Wednesday, December 22, 2004

the debatable Lonergan

Before I quote you some long passages from Bernard Lonergan's Method in Theology, I wanted to offer you a list of some Lonerganian insights, some of which I simply don't understand, others of which strike me as having nothing to do with reality. All page citations are from Lonergan, Bernard. Method in Theology. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971.


A. Page 9: "...different levels of consciousness and intentionality have to be distinguished. In our dream states consciousness and intentionality commonly are fragmentary and incoherent. When we awake, they take on a different hue to expand on four successive, related, but qualitatively different levels. There is the empirical level on which we sense, perceive, imagine, feel, speak, move. There is an intellectual level on which we inquire, come to understand, express what we have understood, work out the presuppositions and implications of our expression. There is the rational level on which we reflect, marshal the evidence, pass judgment on the truth or falsity, certainty or probability, of a statement. There is the responsible level on which we are concerned with ourselves, our own operations, our goals, and so deliberate about possible courses of action, evaluate them, decide, and carry out our decisions.

Question 1: Why is "imagine" located on the empirical level and not the intellectual level?

Question 2: Aren't "reflect" and "work out the presuppositions and implications of our expression" almost the same thing? If so, why are they located on different levels? How is Lonergan assigning these operations to their levels?

B. Page 15: "...sensations can be produced or removed at will."

Question: They can? I call bullshit on that one.

C. Page 18: "...the absence of the effort to understand is constitutive of stupidity."

Critique: Sorry, but that's simply wrong. As I wrote in the margin of that page: "Stupid people can make efforts to understand."

D. Page 27: "What is good, always is concrete."

Question: Huh? What does this mean? No explanation is forthcoming in the chapter.

E. Page 57: "Meaning is embodied or carried in human intersubjectivity, in art, in symbols, in language, and in the lives and deeds of persons. It can be clarified by a reduction to its elements. It fulfils various functions in human living. It opens upon quite different realms. Its techniques vary in the successive stages of man's historical development."

Question 1: What does "techniques" mean in the above? What are the "techniques" of meaning?

Question 2: Does the above paragraph actually provide a definition of meaning, or has the definition been postponed until we can perform a "reduction to its elements"?

F. Page 61: "A pattern is said to be pure inasmuch as it excludes alien patterns that instrumentalize experience."

Comment: I have no damn clue what this means.

G. Page 77: "For meaning is an act that does not merely repeat but goes beyond experiencing."

Comment: Now meaning is an act? I know less than I did before.

H. Page 102: "Judgment proceeds rationally from a grasp of a virtually unconditioned. By an unconditioned is meant any x that has no conditions. By a virtually unconditioned is meant any x that has no unfulfilled conditions. In other words, a virtually unconditioned is a conditioned whose conditions are all fulfilled."

Comment 1: Uh...

Comment 2: The phrase "in other words" struck me as unintentionally humorous. The "explanation" following that phrase left me in deeper murk than before.

I. Page 112: "...language is the vehicle in which meaning becomes most fully articulated."

Comment: All the religion-related posts on my blog add up to an attempted refutation of this claim. Lonergan himself is quasi-foundationalist in outlook; he's not a total postmodernist by any means. But this quote of his could easy lead one to believe he was a closet PoMoer. It is, by itself, entirely consistent with the Derridean claim of "il n'y a pas de hors-texte."

I could go on and on through this book, but in a subsequent post I'll cite something lengthy for Dr. Vallicella to chew on... though he should feel free to untangle the above citations, if he wants.

Previous Lonergan rants are here, here, and here.


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