In Lonergan's writings and published interviews, there is no
evidence of romanticism, moral idealism, or elitism. He was very
down-to-earth, which was also evident in our conversations with
him. Our discussions touched upon topics ranging from the
philosophical and recondite to the mundane, and he spoke
knowledgeably and with interest about current political events and
recent technological innovations. He impressed us as a highly
practical intellectual whose deep and broad learning was
complemented by good common sense.
Lonergan's Place in Culture
Fortunately, I don't think I come under any single label.(22)
Any introduction to a major thinker should place that thinker in the current scheme of intellectual endeavors. With Bernard Lonergan, as with other comprehensive and innovative thinkers, this is not a simple matter of situating his work within the boundaries of a familiar field of study or department of inquiry. The originality of a powerful mind may reside precisely in raising the kinds of questions the steady pursuit of which weakens and breaks down traditional divisions and separations. These questions may bring about a radically different conception of the unity and organization of cultural pursuits. The very originality and comprehensiveness of Lonergan's work make it difficult to situate his writing within familiar categories of intellectual endeavor. Nevertheless, since Lonergan's comprehensive view and language have yet to penetrate our culture, we have no choice but to employ more familiar classifications - at least initially. Let us begin, then, with the labels that are commonly applied to Lonergan, briefly weigh their adequacy, and finally attempt to make the transition from the prevailing climate of opinion and its familiar language to Lonergan's quite different viewpoint and way of expressing things. In this way, the reader's desire to know where Lonergan stands, and what sorts of expectations to bring to the reading of the selections in this volume, may be satisfied by a recourse to Lonergan's own words and concepts to describe his project and cultural position.
Lonergan has been variously described. To some he is a theologian. To others he is a philosopher. To still others he is best described by the To Page 12
22. Caring, 219.