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

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

Being and Good as Primary Notions in Aquinas and Lonergan

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

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

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

Judgment in Aquinas and Lonergan

by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

When Lonergan speaks about judgment in terms of affirmation and negation (one affirms, for instance, that something is so or one affirms that something is not so), he speaks differently from Aquinas who had tended to speak about judgment in terms of notions which refer to composition and division (compositio et divisio).  Cf. Giovanni B. Sala, “Intentionality versus Intuition,” Lonergan and Kant: Five Essays on Human Knowledge, trans. Joseph Spoerl, ed. Robert M. Doran (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994), p. 101.  As Aquinas, for example, speaks about two basic operations of the human intellect (which is his way of speaking about the structure of human understanding), in the Super Boetium De Trinitate, q. 5, a. 3, he says as follows:

The intellect has two operations, one called the “understanding of indivisibles,” by which it knows what a thing is; and another by which it composes and divides, that is to say, by forming affirmative and negative enunciations.  Now these two operations correspond to two principles in things.  The first operation has regard to the nature itself of a thing, in virtue of which the known thing holds a certain rank among beings, whether it be a complete thing, as some whole, or an incomplete thing, as a part or an accident. The second operation has regard to a things’s act of existing (esse), which results from the union of the principles of a thing in composite substances, or, as in the case of simple substances, accompanies the thing’s simple nature.

In his St. Thomas Aquinas Philosophical Texts (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960), p. 221, n. 604 , Thomas Gilby translates this same text as follows:

Of the two phases of mental activity, the first is the understanding of essential meanings, while the second is a judgment, either affirmative or negative.  A dual reality corresponds to these activities: to the former corresponds the nature of a thing, according to its state of being, complete or incomplete, part or accident, as the case may be; to the latter corresponds the existence of the thing.

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

However, in turning to Lonergan, one finds an account which clearly distinguishes between a synthetic element which always exists in any given judgment and a process or act of affirming or denying a proposed synthesis in a given judgment–a synthesis which has already been understood or grasped by prior acts of understanding before questions later arise which ask about the truth or falsity of one’s prior act of understanding.  Cf. Lonergan, Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, pp. 62-63.  When Aquinas uses the language of Aristotle to speak about judgment, an initial meaning which is communicated suggests that every judgment creates or discovers a synthesis or relation which, before, had not been known or experienced as a rational possibility.  But, when Lonergan speaks about the difference between acts of direct understanding and acts of reflective understanding, he speaks about judgment in a manner which gives to it a more precise, a more specific meaning.  Acts of direct understanding as acts of understanding reveal or present connections or relations between things that are not sensed but which are understood within one’s acts of understanding.  In every act of abstractive understanding, one can speak about a mental synthesis which reveals itself.  Cf. Verbum, p. 63.  But later, through a judgment as an act of reflective understanding, a connection which has been understood and which is first inwardly postulated within one’s act of understanding is either affirmed or posited or, on the other hand, it can be denied or negated.  In every affirmative judgment, a synthesis which is first given in an idea and as an idea is taken and then, through one’s discursive self-reflection which goes back and attends to what one has done in one’s thinking and understanding, this synthesis is converted into a rationally known truth or a rationally known fact.  Through the truth which is affirmed, a person as a knower is then joined to a world of real objects.

Hence, through a differentiation which Lonergan introduces into how Aquinas speaks about the nature of human understanding (through a differentiation which is introduced into Aquinas’s understanding of judgement), in his theology of God Lonergan is able to say that God is not simply ipsum intelligere (Intelligence itself or Understanding itself).  Cf. The Triune God: Systematics, p. 187.  It is true, of course, to say that God is ipsum intelligere.  He is the source of all understanding as an unrestricted uncreated act of understanding from which all else comes and flows.  However, if understanding properly exists as a rational positing or as a rational affirmation of intelligible relations, one can speak of God not only as ipsum intelligere but also as ipsum affirmare (as an unrestricted act of affirming or as an unrestricted act of judging).  To speak of God as the highest being, the highest truth, and the highest good means that one can speak of him as an unrestricted act of understanding (an unrestricted act of meaning), as an unrestricted act of judging, and as an unrestricted act of loving.  The meaning, the truth, and the goodness all exists supremely in God–God as an pure act (actus purus) whose lack of potentiality is such that it is wholly lacking in any restrictions or limitations.

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

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by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

For an initial understanding about what is meant by a “transposition of meaning,” as Matthew Lamb argues in “Lonergan’s Transpositions of Augustine and Aquinas: Exploratory Suggestions,” The Importance of Insight Essays in Honour of Michael Vertin, pp. 3-21, it is one thing to understand or to come to grips with a theological understanding which had been enjoyed by someone like Augustine or Aquinas and which they had spoken about within an earlier context of meaning. But, after one has truly and properly understood what another has understood and said, one must then find a way to take this same understanding and bring it into a new context of meaning–a new, broader context of meaning which is the result of later achievements in the history of science and philosophy. By means of what is new, one takes the old and raises it to a greater degree of perfection. As Pope Leo XIII had urged in his encyclical Aeterni Patris: Vetera novis augere et perficere. Augment and perfect the old by what is new.

Turning then to how Lonergan speaks about the existence of more than one kind of intellectual emanation within God, Lonergan opens an initial argument by moving from the created order of things to the uncreated order of things. By a positive or affirmative analogy, he moves from created acts of understanding, knowing, and willing to the reasonableness of concluding that, in God, understanding, knowing, and willing must exist to an extraordinary degree. If, among human beings (and angels), understanding, knowing, and willing exist in a self-transcending manner as spiritual acts, to an even greater degree, such things (these acts) must exist in God (God as the creator and ultimate source of all understanding, knowing, and willing). For this reason, as Lonergan argues in his The Triune God: Systematics, we can speak of God as an unrestricted act of understanding, or as an unrestricted act of knowing, or as an unrestricted act of loving and doing. The infinity of each act explains why each species of act includes the other species. From an explanatory viewpoint (or, in other words, from a divine point of view), only a conceptual distinction exists between these different kinds of acts in God.

However, as one attends to a close reading of Lonergan’s argument and at how he applies his analogy and speaks about it, one finds a juxtaposition of words and meanings which suggests that, to some extent, Lonergan is attempting to introduce a transposition of meaning in his discussion. With respect to how Lonergan speaks about God in terms of understanding, knowing, and willing, he juxtaposes (to some extent) a traditional way of speaking about God with a manner which directly and more properly comes from his analysis of the structure of human cognition. As Aquinas had spoken about God in the language which he uses, God exists as a totally self-subsistent being, as pure act (actus purus), or pure being (esse tantum), or as being itself (ipsum esse). No other being is more fully in act. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 25, a. 1. Being by participation is sharply distinguished from simple being (being per se), or being by nature or essence which only belongs to God as a being whose essence is simply to be or to exist (in contrast with the essence of every other being whose essence is not simply to be but to participate in some limited way in the act of being or existence which is God). As Aquinas also notes, as subsistent understanding or understanding itself, God is ipsum intelligere. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 54, aa. 1-3. By and through His understanding, God exists in His being. Cf. De Malo, p. 16, a. 3. God confers being or existence on all other things. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 44, a. 1. Hence, and as Lonergan repeats, it can be said that God is truth or reality itself. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 16, a. 5. God’s existence as a disembodied, disincarnate form (which is to be equated with an unrestricted act of understanding) precludes the possibility or need for any kind of existence which must exist or rely in anything else. Cf. De Veritate, q. 21, a. 5. The self-subsistence is entirely absolute and not relative in any way since, as other things emerge and relate to God and as they depend for Him for their own being and existence, in no way does God depend on them for anything which could be needed by him. Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 18, 2; 2, 18, 4; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 3, a. 7.

However, from a Thomist understanding and insight which speaks about God as pure act or as an unrestricted act of understanding and loving, Lonergan is able to speak about God in a more fully differentiated manner–in a manner which speaks about acts by way of acts of understanding, affirming, and loving. God as intelligibility is an unrestricted act of understanding. God as truth is an unrestricted act of judging or affirming. God as love is an unrestricted act of loving. As we accordingly distinguish between different kinds of intellectual emanation which exist within ourselves (our souls), we can then think about the question of emanations in God. Yes, God is one. God exists, in himself, as an unrestricted act of understanding which, in its infinity and perfection, encompasses every kind of proceeding or emanation that can exist. Everything unfolds from within. In turning to our human experience, we are aware of inner words which proceed from prior acts of understanding (be they acts of direct understanding or acts of reflective understanding) and we are also aware of acts of willing or doing which also proceed or emanate from prior acts of understanding as these exist within moral deliberation. However, as Lonergan argues, these different emanations all exist in a relation with each other which points to an unmistakable, fundamental unity. As much as real distinctions exist among these different emanations, each emanation exists in a manner which naturally either elicits the need for another species of emanation or which points to the necessity and value of having earlier, prior emanations. The proceeding of an inner word from a prior act of direct understanding elicits a desire and need for a second form of proceeding which is the emanation of an inner word of judgment from a prior act of reflective understanding. But, as understanding and knowing lead to loving and doing, the proceeding of any act of willing or doing from a prior act of reflective understanding in ethics not only presupposes a proximate act of reflective understanding about goodness or value but, at the same time, this same emanation also presupposes prior, earlier emanations with respect to truths of fact and being which refer to a world that is always the context of our moral deliberation.

In adverting thus to truths of faith which speak about a coming or a proceeding of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and in also adverting to different kinds of proceeding which exist in our own souls, in this way, we can think about the possible existence of more than one emanation in God. We can think about two basic species of emanation. One refers to the proceeding of an inner word from an act of understanding (whether the act of understanding is an act of direct understanding or an act of reflective understanding). The other refers to a movement which shifts from understanding and knowing to an expression or communication that exists in willing and doing. In some mysterious way, one can think about two possible emanations which exist within God–two emanations which do not contradict with each other as love naturally and rationally emerges from understanding and as understanding also naturally and rationally arises from the kind of love which exists in any desires that yearn for understanding. Because of mutual or reciprocal relation which exists within human subjectivity as regards how our understanding and knowing relate to our desiring, loving, and willing, in an analogical way, one can think about the kind of unity which must exist in God with respect to how divine understanding is related to divine willing. A perfect unity can be thought about. It can be conceived by us though, truly, it cannot also be imagined by us. Within this context, two emanations can be conceived: the proceeding of God as Word and the proceeding of God as Love. In a very real sense, no emanation can exist without the other. Always, where there is the proceeding of a Word (an inner Word), a proceeding of Love exists and where there is the proceeding of Love, the proceeding of an inner Word also exists. As Lonergan concludes his argument here: “…two divine processions…can be conceived through the likeness of intellectual emanation.” Cf. Triune God: Systematics, p. 189.

Lonergan and Aquinas and Questions about Using a Faculty Psychology

by Dunstan Robidoux, OSB

In the works of Aquinas and, sometimes, even in some of Lonergan’s writings, one finds references to human conscious life in words which traditionally belong to a psychological language which today is not viewed with much favor. In the bulk of his work, in the context of his intentionality analysis, Lonergan adverts to human conscious life in terms which usually speak about acts of experiencing, understanding, judging, deliberating, and doing. But, in contrast, Aquinas tends to speak more simply about intellect and will, or about the difference between theoretical and practical reason. Cf. Lonergan, Second Collection, p. 79. In Aquinas, a faculty psychology can be detected. Intellect and will are viewed as distinct faculties and, as one attends to them, other distinctions can be made so that one can say that this is not that. One is not the other.

In some descriptive language that Lonergan uses, with respect to what is meant by faculty psychology, Lonergan notes that faculty psychology tends to separate things when it speaks about the inner life of human beings. Cf. Method in Theology, p. 120; Philosophical and Theological Papers 1965-1980, p. 37. The distinctions made tend to detract from grasping how very many things are related to each other in the life of the human psyche and how different elements all rely and depend on each other. In Lonergan’s own words (p. 37):

A faculty psychology divides man up; it distinguishes intellect and will, sense perception and imagination, emotion and conation, only to leave us with unresolved problems of priority and rank. Is sense to be preferred to intellect, or intellect to sense? Is intellect to be preferred to will, or will to intellect? Is one to be a sensist, an intellectualist, or a voluntarist?

Then, in moving to an explanation, Lonergan notes that Aristotelian psychology existed as a kind of deduction or subordinate science. Cf. Papers, p. 395. Its basic terms were crafted as adaptions of basic principles as these were derived from metaphysics as “first science” or “first philosophy.” The human soul is a special kind of form; the body, a special instance of matter. One reaches the human soul by adding specifications or differences that distinguish the human soul from other kinds of souls. The human being is soon defined as a rational animal. Rationality sets human beings apart from plants and animals. And so, by this approach, a hierarchy gradually manifests itself with respect to the structure of the human psyche. A rational human soul tends to present itself as a basic first principle. This principle is identified as the mind or intellect. All various human desires or appetites are then understood in terms of how they relate to the life of the human mind. An ordering of desires is postulated in a manner which tends to separate purely intellectual desires from other kinds of desire. Intellectual desires are commonly distinguished from purely volitional or appetitive desires. Lower desires serve higher desires or, by a mediation that is effected by higher desires which sustain the life of the mind, lower desires are subordinated to serve higher purposes and goals. In the wake of Socrates’s footsteps, it is said that reason rules will. If one knows the good, one does the good. But, from a contrary standpoint which works from Christian belief and an Augustinian teaching which speaks about the formative power of love within human individuals and human history, it is suggested that our desires or passions rule our reason. Our desires move us ultimately either toward God or toward our ruin and self-destruction. It is said thus that “a person ‘is’ what he or she loves.” Cf. Augustine, Tractates on the First Letter of John 5.7-8; 2,14. Without love, we are lost.

Hence, as Lonergan argues, by an analysis which attempts to grasp how one thing leads or follows from another, linear relations are postulated in arguments which cannot too easily speak about a play or interaction that reveals a far much more complex reality which is constitutive of the life of human beings as subjects. By not attending to our experience of consciousness through our self-consciousness, interrelated intentional operations are not attended to. They are commonly not noticed and identified.

In thinking then about Lonergan’s account and as one compares it with contemporary accounts, one finds that, by and large, it agrees with contemporary understandings which speak about separations and a lack of relation between elements. According to an interpretation gleaned from internet sources (http://employees.csbsju.edu/esass/facultypsychology.htm):

Faculty psychology conceived of the human mind as consisting of separate powers or faculties. It viewed the mind as a separate entity, as something apart from the physical body. A popular form of this theory held that the mind consisted of three separate powers: the will, the emotions, and the intellect. The mind (especially the intellect) was seen as a kind of muscle and, by exercising it, one could strengthen to control the will and the emotions.

However, as one engages in a close and careful reading of Aquinas’s texts, one might wonder if Aquinas is being adequately understood if one places too great a weight on his use of a language which speaks about faculties. Yes, certainly, Aquinas speaks about intellect and will and about the difference that distinguishes theoretical reasoning from practical reasoning. However, at the same time, textual evidence can be cited to the effect that Aquinas also speaks about necessary, ongoing interactions between acts of sense and acts of the intellect and necessary, ongoing interactions between acts of the intellect and acts of the will in the life of human beings.

On the necessity of a constant, ongoing interaction between acts of sense and acts of understanding, Aquinas notes that the proper object of human inquiry is always an intelligibility that is embedded in materiality. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 12, a. 11. The nature of this object helps to explain why human knowing always requires an interaction between the exteriority of sense and the interiority of intellect– as Aquinas often speaks of it. Cf. In 2 Scriptum super libros sententiarum, d. 20, a. 2, ad 3; In 3, d. 14, a. 3, sol. 3; Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 96, 10; Sententia super librum De caelo et mundo, n. 2; and Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 8. Because the human intellect relies on what sense can do to help and encourage its reasoning activities, it can then be argued that thinking and reasoning is done by human beings and not by minds or intellects. Human personhood cannot be identified with the existence of the human intellect, mind, or soul. Cf. Francis Selman, Aspects of Aquinas (Dublin: Veritas, 2005), p. 105. In a self-assembling way, human understanding discursively functions through a constant, ongoing interaction a rebus ad animam, “from things to the soul” by way of reception and, conversely, ab anima ad res, “from the soul to things” by way of motion. Cf. De Veritate, q. 10, aa. 5-6; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 8. Acts of sense continually interact with acts of understanding. The composite structure of human cognition explains why human knowing knows things that possess a like composite structure.

Similarly, with respect to interactions between intellect and will, Aquinas argues that the human will does not exist separately from a life of the intellect. Knowing and willing move each other in a reciprocal relation between the two which excludes the primacy of reason over the will (as, since Socrates, the Greeks would have it) and also excludes the primacy of the will over the intellect (as many modern thinkers would have it: Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Nietzsche, and Freud). In one’s understanding, one’s desires and inclinations are known and, in one’s desires and affections, one moves toward inquires which seek understanding. Cf. De Veritate, q. 9, a. 10, ad 3, 2ae ser. Willing moves knowing for the good which can be achieved either purely in knowing, or by and through a knowing that leads to other kinds of activities. Cf. De Veritate, q. 22, a. 12; De Malo, q. 6, a. 1: “I understand because I will to do so.” Two partial causes act together in the life of the will to move human willingness. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 9, a. 1; a. 3. Though reasoning and understanding, a particular object or end is specified as something which should be desired by our willing it. But, at the same time, the will moves itself in possessing an intelligible nature of its own. A distinct set of first principles is constitutive of its inner life. In the order of our desires, some kind of concrete good is always being desired by us as often as we may err in determining what goods we should desire and seek to attain. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 1, a. 7. An order of actions which is constitutive of the life of the will gives the will a characteristic form or structure that is normative for all of its operations, although, at the start of things, an appetibile or “seekable” specifies the object of a particular striving. Cf. Rhonheimer, Natural Law and Practical Reason, p. 26; p. 32; p. 71. Will exists within reason even as it can never be compelled by any act of reasoning and understanding to do a given task. Cf. In 2 Scriptum super libros sententiarum, d. 25, q. 1, a. 2; De Veritate, q. 22, a. 6; Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 10, 17; De Malo, q. 3, a. 3; Peri Hermeneias, 1, 14; and Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 81, a. 3, ad 2; q. 82, a. 2. Knowing and willing condition each other in a mutually causal way through a form of reciprocal or mutual priority which Aquinas explicitly identifies. As Aquinas argues in the De Veritate, q. 14, a. 5, ad 5 (trans. F. Crowe, Three Thomist Studies, p. 82):

…will and intellect have a mutual priority over one another, but not in the same way. Intellect’s priority over will is in receiving (in via receptionis), for if anything is to move the will it must first be received into intellect…. But in moving or acting (in movendo sive agendo) will has priority, because every action or movement comes from the intention of the good; and hence it is that the will, whose proper object is the good precisely as good, is said to move all the lower powers.

More succinctly, in the Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 83, a. 3, ad 3, the same point is averred:

The intellect precedes the will, in one way, by proposing its object to it. In another way, the will precedes the intellect, in the order of motion to act, which motion pertains to sin.

Hence, as one compares Aquinas’s position with that of Lonergan on the relations which exist among the different elements that, together, are constitutive of human psychic life, one finds substantial common agreement. Both acknowledge a mutual conditioning which exists in the interior life of human beings. In the reality which exists, everything happens through a constant interaction that obtains between different material and spiritual elements. As much as one might want to distinguish elements apart from each other and then determine why one element should not be confused with another, one must acknowledge the reality of basic relations which are necessary if anything at all is to happen. Each element exists so that another can properly exist and function. The sensing is for the sake of understanding and, for the sake of growth in understanding, one must return to one’s sensing. Similarly, with respect to knowing and willing, each exists for the sake of the other. Without knowing, willing cannot build or construct anything and, conversely, without willing, no one can give their lives in efforts that are dedicated to a search for knowledge and wisdom.

Lonergan admits that, yes, he engages in an intentionality analysis. He argues that, by doing so, he can accomplish two tasks. He can distinguish a hierarchical ordering of things which exists in the life of the human psyche. Cf. Papers, p. 396. In borrowing from Aristotle an understanding of human inquiry which distinguishes between different types or sets of questions, he can distinguish distinct levels or stages of human conscious operation in the structure of human cognition. Cf. Lonergan, Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, p. 26. Certain things do normally follow from each other or come after each other. And yet, within this same ordering, a mutual conditioning accounts for interactions that move things forward in the life of human beings. No element exists separately from another even if all the elements can be properly distinguished from each other. In Lonergan’s intentionality analysis, a development presents itself but as an achievement that is grounded in a number of earlier achievements in the history of catholic thought.

Love of the gods, of God, and the Capacity for self-transcendence.

St. Thomas Aquinas argues that sanctifying grace transforms the very essence of the human soul (Summa Theologica, I-II, Q 110, a. 4). This essence is at the basis of the powers and operations of the human soul. And with grace, those powers are elevated to a supernaturally capacity.

Lonergan transposes St. Thomas’s formulation of our essence, articulating it as the capacity for self-transcendence. This capacity comes to be known, as is the essence and the powers for Aquinas, via attending to our interior operations and acts of the human person. These operations and acts form into distinct sets of groups rooted upon distinct aims of human conscious existence. Lonergan sorts these sets into four levels with which many of us are familiar, three of which are specifically human: the level of understanding, the level of judgment, and the level of decision, and one that is shared with higher animals, namely the level of motor-sensate forms and schemes. And as for the aims of each of these levels, just as St. Thomas will speak of the agent intellect as the power that aims at “being” and brings about an actualization of the potency of the intellect1, Lonergan in INSIGHT will call this agent intellect the notion of being. By notion, he means a heuristic notion, which guides and directs us toward an object. And this particular notion underpins, penentrates, and goes beyond all other heuristic notions and the objects they intend (INSIGHT, chapter 12). By the time he wrote METHOD IN THEOLOGY, Lonergan will differentiate this into three notions; the notion of the intelligible, the notion of being/truth, and the notion of the good. Furthermore, he will add the term “transcendental”, because these notions, which are transcendental in scope, are the principles that both orient us toward the Transcendent and bring about self-transcendence in us.

These transcendental notions are the basic questions in us, but these are more than just questions. Once answers have arisen, it is by these same notions that we have the power to intend the answers (the objects). Furthermore, these same notions bring up new questions in light of the answers. Hence, in METHOD, Lonergan identifies three transcendental notions which bring about the ongoing development of three levels of conscious existence:

1. Level of Understanding Transcendental notion of intelligibility
2. Level of Judgment Transcendental notion of being/truth
3. Level of Decision Transcendental notion of value/good

Futhermore, one can understand each of these notions as being related to each other in terms of sublation. Sometimes Lonergan will also speak of sublation using the language of higher and lower levels of being; of the relatively natural and supernatural (only God is absolutely supernatural); or of the infrastructure and suprastructure (for a discussion of this, see my article on “Higher and Lower Levels of Being” in the section of the workofgod.org web site called “The Living Cosmopolis”). Thus, the notion of intelligibility sets-up the level of understanding so that it can provide the lower matrix which can then provide the conditions for the life of the level of judgment. The general form of the question at the level of judgment is “Is it true?”, and the “it” literally comes from the level of understanding. And in turn, the level of judgment permeated by the notion of being enhances the life of the notion of intelligibility. One cannot reach good judgments without an adequate number of insights that need to be weighed. When we ask “Is this true?” we might both seek more evidence in larger ranges of experience, but also seek more insights to reflect upon in relationship to experience. So, when we ask the question “what” it usually is also within the context of the intentional notion that seeks being. Likewise, the notion of value (or the good) enhances and expands the levels of judgment and understanding. One cannot become attuned to what is good without knowing what is real or true. And when we are seeking what is real and true, and trying to understand, it is usually in the context of seeking what is good.

The capacity for self-transcendence thus is what one begins to grasp once one comes to understand the unified or integrated levels of the potentiality of the transcendental notions. That capacity is a basic orientation toward a complete perfection of all these notions in their integral unification. This is the essence of the human soul.

Love as the orientation of our capacity for self-transcendence.

One of the things that begins to oriente this capacity is love. Whenever we fall in love with anything or anyone, we can then give the reason why we seek understanding, being, and goodness. This love is the reason why we use our bodies as we do, why we ask questions and get insights as we do, why we seek to know the real as we do, why we want to know what is good and respond in decisions as we do. Thus, if we love our car and only our car, then the way we use our body, our hands, our feet, our eyes and ears; the way we ask our questions to understand at the level of understanding; the way we ask our questions for reflection at the level judgment; the way we ask questions for deliberation at the level of decision are guided by the love of this car. Now, such a total love for such an object would of course be a bit distorted and unexpected, even for a young teenage boy. But one can see the point. Love orients our capacity for self-transcendence, whether that love is for another person, a family, a country, or for God.

But can such a love fully actuate our capacity for self-transcendence?

God and the gods.

This is where we can begin to grasp that only one love can oriente and actuate the totality of the capacity for self-transcendence. However it is a love that really is beyond the power of this capacity.

In order to love something, we have to have some kind of basic ability to attend to it and fall in love so as to be able to oriente our being toward it. This is a basic type of knowledge of the reality of the other. It does not mean that we necessarily understand the full intelligibilty and being, and thus goodness of this other, but it does require a basic knowledge that this other exists and is worthy of our love, and thus can become a centering point of our self-transcendence. This is not naturally possible to do with God.

Why?

First, what do we mean by “God”? Lonergan, in chapter 4 of METHOD IN THEOLOGY (and in chapter 19 of INSIGHT), gives some clarity to this. The term or aim of our transcendental notions are a bit mysterious. Our questions for understanding, and most comprehensively, our transcendental notion of intelligibility, is not restricted. It includes all that is intelligible, and excludes only what is not. It includes therefore the potential reality of an unrestricted intelligiblity. But this inclusion is not like other finite intelligible beings. Rather, that which is an unrestrictedly intelligible is an analogue that one grasps when one discovers the full unrestricted range of this transcendental notion. It is what happens when one beings to wonder about the complete and total intelligible meaning of everything about everything and whether there is an ultimate meaning to everything about everything. When one has reached this unrestricted meaning of this transcendental notion, one has reached the question of God. It is a question still, because it takes a further leap to affirm that such an unrestricted intelligibility exists that actually is proportionate to the totality of the transcendental notion itself. But nonetheless, Lonergan would highlight, that the reaching of this total question is itself how we come to know what is meant by God (and we do not necessarily do it with the precision that Lonergan has spelled out in chapter 4 of METHOD).

The same happens in examining the transcendental notion of the true or of being, and of value or the good. Each of these becomes the analog by which we grasp a meaning to “God” and thus are able to raise a question about the reality of God as being the proportionate completion or aim of these transcendental notions. Only then do we understand the totality of our aims in life, and that totality is really aimed at an unrestricted intelligibility, being, and good. Our question of God is rooted in our created being and the nature of our conscios intentionality. It is one way for understanding how we are in the image of God — and image which not only has rationality like God, but which is only completed in God.

Thus, since love orients our capacity for self-transcendence, the only term that could adequately complete that self-transcendence, and thus be the real perfection of it, is love of a being who is unrestrictedly intelligible, unrestrictedly true/real/being, and unrestrictely valuable/good. And thus only by loving God could our capacity be fully completed.

Yet, our own powers to oriente our capacity for self-transcendence are limited to things that we can naturally understand, know, and respond. Why? Lonergan throughout his life argues that we understand by insight into experience. And he goes on to argue that we know by judgments based on a reflection upon the adequacy of our insights into our experiences, a reflection which might lead to sufficient evidence grasped through a reflective insight. And furthermore, that we make decisions which transform our world based upon this naturally known knowledge into our experiences. Thus, what we can see, hear, taste, touch, smell, along with our motor activities form experiences, because we can get insights, reflective insights, and evaluative insights into these. Likewise, once we have questions and insights, make judgments and decisions, we can then get insights into these questions, insights, judgments, and decisions as such. Thus we have access to a second type of experience called data of consciousness, and thus can get insights and knowledge into that nature of our own selves, and also respond in decisions to transform ourselves (and through this, we can also understand others conscious existence).

However, we have no experience of God as God, only our orientation toward God in our capacity for self-transcendence. Thus, we cannot have direct insights, reflective insights, and evaluative insights into God, and thus we cannot love God as God, as the proportionate perfection of our capacity for self-transcendence.

Hence, if we truly can love God as God, then this is a divine gift, a supernatural gift, a gift which raises the power to realize our capacity as such. It becomes a basic orientation and actualization of our capacity for self-transcendence. Thus, it can be identified as being placed into this essence of our soul. It can be described as Lonergan notes, as the love of God flooding our hearts, giving us a heart of flesh, a heart of flesh which has a supernatural destiny.

Thus, we can now define the gods.

Whenever we love something or someone who is not unrestrictedly intelligible, unrestrictedly real, unrestrictedly good as if they were, then we have turned this being into a god. It may be fleeting. It may be enduring. It could be our spouse. It may be our work, our intellects, or power. And whenever it happens, we have violated the first and greatest Commandment. We have made something to be what in reality it cannot be. And in reality, it never really can be the actuation of our capacity for self-transcendence, because just as we cannot naturally love God as God, so we cannot love a god with that kind of love of God as God. In the end, it would be a natural, finite love that masquerades as ultimate love and meaning. And this too is a lie.

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1This agent St. Thomas identifies is also known as the light of being. This is a more descriptive language which has older roots. One finds it, for example, in St. Augustine, in a number of places in his book on the Holy Trinity. The light of being is a created illuminating power within us that is analogous to the sun. As the sun illumine physical objects so that they might be seen, so the light of being illumines intelligible objects so that they might be understood and known. It seems that earlier in Augustine’s life, he identified this light directly with God, however, toward the end of the De Trinitate, he clearly says this is a created light in us. This light, or agent intellect, is the way that human beings participate in the Being of God.

Lonergan and Aquinas: Isomorphism and Proportionality

by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

The Thomism of Lonergan’s philosophy and theology is accepted by some and rejected by others. On the one hand, Lonergan says about himself that he spent eleven years “reaching up to the mind of Aquinas.” Some of his writings are replete with references to Aquinas. But, at the same time, others argue that something is very wrong with Lonergan’s study of human cognition (his intentionality analysis). Lonergan is accordingly often referred to as a Kantian. He is seen as a promoter of subjectivism and so, as a Kantian, it is said that, in Lonergan, no joining exists between subjectivity and objectivity. From Lonergan’s subjectivity, one cannot move into objectivity. Metaphysics has no foundation.

Now, in addressing this question, it has to be admitted that a fully adequate discussion is no small undertaking. One would have to understand Kant’s own position thoroughly before entering into a similar study of both Aquinas and Lonergan and about how the thought of all these thinkers relates. Such a project cannot be attempted here. However, in order to raise a few questions and to suggest where lines of convergence can possibly be detected, I would like to speak about Aquinas and Lonergan in terms of a number of restricted issues and topics. My presupposition will be the thesis that Lonergan’s thought is not as original as some would believe. In order to understand Lonergan’s thought, one best begins with Aquinas. While some admittedly argue that, to understand Aquinas, one best begins with Lonergan, I will argue to the converse. By reading Aquinas, one best creates conditions that will lead to a better understanding of Lonergan’s thought and a grasp of its true significance.

In Lonergan’s Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, principally in the context of a discussion which speaks about metaphysics as science, it is argued that an isomorphic structure exists between knowing and being. Or, in the words of a more traditional language, a connatural relation exists between the order of human knowing, on one side, and the order of being or reality, on the other. For every element that can be distinguished in the structure of human cognition, a correlative element can be identified in the structure of the known (a known which Lonergan refers to as “proportionate being”). Every metaphysical element is grounded in a corresponding element or act that, as individual, is partially constitutive of the knowing which belongs to human cognition. In Insight (and elsewhere), Lonergan argues against a theory of knowledge which alleges that human knowing is some kind of simple, single act (i.e., a species of intuition). On the contrary, human knowing is complex and, at times, cumbersome. It is constituted by a number or a series of different acts that have each different natures and which are all related to each other in a self-assembling pattern that is normative for human beings. Where Lonergan speaks about experiencing, understanding, and judging as three levels that succeed and sublate one another in the structure of human knowing, three correlative metaphysical components can be distinguished in terms of potency, form, and act. A critical metaphysics is grounded or established on the basis of a critical understanding of human cognition–an understanding that is arrived at through a very personal form of inquiry which emphasizes the importance of self-understanding. Begin an inquiry into metaphysics by first developing a strategy of inquiry which leads toward self-understanding.However, given Lonergan’s theory of an isomorphic relation between the structure of human knowing and the structure of what is known (which can be articulated in a much more sophisticated fashion than what is given here), let us look at Aquinas’s notion of proportionality as this relates to what he has to say about how human knowing is related to what human knowing is able to know. On understanding this notion of proportionality (as Aquinas understood it through his own acts of understanding), one can then think about it and ponder it and ask if a connatural relation exists between it and Lonergan’s theory of isomorphic relations. Is Lonergan’s theory of isomorphism a development of Aquinas’s notion of proportionality?

With respect then to Aquinas’s notion of proportionality, it should be noted that Aquinas begins with an understanding which Aristotle had had. “It is as ridiculous to say, the soul alone understands, as to say, alone it builds or weaves.” Cf. De Veritate, q. 19, a. 1. Knowing is a co-operative effort. It involves both soul and body since human knowing occurs in a being that is formed by two principles. Soul (anima) is united to body (corpus) whereby the soul takes a body and then converts it into a certain kind of body which lives and functions as a result of the soul’s causality. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 75, a. 1. The body is needed by the soul if the soul’s intellectual operations are to occur. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 4. Hence, human beings exist as incarnate spirits. Anima mea non est ego. “My soul is not I.” Cf. Expositio et Lectura super Epistolas Pauli Apostoli, In II ad I Cor., 15, lect. 2, no. 924. The soul gives a form or structure to the materiality of the body in order to order the body to the soul and, from this form or structure, the knowing of the human soul derives its characteristic form or structure. Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 83, 26. Human knowing emerges as a function of the structuring of the human soul in terms of how human beings exist as embodied beings.

Hence, given the structure or nature of human knowing, Aquinas argues that certain conclusions can be properly drawn about a relation or proportion which exists between knowing and being. As Aquinas notes in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 12, a. 4:

A thing is known by being present in the knower but how it is present is determined by a knower’s way of being. How something knows depends on how it exists. Hence, if the way of being of a thing which is to be known is beyond what belongs to a knower, knowing such a thing would be beyond the natural power [or natural potency] of the knower.

Cognitive activity, as performed by human beings, has its own proper object (specified as an intelligibility that exists within matter). “A thing’s mode of knowing depends on its mode of being. But our soul, as long as we live in this life, has its being in corporeal matter; hence, naturally, it knows only what has a form in matter, or what can be known by such a form.” Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 12, a. 11. Between the mode of being and the mode of knowing, a proportion, proportio, or correlation can be discovered and this proportion between the mode of a subject’s being and the mode of its knowing carries over into a proportion that is reflected in the order of being or reality which is the subject matter of ontology or metaphysics.

In different texts Aquinas speaks about a proportionality in the structure of knowing. One text in the Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 96, 5 directly speaks about proportionality when it says that “the mode of a thing’s proper operation corresponds proportionately to the mode of its substance and nature.” Italics mine. And then, with respect to a proportion which exists between the order of knowing and an order or structure in that which is known, in the In 4 Scriptum super libros sententiarum. d. 49, q. 2, a. 1, ad 6, an earlier text, Aquinas refers to a proportion which should exist between the order or structure of knowing and a like order which should exist in the order of what can be properly and connaturally known. “The potency of the one knowing has to be on a level with the knowability of the thing known.” In the Super Boetium De Trinitate, q. 1, a. 2, ad 3, the same kind of point is reiterated when it said that “some kind of proportion is needed between the knowing power which exists in a knower and what is known as a knowable object.” The reason given is that “the knowable object exists as a kind of actuality within the knowing power of a knower.” Later texts in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 7; a. 8; q. 85, a. 1; and a. 8 specify how a connatural, proportional relation should be understood to exist between human knowing and what a human knower knows. A proportion or correlation naturally and properly exists between the embodiment of the human soul (the soul informing a body) and the embedded existence of forms within matter which are the proper object of human knowing. As Aquinas goes on to note in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 88, a. 1, “our intellect in its present state of life has a natural relationship to the natures of material things,” or, more precisely, as Aquinas states it in Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 108, a. 5, “something is said to be in a certain thing by the proper mode when it is adequate and proportionate to its nature.” Cf. Frederick E. Crowe in Three Thomist Studies, ed. Fred Lawrence, p. 223, nn. 51-52.

With respect to human beings then, and also with respect to angels and God, a distinct strict proportion exists between the knowing of a certain type of subject, on the one hand, and what is being known by the same subject, on the other hand. In the context, for instance, of a strict proportion which exists between a created intellect and a created form, a created intellect can possibly come to exhaustively understand a created form but, with respect to an uncreated form, this is impossible. Cf. Lectura super Ioannem 1, 18, lect. 11, nn. 208-21, as cited by Jean-Pierre Torrell, Saint Thomas Aquinas Volume 2 Spiritual Master, p. 51, n. 69. Uncreated forms can only be properly and adequately understood by uncreated acts of understanding.

On the basis then of the embodiment which properly belongs to the character of incarnate human existence, given then what Aquinas says about human sensible experience and first and second operations of the human mind, Aquinas distinguishes between objects of sense and objects of intellect in a way which indicates that, for every element which exists in the cognitional order, a corresponding element can be posited in the ontological or metaphysical order. See Crowe, p. 212. While, for instance, the object of human sensible experience is an object as it exists in corporeal matter (presenting itself as a form as it exists in corporeal matter; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 85, a. 1: forma prout in materia corporali existit; [forma] prout est in tali materia), the object of human understanding is a form that has been grasped as a quiddity, essence, or “whatness” which exists in corporeal matter (cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 7; Super I Sententiarum, d. 19, q. 5, a. 1, ad 7). In the context of inquiry, a sensible or material form, present in an image or phantasm, is first grasped by an act of sense, but it is grasped in a manner which then hopefully triggers an act of understanding that then apprehends the meaning of an intelligible form which specifies what something is. Cf. Sententia libri Ethicorum, 6, 9, 1239. Sensible form is to be distinguished from intelligible form. And then, thirdly, when a second operation of the mind begins to ask about the possible truth or reality of a given essence or form, in the reflective understanding which occurs in judgment, its term is the positing of existence or being: esse or actuality. Cf. Super I Sententiarum, d. 19, q. 5, a. 1, ad 7; De Veritate, q. 4, a. 2; q. 3, a. 2; q. 14, a. 1, pp. 208-9; Sententia super Metaphysicam, 6, 4, 1232. As Aquinas summarizes his thesis in the Super Boetium De Trinitate, q. 5, a. 3:

The intellect has two operations…which correspond to two principles in things. The first operation has regard to the nature itself of a thing, in virtue of which the known thing holds a certain rank among beings, whether it be a complete thing, as some whole, or an incomplete thing, as a part or an accident. The second operation has regard to a things’s act of existing (esse), which results from the union of the principles of a thing in composite substances, or, as in the case of simple substances, accompanies the thing’s simple nature.

In a species of proportion which speaks about a correlation between the order of knowing and the order of being, acts of sense are correlated with potency (they reveal potency), acts of understanding with form (they reveal form), and acts of judgment with act (they reveal act or actuality).

However, as the ordering which exists within knowing also reveals a like ordering in the structure of reality, a mutual or reciprocal form of proportion can be specifically identified. It informs the species of proportionality which, in Aquinas, correlates every cognitional act with a corresponding metaphysical principle or element. In this specification, acts or elements within a set cannot be understood apart from each other and how each relates to the other. As every act of sense is ordered to first acts of understanding which, in turn, are ordered to second acts of understanding present in judgment, their metaphysical correlatives are also similarly ordered. Potency is ordered to form and form to act. Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 54, a. 3. Everything which exists in material things exists as a composite of potency, form, and act and, conversely, every act of knowing is a composite of experiencing, understanding, and judging. Each act or element exists as it is because each is mutually ordered to all the other acts or elements. Citing some of Aquinas’s own words, “what is intrinsically ordered to something else ‘cannot be understood apart from that other’.” Cf. Super Boetium De Trinitate, q. 5, a. 3.

In turning then to how Aquinas goes on to speak about this ordering, in the Sententia super Metaphysicam, 9, 5, 1827-9, he notes that one discovers relations of mutual proportion among metaphysical principles through correlative relations of mutual proportion which also exist as differentiations within the structure and process of human cognition. The difference, for instance, between potency and act is illustrated and paralleled by the difference between sleeping and being awake. Capability or potentiality is distinguished from an act or operation which refers to a realized state of being. Since, cognitionally, for instance, the form of a material thing can only be understood (or apprehended) if it is detached from a material thing through an act of abstraction which functions by way of an interaction between sense and intellect, the form of a material thing (as a metaphysical principle) is understood as something which cannot exist apart from its union with matter (although the form of an immaterial thing can be understood apart from any union with matter). Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 79, a. 7. An awareness of transitions in human cognition reveals a metaphysical principle which speaks about transitions that move from potency to act. Hence, by way of application in metaphysics, it can be said that potency stands to form as the organic body to the soul, the will to habitual righteousness, the possible intellect to habitual knowledge, the ears to hearing, and an eye to sight. Cf. De Potentia, q. 1, a. 1, Sententia super Metaphysicam, 9, 5, 1827-9; Lonergan, The Incarnate Word, p. 140, an unpublished manuscript translated 1989 by Charles C. Hefling, Jr. from the Latin of the De Verbo Incarnato. Form is act (first act) in relation to potency, but in relation to an act of being or operation (second act), it is a second species of potency. The first act of form is not to be confused with the second act of being or operation. By extension, in the relation which exists between form and act, it can be said that “as sight stands to actually seeing, [the faculty of] hearing to actually hearing, habitual knowledge to actually understanding, habitual righteousness to actually willing rightly, soul to actually living,…form stands to act.” Cf. Incarnate Word, p. 140. Through a reflection that is grounded in cognitive self-consciousness, metaphysical principles can be identified and all can be understood in terms of how they are all ordered to each other.

By way of conclusion then, Aquinas’s notion of proportionality derives from Aquinas’s experience of himself as a thinking, knowing subject. The subjectivity of his understanding is seen to participate in a wholly natural way in an objectivity that his understanding is naturally directed toward. No inherent, unbridgeable gap necessarily exists between the subjectivity, on the one hand, and objectivity, on the other. The subjectivity of a thinking, knowing being is joined to the objectivity of what can be known through a person’s subjectivity. The human spirit moves into objectivity through its self-transcending operations. Through our initial desires and aspirations, we are immediately joined to a world that is greater than ourselves. And then, by our activities which emerge as responses to what we want and desire, we can be joined ever more intimately to this same greater world which transcends our finite human existence. Within ourselves, unrestricted desires serve as a point of connection. In thinking about Aquinas’s notion of proportionality, we can rightly ask if Lonergan’s theory of isomorphism is essentially taken from Aquinas’s notion of proportionality. Is Lonergan’s theory genuinely Thomist?

St. Thomas on why there are only three Persons when there are four mutually opposed relations in the Holy Trinity

by Dr. David Fleischacker

In the first part of the Summa Theologicae, question 30, article 2, St. Thomas is presenting the intelligible grounds for the existence of three and only three Persons of the Holy Trinity. It is a rather fruitful passage to come to understand, and it reveals some of the real power of the analogy that St. Thomas was using to understand the Holy Trinity. If Tertullian and St. Augustine are famous for asking “three what?” And answered “three persons,” St. Thomas now asks the further question, “Why three persons?”

Could an analogy actually help to explain this point? The better the explanatory capacity of an analogy, the more it is going to help us understand. This analogy was based upon the interior procession of the act of understanding to the act of the word, and then from word to will/love. 

St. Thomas shows that if we suppose this set of processions to be in God, then there are three persons. And, one can even go on and say what these three would be like.  The two processions result in four relations, since each procession results in two mutually opposed relations.

Though the general question regards why only three persons exist when there are four relations, within this context, another question emerges.  Why are the two relations of the second procession [the procession of love] distinct from the two relations based on the first procession [the procession of intellect]? Earlier in the Summa, St. Thomas had proposed that in each procession, there are two mutually opposed relations. However, each of the first two relations [filiation and paternity] are not mutually opposed to either of the second two relations [spiration and “procession”]. Hence, how are filiation/paternity distinct from spiration/procession if not seemingly based on mutually opposed relations? The answer requires that one link the two processions, and that the mutually opposed relation of one set be identified with one or both of the relations in the other set.  Thus, spiration is either paternity, filiation, or both; or “procession” (passive spiration) is paternity, filiation, or both.

Here is the main body of that second article that I found particularly interesting:

I answer that, as was explained above, there can be only three persons in God. For it was shown above that the several persons are the several subsisting relations really distinct from each other. But a real distinction between the divine relations can come only from relative opposition. Therefore two opposite relations must needs refer to two persons: and if any relations are not opposite they must needs belong to the same person. Since then paternity and filiation are opposite relations, they belong necessarily to two persons. Therefore the subsisting paternity is the person of the Father; and the subsisting filiation is the person of the Son. The other two relations are not opposed to either of these, but are opposed to each other; therefore these two cannot belong to one person: hence either one of them must belong to both of the aforesaid persons; or one must belong to one person, and the other to the other. Now, procession cannot belong to the Father and the Son, or to either of them; for thus it would follows that the procession of the intellect, which in God is generation, wherefrom paternity and filiation are derived, would issue from the procession of love, whence spiration and procession are derived, if the person generating and the person generated proceeded from the person spirating; and this is against what was laid down above (27, 3 and 4). We must frequently admit that spiration belongs to the person of the Father, and to the person of the Son, forasmuch as it has no relative opposition either to paternity or to filiation; and consequently that procession belongs to the other person who is called the person of the Holy Ghost, who proceeds by way of love, as above explained. Therefore only three persons exist in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

A hermeneutical note

I would like to focus on the boldface part of the quote above with the following question. Why would linking the the relation of “procession” with Father and Son result in the procession of intellect issuing from the procession of love? One thing I want to highlight is that the inversion takes place when one considers both the Father and the Son to be a result of the relation of “procession”, not just the Father or just the Son. The small clause “or to either of them” results in a similar problem but through a slightly different logical route which I will discuss below.  However, if you notice the next sentence is refering to both the generator and the generated, hence the Father and the Son together.

The Problem

Now to return to the problem. The relation of “procession” regards the relationship of love to that from which it proceeds, the spirator.  St. Thomas is proposing a problem. If one is going to say that the relation of “procession” [as a note, I will put the relation of procession in quotes] belongs to the Father and the Son, then one must say that the procession upon which the Father and Son were based comes from the procession of love. Earlier, he had argued that in us, the procession of love comes from the procession of intellect. So, why would the relationship of the two processions become inverted?

The meaning of procession, relation, and mutually opposed relations

In general, the meaning of procession is to come forth from an origin.  So, the second term comes forth from the first.  Now, in the procession of intellect, what comes forth from the first is an image of the first.  Hence, a word.  Since an image of another that comes forth from that other is the meaning of generation or begetting, this procession is one of begetting or generation.  And, since paternity means “that which generates or begets a generated or begotten, then the relations of the first to the second is that of paternity. Likewise, since filiation means that which comes from another as an image of the other, then the relation of the second term to the first is filiation.

Notice, thus, that paternity and filiation are mutually opposed relations.  They are NOT relations that are equal.  Two friends, for example, are equal in their generic meaning, insofar as they are “friends.” Friend one has a relationship of friendship to friend two.  And, friend two has a relationship of friendship to friend one.  The meaning of friendship in both relations is equal.  Hence, these are not mutually opposed in meaning. In contrast, paternity is defined in an unequal and opposite relationship to filiation.  Hence, they cannot be switched and mean the same thing.

Why the inversion.

Understanding this mutual opposition of the relationships, and how both are based on the same procession, is key to understanding the logic of the problem St. Thomas has presented.

Like paternity and filiation, spiration [active] and “procession” [passive spiration] are each mutually opposed relations based on two different but related processions.  If “procession” (passive spiration) were the same as the Son and the Father, then they come from the spirator. However, if they come from the spirator, then they are based on the procession of love.  However what they “mean” as Father and Son is based upon the procession of intellect, because only this procession gives mean to paternity and filiation, thus one must also conclude that just as they, so the procession upon which they are defined issues from the procession of love.

What about equating passive spiration (procession) with Son? Or with Father?

One could push the exploration of this question however in directions further than that stated by St. Thomas. Instead of identifying passive spiration with both the Father and Son, what happens when it is identified with just one or the other? Well, other, similar problems emerge. One does not immediately conclude to the inversion of the relations of the processions, but one does run into some conflicting problems. For example, if the Son comes both from begetting and spirating, then the Son would then be both a word and something that is not a word (namely love).  Likewise, if the Father was both begetter and spirated, then the relation of the Father and Son would be rather bizarre.  Since the Son would not be in mutual opposition to his spirated Father, he would be one who spirates the Father.  So, the one who the Father begets, is also the one who spirates.  Thus, the Father, through the Son, also spirates, who? Himself.  So, the Father is both spirated and spirator, which conflicts.

One can keep exploring the logic of this confusion, and in every case, conclude that neither one nor both the Father and the Son can be passively spirated (and thus be the relation that St. Thomas calls
procession).
So who is based on spiration and who on procession? 

Hence the Father and the Son are the Spirator, and hence are based on spiration.  The Holy Spirit is spirated and based on “procession.”

What if only the Father or only the Son is based on spiration? 

One could further wonder why are both the Father and the Son linked to spiration, and not just one or the other. In short, conflicting intelligibilities and doctrinal positions emerge when identifying spiration with either the Father alone or the Son alone. Because then one would say that procession is opposed to the one but not the other. Intelligibly, if spiration is equated with the Father, then the Son is opposed to spiration, and not to procession. Thus, the Son is both a word and something which cannot be a word, namely love.  Likewise, if spiration is equated with the Son, then the Father would be in an opposed relation to spiration, thus he would be identical with the relation of procession.  In turn, the Father would be both spirated and begetter.  Thus, as the begetter of the Son, who then spirates the spirated, he also spirates himself by begetting his Son (a problem in reverse from what we ran into earlier).  This means that he is not opposed to spirator, but if the Son is the spirator, and the Father is not, then the Father cannot be spirator. Doctrinally, it means that either the Son or the Father are not distinct from the Holy Spirit, which is opposed to the dogmatic position. 

Thus, what is left is that both must be the spirator.  An analogical explanation which provides the intelligible grounds for the fililoque in the Church creed.

Knowing and Willing in Aquinas

By Dunstan Robidoux, OSB

In the common literature which exists about Aquinas, he is frequently described as an “intellectualist.” His philosophy (or theology) is frequently regarded as “intellectualist” which implies that he subscribes to a tradition which emphasizes the primary of the human intellect in the life of human beings. However, is this popular view somewhat misleading for more than one reason? Can a development be detected in Aquinas which offers a more nuanced position, a thesis which jars with simple intellectualism and which can be reconciled with a degree of voluntarism? Is Aquinas misunderstood because many of his readers today could be working from a truncated understanding of what could be meant by “intellectualism”?

Early on, in his analysis, In interpreting Aristotle’s De Anima, 3, 433b10-13 in the Sentencia Libri De anima, 3, 15, 830; p. 246, Aquinas argues that, in Aristotle, the “absolute starting point of movement” in the movement of desire or appetite is the apprehension of a desired object, either through the powers of human imagination or the activity of the human intellect. Appetibile apprehensum movet appetitum; “the apprehended object of desire moves the appetite” (citing J. Michael Stebbins’s translation, Divine Initiative: Grace, World-Order, and Human Freedom in the Early Writings of Bernard Lonergan, p. 323, n. 90) even if this phrasing only presents the meaning of Aquinas’s interpretation and so does not cite any literal wording from any text written by Aquinas. On the whole, in the early writings of Aquinas, the will tends to be viewed in passive terms. It is something which is acted upon. Cf. Lonergan, “On God and Secondary Causes,” Collection, p. 63. It lacks a causality of its own.

However, in a development of view which gradually transcends the simple intellectualism of Aristotle, in Aquinas (and in Lonergan’s analysis of Aquinas), will and intellect are related in a way which is best understood in terms of a mutual causality or a causality of mutual priority. In analyzing how Aquinas understands how the human will is related to the life of the intellect, in his Grace and Freedom, pp. 95-96 and pp. 319-320, Lonergan argues that, when Aquinas speaks about the causality of the human will (the fact that it has a causality of its own), he rejects Aristotle’s understanding which had viewed the will as purely a function of reason (as a “wholly passive potency,” quoting Stebbins, p. 84). Cf. Patrick Byrne, “Thomist Sources of Lonergan’s Dynamic World-View,” Thomist: 117. See Thomas Aquinas, In 2 Scriptum super libros sententiarum, d. 25, q. 1, a. 2; De Veritate, q. 22, a. 6; Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 10, 17; De Malo, q. 3, a. 3; Peri Hermeneias, 1, 14; and Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 81, a. 3, ad 2; q. 82, a. 2 for texts which deny that acts of understanding and judgment force or necessitate the will to engage in its activities which lead to a desired end. While the life of the human imagination and the human intellect does admittedly play a primary role in exciting the human will toward movement, a double primary causality is in fact to be postulated (two operative efficient causes) since the human will also acts (to move itself) on the basis of naturally desired ends which already belong to the structure of the will and which incline it to act in certain ways or in certain directions. “To will and not to will lie within the power of the will” (Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 10, 17; 3, p. 61). Cf. De Malo, q. 6, a. 1. The human will is in fact moved by two causes, or two principles, which refer to a structure of reason and a structure of desire or appetite which are related to each other and which work together to move things forward in human life. As one’s understanding specifies an object or end which is to be desired by one’s human willing (Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 9, a. 1), at the same time, the self-movement of the will is accounted for by its own ends and first principles which, rationally, are constitutive of its inner life (q. 9, a. 3). The object or end is a practical good that is being desired or wanted. An appetibile or “seekable” designates the object of a striving. Cf. Martin Rhonheimer, Natural Law and Practical Reason, p. 26; p. 32; p. 71.

As this double causality is played out in the life of human beings in a way which also reveals a certain parallel in the structure of intellect and will in the rational life of human beings, where in the structure and operations of human cognition the object is a knowledge of specific facts, in the end, judgments belonging to the will (as a knowing which seeks to grasp courses of action) are also rationally made by reducing hypothesized conclusions to first principles in order to establish specific courses of action which can then be implemented to realize a desired, concrete good. In the life of the will, the will moves itself by working for ends or objectives which are constitutive of its first principles and by effecting a kind of reduction which tries to move from ends specified by first principles back towards specific means that can lead to the ultimate attainment of one’s desired ends. As, in theoretical understanding, from a general premiss in a syllogism one moves toward a specific conclusion, in the same way, from an end or object which functions as a kind of premiss in practical or moral understanding (Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 13, a. 3) and which is to be identified with the human will’s fundamental orientation toward the good (Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 90, a. 2; q. 94, a. 2 cited by Frederick Crowe, “Dialectic and the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises,” Appropriating the Lonergan Idea, p. 238), one moves toward a choice which designates a very specific means that can lead to other, higher means and ends which ultimately lead to an end that satisfies all of one’s desires and whose desiring has served as a catalyst to construct an ascending scale of related means and ends. If one is to reach an ultimate goal, one must discover a very specific, initial means or concrete step whose execution will initiate a series of actions that will lead to ultimately desired ends. A teological order or structure belongs to the dynamism of the human will as this will constructs a relation of means and ends which lead to the actualization of a highest goal or end, and as this same will works with other human wills to order means and ends in ways which distinguish how persons differently will and live their lives. As Aquinas argues above in the Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 13, a. 3, for a physician, a patient’s health is something ultimate. A physician will make decisions based on what will nourish or restore a patient’s health. But, if one is a patient or a potential patient, one might decide to forego certain medical treatments because one wishes to attain higher objectives: end which transcend the health of one’s body. The end of one person’s life or activity can become a means for another person’s life or activity. Cf. Crowe, pp. 237-8. In the life of the will, one usually works from an initial, inchoate sense of basic ends or objectives and, from there, one works toward specific objectives which designate means that are made known through co-operative activities that are centered in acts of inquiring, understanding, and judging.

Knowing and willing clearly move each other in a reciprocal relation which more fully reveals an existential tension which inherently exists within human life and, thus, a certain lack of simplicity: a mysteriousness or wonder which exists about the meaning of our human existence. A mutual or reciprocal causality excludes, on the one hand, a simple primacy of the reason over the will (as the Greeks would largely have it) and, on the other hand, a simple primacy of the will over the intellect (as many modern thinkers would have it, thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Nietzsche, and Freud). In one’s understanding, one’s desires and inclinations are known and in one’s desires and affections, one moves toward one’s acts of understanding (from what is already understood to what has yet to be understood). Cf. De Veritate, q. 9, a. 10, ad 3, 2ae ser. In the context of modern voluntarism, the human will is usually not seen as a reasonable or rational thing. Intellect and will, “intellectualism” and “voluntarism,” tend to be set apart from each other in a false dichotomy that can be overcome through a self-understanding which can begin to realize that our human understanding grows and develops through a constant interaction between intellect and will (which would also include a constant, ongoing interaction between sense and intellect in the life of the human mind). For a better understanding of modern contemporary views which emphasize the primacy of the will over the intellect, on Hobbes and the primacy of the human lust for power in human life, see Eric Voegelin, Modernity without Restraint: Science, Politics, and Gnosticism, vol. 5, ed. Manfred Henningsen (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000), p. 307.