Insight, Method, and the Trinity

Insight, Method, and the Trinity

A series of courses will investigate the nature of theology through an unpacking of its methodological structure by reflecting upon the heuristic notions, structures and cognitive operations required to do Trinitarian theology.  Each course will investigate a central question, meet for 7 times, and last approximately 14 – 16 weeks.  As a whole, the courses will form an ordered sequence. Tentatively, the plan will be the following.

Course 1: Conscious-Intentional Operations and Transcendental Method

  • Class 1, February 15, 2014: Introduction
  • Class 2, April 5, 2014:  (Podcast)  The Nature of Method and key questions about the method relevant for Trinitarian Theology. The podcast quality is medium. It is best of the seminary leader — Dr. Fleischacker.  This will be improved for the future.
  • Class 3, April 12, 2014:  (Podcast) Introducing the five senses, imagination, memory, emotions, and the world of immediacy.
  • Class 4, May 10, 2014: (Podcast) Introducing understanding and judgment and how these differentiate two sets of questions about the Holy Trinity.
  • Class 5, May 31, 2014: (Podcast) Questions for Reflection, Reflective Insight, Judgment, parallel to insight and conception, likeness of conception to insight and judgment to reflective insight.
  • Class 6, June 7, 2014: (Podcast)  Question for deliberation, feelings that are intentional responses to values, judgment of value, decision in relation to knowledge, understanding, and experience.  Trinitarian analogies and further differentiatons of the tasks of theology based on differentiations of the operations within interiority.
  • Class 7: June 28, 2014: (Podcast) Last class of this first course. Distinguishing and relating the basic operators and operations of interiority as a whole as the basic terms and relations for sorting out the tasks of theology and developing analogies for understanding the Holy Trinity.

Course 2: The Capacity for Self-Transcendence, the Transcendental Notions, and Heuristic Structures

  • Class 1: Transcendental Notions and Intentional Existence
  • Class 2: November 29, 2014: The capacity for Self-Transcendence and the transcendental notions
    1. St. Augustine, Confessions, Book 7, chapter 8 – 11. (think about the light)
    2. B. Lonergan, Insight, chapter 12, sections 1 – 4. (From desire to know to the notion of being)
    3. B. Lonergan, Method in Theology, 10 – 12, 34 – 36, 101 – 107
  • Class 3: December 12, 2014: (Skypecast) The transcendental notions and operations
  • Class 4: January 3, 2015:  (Skypecast) The actuation of the capacity for self-transcendence
  • Class 5:  January 17, 2015  (Skypecast) The Classical Heuristic Structure
  • Class 6: January 31, 2015:   (Skypecast) The Statistical Heuristic Structure and the Transcendental notions.  Need for understanding dynamic state of being in love with God, economy of salvation, missions of the Son and Holy Spirit.
  • Class 7: February 14, 2015: The Genetic/Developmental Heuristic Structure

Course 3: Metaphysics

  • Class 1: February 28, 2015 (Skypecast) Metaphysics and Theology
  • Class 2: March 14, 2015 (Skypecast) Definition of Metaphysics and other points….
  • Class 3: April 4, 2015 (Skypecast) Method of Metaphysics
  • Class 4: (Skypecast or podcast) Elements of Metaphysics
  • Class 5: (Skypecast) Metaphysics as Science
  • Class 6: Metaphysics as Dialectic
  • Class 7: (Podcast) Metaphysics in Theological Method and in Theological Discoveries


Course 4: The Human Good, The Good of Creation, and the Divine Good

  • Class 1: November 14, 2015 (Podcast) The Fourth Level: The structure of decision, ranges of particular decisions, and patterns of decisions
  • Class 2: December 5, 2015 (Podcast) (Skypecast) The Horizon of Value — if you want to view the PowerPoint, watch the Skypecast. I would be happy to send a copy of it as well if you email me at
  • Class 3: Creation as Good
  • Class 4: The Human Good
  • Class 5: The Good that Develops
  • Class 6: Analogy, The Good, and God
  • Class 7: Trinitarian Theology and the Good

Course 5: Meaning

Course 6: The nature of religion

Course 7: Functional Specialization: Part 1 Mediating Theology

Course 8: Functional Specialization: Part 2 Mediated Theology

Course 9: Metaphysics and Functionally Specialized Theology

Course 10: Ethics and Functionally Specialized Theology

Course 11: Religion and Theology, with special focus on ecclesiology

Course 12: The Theological Community

This first course seminar will begin February 22th from 10:30 am – Noon.  It will be held at the Lonergan Institute in Washington, D.C., and moderated by Dr. David Fleischacker via Skype.  Skype access is for participants is possible.  You do not need to intend to participate in all courses in order to begin.

The primary texts used throughout the courses will be

  1. Triune God, volumes 1 and 2.
  2. Method in Theology
  3. Insight
  4. Early Works on Theological Method, volumes 1, 2, and 3
  5. Philosophical and Theological Papers, 1958 – 1964 and 1965 – 1980
  6. St. Augustine’s De Trinitate
  7. St. Thomas’ Summa Theologica.

Potency: Aristotle, Aquinas, Lonergan


This paper exists as an excerpt belonging to a much larger work which attends to how acts of sensing, understanding, and judging are to be correlated with the metaphysical principles consisting of potency, form, and act. These reflections are constantly subject to revision as understanding hopefully advances and as better forms of expression come to mind.

Chapter 3: The Categories & the Predictables

Notes re: Scott Sullivan's An Introduction to Traditional Logic


Chapter 3


         Primary substance is an individual existent, e.g., Socrates

         Primary substance is not a category

         Primary substance does not exist in something

         Secondary substance is universal or nature, e.g., human being

         Secondary substance is a category

         Secondary substance is predicated of a primary substance


         Modify the way a primary substance exists

         Exist only in primary substances


         Ten categories = secondary substance + nine accidents

         Is a secondary substance an accident, i.e., does a secondary substance modify the way something exists?


o   No, because an individual existent (a primary substance) has the kind of existence which it has as a specific kind of existing being only through a secondary substance.

o   This is perhaps the sense in which we should take Sullivan’s assertion that the secondary substance is the main category (existing as a universal predicate)

 Predicables  Understanding Predicables

         If categories are the predicates of a subject, then the predicables are the ways in which the predicates are related to a subject

         Genus + specific difference = species

         Is every species a secondary substance?

         Is a genus ever a secondary substance?


o   Sullivan characterizes both species and secondary substance as the “nature” of a thing

o   Sullivan also characterizes “living” as a species (of corporeal things)

o   But “human being” and “living” are not species in the same sense or to the same degree

o   “living” doesn’t get as close as “human being” to revealing the reality of Socrates

o   Is Sullivan using species in an equivocal way?


§  To refer to the nature of an existent (i.e., a primary substance) AND

§  To refer to a subclass of a larger class?


         Characteristic that always accompanies a particular nature

         Distinguished from accident, which is a characteristic that can be said of things with different natures 

Seminar Notes for March 18, 2012



Notes – Logic Seminar, 3-18-12 (organizational/first meeting)
Logic is natural
  • “Now you may be surprised to know that all of us already use logic all the time. Natural human reasoning instinctively recognizes things like inferences and contradictions, and as a thinker you have been doing this from the time you became able to think.” (An Introduction to Traditional Logic [ITL] at 1).
  • I illustrated this point with a piece of conversation that I had with my six-year old son, Leo, which was prompted by my observation of a person with many tattoos. The following ensued:
Dad: “People with tattoos annoy me.”
Leo: “Then Uncle Jimmy annoys you.”
  • Leo reasoned logically, using, as Sullivan will explain, a first figure syllogism called “Darii” (ITL at 152). This valid syllogism, symbolized, reads:
All M is P [universal affirmative proposition]
Some S is M [particular affirmative proposition]
Therefore, some S is P. [particular affirmative proposition]
  • Leo’s reasoning, expressed in this syllogism, was as follows:
“All persons with tattoos [M] are people who annoy dad [P].”
“Uncle Jimmy [S] is a person with a tattoo [M].”
“Therefore, Uncle Jimmy [S] annoys dad [P].”
  • As an aside, Leo’s syllogism involved an enthymeme, i.e., an unexpressed premise, the minor premise, “Uncle Jimmy [S] is a person with a tattoo [M].”
  • In Aristotle’s Prior Analytics, Book I, Ch. 4, he gives the following account of the “Darii” syllogism: “Let all B be A and some C be B. Then if ‘predicated of all’ means what was said above, it is necessary that some C is A.”
  • Leo, as one would rightly figure, has never read Aristotle. And, yet, he was able to utilize “Darii.” How? Quoting Sullivan, “Natural human reasoning instinctively recognizes things like inferences….” (ITL at 1).
Truth and validity
  • A sound argument is a valid argument with actually true premises.
  • The conversation with Leo illustrates these key ideas introduced by Sullivan in Chapter 1.
  • Sullivan draws a distinction between material and formal logic: material logic is concerned with determining the truth or falsity of premises; formal logic is concerned with determining the validity of arguments. (ITL at 7).
  • The conclusion that Leo confronted me with, that my brother annoys me, was the result of a valid argument but the conclusion was not true – my brother does not annoy me. [Note: Sullivan states several times that only premises are true or false; but, as he does elsewhere recognize, conclusions are also true or false.
  • Because the argument was valid but the conclusion false, the premises cannot both be true. This follows from the definition of a valid argument as one in which the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion, i.e., if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true. If both premises in my example were true, then the conclusion would have to be true. But the conclusion is not true, therefore the premises are not both true (modus tollens).
  • The minor premise is true, as my brother really does have tattoos.
  • Therefore, the major premise is not true: it is not the case that all persons with tattoos annoy me.
  • Leo, by use of logic, exposed a petty prejudice of mine.
  • In the same way, logic can expose other, more serious prejudices. One could easily substitute identity by tattoo with identity by race.
  • I remember reading somewhere about a Supreme Court justice, on the bench when Brown v. Board of Education was decided, who explained how his perception of African-Americans changed when, as a young man, he heard African-Americans playing jazz in New Orleans. An encounter with particular persons, plus some “Darii” reasoning, changed the mind of a future Supreme Court justice and the law of our land (assuming I got the story right).
Propositional and predicate logic
  • We touched on a fundamental topic in the development of logic, namely the advent of predicate logic.
  • The following is from Daniel Bonevac, Deduction: Introductory Symbolic Logic [Deduction]: “The split between syllogistic and sentential logic, which began in Greece in the third or fourth century B.C., persisted for more than two thousand years. Neither theory could account for arguments that the other took as paradigms of correct reasoning.” (Deduction at 137).
  • Propositional logic is another name for sentential logic.
  • Propositional logic provides for an analysis of arguments based upon connectives linking atomic or simple sentences. The connectives are negation (symbolized by “-“), conjunction (“and” symbolized by “&” or “•”), disjunction (“or” symbolized by “v”), conditional (“if, then” symbolized by “˃”), and the biconditional (symbolized “=”)
  • The point to emphasize now is that propositional logic analyzes arguments on the basis of the relationship between propositions as opposed to the relationship between the terms within propositions.
  • For example, propositional logic treats the proposition, i.e., atomic sentence, “All humans are mortal,” as a single unit, and gives it a single symbol, “H” (or “M” or what have you).
  • In a standard syllogism, say “Darii,” discussed above, propositional logic cannot show its validity.
  • Propositional logic could only give us something like the following:
T (for “All persons with tattoos are people who annoy dad ”)
U (for “Uncle Jimmy is a person with a tattoo”)
Therefore A (for , “Uncle Jimmy annoys dad”)
  • There is no valid inference to draw from this symbolization of the argument.
  • As Bonevac explains, “The validity of arguments such as [our “Darii” example] depends on the structure within sentences, not on the structure relating distinct sentences. No theory that declines to analyze what sentential logic calls ‘atomic’ sentences can hope to account for syllogistic reasoning.” (Deduction at 136).
  • Predicate logic, developed in the 19th Century by Frege and Peirce (separately), provides a method for analyzing simultaneously the internal structure of atomic sentences, i.e., the relationships between a proposition’s terms, and the relationship between propositions through the connectives listed above.
  • Thus, predicate logic is generally regarded as a more powerful tool than classical logic inasmuch as it can account for more varied forms of deduction.
  • So the story goes. Our task, in part, is to find out for ourselves how much reasoning classical logic captures.