|| intro || 1
|| 5 || 6 ||
7 || 8 || 9 ||
10 || 11 || 12
CHAPTER TWO: JOHN HENRY NEWMAN
My fundamental mentor and guide has been John Henry
Newman's Grammar of Assent. I read that in my third year
philosophy (at least the analytic parts) about five times
and found solutions for my problems. I was not at all
satisfied with the philosophy that was being taught and
found Newman's presentation to be something that fitted
in with the way I knew things. It was from that kernel
that I went on to different authors. (1)
The major influence on Lonergan's thought during his early
years was John Henry Newman, the nineteenth century convert to
Roman Catholicism and the author of a number of classic works.
Lonergan had read some of Newman's writings in his earlier years,
but while at Heythrop he picked up Newman's Grammar of Assent. It
is this book that on a number of occasions he mentioned he read
five or six times.
What was Lonergan looking for in Newman during this time when
he was "beginning to think for himself?" Someone whose
presentation "fitted in with the way I knew things." The ultimate
touchstone was his own self-knowledge.
I was looking for someone who had some common sense, and
knew what he was talking about. And what was Newman
talking about? About judgment as assent; about real
apprehension and notional apprehension, notional assent
and real assent. He was answering the liberal view that
all judgements are more or less probable but nothing is
certain. And he could give examples. (2)
In order to understand Newman and his influence on Lonergan,
one has to realize both Newman's profoundly religious spirit and
his profoundly intellectual desire to dialogue with the
philosophical currents of his own age. As a young man Newman had
read some of the anti-religious writers of the time, such as Tom
Paine, David Hume and Voltaire. (3) Soon after, through the influence
of a young English clergyman, Newman experienced a profound
religious conversion, a conversion that had a strong intellectual
When I was fifteen, (in the autumn of 1816,) a great
change of thought took place in me. I fell under the
influence of a definite Creed, and received into my
intellect impressions of dogma, which, through God's
mercy, have never been effaced or obscured. (4)
In many ways this "first conversion" could be said to be the
fundamental conversion in Newman's life, for it was from this that
all else followed: his commitment to a serious religious and moral
life, his movement from evangelicalism to High Church Anglicanism,
the Oxford movement, his conversion to Catholicism and finally, all
his activities and writings as a Catholic.
It is significant that the work that had the greatest
influence on Lonergan, the Grammar of Assent, was published in
1870, that is, toward the end of Newman's life. It was the only
book he wrote that was not written under the pressure of an
immediate public challenge. And yet it was the book in which he
addressed the underlying philosophical issue of the nineteenth
century - one might also say, of the twentieth century. That
issue, which percolates beneath the surface of all of his writings,
is the defense of Christianity precisely as true against the
prevailing rationalistic and skeptical philosophies of the time.
When Newman was named a Cardinal by Pope Leo XIII in 1879, he
summarized the major thrust of his life's work as a resistance to
"the spirit of liberalism in religion" which he defined as:
the doctrine that there is no positive truth in religion,
but that one creed is as good as another, and this is the
teaching which is gaining substance and force daily. It
is inconsistent with any recognition of any religion as
true. It teaches that all are to be tolerated, but all
are matters of opinion. (5)
But that defense of Christianity precisely as true, involved
Newman in the perennial issue of determining "What is truth?" As
a young man Newman had, like Lonergan himself, devoted a great deal
of time to the study of Aristotelian logic. He had come under the
influence of Richard Whately, who involved him in the writing of
his textbook, Elements of Logic, which remained the standard text
at Oxford until it was replaced by John Stuart Mill's text in the
1850's. Soon afterwards he began to read the Church Fathers and
was deeply attracted to their Platonism. (6)
At the same time, it was the need to speak to the underlying
philosophy of his own age that led Newman throughout his busy years
to read the writings of such men as John Locke and John Stuart
Mill. Although he was in fundamental opposition to modern
liberalism in religion, he was sympathetic with some of the major
aims of modern thought and indeed, as a Catholic, he was considered
among the most liberal of men. (7)
Indeed, in his writings Newman evidenced an uncanny ability to
enter into the minds and views of his opponents. Before refuting
liberal views he always insisted on presenting them with their full
force. He had read Voltaire, Locke, Hume and Gibbons as a
teenager; he read John Stuart Mill when his texts became standard
reading at Oxford. Always, he framed his thoughts in a manner to
be understood by the people of his time. As Lonergan articulated
one of his major debts to Newman:
Newman's remark that ten thousand difficulties do not
make a doubt has served me in good stead. It encouraged
me to look difficulties squarely in the eye, while not
letting them interfere with my vocation or my faith. (8)
For Newman the core issue in the Grammar of Assent was the
nature of the human mind. What does it mean to know? How can a
coherent theory of human knowing be framed in such a way to cohere
with the experiential emphases of Mill and Locke on the one hand,
and with the experience of conscience and the assertion of
Christian doctrine as true on the other? For Newman, in line with
the general emphasis of English philosophy, the major focus was
human experience, but for Newman it was a far richer notion of
experience than that of the empiricist philosophers.
Certainly a major influence on Lonergan was Newman's very
method. For Newman was not a scholastic. He was influenced by the
Fathers of the Church and by modern English philosophy. Such
philosophy was down-to-earth and practical; it focussed on sense
experience and perception. If its empiricist tendencies were to be
refuted and transcended, it would have to be by someone who
carefully analyzed our human mental processes.
For Newman the ultimate court of appeal for the knowledge of
human mentality would be the mind's own knowledge of itself. As he
trenchantly expressed it "in these provinces of inquiry egotism is
true modesty." (9) This necessary egotism at the foundation of
mental and philosophical science points to the inevitabilities that
we necessarily employ in our human operations, whether or not we
advert to what we are doing. The following words must have rung a
bell for the young Lonergan who was beginning to "think for
I am what I am or I am nothing. I cannot think, reflect,
or judge about my being, without starting from the very
point which I aim at concluding...I cannot avoid being
sufficient for myself, for I cannot make myself anything
else, and to change me is to destroy me. If I do not use
myself I have no other self to use...What I have to
ascertain are the laws under which I live. My first
elementary lesson of duty is that of resignation to the
laws of nature, whatever they are; my first disobedience
is to be impatient at what I am, and to indulge an
ambitious aspiration after what I cannot be, to cherish
a distrust of my powers, and to desire to change laws
which are identical with myself. (10)
In spite of oppositions and conflicts among people on matters
philosophical, ethical and religious, still a serious inquirer:
brings together his reasons and relies on them, because
they are his own, and this is his primary evidence; and
he has a second ground of evidence, in the testimony of
those who agree with him. But his best evidence is the
former, which is derived from his own thoughts; and it is
that which the world has a right to demand of him; and
therefore his true sobriety and modesty consists, not in
claiming for his conclusions an acceptance or scientific
approval which is not to be found anywhere, but in
stating what are personally his grounds... (11)
From the point of view of Bernard Lonergan's life and work, it
is interesting to note that one of the major break-throughs in
Newman's own intellectual journey was the awareness of the
distinction between various levels of human consciousness. Newman
had been working on an analysis of mind for over thirty years. It
was "like tunnelling through the Alps" - though fittingly enough
the "beginning of my success dates from 1866 - when in
At last, when I was up at Glion over the lake of Geneva,
it struck me 'You are wrong in beginning with certitude
- certitude is only a kind of assent - you should begin
with contrasting assent and inference.' (13)
This was the foundation for the Grammar of Assent. In this
work Newman focuses on the unconditional character of the act of
assent and distinguishes it from notional and real apprehension and
formal and informal inference. (14) Newman analyzes these mental
activities in the worlds of common sense and religion. Here we
will present some of Lonergan's own writings from his school days
in England and relate them to what he learned from Newman.
1. "THE FORM OF MATHEMATICAL INFERENCE"
In recent years attention has begun to be focused on some
early papers Lonergan wrote as a student at Heythrop in the
journal, The Blandyke Papers.
`Publication' here means simply that the author, having
had his article duly refereed, copied it by hand into a
notebook which was left in the common room for perusal by
the college `public.' (15)
In the first of these papers, "The Form of Mathematical
Inference," of January, 1928, Lonergan's concern is the specific
question of what in fact happens when we draw mathematical
conclusions. It is obvious that, in spite of Newman's vindication
of the whole human world of the "non-logical," Lonergan, like
Newman, is very interested in determining what happens in the world
of logical and mathematical thinking.
In this article the young Lonergan finds the scholastics "not
very enlightening" in their view that in mathematical thinking
there is a conceptual inference in which the predicate is
understood to be necessarily an attribute of the subject,
"exigitive de ratione subjecti." (16) Such a conceptual approach is
based on universal concepts such as "triangularity as such."
In opposition to such "conceptual thinking," Lonergan's own
analysis is factual and empirical. He adverts to what he calls a
"universalization" on the level of sense. He invokes Aquinas' vis
cogitativa as the faculty of such concrete apprehension. Thus, the
solution to a geometric and mathematical problem involves a
"generic image," a "phantasm," a "visualization," a "kenetic
image," that can be manipulated and "gyrated" so that one "sees"
the solution to the problem. Both axioms and inferences are
"intuited" in the concrete. One senses here the pedagogical
influence of Father O'Hara, his tutor in geometry.
In this article one of the common themes of Lonergan's later
writings is sounded: the schematic image is more important for
thought than is ordinarily believed. The truth of the particular
is not a consequence of the truth of the general; rather, the
general is grasped in the particular.
Something similar can be found in Newman. In an unpublished
philosophical fragment on "the faculty of abstraction" Newman
Now, when we come to the subject of making abstractions
or taking views or aspects itself which all men have to
a certain point, and which in some men rises to genius,
what account are we to give of it? Does it imply
generalization or comparison? no, if we imply in these
words the presence of a subject matter of "many"
individuals: for did we see but one horse or dog, we
could gain from it an idea of the sciences of physiology,
anatomy, physical chemistry, etc., etc., in other words
we could view it under the aspects of its life,
organization, structure, vital action, etc., etc.. (17)
Elsewhere in his notes Newman says:
There is a universal which is not abstract, and an
abstract which is not universal. (18)
2. "THE SYLLOGISM"
The second of the Blandyke Papers was read by Lonergan before
the "Philosophy and Literature Society" at Heythrop on February 26,
At Heythrop there was the "Phil and Lit Society" and in
my second year I read a paper there on "The Form of
Inference." (Later on it came out in Thought and in the
first volume of Collection.) The hypothetical syllogism
is the real thing; it relates propositions -- wow! The
place was crowded and no one understood what on earth I
was talking about. (19)
This second of his papers originally was entitled "The
Syllogism." (20) In it Lonergan repeats some of the themes of the
previous article: the emphasis on concreteness, the perceptual
scheme, the visualization. He is opposed to any "mechanical"
theory of syllogistic reasoning on the analogy of a slot machine:
"put in a penny, pull the trigger, and the transition to box of
matches is spontaneous, immediate and necessary." (21)
On the contrary, reason acts "only because of a reason," and
consequently the form of syllogistic reasoning can most easily be
seen in the hypothetical syllogism of the form:
If A, then B
In this simple form of syllogism, the middle term indicates
both the "ratio ratiocinandi" and the "ratio essendi" of the
attribute belonging to the subject. By this is meant that the
reason for knowing something is rooted in the reason for a thing's
The cause of the attribute belonging to the object in the
real order, is the reason why the mind attributes the
predicate to the subject in the act of inference. (22)
Lonergan's emphasis is very decidedly against the importance
of universal concepts in the processes of thought. By "manhood" or
"triangularity" one means, in all strictness, the more notable
characteristics of a man or a triangle. No valid conclusions can
mechanically be inferred from such universal concepts. On the
other hand, there is the central importance of proper images, the
proper perceptual schemes, etc., in order to grasp meaningful
In this article Lonergan adds a note on predication, which he
distinguishes between phenomenal and noumenal.
Predication [phenomenal] consists in saying that a thing-in-itself distinguished and denoted by the presence of
certain phenomena also presents some other phenomenon.
For example, "this flower is yellow:" "this flower" means
"a thing-in-itself designated by means of the phenomena
common to all flowers and by the gesture "this"; "is
yellow" means that "this flower, the subject, has besides
the phenomena indicated by its name, a further phenomenon
indicated by the word "yellow." (24)
As far as noumenal predication, Lonergan concedes that
phenomena cannot be conceived as independent of the thing-in-itself, but what it is "to be" the thing-in-itself "only God
There is here a definite agnosticism with regard to "things in
themselves," that, as J. M. Cameron has brought out, is found in
Newman and is a definite strand in English empiricism, an
empiricism first articulated by David Hume in the eighteenth
century. According to this view - Cameron calls it the empiricist
myth - the foundation upon which knowledge rests consists in
impressions which rise from the senses and, as Hume states,
their ultimate cause is, in my opinion, perfectly
inexplicable by human reason, and 'twill always be
impossible to decide with certainty, whether they arise
immediately from the object, or are produc'd by the
creative power of the mind, or are deriv'd from the
author of our being. (25)
Edward Sillem highlights this characteristic in Newman's
At what period of his life he arrived at the doctrine
which he held firmly in later life, namely, that the
material world is a world of things or substances of
which we can know nothing, because what we perceive of
them are merely their sensible phenomena, it is difficult
to say with any precision. One thing, however, is quite
certain: he did not take his doctrine from Locke. (26)
How then did Lonergan deal with this issue? How had Newman
dealt with it? It was at this point that the young Lonergan picked
up off his shelf Newman's Grammar of Assent.
3. "TRUE JUDGMENT AND SCIENCE"
Newman's early influence on Lonergan can be seen most clearly
in the third of the Blandyke Papers, "True Judgment and Science,"
which he gave before the "Phil and Lit Society" on February 3,
The next year I spoke on Newman and there were about six
people there! The first fellow who spoke (he went after
ordination to South Africa on the missions and died there
quite young) said, "If it isn't a left-handed compliment,
the talk was much better than I expected." (27)
This paper contains the most ample references to Newman in all
of Lonergan's extant writings. In it Lonergan vindicates Newman's
contention that we can know with certainty more than we can
formally or scientifically prove. In other words, science and
logic are not the ordinary human criteria for truth.
If true judgment may be consciously true, then science
ceases to be the one measure of certitude. (28)
In logic the only certain conclusions are deductions from
self-evident propositions. On the other hand, scientific
hypotheses may have any degree of probability but cannot be
certain, for absolute verification is logically impossible. Still,
in many of the ordinary true judgments of life, absolute
verification is possible. Here Lonergan refers to Newman's
doctrine of "the illative sense."
The illative sense is just such an absolute verification.
The mind in a given case may be able to determine the
limit of converging probabilities, and so disregard as
nugatory the nebulous possibilities which prevent an
inference from being logically valid...In this
action...the illative sense concludes a process which is
too manifold in its data, too elusive in its procedure,
too intimate in its discernment, for adequate analysis to
be possible or for a criterion of the abstractly self-evident to be fair. Thus we know the truth and know we
know it but prove it we cannot. (29)
Lonergan uses as his example his certainty that "there is a
country called Tibet," just as Newman had used the example,
"England is an island." Such ordinary judgments are rational, and
can be certain, but they are not reducible to the rationality of
deduction from self-evident principles.
Lonergan's adversaries in this article are not only the anti-religious rationalists who championed "science" as the one way to
truth, but also the scholastics who championed a purely logical and
conceptual approach to human understanding. Lonergan was familiar
with the critical attacks on the Grammar of Assent on the part of
scholastic philosophers. Thus, he had read the first major
criticism by Fr. Thomas Harper in The Month of June, 1870. Harper
had attacked the very conception of informal inference.
Either my inference is formally valid or it is not. If
it be formally valid, it is ipso facto moulded by logical
law; if it is not, it is no inference at all. (30)
On this view human reasoning could theoretically be reduced to
a series of syllogisms which would have self-evident propositions
for their ultimate premises. On the contrary, Lonergan quotes
Our reasoning ordinarily presents itself to our mind as
a single act not a process or series of acts. We
apprehend the antecedent and then the consequent, without
explicit recognition of the medium connecting the two, as
if by a sort of direct association of the first thought
with the second. We proceed by a sort of instinctive
perception from premise to conclusion...We perceive
external objects and we remember past events without
knowing how we do so, and in like manner we reason
without effort and intention or any necessary
consciousness of the path which the mind takes in passing
from antecedent to conclusion. (31)
Newman's contention was that we should be satisfied with this
account of judgment, because we cannot analyze all our grounds for
making judgments. Such is the character of "the illative sense,"
which Newman called a solemn word for an ordinary thing. (32)
Lonergan quotes approvingly the Grammar's assertion that the mind
can know more than it can say in words.
Common sense, moral perception, genius, the great
discoverers of principles do not reason. They have no
arguments, no grounds, they see the truth but they do not
know how they see it; it is as much a matter of
experiment with them, as if they had to find a road to a
distant mountain, which they see with the eye; and they
get entangled, embarrassed, overthrown, in the
superfluous endeavor. (33)
As opposed to the Cartesian principle of methodic doubt, of
doubting everything that can be doubted, Lonergan states:
Instead of pronouncing all our assents as untrustworthy
from a nervous fear of error, we take ourselves as we
find ourselves, wrong perhaps in not a few opinions but
for the most part right. By the digestion of these views
and by the assimilation of new ones which come to us as
the mind develops and experience increases, error is
automatically purged away. (34)
He quotes Newman in the application of this principle to the
world of religion:
This is the secret of the influence by which the Church
draws to herself converts from such various and
conflicting religions...it is by the light of those
particular truths, contained respectively in the various
religions of men...that we pick our way slowly perhaps
but surely into the religion which God has given; taking
our certitudes with us not to lose but to keep them more
securely and to understand and love their objects more
Later in his life Lonergan would formalize this procedure
under the rubric of "dialectic:" that is, develop positions that
are true and reverse false positions by bringing out their
contradictions with the invariant features of mind and reality.
The whole process is basically positive: beginning from what we
know and developing what we know in such a way as to dissolve the
false beliefs we have picked up on the road of life.
In the present article Lonergan quotes from Newman for the
first time what he will often refer to through the years in his
analysis of belief.
Of the two I would rather maintain that we ought to begin
with believing everything that is offered to our
acceptance, than that it is our duty to doubt
everything...We soon discover and discard what is
contradictory to itself; and error having always some
portion of truth in it, and the truth having a reality
which error has not, we may expect that when there is an
honest purpose and fair talents, we shall somehow make
our way forward, the error falling off from the mind and
truth developing and occupying it. (36)
Lonergan adds some notions on judgment:
To lay it down that truth cannot be known unless directly
or deductively self-evident seems mistaken, not only
because the illative sense does posit truth without self-evidence, but also because such a canon is at odds both
with our mental constitution - for mind judges rather
than syllogises - and with the evidence at our disposal
which is far too manifold for us a priori to limit
ourselves to the self-evident and burk the remainder.
Again it is fallacious to urge that assent must be
proportioned to evidence, for evidence is the mark of
truth not the measure of assent, and truth once known is
to be assented to unconditionally. (37)
He refers to Newman's assertion of the unconditional character
If assent and inference are each of them the acceptance
of a proposition, but the special characteristic of
inference is that it is conditional, it is natural to
suppose that assent is unconditional. Again, if assent
is the acceptance of truth, and truth is the proper
object of the intellect, and no one can hold
conditionally what by the same act he holds to be true,
here too is a reason for saying that assent is an
adhesion without reserve or doubt to the proposition to
which it is given. (38)
Charles Hefling has commented on Newman's doctrine on assent:
There are any number of philosophers who either have
failed to notice any distinction between meaning and
truth, understanding and judgment, apprehension and
assent; or else have denied that such a distinction
exists. Newman, by contrast, would seem to be pushing,
apparently on his own and perhaps without altogether
knowing it, towards something he could not, in any case
have learned from any modern thinker who preceded him: a
significance, beyond the copulative, conveyed by is.
Grant that is has such a further significance,
correlative not with apprehension but with assent, and
quite alot of the Grammar falls into place. (39)
But though assent is always unconditional, that is, it has the
absolute character of truth, still it can differ according to the
quality of the apprehension which precedes it. Accordingly,
Lonergan goes on to present Newman's ideas on notional and real
apprehension. He quotes Newman on the tendency of logicians to
"starve" words of their life so that they become mere "notions:"
Words, which denote things, have innumerable
implications;...but it is the very triumph of [the
logician]...to have stripped them of all their connatural
senses, to have drained them of that breadth and depth of
associations which constitute their poetry, their
rhetoric and their historical life, to have starved each
term down till it has become the ghost of itself... (40)
He then presents his analysis of Newman's doctrine.
The distinction of real and notional apprehension I take
to be one of degrees not of kind. The real is not of
reality as it is in itself - such is had only by God -
while the notional is not unreal in the sense that it is
not representative, but only less real. It is the
apprehension of a few definite aspects of a thing which
is apprehended in all its aspects in real apprehension...
Real apprehension may be described as impressional, that
of one who enters onto the object by sympathy, intuition,
unformulated interpretations, while notional apprehension
stands over against the object, successively views its
relations, analyses, formulates. (41)
Lonergan refers to Newman's assertion that in notional
apprehension we regard things not as they are in themselves, but
mainly as they stand in relation to each other. (42) On the other
hand, real apprehension is concerned, not primarily with ideas,
"the aspects of things," but with things themselves of which we
have an "impressional" apprehension.
Lonergan then quotes Newman regarding the moral dimension of
the search for truth.
Shall we say that there is no such thing as truth and
error, but that anything is true to a man which he
troweth? and not rather as the solution of a great
mystery that truth there is, and attainable it is, but
that its rays stream in upon us through the medium of our
moral as well as our intellectual being; and that in
consequence that perception of its first principles which
is natural to us is enfeebled, obstructed, perverted, by
the allurements of sense and the supremacy of self, and,
on the other hand, quickened by aspirations after the
The issue of truth, then, in the life of the individual is the
issue of wisdom.
The evolution of thought in which truth gains the upper
hand and error is purged away, is to be accompanied and
supplemented by a growth in the moral character. Not
science so much as wisdom is to be the individual's
He summarizes the rationalism that the Grammar attacks as
the unconscious assumption made by post Aristotelian
skeptics, who from a denial of a priori knowledge
concluded the irrationality of certitude. Thus was
implicitly set up the "pretentious axiom" that science is
the criterion of certitude. (45)
It is precisely this axiom that Newman attacked on behalf of
all the "real knowledge" available to the non-scientist, the common
"person in the street."
There is a certain dramatic fitness that Newman, of whom
Mark Pattison said "All the grand developments of human
reason from Aristotle down to Hegel was a closed book to
him," should point out to the rationalists that their
superiority was based upon a mere assumption, that the
"plain man" was not so much a puppet after all. It has
been the contention that this assumption is contradicted
by our natural procedure. Science anyway is but a luxury
of a few, certitude a prerogative of man, and wisdom the
obligatory complement of his being. To make science the
criterion of certitude despite its limitations, is
wantonly to tempt man (who, Newman somewhere says, does
not wish to know the truth) to give up the quest for
wisdom, to make it possible for him to be complacently
agnostic in the high name of reason, when reason hardly
countenances his criterion. He will deny the existence
of God because the proofs do not convince him and then
accept the first theory to hand to explain away the
religions of the world (cf. Renan). (46)
In this developing judgment of the person under the influence
of conscience, subjective and illegitimate influences are only per
accidens, just as errors in sense perception are only per accidens.
Lonergan defends Newman from the charge of subjectivism.
The same person both judges and wills; if you ask such a
segregation of these two activities that all the world
may be assured there has been no confusion of their
functions, you ask too much: God made man differently and
His Providence is the guarantee of nature. Finally the
power of logic to correct subjective influence is easily
over estimated. (47)
In his later years Lonergan will put it this way:
Objectivity is reached through the self-transcendence of
the concrete existing subject, and the fundamental forms
of self-transcendence are intellectual, moral and
religious conversion. To attempt to ensure objectivity
apart from self-transcendence only generates illusion. (48)
In a footnote to this quote Lonergan states that the basic
statement on this issue is found in chapters eight and nine of
Newman's Grammar of Assent, from which he quotes the famous line:
Logic makes but a sorry rhetoric with the multitude;
first shoot round corners and you may not despair of
converting by a syllogism. (49)
Many years later Lonergan will relate Newman's teaching on
notional and real assent to his own theory of intellectual, moral
and religious conversion. (50) In "True Judgment and Science" he
quotes Henri Bremond whose Mystery of Newman he had evidently read:
I meet everywhere with nothing but demonstrations and
demonstrators. Each of them promises to conduct their
enquiry according to the rules, each parades the logical
outfit of his time. It is not the miserable and
passionate man - no it is the pure reason which speaks
and it wishes to meet only with reason...But to the
majority of those who have taken in hand the examination
of any question, and who plume themselves on their exact
and pure reasoning the truth could say: "You do not know
how to demonstrate me and in any case you would find it
very difficult to do, if you already did not very
fortunately possess me." (51)
We should note that in "True Judgment and Science" there is a
definite ambiguity in clearly articulating all the aspects of our
human knowing. As we noted in the previous article on "The
Syllogism," Lonergan picks up from Newman the empiricist strain.
For example, he writes that real apprehension is "not of reality as
it is in itself - such is had only by God," and he refers to
Newman's words in the Grammar of Assent:
We are accustomed, indeed, and rightly, to speak of the
Creator Himself as incomprehensible; and, indeed, He is
so by an incommunicable attribute; but in a certain sense
each of His creatures is incomprehensible to us also, in
the sense that no one has a perfect understanding of them
but He. We recognize and appropriate aspects of them,
and logic is useful to us in registering these aspects
and what they imply; but it does not give us to know even
one individual being. (52)
What in this view saves our knowledge of objective reality is
the ineradicable tendency inherent in, and natural to the mind, to
spontaneously think of sensible things as existing objectively and
on their own. (53) This tendency Newman vindicates in the second half
of the Grammar of Assent under the doctrine of the illative sense,
and he amplified it in specifying the unconditional character of
the act of assent. In its defense the early Lonergan in "True
Judgment and Science," wrote:
To sum up the argument, "nature does not fail us in
necessaries," a criterion of evidence is necessary.
Science, the syllogistic method, shows itself to be
inadequate and unfair (i.e. not the natural criterion) in
its preliminary clearing the field by methodic doubt or
suspension of judgment, the confinement of attention to
the abstractly self-evident, in its emptying out the
content of our knowledge and its barren definitions of
the things the full meaning of which we are only more or
less aware. (54)
The only adequate criterion of truth is the mind itself in its
The alternative criterion is the mind itself "far higher,
wider, more subtle, than logical inference" which can use
all our knowledge, evaluate evidence in the concrete, and
remain in harmony with natural procedure, neither a
priori doubting everything or accepting anything. (55)
4. LONERGAN'S EARLY NOMINALISM
In a letter he wrote to an older friend and fellow Jesuit,
Henry Smeaton, in 1927, not long after he arrived at Heythrop,
I am afraid I must lapse into philosophy. I have been
stung with that monomania now and then but am little
scholastic though as far as I know a good Catholic.
Still modern logic is fair. The theory of knowledge is
what is going to interest me most of all. I have read
Aristotle his peri psuches and am of strong nominalist
His "lapse" into philosophy finds him "little scholastic"
though, he hopes, "a good Catholic." Reminiscent of Newman of whom
it also could be said, he was "little scholastic?" Still, he is
following up his study of Aristotelian logic with a study of the
ancient philosopher's theory of mind.
In a letter to his provincial some years later Lonergan said,
"I left Heythrop a votary of Newman's and a nominalist." (57) Many
years later he related an incident that took place in 1930 as he
was leaving Heythrop to finish his external degree in London. He
was speaking to his superior, Fr. Bolland, about his future. He
thought he might be slated to teach either mathematics or classics,
the subjects he was doing in London - even though philosophy was at
that time his "fine frenzy."
I was bidding Fr. Joseph Bolland farewell, listed for him
the subjects I was doing at London, and asked him which
was the one I should concentrate on. He replied that I
should keep in mind that superiors might want me to teach
philosophy or theology. I answered that there was no
question of that since I was a nominalist. He in turn
said, "Oh! No one remains a nominalist very long." It
was, in current parlance, a quite "cool" reply from a
high member of the establishment... (58)
One senses in Lonergan's remarks about Fr. Bolland, indeed one
of his "Suarezian" teachers, the presence of a man with practical
wisdom. Confronted by a creative and independent young man, the
older man goes with him. He does not try to refute. He just shows
him the paths his thought can follow, with a relaxed conviction
that clarity will come. Lonergan goes on to say that his
nominalism did disappear; but it might behoove us now to dwell on
what Lonergan might have meant by his early nominalism.
From his several references to himself as a nominalist, it is
obvious that Lonergan thought of the meaning of the term as quite
evident. Traditionally nominalism had been ascribed to the
medieval philosopher, William of Ockham, and his followers.
Ockham's thesis was that, since only individual things really
exist, universal concepts are only names ("flatus vocis") used to
speak of individual things. Traditionally opposed to nominalism
were various types of scholastic "realism" which vindicated the
realistic character of universal concepts, and indeed, tended to
build a whole philosophy around the importance of such concepts.
It was especially English empiricist philosophy that inherited
the mantle of medieval nominalism. In the 18th century Thomas
Hobbes emphasized the experiential character of human knowing in
opposition to the "bewitchment" engendered by universal concepts.
Such concepts only resulted from the process of association of
various sensitive experiences. Later on, David Hume made it clear
that if an idea was a picture formed by sensation or imagination,
then it could be the picture only of something individual. In the
middle of the 19th century the person who took up the nominalist
banner was John Stuart Mill; and it was Mill who, as William
Mathews has shown, had the greatest effect on the tradition of
modern logic which so interested Lonergan. (59) It was Mill who
prepared the way for the logic Lonergan studied in London.
Thus, nominalism was an accepted school of philosophical
categorization during Lonergan's student days in Heythrop. It is
mentioned in the various textbooks that he used. The
categorization is always on the basis of the school's doctrine on
universal ideas. Thus, Joseph's An Introduction to Logic presents
three schools of thought on universal ideas: nominalism, realism
and conceptualism. He quotes James Mill, the father of John Stuart
Mill, as representative of the nominalist position. For James Mill
it is obvious and certain that
men were led to class solely for the purpose of
economizing in the use of names. Could the purposes of
naming and discourse have been as conveniently managed by
a name for every individual, the names of classes, and
the idea of classification, would never have existed.
But as the limits of the human memory did not enable men
to retain beyond a very limited number of names; and even
if it had, as it would have required a most inconvenient
portion of time, to run over in discourse as many names
of individuals, and of individual qualities, as there is
occasion to refer to in discourse, it was necessary to
have contrivances of abridgement; that is, to employ
names which marked equally a number of individuals, with
all their separate properties; and enabled us to speak of
multitudes at once. (60)
According to the categories of one of the scholastic texts
Lonergan was familiar with, Fr. Joyce's Principles of Logic, there
are three main philosophical schools in relation to "the
controversy on universals." He asks, what is this "human nature"
which is one and yet stands in the same relation to every member of
the class, - which though it is one, belongs at the same time to
Various answers have been given to this question. We may
hold (1) that this common nature is something real.
Those who give this answer are termed Realists. We may
say (2) that the common nature is merely a thought in the
mind without objective counterpart in the real order.
The adherents of this doctrine are known as
Conceptualists. Or we may say (3) that the only common
element is the name, given to a variety of objects
because of some real or fancied resemblance. This view
is that of the Nominalists.
In a footnote, Joyce notes:
Nominalism has been the traditional doctrine of the
English sensationalist school from the days of Hobbes.
It finds its most notable representative in Mill. (61)
Joyce goes on to espouse what he calls a "Moderate Realism"
which maintains that the mind abstracts from things concepts of
their natures and it is those natures which are truly found in all
the individuals of a class. Opposed to such moderate realism is
the "Exaggerated Realism" of a Plato who held the objective
existence in the real order of universal natures. Joyce complains
that English writers often attribute this view to the Scholastics.
Now in understanding what Lonergan might have meant by his
early nominalism it is important to realize that Newman himself had
been accused of nominalism - and Lonergan was aware of that. In
"True Judgment and Science" Lonergan refers to an article written
in the Dublin Review of October, 1905, by F. Aveling accusing
Newman of nominalism. In that article Aveling speaks of the
troubling feeling he had reading the Grammar of Assent, a feeling
he finally attributes to the absence of a central staple of
scholastic philosophy, the emphasis on universal concepts.
I need hardly remind my readers of the enormous
importance which this theory of universals - "the most
fundamental point in the whole range of metaphysics"-
assumes in the scholastic system of philosophy. The
position it holds is, in many ways, a quite unique one.
It is not only one of the central pivots of the whole
philosophy; it is also, to a very marked extent, the
cause which occasioned the real rise and progress of
Aveling states that Newman's emphasis on experience translates
into sense experience and thus constitutes his philosophy as a
"sensism." Consequently, without the scholastic emphasis on
universal concepts which are mental and metaphysical abstractions
of the forms of things, there is no intellectual knowledge and no
argument for the immateriality and immortality of the human soul.
Incidentally, both Nominalism and Conceptualism reduce
man to a species of glorified brute animal and destroy
the force of the only possible arguments that a saner
form of scholasticism had to urge in favour of the
immateriality, and consequent immortality, of the human
Newman possessed a copy of one of Joseph Kleutgen's works, La
Philosophie Scholastique and he had marked the first volume at a
section noting the two extremes in solving the problem of universal
concepts and had noted: "Formalism inconceivably absurd to the
modern mind; i.e. Occam. Nominalism highly plausible." (64)
In any case, Lonergan was aware of the imputation that Newman
was a nominalist, and ironically in the light of his own self-definition, in "True Judgment and Science" he defends Newman from
That the distinction between notional and real
apprehension has a foundation in fact is beyond
doubt...It seems... to be one of degree and not
coincident with the scholastic distinction of
intellectual and possible apprehension inasmuch as its
differentiae are quantity of content, direction of
attention, and the presence or absences of a sense of
reality or value. I am not aware of the impossibility
[of] a distinction being made upon such grounds between
different apprehensions of the same object. The
imputation of nominalism may be thus explained away,
especially as Newman was not a professional philosopher
and intellectual apprehensions are a theory and not an
How then to understand Lonergan's early claim of nominalism?
Perhaps we can understand Lonergan's early self-definition in the
light of the following considerations:
1) His profound attraction to Newman and the latter's
empirical method of philosophizing; and Newman was his
2) His recognition of the importance of imagination in
human understanding: the need for schematic images, etc..
3) Like Newman, his English philosophical tendency to phenomenalism.
4) His interest in understanding how words, terms, and
language in general "work" in our human knowing. His
interest in modern logic was an expression of this
5) His conviction that the conceptual realism that was
the prevalent scholastic theory of knowledge was an
unreal account of human understanding.
As we noted, the prevailing scholasticism saw knowledge as
basically the mental abstraction of universal concepts from things.
A similar view of knowledge was presented in Lonergan's Suarezian
philosophy textbooks. Later he would charcterize this type of
realism as "naive." He would speak of it as "an incoherent
realism, half animal and half human, that poses as a half-way house
between materialism and idealism." (66) For the young
Lonergan, if this
was realism, then he was not a realist. He could only accept a
theory of mind that involved the grasp of relationships in
schematic patterns or images and, with Newman, the ability of the
illative sense to make judgments that were not formally "logical."
In addition, it should be noted that nominalism attributed a
tremendous amount of weight to language, and of course, the
analysis of language could be said to be the outstanding
characteristic of twentieth century philosophy. Lonergan was on to
this in the 1920's. If this emphasis meant being a nominalist,
then he was a nominalist.
At about the time that Lonergan was reading Newman, the German
Jesuit, Erich Przywara gave a very interesting interpretation of
Newman's empiricist leanings in his essay, "St. Augustine and the
Modern World." I do not know if Lonergan ever read this particular
article, but a few years later Lonergan writes very positively of
Przywara as a Catholic philosopher. (67) In his article Przywara points
out three elements of the empiricist tradition. One is a stress on
the visible world of sense. A second emphasis is on the importance
of practice or action to the detriment of theory. And a third
emphasis is on
the boundaries which confine the individual consciousness
and render doubtful the existence of a world in itself
common to all; this however, leads to that peculiar
solipsism which may be regarded as the epistemological
version of "my house is my castle." In this respect
Berkeley is not the antithesis of Locke and Hume, but
their inner and necessary fulfillment. (68)
Not only does Newman emphasize the priority of real
apprehension over notional, but the latter "threatens to fade into
a background of unsubstantial wraiths." Moreover, Newman's
emphasis on "decision" in the Grammar of Assent merely continues an
earlier emphasis - to the detriment of "theoretical" or "notional"
that through the entire body of Newman's writings flow
powerful currents whose source is Berkeley everyone knows
who has felt the pendulum swing in his words whenever he
speaks of the outer world. (69)
In one of his later writings Lonergan would note that
Berkeley's "esse est percipi," the very existence of something is
its being perceived, is the empiricist principle that moves easily
into idealism. (70) Elsewhere he remarks on the concept of the "thing
in itself" in Kant's idealism:
Because we have access only to objects sensibly
presented, we are confined to a merely phenomenal world.
'Things themselves' become a merely limiting concept, a
Grenzbegriff, by which we designate what we cannot
Hence, there is in the early Lonergan, as we will note later
in this essay, an example of some of that "oscillation" he would
later describe between empiricism and idealism - before arriving at
a critical realism.
On the other hand, there is in Newman, as in the early
Lonergan, that which overcomes all these tendencies: and that is
his "surrender" to the transcendent God present in conscience and
in history. It seems to me that Lonergan's later thought more than
vindicates the inherently "realistic" thrust of Newman's work, not
just by appealing to his deep spirituality, but more concretely, by
emphasizing Newman's doctrine of assent, by which we posit the real
existence of things, and his doctrine of the illative sense, by
which we grasp the fulfillment of the conditions for making such
As Lonergan was later to note, Newman's language was a
floating one; it was not systematic. Still, he was striving to
express the facts of human consciousness in a way peculiar to
modern culture. Newman helped to make possible Lonergan's later
achievement. In one of his later writings Lonergan quotes Newman
approvingly in his distinction between the creative genius whose
language about newly discovered realities is not yet settled and
others who complete the verbal clarification:
It is the second-rate men, though most useful in their
place, who prove, reconcile, finish, and explain. (72)
Newman is not cited a great deal in Lonergan's later writings.
It is rather, it seems, Newman's method that is important: the
focus on the concrete, the interior, the facts of consciousness, as
of primary importance, as distinct from what philosophers or
scientists "say" about knowledge. This principle became in
Lonergan's writings the notion of self-appropriation. It is on the
basis of our knowledge and appropriation of our own mental
processes that we can come to express with accuracy who we are as
And this brings us to what is perhaps the central effect
Newman had on Lonergan. In Newman Lonergan found someone who was
highly respected, able to dialogue with those outside of the Church
as well as with those within, a man of "imperial intellect," able
to converse with the world at large, taking the world on its own
terms; and still, a spiritual person and a faithful Catholic.
In his later years Lonergan would always speak of his
philosophy professors at Heythrop as "extremely honest" in their
presentations. (73) I always wondered why he would characterize his
teachers in this way, until it occurred to me that by this he was
indicating precisely what he received from them. Not their
philosophy; but their honesty. They taught him to face issues
squarely, and if in his particular case that meant a radical
disagreement with the scholastic tradition he was given, so be it.
He had to be honest.
Still, as he said in his early letter to Henry Smeaton, "I
think I am a good Catholic."
It is perhaps significant that one of the first things
Lonergan did when he was sent to study in Rome in 1933 was to write
a 30,000 word essay on Newman which he gave to the American
professor of the history of philosophy at the Gregorian, Fr. Leo W.
Keeler, S.J., to critique. The essay in its entirety has since
been lost, but the Lonergan archives in Toronto contain some
fragments that might be from that lost essay. At least internally
they seem to cohere with Lonergan's interests in the earyl 1930's.
In these fragments there are several references to Newman, among
which the following on the Grammar of Assent:
The essential morality of assent is the supreme
contention of the Grammar of Assent. Assent is moral in
its prerequisite of moral living, in its appeal to men of
good will, in the seriousness with which it is to be
regarded, in its reaction upon our views of what right
morality is, in its being an actus humanus, in its norm
-a real apprehension of human nature. We are to
determine our assents not merely by the artificial
standards of logic, a mere common measure of minds, but
by the light that God gives us, by our judgment, by our
good sense, by our phronesis, by the facts as we know
them to be. The right assent is not according to rule
but by the act of a living mind. It has no criterion, no
guarentee external to itself. It is to be made with all
due circumspection, with careful investigation and
examination, as the nature of the case demands and
circumstances permit. (74)
Lonergan uses Newman's own conversion to Catholicism to
illustrate the relation between intellectual assent and actual
moral and religious living.
The conversion of Newman offers a striking illustration
of this problem of light and assent. For a considerable
time before his actual conversion, Newman was
intellectually satisfied of the truth of Catholicism; he
did not yet assent; he feared that this light of his
intellect was a false light that had come upon him in
punishment for his sins; he did not assent but he prayed.
The kindly light had indeed led him on, led him where he
never expected to be brought; it led him to an extremity
that terrified him; he wrestled, as Jacob with the angel.
1. Bernard Lonergan, "Reality, Myth, Symbol,"in Alan M. Olson (ed.)
Myth, Symbol, and Reality (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre
Dame Press, 1980) 32-33. Lonergan had some previous familiarity
with Newman: In Loyola he had read The Present Position of
Catholics and in the juniorate The Idea of a University: cf. Caring
About Meaning, 15. In his early paper, "True Judgment and
Science," he refers to The Arians of the Fourth Century and The
2. Caring About Meaning, 14; cf. also 46.
3. "When I was fourteen, I read Paine's Tracts against the Old
Testament, and found pleasure in thinking of the objections which
were contained in them. Also, I read some of Hume's Essays; and
perhaps that on Miracles... Also, I recollect copying out some
French verses, perhaps Voltaire's, in denial of the immortality of
the soul, and saying to myself something like 'How dreadful, but
how plausible!'" John Henry Newman, Apologia pro vita sua (London:
Longmans, Green, and Co., 1913) 3.
4. Ibid., 4.
5. John Henry Newman, "'Biglietto' Speech" (Rome: Libreria
Spithover, 1879) 6-7. Cf. Katherine Parisi, Newman and Liberalism,
doctoral thesis defended at Drew University, May 29, 1992. Cf.
Newman's earlier statement on rationalism: "Rationalism is a
certain abuse of Reason; that is, a use of it for purposes for
which it never was intended, and is unfitted. To rationalize in
matters of Revelation is to make our reason the standard and
measure of the doctrine revealed...It is Rationalism to accept
Revelation and then to explain it away; to speak of it as the Word
of God, and to treat it as the word of man; to refuse to let its
speak for itself...The Rationalist makes himself his own center,
not his Maker; he does not go to God, but implies that God must
come to him...Rationalism takes the words of Scripture as signs of
Ideas; Faith of Things or Realities." Essays Critical and
Historical I (London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1895) 31-35.
6. Cf. Apologia pro vita sua, 26: "The broad philosophy of Clement
and Origen carried me away; the philosophy, not the theological
doctrine...Some portions of their teaching, magnificent in
themselves, came like music to my inward ear, as if in response to
ideas, which, with little external to encourage them, I had
cherished so long." Elsewhere in the Apologia Newman mentions his
own early temperament as being attracted to the world of the
unseen, leading him to "rest in the thought of two and two only
absolute and luminously self-evident beings, myself and my
Creator." Ibid., 4.
7. Cf. Newman's "'Biglietto' Speech," 9: "And thirdly it must be
borne in mind, that there is much in the liberalistic theory which
is good and true; for example, not to say more, the precepts of
justice, truthfulness, sobriety, self-command, benevolence, which,
as I have already noted are among its avowed principles and the
natural laws of society. It is not till we find that this array of
principles is intended to supersede, to block out religion, that we
pronounce it to be evil."
8. Second Collection, 263.
9. John Henry Newman, A Grammar of Assent (London: Longmans, Green,
& Co., 1913) 384.
10. Ibid., 347.
11. Ibid., 385-386.
12. John Henry Newman, Letters and Diaries, Vol. 25: The Vatican
Council (Oxford University Press) 35.
13. Ibid., 29.
14. For the unconditional character of the act of assent cf. the
Grammar of Assent, 8; 13; 16; 35; 38; 75; 157; 172-174; 188-189;
15. Notes to "The Form of Inference" in Collection, 256. Quotes
from the Blandyke Papers are with the permission of the trustees of
the Lonergan Research Institute, Toronto. The name comes from a
village near Liège where the students had their weekly holiday in
the years when English laws forced the Jesuit seminary across the
English Channel. Cf. Crowe, Lonergan, 32.
16. "The Form of Mathematical Inference," 129.
17. Philosophical Notebook of John Henry Newman: Volume II, ed.
Edward Sillem (Louvain: Nauwelaerts Pub. House, 1970) 13. To this
quote Edward Sillem appends the editorial note: "The question is
whether a universal is merely formed by induction from particulars.
A Nominalist must reply in the affirmative. Newman replies in the
negative. In principle a universal can be formed from one
18. John Henry Newman, The Theological Papers of John Henry Newman
on Faith and Certainty, eds. de Achaval and Holmes (Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1976) 57.
19. Caring About Meaning, 13.
20. Cf. the editorial notes to "The Form of Inference" in
21. "The Syllogism," 1.
22. Ibid., 6. Cf. H.W.B.Joseph, An Introduction to Logic, 305: "We
have already, in discussing the modality of judgements, met with
this distinction between the reason for a thing being so and so,
and the reason for our knowing it to be so - between ratio essendi
and ratio cognoscendi." Cf. also ibid., 205-206.
23. It is interesting to note that Newman, contrary to Mill in his
System of Logic, makes a clear distinction between imagination and
conception. He reflects on Mill's reflections on the definition of
a circle: "'We cannot conceive a line without breadth; we can form
no mental picture of such a line.' Does he not here confuse
conception with imagination. We cannot imagine such a line - but
there are many things which we conceive, or (whatever word we use,)
which we hold before our intellect, which we cannot imagine.
Abstract words imply conceptions which are not still imaginations.
What would he call the operation by which we hold in the mind the
idea of whiteness. Why is not length without breadth as good an
idea or conception as whiteness? It is an abstraction from facts
<phenomena>. Take again the notion of relation; e.g. paternity or
friendship. This something which goes between two objects. It
cannot exist without those objects and without a process in fact -
but we can conceive it in itself, etc., it is like a line without
breadth." "Papers of 1857 on Mill's Logic," Philosophical Papers on
Faith and Certainty, 41. Elsewhere he notes: "Mill says, contrary
to Whewell, that the ellipse is no fact in addition to the
numerical observations in detail on which it is founded. But
surely the relations of facts are facts; and therefore new facts
above the facts. Hence...the ellipse which expresses the relation
of the observations to each other is something new...Question. What
Whewell and Mill call 'conception' p. 304, is the object of it the
same as 'formal cause'?" Ibid., 43. Readers of Lonergan's
writings will see in these notes concerns similar to those of
Newman in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
24. "The Syllogism," 8.
25. David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (Oxford, 1896), 84;
quoted in James M. Cameron, The Night Battle (1962), 225-226.
26. Edward Sillem, The Philosophical Notebook of John Henry Newman
I, 187. The theme is sounded even in Newman's Apologia where he
speaks of the doctrine of transubstantiation: "For myself, I
cannot indeed prove it, I cannot tell how it is; but I say, "Why
should it not be? What's to hinder it? What do I know of substance
or matter? just as much as the greatest philosophers, and that is
nothing at all;" - so much is this the case, that there is a rising
school of philosophy now, which considers phenomena to constitute
the whole of our knowledge in physics." Apologia pro vita sua,
27. Caring About Meaning, 13. Two other shorter papers from 1929,
largely logical in scope, were "Infinite Multitude" (February,
1929) and a letter on "Creation from Eternity" (Easter, 1929).
28. "True Judgment and Science," 1.
30. Thomas Harper, "Dr. Newman's Essay in the aid of a Grammar of
Assent," The Month 12(1870) 599-611, 677-692; 13(1871) 31-58, 159-183.
31. Grammar of Assent, 259-260.
32. Cf. C. Stephen Dessain, "Cardinal Newman on the Theory and
Practice of Knowledge: The Purpose of the Grammar of Assent," The
Downside Review (1957) 11.
33. Ibid., 380. Newman concludes this quote with a line elsewhere
quoted by Lonergan: "It is the second-rate men, though most useful
in their place, who prove, reconcile, finish, and explain."
34. "True Judgment and Science," 2.
35. Ibid., 249.
36. Ibid., 377.
37. "True Judgment and Science," 3.
38. Ibid., 172.
39. Charles C. Hefling, "On Apprehension, Notional and Real,"
(paper presented at the Lonergan Workshop, Boston College, March
18-19, 1988) 7.
40. Grammar of Assent, 267.
41. "True Judgment and Science," 4.
42. Ibid., 31.
43. Ibid., 311.
44. "True Judgment and Science," 5.
45. Ibid., 6.
47. Ibid.. Lonergan refers to the Grammar of Assent, 412.
48. Method in Theology, 338.
49. Grammar of Assent, 94, quoted there from Newman's earlier
writing, Discussions and Arguments on Various Subjects.
50. Cf. Method in Theology, 251, on having only a notional
apprehension of conversion. Also, 169: "H. G. Gadamer has
contended that one really grasps the meaning of a text only when
one brings its implications to bear on contemporary living. This,
of course, is paralleled by Reinhold Niebuhr's insistence that
history is understood in the effort to change it. I have no
intention of disputing such views, for they seem to me straight-forward applications of Newman's distinction between notional and
51. Henri Bremond, The Mystery of Newman (London: Williams and
Norgate, 1907) 87. Ironically, in spite of Lonergan's apparent
enthusiasm, Bremond is not always regarded as an authentic
interpreter of Newman. Cf.Charles Stephen Dessain, "Newman's
Philosophy and Theology," Victorian Prose (New York: Modern
Language Association of America, 1973) 166-169.
52. Grammar of Assent, 283.
53. Sillem, Philosophical Notebook I, 188. This too, according to
J. M. Cameron, is characteristic of empiricism: "Now it is equally
characteristic of empiricism...that self-scrutiny should be held to
disclose powerful and ordinarily irresistible impulses to believe
certain hypotheses; and that the felt energy of these impulses
should in all matters of practice overcome, and rightly overcome,
the uncertainties that belong to these hypotheses so long as they
are treated as making claims to be rationally demonstrable." Op.
54. "True Judgment and Science," 5.
56. Letter of June 20, 1927; quoted by permission of the trustees
of the Lonergan Research Institute, Toronto.
57. Letter to Provincial, January 22, 1935. Quoted with permission
of the Lonergan Research Institute, Toronto.
58. Second Collection, 263-264; also cf. transcripts by Nicholas
Graham of discussions from the Lonergan Workshop at Boston College,
June 14, 1978, where Lonergan says "in most places you would have
been 'back-bogged' for saying you were a nominalist." Available at
the Lonergan Research Institute, Toronto.
59. Unpublished article by William Matthews, "On Lonergan and John
60. James Mill, Analysis of the Human Mind I, London, 1869, 260;
quoted in H. W. B. Joseph, An Introduction to Logic, 31.
61. George Hayward Joyce, Principles of Logic, London, 1920, 132-133.
62. F. Aveling, "Universals and the 'Illative Sense,'" Dublin
Review 137 (October 1905) 255-256. (Lonergan spells the author's
name "Areling.") Cf. also Aveling's reference to a review in The
Tablet of March 25, 1899, regarding the Grammar of Assent: "In The
Tablet a critic writes that the work in no way represents the
current and immemorial teaching of Catholic philosophical schools."
63. Ibid., 263.
64. Cf. Edward Sillem, The Philosophical Notebook of John Henry
Newman I, 240. Cf. also The Theological Papers of John Henry
Newman on Faith and Certainty, 56: "A very difficult question
arises whether the subject of ideas comes directly into the
province of Logic. Or, in other words, whether names of terms
stand for ideas or for things. It will be said that ideas and
things go together, and therefore the question is unimportant - but
there is the case in which there is, or is imagined, an idea
without a thing, that is, the case of Universals - Accordingly
those then on the side of Things against Ideas, say that there are
not universal ideas; and a controversy ensues which is nothing else
than a portion of the old scholastic controversy, between the
Nominalists, Realists and Conceptionists." Of this controversy
Newman says: "It is usual with Catholic writers to take the part
of Universals - and in consequence to take the part of Ideas
against Things. My own long habit has been the same - and it is
difficult for me for that reason to do otherwise, but I confess the
onus probandi is with those who maintain Universals, and it is
difficult to prove their necessity - and taking that question away,
it certainly does seem more simple and natural to say the words
stand for things."
65. "True Judgment and Science," 5.
66. Insight, 22 (xxviii).
67. Cf. Lonergan's letter to his provincial of January 22, 1935.
68. Przywara, Erich, "St. Augustine and the Modern World," A
Monument to St. Augustine (New York: Meridian Books, 1957; first
edition 1930) 281. Cf. Newman's distinction, in a letter to his
sister in May, 1834, between matter and its sensible phenomena: "To
what extent Berkeley denied the existence of the external world I
am not aware; nor do I mean to go so far myself (far from it) as to
deny the existence of matter, though I should deny that what we saw
was more than accidents of it, and say that space perhaps is but a
condition of the objects of sense, not a reality."
69. Przywara, A Monument to St. Augustine, 282.
70. A Second Collection, 219.
71. Ibid., 242. Cf. unpublished Method in Theology notes from 1962,
37. Available at the Lonergan Research Institute, Toronto.
72. Grammar of Assent, 374. Lonergan adds that Newman writes "not
without a touch of exaggeration." Verbum, 17.
73. Cf. for example, Second Collection, 263. The same remark can
be found elsewhere.
74. Page 36 of the fragments of what may be the lost essay on
assent. Lonergan Research Institute, Toronto.