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We would like to thank the American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly for permission to publish the following article on the LWS. This article appeared in their journal 70 (1996) 225-42. All copyrights remain with the original publication.


Lonergan and the Fourth Level of Intentionality


by Terry J. Tekippe and Louis Roy, OP

In his later thought, as is well known, Lonergan made deep and significant shifts in his approach to morality. More than in the earlier work, he emphasizes feeling, value and the transcendence of doing over knowing. If in the earlier work he embraces a basically Thomist schema of the relations between knowing, choosing and feeling, in the later work he appeals to Scheler and von Hildebrand for an intentional approach to feeling, values and love.

Needless to say, such a momentous shift, presented in a relatively brief compass, raises many questions of detail and synthesis for the student of Lonergan's work. Many who have examined the topic sense loose ends here, and the need for a systematic elaboration. But the project immediately runs into difficulties. Does one abide by the earlier understandings, and correct the later if they diverge? Is it better to adopt the later insights, and use them to correct the earlier, as Lonergan himself is obviously doing? If that choice is made, however, one faces another question: Is the epistemology of von Hildebrand and Scheler phenomenological, intuitionist and ultimately empiricist? If so, this counter-position must be reversed. With what adjustments to their theory of feelings, choice and love?

The following is one attempt to construct a systematic and coherent account of all the elements involved in the shift to value and responsibility in the later Lonergan. It attempts, even when it becomes critical, to discern Lonergan's deeper intentions, and put forward that interpretation of his thought which can best be defended in the long run. No doubt, the account will not recommend itself to everyone. May one hope, at least, that it will sharpen the question for future discussions? The project will proceed in six steps. The first will be to present Lonergan's position on decision and feelings in his early work, notably Insight. The second will comment on the same area in the later work, especially in Method in Theology. After these more exegetical efforts, the positive construction will begin in the third step, which assembles the activities associated with the fourth level. The fourth step is to divide these into cognitional and decisional elements. Step five, the longest section, takes up the place of feeling in the resulting structure of intentionality. The sixth step, finally, is to make some comments on decision.

I. The Position of Insight

Though there is not necessarily any great disagreement among Lonergan scholars as to the role of decision and feelings in Lonergan's early work, it is nevertheless necessary to lay a foundation by exposing that in some detail. In his massive work Insight, as well as in the subsequent Understanding and Being, Lonergan presents the following understanding of ethics. As stated most clearly in Chapter 18 of Insight, it is constituted by an extension of knowing into doing.

The criterion of morality, then, is fidelity to knowing: one's action is to be in accordance with one's knowledge of reality. As Lonergan puts it, "Man is not only a knower but also a doer; the same intelligent and rational consciousness grounds the doing as well as the knowing; and from that identity of consciousness there springs inevitably an exigence for self-consistency in knowing and doing." (622 [599]). This approach is clearly cognate with that of Thomas, where the criterion of morality often appealed to is "right reason."

If this position may be diagrammed, given Lonergan's development of experience, insight and judgment in Chapters 1-17 of Insight, it may be represented as follows:

Knowing Extension: Doing
Judgment Criterion of Decision
Insight Self-Consistency
Experience


How do feelings fit into this account? One must admit they do not come in for a great deal of attention in Insight; indeed, the Index accords the subject but a single reference. In fact, they are mentioned occasionally, but often in a negative context. Feelings appear to exist on the first level of experience; in speaking of "elementary experience," Lonergan mentions "... the imaginative, conative, emotive consequences of sensible presentations." (207 [184]). Again,

"Conation, emotion and bodily movements are a response to stimulus; but the stimulus is ever against the response; it is a presentation through sense and meaning and imagination of what is responded to, of what is to be dealt with. The stimulating elements are the elementary object; the responding elements are the elementary subject." (184; see also 185 [207; see also 208]).

In discussing Freud's work he speaks of the "... apprehension through insights into images that are affectively charged..." (219 [196]). Moral feeling may be disciplined by critical reflection; but in the child and the primitive these are not yet distinguished, so that moral feeling expands beyond its reasonable bounds (223 [199]). That feelings are psychic events with a biological basis is particularly clear when Lonergan's discussion of species as explanatory comes to man. "Seeing and hearing, tasting and smelling, imagining and feeling, are events with a corresponding neural basis..." (292 [266]).

The pure desire to know attains objectivity, not painlessly, but in a struggle with other "impure" desires and fears. "The seed of intellectual curiosity has to grow into a rugged tree to hold its own against the desires and fears, conations and appetites, drives and interests, that inhabit the heart of man." (310 [285]). In treating the law of integration, Lonergan notes that the impulse for development may come from any level: organic, psychic, intellectual. Of the psychic he has this to say:

"Again, the initiative may be psychic, for man's sensitivity not only reflects and integrates its biological basis but also is itself an entity, a value, a living and developing. Intersubjectivity, companionship, play and artistry, the idle hours spent with those with whom one feels at home, the common purpose, labour, achievement, failure, disaster, the sharing of feeling in laughter and lamenting, all are human things and in them man functions primarily in accord with the development of his perceptiveness, his emotional responses, his sentiments." (496 [471]).

This more positive, almost idyllic, presentation of feeling, however, is qualified as soon as development is envisioned. Then present feeling may stand in the way of future vocation. Now the tension that is inherent in the finality of all proportionate being becomes in man a conscious tension. Present perceptiveness is to be enlarged, and the enlargement is not perceptible to present perceptiveness. Present desires and fears have to be transmuted and the transmutation is not desirable to present desire but fearful to present fear. (497 [473]). Indeed, within the universe of being the individual retracts, painfully, to but a point.

Intellectual development rests upon the dominance of a detached and disinterested desire to know. It reveals to a man a universe of being, in which he is but an item, and a universal order, in which his desires and fears, his delight and anguish, are but infinitesimal components in the history of mankind.... For the self, as perceiving and feeling, as enjoying and suffering, functions as an animal in an environment... (498 [473]).

The subordinate place of feeling in morality emerges with unmistakable clarity in the following passage:

... while we grant that moral self-consciousness has a concomitant in moral emotions and moral sentiments, and while we agree that these emotions and sentiments have a psychoneural basis and are subject to psychoneural aberration, we contend that it is a blunder to confuse these concomitants with moral self-consciousness itself. (624 [600]).

Undeniably, the morality that results from this vision is highly idealistic, but quite austere. "Accordingly, it will not be amiss to assert emphatically that the identification of being and the good by-passes human feelings and sentiments to take its stand exclusively upon intelligible order and rational value."

II. Feeling in the Later Lonergan

Having examined Lonergan's position on decision and feelings in his early work, it is now necessary to examine his quite different treatment of the same subjects in the "fourth level" emphasized in the later work.

To enter into the thought-world of Method in Theology, where feeling has an altogether different role and valence, where it appears to inhabit the fourth level, and so in some way to transcend mere human knowing, can be almost bewildering. Frederick Crowe has catalogued minutely this shift. It may be well to pause here for a moment to ask, Why does Lonergan appeal at this point to Scheler and especially von Hildebrand for his approach to feelings, value, moral deliberation and moral development?

Probably it is impossible to specify all the reasons why a thinker like Lonergan adjusts his position; still, one may speculate. It may be that Lonergan simply recognized that feeling played too small a role in Insight; so in Method he affirms, "Without these feelings our knowing and desiring would be paper thin." (30-31). But undoubtedly a key role in the shift was his growing awareness of the move from faculty psychology to intentionality analysis. As he revealed to Philip McShane in 1971, "There is a spreading out, moving on, including more. Like recently what I've got a hold of is the fact that I've dropped faculty psychology and I'm doing intentionality analysis." (Second Collection, 222-23). Looked at in the sober light of this realization, Chapter 18 of Insight is an uneasy amalgam of faculty psychology, metaphysics and intentionality analysis. There is an appeal to an experience of freedom; but the basic category is the good, with the chapter aiming at "a cosmic or ontological account of the good." (618 [595]). Further, the subject is treated in terms of will, "intellectual or spiritual appetite." (621 [598]).

Lonergan had long realized that his key contribution to Scholastic studies was to reverse the priority of metaphysics and epistemology. If one began with cognitional analysis, then one might arrive systematically at a critical metaphysics. If this was his basic insight, then it must be implemented consistently. In any and every field the basic terms and relations must be those of interior experience; from those, in each case, the consequent metaphysical categories will be carefully distinguished. So Lonergan realized he must abandon the revolution half carried through in Chapter 18, and develop an ethics based solely on the introspective evidence.

To this end, von Hildebrand must have seemed a godsend. His approach was altogether phenomenological, based on the observation of the actual experience of desiring, valuing and loving. Further, he insisted strongly on the distinction between satisfaction and value, which dove-tailed perfectly with the distinction Lonergan had made in Chapter 18 between the empirical good and the rational good, which he already then termed "value." Add to this the fact that von Hildebrand came from a Christian, indeed Catholic, thought-world, and had much sympathy with Thomas Aquinas, and the fit appeared perfect.

III. The Fourth Level

The proposal of a viable interpretation of Lonergan's thought on the fourth level of consciousness must begin by asking what intentional processes parallel the structure of experience-insight- judgment which emerge so clearly in Lonergan's earlier analysis of cognition.

What, then, are the activities of the fourth level? They are not as clearly identified as the experience, insight and judgment of the earlier analysis. Method speaks of "deliberation, evaluation, decision, action." (35). In the interview with Philip McShane already mentioned Lonergan speaks of "the apprehension of value, the question of deliberation, the judgment of value, decision and action." (221, 223). When he develops the subject more carefully in Method he distinguishes an apprehension of value and a judgment of value. (37). Elsewhere in the interview he speaks of "heart," which is beyond mind, on the level of feeling, involving the question "Is this worthwhile?"; the judgment of value, and the decision." (220-21).

Perhaps a representative scheme might be the following, reading from the bottom up:

Action
Decision
Judgment of Value
Question for Deliberation
Apprehension of Value


If this is accurate, it raises a host of questions and objections. First, it seems strange in the light of Lonergan's early work that no insight of value occurs here. Insight is absolutely central to his earlier analysis of knowing. How can it suddenly be absent? Or is perhaps the apprehension of value really an insight? If so, why is it followed rather than preceded by the question for deliberation? Or should we distinguish a reflective and a direct question for deliberation, where the second is not explicitly mentioned? Or do we have a whole new type of knowing here which functions without an insight? von Hildebrand's language is actually "perception of value," and it is clear this is an intuition.

Could Lonergan possibly be agreeing that in the field of value "knowing is looking" after all? If we are speaking of a whole new kind of knowing, who has done the cognitional analysis comparable to Insight? Lonergan? von Hildebrand? Scheler? Pascal? Or does it still await doing? In Insight Lonergan makes a great point that the structure experience-insight-judgment is unrevisable. But here he adds a fourth level of knowing, which does appear to be a revision, after all. Or is the earlier statement to be read that none of the elements experience-insight-judgment can be denied - but they may be added to?

Supposing that is correct, and the new schema is experience, insight, judgment, knowing of value; does this require an additional metaphysical element? Recall that, by the isomorphism of knowing, the structure of experience, insight and judgment led to that of potency, form and existence. Does the addition of a further element of knowing not require also a fourth metaphysical element: potency, form, existence, value?

Such a radical revision of Lonergan's basic approach does not appear attractive, unless absolutely necessary. The following account will attempt a less radical reconstruction, one more continuous with the earlier Lonergan, by treating in turn cognitional and decisional elements, the role of feeling, and the decision.

IV. Cognitional and Decisional Elements

In attempting to resolve the perplexities and ambiguities just noted, it is necessary to begin with an intentional discrimination between those activities which have to do with knowing, and those which have to do with desiring and loving. A first point to note is that the fourth level, as schematized above, includes both cognitional and decisional elements. That tends to reduplicate on the fourth level functions already present on the first three. The proposal here is that the fourth level be restricted to the decisional elements, with cognitional elements accounted for by the first three levels. It may be noted that when Lonergan speaks in shorthand, the four levels are referred to as experience, understanding, judgment and decision; the fourth level is also often called that of responsibility; all of which implies that decision is at least the most important activity on the fourth level.

Lonergan is, of course, saying that the knowing of value is not simply the same as the knowing of fact. But here one may make an analogy with the knowings of common sense and science. They are not the same; in Insight Lonergan goes to some length to enumerate their differences (198ff [175ff]); yet they do not require a different structure of knowing.

Common Sense Knowing Scientific Knowing
Judgment Judgment (Crucial experiment)
Insight Insight (Hypothesis)
Experience Experience (Data-gathering)


Is there any reason why moral knowing should require a whole new structure of knowing? Following up this suggestion, one gets the following structure:

Knowing Facts Knowing Value
Decision-Action
Judgment Judgment of Value
Insight Insight
Experience Experience


The judgment of value, then, is placed on the third level, that of judgment. That appears defensible, especially when Lonergan explicitly indicates the parallel: "Judgments of value differ in content but not in structure from judgments of fact." (Method, 37). A judgment of value, however, clearly presupposes an insight of value. For judgment adds merely a "Yes" or "No"; without a prior insight, there is nothing to affirm or deny. Again, insight is always into phantasm; here, too, then, there must be a level of presentations, or an experience of value. This gives the following structure:

Knowing of Fact Knowing of Value
Decision-Action
Judgment Judgment of Value
Insight Insight of Value
Experience Experience of Value


The next question is, Where does the apprehension of value fit in? In Lonergan's presentation, it always precedes the judgment of value. Is it the insight of value? Or the experience of value?

There may be some reason to identify it with insight. In Insight, Lonergan speaks of the "... apprehension through insights into meanings that are affectively charged..." (219 [196]). But the arguments against this appear stronger. One text seems to dissociate the apprehension very clearly from intelligence. "Now the apprehension of values and disvalues is the task not of understanding but of intentional response." (Method, 245). One might make a further argument. The intentional response is a feeling (30). But feelings are basically spontaneous (32).

Insights, however, are not spontaneous; they are intelligently sought by inquiry; they must, at least often, be deliberately sought by a heuristic procedure. Therefore the apprehension of value should not be identified with the insight of value. The following schema results:

Knowing of Facts Knowing of Values
Decision-Action
Judgment Judgment of Value
Insight Insight of Value
Experience Apprehension of Value


To put this in another way, knowing and deciding on value requires that the knowing structure be gone through at least twice: first for a knowledge of fact or information, secondly for a more specific knowledge of a value which is "actionable," or a good-to- be-done. Lonergan appears to have something similar in mind:

In both, the criterion is the self-transcendence of the subject, which, however, is only cognitive in judgments of fact but is heading towards moral self-transcendence in judgments of value. In both, the meaning is or claims to be independent of the subject: judgments of fact state or purport to state what is or is not so; judgments of value state or purport to state what is or is not truly good or really better. (37).

Again,

"In the judgment of value, then, three components unite. First, there is knowledge of reality and especially of human reality. Secondly, there are intentional responses to values. Thirdly, there is the initial thrust towards moral self-transcendence constituted by the judgment of value itself. The judgment of value presupposes knowledge of human life, of human possibilities proximate and remote, of the probable consequences of projected courses of action." (38).

The advantage of this double sequence is that moral knowing can be quite different from factual knowing - much as scientific knowing is quite distinct from common sense knowing - and yet one does not have to formulate some new kind of knowing not envisioned in Insight, with the consequent requirement of a revision of the basic triadic structure of experience, insight and judgment.

Further, cognitional elements are kept to the first three levels, and decisional to the fourth level, which offers a satisfying consistency. After all, the distinction of knowing and deciding is very important. As Lonergan says, "True judgments of value go beyond merely intentional self-transcendence without reaching the fulness of moral self-transcendence. That fulness is not merely knowing but also doing, and man can know what is right without doing it." (37). Indeed, not adequately to distinguish the decisional from the cognitional elements is to fall into the Platonic error that to know the right is perforce to do it, so that moral evil is always but ignorance. Aristotle, Thomas and Lonergan insist that a further step is needed; one may know very well what should be done, and yet fail to perform.

This does have one implication, however, for the operator that moves the subject from the third to the fourth level. That can no longer be the question for deliberation, because the question is a cognitional element, and so not found on the fourth level. The operator must be the pure desire for value, as specified in the desire for this particular doable good. An analogy obtains: as the pure desire to know, specified in a particular question for intelligence, leads to an insight; as the pure desire to know, specified in a particular question for reflection, leads to a judgment; so the pure desire for value, specified in a particular desire for this doable good, leads to a decision. That decision, of course, is neither blind nor arbitrary, because it is grounded in the experience of this particular good, the insight into this particular value, and the judgment affirming this particular value; and yet the prior knowing does not determine the posterior decision, precisely because this particular value in no way exhausts the pure desire for value, which always goes beyond and transcends any particular, concrete value.

V. The Place and Role of Feelings

One obvious lack in the intentional structure as proposed to this point is that it has not mentioned feelings, which become so important in Lonergan's later work. The next step, consequently, is to seek to integrate them. Can the structure offered accommodate feeling? The initial answer is easy. "Apprehension of value" has been placed on the first level, according to the argument developed above. But Lonergan identifies feeling with apprehension of value. Therefore feeling must be located on the first level of intentionality. For Lonergan says: "Such apprehensions are given in feelings." So apprehension of value either is a feeling, or is found in feeling.

The result is that feeling falls on the first level. An additional advantage of what has been done so far, then, is that feeling can be constituted on the first, or psychic, level, with a neural basis on the biological level - which dovetails perfectly with the position on feelings in Lonergan's earlier work.

Even in Method, however, there are hints that cohere with such an understanding. As seen already, feelings are basically spontaneous - that would be fulfilled perfectly by psychic spontaneities. But Lonergan goes on: "They do not lie under the command of decision as do the motions of our hands. But, once they have arisen, they may be reinforced by advertence and approval, and they may be curtailed by disapproval and distraction." (32). If feelings, as sensitive spontaneities, are not directly under the control of desire, nevertheless they are indirectly; and so the level of decision must be higher than the level of feeling. Further, the text has already been noted: "Without these feelings our knowing and deciding would be paper thin." (30-31).

This appears to distinguish feelings from both knowing and deciding. If fully human knowing is placed on the second and third levels, and decision on the fourth, then feeling is again appropriately located on the first level. Personal relations, Lonergan points out, are the result of commitments freely undertaken. "These relationships are normally alive with feeling." (50). Note first that commitments (decisions) are the cause of relations, while feelings are the accompaniment.

Intersubjectivity is vital, functional, spontaneous (57); but it is on the first level. But note that it is here coordinated with feeling. Note also that instinct and feeling are associated (59). Image and feeling are associated (66, 67); that fits in with the coordination of the two. Feelings and symbols play a role in "organic and psychic vitality." (ibid.) That would point to the level of experience, not that of decision. Lonergan adds that a nucleus of insights is colored by desires, hopes, fears, joys, sorrows (72). That would cohere nicely with the idea that feelings can accompany insights. Again, the meaning of the symbol is potential (a category not found in Insight) (74). It is not formal or full meaning, much less effective or active meaning. But the symbol is associated with feeling; whereas effective meaning has to do with decision and action. Therefore feeling is not decision, and it occurs on the first level, not the fourth.

Still, this may appear insufficient. Does not Lonergan explicitly place feelings on the fourth level? More generally, is the later, more generous attention to feeling sufficiently represented when they are restricted, as in the earlier work, to the first or psychic level?

This objection is a valid one, and may be met with a distinction: feelings are constituted on the first level, but may be present on all four levels. An analogy may be made here with image or phantasm. The image is basically a psychic reality. To confuse the level of presentations with knowing itself is to equate knowing with looking, and incur intellectual unconversion. Nevertheless, it is good Thomist and Lonerganian doctrine that insight is always into phantasm; absent the phantasm, then, the insight cannot occur. So we may say that the phantasm is present on the level of insight, though it is actually constituted on the level of the psychic.

Similarly, the judgment regards the insight; and if the insight is inseparable from the phantasm, then the phantasm must also be present on the level of judgment. This may be represented as follows:

Judgment (phantasm)
Insight (phantasm)
Level of Presentation, 3D Phantasm


In a similar way, feelings are properly constituted, as psychic spontaneities, on the first level; but they may be present on the higher levels. Just as the intellect far outstrips the imagination, so spiritual desire far surpasses feeling; yet, just as insight in the enfleshed creature remains ever tethered to the phantasm, so spiritual desire in the human being is never completely dissociated from feeling.

Knowing of Fact Knowing of Value
Decision-Action (feeling)
Judgment (Phantasm) Judgment of Value (feeling)
Insight (Phantasm) Insight of Value (feeling)
Experience: Phantasm Apprehension of Value: Feeling


The analogy between phantasm and feeling may be pursued further. The phantasm is not a dead or unimaginative reality. In the dynamic search for insight, it comes under the influence of intelligence, and strains, on its own psychic level, to approximate to the insight sought. There must always be a phantasm; but sometimes that phantasm can become very ethereal in abstract or recondite thought, the mere wisp of an image of a symbolic operation, for example.

Under the guidance of the pure desire for value, similarly feelings, while remaining on the psychic level, can become highly, even exquisitely, refined; so that one is tempted to speak, in an accommodated sense, of "spiritual feelings." The attentive reader may have noted that in the last diagram feeling accompanied the insight of value, the judgment of value, and the decision of value, but not the insight or judgment of factual knowing. This is not to deny that strong feelings may accompany even informational insights and judgments. Nevertheless, the diagram does serve to underline that feelings are particularly appropriate to moral knowing, decision and action. One may begin with the level of experience, the apprehension of value. It comprises the images of the good-to-be-done, as well as the pleasure and the scars remembered from past moral efforts; it includes the feelings of the irascible and concupiscible sense appetites, as well as the demands and the yearnings of the sense appetites, and the habituations of the sensibility that constitute the psychic residue of the recurrences of the habits of virtue and vice. Further, insofar as man is a composite of body and soul, these very sense desires are imbued with a yearning and an openness that is absent in animals, and they can function as symbols and tokens of fully spiritual desires: so, in the Song of Songs, the allure and the insistence of the sexual instinct is used to evoke the yearning for God, and the tender love between God and the soul, God and his people.

The level of presentations is followed by the insight of value; nor is this insight devoid of feeling. For, again, it is an insight into the good-for-us, which grasps synthetically the good to be done, the world in which it is to be posited, the self who is to do it, the ripples in the world that are likely to result from that action, and, perhaps more obscurely, the transcended or diminished self that will result from that decision and action.

Those feelings can be beneficent as, arising naturally or through cultivation, they drive us on to conversion; or they may be maleficent, opposing the appropriate insight, as Lonergan has catalogued so well in Insight: "The seed of intellectual curiosity has to grow into a rugged tree to hold its own against the desires and fears, conations and appetites, drives and interests, that inhabit the heart of man." (310 [285]).

But insight always requires the validation of judgment, in this case the judgment of value. Again, such judgment is alive with feeling, because we are not knowing some abstract good, but a good-for-us, a good-to-be-done-by-us. Toward such a good we are never indifferent; our welfare, our very becoming, is too much involved. Sometimes the feeling is longing and attraction; sometimes dread; often a mixture of the two. One sees it in Augustine: before his decision, he is already facing the implications of the choice to be made. He has a vision of voluptuous nymphs, tugging at the hem of his robe, feeling, even as he strides resolutely away from them, a pang of regret: "never again?... really, never, never again?" But, in the moral sphere, knowing is incomplete without doing.

In a decision we commit ourselves existentially. Every such decision involves some good we pursue; but it also, though usually less centrally, involves what we ourselves are becoming. But such existential decisions cannot but be immersed in feelings. They drive us to the point of decision; they accompany and guide the decision; and in turn they can be evoked by the decision, as we face in delight or dismay the good (or apparent good) we have settled upon. Without feelings, decisions would be made in a "passionless calm," the "unruffled sequence of symbolic notations and schematic images" Lonergan attributes to the mathematician (209 [186]). For without feeling, as Lonergan also observes, our knowing and deciding would be paper thin. One has only to read Augustine's account of the moment of his conversion to see the role feelings play in decision: the mounting frustration beforehand, the sudden urge to be alone, the resulting cascade of tears. Though feelings are constituted on the psychic level, then, they nevertheless are deeply related to all the levels of moral knowing and deciding - this is a valid insight of the later Lonergan.

An interpreter's dilemma emerges with Lonergan's discussion of love. Is love a feeling, or a decision? Is it to be properly placed on the first level, or the fourth? The evidence in Lonergan's work appears ambiguous. It is in a section entitled "Feelings" that he comes to speak of love. "But there are in full consciousness feelings so deep and strong, especially when deliberately reinforced, that they channel attention, shape one's horizon, direct one's life. Here the supreme illustration is loving." (Method, 32). The most natural interpretation of this passage is that loving is the supreme example of feeling, or of deep and strong feelings. Still, Lonergan does not say in so many words that love is a feeling; this is only being inferred from the text. Further, when the text is examined closely, it does not speak of feelings alone, but of feelings as deliberately reinforced. Is love then the feeling? The deliberate reinforcement? The feelings as deliberately reinforced? Or the two on an equal basis? The text would seem patient, at least, of the interpretation that the supreme example of deep and strong feelings are the feelings found in loving.

How to decide? It may be helpful to list the logical alternatives, and consider each in turn: a) love is a feeling which has nothing to do with decision; b) love is a feeling which is, by identity, a decision; c) love is composed of equal parts decision and feeling; and d) love is basically a decision, accompanied by deep feelings.

The first alternative would appear to be ruled out because decision is the act of responsibility; if love is separated from decision, then it would be irresponsible; whereas, for Lonergan, the self-transcendence of love is the height of responsibility.

Further, if feelings are separated from decision, then how can they be deliberately reinforced? The same difficulty applies to the second alternative. If feeling is identical with decision, then feeling deliberately reinforced would be decision deliberately reinforcing itself. If that is not absolutely inconceivable, it does lend a strange and forced reading to the phrase.

Could love be feeling plus decision? This is getting closer to the mark. Nevertheless, it does not appear wholly satisfactory. If the foregoing analysis is correct - or if Thomas and the earlier Lonergan are correct - then feeling is constituted on the psychic level, and decision on the fully spiritual level. To put the two on an equal footing is to over-value the psychic, and to risk falling again into intellectual or moral unconversion. This understanding, further, is in tension with common wisdom and the mystical tradition. A young couple is often warned that their honeymoon feelings for each other will not last forever; that there may even be times when their feelings of love disappear.

This does not mean, however, that love is at an end; for love is a decision, a commitment, and is not based on anything as relatively transient as feeling.

Again, in spiritual direction dirges are often counselled not to place too much stock in feeling. Strong feelings are typical of the early stages of conversion and commitment. But they may soon wane. God may even be testing and purifying a person, to make sure that person is in love with God, and not the feelings of devotion. Often it is when the person feels most dry and desolate that God is working most deeply within a person to purify his or her love. It remains, then, that the last option is the preferable one.

Love - at least as it passes beyond mere lust, adolescent infatuation, or being in love with the feelings of love themselves - is basically a decision, which is typically (though not necessarily) accompanied by deep and strong feelings. As can be seen, this coheres well with the diagram already offered.

Knowing of Fact Knowing of Value
Decision-Action (feeling)
Judgment Judgment of Value (feeling)
Insight Insight of Value (feeling)
Experience Feeling: Apprehension of Value


VI. The Decision

Up to now, minimal attention has been given to the decision itself. A first need is to distinguish the "decision" and "action" that Lonergan lists. Decision is an "inner" event; action is usually an "outer" event, though it may also be inner - I decide to think about something. Decision and action may be almost coincident in time, as when a person "suits the action to the word," acting immediately on a proposal. But at other times, decision may precede action, either because the action itself is a series of operations spread out in time, or because the action is delayed - I decide now to take a vacation next January. But decision itself deserves fuller consideration. To this point, the analysis has been rather static. Even going through the structure of knowing twice, the presentation envisions decision as an immediate, once-for-all act. This may hold for what is called a "snap decision" - as in the "impulse buying" supermarket advertisers try to foster. But in any larger decision - and especially in a conversion - that act of decision is spread out over time, and achieved incrementally. An eventual decision, for example, may begin in an attraction or an allurement. "The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom," Genesis says of Eve. Already here is a judgment of value, and an incipient decision. At times that attraction goes no further - an act of the will called a "velleity." At times the attractions and repulsions of an action can seem almost equally balanced. To refer again to Augustine's richly psychological account, he saw the chaste vision of purity beckoning him forward, even while his past mistresses plucked urgently at the back of his robe. Decisions can also wax and wane, as any dieter can testify: for a while one "gathers one's intent" and embraces a proposal firmly; but later temptation, discouragement or distraction will weaken one's resolve. As Lonergan says, conversion is "authenticity as a withdrawal from inauthenticity, and the withdrawal is never complete and always precarious" (Method, 284).

Lonergan often paralleled a metaphysical and a psychological analysis; that leads to a further suggestion. Thomas Aquinas distinguished actual and sanctifying grace. The one is a more momentary assistance to the will, the other the agent of an habitual change in the will. Translated into psychological terms, that would reinforce the sequence of a series of decisional acts, with only the last constituting a full-fledged decision. As a series of actual graces may lead to habitual justification, so a sequence of incipient and partial decisions may pave the way for a final and transforming decision.

VII. Conclusion

The path that has been traversed in the proposed reconstruction may be traced with greater discernment. The first move was to note the parallel between the judgment of fact and the judgment of value, and to coordinate them on the third level of knowing. This move is now seen to be the key: once it is accomplished, almost everything falls naturally into place.

Immediately cognitional elements can be removed from the fourth level, which is more coherently limited to responsible decision. The insight of value then finds its proper place. "Feelings," as "apprehensions of value" lock into position on the first level, cohering with Lonergan's earlier, and the Thomist position; but, by the analogy of phantasm, they are seen to be present on the second, third and fourth levels, satisfying the larger and more positive role of feelings in Lonergan's later thought.

The integration of Lonergan's earlier and later work on feelings and moral knowing involves difficult choices. Others will no doubt desire to combine the elements in other ways, or with a differing emphasis. This attempt has aimed at the maximum coherence with Lonergan's early commitment to a Thomist analysis of knowing, while still being open to Lonergan's later discoveries and the fruits of a phenomenological analysis of feelings and decisions.


Tekippe, Terry, J. and Louis Roy. Lonergan and the Fourth Level of Intentionality in American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 70 (1996) 225-42. 22 May 1997. < http://www.lonergan.on.ca/tt.htm > (Your access date).

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