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Ulf Jonsson

Foundations for Knowing God. Bernard Lonergan's Foundations for Knowledge of God and the Challenge from Antifoundationalism

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

Department of Theology, University of Uppsala, Sweden
Degree: Ph.D., Philosophy of Religion
Date: 1999; 367 pp
ISSN 0721-3409
ISBN 3-631-34700-6
US-ISBN 0-8204-4326-3

(Published by Peter Lang Publishers)

Advisor: Eberhard Herrmann

Main examinator: Michael McCarthy, Vassar College

Abstract: This study deals with the theory of knowledge of God elaborated by the Canadian theologian and philosopher Bernard Lonergan (1904B 1984). Lonergan's theory of knowledge of God, or his "philosophy of God", has already been the subject-matter of a number of doctoral dissertations. However, this present dissertation treats his theory from a new perspective, namely that of the foundationalist dispute in contemporary philosophy. The aim of this study is twofold. Its first purpose is to present a detailed account of Lonergan's theory of what kind of foundations are to be used in order to ground knowledge of God in a proper manner. Its second end is to clarify whether Lonergan's position is foundationalist in character or not.

The first main chapter of the thesis provides the reader with an introduction to Lonergan's philosophy in general, with particular focus on his views on epistemological issues and on his so-called "transcendental method", which functions as the philosophical backbone of his theory of knowledge of God. The second chapter, Lonergan on Knowledge of God, consists of a detailed exposition of Lonergan's philosophy of God, as it developed from the early years of his career to the end of his life. The main part of this chapter is devoted to a presentation of Lonergan's argument for God's existence that is to be found in chapter 19 of his major work Insight. Special attention is also given to the problem of how to relate Lonergan's earlier stance on philosophical theology with his position as it developed later in his life.

In the chapter Foundationalism: A Disputed Issue, the focus is turned to the debate with which Lonergan's philosophy of God is confronted in this study, that is the foundationalist dispute. That dispute deals with the problem of how to ground knowledge claims in a proper manner. According to foundationalists, knowledge claims must be grounded upon some particular instance of epistemic primacy, that is itself justified in an immediate manner, if scepticism and relativism are to be avoided. Antifoundationalists reject that demand. The central arguments in the foundationalist dispute are presented, and a distinction is introduced between two main types of foundationalism: proper versus broad foundationalism.

With the help of what has been elaborated in the previous chapters of the thesis, chapter four examines Lonergan's philosophy of God with the aim of arriving at an answer to the question of whether his theory is foundationalist or not. Despite the fact that Lonergan has often been thought of as a foundationalist, it is here argued that his position cannot be said to be foundationalist in the proper or strict sense, but only in a broader sense.

Keywords: B Lonergan, knowledge of God, foundationalism, antifoundationalism, philosophy of religion, cognitional theory, epistemic justification, transcendental method, basic beliefs, religious experience, Aquinas, Aristotle, H Putnam, R Rorty.


Chap.1 LONERGAN'S PHILOSOPHY IN GENERAL, 19 Biographical Note 19
1.1 The early period 21
1.1.1 The early years 21
1.1.2 Gratia operans 27
1.1.3 Verbum in Aquinas 30
1.2 The Insight period 34
1.21 Understanding 36
1.2.2 Reflective Understanding 46
1.2.3 Consciousness and Reality 53
1.2.4 Cognitional Structure 69
1.3 The Method period 78
1.3.1 The Existential Subject 79
1.3.2 Meaning and History 88
1.3.3 Theological Method 98
1.4 Excursus: Lonergan and Thomism 102

2.1 The God question in the early period 111
2.1.1 Gratia operans 112
2.1.2 Verbum in Aquinas 113
2.1.3 De ente supernaturali 118
2.1.4 The Natural Desire to See God 120
2.1.5 De scientia atque voluntate Dei 123
2.1.6 Analysis fidei 124
2.2 The God question in the Insight period 128
2.2.1 Insight 19: General Transcendent Knowledge 129 Transcendence and Transcendent Knowledge 133 The Transcendent Idea of Being 137 Causality 144 The Notion of God 154 The Affirmation of God 160 Comparisons and Contrasts 172
2.2.2 Openness and Religious Experience 176
2.2.3 The General Character of the Natural Theology in Insight 178
2.3 The God question in the Method period 182
2.3.1 Natural Knowledge of God 183
2.3.2 Religious Commitment 191
2.3.3 Method in Theology 198
2.3.4 Philosophy of God, and Theology 206
2.3.5 Further Developments 214
2.3.6 Continuity and Development in Lonergan's Approach 219

3.1 Epistemic Sources and Theories of Justification 227
3.2 What is Foundationalism? 248
3.3 Antifoundationalist Criticism of Foundationalism 261
3.3.1 Postmodern Criticism of Broad Foundationalism 262
3.3.2 Analytic Criticism of Proper Foundationalism 268
3.3.3 Antifoundationalism Explicated 281
3.4 Summary 298

4.1 Lonergan's Epistemic Foundations and the Foundationalist Dispute 307
4.2 Are Lonergan=s Foundations for Knowledge of God Foundationalist? 321


This dissertation has been published end of March 1999 by Peter Lang Verlag in Frankfurt am Main. Here follows some detailed information about the book:

Ulf Jonsson: Foundations for Knowing God. Bernard Lonerganís Foundations for Knowledge of God and the Challenge from Antifoundationalism. European University Studies: series 23, volume 664. Peter Lang GmbH, Frankfurt am Main 1999. 367 pp.

ISSN 0721-3409
ISBN 3-631-34700-6
US-ISBN 0-8204-4326-3

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