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The Glossary Project
edited by Carla Streeter


What is reached by reflection and judgment; what is independent of us and our thinking , what is really so (M 35). That to which the subject as critically reflective stands in conscious relation, and which makes the subject regard the positive content of the sciences as probable, not true or certain (M 16). Objectivity is absolute when it is the result of combining experiential objectivity (the givenness of the data of sense or of the data of consciousness) with normative objectivity (the fulfillment of the needs of intelligent and reasonable operation). Through experiential objectivity conditions are fulfilled. Through normative objectivity conditions are linked to what they condition. Combined they yield a conditioned with its conditions fulfilled. In knowledge, this is a fact. In reality, this is a contingent being or event (M 263).

Being for Lonergan is completely universal and completely concrete. Complete knowledge of being can be had then only through an act of understanding everything about everything. The content of a developing understanding can never be the idea of being, for only the content of an unrestricted act of understanding can be the idea of being. The idea of being in its totality is absolutely transcendent. To grasp it, human beings would need to be capable of an unrestricted act of understanding. A metaphysics of proportionate being gives us at least one segment in the total range of the idea of being (I 666-667 [643-644]). But the possibility of human knowing arises from an unrestricted intention that intends the transcendent. Knowing is realized in a process of self-transcendence that reaches the transcendent, for the intention directs the process to being. Attaining the virtually unconditioned reveals that point in which some segment of the total range of the idea of being has been reached (2C 231, esp. n. 1). M 16, 35, 263; I 666-667 [643-644]; 2C 231.

See M 16, 35, 263; I 666-667 [643-644]; 2C 231.

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abstract, abstraction

Lonergan’s use of this term clearly manifests the development of his thought. For the later Lonergan, to abstract is to grasp the essential and to disregard the incidental, to understand what is significant and put aside what is irrelevant, to recognize the important as important, and the negligible as negligible. Abstraction is the selectivity function of intelligence (I 54-55 [30]).

But for the earlier Lonergan, the abstract universal is an inner word consequent to insight (V 42-43 [30]). The universal is abstracted as common matter from phantasm and spoken in an inner word (V 53-54 [40]). Lonergan believes that the Aristotelian and Thomist theory of abstraction is not exclusively metaphysical, but basically psychological. As psychological it is derived from the character of acts of understanding (V 56-57 [42]). However, knowing the universal in the particular, knowing what is common, is not abstraction. Knowing is the sensitive potency that Aquinas calls cogitiva. By a psychological account of abstraction Lonergan means the elimination by the understanding of the intellectually irrelevant because it is understood to be irrelevant (V 53 [39]).

In this earlier period, there are three degrees of abstraction: the first, in which the understanding has conditions within the empirical order of sensible presentations (physical); the second, in which the understanding has conditions in the imaginable, but not in the empirical order of sensible presentations (mathematical); and the third, in which the understanding has its conditions all within the intelligible order, the expression abstracting from both the sensible and the imaginable (judgment). So significant is this understanding that, for Lonergan, a correct theory of abstraction is critical to empirical method.

The later Lonergan will criticize the common notion that the abstract is an impoverished replica of the concrete (I 112-114 [89-90]). To the contrary, says Lonergan. Abstraction in all its essential moments is enrichment rather than being a mere impoverishment of the data of sense. Again, he distinguishes three moments: 1.) abstraction's enriching anticipation of an intelligibility to be added to sensible presentations; 2.)the erection of heuristic structures and the attainment of insight which reveals and names in the data what is significant, relevant, important, essential: the idea, the form; and finally, 3.)the formulation of the intelligibility that insight has revealed. It is only in this third moment that the negative aspect of abstraction appears: the omission of what is insignificant, irrelevant, negligible, incidental (I 111-113 [88-89]).

Lonergan's earlier intellectualist interpretation of Thomist thought (see n. 6, V 153 [142]) runs counter to the conceptualist view, and the point of the most apparent conflict lies in the issue of the abstraction of concepts, an issue to which conceptualists attend almost exclusively. The center of Thomist analysis of intellect is not so much the products of intelligence, such as concepts, judgments, syllogisms, but intelligence in act itself (V 153 [142]).

To further clarify this earlier distinction between the conceptualist and intellectualist (Lonerganian) interpretations of Aquinas, we need to clarify objective abstraction and the difference between formative abstraction and apprehensive abstraction. In his earlier writings Lonergan explains objective abstraction as the illumination of a phantasm by the possible intellect. Such illumination constitutes the imagined object as something to be understood. Apprehensive abstraction, the insight into the phantasm itself, actually understands what objective abstraction anticipated (V 189 [179]). Formative abstraction supposes the formation of an inner word expressing the understanding, and yields knowledge of something distinct from its material conditions (without which the thing would not exist). As prior, apprehensive abstraction or insight into the phantasm precedes and is the basis from which formative abstraction moves toward a concept or inner word (V 163 [152]).

Still explicating Lonergan’s early period: direct apprehensive abstraction takes place only in the shift into phantasm (V 169-170 [159]). The insight or apprehensive abstraction grasps the intelligibility of the imagined object in the imagined object (V 189 [179]). What is grasped in insight is intelligible organization. Conceptualization is an intending that puts together both the content of the insight and as much of the image as is needed for the occurrence of the insight (M 10). The object of insight- into- phantasm is pre-conceptual. But any expression of the insight must be as conceived, not as it is in itself (V 175-176 [165]). For conceptualists, formative abstraction is unconscious and non-rational. It precedes apprehensive abstraction. In the intellectualist interpretation (Lonergan), apprehensive abstraction precedes formative, and the consequent formative abstraction is an act of rational consciousness (V 163 [152]).

In this early period Lonergan distinguishes two further acts within apprehensive abstraction. When actuated by a species, the possible intellect is constituted in the first act of apprehensive abstraction. When the species shines forth in the phantasm and is then considered, the considering is the second act of apprehensive abstraction (V 177-178, 187 [167-168, 178]). Lonergan describes this second act as "infallible" in itself.

A type of reflection follows in which there is indirect knowledge of the singular. The knowledge is a reflective grasp of this fact: the universal nature that is understood is the nature of the particular that is imagined (V 187 [178]). Formative abstraction then posits the object apart from its material conditions. It does so by an act of meaning or defining (V 187-189 [178-179]). The objects of apprehensive and formative abstraction are really the same, for they are the same essence. But they are modally different: what apprehensive abstraction knows only in the imagined instance, formative abstraction knows apart from any instance, and formative abstraction is distinguished by the special property of engaging the rational consciousness (V 178, 180 [187-190]). It is only at the point of conceptualization that the "inner word" has been formed. The intellectual activity prior to it is pre-conceptual.

For the later Lonergan, transcendental notions as the fount of questioning are not more abstract but utterly concrete. They propel the questioner toward the concrete, the real in its every aspect and instance. Only the concrete, in its reality, is good (M 36).

In other words, in what comes to us as sensed or imagined, we can grasp a unity or correlation that responds to our question “What is this?” or “Why is this as it is?” We do this by the light of intelligence - our attitude of inquiry, focused by a particular question of ours. In evidence to what we have intelligently assembled (and this assembling also is abstraction), we can grasp a sufficiency of evidence which responds to our question, “Is my understanding correct?” (I 336 [311], V ch. 4).

In several fields Lonergan showed us the importance of a correct theory of abstraction: in science (especially in mathematical physics which offers the most precise illustration of the nature of abstraction because the field has to do with the existence of actual positions and frequencies but grasps the ideal frequency on which these converge non-systematically), in philosophy (including ethics), and in theology (especially Trinitarian theology and theological method). But he was more interested in showing that it is not abstraction but what abstraction makes possible -- namely, insight, the act of understanding -- which is the central element in human knowing (V 135-37 [126-7], 153 [142], I 111-12 [87-89]).

Overemphasis on theories of abstraction and on the formation of concepts, judgments and syllogisms leads to conceptualism, that is, to ignoring the concrete mode of understanding which grasps intelligibility in the sensible and the imaginable (or in ‘operations,’ if we are speaking of group theory). Such overemphasis leads to what Lonergan called conceptualist interpretations of Aristotle and Aquinas. (Lonergan sometimes calls his own position “intellectualist” and “intellectualist interpretation.”) (2C 74, V 153 [142 n.6]).

Theorems about abstraction have been devised from ancient times to account for the generalities in our knowing and for the mode of our knowing. The meaning of the term abstraction has floated primarily because a related term, matter, has had varied meanings. An example is the often-used proposition: “Knowing requires abstracting from [determinate] matter.” (V 158 ff [147 ff], 167-68 [157], TE 126).

In response to the all too common notion of abstraction as yielding an impoverished replica of the concrete, Lonergan counters that in all its essential moments abstraction is enriching: it adds an anticipation of intelligibility and provides a structure for the attainment of insight and the subsequent formulation. A negative aspect of abstraction appears only in the omission of what is insignificant or irrelevant, but this omission is neither absolute nor definitive. What Lonergan actually considers the proper use of the terms abstract and the abstract (with its correlative, the concrete) tests our understanding of abstraction. (I 129 [107], 336 [311], 112-114 [89-90])

Examples of what Lonergan did speak of as being abstract are the following: (1.) in the context of scientific understanding, laws, correlations, systems, frequencies; (2.)that which results from turning attention away from particular places and times and from our own standpoint, away from whatever is mere matter-of-fact in relation to some particular question; (3.)geometries; (4.)concepts. For Lonergan, abstraction is conscious process. Intellectual activity is not a sausage machine for grinding up data and tossing out concepts (2C 74, UB 37-8 [42], I 758-59 [736-37], UB 165-66 [205]).

The following is a summary sketch of several different contexts where we find Lonergan using the term to abstract and related words. These contexts reveal something of the development of his use of the term.

In cognitional theory:
Lonergan’s early study of Aquinas on the ‘inner word’ focused on that formulated understanding that (if not misunderstood as product) afforded Trinitarian theology one of its enduring analogies. This study employed all the traditional vocabulary about human knowing inherited from the metaphysical and psychological interests of Aristotle and Aquinas: object, act, habit, matter and form, agent intellect and possible intellect, intellectual light, phantasm, abstraction, species, concept. (At one point the whole assemblage evoked for him the style of a Rube Goldberg cartoon.) He placed on the frontispiece of Insight and repeated in several different ways within the book, Aristotle’s “The mind knows form in images.” An equivalent phrase in a metaphysics of intellectual activity uses the term we are considering: “Intellect abstracts species from phantasm.” (V 41-2 [28], 55-6 [42], 137-8 [128]; I 240-1 [215], 699-700 [677], 2C 74).

But in Lonergan’s study of human understanding in Insight, the traditional elements referred to above are present in a transformed way. Abstraction is taken (as already noted) as best illustrated by the procedures and goals of physics. Several distinctions within abstraction combine and result in Lonergan’s pivoting of insight between abstracted image and concrete instances (TE 115, V 163 [152], 185 [161]).

At the risk of inaccuracies, and with the assurance that Lonergan scholars will point them out, we venture several correspondences here beyond those Lonergan himself proposed: Conceptualization becomes an intending to know the real that puts together both the content of an insight (M 10) and as much of the preparatory image as was needed for the insight to occur. Inner word (concept) follows as a pre-linguistic formulation of what was understood. The light of intelligence becomes the pure desire to know (V 99-102 [92f], 194 [186]). Conversion to phantasm (the result of spontaneous sensibility [M 16] becomes similar to what psychology calls perception in contrast to sensation. Agent intellect becomes the act of understanding. Lonergan’s later and full transition (1C 163-64 [174]) from faculty psychology to intentionality analysis (e.g., from intellect to a human person’s consciousness and understanding) and the reference frame of science from which he drew his massive illustrations of what insight is, ensured a transposition of the traditional elements of cognitional theory (V 90-95 [79-83]).

In science:
Lonergan noted that it took some four hundred years for modern science to get beyond the confusion of thinking that the only possible objects of its inquiry were imaginable ones.

Scientific investigation of the classical type (chiefly that derived from the science of Aristotle) was based on the expectation that there can be understanding only of what is universal and necessary. The discovery of classical laws rests on an experimental exclusion of factors extraneous to some question being asked. But classical laws (I 117-118, 124 [94, 100]), hold in concrete instances only if a range of positive and negative conditions are fulfilled. Statistical laws are needed for knowledge of the concrete since the concrete includes a non-systematic component (M 11, I 125 [102]) which the indeterminacy of the abstract brings to light (M 65, I 131 [108]). Our common expressions “other things being equal,” “in the ordinary course of nature,” “in the usual run of events,” signal our awareness of the need for a type of investigation other than the classical -- namely, one in which statistical laws are discovered. Conceiving of classical laws concretely, i.e., without the further statistical determinations needed to mediate the application of such laws, leads to mechanistic conceptions of the universe and of human conduct (I 154 [131], 2C 39).

Both classical and statistical laws are abstract, and their abstractness is complementary (I 87-88, 126-127,133, 137-138 [65, 103,110,114]). Classical laws prescind from the non-systematic aspects of reality. Statistical laws prescind from actual frequencies of actual events but formulate the ideal frequencies on which the actual events converge (I 126-127 [103]). The affirmation that both types of law are possible and necessary for understanding our universe involves a whole world view in which world process is understood to be emergent probability. (I 114-115, 589-590 [91, 566] A third method of inquiry (Lonergan called it genetic method) examines trends and tries to understand development in the concrete (I 503-504 [479]).

In Lonergan’s analyses of cultural shifts:
In his many comments on cultural development, Lonergan’s use of abstraction and abstract were derived chiefly from the negative side of the process of abstraction -- that of omission (2C 170, 5, 6, M 38). Lonergan described an abstract and sterile context dictated by invariance and by logical clarity, rigor and coherence -- for example, in the abstraction that is man. In contrast, he described a concrete context which is open and ongoing, as dictated by attention, inquiry, reflection and deliberation. He saw the movement of modern science toward concreteness as having also pushed philosophy toward greater concreteness, and especially toward the concreteness of human living (M 36, 2C 110).

Lonergan’s understanding of “abstraction” posits that human understanding grasps intelligibility in sensible, imagined, or ordered data, and that human wonder initiates the bringing of instances of reality from potential to actual intelligibility (M 10).

Implications of Lonergan’s transcendental method -- including the element of abstraction in human knowing -- are yet to be drawn out and integrated into an account of contemplative consciousness (IC 38). Lonergan's reappropriation of Aquinas's intelligence in act provides us with an understanding of intelligence operating in a wider context than the distinctly rationalistic, thus securing a base in cognitional theory and its resulting epistemology for contemplative consciousness as constitutive, not foreign, to human intelligence. Although life's actual events occur at different times, it is still possible, says Lonergan, for the human intellect to attain to the absolute and by insights, judgments of fact, and judgments of value, momentarily stand outside the temporal flow in which the human intelligence is involved (1C, 38 [38]). The integrative potential of this position for gaining a psychological perspective on the role of a contemplative attitude arising from being religiously in love, in the midst of ordinary activities, has yet to be thoroughly addressed. (We are indebted to Cathleen Going, OP, for much of the above work on the term abstract. My thanks also to Daniel Helminiak and Tad Dunne for their suggestions on the term.)

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Lonergan admits that this term has many meanings. As he uses it, however, it refers to the basic human disregard of the transcendental precepts: Be attentive, Be intelligent, Be reasonable, Be responsible. Such disregard justifies itself by becoming an ideology; and ideologies so derived corrupt the social good to the point of the cumulative decline of a culture (M 55). Self-justifying alienation from one’s true self is for Lonergan the most basic form of ideology (M 357). The person who lives by the disregard named as alienation is disregarding his/her own self-transcendence. Sin is alienation from authentic humanness, and the community of the Church is a redemptive process which, by self-sacrificing love (charity), can reconcile human persons to their true being. This reconciliation undoes the havoc brought about by alienation and enshrined in ideology (M 364, 2C 85-86). The worst alienation, the one characteristic of contemporary culture, is to refuse even to ask the questions about how one knows and what difference knowing how one knows might make.

Lonergan identifies the disregard of one’s feelings as another form of alienation. This disregard can create a conflict between the self as conscious and the self as objectified. Such disregard would be a neurotic form of alienation. This condition would give added meaning to the term unconscious as the "twilight of what is conscious but not objectified" (M 34, n. 5).

Lonergan also refers to alienation as a negation of value. This negation may manifest itself as an estrangement of the human from the human world. Displacement is experienced when the social fabric of one's world is alien to a specific manifestation of being human and such estrangement can erupt in violent hatred. The result is neurotic art, frustration, a sense of hopelessness. To this negation of value in an objective sense can be added the sense of the loss of order within a person. The negation of ethical value shows itself in drifting, in making no choices at all. One finds it easier to conform, to let others make the decisions. This abdication of responsibility opens the door to indiscriminate power manipulators. When there is the negation of religious value, God is no longer in the horizon, secularism reigns, sin is fun, and there is full assertion of the petty self. This eclipse gives birth to illusion regarding human capabilities, or despair in the face of disillusion (TE 46).

Lonergan also uses the term alienation for a certain frivolity and superficiality in respect to science. This attitude arises when it is assumed that for something to be scientific it must involve palpable consequences that everyone immediately recognizes. Rather than being an intelligent account of some aspect of the real, science is reduced to techniques (TE 47-48). The most profoundly alienating aspect of this situation is the rejection of the possibility of a science of the human person; for in such a science immediately palpable consequences are not the norm.

Social alienation is a "conjunction of dissatisfaction and hopelessness" arising within large establishments and their bureaucratic organizations. Lonergan holds four defects responsible: 1.) the policies and procedures regarding products and services are held as universals, when in fact real good is always concrete; 2.) systems operate rigidly, allowing little or no discretionary adaptation; 3.)there is little encouragement for alert observation and critical reflection that generates new and creative ideas; 4.) the size, complexity, and solidarity of establishments and bureaucracies give broad range to crafty egoists, group biases, and the oversights that invite disaster. Lonergan's starting place is a close scrutiny of the conjunction of dissatisfaction and hopelessness and the neglect of the human operations causing the social alienation (3C 60-63).

To merely assert that knowledge exists without saying exactly what knowledge is, is to utter a type of abstraction that gives rise to alienation. This neglect happens when a thinker concentrates on commonsense knowledge alone and asks an abstract question such as “Does knowledge exist?” The thinker creates a small world in which he or she has narrow certitude. The power of influencing and integrating other fields is lost. The solution is to ask for a fuller account of knowledge. To leave this issue abstract is to have the abstraction in this case perceived as alien (UB 101-102 [122-123]). ( My thanks to Daniel Helminiak and to Tad Dunne for significant work on this term.)

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already out there now real: See real.

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a priori

"Is our notion of being simply an a priori category that is imposed on data? Is our position Kantian? If our position is not Kantian, how does it differ from the Kantian position?" With these words Lonergan creates a forum for the discussion of the term a priori and addresses the suspicion that he is really a Kantian in disguise (UB 156-157 [193]). The crucial nature of this question will come clear as the distinctions unfold. The crux of the matter for Lonergan has to do with the notion of being and the notion of knowing, and Lonergan takes care to distinguish his position from that of Kant. If knowing comes from the look, the question of the a priori is of great significance. If knowing is a perfection in the subject, then the question of the a priori, what comes from the subject and what comes from the object, is of minor importance. The real issue is How much of knowing comes from subject and object, and what might be the significance of this clarification (UB 159-170 [196-210]). The pivot of this discussion is one's understanding of what knowing is. If one answers that knowing is confrontation, taking a look, seeing what is there, or intuition, then nothing comes from the subject. But if knowing is an ontological perfection of the subject, then the more knowing there is, the better off the subject is. If knowing is not looking, but rather the ontological perfection of the knower, then what one finds when one explores the knowing subject is experience, acts of understanding and formulation of concepts, grasp of the unconditioned and judgment -- perfections of the knower. The question of what comes from the subject thus becomes insignificant. Likewise insignificant is the query of what comes from the object. The object simply helps the knower to come to know being. Once knowing and its object is clarified, then the task becomes identifying what is a priori. in the process.

It is by acquisition that we move from knowing in potency to knowing in act. Thus, our potency to know comes from nature, but any actual knowing is going to involve some influence from the object. The object is needed to effect the transition from the potency to know to actually knowing. By nature, the intellect has a range that is determined. Its range is everything, and because its range is everything, says Lonergan, (UB 162 [201]) its range is being. Does this mean then that because knowing being is natural in this sense, that being is somehow a priori?

To reply we need to recall that the way scholastics distinguish between what is known naturally and what is known by acquisition is not really the basis on which Kant distinguishes the a priori and the a posteriori. For Kant the a priori is what is absolutely independent of experience. Is what we have explained above regarding knowing absolutely independent of experience? Lonergan replies (UB 164 [203]) that on the level of potency, from nature, our knowing is independent of experience. But once the knowing process is engaged -- the wonder, the asking of questions, the actual inquiry -- it is not absolutely independent of experience. Experience provides the material needed for inquiry to actually occur. Thus, only as potency from nature is knowing a priori as Kant understands the term. Actual human knowing involves experience, and so Kant’s and Lonergan’s positions differ. The difference lies in the clear understanding of what knowing is. (My thanks to Tad Dunne and Daniel Helminiak for suggestions on this term.)

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A person is becoming authentic who is consistent in the struggle to be attentive, intelligent, reasonable, and responsible. This precarious and ever-developing state depends on long and sustained faithfulness to the transcendental precepts (3C 8). Lonergan distinguishes a twofold authenticity: the minor authenticity of the human subject with respect to the tradition that nourishes him or her, and the major authenticity that justifies or condemns the tradition itself (M 80). The former leads to a judgment on subjects in their operations. The latter is not formulated theoretically but depends on a specific example of transcending and advancing a tradition by developing the positive and eliminating the negative elements within it (3C 120-121, 130). The human being achieves authenticity through self-transcendence (M 104) and through a continual withdrawal from unauthenticity (M 110).

Minor authenticity then, is of major importance. The meanings and values of the human subject are authentic to the extent that they are cumulatively the result of the transcendental precepts, Be attentive, Be intelligent, Be reasonable, Be responsible. Authenticity is thwarted by inattentiveness, obtuseness, unreasonableness, and irresponsibility (3C 7). Attentiveness directs the subject to notice two kinds of data: that of sense and that of consciousness. The first grounds the subject in the world of immediacy, the world of sense. The second directs the subject to attend to the world of interiority, to notice what is happening as one processes sense data or the data of consciousness. Intelligence draws the subject into inquiry, and if not thwarted by bias, the questioning goes on unrestricted. Reasonableness calls for conclusions; it is the questioning of whether something is so as I understand it. Responsibleness poses the question of worth, of value. It presses for prioritizing in lieu of choice, of decision and action.

Bias is the blockage or distortion of intellectual development. There is the bias called dramatic: the unconscious motivation brought to light by depth psychology, that blocks the intellectual process at the point of an unwanted image, causing the neurotic to flee from the insight the analyst knows he or she needs. Individual Egoism will limit questioning to what contributes to one’s own point of view, confining every new situation to an exploitation of his or her need. Group Egoism is the corporate version of the preceding, blinding the group to the fact that it no longer serves a useful function and impedes progress in its clinging to power. Finally, there is General or Theoretical bias, the insistence on immediate results with its accompanying impatience with results long in coming, the fruit of painstaking study. Cherishing its single talent, common sense as omnicompetent, it insists on muddling through, resisting any rational account as empty theorizing (I [191-203, 218-242]; M 231; 3C 105).

Authenticity comes through self-transcendence (M 104), and the process of self-transcendence is experiencing, understanding, judging and deciding (M 239). At times the process involves an about-face; it emerges from the old by repudiating characteristic features; it begins a new sequence that reveal ever greater depth. This about-face is conversion. It can be intellectual, moral, or religious. Intellectual conversion is a radical clarification and elimination of the myth concerning reality, objectivity, and human knowing. Moral conversion changes the criterion of one’s decisions and choices from satisfactions to values. Religious conversion is being grasped by ultimate concern, an other-worldly falling in love, a total and permanent self-surrender without conditions, qualifications, or reservations (M 237-241).

The operational development that empowers self-transcendence is distinct from the development of feeling. As non-intentional states and trends, feelings differ from intentional responses. States such as tiredness or anxiety have causes. Trends such as hunger or thirst have goals. As states and trends feelings simply relate to cause or goal. They do not arise out of perceiving, imagining, or representing the cause or goal. One feels first, and then discovers the cause or need. But when feeling relates us to an object, we no longer have feeling as a mere non-intentional state or trend. We have feeling as intentional response. Such response answers to what is intended, apprehended, represented. Such feeling gives drive and power to intentional consciousness. By feeling as intentional response we are oriented massively and dynamically toward meaning and value. Feelings as intentional responses have two classes of objects: the agreeable or disagreeable, or value as ontic or qualitative. Response to the agreeable or disagreeable can be ambiguous; the true good may be either. But response to value both carries us toward further self-transcendence and selects an object for whom or which we transcend ourselves (M 30-31).

Major authenticity extends the issue of authenticity far beyond the individual. The individual’s struggle for authenticity is linked to a web of elements that involve him or her in society and in history. Human authenticity promotes progress, and its opposite generates decline (M 291). Lonergan proposes that feelings normally respond to values according to some scale of preference. So vital values of health and vigor are preferred to the work needed to maintain them. Social values are preferred to the vital values because they set the conditions for vital flourishing among an entire group. Cultural values are preferred to the social because they provide the direction and ideals for social as well as personal goals. Personal are preferred to the cultural inasmuch as they are the source of the ideas governing a social order and of the values that infuse a culture. Religious values are preferred to the personal because the self-transcending person is in love with the source and goal of all values. (My thanks to Tad Dunne for suggestions on this term, in particular the insights in this last section, and to Daniel Helminiak also for significant work on the term.)

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Authority *

Common sense typically thinks of authority as the people in power. Generalized empirical method roots the meaning of authority in the normative functions of consciousness and defines the expression of authority in terms of legitimate power.

An initial meaning of power is physical, and physical power is multiplied by collaboration. But in the world of social institutions, a normative meaning of power emerges – the power produced by insights and value judgments. Insights are expressed in words; words raise questions of value; judgments of value lead to decisions; decisions result in cooperation; and this kind of cooperation vastly reduces the physical power needed while achieving vastly better results. The social power of a community grows as it consolidates the gains of the past, restricts behaviors that threaten the community’s effectiveness, organizes labors for specific tasks, and spells out moral guidelines for the future.

The community appoints “authorities” to implement these tasks. Authorities are the spokespersons, delegates, and caretakers of a community’s spiritual and material assets. Winning the vote does not confer an authority upon them; it confers a responsibility upon them to speak and embody the community's word of authority. The honor owed to them by titles and ceremony does not derive from any virtue of their persons but rather from the honorable heritage and common purpose with which they have been entrusted.

While the community’s social power resides in its ways and means, not all its ways and means are legitimate. A community’s heritage is a mixed bag of sense and nonsense. To the extent that authorities lack the authenticity of being attentive, intelligent, reasonable and responsible, their power to build up is diminished. Even if everyone does what they say, authorities will be blind to the higher viewpoints and better ideas needed to stave off chaos and seize opportunities for improving life together. Their power is justifiably called naked because it is stripped of the intelligent, reasonable, and responsible contributions their subjects are quite capable of making. Similarly, to the extent that the subjects lack authenticity, they will cripple their own creativity, which otherwise would foresee problems, overcome obstacles, and open new lines of development. At the extremes, a noble leader of egotistical followers has no more effective power than an egotistical leader of noble followers. Between these extremes, the typical dynamic is an ongoing dialectic between an incomplete authenticity of the community and an incomplete authenticity of its authorities.

In this concrete perspective, generalized empirical method defines authority as power legitimated by authenticity. That is, authority is that portion of a heritage produced by attention, intelligence, reason, and responsibility. As only a portion of a heritage, the intelligibility intrinsic to authority is dialectical, to be worked out in mutual encounter, rather than a dictatorial iron law (a classical intelligibility), an anarchical or libertarian social order (a statistical intelligibility), or a natural, evolutionary dynasty (a genetic intelligibility).

This definition of authority as the power legitimated by authenticity offers historians defensible explanations for their distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate exercises of power within a historical period. It offers policymakers the normative categories they need to explain to their constituents the reasons for proposed changes in the community's constitution, laws, and sanctions.

(* Thanks to Tad Dunne for valuable input on this term.)

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Bias *

Bias is rooted in the our failure to allow free reign to our drive to understand. Within every human consciousness, the drive to understand impels us to progress. However, bias undercuts this process native to human intelligence by censoring the spontaneous questions which lead us to make correct judgements.

Bias results from our failure to ask all the relevant questions needed in making a judgement. Bias is generated by a tension between the "higher" (intellectual operations) and "lower" (emotional and physical drives and needs) operations of the psyche. If progress is intricately bound up with the possibility of intellectual detachment, decline stems from bias. Thus, bias is not a necessary aspect of all inquiry. Rather, it is an incomplete unfolding of inquiry - a 'flight from understanding.'

Lonergan identifies four levels of bias which impede progress and thus result in decline.

  1. First, there is the bias of the unconscious, what Lonergan calls the "dramatic bias." (I 191-203) Dramatic bias operates at the level of elementary passions. It precipitates introversion as one withdraws from the external drama of human living. One is unable to accumulate insights through interaction with others thus testing one's insights against the criterion of other's insights and experience.

  2. Individual bias manifests itself in egoism. Egoism is not the spontaneous, instinctual acts of the human animal. Rather, egoism sabotages intellectual operations in order to serve the self-interest of the egoist. The egoist deliberately arranges events in order to satisfy his or her desires. At its most extreme, individual bias is manifested in the criminal and in crime's deteriorating effect on society. At a less extreme level, individual bias leads to a kind of dis-ease in the individual, causing alienation.

  3. Group bias is individual bias writ large. It is self-interest at the level of a particular group. Because the criteria for satisfaction has shifted from the individual to the group, it is easy to be deluded into thinking the bias is for a seemingly "good" order. "Group bias operates in the very genesis of common-sense views." (I 222)

    Although intelligence thrives on continuous progress, the sensibility is embedded in a particular social order. Change is not easy and development at the level of a group is possible to the degree a group can intelligently respond to situations as they occur. Self preservation, however, precipitates blind spots as a group struggles to maintain its usefulness and its advantage. Intelligence, therefore, is compromised as it is forced to take a secondary position to the group interest.

    If the strong group, the group with advantage and power, those who have managed to use progress and social development for their own interests, are able to use the insights of operative ideas to there own advantage, there are always those who are unable to do this and so "fall behind in the process of social development." (I 224) The oppressive injustice that emerges from group bias creates within its very orientation or operation a self-corrective. Ultimately distortions created by group bias surface in such an obvious manner that the group is destined for defeat.

    Thus, the nature of group bias creates its own ultimate reversal. For, not only is the group's bias revealed by the surfacing of neglected ideas, the revelation is accompanied by the power to realize those ideas. This is why Lonergan calls group bias the shorter cycle of decline: built into its very distortion is its self-corrective reversal.

  4. General bias is a deeper, more pervasive bias the corrective or reversal of which, unlike group bias, is in no way guaranteed. What Lonergan calls the "general bias of common sense," (I 226) because of its pervasiveness, depth and insidiousness, generates the longer cycle of decline.

    For Lonergan, the particular danger of common sense, and hence its general bias, is in its extending "its legitimate concern for the concrete and the immediately practical into disregard of larger issues and indifference to long-term results." (I 226)

    Humanity turns to common sense to deliver it from individual and group bias which are motivated by self-interest, however, common sense is unable to rise above this general bias. Consequently, for Lonergan, common sense must be led, at a deeper level, by a human science.

    General bias prevents common sense from acknowledging and embracing ideas which consider the longer view or a higher viewpoint. This incapacity on the part of common sense is not only a lack of ability, it is also a refusal. The general bias of common sense cumulatively deteriorates the social situation. The possibility of a detached and disinterested intelligence becomes more remote as it shifts from mere irrelevance to complete surrender.

    The ramifications of this shift are disastrous for society; no longer is there a way to distinguish between what is social achievement and what is social surd, (I 230-1) no longer is there a possibility of a criterion of truth or a possibility of authority, in short, human intelligence has become radically uncritical. Existence is ravaged by a shifting that has no parameters and no points of reference. What is judged as progress is based on parameters that become completely turned around a generation (or less) later. Unless theory is related to practice, unless it takes its data from the empirical reality of humanity and not from separate, independent norms, it is deemed by the general bias of common sense as useless.

For Lonergan, the only hope for reversal of the longer cycle of decline stems from his notion of emergent probability.

* This term is presented by Dr. Christine Jamieson

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