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In his epilogue to Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, Fr. Bernard JF

Lonergan, S.J. submits that his insight into insight has made:
a contribution to theology, or as more commonly it is named, to apologetics. The
Catholic admits neither the exclusie rationalism o! the "nlightenment nor, on the
other hand, the arious irrationalist tendencies that can be traced !rom the
medieal period through the #e!ormation to their sharp mani!estation in
$ier%egaard&s reaction to 'egelianism and in contemporary dialectical and
existential trends. But this t(o!old negation inoles a positie commitment)For
i! (e hae begun (ith a complete de!erence to the positie element in rationalism,
(e hae had no di!!iculty in ending (ith a reersal o! its opposition bet(een the
exigencies o! intelligence and the claims o! religion.
The positie commitment Lonergan ma%es !or Christian apologetics thus moes beyond
this dual negation, but it nonetheless relies on the truth o! those negations !or the
possibility o! its continuance. In turn, Lonergan&s insights must transcend 'egel&s System
and obiate the need !or an indiidual rebuttal !or each o! his !ollo(ers and irrationalist
critics (ho so perade the modern philosophical scene.
Lonergan himsel! sets the criterion !or this transcendence (hen he obseres that:
+'egel&s system is not a!raid o! !acts)is not a!raid o! contradictions)The only thing the
System has to !ear is that it itsel! should be no more than some incomplete ie(point, and
in !act that is (hat it is.,
In the !irst (or% o! the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical
Sciences, the Logic, 'egel attempts to insulate himsel! !rom this sort o! claim by
categori.ing the alternatie possibilities !or philosophical systems and demonstrating a
!undamental di!!iculty (ith each. Thus (hile Lonergan&s conceptual claims against
'egelianism in Insight are strong, claims o! e/uialent !orce must be made that Lonergan&s
generali.ed empirical method does not !all (ithin one o! the categories (hich 'egel so
Lonergan, Bernard JF, SJ. Insight: A Study of Human Understanding. in Collected Wors of !ernard
Lonergan, 0ol. 1. "d. Frederic% ". Cro(e and #obert 2. 3oran. Bu!!alo: 4niersity o! Toronto 5ress.
*66-. p789 and 788. 'erea!ter re!erred to simply as +C:L 1.,
C:L 1. p167.
!orce!ully criti/ues. I! these claims are success!ul than the case that Lonergan&s insights
into insight transcend 'egelianism are made stronger, (hile i! they !ail then Lonergan&s
position is cast into doubt as merely another conceptual ariation explainable (ith
recourse to the System. It is my contention that the claim !or Lonergan&s transcendence o!
'egelianism succeeds, and I (ill demonstrate this claim by explicating 'egel&s ob;ections
against each method he identi!ies in the Logic and indicating (hy Lonergan&s thought
cannot be !ully criti/ued by that categori.ation.
Preliminary Notions
Be!ore 'egel underta%es his criti/ue o! preious philosophical methods, he
explicates his preliminary notions regarding the structure o! human consciousness, giing
his de!initions and method o! proceeding. 'egel begins by stating that +thought must not
be ta%en in the sense o! a method or !orm, but in the sense o! the sel!<deeloping totality
o! its la(s and particular !orms. These la(s are the (or% o! thought itsel!, and not a !act
(hich it !inds and must submit to.,
Inso!ar as this re;ects an oerly rationalistic,
mechanistic, and pre<determined ie( o! thought, Lonergan (ould be tempted to agree,
yet Lonergan understands thought sel!<deeloping its totality according to a method and
this method being a !act. This !act o! the operations o! consciousness is not external or a
priori, but it is nonetheless a real method and a real !act.

=!ter sureying the concomitant di!!iculty and ease o! attending to logic as a study
o! the proper operations o! the human mind, 'egel identi!ies thought as +one o! many
actiities or !aculties o! the mind, co<ordinate (ith such others as sensation, perception,
imagination, desire, olition, and the li%e.,
I! (e ta%e 'egel&s meaning o! +thought, here
'egel, >.:.F. "he Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences Part I: Logic. Trans. :illiam :allace.
?e( @or%: Ax!ord 4niersity 5ress. *678. p-9. BC*6D.
C:L 1. p19E.
'egel. p-6. BC-FD.
to be the actiity o! the mind (hile engaged in (hat Lonergan considers as the intellectual
pattern o! experience, then this account seems commensurate (ith that o!!ered by
Lonergan. 'egel continues, ho(eer, adding that +The product o! this actiity, the !orm
or character peculiar to thought, is the 4?I0"#S=L BsicD, or, in general, the abstract.,

'ere Lonergan (ould be !orced to disagree, belieing that insight, the characteristic
operation o! the intellectual pattern o! experience, +piots bet(een the concrete and the

The distinction is clari!ied by 'egel&s insistence that +The real distinction bet(een
sense and thought GisH that the essential !eature o! the sensible is indiiduality, and as the
indiidual)is also a member o! a group, sensible existence presents a number o! mutually
exclusie units)(hich exist side by side (ith, and a!ter, one another.,
This contrasts
sharply (ith Lonergan&s attentieness to the nature o! perception as a dynamic stream
(hich is only grasped as unities, identities, (holes by an appropriate insight into the data
o! experience.
Thus thought is not primarily a mechanism o! generali.ation but rather one
o! understanding (hich might later be eri!ied as either particular Bas the insights
pertaining to common senseD or general Bas the !ormulations o! physics (hich are inariant
under inertial trans!ormsD. Lonergan himsel! clari!ies the di!!erence bet(een his method
and 'egel&s structure by noting that:
The !oregoing di!!erences hae a common source. 'egel endeaors to pour
eerything into the conceptJ (e regard concepts as byproducts o! the deelopment
o! understanding, and place understanding itsel! in an intermediate role bet(een
experience and critical re!lection. It !ollo(s that (hat 'egel is bound to regard as
conceptual (e can interpret /uite di!!erently.
C:L 1. p1F.
'egel. p-6<1F. BC-FD.
C:L 1. p-7*.
Ibid. p997.
This di!!erence in the status and meaning accorded to +concept, thus creates a
!undamental ri!t bet(een Lonergan&s method and 'egel&s preliminary notion.
3espite this ri!t, ho(eer, many methodological similarities remain. 'egel in!orms
his reader that:
The propositions giing an account o! thought in this and the !ollo(ing sections
are not o!!ered as assertions or opinions o! mine on the matter. But in these
preliminary chapters, any deduction or proo! (ould be impossible, and the
statements may be ta%en as matters in eidence. In other (ords, eery man, (hen
he thin%s and considers his thoughts, (ill discoer by the experience o! his
consciousness that they possess the character o! uniersality as (ell as the other
aspects o! thought to be a!ter(ards enumerated. :e assume o! course that his
po(ers o! attention and abstraction hae undergone a preious training, enabling
him to obsere correctly the eidence o! his consciousness and his conceptions.
I understand him to mean that he beliees his account to be ob;ectiely and uniersally
true Bnot mere assertion or opinionD, and yet admits that the epistemic !oundation that he
can o!!er !or his claims is not deductie but a !act claimed about the data o! consciousness.
=s (ith the discoery o! any !act, correct obseration depends upon attentieness and
training. Compare this account to the one that Lonergan o!!ers in the introduction to
the aim is not to set !orth a list o! the abstract properties o! human %no(ledge but
to assist the reader in e!!ecting a personal appropriation o! the concrete dynamic
structure immanent and recurrently operatie in his o(n cognitional actiities)
such an appropriation can occur only gradually, and so there (ill be o!!ered, not a
sudden account o! the (hole o! the structure, but a slo( assembly o! its elements,
relations, alternaties, and implications)the order o! the assembly is goerned,
not by abstract considerations o! logical or metaphysical priority, but by concrete
moties o! pedagogical e!!icacy.
'egel and Lonergan clearly di!!er on the method used to ;udge a !act to be true Bta%ing an
appropriately astute loo% s. eri!ying an insightD, and this gies rise to a di!!erent
understanding o! the training necessary to properly eri!y the !acts o! consciousness.
'egel. p-6. BC-FD.
C:L 1. p**.
?onetheless a reading o! the t(o passages indicates that both men admit the data o!
consciousness as !oundational in the deelopment o! philosophical system, and both
recogni.e that the implications o! this data are not sel!<eident to all but re/uire training to
understand. This is a deep similarity (hich accounts !or the ability o! Lonergan&s method
to resist the criti/ues 'egel ma%es o! systems alternatie to his o(n.
In the !inal sections o! his preliminary notion, 'egel attempts to account !or the
possibility o! thought to reach ob;ectiity. 'e begins by relating that
the reality in ob;ect, circumstance, or eent, the intrinsic (orth or essence, the
thing on (hich eerything depends, is not a sel!<eident datum o! consciousness,
or coincident (ith the !irst appearance and impression o! the ob;ectJ that on the
contrary, #e!lection is re/uired in order to discoer the real constitution o! the
ob;ectKand that by such re!lection it (ill be ascertained.
This succinct rebuttal o! empiricism is strongly consonant (ith Lonergan&s pro;ect, (hich
claims that a +thing,, an essential +unity, identity, (hole, is not identical (ith a body, the
already out there no( real o! biological experience.
Being, in Lonergan&s estimation, is
not something experienced but the +ob;ect o! the pure desire to %no(,,
and thus it can
only be %no(n ob;ectiely by acts o! re!lectie understanding (hich eri!y the ans(ers to
the /uestions !or intelligence as correct.
In both methods, the sub;ect is a!!irmed as a
%no(er (ho ob;ectiely %no(s the being o! the thing a!ter a process o! re!lection and
:here 'egel and Lonergan begin to di!!er is in 'egel&s !urther claim that +by the
act o! re!lection something is altered BsicD in the (ay in (hich the !act (as originally
presented in sensation, perception, or conception.,
In Lonergan&s ie( this goes to the
heart o! the misconception that sensations demonstrate !acts Brather than correct
'egel. p11. BC-*D.
C:L 1. p-7*.
Ibid. p17-.
Ibid. p9F-.
'egel. p19. BC--D.
;udgmentsDJ !or Lonergan re!lection occurs (ith respect to the insight, (hich is a
!ormulation o! the intelligibility o! the data but not itsel! !ound in the data. The error is
subtly compounded (hen 'egel extrapolates that +the real nature is a product o! my mind
BsicD, in its character o! thin%ing sub;ectKgenerated by me in my simple uniersality, sel!<
collected and remoed !rom extraneous in!luencesKin one (ord, in my Freedom.,

:hile the nature is certainly a discoery o! the mind, and the mind is !ree to !ormulate
oersights rather than insights and a!!irm incorrect ;udgments to the detriment o! correct
ones, the true act o! re!lectie understanding is goerned by the pertinent /uestions.

Thus (hile both thin%ers re;ect a simple empiricism, Lonergan&s method remains empirical
due to the releant /uestions (hile bring to light the intelligibility immanent in the data,
(hile 'egel&s system !inds the real in the re!lectie altering o! perception and thus !inally
diorces it !rom the data o! sense.
'egel concludes his preliminary notion by claiming that +Logic therefore coincides
#ith $etaphysics% the science of things set and held in thoughts BsicDKthoughts
accredited able to express the essential reality o! things)I! thought tries to !orm a notion
o! things, this notion)cannot be composed o! articles and relations (hich are alien and
irreleant to the things.,
:ith the caeat that dynamic method and not the static method
o! logic is the proper understanding o! the operations o! human consciousness, Lonergan
(ould heartily assent. Lonergan, a!ter all, ma%es the bold claim in the pre!ace to Insight
;ust as insight into insight yields a clear and distinct idea o! clear and distinct ideas,
;ust as it includes an apprehension o! the meaning o! meaning, ;ust as it exhibits the
range o! the a priori synthetic components in our %no(ledge, ;ust as it inoles a
philosophic uni!ication o! mathematics, the sciences, and common sense)it
Ibid. p18. BC-1D.
C:L 1. p1F8.
'egel. p1E<17. BC-9D.
implies a metaphysical account o! (hat is to be %no(n through the arious
departments o! human in/uiry.
Thus the broad outlines o! 'egel&s System and Lonergan&s method !ind much in common:
both re;ect empiricism and critical philosophy as oerly simplistic, both embrace the po(er
o! re!lection !or the understanding o! reality, and both beliee that the data o!
consciousness hae important conse/uences !or metaphysics.
Lonergan and Scholasticism
>ien his a!!inity !or St. Thomas =/uinas, penchant !or metaphysics, and sel!<
described occupation as +pro!essor o! dogmatic theology,,
it is unsurprising that
many consider Lonergan to be merely a modern day scholastic. 3espite his
criticism o! deductie methods in metaphysics as empty, he nonetheless a!!irms the
method o! Thomistic analysis een as he admits that its interpretation has been
problematic. The /uestion thus naturally arises as to (hether Lonergan&s methods
are merely a reied scholasticism !ully sub;ect to 'egel&s criti/ue in Chapter III o!
the Logic.
'egel&s criticism o! scholastic thought begins (ith the polemic that such thought
has +no sense o! the contradiction in thought,, sees %no(ing as mere picturing,
and assumes that (ays o! thin%ing are identical (ith (ays o! being.
'e then
narro(s this broad criticism to three speci!ic aspects:
B*D "hese terms of thought Gphilosophical predicatesH #ere cut off from their
connection BsicD, their solidarityJ each (as belieed alid by itsel! and capable o!
sering as a predicate o! the truth
)B-D In the second place, the metaphysical
systems adopted a #rong criterion. Their ob;ects (ere no doubt totalities (hich in
their o(n proper seles belong to reason, that is, to the organi.ed and
systematically deeloped unierse o! thought. But these totalitiesK>od, the Soul,
C:L 1. pE.
Ibid. p789.
'egel. p97<9I. BC-E<-ID.
Ibid. p9I. BC-ID.
the :orldK(ere ta%en by the metaphysicians as sub;ects made and ready, to !orm
the basis !or an application o! the categories o! the understanding. They (ere
assumed !rom popular conception
)B1D In the third place, this system of
metaphysic turned into &ogmatism BsicD. :hen our thought neer ranges beyond
narro( and rigid terms, (e are !orced to assume that o! t(o opposite assertions)
the one must be true and the other !alse.
The inulnerability o! Lonergan&s method to each o! these criticisms stems !rom
the nature o! insight itsel!. The !irst and second criticisms may be grouped as concerns
about the origin o! the terms used to denote both the predicates and ob;ects o! in/uiry and
(hether these are su!!iciently rigorous !or speculatie metaphysics. The third is o! a
di!!erent nature, and in/uires at the procedure !or dealing (ith ;udgment on insights (hich
seem to be contradictory. Lonergan notes that +any metaphysical system eentually
assumes the !orm o! a set o! propositions,,
and Lonergan agrees (ith 'egel that +the
abstract metaphysics o! all possible (orlds is empty.,
Lonergan, ho(eer, is not
engaged in such a procedure, but rather argues that +insamuch as metaphysical in/uiry
aims at ma%ing latent metaphysics explicit, it proceeds not !rom arbitrary assumptions
about the goal o! %no(ledge, (hich (ould inole it in the !allacy o! begging the
/uestion, but !rom matters o! !act that any in/uirer can eri!y in his o(n empirical,
intelligent, and rational consciousness.,
Since !or Lonergan matters o! !act are
discoered by insights, the terms o! the metaphysical system must be as sound as those to
(hich insight gies rise in other situations. =oiding 'egel&s !irst and second criticisms at
a stro%e, Lonergan explains that:
3e!initions do not occur in a priate acuum o! their o(n. They emerge in
solidarity (ith experiences, images, /uestions, and insights. It is true enough that
eery de!inition inoles seeral terms, but it is also true that no insight can be
expressed by a single term, and it is not true that eery insight presupposes
Ibid. p8F<8*. BC-6D.
Ibid. p8-. BC1-D.
C:L 1. p9-7.
Ibid. p9-I.
Ibid. p9-7.
preious insights. Let us say, then, that !or eery basic insight there is a circle o!
terms and relations, such that the terms !ix the relations, the relations !ix the terms,
and the insight !ixes both.
Coupled (ith his distinction bet(een nominal and explanatory de!inition, and his insight
that science satis!actory to logicians ma%es use o! explanatory de!initions rather than the
nominal sort,
Lonergan&s metaphysics is immune to the charge o! inappropriate
In ans(er to the !inal possible charge o! dogmatism, Lonergan illustrates ho(
metaphysical dialectic (ell accounts !or the existence o! alternatie ie(s. Lonergan
ma%es this account by appealing +not only to the isomorphism bet(een the structure o!
cognitional actiity and the structure o! proportionate being but also to the polymorphism
o! human consciousness.,
Lonergan illustrates this concept during his discussion o! the
notion o! +thing,, suggesting that +=s is apparent, (e are bac% at the notion o! dialectic.
There are t(o types o! %no(ing. "ach is modi!ied by its o(n deelopment. They are
opposed, !or one arises through intelligent and reasonable /uestion and ans(ers, and the
other does not. They are lin%ed together in man, (ho at once is an animal, intelligent, and
This passage clearly illustrates Lonergan&s embrace o! dialectical method
and conse/uent !light !rom dogmatism. Thus, although Lonergan has a high opinion o!
scholastic thought and emulates it in some respects, he success!ully aoids !alling prey to
'egel&s attac%s on this !irst attitude o! thought to ob;ectiity.
Lonergan and Empiricism
The method !or human understanding that Lonergan elucidates in Insight (ill later
be identi!ied by him as +generali.ed empirical methodJ, and he ma%es repeated re!erences
Ibid. p1E.
Ibid. p17.
Ibid. p881.
Ibid. p-7I.
to the +empirical, in his account o! human %no(ing. 'e explains the content o! direct
insight as +positie intelligibility, a!!irming empirical elements,
and as noted aboe denies
the meaning!ulness o! the metaphysics o! all possible (orlds. Thus it is unsurprising that
some might (rongly conceie Lonergan&s emphasis on the concrete and !actual dynamics
o! cognitie operations as a !orm o! empiricism, and thus sub;ect to 'egel&s criti/ue o!
that brand o! philosophy. =gainst empiricism 'egel leels a singular but damning rebu%e:
+it employs the metaphysical categories o! matter, !orce, those o! one, many, generality,
in!inity, etc,,
yet it denies the concepts o! uniersality, necessity, causality and identity
(hich ma%e these possible, and aoids consideration o! ethics and religion.
Lonergan and Critique
=nother careless reading o! Insight might claim Lonergan to be a $antian dualist,
noting that in his ie( %no(ing is the result o! eri!ied insights rather than an
apprehension o! the already out there no( real, (hich he dismisses as a biological pattern
not proper to human %no(ing.
Lonergan and Intuition
Finally, a reader (ho did not understand the dynamic !unctioning o! human
consciousness as data (hich may be examined by that consciousness might assume that
Lonergan&s insights into insight (ere really ;ust intuitions about the categories o! human
Ibid. p99.
'egel. pE-. BC1ID.
'egel. pE9. BC16D.