Friday, November 14, 2008

Philip McShane: SURF2

SURF 2: Ivo Coelho’s Challenge, with a preliminary Context.

My interest is in replying to Ivo Coelho’s challenging effort to relate functional specialization to interpretations of Sankara. But I have a larger project in mind that I wish to mention. It is listed in the December 2008 Lonergan Newletter in the final section on Projects:
Project: Global Functional Collaboration, and the project is connected with the up-coming conference on functional collaboration (St.Mary’s University, Halifax, Nova Scotia), also mentioned in that Newsletter. It seems useful, before venturing on my comments on Ivo Coelho’s work, to give the description of the Project that is in the Newsletter.

Project: Global Functional Collaboration

The term Global indicates both omnidisciplinary and geohistorical intent. The collaboration is that discovered by Lonergan in 1966, and published first in 1969: Gregorianum 50, 485-505. The fortieth anniversary of its appearance seems an appropriate time to take seriously the task of implementing that discovery of Cosmopolis, an effective move against decline. It is to be a cyclic global antifoundational collaboration that lifts both Richard Branston’s popular Elders and Wikinomics‘ aspirations into a effective operative context. The effectiveness will take several generations to emerge but a beginning has to be made on developing the new differentiations of consciousness and language involved. A first meeting of interested parties was held at Concordia University in November 2009, and a first Conference was arranged for July 6th - 10th at St.Mary’s University, Halifax (on this, see elsewhere in the Newsletter). Further gatherings round the globe are contemplated, but attendance at such gatherings is peripheral: what is essential is a community committed to this massive shift of Lonergan studies. The first Project director is Russell Baker of Concordia University,(e-mail: ) with secretary Philip McShane. Expressions of interest should be sent to McShane at . Website Collaborations will emerge gradually and be identified.

My part in that challenge, as noted, is secretarial at present. But I have a unique position in being the senior failure in the business of global collaboration. I have known about the functional possibility since 1966, and indeed spelled out its significance in Musicology in 1969, (see The Shaping of the Foundations, chapter 2, a website book: ) but have actually done almost nothing about it yet. Almost? Well, I had a stab at interpreting Lonergan functionally on the meaning of Completeness in the Journal of Macrodynamic Analysis, volume 4, but it really was not sufficiently orientated towards function. So, as Joan Robinson wrote about economics in her brilliant little half-way house text, “it is time to go back to the beginning and start again”(Joan Robinson and John Eatwell, An Introduction to Modern Economics, McGraw Hill, London and New York, 1973, 52).

I hope to contribute to such beginnings by conversations and what might be called “secretarial linkings”. Linkages, in that I have tuned into the problem in various ways over the past fifty years, and may be able to bridge some gaps, open some doors.

So this is a beginning of a writing contribution to the new beginning, and it begins, as it were, in the middle of our searchings, with Ivo Coelho’s effort “Applying Lonergan’s Method”, particularly page 250 of Method, to interpretations of Sankara. I don’t think one needs to know the area to benefit from our exchanges: I certainly don’t know it!!! I recall my old slogan that Fred Crowe enjoyed in the late 1970s: “I f a thing is worth doing, then it is worth doing badly”.I note that I hope to contribute now to contribute in some serial fashion, and for this reason I would identify the present effort as Surf 2. Surf 1, to be made available on my own and other websites, will enlarge on the nature of the serial contributions, and on the various meanings of the title Surf.

My reflections on Ivo’s efforts are not ordered systematically. I leave them as they emerged. We are in conversation, rambling within a scientific problem of huge proportions. I parallel it with the smaller emergence of properly grounded physics in the 20th century brilliantly described by Lochlainn O’Raifeartaigh in his The Dawning of Gauge Theory, and that reference allows me to make a final introductory point. The story O’Raifeartaigh tells is one of blunt and somethimes silly criticism. For example, Herman Weil is a key initiator of the needed lift of physics, but colleagues wrote to him in such terms as “go learn a little physics”. The same is true of other areas: I might talk of the blunt exchanges in the story of the Fermat’s Last Theorem. The point and pointing is that the core of Method - the working of page 250 - is a self-exposure, a bluntness, a genuine heated meeting. Lonergan writes “ .... the more the historian has been at pains not to conceal his tracks, but to lay his cards on the table ....” (Method, 193) We cannot afford to conceal our tracks when Method-ology is precisely an effort to reach a cosmopolis of self-luminosity in a luminous community of global care.

So here goes with Ivo. I label sections alphabetically for convenience, and I add a final preliminary comment. I mentioned linkage etc. Elementary leads are needed, and I think - from teaching young ladies about themselves for twenty years - that I can supply some. But my first effort here, I realize on re-reading, is obscure, “fantastic” in the meaning related to fantasy. But we need that to get out of present conventional ruts .... that is the issue, after all, of Lonergan grim reflections on the need for cosmopolis. Anyway, I leave this obscure reflection as is: but I am easily reached regarding any part of it, at the end of the e-mail pmcshane@shaw,ca

Ivo Coelho’s Challenge
A. Fantasy-Context from Foundational Persons

Suppose that by 2400 A.D. the Cyclic System is up and running in larger Europe, so that there is respectable geohistorical content to the meaning of UV + GS + Fi . {useful to check back [website:] to chapter five of The Redress of Poise, “Systematics: a Language of the Heart”, where I included a dictionary entry on Systematics of A.D.3000, translated from Hindi! This involves a larger imagining of a global community with pressure-influence on World Bank, UNO, Corporations, etc)
UV : O.K. from Insight, but clearly seen on the analogy of science, like zoology but with a touch of physics: but there is a sublated inclusion of merging, overlapping, etc contexts. The universal viewpoint needs to weave in global dates [s,t] and key holders of views [Lonergan makes this point in unpublished notes] E.g.Alexandria and Antioch, Luther and Lainnez, in “leaky tunnels” within a global dynamic etc etc.
GS: not in Insight, but got from UV at each stage by reversal of counterpositional stuff.
[related to contra-factual perspective]
FSi : it weaves within UV + GS, but best keep it explicit for analytic clarity. FSi is the heuristics of procedures within each specialty, and we could also break off a section for each i, since the procedures are more developed within each i.
Needless to say, functionality is adequately conceived and operational in the control of e.g. sentence formats and contents: the baton-exchange metaphor becomes an existential reality, a control of meaning as obvious as the theory of invariants in particle physics.

Up and Running? A Standard Model operating and theoretically grasped, e.g. the sloping of disciplines towards common dialectic and foundational components. Including a full genetic heuristic of ontogenetics of orientations [conversions etc, but a full set of genera, species, and genetics.... I would suggest - I suggested it already in Process chapter 4 - that there is need for a neutral terminology ....e.g. displacements for conversions]. Furthermore, dominated by explanatory heuristics of the Metagrams: Wi . So, for example, “seeing hearing etc “ of page 6 of Method in Theology in is conceived then properly within contemporary neuropsychology. [the push of the Field Nocturnes]

Further the community is “decently” positional and poisitional [see Cantower 9] .... and dialogue is well established by the norms of personal relating [Method, 48] the central pressure towards which is the creative pressure from the end of MIT 250, + that of “Fantasy and Forwarding” [the two key functions of foundations, these norms being an existential reality of the 64 types of conversations, Ci j .( i, j going from 1 to 8, but there are sets of extra-tower conversations [see W3 metagram]. I add that the perspective of foundational prayer is dominant, ‘resting and question in the real”, {see Prehumous 4-8, five essays on foundational prayer, including the problem of the mystical] and the real is heuristically appreciated as in W3.

B. Existential Context of Reader
The above context is not at present shared. It needs to be communicated by analogies of science, analogies that are intussuscepted slowly , within the efforts to get the cycling moving. Illustrations of such efforts come from the beginning both of Insight and of Method. The Archimedean thing has to be intussuscepted in the style dictated [doctrinized] by the first paragraph of the first chapter of Insight. The analogy of successful science prescribed at the beginning of Method has to be faced existentially. The Helen Keller insight, made luminous, has to be a group reality eventually of the reading of both books..

C. Further Fantasy
One must then envisage a massive transposition of talk and writing within the Tower community.... lines of this in the boldfaced stuff of Field Nocturnes. The community lives in the metatheoretic existentialism of HOW expression. [HOW: expression becomes increasingly the “Home Of Wonder” ].This adds, by fantasy, to a further remoteness from present global care. But its later addition will be neuromolecular fact.
The climb is not impractical. Insight 17 has to be studied in the pointing towards the transition to Method, as mentioned in note 1 of page 153 of Method. Further, Method has to be existentially lifted, chapter by chapter, into the context that Lonergan had in mind when he thought, in 1952, of a second volume, Faith and Insight. But now both Insight and that second volume have to be conceived and existentially appreciated as dominated by the heuristics of UV + GS + FSi , supported by the metagrams, Wi . How, HOW, we are to get there, that is a matter for later sections and the fantasy-driven labour of later generations.

D. Next, we envisage a good colonization process, in Ivo’s case to the Indian subcontinent. A context for this is the solution to the problem of general history, “the real catch” (Topics in Education, 236 ) by the emergence of the region (topologically complex) called the Tower of Able. This revision of chapter 10 of Topics in Education has to be worked out in detail: a take-off pointing is Field Nocturnes CanTower 50: “Insight Within a New Global Culture”
. In energetic fantasy, it seems useful to imagine, with Lonergan, every village having its own professional Tower Pair, one in research and one in communications, each “as familiar a professional figure as the doctor”(For A New Political Economy, 37) and then think of the commercial enterprize “Ten Thousand Villages”. Then the Tower community is imagined as a community of 22,220 members [10,000 reseachers, 1,000 interpreters, 100 historians, 10 dialecticians, etc .....10, 100, 1000, 10,000 ]

But now we think of the extending of the Tower influence [analogy of empires and colonizations - including the empires of Christianity and Muslimism, but ‘cleaned up’ to be better than they were - ] .... we can think realistically but fantastically of the preparation of the community by training at various levels.

Fantastically? Let us imagine that researchers are tuned into the analogy of science so that they know what they are at and after. Stay first within the larger Europe of our imagined 2400 A.D. But now let us enlarge on the pointers regarding the Standard Model. Perhaps this is best done by thinking of the component that is a training in meta-economics. That economic “science” ... a new pragmatics ... has the characteristics sketched e.g. in Pastkeynes Pastmodern Economics: A Fresh Pragmatism, supplemented by the perspective in implementation of Prehumous 1 and of FNC 46, both essays attentive to the shift required in school economics. The training, whatever the specialty, is in a Praxisweltanschauung that is omnidisciplinary and with an eye on the effectiveness of implementation that belongs to it as beautifully efficient (Topics in Education, 160, line 16). Useful here, too, to think, fantasize forward, in a sublation of both Richard Branson Elders project (2007) and the book on Wikinomics such that the Tower is an effective pressure on World Bank, UNO, etc etc. By 2400 the two-layer economic analysis should have replace the present phlogiston economics with its gambling casino and its false notions both of money and of credit (the key here is the notion of Concomitance: see the index to For A New Political Economy, under Concomitance). One also has here new strategies of meso-economics and microeconomics, and these are relevant to the education e.g. of Tower exportable-researchers. Think of researchers in the new cyclic 27 kilometer set-up under the Swiss-French border: searching for positive and negative anomalies. But now our researchers are in the cultural cyclic set-up overground and over the border of India ( symbolic of Indian culture, a more complex topology).

E. We get closer to Ivo’s effort. Ivo’s village - now we are back to 2000 A.D. - in viewing the training college in the old tradition: even taken at its best it is bent towards the flawed Lonerganism that has no creative glimpse of the global collaboration for which mother history groans with the help of foster-father Lonergan. Ivo’s grip on the Standard Model enables him to detect vaguely [here one would need a long ramble about such detection in particle physics.... e.g. the emergence of the neutrino in the twentieth century, or the reach for a Higgs particle in the present scene) anomalies, good and bad; So, he notices interpretations of Sankara that are operative, or potentially operative (this would include the C 9 of W3) in the “larger village”. Note here that interpretation is taken in the sense of Insight chapter 17, passing on to another audience: but now the passing on, or round, is within the Round [Recall the hidden title of the Cantower Series: Roun Doll, Home James] of cyclic withdrawal. Here we have to point to effective considerations of the next four centuries regarding disorientations of scholarship, so that we turn around in the Academy rather than in the “merely academic”. So, one has to ask whether the list of chaps mentioned by Ivo are effective interpretations, operative in the smaller or larger Indian village. An issue of functional history , as we shall see.

We could get lost in details here , e.g. we might suppose that there are sub-groups in the village - large or small - that are allied in practice with one or other of the interpreters. What, then, is the Tower task? I would note here, that we are doing something that goes beyond Ivo’s venture .... we are asking a general question about the village duo, researcher and communicator, representative of FS1 and FS8, in dialogue [always luminously within the Matrix Ci j ], C1 8 and C8 1 . In so far as the Standard Model is effectively in place, these conversations can include certain sub-structures that bypass the full cycle. But anomalies are sometimes discovered [like the neutrino data or Higgs data] that are novel, complexifications of previous simpler patterns, whatever.

F. Getting still closer. Let us suppose that there is a sort-of fresh advertence here. A venture of colonization yields data on other life-styles ... of Hindu contempation, of Zen comestation, whatever. Then, in such a case as praxis of Sankara, there may be seen and seized the need to get to the roots of the traditions so as to get a grip on progressive anomalies. More realistically, the researcher sees at least the need to pass on the anomaly to an interpreter, who has a richer context of genetic systematics. Suppose, for example, that the group of interpretations is relatively isomorphic to a group around Tertullian, an earlier slice of genetic dynamics. Then one can envisage communication structures of the type C2 7 , which feed forward through C7 8. It would be too complicated to envisage such substructures here, since there is a general lack of a common meaning for Standard Model operations, indeed even of a meaning of the Matrix conversations Ci j . So, it would mean even less to talk of the substructure that would in a judgment of the worth of “going further round and up” to the functional historical context. Recall that effective meaning is an ongoing historical thing.

Judgments about whether to move my interpretation on to the historical community depend on the luminousness of individuals in the cycling process regarding their own and others levels of competence. At all events, one could have relevant conversations of the type C3 6 , sufficient to handle the anomalies. I would go on re this but perhaps a single noting of the place of lines 12 and 14 of Method 250. Some anomalies are culture-linked ,,,, affinities that are not foundational..... “dismissed” (line 14) but only temporarily: such affinities are carried across e.g. to doctrines or system .... but enough re that for the moment.

G. Can we home in now on Ivo’s venture? He wished to lift the set of interpretations into the context of dialectic. Would his judgment be modified by what was said above? In the long-term the full cycling seems appropriate, but then it would have to be a denser cycling, in a cultural and linguist mesh that might show forth elements “dismissed” (line 14, 250) but to be cultivated within, or even beyond, the Indian culture [borderline of tentative patterns of global progress .e.g think of the beneficial variation of neuropatterns of language forms]. That denser cycling, however, does not seem on the cards at present, when there is no explanatory heuristic in place in any of the relevant groups. But what then of the “slimer” positional analysis that is attempted by Ivo? It is slimmer in a variety of ways, contextualized by a lack of an explanatory thematic of position such as is to emerge in these next centuries, perhaps in this century: the needed spectrum of position-complexes, with e.g. basic axioms of intentionality and infinity and incompleteness added to an explanatory account of the described position of Insight 388[413].

H. What emerges in Ivo’s sketching is an effort to do interpretations of interpretations without an explicit context of UV. GS is not in sight, nor would one expect it to be. So, we have a descriptive beginning of some aspects of the six tasks italicized on page 250 of Method, based on descriptive interpretations, and on selections of limited data.

I. A context could emerge in this generation for what I called a colonization attempt that would do a better functional job: the emergence of a Western-based UV + GS + FSi that would make possible analogies of dialectic and genetic development e.g. a fuller UV treatment of The Way to Nicea would give a core component of such a context. Think of the various struggling shabby realisms around the Tertullian period, but also up through and beyond Augustine.

J. Perhaps at this stage a more detailed working through Ivo’s venture is appropriate. So we have to consider some of pp. 1-12, with the notes added on the later pages. Ivo is meeting Paul Allen’s request, and providing great stuff for lifting us forward : the effort above is witness to that. So: he stumbles for us all.

P.1 “the topics of dialectic comparison are theology, metaphysics, and cognitional theory” but what is meant by this?. By 2400 A.D. there will be e.g. a genetic account of these emergences, at least in the tradition of the West. The “topics” then will be Standard Model contexts, that are rich geohistorical structures and the question will be Where do what has been a data-identified and interpreted and historically structured [and we are to be dealing with history dominated by explanatory heuristics, at present quite unknown] core component of the Indian tradition. This is an important piece of the recognition of the two first canons of hermeneutics. Further, question of conversions has to be placed in the same full context, fleshing out implicit, problematic and explicit perspectives.
So, we are to tackle the “well-know conflict of interpretation” of Sankara’ Advaita, focusing on the relation of Brahman and the world.

p. 2
I skip to the paragraph re “my effort”. The effort, and that of the “3 or 4" {I prefer to think of ten or so) has to be lifted into at least a nominal acknowledgment of the canons of hermeneutics as they structure the Standard Model. Otherwise we are really only disguising old methods of descriptive comparison [comparison is a zone of entry into functional specialization that needs to be exploited and cultivated ... a great deal of present Lonerganesque work is old-style comparison .... but this is another topic, perhaps for our next Guideline effort together]. Yes, there are two levels of dialectic, but it seems to me that if the second is done properly, there is no need to add dialogue.... the second level of dialectic is very discomforting dialogue of colleagues who share the Standard Model. This latter point is very important to absorb: the cycling is not done with adversaries, but with colleagues within the Standard Model. And do I have to insist that the work and its results are to be quite beyond common sense? This emerges most clearly when one considers doctrines as they are thematized in the sixth specialty, which carry forward in meaning through the standard model control round the circuit, to doctrines as they are promoted to common sense [see C9 in W3]. This “leap of meaning” is a critical zone of method, a question raised at the end of chapter 3 of Lack in the Beingstalk. It is the question of ex-plane- ing. One has to avoid the imaging that would have meaning thinning out as one “descends” through the specialties to communication. A better, more helpful image of the specialties for this, perhaps, is the image of eight stairs up: then the problem is clear: How, HOW, does one get from the metagrasp of doctrinal meaning to a meaning that meshes with the common sense of the particular culture, such as, in our case, the village culture both of ordinary common sense and of the undergraduate level of such common sense that is the normal state of the beginning-students in a college-village?
But I would note here that the common sense of the 25th century will have reached sophistications of luminosity that give it an edge on appreciating the “distance’ between commonsense grasp and metatheoretic grasp: there will be in place the shifts indicated by Insight chapter seventeen, section 1. But I have digressed.
Back to page 2. Moving into assembly and completion. It is important, even when beginning such efforts as this,. to hang on even nominally to the full heuristic, such as is expressed in Method in Theology: Revisions and Implementations. Otherwise one is pulled back to the equivalent of pre-Newtonian physics when in fact Einstein reigns. Lonergan does not reign of course, but scientific belief [see chapter 20 of Insight] brings him into the picturing of up-to-date process. So, the dialectician is an omnidisciplinary person, taking in the most recent results of “the usual” process of sloping of disciplines. It is important to think out this ‘usual” in a developed science. One may think of Kuhn’s point. There has been, in the previous centuries of this science, cumulative and progressive results. But some of these are named in Insight and much more briefly named {see e.g. pp.286ff in Method) in Lonergan’s later works: key pointers are A Third Collection, 141 top lines, on the mature operation of generalized empirical method and Topics in Education, p. 160, line 16, on the effective [and beautiful] maturity of functional cycling.
So, there is a pre-assembled context and achievement into which the assembly of Sankara work has to go. This, at least, has to be explicitly acknowledged in some heuristic intimations such as are suggested by developments in the metawords, Wi: I think of the Markov Matrix of meanings suggested in Randomness , Statistics and Emergence. We are back here at points I made in the Method Journal article of 2005 {published in 2008] ,”Obstacles to the Control of Meaning.” The combining of assembly and completion is a messy thing. Assembly is the last non-dialogue stage of the 250 process. Completion puts the bones and nerves of the dialectician into “play”, pushing what Lonergan talked about at the end of Phenomenology and Logic, the subject-as-subject. Again we must hold to the idea that the subject is sophisticated, with fully differentiated consciousness - including the differentiations that have to emerge by specializations, but that is a wider topic. What is one doing, if one is doing this in 2400 A.D.? .... one is sifting more recent cycling effort to detect gut-wise, existentially, what .... “Yes, Yes, this adds to our progress!!!” What Ivo goes on to detect is absences of the elementary positional sophistications presupposed by and in Insight chapter 16 in these interpreters and their source. But at that later date, or in anticipating it through a good heuristic diagraming, this is not the issue: the issue would be more refined cultural elements that might be relevant to progress: stuff I talked of earlier as borderline, borderline global invariants: think of Indian aesthetics and prayer stances.
Our consideration get more complicated here as we move, in imagination, down page 250
of Method. I would note, e.g. that the quotation, given by Ivo, about legitimate development is from MT 302, but the other one from page 312 [given in the note] is closer to our mood here: the grip on the concrete historical process within a full geohistorial heuristic. [This heuristic is to sublate and integrate all that Lonergan says of merging, overlapping, etc etc contexts].

So, I jump to the top of page 3, and home in on the fifth word “explains”, recalling the Appendix of The Triune God: Systematics, where Lonergan talks of the inappropriateness of descriptive categories, even at the beginning of a science. Sankara simply does not “explain”.THAT is the big challenge of the meaning of the second canon of hermeneutics in Insight 17.3.8. Getting a grip on this canon is a tough job: hints about it are in Cantower 14.
But now we are in deepening trouble as we move on. What is needed is the movements of sophisticated interpretation ( the second specialty, operating within the full standard model) that would pin down - in the genetic sequencing and dialectic optioning of inner and outer words suggested by the canon - “ an explanatory interpretation of non-explanatory meaning” (Insight, 587[610]) . So, e.g. we need an explanatory account of appearance and illusion such as is to emerge from contemporary neuropsychology (on this, various essays in the 41 Field Nocturnes, stuff which I hinted about applying to the present phenomenological analyses of Renaud Barbaras in his two-book effort to rescue Merleau-Ponty, especially M-P’s last 1964 work, The Visible and the Invisible: Barbaras’s books are The Phenomenology of Perception (around 200)and Desire and Distance(2006). Nor is this pointer a distraction: Phenomenology is revamping the problems being dealt with by the interpreters that Ivo is considering. In the mature global metascience this would be noted and exploited. Even the book title, Desire and Distance, tells the Vedantic tale ).
I hold myself to just two further comments on this page:
(a) Radhakrishnan clearly admits, therefore, the relative and dependent reality of the world”. This statement needs complex re-consideration. How clear is he? He certainly is has not the perspective on relations that Lonergan has [Insight 16 or appendix to The Triune God: Systematics] .... Lonergan’s disciples, even, don’t have that. Are we trapped here in description? .... yes, the controlling factor is his understanding and expression - and implicit metaphysics - of what is true I would note that we are here, psychologically, and perhaps communally, at the beginning of section 2 of Insight chapter 17, “the real issue, then, is truth”, and I would suggest that Barbaras and Radhakrishnan are probably in the same boat. The Lonergan people? Mark Morelli’s work on Hegel would suggest that we are mostly messing with Kant around the half-way house. [His Hegel thing is to appear in the Lonergan workshop volume for 2008]
The second sentence for comment is the last of the page: “The distinction between the illusory and the empirical can, in my opinion, be sustained.” Again, this sentence warrants lengthy consideration. There is needed a heuristic context of “my opinion” .... is the community, to which Ivo is talking, with him in his digested acceptance of e.g. Lonergan’s analysis of the given in chapter 13 of Insight? The “my opinion” is what is to emerge further down the page, the stand taken within the context of the “further objectification of horizon” (line 24). The context then has to be appreciated as including a position on “distinction” such as emerges from chapter 16 of Insight. The illusory and the empirical have to have meanings that emerge from the effort describe in the middle of page 287 of Method, “from such a broadened basis”. This is not being attempted by the Lonergan school... so they are trapped in the descriptive stuff that Lonergan was forced to use in the first half of Method.
Now it would seem worthwhile to pause over my interest in particular sentences. In a developed tradition of functional specialization - in all disciplines - there is to be a control of meaning that reaches to each sentence. One is running a leg of the 8-person relay, one runs in a defined way toward passing the baton. These notions are descriptive of refinements quite beyond the compactness of present discourse. Again, a huge distraction here.

P. 4
We carry on from the last sentence, and the same problem of non-explanatory meaning prevails, “very damaging, even at the beginning of science” (I quote the The Triune God: Systeamtics appendix). As I move through these pages the gap between performance and the norms that Lonergan set up gets larger (see Phenomenology and Logic , index, Existential Gap), there is the sad fact that none of us took up his challenge of Insight chapter 17 in any serious way (See the dismal failure of the Concordia Conference published as Lonergan’s Hermeneutics, edited by Ben Meyer and Sean McEvenue :we never got near the canons, or indeed chapter 17). Add to that the challenge of transposition to functionality expressed in Method, 153, note 1.
But the reach needed is a massive foundational reach of fantasy (foundation’s task is two-fold: fantasy, and circulation). Here the difficulty is the needed dominance of the standard model, a genetic and dialectic sequencing of meanings. This sequencing takes up the story of any meaning when we move to history. What is the meaning of an interpretation? One ask in history (and again I note the absence in our minds of an explanatory pragmatic heuristic) about the on-going meaning .... and that just is not the mood or the topic on page 4 or later pages. There is a sort of isolated discriptiveness that has its parallel in a descriptive physics that gives and account of red without taking up the explanatory relating that is spectrum analysis. Thinking with the functional specialty history is a thinking which is quite explicit about being “in” the standard, and it is worthwhile to note that the history of ideas is central to the second component of that model, the GS of the UV + GS + FSi
The ahistorical perspective is prevalent right on through the effort, and it seems as well to halt my rambles at this stage. I will take up the question of history in the next Guidelines, where I find a handy parallel with Ivo’s work in taking, instead of Radhakrisnan (1952) and Mahadevan (1968) etc, Lonergan (1952)(1968) etc. In !952 Lonergan was heading towards those final chapters of Insight; in 1968 he was writing the article for Gregorianum (1969) etc. We can ask the short-term history question, what is/was the ongoing meaning of Lonergan’s meaning? What we find, I think, is another way into the functional specialties, by focusing on Lonergan instead of - but also as well as - on Shankara.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Aug. 1; Jeremy Wilkins: Ambiguity in the Notion of Development 'From Above'

Ambiguity in the Notion of Development “From Above”

Jeremy D. Wilkins

July 17, 2008

The problem stated in the title is one that arises in connection with an article I am working on, on the transposition of sanctifying grace and infused virtue into a methodical theological context. I would like to pose it, briefly, and see what others think about it.

Let us approach the problem of development from above through successive approximations: development, human development, and finally development from above.

Lonergan defines development generally as “a flexible, linked sequence of dynamic and increasingly differentiated higher integrations that meet the tension of successively transformed underlying manifolds through successive applications of the principles of correspondence and emergence.”[1] This definition incorporates several principles: emergence (the lower invites the higher), correspondence (the higher is limited by the lower, though flexibly), finality (upwardly but indeterminately directed toward overcoming limitations), and development (the linked sequence of dynamic higher integrations). Lonergan adds three further observations on the course of development: it involves increasing explanatory differentiation; it exhibits minor flexibility, inasmuch as development can proceed along different routes; and exhibits major flexibility, to the extent that the ultimate objective itself may shift.[2]

The complexity of human development is partly a function of the three interrelated but distinct genera across which it occurs (biological, psychic, and intellectual; we leave to one side, for the moment, the question of a religious development as a fourth level[3]). Because there is a development, the law of effect obtains. Because the development is compound, the principle of corresponds operates as a law of integration. Because the compound is not overcome, because the biological and psychic levels are a permanent part of the human constitution, the principle of emergence yields a law of limitation and transcendence. And because the tension inherent in limitation and transcendence is in part conscious, there obtains a conditional and analogous law of genuineness with its sanction to be understood through dialectical method.[4]

Lonergan began speaking of development from above to get at the importance of heritage and of love as factors in human development.[5] Development from above means that human development occurs in a world mediated by meanings and motivated by values. That world makes individuals, far more than they make it.[6] The role of heritage and the priority of love offered an analogy for the unfolding of grace.

Most often when Lonergan mentions development from above he brings up the scholastic dictum that nothing is love unless it is first known. On the basis of this assumption, Thomas Aquinas had argued that faith must precede charity, because charity orients the will to a supernatural end (friendship with God), no end can be willed unless it is first known, and a supernatural end can only be affirmed by supernatural faith. Hence, though the first operation of grace is in the will, it is an actual grace prior to the infusion of charity (a habitual grace). Clearly, this problem appears in a different light when faculty psychology provides the terms of reference, than it does when faculty psychology is superceded by intentionality analysis. Lonergan’s customary reference to the scholastic dictum in connection with development from above downward suggests that liberation from faculty psychology was an important breakthrough in his thinking about grace.

However, it remains the case that Lonergan’s expression, development from above, is descriptive. Because it is descriptive, it is also ambiguous and, indeed, obscure. In a precise and explanatory sense, development may be said to be “from above” whenever developments on the higher levels initiate corresponding developments on the lower. In this precise sense, “from above” specifies a vector of the functional interdependence of human development across three explanatory genera, i.e., a vector of the law of integration.

If we consider the way of heritage with exactitude, we have to recognize that in an explanatory sense it includes developments from above and below. Nevertheless, we may still recognize a preliminary, descriptive sense in which the dominant thrust of acculturation, socialization, and education is from higher to lower levels. In the reception of a heritage, goodwill generally precedes deliberation.[7] We learn from our parents, our teachers, our friends because, in some sense, we already love them. So in the way of heritage, love comes first, and its effects can work their way down so thoroughly that our spontaneous gestures, turns of speech, modes of behavior can betray who we admire. In other words, the transmission of a heritage is a notable instance of development from above in the more general sense.

In formulating the heuristic structure of development in Insight, Lonergan anticipated that human development might be initiated by internal or external factors on any level—biological, psychic, or intellectual.[8] Internally, biological impulses and necessities, the psychic and emotional pressures of intersubjectivity, personal discovery and decision; external shifts in material circumstance due to the activities of others, or again their feelings and perceptions, discoveries and decisions all evoke corresponding developments all along the line. What came into less clear focus, in Insight, was the priority of love in motivating and directing one’s entry into the world mediated by meaning.[9] This lack of clarity may be due to the fact that he had not yet decisively overcome the limitations of faculty psychology.

[1] Insight (1958 ed.—all references are to this edition, with apologies, I will revise them for proper publication), 454.

[2] Cf. ibid., 451-458. Also highly relevant is “The Mediation of Christ in Prayer,” Philosphical and Theological Papers 1958-1964, zzz.

[3] See Insight, 696-703, 718-729; “Questionnaire on Philosophy,” Papers 1965-80, 358-61.

[4] Insight, 469-79.

[5] See, e.g., Lonergan, “The Human Good,” Papers 1965-1980, 340; “Healing and Creating in History,” A Third Collection, 100-109 at 106-108.

[6] See “The Human Good,” Papers 1965-1980, 340-42.

[7] See Lonergan’s analysis of belief in Insight, 707-13, but note that the preliminary judgments on the value of belief generally and the reliability of a particular source are, concretely and for the most part, taken for granted, i.e., assumed on the basis of a prior existential orientation, rather than discovered, formulated, pondered, affirmed, considered, and chosen. This is the context in which Lonergan introduces belief in later papers, e.g., “The Human Good,” 340-42.

[8] “The initiative of development may be organic, psychic, intellectual, or external, but the development remains fragmentary until the principle of correspondence between different levels is satisfied” (Insight, 471; see 471-72). I am grateful to Patrick Byrne for pointing out to me the significance of this passage after my presentation at the 2008 Lonergan Workshop (email correspondence, June 20, 2008).

[9] We may have a piece of evidence about his difficulty at this time in the odd situation of the analysis of belief in chapter 20. One might have expected these issues to be raised in connection with commonsense knowing or, perhaps, with scientific collaboration.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Feb. 6, 2008: Sabrina Tucci, Relationality: Embodiment and Self-Transcendence

Sabrina Tucci ; sabrina AT

Developmentally, we cannot flourish as human beings without interpersonal relationships which allow for emotional and psychological growth. Although it does not by itself capture what it means to be human, the relational aspect of human beings is uniquely human. We don’t respond instinctually to our basic or social needs and desires, we experience them as intentional responses and inform our concrete experiences with meaning and value. There is a relational link between the body and the world of meaning, for we experience and relate to the world and others through the operations of embodied selves.

Not only do we express ourselves and communicate with others through our embodied actions, but it is also our ability to transcend our physical selves, to understand, to value and to love, that distinguishes us from other animals. Human greatness lies with the ability to reach beyond oneself through the different levels of consciousness, culminating in the highest form of self-transcendence - the self-surrender to another in love.

Human relationality is only possible because of our ability to go beyond our embodied selves. Several thinkers (Bernard Lonergan, Wolfhart Pannenberg and Emmanuel Levinas) address the two concepts that I am concerned with in terms of relationality: embodiment and self-transcendence. Together, embodiment and self-transcendence constitute the possibility for relationality and ultimately for fellowship with God, since we are in relationship with God through our relationships with others.[i]

There is an indissoluble connection between the body and the self, and therefore the self in relation to other selves. The characteristics that make us human (i.e. language, self-awareness, moral awareness and consciousness) are embodied traits. Whatever we say about transcendence or consciousness, it is an embodied transcendence or consciousness that exists in the world in bodily relations and activities[ii]. Even when we transcend the limitations of our animality, we must keep in mind that our ability to transcend those limitations depends in part on some of those animal characteristics.[iii]

Understood in this way, our embodied existence is not an obstacle to overcome, but what makes our uniquely human characteristics possible. Our embodied, characteristically human traits shape human relationships. Perhaps the most distinctive human quality directly related to relationality is our ability to communicate with others. In fact, communication with others constitutes the essence of the human being as a social being. Expressing oneself requires embodied communication to form and maintain relationships with others. Communication is achieved through a multitude of signals originating from all parts of the body, verbal and non-verbal, or simply by one’s presence. Lonergan states that “there is a sensitive basis for communication by the mere fact of the presence of another…The communication that arises on that base takes place through signs, through the human body”.[iv] Intersubjectivity is realised and actualized in communication through body language, gestures, symbols, etc. It is through the physical body that we are able to communicate with the other and therefore establish relationships.

We express and nourish our capacity for relationships through bodily interaction and responsiveness to others. However, our relationships are not only formed by physical or sensible reality, but also by the realities shaped by our acts of meaning. For Lonergan, the human subject is a carrier and communicator of meaning.[v] What someone means is communicated intersubjectively, symbolically, linguistically, and incarnately. Intersubjective meaning presupposes the interpersonal situation and is only possible because of the human subject who expresses and communicates an elemental experience with others. Lonergan illustrates the phenomenon of intersubjectivity through the way a person communicates an inward unspoken meaning to another person through a smile.[vi]

Attention to the significance of the body in relation to the self, to others, and to the world, reveals that self, world and other are intertwined in important ways. Both the world and the other are capable of altering us, just as we are capable of altering others or the world. We affect our world, and our world affects us. This mutual interaction and influence (potentially contributing to significant change, both positive and negative), attests to the responsibility we bear, whether we realize it or not, for ourselves, for others and for the world.

An understanding of responsibility in terms of alterity is best expressed by Emmanuel Levinas who considered responsiveness to the other as our most human ability. According to Levinas, the Other calls and welcomes the subject into the ethical relation of facing. In fact, the primordial relationship is ethical. Because the face-to-face encounter confronts us with the ‘trace of the Infinite’, one’s responsibility to the Other exists preconceptually, even if we are not aware of it.[vii]

Lonergan also acknowledges the primordial aspect of our relationality. In the following passage, Lonergan recognizes the human solidarity present in the spontaneous help one gives another in need:

Prior to the “we” that results from the mutual love of an “I” and a “thou,” there is the earlier “we” that precedes the distinction of subjects and survives its oblivion. This prior “we” is vital and functional. Just as one spontaneously raises one’s arm to ward off a blow against one’s head, so with the same spontaneity one reaches out to save another from falling. Perception, feeling, and bodily movement are involved, but the help given another is not deliberate but spontaneous. One adverts to it not before it occurs but while it is occurring. It is as if “we” were members of one another prior to our distinctions of each from the others. [viii].

The conclusion that can be drawn from a brief consideration of these thinkers is that we relate to each other through our bodies and, in part, because of our embodied human characteristics. As human beings, we are unique in the way that we communicate and perceive because of the relational link between the body and the world of meaning. Furthermore, embodied relationships present us with an ethical responsibility, whether we are aware of it or not. Becoming more aware of our interconnections increases our sensitivity to others and therefore our ability to respond to others.

There is a broad consensus among contemporary anthropologists that self-transcendence characterizes an important aspect of human nature. Socially, we become who we are through openness to relations and experiences with others. According to Pannenberg, the individual emerges from the relation to the other. “Individuals do not exist simply by themselves but are always constituted by their relation to the other, the Thou”.[ix] By the Thou, Pannenberg means the person(s) to whom individuals are related in the course of their personal lives. The development of human capabilities depends on “whether the individual finds the community that permits the individual to awaken to his possibilities”.[x] We each contribute to the development of others, whether this is transitory or deeply affecting.

According to Pannenberg, all human behaviour is characterized by the tension between openness to the world and self-centeredness. Our destiny lies in openness to the world and to others through which we discover our true identity and the meaning of life. In opening oneself to relationships and in dedicating oneself to service of the human community, instead of ‘preoccupation with oneself’ one discovers not only one’s true identity but also the meaning of life. “When human beings who are concerned about themselves think that they come closest to their own identity through… preoccupation with themselves, then they are really alienated from their true destiny and their true selves.”[xi]

Lonergan also acknowledges that it is through our relation to the other that we come to know ourselves. “Subjects are confronted with themselves more effectively by being confronted with others than by solitary introspection…It is not by introspection but by reflecting on our living in common with others that we come to know ourselves. What is revealed? It is an original creation” for, “the intimate reality of man grounds and penetrates all that is human”[xii].

According to Lonergan, we transcend the solitary self and relate to the world beyond ourselves through the different levels of consciousness (attending to experience, being intelligent in one’s understanding, judging that one's understanding is correct, and deciding to act on the resulting knowledge). Realizing self-transcendence requires that we become aware of our defence mechanisms, biases, and misperceptions which prevent us from being authentically subjective. “The root of division, opposition, controversy, denunciation, bitterness, hatred, [and] violence” results from inauthenticity.[xiii] Further to the levels of self-transcendence, intellectual, moral and affective conversion give rise to differentiations of consciousness whereby a fuller meaning emerges from the broadening of one’s experience and horizon which promotes progress.

It is by affective conversion that a person prioritizes values and through the love of neighbour, community, and God is able to go beyond the finite self and contribute to human progress. A person is affectively self-transcendent when the individual acts for others, and is concerned for the good of others. This is especially so when one falls in love. The highest form of self-transcendence is the self-surrender to another in love, which, according to Lonergan, is the abiding imperative of what it is to be human.

Lonergan also believes that it is through the interpersonal that we discover our purpose. ‘[B]eyond the moral operator that promotes us from judgments of facts to judgments of value with their retinue of decisions and actions, there is a further realm of interpersonal relations and total commitment in which human beings tend to find the immanent goal of their being and, with it, their fullest joy and deepest peace.[xiv]

According to Lonergan, when we are authentically oriented towards the good as an objective reality, we become more human. In other words, we become more authentically human in self-transcendence. The drive towards authenticity moves us beyond ourselves. “We are our true selves when we observe the transcendental precepts because these demands authenticate our subjectivity as human subjects.”[xv] Thus, by transcending oneself, one becomes more authentically human - one becomes oneself.

Affectivity is an important aspect of self-transcendence according to Pannenberg. The positive affects (sympathy, joy and hope) draw individuals out of their isolation, whereas the negative affects (fear, anxiety, arrogance sadness, envy, hate) isolate individuals within themselves.

“In ‘elevated’ moods and positive affects, in which human beings are most at one with themselves, they are not preoccupied with themselves but are ‘ecstatically’ open and surrendered to the reality of their life-world and the ground that sustains it. In ‘depressed’ moods, on the other hand, and in negative affects they prove to be thrown back upon themselves.”[xvi]

Through the positive affects which are a part of human relationships, individuals open themselves to their world and are carried out of themselves in self-surrender.[xvii] This is not at the expense of individual differentiation, however. For Pannenberg, it is through openness to others and to reality that one becomes their true self.

I have brought several thinkers, Bernard Lonergan, Wolfhart Pannenberg and Emmanuel Levinas together in an attempt to better understand the human person which takes seriously embodiment and self-transcendence as the possibility for relating to others. The integration of these thinkers reflects my position that as human beings, we are inherently relational and that we have a primordial responsibility to others because we are created in the image of a relational God to whom we relate through our relations to each other. Embodiment and self-transcendence are the means through which we relate to others and therefore fellowship with the ultimate Other.

As we have seen, our embodied existence makes our uniquely human characteristics possible, and therefore constitutes human relationships. It is through the physical body that we are able to communicate with others and therefore establish and maintain relationships. We have also seen that intersubjective meaning, which is carried and communicated by the human person, presupposes the interpersonal situation but also helps to shape it. Further, human relationships present us with an ethical responsibility which demands that we be responsive to the Other. The ability to respond to others increases as we become more aware of the fact that we are all connected and that we influence each other and the world, which in turn affects us.

In addition to embodiment, I considered the role of self-transcendence in relationality. By being open to relationships and in dedicating oneself to the service of others, instead of remaining isolated or self-centered, one discovers not only one’s true identity but also the meaning of life. Our ability to relate to others is enhanced by becoming aware of our defence mechanisms, biases, and preconceptions which interfere with our perception and understanding of others.

Self-transcendence not only opens us to the other and therefore to a greater sense of self, but ultimately to a deeper relationship with God. Understood theologically, the Christian call to relationality invites us to go beyond ourselves out of love for the other and therefore for God. In so doing, we become our true selves as made in the image of God and become the means by which progress is affected in the world.

[i] Based on Mt 25:40 (NIV) – “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

[ii] Van Huyssteen. Alone in the World. (Cambridge, UK: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 300.

[iii] ibid, 284.

[iv] Lonergan, B. Understanding and Being. (Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1990), 89.

[v] Lonergan, B. Method in Theology. (Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1971), 57.

[vi] ibid, 59-61.

[vii] Levinas, E. Otherwise than Being, 1991, p.112ff

[viii] Lonergan, B. Method in Theology (New York: The Seabury Press, 1972), 57.

[ix] Pannenberg, W. Contemporary Anthropology in Theological Perspective. (USA: Westminster John Knox Press, 1985), 180.

[x] Pannenberg, What is Man. (Philadelphia, USA: Fortress Press, 1970), 90.

[xi] Pannenberg, W. Contemporary Anthropology in Theological Perspective. 266.

[xii] Lonergan, B. Collection Edited by Crowe, Frederick E. and Doran, Robert M. (Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press, 1988), 220.

[xiii] Lonergan, B. Method in Theology, 291.

[xiv] Lonergan, B. “Philosophy and the Religious Phenomenon” in Method: Journal of Lonergan Studies, v.12, n. 2, (Fall 1994): 134.

[xv] Kanaris, J. and Doorley, M.., ed. In Deference of the Other. (Albany, USA: State University Press, 2004), 21. re:Method p.53

[xvi] Pannenberg, W. Contemporary Anthropology in Theological Perspective, 266.

[xvii] Ibid, 261.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Feb. 1, 2008 Jeremy Blackwood: Mixing Oil and Water

Jeremy W. Blackwood, Ph.D. student, Marquette University

jeremy.blackwood AT

When I started my graduate work here at MU (fall 2004), I met a fellow student who has since become one of my best friends. He once made an off-the-cuff comment that has remained with me and serves as a very good indicator of the issue that tends to occupy my attention lately. In discussing the varying theologies in the Catholic world, he noted that “everyone’s concerned with orthopraxis and orthodoxy, but no one ever talks about orthopathy – right feeling.” At the time, I thought his comment interesting, but I didn’t give it much weight (I should note here that he is very interested in the thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar). Even as I began to become more familiar with Fr. Doran’s own elaborations and developments of Lonergan’s work, which themselves are deeply involved with notions of affectivity, it wasn’t until recently that it really began to sink in just how important that observation may have been.

GEM Background

Human knowing and action are subject to the transcendental imperatives: Be Attentive, Be Intelligent, Be Reasonable, Be Responsible. They thus depend on experience that lends itself to proper understandings that are really true and can be valuably acted upon. Failure to Be Attentive stunts experience; data can be ignored, and then the insight that could arise from them will not occur. Unfortunately, it is commonly the case that we never become conscious of such ignorance.

This, in very brief terms, is the issue to which Fr. Doran addresses himself in discussing psychic conversion. It is the mechanism of the ‘censor’ that determines preconscious ignorance, and Doran sees psychic conversion as the change in the role of the censor from repression to construction: rather than holding back images that might be painful, the censor brings forth images that are needed for proper insights.

Connected with psychic conversion but distinct from it, I think, is the issue of the cultivation of our feelings. If, after all, “values are apprehended in feelings” (MiT 30-31) (giving proper due to Fr. Doran’s more recent relating of this to Ignatian discernment), does not the proper apprehension of values demand a proper development of feeling, just as the proper grasp of intelligibility requires a proper development of intelligence? And further, if ‘mystical experience’ is to be conceived as the experience of the fulfillment of the transcendental notions, then should we not note as well that the authenticity of this experience demands a cultivation of feeling?

The Eastern Christian Element

Enter my other major interest: Eastern Christian mystical theology. Fr. Alexander Golitzin is our primary expert on this area here at MU. An Orthodox Christian who studied under John Meyendorff at Oxford and did a dissertation on how non-Platonic are the writings ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagite, Fr. Golitzin is also an individual who seemingly does not understand my dual interests (and I can’t say I blame him, from his perspective); they appear to him as oil and water.

Yet it may already be apparent just what it is that I see in the monastic and mystical literature of the Christian East: they spend a great deal of time with a watchful eye on the non-intellectual movements of the human subject. Fr. Golitzin has, in class, made comments that seem to suggest his disagreement with the assignment of Eastern Christian theology to an “affective” category (his reference is usually to the writings of Irénée Hausherr, if memory serves), but although I would put them in such a category, I do not mean by that assignment what Fr. Golitzin seems to fear.

I would suspect that what Fr. Golitzin fears is the subordination or denigration of Eastern Christian theology by its being consigned to the category of the “affective.” But my own position, and what I would maintain should be the position of Lonergan scholars in general, is that the categorizing of a particular sort of theology as primarily “affective” does not denigrate that theology; rather, it situates it in its relation to other sorts of theology that might be termed “intellective.” I would not, for instance, label Charles Hefling’s work on the self-knowledge of Christ as “affective”; it is “intellective,” theoretical. On the other hand, I would not for the most part label the hymns of Ephrem the Syrian (c.306 – 373) as “intellective”; they are “affective,” aesthetic.

The affective elements of human interiority should not be, for Lonergan scholars, subordinate to the intellectual elements. This subordination is intellectual baggage many of us still carry from our Enlightenment heritage, and we need to let go of it. Affect, in reality, is integral to the authentic functioning of the intellect: without it, as Lonergan himself says, all our intellectual operations would be “paper thin.” Work that focuses on and develops the affective dimension of human being is no less important than work that focuses on and develops the intellective dimension of human being; both are connected and necessary.

What I would suggest is that if one has steeped oneself in the aesthetic beauty of Ephrem’s hymns, the insights in Hefling’s work are both more readily apparent and much more personally meaningful. On the other hand, if one has steeped oneself in the theoretical rigor of Hefling’s work, Ephrem’s hymns are that much more aesthetically moving. There is an opening here for the interpenetration of explanatory theology and affective theology: both, in their own way, come to rest in a deepening of one’s relationship to God, and that deepening is all the more effective if they come to rest together in one’s relationship to God. This, I would maintain, is the key to one’s ability to be both an authentic Christian theologian and an authentically theological Christian.

Irreducible, Not Irreconcilable

However, this is not necessarily an easy position for contemporary theology, inside or outside the Lonergan community, to accept. It is something of a commonplace in Western theology to see a rift between devotional reflection and theological rigor. It is the difference Doran has pointed out between scholars working out of a ‘Lonerganian’ horizon and those working out of a ‘Balthasarian’ horizon. Essentially, this is the past conflict between monastic theology and the theology of the universities, and it continues to be a dividing element both within Western theology and between Christian East and West.

Yet my proposal is that we ask, with Fr. Doran and others, whether that irreducibility is also a liability, or whether it might be more properly and fruitfully understood as a complementarity. If the end of theological reflection – and here I mean any theological reflection – is the edification of the Church, then theological reflection as a whole must edify all the dimensions of the human subject, spiritual and psychic. Now, granted that devotional literature can at times be intellectually stimulating and that rigorous theology can at times be aesthetically pleasing, it remains that those are not their primary emphases. They are two different modes of theology, both authentic, both important. They cannot be reduced to one another, nor should they be. Each has its role to fill, each has its place. The intellect offers us tools for a careful use of symbols and affective communication; the affect offers a depth to meaning and intellective communication. Understanding is hampered without affect; affect is uncontrolled without intellect.

Concluding Remarks

To return to my own biographical illustrations, my interests in both Lonergan scholarship and Eastern Christian mystical literature are not the forcing together of oil and water. In fact, I don’t want to force them together at all. In no way should a project such as I envision result in the reduction of one type of theology to another. I want to maintain their distinctiveness; I want to let Eastern monastic theology be monastic, and I want to let Western systematic theology be Western and systematic. If they cease to retain their differing characteristics, I have nothing left to do!

What I do hope to accomplish, in for example my dissertation, is twofold: a development within the functional specialty of foundations that accounts for the affective in as full a manner as possible, and an examination of trends in Eastern Christian monastic literature that shows its conformity to the points developed in my foundational work.

As a final brief note, I expect there to be a long-term benefits in another direction. Fr. Doran has remarked both in and out of classes that a major pressing need for theology in the 21st century is pneumatology. I, for one, suspect that any pneumatology developed without reference to both the intellective and affective dimensions of theology and Christian life will be far less fruitful than it might have been, and I hope my own work might contribute to that endeavor.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Alison Bender's Response to Fr. Ivo Coelho

Alison M. Benders, abenders AT

Fr. Coelho begins a difficult effort to apply the functional specialty of dialectic from Lonergan’s work to the problem of the metaphysical status of maya and brahman in Sankara, an early proponent and commentator on the philosophical tradition of Advaita Vedanta. Given my recent doctoral thesis, a comparative study of self-awareness and self-transcendence in Lonergan and Sankara,[1] I was intrigued by his ideas and would like to contribute to the discussion. My comments fall into two broad categories: method and substance.

Method: Fr. Coelho has chosen to practice Lonergan’s functional specialty of dialectic on “the interpretation of Sankara’s Advaita, or Sankara on the relation between Brahman and the world.” He is not attempting to make any connections to Western/Christian metaphysics. In contrast, I have tried to practice dialectic as a method of comparative theology. Learning from this misguided attempt, I would like to offer a suggestion relevant to Fr. Coelho’s project, which is to explain more fully why he has chosen his subject matter – the study of Sankara as a Christian theologian.

In a preliminary draft of my dissertation I had attempted to use a simplification of Lonergan’s functional specialties as the method to compare Sankara’s thought on self-awareness with Lonergan’s explication of self-appropriation. The central moment in that effort was evaluating the absence of conversions in the thinkers. No one endeavoring comparative theological study will be surprised with the outcome of my first effort – when one uses Western philosophical achievements as criteria for evaluating non-Western philosophies, the result will be decidedly in favor of the Western comparative partner. That is, when I asked if Lonergan’s work showed evidence of the presence of intellectual, moral and religious conversion, I obviously found that it did; when I asked if Sankara’s work showed evidence of these same conversions, I found him obviously deficient (principally with respect to Lonergan’s notion of intellectual conversion). The effort felt meaningless to me; actually, it felt a great deal like the trimuphalism of early Christian efforts at theological-doctrinal comparison, where all other religions inevitably failed to meet the clear superiority of Christian truth.

In the final version of my thesis, I used a dialogical method suggested by Frank Clooney, S.J., who is recognized by religion scholars for his expertise in Hindu-Christian comparative study. Clooney’s article “Theology and Sacred Scripture” demonstrates a four-step approach to interreligious dialogue for a Christian exploring an unfamiliar religious tradition.[2] The purpose of a comparative study is to generate new learning about one’s home tradition and another faith, which learning will in turn contribute to the general academic and practical project of religious literacy and, in the end, to the theologian’s own growth. The steps are:

1. Explain clearly the theological idea or religious event under examination and why it was chosen. This includes a full understanding of the relevant texts, including information about each text’s speaker, the main ideas and their relationship to the wider tradition (212-15).

2. Explore the texts thoroughly - reading, reciting and absorbing them (215-221).

3. Conduct dialogue among the texts by placing the themes from each tradition side by side to understand and evaluate the similarities and differences and reasons for them (224-230).

4. Draw conclusions about what succeeds in the conversation and what fails (230-233). Note what has been uncovered, especially with respect to one’s home tradition.

These steps in “Theology and Sacred Scripture” correspond neatly with the normative conscious and intentional operations of Lonergan’s general empirical method and with the functional specialties of theological method. The initial contextualization step combines the conscious operations of experiencing and understanding directed at the broader theological situations of the comparative partners; in terms of functional specialties this step comprises both research and interpretation. Clooney’s second step corresponds to the operations of experiencing and understanding as well, but the focus is expressly on understanding the concepts identified for comparison. Again the functional specialties of research and interpretation are operating here, as well as history, which is to judge the meaning and interconnection of the elements according to what the authors intended. The third step correlates closely with the operation of decision and the functional specialty dialectic, because it invites not only comparison but the critical and intelligent understanding of differences. Comparison is dialectic, in Lonergan’s terminology, to the extent that the differences are understood and expressed in terms of differentiations of consciousness, including intellectual, moral and religious conversions. The final step corresponds to the conscious operation of decision and the functional specialty foundations, since it elucidates and evaluates what is uncovered in the comparison. Thus, Clooney’s first three steps are a unified mediating phase that brings the texts forward to present them for understanding, including a comparison of their similarities and their differences; his final step mediates what has been judged (uncovered) into the wider theological conversation.

Fr. Coelho’s project is not a comparison of Hindu thought with Christian thought, so his projects does not suffer the defects I found in my first comparative attempt and I do not fault him for not anticipating a question that I now raise. Nevertheless, Clooney’s work offers some wisdom for all Christian scholars as they venture into other faiths. Most important is the question of why we (as Christian theologians) are attempting to understand a fundamental question in another faith. By understanding our own motives, we can establish a firm foundation for our investigation and uncover inevitable biases and inauthenticities in ourselves. Beyond this, I would affirm that the seminal reason to study the theological and philosophical systems of other cultures is to promote our own growth toward authentic humanity. With full appreciation of Fr. Coelho’s dialectic study, I ask myself how I will move from understanding and judging what Sankara says about brahman and maya to deciding how this knowledge can shape my interactions in the world and my engagement with the divine.

Substance: Fr. Coelho investigates the metaphysical nature of brahman and maya in Sankara’s thought through several respected scholars’ interpretations. Quite appropriately, he highlights the main difficulty for anyone studying Sankara’s positions:

The first step is to assemble the various interpretations of Sankara. These are, of course, very many. But my attempt to demonstrate dialectic would not be completely vitiated if I were to limit myself to a few: Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, T.M.P. Mahadevan, Satishchandra Chatterjee and Dhirendramohan Datta, Richard De Smet and Sengaku Mayeda. For the same reason, I trust I will be forgiven if I base this attempt on ‘spot samplings’ of these authors rather than comprehensive and scholarly interpretations as would be required even by a full and proper use of the method.

In my dissertation study, I also attempted to expound what Sankara taught about the relation between brahman and conditioned reality, limiting myself to the important teaching text the Vivekacudamani (The Crest Jewel of Discrimination),[3] which has been attributed to Sankara. Instead of assembling a respectable cadre of scholarly interpretations, I rashly attempted my own interpretation, based on multiple translations and accompanying textual comments.[4] I asked to be excused for this hubris because my project was to establish interpretations of parallel ideas in the work of Lonergan and Sankara (of self-awareness and self-transcendence) and compare these.[5] From this study, I would like to offer three comments that may assist in understanding what Sankara means by brahman and how brahman relates to atman and maya.

1. It is problematic to study brahman as an epistemic concept divorced from the soteriological thrust of Advaitin thought. “[T]he broadest context of Sankara’s works is the problem of suffering and the hope of liberation, so his metaphysics is decisively indexed to soteriology. … More specifically, his work concerns the nature of experience per se and the appropriate methods to access it.”[6] The purpose and terminus of Sankara’s teaching is not metaphysical knowledge for its own sake, but personal knowledge of the true self through direct intuition of brahman as the supreme non-dual reality. Whenever Sankara teaches about the nature of brahman, his emphasis is, I think, better understood as existential formation – the teaching creates the possibility for disciples to realize their eternal, non-dual identity with ultimate reality itself. Once students realize the nature of the true self, as identical with brahman, the teachings revealed in the Upanisads become immaterial; experience of brahman vitiates the need for any intellectually coherent articulation of that reality. For Fr. Coelho's project, this may indicate that the cogency of Sankara’s teachings must not be measured according Western critical methods, but must be evaluated according to their efficacy in leading seekers toward the experiential realization of reality itself.

2. Much of Fr. Coelho’s discussion focuses upon the fact that brahman is unsubratable reality or being. While this is certainly true, I found that I was able to understand the truth of non-dualism more readily when I grasped the intelligibility of brahman as being-consciousness-bliss, rather than as being alone. Brahman is often described as consciousness meaning pure subjectivity, awareness that does not intend any object; it is consciousness-as, not consciousness-of. This point helps refocus the discussion from a question of whether conditioned existence (the multiplicity that we apprehend through the senses) is really real to a question of how brahman can actually be the eternal, indivisible reality of all that we experience. When brahman is conceptualized as consciousness, the identity of atman and brahman becomes more intelligible.

3. For my final point, I am hijacking Fr. Coelho’s project, to insert a point about the commonalities in Lonergan’s understanding of God and Sankara’s understanding of brahman. I would welcome discussion on these ideas. I quote here from my dissertation:

God for Lonergan and brahman for Sankara present similar qualities. For example, God and brahman are constituted by and entail existence, consciousness, active knowledge and an element of value (either bliss or love).[7] In Insight, Lonergan speaks about God as the unrestricted act of being, knowing and loving, to which human self-transcendence is oriented; in Method he expresses the realm of transcendence as God’s love ‘poured into our hearts’ and as being in love with God. For Sankara, brahman is being-consciousness-bliss, consciousness itself and ‘one without a second.’ Brahman is the ground of reality, but also absolute knowledge, perceiving all else. The similarities are striking, but more than this they are predictable and can be explained according to Lonergan’s interiority analysis and Sankara’s teaching on the sheaths surrounding the self.

“To depict this point graphically, I have adapted the chart of Lonergan’s conscious operations by adding the corresponding sheaths, according to the Vivekacudamani, and the attributes of ultimate reality in both traditions.[8] For Christians, God is infinite being, infinite love and infinite intelligence. Advaita understands brahman as sat-chit-ananda. These attributes can be likened to the highest or innermost dimensions of human subjectivity.

conscious operations

levels of consciousness and Precepts


Attributes of God

Infinite being

Attributes of brahman Absolute Being

Realm of full self-transcendence-

Be in love.

Realization of brahman

Infinite loving

Absolute Bliss



Be responsible.

Bliss sheath –pleasure from virtuous action

(God as eternal unchanging actuality)

(brahman as eternal, unchanging)



Be rational.

Knowledge sheath – weighing and judging

Infinite intelligence in act[9]

Consciousness as ‘absolute knowledge’



Be intelligent.

Mental sheath – tool for understanding perceptions



Be attentive.

Gross body and vital air sheaths

“This rendering shows a correspondence between the level of rational consciousness, the knowledge sheath, God as infinite intelligence and brahman as absolute consciousness or knowledge. To the extent that human beings are in the image of God, that atman is brahman, they share intelligence as an essential quality; both Lonergan and Sankara identify a subjective human dimension corresponding to knowing. But human beings move from knowing to choosing or acting. Therefore, the chart likewise depicts at the next higher level a correlation between self-reflective consciousness (which, according to Lonergan, is the level at which people decide about themselves as moral agents) and the bliss sheath (which, according to Sankara, compares with pleasure experienced in virtuous action). Here, there is no direct correlate in God or brahman because both of these realities are understood to be fully actualized, never changing, choosing or acting - unlike human beings who must act in created or conditioned reality. But, beyond knowing and acting, in Lonergan’s terms, human beings love and are fundamentally oriented toward love; in terms of Sankara’s sheaths, beyond knowing, there is bliss. Therefore, at the highest level I have located the realm of full self-transcendence and the realization of brahman, which are acknowledged by Lonergan and Sankara to be the apex of human experience, transcending ordinary knowing. In addition, Lonergan characterized full self-transcendence as being in love with God. Therefore, I have identified full self-transcendence and moksha with Infinite Loving and Absolute Bliss, at the highest level of consciousness to suggest that these dimensions constitute the innermost essence of human subjectivity as well as the ground of existence. Finally, I have not depicted a dimension of human subjectivity that corresponds to Infinite Being or Absolute Being, because these are not distinct attributes separable from the transcendent experience of ultimate reality. Speaking in Christian terms, God’s essence is existence, knowledge and love; speaking in Advaitic terms, atman is brahman, which is absolutely non-subratable being, not different from consciousness and bliss. In summary, the main purpose of presenting the conscious operations in this chart is to reveal an interesting correspondence between the explication of consciousness in both thinkers and the ultimate reality as each thinker understands it. The correspondence is, I suggest, more than coincidence; it evidences a normative a priori structure of human subjectivity that is isomorphic with absolute reality, a claim more easily recognized in the expressions of faith: imago dei and tat tvam asi.

Conclusion: I appreciate the opportunity to dialogue with Fr. Coelho through this website. The work of dialectic can be both challenging and rewarding. I hope that my contribution here adds to the work of Lonergan scholars and comparative theologians as we together strive for authentic engagement with the world and with the divine reality.

[1] Benders, Alison Mearns. A Comparative Study of Self-Awareness and Self-Transcendence: What do Lonergan and Sankara have to say to each other? Director: Francis X. Clooney, S.J. (Boston College, 2006). Please note that some portions of this entry are direct quotations from my dissertation project, which is now under revision for publication.

[2] Clooney, Francis X., S.J. ---. “Theology and Sacred Scriptures Reconsidered in the Light of a Hindu Text.” Theology and Sacred Scripture. Eds. Carol J. Dempsey and William P. Loewe. The Annual Publications of the College Theological Society. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001, 211-36.

[3] The Vivekacudamani is an accessible distillation of Advaita in the form of a dialogue between guru and disciple. Sankara’s teaching in the Vivekacudamani shares with Lonergan’s work the non-negotiable insistence upon personal experience as the foundation for transhistorical, transcultural certainty and, one might say, for transcendence. The primary point of the Vivekacudamani is not to prove logically or discursively the validity of non-dual reality, but to model the necessary pedagogy and meditative practices, that enable the disciple to appropriate this transformative truth as a personal, existential experience.

[4] Like Fr. Coehlo, I am not familiar with Sanskrit, beyond recognizing a few transliterated words, so I worked with multiple translations of the original text to provide a better nuanced understanding.

[5] To quote from my dissertation abstract (presuming there might be interest in the conclusions of my work): “Both Lonergan and Sankara demonstrate methods by which the problem of self-awareness is solved through a more adequate apprehension of the self, which apprehension, in turn, transcends ordinary perception and knowledge. Both thinkers require a turn inward to promote an affective and experiential realization of transcendent reality, as the appropriate response to the confusion and uncertain meaning in the world. The experiences result in existential conversions as permanent alterations in people’s relationship to reality – the experiences lead to self-transcendence. Thus, these two quite different thinkers make the same shift to appropriate subjective operations and events, with similar results in terms of existential self-transcendence. Furthermore, the realms of transcendence then provide common ground for understanding the human horizons of intellectual, moral and religious meaning.

“The study also reveals that both Lonergan and Sankara have distinguished the same interdependent operations of intentional consciousness, lending credibility to Lonergan’s claim that these are normative. They share a common critical realist approach to ordinary reality and articulate a way of knowing ultimate reality that might best be characterized as immediate apprehension or direct realization. Moreover, it is possible to demonstrate through Lonergan’s interiority analysis that both Lonergan and Sankara lead people to precisely the same ultimate reality, which is experienced and expressed according to individual structures of meaning. Finally, the study [explains] how Lonergan’s interiority analysis may critique Sankara’s epistemology and how Sankara’s practical instructions on right discrimination may assist Lonergan to integrate intentional consciousness with the notion of full self-transcendence.”

[6] Forsthoefel, Thomas. Knowing Beyond Knowledge: Epistemologies of Religious Experience in Classical and Modern Advaita. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing (2002) 38.

[7] Certainly, there are nuances, for example, within Christianity God is often expressed as personally engaged with individual human beings, while Advaita understands brahman to be supra-personal.

[8] This chart will prove instrumental in grasping comparative points in the ensuing discussions.

[9] ‘Intelligence understanding itself’ is another way that Lonergan expresses the agent intelligence of God (depending on Thomas Aquinas), in which there is no distinction between the eternal operations of understanding and judging, as there is when people can distinguish the elements of temporal human knowing.