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Mutual Self-Mediation

Principles, Moral





Self-Affirming Precepts




Transcendental Method

Transcendental Precepts

Viewpoints (higher, lower)

Virtually Unconditioned

The Glossary Project
edited by Carla Streeter


As used by Lonergan , the term refers to the function of meaning that relates the subject to the real world. The world of the infant is "immediate." The child responds only to objects present, to what is seen, felt, and heard in the world of immediate experience (M 28, 76). With language, that world expands to include the world mediated by meaning. Besides the world mediated by meaning there is also the "mediation of immediacy by meaning when one objectifies cognitional process in transcendental method and when one discovers, identifies, accepts one's submerged feelings in psychotherapy" (M 77). Thus, meaning can mediate the mediator to him or herself and there arises a nuanced meaning of "self" mediation.

The term mutual self-mediation appears in the 1963 "The Mediation of Christ in Prayer." Delivered to the Thomas More Institute in September of that year, the essay recently appeared in Method: Journal of Lonergan Studies 2/1 (March 1984) 1-20. On mutual mediation: When there are at least two principles and each mediates the other or others, there is mutual mediation which constitutes the functional whole. On self-mediation: The whole has consequences that transform the whole itself. Lonergan distinguishes three levels of self-mediation: 1.) The displacement upwards of organic growth; 2.) The displacement inwards of animal consciousness; 3.) The deliberate shift of center of existential commitment that occurs in community, in love, in loyalty, in faith. Mutual mediation and self-mediation combine in mutual self-mediation. As there is a self-mediation towards autonomy, so there is a mutual self-mediation occasioned by encounter in all its forms: meeting and living together. One's own self-discovery and self-commitment can remain one's own, revealed to others only when one chooses to do so. When we reveal ourselves, we do so in an act of confidence, of intimacy, entrusting ourselves to another. We become open to the influence of others and they are open to being influenced by us. Mutual self-mediation occurs in meeting, in falling in love, in getting married. Matrices of relations for mutual self-mediation occur in education, in parenting, in neighborhoods, industry, commerce, in the professions and in politics. Mutual self-mediation is the enduring theme of novelists and dramatists. It is the elusive something that does not show up in educational charts and statistics. It disappears when communication becomes indirect through books, television, or a correspondence course.

From within the perspective of the critical realist, Lonergan attempts to show how the notion of mediation can be developed into a pattern of structures. If the reader is bewildered, it is because while mediation is an even less determinate notion than causality, its significance is clear.

Meaning, through the operations of the conscious subject, introduces one to a world mediated by meaning and motivated by value. The world mediated by meaning is the world revealed through the memories of others, through the common sense of various communities through the pages of literature, through the works of artists, scholars and scientists, through the experience of holy people of every culture, and through the reflections of philosophers and theologians (M 28). As the human consciousness interacts with reality it is not an enclosed, self-contained entity, but an entity-in-relation.

Higher cultures develop reflexive techniques to control and safeguard meaning – alphabet, dictionaries, grammars, logic, hermeneutics, philosophies (M 28-29). Consciousness can be theoretically or scientifically differentiated, and it can be differentiated aesthetically corresponding to different worlds mediated by meaning and also different differentiations of consciousness. In each case but in different ways, meaning mediates a different world of experience. 2C 20; M 28, 76, 77. (My thanks to Tad Dunne and Daniel Helminiak for contributions to this term.)

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The term for Lonergan does not mean a technique. Most fundamentally it refers to the innate dynamic operations of human consciousness, its ‘method.' (See levels of consciousness and transcendental precepts.) The consciousness of the human subject is innately intentional. Intentionality analysis is charting the pattern of the operating consciousness of the human subject (PGT 18) or objectifying the operations of consciousness (M 8). Intentionality analysis provides an understanding of the operations that have to do with knowing and deciding.

The pattern of human consciousness is recurrent, and its operations, once identified, can be understood in relation to one another. Following its recurrent pattern of authentic, not distorted operations, the method of human consciousness yields results that are both cumulative and progressive, not merely repetitious (M 4). Lonergan's basic method is different from the transcendental method referred to by such transcendental Thomists as Otto Muck (The Transcendental Method, New York: Herder and Herder, 1968). The transcendental method Lonergan has in mind is not merely theoretical. It is utterly concrete and empirical, an attentive charting of the data of consciousness itself (M 13-14, n.). Lonergan has actually transformed the transcendental method of Maréchal in correction of and in complementing Kant's call for a critical appropriation of human cognitional structure as basic to a methodical science and philosophy for our day (1C xiii).

In transcendental method, Lonergan is concerned with objectifying the human subject's actual process of ‘transcending' the self. It occurs on four conscious levels – paying attention, getting insights, grasping the truth, and action based on the truly valuable. But what is often missed is the mediation by acts of meaning that occurs "when one discovers, identifies, accepts one's submerged feelings in psychotherapy" (M 77).

The reason the method is called ‘transcendental' has objective and subjective components. Objectively, it transcends specific fields of study and particular subjects; it looks to the results of any study whatsoever. Subjectively, it looks to the ways we transcend ourselves by the deft operations of mind that bring us knowledge (M 14).

The work of objectifying or thematizing must be done by the individual him or herself. Lonergan calls the grasp of what is really going on in transcendental method "self-appropriation" (M 83). Self-appropriation is attending to one's own operations and discovering through attentiveness the recurrent pattern Lonergan himself discovered by attending to his own conscious operations. These operations mount in complexity, "sublating" lower operations into higher ones and transforming them in the process. "Higher" in this context refers to fulness, a mounting from a fixation with the world of immediacy to the world constituted and known by acts of meaning and value. Each level sets the conditions for the subject's continuing conscious activities. The process has to do with the struggle toward the authentic human functioning identified with knowledge and choice.

The phrase generalized empirical method refers to an attentiveness to the data that consciousness provides. We can attend to our experiencing, our inquiry, understanding, formulating, reflecting, checking, our passing of judgment, and deciding (3C 140-143). This data can be the object of study as is the data of sense in the sciences. When the data of sense is the object of study it is designated as empirical method.

Lonergan's transcendental method is transcultural, not in its formulation, for that carries the unique particularity of a culture and its time and place, but in the realities to which the formulation refers, namely, the operations of human consciousness itself. These operations are not the products of any culture, but the very principles that produce cultures, preserve them, and develop them (M 282).

Lonergan's contemporary transcendental method clarifies the subject from the objects known, and the objects are clarified from the operations by which they are known (3C 79). Lonergan's transcendental generalized empirical method is the basic, invariant, dynamic pattern or structure of conscious and intentional operations in subjects themselves. Lonergan's proposal for an empirical theology is a way of doing theology that begins, not with premises, but with the dynamic human subject and her or his attentive, intelligent, reasonable, and responsible operations. He proposes that it is these very operations that are illumined by faith. If problems of critical method are not attended to first, if the theologian as subject continues to be overlooked, theological method will continue to flounder (1C 130-132 [139-141]). I 95-96 [72-73]). PGT 18; M 4, 13-20, 77, 83, 101, 282, 289; 1C xiii-xiv (1967 ed.), 130-132; 3C 79, 140-143.
(My thanks to Tad Dunne and Daniel Helminiak for significant contribution to this entry.)

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mutual self-mediation: See mediation.

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Principles, Moral *

A commonsense use of “moral principles,” usually means any set of conceptualized standards, such as, “The punishment should fit the crime” or “First, do no harm.”

When ethicists consider how moral principles should be used, disagreements arise. Some scorn them because principles are only abstract generalizations that do not apply in concrete situations. When we try to apply them, disputes arise about the meaning of terms such as "crime" or "harm." Particular cases always require further value judgments on the relative importance of mitigating factors, which general statements omit. What counts is a thorough assessment of the concrete situation, which will result in an intuition of what seems best.

Others reject such situation-based ethics because people have different intuitions about what seems best in particular situations. What is needed is a general principle that supports the common good. Moreover, history proves that formulated principles are good things. Because they represent wisdom gained by others who met threats to their well being, to neglect them is to unknowingly expose oneself to the same threats. We codify principles in our laws, appeal to them in our debates, and teach them to our children. For children in particular, and for adults whose moral intelligence has not matured, principles are firm anchors in a stormy sea.

Generalized empirical method regards principles as concepts that need the critique of a reflection on the methods used to develop them. They are not really principles in the sense of starting points. That is, they are not the source of normative demands. The actual sources of normative demands are self-transcending subjects being attentive, intelligent, reasonable, and responsible. Formulated principles are the products of minds shaped by an ambiguous heritage and exposed to a dialectic of opinions. These minds are shaped by personal commitments within intellectual, moral and affective horizons. These horizons may complement each other; they may develop from earlier stages; or they may be dialectically opposed, as when people who mouth the same principles attach opposite meanings to them, or when people espouse the principle but act otherwise. Generalized empirical method grants no exception for moral principles proposed by religions. A religious revelation is considered neither a delivery from the sky of inscribed tablets nor a dictation heard from unseen divinities. In its data of consciousness perspective, generalized empirical method considers revelation as a judgment of value regarding known proposals, whether inscribed or spoken or imagined. Its religious sanction is based on a claim that the judgment is prompted by a transcendent love from a transcendent source in human hearts.

Those who formulate specific moral principles need to understand distinct methodological issues at distinct functional specialties. This understanding begins with men and women who think about their intellectual, moral and affective commitments in explanatory categories (foundations). It is first expressed in these categories as judgments of fact or value (doctrines/policies). It expands through understanding the relationships these principles have with other principles (systematics/planning). It becomes effective thorough adaptations that take into account the current worldview of a community, the media used, and the values implicit in the community’s language (communications/implementation).

Generalized empirical method’s strategy for resolving differences among principles is to exercise the functional specialty dialectic to reveal their true source. Investigators evaluate not only the historical accounts of how any principle arose, but also the principle itself. Where investigators overcome disagreements, the parties have lain open their basic horizons, particularly the intellectual, moral and affective horizons that reveal the radical grounds of disagreements and agreements. In this mutual encounter, people concerned about morality are already familiar with normative elements in their consciousness and may only lack the insights and language to make them intelligible parts of how they present their views. The strategy is not to prove one's principle or disprove another's but to tap every person’s experience of a desire for authenticity. Generalized empirical method counts on the probability that those with more effective intellectual, moral and affective horizons will, by laying bare the roots of any differences, attract and guide those whose horizons are less effective.
(* Thanks to Tad Dunne for valuable input on this term.)

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The philosophical position that the truth that is acknowledged in the mind corresponds to reality (WN 128). The term refers to the progression of the mind to objective truth, to knowledge of reality (V 73 [61]). Lonergan generally refers to three types of realists: naive, dogmatic, and critical. The naive realist simply affirms that we know, and offers no further explanation (V 72 [60]). The dogmatic realist asserts that the intellect confronts reality directly through perception but offers no philosophic reflection to substantiate how this takes place (V 192-193 [184], 1C 196 [210-211], WN 129). The critical realist explains what knowing is and how it takes place. He or she realizes that the world in which we live is constituted not only by physical or sensible reality, but also by the realities constituted by our acts of meaning -- personal commitments, interpersonal promises, and all of our social institutions.

Realism for Lonergan has an immediacy that is prior to any cognitive mediation by which we know something real. This immediacy is not naive and unreasoned or blindly affirmed. It is immediate because one knows the real before one knows within the real the difference between object and subject (V 88). We know by identity with, not by opposition to, the known.

The real is what we come to know through a grasp of what Lonergan calls the virtually unconditioned (M 76). A prospective judgment is virtually unconditioned when the evidence for its affirmation is sufficient; .no further relevant questions about it remain. It is virtually unconditioned because it has conditions that have been fulfilled. A formally unconditioned has no conditions at all (I 305-306 [280-281]). For the critical realist a verified hypothesis is probably true, and being probably true, refers to what in reality probably is so. V 72-73 [60-61], 99 [88], 192-193 [184]; 1C 196 [210-211]; I 305-306 [280-281]; M 76, 239, 263; WN 128. (My thanks again to Tad Dunne and Daniel Helminiak for valuable contributions to this term.)

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As Lonergan is wont to do, he gives us a functional definition. Religion is the capacity of the human consciousness to apprehend ultimate meaning and ultimate value symbolically (3C 161). In contrast, theology questions this apprehension. It mediates between religion and the role of that religion in its cultural matrix (M xi). Religious studies, a third term, is the historical study of religions. Theology is to religion what economics is to business and biology is to health (2C 97).

The function of religion is to provide a world view within which one might live intelligently, reasonably, and responsibly. Theology endeavors to discern whether there is any real fire behind the smoke of symbols employed in this or that religion. (3C 161). The responsibility prompted by religion includes not only morality but the total commitment that authentic religion prompts (2C 154-155, 211).

Lonergan speaks of a religion's inner word: the gift of God's love to people. He also refers to the religious tradition itself as an outer word (M 119). 3C 161-163; 2C 97, 149-163, 211; M 101-124.

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The first of the functional specialties. As a functional specialty of theology, it refers to the gathering of data pertinent to a specific area of theology. Lonergan refers to two types of data: the data of sense, and the of consciousness. It is central to Lonergan's thought that the data of consciousness, or one's experience of the working of one's own mind, be part of the theologian's ‘data' as he or she goes about theological research in the data available to the senses through reading and personal experience.

Research can be special or general. Special research is the gathering of data pertaining to a specific problem or question. General research locates, excavates and maps ancient cities, and reproduces, decodes, and catalogues inscriptions, symbols, pictures, statues; it deciphers scripts and languages, catalogues manuscripts and prepares critical editions. It produces indices, tables, bibliographies, abstracts, bulletins, handbooks, dictionaries, and encyclopedias (M 127). In short, research makes available what information exists on any subject. M 127, 140, 149-151, 198-203, 246-247; 1C 128-129 [137-138], 238-240 [259-261]. (My thanks to Daniel Helminiak for his suggestions on this term.)

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rights *

As adults juggle their customary duties to social norms and their originating duty to be authentic, many discover that the best parts of those norms arose from the authenticity of forebears. With this discovery comes a recognition of a present duty to preserve those portions of one's heritage based on authenticity, to critique those portions based on bias, and to create the social and economic institutions that facilitate authenticity.

Lonergan depicted such preservation, critique, and creativity as an ongoing experiment of history. The success of the race, and of any particular peoples, depends on collaborative efforts to conduct this experiment rather than serve as its guinea pigs. Collaboration, in turn, requires authenticity of all collaborators.

The notion of human rights is a derivative of this intelligibility intrinsic to historical progress. Any collaboration that successfully makes life more intelligible will require a freedom to speak one's mind, to associate, to maintain one's health, and to be educated. While "rights" usually appear as demands by one party upon others, their essential meaning is that they are expressions of the mutual demands intrinsic to any collaborative process aimed at improving life. Any individual's claim in the name of rights is essentially an assumption that others will honor his or her duty to contribute to the experiment to improve a common heritage.

Conflicts of rights are often the ordinary conflicts involved in any compromise. More seriously, they may be differences between plateaus of meaning among a community's members. First-plateau minds, focused on action, will think of rights as the behaviors and entitlements that lawmakers allow to citizens. Many will conclude that they have a right to do wrong. In contrast, generalized empirical method views lawmakers as responsible for protecting the liberty of citizens to live authentically. Thus, while the law lets every dog have a free bite, generalized empirical method repudiates the conclusion that anyone has a moral right to do wrong.

Second-plateau minds, focused on concepts, promote the ancient and honorable notion that rights are a set of immutable, universal properties of human nature. Generalized empirical method considers that the strength of the modern notion of rights has been based mainly on logical consistency and permanent validity. However, from the methods perspective of the third plateau of meaning, generalized empirical method also recovers elements in the ancient notion of natural right that include personal authenticity and defines these elements in terms of personal conversion. On that basis, generalized empirical method proposes a collaborative superstructure driven by the functional specialties, dialectic and foundations.

In any case, generalized empirical method considers rights as historically conditioned means for authentic ends. As historically conditioned means, they may take any number of legal and social forms. So, for example, the historical expansion from civil rights (speech, assembly, suffrage) to social rights (work, education, health care), to group rights (women, homosexuals, ethnic groups) is evidence of the ongoing emergence of new kinds of claims on each other's duty to replenish a heritage. As oriented toward authentic ends, the validity of any rights claim depends on how well it enables authentic living, a question addressed through the mutual exposures that occur in the functional specialty dialectic.

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

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self-affirming precepts: See transcendental precepts.

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self-appropriation: See method, interiority. and levels of consciousness and interiority.

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self-mediation: See mediation.

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The seventh functional specialty, operating on the second level of consciousness as does interpretation. Systematics is concerned with the meaning of doctrinal statements. The facts and values expressed in doctrines may be clear as to the truth professed but ambiguous as to how the reality expressed is to be understood. Systematics aims at an understanding of the religious realities affirmed by doctrines (M 349-350). Doctrinal statements typically generate further questions of why and how. Systematics is concerned with these questions, with clarifying ambiguity, providing explanation, working to remove inconsistencies, with bringing about inner coherence through an understanding of what is meant by the words (M 132).

Systematics gets to the kernel of the message to be communicated, and reciprocally, communications often poses new questions for systematics (M 142). It is not the intent of systematics to increase certitude but to promote an understanding of what one is already certain about. It does not seek to establish the facts, but strives to uncover why the facts are what they are. Systematics takes the facts asserted in doctrines and works them into a coherent whole (M 336). Systematics is an imperfect effort on the part of human understanding to gain some insight into revealed truths (PGT ix). M 132, 142, 336-340, 345, 349-350; PGT ix, 22, 35.

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transcendental method: See method.

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transcendental precepts

The term Lonergan uses to describe the four distinct imperatives that parallel the four-fold structure of human intentional consciousness and impel the human subject toward transcendence by an ever-deepening authenticity or genuine humanness. 1. Be attentive to your experience. 2. Be intelligent in your inquiry into the meaning of that experience. 3. Be reasonable in your judgments of the accuracy of your understanding of your experience. 4. Be responsible in your decisions and subsequent actions based on the judgments of the accuracy of your understanding of your experience, and based also on the value/givenness of that reality: what can be and what is truly worthwhile (M 20, 53, 55, 202, 231). Lonergan referred to "being in love without restriction" as possibly being an operation of consciousness "on the fifth level" (PGT 38). As a result, some have proposed a fifth transcendental precept to correspond to this supposed fifth level: Be in love with the Mystery that grounds all your human operations, and consequently, with the human and the world with which that human is primordially interrelated.

The precepts are transcendental in that they cut across all categories and apply to every human activity. They specify the required form of all human behavior but without specifying its specific content. The transcendental precepts formulate the very dynamism of human consciousness or human spirit, whose ideal terminus is the universe of being. 2C 170; M 132-132; PGT 48. (My thanks to Daniel Helminiak for suggestions on this term.)

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viewpoints (higher and lower systems) *

The emergence of higher systems or higher viewpoints comes about because lower systems can no longer adequately deal with the questions and insights they generate. (Lonergan uses the example of the emergence of algebra from arithmetic.) There is a shift that takes place within the knower. The lower viewpoint does not logically lead to the higher viewpoint. Rather, the higher viewpoint emerges because of the limits of the lower viewpoint. Thus, understanding develops through the accumulation of insights leading to clusters of insights that form a system. Limits are reached within that system producing the need for one to transcend those limits. Eventually a higher system is formed from the questions and insights that result directly from awareness of the limits of the lower system.

This means that there are two quite different manners in which understanding develops. The first comes about through the accumulation of insights in a straightforward, linear manner. The second departs from that logical sequence and shifts the knower to a higher level. The former is a springboard for the latter. It leads one to recognize the need for a higher viewpoint.

This is a radical shift. Lonergan defines it this way. "Such a complex shift in the whole structure of insights, definitions, postulates, deductions, and applications, may be referred to very briefly as the emergence of a higherview point." (I 13)
* This term is presented by Dr. Christine Jamieson.

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virtually unconditioned: See realism.

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