The Lonergan Reader
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U of T Press

LWS Front Page


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Lonergan conceives a cultural matrix using the analogy of an organic whole. If one part becomes distorted and ceases to perform its function, the whole becomes distorted. Meanwhile, the hard-headed realism which aims to fill the resulting vacuum lifts to prominence a set of 'false facts' about ourselves and our potentialities. It ridicules serious intellectual endeavor as ivory-tower theorizing, hinders or even blocks the required renewal of the pursuit of self-knowledge and the renovation of philosophy and theology that might flow from it, and postpones indefinitely the regeneration of the cultural matrix.(36)

According to Lonergan, the prevailing demand of our time is the demand for an adequate, up-to-date answer to the question, What is man? To respond to this demand at the level of the times is, first, to conceive a strategy by which the pursuit of self-knowledge might be revived; and, second, to carry out that renewed quest with expectations framed, not by the outmoded classical ideal of static, abstract definitions and principles, but by an ideal of foundations that are intrinsically open to change and capable of surviving intact the most radical shifts of meaning and value. The foundations must be dynamic and flexible in themselves, resistant to all ideologies, and ever capable of giving the lie to the 'false facts' of the practical realist. They must be the source of short- and long-lived definitions and principles, the source of their revision, and the basic motivation for discarding and replacing them when they are legitimately discarded and replaced. In brief, the foundation to be grasped is the concrete, existing subject who engenders cultures and maintains them for a time or perhaps for millennia, but who eventually finds the matrix constituted by its own activities insufficient to accommodate its own creative thrust towards greater self-expression and fulfillment and more complete self-transcendence. Moreover, the needed foundation must carry within itself criteria of knowledge, objectivity, truth, reality, and values which are transcultural, perhaps not in their explicit acknowledgment but at least in their implicit employment. Finally, this pursuit of transcultural normative foundations, if it is truly to be a break with the abstract apprehension and account of humanity, must be simultaneously an effort to account for the variety of existing and past cultures and for the multitude of personal, social, and cultural aberrations and distortions which, at any given moment in human his(tory) To Page 18


36. Insight, 254 ff.; on the paradoxical category of the 'false fact,' see Understanding and Being, 236.