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Marek Balinski

Self-affirmation and the Ultimate Ground of Knowledge in Lonergan's Insight: an Interpretation


Please feel free to forward comments, questions, and insights to Marek Balinski. My e-mail address is: [balinski@chass.utoronto.ca].

Marek Balinski, Ph.D.
University of Toronto
Dissertation Supervisor: Michael Vertin
Committee Members: Roland Teske, Joseph Boyle
Department Readers: Ingrid Stefanovic, Barry Brown
ABSTRACT:

The purpose of my dissertation is twofold. First of all, I seek to clarify Lonergan's argument for grounding the act of self-affirmation. This clarification in turn enables me to achieve the second purpose of my dissertation, namely, to strengthen the case for the soundness of the epistemic grounding, transformation, and unification of knowledge that Lonergan proposes in Insight.

To most readers of Lonergan it is obvious that he finds the ultimate epistemic ground of knowledge in the act of a subject's self-affirmation as a knower. This act has all the properties of a self-validating increment of knowledge, which leads many readers of Lonergan to believe that it should be used as the principle of a universal system of knowledge of a deductive type (something akin to Aristotelian and Cartesian ways of presenting theories). This interpretation would lead to difficulties, since a deductive justification would be required for every step of the process of grounding, transforming, and unifying knowledge within a single coherent system.

In my dissertation, I propose an interpretation that takes the act of self-affirmation as just one of several possible judgments upon which the method of critically grounding individual judgments can be based. This method can be used to ground different judgments, including all the judgments that constitute steps in the process of transforming and unifying knowledge.

Hence, my interpretation of the act of self-affirmation as just one of several possible examples of a grounded judgment transforms Lonergan's philosophy from what some suppose to be a deductive system into a set of interrelated and undeniable solutions of epistemological problems, a set of solutions that may be used in turn to correct and harmonize metaphysics, the rest of philosophy, science, and common sense knowledge. On this interpretation, the problem of the deductive justification of different elements of Lonergan's epistemology becomes irrelevant. This strengthens the case for the soundness of Lonergan's attempt to unify knowledge within a single coherent pattern.


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