The Lonergan Reader
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28

U of T Press

LWS Front Page


10

intellectual roots, his professional involvements, and the chronology of his major achievements, but such a listing of simple facts fails to convey the impression Lonergan might have made upon those who attended his lectures and institutes and knew him personally. The reader may be interested, then, in a few of our impressions, based on our acquaintance with him.

Lonergan enjoyed a good joke and could tell one, but he was not a conversationalist. He was not given to repartee either in ordinary conversation or in the question sessions which commonly followed his lectures at institutes and workshops. In general, he displayed a modesty approaching shyness. He once described himself to us as 'a secondary functions man.' By this he meant that the appropriate comment or response to a question often would occur to him hours after the conversation had ended. In formal question sessions it was not uncommon for Lonergan to respond to a long-drawn-out question with a simple 'Yes' or 'No.' He did not suffer fools gladly. But he was always generous in his responses to serious inquirers. At his lectures and in discussions, one could witness the sheer joy Lonergan took in understanding. Seeing this for the first time, one might have suspected that Lonergan had recalled a private joke; eventually it became apparent that this was a genuine expression of the joy Lonergan felt in reaching and communicating an insight.

Students of an innovative thinker hope to hear their mentor comment on every issue in which they take an interest and on each new issue as it gains currency. ln our experience, Lonergan was reluctant to meet this expectation. He would not present himself as an authority in any but the few areas in which he felt himself to have expertise. Despite his deep and broad learning, he deferred readily and graciously to the expertise of other thinkers, both in public forums and in private conversation. He would not speculate about issues he had not thoroughly investigated for himself but would direct attention to those who had done the required research and invite his listeners to read those thinkers' writings and draw their own conclusions. Only rarely would Lonergan criticize other thinkers in discussion, preferring instead to emphasize those elements in their writings in which he found some truth and to ignore what he regarded as mistaken. Of those thinkers in whose work he found a deliberate and methodical procedure he was especially generous with his praise, however much he might have disagreed with their conclusions. To Page 11