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Epistemology - The Lonergan Method

Brad asked me to provide him some more information about Lonergan and his most important book - "Insight, A Study of Human Understanding"

Some of the websites that provide information about Lonergan include:

http://lonergan.concordia.ca/ldg.htm discussion group


Different levels of consciousness and intentionality have to be distinguished.

These levels of consciousness are:
1. empirical, which is the level of the sensual;
2. intellectual, which is the level of inquiry, understanding, and expression;
3. rational, which is the level of reflection and judgment upon the truth or falsity of a proposition; and
4. responsible, which is the level of applying what we know to ourselves and come to a decision about how we should then act, given what we know. As we progress through these levels of consciousness, we become aware of a fuller self, "...and the awareness itself is different."

The most fundamental difference in modes of intending lies between the categorical and the transcendental. Categories are determinations. They have a limited denotation. They vary with cultural variations. In contrast, the transcendentals are comprehensive in connotation, unrestricted in denotation, invariant over cultural change. While categories are needed to put determinate questions and give determinate answers, the transcendentals are contained in questions prior to answers.
These transcendental modes of intending are the objectification of the contents of the categorical modes of intention. The transcendental concept of the intelligible is formulated by objectifying the content of intelligible intending; the transcendental concept of value is formulated by objectifying the content of the responsible intending, etc. The transcendentals are "...the radical intending that moves us from ignorance to knowledge. They are a priori because they go beyond what we know to seek what we do not know yet.
In addition to these transcendental concepts, there is the "...prior transcendental notions that constitute the very dynamism of our conscious intending..." This dynamism is the condition of, rather than the product of, cultural advance.

The success of the empirical methods of the natural sciences confirms that the mind reaches knowledge by an ascent from data, through hypothesis, to verification. To account for disciplines that deal with humans as makers of meanings and values, Lonergan generalized the notion of data to include the data of consciousness as well as the data of sense. From that compound data, one may ascend through hypothesis to verification of the operations by which humans deal with what is meaningful and what is valuable. Hence, a "generalized empirical method" (GEM).

Lonergan also referred to GEM as a critical realism. By realism, in line with the Aristotelian and Thomist philosophies, he affirmed that we make true judgments of fact and of value, and by critical, he aimed to ground knowing and valuing in a critique of the mind similar to that proposed by Kant.

GEM proposes four questions for anyone seeking to ground the methods of any discipline.
(1) A cognitional theory asks, "What do I do when I know?" It encompasses what occurs in our judgments of fact and value.
(2) An epistemology asks, "Why is doing that knowing?" It demonstrates how these occurrences may appropriately be called "objective."
(3) A metaphysics asks “What do I know when I do it?” It identifies corresponding structures of the realities we know and value.
(4) A methodology asks, "What therefore should we do?" It lays out a framework for collaboration, based on the answers to the first three questions.

cognitional theory -
What do I do when I know?"
what occurs in our judgments of fact and value.
We know in two different manners - commonsense and theoretical. In the commonsense mode, we grasp how things are related to ourselves because we are concerned about practicalities, our interpersonal relations, and our social roles. In the theoretical mode, we grasp how things are related to each other because we want to understand the nature of things, such as the law of gravity in physics or laws of repression in psychology. Theoretical insights may not be immediately practical, but because they look at the always and everywhere, their practicality encompasses any brand of common sense with its preoccupation with the here and now. To take a basic distinction, GEM defines morality as the commonsense assessments and behaviors of everyday living and ethics as the theoretical constructs that shape morality.

In GEM's model of the thinking and choosing person, consciousness has four levels - experience of data, understanding the data, judgment that one's understanding is correct, and decision to act on the resulting knowledge. These are referred to as levels of self-transcendence, meaning that they are the principal set of operations by which we transcend the solitary self and deal with the world beyond ourselves through our wonder and care.
On the level of experience, our attention is pre-patterned, shifting our focus, often desultorily, among at least seven areas of interest - biological, sexual, practical, dramatic, aesthetic, intellectual, and mystical. On the level of understanding, our intellects pursue answers to questions of why and how and what for, excluding irrelevant data and half-baked ideas. On the level of judgment, our reason tests that our understanding makes sense of experience. On the level of decision, our consciences make value judgments and will bother us until we conform our actions to these judgments. Lonergan names these four innate norming processes "transcendental precepts." Briefly expressed, they are: Be attentive, Be Intelligent, Be reasonable, and Be responsible. GEM uses the term authenticity to refer to the quality in persons who follow these norms. We rely on the normative criteria of being attentive, intelligent, reasonable and responsible; howsoever they may have matured in us, by which we select all maxims and authorities.
GEM includes many other elements in this analysis, including the roles of belief and inherited values, the dynamics of feelings and our inner symbolic worlds, the workings of bias, the rejection of true value in favor of mere satisfaction, and the commitment to love rather than hate.

Why is doing that knowing?"
how judgments of fact and value may appropriately be called "objective."
Objectivity is the intended cumulative product of all successful efforts to know what is truly so and appreciate what is truly good. This principal notion of objectivity - the totality of correct judgments -- remains the recurring desire and the universal goal of anyone who wonders.
Beyond the experiential and normative components of objectivity, there is an absolute component, by which all inquiry bows to reality as it is. The absolute component lies in our intention to affirm what is true or good independent of the fact that we happen to affirm it.

Moralists who collapse knowing into judgment alone typically overlook the conditions set by experience and understanding that make most moral judgments provisional. The result is the dogmatist, out of touch with experience and incapable of inviting others to reach moral judgments by appeal to their understanding.

Re: Epistemology - The Lonergan Method


Moralists who collapse knowing into judgment alone

I may be one of these, i.e. do not consider that objectivity is a notion which can be practiced by someone who is a conscious human (a subject).

My belief stems from the idea that consciousness (from the first to the fourth of the level in the Lonergan Method you have provided a summary of) is an essential (as in 'of essence')constraint of the human mind - that our idea of objectivity, whether in judgement or in fact, is limited to the conceptual framework (e.g. time, space, causation, language, in my opinion pride) which is innate within our make-up. In the simplest instance, that we cannot even fathom a situation, event, object, unless it is within the bounds of time and space (whenever we conceive of a God, we cannot help but make him physical and in time e.g. burning bush) surely removes the possibility of true objectivity, and of speaking of a 'reality'. Unless you want to say that epistemology is shorthand for 'epistemology, accepting that it is only within the bounds of time, space, causation, language (by language I don't just mean words and communication), etc.', I have to disagree that there is any distinction between knowing and judging; or that we possess any kind of 'knowledge' at all.

Don't worry though, this is just a crackpot theory of mine, somewhat based on Plato and Kant. You're obviously better read and more developed in your beliefs than I am in mine.