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


15

times; the strategy which he undertook to meet those demands; and the outcome of that strategy. In the process, a sufficient number of terms will be introduced to make possible a summary account in Lonergan's own words of his place in contemporary culture, which may be of real assistance to the reader who openly seeks to explore the perspectives revealed in this volume.

Reflection on the development of a thinker easily dissolves into mere speculation if it is not carried out methodically and thoroughly. As Lonergan put it, referring to efforts made to understand the various stages of his thought, such reflection can be 'a little bit of creative history,' which might hinder rather than assist in understanding his mature thought.(34) In the brief presentation to follow, then, we will make no attempt to trace the stages of Lonergan's intellectual development but will focus on his finished products.

Lonergan saw the twentieth century as marked by an unexpected, bitter, and widespread disillusionment. For the proximate sources of this disillusionment he points to the clash between the ideal of progress and the experiences of the Great Depression, two world wars, the rise of ideologies with their high-minded incoherence, conflicts rooted in competing group egoisms, the emergence and realization of totalitarian ambitions, and the insidious spread of simple-minded opportunism and violence. The remote source for this disillusionment, though, he locates in a prolonged cultural crisis and its related disarray and conflict within the domains of philosophical and theological practice. The framework of meanings and values by which we had informed and guided our common way of life has all but collapsed in the face of technological, economic, political, and intellectual upheavals and transformations. These meanings and values have yet to be replaced, and the failure to replace them has created a vacuum of meaning and value. The situation is rendered desperate, Lonergan believed, when its increasing absurdity, unintelligibility, and irrationality come to be regarded not as 'mere proof of aberration' but as 'evidence in favor of error.' Then the 'social surd,' as Lonergan names this unintelligible sociocultural context, expands as we assume the attitude of the 'realist': 'The dictates of intelligence and reasonableness are found irrelevant to concrete living. The facts have to be faced; and facing them means the adjustment of theory to practice. But every adjust-(ment) To Page 16


34. Caring, 72-3.