Foundations of Philosophy by Brian Cronin


Lonergan’s Cognitional Theory and Epistemology

Brian Cronin

PDF Version

Kindle Version

Editorial Notes

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

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

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

Sedes Sapientiae Lecture Series


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

The Idea



Lonergan Institute for the "Good Under Construction"

St. Anselm's Abbey
4501 S. Dakota Ave. NE
Washington, D.C. 20017-2753
tel 202-269-6650
fax 202-269-2312


David P. Fleischacker/Dunstan Robidoux OSB


Classical culture cannot be jettisoned without being replaced; and what replaces it cannot but run counter to classical expectations. There is bound to be formed a solid right that is determined to live in a world that no longer exists. There is bound to be formed a scattered left, captivated by now this, now that new development, exploring now this and now that new possibility. But what will count is a perhaps not numerous center, big enough to be at home in both the old and the new, painstaking enough to work out one by one the transitions to be made, strong enough to refuse half measures and insist on complete solutions even though it has to wait.

. . . Bernard Lonergan, "Dimensions of Meaning"(1)


The Lonergan Institute for the "Good Under Construction" is an independent organization, located at St. Anselm's Abbey in Washington, D.C. For the sake of coherency, the following issues will be mentioned and discussed: (1) the events which, over a period of five years, led to the establishment of the Lonergan Institute for the "Good Under Construction" as a new kind of training institute for persons seeking more explanatory understandings of the relations connecting faith and reason (religion and culture, or grace and freedom); (2) the special and peculiar mission of St. Anselm's Abbey as a religious community of Benedictine monks which was initially founded by the English Benedictine Congregation through the agency of Fort Augustus Abbey (located in Inverness-shire, Scotland); (3) the purposes and tasks which this new Institute will address in its operations; and (4) its future and present status as an already functioning organization with a tentative schedule of studies and financial plan. In the midst, a biographical note on the life and the contribution of Fr. Bernard Lonergan S.J., as a philosopher and theologian, explains the seminal influence of his intellectual initiative and why the development of his thought merits attention today.

Prehistory: the Lonergan Project

In April 1993, instigated by David Fleischacker, a group of students and faculty at the Catholic University of America met to discuss the formation of a reading group that would discuss Bernard Lonergan's book Insight: A Study of Human Understanding. The group began meeting in the fall of 1993. Insight first appeared in 1957, and is considered one of Lonergan's greatest achievements: "one of the most brilliant books of the twentieth century. . .[and] one of the most difficult."(2) For many, it is "virtually incomprehensible."(3) Its first five chapters were written, at most, for only 5% of the reading public: those who can easily jump into mathematics and science "with facility and comfort."(4) Through almost 800 pages, Insight studies the nature of cognition within science and common sense, and then applies its findings to questions of epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, knowledge of God, and the problem of evil.(5)

The magnitude and difficulty of the material present pedagogical problems for many readers such that few readers can profitably read and understand its contents if forced to work on their own.(6) If reading Heidegger rates as very hard, Lonergan is "very, very, very hard."(7) For instance, in the first chapter, Lonergan employs two examples from physics (Newton and Einstein on the unintelligibility of constant velocity), and two examples from mathematics (the square root of two and non-countable multitudes) to explain the nature of inverse insight. Understanding these examples usually requires a familiarity with physics and mathematics that few readers know how to attain.(8)

The formation of a reading group was, thus, the solution to these difficult pedagogical problems. Participants help each other out, although, for best results, a teacher is needed who understands the work and who can guide others in reading and reflecting on the contents of Lonergan's Insight.

The first founding group has continued to operate since September 1993 with a second reading group formed in September 1994 which began to meet at St. Anselm's Abbey at the suggestion of Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB. Participants included graduate students from Catholic University and other interested individuals who had learned about the work from sources beyond Catholic University. One important source is the Continuing Education School of Georgetown University where adult education courses have been taught by some of the members of the first group.

In November 1995, the members of the second reading group (David Fleischacker, Dr. John and Pasqualina Young, Dr. Ron Vardiman, and Br. Dunstan Robidoux) decided to jointly host a regularly scheduled radio program that would deal with current issues and problems in Catholic theology. With the agreement of Nicholas Heidenberg of Real Presence Communications (which is working to establish a Catholic radio and TV station in the greater Washington area), a program designed for television is presently being considered. Beginning in 1993 at Georgetown, Br. Dunstan Robidoux offered a series of six and then eight lectures on the hermeneutics of Bernard Lonergan, and in the fall of 1994, David Fleischacker introduced a course on the post-modern foundations of science and religion to which he later added a course on Cosmopolis (Lonergan's diagnostic philosophy of history). The results led to the formation of a third reading group in September 1995 which also met weekly at St. Anselm's Abbey. In February 1996, Br. Dunstan addressed a meeting of the Catholic Association of Scientists and Engineers with a talk introducing the significance of Bernard Lonergan's theological contributions. In April, David Fleischacker gave a talk on "Understanding Christ as the Incarnate Word in light of challenges posed by modern thought" which drew on Lonergan's unpublished study De Verbo Incarnato. In its monthly news bulletin, beginning with the April 1996 issue, the Catholic Association of Scientists and Engineers published two articles (one by Dunstan Robidoux and another by J. Michael Stebbins(9)) to introduce the scope of Bernard Lonergan's achievement to interested association members. Since February 1996, through the generosity of the Brookings Institution, David Fleischacker and Dunstan Robidoux have been able to attend bimonthly meetings of the "Downtown Washington Group" (moderator: Tony Downs) to meet persons who might want to learn more about the usefulness of Lonergan's analyses as they apply to a variety of economic, social, and political problems. The formation of a fourth reading group in September 1996 necessitated a number of changes: the first and second reading groups amalgamated to form a senior group of readers which now met on Friday mornings at St. Anselm's Abbey; the former third group became the new second group, now meeting on Thursday mornings.

With the help and cooperation of Dr. J. Michael Stebbins of the Woodstock Theological Center, at Georgetown University, a monthly seminar meeting at St. Anselm's Abbey was established for the 1996-7 academic year to discuss Stebbins' recently published dissertation The Divine Initiative: Grace, World-Order, and Human Freedom in the Early Writings of Bernard Lonergan. An organizational meeting convened late in September 1996 and subsequent sessions respectively discussed the role of understanding in theological speculation, the created communication of the divine nature as the principal instance of supernatural being, and the 13th Century breakthrough in Catholic theology which occurred through the discovery of the theorem of the supernatural. This new reading group met in eight sessions over the span of the academic year. Most recently, in January 1997, two new seminars, meeting weekly, were established as forums for engaging in a long term study of Trinitarian theology and its application to Church and world. One group coordinated the activities of members who had already done some work on the Trinity; the second was designed for beginners who, for the first time, wanted to delve into the theology of the Trinity. The common goal was a careful reading and discussion of all the major writings in the history of Trinitarian theology (from the early patristic authors and proceeding into this 20th Century).

To organize all this work more fully and to engage in a larger number of projects, a larger project arose in terms of a new school established by David Fleischacker and Br. Dunstan Robidoux at St. Anselm's Abbey: the Lonergan Institute for the "Good Under Construction". The Lonergan Institute was incorporated as a nonprofit organization as of April 18, 1997.(10)

Mission of St. Anselm's Abbey

St. Anselm's Abbey, a Benedictine monastery of monks belonging to the English Benedictine Congregation, was itself established at the Catholic University of America as a center for "advanced scientific research and study" in the spring of 1921 by a small group of men who taught and studied at the university.(11) Changes in the character of modern civilization were demanding that a group of men should band together to "serve God, the Church, and their fellow-men by united efforts in scientific research, hard, patient, laborious and valuable to mankind" in a context which united a regular life of prayer with scientific pursuits.(12) In a petition addressed in 1922 to the Abbot of Downside Abbey in England, Fr. Thomas Verner Moore, the principal founder of St. Anselm's Abbey, urged the value of establishing a university associated Benedictine community in Washington which would work for two related goals:

1.The monastic life in the stability of a good observance of the rule of St. Benedict without the likelihood of being withdrawn therefrom to distracting occupations incompatible with a strict observance.

2. The opportunity of devoting one's life to scientific research and so to add a religious current to the stream of modern thought.(13)

Fr. Moore correctly believed that a life of monastic prayer when combined with scientific research in a mutually fruitful relation, would accelerate achievements in both realms to the good of all. Co-ordinated team effort produces results that, otherwise, would not be possible and which surpass possible individual accomplishment.

Scientific research is an indirect but most effective apostolate. Scientists take an important place among the leaders of modern thought, and the people are borne away by a current of doctrine which has its origin in non-religious or even anti-religious minds. To contribute to the tide of the world's scientific research a stream of waters that will have its origin in the springs of the monastic life is the object of the foundation that is here contemplated. We feel sure that the union of the monastic life and intellectual research is possible though we realize that it will mean curtailing the time that might be devoted to study and research, were we individuals living alone as professors at a University. Nevertheless the united efforts of the group would more than make up for this sacrifice of time to the service of God in singing the divine office.(14)

Later, in 1923, in a booklet explaining his purpose and the dimensions of his vision, Fr. Thomas Verner Moore further argued:

Intellectual life is no longer confined to the writing table and private library. It requires laboratories and libraries of vast extent, far beyond the limits of even the most excellent private collections. The necessities of modern research are at hand at the Catholic University of America with its laboratories and library, its proximity to the Congressional Library, the Library of the Surgeon General and the various departmental libraries of the United States Government.(15)

The reference to "laboratories" in the context of the preceding quotation suggests that scientific activity is to be mated with more traditional scholarly activities in a functional relationship that moves from one type of activity to the other as the need arises in order to resolve certain problems and questions. Scholarly activities solve problems which scientific procedures cannot meet or match and vice versa. On the one hand, scholarship tries to understand how other persons have understood the universe of being which includes both the human and non-human worlds and the historical trends to which they have belonged. Once "scholarship" has been accomplished, science takes over, seeking further understanding.(16) Since some problems afflicting modern living require an approach that is defined by scientific procedures (expanding and adding to the intelligibility produced by scholarly understanding), a need thus exists for a reintegration which requires a new form of cenobitic monasticism. It combines communal life and prayer with an interrelated combination of scholarship and science. The union effected should significantly contribute both to the quality of the Church's life and to the welfare of the human community in general.

This new form of corporate church life, expressed and embodied by the incorporation of St. Anselm's Abbey in 1924, adaptatively borrowed from the purpose and activities of a number of contemporary scientific institutes. The Rockefeller Institute of New York, founded in 1901, figured as the most prominent paradigm with a purpose dedicated to encouraging "scientific research in medicine and biology."(17) New discoveries within the various natural and human sciences were revealing intelligibilities, or new understandings, which lead to new cultural evaluations and assessments and thus new problems of interpretation. These give rise to "new moral laws and new social laws, new definitions of what is right and wrong in our social relations,"(18) which, in turn, promote critical analyses and judgments which better inform how men and women should live together in community, in a more fully human way. As the inspiration behind the founding of St. Anselm's Abbey and as a pioneer within the field of psychiatry, in his own day, Fr. Moore established and operated a mental clinic in Washington which addressed mental problems within childhood and the problem of juvenile delinquency. The founding of a Lonergan Institute, therefore, comes in the wake of Fr. Moore's original vision which lies at the basis of the abbey's foundation.

Through the agency of a Lonergan institute, more persons would be able to join in the teaching and further development of Lonergan's analyses as these apply to a wide range of fields and problems. Moore's reference to the existence of facilities peculiar to Washington underscores the truth of an ancient monastic principle. Monasteries exist in particular places. But, if a monastery is to be a truly effective organization and a viable co-operative effort, it must root itself in the circumstances of its locale. Recognize all the conditions which uniquely form the fabric of a given social milieu and human community; work with these conditions to develop them; and, finally, transform them in ways which raise the quality of human living.

Lonergan Institute for the "Good Under Construction"

The vast forces of human benevolence can no longer be left to tumble down the Niagara of fine sentiments and noble dreams. They have to be assigned a function and harnessed within the exchange system . . .

. . . Bernard Lonergan, For A New Political Economy(19)

Without knowledge one cannot have the virtues which make for right living . . .

. . . St. Augustine The Trinity XII, 4, 21

The Lonergan Institute for the "Good Under Construction," as its title indicates, will be concerned, in its overall mission, with developing the good or, more precisely, the human good which traditionally has been referred to as the "common good."(20) As a good defined by cooperative choices that persons make, this good is not something that is either static or simply given. It is something that emerges. It is defined dynamically. It is the correlative of living a good life. Operationally, heuristically, and initially, the good is what all things desire.(21) It is what all things seek, want, or love.(22) Hence, the human good is constitute by any values chosen by human beings. This notion of good is to be distinguished from a reductionist, aggregative notion of good which is a correlative of biological existence (a desire for mere life rather than a good life) and which is defined as a "mere collectivity of private goods."(23) Rather, the human good is the object of a universal, self-rational, and spiritual desire. This desire encompasses all desires for good as well as all conditions and activities that bring about good. As the desire, so the good is both comprehensive and concrete. Abstractions can be good, but the good is not abstract. The good is not an ideal even if good ideals exist. Desire for good transcends purely intellectual desires seeking knowledge of reality or being. Being and good are convertible since what is real, what is true, or, simply, what is ranks as good. Both are intrinsically rational. Both are intrinsically intelligible. Rational instances of common good emerge as the fruit of human co-operation. The cooperation changes a society to transform it. Something greater and more noble emerges: a state or commonwealth (res publica). A multitude or gathering of persons is no longer or merely a some kind of mob or gang. It is now bound together in a society defined "by a mutual recognition of rights and mutual cooperation for the common good."(24)Beyond particular goods specified by the need to meet vital, physiological desires, men and women rationally acknowledge the merit or value of other kinds of goods: goods specified as goods of order and those specified as goods of value. Goods of order denote patterns of co-operation amongst persons which supply particular goods or discrete instances of good. Goods of value ground choices about what good of order should be implemented for recurrently achieving desired specific goods (food, drink, clothes, home, intimacy, children, knowledge, virtue, or pleasure).(25) Shared value as joint commitment and bonding agent forms persons into a community, and ultimately explains why "human benevolence is normative for human relationships."(26) The good deeds which persons do for each other create conditions favoring expressions of gratitude. The appreciation which attends receiving unexpected, unmerited goods, in turn, grounds friendship. Rational thanksgiving acknowledges the power and purpose of self-sacrificing love.

The problems bedeviling contemporary understandings of the human good rank as follows. First, and most generally, achievements of human good do not occur automatically, nor through the imposition of orders and blueprints from remote sources. In both cases, exercises of personal responsibility by persons possessing knowledge at a local level are discouraged and even precluded. The human good, by contrast, emerges deliberately. It is the fruit of rational choice (producing "friendships of reason"(27) as opposed to relations grounded in satisfying individual pleasures). Hence, for any solution to be adequate with respect to any aspect of the human good, it requires a form and specification which restricts "the realm of chance or fate or destiny."(28) It works against the pressures of any determinisms since the human good is a deliberate and conscious achievement which only arises if, in human beings, "the realm of conscious grasp and deliberate choice" is carefully enlarged and cultivated. For instance, in economics (defined as a specification of the human good that is itself defined by a complex dynamic recurrent set of activities consisting of production, capital formation, and consumption), its proper object is to be identified as a rising standard of living. However, how does one responsibly and deliberately achieve a rising standard of living? How does one improve the material conditions of life without also restricting and perhaps forestalling the achievement of other goods? Or, to state the matter more positively, how can one raise the standard of living in a way which creates conditions facilitating the acquisition and enjoyment of other goods?

Exhortations to entrepreneurs . . . to pay a "just family wage" or guarantee "minimum standards of participation" without either defining such terms functionally, or explaining how these goals could be achieved without leading to bankruptcy, need a deeper context.(29)

Second, traditional understandings of the "common good," in different departments of human activity, are no longer adequate. These had fused demands for effective action with demands for moral action within a context defined by inherited routines (whether a stable form of government, a stable economics, or a stable technology): through "static schemes of recurrence."(30) Contexts for living are defined by a balance of forces perhaps best symbolized by a closed circle. Persons, bodies, groups resist change. Movement is inertial. Events are predictably certain. In Aristotle's understanding of a circular pattern of events forming a cycle, a temporal sequence of events ends in an event which sets conditions for the cycle to recur ad infinitum.(31) In a human world modeled on ideals which reflect invariant, recurrent natural cycles and which assume divine origins for how a society is organized, roles for persons to perform in a society have been defined by pre-established social structures governed by entrenched elites.(32) The more things change, the more things really remain the same. Nothing really changes. However, with the shift of focus which now adds the element of development attending to normative principles of development, a new question emerges. How does one cope with rapid changes in patterns of cooperative human activity, shifts within goods of order as new combinations of human relations emerge?(33) Dynamic schemes of recurrence replace static schemes of recurrence as imbalances disrupt inertia to reveal its obsolescence. Objects undergo change as subjects initiate change. Events now become predictably probable. Hence, how does one combine unity with freedom in a critical theory of progress?(34) How does rationality connect with liberty? Unity with plurality? Communal life with individual personal responsibility (as new orderings of human beings are formed in terms of interdependent relationships)? What is the liberty or ordered freedom that constitutes development, but which works against decline? For example, in economics, in a switch from a focus on the merits of economic stability,(35) what is the "common good" in a context defined by rapid economic change, by exponential economic growth? What is the inherent intelligibility, the functional relations, statistical probabilities, genetic, and dialectical principles of economic development as an ordered freedom that defines economic human liberty and which achieves sustained economic growth? What conditions must exist if other sets of conditions are to exist? The primary economic question has changed from what it once was. The introduction of statistics and history into economics this century has significantly increased demands on economists and has encouraged attempts to understand business cycles, recessions, and even the Great Depression. What are the different cycles within economic activity and how does one determine when a particular cycle is ending and when another is beginning?

Within economics, transitions in activity propel an economy through a sequence of different economic states because of accelerations that hasten the human production of a wide variety of new goods and services.(36) Much of the difficulty facing contemporary economics (if not also other disciplines), is a methodological failure to identify the norms or ideals discovered or sought by genetic method, as distinct from but related to dialectical methods which critique the sources which bring about the absence of these norms. Are recessions and depressions really necessary? Are the ups and downs of concrete economic history entirely and purely natural? Do they have to occur?

In the natural sciences, the data of study are generally identified as stable, or as approximately stationary (in physics and chemistry, if not in biology).

Throughout, nature is characterized by repetitiveness: Over and over again it achieves mere reproductions of what has been achieved already and any escape from such cyclic recurrence is per accidens and in minore parte or, in modern language, due to chance variation.(37)

But, in the human sciences, the character of the data differs significantly. Phenomena are rarely stationary. There is frequent change.(38) Evolutions and developments reveal trends and orientations in the meanings which people enjoy and the decisions which they make. In a diagnostic breakthrough within economics as a human science, how then, in theory, can one avoid the booms and slumps that so disrupt the material basis of human life that the result is unwarranted, unnecessary human suffering (encouraging fractures within political, cultural, personal, and religious orders)? In an analysis of economic activity that is fully grounded in a new notion of human culture, its basis is a verifiable anthropology that can talk about the accelerations which human decisions introduce into the orders which they establish to form a society. Accelerations occur both within and outside economics.

Third, good science prerequisitely precedes effective charity.(39) Human beings exist not as substances but as acting, active human subjects. They experience, think, judge, and decide what they will do. Acts determine contents. Contents only condition acts. They influence but do not determine. Human beings respond to what other persons experience, think, judge, and decide. "No man is an island, entire of itself."(40) No act stands alone as no human person stands alone. Moral human behavior properly results when persons choose to live in a manner where their doing conforms with their knowing. A complete understanding of human nature only emerges if what is essential, universal, and necessary in it is combined with what is accidental, particular, and contingent. Nature conjoins with historicity to reveal a normative historicity. Interior dynamic relations constitutive of human subjectivity thus explain why the proper material object of every human science is what men do in their different combined acts. Acts establish conditions for subsequent acts and emerge from a prior context of acts. In economic analysis, relations joining acts explain why economists should attend to the interrelated functioning of schemes that have been created by human agents and which account for the emergence of new economic relations and new economic realities.(41) The new focus of attention in this updated science of man grounds an analysis that makes the exact identification of economic terms and relations more probable. However, how does one engage in the kind of analysis that is needed? What precepts does one abide by?

Economics, again, serves as a text case. If the pitfalls of moral idealism are to be avoided in forming intelligible economic policies and making responsible economic decisions ("lovely proposals that don't work out and often do more harm than good"(42)), "a causally and chronologically inter-related view" emerges as the formal object of an adequate economics.(43) As Newton, according to the tale, forgot the distinction between planets swinging through the sky and apples falling in autumnal orchards, as he reached beyond Kepler's and Galilei's laws to the profounder unity of the theory of motion, so too must we forget distinctions between production, distribution, and consumption, and reach behind the psychology of property and the laws of exchange to form a more basic concept and develop a more general theory…At a later stage of the argument…it will be possible to give…more clear-cut definitions.(44)

A two-step procedure outlines the basic method. First, economic ends meeting material needs for a society must be clearly distinguished from other kinds and types of ends.(45) Different kinds of appetites ground the creation of different types of social systems (denoting other human orders or forms of human cooperation). For instance, desires for interpersonal union and communion lead to marriage, or some form of long term commitment that will ensure lifelong unions. Desires for knowledge create educational systems which preserve the memory of past cultural achievements and ensure the transmission of knowledge to succeeding generations of younger persons. Desires manifesting love of virtue ground the formation of other voluntary forms of human cooperation whose purpose is to cultivate the human characters of participants. However, in economics, specifically and as an example, how does one provide for daily meals? A recurrent appetite for food and drink, for "shelter, clothing, utilities, services, and amusement,"(46) founds an economic system which delivers these goods as they are recurrently needed. Because different appetites can war with each other, their differentiation and critical assessment becomes a more pressing and urgent task as the consequences of confusion grow in complexity and create problems. Their incidence and frequency reveal the inadequacies of toleration as a rational policy.

Second, grasp the correlations linking all the events constituting the rhythm of economic activity before proffering moral counsels about what anyone should do. Before giving any moral advice to economists, find out how the human economy works.(47)

Determine its general rhythm: elements and connections.

… while a person who doles out cups of soup may help hundreds
of the poor, the scholar who labors at his desk working out a new
economic theory may ultimately bring prosperity to millions.(48)


Engage in an analysis that proposes a radical objective. Move from description to explanation. Move from what everybody commonly regards as truly and rightly significant to a primitive, basic set of mutually dependent dynamic variables whose structured correlation functions as a basis from which to examine any kind of economic problem. A commonsense interpretation proposed for a moving object swung about a point using an attached cord speaks of a circular motion caused by a circular force.(49) Sense experience immediately perceives a circular motion and, so, suggests the action of some kind of circular force. However, analysis of discrepancies and ambiguities within the data of sense reveals not one force but three distinct forces: three linear forces which, together, account for one circular motion. A centrifugal force propels an object outwards; a centripetal force moves an object toward a center; and a gravitational force encourages bodies to move toward one another in mutual attraction. The identification of three distinct linear forces and their combined operation transcends the spontaneous anticipations of human imagination since the perceived action of one force conflicts with the perceived action of the other two. This development from within physics suggests what kind of shift is needed if, in economics, description is to yield to explanation.

In economics, one must move from institutions like domestic households and business firms to the different sets of functions which each performs, now at one time and now at another.(50) Instead of trying to understand exchanges of economic goods based on calculations of personal advantage, try to understand "how to correlate the buying and selling of any and all sellers and buyers as they are related to one another throughout the community."(51) As, again in physics, physicists construct differentials to govern the flow of water, analogously construct a differential calculus for economics.(52) Establish the invariant pattern of human economic operations which govern the innovative dynamics of human economic flow (human economic activity, as constituted by economic experience, economic understanding, economic judgment, and economic decision). The operations change. Their varying composition resembles the changing quantities represented by mathematical variables. But, their correlation is a general function that does not itself change. Identify this basic function as an anticipative heuristic and, from that point on, use what you know to solve for what you do not know. In a more precise fashion, move from the known to the unknown. "The natural way to proceed is from what is more known and clearer to us to what is by nature clearer and more known."(53) In the last analysis, competent moral action on matters touching economics requires competent economic analysis if specific economic precepts are to be determined for effective corrective action.(54) From an understanding of economic reality come apprehensions of economic possibility and what will probably occur once different proposed courses of action are implemented.(55)

In any field, to understand the Good that will lead to its realization, attend to the critical understanding which occurs in science and mathematics.(56) Learn. Adapt. Transfer. Employ. If, in physics, Newton's law of universal gravitation explains different sets of movements pertaining to the earth, sun, moon, and other planets, in the human sciences, no reason precludes why analogous laws cannot be discovered to correlate differing patterns of activity which, together, produce different human goods.(57) In economics, for example, laws which express the basic cycles which make recurrent ongoing goods for consumers, constitutive of their standard of living, are functionally and statistically related to laws which express surplus cycles which make recurrent goods for producers, constitutive of their capital investment. Two interacting cycles constitute the intelligibility or meaning of economic life.(58) Relations between consumers and producers are grossly affected and, at times, transformed by technological changes: changes in how things are produced. New means of production reconfigure relations between producers of consumer goods and the manufacturers and suppliers of capital goods. Capital goods producers market new technologies that accelerate the production of goods and services to previously unknown, unforseen levels. Wiser economic decisions follow if these shifts are first distinguished and then detected through a statistical analysis that identifies trends.

However, in the end, even if all these developments in the human sciences have occurred, one point merits mention. It is impossible for human beings to create any system or good of order which is so good that human beings need not themselves be good.(59) The smooth functioning of any good of order within society and culture ultimately requires more than competent analysis. At some point, other questions emerge to transcend the concerns and activity of a given order. These introduce dimensions of good which raise the life of a given species of activity to levels that it cannot attain by itself. Goods existing at one level exist for the sake of other, higher goods.(60) The emergence of these other goods becomes more likely.

As a term, "common good" was used by Bernard Lonergan when he developed it as a means of retrieving and applying traditional but updated understandings of the moral life to the praxis of human living. In his understanding of the human good, he developed a way of distinguishing and relating all the various goods that human beings variously seek. The range moves from the food that persons eat and produce in agricultural systems to the religious graces of God that are carried and bestowed through religious tradition and its institutions. Economic goods deriving from a well-ordered pattern of economic interchange provide a necessary material basis for cultures to flourish,(61) yet, they do not determine cultural beliefs and values.(62) Wherever decisions occur and values are brought to life defines what is meant by the human good. Yet, the human good, as it underlies transcendent principles, is something which is rooted firmly in the world as it is. Hence, to identify our institute as involved in constructing the human good according to the philosophical and theological developments of Bernard Lonergan means that we will be concerned with concrete life as it is lived in our families, neighborhoods, education system, political system, cultural activities, religious practices, and theological reflections, and the relations joining these various activities, or moments when we choose some set of values or goods. The somewhat general title denoting our institute implies engaging in a multidisciplinary and complementary labor which will be subdivided and organized according to the different kinds of activities that we do in our society and world.

In terms of specific goals, as a nonprofit organization and medium of communication, our institute will be defined by the following objectives and purposes:

(1) establishing and maintaining a school at St. Anselm's Abbey (a Benedictine foundation at the Catholic University of America) that will function as a training institute open to all interested members of the general public. It is dedicated to meeting the general goal of grasping the insights of Bernard J. F. Lonergan S.J. and translating them into intelligible terms and categories that can be applied to a wide range of human problems and difficulties. More specifically and accurately, this goal translates into activities that are distinguished and defined by two related objectives:

(a) introducing persons to the work of Bernard Lonergan in a manner which brings them into his thought and ideas and which works to appropriate and develop methods of analysis that, as co-ordinates, can be used to achieve classical, statistical, genetic, and dialectical insights with respect to all aspects of the human good (in society, in culture, in personal relations, and in religion);

(b) realizing Lonergan's project of developing a functionally specialized metaphysics that would act as a general transformation equation: mediating meaning to persons in a manner which integrates the two realms of meaning found in common sense and theory; all human activity constitutes the appropriate data of this metaphysical analysis. Using Lonergan's own words, the formal object is "the conception, affirmation, and implementation of the integral heuristic structure of proportionate being"(63)

(2) pursuing these goals through advocacy, research, training, study, lectures, publication, creation of educational materials, and special projects in order to address three distinct but related goals:

(a) foundational concerns bearing on the long term development of Catholic theology. As a training institute for theology, we will nurture the Church's theological apostolate by fostering the religious, personal, moral, and intellectual context in which a person develops theology. The work of the institute will not seek to duplicate the contributions of already existing academic departments of theology that exist at the Catholic universities and institutes of our local community. We will use the prescriptions of Lonergan's theology(64)

as a unifying context to advance both the theory and practice of Catholic theology in a manner that faithfully respects the tradition while genuinely responding to the call of aggiornamento issued by the Second Vatican Council (critical aggiornamento). We will offer seminars, discussion groups, and support for the spiritual, moral, and intellectual formation of theologians. In addition, we will provide both a location and financial support for theologians who wish to further the thought of Bernard Lonergan through research and scholarship (one of the possibilities includes funding for undergraduates who are majoring in theology and would like to spend a summer doing research with us).

(b) current cultural and social problems as they condition and characterize contemporary modern life in our world (and as they condition the life of Catholic theology). We will address current cultural and social issues by translating Lonergan's analyses into the needs of daily life. We will be hiring promising individuals for research that will combine thinking, reflection, and action. This research will address questions that pertain to the "human good" raised by ecumenical issues, the human and social sciences, physical science and technology, and health care. Using the results of these studies, we will offer free seminars, courses, and discussion groups to the general public which will help people to integrate work, family, political, and international activities with their faith.

(c) pedagogical problems bearing on the need to develop a coordinated educational curriculum that will extend from kindergarten through to college levels of education. As a resource center for education (and at the prompting of John and Pasqualina Young), we will address the foundations and nature of all stages of Catholic education. We will treat issues pertaining to a coordinated curriculum extending from kindergarten through to graduate school as well as interdisciplinary issues using Lonergan's understanding of human consciousness, of human development, and of human community. With the fruits of these studies, we will offer our resources to educators through seminars, courses, and personal collaboration.

(3) expanding and re-defining our educational program from time to time as deemed necessary in order to meet the continuing challenge of advancing the work of Bernard Lonergan's analysis.

Future of the Institute

Concern with "the good under construction" is simultaneously a concern with a stewardship of history that is initiated by addressing key dimensions of social, economic, political, cultural, and religious life in light of Lonergan's notions pertaining to community and history. Common sense,(65) theory,(66) and interiority(67) (as practiced and implemented and reconfigured) respectively mediate the many different meanings and values which, together, effect our development, decline, and redemption: hence, the necessity of carefully distinguishing between which acts belong to which patterns. By ongoing appraisals of how we understand and respond to the world around us, we set conditions for developments that can avoid decline and embrace redemption. Thus, in our labors, we hope to continue raising crucial funds to support sustained research that will develop insights from the wealth of our Catholic tradition and, through education, make them available for the needs of today. Special attention will be given to building financial support for lay theologians since their numbers continue to increase due to the call of Pope John Paul II and the Church.

With respect to the history of the meanings and values constituting the deposit and substance of our culture, education, and theology, the promotion of their stewardship is our goal. Albeit, we hope it is a stewardship that is attentive, intelligent, reasonable, responsible, and loving. No other kind possesses merit or standing.

The whole purpose of this institute is to improve the way that Catholics and Christians communicate their faith to all aspects of life (whether in politics, economics, education, or in the family) by improving the way that we live out the religious precepts of loving God and loving our Neighbor as Christ had done and commands us to do. The future of the institute will be based in this, whatever direction it goes. It is our intention to move slowly and with prudence when deciding at each step what should be done. It would not be wise to move too quickly since rash decisions could initiate a series of actions that would create an uncontrolled, potentially destructive movement. Thus we rely on God's goodness, fortified by your prayers.


Who is Bernard Lonergan?


I know more luminously than anything else that I have nothing I have not received . . .

… Bernard Lonergan, letter to Henry Keane, 22 January 1935


The knowledge of earthly and celestial things is highly prized by the human race. Its better specimens, to be sure, attach even greater value to knowledge of self; and the mind that knows its own weakness deserves more respect than the one that, with no thought at all for a little thing like that, sets out to explore, or even knows already, the course of the stars, while ignorant of the course it should follow itself to its own health and strength.

…St. Augustine The Trinity IV, 1

Bernard J. F. Lonergan was a Canadian Jesuit priest, born in 1904 in Buckingham, Quebec, who entered the Jesuit order in 1922 at the age of 17.(68) From 1940 to 1983, he taught theology in schools located in different parts of the world: in Montreal, Toronto, Rome, and in the United States (for instance, in 1971-2, Stillman Professor of Catholic Studies at Harvard, and, in 1975-83, Visiting Distinguished Professor at Boston College).(69) In 1941, he completed a doctoral dissertation on grace and freedom in Aquinas in order to solve a long disputed question: the relation connecting God's salvific initiatives with the causality of human freedom. How is God's transcendence to be understood in a manner which respects God's goodness and the precepts and responsibilities of human freedom?(70) Lonergan went on to write other treatises on Aquinas,(71) asking a basic question: how did Aquinas accomplish what he, in fact, achieved? He spent eleven years (1938-1949) "reaching up to the mind of Aquinas."(72)

One of his significant discoveries identified the key role of insight within theology.(73) By 1935, Lonergan had concluded that the current reigning interpretation of Aquinas dominant in Rome was "absolutely wrong." It is a "consistent misinterpretation" which is explained by Scotist and Suarezian interpretations of Aquinas which falsely suppose that intellectual knowledge or intellectual activity is fundamentally akin to "seeing." From a basic similarity in terms of acts, it follows that the contents are basically similar. They directly correspond to each other. Contents of acts of understanding radically resemble contents derived from sense perceptions. Images are ideas and ideas, images. Ideas depict, represent, and mirror images.(74) Picture-thinking. "Image theory of ideas." Thinking and understanding are not differentiated from acts of experiencing, sensing, and seeing; nor are they differentiated from acts of remembering and imagining which either recall past experiences or creatively make them up. The lack of distinction thus leads to interpretations of cognition that speak about intuition. "In whatever mode, or by whatsoever means, our knowledge may related to objects, it is at least quite clear, that the only manner in which it immediately relates to them, is by means of an intuition [Anschauung]."(75) What is meant by an object is that which is given to sense experience.(76) Sensible experience or sensitive operations (seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling) define what an object is. Memory and imagination, recollecting and fantasizing, like allies, extend, prolong, and refashion the initial experience apprehended in sense.

As a consequence, understanding, as an act (constituted by its own interrelation of elements specifying distinct events), is not directly or clearly adverted to since it is viewed as an unconscious, automatic process which produces universal concepts that are directly abstracted from concrete, individual sensible data. Each universal concept then articulates an essence, form, or intelligibility that is specified as an individual nature informing some thing or being. Natures articulated into linguistic form specified by concepts are related to each other by logical analysis. Concepts are compared to one another to be joined and distinguished as they resemble, imply, or contradict each other. Understanding comes from concepts and not concepts, from understanding.(77) By a kind of oversight, understanding as a grasp of connections or relations (the perennial object of understanding, basic to the very nature of insight or act of understanding) ceases to inform the meaning of an intelligibility defined in a concept. Relations are viewed as something extrinsic. They stand apart and are always to be disassociated from the nature of things. The essence, form, or intelligibility of a thing is defined apart from relations to other things. Intelligible connections are not constitutive. They do not inform or constitute meaning. They lack relevance because they are not obvious. They cannot be seen (since they can only be understood or grasped by minds that understand and do not see).On the contrary, however, understanding is unlike seeing. It transcends seeing. As an activity, it "supervenes."(78) It goes beyond acts and contents of sensing, remembering, or imagining to apprehend contents that are non-sensible and unimaginable. But, unfortunately, Scotist and Suarezian views of Aquinas work from a contrary perspective. An unexamined, unquestioned "naive realism" (to use Lonergan's terminology) informs the methodology of current neo-Thomist interpretations in a manner which undermines the probability of truly understanding the meanings which Aquinas has expressed through the medium of his text. Meaning does not correspond to sense data nor does it correspond to derivatives given in memory or imagination.(79) It cannot be made to correspond with them. Meaning does not exist as a set of images that dwell within an author's mind. The human mind is not a holding container (like a jug of milk or flask of brandy). The pervasiveness of this unquestioned naive realism among theologians vitiates all subsequent work in Catholic theology unless its influence is properly accounted for and excised.

Without further developments in the understanding of theologians, theological activity will degenerate into some form of description or a play with language which misemploys the inherited vocabulary of theological language. Meaning is soon divorced from its expression. Quoting Lonergan's own words:

… if method is essential for the development of understanding, it is no less true that method is mere superstition when the aim of understanding is excluded. Such exclusion is the historian's temptation to positivism. On the other hand, the temptation of the manual writer is to yield to the conceptualist illusion; to think that to interpret Aquinas he has merely to quote then argue; to forget that there does exist an initial and enormous problem of developing one's understanding; to overlook the fact that, if he is content with the understanding he has and the concepts it utters, then all he can do is express his own incomprehension in the words but without the meaning uttered by the understanding of Aquinas.(80)

The process of discovery in theology, as in any discipline, always leads to and requires insight which, reflexively, is to be understood as an act of understanding that grasps forms in images (Aristotle, De anima, III, 7, 431b 2). Understanding is essentially discursive and not intuitive. Its occurrence requires sustained individual effort. One does not blithely assume that one understands. Instead, and willingly, one wrestles with diverse questions; engages in diverse experiences that will supply new, relevant data; considers alternative views; and experiments with novel ways of framing questions.(81) In general, one's inquiry is wide ranging. It follows many, diverse paths until one finds the one that unites all variables into an intelligible whole. In the resulting understanding, all the variables make sense. Understanding emerges within persons and society as the only form of power which does not require any force or external coercion.

Lonergan furthered this discovery on the importance of insight and expressed it through his analysis of cognition in Insight. He acquired an interest in methodology which, for him, meant the way of discovery and invention which makes discovery and invention both more probable and more frequent. What kind of person, what kind of mind is needed for inquiring into a subject in order to reach a larger number of insights that are both critical and verifiable? As significant, for instance, as was the development of Newton's physics, was not the greater discovery a new way of doing physics and mathematics?(82) A combination of mathematical and empirical analysis . . . ? A new procedure transcends the haphazard limitations of a trial-and-error approach to effect an acceleration and to reveal a new continuum: the genesis, correction, and replacement of older theories by newer theories using an identical means. Theories come and go. But, the basis of advance is not a new theoretical discovery. It is the reliability of one's method or procedure. This is what extends the scope and depth of one's understanding to new knowledge and a new wisdom that makes finer distinctions. No limits obtain since the facilitating agent is an unrestricted desire grounding an unrestricted creativity. Desires for understanding initiate the questions that structure the tactics of all inquiry.

In any given discipline, we must begin by identifying the appropriate method of inquiry as a "normative set of operations that lead to cumulative and progressive results" and the result is the basis of all subsequent advance. When, in mathematics, François Viète (d. 1603) first postulated, "Let x equal the unknown," he uncovered a procedure which grounded subsequent exponential growth in mathematics.(83) So, too, in theology, no reason precludes the possibility of analogous developments.(84) In theology, as elsewhere, the same precepts apply. Proceed from yourself "because it is the self that experiences, that understands and judges and decides on being."(85) Appropriate self-concern leads to genuine self-transcendence.(86) Hence, discover who you are as an experiencing, thinking, judging, and acting subject. Shift from a concern with books and textual analysis and move into a process of self-mentoring (usually known as self-appropriation).(87) Learn that you have a mind and that it is fun to use it. Solve problems for yourself by exercising it in an ordered, patterned manner that is guided by its own norms. Verify ideas by adverting to your interior life, to your own conscious data, to the data of your own consciousness.(88) Discover the kind of person that you must become in order, adequately, to do good theology. To distinguish bad theology from good theology, discover the kind of method which properly constitutes method in theology and contrast it with any counterfeits. Instead of trying to understand spirit through analogies grounded in matter, begin with spirit.(89) Understand its structure and you will soon come to a better understanding of matter.(90) The whole precedes its parts. Some of Lonergan's fundamental analyses regard the role of religious, moral, and intellectual conversion and their subsequent development within theology. The basis of advance is a new human subject. "The end appears to each man in a form answering to his character."(91)

In developing his philosophy and theology, Lonergan also created a way of situating or mapping all human activities, from science and technology to family and religion which we will develop and apply in our institute work. His last years were devoted to a projected book on macro-economic theory. Back approximately in 1942, he had written an unpublished manuscript "For a New Political Economy" and, then in 1944, "An Essay on Circulation Analysis." In 1949 when he began to write Insight, he adopted, as his personal motto, a phrase coined by Pope Leo XIII (in his 1879 encyclical Aeterni Patris) that would express the character of his theological policy: vetera novis augere et perflcere. Add to and perfect the old by means of the new. Hence, preserve what is good in the vetera and embrace what is authentic and ground breaking in the novis.(92)

For these reasons, Lonergan's work as a philosopher and theologian falls within a Thomist tradition known as "transcendental Thomism" whose origins date from the early decades of the present century and the labors of Joseph Maréchal (1878-1944), a Belgian Jesuit who worked at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.

Fr. Lonergan is situated within the Thomistic tradition that is known as the Louvain tradition, which began at the University of Louvain's Higher Institute of Philosophy which was founded in 1889 at the request of Pope Leo XIII. The thrust of this school was ". . . to engage in vital dialogue with post-Kantian philosophical currents then active, and to confront the traditional philosophy with the findings of modern science." The members of this school saw their task as being the epistemological justification of metaphysics and the preservation of the faith in the face of the Kantian critique of knowledge which had left the human mind unable to claim any knowledge of "reality as such" in the realm of speculation.(93)

Inaugurating a new point of departure for the study of human cognition, Maréchal argued that "Kant's critical philosophy could be reconciled with Thomism if the intellect was conceived as a dynamic, rather than static, faculty."(94) The human mind possesses an internal drive or orientation that self-constitutes itself as a mind. It engages in a series of different acts that should be clearly distinguished from each other. Their combined effect produces knowledge of real objects. The mind does not work from innate ideas nor, strictly speaking, does it contemplate any external or internal objects. It does not passively receive impressions that are induced by extra-mental objects. It exercises its own power. It is active. It asks and answers questions in an activity that achieves its own objects: intellectual objects.(95) The rationality of its actions emerges as a term of its own understanding, its self-understanding. Rationality cannot arise in anything that is not itself mental; that is not itself mind; that is not actively understanding; that is not engaged in rational activity. The problem with Kant's theory of the human mind is too closed and too static.(96) Judgment does not play a distinct but complementary role as a species of understanding.

However, although Lonergan avers that "Louvain substantially agrees with me," he, elsewhere, avers that no single label adequately identifies the character of his work (from the viewpoint of inherited classificatory schemes).(97) Lonergan's originality as a thinker, by posing new kinds of questions which re-articulate and differentiate traditional distinctions, explains why it is so "difficult to situate his writing within familiar categories of intellectual endeavor."(98) Positively speaking, his philosophic perspective seeks to ground itself in the broadest horizon possible – in an infinite horizon. Negatively speaking, Lonergan cannot be described as either a phenomenologist or as an analytic philosopher since he is greater than any of these. Admittedly, his Jesuit training initially gave him an orientation that derives from Scholastic philosophy. However, this approach was soon joined with an understanding of modem mathematics and science that was mated with reinterpretations of Aristotle and Aquinas. A more precise and correct grasp of Lonergan's role and significance within the cultural ferment of our times will only arise through pursuing the inquires which he had initiated "as the contributions of a single man."

On the significance of his contribution within and outside Catholic circles, as a general comment, it should be noted that Lonergan's call for a "total rethinking of Christian doctrine" through tools of analysis, grounded in a third sphere of meaning that transcends the more familiar types of meaning that are experienced and known through common sense and theory, suggests the aptness of Karl Jaspers' prediction about a second paradigm shift within the history of human society and culture. Our present times are moving toward a new axial period which will be as profound and as far reaching as was the first.

For more than a hundred years it has been gradually realized that the history of scores of centuries is drawing to a close.(99)

During the first axial period, philosophy differentiated itself from myth. Logos emerged from the semantic womb of mythos to distinguish and, then, separate itself as a realm of meaning.(100) During the fifth century BC, roughly between 800 and 300 BC, a series of cultural changes drastically altered human self-conceptions in different, disparate parts of the world.(101) Without any apparent interaction, Confucius, Lao-Tao, the Upanishad authors, Bhudda, Zarathustra, the Old Testament prophets, Homer, and the Greek philosophers and tragedians initiated a spiritual revolution which, until recently, formed the outlook of the modern world. Its sufficiency was not widely questioned until, perhaps, the first third of the nineteenth century (and the coincident rise of popular journalism). The breakup of "the great, stable empires" that had flowered in ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Crete, and the valleys of the Indus and the Hoang Ho had created conditions which forced individuals to ask questions about alternative sources of meaning (the birth of a higher criticism).(102) What is really real and to whom or where should one turn? The collapse of political and religious meaning as this had been grounded in myths (formed by the fancies of human imagination and communicated through narrated stories), encouraged personal exercises of reasoning and urged the necessity of assuming personal responsibility for the meanings which one experiences and knows in life. Reality clashes with appearances. It possesses an intrinsically rational structure. It is not a correlate of affect and imagination. True human happiness is not simply a product of pragmatic success.(103)

A second axial period or new "leap in being"(104) is now suggesting itself as inherited modes and procedures experience a growing irrelevance. Their continued use, to meet certain classes and kinds of questions, increasingly betrays a chronic ineptitude or inappropriateness which, in turn, suggests the necessity of looking for new tools in an analysis which operates from a reflection on meaning. The object is "a radically different conception of the unity and organization of cultural pursuits."(105) A new conceptuality or begrifflichkeit is needed to replace the conceptuality undergirding classical culture in a shift effected by a "way of understanding ourselves which displaces reactionary practical realism."(106) Method becomes differentiated from theoretical or "systematic" closed structures. It emerges as a dynamic and non-static structure which is a heuristic and not a theory or hypothesis. This heuristic expands pre-existing wholes or frameworks to reach the largest of all possible wholes (or frameworks). A reflection on human acts of meaning grounds new controls for meaning which, as applied, renew human culture. Men and women enter a new cultural context, a new epoch.

Within the Catholic Church and Catholic culture, the significance of Bernard Lonergan's achievement is sometimes best adverted to by some of his Catholic critics. For instance, in his analysis of both the nature and the history of Catholic theology, Fr. John Aldan Nichols admits that Lonergan produced the "fullest account of method in theology since the work of Melchior Cano in the 1650s."(107) On the positive side, by his admirers, it has been noted that, prior to his death, at the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), Fr. Lonergan functioned as a theological adviser for many of the bishops. On the extent of Lonergan's contribution respecting the decisions and the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, Gerald Emmett Cardinal Carter (who attended the Council) testifies as follows:

I have always maintained that Bernard Lonergan was the hidden, valid source of much of the theology of the Second Vatican Council. I almost used the expression that he lurked in the Vatican Council giving advice to the periti who then paraded it in the council, generally through their Bishops. But one could never think of Bernie as lurking! That crazy laugh of his always gave me the impression that he was laughing at the world. And those who laugh at the world don't lurk. But what I would mean to say is that he never paraded his wisdom or for that matter his many contributions to other people.(108)


Later, in 1971, while Lonergan was residing in Toronto at Regis College (then located in Willowdale, Ontario), on the initiative of Frederick E. Crowe, a center dedicated to encouraging the study of Lonergan's work was established: the Lonergan Center of Regis College. In 1984-85, it became the Lonergan Research Institute. As an archive it houses all his papers, notes, and lecture materials and, since the early years, nine other Lonergan centers have appeared elsewhere in the world: in Montreal, Boston, Santa Clara, Naples, Rome, Manila, Dublin, Sydney, and Melbourne.(109) The Toronto center gratuitously publishes an annual Bulletin and a subscription publication appearing quarterly: the Lonergan Studies Newsletter. It updates readers on current events in Lonergan research (books, reviews, articles, lectures, dissertations, workshops, and symposia).(110) On computer Internet, the "Lonergan Web Site" designates a newly created Lonergan home page created in Ottawa which supplies information for anyone interested in learning about Lonergan's work and clicks to other Lonergan sites.(111) Other WWW Lonergan sites include the British Lonergan Association, the Lonergan University College (of Concordia University in Montreal), Terry Tekippe's Home Page, and Lonergan-L. New sites are appearing almost monthly. At the different Lonergan centers throughout the world, unedited unpublished English translations of Lonergan's Latin works are also available for purchase as they await publication.

In his lifetime, Lonergan received a total of nineteen honorary doctorates from both Catholic and non-Catholic universities in the United States and Canada (for instance, in 1975, a doctorate from McMaster University, of Baptist origins, located in Hamilton, Ontario).(112) In 1971, the Canadian government created him a Companion of the Order of Canada, the highest award that it can directly bestow on any of her citizens. In 1970, in Tampa, Florida, the "First International Lonergan Congress" convened for four days: 77 participants discussing 65 papers.(113) Since then, additional international congresses in conjunction with other conferences and meetings have convened in different places around the world: to name some locations, Halifax, Milwaukee, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Rome, Philadelphia, Edmonton, Dallas, Dublin, and in Mexico City. Shortly before Lonergan's death in 1984, a second "International Symposium on Lonergan's Thought" convened at Santa Clara University in California.(114) Previously, in 1974, a special convocation at the University of Chicago honored Lonergan in conjunction with fellow Jesuit Karl Rahner (1904-1984). In 1975, Lonergan was named a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy.(115) In 1984, the University of Toronto agreed to publish a definitive critical edition of Lonergan's works in a series of 22 volumes entitled The Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan.(116) Since the initial appearance of Lonergan's published works in English, a growing number of translations have made Lonergan available to readers outside the English-speaking world.(117) To date, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding has been translated into Italian and German, and contracts have been signed with the University of Toronto Press for French and Spanish translations. A Polish translation has been started for a separate edition. Method in Theology (first published in 1972) has appeared in French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Polish. A French translation of Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas (initially published as a series of articles in 1946-49) appeared in 1966 prior to its appearance in English in 1967.(118) In Milan, an Italian critical edition of Lonergan's Collected Works is being prepared in a project which, in 1993, produced a first volume: Comprehendere e Essere (Understanding and Being). Other works by Lonergan already translated into Italian include Grace and Freedom, Philosophy of God, and Theology, and Doctrinal Pluralism. Collections of articles by Lonergan have also been translated: two in French, two in Spanish, and one in German. Single articles by him have also been translated: five into Japanese, and one each into Chinese, Danish, Polish, and Flemish. Around the world, to date, almost 300 doctoral dissertations have been written on Lonergan's thought (about 200 while still living) and more than a third have come to print, in whole or part.(119) Three journals advance further studies in Lonergan: since 1983, Method: A Journal of Lonergan Studies (published biannually to further the "interpretive, historical, and critical study of the philosophical, theological, economic, and methodological writings of Bernard Lonergan"(120) while also seeking to promote "original research into the methodological foundations of the sciences and disciplines"); Lonergan Workshop Journal (also published by the Lonergan Institute at Boston College but as a collection of papers given at the annual Lonergan Workshop held at Boston College);(121) and Australian Lonergan Workshop (presenting papers given at Lonergan Workshops meeting in Australia).(122) In 1990, the University of Toronto Press established a companion series to Lonergan's Collected Works: publishing works about Lonergan by other authors. Four books have appeared thus far: Theology and the Dialectics of History by Robert M. Doran; Lonergan and Feminism edited by Cynthia S. W. Crysdale; Lonergan and Kant: Five Essays on Human Knowledge by Giovanni B. Sala; and The Divine Initiative: Grace, World-Order, and Human Freedom in the Early Writings of Bernard Lonergan by J. Michael Stebbins.

On the extent of Lonergan's renown outside specialist circles, in 1965 and 1970, Time magazine published two laudatory articles on Lonergan (in addition to an obituary in 1984). In "The Towering Thought of Bernard Lonergan" appearing in 1970, Time cited him as "considered by many intellectuals to be the finest philosophic thinker of the 20th century."(123) In the same year, Newsweek described Insight as "a philosophical classic comparable in scope to Hume's Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding."(124) As Newsweek added:

With that boldness characteristic of genius, Jesuit philosopher Bernard Lonergan has set out to do for the twentieth century what even Aquinas could not do for the thirteenth . . . It may take another generation for his thought to be fully felt within the church that nourished him, but Lonergan's reach is already far wider.(125)

Lonergan's work in economic theory presents one instance. In 1930, although graduating from the University of London with a BA in Greek, Latin, French, and mathematics,(126) he then wrote a thesis on economics. The great depression of the 1930's then encouraged him to engage in economic analysis in order to identify the different patterns and rhythms that constitute economic activity as a specific enterprise and operation. While his interest shifted after 1944 as he turned to other problems, he returned to economic theory after the publication of Method in Theology in 1972. At Boston College 1973-83, he developed and taught a course on "Macro-economics and the Dialectic of History" and guided a number of graduate seminars on macroeconomics while attempting to complete a book for publication. From extensive notes prepared prior to his death in 1984, an editorial team, working in Toronto, is presently attempting to transform Lonergan's unfinished manuscript into a book suitable for publication. The labor continues.

Schedule of Studies re: reading Insight: A Study of Human Understanding

Since the work is divided into chapters and sections which address issues and questions as they appropriately arise, the subdivision of sections within Insight will identify both the number and focus of distinct reading groups. Each would study and analyze a specific section for three to four months (or for approximately one semester). The program is designed to accommodate anyone who might wish to take a semester off, at some point, before returning to do more work on Insight. Where possible, for pedagogical reasons, we will encourage the formation of two kinds of groups when deciding on the tactics of study. Individuals coming from a scientific or technical background would form one group while individuals trained in the humanities would form another group. These choices should synchronize the activities of individual members in a way which would accelerate the process of learning and discovery as members of a group work together to appropriate the lessons of Bernard Lonergan's thought. It is hoped that a reading group would be able to complete a thorough study Lonergan's Insight after three years. By that point, a given group should be self-sufficient and able to initiate its own studies with only minimal assistance from Institute personnel.

Immediate Status of the Institute

As noted earlier, for the last five years, discussion and reading groups focusing upon Lonergan's book Insight have been held either at the Catholic University of America or at St. Anselm's Abbey. These groups continue to meet on a weekly basis although all meetings now occur at St. Anselm's Abbey. Notices about Institute meetings and seminars occasionally appear in the Catholic Standard (the archdiocesan newspaper) and flyers are regularly distributed among the schools of theology constituting the Washington Theological Consortium, not excluding Georgetown University and a number of local parishes. The St. Anselm's Abbey School Newsline (appearing monthly) now includes information about the activities of the Lonergan Institute for the "Good Under Construction" as does the Corbie Chronicle that is also published by the school. Mr. Nick Heidenberg of Real Presence Communications now functions as the Institute's press agent: he prepares press releases as needed for media distribution, promotes the publication of articles arising from the Institute's work, and arranges interviews for taping and broadcast on television and radio. The seminar begun by J. Michael Stebbins continues to meet monthly and perhaps become a weekly meeting as interest grows. The launching of this new seminar, in conjunction with two seminars devoted to study of the Trinity, evidences the inauguration of new courses that are designed for persons who want to train themselves in how to engage in explanatory theological reflection. Most recently, a philosophy of science discussion seminar that will develop a philosophy of science based on Lonergan's work was inaugurated in the fall of 1997. Led by Dr. John Young and Dr. Ron Vardiman, it is designed for scientists and non-scientists alike. Its organization meeting on September 9 attracted 10 new students. This new group meets weekly on Tuesday evenings at the abbey. In September 1998, an office and meeting room opened in a section of St. Anselm's Abbey renovated for Institute use, with the help of the monks and good friends, most especially: Abbot Aidan Shea OSB, Brent Labatut (project designer), J. Michael Ballowe (project builder), and Michael Kierzkowski (project architect).

With respect to the renovation of assigned space on the ground floor of the old monastery, beginning late in 1996, a series of steps were taken. Steel structural supports were installed to reinforce the interior ceiling and damaged timbers were removed from interior wall areas. The old partition separating the monastery's dark room was replaced. Wagner Roofing removed the old slate tile roof that had covered the area housing the rooms assigned for the Lonergan Institute and placed a composite tile roof which resembles slate while avoiding its high costs. Under J. Michael Ballowe of New Orleans (a skilled carpenter and builder), between February 20-27, 1997, two rooms were constructed and renovated to create space for an office and seminar room. Drywall was placed over plywood to create new walls and ceilings which, then, was trimmed with wood molding. Molding was also constructed to frame three adjoining windows. Recessed lighting was installed in conjunction with two ceiling fans. During the February 1997 construction, many persons generously offered their help and encouragement: most particularly, Fr. Abbot Aidan, Fr. Christopher, Fr. Dan, Fr. Abbot Alban, Fr. James, Fr. Hilary, Dr. Ron Vardiman, Tim Argauer, Paul Edgeworth, Joe Bishop, Dr. Paul Long, Fr. Joseph Norton, and Charles Little. Later, in June, through the generosity of Mr. Hans Broekman, second master of St. Anselm's Abbey School, Blaise Mistzal gave 30 hours of gratuitous labor. After some sanding and scraping, the old linoleum floor was removed in the conference room and all walls and ceilings received a prime coat of paint. With Brent Labatut's help, some furniture was selected for the Institute's rooms and four flower boxes with plants were added to decorate the exterior. In August, Mr. Scott Sullivan put in 18 hours of work to apply finishing touches to all surface areas. With the installation by John Nichols of two wooden columns to encase two steel upright beams in October 1997, almost everything was made ready for final painting and carpeting.

On a second work visit, between November 24-December 3, 1997 Michael Ballowe renovated a third room (presently functioning as a foyer and antechamber) and, outside, he reconstructed the approach to a door over which he built a wooden porch. Entry from the outside will now be safer for anyone on foot. During the November-December construction, the following persons freely gave their support and encouragement: Fr. Abbot Aidan, Fr. Abbot Alban, Fr. Christopher, Fr. Dan, Robert Gumm, Joseph Cilano, Joseph Careccio, and Charles Little. Scott Sullivan again completed the interior work. Artist Barbara Lorei sketched five drawings of an interior window that have been used to develop an icon to be used on our Internet website and on printed materials. With the help of a good friend, Mr. Joseph Careccio, our icon with name, place, telephone number, and Internet address was placed on a production run of three dozen T-shirts in order to raise funds and publicize the Institute's existence. These T-shirts are currently available for $10 US not including costs for shipping and handling. Through the generosity of Kathryn Barnard and Segundo Quinones, carpeting was installed over all floor areas in July 1998, thus completing the major work that preceded full occupancy. In September, a large conference table and accompanying chairs was brought down from the unused novitiate quarters in the attic. Pablo Cuzman helped move furniture. In November, a new large attorney's bookcase was purchased. From Kitty Smith has come new indoor and outdoor plants and some lamps, and, in December, from Ernest and Suzanne Castilla, office and computer equipment. Noah Waldman helped paint a fourth room and Eric Ortwerth, an adjacent bathroom. In April 1999, Robert Beaumier restored a transom that had existed above the door leading into the conference room.

A "gift nook" is currently being established as a means to raise extra funds. Gift items have come from Blanche Ballowe and Gregory Bingham (who has also donated a fine mantle clock for the Institute conference room). In February 1999, Mike Ballowe made a third visit and built a large wooden display case (assisted by Fr. Chris, Fr. Dan, and Mr. Charles Little).

With respect to the work of the Institute, David Fleischacker has begun to draft a workbook, or commentary, constructed to help readers of Insight better understand what is expected of them as willfully learning participants. A series of thought experiments will supplement those already given in Insight in order to foster changes in customary thinking processes that should lead to discoveries revealing more rigorous methods and patterns of procedure. Dr. John Young has drafted four papers to help Insight readers: "Physics as a Succession of Higher Viewpoints Illustrating Classical Method," designed as a supplement for chapter 2 of Insight; on statistical method, "Illustrating Statistical Method and Physics as a Succession of Higher Viewpoints;" "Potency and the Empirical Residue;" and "Are There Things Within Things?" Dr. Ron Vardiman has produced two papers: on "Scientific Method" and "Conceptualism." Mr. Michael Hernandez of St. Anselm's Abbey School has recently reviewed a short paper by Br. Dunstan "2 as an irrational number" that is being prepared as part of a series on the nature of inverse insight. A second paper on non-countable multitudes is now being contemplated. Paul and Martha Edgeworth, two of our Lonergan readers, have agreed to maintain our Lonergan Institute web site on Internet, under David Fleischacker's direction.

In terms of corporate organization, Phil Fiadino (formerly a member of the St. Anselm's School faculty) has tentatively expressed interest in functioning as the Institute's fund raiser and, to that end, with the help of friends with a knowledge about how to form a nonprofit corporation (most especially: Michael and Françoise Remington), we have worked to organize ourselves as a legally incorporated 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our corporate name has been registered and reserved and articles of incorporation have been filed and certified; bylaws were drafted and, on October 20, 1997, the IRS granted us tax exempt status under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code as an organization described in section 501 (c) (3). Since August 1997, an Institute Internet web site, initially hosted by the Thomist Press, has given users access to information about Lonergan's analyses. The current address is In Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Peter Monette and Paul Allen, creators of the Lonergan Web Site (, have linked their web site to ours. In Los Angelos, Mark Morelli has linked our home page and discussion forum to the Los Angelos Lonergan Center Web Site which carries information on the Lonergan Philosophical Society, the West Coast Methods Institute, and Method: Journal of Lonergan Studies. Entries in the form of small papers help readers deal with difficult aspects of Lonergan's book Insight while a discussion forum provides a venue for questions and ideas on the points of Lonergan's analysis. Since June 10, 1998, the Institute's web site has received about 1400 visits. A unique feature is the availability of audio lectures: Lonergan on Method in Theology, Fr. Joseph Flanagan on Insight, and Patrick Byrne on Insight. Many responses have been coming from persons living in Ireland and the United Kingdom. On December 13, 1997, the newly formed Board of Directors met for the first time. Its initial members consist of David Fleischacker, Br. Dunstan Robidoux, and Mark Rougeux. Bylaws were approved and officers, elected: David Fleischacker as President, Christine Fleischacker as Vice-President, and Br. Dunstan as both Secretary and Treasurer. In March 1998, Fr. Joseph Norton agreed to sit on the Board as a new 4th member.

In the end, however, despite these activities and the involvement of a growing number of persons, much depends on divine providence. Perhaps, in the long run, we will be able to offer courses leading to some type of accreditation or degree program. Perhaps, we will simply continue to offer, in an expanded form our presently functioning reading and discussion programs that will help individuals work through Insight (and some of Lonergan's other major writings) in conjunction with some type of moral and even spiritual formation. Decisions about what we are to do and become arise as developments take place on a day to day basis,

At the present time, some thought is also being given to how we can recruit persons who possess the talents and interests suited for addressing the many challenges raised by the questions pursued by the implementation of the Lonergan enterprise. A training program would not only include studies in philosophy and theology (which traditionally inform the core of Catholic higher education) but some training: in mathematics and in the human and natural sciences would also be necessary. if the meaning of Catholic life and faith profession is to express itself in ways that could enable it to play a constitutive role in the formation of contemporary modem culture. Physics, chemistry, biology, and. sensitive psychology figure most prominently as subjects which need to be adapted and used in intelligent presentations of Catholic thought and wisdom. If some persons manifest an interest in living a monastic life, they could be recommended as candidates to the abbey's Vocation Director (Fr. John Farrelly OSB). On the other hand, if other participants pursue or choose to pursue other ways of life, they could decide to engage in the work of the Institute on the basis of other kinds of affiliation. Fellowship as a Benedictine oblate presents one possible option which could be developed in ways that could benefit the intellectual, moral, and spiritual lives of members. The discussion and thought is ongoing, cumulative, and changing.

1. Collection, ed. Frederick E. Crowe and Robert M. Doran, Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, vol. 4 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988), p. 245, quoted in Michael McCarthy, "Towards a New Critical Center," Method: Journal of Lonergan Studies 15 (1997): 111; partially quoted in John D. Dadosky, "The Dialectic of Religious Identity: Lonergan and Balthazar," Theological Studies 60 (1999): 42.

2. Terry J. Tekippe, What Is Lonergan Up to in INSIGHT?: A Primer (Collegeville,

Minnesota, Liturgical Press, 1996), p. v; W. A. Stewart, Introduction to Lonergan's INSIGHT:

An Invitation to Philosophize (Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 1996), p. 1.

3. Paul M. Rodden, "How I Came To Know Lonergan,,,," Lonergan Research Institute

Bulletin 12 (November 1997): 3.

4. Interview with Fr. Joseph Flanagan, S.J., Boston College, June 1997, conducted by Peter Monette and Paul Allen for Lonergan Web Site (, p. 3

5. 'Hugo Anthony Meynell in his Introduction to the Philosophy of Bernard Lonergan (London and Basingstoke: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1976), p. 1, summarizes the subject matter of Insight as follows:

"Thoroughly understand what it is to understand, and not only will you understand the broad lines of all there is to be understood, but also you will possess a fixed base, an invariant pattern, opening upon all further developments of understanding.' Insight pursues this thesis through mathematics, empirical science, common sense, depth psychology, and social theory, into metaphysics, hermeneutics, ethics, and natural theology…study of the human understanding is the way to determine the fundamental nature of the world revealed to that understanding…

6. While David G. Creamer, in Guides for the Journey: John Macmurray, Bernard

Lonergan, James Fowler (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, 1996), p. 54, describes Insight as a philosophical classic that many speak about and some have read, fewer have successfully understood the book. Time magazine, in an article dated January 22, 1965, says that Lonergan's "dense, elliptical prose, studded with references to Thomas Aquinas and modern physics, makes its points in a methodical and mind-wearying manner. One typical passage hammers home a conclusion with 'In the thirty-first place . . .'" However, since the book's epilogue (p. 769) testifies to a paucity of "abundant quotations from St. Thomas," the difficulties presented to readers by the subject matter of Insight probably does not center on questions that focus on how one best comes to an adequate understanding of Thomas Aquinas. For most readers (if trained almost exclusively in the humanities or liberal arts), the mathematics and the extensive discussion of problems directly related to theoretical problems within physics present problems of comprehension that border on the insuperable. To illustrate this point and Lonergan's "blithe unconcern for the frailties of lesser intellects," Creamer cites an amusing little story which reminisces about the difficulties faced by many of Lonergan's students (in Rome) as they sought to understand what their teacher was trying to communicate to them:

Once, after failing to get a philosophical point across to his class, Lonergan brightened, said: "I think this will make it clear," [and] proceeded to cover the blackboard with differential equations.

7. Interview with Kenneth R. Melchin, Saint Paul University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 19, 1997, conducted by Paul Allen, Christine Jamieson, and Peter Monette for Lonergan Web Site (, p. 11.

8. Interview with Flanagan, p. 3. When reflecting on his many years of trying to introduce students to the knowing of self envisaged by Lonergan's Insight, Flanagan notes that, perhaps, the biggest problem is lack of familiarity with science, physics and mathematics most especially.

My experience is that most students when they have the chance, choose never to take a math course. They may choose to take a science course, but it is usually not going to be physics. It might be biology they will choose because it's not mathematical the way in which physics and chemistry are.

9. author of The Divine Initiative: Grace, World-Order, and Human Freedom in the Early

Writings of Bernard Lonergan (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995)

10. Certificate of Incorporation issued on April 18, 1997 by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, District of Columbia

11. [Thomas V. Moore], The Benedictine Foundation at the Catholic University of America in Washington (Privately printed, [1923]), 3-4; Michael Hall OSB, "St. Anselm's Abbey: a brief history," A Monk? ["a booklet… prepared for those who may be interested in learning something of the meaning of monastic life and in gaining an impression of how it is lived in one of the many hundred monasteries throughout the world: St. Anselm's Abbey Washington, D.C."] Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, n.d.; n.p.

12. [Moore], 7.

13. Thomas V. Moore, John E. Haldi, William J. Flynn to Cuthbert Butler, Washington D.C., [16 February 1922], Washington files, DAA, quoted in Benedict Neenan, O.S.B., "The Life of Thomas Verner Moore: Psychiatrist, Educator and Monk" (Ph.D. dissertation, Catholic University of America, 1996), p. 168.

14. Moore, quoted in Neenan.

15. [Moore], pp. 3-4.

16. We are equating "science" with what Lonergan calls systematics, even though one could define science in such a way that includes scholarly activities. If one equates science with field, subject, and functional specialization, then science includes scholarship. In general, "scholarship" is limited to what Lonergan means by the functional specialties of research, interpretation, and history. Therefore, in distinguishing science and scholarship, to be complete we would need to add further clarifications in order to include the functional specialities dialectic, foundations, doctrines, and communications, lest we fall into the limits of "correlational" types of disciplines which tend to give limited attention to many of the questions which critically ground the links between the present, the past, and the future, or, to use Lonergans terms, the "mediating" and "mediated" phases of functional specialization.

17. Benedict Neenan, O.S.B., "The Life of Thomas Verner Moore: Psychiatrist, Educator and Monk," (Ph. D. dissertation, Catholic University of America, 1996), 179. Quoting Moore's own words (The Benedictine Foundation at the Catholic University of America in Washington, 4):

The original group had in mind an institute that would do something similar to what is being done by the Rockefeller Institute of New York. The permanence of the institute would, however be guaranteed, not be monetary endowment, but by the stability of the monastic life.

Neenan describes the research institutions that were founded in the early decades of the 20th

Century in America in the following terms:

These institutes were flush with philanthropists' money, and confident in the potential of science to solve society's problems. The underlying assumption was that a cadre of scientists, supported by an endowment and working cooperatively on specific problems, could achieve far greater and swifter success than scattered individuals.

18. Frederick T. Gates [John D. Rockefeller's chief agent in founding the Rockefeller Institute], quoted by Neenan, p. 180, quoting Theresa R. Richardson, The Century of the Child: The Mental Hygiene Movement and Social Policy in the United States and Canada (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989), 34. Citing Richardson, in his dissertation, Neenan, on p. 180, notes that Gates had "once described the [Rockefeller] institute as a 'theological seminary,' not of the religion of the past, but of the religion of the future." Hence, if, according to Neenan, the "zeal with which the research movement approached its task of ridding the world of disease and social disorder resembled a religious movement," and, if the Rockefeller Institute and others like it can be described as scientific organizations motivated by a religious spirit, St. Anselm's Abbey can be described in similar terms. Primarily, it is a religious community, but its spirit is inspired by scientific interests and activity. The charism of its apostolate centers on working for explanations which can transform experiences of data into correlations of verifiable explanatory meaning.

19. Bernard Lonergan, For A New Political Economy, ed. Philip J. McShane (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), p. 36.

20. "Good Under Construction" is borrowed from Flannery O'Connor's article entitled "?????." An echo of it protrudes in Flannery's "A Memoir of Mary Ann," Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1969), p. 226: "…in us the good is something under construction."

21. Bernard Lonergan, Topics in Education: The Cincinnati Lectures of 1959 on the Philosophy of Education, eds. Robert M. Doran and Frederick E. Crowe (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993), pp. 27-33; Terry J. Tekippe, "The Crisis of the Human Good," Lonergan Workshop, vol. 7 (Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1988), p. 314.

22. Plato Symposium 201-4

23. Frederick G. Lawrence, "The Human Good and Christian Conversation,"

Communication and Lonergan: Common Ground and Forging the New Age, eds. Thomas J. Farrell & Paul A. Soukup (Kansas City, Missouri: Sheed & Ward, 1993), p. 254.

24. Cicero De re publica III, 31 cited by St. Augustine, The City of God II, 21. Another translation from the Latin speaks of an "assemblage associated by a common acknowledgment of law [i.e., an agreement about right or justice], and by a community of interests (H. Deane, The Political and Social Ideas of St. Augustine, p. 118). Cicero distinguishes, critically, between a society which is a commonwealth and societies which are not. In a commonwealth, the "weal or welfare of all persons" is the deciding factor and operative goal for all the decisions which are made. Just, equitable relations govern how human beings relate. Absence of justice changes a commonwealth into a society which is a gang. A society no longer properly exists. It does not truly or really exist.

25. Bernard Lonergan, "The Subject," A Second Collection, eds. William F. J. Ryan, S.J. and Bernard J. Tyrrell, S.J. (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1974), p. 81; Matthew L. Lamb, "The Social and Political Dimensions of Lonergan's Theology," The Desires of the Human Heart: An Introduction to the Theology of Bernard Lonergan, ed. Vernon Gregson (New York/Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1988), p. 257.

26. Michael Shute, "Economic Analysis Within Redemptive Praxis: An Achievement of Lonergan's Third Decade," paper presented at the 24th annual Lonergan Workshop, Boston College, Boston, Mass., 16 June 1997. p. 27.

27. Lonergan, quoted in Lawrence, "Human Good and Christian Conversation," p. 251.

28. Bernard Lonergan, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, eds. Frederick E. Crowe and Robert M. Doran (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), p. 253.

29. Patrick H. Byrne, "The Fabric of Lonergan's Thought," Lonergan Workshop, vol. 2 (Chico, California: Scholars Press, 198 1), p. 80. As is, either one pays a living or family wage and goes out of business or one starves one's workers in order to remain in business.

30. Interview with Melchin, p. 9.

31. Flanagan, pp. 100-1.

32. Kenneth R. Melchin, Living with Other People: An Introduction to Christian Ethics Based on Bernard Lonergan (Toronto: Novalis, 1998), pp. 10-11.

33. Byrne, p. 18, 78.

34. In For a New Political Economy, pp. 20-1, cited by Shute, p. 21, in its unpublished version (p. xx), Lonergan discusses this problem in the following terms:

Unity without freedom is easy; set up a dictator and give him a secret police. Freedom without unity is easy: let every weed glory in the sunshine of stupid adulation. But unity and freedom together, that is the problem. It demands discipline of mind and will; a keenness of apprehension that is not tied down to this or that provincial routine of familiar ideas or the jelly-fish amorphism of skepticism; a vitality of response to situations that can acknowledge when the old game is done for, that can sacrifice the prerequisites of past achievement, that can begin anew without bitterness, that can contribute without anticipating dividends to self-love and self-aggrandizement.

35. frequently cited as "economic equilibrium"

36. R. Bruce Douglas, "At the Heart of the Letter," Commonweal, June 21, 1985 quoted in Byrne, p. 18.

37. Bernard Lonergan, quoted in Lawrence, "Human Good and Christian Conversation," p. 251.

38. E. J. Hannan, "Stationary Times Series," The New Palgrave: Time Series and Statistics, eds. J. Eatwell and others (New York/London: Norton, 1990), p. 27 1, cited by Peter Burley, "Lonergan, Economics, and Moral Theology," Method: Journal of Lonergan Studies 15 (1997): 51.

39. Shute, p. 26.

40. John Donne, Devotions [1624] XVII, quoted in John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 13 ed. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1955), p. 218.

41. Shute, pp. 20-22.

42. Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, 2nd ed. (New York: Herder and Herder, 1973), p. 38.

43. Bernard Lonergan, "Analytic Conception of History," Method: A Journal of Lonergan Studies 11: I (Spring 1993): 8, cited by Shute, p. 22.

44. Bernard Lonergan, For a New Political Economy, pp. 11-2.

45. Lonergan, "The Subject," A Second Collection, eds. William F. J. Ryan and Bernard J. Tyrrell (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1974), p. 81; For a New Political Economy, pp. 11-2.

46. Lonergan, For a New Political Economy, p. 12.

47. Bernard Lonergan, Caring About Meaning: patterns in the life of Bernard Lonergan, eds. Pierrot Lambert, Charlotte Tansey, and Cathleen Going (Montreal: Thomas More Institute, 1982), p. 225. In "Lonergan and Balthasar: Methodological Considerations," Theological Studies 58: 1 (March 1997): 80, Robert Doran comments on why a positive connection joins theology and economics:

. . . God wants economic transactions to be just; but God has not revealed what constitutes a just economy. Theology must be concerned with such an issue, and it must show its concern not only by decrying injustice but also by proposing what justice would be and by doing so at times in the most technical terms. It is no accident that the theologian Lonergan returned late in life to his early interest in macroeconomics; his efforts here were in effect his attempt to spell out in extremely technical fashion in what consists, at least in part, the economic integrity that as a theologian he believed was God's will for human societies; and it seems to have been his intention that these technical categories might someday be employed not only in a scientific economic theory but also in a moral theology that would formulate ethical positions on economic process.

48. Frederick E. Crowe S.J., Appropriating the Lonergan Idea, ed. Michael Vertin, cited by Hugo Meynell, "Enlightenment: Old and New," Lonergan Workshop, vol. 13: The Structure and Rhythms of Love: In Honor of Frederick Crowe, SJ (Boston: Boston College, 1997), p. 127


49. Melchin, Living with Other People, p. 107.

50. Interview with Melchin, p. 4.

51. Flanagan, p. 215.

52. Bernard Lonergan, "Essay on Fundamental Sociology," p. 99 (transcript available at the Boston College Lonergan Institute and at the Lonergan Research Institute in Toronto) cited by Shute, p. 11.

53. Aristotle Physica, I, 1, 184a 17

54. Bernard Lonergan, "Healing and Creating in History," A Third Collection, ed. Frederick E. Crowe (New York/London: Paulist Press/Geoffrey Chapman, 1985), p. 108.

55. Bernard Lonergan, "An Interview with Fr. Bernard Lonergan, S.J.," A Second Collection, eds. William F. J. Ryan, S.J. and Bernard J. Tyrrell, S.J. (London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1974), p. 221.

56. Nathan Spielberg and Bryon D. Anderson, Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe (New

York: Stephen Kippur, 1987), p. 15.

57. Flanagan, p. 215.

58. Bernard Lonergan, " Questions with Regard to Method: History and Economics," Dialogues in Celebration, ed. Cathleen M. Going (Montreal: Thomas More Institute, 1980), pp. 295-6.

59. Lamb, p. 263.

60. Tekippe, "Human Good," Lonergan Workshop, vol. 7, p. 314.

61. Shute, p. 18.

62. Lonergan, For a New Political Economy, p. 12.

63. Bernard Lonergan, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, eds. Frederick E. Crowe and Robert M. Doran, 2nd ed. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), p. 416.

64. adumbrated in Lonergan's Method in Theology where he discusses eight functional specialties that, together, prescribe how a truly explanatory and scientific theology is to be constructed: through an interactive combination of research, interpretation, history, dialectics, foundations, doctrines, systematics/theory, and communications

65. defined as the self-correcting process of learning and doing

66. the Greek perfection or discovery of mind that began to move away from description to-ward explanation (which experienced both an ancient and a modern revolution

67. the appropriation or movement toward self-knowledge which focuses on the data of human consciousness and its operations, and which begins to arise as one attends to what exactly one does when one knows, acts, and loves. See "interiority" in Carla Mae Streeter's "Glossary of Lonerganian Terminology," pp. 322-3, Communication and Lonergan: Common Ground and Forging the New Age, eds. Thomas J. Farrell & Paul A. Soukup (Kansas City, Missouri: Sheed & Ward, 1993).

68. I went to the Jesuits — there was really nothing exciting about that. I went out to the Sault to make a retreat, an election, and I decided on the street-car on the way out. (It was a two-hour trip on the tram.)" cited from Caring About Meaning, p. 131.

69. David G. Creamer, Guides for the Journey: John Macmurray, Bernard Lonergan, James Fowler (Lanham, Maryland: University of America Press, 1996), p. 56.

70. Byrne, pp. 20- 1.

71. Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas 1946-49; Grace and Freedom: Operative Grace in the Thought of Thomas Aquinas [a major revision of his dissertation] 1971; and two studies of the Trinity and the Incarnation composed in Rome originally for students: De Deo Trino 1964 and De Verbo Incamato 1961.

72. Creamer, P. 58; Frederick E. Crowe S.J., Lonergan (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1992), pp. 39-57; "Editors' Preface," Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, eds. Frederick E. Crowe and Robert M. Doran (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), p. ix.

73. Creamer, p. 53; Richard M. Liddy, Transforming Light Intellectual Conversion in the

Early Lonergan (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1993), pp. 106-19.

74. The history of philosophy exhibits a long list of major thinkers who interpreted ideas in

terms of representative images. Understanding is understood on the basis of an analogy with sense perception. In a theory of imitation developed to explain possible connections obtaining between what sense perceives and minds grasp, Plato sometimes speaks of the sensible world as a kind of reflective mirror or pale reflection. It imperfectly copies, imitates, and images a world of prototypes or blueprints consisting of exemplary Ideas or Forms. Sense impressions rank as faint copies of ideas. This viewpoint, in turn, grounds a subsequent tradition in philosophy which does not break from inherited, conventional notions which understand idea as something which meshes with sensate experience of an external world. It is "a visual form, shape, or figure, or the look or appearance of something." No clear distinction distinguishes contents of experience from that of intelligence. In Plato, knowledge of forms or ideas is ultimately explained by pre-natal contemplative seeing. Knowers have previously beheld the visual form of eternally subsisting ideas. In the neo-Platonism of Plotinus, the visibility of ideas is again reiterated as a valid notion. Human consciousness grows only to the extent that it entirely devotes itself to the familiarity which comes from "intellectual intuition": the contemplation or seeing of ideas. Ideas are apprehended in a manner which does not fundamentally differ from how visual objects are apprehended. All are essentially seen. Thus, for Plotinus, Egyptian hieroglyphic symbols were to be interpreted as ideas which have communicated themselves through a perceptual presentation that belongs to their very nature. Ideas reveal, present themselves because of their essential visibility. The receptivity of human receivers is, in turn, explained by invoking an Aristotelian principle: the human soul is the body's form. A connatural relation, which is bodily, joins the visibility of ideas with the incarnate character of the human soul. The ultimate purpose of all this contemplation is union with the origins of reality through a kind of mystical vision. In his early writings, Descartes, the father of modem philosophy, speaks of ideas as images or representations. In the Meditations on First Philosophy, he proffers some definitions and affirmations:

Some [of my thoughts] are like images of things, and it is to these alone that the name "idea" properly belongs.


Ideas are, as it were, pictures of things.

Ideas are present in me like pictures or images…

In Rules for the Direction of the Understanding, objects external to the body form " shapes or ideas" in the brain like a seal acting on wax. In England, Thomas Hobbes takes a more radical step. "When I think of a man I represent to myself an idea or image composed of color and shape … of God we have no image or idea" (Third Set of Objections, Objection 5). An idea is a physical image. "Corporeal phantasy" within the brain receives such images. In John Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding, experiencing an idea is not clearly distinguished from experiencing a datum of sense. Ideas are essentially representative. For both Locke and, later, George Berkeley, they are immediately and directly perceived in perception although, oddly enough, they only exist in minds (theory of immediate perception). According to Locke, minds think about ideas but ideas are grasped by attentive looking. Experiencing and understanding, awareness and thinking, are not differentiated from each other with respect to their different tasks. Locke distinguishes three types of ideas. Purely subjective ideas, because lacking in objectivity, possess an inferior status. They are not fully objective. Objective ideas, on the other hand, adequately reflect: they copy those qualities which belong to the outer, objective, physical world. Logical ideas, logical rules (largely derived from the Law of Contradiction) also possess an inferior status in comparison with objective ideas since their cognitional source is "bare intuition." An implicit acknowledgment of "rich intuition" indicates that this superior form of intuition is the likely source of ideas which possess objective, real status. Berkeley defines material objects as "collections" of ideas. Ideas and material objects are not distinguished from each other. In David Hume's Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, impressions and ideas both rank as perceptions. Both are delivered by acts of perception constituting human experiencing. If impressions are " all our sensations, passions, and emotions," ideas rank as "less lively perceptions." They are "faint images" or faint copies of sensory impressions "in thinking and reasoning." Ideas do not originate from within human persons since they arise largely in function to the occurrence of external events. The data of sense constitutes the ideas which people have and, if one wants to determine the origins of an idea, the best approach is one which analyzes data into parts. The parts form the elements of an idea that one is investigating. An idea is a set of data. Condillac and his successors in the 18th Century pioneered this methodology, and it was subsequently taken up by Auguste Comte and the 19th Century Positivists, by Ernst Mach (1838-1916), and by the Vienna Circle in the 20th Century. Kant's notion of perceptual ideas correlates an idea with sense perceptions. If an idea cannot be correlated with a sense perception, it is deficient. Moral and religious ideas fall into this category as do the categories of understanding constituting the means by which we critically think in science and philosophy. In the 19th Century, T. H. Huxley defined abstract ideas as "compound photographs." Later, in the 20th, J. B. Watson's behavioristic psychology rejected a notion of idea advanced by psychologists led by Robert S. Woodworth: words, for them, are defined as " imageless thoughts." Watson's later theory denied that ideas exist as a distinct reality. They are not to be distinguished from either spoken or whispered words. Ideas are linguistic images. In 1949, Gilbert Ryle's Concept of Mind defined ideas as "dispositions" which guide human response in customary and predictable ways. They are manifested through speech or actions. Ideas lack innovative character. They do not explain how human beings are able to respond to situations for which their past experience has not prepared them. In Fichte, Schopenhauer, and Freud, ideas are no more than rationalizations which men concoct either to urge a particular course of action, or to justify what they have already done in the lives which they are living. Ideas do not lead to truth.

75. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, rev. ed., trans. J. M. D. Meiklejohn (New York: Willey Book Co., 1943), p. 21.

76. Bernard Lonergan, "Method: The Basic Problem," lecture delivered at Rockhurst College, Kansas City, Missouri, October 20, 1968.

77. Lonergan, Method, p. 336, n. 1.

78. Lonergan, Insight, p. 3, cited by Patrick H. Byrne, " Lonergan on Objective and Reflective Interpretation," paper presented at the annual meeting of the Lonergan Philosophical Society, held in Pittsburgh, PA, 28 March 1998, p. 6.

79. Byrne, "Interpretation," p. 6.

80. Bernard Lonergan, Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas, ed. David B. Burrell, C.S.C. (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1970), pp. 216-7.

81. Kenneth R. Melchin, "What is a Democracy Anyway? A Discussion between Lonergan and Rawls," paper presented at the 25th annual Lonergan Workshop, Boston College, Boston, Mass., 15 June 1998, p. 10.

82. Flanagan, pp. 35-6; Interview with Flanagan, p. 4.

83. Joseph Flanagan, Quest for Self-Knowledge., An Essay in Lonergan's Philosophy (To-ronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), pp. 35-39; Carl B. Boyer, A History of Mathematics, 2nd ed., edited by Uta C. Merzbach (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1989), p. 304; E. T. Bell, The Development of Mathematics (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1992), p. 120.

84. In Introducing Contemporary Theologies: The What and the Who of Theology Today (Newtown, NSW, Australia: E. J. Dwyer, 1993), p. 106, Neil Ormerod notes that, in 1941, Lonergan had prefaced his doctoral dissertation with a lament on the ill consequences which follow for " speculative theology" because theologians do not agree on what method is appropriate for theology. Disputed questions cannot be resolved.

85. lnterview with Melchin, p. 6.

86. Bernard Lonergan cited by Michael Vertin, "Remembering Bernard Lonergan," Lonergan Research Institute Bulletin 13 (November 1998): 4.

87. Interview with Melchin, p. 13.

88. Interview with Flanagan, p. 7.

89. defined as "the emergence of intelligibility," or "what happens when you get an insight." It is what helps one understand what the religious dimension of spirit is all about.

90. Interview with Melchin, p. 3.

91. Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea, III, 5, 1114a 30f.

92. Michael McCarthy, " Critical Christian Renewal," paper presented at the 25th annual

Lonergan Workshop, Boston College, Boston, Mass., 19 June 1998, p. 2.

93. R. Jeffrey Grace, "The Transcendental Method of Bernard Lonergan," Internet.

94. Harpercollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, 1995 ed., s.v. "Maréchal, Joseph"; New

Catholic Encyclopedia, Supplement 1967-1974, s.v. "Thomism, Transcendental," by W. J. Hill.

95. Neil Ormerod, Introducing Contemporary Theologies: The What and the Who of Theology Today (Newtown, New South Wales, Australia: E. J. Dwyer, 1993), pp. 93-4.

96. Ormerod, p. 94.

97. Bernard Lonergan, letter to Henry Keane, 22 January 1935, quoted in Crowe, p. 23;

"Fortunately, I don't think I come under any single label" cited in Caring About Meaning, p. 219.

98. "Introduction," The Lonergan Reader, eds. Mark D. Morelli and Elizabeth A. Morelli (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1997), p. 11; Flanagan, Quest for Self-Knowledge, p. 12.

99. Karl Jaspers, cited in "Another 'Axial' Period?" Lonergan Research Institute Bulletin 5 (November 1990): 1.

100. John O'Donnell, Hans Urs von Balthasar (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1992), p. 144.

101. Karl Jaspers, Ursprung und Ziel der Geschichte (Zurich, 1949), pp. 18 ff., cited in Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics: An Introduction (Chicago & London: University of

Chicago Press, 1983), p. 60.

102. Bernard Lonergan, The Way to Nicea: The Dialectical Development of Trinitarian Theology, trans. Conn O'Donovan (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), p. 109.

103. Michael Shute, The Origins of Lonergan's Notion of the Dialectic of History: A Study of Lonergan's Early Writings on History (Lanham: University Press of America, 1992), p. 87.

104. Eric Voegelin, Order and History, vol, 2: The World of the Polis quoted in Byrne, p. 8.

105. "Introduction," Lonergan Reader, p. 11.

106. "Introduction," Lonergan Reader, pp. 22-3.

107. Aidan Nichols, O.P., The Shape of Catholic Theology: An Introduction to Its Sources, Principles, and History (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1991), p. 343.

108. Creamer, p. 56.

109. Creamer, p. 57. Cebu City, in the Philippines, hosts a second Filipino Lonergan center known as the Lonergan Communications Center.

110. Lonergan Research Institute of Regis College in the University of Toronto, Internet, p. 3.

111. "Lonergan Hits WWW!" Lonergan Research Institute Bulletin no.11 Nov 1996: 3.

112. St. Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia awarded Lonergan's first honorary doctorate in 1964.

113. Creamer, p. 57.

114. The Desires of the Human Heart: An Introduction to the Theology of Bernard Lonergan ed. Vernon Gregson (New York/Mahwah: Paulist Press, 1988), p. xiv.

115. Creamer, p. 57, n. 31.

116. New Catholic Encyclopedia Supplement 1978-1988, s.v. "Lonergan, Bernard," by F. G. Lawrence, p. 264; and Harpercollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, 1995 ed., s..v. "Lonergan, Bernard J. F.," by Matthew L. Lamb.

117. Lonergan in Translation," Lonergan Research Institute Bulletin no.10 Nov 1995: 3.

118. "LRI Announces Lonergan Publications," Lonergan Research Institute Bulletin no. 11 Nov 1996: 1.

119. Lamb.

120. Method: Journal of Lonergan Studies 13 Fall 1993.

121. Lamb.

122. "Lonergan-related Publications," Lonergan Research Institute Bulletin no.10 Nov. 1995: 3.

123. Creamer, p. 54.

124. Creamer, p. 54, n. 16.

125. Dustjacket, Collection, eds. Frederick E. Crowe and Robert M. Doran (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988); Cover, Understanding and Being, eds. Elizabeth A. Morelli and Mark D. Morelli (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988).

126. Lonergan Reader, eds. Mark D. Morelli and Elizabeth A. Morelli, p. 5.

About Us

The Aims of the Institute Through education and research, we are implementing the thought of Bernard Lonergan and his concern for the "human good" (or as our sub-title reads, the "Good Under Construction"). The term "human good" was used by Lonergan as a means of retrieving and applying what traditionally was called the common good (Bernard Lonergan was a Jesuit theologian and philosopher who was born in 1904 in Quebec, Canada and died in 1984). In his understanding of the human good, he developed a way of distinguishing and relating all the various goods that human beings seek: from the food that they eat and produce in agricultural systems to the religious graces of God that are carried and bestowed through a religious tradition.

Theology, Culture, and Education Our educational and research projects will focus upon three areas. First, as a training institute for theology, we will nurture the Church's theological apostolate by fostering the religious, personal, moral, and intellectual context in which a person develops theology. We will use Lonergan's theology as a unifying context to advance both the theory and practice of Catholic theology in a manner that faithfully respects the tradition while genuinely responding to the call of aggiornamento issued by the Second Vatican Council. We will offer seminars, discussion groups, and support for the spiritual, moral, and intellectual formation of theologians. In addition, we will provide both a location and financial support for theologians who wish to further the thought of Bernard Lonergan through research and scholarship (one of the possibilities includes funding for undergraduates who are majoring in theology and would like to spend a summer doing research with us). Second, we will address current cultural and social issues by translating Lonergan's analyses into the needs of daily life. We help promising individuals for research that will combine thinking, reflection, and action. This research will address questions that pertain to the "human good" raised by ecumenical issues, the human and social sciences, physical science and technology, and health care. Using the results of these studies, we will offer seminars, courses, and discussion groups to the general public which will help people to integrate work, family, political, and international activities with their faith. Third, as a resource center for education, we will address the foundations and nature of all stages of Catholic education. We will treat issues of coordinated curriculum from kindergarten through graduate school as well as interdisciplinary issues using Lonergan's understanding of human consciousness, of human development, and of human community. With the fruits of these studies, we will offer our resources to educators through seminars, courses, and personal collaboration. 

The Future of the Institute Concern with the "good under construction" is simultaneously a concern with a stewardship of history. Since the future is conditioned by how we understand and respond to the world around us, we need ongoing appraisals that will treat development, decline, and redemption. Thus, we hope to continue raising crucial funds to support sustained research that will develop insights from the wealth of our Catholic tradition and, through education, make them available for the needs of today (special attention will be given to building financial support for lay theologians since their numbers continue to increase due to the call of Pope John Paul II and the Church for them). In the end, the whole purpose of this institute is to improve the way that Catholics and Christians integrate their faith to all aspects of life by improving the way that we live out the religious precepts of loving God and loving our neighbor as Christ has done and commands us to do.

The Immediate Status of the Institute Since 1993, discussion and reading groups focusing upon Lonergan's book INSIGHT: A STUDY OF HUMAN UNDERSTANDING have been held either at The Catholic University of America or at St. Anselm's Abbey. New seminars have been initiated. Two read and discussed Patristic, Medieval, and Modern writings on the Trinity. A third discussed a book on grace and human freedom by Dr. Michael Stebbins who led the seminar. In 1997, a discussion seminar was initiated developing a philosophy of science based upon Lonergan's work. This was led by Dr. John Young and Dr. Ronald Vardiman. These seminars take place in an office and seminar room dedicated to the Lonergan Institute at St. Anselm's Abbey and maintained with the help of the monks and good friends. If we are able to get funding and increase the number of members, perhaps this will expand. Much, in the end, depends on divine providence. We can always use your prayers. 

Who and Where We Are The Institute is headed by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB, Vice-Director, and David Fleischacker, Director. It is located in St. Anselm's Abbey at 4501 South Dakota Avenue in Washington, D.C.. The idea of the Institute developed, in part, from the reading and discussion groups that have been established since the fall of 1993. From reading Lonergan, a larger project has sprung, and we subsequently incorporated as a non-profit organization on April 18, 1997. Contact us immediately? If you wish to write to us, send your letter to the following address; THE LONERGAN INSTITUTE for the "Good Under Construction" 4501 S. Dakota Ave. NE Washington, D.C. 20017 tel. 202-269-6650 fax 202-269-2312 e-mail

40 Years After Humanae Vitae: Observations on the Female Procreative Schemes, The Organic Level


by Dr. David Fleischacker

As with men, the organic and psychic procreative life of women possesses an intelligibility that begins with the finality to conceive life.  And as in men, the lower levels are intrinsically oriented toward higher levels of intelligibility.  Another, way of saying this is that the lower levels of organic life possess intrinsic orientations toward higher levels of intellectual, rational, volitional life, and an obediential potency to a life of sanctified grace in faith, hope, and love. 

Hence, as with the general way of proceeding established earlier, starting with the lowest levels of the procreative order to the highest, we will begin examining the women’s body in its organic structure with one exception, the neurological schemes.  I will deal with the female neuro-schemes in a later blog, because the complexity requires separate treatment.


The female procreative order

The physiology of the women has a number of key elements that relate it to the conjugal union with a man, to the creation and formation of a new human being, and to nurturing the existence of the new life once born. For example,

  • The ovaries provide a place for the developmental growth and maturation of oocytes.
  • The uterus provides for the early formation of a child in the womb and the mother’s mammary glands for the early post-natal life of the child.
  • The woman's body is bio-physically and bio-chemically structured for receiving the spermatozoa of the man and then facilitates the movement of the spermatozoa toward the oocyte.

These features point to the key elements of the female procreative schemes.  Explanatorily, much more is involved.  As has been recognized in earlier blogs, procreativity is an intelligibility that really belongs to the entire unity of a man and a woman. Hence, it is something that is an intelligibility that involves the integration of many of the recurrent schemes of correlation and recurrent schemes of development in the body.  It is closely linked to the neural system, the endocrine system, the circulatory and respiratory systems, the muscular system, the skeletal system, and it is protected by the immune system.  It is not merely a part of the body, but rather it is an ordered intelligibility of the many parts of the human body.[1]

Prior to the woman's own birth, her body came to form all of the oocytes she will ever possess.  However, it will take until adolescence before her body forms to a degree to support the formation and the nurturing of a new life.  Once she reaches procreative maturity, her body has undergone a series of changes that have capacitated her to receive a man and his spermatozoa and to mature her own oocytes for 1) release, 2) fertilization, 3) implantation, 4) growth in the womb, and then 5) growth as an infant.  Many of the biochemical schemes involved in all of these stages are simply unknown.  However, many have been learned in the last few decades because of the high profitability and the demand for the “reproductive” and contraceptive industries.

As was mentioned in earlier blogs, the oocyte is structured to receive one and only one spermatozoa.  Here is a small refresher. The zona pelucida that surrounds the oocyte is species specific (meaning that spermatozoa from another species could not penetrate it).  Furthermore, once a spermatozoa has worked its way through the zona and becomes incorporated into the oocyte, the egg shifts its structure to hinder the entrance of other spermatozoa. Hence, the oocyte has a functional and schematic relationship to the spermatozoa. This scheme forms a new type of being, one that has an intrinsic developmental finality and this finality is oriented toward the mature human adult. On their own, the spermatozoa and the oocyte do not possess this developmental capacity.[2]


Now let us turn to the woman's body.  Oocytes are found within the ovaries.  Since the woman's body is the location where the first 9 months of life are formed, her body is on a kind of recharge cycle that is roughly one month in length (interestingly, I did read one study that argued that if a woman is in a largely natural light environment, her cycle will line up with the cycles of the moon).  This recharge cycle is needed because of how her body has to prepare itself for the possibility of nurturing a new life which requires a tremendous amount of energy to accomplish.  Without the recharge cycle, the woman’s body would be in a constant state of fertility, which would require for example a constant release of a sufficiently matured oocytes, a constant state in which the uterus is prepared for implantation, a constant state of readiness that would burn tremendous amounts of calories and other nutrients far beyond her normal human intake.  From a scientific viewpoint, here are some of the steps involved in the cycle.


Follicular Phase → Luteal Phase

Relationship to creation of new life

Let us begin our explorations of the monthly cycle of a woman with the follicular phase.  This phase derives its name from the follicles which reside within the woman's ovaries.  Each follicle contains an oocyte which is surrounded by a kind of protective sheath of cells (granulosa cells).  At the beginning of this phase, hormones trigger some of the follicles in the woman's ovaries to begin to mature, which means that the oocyte grows in size, adding components that would be needed for fertilization and by an embryonic human being.  When the maturation of the follicle begins to take place, the granulosa cells divide and increase in number, forming multiple layers around the oocyte, and between these layers an atrial pouch forms that fills with fluids, rich in hormones. This process leaves just one layer of granulosa cells around the oocyte. At the same time, these cells secrete a layer of thick gel around the oocyte called the zona pellucida. 14 days after the follicular phase begins, the most mature follicle will burst open, releasing the oocyte with its zona pellucida and the one layer of granulosa cells. This release marks the end of the follicular phase and the beginning of the luteal phase. The remaining part of the follicle then forms into a corpus luteum.  Blood vessels have permeated this corpus, and the cells begin to produce progesterone and some estrogen, which then travel into these blood vessels and subsequently into the body, triggering various responses.  One of the important responses in the woman’s body is the modification of the uterus, creating a special lining suitable for implantation and the growth of a young child.  If no fertilization results, then the entire scheme returns to the follicular phase to begin the cycle anew.  The entire meaning of these schemes is oriented toward the creation of new life.


Relationship to man

One can also focus on a variety of other changes that take place in the woman's body.  Some of these  relate the woman to a man.  The woman begins to secrete a mucous that is designed to facilitate the conjugal act.  The woman's olfactory senses come to respond to male pheromones in a new way.[3]  During the conjugal act, the triggering of similar schemes as found in the male body results in the expansion of blood vessels in a variety of places in her body. It also results in a contraction of muscles in her body that work to move the spermatozoa more completely into her body, and into the regions that have been prepared to direct and facilitate the movement of the spermatozoa toward the oocyte.


Luteal Phase → Pregnancy

 If conception of the zygotic person takes place and implantation occurs, the woman's body then begins another set of changes that prepare for her role in forming the young boy or girl in her womb, and subsequently in nursing and caring for him or her in the first years of life.[4]  The implantation itself triggers various changes, including the release of a hormone that keeps the uteral lining from disintegrating and shedding. Even her brain will undergo significant changes to facilitate both bonding as well as increased abilities to attend to the needs of the child within the environment (thus, this facilitates increases in some of the cognitive abilities of the woman as well—more on that in a later blog).


Pregnancy → Birth

 Once the child is born, the preparation taking place in the woman's mammary glands during pregnancy then gives way to small quantities of breast milk called colostrum, specifically designed for the needs of the newborn. Then, the nutrients shift to “milk” for the duration of nursing.  Interestingly, during nursing, the nerves triggered release two hormones from the pituitary gland in the brain: prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin then triggers the mammary glands to pull proteins and sugars from the blood stream to produce the milk.  Oxytocin results in triggering cells in the breast to contract and push the milk out.  Oxytocin also causes cells in the uterus to contract, thus shrinking it.[5] Nursing also inhibits a hormone needed for the maturation and release of new oocytes, hence the reason that many, though not all, women who are nursing will not become pregnant until nursing ceases.


Far more can be said about many of these interlocking procreative schemes, however, the few mentioned here should be sufficient to give the reader an appreciation of the close integration of many events that take place in the women’s body and which form the procreative organic schemes. 


[1]This language follows the neuro-scientist Shewmon who has argued for a variety of “wholistic” properties that belong to the body as a whole, and really require the integration of a variety of different parts of the body. Hence, for example, healing of the body requires the operative integration of many systems, and is really not a property of just one part of the body.  Likewise, the procreative life of the body is not merely the result of the uterus or the vagina or the ovaries. It really is an feature of an integration of many schemes.

[2] As a note, this key fact is one of the grounds for claiming that the human person begins at this point, though because of the intrinsic independence of the human capacity for self-transcendence from the empirical residue, this is not as easy as one might suppose.  I presented this in an earlier set of blogs (“When does the human person begin to exist?”)

[3] As a note, recent studies in the last few years indicate that women will be more attracted to men with a greater complementarity in their immune systems.  This complementarity however is not found if the woman is taking the contraceptive pill.  For one summary of this, see this BBC article:

[4] The argument that the zygote is a human person was made in another set of blogs entitled “When does the human person begin to exist?”  In this blog, I started with St. Thomas' definition of a person.

[5] You can find a summary of these points at Another interesting study linked oxytocin to bonding. Here is a summary of it.

Aquinas’s Distinction between Natural Being and Intentional Being

by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

In Aristotle, De Anima, 3, 4, 430a 3-4, one finds a discussion which argues that in human cognition, if material coordinates or material properties are somehow omitted or abstracted out (perhaps one can say “bracketed”), an identity exists between an act of understanding and what is understood.  The act of understanding possesses a spiritual or immaterial nature as does also what is understood as this refers to a spiritual or immaterial intellectual nature.  According to an editorial translation of Aristotle’s text (as this is given in Lonergan’s Verbum, p. 84, n. 118), it is said that “in the immaterial order, the understander and the understood are identical.”  Another translation reads: “…in things separated from the material, intellect and what is understood by it are identical.”  Cf. Aquinas, Commentary on Aristotle’s De Anima, trans. Kenelm Foster and Silvester Humphries, p. 216.  In the Latin of a translation which Lonergan gives both in “Christ as Subject: A Reply,” Collection, p. 179, n. 50 and in Verbum, p. 84: in his quae sunt sine materia idem est intelligens et intellectum.  Turning to Aquinas’s commentary, however, one finds an elaboration and specification of meaning which goes beyond what Aristotle had said when, in a more simple way, he had spoken about the presence of an identification.  Citing Aquinas’s Latin: species igitur rei intellectae in actu, est species ipsius intellectus; et sic per eam seipsum intelligere potest.  Cf. Sentencia Libri De anima, 3, 9, 724.  In a more accurate English translation than would otherwise the case if species were to be translated as “concept,” because of a real distinction which exists between an intellectual form or nature and a concept as an inner word (species and concept do not refer to the same reality), one best avers that, according to Aquinas: “the species or form of something which has been understood [referring to the intelligible nature of a given thing] is also a species or form [an intelligible nature] which exists within one’s understanding.”  An identity exists between what is being understood and one’s act of understanding (provided, as Aquinas notes, that what is being understood through one’s act of understanding is what is being truly or actually understood in one’s act of understanding). One’s act of understanding should not be understanding something else (something which is other than what one’s act of understanding should be understanding).   The introduction of a qualification in Aquinas points to a difference which opens up a discussion on what distinguishes Aristotle’s understanding of cognition from that which one finds in Aquinas and Lonergan.

In terms of the difference between Aristotle’s understanding of human cognition and what Aquinas and Lonergan understood about understanding, it is to be noted as a point of departure that, in Aristotle, a human knowledge of reality occurs through a kind of participation which gradually reaches down into the depths of a person’s soul.  If, on the other hand, knowing were to be understood as something that is akin to some kind of confrontation which occurs between an act of sense and what sense experiences in terms of some kind of datum (a datum of sense), in this kind of knowing, all knowing would occur through an externalized sensible form of extroversion.  Reality would exist as some kind of external world which one sees or contemplates.  Now, if one shifts into an Aristotelian interpretation about what happens when acts of sense are operative in a human person as a subject, one begins to get into an understanding of human cognition which begins to think in terms of identity.  On the level of sense, knowing occurs through an interchange which occurs between acts of sense and the various possible data of sense.  Aristotle would more familiarly speak about agent objects who act from without to move or elicit an act of sense in a human subject.  In any given act of sense, what is sensed exists as the term or the content of an act of sense.  In the familiar Latin phrasing which summarizes this position: sensible in actu est sensus in actu (“the sensible in act is the sense in act”).  Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 14, a. 2, cited by Lonergan, Verbum, p. 84, n. 115.  By identity at a sensible external level, a human subject begins to participate in something which is other than himself.  To a sensible degree, this other becomes part of a person’s subjective being, part of a person’s subjective life (through a form of consciousness which is characterized by acts of sense).

However, later, through an act of abstractive understanding (or “simple apprehension” as many Thomists would say), in abstracting a form from matter, at an intellectual level, a second kind of identity is experienced and known.  The inner sense or meaning which belongs to something that is other than a knower begins to live within the inner life or the inner consciousness of a knower.  The intelligible in act is the intellect in act.  Intelligibile in actu est intellectus in actu.  Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 14, a. 2, cited by Lonergan, Verbum, pp. 83-84, n. 114.  At a deeper level within the human soul, at an intellectual level, a person is joined with something that is other than himself.  A sensible material identity is succeeded by an intellectual immaterial identity.

However, as questions arise which now ask if a knower knows that he or she is cognitionally joined to something which is other than him or herself and which is truly known (something which exists independently of whether or not it is being known by him or her as a knower), a species of reflection is initiated which begins to reveal that the principle of identity cannot be employed as a sufficiently satisfactory explanation for the kind of knowing which occurs in human cognition.  By itself, the principle of identity cannot explain why, in human knowing, a form of self-transcendence exists (a form of self-transcendence which unites human knowers as subjects to objects which are other than subjects but which, through knowing, are participated in by human subjects).  Admittedly, as questions arise about truth and as individuals engage in acts of inquiry which can lead to acts of judgment about the truth of a given idea or theory, through a truth that is rationally affirmed, a person is joined to a world of real things which is ontologically other than one’s being (either as simply a being or as a being who also exists as a subject).  In the reflective understanding of judgment, a second form of immaterial identity makes its presence felt.  Through the mediation of a truth, something of reality enters into a person’s soul.  In a judgment, a person knows that he or she is joined to something which exists in its own right (it is real) and that such a thing does not exist as a function of its being known by one’s activity as a knower.  The reality of something, however, which exists independently of whether or not it is being known by a knower is not to be exactly equated with the reality which comes to exist within the knowledge of a given knower.  A cognitive identity exists between a knower and what is known but this cognitive identity is not to be equated with a perfect form of identity which would exist if adverts to the meaning of an ontological or metaphysical identity.

 The distinction which exists here is a real distinction that Aquinas adverts to when, in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 56, a. 2, ad 3, he distinguishes between the natural being of a thing and the intended being of a thing as this exists within the cognition of a knower: esse naturale versus esse intentionale. The intended being of any given thing, by its being intended, points to the intentionality or the spirit of inquiry which exists within human cognition.  A cognitive desire works through an ordered set of different cognitional acts to move a potential human knowers toward a knowledge of real objects (or real things) which are other than a given knower.  Knowing occurs through an immaterial form of appropriation which creates an identity between a knower and what is known.  However, at a more fundamental level, one cannot provide an adequate account of human knowing if one cannot speak about the role of intentionality within the performance of human cognition.  Through various forms of reflection that are intended by the questions that one asks, certain distinctions can be made which, otherwise, would not be made.  Cf. Verbum, p. 84, n. 116.  In the distinction which Aquinas draws, one finds a point of departure for the intentionality analysis which Lonergan undertakes in his Verbum: Word and Idea in Aquinas although this analysis is most fully done in his Insight: A Study of Human Understanding where one finds that a clear distinction is drawn between a notion of being and a concept of being.  Lonergan’s notion of being, as a cognitive intention, is directed toward knowledge of reality and this notion is to be identified with Aquinas’s esse intentionale.  

Matter as a Cause of Knowing in Aquinas and Lonergan

by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

In conformity with Aristotle’s understanding of human cognition, Aquinas argues, with respect to human cognition, that “it is as ridiculous to say, the soul alone understands, as to say, alone it builds or weaves.”  Cf. Aquinas, De Veritate, q. 19, a. 1.  Knowing exists as a co-operative effort which involves both a formal principle and a material principle since human knowing occurs in a being that is formed by two principles.  Soul (anima) is united to body in a way which takes a body and then converts it into a certain kind of body which lives as a result of the soul’s causality.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 75, a. 1.  The body is needed by the soul if the soul’s intellectual operations are to occur (if they are to be in act).  Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 129, 7; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 4.  In other words, through acts of sense, human beings have something to begin to think about, ponder, and understand; and also, through sense, human beings have something to go back to when they need to ask about the validity or the probable truth of an idea that has been grasped and understood in an initial act of understanding.  Cf. De Veritate, q. 12, a. 12, ad 6; q. 12, a. 3; q. 10, a. 9; Quaestio disputa De anima, a. 13, para. 7.  All human understanding and knowing begins with sensing and with what is known through acts of sense.  Cf. De Potentia, q. 3, a. 5, ad 1; Sententia super Physicam, 1, 1, 8; Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 12, a. 12.  In the kind of language which Aquinas uses: sense knowledge functions as the matter of the cause.   Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 6, as cited roughly by Bernard Lonergan, Triune God: Systematics, pp. 577-579.  For these reasons then, it can be argued that what is known initially as matter through acts of sense functions serves as a first or initial cause of knowing.  As a point of departure, it can be viewed as both a remote cause and an extrinsic cause of human cognition (among other remote and extrinsic causes which can also be identified if one engages in cognitive self-reflection)

However, as one turns to thinking about material causality as one moves more closely to experiences of acts of understanding, one encounters an analysis in Aquinas which Lonergan takes up and formulates in his own way.  See, for instance, Lonergan, Caring About Meaning, pp. 1-2.  As Aquinas had argued: when a sense is acted upon by an external object, a phantasm or sense image is produced and this phantasm or immaterial sensible image exists in a bodily organ as an immaterial sensible trace, impression, or likeness that cannot exist without the receptivity of an incarnate, embodied sensing organ.  Cf. Quaestio disputata De anima, a. 1, para. 11; Sentencia Libri De anima, 2, 24, 551.  About phantasms, when Aristotle talks about the meaning of phantasia [N"<J"FÆ"], fantasy, or imagination in the De Anima, 3, 3, he notes that it is a word which derives from phaos, the Greek word for light since, of our five senses, sight is the “most highly developed.”  Hence, when we think about our five external senses (our seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling) we tend to think that seeing is paradigmatic and, so, we tend to take the words which aptly refer to seeing and apply them to our other senses.  In this context, “phantasm” immediately suggests an image that is derived from something that is seen although, subsequently, this term has been used to refer to any impression that has been created by the receptive activity of all our other senses.  However, as Aquinas argues in the Summa Contra Gentiles, 4, 11, 4 and in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 78, a. 4, this sensible impression does not remain in the senses (the organs of sense).  Through the impact that it makes, it touches the human imagination and, as a consequence, it passes from the imagination into the recollection of things past which is human memory.

In his analysis, Aquinas distinguishes between phantasms which are produced by sense as a receptor and phantasms which are not produced by sense but by activities which transcend sense and which are not essentially passive but active.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 6, ad 2.  In a context that is formed by acts of inquiry and reasoning, the received matter of sense is taken and played with; its is reshaped and reconfigured in a manner which tries to encourage the reception of a possible act of understanding.  In his literal expression, in the Sententia super Metaphysicam, 7, 17, 1668, Aquinas speaks about “cause of the matter” which, in Lonergan’s interpretation, can be interpreted as a cause which disposes a phantasm or image to be ordered or to have a form or structure which than acts, as a material cause, to help trigger an act of understanding within the human intellect.  Cf. Lonergan, Triune God: Systematics, pp. 593-595.  See also Lonergan, Topics in Education, p. 171.  In other words, within a given thing which exists as a composite of matter and form, the intelligible ordering of things which exists within a given thing in terms of its form accounts for how conjoined matter is itself ordered or configured.  By imaginatively attending to possible configurations of matter in a manner which works initially from one’s acts of sense, conditions are created whereby possibly apt images can be discovered.

As Aquinas and Lonergan speak about what is happening, images function as necessary points of departure.  An object is imagined before it is understood.  Images are sought: apt images since apt images (as constructed by our acts of imagining) readily suggest a relation of parts or elements which cannot be sensed but which can be apprehended by an act of understanding.  An act of understanding emerges once one has constructed an image which moves one’s understanding to apprehend a meaning which goes beyond a particular image but which is somehow reflected by an image.  Images function here as representative carriers of meaning.  Cf. De Veritate, q. 2, a. 5, ad 5, ad 7.  Cognitionally speaking, they differ from any datum of sense (as matter) and, as a rarefied abstracted form of matter, they also differ from any form or nature that is understood through an image.  Within cognition, images communicate more than what is simply given in the likeness of an image.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 2a2ae, q. 180, a. 5, ad 2.

For a bit of corroboration and by way of examples, this symbolism of images which exists as a datum of human consciousness can be verified in aesthetic experience and in common religious practice where believers are encouraged to venerate images which function as icons to reveal an unseen, higher world of meaning.  In Aquinas’s words: motus autem qui est in imaginem, prout est imago, non consisti in ipsa, sed tendit in id cujus est imago (“movement to an image does not stop at the image, but goes on to the thing it represents”).  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 2a2ae, q. 81, a. 3, ad 3.  In other words, an imagined object reveals an object which cannot be entirely imagined but which is grasped because it is understood as imagination works to present an object that is understood within a proffered image or phantasm.  Cf. Aquinas, Quaestio disputata De anima, a. 15; Lonergan, Understanding and Being, p. 165.   An act of understanding grasps a meaning or an intelligibility that exists immanently within an image.  As through the medium of light, the sense of seeing beholds objects that are now seen, in the same way, through a form of intellectual light manifest in an act of understanding, a phantasm is informed by a meaning as, at the same time, this same phantasm triggers an intellectual act which grasps a meaning in the phantasm which has been imaginatively presented to it.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 15, a. 2; Lonergan, Verbum, p. 91; Triune God: Systematics, p. 579; Incarnate Word, p. 171.  The phantasm, as an agent object, moves the human intellect.  Cf. Lonergan, Verbum, p. 150.

However, about speaking about the role of material causality in human cognition, Aquinas and Lonergan both argue that acts of understanding cannot be adequately explained if one only attends to experiences of matter as these can be given through the action of material causes.  As Aquinas notes in the Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 26, a. 2, every act of understanding is an operation, and because it is an operation, it cannot be caused by something which is not itself an operation.  What a given thing is in terms of its nature conditions its operations since the reception of a form within a given thing specifies what kind of operation can properly occur in a given subject.  Cf. In 4 Scriptum super libros Sententiarum, d. 49, q. 3, a. 2 sol, cited by Lonergan, Triune God: Systematics, p. 551.  However, if one wants to identify all the different causes that account for acts of understanding as they occur in human subjects, beyond noting how the inquiries and questions of agent intellect play a positive role in leading a person to acts of understanding and how apt images help to trigger acts of understanding by working through one’s imagination, one must also look for operations which are correlative for the occurrence of acts of understanding in contingent human beings.  Like explains like.  Like causes like since what is less in being or reality cannot explain what possesses more being or reality.  What exists cannot be explained by what does not exist and so, for this reason, for a complete understanding of what happens in human cognition, other acts of understanding must be postulated and identified if human acts of understanding are to be fully accounted for: acts of understanding as these occur in teachers and instructors and the kind of understanding which already always exists in God’s understanding.  As Aquinas briefly states his position (in metaphysical terms): “potency is actualized by something already in act.”  Cf. Sentencia Libri De anima, 2, 11, 372.  Nothing in a state of potency is able to transcend its potency through its potency.  Hence, in the final analysis, since contingent acts of understanding are not able to account for themselves, a full explanation demands the postulation of an ever present non-contingent form of understanding within which all human acts of understanding participate.  Human understanding always exists as a participation in divine understanding (cited by Aquinas as a “remote cause” in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, a. 4, ad 3).

Form as a Cause of Knowing in Aquinas and Lonergan

by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

When commenting on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Aquinas repeats what Aristotle says that form (forma) is ratio.  Cf. Sententia super Metaphysicam, 8, 1, 1687.   Form is an “intelligible structure.”  In Aquinas, species as “intelligible species” (species intelligibilis) commonly refers to form. Form as species, as Lonergan speaks about it, refers to the “intelligibility of data.”  Cf. Lonergan, Collection, p. 284.  Or, to use a term that originally derives from Aristotle, form is eidos or morphê.  Cf. Lonergan, Caring About Meaning, p. 45; Topics in Education, p. 171.  For both Aristotle and Aquinas, eidos as form refers to what is known not through sense perception but through an act of the mind, through nous.  Cf. Patrick H. Byrne, Analysis and Science in Aristotle (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997), p. 198, p. 200. Even if some intellects can engage in acts of understanding without using any images or phantasms, no intellect is able to understand anything apart from an intellectual species or form.  Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 3a, q. 11, a. 2, ad 1.  Form, like essence, refers to a principle of explanation but in a manner which says that by first understanding a form or intelligible species, one then understands what something is in terms of its essence.  Form is the quo est; it is that “by which something is” (quo aliquid est).  Cf. Sententia super Metaphysicam, 5, 10, 904.  As the cause or mover (movens) of understanding, it is that “by which the understanding understands” (quo intelligit intellectus).  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 85, a. 2.  It exists as a principle or cause of understanding (it is a causa cognoscendi) whereby one moves from the order of knowing toward the order of being, reality.  Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 1, 53, 2 & 4.

As a cognitive tool or, more precisely, as a reason or explanation, form is not to be identified with what is understood or known, signified as the id quod intelligitur, which is the proper object of the human inquiry and the primary object of human understanding, and which also exists outside the mind as that about which questions are being asked.  In the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 56, a. 2, ad 3, Aquinas distinguishes between the form or species of a thing that exists within somebody’s  mind and the natural or real existence of a thing which exists apart from whether or not it is understood and known by anybody’s understanding (i.e., an intelligent being).  The form or species of a thing, as it exists in the mind of a knower, is referred to as an “intelligible existence” which is cognitively intended.  Hence, “intelligible existence” is to be associated with “intentional existence.”  See also Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 85, a. 2.  In discussing the difference between form as a reason or intellectual principle and what is being understood through form as a reason or intellectual principle, in “Intellectual Honesty in Aquinas and Lonergan,” (a paper presented at the Third International Lonergan Workshop, Erbacher Hof, Mainz, Germany, January 2-7, 2007),  p. 11, William Murnion elaborates on Aquinas’s meaning by distinguishing between what is secondarily understood and what is primarily understood.  A species or intentional likeness is what is secondarily understood while a thing to which an intentional likeness or species refers is what is primarily understood.  By means of form, an embodied form is understood and this embodied form refers to a world that exists beyond the reasoning of a human intellect although this same world is encountered in a self-transcendent way through a self-transcending acts of understanding. Cf. James B. Reichmann S. J., Philosophy of the Human Person (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1985), p. 106.  In attending then to what Aquinas says in the Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 85, a. 2, Aquinas draws a critical distinction which allows him to escape from a form of subjectivism that would regard the human knower as a self-enclosed subject whose understanding and knowing is a purely private affair that is disconnected from possibly understanding and knowing anything which exists outside the human mind.  Form as “that by which something is understood” must be clearly distinguished from “that which is understood” since their identification would imply that what is understood exists only within the operations of the human mind and not also outside of it.  Cf. Giorgio Pini,  “Scotus on the object of understanding,” pp. 6-10; “Scotus on concepts,” pp. 5-6 (two unpublished papers).

To understand a bit more clearly how form functions as a principle of mediation in human knowing, in his The Divine Initiative: Grace, World-Order, and Human Freedom in the Early Writings of Bernard Lonergan (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), pp. 100-102, J. Michael Stebbins discusses how Lonergan explains how quod and quo are to be clearly distinguished from each other.  Quod refers to the object of a rational operation.  It is, for instance, something which is grasped in terms of its meaning or intelligibility.  However, quo refers to a reason which explains why something has been grasped as the term of an act of understanding or willing.  For one’s initial acts of understanding, for one’s judgments, for one’s acts of faith, hope, and charity, one has reasons of some kind.  Rational acts are distinguished from all other kinds of acts because of this difference in consciousness.  In every rational act, there exists an awareness or an experience of reasons and an awareness or an experience of the sufficiency of one’s reasons.  With respect, for instance, to ethical decision making, reasons specify a motive or purpose which explains why it is right and good that a given object should be desired and sought for in the willing which one does because of the understanding that one come to enjoy.  In Phenomenology and Logic: The Boston College Lectures on Mathematical Logic and Existentialism, ed. Philip J. McShane (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2003), p. 105, Lonergan argues that, in both Aristotle and Aquinas, in explanatory syllogisms, one finds a middle term which refers to an act of understanding that apprehends a form or meaning and that through the mediation of an act of understanding (cognitively speaking) or through the mediation of a form (metaphysically speaking), persons move from sensible experiences of data to meanings as these are experienced in acts of conceptualization (which spring from prior acts of understanding).  Form, as a metaphysical principle, is to be correlated with a species of intellectual act which refers to acts of direct understanding that detach a form as an intellectual or spiritual component from matter which exists as a material principle or material component.

In contrast thus with form, the id quod intelligitur (the “that which is understood”) is an essence.  It is the quiddity of a material thing (quidditas rei materialis) which is constituted by a form joined to matter (i.e., matter as common matter).  While the form of a thing can exist both within a mind and within data of sense, its embodiment as essence precludes the proper functioning of any form of human understanding which ceases to be joined to a world that exists extramentally (outside the mind).

Essence in Aquinas and Lonergan

 by Br. Dunstan Robidoux OSB

Given a certain indebtedness that one finds in both Aquinas and Lonergan toward Aristotle, one best attends to developments in meaning as regards essence if one first begins with Aristotle and, from there, move to changes that occurred in Aquinas and Lonergan.
In Aristotle’s Metaphysics (1017a 8-35), one finds two notions of being where, on the one hand, being refers to an affirmation which says that something is true and, because it is true, real and, on the other hand, being also refers to an attributed property where being is identified with essence (the essence of a thing).  A thing’s being or its substance is its essence.  Cf. Aquinas, Sententia super Metaphysicam, 5, 9, 885-897.  For Aristotle, being is form and form is being (in Greek,  ousia).  Cf. Aristotle, Metaphysics, 7, 17; Lonergan, Insight, pp. 390-391.  Why this is so is because form causes being by giving being to matter within the physical or material order of things that is constitutive of the naturally existing world.  Cf. Sententia super Metaphysicam, 5, 2, 775: “form gives being, and matter receives it.”  Nothing exists apart from its specific determination through the agency of an active principle which is the causality of a form.  This form unites itself to what is able to receive it (and so some kind of passive principle is indicated).  Matter and form, in joining together to constitute an essence (or what is an essence) constitute a specific kind of being or thing, a specific kind of substance.  A “this” instead of “that,” comes into existence.  Substance is essence, the “what it is” of a given thing.  For a full explanation of the reasoning which led Aristotle to identify substances in terms of essences, see Michael Novak’s, “A Key to Aristotle’s ‘Substance’,” Substances and Things: Aristotle’s Doctrine of Physical Substance in Recent Essays, ed. M. L. O’Hara (Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1982), pp. 188-208.  
However, as one shifts into Aquinas, one finds a differentiation or a shift in interpretation which effects changes in the meaning of essence.  Two points can be distinguished through both refer to changes in understanding which have to do with the meaning or nature of form.  In the first change, for a particular reason, it is argued that essences can no longer be viewed simply as substances (as a given union of form and matter).  Previously, in the history of thought, for both Plato and Aristotle, forms were seen to exist in an eternal way.  But, as the world ceased to be seen as an eternally existing thing, when it was seen as a purely contingent thing (given Christian belief in the world’s creation by God), form lost its primacy as an adequate principle of explanation.  A higher, explanatory principle was needed and, for Aquinas, this principle referred to act as an act of existence or being which is to be correlated with an act of rational judgment that affirms whether or not a proposed understanding or meaning is a true understanding or meaning: true or real because of a reduction to first principles of sense and intellect which ultimately specify an extrinsic cause which, in itself, is wholly lacking in any contingency.  Cf. Bernard Lonergan, The Ontological and Psychological Constitution of Christ, trans. Michael G. Shields (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001), p. 53.  In metaphysical terms, act of existence is to be sharply distinguished from essence or, more specifically and properly, it is to be sharply distinguished from a finite essence which refers to the essence of a contingent thing (as this exists as a union of form and common matter).  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 54, a. 3.  Understanding a finite essence does not necessarily include understanding its being or existence.  Concrete or real being or existence cannot be caused or derived from a nature or essence (with respect to the being of contingent things) even if, admittedly, one can say that natures and essences exist in a qualified sense as hypothetical entities which have been discovered or postulated and which can be employed by minds as explanatory conjugates.  Cf. Lonergan, Ontological and Psychological Constitution of Christ, p. 11; p. 53; p. 164.  However, an explanatory principle is not a concretely existing being or thing.  It lacks the fullness of reality which belongs to the simple existence of concretely existing things although its existence is ordered in some way toward receiving an act of being or existence, an act which is the existence of a given thing or being.  As referred or ordered toward possibly receiving an act of existence, an explanatory principle or essence exists as “either as an accident, or as an intrinsic principle of being, or as a possible being, or as a being in the mind.”  Cf. Incarnate Word, p. 165.  Hence, as an explanatory, second kind of being by which that combines with a first, explanatory being by which that exists in form, nature, or essence (cf. Incarnate Word, p. 157), an act of existence or an act of being adds something to a finite essence by joining with an essence as that by which something is to create a new situation: a being or substance now fully is or exists.  A substance or thing is thus not simply an essence.  It is not an embodied form.  It is not that by which it is but it is what is or that which is (a union which joins essence with act).  An Aristotelian understanding of substance is supplanted by a Thomist understanding which associates what something is with the fact of its being or existence.  What something is does not always refer to a nature, form, or essence.  Cf. Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 29, a. 4, ad 2; 3a, q. 17, a. 1, ad 7; q. 17, a. 2 & ad 4; Lonergan, Incarnate Word, p. 151; p. 158.
In a second point, while, admittedly, Aquinas retains language which says that form is the cause of being (see Aquinas, Sententia super Metaphysicam, 7, 17, 1667-1668), in other texts, Aquinas engages in an analysis which cognitionally speaks about form as the cause or mover (movens) of understanding.  It is that “by which the understanding understands” (quo intelligit intellectus).  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 85; Summa Contra Gentiles, 2, 75, 13.  It is a mode or a principle of understanding: it is a causa cognoscendi.  Cf. Summa Contra Gentiles, 1, 53, 2 & 4: “though this species the intellect comes to be in act.”  It is a cognitive tool which is not to be identified with what is understood or known (the id quod intelligitur which exists as the proper object of the human inquiry and the primary object of human understanding, and which also exists outside the mind as that about which questions are being asked).  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 56, a. 2, ad 3; 1a, q. 85, a. 2.  In contrast with form, the id quod intelligitur is an essence.  It is the quiddity or “whatness” of a material thing.  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 84, aa. 7-8; q. 85, a. 5, ad 3; a. 8; q. 86, a. 2; q. 89, a. 1.  While form and essence both exist as principles of explanation, a real distinction can be drawn between them which helps us understand why a real distinction should be drawn between acts of understanding and acts of conceptualization which proceed from originating acts of understanding.  By first understanding a form, one then understands an essence.  Form exists as the quo est; it is that “by which something is” (in Latin, quo aliquid est).  Cf. Aquinas, In 1 Scriptum super libros sententiarum, d. 8, q. 5, a. 2; De ente et essentia, 4; Sententia super Metaphysicam, 5, 10, 904.  From an apprehension of form comes an initial act of understanding.  However, as acts of conceptualization proceed from prior acts of understanding, an inner word or definition is formed which unites an abstracted, universal form with a generalized species of matter which is typically referred to as “common matter.”  As Aquinas argues in one place, in moving from an act of understanding about what a human being is, one moves from an intelligibility or a form that has been abstracted from a particular instance of human beingness (from “this flesh and these bones” as this exists in a given human being).  But, in then moving to a general definition which specifies an essence (a definition which applies to all human beings whatever or however they exist), one joins a universal formal component to a material component which must refer to all possible instances of human embodiment: to “bones and flesh” rather than to “this flesh and these bones.”  Cf. Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 85, a. 1, ad 2.  By an analysis which delves into the order of human cognition, form and essence are more clearly distinguished from each other through a form of real distinction which carries over into better understanding about why a real distinction exists between acts of understanding and acts of conceptualization.  Essences exist as correlatives of conceptualization; forms, of acts of understanding.
In the more differentiated analysis of Lonergan, essences fall into classifications which distinguish one kind from another.  Lonergan speaks about three kinds which appear to be basic (different kinds of essences being determined by different kinds of conceptualization).  Cf. Lonergan, Understanding and Being, pp. 165-168.   The humanity of a given person is not the same as humanity in general or humanity per se which, as a general property or predicate, refers to what you have if a certain species of intellectual nature is joined to a certain kind of body which is common to all human beings.  However, as should be obvious, one cannot speak about the humanity of a given human being in any kind of critical way unless one begins with a critical understanding about what is meant by humanity.  In establishing a meaning for humanity as this thus exists in a definition, one takes an abstracted form or idea and one conceives of it or one speaks about it in a way which joins it to a species of common matter.  An abstract essence refers to the kind of conception which one has if, in one’s acts of conceptualization, one attends to only those aspects or conditions which are crucial and which must be operative if, in any given instance or experience of material conditions, one is to come to an understanding which grasps a universal significance (as this is present in the apprehension of an intelligible form).  If, for instance, one attends to how one has obtained an insight into the circularity of a circle (an understanding about what is the circularity, the intelligibility of a circle), one must attend to relations which exist on a plane surface if one looks at how a center point is related to a circumference through radii that are all equal in length and of an infinite number.  Equality in length combined with infinity in number reveal an intellectual necessity (an intellectual necessity which points to a mathematical law) and this intellectual necessity explains why a circle must always be perfectly round.  Once this necessity is understood, one has grasped the nature of roundness or the nature of circularity as this exists with respect to a circle.  The common matter in this case refers to any size of circle which can be drawn or imagined to exist on a plane surface.  From any imagined circular configuration of points and lines on a plane surface, one can come to know the essence of any or all circles.  See Lonergan’s Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, pp. 31-37, for a fuller account about how one can move from images or phantasms to a self-transcending act of understanding which grounds an act of conception that is able to generate an explanatory meaning for what exactly is a circle.
On the basis then of an abstract essence, one can take this kind of essence and apply it to particular instances and thus, by such an application, obtain a meaning which refers to a particularized essence. In thinking about the humanity of any given person, an abstract meaning is joined with an instance of individual matter and, from the union of these two principles, one gets a meaning for specific humanity which exists as a function of these two principles in how they interrelate with each other.  The humanity of any given person always varies and differs as one moves from one person to another and, yet, the humanity which one person has is not necessarily less than the humanity which another person has.  In other words, as one moves from person to person, humanity exists as a concrete variable which changes as persons change in how they live and act.  In the transfer or shift which occurs as one moves from an abstract notion of essence to a particularized notion of essence, a reverse kind of return is made to the experience and data of sense.  However, as Lonergan notes, if one attends to what Aquinas refers to when he speaks about the formal object of the human intellect (which is being or truth) but what Lonergan identifies as a notion of being (an intention of being) which shapes and moves all human inquiry toward a knowledge of being or truth, a third kind of essence can be identified: an essence which exists in itself as a species of being.  Cf. Understanding and Being, pp. 167-168.  For examples, Lonergan speaks about “man” or “this man” and not about any kind of humanity which can exist in either an abstract or in a particularized way.  In other words, as one thinks about the finality of human understanding (as human knowing undergoes a completion which it receives when affirmative judgments are made), abstract and particularized essences becomes realities or beings in their own right (things or substances which exist in more than a conceptual way) although they do not exist as only as compositions of form and matter.  In his day, Aristotle had conceived of substances as compositions of matter and common form.  But, in the understanding which Lonergan proposes, it is now possible to identify essences with concretely existing substances (or concretely existing things). In a way, it can be said that Lonergan returns to an earlier association which one finds in Aristotle although with a key difference which refers to an isomorphic relation which exists between human judgment, as a cognitional principle, and act, as a metaphysical principle.  Essences are real; they exist as things if constituted by a material component, a formal component, and an actual component.