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Lonergan's Quest

Lonergan's Quest: A Study of Desire in the Authoring of Insight

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 574
  • Book Info
    Lonergan's Quest
    Book Description:

    InLonergan?s Quest, William A. Mathews details the genesis, researching, composition, and question structure ofInsight.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7679-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Introduction: Desire and the Shaping of an Author
    (pp. 3-12)

    Biographers have to listen long and carefully to the experiences of their subjects in order to disclose what, in the words of Pedro Arrupe, characterizes those lives as most personal, as most uniquely them.² Only after they have built up a level of familiarity with the cast of significant characters and the creative works of the life do the properly biographical questions begin to come into focus. At this point, certain events, relationships, and remarks in the life can light up, stand out from the great multiplicity of known facts as the signatures of the life as a whole.



    • 2 Quebec Origins: A Classics Student, an Illness, and a Surprising Vocation
      (pp. 15-31)

      Bernard Lonergan, the eldest of three boys, was born to Gerald and Josephine Lonergan on 17 December 1904 in Buckingham, Quebec, a small town on the Lièvre about eighteen miles east of Ottawa. About his origins he has remarked:

      My great grandfather, Timothy Lonergan, and his wife Bridget Casey emigrated from Ireland and settled at Ste-Thérèse-de-Blainville. When my grandfather, Mickey, saw that the Lonergans were all marrying French girls, he decided to move off to Buckingham where he found a red-headed Irish girl and married her.¹

      The girl’s name was Frances Gorman. Michael, who was not a success at farming,...

    • 3 Heythrop: Awakening to the Problem of Knowledge
      (pp. 32-48)

      On 5 August 1926 the Jesuit faculties of philosophy and theology moved from St Mary’s Hall, Stonyhurst, and St Buenos, respectively, to Heythrop College, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, a very large and remote estate situated in the countryside about eighteen miles north of the City of Oxford. The drive from the front entrance along a narrow twisting road to the faculty buildings and residence was close to a mile. Geoffrey Holt, a Province archivist, thought the move was motivated by the desire to establish in one place, near a university such as Oxford, joint faculties of theology and philosophy.¹ It was...

    • 4 Puzzled in Montreal by the Depression and Plato’s Ideas
      (pp. 49-64)

      Soon after his London University examinations for his BA were over Lonergan returned to Canada, where he found that the rich had become poor and the poor were out of work.¹ In 1930 the industrial world was in the throes of the Depression, a prelude to the Second World War. That summer the incoming Canadian government faced a situation in which two hundred thousand people were unemployed. As welfare did not exist, unemployment was ruinous and became a major political issue. The government’s first move was to introduce legislation to make twenty million dollars available for relief work. In October...

    • 5 Struggling with History and Reality in Rome before the War
      (pp. 65-85)

      In early September 1933 John Swain and Charles Bathurst, Canadian Jesuits, were sent for their theology studies to the Gregorian University in Rome, the first-ever members of the Province to study theology there. Some time later the rector in Rome announced to Swain that three Slav students, for whom places were being reserved, had cancelled. As Hingston, the Canadian provincial, had requested places for five students in Rome, the rector advised Swain that these places were now available for Canadians. Swain wrote immediately to Hingston informing him of the development. After taking advice, Hingston accepted the offer by telegram. In...

    • 6 Postgraduate Studies in Theology: A New Road Taken
      (pp. 86-106)

      In the summer of 1937 Lonergan took a holiday, visiting the Pitti Palace in Florence, where he enjoyed the Raphaels. At the beginning of September he went to the Abbaye St-Acheul in Amiens for his final year of prayer and formation as a Jesuit, his Tertianship. The town, through which the Somme flows and which boasts a magnificent gothic cathedral dating back to 1220, is seventy-five minutes north of Paris by rail. Within the cathedral walls are plaques from Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa commemorating the dead of the Battle of the Somme. The French in...


    • 7 Economics or Cognitional Theory: Towards Desire’s Decisions
      (pp. 109-130)

      Lonergan arrived in New York on 24 May 1940. On the voyage he must have found himself pondering the madness of the world he had left, as it disintegrated into war. He was also sailing towards a world that would present him with the personal challenge of coming to terms with the death of his mother. Soon after his return he made his way to Buckingham to meet the family, his father, brothers, and aunt, and grieve with them in the aftermath of her recent death. Its effect on his father was such that on 14 November 1940 he himself...

    • 8 Insights into Phantasms as the Origins of Words
      (pp. 131-145)

      Sometime during the autumn semester of 1935, while taking Leeming’s course, Lonergan made a breakthrough, had what amounted to an intellectual conversion, on the cognitional question. Involved was a new understanding of the relation between judgment (Augustine’sveritas) and what exists, Aquinas’esse. If it is through our understanding that we grasp the what or why or nature of a thing, it is through our judgment that we come to know that it exists. For the next eight years Lonergan’s writings are largely silent on matters that are directly cognitional.¹ To an extent this can be understood in terms of...

    • 9 Thought and Reality: Measuring the Kantian Bridge
      (pp. 146-159)

      In 1945 Loyola College in Montreal discontinued its adult education or extension courses. Given the interest in further education among teachers, the closure created a vacuum. Out of this felt need the Thomas More Institute was born. The challenge was to set up an intellectual ambience in which adults could pursue their questions in a community. With almost no time for planning, the institute began suddenly to operate in the autumn. Emmett Carter was its first president, Eric O’Connor the director of studies. With little notice, Lonergan was invited to lecture in the first year:

      I gave a course there...

    • 10 Aquinas on Cognition and Its Transcendence
      (pp. 160-176)

      The firstVerbumarticle opens with Penido’s observation in hisGlosses on the Procession of Love in the Trinitythat most theologians acknowledged that the issue was beyond them. Those who did claim to understand it were not convincing. Billot in his account of the procession of the Word in hisOn God, Unity and Trinityproposes that the likeness is in the imagination. Lonergan was certain that this was not the mind of Aquinas. It is with the intellect that we must begin. When we are clear about how Aquinas understood a word to proceed in our minds from...

    • 11 Toronto, the Operations of the Mind, and a Creative Illness
      (pp. 177-190)

      In January 1947 Lonergan was moved from L’Immaculée, Montreal, to Regis College, then at 403 Wellington Street, Toronto. This had been a house of studies in philosophy since 1930 for English-speaking Canadian Jesuits. Between 1943 and 1946 theology programmes were added. At that time the Basilians were responsible for Catholic theology in the university, and it was Lonergan’s view that the Jesuits should not compete with them. Rather, they should respond to Charbonneau’s invitation to set up a bilingual university in Montreal.¹ When he moved to 403, the Jesuit presence and the theological tradition and library in Toronto were not...

    • 12 Human Insights as Reflections of the Divine Nature
      (pp. 191-206)

      In May 1948 Quentin Lauer, then a student of theology at Woodstock College, wrote a defense of Lonergan entitled ‘Comment on “An Interpretation”’ inThe Modern Schoolman. Responding to O’Connell point by point, he ended with the question ‘whetherintelligeredoes mean precisely understanding,’ a question O’Connell avoided.¹ This, for Lauer, was the most disputed aspect of the first article. In order to appreciate how new that interpretation was, Lonergan invited Crowe to read both of the articles by O’Connell and Lauer. As a result, Lonergan came to focus on the distinction between intellectualist and conceptualist interpretations of Aquinas, a...


    • The Proto-Insight, 1949–1951

      • 13 1949: The Vision of the First Beginning
        (pp. 211-220)

        Creativity has its phases and moods, its tempo and rhythm, variables of temperament and topic. In simpler problem solving we can identify times when, although the question we are interested in is clear to us, we are stuck and cannot work out an answer. In complex problem solving there are times when we don’t really understand the problem itself and have to labour to clarify it. In the summer of 1949 the time for Lonergan’s creative desire to compose the new vision ofInsighthad arrived.² The questions of his awakened desire having matured through the desert experience of thinking...

      • 14 Experimenting with the Insights of Mathematicians and Scientists
        (pp. 221-240)

        Understanding a world order would, for Lonergan, result from an integration of all of the different kinds of insights that can be identified in the empirical sciences. Earlier in 1943, in his ‘Forms of Inference,’ he articulated his dream of an empirical science of the mind itself. In the early draft of chapters 1, 2, and 8 ofInsightthat follow in the notes for ‘Intelligence and Reality,’ these two approaches are united. Involved was a first move in exploring the possibility of developing an experimental method for the study of insights as conscious with the eventual aim of integrating...

      • 15 The Breakthrough to Cognitional Structure
        (pp. 241-250)

        As early as 1926/7 the unsolved problem of cognition, of how we come to know something in the world, fatefully emerged as a central interest in Lonergan’s intellectual narrative. Initially he was frustrated by the naive realism and intuitionism of Suarez and others, but found inspiration in Newman. Later he was challenged by J.A. Stewart and Hoenen, but it was not until 1935 that he made a significant breakthrough on the relation between judgment and what exists. Despite this, in 1943 he was still asking whether everything in the world was subject to law other than the human mind.


      • 16 The Mind’s Desire as the Key to the Relation of Thought and Reality
        (pp. 251-266)

        In his insight into cognitional structure, Lonergan has worked out his answer to one of the three related questions and disciplines he articulated in the notes taken by his student, William Stewart, in 1947: the gnoseological. At this point he now has to face the accusation that what he has articulated is a mental structure between which and the world of things there is no intelligible connection. Pages 15–17 and 18–19 of the course notes for ‘Intelligence and Reality’ that follow, addressing what he terms the epistemological question, take up that accusation. Entitled respectively ‘The Notion of Being’...

      • 17 Exploring the Real Known World: A Metaphysical Beginning
        (pp. 267-286)

        In the domains of mathematics, of the natural and human sciences, and, as we shall see later, of common sense, the intellectual desires of communities of individuals and their related mental powers engage with their worlds. In the mathematical community the desires of those individuals can engage with the problems of geometry or of numbers and number theory. In the scientific community they can embark on the cognitional process of coming to explain the great diversity of species of things that are to be found in our universe, seek an understanding of the laws of their emergence, behaviour, and survival....

    • The Autograph, 1951–1953

      • 18 Finally Beginning in the Middle: Common Sense, Consciousness, and Self-Affirmation
        (pp. 287-309)

        Sometime after ‘The Role’ was written, Lonergan began to compose the autograph, the final text, ofInsight.² His assembly, as noted, of a proto-Insightmade it possible for him now to envisage sections of the finished work. The earliest known of the several outlines he would sketch of the book’s table of contents follows.³

        The Notion of Judgment 7

        Reflective Understanding 33 40

        (nine headings as inInsight)

        Self-affirmation 24 64

        Notion of Being 23 87

        Notion of Objectivity 8 95

        Forms of Experience 11 106

        Critical enlightenment 12 118 + 92 = 180

        The texts of chapters 9–13,...

      • 19 Insights into Emergent Probability
        (pp. 310-327)

        Early in 1952, having articulated his foundations, Lonergan began the third movement in the composition ofInsight. A creative movement running through the first eight chapters, it would involve new insights into emergent probability, the development of common sense, and the explanation of things. Written from within the perspective of his foundations, those chapters fill out and develop the meaning of the relation of the subject and object of knowledge within his theory of objectivity. The emerging world view develops his reworking of Kant’s Copernican revolution in a range of contexts.

        For Lonergan mind, particularly as intellectual desire and as...

      • 20 Insights into the Dialectical Development of Common Sense
        (pp. 328-345)

        In chapter 9 of the final draft ofInsight,inspired by the challenge of exploring concrete judgments of facts, Lonergan first considered the question of common sense as a distinctive form of knowledge. Those judgments presupposed a common-sense culture that he began to differentiate from the scientific. In the final write-up of chapters 6 and 7 during the summer of 1952, he began to relate common sense to his earlier work on the dialectic of history. Initially a single chapter with the title ‘Common Sense,’² it was later divided into two concerned, respectively, with objectifying the subject and object of...

      • 21 Insights into the Irreducibility of Things
        (pp. 346-362)

        Towards the end of 1952, in the composition of chapter 8 on things, Lonergan completed the third act in his performance of authoringInsight. It addressed a topic that had for him a long history, going right back to his Heythrop days. It later featured in the Keeler ‘Essay on Newman’ and, largely inspired by Aristotle’s writings on substance, in the ‘Thought and Reality’ and ‘Intelligence and Reality’ lectures. For over a year after the latter lectures the topic was bracketed while he composed chapters 9–13 on his foundations, followed by the first seven chapters. Chapter 8 incorporates and...

      • 22 Insights into Philosophical Method, Polymorphism, and Isomorphism
        (pp. 363-374)

        As a sense of Lonergan’s work on the book became known, interest in what he was doing developed in the Jesuit community. In response he gave a series of sixteen evening lectures on Tuesdays between 11 November 1952 and 21 April, largely on the book. Notes taken by Thomas O’D. Hanley SJ at this series are extant and give us a window into the process of composition at this time. The first six lectures, up to the Christmas break on 16 December, dealt with material from the first three chapters, lectures on 20 and 27 January with emergent probability.²


      • 23 Process Metaphysics: Finality, Development, the Human Image
        (pp. 375-396)

        The life, for Lonergan, of a presently existing human being is a concrete and intelligible unity that integrates intellectual, psychic, neural, chemical, and physical levels of activities and related laws. As the imagination conditions the intellect, so, more generally, events and their laws on the lower levels condition the possibilities on the higher. The higher escape the limitations of the lower. Clearly, the downward series of levels of activity does not go on for ever, and so there arises the question, what is prime potency or prime matter? It is Lonergan’s suggestion that the modern scientific concept of energy, framed...

      • 24 On Mythic and Philosophical Consciousness: Truth and Its Expression and Interpretation
        (pp. 397-414)

        Work on the final four chapters ofInsightbegan during the spring of 1953. The last episodes of the last movement in the drama of composition, they are in many ways the expression of an aspiration or dream. Written in haste, they were finished towards the end of July. In them the book ends with a flourish.

        Behind their dense prose, creative and challenging questions are taking shape. How does the advance of scientific and philosophical consciousness relate to mythical or what Lonergan would later term ‘symbolic’ consciousness? Would a fully explanatory account of the universe eliminate all sense of...

      • 25 The Cognitional and the Ethical
        (pp. 415-428)

        Up to this point, Lonergan’s intellectual probings have disclosed a universe of species of things emerging in accordance with the principle of finality and continuing in accordance with emergent probability. They reveal a cognitional subject who develops organically, psychically, and intellectually but who also has to struggle with the burden and blindness of bias in the common-sense world as well as with the counterpositions in philosophy. Culturally, that subject lives in a world of symbols, art works and texts, and experiences a conflict of interpretations and reinterpretations.

        In chapter 18, entitled ‘The Possibility of Ethics,’ Lonergan enlarges his interests into...

      • 26 Questions and Insights in Religion
        (pp. 429-451)

        In hisI and ThouMartin Buber remarked that in every particular human encounter with a Thou there is a glimpse through to the eternal Thou.² If we extend the lines of human relations, it is Buber’s view that they meet in the eternal Thou. In his concluding chapters Lonergan attempts to explore a parallel possibility. It arises, not from the experience of friendship and love in the field of personal relations, in which he acknowledges his treatment is skimpy, but from the aspirations of modern science and a related metaphysics. These are particular expressions of the desire of the...

      • 27 Introduction, Epilogue, Prefaces, Publication
        (pp. 452-469)

        At the start of his doctoral studies in 1938 Lonergan was assigned, on their completion, to become a teacher of theology in the Gregorian. Because of the outbreak of the war, he returned to Montreal in 1940 on the assumption that, at a later date, he would be recalled to Rome. As things turned out, that recall was delayed until 1953, providing him with exactly the circumstances he needed in order to research and composeInsight. In September 1953 he returned to Rome and was appointed a professor in the theology faculty of the Gregorian University, where he would teach...

      • Epilogue: Recollecting the Human Mystery
        (pp. 470-478)

        In order fully to know a road one must walk it in both directions. In the same way it is sometimes said that we live our lives forwards but understand them, to the limited extent that we do, backwards. The forwards experience can be like groping our way with difficulty down a dark and unpredictable passageway whose light switch is there to be discovered at the far end. Acknowledging our current familiarity with the biographical details of the life, what illumination, it might be asked, should we expect to discover through recollection in the backwards reading of the narrative? In...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 479-532)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 533-542)
  10. Bernard Lonergan Index
    (pp. 543-548)
  11. General Index
    (pp. 549-564)