by David Fleischacker, Ph.D.
I have decided to return to an earlier sequence of blogs that are commentaries on Lonergan’s 1943 essay, “Finality, Love, and Marriage” — an essay which can be found in the 4th volume of his collected works. My objective is twofold; 1) to understand Lonergan’s intentions in the essay, 2) to examine what will happen to the essay in light of Lonergan’s later writings on Insight and Method in Theology.
This blog will examine a single paragraph in the essay — section 2.2 — titled “Tension and Contradictions.” I will start with a quote,
“But besides this multiplicity of aspects, to be verified in any instance of love, there also is a multiplicity of appetites and of loves generating within a single subject tensions and even contradictions.”
Section two of this essay as a whole is focused on the “concept of love.” In 2.1, Lonergan articulated how love is “the basic form” of all appetite, and how appetite is a principle that unites subjects both in seeking and enjoying a common end. In 2.2, the section we are considering in this blog, Lonergan brings up the simple fact that appetites are never single in the human subject. These multiple appetites have multiple ends that are loved and that unite subjects in both seeking and enjoying. But because of this multiplicity there are “tensions and even contradictions.”
If love is the basic form that unites subjects, why then does it cause tensions and contradictions. Let us begin the answer by starting with a more precise understanding of the multiplicity. Notice Lonergan’s three examples of appetite.
- maternal instinct
- rational appetite
The proper object of the first is “my goal” — more specifically nourishment of my body. The proper object of the second is the good of the child. The proper object of the third is the “reasonable good.” The way to these objects is specific as well, hence food for the first, care of the child for the second, and the discovery of the reasonable good for the third.
One can imagine that the appetite for my good, the appetite for the good of another, and then an appetite for what is absolute will find themselves in conflict some day if not every day. However Lonergan notes that the third appetite is the doorway to a liberation from this interior war. The third “moves on an absolute level to descend in favor of self or others as reason dictates.” (as a note, Newman says this in a number of his writings). Somehow, reason will discover and project a harmony in the multiplicity.
What happens in the later writings of Lonergan help to expand and fill out the way that reason transcends “on an absolute level” the tensions and contradictions, and can “descend” to set a harmonious order of human action in the multiplicity of appetites.
Insight and Appetite
In Insight, Lonergan seems to have the same notion of appetite operative even though he is heading into a transposition of faculty psychology into intentionality analysis. One sees this transposition in
- Lonergan’s formulation of image and affects via Freud and depth psychology.
- His linking of image and affect to neural demand functions.
- The linking of image, affect, and neural demand functions into patterns of experience.
- The three levels of human development that are interlocking higher and lower levels of integration and operation (organic development, psychic development, and intellectual development) — (chapter 15)
And this list is not exhaustive. These developments provide a glimpse into Lonergan’s deepening understanding of the nature of the levels and the relationships of the levels of being within the framework of the development of the human person. Lonergan does not yet use the language of horizon, but but he is using “view” and “viewpoint” which reminds one of Newman’s use of the terms (and a number of other figures over the previous century).
In Insight, the language about the mind itself is transposed into intentionality. Data of sense is combined with data of consciousness to provide the starting point for self-understanding and self-knowledge. With the clarification of the notion of being (chapter 12), which transposes the agent intellect–and the manifestation of that notion in questions for understanding and questions for reflection, concepts, and judgments–the nature of the mind itself is more directly reflected in the terms and relations. This in turn provides a basis to answer the most fundamental problems of modernity and post-modernity in their challenge to epistemology and metaphysics.
This shift to interiority analysis greatly expands upon Lonergan’s articulation of “reason.” Insight and Judgment constitute the acts which when rightly exercised are isomorphic with being. His explorations of insight in math, science, common sense, and philosophy provide a deeper understanding both of the harmony and unity of intelligence and reason. When he shifts to an explanatory account of epistemology and the general character of metaphysics in the second half of the book, he completes the circuit which allows one to discover not only the harmony of the mind, but the harmony of being within a framework of generalized emergent probability. This significantly expands what can be said about unity and plurality of appetites, and the contraditions they might generate, and why reason can objectively discover a unified order in the multiplicity of appetites.
Let me suggest the heuristic solution to discovering this harmony. In Insight, occurrences and events fall within the framework of systematic and non-systematic process, which is developed more precisely into schemes of recurrence, conditioned series of schemes, and at the height of generic intelligibility, emergent probability itself.
If one shifts from a mere multiplicity of occurrence (hence a statistical apprehension defined by classical correlates) to emergent process, then one begins to grasp a horizon-scape (land, water, sky) in which these appetites are naturally ordered. Hunger for example is within the nutritional cycles of the cells and cellular systems of the body. Eating is part of these systems in its sublation into the cultural mores of a people. The same is true of all appetites. They have their natural rhythms and cycles. These really do form a harmony within the context of generalized emergent probability, which incorporates even dead ends and catastrophes (see chapter 4 of Insight). But even dead ends and catastrophes do not involve a real conflict of appetites, even if a conflict of appetites can cause catastrophes. The gravest catastrophes result in death, and no one subject to death has an appetite for such an end.
Yet, to the casual observer, there does seem to be real conflicts. Are these objective? If so, how? The answer is yes. Ultimately for such a conflict of appetites to occur, there needs to be a free subject who can violate the intelligible order of emergent probability. Intentionality analysis reveals the culprit. It is the fallen spirit. The one who rejects the light of intelligibility, being, and the good. In other words, the subject who fails the dictates of seeking and finding understanding, truth, and value. Such failures of spirit (spirit = that which is intrinsically independent of the empirical residue) will result in a failure to descend to unite the multiplicity of appetites into their order within the emergent world. In turn, this failure will descend into the fabric of the polis and even the cosmos. That is a larger scope of tension and conflict however than we find in section 2.2. Yet, this larger expanse of being and the world that can be known by reason sheds some light on the source of the tensions and conflicts. Motor-sensory and intersubjective appetites will conflict when a wise order is privated. That natural and wise order is one of emergent probability.
Method in Theology and Appetites
In terms of Method in Theology, the tensions and contradictions of the appetites can be easily transposed into intentionality analysis. Every cognitional and moral operator and operation is both conscious and intentional. As conscious, these intellectual, rational, and volitional levels of operators and operations intrinsically allow the subject to be self-present, but not necessarily understood and known. As intentional, one can transpose the relationship of a specific appetite to a specific object. Hunger can be transposed into the intention of food, motherly care into the intention of the well being of the child, rational appetite into the intention of intelligibility and being. No conceptual revolution here.
Some areas of appetite are expanded in Method. Borrowing from Dietrich von Hildebrand, Lonergan constructs a simple generic map of affective appetites — non-intentional states and trends are organized under one column, intentional feelings under another (and these sort into those at the level of sensate experience–pleasure–and those at the level of decision–value). This generic pattern is further expanded when Lonergan focuses upon the intentional feelings that respond to value. In chapter two, he formulates the scale of values — vital, social, cultural, personal, and religious/transcendental. One can see the beginnings of this scale in 2.2, with the examples mentioned above. Hunger belongs to vital values, motherhood to intersubjective and social values (one could argue personal emerges as well), and rational appetite constitutes a type of cultural value (descriptive as well as explanatory). Both in Insight, and more so in Method, the scale is expanded in scope.
Arguably the most significant transpositions and expansions found in Insight and Method are the Transcendental Notions (only that of Being is explicitly formulated in Insight, and in Insight it is identified as a notion, which falls within the framework of heuristic notions which are components of heuristic structures). These notions are integrators of systems and operators of development. This shift to the transcendental notions allows Lonergan to recast a more developed understanding of the dialectic of human development. In Insight, that dialectic sprung from a tension of levels (eg. sensate and intellectual). In Method, is becomes more precisely articulated as a dialectic of authenticity and inauthenticity. To return to 2.2, the tension considered is on the same level, that of motor-sensory appetite and conflicts between these appetites. However, as the essay proceeds, Lonergan will move to a dialectic closer to that found in Insight, but not quite as precise.
The transition from this essay to Insight and Method will not in the end contradict or undermine the general arguments of the essay, but rather will strengthen the arguments as will be seen when we move to further sections. Lonergan’s later writings provide a more penetrating heuristic for understanding the general character and specific features of the nature and life of marriage.
Next commentary on this essay will be upon friendship — 2.3.
by Dr. David Fleischacker
This one is more for those who have studied Lonergan a bit. Sorry to those who have not.
Though most today might think of being and reality as the same, what is meant by both today is not the same as that of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas. For them, Being is not only “that which is,” but a that which is that is necessarily intelligible. Being is intelligible and actual intelligibility is being. And just because you can name something does not mean it is intelligible, hence just because you can name something does not mean it exists.
In contrast to intelligible being is that which is not. Statements do not get any easier to make which are true. Darkness is an easy example because its descriptive correlate has a relatively easy explanatory basis. It is the absence of any visible light waves. We can name it but it has no intelligible being (at least in the visible range of light — there may be being beyond the visible light spectrum as a note). More difficult are those absences that seem so real there must be something intelligible. So, for example, inertia seems like it must have some kind of intelligibility. After all great minds searched for the answer to the cause of inertia for centuries upon centuries. But in the end it belongs to the empirical residue (see chapter 1 of Insight) and one likely will need an inverse insight to get that it lacks intelligible being (also see chapter 1). More difficult is something like evil. But it too lacks intelligibility. In fact it not only lacks intelligible being, but it is a privation of being and so introduces the absurd. In either case, these lack intelligibility and thus cannot have being.
Here is another way to get at the same point. Let’s make a distinction between being and reality. Let’s say that reality includes experiential absences, partial constitutive components of being (eg. the empirical residue), privations of intelligible being, and concrete being that is intelligible. This makes it a larger category than being because it includes named nothingnesses and absences and privations. Concrete and real being that is intelligible however is only “part” of this world, a larger world that really is not.
The import of grasping what the ancients meant by being and us moderns do not has a number of ramifications. Without realizing the ancient meaning of being, disciplines like metaphysics will be misunderstood. Evil will make no sense. Why? Because the ancient statements about being cannot be applied to nothingness, absences, and privations without being unintelligible. And so us proud moderns will tend to think that these ancients were simply careless and unintelligent. But it is the reality of moderns that is lacking.
by Dr. David Fleischacker
Lonergan’s explanatory formulation of the interior structure of judgment dismantles one of the great culprits of the modern world that has left vast reaches of the Western world in a dark age. It is dark because it thwarts self-transcendence precisely in one of the great powers of the human mind. Judgement makes possible a real presence of a person to that which is. It mediates a true encounter with intelligible being. In other words, authentic judgment allows being to dwell within one. This darkness is the real forgetfulness of being. Heidegger was only partially right. He did recognize something that was true about the fallen state of us. But he still left one with out the ability to enjoy and rejoice in the goodness of even the littlest beings in the world. Those little, finite beings–trees, rocks, the human body, stars, planets–were merely ontic things. For him Being– the Ontological–was all that mattered, and even that notion lacks in Heidegger the liberty that Lonergan comes to discover. It is after all a transcendental notion.
When one proclaims that all is mere perspective, or one announces that one can never be sure of what truly is, or one thinks of reality as out there but not in here (in my head), then one is proclaiming that being is fundamentally unknown. It is as Kant said, in the noumena. This is the darkness in which today we are chained and enslaved. It is a self-inflicted cave of own’s own mind, and if one is completely honest, then Derrida is right, even that cave is a mere trace. It too resides in the darkness. Even my own thoughts flow in the differance of lost presence.
For most, I think the world of entertainment and work keeps them from facing this haunting darkness which they have absorbed since their day of birth. Many do escape into a world of common sense and do not bother with these questions. But if pushed in a direction they do not like, then as an instinctual mechanism of self-defense, they pull out the darkness of the no-nothings.
I remember one day saying to a friend, “don’t you know that you can’t find happiness in hockey — he loved hockey to the neglect of nearly everything. He was able to deconstruct my simple quest with one stutter of his vocal cords and a brush of air sent my way in the wave of a hand. I knew what he meant. He meant you can’t really know the answer to what you are asking. Don’t bother me with it.
Lonergan does not answer this deconstructive shallowness with the same brush of air and grunt. No such simplicity can be found with his response. Yet, amazingly, in one book he sends to the grave this particular darkness for any who want freedom from these chains that have been growing and entangling the Western world for 500 or more years. I suppose one could argue that it has been longer and started with the nominalists, but the other day, someone I know — Dr. Chris Blum — pointed out rightly that without the founders of modernity (Descartes, Hume, Kant, etc.), these nominalists would have been forgotten.
Lonergan in one book opens the doors to the cave. That book is Insight. He let’s in some light. We can discover that the shadows and traces of being are not our genie lamp. With the great skill of a gifted surgeon, Lonergan, at the beginning of the book, asks the reader to examine in themselves the act of understanding. It begins a journey into a massive world of interiority and self-appropriation. The attentive and careful reader who takes this journey is not asked to trust the writer in the end, though one must trust along the way. He leads the reader from insight in math and science to that of common sense and things, all before he turns to the excavating work of exploring judgment.
It is a brilliant plan as anyone knows who has seriously read the text. His first eight chapters remove the rocks that block the path to light and freedom, and then finally he removes the hinges of the locked doors of the cave.
Starting in chapter 9, he then begins to open the door. In chapter 11, the reader gets asked to walk out of the cave unless he or she is too afraid to do so and simply refuses to see the beauty and the landscape of being.
In the next couple of chapters, through the notion of being and then of objectivity, Lonergan provides an explanatory account of why we can be present to being, and why being can dwell within us. It gives the subject who has dwelt in the cave of the modern world a new wineskin and a new garment. More technically, it is a new heuristic foundation to taste the beauty and glory of the real universe of being.
I could repeat Lonergan’s answer with regard to the conditions required for true judgments and the principle notion of objectivity, and why these happen in us all the time. But for the full meaning of these explanatory formulations to burst forth and make sense, one really does need to travel down all of those earlier chapters of Insight first.
Hence, this blog you are reading is merely an invitation to those who have some inkling that perspectivalism and relativism are unhappy conclusions, and that traces of others are not so joyful as their real presence in filial and agapic bonds of love.
By the way, for those who are not able for various reasons to move into the explanatory account of the freedom and light of true judgment, do not worry. Lonergan’s account reveals that good sound judgment gives you that liberty even when you are unable to explain why. You really can love–in a mutual indwelling presence–your friend, your spouse, your child….and God, even if the how remains a mystery.
By Dr. David Fleischacker
I would like to make a simple statement. The finality of the human person is one of existential isomorphism.
I am sure some will think that I have committed an error in tying the word existential to isomorphism. Some would be disturbed if they knew what I meant. Some of the dead might twitch a bit. Nietzsche I am sure would turn in his grave. Most of the 20th century existentialists might will themselves to rise from the dead and burn me at the stake and insist that God is still dead. They might call upon their leader — Friedrich, Friedrich, where art though — so that he could lead them in their inquisition with his sharpened words and golden pen. So, let me be clear as to my fears of the power of these willful mongers. Will to power and its maturation in the 20th century notion of self-realization are not what I mean by linking the two terms. Yet, there is a truth in the 20th century existentialists that I would like to return to the world of being and goodness and beauty. As St. Augustine said about heresies, there is always a great truth in them which is why they can arrest people and capture their imaginations. The same is true I would argue with Existentialists such as Sartre. That nugget of truth is that human beings do have something to do with their coming to be in this world (or in their self-destruction).
In other words, I want to recover the rightful place of human freedom or decisions. I want to place it back into a normative framework of a naturally ordered universe that has its nature in a finality that is oriented as Lonergan argues in Insight toward increasing intelligibility and being and goodness. These transcendentals are the norm of the normativity of all existence, especially when they become conscious and active in the human soul as an actuation of the capacity for self-transcendence. It takes wisdom to figure this out.
So, what about isomorphism?
In Insight Lonergan argues that the structure of cognition is isomorphic with that of being. Hence, intellectually patterned experience, insights into conjugate and central forms, and judgments affirming those insights as true are isomorphic to conjugate and central potency, form, and act of beings.
J (judgement) –> Conjugate and Central Act
U (understanding)–> Conjugate and Central Form
E (experience)–> Conjugate and Central Potency
It is not just any E, U, and J that matters to this isomorphism. The relevant conscious and intentional operations are those that have moved into explanatory accounts of this world–hence insights that emerge in intellectually patterned experience, and then are verified in judgments about the truth of those explanatory insights.
What this means is that in true explanatory knowledge, the human soul has come to be a mirror (as St. Thomas notes) of that which it knows, and it knows that which it knows by becoming a mirror to that which it knows.
Adding the term “existential” goes beyond what Lonergan does in Insight. And as mentioned, I want to expel it of the licentious willfulness that one finds in 20th century existentialist philosophers. I want to recover an older meaning of existence found in St. Thomas and Aristotle, one that links together being and becoming into a harmonious unity. The act of will is only an act of will when it is based on an intelligibility, and thus it is an authentic volitional act when rooted on form, not on nothingness (which actually is impossible because we cannot create from nothing). It really combines some of Lonergan’s later developments in Insight with those of his later life, namely the link of metaphysics and its isomorphism with intellectually patterned consciousness to the moral order and the level of decision. In short, when decisions are based upon the fullness of the cognitive isomorphism with being, then one’s decisions shift one to an explicit participant in the unfolding potency of being [as a note, even one who operates in the world of common sense is a participant in the unfolding potency of being, but only implicitly. Common non-sense however is evil because it is a failure to participate in this finality of the universe.], and thus participate in a moral isomorphism with the emergent universe and its finality.
I would like to add one other piece that identifies a more complete existential isomorphism, namely when the entire neural and motor-sensory operations, along with their landscape of emotions and passions join in on the isomorphism. For this to take place, the neural and motor-sensory levels need to reach an integrity in which they are intelligibly ordered in the higher levels of the moral and cognitive isomorphism (see what Lonergan does in his last chapter in Insight “Special Transcendent Knowledge”). In other words, all levels of development when united in a sublating or subsuming fashion into the highest reaches of conscious intentionality form an authentic existential isomorphism of the soul with an emergent universe.
Interestingly, the university when setup right has as its specific end this existential isomorphism in which the totality of the person (organic and neural, motor-sensory, intellectual, rational, volitional, religious) is mediated toward this unity with the finality of the universe.
Just a thought that has tremendous ramifications.
by David Fleischacker
About two years ago, I started a new notebook on linking together the University and its life with that of the Holy Trinity. One of the areas that I wondered about was whether the Transcendental Notions (TN) could provide any type of analogy for understanding the three persons of the Holy Trinity. There are after all, three transcendental notions that Lonergan develops which are spiritual in nature, hence intrinsically independent of the empirical residue. These spiritual transcendental notions are Lonergan’s transposition of the agent intellect found in Aristotle and St. Thomas, and of the Light of Being (conscience, mind, etc) as found in the Platonists and St. Augustine (as a note, Augustine was clearly not a Platonist once you get into his head more thoroughly even if he learned much from them and borrowed some notions from them).
One of the immediate difficulties of course which one finds noted in Lonergan is that in finding an analogy for the Holy Trinity, we need to deal with acts or operations, not with anything in potency. The TN are a kind of potency, but much different than normal. These actually have the power or capacity to bring about self-transcendence. In St. Thomas (and Aristotle), these “lights” of the mind have the power to illumine, hence they act as agent causes. Most potencies do not have such capabilities. Hence the reason these lights are in a kind of actuality as well. Notice how some of the metaphysical terms and relations get stretched (but not violated! or confused). The TN are in a potency in relationship to the operations that arise, but in relationship to the potencies in the human subject to receive these operations they are in act. Many would say that this imprecision of the metaphysical terms and relations is why one needs to leave out the metaphysical, and turn to intentionality analysis. That is true in part, but if one does so, one as Lonergan notes in Insight, needs to run the full circuit, and return to metaphysics, both to refine the metaphysics, but also to articulate the intelligibilities discovered as belonging to being. To stay merely with a cognitive apprehension of conscious and intentional life leaves one ignorant of its “reality.” So the circuit does need to be run.
The reason I mention the circuit is because if one is to transpose the analogies for the Holy Trinity found in St. Thomas, then one needs to deal with some of the metaphysical points that he makes, such as God is pure act, and hence we need to find analogies in act that help us, and this is true of the Persons as well as of God. The Father is pure act, as is the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Hence, are the TN in act enough for them to be used as analogies?
The TNs, though in a kind of potency, are also the “light” that makes possible the conscious and intentional operations. This means that in some manner, they are more in act than the operations. They underpin, penetrate, and transcend all operations. Still, there must be a reason that Lonergan did not turn toward these as analogies. He stuck with operations (eg. apprehension of the good, judgment of value of the good, love/decision of/for the good). I suppose one could argue that these operations are in part constituted by the TN, as the TN penetrate them. We could look at what that “penetration” means. It of course is not physical, but spiritual. Descriptively, it “illumines” the operation. It is what “receives” the operation. It is what “beholds” the operation. The TN is not only light, but also an intentional focus, hence can be described as the “eye” of the mind as well. I am tending to think that the TN is both light and eye (hence not distinct as these are physically in us — but I could be wrong). I suppose one could say the “eye” is the conscious subject as awakened in a TN and thus seeking an answer, hence waiting for an operation that mediates the answer. Then once the operation emerges, the subject as beholding the operation in the TN is an eye that beholds. The subject is however conscious through the TN, and thus the TN constitutes both the horizon and the subject as a gazing subject.
One of the areas that I explored a couple years ago in my notebook was whether there was a sufficient distinction and set of relations between the TN to result in some kind of analogy that sheds light upon the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus, does the TN of intelligibility have a kind of relationship to that of being/truth such that the former begets that latter. Of course, this does not happen without an operation. And it does not happen without the subject moving (raising the question for reflection). Likewise does the TN of goodness spirate from the TN of being? I cannot repeat all of the reflections here, but I can say that my reflections were not conclusive. I do intend however to start publishing these reflections in this particular sequence of blogs.
Even if I discover that those reflections do provide an interesting analogy, there is still the further question about whether the analogy is an improvement upon that of the operations as such. I have a suspicion that they do not, but they might help to deepen my understanding of the operational based analogy (apprehension of the good, judgement of value of the good, decision for the good). Part of my reason for this suspicion is that God as pure act is the cause of the light that is in us, which we call the TNs. The TNs do allow us to grasp the unrestricted nature of the operations in God, but those are operations in God, not TNs. Just a few thoughts.
Why does Jesus need or want us to feed him? It would seem that the only appropriate relation to him is to allow him to feed us. Very true of course. At the same time, from the Cross, he cries out that he thirsts. He thirsts as St. Mother Theresa tells us. Jesus is in those whom we meet, especially the poor and the destitute. All of those who fall under the beatitudes. He thirsts in and through them for us to give him a bit of drink and food. It is part of the immense mystery of being a member of the body of our Lord. He knows us. He knows us in his divinity and he knows us in his humanity. As he hung on the Cross, he proclaimed the thirst of his entire body, as it exists in his mind and heart. This is the meaning of the unity of Christ and his body. In fact, it is a unity that each of us has with each other. When anyone thirsts, and it comes to dwell in us, it then comes to inform us as a constitutive act of meaning. Hence another’s thirst becomes our own. Likewise with Jesus Christ. We are his. And we are in him. He thirsts because we thirst. He thirsts because he became one of us. And as he fills that thirst, so we as part of him are to fill that thirst as well. This is the meaning of to abide and to mutually indwell.