2011 Fall Schedule and Questions to be Addressed


September 24   Explanatory Genera and Species

1.       At “First….”

a.       What is a conjugate form?

b.      How does an conjugate form define a thing?

c.       What is an explanatory genus?

d.      What is an explanatory species?

e.      What is the relationship of explanatory genus to thing?

f.        What is the relationship of explanatory species to thing?

2.       At “Secondly…”

a.       What is the difference between a conjugate act and a conjugate form?

b.      What is the difference between a conjugate act that is systematic and a conjugate act that is random?

c.       Why is a random conjugate act an instance of the empirical residue?  How can a random act be an instance of the empirical residue?

3.       At “Thirdly…”

a.       How can a conjugate act occur regularly but not as direct component of a scheme of recurrence?

b.      Why does the existence of a conjugate act that occurs regularly but is not a component of a scheme provide necessary and sufficient evidence for another set of conjugates of another genus that exist in another set of schemes?

4.       At “Fourthly….”

a.       How is “Thirdly” recurrent?

5.       At “Fifthly…”

a.       Why/how does a lower set of conjugate potencies, forms, and act survive when they form the higher conjugate potencies of higher conjugate forms and acts, yet the things of the lower set do not survive or exist?

October 15          Explanatory Genera and Species

October 29          Potency and Limitation

November 19    Potency and Finality

December 3       The Notion of Development

December 17     The Notion of Development

Online books updated

In the "Online" tab above, you can find that the books by Msgr. Richard Liddy and by Fr. Brian Cronin have been updated into pdf and kindle formats.

Material is not the visible, Spiritual is not the invisible.

by David Fleischacker

There is a simple yet important distinction made by Lonergan regarding the meaning of the material and the spiritual.  I remember in Fr. Joseph Flanagan's class on INSIGHT at Boston College that he gave a definition of the spiritual which intrigued many of us. This definition was given long before we came to understand its meaning.  The spiritual, he said, is that which is "intrinsically independent of the empirical residue."  The material is that which is intrinsically dependent or limited by the empirical residue. Many of us however define the material and the spiritual in terms of the visible and invisible rather than the empirical residue.

Because of this common union of the visible and invisible with the material and spiritual, it helps to put the visible and invisible in their proper places and Lonergan develops a distinction which accomplishes this task. That distinction is between description and explanation.  Descriptive knowledge relates things to us, through our motor-sensory experiences. It is almost by definition visible or at least tied to the visible (or motor-sensible). Explanation in contrast relates things to things, via an abstractive process from images/symbols/phantasm.  This type of knowledge intentionally goes beyond our sense knowledge to grasp things independently of our senses.  The explanatory is literally not visible, hence it is invisible (not motor-sensible).

This distinction between the descriptive and the explanatory is important because Lonergan's definition of the material and the spiritual requires both a clear shift into the explanatory, and then a clear articulation of explanation in terms of cognitive theory and then metaphysics. In other words, cognitively, when one

  1. grasps the nature of explanatory insights and implicit definitions, and
  2. then how these insights abstract from experience patterned by the desire to grasp the nature or forms of things, and
  3. that in certain types of abstraction, a residue is left behind, left unexplained (=empirical residue)

…then one is prepared for the shift to to understand the meaning of the material in its cognitive elements. And cognitively, when one grasps that some forms and the modes of operation of these forms operate independently of this residue, then one is ready to grasp the meaning of spiritual.  

And in other words, metaphysically,  when one

  1. comes to understand potency, form, and act, and
  2. that potency provides a limitation to form, and
  3. that some types of potency include limitations in space and time, continuums, random divergences from ideal frequencies, inertia, and individuality

… then one is ready to understand matter metaphysically. And metaphysically, when one grasps that some forms have capacities not limited by space and time, by continuums, by random divergences from ideal frequencies, by inertia, or by individuality, then one is ready to understand the spiritual metaphysically.

After strenously exercising one's mind in INSIGHT (at least for most of us who are rather dull), and having shifted into a cognitive and metaphysical account of explanatory understanding and forms, material beings can be understood as those which are intrinsically conditioned by the empirical residue (prime matter in ancient language) and spiritual beings are those which are intrinsically independent of the empirical residue.

Once you understand these meanings of material and spiritual, you can then understand the title of this blog, and the same answer explains both clauses.

  • The "material is not the visible,"
    • Why? because material intelligible forms and the acts of these forms are known by explanatory understanding and judgement, not by descriptions of motor-sensory experience.
    • Hence, these material forms and acts of these forms are invisible.  
  • And likewise, the "spiritual is not the invisible"
    • Why? because material intelligible forms and the acts of these forms are known by explanatory understanding and judgement, not by descriptions of motor-sensory experience.
    • Hence, these material forms and acts of these forms are invisible yet not spiritual.

Sedes Sapientiae Lecture Series


  •  Dr. William Wagner "Historically Devolving Interpretations of "Tolerance" Under American Constitutional Law." Click here to listen.
  • Dr. John Young, "The Evangelization of Culture through the Formation of Conscience," given June 13, 2009.
  • Dr. Paul LaChance, "Locating the Triune God in the Genesis of Lonergan's Thought on Method", given April 5, 2008.  This lecture is available on podcast, click here
  • Dr. Paul St. Amour, "Prudentia in the Modern Context," given November 10, 2008.
  • Dr. James Wiseman OSB, Doing Theology with the Help of Bernard Lonergan’s Eight Functional Specialties, given March 24, 2007.  This lecture is available on podcast, click here.
  • Dr. John D. Dadosky, Towards a Fundamental Re-Interpretation of Vatican II, delivered November 18, 2006.
  • Mrs. Phyllis Wallbank, One Hundred Years of Montessori Education: A Centennial Celebration with Phyllis Wallbank, MBE, delivered October 21, 2006.
  • Dr. Michael Hoonhout, Aquinas the Theologian, delivered November 12, 2005.
  • Fr. Arthur Kennedy, A Catholic Contribution to Understanding Faith & Culture: Christopher Dawson, Vatican II, and Pope John Paul II, delivered December 11, 2004. 
  • Roland Krismer, To be a Drifter or to find One’s Commitment, delivered July 17, 2004.
  • Dr. Bruce Anderson, Economics: As if Local Community Mattered, delivered February 19, 2004
  • Michael Novak, Insight into Lonergan, delivered May 16, 2003
  • Fr. Arthur Kennedy, Flannery O’Connor: Shaping a World through Catholic Imagination, delivered Friday October 18, 2002
  • Fr. Louis Roy O.P., Can We Thematize Mystical Experience?  How are we to interpret the mystic’s claim that their experience is ineffable?  What is the validity of religious accounts which are shaped by private assumptions?  Is there a way to progress from inadequate to more adequate expressions?, delivered February 1, 2002
  • Dr. Michael Hoonhout, The Fatherhood of God at the Cross, delivered April 28, 2001.
  • Dr. Milko Lubomirov Youroukov, Meeting the Muslim Mind: Using Lonergan’s Theory of Meaning as a Tool for advancing Muslim and Christian Encounter, delivered April 7, 2001.
  • Msgr. Richard M. Liddy, Reaching Up to the Mind of Aquinas: Lonergan’s 'Insight', delivered October 20, 2000. 
  • Phyllis Wallbank MBE., A New Proposal for Education: Cardinal Newman and Fr. Bernard Lonergan S.J. A New Pedagogical Strategy from Pre-school to University delivered January 14 & 15, 2000
  •  Dr. Philip McShane, What is explanation in economics?, delivered October 22, 1999 

Foundations of Philosophy by Brian Cronin


Lonergan’s Cognitional Theory and Epistemology

Brian Cronin

PDF Version

Kindle Version

Editorial Notes

This work now being offered is the 1st Internet edition of Fr. Brian Cronin’s Foundations of Philosophy: Lonergan’s Cognitional Theory and Epistemology, written primarily as an introduction to the first half of Fr. Bernard Lonergan’s Insight: A Study of Human Understanding. The print edition first appeared in 1999 as a publication of the Consolata Institute of Philosophy, based in Nairobi, Kenya (PO Box 49789). Hence, it is not readily available for purchase in Europe or America although orders for purchase can now be placed with the Newman Bookstore in Washington, D.C. The full postal address is as follows: Newman Bookstore; 3329 8th Street NE; Washington, D.C.; 20017; U.S.A.; tel. 202-526-1036. On Internet, Fr. Cronin’s book can be ordered from the Newman Bookstore at orders@newmanbookstore.com.

In the preparation of this Internet edition, to synchronize the pagination in tandem with the print edition for reference purposes, numbers within square brackets have been inserted in the text to indicate where the pages break in the print edition, as in [267] or [viii]. The Table of Contents above has been similarly synchronized. The numbers cited within square brackets indicate the pagination of the first print edition.

“In preparing this edition, many thanks are owed to Mr. Robert Gumm, Mr. Jaime Gonzales, Mr. Timothy Dobiac, Mr. James Werner, and Mr. William Koerber. Bob introduced the pagination with square brackets to synchronize this Internet edition with the print edition; Jaime initiated the process of file conversion for Internet publication; Tim converted almost all the files into html format; Jim scanned and inserted images for those chapters with diagrams and tables; and Kin completed this process and edited the remaining chapters prior to posting.”