When does the human person begin to exist? Part 4 The basis of the unity-identity-whole in an explanatory viewpoint.

by David Fleischacker

In the last installment on January 11th, a question was posed at the end.

“The question then becomes more precisely what is required to grasp intelligently and affirm reasonably the unity of a concrete unity, a subsistent being? Since all insight requires an adequate image or phantasm, what kind of image or phantasm is needed for the emergence of the insight that recognizes a unity-identity-whole?”

Expanding the question in terms of Conjugate Forms, the Unity-Identity-Whole, and Development.

In chapter 8 of INSIGHT, Lonergan succinctly presents the cognitive discovery of the unity-identity-whole, and then how the knower can move to an explanatory differentiation of the unity-identity-whole, the thing in its various conjugate forms (as both genus and species). The highest set of conjugate forms define the kind of thing that is unified. He makes it clear that the “direct insights” which understand these highest conjugate forms are not the same as those insights which grasp unity-identity-wholes.” Later in the book, a nuance is added to the differentation of things. In chapter 15, “Elements of Metaphysics,” Lonergan introduces a further heuristic structure, that had been implicit in certain parts of the book earlier, including chapter 8, namely genetic/developmental method. And he subsequently integrates that which is known developmentally with the notion of the thing. A developmental thing changes through sequences of changing conjugate forms, yet it is one and the same through the entire process from beginning to end. So the same thing is both acorn and, later, Oak.

Now these developmental insights are distinct from insights into conjugate form and central form (central form = unity-identity-whole). Since our purpose here is to identify when the human person begins to exist, and the human person is a developing kind of thing, we need to examine what place development holds in our inquiry.

Another way of posing this question is how does a thing, as it develops, remain one and the same. A zygote of an animal, for example, has rather indeterminate organic or vegetative features, and nothing more. It is not yet a sensate being. When it sufficiently develops to possess neural cells and ganglia, and then a brain, and thus begins to acquire the ability to sense, it has become a new kind of thing. Is this a substantial change? Is it an annihilation of an old unity-identity-whole and the creation of a new one? Now, as said above, Lonergan states that it is one and the same, even through the same thing changes from a lower set of conjugate forms (eg. Organic) to a higher set (psychic/sensate).

Now notice, that if one stops at this point, then one can only say that the same thing is an organic thing at stage one, then the same thing becomes a sensate/psychic kind of thing at stage two. This means that the same thing comes to possess a different kind of nature. Thus, when one wants to define a thing, does one then need to use multiple definitions depending upon the stage of development? The ramifications of this, for our question at hand, is that one must wonder if a human person, which needs to be a rational/intellectual being, exists only when a certain kind of thing reaches a stage at which rational life is in act, or at least has the power to act. This would seem to support the theory of delayed-hominization. It means that at one stage, I am merely an organic kind of thing (vegetative), then I become a sensate kind of thing (animal), and later a rational kind of thing. I am one and the same throughout these three major shifts, yet quite different at each stage. It also means, however, given the definition of person with which we are working (a distinct subsistent in an intellectual nature), that I am not a human person until that third stage.

Defining a Thing Developmentally

However, the notion of development, especially as it is related to horizontal and vertical finality (For more on the meaning of finality, see INSIGHT, chapter 14, and I would also recommend his treatment of it in Third Collection, in the essay “Healing and Creating in History), introduces some new ways for defining something. One can come to define “what” something is not only by the highest actually operative conjugate forms in their schemes of recurrence, but by the potency of the highest actually operative conjugate forms in their schemes of recurrence. Any developing being that is at any stage prior to full maturity is a system that is an operator because it not only possesses a regular set of schemes of recurrence, but it is setting itself up for either horizontal (just as a deductive or homogenous expansion can take place in arthmetic, so an organism can “expand” its organic operations) or vertical (just as one can move from arithmetic to algebra, so a organism can expand from vegetative/organic operations to motor-sensate operations) changes.

The Highest Finality of a Potency as That Which Unifies all the Data in a Development

Because every potency is defined by its relation to form and act, and because those relations can be horizontal and vertical, one can define a thing by the highest potency that constitutes it (I say highest, because in a complex matured organism, the maturation of stem cells which maintain and heal tissues include operators, but these are not the highest operators of the organism as a whole). Now notice, that the highest potency of a developing thing is the same from its beginning to its completion, even though at the earliest stage that potency is vertical and later it became horizontal, and then perhaps, once maturity was reached development stops. In this last stage, the same potency is still a constituent of the being, though now it is a fully realized potency. This is why a particular developing kind of thing can be defined by the highest finality that belongs to its potency.

Thus, one is not forced to limit a definition of a unity-identity-whole to a particular set of actual highest conjugate forms, or, in other words, to a particular stage of development.

[As a note, the finality of a particular thing is different from the universe as a whole, not so much because emergent probability is different, but because in a thing, the particular sequences of development have been delimited within a particular flexible developmental range, whereas in the finality of the universe, no such delimitation has taken place, but rather it includes the possibility of a multiplicity of things and ranges of developing things this as well would be worth another blog article!].

Hence, in defining a zygote of a dog, therefore, one can define it in various ways, but most appropriately I would argue, one wants to define it as a developmental kind of thing, and thus by means of the kind of potency the “dog” zygote possesses, and more specifically, the highest orientation of the potency, which is a vertical orientation toward specific motor-sensory-affective integrations and operations. Thus, if one defines a dog as that which has a particular finality in its potency (which could only be specified after an explantory account of all the developemental stages of the dog takes place in the scientific community), a finality that opens up to a particular combination of motor-sensory-affective integrations/operations, then one can say that this zygote which is one and the same with the fully matured dog is also the same in its developmental nature, and thus possesses the nature of a dog.

[If you have never done so, it is worthwhile taking the extended time needed to work through some specific examples of eucharyotic cells, DNA, a general understanding of biochemical schemes, cell differentiation, and the emergence of differentiated tissues, especially neural tissues and brain development. The emergence of motor-sensory-affective possibilities from these earlier stages is rather fascinating even though knowledge of it is still limited.]

Recognition of a Unity-Identity-Whole in an Explanatory viewpoint requires not only that all the data be individual, but that these data be link in some fashion

This resolves a thorny issue in my mind regarding the recognition in an explanatory framework that something is a unity-identity-whole. From the explanatory viewpoint, the data that form a unity-identity-whole cannot be just individual data, but rather these must be linked to each other in some fashion. For Lonergan, this link is the highest set of conjugate forms that are operative in a set of data (see chapter 8 and 15). Whatever data are united in that highest set of conjugate forms (or it could be one form) all belong to the same thing in all of their particular aspects. In a developing kind of thing however, which undergoes emerging sequences of higher conjugate forms, the actual conjugate forms of a particular stage do not provide the unification with the data of earlier or later stages. Something else is needed. And that need is provided by turning to the highest developmental potency (or finality) of this particular being, which is the same at all of its stages. This developmental potency developmentally unifies all the data from beginning to end.

How a Developmental Unity-Identity-Whole is grasped by understanding and affirmed in judgment

Now this developmental unity, like a unity of data integrated through the highest set of conjugate forms, is not the same as the “unity-identity-whole”, since it regards data as similarly understood, not data as individual. In an explanatory framework, once one has worked through the developmental sequences of some being, a range of intellectually patterned experiences then is generated that lead to the unity-identity-whole insight as explanatorily grounded (this can be reached for some things through descriptive conjugates as well but this is for another blog since we are interested in the explanatory definition of person). As a note, this is much like how the “doing of arithmetic” provides the experiential matrix for getting insights into algebra. Likewise, one can verify in judgment this unity-identity-whole by going back and reflecting upon the relationship of this insight into the central form and its basis in the data as developmentally unified.

Final Conclusion

Thus, to return to the initial question stated at the end of the last blog. The meaning of a “that which is”, a “subsistent,” requires a unity, and that unity is a unity-identity-whole. This unity-identity-whole in a data has its roots in the data as intelligibly united either through some highest set of conjugate forms, or, if it is a developing kind of thing, through the highest reaches of the potency for development (horizontally and/or vertically). However, it is not that data as “similarly understood” but that data as individual.

If one can reasonably affirm a unity-identity-whole, one can reasonably know that such a reality exists. And if such a reality exists, subsistences exist. The next set of questions turn to the meaning of “in an intellectual/rational nature.” Following that, we can turn to human subsistents in an intellectual nature, and finally turn to develop an answer to our original question: “When do human persons begin to exist?”

When does the human person begin to exist? Part 3: The reality of the concrete unity-identity-whole.

By David Fleischacker

In part 2, I began to examine the notion of the “subsistent” and noted that one key element in a subsistent is the unity of the reality — it needs to be a “that” or a “this” not a “those” nor a “these.” However, both a relational metaphysics and a reductionist metaphysics seriously challenge this key notion of unity. At best, unity becomes a mere epiphenomena, a being of reason, but not a reality. If the reality of the subsistent is going to be salvaged, the reality of unity needs to be substantiated.

Lonergan’s solution turns to the notion of reality, not as that which is lowest in the universe of being (perhaps quarks or some more basic form of energy), or even relational beings, but “that which is grasped intelligently and affirmed reasonably.” This is a bit of a sound bite behind which are the levels of understanding and judgment which are explored more thoroughly in the first half of INSIGHT. When one raises questions for understanding, receives an insight, and then defines that insight, one has “grasped intelligently.” And when one raises questions for reflection, reflects back upon the relation of insight and image/data, then receives reflective insight and pronounces judgment, one has “affirmed reasonably” the understanding. Thus anything–and that means anything–any property, any feature, any experience that can be understood and affirmed in judgment is real.

The cognitive elements are included in the definition of the “that” simply because then one can understand what is meant through a heuristic definition. This heuristic apprehension is needed for a cognitive/rational being to understand the meaning of being (which is possible because our beings are beings that are “lights of being” or “agent intellects participative in divine being”). Hence, to use a traditional language, we understand the meaning of being by the analogy of Being.

Thus, what is key for solving the problem about the reality of the unity-identity-whole is that it be a “that” which can be grasped intelligently and affirmed reasonable, and is real even if not understood or known by anyone.

With this meaning of “real” in mind, neither the lowest, most basic component of things (the ultimate focus of a reductionist metaphysics), nor the relations of things (the focus of a relational metaphysics) preclude the possibility of a unity that also is real, since it too can be grasped intelligently and affirmed reasonably. If one can mean some meaning with the words “this” or “that” then that meaning is rooted upon an insight, and if this insight is affirmed reasonably to be a “this” or “that”, then one can know that one’s meaning refers to a real unity that is identified by the “this” or “that.” Hence just as one can grasp intelligently and affirm reasonably the lowest component of all things, and just as one can grasp intelligently and affirm reasonably the relations of things, so one can grasp intelligently and affirm reasonably the unity necessary to be a thing. Neither reductionist nor relational metaphysics are adequate because neither is capable of accounting for all that is real in this universe. (As a note, Lonergan dialectically analyzes the reductionist position in a number of places in INSIGHT).

The question then becomes more precisely what is required to grasp intelligently and affirm reasonably the unity of a concrete unity, a subsistent being? Since all insight requires an adequate image or phantasm, what kind of image or phantasm is needed for the emergence of the insight that recognizes a “unity-identity-whole”?

When does the human person begin to exist? Part 2: To be a subsistent, or not to be.

By David Fleischacker

Last week, in the search for the answer to this factual question about when a human person begins to exist, I had turned to the definition of a person developed by St. Thomas Aquinas, with the hopes that it would add significant precision in the search for an answer. And in initiating that search, the meaning of the first term of the definition had been explored. A person is distinct from others. A child must be distinct from his or her mother, as well as others, in order to be a person. Now we turn to the second term in St. Thomas’ definition of person; subsist.

A subsistent, as far as I can tell, is a being in all of its concrete unity. It is not just a part of a being, such as the molecules or the biological systems of cells that compose it, or the unity of it. It is the entire, concrete, existing being, which as such, exists in itself and not in another as St. Thomas highlights.

As a human person, this means that all of my parts, all of my being, including my thoughts, my will, my memories, my character, my personality, my body, legs, eyes, arms, ears, my unity, identity, whole, my individuality, my perfections and lack thereof, all belong to my concrete existing being. These are parts of me, unified in me, which allows me to say these belong to me, not as a possession of mine, but rather as a constituent part of my being. These parts are the parts of a complex composition that is me and which thus allow me to say in a very subjective and objective way that these parts are me, such that if someone were to harm a part, I would then say you have hurt me. These parts are constitutive and compositional, not merely add-ons to my being. I, and all that composes me, am a concrete unity. I am a subsistent being.

And yet, all of this can be challenged. Perhaps the most difficult element of subsistence, at least for me, is the question about the unity of the concrete being. What if the very notion of unity is merely that, a notion, and not real? A number of philosophers and scientists in the post-modern era, especially ecologists, have highlighted the relational element of all events and things, including people. If the relational is all that is real, then unity is merely a notion and these relationally consistuted parts and pieces are just that, relationally consitituted parts and pieces. There is no unified subject, no individual. Individualism is an idea of the past. And subsequently, with the loss of a real concrete unity, there is no meaning to subsistent being.

One can go on to add premises that destroy the notion of the subsistent by giving a multitude of examples that highlight the relational in this world. My lungs for example do not operate and really do not make sense except in relationship to oxygen and carbon dioxide cycles, and the plants and trees that form part of those cycles. Even the biochemical cycles in my body do not make sense as independent elements without understanding the relationship these possess to various forms of energy in the ecosystem (eg. Such as Kreb’s cycle and a large bowl of food). As a human being I am a social being. I am the son of so and so, a teacher, a student, a consumer, a friend, and on and on. All relationally defined terms. When I look at my being, from the sub-sub-atomic to the most meaningful elements, I understanding nothing but relational events and activities. Even my own mind is constituted by transcending notions that seek the intelligible, the true, and the good, transcending terms that are not me. And this transcending orientation is not restricted, which implies a relation to some unrestricted being. So, isn’t what is real, what is concrete, simply a relational reality? There is no independent, individual unity that is distinct from others, that subsists. Rather what exists is a web of relationships that expand throughout the galaxy, and to the universe as a whole, and onward to the divine.

One could also destroy the subsistent by traveling the way of the reductionist. Looking at a human being, one could focus upon the chemical, or the sub-atomic, or the sub-sub-atomic. One sees just an aggregate pile of molecules, once in a while statistically interacting with each other in some type of reaction. There is no overarching unity from this point of view, and hence one begins to argue that there is no larger thing that mysteriously brings everything together. The larger unity becomes a mere epi-phenomena, more conceptual than real. And as Lonergan pointed out, beings of mere reason are not subsistent.

Notice, how this also destroys the notion of individuality, and along with it the reality of distinctness, and the cognitive ability to distinguish. A relational reality is not really a distinct being, an individual.

The objections to the notion of subsistent thus can be serious. If it does not exist, then the meaning of person really does not hold. People really do not exist. This long standing Western tradition that affirms the reality of the person and of people should be cast into a grave. Human beings as persons cannot be. Like the chemical reductionist, Derrida the linguistic reductionist is right. My mother is no longer a person. I am no longer a person. And Tertullian and the tradition he helped initiate was wrong all along. The three what in God cannot be three divine persons.

Yet, a reality seems to persist. I want to be a person, with a name, a concrete biography, a son, a friend, a student, a teacher, and ultimately a child of God. And for me to be these things I must be an I, not just as an epiphenomena or a merely subjective conscious I, but as a real objective unity. I not only want to be related to others but I also want to be distinct from them, and to be a concrete unity, a subject who can love, and be responsible, and truthful, and intelligent.

The solution? Let us leave it for the next installment.

Knowing and Willing in Aquinas

By Dunstan Robidoux, OSB

In the common literature which exists about Aquinas, he is frequently described as an “intellectualist.” His philosophy (or theology) is frequently regarded as “intellectualist” which implies that he subscribes to a tradition which emphasizes the primary of the human intellect in the life of human beings. However, is this popular view somewhat misleading for more than one reason? Can a development be detected in Aquinas which offers a more nuanced position, a thesis which jars with simple intellectualism and which can be reconciled with a degree of voluntarism? Is Aquinas misunderstood because many of his readers today could be working from a truncated understanding of what could be meant by “intellectualism”?

Early on, in his analysis, In interpreting Aristotle’s De Anima, 3, 433b10-13 in the Sentencia Libri De anima, 3, 15, 830; p. 246, Aquinas argues that, in Aristotle, the “absolute starting point of movement” in the movement of desire or appetite is the apprehension of a desired object, either through the powers of human imagination or the activity of the human intellect. Appetibile apprehensum movet appetitum; “the apprehended object of desire moves the appetite” (citing J. Michael Stebbins’s translation, Divine Initiative: Grace, World-Order, and Human Freedom in the Early Writings of Bernard Lonergan, p. 323, n. 90) even if this phrasing only presents the meaning of Aquinas’s interpretation and so does not cite any literal wording from any text written by Aquinas. On the whole, in the early writings of Aquinas, the will tends to be viewed in passive terms. It is something which is acted upon. Cf. Lonergan, “On God and Secondary Causes,” Collection, p. 63. It lacks a causality of its own.

However, in a development of view which gradually transcends the simple intellectualism of Aristotle, in Aquinas (and in Lonergan’s analysis of Aquinas), will and intellect are related in a way which is best understood in terms of a mutual causality or a causality of mutual priority. In analyzing how Aquinas understands how the human will is related to the life of the intellect, in his Grace and Freedom, pp. 95-96 and pp. 319-320, Lonergan argues that, when Aquinas speaks about the causality of the human will (the fact that it has a causality of its own), he rejects Aristotle’s understanding which had viewed the will as purely a function of reason (as a “wholly passive potency,” quoting Stebbins, p. 84). Cf. Patrick Byrne, “Thomist Sources of Lonergan’s Dynamic World-View,” Thomist: 117. See Thomas Aquinas, In 2 Scriptum super libros sententiarum, d. 25, q. 1, a. 2; De Veritate, q. 22, a. 6; Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 10, 17; De Malo, q. 3, a. 3; Peri Hermeneias, 1, 14; and Summa Theologiae, 1a, q. 81, a. 3, ad 2; q. 82, a. 2 for texts which deny that acts of understanding and judgment force or necessitate the will to engage in its activities which lead to a desired end. While the life of the human imagination and the human intellect does admittedly play a primary role in exciting the human will toward movement, a double primary causality is in fact to be postulated (two operative efficient causes) since the human will also acts (to move itself) on the basis of naturally desired ends which already belong to the structure of the will and which incline it to act in certain ways or in certain directions. “To will and not to will lie within the power of the will” (Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 10, 17; 3, p. 61). Cf. De Malo, q. 6, a. 1. The human will is in fact moved by two causes, or two principles, which refer to a structure of reason and a structure of desire or appetite which are related to each other and which work together to move things forward in human life. As one’s understanding specifies an object or end which is to be desired by one’s human willing (Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 9, a. 1), at the same time, the self-movement of the will is accounted for by its own ends and first principles which, rationally, are constitutive of its inner life (q. 9, a. 3). The object or end is a practical good that is being desired or wanted. An appetibile or “seekable” designates the object of a striving. Cf. Martin Rhonheimer, Natural Law and Practical Reason, p. 26; p. 32; p. 71.

As this double causality is played out in the life of human beings in a way which also reveals a certain parallel in the structure of intellect and will in the rational life of human beings, where in the structure and operations of human cognition the object is a knowledge of specific facts, in the end, judgments belonging to the will (as a knowing which seeks to grasp courses of action) are also rationally made by reducing hypothesized conclusions to first principles in order to establish specific courses of action which can then be implemented to realize a desired, concrete good. In the life of the will, the will moves itself by working for ends or objectives which are constitutive of its first principles and by effecting a kind of reduction which tries to move from ends specified by first principles back towards specific means that can lead to the ultimate attainment of one’s desired ends. As, in theoretical understanding, from a general premiss in a syllogism one moves toward a specific conclusion, in the same way, from an end or object which functions as a kind of premiss in practical or moral understanding (Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 13, a. 3) and which is to be identified with the human will’s fundamental orientation toward the good (Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 90, a. 2; q. 94, a. 2 cited by Frederick Crowe, “Dialectic and the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises,” Appropriating the Lonergan Idea, p. 238), one moves toward a choice which designates a very specific means that can lead to other, higher means and ends which ultimately lead to an end that satisfies all of one’s desires and whose desiring has served as a catalyst to construct an ascending scale of related means and ends. If one is to reach an ultimate goal, one must discover a very specific, initial means or concrete step whose execution will initiate a series of actions that will lead to ultimately desired ends. A teological order or structure belongs to the dynamism of the human will as this will constructs a relation of means and ends which lead to the actualization of a highest goal or end, and as this same will works with other human wills to order means and ends in ways which distinguish how persons differently will and live their lives. As Aquinas argues above in the Summa Theologiae, 1a2ae, q. 13, a. 3, for a physician, a patient’s health is something ultimate. A physician will make decisions based on what will nourish or restore a patient’s health. But, if one is a patient or a potential patient, one might decide to forego certain medical treatments because one wishes to attain higher objectives: end which transcend the health of one’s body. The end of one person’s life or activity can become a means for another person’s life or activity. Cf. Crowe, pp. 237-8. In the life of the will, one usually works from an initial, inchoate sense of basic ends or objectives and, from there, one works toward specific objectives which designate means that are made known through co-operative activities that are centered in acts of inquiring, understanding, and judging.

Knowing and willing clearly move each other in a reciprocal relation which more fully reveals an existential tension which inherently exists within human life and, thus, a certain lack of simplicity: a mysteriousness or wonder which exists about the meaning of our human existence. A mutual or reciprocal causality excludes, on the one hand, a simple primacy of the reason over the will (as the Greeks would largely have it) and, on the other hand, a simple primacy of the will over the intellect (as many modern thinkers would have it, thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Nietzsche, and Freud). In one’s understanding, one’s desires and inclinations are known and in one’s desires and affections, one moves toward one’s acts of understanding (from what is already understood to what has yet to be understood). Cf. De Veritate, q. 9, a. 10, ad 3, 2ae ser. In the context of modern voluntarism, the human will is usually not seen as a reasonable or rational thing. Intellect and will, “intellectualism” and “voluntarism,” tend to be set apart from each other in a false dichotomy that can be overcome through a self-understanding which can begin to realize that our human understanding grows and develops through a constant interaction between intellect and will (which would also include a constant, ongoing interaction between sense and intellect in the life of the human mind). For a better understanding of modern contemporary views which emphasize the primacy of the will over the intellect, on Hobbes and the primacy of the human lust for power in human life, see Eric Voegelin, Modernity without Restraint: Science, Politics, and Gnosticism, vol. 5, ed. Manfred Henningsen (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000), p. 307.

When does the human person begin to exist? Part 1: To Be Distinct

By David Fleischacker

In answering the factual question “When does the human person begin to exist?”, a first step is to examine what is meant by “person” as such. Lonergan’s work on Christology and Trinitarian Theology lends us a great deal of precision in answering this question. Though we cannot pretend to present the profound explanatory and interior accounts of person developed especially in Lonergan’s piece on the ONTOLOGICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CONSTITUTION OF CHRIST, nor of his development of its meaning in his systematic exposition of person in THE TRIUNE GOD: SYSTEMATICS, I think it would be good to begin with one of the most prominent definitions of person from which Lonergan springs, namely that developed by St. Thomas Aquinas.

In developing his systematic account of the Holy Trinity, Aquinas defines person as a “distinct subsistent in a intellectual nature” In order to understand St. Thomas’ definition one must come to understand all of the key terms in the definition and with these understood, one can then proceed to the meaning of human person, and finally to the question of fact that concludes as to when the human person begins to exist. Along the way, we will explore the transposition of the meaning of person from faculty psychological of the 13th century into the exposition of person through the more recent interiority analysis as found in Lonergan, and the subsequent metaphysical clarification of the meaning of person.

So, we shall begin with the first term, “distinct.” Ultimately it bears upon such questions as when is the child distinct from the mother? At the moment a zygote is formed? When the infant is sensitively conscious? When the infant is intellectually, rationally, and morally conscious?

First Question: What is the meaning and importance of “distinct”?

The Importance of the Subjective Ability to Distinguish

Being able to ground the fact that some feature or thing is distinct from another cognitively requires the ability to make “absolute” judgments such that one can say that A is and B is, and then move to comparative judgments, such as A is not B. Epistemologically, these comparative judgments result in what Lonergan calls the principle notion of objectivity and when the A is a “unity, identity, whole” and “B” is a unity identity whole” (or more technically, an actually existing central/substantial form) and A is not B, then one objectively knows that two distinct things exist. We can ask, for example, is this tree that tree, or this dog that dog. If one says no in each case, then one has factually distinguished different things and arrived at some degree of objectification of the real world. Notice, if such judgments are not possible, then one cannot really become “attuned” to this universe and world, since such attunment requires that people, persons, and things become distinguished and related. Without these judgments, we would not recognize ourselves as distinct from anything in this world, nor the distinction of friends and family from each other, nor the distinction of one culture from another, nor a tree from a pond, nor a cell from a mountain.

The Criterion or Ground for Distinguishing

One can then turn from the need for comparative judgments to the basic criterion that ground these comparative judgments. For example, in making the comparative judgment of fact that one tree is not another, one could be making the distinction based upon the difference of species of trees. One is an oak, another a maple, hence these are distinct. However, in addition to the distinction based on species of tree, there is a simple fact of material difference, this tree here and now is not the same as that tree over there. These trees occupy different experiential spatial regions. Hence, even if these two trees were the same species, say maple, and the same age, say 25 years old, and even had grown in precisely the same way over the years right down to the order of the sub-atomic quarks (yes, this would be impossible), these would still be different just because of the different spatial-temporal differences. Likewise for dogs. Dogs can be distinct from each other on a number of traits, but say that two dogs were identical to each other in everything except the spatial-temporal regions that these dogs occupy. These dogs would be distinct “things” on that basis alone.

When one turns to the Holy Trinity, the question of the basis of distinction becomes rather interesting. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not distinct from each other on the basis of genus, species, Being, Intellectual disposition, hair color, physical size, or because each occupies a different spatial-temporal region. So what is the basis of the distinction between these three? The answer to this, since at least St. Augustine (I believe book seven of De Trinitate) has been mutually opposed relations which results in the irreducibility of the terms of the relations to each other (Actually, I have found similar answers in St. Gregory of Nyssa). “Relations” without opposition do not result in such distinctions. For example, friendship is based on two relationships, the first being based on friend one who seeks the good of friend two. The second on friend two who seeks the good of friend one. However these are not mutually opposed in kind. Rather, it results in two relations similar in kind, which means that the two terms of the relations are the same (term one being friend one, and term two being friend two). Friendship is a relationship that results in “two friends.” Father and son however are likewise rooted in relations but these are mutual opposed, because the relation of paternity and the relation of filiation are different in kind from each other, and these result in two irreducibly different terms, “father” and “son”, not two fathers or two sons. This becomes the basis for saying why one is not the other in the Holy Trinity. The Father “begets” the Son and thus has a relationship of paternity to the Son. The Son is begotten of the Father, and thus has a relationship of filiation to the Father. Mutually opposed relations is the key.

The Conclusion is that different kinds of things might need different grounds that allow human beings to understand the difference cognitively and that actually cause these things to be distinct metaphysically.

The Ground for Distinction of Human Beings Cognitively and Metaphysically

Our concern at the moment is not with the ground of the distinction of three Persons in the Trinity, but rather the meaning of “distinct” as such, and in turn how it grounds the distinction of human persons, and then how this distinction bears upon when human persons begin to exist.

The basis upon which one human being is not another is not easy to identify metaphysically as the following two questions illustrate. “Is the basis of the distinction between human beings the genetic uniqueness of a person?” “Is it that each man, woman, and child possesses a self-conscious unity?” Notice how neither of these grounds for distinction work because neither provides a definitive principle of difference. Theoretically, human beings could be genetically identical, hence that does not quite work. Likewise, even in possessing a “self-conscious unity”, one cannot use that feature to conclude that one person is not another because both “self-conscious” human beings would be the same in this feature of “self-conscious unity.” Furthermore, one is not always a “self-conscious unity” and this provides further evidence that this cannot be a principle of difference.

Now, as with trees and dogs, one can argue that human beings are distinct from each other on many grounds: Biographical, cultural, and biological differences would allow one to say why one human being is not another. In the end, however, one human being could be completely identical to another biographically, culturally, and biologically (even down to the sub-atomic quarks), and yet each would be distinct from the other. The solution? Though I do not think this solution can be reached yet with clarity, I can point to Lonergan’s answer. Each human being possesses a difference rooted in one feature of the empirical residue, which Lonergan calls “individuality.” Cognitively, individuality is a residue in intellectually patterned experience that is identifiable when one grasps that a human material-rational-spiritual unity exists. Metaphysically, individuality is part of central (substantial) potency, and this difference in individuality is what metaphysically causes human beings to be distinct from each other. Notice though, I have slipped in something that needs to be made more precise first, namely “material-rational-spiritual unity” on the cognitive side, and “central (substantial) form” on the metaphysical side, and clarification of these will come when we treat the subsequent terms — “subsistent in an intellectual nature” — in Aquinas’ definition of person and work this out as it exists in human beings.

For now, we just need to note that in order for a human person to be a person, this person must be distinct and hence distinguishable in some fundamental fashion from others, including from one’s mother. Is the zygote a distinct being from the mother while in the womb in which the zygote “lives and moves and has its being (relatively speaking).” Or is the child not distinct until some later age, when he or she has rationally and morally decided to be distinct?

Hence, the next question for the next posting: What does “subsistent” mean and how does it bear upon the question “When does a human being begin to exist?”

Infusion of the human soul?

By David Fleischacker

Here is an interesting point think about. Lonergan writes in INSIGHT, that the human mind and will are intrinsically independent of the empirical residue (this is the way that he identifies what is meant by “spiritual” as opposed to material). Intrinsically, the human mind operates with respect to intelligibility and being and thus is not limited intrinsically in its operation by the empirical residue. In contrast, material objects are by definition intrinsically conditioned by the empirical residue, which means that these objects cannot be in act or operate without also being limited to doing so by the empirical residue.

The human being however is both spiritual and material. As spiritual, the operators of the mind and will transcend the empirical residue. As material, the motor-sensory matrix does not. This results in an interesting and important relationship between the mind and the “body” because the mind only reaches insight in an image. Hence though the mind operates in a manner transcendent to the empirical residue, it does not reach its answers save through that which is intrinsically conditioned by that residue. This is what Lonergan means when he proclaims that the mind is extrinsically conditioned by the empirical residue.

Now, one of the implications of this is that the human spirit cannot emerge in this world in the same manner that material objects can emerge. Hence, emergent probability operates a bit different in that which is spiritual because of the intrinsic freedom of the operators of the mind and will. In turn, this seems to be an argument for the claim that the “notion of being” (or in general, the transcendental notions of intelligiblity, being, and goodness) is infused. In other words, the mind is intrinsically caused by The Transcendent, and thus it is a created participation in the Divine Mind, rather than something that emerges in virtue of a proper statistical ordering of a lower manifold, as one might get from the emergence of organic life from a chemical soup. So, just as in the Thomistic understanding of efficient causality, nothing in this world can efficiently cause the existence of a rational soul, so in the Lonergan understanding of emergent probability, nothing in this world can emergently “cause” the rational subject.

Just a thought.


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Lonergan Institute for the “Good Under Construction”

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 lonergan@lonergan.org

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.

  1. 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.


In general, our policy is never to charge dues or fees for services rendered since the object of our work is to pass on to others what we have freely received in the hope that what we have given will be freely passed on to others (without charge or obligation). What we have, we do not sell since it is not a commercial product. Hence, we function on the basis of gift exchange.

At present, we hope to raise $500,000 in order to fund both faculty and a series of research projects that are linked to the three major tasks mentioned earlier (including both a study of the relationship between religious formation and theology, and the preparation of an integrated curriculum for Catholic education from elementary to graduate school). We are hoping that the majority of our funding will be solicited from foundations and friends.

In response to questions soliciting suggestions for semester-long seminars of directed reading and classroom discussion, we quote a sum of $150.00, but this figure represents an arbitrary designation. Participants and colleagues are free to exercise their own judgment on what they might wish to give if a decision of this kind is made. For additional information, please contact us at the following address:

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 Internet www.lonergan.org

If you wish to make a tax deductible donation, please send cheques payable to “The Lonergan

Institute” to the aforecited address.


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 www.lonergan.org. In Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Peter Monette and Paul Allen, creators of the Lonergan Web Site (www.lonergan.on.ca), 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.

  1. Paul M. Rodden, “How I Came To Know Lonergan,,,,” Lonergan Research Institute

Bulletin 12 (November 1997): 3.

  1. Interview with Fr. Joseph Flanagan, S.J., Boston College, June 1997, conducted by Peter Monette and Paul Allen for Lonergan Web Site (www.lonergan.on.ca/flan.htm), p. 3
  2. ‘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…

  1. 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.

  1. 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 (www.lonergan.on.ca/melchin.htm), p. 11.
  2. 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.

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

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

  1. Certificate of Incorporation issued on April 18, 1997 by the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, District of Columbia
  2. [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.
  3. [Moore], 7.
  4. 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.
  5. Moore, quoted in Neenan.
  6. [Moore], pp. 3-4.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. Bernard Lonergan, For A New Political Economy, ed. Philip J. McShane (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), p. 36.
  3. “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.”
  4. 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.
  5. Plato Symposium 201-4
  6. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Lonergan, quoted in Lawrence, “Human Good and Christian Conversation,” p. 251.
  5. Bernard Lonergan, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, eds. Frederick E. Crowe and Robert M. Doran (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), p. 253.
  6. 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.
  7. Interview with Melchin, p. 9.
  8. Flanagan, pp. 100-1.
  9. Kenneth R. Melchin, Living with Other People: An Introduction to Christian Ethics Based on Bernard Lonergan (Toronto: Novalis, 1998), pp. 10-11.
  10. Byrne, p. 18, 78.
  11. 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.

  1. frequently cited as “economic equilibrium”
  2. R. Bruce Douglas, “At the Heart of the Letter,” Commonweal, June 21, 1985 quoted in Byrne, p. 18.
  3. Bernard Lonergan, quoted in Lawrence, “Human Good and Christian Conversation,” p. 251.
  4. 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.
  5. Shute, p. 26.
  6. John Donne, Devotions [1624] XVII, quoted in John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 13 ed. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1955), p. 218.
  7. Shute, pp. 20-22.
  8. Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, 2nd ed. (New York: Herder and Herder, 1973), p. 38.
  9. Bernard Lonergan, “Analytic Conception of History,” Method: A Journal of Lonergan Studies 11: I (Spring 1993): 8, cited by Shute, p. 22.
  10. Bernard Lonergan, For a New Political Economy, pp. 11-2.
  11. 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.
  12. Lonergan, For a New Political Economy, p. 12.
  13. 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.

  1. 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


  1. Melchin, Living with Other People, p. 107.
  2. Interview with Melchin, p. 4.
  3. Flanagan, p. 215.
  4. 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.
  5. Aristotle Physica, I, 1, 184a 17
  6. Bernard Lonergan, “Healing and Creating in History,” A Third Collection, ed. Frederick E. Crowe (New York/London: Paulist Press/Geoffrey Chapman, 1985), p. 108.
  7. 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.
  8. Nathan Spielberg and Bryon D. Anderson, Seven Ideas that Shook the Universe (New

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

  1. Flanagan, p. 215.
  2. 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.
  3. Lamb, p. 263.
  4. Tekippe, “Human Good,” Lonergan Workshop, vol. 7, p. 314.
  5. Shute, p. 18.
  6. Lonergan, For a New Political Economy, p. 12.
  7. 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.
  8. 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
  9. defined as the self-correcting process of learning and doing
  10. 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
  11. 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).
  12. 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.
  13. David G. Creamer, Guides for the Journey: John Macmurray, Bernard Lonergan, James Fowler (Lanham, Maryland: University of America Press, 1996), p. 56.
  14. Byrne, pp. 20- 1.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. Creamer, p. 53; Richard M. Liddy, Transforming Light Intellectual Conversion in the

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

  1. 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.

  1. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, rev. ed., trans. J. M. D. Meiklejohn (New York: Willey Book Co., 1943), p. 21.
  2. Bernard Lonergan, “Method: The Basic Problem,” lecture delivered at Rockhurst College, Kansas City, Missouri, October 20, 1968.
  3. Lonergan, Method, p. 336, n. 1.
  4. 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.
  5. Byrne, “Interpretation,” p. 6.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Flanagan, pp. 35-6; Interview with Flanagan, p. 4.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. lnterview with Melchin, p. 6.
  12. Bernard Lonergan cited by Michael Vertin, “Remembering Bernard Lonergan,” Lonergan Research Institute Bulletin 13 (November 1998): 4.
  13. Interview with Melchin, p. 13.
  14. Interview with Flanagan, p. 7.
  15. 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.
  16. Interview with Melchin, p. 3.
  17. Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea, III, 5, 1114a 30f.
  18. Michael McCarthy, ” Critical Christian Renewal,” paper presented at the 25th annual

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

  1. R. Jeffrey Grace, “The Transcendental Method of Bernard Lonergan,” Internet.
  2. Harpercollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism, 1995 ed., s.v. “Maréchal, Joseph”; New

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

  1. 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.
  2. Ormerod, p. 94.
  3. 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.

  1. “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.
  2. Karl Jaspers, cited in “Another ‘Axial’ Period?” Lonergan Research Institute Bulletin 5 (November 1990): 1.
  3. John O’Donnell, Hans Urs von Balthasar (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1992), p. 144.
  4. 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.

  1. Bernard Lonergan, The Way to Nicea: The Dialectical Development of Trinitarian Theology, trans. Conn O’Donovan (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), p. 109.
  2. 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.
  3. Eric Voegelin, Order and History, vol, 2: The World of the Polis quoted in Byrne, p. 8.
  4. “Introduction,” Lonergan Reader, p. 11.
  5. “Introduction,” Lonergan Reader, pp. 22-3.
  6. Aidan Nichols, O.P., The Shape of Catholic Theology: An Introduction to Its Sources, Principles, and History (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1991), p. 343.
  7. Creamer, p. 56.
  8. Creamer, p. 57. Cebu City, in the Philippines, hosts a second Filipino Lonergan center known as the Lonergan Communications Center.
  9. Lonergan Research Institute of Regis College in the University of Toronto, Internet, p. 3.
  10. “Lonergan Hits WWW!” Lonergan Research Institute Bulletin no.11 Nov 1996: 3.
  11. St. Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia awarded Lonergan’s first honorary doctorate in 1964.
  12. Creamer, p. 57.
  13. 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.
  14. Creamer, p. 57, n. 31.
  15. 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.
  16. Lonergan in Translation,” Lonergan Research Institute Bulletin no.10 Nov 1995: 3.
  17. “LRI Announces Lonergan Publications,” Lonergan Research Institute Bulletin no. 11 Nov 1996: 1.
  18. Lamb.
  19. Method: Journal of Lonergan Studies 13 Fall 1993.
  20. Lamb.
  21. “Lonergan-related Publications,” Lonergan Research Institute Bulletin no.10 Nov. 1995: 3.
  22. Creamer, p. 54.
  23. Creamer, p. 54, n. 16.
  24. 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).
  25. 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 djr@lonergan.org