Cross

Now let us return to the suffering of Jesus on the cross. That suffering was a response to the sin of the world that dwelt in the soul of Jesus. Jesus is present to all acts of inauthenticity throughout history, and as present, these dwell in him through his subjectivity. This begins to explain the depth of what Jesus meant on the Cross when he proclaimed “My God my God why have you forsaken me?” HBy becoming one of us, all of our privations became his.  He yearned for the healing of the privation of all sin, of all inauthenticity, of the totality of deformed and fallen creation. This was the depth of his love and begins to shed light upon what he meant when on the Cross he turned to his Father, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”

Sin is a radical darkness that betrays the light. It turns one against the One who is the source of the transcendental notions.  It is not a mere turning either, but active turning against.  Inauthenticity has a dramatic and murderous plot to it. This begins to explain why we are the cause the crucifixion of our Lord in every act of sin. 

But Why is This the Way of Perfection?

Now we have to introduce one other element to explain why Jesus was perfected in his suffering, and why we are too. 

Self-transcendence that is authentic and unfolds with the finality of emergent probability is a great good. However this is natural. It is expected. It flows from what should be. But there is an even greater set of goods which are authentic responses to evil. In other words these are acts of suffering, which really yearn for the reconciliation of the sinner and the healing of evil. They are a gift, a surprise, and intelligibility that goes beyond natural finality. It is to be intelligent in the darkness of the unintelligent, to be reasonable in the lies of the unreasonable, to be responsible in the wickedness of the irresponsible, to be loving in the hatred of life exuding from those privated of love. Virtues such as courage and temperance would not be if it were not for evil. The authentic response to evil bears forth a good that is beautiful and magnificent, beyond what nature provides. The greatest of course is to die for one’s enemy as Christ did for us. This is a perfection that transcends the natural finality of this universe and is highly intelligible, true, and good.  It is the magnitude of God’s love for us.

Finality, Love, Marriage: Tensions and Contradictions in Love, Part 9

by David Fleischacker, Ph.D.

I have decided to return to an earlier sequence of blogs that are commentaries on Lonergan’s 1943 essay, “Finality, Love, and Marriage” — an essay which can be found in the 4th volume of his collected works.  My objective is twofold; 1) to understand Lonergan’s intentions in the essay, 2) to examine what will happen to the essay in light of Lonergan’s later writings on Insight and Method in Theology.

This blog will examine a single paragraph in the essay — section 2.2 — titled “Tension and Contradictions.”  I will start with a quote,

“But besides this multiplicity of aspects, to be verified in any instance of love, there also is a multiplicity of appetites and of loves generating within a single subject tensions and even contradictions.”

Section two of this essay as a whole is focused on the “concept of love.”  In 2.1, Lonergan articulated how love is “the basic form” of all appetite, and how appetite is a principle that unites subjects both in seeking and enjoying a common end.  In 2.2, the section we are considering in this blog, Lonergan brings up the simple fact that appetites are never single in the human subject.  These multiple appetites have multiple ends that are loved and that unite subjects in both seeking and enjoying.  But because of this multiplicity there are “tensions and even contradictions.”

If love is the basic form that unites subjects, why then does it cause tensions and contradictions.  Let us begin the answer by starting with a more precise understanding of the multiplicity.  Notice Lonergan’s three examples of appetite.

  1. Hunger
  2. maternal instinct
  3. rational appetite

The proper object of the first is “my goal” — more specifically nourishment of my body. The proper object of the second is the good of the child.  The proper object of the third is the “reasonable good.”  The way to these objects is specific as well, hence food for the first, care of the child for the second, and the discovery of the reasonable good for the third.

One can imagine that the appetite for my good, the appetite for the good of another, and then an appetite for what is absolute will find themselves in conflict some day if not every day. However Lonergan notes that the third appetite  is the doorway to a liberation from this interior war.  The third “moves on an absolute level to descend in favor of self or others as reason dictates.” (as a note, Newman says this in a number of his writings).  Somehow, reason will discover and project a harmony in the multiplicity.

What happens in the later writings of Lonergan help to expand and fill out the way that reason transcends “on an absolute level” the tensions and contradictions, and can “descend” to set a harmonious order of human action in the multiplicity of appetites.

Insight and Appetite

In Insight, Lonergan seems to have the same notion of appetite operative even though he is heading into a transposition of faculty psychology into intentionality analysis.  One sees this transposition in

  1. Lonergan’s formulation of image and affects via Freud and depth psychology.
  2. His linking of image and affect to neural demand functions.
  3. The linking of image, affect, and neural demand functions into patterns of experience.
  4. The three levels of human development that are interlocking higher and lower levels of integration and operation (organic development, psychic development, and intellectual development) — (chapter 15)

And this list is not exhaustive. These developments provide a glimpse into Lonergan’s deepening understanding of the nature of the levels and the relationships of the levels of being within the framework of the development of the human person.  Lonergan does not yet use the language of horizon, but but he is using “view” and “viewpoint” which reminds one of Newman’s use of the terms (and a number of other figures over the previous century).

In Insight, the language about the mind itself is transposed into intentionality.  Data of sense is combined with data of consciousness to provide the starting point for self-understanding and self-knowledge.  With the clarification of the notion of being (chapter 12), which transposes the agent intellect–and the manifestation of that notion in questions for understanding and questions for reflection, concepts, and judgments–the nature of the mind itself is more directly reflected in the terms and relations.  This in turn provides a basis to answer the most fundamental problems of modernity and post-modernity in their challenge to epistemology and metaphysics.

This shift to interiority analysis greatly expands upon Lonergan’s articulation of “reason.”  Insight and Judgment constitute the acts which when rightly exercised are isomorphic with being.  His explorations of insight in math, science, common sense, and philosophy provide a deeper understanding both of the harmony and unity of intelligence and reason.  When he shifts to an explanatory account of epistemology and the general character of metaphysics in the second half of the book, he completes the circuit which allows one to discover not only the harmony of the mind, but the harmony of being within a framework of generalized emergent probability.   This significantly expands what can be said about unity and plurality of appetites, and the contraditions they might generate, and why reason can objectively discover a unified order in the multiplicity of appetites.

Let me suggest the heuristic solution to discovering this harmony.  In Insight,  occurrences and events fall within the framework of systematic and non-systematic process, which is developed more precisely into schemes of recurrence, conditioned series of schemes, and at the height of generic intelligibility, emergent probability itself.

If one shifts from a mere multiplicity of occurrence (hence a statistical apprehension defined by classical correlates) to emergent process, then one begins to grasp a horizon-scape (land, water, sky) in which these appetites are naturally ordered.  Hunger for example is within the nutritional cycles of the cells and cellular systems of the body.  Eating is part of these systems in its sublation into the cultural mores of a people.  The same is true of all appetites.  They have their natural rhythms and cycles. These really do form a harmony within the context of generalized emergent probability, which incorporates even dead ends and catastrophes (see chapter 4 of Insight).  But even dead ends and catastrophes do not involve a real conflict of appetites, even if a conflict of appetites can cause catastrophes. The gravest catastrophes result in death, and no one subject to death has an appetite for such an end.

Yet, to the casual observer, there does seem to be real conflicts. Are these objective? If so, how?  The answer is yes.  Ultimately for such a conflict of appetites to occur, there needs to be a free subject who can violate the intelligible order of emergent probability.  Intentionality analysis reveals the culprit.  It is the fallen spirit.  The one who rejects the light of intelligibility, being, and the good.  In other words, the subject who fails the dictates of seeking and finding understanding, truth, and value.  Such failures of spirit (spirit = that which is intrinsically independent of the empirical residue) will result in a failure to descend to unite the multiplicity of appetites into their order within the emergent world.  In turn, this failure will descend into the fabric of the polis and even the cosmos.    That is a larger scope of tension and conflict however than we find in section 2.2.  Yet, this larger expanse of being and the world that can be known by reason sheds some light on the source of the tensions and conflicts.  Motor-sensory and intersubjective appetites will conflict when a wise order is privated. That natural and wise order is one of emergent probability.

Method in Theology and Appetites

In terms of Method in Theology, the tensions and contradictions of the appetites can be easily transposed into intentionality analysis. Every cognitional and moral operator and operation is both conscious and intentional. As conscious, these intellectual, rational, and volitional levels of operators and operations intrinsically allow the subject to be self-present, but not necessarily understood and known.  As intentional, one can transpose the relationship of a specific appetite to a specific object.  Hunger can be transposed into the intention of food, motherly care into the intention of the well being of the child, rational appetite into the intention of intelligibility and being.  No conceptual revolution here.

Some areas of appetite are expanded in Method.  Borrowing from Dietrich von Hildebrand, Lonergan constructs a simple generic map of affective appetites — non-intentional states and trends are organized under one column, intentional feelings under another (and these sort into those at the level of sensate experience–pleasure–and those at the level of decision–value).   This generic pattern is further expanded when Lonergan focuses upon the intentional feelings that respond to value. In chapter two, he formulates the scale of values — vital, social, cultural, personal, and religious/transcendental.  One can see the beginnings of this scale in 2.2, with the examples mentioned above.  Hunger belongs to vital values, motherhood to intersubjective and social values (one could argue personal emerges as well), and rational appetite constitutes a type of cultural value (descriptive as well as explanatory).  Both in Insight, and more so in Method, the scale is expanded in scope.

Arguably the most significant transpositions and expansions found in Insight and Method are the Transcendental Notions (only that of Being is explicitly formulated in Insight, and in Insight it is identified as a notion, which falls within the framework of heuristic notions which are components of heuristic structures).  These notions are integrators of systems and operators of development.  This shift to the transcendental notions allows Lonergan to recast a more developed understanding of the dialectic of human development.  In Insight, that dialectic sprung from a tension of levels (eg. sensate and intellectual).  In Method, is becomes more precisely articulated as a dialectic of authenticity and inauthenticity. To return to 2.2, the tension considered is on the same level, that of motor-sensory appetite and conflicts between these appetites.  However, as the essay proceeds, Lonergan will move to a dialectic closer to that found in Insight, but not quite as precise.

The transition from this essay to Insight and Method will not in the end contradict or undermine the general arguments of the essay, but rather will strengthen the arguments as will be seen when we move to further sections.  Lonergan’s later writings provide a more penetrating heuristic for understanding the general character and specific features of the nature and life of marriage.

Next commentary on this essay will be upon friendship — 2.3.

 

Reality or Being — Are these the same?

by Dr. David Fleischacker

This one is more for those who have studied Lonergan a bit.  Sorry to those who have not.

Though most today might think of being and reality as the same, what is meant by both today is not the same as that of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas. For them, Being is not only “that which is,” but a that which is that is necessarily intelligible. Being is intelligible and actual intelligibility is being. And just because you can name something does not mean it is intelligible, hence just because you can name something does not mean it exists.

In contrast to intelligible being is that which is not.  Statements do not get any easier to make which are true. Darkness is an easy example because its descriptive correlate has a relatively easy explanatory basis. It is the absence of any visible light waves.  We can name it but it has no intelligible being (at least in the visible range of light — there may be being beyond the visible light spectrum as a note).  More difficult are those absences that seem so real there must be something intelligible.  So, for example, inertia seems like it must have some kind of intelligibility.  After all great minds searched for the answer to the  cause of inertia for centuries upon centuries. But in the end it belongs to the empirical residue (see chapter 1 of Insight) and one likely will need an inverse insight to get that it lacks intelligible being (also see chapter 1).  More difficult is something like evil. But it too lacks intelligibility.  In fact it not only lacks intelligible being, but it is a privation of being and so introduces the absurd. In either case, these lack intelligibility and thus cannot have being.

Here is another way to get at the same point.  Let’s make a distinction between being and reality.  Let’s say that reality includes experiential absences, partial constitutive components of being (eg. the empirical residue), privations of intelligible being, and concrete being that is intelligible.  This makes it a larger category than being because it includes named nothingnesses and absences and privations.  Concrete and real being that is intelligible however is only “part” of this world, a larger world that really is not.

The import of grasping what the ancients meant by being and us moderns do not has a number of ramifications.  Without realizing the ancient meaning of being, disciplines like metaphysics will be misunderstood.  Evil will make no sense.  Why?  Because the ancient statements about being cannot be applied to nothingness, absences, and privations without being unintelligible.  And so us proud moderns will tend to think that these ancients were simply careless and unintelligent.  But it is the reality of moderns that is lacking.

Judgment and the Recovery of Being

by Dr. David Fleischacker

Lonergan’s explanatory formulation of the interior structure of judgment dismantles one of the great culprits of the modern world that has left vast reaches of the Western world in a dark age. It is dark because it thwarts self-transcendence precisely in one of the great powers of the human mind.  Judgement makes possible a real presence of a person to that which is.  It mediates a true encounter with intelligible being. In other words, authentic judgment allows being to dwell within one.  This darkness is the real forgetfulness of being.  Heidegger was only partially right. He did recognize something that was true about the fallen state of us.  But he still left one with out the ability to enjoy and rejoice in the goodness of even the littlest beings in the world.  Those little, finite beings–trees, rocks, the human body, stars, planets–were merely ontic things.  For him Being– the Ontological–was all that mattered, and even that notion lacks in Heidegger the liberty that Lonergan comes to discover. It is after all a transcendental notion.

When one proclaims that all is mere perspective, or one announces that one can never be sure of what truly is, or one thinks of reality as out there but not in here (in my head), then one is proclaiming that being is fundamentally unknown.  It is as Kant said, in the noumena.  This is the darkness in which today we are chained and enslaved.  It is a self-inflicted cave of own’s own mind, and if one is completely honest, then Derrida is right, even that cave is a mere trace. It too resides in the darkness.  Even my own thoughts flow in the differance of lost presence.

For most, I think the world of entertainment and work keeps them from facing this haunting darkness which they have absorbed since their day of birth.  Many do escape into a world of common sense and do not bother with these questions.  But if pushed in a direction they do not like, then as an instinctual mechanism of self-defense, they pull out the darkness of the no-nothings.

I remember one day saying to a friend, “don’t you know that you can’t find happiness in hockey — he loved hockey to the neglect of nearly everything. He was able to deconstruct my simple quest with one stutter of his vocal cords and a brush of air sent my way in the wave of a hand.  I knew what he meant.  He meant you can’t really know the answer to what you are asking.  Don’t bother me with it.

Lonergan does not answer this deconstructive shallowness with the same brush of air and grunt.  No such simplicity can be found with his response.  Yet, amazingly, in one book he sends to the grave this particular darkness for any who want freedom from these chains that have been growing and entangling the Western world for 500 or more years.  I suppose one could argue that it has been longer and started with the nominalists, but the other day, someone I know — Dr. Chris Blum — pointed out rightly that without the founders of modernity (Descartes, Hume, Kant, etc.), these nominalists would have been forgotten.

Lonergan in one book opens the doors to the cave. That book is Insight. He let’s in some light. We can discover that the shadows and traces of being are not our genie lamp. With the great skill of a gifted surgeon, Lonergan, at the beginning of the book, asks the reader to examine in themselves the act of understanding. It begins a journey into a massive world of interiority and self-appropriation.  The attentive and careful reader who takes this journey is not asked to trust the writer in the end, though one must trust along the way.  He leads the reader from insight in math and science to that of common sense and things, all before he turns to the excavating work of exploring judgment.

It is a brilliant plan as anyone knows who has seriously read the text.  His first eight chapters remove the rocks that block the path to light and freedom, and then finally he removes the hinges of the locked doors of the cave.

Starting in chapter 9, he then begins to open the door.  In chapter 11, the reader gets asked to walk out of the cave unless he or she is too afraid to do so and simply refuses to see the beauty and the landscape of being.

In the next couple of chapters, through the notion of being and then of objectivity, Lonergan provides an explanatory account of why we can be present to being, and why being can dwell within us.  It gives the subject who has dwelt in the cave of the modern world a new wineskin and a new garment.  More technically, it is a new heuristic foundation to taste the beauty and glory of the real universe of being.

I could repeat Lonergan’s answer with regard to the conditions required for true judgments and the principle notion of objectivity, and why these happen in us all the time.  But for the full meaning of these explanatory formulations to burst forth and make sense, one really does need to travel down all of those earlier chapters of Insight first.

Hence, this blog you are reading is merely an invitation to those who have some inkling that perspectivalism and relativism are unhappy conclusions, and that traces of others are not so joyful as their real presence in filial and agapic bonds of love.

By the way, for those who are not able for various reasons to move into the explanatory account of the freedom and light of true judgment, do not worry.  Lonergan’s account reveals that good sound judgment gives you that liberty even when you are unable to explain why.  You really can love–in a mutual indwelling presence–your friend, your spouse, your child….and God, even if the how remains a mystery.

 

Isomorphic Existentialism

Existential Isomorphism

By Dr. David Fleischacker

I would like to make a simple statement. The finality of the human person is one of existential isomorphism.

Why Existential?

I am sure some will think that I have committed an error in tying the word existential to isomorphism.  Some would be disturbed if they knew what I meant.  Some of the dead might twitch a bit. Nietzsche I am sure would turn in his grave. Most of the 20th century existentialists might will themselves to rise from the dead and burn me at the stake and insist that God is still dead. They might call upon their leader — Friedrich, Friedrich, where art though — so that he could lead them in their inquisition with his sharpened words and golden pen.   So, let me be clear as to my fears of the power of these willful mongers.  Will to power and its maturation in the 20th century notion of self-realization are not what I mean by linking the two terms. Yet, there is a truth in the 20th century existentialists that I would like to return to the world of being and goodness and beauty.  As St. Augustine said about heresies, there is always a great truth in them which is why they can arrest people and capture their imaginations.  The same is true I would argue with Existentialists such as Sartre.  That nugget of truth is that human beings do have something to do with their coming to be in this world (or in their self-destruction).

In other words, I want to recover the rightful place of human freedom or decisions.  I want to place it back into a normative framework of a naturally ordered universe that has its nature in a finality that is oriented as Lonergan argues in Insight toward increasing intelligibility and being and goodness. These transcendentals are the norm of the normativity of all existence, especially when they become conscious and active in the human soul as an actuation of the capacity for self-transcendence.  It takes wisdom to figure this out.

So, what about isomorphism?

In Insight Lonergan argues that the structure of cognition is isomorphic with that of being.  Hence, intellectually patterned experience, insights into conjugate and central forms, and judgments affirming those insights as true are isomorphic to conjugate and central potency, form, and act of beings.

J (judgement)   –>    Conjugate and Central Act

U (understanding)–>    Conjugate and Central Form

E (experience)–>  Conjugate and Central Potency

It is not just any E, U, and J that matters to this isomorphism.  The relevant conscious and intentional operations are those that have moved into explanatory accounts of this world–hence insights that emerge in intellectually patterned experience, and then are verified in judgments about the truth of those explanatory insights.

What this means is that in true explanatory knowledge, the human soul has come to be a mirror (as St. Thomas notes) of that which it knows, and it knows that which it knows by becoming a mirror to that which it knows.

Adding the term “existential” goes beyond what Lonergan does in Insight. And as mentioned, I want to expel it of the licentious willfulness that one finds in 20th century existentialist philosophers. I want to recover an older meaning of existence found in St. Thomas and Aristotle, one that links together being and becoming into a harmonious unity.  The act of will is only an act of will when it is based on an intelligibility, and thus it is an authentic volitional act when rooted on form, not on nothingness (which actually is impossible because we cannot create from nothing).  It really combines some of Lonergan’s later developments in Insight with those of his later life, namely the link of metaphysics and its isomorphism with intellectually patterned consciousness to the moral order and the level of decision.  In short, when decisions are based upon the fullness of the cognitive isomorphism with being, then one’s decisions shift one to an explicit participant in the unfolding potency of being [as a note, even one who operates in the world of common sense is a participant in the unfolding potency of being, but only implicitly.  Common non-sense however is evil because it is a failure to participate in this finality of the universe.], and thus participate in a moral isomorphism with the emergent universe and its finality.

I would like to add one other piece that identifies a more complete existential isomorphism, namely when the entire neural and motor-sensory operations, along with their landscape of emotions and passions join in on the isomorphism. For this to take place, the neural and motor-sensory levels need to reach an integrity in which they are intelligibly ordered in the higher levels of the moral and cognitive isomorphism (see what Lonergan does in his last chapter in Insight “Special Transcendent Knowledge”).  In other words, all levels of development when united in a sublating or subsuming fashion into the highest reaches of conscious intentionality form an authentic existential isomorphism of the soul with an emergent universe.

Interestingly, the university when setup right has as its specific end this existential isomorphism in which the totality of the person (organic and neural, motor-sensory, intellectual, rational, volitional, religious) is mediated toward this unity with the finality of the universe.

Just a thought that has tremendous ramifications.

From David Fleischacker

Just a quick note.  I will be publishing a reflection every Friday at 3 pm. Most of these will be short pointers and thoughts about the writings of Bernard Lonergan.

Kindly,

David Fleischacker

Trinitarian Reflections: The Transcentdental Notions and God, blog 1

by David Fleischacker

About two years ago, I started a new notebook on linking together the University and its life with that of the Holy Trinity.  One of the areas that I wondered about was whether the Transcendental Notions (TN) could provide any type of analogy for understanding the three persons of the Holy Trinity.  There are after all, three transcendental notions that Lonergan develops which are spiritual in nature, hence intrinsically independent of the empirical residue.  These spiritual transcendental notions are Lonergan’s transposition of the agent intellect found in Aristotle and St. Thomas, and of the Light of Being (conscience, mind, etc) as found in the Platonists and St. Augustine (as a note, Augustine was clearly not a Platonist once you get into his head more thoroughly even if he learned much from them and borrowed some notions from them).

One of the immediate difficulties of course which one finds noted in Lonergan is that in finding an analogy for the Holy Trinity, we need to deal with acts or operations, not with anything in potency.  The TN are a kind of potency, but much different than normal.  These actually have the power or capacity to bring about self-transcendence.  In St. Thomas (and Aristotle), these “lights” of the mind have the power to illumine, hence they act as agent causes.  Most potencies do not have such capabilities.  Hence the reason these lights are in a kind of actuality as well.  Notice how some of the metaphysical terms and relations get stretched (but not violated! or confused).  The TN are in a potency in relationship to the operations that arise, but in relationship to the potencies in the human subject to receive these operations they are in act.  Many would say that this imprecision of the metaphysical terms and relations is why one needs to leave out the metaphysical, and turn to intentionality analysis. That is true in part, but if one does so, one as Lonergan notes in Insight, needs to run the full circuit, and return to metaphysics, both to refine the metaphysics, but also to articulate the intelligibilities discovered as belonging to being.  To stay merely with a cognitive apprehension of conscious and intentional life leaves one ignorant of its “reality.”  So the circuit does need to be run.

The reason I mention the circuit is because if one is to transpose the analogies for the Holy Trinity found in St. Thomas, then one needs to deal with some of the metaphysical points that he makes, such as God is pure act, and hence we need to find analogies in act that help us, and this is true of the Persons as well as of God.  The Father is pure act, as is the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Hence, are the TN in act enough for them to be used as analogies?

The TNs, though in a kind of potency, are also the “light” that makes possible the conscious and intentional operations.  This means that in some manner, they are more in act than the operations.  They underpin, penetrate, and transcend all operations.  Still, there must be a reason that Lonergan did not turn toward these as analogies. He stuck with operations (eg. apprehension of the good, judgment of value of the good, love/decision of/for the good). I suppose one could argue that these operations are in part constituted by the TN, as the TN penetrate them.  We could look at what that “penetration” means.  It of course is not physical, but spiritual.  Descriptively, it “illumines” the operation.  It is what “receives” the operation.  It is what “beholds” the operation.  The TN is not only light, but also an intentional focus, hence can be described as the “eye” of the mind as well.  I am tending to think that the TN is both light and eye (hence not distinct as these are physically in us — but I could be wrong).  I suppose one could say the “eye” is the conscious subject as awakened in a TN and thus seeking an answer, hence waiting for an operation that mediates the answer.  Then once the operation emerges, the subject as beholding the operation in the TN is an eye that beholds.  The subject is however conscious through the TN, and thus the TN constitutes both the horizon and the subject as a gazing subject.

One of the areas that I explored a couple years ago in my notebook was whether there was a sufficient distinction and set of relations between the TN to result in some kind of analogy that sheds light upon the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Thus, does the TN of intelligibility have a kind of relationship to that of being/truth such that the former begets that latter.  Of course, this does not happen without an operation. And it does not happen without the subject moving (raising the question for reflection).  Likewise does the TN of goodness spirate from the TN of being?  I cannot repeat all of the reflections here, but I can say that my reflections were not conclusive.  I do intend however to start publishing these reflections in this particular sequence of blogs.

Even if I discover that those reflections do provide an interesting analogy, there is still the further question about whether the analogy is an improvement upon that of the operations as such.  I have a suspicion that they do not, but they might help to deepen my understanding of the operational based analogy (apprehension of the good, judgement of value of the good, decision for the good).  Part of my reason for this suspicion is that God as pure act is the cause of the light that is in us, which we call the TNs.  The TNs do allow us to grasp the unrestricted nature of the operations in God, but those are operations in God, not TNs.   Just a few thoughts.

More later.

Feeding the thirst of Jesus Christ

Why does Jesus need or want us to feed him? It would seem that the only appropriate relation to him is to allow him to feed us. Very true of course. At the same time, from the Cross, he cries out that he thirsts.  He thirsts as St. Mother Theresa tells us.  Jesus is in those whom we meet, especially the poor and the destitute.  All of those who fall under the beatitudes.  He thirsts in and through them for us to give him a bit of drink and food.  It is part of the immense mystery of being a member of the body of our Lord.  He knows us.  He knows us in his divinity and he knows us in his humanity.  As he hung on the Cross, he proclaimed the thirst of his entire body, as it exists in his mind and heart.  This is the meaning of the unity of Christ and his body.  In fact, it is a unity that each of us has with each other.  When anyone thirsts, and it comes to dwell in us, it then comes to inform us as a constitutive act of meaning.  Hence another’s thirst becomes our own.  Likewise with Jesus Christ. We are his.  And we are in him.  He thirsts because we thirst.  He thirsts because he became one of us.  And as he fills that thirst, so we as part of him are to fill that thirst as well. This is the meaning of to abide and to mutually indwell.

Annual Lonergan Epiphany potluck luncheon, February 5

Dear friends, we will have our annual Epiphany potluck luncheon on Sunday February 5 at 12:15 pm, immediately after midday office which begins at 12:05 pm.  Please feel free to bring friends.  The more, the merrier.  We give thanks to God for all good things, most especially the gift of friendship.  with love to you all…

New Seminar: reading Stratford Caldecott’s Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment

Message from David Alexander: Our next book selection is Beauty for Truth’s Sake: On the Re-enchantment of Stratford Caldecott. I want to suggest everyone procure their copy and we meet for the first discussion on 1/25/2017. The reading for the discussion is the Introduction and the first chapter, pgs. 11- 36.

The book is short, about 150 pages. We could either meet once a month and cover two chapters per session or meet every two to three weeks and cover one chapter of the six chapters per session, whichever you would prefer. Perhaps it will be easier to decide after our first reading, judging from the content.