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Immediacy and Mediation in Our Knowledge of Being

by Giovanni Sala

Translator’s Preface


This paper was published in 1972.  It therefore draws on Lonergan’s Verbum and Insight, as well as on the papers “Metaphysics as Horizon”, “Cognitional Structure”, and “Insight: Preface to a Discussion”, but not on his later works like Method in Theology.  It can be seen as the culmination of a series of books and papers:

1. Bernard Lonergan, Insight, a Study of Human Understanding, 1957.  Revised edition 1958.

2. Emerich Coreth, Metaphysics, A Methodical and Systematic Introduction (in German), 1961.  Second edition 1964.

3. Lonergan, “Metaphysics as Horizon”, 1963.  A review of 2.

4. Giovanni Sala, “The Experience and the Horizon of Being in Emerich Coreth and  Bernard Lonergan” (in German), 1967.  A discussion of 1. and 2. 

5. Coreth, “Immediacy and the Mediation of Being: An Attempt to Answer Bernard Lonergan” (in German), 1970.  English version 1972.  A reply to 3. and 4.

6. Lonergan, “Bernard Lonergan Responds”, 1972.  A reply to 5.

7. Sala, “Immediacy and Mediation in Our Knowledge of Being: Some Reflections on the Epistemologies of Emerich Coreth and Bernard Lonergan” (in Italian), 1972.  A reply to 5.

The great advantage a translator of this work has is the kind advice of Fr. Sala, who has considerable knowledge of English.  Perhaps the great disadvantage is the number of languages involved.  In addition to Italian, the text contains English, German, Latin, and Greek (and one word of French).  The important issues of translation can be discussed in relation to these different languages.

With regard to English, I have simply imported Sala’s English into the translation.  Perhaps the most interesting point here is that Italian, like some other languages, uses a number of different terms to express the English “insight”.  Sala employs the expressions intendimento (understanding, comprehension), intelligenza (intelligence, understanding), capire (understanding, grasp), and atto di intelligenza (act of understanding), with the English word in parentheses.  (Similarly, Coreth’s German Einsicht is translated as intuizione (intuition), with the German in parentheses.  Coreth translates it into English as “insight”.)  The text also contains extensive translations of Lonergan’s English into Italian, evidently done by Sala himself.  These have naturally been replaced with Lonergan’s original English.  

With regard to the translation of Italian, two importantly different senses of the words “know” and “knowledge” appear in this translation.  These correspond, perhaps by chance, to two different Italian words used by Sala, conoscenza and sapere, that are conventionally translated as “knowledge”.  With regard to the knowledge that is had in judgment, Sala uses such expressions as “knowledge of being”, “knowledge ad modum obiecti”, “objectively valid knowledge”, “knowledge in the true and proper sense”, “effective knowledge”, or knowing something (including oneself) “as real”, “as an existent”, “or as an object”.  The second kind of knowledge is had in the immediate experience of oneself in intellectual consciousness, by which one is nonthematically aware of being.  This knowledge is called “anticipatory knowledge”, “a priori knowledge”,  “heuristic knowledge”, “subjective knowledge”, knowledge “ex parte subiecti”, or “ad modum subiecti”.  As about the subject, it is also “experience of oneself”, “awareness of the subject as subject”, “knowledge of oneself as subject”.  As about being, it is also called “the notion of being” or “the sense of being”.  In this sense, Sala also speaks of the “pure pre-knowledge of being” (presapere puro dell’essere).  With this distinction, the reader will understand such sentences as “Our notion of being knows being, but in such a way that all this knowledge only informs us that we do not [explicitly] know being.”  In a few places I have qualified the words “know” and “knowledge” with “anticipatory”, “experiential”, “explicit”, or “full” where it seemed needed for clarity. 

Sala’s text contains German expressions with translations, and these are retained with English translations.  There are also numerous passages translated from the German into Italian.  One is from his own publication 4. above.  In this case, I have simply translated the Italian.  Other passages are from Coreth’s 2. or 5.  Passages from 2. have been translated by comparing Sala’s Italian with the German original.  Since Coreth has translated 5. into English himself, I have copied from his translation. 

Here perhaps the most important issue is what English terminology to use for various concepts related to “being”.  This comes up in translations of Heidegger’s German and also, for example, in Donceel’s translation of Coreth.  For the global notion, Lonergan himself uses “being” with a small “b”.  Coreth similarly translates Sein as “being”, and therefore I have done the same with Sala’s essere.  For individual items that are, Lonergan’s term “thing” is not used.  Coreth uses Seiend, and translates it as “existent”.  This is the word that appears in translations from him.  Sala’s most commonly used term is ente, but he favors the translation of this as “[a] being”.  Thus, the reader will find both terms with equivalent meanings.  Sala also uses the terms “existent”, “reality”, and “entity”. 

Sala’s Latin and Greek are sometimes left in the text with English translations added, and sometimes they are simply replaced with the English.  A special problem arises with Sala’s quotations from Aristotle in Greek.  Conventional translations of Aristotle commonly render his key cognitional term νόησις as “thinking”.  Sala regards this as part of a modern conceptualist misunderstanding of Aristotle that emphasizes the concept over the preconceptual act of understanding.  He refers to Lonergan’s rediscovery of the importance of insight into the phantasm and to Lonergan’s discussion of this particular Aristotelian term in Verbum, p. 196.  Sala believes that “understanding” is the proper translation, and that word accordingly is used here.  Divine thought is therefore “understanding of understanding”, rather than “thinking of thinking”.

In the footnotes, I have updated Sala’s original references with more recent publications of the same sources.  In particular, I have called attention to English translations and to the Toronto edition of Lonergan.   

Donald E. Buzzelli



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