The Motherly Impulse

by David Fleischacker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh how glorious is the motherly impulse of a woman.



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

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

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

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

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

by David Fleischacker 

“….and he was made perfect through suffering”

Hebrews 2:10

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

Setting the Stage of Suffering: The Transcendental Notions

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

The Transcendental Precepts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Linking the Transcendental Notions to the Finality of All that Exists

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

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

Transcendental Notions: Created Participations in the Divine Light

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

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

Sin and Evil as a Violation of Finality

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

Original Sin and the Deformation of the Finality of the Universe

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

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

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

Authentic Suffering as a Response to Evil and Sin

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

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

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

Suffering the Evil in Others

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

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

Jesus’ Suffering on the Cross

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

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

But Why is This the Way of Perfection?

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

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

Part 8:  Love in Finality, Love, and Marriage

by David Fleischacker

Further, love is the act of a subject (principium quod), and as such it is the principle of union between different subjects. Such union is of two kinds, according as it emerges in love as process to an end or in love in the consummation of the end attained. The former may be illustrated by the love of friends pursuing in common a common goal. The latter has its simplest illustration in the ultimate end of the beatific vision, which at once is the term of process, of amor concupiscentiae , and  the fulfilment of union  with God,  of amor amicitiae (“Finality, Love, Marriage,” 24)

Though there is more to say on finality, I am now turning attention to the meaning of love within the 1943 essay “Finality, Love, and Marriage.” On an initial review, and I think final as well, Lonergan was only beginning to move into a deeper explanatory account of love in 1943.  His use of terms derived from faculty psychology and his notion of appetite illustrate this beginning. We must remember however that the use of faculty psychology does not make something false.  What happens once one shifts into intentionality analysis is a transposition which sometimes results in a translation of a term into the intentional framework and, at others, an elimination of a term.  For example, I would argue that the potential intellect gets translated into the capacity for self-transcendence, and hence expanded and united within the light of all the transcendental notions.  Likewise, the agent intellect becomes translated into the transcendental notions, and thus more adequately expanded as well.  Thus, Lonergan’s formulation of love in 1943, even if in faculty psychology, can be transposed, something which Lonergan had done by the time he wrote Method in Theology.

First, let’s look carefully at the 1943 text.  This section is titled “The Concept of Love.”  Notice Lonergan is using the term concept. However, in his opening line, he identifies love as utterly concrete.

The difficulty of conceiving love adequately arises from  its essential concreteness and  from  the  complexity of the concrete.(23)

Love is neither a concept or an abstraction, but of course in talking about it, one does have to conceive it.

In conceiving of love, Lonergan develops four aspects, the first two dealing with the nature and act of love itself, and the second dealing with the subject who loves.  The first two clearly are formulated within faculty psychology.  Love is an act of a faculty.  A faculty is a kind of power that is constitutive of what a living thing is.  It gives the living thing the ability to carry out certain type of operations.  To get an insight into a faculty, one has to carefully analyze a whole landscape of operations and then in  examining the operations, discover fundamental characteristics that unite those operations.  So, seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling all have a material element to them, such that the very operation itself regards a spatial-temporal element.  As well, these sensate operations allow one to be present and conscious of sense objects.  And hence recognizing that all of these sense activities both have a conscious element and a material element would allow one to then formulate a common power or capacity that one has in these types of activities.  This becomes the source of the insight into a particular faculty or power.  Other operations transcend certain material limitations, and the principle examples of this are the activities of understanding and knowledge.  One can posit a common power or faculty to these spiritual (non-material activities), such as the faculty if the intellect. Now on to each of the four aspects.

First Aspect: Love as an actuation of a faculty

Lonergan formulates love as a realization or actuation of faculty.  Specifically, it is a faculty of appetite, and love is the central appetite – “it is the pure response of appetite to the good” (23)  Other responses are derivative – desire, hope, joy, hatred, aversion, fear, and sadness.  Hope is the expectation to become present to that which is love. Hatred is toward that which has harmed the good that is loved.  Fear arises in response to the possible loss of the good that is loved.  Sadness is the response to that good as lost. Joy is the enjoyment of the good as present.  Love is key.  It is central.  There is nothing false in formulating love in this manner.  Identifying it with a faculty, and a fundamental appetite is to recognize that it is a real power or capacity of the human person.

Second Aspect: Love of a beloved as first principle

The second aspect is that it is the principle – “the first in an ordered series” – that initiates a process to its end, which is that which is loved. One can think of simple vital desires for example.  The desire for food is not only the “form” of the end process by which one goes out to find, hunt, or grow food, but it is the first principle of that entire process, and it has as its object the end, the food itself.  In the case of love it is the beloved.  The beloved becomes the first principle that moves the person in love to the beloved.

Third Aspect: Unification of subjects toward an end

The third aspect highlights that the act of love, the act of this fundamental appetite, this first principle of movement to the beloved as term, bonds the subjects who are in love based upon their common pursuit of an end.  Those who have not yet reached the end, and rather are still in pursuit of it, become bound when pursing that end collaboratively.  Lonergan draws this out further through Aristotle’s notion of friendship in a later section of his essay.  Notice that here, Lonergan does not specify the end that is pursued, because any good ends pursued can unite individuals to each other.  This pursuit also perfects the human subjects as such, and thus bonds them to each other for each other, but that is the point of the next aspect.

Fourth Aspect:  Love of Beloved as United, as Consummated

The fourth aspect highlights that love as realized unites subjects as mutual persons who enjoy the good that each is, a mutual unity that is based upon the good that each person is and has become.  The ultimate example of this aspect that Lonergan identifies is the beatific vision, “which at once is the term of process… and the fulfillment of union with God” (24).


It is important to note that Lonergan says these are simultaneous aspects (23). The differences between each is a different focus upon what is “utterly concrete.”  By simultaneous he means that one does not happen without the other, even if the individuals involved may be focusing in upon one of the aspects and not the others.

Contrast to love in Method in Theology

There is not only a clear difference of words between 1943 and 1972, but a clear difference in scope.  Lonergan by 1972, was able to formulate love in terms of insights that he had into the structure of consciousness, specifically in terms of the capacity for self-transcendence, and the different states of being of that capacity.  One not only has the notion of potency in a capacity, but it is a potency that has a directly relationship to states (which is derived from statistical notions – the difference between actual frequencies from ideal frequencies gives one an understanding of the state of something), and it includes a clear differentiation of the notions that constitute the capacity as a whole – the transcendental notions.  Lonergan thus could formulate love not as merely an actualization of a faculty, but one might say the actualization of the faculty of all faculties, the base of all bases.  Love is basic because it orientes all levels of consciousness.  All the questions that one pursues are guided by that which one loves.  In other words, the state of being orients all the operators of human development at all levels of conscious intentionality.  Love is the actuation of the capacity for self-transcendence, and the more profound it is, the more it underpins, penetrates, and transforms all of one’s horizon.

This does not negate the insights Lonergan had in 1943, but it does formulate these insights more clearly, and it expands upon what he understood of love.  It is still utterly concrete, and so concrete that nothing that human beings do escape it, because even getting up in the morning means there is some basic actuation of the capacity, some basic state of one’s being.  It is an actuation of a kind of faculty, but not just among others. Rather, it regards the capacity for any human intentional operator and operation. It is a central appetite, but it is also a the central finality of all human activities.  The transposition of faculty psychology into intentionality analysis reinforces what Lonergan says about love in 1943 and expands it.  Furthermore, the last two aspects can be understood more deeply.  When one understands that love is a realization of the capacity for self-transcendence, and that all other operators and operations thus emanate from this realization, then one comes to understand the more comprehensive scope upon which subjects can be bound to each other both as they self-transcend, and as they reach the fulfillment of their self-transcendence. This is especially true when one transposes the beatific vision into a perfection of the human capacity for self-transcendence by the gift  that is the Transcendent, the ultimate meaning and ultimate value because the Transcendent is the only true realization of the capacity.  Lonergan’s reflections upon Christology and Trinitarian theology draw this out even more (and one might add his work on grace).

Just a few things to think about as we start this exploration on Lonergan’s notion of love in “Finality, Love, and Marriage.”

Part 7: Finality, Final Cause, and the Good in “Finality, Love, and Marriage”

by David Fleischacker

“For the final cause is the cuius gratia, and its specific or formal constituent is the good as cause.” (Finality, Love, Marriage, 19)

This quote” falls within the section on vertical finality in “Finality, Love, and Marriage.” In the paragraph before this quote, Lonergan was introducing the difficulties in apprehending finality. It is something that can be easily overlooked by the positivist because “quite coherently, any positivist will deny final causality.”  Instead, the positivist will only admit efficient causality.  Lonergan in short, defines finality in terms of final causality.  One wonders if he had yet broken from Aristotelian science sufficiently to provide an adequate account, even heuristically, of marriage and the marital acts.  I suspect many would say no.

To restate this difficulty, if vertical finality is defined in terms of final cause, it would seem that Lonergan has not adequately defined finality yet.  There is some truth in this as I stated in the last blog — since it seems that in light of Lonergan’s formulation of horizontal finality, he had not yet reached his more general formulation of finality that one finds in Insight, where it is isomorphic with the notion of being, and not related to essence alone (though it is related since essence or form is a component of being).  Just as one can expand on the notion of horizontal finality, so one can do the same with vertical. Let us push this a bit in this blog to see where it goes.

As the quote up top indicates, Lonergan is defining final cause in terms of the good.  In this section on vertical finality where he criticizes the positivist, Lonergan notes that the positivist can acknowledge  motives and terms, but only as efficient causes. The blindspot of the positivist is the denial of these motives as good and these terms as good.  In short, Lonergan is saying that in the potency, there is an orientation to the good that he calls finality.

One can find this orientation to the good throughout Lonergan’s later writings. In fact, it becomes more prominent, not less, as he formulates in a clear fashion the fourth level of consciousness and delineates the capacity for self-transcendence not in terms of one notion (being) as he does in Insight, but in terms of three transcendental notions — intelligibility, being, and the good (Method in Theology, 34 – 35 or 104- 105). As well, one can think of his formulation of the human good in chapter 2 of Method in Theology, especially the notion of the “terminal good” (Method in Theology, 51). In both cases, whether one thinks of the transcendental notion of the good/value or in terms of terminal value, these operate in the same manner as Lonergan’s formulation of a final cause in 1943.  In other words, the transcendental notion of value operates like the notion of being, and hence it is isomorphic with the good. And terminal value is the good as a term that is truly good.

Though their is a similar heuristic element to final cause in 1943 and Lonergan’s formulation of the notion of value later, there is an expansion.  Just as an expansion occurs in relating finality (whether horizontal or vertical) to the notion of being in Insight, so now one can isomorphically relate finality to the entire capacity for self-transcendence, which is constituted by the three transcendental notions–intelligibility, being, and the good.  To do this is not to say that what Lonergan defined as finality in 1943 is wrong, but rather it is to open up its meaning to the entire nature of the universe of intelligible and existing goodness.

Think about how Lonergan’s development of the capacity for self-transcendence actually points out a limitation in Insight.  Lonergan would have formulated the good in Insight in a manner similar to Aquinas, as convertible with being.  This point would be true later as well, but it receives some nuances.  The good  as a distinct transcendental notion in later writings, hence distinct in the human subject’s apprehension of the good, especially the hierarchy of the good/value, indicates the differential of something as existing (or some occurrence of a conjugate form as occurring) versus something as good.  In 1943, Lonergan introduced this goodness to being in terms of a final cause.  In other words, being and the good are more explanatorily developed in later writings but still operative in earlier writings. Final cause is not eliminated so much as explanatorily developed.  The manner that he used it in 1943 is still valid within its frame work.

Why was it and is it still valid? This validity is similar to how the Newtonian formulation of gravitation is valid within general relativity, but it is a more limited account. One can transpose the 1943 Lonergan into 1983 by formulating finality as the metaphysical and meta-ethical isomorphism with the capacity for self-transcendence.  This would further open the heuristic exploration of marriage and love that he formulated in 1943, and place his insights within a larger framework.  Already in the last blog, I have started to do this by uniting horizontal and vertical finality in terms of potency as one finds in Insight.   One can do more by relating finality to emergent probability as the emergent good.  The upwardly directed dynamism of finality for intelligibility, being, and the good/value (I have been using good partially because I do get tired of the relativistic overtones of the term “value” in modern culture).  Such a finality would apprehend the universe in its proportionate existence as an emerging good.  This recognizes the universe as an ultimate friendly universe in its very nature.  This also means that the entire intelligibility and being of marriage is not only real but good — and so getting that meaning right is crucial if the historical and traditional breakthrough into marriage is not to fade into the shadowland of scotosis or individual bias or group bias or the general bias (on the notion of scotosis and bias, see Insight, chapters 6 and 7).

Part 6: Horizontal and Vertical Finality in Marriage, Love, and Finality

By David Fleischacker

Four ideas about the generic relationship of horizontal and vertical finality stand out in Lonergan’s 1943 essay – “Finality, Love, and Marriage.” It is important to note that I have not passed much beyond exploring the first section of the 1943 essay, which makes general statements about finality.  In his later sections, he treats of love and the personalist elements of marriage within the framework of finality, and so these later elements will be crucial to comprehend what he contributed with this essay.  That will be for future blogs.


First Idea: Horizontal as Essential, Vertical as Excellent

The first deals with linking horizontal to what is essential, and then vertical to what is excellent.  This is mentioned a number of times (see for instance pages 18, 22-23, and 48).  Essence refers to what something is (Lonergan uses nearly the same formulations of horizontal, vertical, and absolute finality in his 1976 essay, Mission and Spirit, but instead of essence he just writes that the proportionate end “results from what a thing is” — A Third Collection, page 24).  Essence constitutes a kind of limit to the types of activities or operations that a thing can engage upon or into which it can develop.  The excellent refers to a higher level perfection that can emerge from the lower.  Lonergan’s use of essential and excellent is directly linked to the course he was teaching on marriage at the time,  and to Casti Cannubii, in which the essential and excellent ends of marriage were distinguished.  I find it interesting that he defines horizontal in terms of essence, but he does not define vertical in terms of excellence.  Rather, he defines vertical finality in terms of a dynamic emergence of properties that arise from a conjoined plurality.

This distinction between horizontal and vertical finality seems to be lost by the time of Insight where the terms are not used at all. I would argue that this is a result of a broader, more general formulation of finality in which it is understood as proportionate or isomorphic with the notion of being (and hence the desire to know).  Finality is the “upwardly but indeterminately directed dynamism towards ever fuller realization of being” (Insight, chapter 15, section 6). As such, it is simply the potency of the universe for the emergence and maintenance of each and all intelligible being.  However, Lonergan does use the term “vertical” in a similar fashion to its use in 1943, though only once, when discussing the relations of a lower manifold to a higher order (Insight, chapter 15, section 7.3).  Hence he is not speaking of finality but of developmental relations. And instead of horizontal, he speaks of lateral developments.  In Insight, the only kind of distinction he makes regarding finality is in terms of minor and major flexibility (hence not horizontal and vertical), but explanatorily these are not different, especially in terms of the meaning of finality as a potency that is a directed dynamism (Insight, chapter 15, section 5). In Insight, finality as such is not merely within an individual, or species, or genus, but it is the potency for fuller being in each and all individuals, species, and genii.

There is one key notion that links the 1943 essay and Insight.  It is the notion of a concrete plurality which becomes formulated into terms of both the non-systematic and statistic residues in Insight.  The potency of a plurality of acts ends up being central to understanding the open ended dynamism of each individual, species, and genus. Take for instance a carbon atom.  The carbon atom itself is a chemical conjugate, and if in act, it is an existing chemical atom.  Within an existing atom of carbon, the concrete plurality that is a potency for other chemical forms is the sub-atomic elements which are either quarks or compounds of quarks.  These quarks and compounds of quarks are the lower manifold pluralities that have the potentiality for being informed as other chemical elements or compounds.   In carbon, there are sufficient materials to form other elements or compounds through atomic or nuclear changes–as long as the total masses of these elements and compounds does not exceed that of carbon.  One could theoretically form hydrogen or helium, or any other elements up to carbon from a carbon atom. Hence this concrete plurality of sub-atomic elements is the location of the potency for dynamic change.

In 1943, Lonergan tended to limit this dynamic notion of finality to vertical finality, since such finality is based in the “fertility of a concrete plurality” (and this is equal to an indeterminate but directed dynamism to his use of vertical finality).  However, one finds this concrete plurality to some degree in his use of horizontal as well.  There are a few points in his 1943 essay where Lonergan identifies a statistical relationship between two events on the same horizontal level (namely the conjugal act and conception—see page 46, footnote 73), but he tends to identify horizontal as rooted in essence still, rather than the potency of a non-systematically related set of aggregates that can become “conjoined” into an order whether on the same plane of being or a higher plane.

As mentioned, later in his life, Lonergan does reintroduce vertical and horizontal finality in his third collection that reprints a 1976 paper titled “Mission and Spirit.” He more or less repeats the same definitions as given in 1943 but without the link of horizontal to essence/natural law and vertical to concrete plurality and statistical law. Hence has a similar meaning as in 1943, but he has the developments of Insight in the background, along with the question of evolution.  It is almost if he had re-read the 1943 piece, and decided to bring the notions of horizontal, vertical, and absolute finality to attention.  Just a few years earlier, in Method in Theology published in 1972, he introduces horizontal and vertical liberty (not finality) taken from Joseph de Finance (Method, pages 40, 122, 237-8, 269) but there is no clear indications of any connections to finality and the 1943 essay (one can make connections however).

Second Idea: Horizontal within the field of natural law and vertical within the field of statistical law

Horizontal finality  results  from  abstract  essence;  it holds  even when  the  object  is in isolation;  it is to a motive  or  term  that  is proportionate to essence.  But vertical  finality is in the concrete; in point  of fact it is not from  the isolated  instance but from  the conjoined plurality; and it is in the  field  not of natural but  of statistical  law, not  of the  abstract per se but  of  the  concrete  per accidens. (22)

Tied to linking horizontal to “abstract essence” is the idea that it is in the field of natural law (I am presuming this is what he is implying above, but I could be wrong) rather than in the field of statistical law. The notion of natural law as well as the location of horizontal finality are modified by the time of Insight.  “Nature” in Insight is formulated in terms of a heuristic notion that is like naming an unknown “X” that needs to be understood (Insight, chapter 2, section 2.2).  In this context, nature, and one could argue natural laws, and statistical fields are not distinct, but rather closely linked. Nature as transposed into correlations identify the conjugate forms, and statistics deals with ideal frequencies of the actuation of those forms.  Hence, in Insight, Lonergan differentiates nature (and natural laws) into correlations (or functional relationships) and their statistical ideal realizations.  I would argue as well that developmental operators also belong to the realm of “nature” for Lonergan.  Hence, in Insight, Lonergan will shift finality not only to potency, but to a potency that is an indeterminate but directed dynamism to fuller being. Lonergan was moving in this direction with vertical finality in 1943, but had not worked it out in terms of horizontal yet.


Third Idea: Horizontal is not dynamic, the Vertical is the source of dynamism.

The claim that horizontal finality is not dynamic on the one hand and that vertical is dynamic on the other is closely related to the above two ideas.   Because Lonergan was conceiving of horizontal finality in terms of essence and a type of static natural law, he had not thought through the dynamism for fuller being that actually takes place due to horizontal finality.  Since in Insight, he works out his notion of finality in terms of potency and then how this notion fits in with his general theory of development (Insight, chapter 15, sections 5 – 6), even what he is getting at with horizontal finality will turn out to be dynamic as well, because there can be fuller realization of being on the same genus of conjugates.  Think for example about the illustration of arithmetic development in chapter 1.  Arithmetic is presented the first of three levels in math, and there are both deductive and homogeneous expansions at this level.  These expansions are developmental in nature, and they arise in the potency of operating with numbers from the moment one “combines” or adds numbers.  Or look at Lonergan’s formulation of minor and major flexibilities of development. Both illustrate these same points since both “rest on an initial manifold” and thus are rooted in a kind of potentiality that Lonergan would have a called a plurality in 1943 (Insight, chapter 15, section 6).  Minor flexibility refers to something that can have some variation while it unfolds into its mature state, but it still reaches the same mature state.  In major flexibility, a thing can unfold in a new and surprising manner which results in a shift in its mature state (Insight, chapter 15, section 6).  This shift could be a different species but on the same genus, hence horizontal, or it could be to a new genus, hence vertical. An example would be if a grass became a shrub (I am presuming these are different species, and the complexity of the change from one into another may be extremely difficulty or unlikely—I do not want to enter into the explanatory challenges to this within the realm of biochemistry, genetics, and molecular biology, though I acknowledge the challenge) (If you would like to see a bit into my understanding of explanation within biology, take a look at my blog on Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box).  In this case, the relationship of the initial potency to this new species is a horizontal finality.  However, the major shift could be a shift from a lower to a higher genus, in which case then a vertical development has taken place, and the relationship of the initial potency to this vertical realization is one of vertical finality. Such an example would be the shift from a vegetative form of life into something that is sensate.  This is perhaps best illustrated by the development of an animal (dog, cat, etc.) from a single zygote that starts with cellular operations (or what was traditional called the vegetative level–a lower genus) and then adds sensitive operations (a higher genus).

In 1943, Lonergan tended to see horizontal finality in a static manner because of his formulation of it in terms of a kind of an essence (interestingly, he defines it similarly in his 1976 essay, so one wonders a) whether I am right in thinking that he had a more static notion of essence in 1943, or b) whether Lonergan had thought through the notion in light of Insight when he reintroduced it in 1976).  However, his illustrations show that there are dynamic elements to this as well.  I already mentioned the statistical link between the conjugal act and conception.  Another example is the link between fecundity, the conjugal act, and the adult offspring (41).  Adult offspring require development of course.  And Lonergan is thinking of adult offspring in terms of the matured and differentiated organic operations, not in terms of how these are then sublated into educated adult offspring, or religiously educated adult offspring.  And so, when he uses the phrase “adult offspring” alone, he identifies it as having a horizontal relationship to fecundity and the conjugal act (which is the actualization of fecundity in the union of two semi-fecundities).  Yet, there is clearly a developmental relationship, similar to what he later calls a homogeneous expansion or development.  Perhaps a more significant example is when he talks about the two levels above the organic, namely the life of reason and the life of grace.  With the life of reason, he talks about how the potency for a life of reason in both the man and the woman at this civil level is horizontally related to the historically unfolding good life (42).  This clearly recognizes a developmental unfolding which is not fully determinate, yet  dynamically directed by the desire to be intelligent and reasonable.

Fourth Idea: The vertical emerges all the more strongly as the horizontal is realized the more fully

If, then,  reason  incorporates sex as sex  is in itself,  It will incorporate it as subordinate to its horizontal end , and  so marriage will be an incorporation of the  horizontal finality of sex  much more  than of sex itself;  nor is this to forget vertical finality, for vertical and  horizontal finalities  are  not alternatives, but  the vertical emerges all the more strongly as the horizontal is realized  the more fully. (46)

Notice here that there is a kind of dynamic element implied in the horizontal.  Again, if we grasp that horizontal finality is a potency for dynamic realization of being (development), and it is distinct from mere flexible ranges of operations that are already in place, then such development is from an initial potency, and it is the dynamism in that potency that gives rise to it.  And this dynamism can be more fully or less fully realized.  If one turns to Lonergan’s arithmetic illustration in Insight, one can see this point right away.  Arithmetic provides the “image” for algebra.  The more arithmetic one does, the more one will apprehend general intelligible patterns in arithmetic. These patterns are algebraic. Adding A to B results in the same answer as adding B to A.  This results in the rule that states A + B = B + A, an algebraic rule.  And this is just one rule. If one has engaged in a number of operations over and over again not only with addition, but with subtraction, multiplication, division, powers, and roots, then one will begin to grasp all kinds of other patterns.  One will see that multiplying A to B results in the same answer as B to A.  In contrast, one will notice that one cannot do the same for subtraction or division (A-B does not equal B-A, nor does A divide by B equal B divided by A — unless A and B are the same).  Algebra emerges all the more strongly as arithmetic is realized the more fully.  The same is true in chemistry and biology.  The more that one carries out rightly designed experiments on matter, the more fully insights arise into patterns of elements and compounds.  And the more these are unfolded within living organisms, the more one understands higher order organic properties.  Through DNA and biochemical processes, one grasps more fully the organic operations of the cell. And as one unpacks these cellular operations within multicellular organisms, the more one grasps the operations of those multicellular organisms (eg. respiration, immunity, digestion, etc.). These cognitive expansions horizontally and vertically have ontological parallels within all developmental entities.

It is important to note that the vertical cannot emerge and be sustained without the proper operations of the horizontal.  If you eliminate the realization of the finality of stem cells which maintain and perfect cellular systems, then the systems will cease to function (respiration, immunity, etc).  And if these organic events and schemes cease, then sensitive operations and schemes will cease, along with the potential for deductive and homogeneous expansions of sensitive operations.  And if sensitive operations and their development fail, then there will be no insight into images, or judgment based on insights and evidence, or decisions based on judgments of fact and value, or the development of viewpoints.  The lower has to flourish for every higher order to flourish that is dependent upon the lower.

In terms of finality, this means that the more vibrantly that the horizontal finality is realized, the more fully the vertical can be realized.   Both the horizontal and vertical are rooted in potency, and the fact that the same potency is for both, and that the realization of higher is dependent on the lower, means that the two finalities are always necessarily dependent upon each other.  The ability to see is rooted in the neural networks that are tied to sight.  This potency to see is realized horizontally when the eyes are opened, the optical neurons are activated by light waves, and the associate and sensory cortices are integrating the neural activities initiated by the light waves.  It is realized vertically when these lower activities arise into a conscious sensory percept.  A similar relationship accrues to the development of sensory operations in relationship to the development of neural patterns, and these developments are actualizations of the finality, or potentiality, of each of these levels.

And interestingly, the higher can come to assist in the greater realization of the lower.  Problems, needs, and wants that arise with regard to higher level operations require a type of expansion–sometimes a shift, and even potentially a conversion–of the lower orders such that these can then bear fruit for the higher.  Lonergan in his later life sometimes called this the top down element, or the gift element, that allowed for the flourishing the lower.  This does not mean that the higher is free or independent of the lower.  Rather the fulfillment or realization of the higher still depends upon the lower, even if the higher is self-assembling, and acts as a mediator of the perfection of that lower. So to continue the illustration of an animal, associations of the percepts can take place through a kind of willful use of the sensory organs (cortices, etc.).  An animal can “pay attention” to this or that, it can shift its body or head to see or hear or taste or touch or smell something.  This higher order guidance and activation of the lower level neural manifolds allows for the further unfolding of those lower manifolds so that they can contribute to the construction of associative memories, imaginative constructs, and even feelings.

This point about the dependence of the vertical upon the horizontal–the dependence of the dynamic unfolding of the higher upon the lower–is expressed in a mulitude of ways in Lonergan’s later writings. In Insight, examine chapter 8 on things, or chapter 15 on explanatory genera and species.  In Method in Theology, see his formulation of the levels of consciousness and the levels of the functional specialities.  In 1943, the fecundity that is actualized through a union of two semi-fecundities has a horizontal relationship to adult offspring.  The more fully this fecundity is realized at the horizontal level, the more fully it provides for a realization at the higher vertical levels and ends (good life and eternal life).  One could differentiate these ends and levels in light of Lonergan’s later writings both within the parents (the four/five levels of consciousness) and the levels of the child.  One could as well, place these within the unfolding of all levels of being from quarks to the actuation of the capacity for self-transcendence in a state of being in love with God.

I intend on saying more about these higher levels in later blogs. At this point, I wanted to just comment on a basic metaphysical principle regarding the relationship of the lower to a higher level of being, whether that being is conscious or not.  If one eliminates the finality at a lower level, one destroys the possibility of the emergence of the higher.  And the more that the lower flowers, the more that the higher can flourish.

Grasping this finality within marriage sets up a heuristic that allows one to explore marriage in a differentiated and integrated way.  The differentiation is over the different generic levels of reality as sublated within human historical process.  As integrated, these provide the mode of inquiry into the relations of higher and lower orders of intelligibility as well as the potency for new types of operations and new levels of conscious life.   In this 1943 essay, Lonergan  introduced this heuristic first so that he could then suggest specific ways to explore the meaning of marriage.

Part 5a: Horizontal Finality, a note

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

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

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

Just some quick thoughts.

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

by David Fleischacker


Quick note on horizontal and vertical finality

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


Further note on Conjoined Plurality.

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

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

by David Fleischacker


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By David Fleischacker


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

Concrete plurality and statistics

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

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

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

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

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


Conjoined plurality and emergence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fecundity, statistics, and finality

Now let us turn to fecundity and its realization.

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

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

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

…suffices for an objective ordination.[12]


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

[2] Finality, Love, Marriage, 20.

[3] Insight, 515.

[4] Insight, 516.

[5] Finality, Love, Marriage, 22.

[6] Insight, 459.

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

[8] Insight, 432 – 433.

[9] Finality, Love, Marriage, 43.

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

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

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

Part 3: Statistics in Finality, Love, Marriage

By David Fleischacker

Dedicated to Br. Dunstan Robidoux, OSB on his birthday

Lonergan does discuss statistics within this 1943 essay, however, it is clear that he has not develop the notion of statistics to the level one finds in Insight 14 years later.  But it is not as far as one might think. Yet, one wonders if this will undo much of what he says in this essay regarding the role of finality within marriage. The next few blogs will answer that query explanatorily. But, the short answer is that it does not. I would argue that his expansion of the notion of statistics in Insight reinforces his notion of finality, and hence a key piece of the argument based upon that notion in this 1943 essay.  For this blog, we will focus just on the six times that Lonergan uses the term statistics in Finality, Love, and Marriage, and in the next blog discuss its relationship to finality.

Use 1: Statistical Law

Lonergan’s first use of the term “statistics” (actually “statistical”) takes place within his development of vertical finality.

But vertical  finality is in the concrete; in point  of fact it is not from  the isolated  instance but from  the conjoined plurality; and it is in the  field  not of natural but  of statistical  law, not  of the  abstract per se but  of  the  concrete  per accidens.[1]

Notice the notion of “conjoined plurality” which reminds one both of a coincidental manifolds or coincidental aggregates and its role in statistics in Insight, as well as the non-systematic convergence of conditions upon a conditioned.[2] Both the non-systematic convergence, and the coincidental aggregates are grounds for statistical probabilities. Both are based on acts of forms of potencies.  Every act can be examined in terms of its frequencies.  One could specify the frequency of some act within a particular spatial-temporal time frame, such as death rates within a particular region over a year. This is the absolute type of frequency.  There is as well a relative type which is discovered in terms of the alternative sets of conditioneds that can arise within a set of conditions.  In other words, the relative type of statistical probabilities are those based upon the possibilities of things and the realization of their conjugate forms in relation to the actualization of other things and the realization of their conjugates within a set of conditions.  This is how conjugates set the boundary conditions for statistical probabilities.[4] In the absolute type of statistic, it is not the relative rates of alternative conjugates, but the rate of a conjugate within a particular spatial-temporal frame of reference. The relative rates are based upon possibilities that arise from converging conditions.  A simple illustration of the absolute rates are the standard birth rates which include boundaries set within space and time not merely boundaries set by classical laws or systematic processes. Birth rates include the empirical residue (spatial-temporal given-ness) as part of what they mean.  In contrast, getting the genes for green or brown eyes (hence the proteins that give color to the eyes) is based upon the conjugates themselves (the alleles) and thus is based on the possibilities of conjugate forms (alleles) as setting the boundary conditions.

Use 2: Statistical Law

The second is found in a footnote to the first.

There is a noteworthy affinity  between  modern statistical  law and  the contingens ut in maiori parte, between  modern ‘chance variation’ and  the contingens ut in minori parte.[5]

This, I think, is getting at some of our commons sense descriptive terms that refer to statistical frequencies. When we say it happens all the time, or it rarely happens, or it happens for the most part, or it happens once in a while… we are using statistically based descriptive terms. Descriptive because we do not have an insight into actual probabilities.   Lonergan is simply noting how the notion of “statistics” has its history with the tradition and was not entirely absent until it became popular in gambling and genetics.

Use 3: Statistical Infallibility

In the third use of statistics in the article, it falls within the hierarchies of the three ends of human existence which sets up the context for the three ends of marriage.  The three ends divide into three levels, and the first level is focused on “nature”—which he limits to “physical, vital, sensitive spontaneity” (a restricted sense of the term as Lonergan notes)—it is repetitive, spontaneous in its formation of community, and efficient in how it operates. At first glance, there does not seem to be any role of statistics, yet in his discussion on “efficiency” he mentions how it operates with “statistical infallibility.”

While  nature with  the  ease  of  a superautomaton pursues with statistical  infallibility and  regularly attains through organistic harmonies its repetitive ends,  the  reason and  rational appetite of fallen  man  limp in the disequilibrium of high  aspiration and  poor  performance to  make the  progress of reason  a dialectic of decline as well as of advance, and the  rational community of  men  a divided unity  of  hatred and  war  as well as the indivisible unity of fraternity and  peace.[6]

One can think of the simple example of a coin toss.[7]  As long as both sides of the coin have a negligible difference in mass distribution, then the fact of two sides sets the boundary conditions for the probability around which multiple random tosses will oscillate.  One can then specify the “likelihood” of getting heads or tails on any random toss.  The point is this, that the more the tosses, the more it approaches the probability or ideal frequency. That increasing movement to the ideal frequency is likely the “statistical infallibility” that Lonergan has in mind when he uses this term.  And when organisms operate, they use this type of ideal frequency to live.  There are ideal frequencies of water supplies, food supplies, zones of protection, and many other needs of the organism for survival which are provided around a statistical probability upon which the organism depends for its existence. In evolutionary terms, one might say that a sequence of organism adapted themselves to these ideal frequencies.  With the introduction of molecular biology, which really grew rapidly after Lonergan wrote this essay, one comes to a deeper sense of the role of ideal frequencies within the molecular and biochemical pathways of the organism. Everything makes use of these probabilities.  Most of us, for example, have heard of Krebs cycle.  The cycle is not a physical machine, but it is a kind of chemical one, which operates not only using specific types of atoms and molecules within a controlled environment (mitochondria), but the statistical frequency of these molecules occurs in such a manner as to set the rates of ATP production. ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate) is the energy molecule of every cell.   This production has to occur at certain rates which increase or decrease with the needs of the cell and cellular activities (it increases for example if we get up from sitting and go for a walk).  The point is this, that if you have high enough frequencies of events (such as coin tosses) you will make the ideal rate that you want.  In an everyday way you can call that a kind of infallibility. The fewer the events, the further you might diverge from the ideal. Unlike Krebs cycle, water and food supplies for most organisms are not always numerous events in a given spatial-temporal frame of reference, and hence there can be periods of draught or starvation. But over the long run, there is an ideal around which actual frequencies of such supplies oscillate unless the “boundary conditions” change – such as when an oasis becomes a desert.

So, in the points that Lonergan makes about nature – hence about physical, vital, and sensitive spontaneity, along with the actuation of the spontaneity, which has an end in the emergence and maintenance of life, one does find some hints of the statistical element.  It is repetitive and this includes a kind of statistical infallibility that makes it so.  This means that the link of the physical, vital, and sensitive spontaneity and its horizontal finality to its ends involves a statistical element.

Since fecundity is a particular feature of physical, vital, and sensitive spontaneity, one can assume that it too has a statistical infallibility, at least when one examines the entire human race as a whole.  There will be repetitive conceptions and births, and adult offspring because of this statistical probability.


Use 4: Statistical spontaneity

The fourth quote is found on the same page, and makes a similar point though he is using it to complete his contrast of the three ends of the human person.

It is not the statistical  spontaneity of nature, nor  the  incoherent liberty  of man,  but  the gratuitous action  of God.[8]

Here the contrast is how the end that is natural has a statistical element to it that is not deliberate and rational nor is it the same as the operations of God.  This does not add anything significant to our discussion about statistics.


Use 5: Statistical laws and probabilities

In the fifth use, he is discussing the concrete plurality of a man and a woman who come together in union, and how this united concrete plurality is the point at which vertical finality resides that is then integrated into the higher levels and ends of the human person (I will treat of this in a latter blog).  He then goes on to illustrate this vertical finality within the non-human worlds of life – vegetative and sensate life.

Further, the actuation of sex involves the organistic union of a concrete plurality, and as such it has a vertical finality. Such an upward drive follows from our general theory. In the vegetal and animal kingdoms it has its verification in the measure of truth that may be attributed to theories of evolution in terms of statistical laws and probabilities regarding combinations of genes through random mating.[9]

The key here is that he is formulating a connection between statistical laws and probabilities with the emergence of new species and even new genii.  The concrete plurality refers to the plurality of genetic alleles and combinations.  In Insight, when Lonergan is linking the lower manifolds to vertical relationships, he calls the manifold a coincidental manifold. These operate in a statistical manner with regard to inheritance.  And in turn, this provides a finality.  He was obviously aware of what became known as the Modern synthesis in evolutionary theory, which linked Darwin and Mendel in the late 1930 and early 40s.


Use 6: Statistical Laws

The last quote actually raises some questions.  It focused upon the level of nature, but moves from the statistical relationship of nature to its end in the emergence and maintenance of life, and specifies this to the level of fecundity, organistic union, and adult offspring. It is found in a footnote.

… As to the difficulty  that  frequently procreation is objectively  impossible  and  may be known  to be so, distinguish  motives and , ends;  as. to motives,  the difficulty  is solved only by multiple  motive and  ends;  as to ends,  there  is no difficulty,  for  the ordination of inter­ course  to conception is not a natural law, like ‘fire burns,’ but  a statistic laws  which suffices  for  an objective ordination.[10]

What is the question that this raises?  Lonergan refers to natural law, and links fire and burning.  This account of fire and burning is a descriptive account, and he calls it a law.  But explanatorily, fire burning involves both conjugate forms and statistical realizations of those forms (in terms of chemical and physical changes), so that in the explanatory context, there is a statistical element to fire burning. Likewise, regarding the relationship between the conjugal act and conception, the relationship involves a set of correlations as well as statistical frequencies of those correlations. So, in an metaphysically, there is no different between the fire burning and conception, both involved kinds of conjugate forms with a certain frequency of actualization that diverges non-systematically from an ideal frequency.  I would argue that there is a bit of a development at this point in Lonergan’s thought from the point of this essay to his writing of Insight. In Insight, I would argue that he linked together natural law and statistics more thoroughly, and instead of natural law as descriptively formulate, he differentiated classical laws and statistics. In chapter 10 of Insight, the “self-affirmation of the knower,” Lonergan reveals this development.

Cognitional process does not lie outside the realm of natural law. Not merely do I possess the power to elicit certain types of acts when certain conditions are fulfilled, but also with statistical regularity the conditions are fulfilled and the acts occur.[11]

Still, is there a truth in what he is saying? Sure.  In this case, he seems to say that something that is natural has a relationship to its end that has a kind of determinate certainty to it that other types of events do not have. He might very well have in mind “statistical infallibility” with regard to “fire burns.” It is a bit like asking “What is the probability that the sun rises each day?”  Not everything however does have that kind of regularity, and when you limit the spatial-temporal boundary conditions sufficiently on certain types of events, then the regularity is not so regular.  This is what happens when one moves from a large population to individuals on just about any type of event, including the realization of the end of fecundity. So when one looks at a single couple, and asks about the probability of their being able to realize their fecundity, then one no longer speaks of statistical infallibility.   But this is not surprising.  When one looks at the thousands of conditions needed for fecundity to take place, and that each of those conditions requires a certain ideal frequency, then the regularity that one might call “statistical infallibility” belongs not to the individual, but to the species.

This particular sixth quote however reveals something crucial in Lonergan’s entire argument in the essay, namely the link of statistics and finality.  In the next blog, due to arrive on June 11th, I will explore the relationship of statistics to finality within Finality, Love, and Marriage.

[1] Finality, Love, Marriage, 22.

[2] In Insight, the phrase “coincidental manifold” gains significance as Lonergan develops his notion of a thing, and the higher and lower orders of conjugates, in which the lower provide a coincidental manifold that can be systematized by the higher (262-263). He develops it more precisely in chapter 15, “Elements of Metaphysics,” where he develops explanatory genera and species (437), finality (444), development (451-452).  Coincidental aggregates is used earlier in relationship to statistics as is the notion of the non-systematic.

[4] Insight, 103.

[5] Finality, Love, Marriage, 22 footnote 16.

[6] Ibid., 39.

[7] The understanding of a coin toss and its final outcome largely is descriptive for most people, but fortunately the descriptive and explanatory accounts both of a coin toss and its final resting place in being either heads up or down result in a similar result. In other words, the descriptive conjugates and explanatory conjugates for this sequence of events results in the same set of events.  Sometimes descriptive accounts are significantly differentiated by explanatory accounts, and hence the “statistical” accounts end up being different. This is true of human height for example, which is caused by a multiplicity of explanatory conjugates—many genes and environmental factors.

[8] Finality, Love, Marriage, 39.

[9] Finality, Love, Marriage, 43.

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

[11] Insight, 330.