Necessity of a New Kind of Thinking?

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Necessity of a New Kind of Thinking?

R. Krismer,

Translation with the help of the Lonergan Institute Washington D.C.


1 Introduction

By attending to the history of science, we know about conceptual paradigm shifts which, here and there, have been occurring in human history. Discoveries and insights have arisen which have not only inserted one or more new insights into a generally recognized system of coordinates within a given field of knowledge but also, as a consequence, at the same time, formerly accepted general frames of reference have come under review and have been questioned. Points of view have shifted in a manner which now makes it possible to ask completely new questions and to entertain new solutions which, before, had not been considered or thought about. At the same time, shifts have occurred in terms of the coordinates within which human beings have viewed their history. In this connection, one can possibly speak more appropriately about a shift of horizon. Approximately 500 years before Christ, such a shift in horizon occurred. An explanation of the world that had been grounded in mythical narratives and images seemed no longer to suffice for human beings in the lives that they had to live. From ancient China down through to India and Persia and then on to Greece, we see a development as traditional myths were displaced by a new kind of rationality. Names such as Buddha, Confucius, Parmenides, and Deutero-Isaiah stood for this new way of explaining the world. About 500 years ago, a shift of horizon occurred in the wake of the breakthrough of scientific thinking. A completely new kind of rationality began its initial triumphant advance. Then, for multilayered sets of reasons, this new kind of rationality began to impose on itself a kind of self-restraint–a self-restraint which has been expressing itself since the late Middle Ages through the work of individual exponents within the intellectual life and, in time, down through the Enlightenment, this self-restraint has become the common property of educated persons within our current academic life as it exists today.

The reasoning capacity[1] of the human person exists in two ways, or perhaps one can say that it has two sides. On the one hand, a human person can reflect on himself or herself and thus, by this self-reflection, discover that one is reflecting on something which exists as a whole. In one's understanding of this, one finds that one's reasoning exists, in certain respects, in an unlimited way and that it should not be seen as something that exists in only a partial way. And then, secondly, on the other hand, a human person can discover intelligible structures within data and then verify insights. In the wake of these activities, another sphere of activities can then present itself in terms of acts of conceptualization, making, and doing.

To take but a simple example with respect to the first capacity (the ability to engage in self-reflection): the seeing eye apprehends colors and is aware of external objects but it can never see itself by an act of seeing. But, on the other hand, the thinking person always already knows itself in its every act of thinking.[2] However, blinded and dazzled as we have been by the march of scientific progress and, above all, given the success which we have enjoyed in converting our scientific insights into practical technological achievements, a displacement has occurred in our thinking as our thinking has increasingly moved toward a focus which thinks in terms of objects and the object side of things. Today, as our collective sense of humanity moves toward a greater sense of international world community, it is becoming more obvious to us how helpless is this one-sided understanding of human rationality–how helpless it is when we begin to think about all the many problems which present themselves to us and for which, at the moment, we have no solution.

The Canadian thinker, Bernard Lonergan,[3] trained as a philosopher, theologian, mathematician and physicist, offered, in his innovative and groundbreaking work, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding,[4] a comprehensible way for non-philosophers on how both capacities of the human reason could be united and brought together into a higher unity–a higher unity which points to a common denominator or a common pattern of acts which exists in all instances of thinking and inquiry and which justifies all higher orders of thinking and reasoning. On the basis thus of a simple example, we want to acquire a few basic insights for ourselves.

2 Structure of Insight

2.1 The Task

Let us put aside, for the time being, our school knowledge about geometry and put ourselves to the task of working things out to determine the conditions which account for the existence of a perfectly round circle. As implements, take a pencil and any available sheet of paper. We can perhaps thus proceed in the following way:[5]

We first draw a circle on our flat sheet. In our free hand drawing, however, the circle will not appear to be very round. But, perhaps we can place a midpoint in the center in the circle and, from there, begin to draw a number of long equal lines outward from it. The more lines we draw out, the more approximately will a round circle begin to appear. But, what, on the other hand, is a perfectly round circle? However, as we have progressed in our drawing and drawn more lines, we have perhaps arrived at the following insight. If we draw ten evenly distributed lines, we obtain a decagon. Now, while this might help us in seeking to draw a perfectly round circle, we find, in the results obtained, that we do not really have a perfectly round circle. If we draw a thousand lines, we will obtain a figure with a thousand corners. But, what would result if we could draw an infinite number of lines? But surely, this is it! Is this not the answer? With infinitely many long equal lines which radially go out from a center, we can obtain a perfectly round circle. But now, a new question immediately presents itself. How do things stand with respect to the midpoint? The solution with respect to lines only holds if the midpoint is itself perfectly round. However, as we think about this, we cannot presuppose a perfect roundness in looking for a solution that we are seeking here. However, again, after further thought and reflection, we might arrive at the following second insight. The midpoint, in itself, is something which should be seen as devoid of any width or length. Suppose that it has no dimension. And so, if it has no width or length, this would jive with what we have come to realize about the nature of the lines. The lines, as radii, can also be devoid of width or extension since, otherwise, one would not be able to return to one's conception here that is able to think about the possibility of perfect roundness (a perfectly round circle). And so, in a manner which recalls how we had formulated our first solution: a perfect circle presents itself if, on a plane or flat surface, from a point that is without dimension, we radially draw out an endless number of long equal lines which are themselves lacking in any dimension (they have no width). But, now, having done this, we pause to pose a new kind of question. With respect to the factuality of all these conditions, do they yield a totally round circle? But then, in addition, other questions present themselves with respect to the validity of our conditions within non–Euclidean geometrical systems. However, if we restrict ourselves to the limited task at hand that we have set ourselves to, we will be able to arrive at an insight which says that our enumerated conditions are actually sufficient in order for us to think about a perfectly round circle. As an historical note which may be of some interest, please note here that Euclid, the Greek mathematician, in the context of similar conditions, had already thought about the possible existence of geometrical lines and points that are devoid of any physical size or dimension.

2.2 Steps in Problem Solving

2.2.1 Experience

Let us look at the steps that we performed in solving the above problem. Given the task at hand, we moved from there to try to determine the conditions which need to be known to know exactly what is a perfectly round circle. As a precondition that had to be already in place, we first needed to start from a preliminary understanding–a pre-understanding or initial cognitive awareness about the meaning of the words "circle" and "round" and "perfect" if we are to tackle the problem at hand. This preliminary understanding did not need to be worked out. It existed or was found to be already given to us in a rather simple way. But, in seeking to solve the problem at hand (given the question that is being asked), we took a pencil in hand in order to arrive at an insight on the basis of different sketches that we could draw. Without using paper and pencil, the finding of a solution would have been much more difficult. In fact, in this case even, we would have found no solution without some kind of material which has been imagined as an aide to our thinking). By only using our minds, we would have only succeeded in generating images without any drawing on paper in order to obtain a perfectly round circle. If we now want to specify a proper designation for the preliminary datum which is present to us in our thinking–from the Latin datum meaning "the given"–we can formulate it in the following terms. Put bluntly, our human thinking always exists as an insight into data. In other words (and perhaps a bit more precisely), something material always lies ahead and before our thinking,[6] and from it, our thinking then arrives at insights. In addition, it has also to be said that the abstract thinking of a logician, a physicist, or mathematician presupposes something a material base of some kind–a material point of departure. For a mathematician admittedly, a drawing or sketch may no longer serve as a sufficient datum for one's thinking in mathematics. Instead, in such a situation, the datum would be a highly developed symbolic language.[7]

2.2.2 Understanding

When we had first drawn circles on a sheet of paper, we did not yet know how we would move toward a solution of our problem. A decisive step occurred, however, on our way forward through having an insight into the connection between a midpoint and equally long radii. This first insight into the construction of a circle, functioning as a prerequisite cognitive datum, had only then to be refined and improved upon. And so, in the course of this refinement and improvement, we arrived at a second insight with respect to a dimensionless point and an infinite number of radii which, admittedly, have length but no width. But, before proceeding any further, let us stop here and attempt to present ourselves with a dimensionless point and an infinity of radii. We try, but we cannot it. We can imagine an ever smaller point but we cannot imagine a point that is without width (which is totally lacking in any dimension). Similarly, we can imagine a further number of radii but we cannot imagine an infinite number of radii. We accordingly come to a new step or stage because our ability to think exceeds our sensuous powers of imagination, although this imaginative ability remains as a datum which exists alongside (or in conjunction) with our thinking. The "going beyond“ which occurs and results and which transcends anything that we can imagine does not arbitrarily happen since what has happened here emerges from our need to think about a perfectly round circle. The having or grasping of an insight into something which exists in a material way is a step or stage that we can refer to as understanding or intellection–from the Latin intelligere meaning "to see inwardly" or "to read inwardly."

2.2.3 Reflective Judgment

In the first step of our search and inquiry, we found a datum, something which exists as a precondition for our thinking. Then, in the second step, we attended to this material. We looked into the material in order to obtain insights which could possibly fulfill conditions that are needed if we are to have and know what is a perfectly round circle. At this point thus, on a two-dimensional level, we have arrived at a result[8]. But now, in the following question which is directed to the result, we enter a third step in our journey. For the first time now, we encounter the reflective performance of our human reasoning. In this third step, we no longer directly search for additional, new insights into data since now we return, as it were, to the first and second steps and ask ourselves a new question: in our solution, have we have truly fulfilled all the conditions which make for a perfectly round circle? If again, before our eyes in our construction, we can produce an infinite number of radii from and with a midpoint that is lacking in any dimension, we can then say to ourselves that, within a context of meaning that is determined by the parameters of Euclidean geometry, we have found all the sufficient conditions which make for a perfectly round circle.

A simple example from everyday life may again clarify what these three steps are. On our way to work we catch a glimpse someone's face. Suddenly, a question presents itself to us: have we not just seen Mr. X? Is this not Mr. X? But, in the reflection which follows our questioning here, at the end we conclude that the person encountered cannot have been the Mr. X that we know because this Mr. X that we know is currently away on a journey and so we could not have just now seen him on our way to work. By attending thus to this cognitional incident, we notice three steps or stages in the order or structure of human knowing. The datum of a sensation–step one–is prerequisite for asking any questions. The search for answers to the question which presents itself (as in, have we not just seen Mr. X?) distinguishes step two. In this step, an awakening of intellectual life occurs within a person. The object now is understanding–an experience of understanding. Then, in step three, in deliberative reflection, one tries to respond to a question which asks if all relevant conditions have been fulfilled so that one can validly and properly say that we have probably not just seen Mr. X now on the street. The kind of answer which is given, as step three draws to its close, will be one that depends on the rationality or the compelling power of the proof which exists in the evidence that is at hand and which can be found-evidence with a meaning which says that, in fact, Mr. X is abroad and not at home.

2.2.4 Knowledge in three steps – Experience – Insight – Reflective Judgment

Not only do these three steps manifest an external structure which can be exhibited on the basis of a few freely chosen examples but, at the same time, it can be shown that these three steps express or point to an internal reality which refers to the life and activity of the human spirit (something which exists from within a person). The human thinking which exists within one moves one toward engaging in these three steps. A datum of sense wants to be penetrated or seeped with some kind of intelligible pattern. The human spirit is not satisfied with itself if it only lives within sensible impressions and knows nothing more. The solutions which arise from experiences of intelligibility yearn for some kind of confirmation. They want to find themselves again within conclusions which arise as a consequence of reflective judgments. These modes of functioning within human thinking beautifully show themselves in the spontaneous questions of children. As soon as a child bumps into something that is unknown to it–a datum of sense–, the child asks: What is that? Why is that so? And, in the third step, a child asks: Is that really so? Can it be so, etc.? If one looks at the findings of developmental psychology, one can see that it can stipulate exactly the age when the thinking of a child awakens to a point that it can ask "what?" questions belonging to the second step, and "is it so?" questions belonging to the third step. In the further development of a person, two additional steps can be averted to and identified.[9] However, for the sake of simplicity, we content ourselves with speaking about these three steps which we have identified and we ask ourselves what we have obtained as a result. As a matter of fact thus, we know about these questions that are posed by children and we also know that every scientist always thinks and knows by engaging in these three steps. A scientist searches for intelligibility within something having a material nature; he constructs and articulates hypotheses; and then he attempts to verify or falsify his hypothetical conclusions. And so, in considering these matters, a new question presents itself. After having explored these three steps, what can we take from it? What is the possible benefit for us given the insight which we have had that the process of gaining knowledge in any field is always a procedure which consists of these three steps-experiencing, understanding, and judging?

2.3 Theory and Practical Understanding in Daily Life

As human beings, we all know a number of anecdotal stories about absentminded scientists which reveal a common pattern amongst them: a scientist, on the one hand, is able to solve the most difficult of equations but, on the other hand, he is unable to tie the laces on his own shoes. Behind such harmless and humorous anecdotes, a contrast presents itself in terms of a sharp cleavage between theoretical thinking, on one side, and everyday practical thinking, on the other–a contrast that can impede the progress of a culture if the different representatives who belong to each side are increasingly unable to understand what the representatives of the other side are saying and doing. A highly complex culture lives from an interaction–if different layers of theory and praxis in everyday life are able to fertilize each other in a reciprocal and mutual way. Such a situation obviously best works when representatives belonging to the world of theory and everyday praxis gradually know more and more about each other's manner of thinking. However, in the midst of these complexities, how does theory differ from common sense? When a housewife, for instance, thinks about how she should best deal with the current tasks of a given day which need to be addressed and resolved, she does not differ in principle from the thinking of a physicist who must carefully attend to phenomenal and material data in order to gain some new insights. A thinking which arrives at conclusions on the basis of observations which say that the earth circles about the sun does not basically differ from the thinking of a Stone Age farmer who, after making his own observations, would draw conclusions about the brightness of sun's light and when he should best plant his seeds if they are to yield their maximum growth. Our neolithic farmer, admittedly, would hardly understand what a physicist would want to prove to him in terms of saying that the earth moves around the sun. For the farmer, the daily experience of the sun's rising is just too obvious. It is too indisputable. However, later, if, up from a certain age, when we have been educated to realize that, yes, the earth turns around the sun–can we then conclude that our language has incorrectly spoken about a rising of the sun? What does all this say about the probity of our human language?[10] However, as we turn to Lonergan's reflections about these matters, what we actually do in our thinking allows us to understand and recognize what is both common and what is different in the understanding which occurs in theory and praxis. In thinking itself, the difference between theory and praxis does not exist. It is only with regard to a different frame of reference that one can speak about a difference. Let us recall the construction of a circle. We recognized a number of constructive elements which are constitutive in belonging to a circle–a midpoint and a radius–and we aligned these elements with each other in an ongoing series of new variations. But, this is what theory is all about! This is what is to be found in theoretical operations. Within the material that one works with, one determines a set of basic elements–a midpoint and a radius (in the example that we are using here) and then one determines precisely what relations exist between these elements in a manner which then allows one to express one's insights in an unambiguous definition so that one's insight can begin to serve as building blocks that can lead to new insights. On the other hand, our neolithic farmer and the housewife that we have spoken about both look at the world from a perspective that is determined by the practical purposes of daily living and the need to find one's way within very many circumstances. A physicist asks about the relation between heat and evaporation with respect to the life of a fluid–a relation about how the different elements relate to each other. But, on the other hand, in the context of daily life and with respect to another relation of elements, a housewife asks about how long it will take to cook a meal and if the food that she is preparing will be appreciated by her family. With respect to the rising of the sun, the physicist and our Stone Age farmer are both right in their understanding of things provided we admit that each is thinking with a different frame of reference. In knowing about this difference and by adverting to it, it becomes possible to know about the strengths and weaknesses of theory and praxis and so see how things stand. However, after saying all this, a disturbing questions remains. Why has theoretical thinking led us to such a dead end? Why, in our day, have we not benefitted more richly from its notable and startling advances?

3 A Narrowing in Theoretical Thinking

The transition from myth to a higher degree at rationality corresponded to a multilayered need which exists among human persons. On the one hand, a desire existed for wanting to engage in activities that can possibly lead to insight (to growth in understanding) whenever this can occur (whether in mathematics or in astronomy). In any discipline, a desire can be identified which refers to a pure desire for the joy of experiencing acts of understanding–a desire which does not exist principally to meet any religious or practical purposes. Then, at the same time or on the other hand, rational thinking is increasingly required as varying forms of trade, warfare, and living become more complex (both in themselves and in terms of how they relate with each other). The meaning of theoretical thinking for the acceleration of progress within the western world cannot be viewed too highly. Long before the triumphant advance of theoretical thinking within modern science, theoretical thinking effected leaps of development within philosophy and theology. As one accordingly looks at the history of this development and its major contributors, one encounters Aristotle and discovers that he was the first person to turn his mind toward a systematic resolution of theoretical problems within philosophy. In the high Middle Ages, Thomas Aquinas takes the method of Aristotle and, by refining and adapting it, he constructs a new methodological base for the practice of theology (theology as faith seeking understanding). A theology of the Trinity arises only if a theologian is able to transcend images and to think only and purely in terms of relations within the Trinity. In a kind of parallel, in the physics of our day we can see how a quantum physicist is able to transcend images and attend only to the relations which exist within his quantum equations. And so, at this point, we pause as a question presents itself, a question which arises in the course of our reflections. Why, in the course of modern times, has theoretical thinking led to the results which it has produced? If we think about Aristotle and Aquinas, both knew about the basic principles of reason and, by using them, they knew how to grasp the movement of the stars and the movements of the plants and the movement of thinking as this occurs within the human soul. Both thinkers were able to think about the whole which is revealed whereby, through self-reflection and self-understanding, one's understanding can think about itself in a manner which can move toward an understanding of understanding.

The narrowing of theoretical thinking within our modern age is not explained by the nature of theoretical thinking. If it had been, Aristotle would not have been able to come to a comprehensive theory which could account for the life of the highest reason and which also account for the principle of movement as this exists with respect to stones. The narrowing which we refer to is explained by reasons which have to do the history of the human spirit-reasons which are very multilayered and which have yet to be fully clarified and understood. The Middle Ages had understood itself as a continuation and as a completion of Antiquity. The Church Fathers had no difficulties in seeing Plato or Aristotle as harbingers of Christianity. But, on the other hand and from the onset, modern times have defined themselves in opposition to the heritage of classic philosophy as this has come down to us from antiquity and the Middle Ages. An additional reason which can be adverted to is one which points to the split between subject and object in modern philosophy. The three steps which are revealed by an act of understanding which can distinguish between experience, insight, and reflective judgment were torn apart in favor of one of these steps and to the exclusion of the others. In all empiricist philosophies, insights are reduced to experience. In rationalist philosophies, by a converse form of reduction, everything is reduced to the inner intellectual life which exists in a person's mind. And then, through the different currents which exist in constructionalism and by reducing all things to judgment, it is believed that human beings can create themselves independently of what may be given to them in terms of external conditions.

Now, as we think about these theoretical subtleties among natural scientists, we find that these subtleties tend to remain strange to them. They are usually not attended to nor thought about. So impressively has scientific and technical thinking moved from one scientific insight to another that the main currents of philosophy and the human sciences have all adjusted themselves to the method of science. Hence, today we stand before a salient fact. A human being has so objectified himself in terms of the knowledge which has come to surround him that he no longer knows himself as a subject.

3.1 Knowledge of the Subject about Itself

What meant is by statements which say that the human person no longer knows about himself as a subject? Every scientist, for instance, knows about himself that, as a subject, he is the doer of his own inquiries and research. Every psychologist, who really wants to prove that the human person is not a free being, also knows about himself as a subject, and that he can perhaps provide this proof or perhaps this other proof or argument for the argument that he wants to make. In seeking thus to delve and clarify these matters, we will first initially look at the relation which exists between part and whole and then go from there.

If, in a fruit salad, we see slices of an orange, we immediately know that what we see are parts of an orange. Is it also the case, if the following task is given to us, that we can join together into a meaningful whole the fragments of many documents which remain after they have been torn into many pieces by a paper shredder? On the one hand, we would know about the whole which is in question that it refers to what remains after one or more documents have been shredded. But, on the other hand, we would not know about the whole which refers to the individual parts. We would not know which parts should be properly assigned to a given document (rather than some other document). Perhaps, in searching for how we could allocate here this piece with another piece, we could examine whether parts differ from one another on the basis of the type of paper fiber. Or, perhaps another criterion could be the style or configuration of the printed type. Without a criterion for organizing things in terms of lower and higher units, it would not be possible to master the task of joining all the parts into a coherent whole or unity. As this example accordingly clearly indicates, we cannot recognize a whole without understanding and knowing its parts and, at the same time, we cannot organize and coordinate parts without a knowledge of wholes. The two go together (the way of analysis and the way of synthesis).

The following question now arises. What do our thoughts about the mutual dependence between part and whole (what is called a hermeneutic circle) have to do with our statement which says that a person no longer knows about himself although such a person very probably knows about himself that he is the subject (the doer) of an investigation? This question, as stated, suggests that knowledge about a person as a subject is a different species of knowledge which is to be contrasted with all other kinds of knowledge. To speak of this difference metaphorically, man has shifted his knowledge about himself towards the periphery of a circle. To be sure, he knows that he himself is the author of all this knowledge. However, he is not able to critically ground his self-knowledge as he is able to do with reference to the midpoint of a circle. For a long time, as long as a tradition is able to sustain and carry how a person is thinking and understanding, the absence of thinking in terms of self-knowledge will not present itself as a deficiency. However, as we think about these matters, we find that the current mediating functions of our western intellectual tradition (in terms of how think and understand things) is now facing dissolution and a measure of self-destruction. This deficiency will become manifest all the more as mankind is faced with a historical situation where a rational grounding of the human person will become more and more necessary (if we to transcend our current state of difficulties). In our inquiry here, let us look at our modern society with respect to three important constitutive pillars. Let us look at our legal system, our current economic order, and how science and technology are interacting with each other. Let us look for any needs or requirements that need to be attended to with respect to these three primary sectors.

3.1.1 Law and Justice

In specifically different forms which have been expressed over time, basic laws about fundamental rights have arisen in the wake of the Enlightenment and Anglo-Saxon notions about the Rule of Law. German constitutional law specifically vouches for the inviolability of human dignity (article 1).[11] No legislator can possibly define and establish what are the basic rights and what is the dignity of a human person. However, everything depends on what concept of man is being presupposed by a lawgiver at any given time how the administration of justice is acted. If, for instance, in a given situation human rights should no longer apply to all manner and class of persons within our society, part of the population will cease to have any real legal protection. Through such situations thus, as inherited notions about human dignity are gradually being undermined, agreements about the scope and depth of human rights will begin to waver and increasingly come under scrutiny. Explanations which attend to human beings from the side of the object (or, in other words, where explanations regard human beings as objects), they work from a position that is not able to speak about the inviolability of the human dignity. With the logic of such explanations, only a lesser difference exists between primates and persons than any difference which exists between an infant and an adult.[12] On the one hand, someone speaks about the difference between a life that is worth living and one that is not worth living and then, on the other hand, someone speaks about criteria which need to be invoked in order to speak about this difference: criteria which refer to the maximizing of external goods and the reducing of suffering if human life is to have a purpose which comes with an acceptable price. In such a situation thus, from the context of such a perspective, it is no longer unthinkable and without reason for a judicial system to make use of torture as a means for determining truths which could be of interest to the state.

3.1.2 Economics

In the self-regulation[13] which one finds in economic activity, a science is needed which, in a strictly methodical fashion, would be able to investigate and sift out all the mechanisms and forces that are constitutive of economic activity within the marketplace. However, as one thinks about economic management as a species of human activity which works to properly achieve a human good, one soon realizes that, in the long run, economic management does not exist purely for its own aggrandizement but for the sake of effecting the common good of all persons who live within a given economic order. Even economists who have been mainly guided by the self-interest of the economic order have been increasingly saying to one another that, today, all wealthy industrial nations need to practice voluntary self-restraint in their economic activity and in making economic demands. Voluntary self-restraint is needed because of problems which have been created by a growing scarcity in natural resources and by difficulties which have been encountered in the distribution of these scarce resources. However, as one attends to the kinds of arguments which are being used by economists, one finds that their insights about the importance of voluntary self-restraint are caused less by worry about a growing scarcity of raw materials and the problems of finding suitable replacements than they are caused by worries about the financial costs: costs directly related to shortages in raw materials, costs related to finding new technological substitutes, and costs related to what the consequences would be for development in developing countries. These countries would always be achieving results that would be at a lower vantage point.[14] They would be less able to contribute to the development of the world economy and so, on the basis of these economic considerations, it is decided that these consequences are not desirable. From a point of view that is determined by considerations of justice, this would be simply unjust.[15]

Such self- restraint, however, is not justifiable in a society that, to a large extent, decides and determines what is common for it according to criteria which applies to requirements that are set by desires for unending enjoyments and increases in material prosperity. The argument which says that, in the long run, the undirected prosperity of the world community best leads to one's own prosperity, seems to lose its cogency the more it appears to be the case that fewer and fewer persons are able to share in these promises in the context of their lives and in the context of any life expectations which may be enjoyed. Material self-restraint for the benefit of others can only be justified in the long run on the basis of an understanding which acknowledges the justice of the fact that all persons share in the same basic rights. One's fellow man has the same rights as those which one also has. However, a way of thinking which considers human beings from their object side (as if they existed as external objects and not as subjects) is not able to be of much help with respect to the kind of understanding which is now needed.

3.1.3 Science

In the Renaissance we see a remarkable development. Branches of science which had given themselves a very rational formation in the course of the late Middle Ages were suddenly falling into esoteric and irrational apprehensions of meaning. Through and from a collapse in the medieval conception of the world, a need emerged for new coordinates of meaning. The order of nature presented itself as a new general orientation (as a new model) for understanding things. By means of the natural sciences and the way that one engages in these natural sciences, one discovers the wisdom of nature. In the wake of pressures that were exerted from desires for meaning, these natural sciences exceeded their proper range (the proper scope of their inquiry as this was determined by their proper methodology) and so, in an unfounded and uncritical way, it was concluded that a partial knowledge of things should be equated with an adequate and full knowledge of the same things. However, the consequence was a backward step into irrationality and today we see the initial stages of a similar development. As the number of persons lessens who are able to move toward a more meaningful understanding of things, more is needed from the development of science and technology as a means of filling out the gaps that are created by our desire for increases in meaning. Thus today, for example, the branches of sciences which exist in biology and medicine have become joined to expectations of well-being which have meanings that are more or less religious despite a lack of rational justification. It is therefore thoroughly in the interests of all the exact sciences that a tradition of thinking should be encouraged which reflects about the whole which is accessible to reason in order to be able to indicate to human beings what conditions are properly constitutive of human history and of the life of the universe within which human beings live and have their being.

3.1.4 Struggles within Cultures

Another word needs to be said in view of questions raised by the presence of religions and the question of religion. We know today about different cultural battles which are being fought about the meaning of key words which are being used as slogans within a given cultural matrix and most especially, in this respect, are we familiar with talk about an essential incompatibility that exists between secular western culture, on the one hand, and certain forms of Islam, on the other, which have assumed a definite cultural shape and mode of expression. As the inevitability of these struggles increasingly comes to light within western cultures, the more clearly does a sense of helplessness present itself in terms of how one should try to find some kind of solution. The disentanglement of religion from politics emerged as the consequence of an important achievement in the history of European jurisprudence. In the course of the Wars of Religion[16] in the 17th century, the insight grew among many men and women that it is not task of politics to decide questions which ask about the reality of ultimate truths. Instead, more humbly, it belongs to politics that it should act to create a basis for lasting peace and justice so that individuals living within a given society should be able to live by the truths which their conscience recommends to them. However, as we have come to sense and realize, the living out of such a policy can only continue as long as fundamental social agreement exists about the existence of basic rights that all share in and which all persons must recognize. However, as we have already noted, it is impossible to establish grounds for rational consent if human beings are understood from a viewpoint which thinks of them from the side of the object[17] and not as subjects.

4 The Foundations of Theoretical Thinking – Interiority

As over time human beings have gradually come to realize that mythical apprehensions of meaning are not truly sufficient if one is to go on to live a truly good life, today an awareness is gradually growing which also senses an analogous insufficiency that exists with respect to theoretical apprehensions of meaning where, as it were, as a consequence of it, human beings disappear from view. At a certain point in human history, human beings living within mythical consciousness began to press for a further development of their rational human capacities. But, in this journey, a question immediately arises which asks about the next step. What is the next step to take in the development of our human rationality given the requirements which present themselves in terms of both the present and the future? How can an order be found within our fragmented knowledge of things (a fragmentation which has been caused by the workings of our theoretical reason)? How can a whole be thought to which all parts can be brought into a relation with each other?

Should we evoke or conjure up a new myth in order to attain a new horizon of meaning? This question becomes more urgent and more painful if we hold ourselves up before our eyes and see how much and how greatly a cultural vacuum has arisen in the wake of a breakdown which has occurred with respect to traditional views of the world and man and which, in our history, has spawned a number of powerful ideological developments. Various forms of nationalism, fascism, national socialism and historical materialism have all been imposing themselves as replacements of meaning and, to an amazing extent, they have conquered the hearts and minds of many persons in both their everyday thinking about the meaning of life and with respect to how one should engage in theoretical thinking.[18]

Myths successfully give persons a compact interpretation of things with respect to what may be happening from the heavens above to the earth below. But, these interpretations only work for persons if, in some way, persons are living within their myths. A rationality, however, which begins to reflect about myths dissolves a mythical conception of the world.[19] However, a new conception of life cannot be attained by taking any backward steps but only through an increase in rationality whereby, through the rationality of theoretical reasoning, theoretical reason is able to understand itself from its center or root. How then can such a development be attained?

4.1 The Move toward Interiority

Since we already suggested the direction wherein we should move–it remains for us now to unfold what we have indicated through a number of hints and sketches. A look at the shift in coordinates as this marks the beginnings of modern physics is possibly of some help here. In the physics of Newton, space was thought of as an infinite, empty, and immovable container within the heavenly bodies were able to move in a manner which could be indicated by referring to coordinates. However, in the physics of Einstein, such a conception does not exist. A new system of reference comes from an insight which grasps that physical quantities exist in a certain relation to each other. In the well known formula E = mc2, the speed of light presents itself as a constant, although not as a static whole but as part of a structure of relations.

In a similar way, the horizon of meaning which once existed in a society and which has endured in layers of the population up to our days has come across as some kind of static entity from which particular meanings are derived and, with these meanings, a conjoined hierarchy of values. However, this horizon of meaning, has not shown itself to be a constant for human beings but as something which exists as a variable in human history and which can be dissolved as historical conditions change and undergo alteration. The dissolution which we have known of our inherited world views and idea of man has also acted to free a number of positive historical forces although this freeing, as an unfortunate consequence, has revealed also a potentially lethal susceptibility which is open to the influence of ideologies or the influence of ideological movements. And, in the main, as we look at the situation, we find that the positive forces which have been unleashed have not shown themselves to be too adequate in forming a firm foundation for adequately dealing with many major problems which have been presenting themselves in our present day. Such a foundation cannot exist as some kind of static system (functioning as a frame of reference) but as a surety that would order a general structure of relations. However, where or how does this structure of relations exist with regard to a horizon of meaning? In thinking about this question, let us recall the aforementioned example of the circle and the three steps which we performed in looking for a solution to the problem that we were trying to resolve.

Under theory (whenever we engage in any theoretical form of reasoning), we seek to discover basic elements within a set of material conditions which would allow us to exactly specify relations which exist among these elements and which would then allow us to express our insights in clear, unambiguous definitions so that they could be used as building blocks for later insights. If, however, we speak about a structure of relations in connection with a horizon of meaning,[20] a question arises. Do we not fall back to a level of theory without attending to another level of rationality which transcends theory? On the one hand thus, we do not want to shun the advantages of theoretical thinking and yet, on the other hand, we also want to move toward a new basis or foundation for thinking.

Let us think here about the two sides of reasoning which exist here. One refers to our ability to engage in self-reflection: to reflect about our ability to engage in acts of understanding and reflection. The other refers to our ability to gain insights with respect to an object or to be able to construct objects. Let us ask further questions. Do we experience ourselves when constructing a circle as the midpoint of a circle? Do we experience ourselves, at the same time, as a radius? In doubting Einstein's formula, do we experience ourselves as the square of the speed of light? Certainly not.

However, do we experience ourselves as experiencing in these activities? Do we experiences ourselves as knowing and judging? If we respond negatively to these questions, a contradiction will present itself between our denial as this is given in an assertion and our denial as this is given in our cognitive performance because, in our statement of denial, we are experiencing ourselves again as thinking and judging. And so, a further question arises. What are we seeking through the questions that we are asking? The difference in the relation which exists between the elements of a circle or in those which exist in Einstein's formula and in the relation which exists among the elements that are constitutive of our aforementioned three steps simply lies in the fact that we come to the first relation by way of its existing as an object while, with the second, we apprehend a second kind of relation by reflecting about the mode of operation which exists in our thinking. And, if we have any doubts about this mode of operation, in a precise manner, we can carry out or perform what we are doubting in the activity of our doubting. In our doubting, we experience ourselves again as experiencing, thinking, and knowing–if we allow ourselves to reflect on our acts of doubting. In the context of uncovering the structure of our thinking, Lonergan speaks about interiority as a distinct stage or sphere of meaning. In our self-reflection, we can come to know about its structures (structures which we can verify within ourselves).

The discovery of this structure resembles a similar discovery which had occurred with the earlier discovery of logic. We know that Aristotle formulated the laws of logic for the first time in a somewhat comprehensive manner. However, long before Aristotle explicitly formulated any of these laws, human beings were already thinking and functioning according to these laws of logic. A handbook about the rules of logic cannot be seen as an essential precondition which first needs to be met before any human being can begin to think in a logical way. A biologist, for instance, can function as a biologist without having to be trained in logic although one cannot do any of the formal sciences[21] (as one finds these, for instance, in formal logic or mathematics) without being trained in logic. In the same way then, since time immemorial, human thinking has always occurred through a structure of the three interrelated steps which we have been looking at and talking about. However, as we begin to advert to how Lonergan methodically spoke about this structure or mode of operation as it exists within human cognition, we can now begin to organize all the various fields and kinds of human thinking and knowing which exist. We can begin to organize them in a newer, more critical way.

4.1.1 Transcendental Precepts

An initial question presents itself. What do we gain by unearthing what relations exist as we move into interiority? For individual fields of knowledge, the consequences and conclusion are extensive and far reaching. For the moment, we must be content with only a couple of references. If we know, for instance, that human beings always carry out the same steps in responsibly seeking solutions for problems as these are encountered–the same steps whether one is a workman, a physicist, a psychologist, a philosopher or a theologian working in one's area of expertise–, we can formulate a rule whose fulfillment is the condition for responsible thinking. Because this rule is restricted neither to ordinary, everyday thinking nor to any field of theoretical thinking, Lonergan is able to speak about transcendental rules or transcendental precepts. In a simple formulation, these rules[22] can be read and understood as follows:

·     Be attentive–collect materials which suffice for solving a problem!

·     Be intelligent–investigate sufficiently the what and why questions which apply to solving a problem in any given field!

·     Be reflective–try to verify any answers given to what or why questions by referring to one's materials!

In thinking then about these precepts, if we know that we are not dealing with conventional rules which have been purposefully created in order to accomplish a limited objective–as is found, for example, in rules which say that "when a light turns green, cross the street" and that "when a light turns, red, stay in your place"–if, instead, we know that we are dealing with rules which must be observed if our thinking is to conduct itself in a manner which is always correct, then we have obtained a highly useful diagnostic tool which will allow us to solve any kind of difficult problem which can come upon us in the course of our human lives.

Let us recall to mind and imagine again the questions of a child. A child in his or her curiosity and attentiveness, in posing what and why questions and asking is-it-so questions is revealing, as it were, a dynamics that grounds the meaning of these precepts. Whoever constantly refuses answers to the questions of a child can be held responsible for the fact that the thinking of a child will not develop and unfold in a good and right way. What a child is able to do by him or herself in terms of always being attentive and in then seeking answers for what and why questions and is-it-so questions which are being posed, an adult must similarly do if, as an adult, one is to live in a truly human way. By a means which leads to the solution of problems, it can be determined on what level an adult has come to a stop in the dynamics of his inner development. Is a person shielding himself from possibly having certain experiences? Is a person not interested in having certain insights? Is a person afraid of engaging in acts of reflective understanding? What applies to individuals also applies to groups and cultures. A given culture, in its self-consciousness, can impede and obstruct its own progress and development if it blocks certain necessary experiences and insights, or if it refuses to make certain judgments that it needs to make. Within cultures, there are movements which align themselves according to the dynamics of these precepts and who contribute to the progress of history, and there are groups who suppress this dynamic as it exists within themselves and so they become a cause of decline and lack of progress.

At this point now and by way of summary, we suggest how the workings of theoretical thinking can be reconciled with policies that are current in our modern culture today. Let us see how this can be done by adverting to interiority and by trying to fruitfully unearth its meaning as a distinct stage or sphere of meaning.

4.1.2 Purpose in itself – Founding basic rights

With respect to the following considerations, the course of our thoughts grows in steepness and difficulty. Whoever prefers a more peaceful and easy approach can omit this section.

We have concluded that, with the dissolution of inherited notions about who and what a human being is, the foundations of basic rights has become something that is now subject to fluctuations. And so, a question is asked. How can a foundation be secured for basic human rights? The following train of reasoning accordingly points out a possible direction for us.

As a last step that we had taken to determine the nature of a circle, we had asked a question about whether or not all conditions making for a perfectly round circle had been fulfilled. We found that, at least with respect to the task placed before us, some conditions making for a round circle are already given (they are already verified) through the relations which we have found and discovered. Yet, immediately, new further questions present themselves. How can terms such as "radial" and "plane" be more clearly understood and expressed? Today, modern logic and mathematics understand themselves as axiomatic systems which have arisen from a number of simple axioms that cannot be proved. In the natural sciences, one only speaks about certainty with respect to one's insights if one is operating within a closely defined field. Hypotheses rank among themselves only in terms of a greater or a lesser degree of probability. Every science runs into difficulties to the degree that each tries to validate the existence of its own field of research. Physics looks for intelligible structures within matter but not for a proof of existence of matter.

When we attend to ourselves in terms of our activities that are given in experiencing, understanding, and judging, and as these activities become the matter about which we ask what/why questions and is-it-so questions[23], we make two astonishing discoveries. A little while ago, we had noticed that an eye sees objects but it cannot see itself. Only in a mirror is an eye able to see itself as an object. The thinking which occurs about a circle as an object is concerned with an object and so it follows that it is not concerned with itself (which would occur if one's thinking were to occur in a reflective manner). However, the thinking which occurs in self-reflection discovers a certain species of certainty about itself. In the mode of the reflection which exists in self-reflection, we perceive in our acts of experiencing, questioning, thinking, and judging a certitude which exists within us as we engage in these acts of experiencing, questioning, thinking, and judging. The certitude which exists within us about ourselves in such acts always already exists as a hidden ground which accounts for our doing. But, it is only through our reflective thinking that we have a bending backward on the self which brings this concealed ground into a clear light–a clear light which refers to an intelligibility that is revealed in a word.

The second astonishing discovery lies in the fact that any thinking that is done by us about external objects is, as a rule, easier than any kind of thinking that attends to itself even if this thinking is closer to itself. The more closely we move toward thinking and reflecting about ourselves, the more we tend not to want to walk in the steps of rationality (as this applies to ourselves). A possible reason for this probably lies in the fact that the insights which we have obtained with respect to the relations which exist connecting a midpoint and a radius and a curve have hardly any implications for us with respect to insights that can come to us from reflection about ourselves and what we do as human subjects. Admittedly the fact of a clear awareness of ourselves about ourselves might come across as rather banal to a person of everyday life. Yet, as soon as growth in understanding and knowledge is achieved in this area, with respect to the intellectual and ethical implications, a quantum leap occurs in terms of appropriating what it means for us to exist as human beings.[24]

The certainty which exists in one's sense of self as a cognitive thinker and knower presents its wondrousness more clearly if one looks at it from a historical perspective. We earlier noted that it was amongst the Greeks for the first time that thinking in mathematics was done not for other purposes but for the sake of mathematics itself. We earlier noted that it was amongst the Greeks for the first time that thinking in mathematics became abstract (working not for purposes other than mathematics but for the sake of mathematics itself). Similarly, a good scientist is distinguished from other scientists by the fact that understanding is sought purely for the joy that comes with it. An unrestricted striving for understanding and knowledge grounds one's inquiries and research. But, it was only in the 20th Century, after a long prehistory,[25] that interiority was first opened up and exposed with respect to all its different layers and its implications.

As long as the reasons which explain our actions remain hidden and do not become conscious and as long as their implications are not methodically unfolded and brought to light, what before could be formulated now easily falls out of view: the purposiveness of our freedom and even the certainty of our sense of self in the actions that we perform ceases to be something that we are aware of. But, the thinking which reflects back on itself finds certainty of itself in this activity.

Let us call to mind again now two possibilities about reason and the functioning of our human reason. In the development of one of these possibilities, the object of thinking is an external object. One's thinking attends to matter in order to look for some kind of intelligible pattern within it and then, in a third step, it tries to come up with an explanation which can account for the probity or the certitude of one's concluding judgment. However, with respect to the other possibility and the question of its development, the object of one's thinking is now the activity of one's experiencing, thinking, and judging. In this matter–the performance of experiencing, thinking, and judging (what one is doing in one's cognitive acts),–this second kind of thinking discovers intelligible patterns–for example, the three steps which are operative in coming to have an insight and knowledge–and achieves in a concluding step–in a reflective judgment about oneself–a certainty which refers to one's self.

This explicit self-certainty which one can come to in self-knowledge does not exist as an incidental determination of one's human thinking[26] since, in contrast with any kind of knowing that seeks to know about other objects, this kind of thinking exists as a fundamental unearthing of the structure of human reason. In whatever kind of reasoning that any human being engages in, this knowledge about one's being as a knower always exists implicitly as a general background and source. It always accompanies one's cognitive activity (wherever or however this cognitive activity exists). Without it, a person would fall under the complete sway of objects which would be the several objects of one's activities and one would soon cease to exist as a center of activity. A person experiences his or her own doing and thinking. To this extent then, one can say that this layer of activity which exists in our implicit self-knowledge serves as a basic reason or motive which accounts for our human doing and acting. But, if, in addition, a person can move into an explicit form of self-certainty that would exist in itself (as a first principle or primary foundation for every other kind of knowing), having its own purpose[27] or function as a point of departure for all other kinds of thinking and as a point of return for one thinking, then this explicit form of self-certainty would exist as an explication which refers to foundations of human reason that, in some way, are operative in all the reasoning activities which human beings engage in.

From here it is only one more small step[28] in order to establish human rights on a firm foundation although, admittedly, many intermediate measures need to be attended to. What has meaning and purpose in itself as a basic determination of reason may not be used simply as a means for an end (for another purpose). On this basis or from the viewpoint of such a perspective, an ethics can be developed which would lead to a number of important insights which, in turn, would put utilitarian and deontological ethics on a firm foundation.

4.1.3 Arrangement of the Sciences

In their increasingly limited fields of research (as scientific study and research has become more specialized), to the degree that scientists seriously take up their individual tasks, all of them thoroughly adhere to what is required of them with respect to the aforementioned transcendental precepts. However, these precepts are violated if insights belonging to a given field of study are ordered to insights that belong to other fields of knowledge having to do with human life. What we want to say here, however, will become clearer if we try to look at the question of gradations as this applies to the manifold which exists if one attends to all the different sciences.

A chemist enters into his research material with questions which can no longer be solved with insights that come from physics although, as a grounding for chemistry, one finds a conformity which exists with respect to physical natural laws. A cell biologist similarly enters into his research field with questions that cannot be solved with insights borrowed from physics nor with insights borrowed from chemistry although biological processes cease to exist if the intelligibility of chemical and physical laws is no longer operative. Hence, as we think about these problems, we see that the sciences in a graduated manner. Stages arise within the order of science as a consequence of the fact that, at a certain point (within a given science), questions will arise which cannot be solved by appealing to insights that belong to any preceding science. A need emerges for finding a method which is appropriate for dealing successfully with its own specific materials of research within its own field of research.

With respect to human beings, however, we find something that cannot be explained through the insights of either physics, chemistry, biology or psychology. Our tradition expresses the uniqueness of the human being by ascribing reason[29] to it, and by speaking about a being who is blessed with spirit. Being speaks. It communicates itself in some way. Thus, nothing obscure is being intended but simply the fact that human beings experience themselves as beings who cannot be explained by sciences that are determined by a focus on outer objects and which demands that one must try to develop methodologies which correspond with the kind of experience that properly belongs to this type of science. Hence, as a result, in this context, a human being learns to reflect about him or herself as a thinking being with the possibility of being able to reflect about oneself and so see that one's actions exist in a way which shows that one is a being of freedom and responsibility. Here, one's reason in its openness exists not only as the fruit of one's thinking but, at the same time, it also exists as the expression of the fact that one's reason exists as the chief principle of design for living a truly human life. In one's reasoning, one knows guilt and a sense of debt. Yet, is it truly the case that a human being is a thinking being blessed with a free nature? In order, however, to be able to ask this question, through a decision, a human being must begin to put his or her intellectual power into motion. In the performance of asking and answering questions, a person then begins to experience himself or herself as someone who already exists as a thinking being with a free nature.[30] As no physicist can prove the material of his investigation but, instead, takes certain materials as a point of departure for his research whereby he arrives at certain insights and then again turns to this material for purposes of verification, in the same way, strictly speaking, no human being can prove[31] the experience of his or her own thinking nor prove the freedom of his or her actions. However, this self-experience does serve as material for further research in a science which has worked out an adequate method for it.

If we undertake a kind of journey now which goes through the different sciences, from the viewpoint of our perspective in the inquiry that we have been conducting, we will always encounter two common errors that are not compatible with correct methodical procedure and which can thus be viewed as violations of the transcendental precepts that we have been referring to. Among scientists who are highly regarded as experts within their respective fields, many of them are inclined to overvalue the insights which they enjoy in their given special disciples. Sometimes, insights belonging to one field of study in a given science are seen as properly applicable to human life in an absolute sense. Some scientists propose statements about things which they would probably not propose if they were to strictly adhere to the methodology which properly belongs to their given fields of scientific expertise. However, by espousing positions which they regard as scientific (which are not truly scientific, lacking in critical ground), the result is an irrational combination. Scientific knowledge about things is joined with base opinion. And so, as scientists fasten onto insights belonging to one science and not another, they end up engaging in methodologies which do not properly apply in a given inquiry. They begin to withdraw from a more adequate kind of methodology which urges that, in attending to any question, one attend to all relevant data in any possible explanations of things that one wants to make.

If we realize that a gradation exists among the different sciences in terms of how they are related to each other and that acts of understanding and reflective judgement account for a hierarchical ordering of sorts which exists among the different sciences (where the results of one science function as a basis and material for other sciences whose methodologies transcend the methodologies of preceding sciences), we can begin to see, how, in relation[32] to human beings and the nature of the human being, seminal insights which belong to all the sciences focused on outer objects can all be related to each other. If, in addition, representative practitioners of science belonging to the different outer directed sciences can be open to insights which come from a reflective science which takes the experience of human beings in its self-givenness as its fundamental point of departure for research that attends to human beings as naturally free, responsible, thinking persons, they will then understand the results of their research as not only part of a whole but rather or in addition–since now they know that they cannot give answers in an absolute kind of way that seem to be based on quasi-religious expectations–they will gain freedom for their particular fields of research. In addition, representative practitioners of the exact sciences should be able to understand that statements about the value free neutrality of science are based on premisses or beliefs whose foundation cannot be proved by them as representatives and practitioners of the various exact sciences which exist within the scientific world.

4.1.4 Hierarchy of Goods

In the science of economics, with our diagnostic tools we can raise a question which asks if the economists of our day have been paying sufficient attention to the choice of research materials which they have been making in their work: especially if they are properly dealing with strictly theoretical relations or other economic phenomena in which they can recognize regularities (existing as intelligible patterns) which they can then posit as (economic) laws. Or, it can be asked whether they can sufficiently justify the extent to which the validity of these laws depends on conditions which cannot be proved by them in a strictly theoretical way. In thinking about these questions, it should be noted that a number of well-known economists refer to the weak foundations on which many of these sciences stand.[33]

In this context, we are more likely to ask a question which asks whether a hierarchy of goods can be set up in order to assign the different goods which exist within an economy their appropriate place within it. The word "hierarchy" may tempt one to think in terms of some kind of whole or design from which one can then derive the rank or precedence of one good over another. However, we will see soon that a fitting hierarchical ordering of goods can be obtained on the basis of relations.

If we want to determine the good as that which is desirable for human beings because such goods are necessary or beneficial for the development of human life, then we can enumerate as necessary the following goods: food, clothing, housing, and so on. Now, admittedly, some of these basic goods are freely available and are at our disposal–for example, the air that we breathe. However, most goods of this type must be created. For instance, in the production and distribution of bread as a commodity, let us think about the required logistics that needs to be in place: the roles that are played by many different actors and variables who all work together. One thinks about the experience of the farmer and the training of apprentices in conjunction with the conduct of research in a context which refers to a technological infrastructure and the order of an economy. In recalling to mind all the transcendental precepts, we immediately grasp that a connection exist between all these different variables and an intelligibility[34] which belongs to the whole order of things if any given commodity is to be produced and distributed to a range of consumers. From a standpoint which is determined merely by life's necessities and the need for biological survival, the first step or stage appears to be more fundamental than the second. But, from the viewpoint that an individual is not able sufficiently to provide for himself all the basic goods that are necessary for life but requires the collaboration of many persons on the level of intelligibility in order to make available these basic goods in that way that they can serve as foundations for a cultural progress, then the second level succeeds and sublates the first level. By a simple example which refers here to the production and distribution of bread, we can see how a differentiated, hierarchical ordering of goods is presupposed in the structuring which occurs within human society (an ordering of goods which corresponds with the relations that exist within the structured order of human striving and which exists before any meaning or design is thought about or constructed as a means for effecting new forms of human collaboration.

With decisions that must be made by an individual or by a family or by a culture about how different things are to be judged and evaluated (as far as any given thing falls within anyone's purview or field of judgment)–for instance, how is bread to be integrated into the stream of life as a commodity? are the forms of exchange appropriate or are they outdated?–we enter a third stage. A culture receives its form in the long run from the decisions of human beings. We recall that progress and decline in human history depend upon whether or not human beings and groups align themselves according to transcendental criteria. The intelligent stage breaks altogether if the majority of persons do not hold to fundamental decisions of the following type: a person must not become a means to an end; lies for the sake of an ulterior purpose may not serve as a basis for dialogue, etc. Without basic decisions of this kind, the intelligent stage would increasingly break up and dissolve into a system of injustice and tyranny which, in the long run, would endanger the procurement of basic goods in a relation of cause and effect which evidences the priority of this stage of meaning in economic life. Its ranking is such that stands over the two other orders although, admittedly, its operation at the same time presupposes the operation of these other orders.[35]

It should again be noted that this hierarchy is not reached by deriving of a closed order of things from a conception of the world but by developing relations and steps in one's procedure that are obtained by reflecting on the dynamics of our inquiring, thinking, and deciding.

4.1.5 World Community

Lastly, another word needs to be given about the relation which exists between religion and rationality. Admittedly, this relation might not be of much interest but, from the viewpoint of developing a world community, it is of highest importance. If we direct our attention toward an inquiry that asks about the dynamics of our human questioning, we can ask ourselves if there is something which exists that brings our inquiring to a halt. If we are able to give an affirmative answer, then again a question could force itself upon us and we would find ourselves asking why we could give this type of answer and not some other kind of answer, etc. However, this situation does not exist so that it is not possible for our thinking to attain any certainties (or because our thinking cannot attain any certainties) but so that the certainties that we do have will appear like small islands[36] in a sea of questioning. And, as we stop to think about it, we find that we are always searching for new islands. Knowledge about the most comfortable islands is something that we probably owe to the testimony and wisdom of the major religions which exist in the world. To these religions belongs the interpretation of transcendental experience (experience as it would refer to some kind of transcendental reality) or, at least, the interpretation of the human being and person who is someone who has a transcendental nature. If, at the start, our reason should oppose or block these insights which are common[37] to all the major religions, it would run into contradiction with itself since our human reason exists as an unlimited thing and so it must be open to the interpretation of a transcendental reality (at least in the sense of being able to pose questions about such an interpretation). If our reason were to refuse this openness which is germane to its spirit, it would exist in contradiction with itself and it would hardly be able to resist temptations to work for the construction of an immanent reality[38] which it would regard as an absolute (as an absolute reality). The ideologies of the 20th Century indicate to us what fatal consequences can come from ways of thinking and believing that absolutize immanent reality.

A fundamental openness toward the wisdom present in religion is thus required of human reason if our human reason does not want to obstruct itself in its dynamic orientation. In the mode or way of openness, human reasoning can then ask about which religion can give our human reasoning a foundation so that our reason (which is always searching for its own foundations) can then find itself grounded in something which exists and which can be understood as a form of super-reasonableness. In connection with these questions, we have already noted that the highest Christian reality is something which wants to be understood both as Logos and as love.


[1] Anderson Bruce and Philip McShane. Beyond Establishment Economics. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Axial Press, 2002.

[2] Paul Erbrich. Grenzen des Wachstums im Widerstreit der Meinungen [Limits of Growth in the Conflict of Opinions] Kohlhammer, 2004.

[3] Martin Kriele. Einführung in die Staatslehre [Introduction to Political Science]. Kohlhammer, 6 edition,


[4] Bernard J. F. Lonergan. Insight. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988.

[5] Bernard J. F. Lonergan. Method in Theology.New York: Herder and Herder, 1973.

[6] Karl Rahner. Grundkurs des Glaubens [The Foundations of Christian Belief]. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau,


[7] Bruno Snell. Die Entdeckung des Geistes [The Discovery of the Mind]. Vandenhoeck And Ruprecht, Göttingen, 7 edition, 1993.

[8] Bernhard Sutor. Politische Ethik [Political Ethics]. Schöningh, 1191.

[1]   Bruno Snell. Die Entdeckung des Geistes [The Discovery of the Mind]. Vandenhoeck And Ruprecht, Göttingen, 7 edition, 1993. [7]

[2]   It is a fact which should be noted here that every human person is not only blessed with consciousness but, in addition, in contrast with animals, is also blessed with self-consciousness. In other words, a person is always present to himself or herself by means of the acts which are present in a person's acts of experiencing, thinking, and judging.

[3]   Time: "Lonergan is considered by many intellectuals to be the finest philosophic thinker of the twentieth century." Newsweek: "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." Source:

[4]   Bernard J. F. Lonergan. Insight. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988. [4]

[5]   Please note here that completely different ways of proceeding probably exist in attempting this type of exercise. However, they would probably all lead us to the same basic insights that we would come to us as we would work with this simple example.

[6]   Be it, for instance, an experience of sense, a prior knowledge about words, an image, or a symbolic language, etc.

[7]   For this reason, a symbolic language does not exist as an arbitrary thing since it is more or less suited as material which can lead to the solving of certain problems. Try, for instance, to solve a complicated problem in arithmetic with Latin numeric notation.

[8]   Please note here that we need not be interested in how or why a mathematician would probably technically speak about the conditions of a perfectly round circle in a quite different manner from how we have done it. In the last analysis, what is crucial to note is the fact that, in seeking to solve any problem, the same three steps always function together as a common, recurrent pattern of distinct acts (distinct operations).

[9]   The adult person discovers, at a certain point along the way, that how he arranges his life is not unimportant for him with respect to his state of health and general sense of well being. Such a consciousness of this responsibility eventually imposes itself upon one's self. And so, as a fifth step, a person can be encouraged to work from a question which asks about the meaning or sense of life-a question which wants to come to a decision between two alternatives. Is there an intelligent cause of the universe or is there not?

[10] We know that, on the part of some "theoreticians," attempts have been made to expunge from the common language that we use whatever can be regarded as a "language of lies."

[11] The Austrian constitution contains no formulation that is at all concerned about human dignity. No specific reference is made to it. However, in an indirect way, a meaning for human dignity is referred to as it derives from other legal provisions and specifications that have been passed and approved by Austrian legislators.

[12] "In an ethics that is governed by a desire for maximizing the extent of one's good fortune and which seeks to reduce experiences of sorrow for reasons of empathy, animals legally are to be regarded as persons and persons, as animals. 'The life of a newborn child has thus less value than the life of a pig, a dog or a chimpanzee.' (P. Singer, Praktische Ethik, 1984, S. 169)." Martin Kriele. Einführung in die Staatslehre [Introduction to Political Science]. Kohlhammer, 6 edition, 2003. [3]

[13] With respect to the rationality of this self-directedness, a later note will be given.

[14] See: Paul Erbrich. Grenzen des Wachstums im Widerstreit der Meinungen. Kohlhammer, 2004. [2]

[15] For Adam Smith, whom many regard as the "father of economic liberalism," economics was nothing more than a form of applied ethics. From within such a perspective, it was obvious and natural for everyone to believe economic management is conducted within a context which thinks in terms of moral self-delimitation and justice. Cf. 8, p. 189.

[16] The more appropriate designation (in German speaking countries) speaks about wars between rival confessions. However, despite the controversies and disputes which existed then about ultimate truths in matters of faith and religion, substantial agreement existed among these different confessions about what it means to be a human being. This agreement accordingly existed as an unspoken precondition which was needed to bring about the political solution which finally emerged to end the Wars of Religion in the 17th Century.

[17] In our world today, political ethics is dominated by two main currents. One approach works from a utilitarian perspective; the other, from a concern with rules and duties as one finds this in deontological ethics. As one looks at different kinds of play from a utilitarian perspective, all actions are judged according to criteria that asks about the usefulness or utility of a given action. In the different kinds of play which exist within the context of a perspective that speaks about abiding by certain rules or standards or which is concerned with possibly formulating rules to govern activity, one seeks to determine how some type of dialogue can be brought into being so that persons will be able freely to move toward a common consent about what should be done to address a given issue or solve a particular problem. Both orientations regard human beings as it were "from the outside" and so, in the long run, they are not able to explain why some actions are not useful or why they are irregular if, for instance, a majority of persons living in a given country clearly expresses its opposition to any rights that are being enjoyed by a minority of persons living within the same country.

[18] In thinking about this situation, it should be admitted that, in our day, not much has been written and published about this phenomenon: why, worldwide, so many intellectuals should have fallen under the spell of historical materialism despite the contradictions which exist within its theoretical exposition.

[19] In an impressive way, we find that, in the history of ancient Greece, the step was taken which moved from myth to Logos. Within a generation, the rationality of philosophy had replaced the symbolism of the old traditional myths. In the transition, however, from myth to Logos, the meaning of Christianity had not yet to be fully grasped and sufficiently appreciated. For Christians, the Logos exists as the highest reality – one can easily speak about a highest reason among Christians -, but this Logos is not something which exists in isolation (apart from everything else) since, in contrast, it is to be identified with love. This love is flush with Logos. For this reason, Christians were accused of impiety by persons whose thinking was governed by mythical apprehensions of meaning.

[20] The elements of the three steps – experience-understanding-judgment – , which we have mentioned, stand always in exactly the same relation with each other. Thus, no insights or acts of understanding can exist without prior experience. And, in the same way, any pronouncement which declaims a judgment apart from any prior act of understanding only produces something which exists as some kind of supposition or postulation, or as some kind of prejudice.

[21] The formal sciences present in formal logic and mathematics have been basic for the development of computer science which has so revolutionized our world as it exists today.

[22] For reason of simplicity we do not deal here with Lonergan's fourth or fifth level

[23] Lonergan systematically proceeds to ask a number of further questions which are all related. Do we experience ourselves experiencing, thinking, and judging? Do we understand ourselves to be experiencing, understanding, and judging? Do we judge ourselves to be experiencing, understanding, and judging.

[24] The human person exists not only as a knowing but also as a desiring, willing being.  In this context or in this connection, Lonergan works toward a concept of conversion and the possible meaning of conversion. The self-appropriation of one's thinking and understanding cannot occur without a basic attitude of openness which is consciously and deliberately desired and willed.

[25] In the pioneering work of St. Augustine, one finds an early philosopher of interiority. Then, later, in the analysis of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine's early insights about the meaning of interiority were recast into a systematic presentation of meaning which could begin to remove a number of ambiguities. However, in the later work of Bernard Lonergan (1904-1984), it was only by means of his work that a major shift could begin to emerge. A form of analysis could reveal all the different layers that are constitutive of interiority and also deal with any objections about any possible implications.

[26] The fact that human beings cannot arrive or have not arrived at this explicit insight is no argument against the possibility of such a determination. Though an apple tree may bear no fruit in a given year is no argument that a given tree is not an apple tree.

[27] For reasons of simplicity, we omit any discussion here about how or why, in the development of theological understanding, some interest is shown about the interface which exists between implicit self-knowledge and a thematization of this self-knowledge which expresses itself in words and concepts.

[28] It would have to be shown here that the unearthing of pure reason which we speak about is not only a fruit of thinking but is also its expression, exhibiting a principle of design and formation for the meaning and existence of human life.

[29] The discovery of reason was one the great achievements of Greek thinking. See again Bruno Snell's Die Entdeckung des Geistes [The Discovery of Spirit]. Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, Göttingen, 7th ed., 1993.

[30] Let all proofs which want to deny the existence of free will in human beings exist as statements of scientists which approach the human person purely on the object side of things (excepting, however, the self-experience of persons as human beings). In a reflection about this self-experience, these same scientists would have to admit that they are engaging in their activities of research and inquiry as free beings, having a free nature – no investigation occurs under any obligation of necessity.

[31] Every proof of this kind, in the last analysis, would end in conclusions that are absurd and lacking in rationality – we recall here that every insight is always an insight into some kind of material (which exists as a kind of substrate). A person searching for proofs with respect to the existence of the world would be running after proofs that he can never catch up to. However, on the other hand, one can very reasonably and probably make a statement to the effect that no contradiction exists in saying that, to human beings, belongs the power to think and a power of free action.

[32] It is quite astonishing that, with only a few exceptions, the human sciences totally disregard the fact that human beings experience themselves as free beings, having a free nature.

[33] For instance, Milton Friedman: "According to Milton Friedman, 'there has been little change in the major issues occupying the attention of economists: they are very much the same as those that Adam Smith dealt with more than two centuries ago. Moreover, there has not been a major sea change in our understanding of those issues.'" M. Friedman, Old Wine in new Bottles, in: [1, p. 75].

[34] Speaking here, however, about the level of intelligibility does not means that the first and third levels are being excluded. Altogether, however, the basic goods belong to the first level (the material that one deals with) and the level which deals with how to manage and improve the operations of harvesting, storing, and other related logistics belongs to the level of intelligibility.

[35] Think again here about the relations which exist between physics, chemistry and biology.

[36] Karl Rahner. Grundkurs des Glaubens [The Foundations of Christian Belief]. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau, 1984. "In the ultimate depths of his being man knows nothing more surely than that his knowledge, that is, what is called knowledge in everyday parlance, is only a small island in a vast see that has not been traveled. It is a floating island, and it might be more familiar to us than the sea, but ultimately it is born by the sea and only because it is can we be borne by it. Hence the existentiell question of the knower is this: Which does he love more, the small island of his so-called knowledge or or the sea of infinite mystery? Is the light with which he illuminates this island–we call it science and scholarship–to be an eternal light which will shine forever for him? That would surely be hell" [6, p.. 22].

[37] "Friedrich Heiler, in considerable detail, has described seven common insights that belong to all the major religions […] Hardly is it possible for me to indicate the whole wealth of his thinking in these matters although I can present a list of the topics that his analysis attends to: there exists a transcendental reality; it is immanent in a person's heart; it is highest in terms of beauty, truth, justice, and goodness; it is love, compassion, and empathy; the way toward union with it is by means of sorrow and regret, self-denial, and prayer; one follows this way through acts of charity and brotherly love, love of one's enemies being especially desirable and necessary; this way is directed to love of God so that blessedness is understood as knowledge of God, as union with him or as resolution into him." [5, p. 117]

[38] It is not possibly simply to construct a transcendental reality.