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


22

notion of 'transcendental method.' The invariant dynamic structure of conscious intentionality is a four-level structure of successively sublating sets of operations. Lonergan designates each level by its most prominent operation: the level of experience, the level of understanding, the level of judgment, the level of decision. The transition from level to level is occasioned by an operator. We move from experiencing to understanding by asking questions; we move from understanding to judgment by asking critical questions; we move from judgment to decision and action by asking questions of the general form, Is it worthwhile? The criteria of knowledge, objectivity, truth, reality, and value are immanent in the operators; they are contained in the questions we raise. In the concrete emergence of wonder, doubt, and conscience to which our questions give articulate expression, we experience these immanent criteria. Lonergan formulated the operative criteria in four transcendental precepts: Be attentive; Be intelligent; Be reasonable; Be responsible. The four-level structure with its immanent criteria is the foundational heuristic structure that is specified in the exercise of all special methods and is spontaneously employed in everyday practical and social living. One may expect, moreover, that this same transcendental method will underpin and penetrate any specific method developed in the future.

To abide by the transcendental precepts in one's living is to transcend oneself, approach authenticity, and promote human progress. To disregard or violate the precepts is to refuse to transcend oneself, to be unauthentic, and to become an agent of decline. But the simplicity of these formulas may be deceiving. Lonergan finds in us an incapacity for sustained development, a moral impotence, and a need for emancipation. Even if one grasps the dynamic foundations which underpin, maintain, transform, and outlast cultural contexts one cannot over-come this incapacity solely by one's own efforts. The principle of progress may have been ascertained; the principle of decline may have been identified; but the question persists regarding the route to recovery and redemption. Lonergan's entire effort to meet the demands of his time at the level of his time is contained within the triad he uses to describe the structure of history: progress-decline-redemption.

There is, then, a second phase to Lonergan's methodological work, which incorporates our need for redemption and the redemptive role of religion. Ile has exposed the groundwork for a new conceptuality to replace the conceptuality which underpinned classical culture and for To Page 23