link to:Lonergan’s Notion of Truth
By David Fleischacker, PhD
Metaphysics as a science seeks to build a comprehensive and generic viewpoint of the universe that is thus far known. How? It finds common features of all sciences and the common features of the objects of those sciences, and melds these features into an integral unity, a horizon of being.
I think it might be easiest to start getting a sense of metaphysics by setting up an every day analogy that will help to point to a more complete metaphysics.
Here are the points that I would like to invite reflection upon:
1. Events: including things, persons, and activities.
2. Frequencies of events: “How often does X take place?”
3. Webs of events and their frequencies.
4. Developmental stages and sequences of webs.
If we stay within our everyday lives, and come up with some examples of these points, I think we can go a long way toward developing a generic view of our worlds. This will be only a descriptive, everyday view, however the reason I chose these points is because these provide analogies for understanding Lonergan’s metaphsics.
An event is person or thing involved in some activity in our everyday worlds. In order to understand that event, we would need to begin raising some questions: What, why, how, where, when type questions. If I asked you “Who is so and so?” In answering the question, you might give me a name? Then I might be curious as to know why the person is here, or what this person does. All of these questions would be expansions of the same type of question, a question that helps me to understand the event. These types of questions can thus be called “questions for understanding.” What kind of questions do you think fit this type in your language?
Notice that in answering questions for understanding, we came to know this event (person, place, or action) through our senses. We can come to describe this event with our senses in a multitude of ways. If it is a thing, I might describe it by its color or shape or how it is to be used. If it is a person, I might describe what he or she looks like, or what the person does. If it is an action, I might describe the movements involved, or the sounds made. We can make use of any of our senses to answer this question for understanding.
Notice how much of the world is known to us in this manner. The inviting landscape that surrounds Seoul, the beautiful clothing, the sense of dignity in the people, the smell of the air, the design of the buildings, the layout of the campus, the smell of the Cherry blossoms, the excitement of students. All of this comes to us through our senses, and we can describe it in language, in art, in poetry, in business terms, and in many other ways. For all of us, this forms the greater part of how we understand the world around us.
Frequencies of events: A second type of question: How often?
I would like you to think about some of the phrases in your language that match the following ones:
“It happens every day”
“It rarely happens at all”
“It happens once in a while”
“It happens too much”
“She does this all the time”
Notice that each one of these statements is an answer to the basic question “How often?” It does not mean that we have quantitative numbers like someone in the fields of statistics would seek. But descriptively, we get a sense of the regularity of events and things in life. This is important for us to live. Think about your own life for a minute, and how you develop many daily expectations based on your past experiences that result in this sense of how often things take place. If you run a grocery store for example, and children are always dropping the jar of jam in one of the isles of the store, then you probably will make some changes in the placement of the jars, so as to reduce this type of an accident. Around your apartments or homes, many things get placed because of your sense of frequency. For example, you probably have a place to hang your coat near the entrance door rather than up in the attic or in the farthest room from the front door, simply because that is the regular (or frequent) location where you will need to put on your coat or take it off. How you setup a kitchen, or a school classroom, or a library, is closely tied to frequencies of use of different items or the frequencies of various activities. If we had no sense of “how often” things or events happen, we literally would be constantly building and setting up places, roads, farms, industries, museums in an impractical manners.
The relationship of “questions for understanding” and “questions for frequency” (“how often?”)
Notice that this second question, “How often?” really cannot be answered unless one has first answered the question for understanding. Only when we have some sense of the event (person, thing, action) can we then start paying attention to it and get a sense of its frequency or regularity. Some events may only occur once in the whole of history. They might be short lived or last for thousands of years. Others might recur over and over again each day, even each minute, like our breathing. Notice, that for me to get a sense of how often breathing takes place, I need to have formed some basic understanding of breathing first. Only subsequently, if I am paying attention to it, will I get a sense of its frequency. Let us look at another example, the frequency of people that drive on a road to the market. Notice, that the first step is that I have to understand “road” and “driving” and “people.” Then, if I am paying attention to this road and the drivers on it day in and day out, over a certain number of days and weeks, and I am also paying attention to the numbers of drivers on other roads day in and day out, then I will start to get a sense of whether this particular road is unusually busy compared to others or not. In the end, I will end up with simple conclusion, such as “This is a busy road.” It is a statement based upon many everyday observations of the roads over many days and week. I may not be counting this like a mathematician but I am forming memories.
The Web of Events and Their Frequencies
The third point that I would like to focus upon is webs of events and their frequencies. All of us have a sense of some of the webs of life. The interconnections of events (people, things, actions) in our homes, or neighborhoods, our work environments, our economic life, our political worlds are webs. A sense of a web begins to develop when we connect one event to another. In special cases, these events form into types of regular cycles, regular patterns of connections between events. When we grew up for example, in our neighborhoods, we started to get a sense of how neighbors and activities impacted each other. We began to get a sense of the interconnections of events and their frequencies. Perhaps when you rode your bicycle past the neighbor’s dog, he always barked at you, then kept on barking for another ten minutes, until one of the neighbors calms the dog down. The reason the dog barks at you is because he wants you to come and throw a stick which he loves to fetch, and you have thrown this stick for this dog many times over the years……
Think about some of these webs in your life. The point here is to get a sense of the generic meaning of “web” and cycles of events and their frequencies.
Families, economies, political orders, churches, volunteer organizes are all examples of vast webs of people and things involved in numerous activities. For example, if one increases the frequency of production in an industry, perhaps pollution increases, if pollution increases, then diseases of the lungs increase, if diseases of the lungs increase more people die. Or in another example, if people are driven by ultimate meaning and purpose, by a love that is unrestricted, and this impacts everything that is done, it increases the charitable acts that they perform day in and day out, it results in greater generosity in the simple and daily interactions with others. Such acts of charity awakens desires that fulfill and quiets desires that destroy. It results in changing the web and habits of one’s own life and in the world around.
Absence of the knowledge of a web makes us awkward in situations. We do not know what to expect from others, we do not know what they are doing or where they might be going, and what they might be expecting from us. This happens whenever we move to a new place, or start a new job, or a new family. It takes time to learn these webs, and notice how we cannot really live easily and well until we learn the web.
Developments of Webs
The last type of questions that I would like to explore in our everyday lives can be expressed as How does this web change over time? This can include when and why it came to be? Or when and why did it disappear? As with our everyday sense of family life, of business, of our neighborhoods, and our political orders, we also, especially as we grow older, gain more and more a sense of how these cycles or webs in life change. If we have paid close attention, we begin to grasp various stages of these changes as well. We might see how one stage in the growth of our grocery store or our in an auto industry led to the next. We might see how one stage in the growth of government led to the next. Though we might not have worked this out as a historian, one might have had enough experience, and paid attention to those experiences, remembering the events and their frequencies, and their formation into webs, and then changes in events and their frequencies over time, in order to get a sense of what was going forward from one web to the next, and why things changed. It leads one to an everyday sense of the stages of development of one web into another.
Web 1 Web 2 Web 3 Web 4 etc., etc., etc..
Notice how important this is as well. If we never get a sense of the stages of our lives, we probably cannot help our children through those stages. We remain bewildered by the changes, confused as to what to do next, just as if we had entered a new society for the first time, or a started a new family. Someone who is starting a business, and has no sense of how to start then grow such a “web” will most likely fail. If someone has no idea how children grow intellectually, then they will be at a loss as to how to setup a proper educational system, since such a system is a web designed to provide children with an environment to awaken the natural desire to know and learn, and exercise responsibility.
Creating a General Descriptive “View” of this Universe
Now I would like to focus us back upon the kind of general view of life that this creates. Notice that it is rather open ended. Events regard anything and anyone that can be known through our senses. The “how often” also regards anything that can be described through our senses. The web recognizes that every event and its frequency has many connections with others, and thus forms into vast web. Furthermore, then entire world that we know in these webs develops along stages. Thus, the more we know about such development, the more we can predict the most likely stages that will unfold in the future.
This view of events, frequencies of events, webs, and developments thus orients us in our worlds. If we want to learn about anything from family life to political life to religious life, we know how to start and build our views of a situation. Here are a few properties and consequences of this general view of life.
1. The world is filled with events and their frequencies, some of which form into regularly recurrent cycles. The sun regularly rises, then sets, goes around the earth only to rise again, then set again. People regularly need to eat, agricultural systems get setup, and thus on a regular basis, in a linkage of webs, food is distributed to stores, people buy the food, and prepare it.
2. The existence of one web can set the stage for the growth of more webs. Hence the creation of the steam engine set the stage for the creation of steam-boats and steam driven trains.
3. Thus, the universe as descriptively perceived is a series of webs that set stages for future webs, and it does so with greater or lesser regularities.
4. World process seems to go in various directions, though when developmental stages are present, then it goes with some degree of regularity in a certain direction of growth, though this is not guaranteed by any means. One can see a great business on the rise, and then something happens unexpectedly, and it collapses. A church can be serving many people one decade, then through failures decline in a day, and close its doors. A great family growing in character and virtue can be rendered asunder by many causes.
5. If enough time exists, then it seems likely that many possible events and their frequencies, and webs might come to be. It also seems possible that many webs will not necessarily lead to any new kinds of development either. Dead ends are possible. One might make a new kind of DVD machine, only to watch it end up in the pile of other technologies that never made it.
6. Webs that are further down the line in terms of stages will be expected to be fewer in number on the whole, because more needs to take place before these come to be. Hence, one would find more societies to possess more farms than to possess universities.
7. If something has more stages, then one will need more time or resources. Hence, for example, one will need many more years of life to develop a sense of metaphysics than a sense of arithmetic.
On May 10, after compline which concludes at about 7:40 pm, a new seminar in Political Philosophy will convene, headed by David Alexander, reading through Ryszard Legutko’s The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies. All interested persons are welcome to participate either by Skype or by attending in person. Notes will be posted as they are composed, session by session. The meeting on May 10 will look at the first two chapters.
by David Fleischacker
Generally, one thinks of nurturing when one thinks of motherhood. Usually I find a guttural revolt against this idea today. Yet intrinsically “to nurture” is a good thing. I would like to give some thought as to what this means in relationship to motherhood. To nurture involves feeding and caring for basic needs but also the spiritual needs of another. In other words, it is a type of mutual self-mediation (To read about mediation, see Lonergan, “The Mediation of Christ in Prayer”). I would argue that starting in the organic matrices of the female body, there is a special attunement for nurturing. Even the neurons in her skin are far more numerous than in a man. Her senses are designed to be attracted spontaneously to details about the body and disposition of another. Girls can read faces more accurately at a much younger age than boys (boys do not catch up until age 40 on average — at least in some studies I have read). These needs stir sympathy in a woman much more rapidly than in a man. [Though for another blog, men more often than not are stirred to sympathy through their mothers and wives and sisters.]
Socially, this care impulse leads a woman to want to create a physical and personal space about her that is inviting. She takes care of it to reveal the dignity in another for which she naturally cherishes. She has a finality that is fulfilled when she can illuminate their worth and fulfill the conditions for their existence and their flourishing. This can get distorted of course, like all good things, but intrinsically it is supremely good, and its privatization is a supreme evil in a culture.
Psychologically, the motherly care stirs a warmth and love in the recipient of that care. It communicates to them their inherent dignity and worth. It lets them know that their lives matter, because the care is coming from a beautiful creature whom God has made and sent to care for them. A motherly smile and embrace can undo anger and bitterness. It can open up the heart to higher things. Through simple meals and gifts of nurture–another human being comes to thrive.
The mother is created to care about all the details of those who come into her realm. Naturally and most intimately it is “her man” and from this relationship, his children conceived in her body. I say “his” because I think it highlights the nature of begetting and bearing at the moral level and the depth of the bond between a man and a woman. It is hers too of course, and the man will stand in awe of “her” children. It is hers as received, even though the egg was formed in her. It is his seed, and his act to love her. She of course may have called him forth. And in the bonds of marriage, this bond has a sacred character, found in the promise in God’s witness of “until death do us part.”
The descriptive conjugates that develop regarding the motherly impulse must be multiple. There would be conjugates naming various desires of course, as well as her body and its contours, and how it changes during adolescence, and her apprehension of caring for a child, and for loving a man, as well as falling in love. There are conjugates of family too.
When I think of how we have degraded life in the home, it is incredible. We have made everything in it seem trivial, and thus a burden. How sad. We have really targeted the mother in the home–turning everything she does into a land of waste and a life not worth living. But in fact the opposite is true. Every act of love in the home provides conditions for the existence and thriving of her husband and her children, her neighbors and extended family, and even her own well-being. This includes the simple things that analogically extend from her own bodily schemes of care and protection of the unborn, whether that is the order of the kitchen and a place for everything in it, or the cleansing of the body, the routines of washing clothes, and the cooking that transforms and mold hearts.
Providing such conditions is a participation in the divine light that shines in the world upon each individual who comes into that house. They are called by name in that light. It shows each person that even their bodies and psyches are sacred and pondered within the mother’s heart.
It is built into the body of a woman to be radically attentive to others in this world, to see easily into their hearts and souls, to see even the littlest of physical, psychic, and spiritual needs.
As a note I do not want to say men can do none of these things, but at this point I just want to focus on the glory of a woman.
The woman’s body is structured to receive so as to give. Her body is the space in this universe in which life comes to be and then has its first days and months nurtured and protected. Her body feeds the new life so that it will grow and develop.
It is important to realize how the human heart works here. The essence of the human person is a capacity to self-transcend. A person lives through all of the conjugate forms, schemes of recurrence, integrators of lower levels and operators for higher, all within the unity that is the subject, the concrete person. Below summarizes the higher and lower levels of proportionate being (see Insight for more). All of these come together in the human person.
- Faith and love
- cellular conjugates
- chemical conjugates
- subatomic conjugates
The woman’s body has a form made to receive the seeds of life, to call these forth from her man, to be awakened in her own intentionality and life by this calling and reception. Even chemically and organically this is true–from the hormonal responses to the illumination of regions and cortices of the brain and how neural demand functions transform conscious attentiveness. I wish these could be discussed in their beauty rather than in the light of the fall and the horizon of concupiscence, and modern gender theories.
When the seed has transformed the egg, and life comes into existence–yes existence!–Then the mother’s body becomes the child’s home. Warmth and sustenance are provided from the very schemes of the woman’s body, designed for this right down into the quarks and quark compounds emergent upon which are the atomic and atomic compounds, the cells and cell compounds of her body.
During gestation, her psyche undergoes a transformation rising from an increased rate of synaptic formation in various parts of her brain, prompting her, calling her from the depths of her being to rise into the glory of motherhood. Literally her brain increases its synaptic connections so that she will develop more rapidly in her concrete insights that will constitute some new schemes of motherhood, and so she will form a vibrant horizon of affectivity that will call forth acts of love and care. In other words, when all is allowed to come forth, this organic realization of her motherhood emerges into a neural set of schemes which bursts forth into a generous affectivity that re-orients motor-sensory operators toward a new attentiveness to the growing life inside of her.
Her growing affectivity also spontaneously turns to her beloved and calls forth from him and awakens in him this growing intention in her toward the new life. She awakens him with the goodness and glory of life. [And of course the reverse can happen as did happen with Eve and Adam.]
This new set of operators turns to the physical world to build a home that will welcome the new life. It will provide protection and nurturing of all the needs of the newborn. It will communicate to the world the love of this new one. It will bring about shifts of habits–all of which have been organically and psychically prepared in the body of the woman. As a note, I know there are similar neurological and psychic shifts in the man which I suspect is tied to his commitment and bond to her–but I have not seen studies on this.
Of course, culture can help these neurological and psychic reorientations to thrive or it can crush them. And there are potential for deformations at every single point along the way.
The mother also then finds something glorious about which to converse with others, namely the new life growing within her. Those who care about life will wonder and be in awe about her. They will come to her, embrace her, confirm her, raise her up into the light of being. She has become one in whom life comes into existence. Her mother and father will come alive to this as well as should his parents. But lurking around the corner is a massive if. All of this mutual self-mediation of the glory of a new one and the glory of motherhood only rises to its rightful heights if the scale of values constitutive of their moral horizons are properly formed.
One can see this welcoming of life throughout Scripture. Think of the sadness women and men in the old testament experience at infertility. Sometimes the shame goes too far–and others would mock the barren woman, and she would even think of herself in this highly negative light. But sadness would be a proper response, as would the turning to God with wonder about her fate and hope for the gift of a child. Children were her glory and rightly so. And how blessed a man is with a good and faithful wife and the gift of children conceived in her and born of her (think of the Psalms and Proverbs).
When we turn to the New Testament, this glorious element of motherhood reaches heights unheard of before. Mary of course is that central icon, The Mother, the woman of the fiat, the one in whom God was conceived in her womb, the one from whom the source of all life is born. This dignity bestowed on a woman is a great and beautiful mystery. And look at what it calls forth from Joseph! Even before he has his revelation from Gabriel, he is moved by her and will not divorce her publicly. Already, her intrinsic virtue is calling him forth. Once he is illumined to what has been given to her, he immediately becomes her protector, her husband, whose heart is now filled with her and the fruit of her womb.
And think of how her own son brings life to her. His death will be a sword through her heart because his heart became sin for us, our sins, the sins of all humanity, and these sins form the blade. But he makes all things new. He is the eternal fruit, life, and salvation of all. And she is his mother.
God created Mary, the woman, who would be the sacred temple in which he would enter this world. He became us so that we might become like him. We too are the fruit of a womb, conceived into existence in the womb, born of a woman.
Even more so are consecrated virgins in the likeness of Mary as the mother of God. They bear the Son into the world. The firstborn of their consecrated wombs is the eternal Word of God. Eternity flows through them with motherly tenderness to each person who enters their midst, and their hearts sing of their man from whom they have received life into their souls and bodies. They are his betrothed in a personal and intimate way. They have entered the inner love and exchange of our triune God. The fruit of the womb is theirs, and their hearts will be pierced with the sins of the world, sin which rejects their beloved and the fruit of eternity which flows through them.
The motherly impulse in each and every woman springs from the finality of each and every quark of their being. It rises with greater and greater degrees of freedom until it reaches the apex of a state of being in love with the unrestricted one. In the biochemistry of their genetics this bursts forth into cellular differentiations and entire cellular systems that constitute their hormonal cycles, their biophysics, the bio-schemes of their womb, and the neural structures of their body. It bursts forth into sensitivity with attentiveness, trust, and affective love. It calls forth caresses and nurturing, which then rises into the intrinsic freedom of the spirit, which transcends the empirical residue in the world of common sense, artistry, drama, intelligence, culture, personal life, and faith. If fully integrated as in Mary, the finality becomes an operator of God’s maternal love in this world, and an integrator of the Trinification of the world, of each individual, of family life, of parishes, and of a civilization of love that is in a pilgrim state as a sacrifice within the cities of Cain and civilizations of death.
Oh how glorious is the motherly impulse of a woman.
I would like to say a little bit about how I am making most of these arguments in this blog.
- From the generic intelligibility of the levels of consciousness.
- From the generic intelligibility of metaphysics or generalized emergent probability.
- From specifying these generic intelligibilities to a) Higher and lower viewpoints, b) Higher and lower levels of schemes and things.
Though I have read studies that move from higher and lower levels into species with regard to female cycles, I am not discussing those here except in a generic fashion. I do have some other blogs that have looked at some of these–see for example 40 years since humanae vitae, female procreative schemes.
[If you had seen this piece during the first hour it was posted, I apologize for the confusion. I dictate these blogs into a program, and then edit them. What you saw was the unedited version.]
by David Fleischacker
“….and he was made perfect through suffering”
Good Friday seems to be an obvious misnomer, at least when I was a kid I always thought so. Once one realizes that the crucifixion of our Lord is the greatest act of love, then one begins to glimpse why it the greatest and most perfect good. But why through suffering? Lonergan’s insight into sin as an act of inauthenticity can shed light on the magnitude of this goodness, and on why it must take place through suffering. To see this, we must first understand the nature of inauthenticity, which means we must understand the nature of the transcendental notions and why these are so important.
Setting the Stage of Suffering: The Transcendental Notions
The transcendental notions are at the root of why the transcendental precepts ring true to all of us. Just to recall those precepts–they form a hierarchy-[and I do mean a sacred order by this term, not its degradation in today’s culture to a negative bureaucratic term.]
The Transcendental Precepts
- be loving (highest)
- be responsible
- be reasonable
- be intelligent
- be attentive (lowest)
For those who have studied Lonergan, you know that these precepts articulate the way of perfection of the levels of consciousness. Each level is distinct because it is governed by a different fundamental operator and integrator of development (see chapter 14 of Insight for more info on operators and integrators). One gets a first glimpse into these operators when attending to the wonder at the root of our questions–hence as Lonergan distinguished in Insight-wonder sorts into questions for -understanding and questions for reflection–the first leads to insights, the second to judgments. Hence asking questions for understanding and getting insights is equal to being intelligent. And asking questions for reflection and making true judgments is equal to being reasonable. As those of us who have been around Lonergan for a while know, he later added questions for deliberation and decisions which when perfected are equal to being responsible. He also suggested a fifth level which is really tied to the entire capacity for self transcendence and its actuation in a state of being in love. This fifth level is a bit different than the others, because it not merely emerges from them, but both is a comprehensive perfection of one’s horizon and it is the starting point and orientation of every level of one’s horizon. It completely embraces every operator or integrator, and every operation and integration in the human subject from the lowest levels to the highest. It is a kind of alpha and omega of human existence. This is why it is a little bit more than a level. In any case it is what underpins the precept “be loving.”
To expand one’s apprehension of these acts of wonder so as to see that these are not merely questions but operators and integrators, one can shift one’s attention to the interior fact that the same wonder is also the same that gazes upon an answer, and it is the same that moves beyond any finite answer. In Plato and Augustine, this is why wonder is more aptly called an interior spiritual light–the light of being. With Aristotle and St. Thomas, it is called the agent intellect. The symbol of light is a wonderful image because a light source is that by which we are able to look for something, and then, it is the same reality by which we gaze upon something found, and finally, it is the same reality by which we can look again for something new.
Realizing that questions really are operators and integrators is not easy. We all start in the world of the senses and I, like many others, became trapped in that world. Plato describes this in his book the Republic. All human beings are born in the cave. They do not understand how they know, what they know, or the source by which they know. Only with great difficulty does a brave soul break the chains of the cave, and then move from the cave into the bright light of the sun. This is a wonderful description of what it is like to turn to and then discover the landscape of interiority. But once one does make this leap, the world of one’s own soul begins to open into something far more grand than anything seen with the eyes.
Included in this grand interior landscape is the lights that illuminate it. Those lights are the wonder that is both the operator and integrator of that landscape, and as Lonergan argues, it sorts into three types already mentioned–questions for understanding, questions for reflection, questions for deliberation. The union of these three into a whole is the real character of the essence and heart of the human subject, a character which is defined by Lonergan as the capacity for self transcendence (see chapter 1, Method in Theology). And if this capacity is not actualized by a love that is the true alpha and omega of one’s soul, one dwells in a dark abyss staring off into the unrestricted reaches of nothingness.
Lonergan more precisely called these fundamental operators and integrators the transcendental notions. They underpin, penetrate, and go beyond all operations and integrations in the subject. They start as questions, discover answers, and through these the subject transcends to new questions. In short, they are transcendental because they make it possible for a subject to self-transcend and even yearn for that which is absolutely Transcendent, our Lord, and more supernaturally, to receive the absolutely Transcendent as a gift called the beatific vision.
Linking the Transcendental Notions to the Finality of All that Exists
In Insight, Lonergan makes an amazing statement about the human mind that helps us to move an inch closer to understanding the kind of suffering Jesus experienced on the cross. Namely, Lonergan writes that in human beings the finality of the universe becomes conscious. Linking this to the transcendental notions reveals a profound unity in the whole of the created world.
In order to move toward this link, let us first say something about the nature of finality. Finality is rooted in the potency of the universe, in each of its parts and as a whole. That potency is one of emergent probability. In transcendental terms, it is an emergent probability of intelligibility, being, and goodness. Are you beginning to see the link to the human person? When the human being as part of that emergence is infused with the transcendental notions, then there emerges a creature that is a self-conscious intelligibility that is intelligent, a self-conscious being that is reasonable, and a self-conscious good that is responsible. And the unity of it all? A potentiality that is actuated in love. The actuated orientation of finality in its highest reaches is a state of being in love. If you have been following these points, hopefully you can see what individuals like St. Thomas are thinking about when they say that all things have God as their end.
Transcendental Notions: Created Participations in the Divine Light
There is a profound mystery in the transcendental notions. Nothing in this world can cause them. They emerge almost as if from nothing. There are just there. And they are a great power in us. What begins to dawn on the humble soul is that these lights must come from something great. And as one discovers that they have no intrinsic bounds, and they give us that yearning to understand all that could be understood, and know all that has being, and enjoy all that is good, we begin to wonder about the “hither” of all things and of these yearnings. It is the question of God that arises when we move to this state. And when we begin to discover the good without bounds, the true without conditions, the intelligible that is total, we discover as well the real source of these interior lights, the transcendental notions. They are created participations in the Good, the True, the Intelligible, that is responsible without bounds, reasonable without conditions, intelligent that is total, and loving with mercy that embraces death on a Cross. This discovery sheds a more magnificent light upon the finality that has become conscious in us.
Oh what a great good each child, each woman, each man is in this world! We are in the image and likeness of our Creator.
Sin and Evil as a Violation of Finality
Human beings as illumined by the transcendental notions have a radical freedom that introduces the potentiality for the sinister. That radicality is the possibility of violating finality. Human beings can turn against the transcendental notions, they can betray the interior lights. In short, they can fail to be intelligent, to be reasonable, to be responsible, and to be loving. This betrayal reverberates into the fabric of the entire universe of being. Even the quarks that are sublated in our atoms and cells, in our neurons, and elevated into the realm of consciousness are privated by sin of a vertical finality that they were made to enjoy. This is the nature of evil. And this is just one person. We could go on to discuss how these acts of inauthenticity are then mutually self-mediated to others and the fabric of our universe.
Original Sin and the Deformation of the Finality of the Universe
The doctrine of Original Sin tells us that at the beginning of the human race, sin entered the world through one man and one woman that led them from the harmony and joy of the garden into the cities of Cain. Speculating on how that sin is transmitted from one generation to the next, St. Augustine narrowed the culprit to a disorder that exists between men and women in the procreative act–concupiscence. The heaven and earth were doomed to be corrupted until the end of time. This reality led the inspired prophets to hope for a new heaven and a new earth.
The Revelatory discovery of the fallen state is complemented by a profound inverse insight that helped the Greeks to discover evil as a privatization of being. With Lonergan we can transpose this privation into a violation of the finality of intelligibility, being, and goodness. A surd is introduced into history and the cosmos. Things really are not as they should be. In our own souls, we directly recognize such violations as a turning away from the light, a light that is a voice which we commonly know as the voice of conscience. And because those lights are a created participation in the divine light, conscience is also recognized as the voice of God in our own souls.
To summarize, inauthenticity is a betrayal of the finality of one’s own soul, and since one’s soul is a conscious realization of the finality of the universe, it is a betrayal of the finality of the universe. Every sin is such a betrayal.
Authentic Suffering as a Response to Evil and Sin
Now we can turn to the character of suffering. I remember the first time that I began to realize that suffering was not intrinsically evil. I was brought up in life to think so and of course, I was a good son of our world. Suffering was the great evil to be avoided, and in mercy, we must help others to avoid it too.
There is a truth in this. Suffering is not where we should be. However, St. Augustine taught me something different about suffering. He helped me to understand the church’s disposition to suffering that had always puzzled me. Why embrace the cross? Why lift our sufferings up to the Lord? Why did Jesus suffer unto his death?
St. Augustine taught me that suffering is not intrinsically evil but good. It is that which is good responding to evil. Suffering is the seeking and yearning for healing. This is why it is good. Even our physical bodies operate this way. Pain sensors tell us something is wrong. They prevent further harm. They get us to change behavior to avoid damage and/or to allow for healing. If my hand did not hurt when I put it on a burning stove, I would destroy it.
Suffering the Evil in Others
Human beings can suffer the evils of others. This should be a kind of surprise until you realize that the interior lights, the transcendental notions, mean that we are the kind of creature in which potentially the entire universe that exists could dwell. And that which is more beautiful and profound will dwell in us in a way more beautiful and profound manner. This is why our friends and family are so much a part of us. And what hurts them hurts us. If a good friend dies, part of us dies. When we encounter violations of the finality in others or in creation, this violation is ours because of the nature of who we are. It becomes and is my privation, even if it was your sin. Your sin becomes my sorrow [just as is the opposite true — your good becomes my good (if I do not have envy).]
So suffering evil is the yearning that evil be overcome and that goodness be restored. This is why authentic suffering is actually good. We should be sorrowful over any and all acts of inauthenticity, and any and all violations of the finality of creation.
Jesus’ Suffering on the Cross
Now let us return to the suffering of Jesus on the cross. That suffering was a response to the sin of the world that dwelt in the soul of Jesus. Jesus is present to all acts of inauthenticity throughout history, and as present, these dwell in him through his subjectivity. This begins to explain the depth of what Jesus meant on the Cross when he proclaimed “My God my God why have you forsaken me?” HBy becoming one of us, all of our privations became his. He yearned for the healing of the privation of all sin, of all inauthenticity, of the totality of deformed and fallen creation. This was the depth of his love and begins to shed light upon what he meant when on the Cross he turned to his Father, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”
Sin is a radical darkness that betrays the light. It turns one against the One who is the source of the transcendental notions. It is not a mere turning either, but active turning against. Inauthenticity has a dramatic and murderous plot to it. This begins to explain why we are the cause the crucifixion of our Lord in every act of sin.
But Why is This the Way of Perfection?
Now we have to introduce one other element to explain why Jesus was perfected in his suffering, and why we are too.
Self-transcendence that is authentic and unfolds with the finality of emergent probability is a great good. However this is natural. It is expected. It flows from what should be. But there is an even greater set of goods which are authentic responses to evil. In other words these are acts of suffering, which really yearn for the reconciliation of the sinner and the healing of evil. They are a gift, a surprise, and intelligibility that goes beyond natural finality. It is to be intelligent in the darkness of the unintelligent, to be reasonable in the lies of the unreasonable, to be responsible in the wickedness of the irresponsible, to be loving in the hatred of life exuding from those privated of love. Virtues such as courage and temperance would not be if it were not for evil. The authentic response to evil bears forth a good that is beautiful and magnificent, beyond what nature provides. The greatest of course is to die for one’s enemy as Christ did for us. This is a perfection that transcends the natural finality of this universe and is highly intelligible, true, and good. It is the magnitude of God’s love for us.
by David Fleischacker, Ph.D.
I have decided to return to an earlier sequence of blogs that are commentaries on Lonergan’s 1943 essay, “Finality, Love, and Marriage” — an essay which can be found in the 4th volume of his collected works. My objective is twofold; 1) to understand Lonergan’s intentions in the essay, 2) to examine what will happen to the essay in light of Lonergan’s later writings on Insight and Method in Theology.
This blog will examine a single paragraph in the essay — section 2.2 — titled “Tension and Contradictions.” I will start with a quote,
“But besides this multiplicity of aspects, to be verified in any instance of love, there also is a multiplicity of appetites and of loves generating within a single subject tensions and even contradictions.”
Section two of this essay as a whole is focused on the “concept of love.” In 2.1, Lonergan articulated how love is “the basic form” of all appetite, and how appetite is a principle that unites subjects both in seeking and enjoying a common end. In 2.2, the section we are considering in this blog, Lonergan brings up the simple fact that appetites are never single in the human subject. These multiple appetites have multiple ends that are loved and that unite subjects in both seeking and enjoying. But because of this multiplicity there are “tensions and even contradictions.”
If love is the basic form that unites subjects, why then does it cause tensions and contradictions. Let us begin the answer by starting with a more precise understanding of the multiplicity. Notice Lonergan’s three examples of appetite.
- maternal instinct
- rational appetite
The proper object of the first is “my goal” — more specifically nourishment of my body. The proper object of the second is the good of the child. The proper object of the third is the “reasonable good.” The way to these objects is specific as well, hence food for the first, care of the child for the second, and the discovery of the reasonable good for the third.
One can imagine that the appetite for my good, the appetite for the good of another, and then an appetite for what is absolute will find themselves in conflict some day if not every day. However Lonergan notes that the third appetite is the doorway to a liberation from this interior war. The third “moves on an absolute level to descend in favor of self or others as reason dictates.” (as a note, Newman says this in a number of his writings). Somehow, reason will discover and project a harmony in the multiplicity.
What happens in the later writings of Lonergan help to expand and fill out the way that reason transcends “on an absolute level” the tensions and contradictions, and can “descend” to set a harmonious order of human action in the multiplicity of appetites.
Insight and Appetite
In Insight, Lonergan seems to have the same notion of appetite operative even though he is heading into a transposition of faculty psychology into intentionality analysis. One sees this transposition in
- Lonergan’s formulation of image and affects via Freud and depth psychology.
- His linking of image and affect to neural demand functions.
- The linking of image, affect, and neural demand functions into patterns of experience.
- The three levels of human development that are interlocking higher and lower levels of integration and operation (organic development, psychic development, and intellectual development) — (chapter 15)
And this list is not exhaustive. These developments provide a glimpse into Lonergan’s deepening understanding of the nature of the levels and the relationships of the levels of being within the framework of the development of the human person. Lonergan does not yet use the language of horizon, but but he is using “view” and “viewpoint” which reminds one of Newman’s use of the terms (and a number of other figures over the previous century).
In Insight, the language about the mind itself is transposed into intentionality. Data of sense is combined with data of consciousness to provide the starting point for self-understanding and self-knowledge. With the clarification of the notion of being (chapter 12), which transposes the agent intellect–and the manifestation of that notion in questions for understanding and questions for reflection, concepts, and judgments–the nature of the mind itself is more directly reflected in the terms and relations. This in turn provides a basis to answer the most fundamental problems of modernity and post-modernity in their challenge to epistemology and metaphysics.
This shift to interiority analysis greatly expands upon Lonergan’s articulation of “reason.” Insight and Judgment constitute the acts which when rightly exercised are isomorphic with being. His explorations of insight in math, science, common sense, and philosophy provide a deeper understanding both of the harmony and unity of intelligence and reason. When he shifts to an explanatory account of epistemology and the general character of metaphysics in the second half of the book, he completes the circuit which allows one to discover not only the harmony of the mind, but the harmony of being within a framework of generalized emergent probability. This significantly expands what can be said about unity and plurality of appetites, and the contraditions they might generate, and why reason can objectively discover a unified order in the multiplicity of appetites.
Let me suggest the heuristic solution to discovering this harmony. In Insight, occurrences and events fall within the framework of systematic and non-systematic process, which is developed more precisely into schemes of recurrence, conditioned series of schemes, and at the height of generic intelligibility, emergent probability itself.
If one shifts from a mere multiplicity of occurrence (hence a statistical apprehension defined by classical correlates) to emergent process, then one begins to grasp a horizon-scape (land, water, sky) in which these appetites are naturally ordered. Hunger for example is within the nutritional cycles of the cells and cellular systems of the body. Eating is part of these systems in its sublation into the cultural mores of a people. The same is true of all appetites. They have their natural rhythms and cycles. These really do form a harmony within the context of generalized emergent probability, which incorporates even dead ends and catastrophes (see chapter 4 of Insight). But even dead ends and catastrophes do not involve a real conflict of appetites, even if a conflict of appetites can cause catastrophes. The gravest catastrophes result in death, and no one subject to death has an appetite for such an end.
Yet, to the casual observer, there does seem to be real conflicts. Are these objective? If so, how? The answer is yes. Ultimately for such a conflict of appetites to occur, there needs to be a free subject who can violate the intelligible order of emergent probability. Intentionality analysis reveals the culprit. It is the fallen spirit. The one who rejects the light of intelligibility, being, and the good. In other words, the subject who fails the dictates of seeking and finding understanding, truth, and value. Such failures of spirit (spirit = that which is intrinsically independent of the empirical residue) will result in a failure to descend to unite the multiplicity of appetites into their order within the emergent world. In turn, this failure will descend into the fabric of the polis and even the cosmos. That is a larger scope of tension and conflict however than we find in section 2.2. Yet, this larger expanse of being and the world that can be known by reason sheds some light on the source of the tensions and conflicts. Motor-sensory and intersubjective appetites will conflict when a wise order is privated. That natural and wise order is one of emergent probability.
Method in Theology and Appetites
In terms of Method in Theology, the tensions and contradictions of the appetites can be easily transposed into intentionality analysis. Every cognitional and moral operator and operation is both conscious and intentional. As conscious, these intellectual, rational, and volitional levels of operators and operations intrinsically allow the subject to be self-present, but not necessarily understood and known. As intentional, one can transpose the relationship of a specific appetite to a specific object. Hunger can be transposed into the intention of food, motherly care into the intention of the well being of the child, rational appetite into the intention of intelligibility and being. No conceptual revolution here.
Some areas of appetite are expanded in Method. Borrowing from Dietrich von Hildebrand, Lonergan constructs a simple generic map of affective appetites — non-intentional states and trends are organized under one column, intentional feelings under another (and these sort into those at the level of sensate experience–pleasure–and those at the level of decision–value). This generic pattern is further expanded when Lonergan focuses upon the intentional feelings that respond to value. In chapter two, he formulates the scale of values — vital, social, cultural, personal, and religious/transcendental. One can see the beginnings of this scale in 2.2, with the examples mentioned above. Hunger belongs to vital values, motherhood to intersubjective and social values (one could argue personal emerges as well), and rational appetite constitutes a type of cultural value (descriptive as well as explanatory). Both in Insight, and more so in Method, the scale is expanded in scope.
Arguably the most significant transpositions and expansions found in Insight and Method are the Transcendental Notions (only that of Being is explicitly formulated in Insight, and in Insight it is identified as a notion, which falls within the framework of heuristic notions which are components of heuristic structures). These notions are integrators of systems and operators of development. This shift to the transcendental notions allows Lonergan to recast a more developed understanding of the dialectic of human development. In Insight, that dialectic sprung from a tension of levels (eg. sensate and intellectual). In Method, is becomes more precisely articulated as a dialectic of authenticity and inauthenticity. To return to 2.2, the tension considered is on the same level, that of motor-sensory appetite and conflicts between these appetites. However, as the essay proceeds, Lonergan will move to a dialectic closer to that found in Insight, but not quite as precise.
The transition from this essay to Insight and Method will not in the end contradict or undermine the general arguments of the essay, but rather will strengthen the arguments as will be seen when we move to further sections. Lonergan’s later writings provide a more penetrating heuristic for understanding the general character and specific features of the nature and life of marriage.
Next commentary on this essay will be upon friendship — 2.3.
by Dr. David Fleischacker
This one is more for those who have studied Lonergan a bit. Sorry to those who have not.
Though most today might think of being and reality as the same, what is meant by both today is not the same as that of Plato, Aristotle, St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas. For them, Being is not only “that which is,” but a that which is that is necessarily intelligible. Being is intelligible and actual intelligibility is being. And just because you can name something does not mean it is intelligible, hence just because you can name something does not mean it exists.
In contrast to intelligible being is that which is not. Statements do not get any easier to make which are true. Darkness is an easy example because its descriptive correlate has a relatively easy explanatory basis. It is the absence of any visible light waves. We can name it but it has no intelligible being (at least in the visible range of light — there may be being beyond the visible light spectrum as a note). More difficult are those absences that seem so real there must be something intelligible. So, for example, inertia seems like it must have some kind of intelligibility. After all great minds searched for the answer to the cause of inertia for centuries upon centuries. But in the end it belongs to the empirical residue (see chapter 1 of Insight) and one likely will need an inverse insight to get that it lacks intelligible being (also see chapter 1). More difficult is something like evil. But it too lacks intelligibility. In fact it not only lacks intelligible being, but it is a privation of being and so introduces the absurd. In either case, these lack intelligibility and thus cannot have being.
Here is another way to get at the same point. Let’s make a distinction between being and reality. Let’s say that reality includes experiential absences, partial constitutive components of being (eg. the empirical residue), privations of intelligible being, and concrete being that is intelligible. This makes it a larger category than being because it includes named nothingnesses and absences and privations. Concrete and real being that is intelligible however is only “part” of this world, a larger world that really is not.
The import of grasping what the ancients meant by being and us moderns do not has a number of ramifications. Without realizing the ancient meaning of being, disciplines like metaphysics will be misunderstood. Evil will make no sense. Why? Because the ancient statements about being cannot be applied to nothingness, absences, and privations without being unintelligible. And so us proud moderns will tend to think that these ancients were simply careless and unintelligent. But it is the reality of moderns that is lacking.