40 Years Since Humanae Vitae: A Metaphysical Distinction
by Dr. David Fleischacker
As with men, the organic and psychic life of women possesses an intelligibility that begins with the finality to conceive life. And as in men, the lower levels are intrinsically oriented toward higher levels of intellectual, rational, volitional life, with an obediential potency to a life of sanctified grace in faith, hope, and love.
Before continuing with the female procreative schemes, I would like to bring some clarification to the nature of finality within the human body. This also requires a slight expansion in the notion of emergent probability as it was developed in INSIGHT, in the chapter on development (chapter 15).
Schemes of Recurrence vs. Schemes of Development within Things
The slight expansion results from the need to make a distinction intrinsic to complex organisms between schemes of recurrence and schemes of development, both of which maintain the life of the organism. One might think of a mature organism as a flexible range of schemes of recurrence. This is certainly true in part. The mature cells of the circulatory or the respiratory systems form schemes of recurrence (though many of these are only “completed” in higher conscious levels). The respiratory system supplies oxygen and removes carbon dioxide from the circulatory system. If oxygen decreases in an environment, the respiratory system will increase its rate to maintain the particular need for oxygen in the organism (this is also linked to neural processes). So, the respiratory system has a “flexible” way of responding to the environment. Likewise, the needs of other cell systems in the body for disposing carbon dioxide and increasing oxygen increase the rate at which the circulatory system operates. Hence, as one exercises, one’s heart rate will increase (again, this is also linked to the neural system). Then, this in turn will cause increased rates in the respiratory system. One breaths harder. This also points to a vast flexible range of schemes of recurrence that allows us to operate in different manners in different environments.
However, the maintenance of our organic systems is not through schemes of recurrence. Rather, it takes place through adult stem cell systems, which are related to these systems developmentally rather than functionally (or correlationally). These adult stem cells possess a developmental finality that is oriented toward maintaining the organic cells systems and their ability to operate in flexible ranges of schemes of recurrence.
In addition to maintenance however, the stem cells help to increase the flexibility of the schemes of recurrence of the cell systems. Muscle stems cells will increase their rates to adjust to greater muscle needs. The circulatory stem cells will shift and expand to adjust to changing needs of the circulatory system.
Thus, these schemes of development (as opposed to schemes of recurrence) rooted in stem cells function both in maintaining and in increasing the flexibility of matured schemes of recurrence. Complex organic systems that possess stems stem cells are thus comprised of both schemes of recurrence and schemes of development.
Returning to the Procreative Schemes of Recurrence and of Development
Thus the procreative system, like other organic systems, is comprised of both schemes of recurrence and schemes of development (biologists call these schemes of development “developmental pathways”). Just as adult stem cells provide for the maintenance and increase the flexibility of adult cell schemes of recurrence, so the procreative stem cells provide for the maintenance and the increased flexibility, and the development of the human race. Thus they have a developmental relationship to that which is the conscious realization of the finality of the universe as a whole. The procreative system thus has a magnificent horizontal and vertical finality intrinsic to it, because it has a developmental relationship to the creation and formation of adult human beings and to the fullest realization of the finality of this universe. Adult human beings are integrations of many levels of intelligibility from inorganic and organic life through all the levels of conscious existence, and therefore the procreative system has vertical intelligibilities intrinsic to it as well. Furthermore, human beings are “systems on the move,” which is why they are not merely single individual species defined by a non-developing set of conjugate forms, but rather, human beings are ongoing horizontal and vertical unfoldings of intellectual, rational, and volitional operations. Procreative systems therefore also possess an intelligible finality to the human person as an intellectual, rational, and volitional “system on the move.”
A few consequent notes on The Procreative Schemes of Development, Emergent Probability, and the Scale of Values.
The procreative system comes to possess one of the most far reaching intelligibilities within the order of emergent probability as a whole. Emergent probability has a general finality of increasing systematization or intelligibility and meaning, as Lonergan argues in INSIGHT, especially chapter 4, and more precisely in the later chapters on metaphysics. The human person is the height of the increasing intelligibility of this universe, and it is elevated all the more by the fact of grace and the actuation of the capacity for self-transcendence in a love that is without bounds. The procreative system therefore is one of the key elements that makes possible a being who is on the horizon of truth, being, and the good, and who thus comes to be the conscious realization of the finality of the universe as a whole. This finality intrinsic to the procreative schemes of development is thus incredible. And though it is beyond the current blog, I would like to add a pointer to the objective moral value of the procreative schemes. When one bases the horizon of the good on the horizon of the true and the intelligible as Lonergan does, then the level of intelligibility is proportionate to the level being, which in turn is proportionate to the level of objective goodness. This elevates the procreative schemes to one of the most important schemes within this universe.
As I will discuss in the next few blogs, the woman’s procreative schemes are central to the emerging perfection of this universe and of the human race and all of the persons that comprise it.
 The word “system” can include both the schemes of recurrence and the schemes of development. Thus, one can distinguish in these organic systems between that which is functionally related (defined by mutually related conjugate forms) and developmentally related.
This is true not only for organic systems, but higher systems as well. One can think, for example, about how values are maintained in society. Human beings are higher systems on the move, and for a variety of reasons, the way this takes place is by expansion and replacement. The birth of the young, and their education into citizens, family members, members of culture, and religion not only maintains the life of these “institutions” but also gives those institutions a principle for greater flexibility in its mode of operation in the world and it gives those institutions the possibility of development. In general, once someone has reached a certain level of maturity, change slows down. This stabilizes the system, and gives it endurance. If maturation was good on the whole, then the overall life of the system will be better. If it was a decline however, then the entire system will become less stable. This is true in organic systems as well as in human systems. The longer cycle of decline that Lonergan explains in INSIGHT illustrates this point. Voegelin, in his account of ideological societies, points out that the greater the ideological structure of the society, the shorter its life. Hence, modern ideologies, especially those that are tyrannies such as the Nazi regime, or modern dictatorships, are short lived. Only societies increasing attuned to the “Beyond” have endurance to them. One can point out that these same insights are found in the revelations of the Old Testament. Societies that have apostatized will become destabilized and eventually destroyed either by an internal or external enemy.
On a technical note, schemes of recurrence are grasped by combining conjugate forms (known by implicitly defined relations) and their statistical emergence and ongoing existence. Developmental recurrences add finality to the intelligibility of how they operate. The relationship of a stem cell and a mature cell is one of development. Thus, it is not the systematic relationship of one cellular conjugate form to another that has been actualized, but rather the relationship between the cellular conjugate forms of a stem cells and those of a mature cells, which is one of developmental finality.