St. Thomas on why there are only three Persons when there are four mutually opposed relations in the Holy Trinity

by Dr. David Fleischacker

In the first part of the Summa Theologicae, question 30, article 2, St. Thomas is presenting the intelligible grounds for the existence of three and only three Persons of the Holy Trinity. It is a rather fruitful passage to come to understand, and it reveals some of the real power of the analogy that St. Thomas was using to understand the Holy Trinity. If Tertullian and St. Augustine are famous for asking “three what?” And answered “three persons,” St. Thomas now asks the further question, “Why three persons?”

Could an analogy actually help to explain this point? The better the explanatory capacity of an analogy, the more it is going to help us understand. This analogy was based upon the interior procession of the act of understanding to the act of the word, and then from word to will/love. 

St. Thomas shows that if we suppose this set of processions to be in God, then there are three persons. And, one can even go on and say what these three would be like.  The two processions result in four relations, since each procession results in two mutually opposed relations.

Though the general question regards why only three persons exist when there are four relations, within this context, another question emerges.  Why are the two relations of the second procession [the procession of love] distinct from the two relations based on the first procession [the procession of intellect]? Earlier in the Summa, St. Thomas had proposed that in each procession, there are two mutually opposed relations. However, each of the first two relations [filiation and paternity] are not mutually opposed to either of the second two relations [spiration and “procession”]. Hence, how are filiation/paternity distinct from spiration/procession if not seemingly based on mutually opposed relations? The answer requires that one link the two processions, and that the mutually opposed relation of one set be identified with one or both of the relations in the other set.  Thus, spiration is either paternity, filiation, or both; or “procession” (passive spiration) is paternity, filiation, or both.

Here is the main body of that second article that I found particularly interesting:

I answer that, as was explained above, there can be only three persons in God. For it was shown above that the several persons are the several subsisting relations really distinct from each other. But a real distinction between the divine relations can come only from relative opposition. Therefore two opposite relations must needs refer to two persons: and if any relations are not opposite they must needs belong to the same person. Since then paternity and filiation are opposite relations, they belong necessarily to two persons. Therefore the subsisting paternity is the person of the Father; and the subsisting filiation is the person of the Son. The other two relations are not opposed to either of these, but are opposed to each other; therefore these two cannot belong to one person: hence either one of them must belong to both of the aforesaid persons; or one must belong to one person, and the other to the other. Now, procession cannot belong to the Father and the Son, or to either of them; for thus it would follows that the procession of the intellect, which in God is generation, wherefrom paternity and filiation are derived, would issue from the procession of love, whence spiration and procession are derived, if the person generating and the person generated proceeded from the person spirating; and this is against what was laid down above (27, 3 and 4). We must frequently admit that spiration belongs to the person of the Father, and to the person of the Son, forasmuch as it has no relative opposition either to paternity or to filiation; and consequently that procession belongs to the other person who is called the person of the Holy Ghost, who proceeds by way of love, as above explained. Therefore only three persons exist in God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

A hermeneutical note

I would like to focus on the boldface part of the quote above with the following question. Why would linking the the relation of “procession” with Father and Son result in the procession of intellect issuing from the procession of love? One thing I want to highlight is that the inversion takes place when one considers both the Father and the Son to be a result of the relation of “procession”, not just the Father or just the Son. The small clause “or to either of them” results in a similar problem but through a slightly different logical route which I will discuss below.  However, if you notice the next sentence is refering to both the generator and the generated, hence the Father and the Son together.

The Problem

Now to return to the problem. The relation of “procession” regards the relationship of love to that from which it proceeds, the spirator.  St. Thomas is proposing a problem. If one is going to say that the relation of “procession” [as a note, I will put the relation of procession in quotes] belongs to the Father and the Son, then one must say that the procession upon which the Father and Son were based comes from the procession of love. Earlier, he had argued that in us, the procession of love comes from the procession of intellect. So, why would the relationship of the two processions become inverted?

The meaning of procession, relation, and mutually opposed relations

In general, the meaning of procession is to come forth from an origin.  So, the second term comes forth from the first.  Now, in the procession of intellect, what comes forth from the first is an image of the first.  Hence, a word.  Since an image of another that comes forth from that other is the meaning of generation or begetting, this procession is one of begetting or generation.  And, since paternity means “that which generates or begets a generated or begotten, then the relations of the first to the second is that of paternity. Likewise, since filiation means that which comes from another as an image of the other, then the relation of the second term to the first is filiation.

Notice, thus, that paternity and filiation are mutually opposed relations.  They are NOT relations that are equal.  Two friends, for example, are equal in their generic meaning, insofar as they are “friends.” Friend one has a relationship of friendship to friend two.  And, friend two has a relationship of friendship to friend one.  The meaning of friendship in both relations is equal.  Hence, these are not mutually opposed in meaning. In contrast, paternity is defined in an unequal and opposite relationship to filiation.  Hence, they cannot be switched and mean the same thing.

Why the inversion.

Understanding this mutual opposition of the relationships, and how both are based on the same procession, is key to understanding the logic of the problem St. Thomas has presented.

Like paternity and filiation, spiration [active] and “procession” [passive spiration] are each mutually opposed relations based on two different but related processions.  If “procession” (passive spiration) were the same as the Son and the Father, then they come from the spirator. However, if they come from the spirator, then they are based on the procession of love.  However what they “mean” as Father and Son is based upon the procession of intellect, because only this procession gives mean to paternity and filiation, thus one must also conclude that just as they, so the procession upon which they are defined issues from the procession of love.

What about equating passive spiration (procession) with Son? Or with Father?

One could push the exploration of this question however in directions further than that stated by St. Thomas. Instead of identifying passive spiration with both the Father and Son, what happens when it is identified with just one or the other? Well, other, similar problems emerge. One does not immediately conclude to the inversion of the relations of the processions, but one does run into some conflicting problems. For example, if the Son comes both from begetting and spirating, then the Son would then be both a word and something that is not a word (namely love).  Likewise, if the Father was both begetter and spirated, then the relation of the Father and Son would be rather bizarre.  Since the Son would not be in mutual opposition to his spirated Father, he would be one who spirates the Father.  So, the one who the Father begets, is also the one who spirates.  Thus, the Father, through the Son, also spirates, who? Himself.  So, the Father is both spirated and spirator, which conflicts.

One can keep exploring the logic of this confusion, and in every case, conclude that neither one nor both the Father and the Son can be passively spirated (and thus be the relation that St. Thomas calls
So who is based on spiration and who on procession? 

Hence the Father and the Son are the Spirator, and hence are based on spiration.  The Holy Spirit is spirated and based on “procession.”

What if only the Father or only the Son is based on spiration? 

One could further wonder why are both the Father and the Son linked to spiration, and not just one or the other. In short, conflicting intelligibilities and doctrinal positions emerge when identifying spiration with either the Father alone or the Son alone. Because then one would say that procession is opposed to the one but not the other. Intelligibly, if spiration is equated with the Father, then the Son is opposed to spiration, and not to procession. Thus, the Son is both a word and something which cannot be a word, namely love.  Likewise, if spiration is equated with the Son, then the Father would be in an opposed relation to spiration, thus he would be identical with the relation of procession.  In turn, the Father would be both spirated and begetter.  Thus, as the begetter of the Son, who then spirates the spirated, he also spirates himself by begetting his Son (a problem in reverse from what we ran into earlier).  This means that he is not opposed to spirator, but if the Son is the spirator, and the Father is not, then the Father cannot be spirator. Doctrinally, it means that either the Son or the Father are not distinct from the Holy Spirit, which is opposed to the dogmatic position. 

Thus, what is left is that both must be the spirator.  An analogical explanation which provides the intelligible grounds for the fililoque in the Church creed.

40 years after Humanae Vitae: Part 3, a note on counterpositions

by David Fleischacker

This last week, I gave a little talk on the role of the Church in the conversion of St. Augustine, and in preparation for this, I read through the first number of books of his Confessions. It reminded me of an important point that Lonergan makes regarding the notion of development and finality, and also of the difficulty of breaking from the deformations of the human soul that hinder the emergence of an understanding of the fullness of the intelligibility of conception.

Books seven and eight in the Confessions are particularly revealing. Augustine spoke many times of his inability to understand even himself, let alone God and evil prior to his conversions described in these books. What is amazing in all of this, is that theoretically, we can understand ourselves, evil, and the basic meaning of God through the natural light of our own reason. However, because of our distortions in life, we become blind to them. Augustine’s own “swirling mists of lust” (Rex Warner translation), kept him tied to the “out of doors” and would not allow him to grasp anything beyond immediate sensory and imaginative types of knowledge. He “pictures” God, Jesus, and his own soul as being made of this type of material spread throughout the universe. He created, as he says, merely figments of his imagination about his soul and God. And in the end, this means he understood virtually nothing about these non-imaginable realities.

The way many of us live in relationship to our bodies and to our procreative abilities indicates a similar type of distortion in our own minds, which ends up slanting our heuristic anticipations, which in turn distorts and severely limits the answers we discover when thinking about men, women, conception, children, family, and many other important facets of our humanity.

So, it is with a bit of fear and trembling that I continue to enter into this exploration of the intelligibility of conception.

We are in need of the same conversions through which Augustine passed. In book seven, chapter ten of his Confessions, he describes one of the first major stages of his conversion. It was a conversion of his mind, opening it from its material entrapment into the brighter and much larger world of the incorporeal. It was dispositively prepared for by the prayers and graces that came from his mother and Ambrose, his initiation into the catechumenate of the Catholic Church, and his reading of the Platonists. Through both grace and reason, God then prepared him for a moment of divine love that would flood his heart and open his mind. It allows him to grasp the very meaning of God for the first time, and along with it himself, the meaning of evil, and the deformations of his own soul caused by his own sin. However, this first conversion does not turn around his will, a second and more important type of conversion which he then describes in book eight.

Thus, I think for many of us, like Augustine, we need to pray for “the medicine of the Church” to heal our faith and to open our minds to the intelligible and true.

These conversions have direct bearing upon the topic at hand, perhaps more than many other intellectual and moral challenges in our modern world. Lonergan notes in his sections on metaphysics, that one of the reasons he put the notion of development (and its normativity rooted in operators) so far along in INSIGHT is because this notion is especially impacted by the counter-positions in philosophy. Since finality is a crucial element in the notion of development, exploring it within any facet of this universe requires a thorough-going intellectual conversion to the intelligible and the true, and how we become attuned to these through understanding and judgment.

And arguably one of the greatest and most powerful sources of the dialectic that causes intellectual and moral inauthenticity is that linked to the procreative dimension of human life. Thus, these conversions are in particular need for the current topic.

Understanding the fullness of the meaning of conception requires among correlative and statistical insights, insights into finality, both in relationship to the man and woman through whom generation occurs, and in relationship to the child that comes to be conceived and then has the potential to grow into adulthood, and even eternal life. If one’s heuristics are distorted by concupiscence, then there is little hope for breaking through into these intelligibilities.

Thus, with a note of caution, we proceed.

40 Years since Humanae Vitae, Part 2: Finality and Spermatozoan

By Dr. David Fleischacker

Sometimes, when one begins a journey, one never knows how it will entirely end. In part, this is true for what will be following in the subsequent blogs on Humanae Vitae. However, I have also been thinking about this for many, many years, and so a bit of it is simply presenting parts of a large forest that I have traveled through, and to which I have returned on occasion. Conception has continued to unfold in increasing degrees and realms of intelligibility. I must admit that it is a bit daunting to know how to introduce this forest to others until one has walked around the forest for some time, and come to know all of its fauna and beauty, and then thought for an even longer time at how to begin the introduction. So, this is my first attempt at introducing the intelligibility of conception as it has begun to illuminate my mind over the years.

I have decided to start with biology and biochemistry, not the whole of it, but some pointers. I will not go through all of the details of the experimental studies and the actual formula and equations, some of which I have read, many of which I have not. But I will give sufficient pointers to the intelligibility that is gained and how it relates to the question at hand on the meaning of conception. This will include the biology of the spermatozoa, the oocyte, the egg, the male body, female body, both in terms of the conjugate forms as well as the statistical realization of these forms. It will also require turning to the higher and lower levels of the forms (chemistry to biology for example), and moving up to the very highest levels of human conscious existence.

So, to take a cue from INSIGHT, when Lonergan was quoting positively from Descartes (which of course was not true for all that Descartes had to say), we need to start with small problems and work to larger ones. In intelligibity, what comes first is the general heuristics: The questions. And the questions then begin to modify along the way as intelligibility then begins to rise up, bit by bit, until the entire forest comes into view. Hence the forest does not come into view without careful attention to the parts. One cannot miss it by paying attention seemingly too much to the parts. One only misses it if in the end understanding does not emerge.

And, thus, let us begin with a simple starting point: the spermatozoa and the oocyte. In this blog, I will focus upon the first.

The Biological and Biochemical Structure of Spermatozoa: a functional relationship to the oocyte and the Woman’s body

Many of us have seen pictures of male sperm. But to understand the male “seed,” one needs to examine its biochemical structure. In the frontal end of the spermatozoa is a pocket of enzymes. Contained within the head of the spermatozoa is genetic material. And toward the tail end of the head is a group of mitochondria that surround the actual tail which protrudes. Mitochondria provide ATP, a high energy molecule that fuels the cells and their activities. In addition, the spermatozoa has molecules on its surface that react in various ways to its environment.

There is much more as well, but these few pieces of information give us an interesting starting point to raise some questions. What is the function of the enzymes? What is the function of the genetic material? What is the function of the mitochondria and their distribution? What is the function of the surface molecules?

One cannot answer these questions by looking at the spermatozoa alone. Observing its behavior under the microscope only gives a small part of what is needed to understand it as a whole. On a slide, it would move about for a time, depending upon the environment, and then die. Nothing would be learned about the enzymes in the frontal end or about the genetic material inside. More elaborate experiments would reveal the particular nucleotide sequences of the genetic material, the particular chemical structure of the surface proteins that react to the environment, and all the chemical and biophysical details about the mitochondria and how they drive the propulsion of the tail. Yet, dropping it onto a petri dish, studying it under a microscope, breaking it down into all of its biochemical cycles simple does not explain what it is, even if these biochemical studies prepare the way. In all of these cases, a fundamental intelligibility is still missing.

It is only when we examine it in relation to the woman’s body and the unfertilized egg that we begin to understand its form. The relationship to the woman’s body and to an unfertilized egg begins to expand the needed phantasm for insight. The frontal end enzymes dissolve a protective coat surrounding the unfertilized egg. And many, many sperm are need in order for this softening to take place. Some of the surface proteins set in motion a set of chemical and biophysical changes which allow the sperm to move up the fallopian tube drawn toward the egg. The genetic becomes an intrinsic constituent of the egg, if it is fortunate to enter. Even the mitochondria and the tail are related to this entire process, because biochemical schemes of which they are part relate ultimately, through those surface proteins mentioned earlier, to the egg itself. They literally help to propel the spermatozoa in the right direction, guided by the radar detecting surface proteins.

In other words, without a relationship to the woman’s body and oocyte, those enzymes really have no purpose or meaning. The genetic material is meaningless. The surface proteins would likewise be senseless, and really would not help the creature to do much except within the protective environment of the woman. In other words, the entire cellular form of this cell is designed to become united with an egg, and not just anywhere, but in and through a woman’s body (or in other words, to the schemes of recurrence of the woman’s body — I will examine this futher in a later blog, once I examine the statistical element in these relationships). Thus, in answering these questions, one discovers that each of these parts possess an intelligibility that only makes sense in relation to both the environment in which they operate and the destiny to which they are aimed.

The Genetic Material of the Spermatozoa: A relationship of finality to the zygote and its unfolding stages of development

The genetic material reveals a finality. It contains within it a complement of chromosomes, haploid in number relative to the full set found in standard human cells. In these chromosomes are found millions of nucleotide sequences, some of which have intelligible relations to protein formation (Proteins are complex molecules that help to carry out many functions in an organism (eg. to help catalyze chemical reactions), and hence are called genes. Now, some of these genes are found in many different species of animals, such as those involved in encoding proteins for DNA synthesis–which takes place when a cell divides into two, and both cells need to have the same “genetics”). Others tend to be unique to one creature, the human being, and some even unique to either the male or female form of our species. Most of these genes are inactive, some will remain so permanently, others will be activated when they become integrated into the egg, others only if they happen to be within cells that have differentiated along a certain line of development, and become part of a particular cellular system (skeletal, muscular, circulatory, immune, etc.). The point in all this, is that the genetic material only has a formal intelligibility that becomes developmentally actuated within a human being. Thus, this genetic material only makes sense or means something in its relation to a human being. This is quite interesting, because it means that even within the spermatozoa, the genetic material contains real existing pointers to human life, and only this “pointing” makes sense of this material and why the male body forms this spermatozoa as it is.

In other words, in its operating, the spermatozoa has a functional relationship for integration into an oocyte (more technically, it is one of the reproductive conjugate forms), and ultimately into a horizontal finality that unfolds a zygote into a differentiated multicellular system. It also has vertical relationships, however those will be dealt with in the appropriate blogs.

A Concluding Note

It is important to highlight that the pointers to the biochemistry and genetics of the spermatozoa belong to larger patterns in the reproductive schemes of human beings, and hence, one cannot really understand the spermatozoa and its “meaning” until all of these–and even higher yet–level schemes have been sufficiently understood, especially those that are the highest, which really then identify the kind of “thing” to which these schemes belong.

40 Years since Humanae Vitae: Lonergan, conception, and contraception. Part 1.

by Dr. David Fleischacker

Since it is the 40th anniversary of the publication of Humanae Vitae this year, I thought it might be worthwhile to explore one of the key issues linked to this encyclical, that of contraception. However, before such an issue is addressed, I thought it might be worthwhile to investigate the intelligibility of conception in order to provide a more adequate context for addressing contraception.

Part of what raises my own interest is a private letter written by Bernard Lonergan in September, 1968. It is a letter that has been in circulation in a variety of contexts, and subsequently, it needs to be carefully examined.

In this private letter to a priest, Lonergan is addressing the shifts in Catholic moral theology that he understands as taking place regarding the marital act. One of the shifts is a rejection of the Aristotelian understanding of the relationship between the marital act and conception. He is also highlighting the differentiated unity brought out in Vatican II and in Humanae Vitae between the procreative and the unitive (or mutual love) ends of the conjugal act.

Seemingly, the thrust of the private letter raises into serious question the position that the Church has taken against contraception. At least that is how I have seen some others make use of it. However, in the letter itself, there are no statements as far as I can tell that directly reject the Church teaching regarding contraception. There are statements in the letter that reject any positions based soley on the Aristotelain understanding of the relationship between the conjugal act and conception. However, it does not immediatelly follow that the position of the Church is wrong. Did Lonergan personally make this conclusion?

Whatever the case of Lonergan’s position in 1968, it would be worthwhile to remember a few points.

1. In 1968, there existed a great deal of confusion at that time regarding the issue. The new emphasis on the unitative end of the conjugal act and its relationship to the procreative end was not explanatorily clear to many people.

2. A private letter to a commrade that barely develops the issue historically, philosophically, and theologically should have virtually no weight of authority. Using this letter to justify any position without any real explanatory and scholarly support would border on a type of authoritarianism based on Lonergan’s name alone, something that I think would be a bit unsettling to him and should be to any of us.

So, what would I like to do? I would like to draw out further questions using the full weight of Lonergan’s philosophy, and some of the insights that would shed light upon the meaning of both conception and contraception. Already, I see many questions not raised in the letter which a more thorough treatment of the subject would demand. Here are just a few:

1. What precisely are the contributions of horizontal and vertical finality in understanding conception and contraception?

2. What does conception and what does contraception do to the relationship between the man and the woman psychologically, sociologically, spiritually, etc., etc., etc.?

3. The few references to the statistical relationship between the conjugal act and conception given in the letter need to be spelled out in far more detail. What could modern biology contribute to understanding this relationship?

4. In terms of the statistical relationship of conception, and its finality, what precisely at the level of decision is the liberty of the man and likewise, what is the liberty of the woman? As an observation, how natural family planning changes the statistical relationship is rather different than how a contraceptive changes that relationship, because the decisions involved are rather different. Hence, this has an existential ramification that needs to be explore.

So, in light of finding further questions, and exploring those questions, at least philosophically, I would like to proceed on a new set of blog questions starting with the intelligibility of conception and in this context, the meaning of contraception.

Mediated and Immediate Sublations

The following thought falls under metaphysical musings.

About 14 years ago, I had written a paper for the late Fr. Stephen Happell dealing with the landscape of consciousness and the different regions and mountains where insights, judgments, and decisions take place within science and the imagination. At least that was the metaphor that came to mind in describing the layout of how various insights, judgments, and decisions relate to each other. One of the insights that had come to me at that point and has continued to grow whenever I think of higher and lower levels is how the higher directly informs a particular range of the lower, then through that directly sublated lower level, it can mediate other regions of the lower levels.

There are many examples that each of us should be able to recognize in ourselves. The farmer has insights and makes decisions immediately in relationship to certain sensate patterns, which in turn take place immediately within certain neural patterns, which in turn take place within certain biochemical and biophysical schemes. However, through the neural, biochemical, and biophysical schemes, the farmer can move muscles and turn his body, look in another direction, walk toward the barn, start the farm equipment. Within his body, these movements are mediate with respect to the conscious acts themselves. The muscle itself was not immediately part of the conscious activities. Hence, it comes to be “informed” by the consciousness in a mediated fashion.

To put this a bit more technically, Lonergan defines mediation in his essay entitled “The Mediation of Christ in Prayer” as a relationship between a property, characteristic, aspect, or feature that is immediate in one term, and mediated to another. Hence, in the case of a watch, the energy is immediate in the spring, but in the moving hands of the clock, it is mediate. Likewise in conscious things, the conscious activities are immediate in certain neural patterns, and then the features of consciousness (insights, judgments, decisions), become mediated within other parts of the body. Only mediately does my hand comes to be sublated within my conscious decision to type, but the neurons involved in this conscious decision are sublated immediately.

This is not much different than how through the immediate power and movement of the muscles in the legs, movement of the whole body takes place, hence movement is mediated in the rest of the body. However, in this case, I am simply focusing on how a lower level can become either immediately or mediately sublated into higher levels. This all takes place within a single unity-identity-whole.

Hence our entire biochemical, cellular, neural being becomes sublated into conscious life, but it does so either immediately or mediately. And there are other parallels in all living beings (beings that possess various types of self-mediating capacities).

The Anonymous Christian

I had been visiting the Lonergan workshop in Boston this last week, well really only about 1.5 days of it. I had to return home for family reasons, however I enjoyed my short visit and the talks I was able to attend.

In one of the talks, Karl Rahner’s notion of the anonymous Christian was raised and I would like to highlight something that seems to be missing from discussions of this Christian. The anonymous Christian, at least in its best form, is the person who has never had a true encounter with Christianity, yet, God has moved this person’s heart, and this person has responded positively to God. Hence, this person is in a graced stated. But he or she does not really know it.

There are many advocates of the anonymous Christian (which the speaker was quick to point out is not Anonymous Christianity — Christianity is a believing body that is deliberate and knowing. Christianity cannot be anonymous). And there are many detractors. I probably stand a bit toward the detractors, though I would side with Augustine on all counterpositions (or heresies). As Augustine notes, all heresies possess some truth, and manytimes a profound truth. Likewise, all counterpositions advocate some truth. Now, I am not saying the Anonymous Christian is a heresy. But, the way it has come to be used by many certainly verges on one. I would argue that there are some elements of it as a position that need to be purged.

So what is it that needs to be purged? The key purging in my mind needs to take place upon a further conclusion that regularly follows the idea of an anonymous christian. If one can be a Christian without Christianity, then there really is no pressing need to become or be a Christian, let alone a Catholic. Karl Rahner himself I do not think can be rightly accussed of this position. And there are others who avoid it as well, and they argue that it is better to become explicitly Christian because then at least one knows a bit more about what one is.

However, there is a more subtle argument rooted in a philosophical framework for which Rahner is partly responsible and which does seem to lead to this conclusion. Life is really about a transcendental response, not a categorial one. Categories define, delimit, judge, and these are all finite. These are not what life is about. In fact, if one overly adheres to the particular categories that define our experiences and judge our insights, then one has become derailed. This includes overly adhering to any type of faith, whether Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, or any other religious set of beliefs. The categories never can be made into anything definitive, anything that will hold one’s trust in any obligatory or mandatory fashion. Categories are mere pointers, suggestions, and if they take one away from the transcendental eros of the spirit, then they have become gods.

If one holds this basic position on the transcendental ground of the soul and its contrast with the categorial, then one must say that the aim of our beings is beyond all that we know, believe, and to which we respond. It is even beyond the other whom we love, because we know that other and love that other in categorial ways. Hence, the endpoint of humanity and history really is not the Catholic faith. The end point is beyond the Church, beyond Christianity, beyond all the names and person’s who we categorize in this world. Could Rahner be responsible for this ultimate rejection of Christianity and the Catholic faith?

Hence, it is not only the conclusion that needs to be purged, but a key premise. It is this categorical minimization of all categories that I would argue needs to be purged and replaced with a substantially different understanding of the relation of the transcendental element of the human soul and its realization in answers.

So, what is a better understanding of this relationship between the transcendental basis of the soul and its categorial realization? It is true that fundamental in all human beings is this transcendental ground of our being–especially if one generously understands this transcendental nature as rooted in the transcendental notions as Lonergan comprehends these. At the same time, these transcendental grounds are merely a beginning. They have aims, and these aims are answers.

In addition to the orientation of the transcendental to answers, thinking of the answers or categories as merely provisional pointers also needs to be recast. Can some insights be true, forever true? If one says yes, has one rejected transcendence? Notice, that there exists a bit of a confusion. The fact that I went to the bank today is forever true. God is three persons is forever true. God is unrestricted being, goodness, and love, is forever true. What does it mean to transcend these statements? Have I derailed my being into a categorial abyss in holding such claims?

At times, old categories do need to be released for new. Old wineskins cannot hold the new wine. Sometimes, the categories are not released and discarded, but merely transformed like Newton’s notion of mass for Einstein’s. Other times however, the old categories simply remain old, and never need to be revised or rejected. It will always be true that I wrote this blog.

Self transcendence does not require that all categories and all answers necessarily be overcome and rejected for something better, even if self-transcendence require that one continue to develop.

I guess, in the end, I am trying to make the case that the virtually unconditioned can be reached in certain contexts. Thus, I am trying also to make the case that there exists not only a permanence of the trancendental ground of the human soul, but a permanence in the meaning of some answers, such as dogmas (Lonergan argues this point).

Adhering to these permanent answers results in a departure from the exclusive devotion to the transcendental and thus from the anonymous Christian, and calls one to move to the sanctified soul that is increasing its sanctification via divine gifts that transform us. One can argue that we are in dire need for upholding the belief in an explicit outer Word. The outer Word mutually self-mediates the life, health, healing, and growth of the inner word and the capacity for self-transcendence. However, for this to work, we need to know that Word and its manifestation in words. This manifested Word needs to have a permanence to it. And though the manifested Word belongs to the categorial, it never needs to be rejected for something better. It can command obiligatory and mandatory trust, for the duration.

To put this a bit more descriptively and concretely, a soul animated by the Holy Spirit, moved by the heart of flesh will not go far without the mediation of the true outer Word. In other words, without being mediated by God’s entrance into the world mediated by meaning, then one will remain at best, anonymous, and probably not even that for long. Only in the united missions of the Son and of the Holy Spirit does one thrive. It is difficult enough remaining faithful to the inner call when one knows this explicitly. As well, the anonymous Christian is not going to embark on the great mission of evangelization. He or she is never going to proceed to speak or write about the profound wisdom that reorientes one’s soul. Prayer will barely be intentional and disorientingly existential. One will never write theological treatises upon the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Church, salvation history, the City of God, nor on spiritual development. One will be forever in ignorance of one’s own self and of the meaning of life and of history in any but the most rudimentary fashions. It really is a dangerous place to be, and a rather unfruitful place as well, save that it will respond with great joy at finding the true outer Word of God. This person will not be able to benefit from all the profound insights that have linked the way of achievement with the way of gift, the way of reason with the way of true faith. Thus, such individuals will be shut off from the Tradition and its catholicity. The purpose of such gifts of the Holy Spirit is to draw us to an authoritative outer word that can bring us along to our true destiny. As John Henry Newman noted well, the fact of Revelation implies the need for an authoritative carrier of that Revelation. Without that authority, no one, not even the genius of earth, will find that Revelation in the end. One will be left on the verge of despair, wondering whether there really is an answer. Without the permanence of some of these key answers, at least those rooted in the Divine entrance into the world mediated by meaning, then we really are lost. And we too can ask with Pontius Pilate, “What is truth?” It is the permanence of some answers that is missing in many of the discussions about the anonymous Christian. Anonymity needs a dressor of sycamores like Amos if it is going to bear fruit.

When does the human person begin to exist? Part 9, the conclusion

by David Fleischacker

In this entry, I will end up repeating some of the same conclusions as in the last two blogs, however, with a slightly different focus, and a basis from which to answer the challenge in the last blog.

I would like to refer the reader to chapter 8 in INSIGHT, section 3 on “Genus as Explanatory.” Specifically, I am looking at the section in which Lonergan addresses the possibility of the emergence of a new and higher genus of things. He is worth quoting at this point,

Consider, then, a genus of things, Ti with explanatory conjugates, Ci, and a consequent list of possible schemes of recurrence, Si. Suppose there occurs an aggregate of events, Eij that is merely coincidental when considered in light of the laws of things, Ti, and of all their possible schemes of recurrence, Si. Then, if the aggregate of events, Eij, occurs regularly, it is necessary to advance to the higher viewpoint of some genus of things, Tj, with conjugates, Ci and Cj, and with schemes of recurrence, Sj. The lower viewpoint is insufficient for it has to regard as merely coincidental what in fact is regular. The higher viewpoint is justified, for the conjugates, Cj, and the schemes, Sj, constitute a higher system that makes regular what otherwise would be merely coincidental. (Insight, 255 – 256)

This point that Lonergan makes presents us with the heart of the solution that is required in order to make the case that human neurological and sensate schemes possess a regularity that cannot be explained adequately by neurological (biological) nor sensate conjugates and their schemes. Thus, what is taking place in phantasm is something that does not really make sense from standard sensate conjugates and schemes. The standard schemes are for sensing, reproducing a sensation, or creatively constructing something that could be sensed. Phantasm, though a pattern within neurological and sensate schemes, requires an appeal to the higher conscious acts of question and answers to explain it. In other words, when a person asks a question, many neural processes are triggered, and one cannot explain these with the experience of some sense object or desire for food. One has to turn to the question itself in order to explain the neural patterns and why these exist and exist as these do.

Furthermore, I would like to add some points slightly beyond Lonergan’s quote above. Self-transcendence not only explains a particular set of neurological and sensate regularities, but it brings about a horizontal development in the neurological and sensate capabilities as well. Mathematics provides an analogy. Algebra expands arithmetic in order to reach its goals. For example, one can say

8 + 10 = 10 + 8

6 + 5 = 5 + 6,

9 + 12 = 12 + 9

etc., etc., etc.,

This is arithmetic. However, in arithmetic alone, there really would not have been much reason for carrying out such activities. Only in algebra, which is looking to resolve problems in a different manner does one want to discover such laws as “A + B = B + A.”

This solution in the human beingA Thought ExperimentA thought experiment might help to create a plausible understanding of this dependence of the expansion of the lower neurological and sensate manifolds upon the higher self-transcending levels of consciousness.

Let me start with a simple statement rooted in Lonergan’s proposals regarding higher and lower levels in Insight. Every conscious act has its underpinning neural correlate. A sufficiently different conscious act will result in differences within the sensate, which in turn will have differences in neural patterns. Hence, a question about a tree will trigger different neural patterns than the experience of seeing or touching the tree.

Let us say that neural pattern X is discovered. Now, the pattern emerges whenever intelligent creature A is asked about the color of the ball present at which s/he is looking upon. Now, in the brain of this creature, there is already operative pattern Y, which results from the focused attention upon the ball. It was discovered to be a similar pattern within a dog, friendly creature B, and a monkey, curious creature C. In all three, this pattern Y is correlated with the visual perception of the ball. However, the question stirs up other patterns. When the friendly creature B and curious creature C are asked the same question, they too have certain patterns that get triggered, but there are some significant differences from that which gets stirred up in intelligent creature A. Intelligent creature A has a variety of patterns in the cerebrum that are triggered which are not found in the friendly or the curious creature. These further neural patterns are linked to questions and insights and these recur whenever the question is asked. And one never finds these patterns in the friendly or curious creature, neither of which even possess these particular neural possibilities in the first place (as a note I would expect some significant neural differences between the dog and the monkey as well).

Let us say some further experiments have discovered a few more things about these neural patterns in the cerebrum of the human being. Normally, patterns can be explained by various types of sensate and neural “causes.” The seeing of the ball or the desire for food trigger neurological processes or sensate ones. However, in the human being, some of movements in the frontal lobes do not have such an explanation in the end. Even though these might accompany seeing and tasting, these possess a liberty of movement that cannot be reduced to these initial processes. Rather one has to appeal to higher acts of self-transcendence in order to understand these movements. One must appeal to the questions for understanding and insight, questions for reflection and reflective insight, or questions for deliberation and evaluative insight that the human subject is freely raising (as well as concepts, judgments of fact, and judgments of value, etc..).

The expansion of neural and sensate manifolds under self-transcendence.Let us now continue this thought experiment, and turn from the coincidentality of the neural and sensate manifolds toward their development.

As was mentioned earlier, just as algebra expands the “doing of arithmetic,” so self-transcendence is going to expand the neural and sensate manifolds. This would happen not just in individuals, but in the human species over its history.

In the IndividualOnce questions and answers begin to awaken in the child, the neural manifolds will shift in support of these developments. For example, prior to birth a massive growth of neural connections takes place, far beyond those connections which will be needed. During the first five or so years after birth, this growth is “weeded down.” What gets used, stays, what does not reduces. This period is a period in which the child is literally forming her or his brain through interaction with the immediate environment and culture. Maria Montessori calls this the “absorbant” sensitive period in human development. The mind can be described as a kind of sponge, but literally it is being interiorly formed from the neurons on up.

Just before adolescence another growth of neurons is taking place, similar to that which takes place before birth. The front lobes are massively being reintegrated with the rest of the brain, allowing for a new kind of absorbent period.

In the human speciesNow both the structures of the first growth and the second have neurological, biochemical, and genetic grounds. However, I would like to suggest that these roots were guided by prior generations of self- transcending subjects. Over the millennia, neural patterns that allow for greater rates of self-transcendence increase the probabilities for survival and expansion, and thus, the self-transcendending species sees an evolutionary improvement over time in the neural structures of the brain that support the sensate capacities that underpin acts of self-transcendence. Thus, neural processes and their correlative sensate activities will develop in the brain that have come to be via the higher order of successful self- transcendence. Thus, from the first stage of an individual, he or she possesses developmental orders that come from the self-transcending subjects of the past. This means, that even the genetic and biochemical make-up of the first cell, the zygote, possesses this ordered development.

However, once the neural and sensate matrices arise in the individual that can support actual self- transcendence, then individuals self-transcendence comes to have a new role in shaping the neural and sensate manifolds. Then, for example, the “weeding down” in the first five years after birth and in the early years of adolescence is guided by the subject’s acts of self-transcendence (mediated within the community and its history).

So, both the neural and sensate manifolds have been guided by self-transcending subjects of the past and then further guidance comes from the self-transcending individual in conscious and intentional relation to community and its history. This is a rather differentiation way of looking at nature and nurture.

Notice, that this is not claiming that the underlying neural and sensate manifolds cause self-transcendence. But they are the matrix in which such self-transcendence takes place. As Lonergan argues, human intelligence is intrinsically independent of the empirical residue, though extrinsically dependent upon it. And it is this extrinsic dependence that calls for the kinds of neural and sensate advancements in the human species in the same way as algebra calls forth arithmetic advancements. It seems highly improbable that these advancements could be explained by neural or sensate operations alone, and thus it is highly probable that they have an intrinsic dependence for their intelligible meaning upon self-transcendence (constituted by the transcendental notions).

What does this mean for the larger question at hand?It simply means that from the first stage of development in the human being, the prior generations of self- transcending subjects contribute the basic biochemical and genetic order that has an intrinsic relationship to self-transcendence. In other words, one cannot understand adequately the genetic and biochemical layout even of the zygote without appeal to their formation in relationship to prior generations of self- transcending subjects. Hence, though it is not “guided” by the current self-transcending acts of the zygote, simply because these have not yet emerged, the developmental orientation toward a differentiation of neural and sensate patterns require an appeal to something more in the end, and that more is an orientation toward self-transcendence brought about by an inheritance from the past.

Now, in earlier blogs I had argued that in a developing kind of thing, the first stage of development is the first moment in which that thing exists. However, in those blogs, I could not argue as directly that in stages prior to actual self-transcendence of the individual a human person existed. I did argue that a human person is a person whenever a “this” has an intrinsic (by “intrinsic” I mean it only becomes explanatorily intelligible via self-mediating relationship to self-transcendence. Now, in light of this blog, some further provisional statements and conclusions can be made:

1. A human person begins in the first stage of a “unity-identity-whole” that possesses an intrinsic relationship to intellectual, rational, and moral self-transcendence.

2. Since every stage of development prior to actual self-transcendence cannot be adequately explained without appealing to self-transcendence, every stage of human life has an intrinsic relationship to self- transcendence (though that relationship does change).

3. Thus, the zygote also has an intrinsic relationship to intellectual, rational, and moral self-transcendence (of past self-transcending subjects).

4. The zygote is the first stage of human development (I have not formally made this argument, but it can be done from biological studies).

5. Therefore, a zygote is when the human person begins to exist.

Actually, there are a few more premises that could be introduced and detailed, but I trust that it is sufficient to make the point. Much work can be done in detailing all of these links. I have just picked up a few new texts on brain development and the frontal lobes, which should add some of the latest discoveries. I have tried to simplify the arguments to give pointers more than thorough treatments of the brain and brain development. However, for readers interested in doing more, I would recommend starting with some introductory texts on the brain and brain development, then going to the latest research on the prefrontal cortex and its development. This usually will give more than sufficient detail to underpin some of the general statements I have made in these blogs.

When does the human person begin to exist? Part 8, a challenge to the last blog.

by David Fleischacker

I am hoping now to return to this line of thought again, after a bit of a delay because of a busy semester and a paper and a trip to South Korea.

In the last blog, the argument lead up to a possibility. Simply possessing a potentiality for phantasm was sufficient for that which possesses this potentiality to be intrinsically linked to an intellectual nature. The reason for this is because the phantasm as such, though an operation of the imagination, has a pattern or order to it that goes beyond the imagination. Lonergan’s definition of a circle in INSIGHT illustrates this point. The cartwheel as a cartwheel is either a direct manifestation of a sense object or it is a remember recreation of the sense object. However, a cartwheel as such is not a phantasm. One has to start increasing the quantity of spokes, decreasing the width of the spokes, decreasing the hub, etc., and move each of these toward the ultimately unimaginable, toward points and lines. The imagination has to be ordered in a dynamic fashion in order to provide the materials for an insight. This dynamic ordering of the cartwheel is no longer just a cartwheel, especially as insight emerges. In fact, by then, the image of the cartwheel has all but disappeared.

Thus, when the imagination along with the underlying neural manifolds reaches a point that it is potentially formable into a phantasm, one then can say that a real potentiality has arrived. However, until questioning actually awakens, this potential in the neural manifolds and imagination, real as it may be, will not move toward phantasm and become actuated in a phantasm.

The Challenge

A simple question however challenges this view. Could such plasticity of the imagination emerge from merely sensate needs alone? In other words, could the motor-sensory integrations that arise because of typical animal sensate operators and operations (a zoological system on the move) be sufficient for a neural plasticity that then could be formed into phantasm as well? For example, would the development of the frontal lobes as found in human beings have taken place even without the emergence of intelligence? When not participating in an actual phantasm, would the neural manifolds exist as they do without any need to appeal to the capacity for self transcendence? Now notice, this is not about whether an actual phantasm requires a higher explanation, but whether the potentiality of the neural structures for participation in phantasm require more.

Next blog: my response. (originally, I had planned on putting this answer up with the above, but it is rather long, and I am hoping to shorten it.

When does the Human Person Begin to Exist? Part 7. The Human Person: As Body and Mind

By David Fleischacker

In the last blog, I had mentioned the final steps in reaching a conclusion. Ignore that, at least in part.

In this current installment, I have chosen to examine the relationship between the body and the mind in the matured human person. Most of us would hardly argue whether a grown, awake, intelligent adult is a human person. Yet not so clear is the relationship of the body and the mind in terms of being intrinsically related to an intellectual nature. And until this becomes a bit clearer, I cannot begin to answer the question about when the human being begins to exist.

The Human Mind as Intrinsically Independent and Extrinsically Dependent on the Empirical Residue

[As a note of profound gratitude, I would like to thank Fr. Joseph Flanagan for highlighting the meaning of the spiritual in INSIGHT during the year long courses I had with him in 1990 on that book. Fr. Flanagan’s pointers have been a starting point of deepening reflection for me over the years. The following discussion is simply another example of that deepening.]

In INSIGHT, Lonergan notes that human intelligence develops in relationship to the sensate, which in turn, emerges within the neural manifolds, and one could continue on down, to the chemical and sub-atomic, and even the quark. So, on the one hand, the development of human intelligence simply cannot take place without images or what St. Thomas calls phantasms, which in turn only happen within neural manifolds in particular places, times, continuums, and coincidental aggregates. At the same time, from these particular manifolds of neurons and images, human questions and insights have a liberty that stretches to the universe and beyond. Our questions intrinsically intend intelligibilities, truths, and goods, or in general the transcendentals of intelligibility, truth, and goodness. Together, the integrated intentionality constituted by these transcendental notions forms the basic human capacity for self-transcendence. What emerges from this capacity has a universal and invariant character that can include the concrete and particular. Insights and judgments abstract from the empirical residue to reach universals and the virtually unconditioned, and thus have a kind of liberty from that residue.[for more on these, see Lonergan’s account of the invariant character of insight in chapter 2 of INSIGHT and of the virtually unconditioned in chapter 9 of INSIGHT] This liberty is what Lonergan means when in INSIGHT he technically defines the spiritual as that which is intrinsically independent of the empirical residue. Intrinsically independent because the mind intrinsically intends the transcendental notions not the particularities of the images and neural manifolds. At the same time, it is extrinsically dependent, because it cannot reach its aim without that particularity.

Is the human body intrinsically independent of the spiritual capacity for self-transcendence?

All of this however points to the fact that human intellectual, rational, and moral development of the capacity for self-transcendence is intrinsically independent of and extrinsically dependent on the body–its organic and motor-sensate, and affective facets as well as its embeddedness in the empirical residue. However, this relation of the mind to the body does not allow one to understand and know whether the human body is intrinsically independent of the capacity for self-transcendence and its realization. This reminds one of St. Thomas point that God is intrinsically independent of us, but we are not intrinsically independent of God in our existence. At the same time, it reminds me of St. Thomas point that the rational nature of the human being informs the body which means the body has an intelligibility that comes from the rational nature above.

There is another way of raising this question. Is the human body intrinsically intelligible without reference to the intelligibility of the capacity for self-transcendence and its realization in the self-transcending acts of understanding, judging, and deciding? If the body is intrinsically independent, then one cannot say that an intrinsic link to an intellectual nature occurs in the human body. Thus, when a human being is merely an organic or zoological being, he or she is not a human person. On the other hand, if such an intelligibility exists, then one can say that this being who is not currently intellectual, rational, and moral is still a human person.

Phantasm and Insight

Non-heuristic sense objects

One way to develop this answer is to examine the relationship that the phantasm has to insight. The images that are phantasms are distinct from those that are merely sensate. Sensate type images are either direct integrations of neural responses to sense objects the apple as seen–or they are creative remembrances of those objects the apple as remembered–or creative constructions of potential sensate objects that have never actually been sensed the cubicle apple. Notice that in each case there is a greater liberty from the material manifolds. The second is free from the actual sensation of the object in a particular physical place and time but not free from memories of the object. The third is free from both a sensation of the object and even from a memory of it though it is not free from some previous sense experiences. If one has never had eyes to see or ears to hear, then no visual or auditory creative constructs can be formed.

In all three cases, the empirical residue is a constitutive component of the images. Every actual, remembered, or potential sensate object has a particular spatial or temporal element, as well as individuality. And though the imagination has a kind of freedom to create these residues, especially as one moves to the second and third types of sensate objects, the objects it creates cannot be without these residues.

Intellectual Images – Phantasms

Images need not be limited to sense type objects, and this is precisely what takes place in the formation of a phantasm. A phantasm is an imaginative object that has become formed in such a manner as to allow for the emergence of an insight. For example, in understanding the algebraic law that A + B = B + A, the data requires that one do and then examine a series of arithmetic activities, such as 1 + 2 = 2 + 1; 4 + 10 = 10 + 4, 8 + 54 = 54 + 8, etc., etc., etc.. Thus, the phantasm in this case is formed by doing arithmetic based on symbolic representations of numerical elements and mathematical operations. Notice, that the kind of patterning of the imagination that takes place cannot be explained either as a perception of an actual sensate object, as a memory, or as a creative construct of a potential sensate object. Instead, this kind of imaginative play is ordered toward insight. And that patterning of the imagination is an intelligibility that requires an understanding of higher levels of intellectual life. The phantasm as a phantasm would not exist without the insight and it would not be what it is without the insight. Yet, it belongs to the imagination, and hence is embedded in neural manifolds and the empirical residue. Without the act of insight, the underlying phantasm is merely a strange coincidental aggregate of neural events and images. The reality is that it is not random or strange, and needs the higher order for explanation.

What this indicates is the body, at least that part of the body that has become informed as a phantasm, is informed by the insight, and thus cannot be understood in its form or pattern without that insight. This indicates an intelligibility of the body that intrinsically requires an appeal to intelligence itself. Thus, the phantasm is intrinsically linked to our human intellectual nature.
Intellectual Body without phantasm?

This then raises another question. Does this intelligible link between the phantasm and intelligence exist when no phantasm actually exists? If I am in a deep sleep, or in a kind of non-intellectual conscious state, does my vegetative and sensate being still exist in a manner that possesses an intrinsic form that requires an appeal to higher conscious operations? The answer in my judgment is yes.
Evidence 1: The Potentiality of the Imagination and Brain for Phantasm

What is the evidence? Well, I think in general one could point to the real potentiality of the imagination to be informed as a phantasm. When the imagination is not actually informed as a phantasm, it does not thereby become limited in its capability to form a phantasm. In other words, it does not regress to being able to rise no higher than sensate type images and constructs. This also means that the neural manifolds that underlie the potentiality for forming the phantasm have this same plasticity. I suspect that the great power of the associative regions of the brain, and the motor and sensory cortices along with the front lobes point to this plasticity as well, and as the structures of the brain become better known, this link will become clearer.

Evidence 2: The Memory of Habituation of the Imagination and Neural Patterns by Phantasm

Also, once a phantasm has been created, and the neurons and their synaptic linkages have switched into long term patterns for long term memory, then literally, the brain has become habituated to these phantasms. Even when these patterns are not operative as phantasms, the stability of the neural linkages remain. And like the phantasm, these underlying neural patterns cannot be explained except in relationship to the higher insights, reflective insights, and evaluative insights that inform them [I think the neural patterns involved in evaluative insights include a combination of the manner in which the affective/emotional dimensions of the brain are integrated into the higher parts of the brain, especially the frontal lobes. Thus the phantasm sublated by evaluative insight includes higher brain integrations of these intentional affect elements, which is what neurologically allows for the sublation of the affective into the rationally self-consciousness, or the level of decision]. Thus, even the memory patterns of these phantasms are intrinsically informed by these higher conscious operations and thus have an intrinsic link to an intellectual nature.

Thus, an intrinsic link of the body to an intellectual nature is found both in the potentiality of the human imagination and human brain for phantasm as well as in the memory patterns of the imagination and neural structures that had emerged as a result of phantasm.

So, even when we are in a deep sleep, or in a sensate state in which we are not thinking, understanding, judging, and deciding, our bodies are still in a neural and imaginative potentiality and state that is intrinsically linked to our capacity for self-transcendence and its realization.

Yet, we have not reached our final answer. The relation of phantasm and the higher conscious operations regards the matured human adult and not when the human person begins to exist. However we have made one further step toward the resolution of this question. One can point out that the intrinsic link to an intellectual nature can begin even when a real potentiality for phantasm begins. But a real potentiality includes development, and such finality for development can be both horizontal and vertical. The implications of this need to be explored, and that is for the next blog.

When does the human person begin to exist? Part 6: The human person as developing

by Dr. David Fleischacker

In the former 5 parts of our inquiry, we had explored the meaning of the Thomistic definition of person as a “distinct subsistent in an intellectual nature.” A person needs to be distinct from mother or father or brother or sister or friend or enemy. A person is a subsistent, a that which is, a concrete unity. A person is intrinsically linked to intelligence, reasonableness, responsibility, and love. And now to turn to the next stage, what is specifically human about this person?

The HUMAN person

As Developing:

In the former blog entry, it was noted that the intelligence of human beings develops. It starts as a mere potentiality, a mere capacity that grows through the years. In other words our questions for understanding, insights, definition and symbolic formulations of insights, our questions for reflection, reflective insights, judgments, questions for deliberation, apprehension of values, judgments of value and the good, and decisions unfold, shift, grow, and undergo transformations and even conversions over the years.These growths can be horizontal expansions of common sense, of the dramatic formation of human living, or of the artistic realms. These growths can undergo expansions into new modalities of stewarding the world mediated by meaning, such as takes place in the move into theory and explanation, and then again into a higher differentiation of consciousness that Lonergan identifies as the shift to an explanatory interiority or the “Third Stage of Meaning.” And within each higher stage whether theory or interiority, horizontal developments can take place. Differentiations of the sciences, and ultimately of metaphysics can be articulated and explored, and then used to guide and direct our lives within creation and history.

Most comprehensively, the human being can be characterized in terms of the full range of our questions and the full range of notions that constitute the aims of these questions. Lonergan defines this totality as the capacity for self-transcendence. We are beings that seek intelligibility, truth or being, and the good. This capacity drives our development and this capacity defines our aims. Its fulfillment is what we desire, and such fulfillment would bring ultimate happiness. Thus, to find that which would bring about such fulfillment would be to adhere to that which would be our true happiness. This ultimately means to be in love with one who is unrestricted intelligence, truth, and goodness.

Thus, the human being is intrinsically intellectual because the human being is intrinsically constituted by a relationship to understanding the intelligible, to judging that discovers the true, to evaluation and deliberation that beholds the good and grounds true freedom, and most comprehensively to a capacity for self-transcendence that yearns to be actuated in a love that truly completes it, in a love of God as God who has first flooded our hearts with love, and placed us into a context to love our neighbor and our enemy in a manner that transforms our world.

Our development is one that brings about a religious self-transcendence in faith, hope, and love; a moral self-transcendence that forms into the moral virtues; an intellectual self-transcendence that forms into the intellectual virtues. Human beings are human persons because of this intrinsic link to intellectual life, one that is “one the way” toward ultimate human perfection in another that is perfection itself.

But when do we begin?

Of course, these all refer to the developments of the human mind, will, and heart and we are looking for the beginning of the human person. When does this intrinsic link to developing intelligence, reason, deliberation, love begin? Part of the difficulty in answering this question is a difficulty raised two blog entries ago, in part 4. The human being is not merely an intellectual, rational, responsible being. We are in-carnated, infleshed, and that infleshment is in two related levels that develop. On a first level emerges the organic. Early in life we undergo multiple differentiations of cells and cell systems. At the beginning, we are but a single cell, then a few cells, and out of this grows the circulatory, the muscular, the immunological, the digestive, the neurological, and a number of other interrelated systems. With the trees we share growth, feeding, and other organic systems. On a second level arises the motor-sensory-affective developments. Increasing integrations of the body, especially through the neurological, blossoms forth into a motor-sensory set of operations that give rise to sensate living within this world. With the animals we share sensory perceptions of our spatial-temporal niches of life, and the ability to transform those niches with our motor responses in the context of passions and emotions.

But are these vegetative and sensate dimensions of our existence intrinsically linked to intelligence, rationality, morality, love?

Next Expected Blog Entry: March 1

For those who are interested, I think the conclusion of this current question should take place in the following order, each one to be published one week after the former.

1. When does the Human Person Begin to Exist? Part 7. The Human Person: the relation of the mind to the body

2. When does the Human Person Begin to Exist? Part 8. The Human Person: the relation of the body to the mind

3. When does the Human Person Begin to Exist? Part 9. The Human Person: The relation of the zygote and fetus to the adult mind.

4. When does the Human Person Begin to Exist? Part 10. The Human Person: The CONCLUSION