Front Page

Abstract List

Search LWS

Contact Us

Greg Hodes

Foundations and Aporiai: The Intellectual Realism of Bernard Lonergan

Please feel free to forward comments, questions, and insights to Greg Hodes. My e-mail address is: [].

A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Philosophy and the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Kansas, September, 1996.


This is a exposition and critique of the "critical realism" (perhaps better dexcribed as intellectual realism) of Bernard Lonergan. According to Lonergan the real or being is what is or could be known by inquiring intelligently and reasonably into experience, and these operations of insight are said to be both epistemologically and ontologically foundational.

I introduce a "spare version" which states the theory in terms of intellectual curiosity alone. It is argued that Lonergan's theory of scientific explanation and description is incoherent because of a lingering direct realism, his frequent condemnations of naive realism notwithstanding. I offer a critique of Hugo Meynell's "double given" theory of how it is known that there is an external world, and show that Davidson's "omniscient translator" and Putnam's "brain-in-a-vat" arguments fail.

A critical realist critique of BonJour's coherentist epistemology leads to an amended version of Lonergan's theory of justification, and an exegesis of Lonergan's theory of "constitutive consciousness" is followed by a critique of his account of "rational self-appropriation" which identifies and attempts to correct some technical difficulties. The final chapters offer an exposition of Lonergan's account of being, criticize his dismissal of Parmenides, and show how critical realism, precisely because it is foundationally correct and complete, seems to lead to aporia.

Table of Contents Outline:


Part One
The "Spare Version" of Critical Realism
Things Related to Us and Things as Related Among Themselves
Critique of a "Modest Proposal"
Three Immodest Proposals

Part Two
The Criterion of Truth: Verifying Truth
The Criterion of Truth: Justification
Constitutive Consciousness: The Notion
Constitutive Consciousness: Problems

Part Three
Some Ideas of Being
The Aporetic Sense of 'Being'

Epilogue, Appendix and Bibliography

LWS logo