Lonergan and the Shift to Method

by David Fleischacker

 

Method can be looked at as technique. This of course entirely misses the meaning of method as Lonergan conceived of it. For Lonergan, method is a set of heuristic conceptions that morally guide human self-transcendence, and hence are based on the structure of self-transcendence.

Historically, the cultural need to articulate method arises from the breakthroughs of modern science. It is a great wonder how such a stream of breakthroughs was possible. The answer was the discovery of a fruitful method. To articulate this, even imperfectly as an inductive method (see Bacon for instance), has its fruits.

It is imperfect because it tends to attend only to a few elements of the human subject, most of which are organs that look out onto the world for sensory experiences.  A more comprehensive understanding of the human person will lead to a more profound method. Lonergan makes this shift from an account of the human subject as one of self-transcendence to a resulting transcendental method.  His comprehensive understanding of the human subject is the source of this shift.

Key in his understanding of the human subject are the transcendental notions and their unity. These notions articulate the heart and soul of human presence but we only begin to glimpse the scope of these through a long sequence of steps that Lonergan calls self-appropriation. It requires a heightening of attention to one’s own conscious operations, and when we begin to attend these operations, we begin to discover patterns and overarching structures that ultimately  1) spring from the transcendental notions, and 2)  unite to form a capacity for self-transcendence.  And unless you are going to live for 3000 years, I would suggest you need a guide, and INSIGHT is a good place to start.

If you start with INSIGHT, you should either have already been actively doing math and science, or you will need to do so. Also, you will need to exercise a great deal of common sense and if you have not really done so in life by building and using technologies, building and participating in family, civic, or ecclesiastical economies, or participating in civic or ecclesiastical polity, you should be prepared to do so or at least watch and explore others who do.  Likewise, you will need to study history, and even master one or two of its major trends.  The history of philosophy is a good one. In other words, you need to become more in order for the kind of self-appropriation to take place which is necessary to become an authentic philosopher in the vein called for by Lonergan.

If you do, then such things as a heuristic notion, implicit definition, inverse insight, the empirical residue, higher and lower genera of things, emergent probability, the integral heuristic structure of proportionate being, functional specialization, transcendental method, and dialectic will all come to make perfect sense.  So will notions like isomorphism.   These are explanatory articulations that arise through the kind of self-transcendence that happens when you do math, science, and common sense, then you attend to the interiority of these doings, discover that interiority, and formulate it, and affirm it.  Then, with this self-discovery in mind, you can develop precepts that guide you and others in your existential unfolding.

As you explore the interiority of a scientist, a philosopher, a theologian, an artist, a man or woman of common sense, and you discover how these are united, you will discover more and more the profundity of the transcendental notions and the capacity for self-transcendence.   As you discover the unity of correlations and probabilities into schemes of recurrence and schemes of development, you will discover more and more the profundity of the meaning of central and conjugate potency, form, and act, and the entire nature and character of metaphysics.  Furthermore, you will grasp with greater significance the relationship of interiority and the universe of being.  And as this opens up into human freedom and the free participation of the unfolding of this universe of being and of the unfolding of the human subject in that being, you will discover the existential isomorphism that exists between a self-transcending subject and the entire order of the universe.

Link this existential isomorphism to a divine entrance into the world mediated by meaning and regulated by value, by both unpacking the interiority of this entrance (sanctifying grace, the theological virtues) and the sublation of the world of proportionate being into a transcendent order, then one moves into a supernatural existential isomorphism.  Such individuals provide us with precepts for eternity.

Now that is the kind of method for which Lonergan would call. And it is not a technique, but really an attunement to mystery.

 

Gender Ideology, Evolution, and Finality

I just returned from a fantastic conference on gender ideology in Denver. I use ideology in the Voegelinian sense, as a deformation of the metaxy or the in-between. Eric Voegelin formulated the in-between as an account of the human subject and community. Our conscious existence is a tension between the beginning and the beyond, the immanent and the transcendent. For those familiar with Lonergan, it has a kind of symbolic appeal to the nature of the human subject, though it lacks the precision found in Lonergan, namely that of formulating the human subject as one who is a capacity for self-transcendence and the different levels of this capacity. Yet, it captures a basic truth, a truth which helps to articulate the character of the modern ideology surrounding gender identity and freedom.

I recall reading somewhere in Voegelin that modern ideology tends toward the transcendent or the beyond, and then naively thinks itself to be beyond the beginning or the immanent. What this means is that in modern ideologies, the beginning and the immanent are evils. In gender ideology, the limits of the body are an evil to be transcended. Evil of course is not a word that most gender ideologists would accept as a description of what they are doing to the body. But in my claiming this of the ideology, I would appeal to the ideology’s mode of operation. To start, something that causes unhappiness or a kind of privation in one’s soul is an evil. And according to gender ideology, being born with the “wrong body” is seen as privating one of happiness. Thus, it is an evil.

Now let’s translate this into Voegelin. The body is part of what Voegelin would call the beginning or the immanent. It has its roots back into the foundations of the world and it ties us to that foundation. It also is that reality in and through which we transcend and have our conscious existence, and so when it limits the kind of conscious existence that we want, gender ideology would proclaim that the  immanent reality of the body must be sublated in the Hegelian sense and discarded as the rubbish of an enslaved past. That would be the mode of operation in someone fully habituated to the life lived in the atmosphere of gender ideology.

The ideology also suffers what Voegelin calls the immanentization of the Transcendent. The Transcendent is the source of true and authentic happiness. Only in the Transcendent exists beatitude. To attempt to establish ultimate and everlasting beatitude in the immanent is the kind of deformation that takes what belongs to the Transcendent by storm. This violence is the only mode of operation available to the modern ideologues. Natural emergence would never be allowed because what is natural would be seen as hindering our freedom and hence our happiness. This violence has been the tactic of all modern ideologies such as the French and Communist Revolutionaries, the Nazi fascist movement, and the assortment of totalitarian uprisings whether in Asia, Africa, Europe, or the Americas. Gender ideology really is no different. It cannot use the art of authentic persuasion to reach its ends. It has to mutilate the body and use the power of civil law to totalize it goals.

Though I do enjoy Voegelin, I think one can arrive at a deeper explanatory account of the modern ideologies, including that of gender ideology, using Lonergan. His discovery of the levels of conscious intentionality, the nature of the capacity for self-transcendence and its actuation, and how this participates in the finality of the unfolding universe of being as one of generalized emergent probability provides a heuristic, and hence a horizon, that opens the doors and windows for a comprehensive account of ideology and its modern sexual manifestation.

What I am saying here is really more of a project to be completed. Some years ago, I had worked through the coming-to-be of the human person (see blogs back in 2008). One of the things that I began to think through was a transposition of evolutionary biology’s account of sexual differentiation into Lonergan’s notion of finality. The modern evolutionary theorist has noticed for example the emergence of bi-sexual differentiation within higher level species of plants and animals. This differentiation provides selective advantages (to use evolutionary terms) – advantages which include more adequate diversity in genetic alleles that allow for greater adaptabilities of the species to environmental needs and changes. More precisely, I think the right range of probabilities in the mixing and remixing of alleles that takes place through sexual reproduction provides for the right kind of plasticity needed for higher orders of intelligibility to have adequate probabilities for emergence and fitting probabilities of survival (much like carbon and some other atoms have the right statistical distributions of electrons to allow for the adequate emergence and survival of molecules that can interact to form organic systems–where as atoms such as the inert gases do not). Using Lonergan, one can dramatically expand the meaning of species and of the nature of evolutionary causality. The conjugate forms for example that constitute the things as a species within an explanatory genera (see chapter 8 of INSIGHT) are necessary to account for the developmental sequences one finds within evolutionary trees. One can also turn to the reality of finality within potencies to help further expand the developmental operators and trends that arise within evolution. And these are just a couple of the examples of how one can expand the heuristics found in most evolutionary theories using Lonergan’s account of both proportionate being (being that can be known by the human mind) and the nature of the human subject within that world of being.

With regard to gender ideology, an explanatory account of sexual differentiation and its sublation (Lonergan’s notion not Hegel’s) into higher levels of conscious intentionality would provide a first set of clarifications of the relationship of organic sexual schemes of development with motor-sensory, intellectual, rational, and volitional operators and operations.

The finality that leads to and springs from sexual differentiation would provide a further set of clarifications, and I think it would also be the key to revealing the magnitude of the deformation of gender ideology. Sexual differentiation in the human species is for the individuals, but it also regards the entire species. Its intelligibility requires that one introduce the operators that link generations of parents and grandparents to children. Concretely coming into existence as a male or a female takes place within a set of probabilities that is sequentially linked into a finality that springs from the entire order of the universe, an order that includes its concrete spatial and temporal residues (see chapter 4 of INSIGHT to glimpse more of this). When one decides to “change out” one’s concrete sexual differentiation through gender re-assignment, one is actually privating oneself and others of the finality in which one came to be. I am not proving this point right now, but giving you some conclusions that I had discovered some years ago.

To point you toward the evidence that led me down this trail, let me mention a notion developed by evolutionary theorists. The emergence of a new trait is followed up by a rapid perfection of that trait over relatively few generations. In evolution, few can mean thousands of years rather than millions depending on the complexity of the organism – the more complex multi-cellular organisms require longer periods of time to evolve. Something like a virus or bacteria however evolves in much shorter periods of time. This rapid perfection of a mode of operation within its operator means that certain kinds of operations in the human body reached a type of perfection long ago (even before the emergence of the human species). Sexual union based on sexual differentiation is one of those. If you look at plant sexual differentiation, it is a bit undifferentiated with many plants having both male and female components (and the number of chromosomes is a bit loose as well). As one moves to higher and higher animals, there is a set of clarifications of the male and female differentiations. One can describe these perfections or clarifications as a refinement of the nurturing operators and schemes on the one side of the differentiation (which we call female), and the refinement of protective operators and schemes on the other (which we call male). This gives all kinds of selective advantage to a community of the species (to use evolutionary terms again).

What this means is that human sexual differentiation arises from within an evolutionary series of developments as a perfection upon which then builds the higher levels of being in the human subject. For the human subject to then “decide” that this differentiation is a false limitation, and is really an evil and something hindering one, is to fail to realize the kind of perfection that sexual differentiation has become within the order of the entire finality of the universe. Again, this has to be argued more thoroughly, and so I give to you simply a project to consider. Sexual differentiation is a fundamental differentiation upon which the emergence of conscious intentionality within the finality of the entire generalize emergent structure of the universe is taking place. Treating it as something that can be changed or even discarded at will is to join the Hegelian and Marxian revolutionaries, which when you look at history has a deeply disturbing root in hatred born of an even deeper root of despair and darkness.

The Motherly Impulse

by David Fleischacker

Generally, one thinks of nurturing when one thinks of motherhood. Usually I find a guttural revolt against this idea today. Yet intrinsically “to nurture” is a good thing. I would like to give some thought as to what this means in relationship to motherhood. To nurture involves feeding and caring for basic needs but also the spiritual needs of another. In other words, it is a type of mutual self-mediation (To read about mediation, see Lonergan, “The Mediation of Christ in Prayer”). I would argue that starting in the organic matrices of the female body, there is a special attunement for nurturing. Even the neurons in her skin are far more numerous than in a man. Her senses are designed to be attracted spontaneously to details about the body and disposition of another. Girls can read faces more accurately at a much younger age than boys (boys do not catch up until age 40 on average — at least in some studies I have read). These needs stir sympathy in a woman much more rapidly than in a man. [Though for another blog, men more often than not are stirred to sympathy through their mothers and wives and sisters.]

Socially, this care impulse leads a woman to want to create a physical and personal space about her that is inviting. She takes care of it to reveal the dignity in another for which she naturally cherishes. She has a finality that is fulfilled when she can illuminate their worth and fulfill the conditions for their existence and their flourishing. This can get distorted of course, like all good things, but intrinsically it is supremely good, and its privatization is a supreme evil in a culture.

Psychologically, the motherly care stirs a warmth and love in the recipient of that care. It communicates to them their inherent dignity and worth. It lets them know that their lives matter, because the care is coming from a beautiful creature whom God has made and sent to care for them. A motherly smile and embrace can undo anger and bitterness. It can open up the heart to higher things. Through simple meals and gifts of nurture–another human being comes to thrive.

The mother is created to care about all the details of those who come into her realm. Naturally and most intimately it is “her man” and from this relationship, his children conceived in her body. I say “his” because I think it highlights the nature of begetting and bearing at the moral level and the depth of the bond between a man and a woman. It is hers too of course, and the man will stand in awe of “her” children. It is hers as received, even though the egg was formed in her. It is his seed, and his act to love her. She of course may have called him forth. And in the bonds of marriage, this bond has a sacred character, found in the promise in God’s witness of “until death do us part.”

The descriptive conjugates that develop regarding the motherly impulse must be multiple. There would be conjugates naming various desires of course, as well as her body and its contours, and how it changes during adolescence, and her apprehension of caring for a child, and for loving a man, as well as falling in love. There are conjugates of family too.

When I think of how we have degraded life in the home, it is incredible. We have made everything in it seem trivial, and thus a burden. How sad. We have really targeted the mother in the home–turning everything she does into a land of waste and a life not worth living. But in fact the opposite is true. Every act of love in the home provides conditions for the existence and thriving of her husband and her children, her neighbors and extended family, and even her own well-being. This includes the simple things that analogically extend from her own bodily schemes of care and protection of the unborn, whether that is the order of the kitchen and a place for everything in it, or the cleansing of the body, the routines of washing clothes, and the cooking that transforms and mold hearts.

Providing such conditions is a participation in the divine light that shines in the world upon each individual who comes into that house. They are called by name in that light. It shows each person that even their bodies and psyches are sacred and pondered within the mother’s heart.

It is built into the body of a woman to be radically attentive to others in this world, to see easily into their hearts and souls, to see even the littlest of physical, psychic, and spiritual needs.

As a note I do not want to say men can do none of these things, but at this point I just want to focus on the glory of a woman.

The woman’s body is structured to receive so as to give. Her body is the space in this universe in which life comes to be and then has its first days and months nurtured and protected. Her body feeds the new life so that it will grow and develop.

It is important to realize how the human heart works here. The essence of the human person is a capacity to self-transcend. A person lives through all of the conjugate forms, schemes of recurrence, integrators of lower levels and operators for higher, all within the unity that is the subject, the concrete person.  Below summarizes the higher and lower levels of proportionate being (see Insight for more). All of these come together in the human person.

  • Faith and love
  • Decision
  • Judgment
  • Understanding
  • Experience
  • cellular conjugates
  • chemical conjugates
  • subatomic conjugates

The woman’s body has a form made to receive the seeds of life, to call these forth from her man, to be awakened in her own intentionality and life by this calling and reception. Even chemically and organically this is true–from the hormonal responses to the illumination of regions and cortices of the brain and how neural demand functions transform conscious attentiveness. I wish these could be discussed in their beauty rather than in the light of the fall and the horizon of concupiscence, and modern gender theories.

When the seed has transformed the egg, and life comes into existence–yes existence!–Then the mother’s body becomes the child’s home. Warmth and sustenance are provided from the very schemes of the woman’s body, designed for this right down into the quarks and quark compounds emergent upon which are the atomic and atomic compounds, the cells and cell compounds of her body.

During gestation, her psyche undergoes a transformation rising from an increased rate of synaptic formation in various parts of her brain, prompting her, calling her from the depths of her being to rise into the glory of motherhood. Literally her brain increases its synaptic connections so that she will develop more rapidly in her concrete insights that will constitute some new schemes of motherhood, and so she will form a vibrant horizon of affectivity that will call forth acts of love and care. In other words, when all is allowed to come forth, this organic realization of her motherhood emerges into a neural set of schemes which bursts forth into a generous affectivity that re-orients motor-sensory operators toward a new attentiveness to the growing life inside of her.

Her growing affectivity also spontaneously turns to her beloved and calls forth from him and awakens in him this growing intention in her toward the new life. She awakens him with the goodness and glory of life. [And of course the reverse can happen as did happen with Eve and Adam.]

This new set of operators turns to the physical world to build a home that will welcome the new life. It will provide protection and nurturing of all the needs of the newborn. It will communicate to the world the love of this new one. It will bring about shifts of habits–all of which have been organically and psychically prepared in the body of the woman. As a note, I know there are similar neurological and psychic shifts in the man which I suspect is tied to his commitment and bond to her–but I have not seen studies on this.

Of course, culture can help these neurological and psychic reorientations to thrive or it can crush them.  And there are potential for deformations at every single point along the way.

The mother also then finds something glorious about which to converse with others, namely the new life growing within her. Those who care about life will wonder and be in awe about her. They will come to her, embrace her, confirm her, raise her up into the light of being. She has become one in whom life comes into existence. Her mother and father will come alive to this as well as should his parents.  But lurking around the corner is a massive if.  All of this mutual self-mediation of the glory of a new one and the glory of motherhood only rises to its rightful heights if the scale of values constitutive of their moral horizons are properly formed.

One can see this welcoming of life throughout Scripture. Think of the sadness women and men in the old testament experience at infertility. Sometimes the shame goes too far–and others would mock the barren woman, and she would even think of herself in this highly negative light. But sadness would be a proper response, as would the turning to God with wonder about her fate and hope for the gift of a child. Children were her glory and rightly so. And how blessed a man is with a good and faithful wife and the gift of children conceived in her and born of her (think of the Psalms and Proverbs).

When we turn to the New Testament, this glorious element of motherhood reaches heights unheard of before. Mary of course is that central icon, The Mother, the woman of the fiat, the one in whom God was conceived in her womb, the one from whom the source of all life is born. This dignity bestowed on a woman is a great and beautiful mystery. And look at what it calls forth from Joseph! Even before he has his revelation from Gabriel, he is moved by her and will not divorce her publicly. Already, her intrinsic virtue is calling him forth. Once he is illumined to what has been given to her, he immediately becomes her protector, her husband, whose heart is now filled with her and the fruit of her womb.

And think of how her own son brings life to her. His death will be a sword through her heart because his heart became sin for us, our sins, the sins of all humanity, and these sins form the blade. But he makes all things new. He is the eternal fruit, life, and salvation of all. And she is his mother.

God created Mary, the woman, who would be the sacred temple in which he would enter this world. He became us so that we might become like him. We too are the fruit of a womb, conceived into existence in the womb, born of a woman.

Even more so are consecrated virgins in the likeness of Mary as the mother of God. They bear the Son into the world. The firstborn of their consecrated wombs is the eternal Word of God. Eternity flows through them with motherly tenderness to each person who enters their midst, and their hearts sing of their man from whom they have received life into their souls and bodies. They are his betrothed in a personal and intimate way. They have entered the inner love and exchange of our triune God. The fruit of the womb is theirs, and their hearts will be pierced with the sins of the world, sin which rejects their beloved and the fruit of eternity which flows through them.

The motherly impulse in each and every woman springs from the finality of each and every quark of their being. It rises with greater and greater degrees of freedom until it reaches the apex of a state of being in love with the unrestricted one. In the biochemistry of their genetics this bursts forth into cellular differentiations and entire cellular systems that constitute their hormonal cycles, their biophysics, the bio-schemes of their womb, and the neural structures of their body. It bursts forth into sensitivity with attentiveness, trust, and affective love. It calls forth caresses and nurturing, which then rises into the intrinsic freedom of the spirit, which transcends the empirical residue in the world of common sense, artistry, drama, intelligence, culture, personal life, and faith. If fully integrated as in Mary, the finality becomes an operator of God’s maternal love in this world, and an integrator of the Trinification of the world, of each individual, of family life, of parishes, and of a civilization of love that is in a pilgrim state as a sacrifice within the cities of Cain and civilizations of death.

Oh how glorious is the motherly impulse of a woman.

**********************************

Note

I would like to say a little bit about how I am making most of these arguments in this blog.

  1. From the generic intelligibility of the levels of consciousness.
  2. From the generic intelligibility of metaphysics or generalized emergent probability.
  3. From specifying these generic intelligibilities to a) Higher and lower viewpoints, b) Higher and lower levels of schemes and things.

Though I have read studies that move from higher and lower levels into species with regard to female cycles, I am not discussing those here except in a generic fashion. I do have some other blogs that have looked at some of these–see for example 40 years since humanae vitae, female procreative schemes.

Book Review: Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box

by David Fleischacker

I have been enjoying Michael Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box (first published in 1996, with an update in 2006).  It brings out a significant challenge in thinking through evolution and so it is worth reading. However, I do not agree with his ultimate conclusion or even his explicit criterion for validating his argument.  The central point of his argument is that once one turns to the molecular and biochemical understanding of organisms, one finds systems with an irreducible complexity that could not result from the gradual steps of evolutionary development. In addition to his presentations of specific biochemical systems that are irreducibly complex, Behe supports his position with the lack of any serious biological arguments that explain such gradual steps that construct these complex biochemical systems.

The merit of his book is that it does raise the validity of evolutionary theory in light of the developments taking place within biology due to studies in biochemistry.  Behe does recognize the provisionality of his argument at times though at other times he presents his conclusions with complete certitude. As well, he recognizes that his insights regard only some biochemical systems, and not all. He does acknowledge that some systems at the molecular level can be explained by evolution so he does not consider his focus to be a comprehensive theory of organic life, but rather a focused inquiry that has ramifications for both intelligent design and for the explanatory scope of evolutionary theory (which he thinks is more limited than the field of biology recognizes)

At the same time, I would argue that the argument suffers a bit. Behe argues that a number of complex biochemical schemes are irreducibly complex.  Irreducibly complex means that key parts of a system contribute to the whole system and that removing any of the parts results in the loss of the function of the system as a whole. This functional whole seems to refer to two possibilities. In one case it is like a scheme of recurrence in which the main focus is upon one of the events in the scheme that is crucial for organic function, such as is the case of ATP in Kreb’s cycle within mitochondria.  ATP is one of the molecules constructed in the scheme of recurrence that we call Kreb’s cycle, and because it is a central energy molecule, it is crucial for many processes in the cell, and thus is sometimes referred to as the functional reason for the whole of the cycle.  Another meaning to functional whole however is what Lonergan would call the higher conjugate form that is built upon a lower matrix of conjugate forms (see explanatory genus and species in Insight – chapters 8 and 15).  So, something like an immune response is a conjugate form that exists within an aggregate of genetic/biochemical events.  In both cases take away one of the “parts” — which could be an event within a scheme or an event within an aggregate that constitutes a lower level matrix for a higher conjugate form–and the “functional whole” is lost.

Irreducible complexity alone is not an argument against evolution.  Part of the suffering is that it lacks an adequate account of the heuristic structures operative in biology and the isomorphic metaphysics that is implicit in those structures.  Key that is missing is the shift from descriptive definitions to implicit definitions, and then how this shift moves into an explanatory horizon that then begins to move into an explanatory account of development, whether of single organisms or organisms within ecological relationships.

Why is the shift from description to explanation such a key piece that is missing in his arguments? Because evolutionary theory was initiated from a series of descriptive traits that had been observed by Darwin and Wallace (and earlier folks who developed different explanations).  Descriptive knowledge identifies characteristics and activities of things through conjugates that are derived from the senses.  So, the blue bird has certain colors and shapes that are used to describe its bodily features, colors and shapes that derive their meaning from a relationship between the bird and our senses.  Our senses are attuned to a rather large range of objects in our spatial-temporal world.  We can see shifts in light patterns with our eyes (and of course the associative cortices and the sensory cortex involved in constructing the input that comes through the eyes), which we can articulate as colors or shapes or sizes.  We can hear shifts in auditory sound waves with our ears. We can smell patterns and changes of the chemicals that are found within our atmosphere through our noses and the chemical make-up of solids, liquids, and even gases that touch the sensory neurons of our taste buds.  Through touch we can feel textures and contours and temperatures.  All material objects that have a certain mass size can be detected by our senses.  Many physical objects in our world fall within our sensory capabilities.   So, when we talk about descriptive knowledge, one of the elements that Lonergan recovers against modernity is the degradation of such knowledge.  It is not imaginary.  It has a validity to it and a crucial place in our lives.

Behe does seem to suffer a bit from this modern mistake.  Descriptive knowledge is not false or misleading.  It is incomplete of course, but it is true as far as it goes.  This happened in physics. Copernicus argued that the sun no longer goes around the earth. But, now one can admit that because of relativity Copernicus was not right, at least entirely.  The sun does rise and set when one sets the frame of reference (the X, Y, and Z of a three dimensional manifold — and one must also include t as a fourth dimension) as one’s own sensory framework, or even the earth.  It is not that Copernicus was entirely wrong. One can set the sun as the center of that frame of reference.  Or one can set the center of the Milky Way galaxy (presumably a black hole).  Behe seems to want to say that in this more primitive descriptive world, one might come up with the idea of evolution, however, when you move to the “black box” of molecular and biochemical explanation, then one moves to reality and away from myth.  I say “seem” simply because of his phrase “black box” though he does not explicitly say that the data of Darwin was unreal.  One correction here is to suggest that discoveries made through descriptive knowledge do have their relevance when put within the right frame of reference. Behe does not adequately deal with the kind of descriptive knowledge that is involved in validating evolution (or the modern synthesis that integrated Mendel and Darwin, since it falls within the realm of explanation constituted by explanatory rather than implicit definitions — see chapter 1 of Insight).

Furthermore, scientific description is not merely another frame of reference based on the relations of things to us, but it is the way that science both collects its data and verifies its theories.  Concrete inferences of laws–whether classical or statistical or developmental–all require implementing and verifying those laws through descriptively articulated data. Ultimately, scientific description and scientific explanation are complementary to each other.  What is discovered and proposed in one cannot ultimately conflict with the other if they are both true (or converging provisionally upon what is true).

With regard to biology, I would argue that many do not adequately understand the stage of development in which it currently resides.  This is largely due to the complexity of the field.  Organisms as Lonergan outlines in Insight, chapter 15, require that one shift into a grasp of operators and development.  And these only arise after one has introduced correlations and statistics.  Furthermore, there are preliminary stages within the descriptive world.  There are descriptive conjugates that are preparatory for explanatory conjugates.  Describing what happens when liquids are mixed or when objects are projected or when the planets move in their orbits prepares the way for the world of correlations. Describing whether something happens for the most part, or infrequently, or all the time prepares the way for ideal frequencies whether these are based on descriptive, explanatory, or implicitly defined conjugates.  And with regard to development, one gets a sense that things grow and change in their descriptive conjugates before one discovers the operators that transform one system of conjugates into another.

At this stage in the development of biology, at least over the last century, I would say it largely resided within the world of explanatory definitions.  In an explanatory definition, one of the terms is descriptive, the other is explanatory.   One good example of this is Mendel. Notice that his theory of genetics incorporated one descriptive term, and one explanatory term.  Phenotype is descriptive. Genotype is explanatory (he use the term hereditary unit).  However, later in the century, genetics moved to implicit definition through Watson and Crick, who related genes to proteins (three nucleotide sequences are paired to an amino acid — the building blocks of proteins). Since their introduction of this implicit definition, there has been a vast expansion taking place.

Evolutionary theory when it was first introduced was like the explanatory definition.  All of the traits mentioned by Darwin are descriptively understood.   As such, they had not reached the level of explanatory definitions, let alone the level of implicit definitions. So what makes it like explanatory? Well, he identified a number of descriptive conjugates that seemed to be related across species through some kind of parental origin.  Notice, this springs from a recognition that organisms do come from other organisms (progeny come from parents), and that progeny are never exactly the same as the parental organism (s).  It is important to note that there is not a clear sense that evolution results or can result in development. Rather, it is the emergence of an adaptive, and advantageous, change.

In the early 20th century, Evolution moved into another explanatory level with the modern synthesis. Once Mendel was discovered, Evolutionary theorists went to work to integrate Mendel’s breakthroughs.  That synthesis was largely generic and heuristic because now biological explanation had to incorporate genetics.  This synthesis took another leap once one introduces molecular and biochemical analysis into the science. I would argue that this latest synthesis shifted the images in which biology operates, and this shift has allowed for recognizing new patterns that constitute organic life, and these patterns are defined implicitly.  Watson and Crick provide only one example.

What Behe catches upon is that the theories that had largely been developed from descriptive understandings of traits seem rather shaky in light of the shifts to molecular/biochemical accounts of the organism. He is right in a certain manner. The complexity of biochemical pathways involved in a number of organic activities are mind boggling.  It is hard to fathom how these could have developed. Behe argues that these are impossible to account for in some kind of evolutionary development.

Where I think he has been mistaken is thinking that one should be able to develop an evolutionary theory of a biochemical process at this stage in the history of the field of biology.  In the transition from explanatory to implicit definitions, it is natural that one first has to development a viewpoint that is constituted by implicit definitions which is adequate before one could then begin grasping the operators that unfold a deductive or homogeneous expansion, or a vertical expansion.

Another element that is missing from Behe, and nearly all other biologists or chemists, is the shift from lower levels of organic life to higher genera of sensate and rational life. This shift is far more difficult than from simple to complex organic processes (a horizontal shift). These are shifts from a lower to a higher level genus. These vertical developments add a new meaning to the complexity of evolutionary development.  If Behe understood Lonegan’s articulation of higher and lower genus and species, he could strengthen his argument more. But then he might also have the breakthrough into generalized emergent probability as well, which would, at minimum, severely modify his view of biochemistry and the basis of his entire argument. I say at minimum because the argument of evolution is still an argument based on evidence, hence one of fact, even if it never rises beyond a provisional analytical principle.

So, what would the shift to biochemical images and implicitly defined organic conjugates do to the validity of evolution?  I think it does weaken it a bit in terms of the degree of certainty that many hold evolution today.  Largely, it still is at the stage of an explanatory definition.  Its terms and its evidence are descriptive conjugates.  We are a long way from reaching the periodic table of organic life.  The traditional set of organic charts (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species) are based on descriptive traits, though these are being modified daily as a result of biochemistry, molecular biology, cellular biology, and genetics into “evolutionary trees.”  We are even further from developing an adequate set of developmental operators of individuals, species, and genii. In reality, biologists really do not have an explanatory or an implicit definition of species (notice that saying something is reproductively compatible is not saying “what” it is, hence they have not articulated the key explanatory conjugates the form a species within the genera of organic/vegetative/cellular life).

However, just because the development of the discipline of biology is not yet beyond the explanatory definitions in the field of evolution (it has begun to move to implicit definitions in genetics and some other conjugates of biology), does not mean that the explanatory definitions are wrong.  They are based on evidence.   And hence, just because there seems to be some irreducible difficulties when one begins to examine biochemistry and molecular biology, that alone is not sufficient to reject evolution as a theory.  One still has to explain heredity, the differences of progeny from parents, and the ramifications of these differences over time. Evolution is one way to do that.

As Pat Byrne in his essay on “Lonergan, Evolutionary Science, and Intelligent Design,” argues, one of the things that Behe is missing is a grasp of emergent probability [Patrick Byrne, Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia T. 63, Fasc. 4, Os Domínios da Inteligência: Bernard Lonergan e a Filosofia. / The Realms of Insight: Bernard Lonergan and Philosophy (Oct. – Dec., 2007), pp. 893-918]. Emergent Probability, as Byrne notes is ultimately derived from Lonergan’s cognitional theory, not from empirical theories in the sciences and hence it is relatively independent from the development of specific scientific theories. Relatively independent because it is developed from the actual methodological operations involved in the sciences.  Cognitively and metaphysically, the classical and statistical heuristic structures point to the potential of a dynamically oriented developmental universe.  Still, as Lonergan notes, one has to argue what in fact the universe is about.  It does not need to be developmental or evolutionary.  Darwin’s theory has gained much weight through evidence that supports a matrix of descriptive conjugates that relate parents to progeny through generations in an environment where adaptation is possible and probable.  Molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, and cellular biology are moving biology into the realm of a fully explanatory discipline that is built upon provisionally verified implicit definitions.  This shift is and will continue to bring with it challenges to the old explanatory definitions that had emerged in the field, including that of Darwin and those who advanced his theory in the modern synthesis (note that this synthesis relied on Mendel, not Watson and Crick).  A yet even newer synthesis is arising and Behe’s book highlights the challenges to evolution of this shift even if, in the end, Behe turns out to be wrong and that evolution will rise even stronger once the new explanatory biology matures. But then again, he could be right. Maybe evolution is not right.  I tend to think the evidence supporting the explanatory definitions of evolution theory have a significant weight that is left untouched by Behe’s arguments, and thus provide a valid way of proceeding in biology as it unfolds its new image (symbolic constructs from biochemistry) that is underlying its shift to implicit definitions. I suspect evolution will rise more nuanced in the end, and more like emergent probability, and hence stronger in the end. There many reasons for this beyond biology as well. There is evidence for emergent probability, quite a bit.  There are analogous types of developments in almost all other realms of being (human history, social development, dogmatic development, etc.)

As a note, I have not addressed Behe’s views on intelligent design. That is another discussion and has some serious defects I would argue.  I just wanted to discuss his views of evolution at this point.

Part 5a: Horizontal Finality, a note

… marriage is more an incorporation of the finality of sex than  of sex itself. (Finality, Love, Marriage, 45)

On vacation, so this will be short.  Horizontal finality refers to the relationship of an initial potency to an unfolding of that potency both deductively and homogeneously on the same genus of being.  Hence, the relationship between the spermatazoa and the oocyte to the multi-cellular organism is one of horizontal finality. This same finality Lonergan argues is what is sublated vertically both into the man and into the woman personally at the levels of understanding, judgment, deliberation, and the actuation of the capacity for self-transcendence.  However, that which is sublated in the man and in the woman is not the zygote, but rather the generative procreative act of the union of the man and the woman. It is that act which is the “conjoined plurality” and most important, it is the finality of that conjoined plurality, that is sublated in a man as a husband, but only when he has committed himself to the woman “until death do us part” and likewise into the woman as a wife, but only when she has committed herself to the man “until death do us part.”  Take note. This finality can only arise in virtue of the conjoining of two semi-fecundities that are ordered toward such a union.  And they can only be sublated within a context of understanding, rationality, and good will that grasps the higher orders of the good life and eternal life which contextualize the conjoined union in a conjugal act.  In other words, a union based on the potency of the conjoined plurality of male and female is much different than any other types of human union.  It is rooted in the very nature of the semi-fecundities as complementary, and this complementarity is what constitutes the finality.

I cannot depart without mentioning the sad case of the supreme court decision today.  It has been long in the making of course, arguably centuries.  It means that nothing of this natural finality is recognized as constitutive of marriage anymore.  The good news is that the reality of the finality exists whether a state or a people recognize it or not.  It is a bit like the worth of life.  No state constitutes such worth.  A state can only recognize it and it should develop policies that support it. The same is true with regards to the finality constituted by a concrete plurality called male and female.  The state does not constitute it because it is a given within the fabric of the organic world as sublated within psychic, intellectual, rational, volitional life, and the finality of the entire universe.  It is sad because such a finality does have a unique and crucial role within the unfolding of the emergent universe, and to not recognize it results in a serious blind spot and deformation within human existence.  It is the strange reality of sin that it can violate the finality of emergent probability.  But never for long without devastating consequences.  History has proven this point.

Just some quick thoughts.

Part 5: Horizontal and Vertical Finality, and a further note on Conjoined Plurality in Finality, Love, and Marriage

by David Fleischacker

 

Quick note on horizontal and vertical finality

I am not going to say much on this today, simply because I am still trying to formulate my findings in a more precise manner.   In Insight, Lonergan is able to develop a formulation of horizontal and vertical in terms of the lower and higher viewpoints and levels of being, and these levels of being are identified as genera.  Hence the developments on a single level of being, a single genus, are horizontal, and the finality of the potency for those developments on that level is horizontal finality. Note that in Insight, the notion of development includes but is not limited to the notion of finality–this is a distinction that Lonergan does not seem to make in 1943 in this essay.  In 1943, Lonergan roots horizontal finality in the essence of the thing.  Thus horizontal finality is cast in terms of a potency within an essence for a set of operations or ends that are proportionate to the essence.  This is getting at the same thing as is found in Insight, but the language is more compact, and he did not introduce the notion of explanatory genera and species to clarify the meaning of horizontal and vertical.  Yet he seems to have something close to a genera in mind when he differentiates the levels of being. I am still working out the precise meaning of this differentiation and how it compares to his formulation in Insight.

 

Further note on Conjoined Plurality.

One other thing that I do want to add is a further note on “conjoined plurality.”  When one introduces a conjoined plurality (a coming together of conditions to inaugurate a conditioned), this constitutes a realized horizontal finality, and this becomes a realized horizontal finality only if it is a sublation into a higher order. In the human being, this realized horizontal finality does not take place because of a circular scheme of recurrence at the level of the conjoining (level of spontaneous nature to use Lonergan’s 1943 language). So what does this mean for the man and woman? The conjoined union of a man and woman does not take place because of organic schemes of recurrence. Rather, one has to move to higher level operations to account for the union. The man and woman have motor sensory operations that bring them together, and these in turn, because they are human, are sublated within yet higher levels of conscious operations. These motor-sensory operations themselves would not be completed without intellectual, rational, and volitional operations (even if these are minimized to hedonistic utilitarian or narcissistic pursuits).  So, the higher level operations complete the lower.  Let’s put this another way. In contrast, the schemes of procreation in plants are completed by vital, physical, organic schemes. But in human beings one has to introduce motor-sensory operations and intellectual/rational/volitional operations in order to account for the conjoining of the conditions at the level of nature (vital, physical, organic), a conjoining which then inaugurates the finality to adult offspring on the one hand, and a sublating relationship into the life and relationship of the man and the woman on the other.  In short, the conjoined union of a man and woman does not have its origins in organic schemes of recurrence. There are no such schemes. Rather, at the level of organic nature, these remain a plurality, a kind of aggregate, until these conditions are brought together through operations at the level of experience, understanding, judgment, and decision, all of which are rooted in a state and actualization of the capacity for self-transcendence.  And notice that each higher level completes something in the lower.  Understanding grasps a link between conditions and a conditioned, and judgment affirms the link as true.  If these conditions have not been completed, then a decision is an act that fulfills a condition, and if sufficient, a conditioned comes to be, and the decision then transforms “being.”  More can be said on this, but in general without an actuation of the life of reason (of understanding and of judgment) and without the actualization of the moral level, there would not be a human conjoining of these conditions that inaugurate the horizontal and vertical finality of fecundity.

Part 4a: “Conjoined Union” in Finality, Love, and Marriage

by David Fleischacker

 

As I was thinking about the meaning of a “conjoined union,” the key kind of potency in such a union is not merely finality, but a kind of realized finality. Realized because it is then sublated within the higher levels of being and/or consciousness.  The “conjoined” refers to a set of conditions that converge, and out of which convergence some type of event emerges.  All conditions arise from previous conditions except when something is created from nothing, which is accomplished solely by a divine act.  The conditions can be completely unique, hence fully non-systematic, or they can arise with various kinds of regularities.  In Insight, Lonergan called these regularities “schemes”.  I would like to note three types of regularities.

1. Source regularity.  When a regular set of events arises from a resource that has a significant supply of the conditions needed for the occurrence of the event, then we have source regularity.  Examples include the energy emitted from the sun and gasoline — though there is a circular scheme with this later examine but we are developing schemes upon it which are beyond the circular rate of renewal.  You can think of this as a one way trip.  It is a kind of entropy, but along the way things happen.   We are not talking of circular schemes here, in which the sets of conditions end up replenishing the originating point.  Rather, this is a sufficient pool that then provides a regularity of subsequent events that can be calculated statistically, although usually there is a slow decline of the statistical regularity until the source is depleted.  These are non-renewable resources, and depending on the overall structure of the universe, it may be on this kind of a course.

2. Circular schemes of recurrence.  This is what most reader’s of Insight think about in terms of regularity.  When we think of event A fulfilling conditions for the occurrence of B, and B of C, and C of A, or any more complicated sequence such that the conditions form a cycle or circuit.  These would be renewable resources. However, Lonergan would say that these schemes of recurrence fall within a larger non-systematic environment.  Hence, as long as the conditions remain the same, this circular or even flexible range of circular schemes will remain intakes.  The “remain the same” means both that the positive conditions remain in place, and that no interfering conditions come online.

3. Schemes of development.  Some things become “regular” because of regular schemes of development.  Examples include the regular formation of adult offspring, or the regular sequence of ecosystem development (for example when a fire burns a number of acres), and the ecosystem undergoes a kind of rebirth.  One of the more interesting and recent discoveries is that of stems cells. These have a development relationship to matured functional cells within multi-cellar organisms. These system maintains the cell/organ systems in multi-cellular organisms.

Whenever conditions come together and an event or new thing arises, they form a conjoined union of a plurality.  One can calculate the statistical probabilities of such conjoining of conditions that leads to an event or a thing–though sometimes this proves to be impossible on a practical level.  And, in every case, one can discover a finality in the potency of the pluralities.  Whether the plurality is one of hydrogen and oxygen molecules in an kind of aggregate that contains some electrical energy being exchanged, or one is speaking of the male and female semi-fecundities, there is a finality in all of these conditions that includes both horizontal–if these stay within the same genus of correlations and functional relations (and this would include both deductive and homogenus types of expansions — see chapter 1 of Insight)–or vertical if one examines the relationship from a lower to a higher genus.

With these convergence of conditions whether through source regularity, circular schemes of recurrence, or schemes of development, we can further clarify Lonergan’s introduction of conjoined plurality in his 1943 essay.  He notes that a specific finality arises in the conjugal act (conjoined plurality of two semi-fecundities) that is to adult offspring on the one hand and to higher orders of reason and charity within and between the man and the woman on the other.  The conjugal act follows the pattern of a source regularity that then follows up with a scheme of development. Why this specific act?  Because this specific act is the coming together of two correlative pluralities (male and female semi-fecundities), that is then a realization of the finality of these pluralities. Why a realization? Because this conjoining in the conjugal act is what can be sublated into the higher orders both of reason and charity that constitute the relationship of the man and woman properly as husband and wife (there are other ways of conjoining man and woman as well, but these have other horizontal and vertical finalities), and that is then a realization of a key step in the horizontal finality to adult offspring, and a vertical finality with the adult offspring to an educated adult offspring and a Christianly educated adult offspring.

I will treat more about this relationship of horizontal and vertical finality in the next blog.

Part 4: Statistics and Finality in Finality, Love, and Marriage

By David Fleischacker

 

In part two of this series, I mentioned that the “repetitive” element of the physical, vital, and sensitive spontaneity is differentiated into schemes of recurrence based on classical laws and statistical probabilities, and then schemes of development with one stage being not only an integrator but also an operator, hence possessing a finality, for later stages.

Concrete plurality and statistics

One element that does seem to stay the same between 1943 and 1957, though is explored more fully in Insight, is the relationship between the concrete plurality and its statistical possibilities that constitutes the potentiality that is horizontal and vertical finality.

As to the difficulty that frequently procreation is objectively impossible and may be known to be so, distinguish motives and ends; as to motives, the difficulty is solved only by multiple motive and ends; as to ends, there is no difficulty, for the ordination of inter­course to conception is not a natural law, like ‘fire burns,’ but a statistic laws which suffices for an objective ordination.[1]

It is important to note that even though the relationship of the conjugal act to conception is statistical, it has an objective ordination to the end of adult offspring. If one backs up in the article a bit, this statistical element is linked to a concrete plurality.

This we term vertical finality. It has four manifestations: instrumental, dispositive, material, obediential. First, a concrete plurality of lower activities may be instrumental to a higher end in another subject: the many movements of the chisel give the beauty of the statue. Second, a concrete plurality of lower activities may be dispositive to a higher end in the same subject: the many sensitive experiences of research lead to the act of understanding that is scientific discovery. Third, a concrete plurality of lower entities may be the material cause from which a higher form is educed or into which a subsistent form is infused: examples are familiar. Fourth, a concrete plurality of rational beings have the obediential potency to receive the communication of God himself.[2]

Notice the use of “concrete plurality.” From my reading, it has the same meaning as coincidental manifold in Insight. When a coincidental aggregate is understood in its finality, both horizontal and vertical, then that aggregate is a coincidental manifold. In each case, an aggregate of activities or materials have the potency to be formed into some higher order. In the types mentioned in the quote above, the second, third, and fourth are of particular interest in this essay. The parental contributions to the generation of an adult offspring provide a material that causes the vegetative and even motor-sensory levels in their child. But the motor-sensory level provides but a dispositive cause for the emergence and activation of intellectual, rational, and moral consciousness. This is because intellectual, rational, and moral consciousness is “headed toward the systematization, not of the particular animal that I am, but of the whole universe of being.”[3] These higher levels of consciousness cannot be caused by the lower sensitive manifold because these are intrinsically independent of the empirical residue. In other words, these are spiritual and thus the lower sensitive level is incapable of being a “material cause.” But the sensitive level is still a manifold, and needs to be for the higher levels of consciousness to operate (insight is into phantasm, for example, and cannot take place without phantasm). In other words, the higher orders of spiritual consciousness are extrinsically dependent upon the empirical residue, and thus the lower has a dispositive causal relationship to the higher. [4] Then, finally, in the reception of divine revelation, a concrete plurality of human beings as a community form the recipient of that gift, hence the relationship of that concretely plurality to the gift is a vertical finality of obediential potency.

 

Conjoined plurality and emergence

In every case, the concrete plurality must form a set of conditions for the emergence of a conditioned, whether on the same horizontal order or of a higher vertical order. So, there is a need for some kind of unification of the concrete plurality in order for the conditioned to emerge. A bit later in the essay, Lonergan will call this unity a conjoined plurality.

But vertical finality is in the concrete; in point of fact it is not from the isolated instance but from the conjoined plurality; and it is in the field not of natural but of statistical law, not of the abstract per se but of the concrete per accidens.[5]

This quote was discussed in the last blog with regard to “statistical law.” But now I want to draw attention to the conjoined plurality. Notice how the isolated instance is not the point of potentiality for vertical finality, but rather it is the conjoined plurality that forms that locus. This is ABSULUTELY key. There needs to be a coming together of the right conditions for vertical finality to become a real potentiality. These conditions and their convergence each have a frequency, and thus as well, an ideal frequency rooted in the ranges of possibilities. As organisms become more complex, this range increases just as there is an increasing flexible circle of ranges of schemes of recurrence, and one might add, of development. [6]

The conjoined plurality arises in a statistical manner, with actual frequencies converging on an ideal. And it is true whether one speaks of instrumental, dispositive, material, or obediential potency. All involve frequencies of conditions and the conditioned. If one does not have the right distribution of molecules within a tree, then carving it into a canoe will result in failure. There has to be an ideal distribution of the molecules that allow for what descriptively we would call a “straight tree with its grains running evenly. Or there has to be the right distribution of molecules in a bio-soup if there is to be the likelihood of the emergence of a self-replicating molecule.[7] Or sensitive images need to be in the right disposition if there is to emerge an insight. Or the individual receptive of divine revelation need to have the right disposition and sets of relationships to receive a public, communal divine revelation.

The statistics is a necessary element in finality. In Insight, Lonergan works this out metaphysically.

Finally, the foregoing account of potency, form, and act will cover any possible scientific explanation. For a scientific explanation is a theory verified in instances; as verified, it refers to act; as theory, it refers to form; as in instances, it refers to potency. Again, as a theory of the classical type, it refers to forms as forms; as a theory of the statistical type, it refers to forms as setting ideal frequencies from which acts do not diverge systematically; as a theory of the genetic type, it refers to the conditions of the emergence of form from potency.[8]

Notice here that he is saying in an extremely succinct manner how correlations that define conjugate forms, along with statistical ideals frequencies and finality (as well as development) are linked in terms of the basic metaphysical elements (potency, form, and act). This could be further unpacked into his theory of generalized emergent probability. Concrete plurality is naming a situation in which frequencies that converge on an ideal frequency provide the potentiality for the emergence of forms from potencies, hence new acts, with their frequencies. This is all articulated in general metaphysical terms and relations which reveals with precision a close unity between statistics and finality. That close relationship, as the quotes above indicate, already existed in Finality, Love, and Marriage, and Insight. Obviously, Insight has unpacked and expanded upon all the elements involved in this relationship, but fundamentally, the link seems the same. A statistically distributed plurality provides a probability for emergence, and the potency of this plurality for emergence is finality.

Fecundity, statistics, and finality

Now let us turn to fecundity and its realization.

….the actuation of sex involves the organistic union of a concrete plurality, and as such it has a vertical finality.[9]

Fecundity that is differentiated into two sexual genders is actuated through the “organistic union” of these genders.  In other words, it is in this union that vertical finality of fecundity emerges.  In a later blog, I will discuss the range of this vertical finality, because it includes both an intrinsic self-transcendence within the subjects who are sublating this finality into higher levels and ends of the human subject (notice how easy this will be to translate into the higher orders of conscious intentionality), as well as a  vertical finality within their “adult offspring.”  At the moment however, I want to highlight that the statistical features of this organistic union require that these be a union of two semi-fecundities.  It is the actualization of fecundity that is under consideration, and for that to take place within a plurality of semi-fecundities means that a unification has to take place for the actualization to be initiated.[10]

In short, the fact of a statistical, conjoined plurality or coincidental manifold is neither an elimination of the finality to an adult offspring nor to the finality to higher orders within the man and the woman and the child, but rather, it is the central locus of that finality.  It is the potentiality that is that finality.[11] It is that conjoined plurality (the conjugal act itself) that is integrated into the higher levels and ends of marriage.  Understanding this locus that is elevated is what would lead one to say as Lonergan did in Finality, Love, and Marriage that the “statistical law” that is found in the relationship of the conjoined plurality to concenption

…suffices for an objective ordination.[12]

 

[1] Finality, Love, Marriage, 46 footnote 73.

[2] Finality, Love, Marriage, 20.

[3] Insight, 515.

[4] Insight, 516.

[5] Finality, Love, Marriage, 22.

[6] Insight, 459.

[7] This is just one theory of the emergence of life, life being anything that can “reproduce” itself.

[8] Insight, 432 – 433.

[9] Finality, Love, Marriage, 43.

[10] There are other ways of course, given modern technologies, to actuate the adult offspring, but these usually involve by-passing and hence failing to actuate one or the other, or both of the semi-fecundities as such.  More on that later – once I finish exploring the meaning of this essay, I will then turn to some of its ramification in lights of current questions and debates. And of course, there are ways to eliminate the finality to an adult offspring by through hindering the actuation of one or the other or both of the semi-fecundities. Both by-passing and hindering involve a loss of the conjoined plurality within the man and the woman as subjects.

[11] Lonergan links potency and finality in Insight, 444-451.

[12] Finality, Love, Marriage, 46 foot 73.

Part 1: Finality, Love, and Marriage: Gender, Fecundity, and Horizontal Finality (Z’ to Z”)

by David Fleischacker

I have been re-reading “Finality, Love, and Marriage” written by Lonergan in 1943.[1] It is quite an interesting piece once you explore the details and interconnections of the work. Given the upcoming Synod of the Family in Rome, I would like to begin exploring what Lonergan might contribute to a deeper understanding of family life.  Just to get started here are a few of the terms in the piece that I would like to begin commenting upon though not necessarily in the order given,

  1. fecundity,
  2. semi-fecundity,
  3. the passive aspect of love,
  4. the immanent aspect of love,
  5. the active aspect of love,
  6. natural law,
  7. statistics,
  8. concrete plurality,
  9. horizontal and vertical finality,
  10. hierarchy,
  11. organistic spontaneity,
  12. friendship,
  13. charity,
  14. projection,
  15. transference,
  16. the three ends of life,
  17. three levels of life,
  18. grace,
  19. reason,
  20. sexual differentiation.

I will start with fecundity since it is crucial for developing a “viewpoint of marriage.”[2] More specifically, I would like to start with the horizontal finality of fecundity to adult offspring at the organistic level and its differentiation into two sexes, what Lonergan symbolizes as; Z–> Z’ –> Z”.[3]

…. As far as human operation is concerned, [fecundity] is primarily on the level of nature, and its ultimate term is the repetitive emergence of adult offspring.  but sex is more complex.  Not only is it not a substance but it is not even an accidental potency as intellect or sense.  Rather, it is a bias and orientation in a large number of potencies, a typical and complementary differentiation within the species, with a material basis in the difference in the number of chromosomes, with a regulator in the secretions of the endocrinal glands, with manifestations not only in anatomical structure and physiological function but also in the totality of vital, psychic, sensitive, emotional characters and consequently, though not formally, in the higher nonorganic activities of reason and rational appetite. But for all its complexity sex remains on the level of spontaneous nature, and there, clearly, one may easily recognize that in all its aspects it definitely, if not exclusively, has a role in the process from fecundity to adult offspring.  For elementally sex is a difference added to fecundity, dividing it into two complementary semi-fecundities.[4]

Fecundity is the real capacity to generate a new central potency-form-act of the same species.[5][2] And because fecundity involves activation of the fecundity to effect the emergence of a new thing of the same species, and that new emergence has to undergo development from an indeterminate but directed dynamism to a determinate mature adult offspring, the fecundity has a horizontal finality to adult offspring.  And in human beings, like all higher level organic creatures, this fecundity is differentiated into two semi-fecundities or “sexes” which then need to come together in “organistic union” in order to activate the realization of fecundity.

In all organisms that have sexual differentiation, the differentiation involves the creation of complementary gametes that then need to be united to form some kind of a seedling or egg, and then this seedling or egg needs to develop into a mature adult.  Thus, there are a number of steps along the way by which fecundity is both real and then by which it is realized.  It is real if it has formed gametes and there exists a way for the unification of those gametes and this unification can then grow into an adult offspring. In plants, sexual reproduction involves the formation of pollen and ovules.  It is quite a beautiful process to learn about.  Fecundity is partially realized once these gametes are united.  In plants, these gametes can be united in a variety of ways, through the wind for example (grasses) or through water currents (seaweed) or through animal vectors (bees). As well, the “parents” might help to facilitate that unity, such as do the stigma and style in plants.  Following the formation of the seed, it then needs to be formed until it is ready to be released.  And the release of the seed may make use of wind or animals for dispersal.  Think of the exciting helicopter seeds that float down from maple trees or the pine cones that fall from pine trees. Once that seed is “planted” and then grows and differentiate into a mature adult, fecundity has been fully realized. With animals, the process is improved and differentiated because of motor-sensory operations. The chaos of the wind and water is reduced by the motor-sensory union that takes place through mating schemes that involve “attraction and locomotion” as Lonergan noted in order to enhance the effectiveness of reproduction and thus reducing the amounts of bio-energy needed while increasing the collaborative unity between the parents that works toward the successful generation of adult offspring.  After mating, in the simple animals, the formation of the egg is usually the end of the parent’s role.  The process of development is short, and a simple egg is sufficient to provide the “womb” needed for maturity (many fish leave the eggs hidden in the rocks).  But in more differentiated organisms, the development following the formation of the egg is more complex just as it was with the union of the parents in mating schemes or ritual. And so more help is needed. A simple unattended egg is not sufficient. Parents may need to be present not only to protect the egg (or warm it if they are warm blooded) but to be presented after being hatched in order to feed and, in higher animals (including birds), train their young in basic skills.  In general, as one moves to higher and more differentiated organisms, one has to introduce more elaborate schemes for the unfolding of fecundity to adult progeny, from mating rituals to raising the young.

Stage Simple organisms – single celled Plants Simple animals More differentiated animals
Pre-conception interactions Not really relevant. May grow flowers to help attract carriers but no interaction of parents. Simple mating rituals with little to no connection formed between the parents. More elaborate mating rituals that involve a more vibrant union of the parents.
Post-conception interactions Not really relevant. None. Very little if any post-conception protection or care. More elaborate post-conception protection and care with a differentiation of parental roles and tasks.

In short, the more developed the organism, the more elaborate the process from fecundity to adult offspring, and the more differentiated the roles of the parents in mediating that movement from its beginnings to its end.  A rich and differentiated fecundity sets up different roles and tasks in the parents who produced the complementary gametes. And as one thinks about it for a minute, Lonergan could not be more right in saying that with sex (as in gender–a semifecundity–not the act) “one may easily recognize that in all its (gender sex) aspects it definitely, if not exclusively, has a role in the process from fecundity to adult offspring.”

My next commentary will be one week from now, Thursday, May 28,2015.

[1] Bernard Lonergan, Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, volume 4, Collection, University of Toronto Press, 1988, 17 – 52.

[2] Finality, Love, Marriage, 42.

[3] Finality, Love, Marriage, 41.

[4] Finality, Love, Marriage 42.

[5] Central potency, form, and act are the metaphysical formulation of the notion of a thing (a unity, identity, whole). Lonergan argues as well that this notion is one of the most development and principle meanings of substance.  See Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, chapter 8 and chapter 15, sections 1 – 2.

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A question about evil and the intrinsic independence of the human intellectual, rational, and volitional spirit from the empirical residue. But only a question.

 

by Dr. David Fleischacker

For those who are interested, I have been continuing to work on the topic of my last blogs regarding the male and female.  I am exploring the neurobiology of the brain and its differentation into the male and female orders. It is complicated as you can imagine, and I am waiting for some insights that pull much of it together.  But because it has been some time since I last posted, I thought I would pose another question that I am currently pursuing as well.

Here it is: Does the evil caused by the sin of the human person who is extrinsically dependent but intrinsically independent of the empirical residue transfer its dialectical disorder to the material world?  Does, for example, the knife used by the murderer come to be in a violation of emergent probability when the murderer uses it to murder a victim?

Let me explain the question a bit. Hopefully you are familiar with some traditional thoughts about the nature of evil, such as the affirmation that evil is a “privation of being” or a “privation of the good.”  It lacks intelligiblity.  It is a distortion of a good and is not an intrinsic substance nor does it have any “being.”  (It can be a privation of order that should be.)

The question I pose seeks an insight into the relationship between evil, the spiritual, and the material as these are articulated in INSIGHT. In INSIGHT, Lonergan presents the material as that which is intrinsically conditioned by the empirical residue.  The spiritual is intrinsically independent from the empirical residue.  The human being however is both material and spiritual. As spiritual, the independence from the empirical residue is understood by examining the “notion of being” or to use the language of METHOD IN THEOLOGY, the ‘transcendental notions’–intelligibility, being, and value.  The notion of being makes it possible to abstract intelligibilities and truths from the empirical residue (thus these are intrinsically independent of space and time, of the continuum, etc..), even though judgments of facts are concrete (some philosophers/theologians have thus called these concrete universals because they deal with specific realities and acts of being). One could say the same about judgments of value–these too are intrinsically independent of the empirical residue even if these are concrete as well.

Though the human spirit is intrinsically independent of the empirical residue, it is extrinsically dependent upon that which is intrinsically conditioned by the empirical residue, namely our material psychic and organic schemes of recurrence and schemes of development. One grasps this dependence when understanding the relationship between

  • the image (phantasm) and insight, or
  • the symbolic element in gathering evidence for judgments of the correctness of insights or judgments of fact, or
  • the symbols and affects involved in judgments of value or the good.

Images, symbols, and affects are intrinsically conditioned by the empirical residue.

The question at hand becomes more challenging when we point out the relationship between evil and emergent probability. The coming into being or the elimination from being of a central act or conjugate act is not necessarily a privation, but can be an absence.  If emergent probability can explain the absence or elimination of these acts, then this is no evil.  If evil has meaning, it must be something that actually violates generalized emergent probability and thus falls into the realm of absurdity. This violation would be the meaning of “privation.”

So, where do we find such privations?  In INSIGHT, arguably, the only “real” evil is that which falls under dialectic, because dialectic has introduced an absurdity into the unfolding finality of the human operator.  Generalized emergent probability is violated when there is a failure to pursue the “notion of being” as one should.  Put into the language of METHOD IN THEOLOGY, whenever there is a violation of the transcendental precepts, there is a real privation that takes place. Evil that is ultimately evil arises from the spiritual and only from the spiritual (that which is intrinsically independent of the empirical residue).

As a note, that which is intrinsically dependent upon the empirical residue, namely the material, cannot initiate a violation of emergent probability because it simply does not have the degree of freedom needed to do so. (this is another argument I suppose, but it is rooted upon the need to have this intrinsic independence from the empirical residue, otherwise what emerges always is explained within emergent probability).

Thus, the human person, as spiritual, can initiate an act of evil that is a real violation of the emergent probability. This is “sin.” So, to repeat the question stated at the beginning,

Does the sin of the human person who is extrinsically dependent but intrinsically independent of the empirical residue transfer its dialectical disorder to the material world?  Does, for example, the knife used by the murderer come to be in a violation of emergent probability when the murderer uses it to murder a victim?

An older manner of posing this question is whether physical evils are actually evils in the end (such as natural disasters)?  Can material disruptions and destructions or absences ever be “privations of being or the good” even when these are “caused” by the human person? Or to put this another way, do these “material disruptions” point to genuine evil caused by the spiritual or do these actually participate in the evil caused by that which is spiritual, and hence violate emergent probability?

By the way, the answer to this question has some interesting ramifications for those interested in whether there exists conversions ontologically below the intellectual (eg. affective, neural conversions).

At this point, I only want to raise the question.  I think one could argue that there is a potential that some of that which we call physical evil is itself a violation of emergent probability, however one must turn to a doctrine such as the Fall in original sin to begin exploring that possibility, because then one moves to a spiritual initiation of a larger absence within the whole emergent order of the universe.