|| intro || 1
|| 5 || 6 ||
7 || 8 || 9 ||
10 || 11 || 12
CHAPTER SEVEN: LONERGAN'S INTELLECTUAL CONVERSION
In the Preface to Insight Lonergan writes of the ideal
detective story in which the reader is presented with all the clues
yet fails to spot the criminal.
He may advert to each clue as it arises. He needs no
further clues to solve the mystery. Yet he can remain in
the dark for the simple reason that reaching the solution
is not the mere apprehension of any clue, but a quite
distinct activity of organizing intelligence that places
the full set of clues in a unique explanatory
Placing all the clues into "a unique explanatory perspective."
It seems to me that this is what the early Lonergan was seeking: an
explanation that would bring together all he had learned from
mathematics and logic, from his reading of Newman, Plato,
Augustine, Hoenen and Maréchal, and most of all, from his own mind.
As he would say in years to come, philosophy is not something in
book; it's in a mind.
But how did these elements fit together? How was his early
emphasis on the schematic image connected with Hoenen's writings on
grasping "first principles" in imaginative presentations? How did
the heuristic character of intellect in Stewart's book on Plato
relate to Augustine's doctrine of veritas? How was his insistence
on understanding as "immanent act" related to Maréchal's emphasis
on the discursive nature of human understanding? How was all this
related to the scholastic insistence on the real distinction of
essence and existence? What did these terms really mean? How were
they all related to each other and to a whole explanatory viewpoint
on human mentality and reality?
The whole process was not an easy one. By now he had been
engaged in it for some years. It represented a personal problem.
As he once put it:
An exact account of knowledge raises the epistemological problems in
a real fashion, not merely in the sense of refuting adversaries, but
also in the sense of solving personal problems - and not how I am going
to help other people that are in difficulties, but how I'm going to help
myself! The intrusion of epistemological problems in a real significant
way is a disturbing event. (2)
That this whole issue represented a personal and "existential"
issue for him is evident from a letter he wrote from Rome to his superior in
Canada in January of 1935.
1. THE LETTER OF 1935
In the introduction to Insight Lonergan writes of the process
of self-appropriation taking place, not publicly, but privately.
The process takes place in the hiddenness of one's presence to
oneself and one's growing knowledge of oneself. Nevertheless, as
Lonergan goes on to say in the same introduction, though the act is
private, both its antecedents and its consequents have their public
That this whole period of the mid 1930's was a period of
enlightenment and powerful emotions is certainly evident from a
letter Lonergan wrote from Rome to his Jesuit superior in Canada,
Fr. Henry Keane, dated January 22, 1935. The letter is a
remarkable testimony to the character and depth of the
transformation that was taking place in him. What comes through
are the clear and firmly held convictions of a relatively young man
of thirty-one, a young man who, as he says in the letter, "thought
Lonergan begins the letter with some minor matters of Jesuit
obedience: permission to continue smoking in spite of the high cost
(twenty dollars a year!), to read works on the Index connected with
his proposed future study of epistemology, to possess a typewriter
and some books, and to study German the following summer at the
villa for the German students. Then he gets down to the main
issue: "at which I have been poking about for expression for some
The issue is his own intellectual development and the quandary
that development had placed him in on a practical level. He begins
with a history of his philosophical development as we have
recounted it: beginning with his early nominalism and then moving
on to his study of Plato, St. Augustine and St Thomas. In the
letter he identifies the beginnings of his reading of St. Thomas
with the time in Canada before coming to Rome. His consolation of
studying in Rome is followed by the words:
I can give you my present position in a few words. It is
definite, definitive and something of a problem. The
current interpretation of St. Thomas is a consistent
The words are indeed "definitive." In the context of the
times, they are a challenge. They represent a stance at variance
with the reigning interpretation of St. Thomas. He goes on to
present his convictions.
A metaphysic is just as symmetrical, just as all-inclusive, just as consistent, whether it is interpreted
rightly or wrongly. The difference lies in the
possibility of convincing expression, of making
applications, of solving disputed questions. I can do
all three in a way that no Thomist would dream possible.
I can prove out of St. Thomas himself that the current
interpretation is absolutely wrong.
The words can seem arrogant - especially in light of the fact
that his own views had recently been influenced by certain
Thomists, Hoenen and Maréchal among them, and within some months he
will look on himself as a "Thomist" through his involvement with
Bernard Leeming's course. In fact, he goes on to invoke the
authority of Joseph Maréchal, even though the latter's view were
frowned upon at the Gregorian:
Not only can I prove it, but the issue has already been
raised decisively though not completely or altogether
satisfactorily by Fr. Maréchal whose views reign in our
house in Louvain but are somewhat frowned upon here. The
whole difficulty is to grasp Maréchal's point not in the
abstract but in the concrete; because Fr. Maréchal is
utterly in the abstract he is not understood. This may
sound arbitrary so let me give the reason: the only
argument raised against Maréchal is that it is "obvious"
he is wrong; but in the abstract nothing is obvious
either way since it is all a matter of argument and
against Maréchal they cannot argue; when they say it is
obvious he is wrong in interpreting St. Thomas, they mean
no more than that they want an explanation that goes into
Lonergan uses words here that he will repeat time and time
again in the coming years: one of those words is "explanation:" he
is seeking the intrinsic causes of things, a systematic
understanding. The other word is "concrete." It is not a question
of deducing truths from abstract concepts or propositions; the
issue is an understanding and explanation of facts.
That explanation I can give and I can prove and I can
confirm from every view-point.
Strong words. Explanation of what? What is it that Lonergan
can explain that is a terra incognita to contemporary Thomists?
in a word it is that, what the current Thomists call
intellectual knowledge is really sense knowledge; of
intellectual knowledge they have nothing to say;
intellectual knowledge is, for example, the "seeing the
nexus" between subject and predicate in a universal
judgment: this seeing a nexus is an operation they never
The issue is joined. The Scotist and Suarezian presupposition
of intellectual knowledge as "seeing the nexus" between the
concepts of a universal judgment is the basic misunderstanding in
most philosophical thought.
In Lonergan's future writings he will maintain that this basic
misinterpretation of intellectual knowledge as a type of "seeing"
is the fundamental error in cognitional theory. It is at the root
of the basic counter-positions in philosophy, whether in their
naive realist, empiricist, or idealist forms. Let us call to mind
his definition of intellectual conversion from thirty-seven years
Intellectual conversion is a radical clarification and,
consequently, the elimination of an exceedingly stubborn
and misleading myth concerning reality, objectivity, and
knowledge. The myth is that knowing is like looking,
that objectivity is seeing what is there to be seen and
not seeing what is not there, and that the real is out
there now to be looked at. (5)
The only way such a misinterpretation can be challenged is by
examining the facts of consciousness. In his letter of 1935 he
prefigures what he will later call his basic philosophical method
of self-appropriation. This method will be at the basis of his
understanding and explaining the real meaning of Thomas' thought.
It is reminiscent of Stewart's interpretation of Plato:
What were Plato and these other people talking about?
Surely about the right way of expressing some experience
which they all had in common, and we ourselves still
As Lonergan put it in 1935:
The important thing about my views are that they are
entirely a difference of interpretation. I do not say,
Thomas said this and I say that. I say, Thomas said
this; the current Thomists going into their own
experience pick out this element to be what St Thomas is
talking about; I go into my experience and find something
entirely different to be what St. Thomas means. (7)
Lonergan speaks of using the same method in understanding of
what is meant by "will."
I establish from introspective psychology that the "will"
is what Card. Billot wants the will to be to provide
himself with an analogy for the Trinity. I prove what he
A short time later, in his unpublished notes on the philosophy of history, he
will describe himself:
But I am not speaking of the supernatural order; I am
speaking as a psychologist of the school of St. Augustine
and St. Thomas. (8)
How does this Augustinian and Thomistic psychologist propose
to explain human intelligence? What is his basic approach? In
the letter he gives us a clue.
From an initial Cartesian "cogito" I can work out a
luminous and unmistakable meaning to intellectus agens et
possibilis, abstractio, conversio to phantasm, etc.etc.
The Thomists cannot even give a meaning to most of this. (9)
In Lonergan's later writings it is obvious that he was
sympathetic with Rene Descartes' basic project of analyzing the
basic facts of human consciousness, although it is also obvious
that he disagrees with Descartes' method of universal doubt and his
inadequate division of reality into res cogitans and res extensa. (10)
At the same time I can deduce the Thomist metaphysic:
universal individuated by matter; real distinction of
essence and existence; the whole theory of act and
The reference is to the arsenal of interlocking terms in the
Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics. The reference to the real
distinction of essence and existence is evidence that he is
wrestling with the issue that he will later identify as mediating
his own intellectual conversion.
He goes on in the letter to say that the validity of his
"explanation," as with any theory, will be seen both in its
adequacy for explaining all the facts, in its ability to solve
disputed questions, and in the fruitfulness of its applications.
The basic facts to be explained are those of consciousness.
In addition, his explanation can solve problems, such as the
nature of the act of faith and the centuries' old theological
problem, "de auxiliis," on the relation between divine grace and
human freedom. This will be the subject of his doctoral
dissertation a few years later.
I have a complete solution to the arguments against
Bellarmine's opinion in the de Auxiliis and not only is
Bellarmine the only Doctor Ecclesiae who had an opinion
on the precise issue but to defend Bellarmine you have to
know what intelligibility is; indeed, if you know that,
you are inclined to leave the question where St Thomas
As to new applications which would demonstrate the
fruitfulness of his ideas, Lonergan mentions one of his central
preoccupations of this period, that is, the philosophy of history.
As to new applications, I am certain (and I am not one
who becomes certain easily) that I can put together a
Thomistic metaphysic of history that will throw Hegel and
Marx, despite the enormity of their influence on this
very account, into the shade. I have a draft of this
already written as I have of everything else. (11)
A Thomistic metaphysic that will throw Hegel and Marx into the
shadow? Certainly a startling claim! No wonder he had trouble
putting this letter together! And yet, "I have a draft of this
already written." We have already taken a look at those
unpublished writings on the philosophy of history from the mid-thirties.
He gives two "extrinsic" arguments in favor of his views: one
is the fact that the current Thomist profession not to understand
St. Augustine on intelligence is in fact, eo ipso, an admission
that they do not know what Thomas means by intelligence, since
Thomas professes to agree with Augustine at every turn. As for
Lonergan, "I am quite certain that I understand Augustine."
On the other hand, there is no difficulty in conceiving a long
tradition of misinterpretation of Thomas and Augustine on
intellect. The conflicting views of the Middle Ages on such issues
as the act of faith gave every opportunity to confuse
understanding, or intelligible explanation, with demonstrability,
that is, the mere absence of intelligibility in the contradictory
proposition. In addition, there are examples of now firmly held
positions which took centuries to establish.
Why did no one suspect there was something wrong before? Here
Lonergan gives a brief conspectus of the history of philosophy,
with the Scotist "intuitionism" becoming firmly established in the
naive realism of the Suarezians - substance as "something there."
The same stream of intuitionism then filtered into secular
philosophy with Kantian philosophy obviously needing to be
completed by a critical Thomism.
After Thomas there was Scotus, the nominalists, the
conceptualists; then Suarez and the Spaniards with their
naive realism (substance is the "something there"); then
the brilliant Jesuit pupil, Descartes, who was brought up
on this stuff; then the antithesis of Spinoza and Hume;
then Kant (and do you see any difference between Kant's
need to go back to the causal origin of knowledge to know
the thing-in-itself and, on the other hand, the Thomistic
conversion to phantasm to know the singular; only
singular things exist; therefore, existence is not in
intellect alone; nor is it in intellect plus phantasm,
since one can imagine what does not exist); then
traditionalism, ontologism, Hermesian rationalism;
finally, Pope Leo's "Back to Thomas." I take him at his
word. I also accept his "vetera novis augere et
perficere"; hence my excursion into the metaphysic of
The letter is not clear on "existence;" but he is obviously
adopting a position different from what he had adopted in the
"fragments" from the early 30's. There he seemed to hold that
existence was perceived. Here he is convinced it is not.
Although Lonergan's interests extended far and wide into the
philosophy of political history, nevertheless he will spend the
next eleven years of his life researching what Thomas Aquinas
really meant: first, on the doctrine of grace, the subject of his
doctoral thesis in the latter part of the 1930's; then on Thomas'
actual writings on intelligence in the 1940's. He truly took Leo
XIII at his word and Leo's words, "vetera novis augere et
perficere," became something of a motto for him in his future
years: to build up and perfect what is old by means of the new. (13)
The new was certainly Lonergan's new and "simpler"
understanding of what St. Thomas meant by understanding. The new
was also his interest in the philosophy of culture, of history and
economics which had remained abiding interests through the 1930's.
The new was also the new methods for studying all these issues: the
new methods of science, the new methods of scholarship and
What is remarkable in this letter is that it all hangs
together: the history of philosophy, the philosophy of history,
and the philosophic understanding and misunderstanding of Christian
theology. All are linked together by a common thread: the accurate
or inaccurate account of human intelligence.
The disputed question is the crucial experiment of a
philosophic system; you have to explain everything except
what you can prove to admit no explanation; otherwise you
are not a philosopher or your system is inadequate. But
this, the presupposition of all argument, is precisely
what 99% of the people you would argue with neither grasp
nor grant. They simply do not take philosophy seriously,
they do not consider whether arguments are valid or not
but simply what they prove, and when they prove what
seems to them the wrong thing then you are a Bolshevist
in character and a heretic in mentality. (14)
Nor can you explain everything by theology: you have to invoke
philosophic understanding to understand the natural order of
things. And such philosophic understanding has to be, as he has
said all along, comprehensive and explanatory. The Catholic
philosopher must formally invoke the principle of sufficient reason
for his explanations of the facts. He cannot, as has taken place
too often in the past, merely show that opposed views involve
The method is sheer make-believe but to attack a method
is a grand scale operation calling for a few volumes. (15)
The "few volumes" will certainly be Lonergan's future works.
He ends the letter with reflections on his own situation as a
I should add that I am substantially a Jesuit with no
difficulties about obedience on this matter. Naturally
I think this is my work but I know more luminously than
anything else that I have nothing I have not received,
that I know nothing in philosophy that I have not
received through the society.
Still, what is to be done? He has done his duty to the Truth
and the Light by laying his capabilities before his superiors. It
is up to them what happens next. Still,
I am no tragedian. I do care enormously about the good
of the church.
His basic intention in writing is to ask advice from his
What on earth is to be done? I have done all that can be
done in spare time and without special opportunities to
have contact with those capable of guiding and directing
me as well as to read the oceans of books that I would
have to read were I to publish stuff that is really
worth-while. Briefly, this question is: shall the matter
be left to providence to solve according to its own plan;
or do you consider that providence intends to use my
superiors as conscious agents in the furtherance of what
it has already done?
It is difficult to imagine the response of his superior to this letter.
Concern about the pretensions, possibly the "megalomania" of a bright
young man? As far as I know, there is no record of the superior's response. The
fact remains that Lonergan continued on the normal course of Jesuit studies,
that he was chosen to teach, not just in Canada, but in the Society's
prestigious Gregorian University in Rome, perhaps most of all, the fact that he
continued to write on his chosen project, the analysis of human understanding.
All of these indications lead one to believe that the superior treated him as
deftly and wisely as Father Bolland had when Lonergan told him in 1930 that he
was a "nominalist."
2. BERNARD LEEMING'S COURSE ON THE INCARNATE WORD
Lonergan always attributed his basic intellectual conversion
to the course he took in the Catholic doctrine on Christ in the
fall and spring of 1935-1936 with the Jesuit, Fr. Bernard Leeming,
S.J. (1893-1971). Of course, he brought his own questions to
To Leeming, along with Maréchal, Lonergan attributes his first
acceptance of the label "Thomist."
I had become a Thomist through the influence of Maréchal
mediated to me by Stephanos Stephanou and through Bernard
Leeming's lectures on the unicum esse in Christo. (16)
The whole of his previous development was "rounded out" by
Leeming's course: that is, at this point all the intellectual
influences from his early years come together.
It was through Stephanou by some process of osmosis,
rather than struggling with the five great Cahiers, that
I learnt to speak of human knowledge as not intuitive but
discursive with the decisive component in judgment. This
view was confirmed by my familiarity with Augustine's key
notion, veritas, and the whole was rounded out by Bernard
Leeming's course on the Incarnate Word, which convinced
me that there could not be a hypostatic union without a
real distinction between essence and existence. This, of
course, was all the more acceptable, since Aquinas' esse
corresponded to Augustine's veritas and both harmonized
with Maréchal's view of judgment. (17)
As someone once said to me, "Moments of enlightenment come
during periods of enlightenment." That this was a period of
enlightenment is certainly evident from the feeling-charged letter
Lonergan wrote to his superior in January, 1935. But "the whole"
of his previous development was "rounded out" by this moment in
Leeming's course, the moment he later remembered as the key moment
in his own intellectual conversion.
The precise question that was being dwelt with in the course
was the unicum esse in Christo, the one act of existence in Christ.
What did this mean? What was this "unicum esse in Christo?" The
basic theological issue came down to this:
If, as Christian faith always held, Christ was both
divine and human, what were these "two" in him?
Furthermore, if we must maintain that there is an
underlying and substantial unity in Christ, what is that
"one" in him?
At the time traditional European scholastic philosophers were
engaged in a battle over the "real distinction" between essence and
existence. Many traditional Thomists held the real distinction
between these two principles of being, but others, especially
Jesuits influenced by Suarez, denied the distinction and its
presence in St. Thomas. (18) I remember Jesuits telling me that even
during the 1950's, soon after entering the society, they were
approached by other young Jesuits during recreation periods to
ascertain their fundamental feelings on the "real distinction."
Difficult as it may seem to believe to people today, it was a
question which, at least for some, had an existential import!
In an interview Lonergan gives an account of the relevance of
I was very interested in philosophy, but I [had] no use
for the scholastic philosophers. I first discovered that
Saint Thomas might have something to say when I was
taught "De Verbo Incarnato" in Rome. Can you have one
person who has two natures? The argument given me by a
good Thomist, Father Bernard Leeming, was that if you
have a real distinction between esse and essence, the
esse can be the ground of the person and the essence too.
If the esse is relevant to two essences, then you can
have one person in two natures. On that basis I solved
the problem of Christ's consciousness: one subject and
two subjectivities. It wasn't the divine subjectivity
that was crucified, but the human subjectivity; it was
the human subjectivity that died and rose again, not the
divine person. (19)
The theological problem was to maintain the full integrity of
the humanity of Christ and at the same time to explain why such a
full humanity is not that of another person besides the person of
the Word of God. Suarez, who held the real identity of essence and
existence, held that the personhood of Christ was merely a
"substantial mode" added to the existing essence. To Suarez'
position Leeming in his Christology textbook replied that it was
not at all evident why a fully existing singular nature would not
by that very fact be a "suppositum," that is, a thing in itself.
The Suarezian "mode," in this case the personhood of Christ, seems
to be nothing other than an accidental property of something
already fully constituted in itself.
Leeming chose to follow the opinion which he believed was that
of St. Thomas, the opinion also of the Thomistic commentator,
Capreolus (1380-1444). The latter held that the core of personhood
is to have one's own existence in oneself. By the very fact that
essence is united with existence, there is the subsistence and
"incommunicability" of personhood. Capreolus' opinion, Leeming
felt, best maintains the integrity of the human nature of Christ,
while also explaining the unity of Christ.
It shows that Christ is one person, precisely because he
has one "esse," one act of existence; it shows that in
which the human nature and the divine nature communicate:
that is, in the "esse" of the Word; but it leaves the
human nature entirely whole in its essence. Christ is
one; truly the Son of God is human; truly this man is
God; and in these sentences the word "is" is indeed a
logical copula; but in our opinion it is much more than
that: it is especially taken in a real sense and not just
as a denotation. (20)
Leeming goes on in his notes to comment on the use of such
philosophical distinctions in the understanding of a theological
and religious doctrine.
Someone might say that this opinion is grounded on a
philosophical distinction that, if not uncertain, is at
least denied by many, namely the real distinction between
essence and existence. To which we reply: the revealed
dogma evidently teaches a truth which can be called
philosophical: namely, that a singular nature cannot be
identified with personhood. We should, therefore,
clarify our philosophical concepts in such a way that
this truth remains uncontested. But, if among the
philosophical systems that try to explain this truth, one
is found to be more apt than the others to properly
protect this truth, while the others are less apt, then
this is obviously an argument in favor of that system. (21)
What the terms, essence and existence, add to Lonergan's
philosophical vocabulary are the objective correlatives of the
subjective acts he has been so intent on differentiating in his own
As he would later point out, Aristotle had basically pointed
to two types of questions that the human spirit asks: questions of
the type, "What is it?" or "Why is it so?" and questions of the
type, "Is it?" or "Is it so?" The first type of question cannot
be answered by a "Yes" or a "No." This type of question heads
toward an understanding of the nature of something, eventually, its
essence. On the other hand, the second type of question can only
be answered by a "Yes" or a "No" - or "I don't know." It aims at
judgment, the determination of existence.
What Lonergan was coming to see, the core of his own
intellectual breakthrough, was that the entire Aristotelian
metaphysical system of Aquinas was really the objective "heuristic"
framework for the acts he had all along been so intent on coming to
know. One dimension of that metaphysical system was the real
distinction between essence and existence.
Later on he would define a distinction as real if it is
true that 1) P is not Q; 2) P is real; and 3) Q is real. A real
distinction is asserted on the level of judgment, not on any
previous level of consciousness, certainly not by a prior imagined
"look." (22) Such real distinctions are major or minor. Major real
distinctions are between things. Minor real distinctions are
between the elements or constituents of proportionate being, such
as between essence and existence.
In his Latin Christology notes, written during the 1950's,
Lonergan uses the distinction between soul and body as an example
of a minor real distinction between constitutive principles of a
person. (23) He then shows from Church doctrines the effort to express
this kind of a distinction in understanding the humanity and
divinity of the one person of Christ. It is not just a mental
distinction, a "distinctio rationis." It is a real distinction,
though a minor real distinction: not between two things, but
between two principles in the one person of Christ. Of course,
because it is a case of understanding the humanity and divinity of
the Son of God, all these terms have to be understood analogously.
Certainly, such a distinction puts a great weight on words.
But so does modern science. And so do all the doctrines of the
Church. They reflect the understandings and judgments of the human
family. They mediate our knowledge of reality.
As he would later point out in an article, "The Origins of
Christian Realism," the ability to make such distinctions is rooted
in the fact that we are human beings. We exist, not just in the
infant's world of immediacy, but in the far vaster world mediated
by meaning. (24)
An empiricist or a naive realist confuses the criteria for
knowing the world mediated by meaning with the criteria for the
world of immediacy. The latter is known by merely feeling and
touching and seeing. The idealist knows there is more to human
knowing than what the empiricist or naive realist assert, but he
conceives that "more" in sensitive terms and so conclude that our
knowing cannot be objective. The critical realist asserts that
objective human knowing takes place, not just by experience, but by
experience completed by human understanding and correct judgment.
The Thomistic metaphysical terms used by the Christian
community to interpret its belief are "heuristic" categories
correlative to human understanding and judgment. Just as the
scientist uses technical terms to penetrate to the constituents of
physical reality, so the theologian uses terms like "nature,"
"person," "essence," "existence," to understand the realities of
Christian faith. They aid our human understanding. While later
developments put persons and natures in many further contexts, the
context of the ancient Council of Chalcedon needs no more than
these heuristic concepts.
What is a person or hypostasis? It is in the Trinity what there are
three of and in the Incarnation what there is one of. What is a nature? In the
Trinity it is what there is one of and in the Incarnation what there are two of.
Though such a heuristic understanding seems incredibly
"simple," still it can be a tremendously rich method of focussing
our thinking within the framework of the judgments of faith. It is
similar to the methods of the scientists that enable them to focus
on unseen realities far beyond the realm of immediate experience.
It was in relationship to this course in 1935-1936 with
Bernard Leeming on Christology that Lonergan first uses the term
"intellectual conversion" to identify the intellectual transition
he was undergoing.
So there was considerable room for development after
Aristotle and you get it in St. Thomas when he
distinguishes existence from essence and makes them
really distinct; and to make them distinct really you
have to have something equivalent to an intellectual
conversion even if you don't know what is meant by an
intellectual conversion. I had the intellectual
conversion myself when in doing theology I saw that you
can't have one person in two natures in Christ unless
there is a real distinction between the natures and
something else that is one. But that is the long way
In the same interview Lonergan gives a pithy description of
the ultimate psychological and intellectual basis for the Thomistic
real distinction between essence and existence.
I once gave a talk to psychiatrists at Halifax General Hospital and
at the end of the talk one of the doctors said to me, "Our patients
have all kinds of insights; the trouble is they're wrong!"
Well that is the basis of the distinction between essence and
existence. They have hold of an essence, but it isn't true.
Lonergan spoke of his intellectual breakthrough as taking "the
long way around," since it came by way of his theology course on
Thomistic Christology. He implies that there could be a shorter
way around - perhaps by reading his Insight?
But before going on, let us note a line from his 1972 Method
in Theology where he explicitly speaks of faith in the Word of God
as a possible source of intellectual conversion.
Finally, among the values discerned by the eye of love is
the value of believing the truths taught by the religious
tradition, and in such tradition and belief are the seeds
of intellectual conversion. For the word, spoken and
heard, proceeds from and penetrates to all four levels of
intentional consciousness. Its content is not just a
content of experience but a content of experience and
understanding and judging and deciding. The analogy of
sight yields the cognitional myth. But fidelity to the
word engages the whole man. (28)
In the mid-1930's it seems obvious that Lonergan has explicitly recognized
"the cognitional myth" that conceives of intellectual activities in
sensible terms. But if, as in his own case, intellectual conversion is promoted
by faith in the Word of God, still in itself it regards coming to know the
intrinsic character of our own human intelligence and the relationship of that
intelligence to reality.
1. Insight, 3.
2. Understanding and Being, 351.
3. Ibid., xix.
4. Letter to Provincial, January 22, 1935, 4.
5. Method in Theology, 238.
6. Stewart, Plato's Doctrine of Ideas, 2.
7. Ibid., 5.
8. In Lonergan's unpublished philosophy of history essay: "Panton
Anakephalaiosis - A Theory of Human Solidarity." Available at the
Lonergan Research Institute.
9. Ibid., 4.
10. In Method in Theology he remarks favorably of Descartes'
Regulae ad directionem ingenii: 261.
11. Ibid., 4-5.
12. Some of these allusions to historic philosophical positions can
be seen in Keeler's book. Certain expressions will even find their
way into Insight: cf. the use of the term "half-way house" to speak
of Platonic philosophy: "This is just the Eleatic doctrine that
there is no half-way house between 'what is' and blank nonentity;"
The Problem of Error from Plato to Kant, 6. Cf. Insight, xxviii.
13. Cf. Insight, 747-748.
14. Ibid., 7. Cf. the phrase, "experimentum crucis," in the
"fragments" from the early 1930's, 7. Cf. also the introduction to
Insight with overtones of this "crucial experiment:" "The crucial
issue is an experimental issue, and the experiment will be
performed not publicly but privately;" xviii. Cf. also Method in
Theology, 253: "Such an objectification of subjectivity is in the
style of a crucial experiment."
15. Ibid., 8.
16. Caring About Meaning, 276. Originally I had thought that
Lonergan's letter to his provincial of January 22, 1935, came after
the course with Father Leeming. But after consultation with Fr.
Fred Crowe and Fr. Robert McNamara of the diocese of Rochester, it
became evident that Fr. Leeming's course was given in the fall and
spring of 1935-1936.
17. A Second Collection, 265.
18. For an account of this controversy, cf. Helen James John, The
Thomist Spectrum (New York: Fordham, 1966) 72ff.
19. Caring About Meaning, 258.
20. Bernard Leeming, Adnotationes de Verbo Incarnato (Rome: 1936)
124. Our translation.
21. Ibid., 124-125.
22. Cf. Insight, 488-490.
23. De Verbo Incarnato (Rome: 1961) 172; cf. 146 ff..
24. Second Collection, 241.
25. Ibid., 259.
26. Transcript by Nicholas Graham of discussions at Lonergan
Workshop, June 13, 1978.
28. Method in Theology, 243.