Monday, 29 June 2009

Magisterium and theology

Luca Badini sent me a long response saying that he did not see any differnce between the procedure of theology and the magisterium, and, besides, that the magisterium should not be identified with any single group in the churc. Two days later, he sent me this shorter note:
I have also found an enlightening passage in Carl F. Starkloff, A Theology of the In-Between: The Value of Syncretic Process (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2002), 82: “With Karl Rahner, Lonergan renounces “Denzinger theology” or a “Christian positivism” of manual theology (330). Each local church must rather, under guidance (the true role of the “magisterium”), make its own progress toward appropriating the authentic truth that doctrine and dogma symbolize. Lonergan, who was never a missionary in the accepted sense of the term, expresses a profound appreciation of the role of mission theology: it must inculcate true “responsibility” in new Christians and local theologians. His words on this point deserve a fuller quotation:

There is much to be gained by recognizing autonomy and pointing out that it implies responsibility. For responsibility leads to method, and method if effective makes police work superfluous. Church officials have the duty to protect the religion on which theologians reflect, but it is up to the theologians themselves to carry the burden of making theological choices as much a matter of consensus as any other long-standing academic discipline (332).

(Note that the rejection of Denzinger theology means the rejection of considering the magisterium as the point of departure of theological investigation, in favour of starting from the sources of revelation in scripture, tradition, and reason--and by dialectically interpreting those sources, reach doctrines. Note that to leave the development of theology to the local church is precisely what is required by subsidiarity).
This is what I replied to Luca:
I have not read all that you have sent, but am responding to your comments above.

It is absolutely true that Lonergan rejected Denzinger theology. One does not quote magisterium and argue to conclusions; that is no longer theology, if ever it was.

In Insight, he did, however, accept the truths of faith (as revealed or as defined by the magisterium) as part of the data of theology. There is a slow migration from this position to placing the starting point of theology in data rather than in truths of faith. I have traced that migration in my book, Hermeneutics and Method. That is certainly Lonergan shaking off his residual classicism and becoming fully methodical by the time of Method in Theology.

But this methodical theology with starting point in data is the procedure of theology. I think Lonergan would still distinguish between the procedure of theology and the procedure that characterizes those who hold official teaching authority in the church. The latter is not the same procedure as the former.

I agree that this doctrine about the distinct magisterial teaching authority is itself one of the doctrines which a methodical theology would 'test' and accept/reject. Nonetheless, it is a doctrine which is distinct in its position from the one you are espousing.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Luca Badini on Ecclesiology

Luca Badini Confalonieri is a young Italian, completing his doctorate on ecclesiology at the University of Durham, England, and currently a Lonergan Fellow. He shared his findings at the Lonergan Workshop yesterday in a paper entitled "The Critical Use of Socio-Political Categories in Ecclesiology." An extremely well-delivered paper; Luca has the gift of making a connection with the audience. However, my impression is that he has forgotten to take into account the 'wisdom that comes from the Holy Spirit,' and that there is a way down in addition to the way up. The way I heard him, he seems to have said (especially in his responses to questions) that the magisterium has no right to make any doctrinal decisions apart from the findings of theologians. I do think a man like Aquinas was clear that there is a light that is different from the light of intellect, and that prophecy and magisterium are instances of such light. I also remember Lonergan clearly making a distinction between the theological process and the doctrinal or dogmatic process.... And I think this position does transpose, though not simplistically, into Method in Theology.

Luca relies much on the work of Komonchak on ecclesiology. Komonchak is a Lonergan scholar who uses Lonergan's insights for his work on ecclesiology. But I think he does forget that, besides the inner word, there is also the outer word. Catholic theology is marked by the complex interaction between inner and outer word: the inner word of the Spirit enabling the recognition of the outer word of revelation, and of the Word that is Jesus; and the fact that this recognition is an ecclesial rather than an individual recognition. But I have to do more work to get clear on this. All I remember now is that, at the end of the Rome Lonergan Conference, Fred Lawrence had passed this comment: people are forgetting the outer word....

Friday, 26 June 2009

Lonergan on sanctifying grace

Robert Doran gave a paper last night on sanctifying grace in an early (1951-52) text of Lonergan's. What he was saying was quite beyond me, and so, I thought, of most of the audience. I was surprised to see several, however, who seemed to have followed the whole argument: David Fleischacker, Jeremy Wilkins, Fred Lawrence, of course.

The main discussion was about Doran's use of Augustine's memoria w.r.t. the Father. Gilles Mongeau pointed out that Edmund Hill's understanding / translation of memoria was faulty. Doran agreed that he had taken it from Hill. Fred Lawrence also seemed to have registered his scepticism about using memoria in that sense for the Father. (I can't express that better right now.)

Fred seems to be concerned to preserve the Mystery, the ineffability. He said Lonergan had a healthy respect for the ineffability of God.

But all this simply means that I have to get a better grasp of Lonergan's Trinitarian theology.

I had no idea that Fred teaches just that in the theology department at BC. He also teaches political theology, theology and hermeneutics, and one other thing.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Love of God

Hughes quoted Pascal last night: "If you are searching for God, you have already found him."

I thought it would be truer to say: "If you are searching for God, he has already found you." For you would not be searching for him if he had not first drawn you to himself.

So Lonergan's spiritual direction story of the young man who went to his director complaining that he did not love God. You ought to, said the director. I want to, said the young man. Then you do, said the director.

Even the desire comes from God. Operative actual grace. God has first loved us. The Lion is God.

Art and beauty

Lonergan, it seems, did not dwell on beauty and the sublime, but on art. Joe Flanagan says that his chapter on art in The Topics is the high point of his reflection on art: it comes between the 3 pages in Insight and the 2 pages in Method.

The 19th century debunked the link between beauty and art. So when Heidegger, for example, reflects, it is purely on the work of art, not on beauty.

Unless you take beauty as a transcendental in the scholastic sense - so you don't get stuck on prettiness, Glenn Chip Hughes said last night at the Workshop.

150 years since The Origin of Species

It is 150 years since the publication of Darwin's The Origin of Species. Pat Byrne gave us a paper this morning on Darwin and Lonergan. Wonderfully instructive, as ever. Perhaps we should be dedicating our external seminar this year in Divyadaan to evolution and emergence. There are the religion and science issues, especially with the Intelligent Design controversy. There is the issue of evolution itself, with Lonergan's claim to have provided not merely a description but an explanation. There are other issues such as the implications of evolution for religion and for theology. And so on.

Dialectic of freedoms

Bill Mathews is strong on desire as the root of performance. Desire in the authoring of Insight, for example. But I do think that it is always a question of a dialectic of two freedoms, that of God and that of the individual. Mediated, of course, by history, circumstances, etc. But then all those are also under the direct and indirect control of God.

Writing as a happening

Bill Mathews presented a paper on Autobiography and Desire, or at least that is how I remember the title. One of his remarks was about writing: writing as a great mystery, how sometimes it just emerges on its own. I thought of Osho Rajneesh's penetrating remarks about Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet, how it just emerged, and how Gibran could never quite write anything like that again. I thought of Roy, The God of Small Things, how she said it just flowed out onto her typewriter or computer or whatever, how she never went back and did any corrections. But the same thing there: she can never quite produce anything like that again. I thought of Tolkien's remark, about how his books emerged not only from his scholarship, but out of the leaf-mould of his mind.

Is all this a phenomenon akin to insight, which is a passion rather than an action, according to Aquinas? Is it that, when one understands, the expression just flows? and is there a type of understanding that is artistic, that, when it is ripe, just overflows into a torrent of words, so that it is quite true to say that a poem writes itself, a book gets written, a work of art emerges? Something like that in Heidegger's reflections on Happening? The decentering of the subject?

In Lonergan's terms: it would be under the dominance of statistical rather than classical laws. it does not happen becasue of anything that I do, but if I don't do anything, it is not going to happen either. So the reading, the scholarship, the struggle, all that is there. But, when it happens, sometimes it is a marvel, it flows, it emerges, it is born.

Lonergan in the parish

Brian McDonough, in charge of social work in the Archdiocese of Montreal, gave a wonderful application of Lonergan to pastoral ministry yesterday. He showed us how he handles parish groups in conflict situations. He makes use of the social principles of the church, makes people reflect on how these might be applied in the concrete situation, and, most interestingly, he makes them reflect on and bring to light what is happening to them as they try to use these principles. I found that the most interesting thing: are they thinking, or are they taking short cuts to application without much thinking? are they suffering from personal, or group, or general bias? And so on. Most enlightening. And of course the whole exercise begins and ends in prayer.

And a nice comment by Brian: parishioners may be led to choose a certain messiness.

In the situation he presented - a parish letting a group of single women use a room free of rent for a common kitchen, and then finding out that these women were violating church law and practice in various ways - great opportunities arose for learning and teaching. And, I was thinking, not only for the parish councillors and finance committee members and clergy, but also for the women involved, many of whom might not in any way be frequenting the church.

The point is: do we handle it by law, or do we handle it pastorally?

Young Lonergan scholars

I have spoken about the new crop of young Lonergan scholars. Some of them are young and brash as so many of us used to be, but some others are quite special. You have this feeling that there is a profound love for Christ coming through when they speak. And that is really extraordinary. Also, several of them are married, and some like Paul St Amour have 6 children. Jeremy Wilkins was also there with his wife and 2 kids: they sat through his lecture and gave him a big hug when he finished.

Lonergan Centre at the Gregorian

At the Workshop are Padre Natalino Spaccapelo, SJ, one of the great Lonergan scholars of Italy, and Luca Sinibaldi, Archivist of the newly opened Lonergan Centre at the Gregorian. Luca tells me that they have a tiny room, and that they are slowly trying to acquire the primary and secondary sources so as to make them available to scholars. What about the Lonergan Centre at the North American College nearby, I asked. I don't know, he said.

I faintly recollect that they had disbanded the room and integrated the books into the main library of the N.A. College. Pity. It was a great resource to have around. And the sister in charge was really very helpful.

In the meantime, the translation of the Collected Works is going on. Insight is out, and so is Topics in Education, Collection, I think, and Method in Theology. Insight has been freshly translated for the Opera Omnia. Vol. 21 on the economics has been stalled because P. Spaccapelo is not satisfied with the translation. However, a set of essays on economics is due to be released soon, edited by Spaccapelo, Fred Lawrence and Tomasi, a young Italian Lonergan scholar: Il teologo e l'economia.

Love that unites and that divides

One of the lovely things said by Jeremy Wilkins was about how Christ's love both united him and divided him from people. It obviously united him to them, which is not too difficult to understand. But how did it divide him? Because, said Jeremy, his love was so pure that he was pained by the smallness of those around him. But it was a sorrow 'untainted by malice.' What a lovely expression. I remember it being said of Cimatti, Salesian Apostle of Japan, that he too was pained by the imperfections of his confreres. Bernanos, it seems, said the same thing of Mary: what isolation she must have suffered because of the purity of her love.
Another impression from the current Lonergan Workshop is the way the Latin works of Lonergan are opening up. There have been several papers drawing from these Latin works, chief among them being that of Jeremy Wilkins on the Beatific Vision. Lovely title: "'The Silence of Eternity, Interpreted by Love': Love and Knowledge of God in Christ the Man." Jeremy was quite poetic; in fact, the first phrase of the title is drawn from a poet.

Then there was an old hand, William Murnion, a student of Lonergan's, who spoke about The Incarnate Word and The Triune God as models of theological method as interdisciplinary collaboration. I missed that one, but I have the paper with me.

This evening we look forward to Robert Doran's paper, "Sanctifying Grace, Charity, and Divine Indwelling: A Key to the Nexus Mysteriorum." Doran has been plugging away at the grace issue. His output is amazing. I asked him how he manages to write so much, while also editing the Collected Works. He said: in the morning I prepare for class or write. In the afternoons, when I don't have class, I work at the Collected Works. In the night, I look after the website (I guess he means his own website, as well as the Lonergan Archives he has been setting up). It would have been a dog's life, he said, if I were not enjoying myself so much.

The economic crisis: merely moral?

Paul St Amour was asking, in his paper, whether the current economic crisis is merely moral. Is it merely greed and irresponsibility that is at the root of this crisis, as President Obama seems to imply? And if so, is it merely a question of determination, of the will to overcome? St Amour thinks not. He, together with a range of economists (I think he mentioned Martin Wolff, Gillian Ted, Kevin Philips, James Fowles, Henry Haslett, Simon Johnson, Stephen Roach, Richard Duncan), believes that the prime cause is not greed but ignorance, or the lack of proper understanding of what has been going on. Many of these economists, together with Lonergan, are what St Amour calls 'realists': i.e., they believe that the real economy is the production economy, and that financial services and derivatives are precisely that: derivative.

I am no expert at all, but this does seem to vibe with what a Nashik friend says: that no one seems to really know what is going on, and that everyone becomes an expert after the fact.

The Workshop has changed

I first came to the Lonergan Workshop in the summer of '92. It was an exciting thing to hear the greats speaking: Fred Crowe, Fred Lawrence, Bob Doran, Phil McShane, Charles Hefling, Pat Bryne, and so on. Added to that, I was sharing a condominium, if that's the word, with Phil McShane and his wife. (I remember him teasing me for saying the Breviary; he was reading Insight early morning, and I thought: what a wonderful way of beginning the morning).

The Workshop has changed. The first generation Lonergan scholars do give papers, but not all of them: there is Pat Bryne this time, and Bob Doran, and David Burrell. Fred Crowe is 94 years old and in the Jesuit Infirmary at Pickering, Canada. Fred Lawrence has no paper. But there is a whole generation of new Lonergan scholars, many of them extremely competent, intelligent, and capable: Dominic Doyle who spoke on Christian Humanism on Monday, Jeremy Wilkins who spoke on the Beatific Vision in an astounding way yesterday, Paul St Amour who took us through the economics thing in a brilliant way despite it not being his field, Gordon Rixon SJ from Toronto, Gilles Mongeau SJ again from Regis College Toronto, and so on. I loved also the Rosemary Haughton paper from Sr Kathleen Williams.

One nice thing about the Workshop is that they vary the venues: the mornings and late afternoons in McGuinn Auditorium; the afternoon workshops at Carney and another place; the evening sessions at the 5th floor auditorium at Fulton. It helps. There is usually coffee, tea, soft drinks and snacks at 1030, then again at 1530, and perhaps also in the evenings. That way people can supplement their meals, because it does become very expensive eating in the Campus Messes.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Making things better than they were

Fred Lawrence mentioned something yesterday in his comment on my paper, about making Sankara better than he is. And yes, I thought, that is how De Smet has proceeded, not only w.r.t. Sankara, but w.r.t. to the whole Indian tradition that he studied: his eye of love enabled him to see things as perhaps better than they were. And, if that sounds terribly triumphalistic, perhaps it was that his eye of love saw and highlighted and promoted the good.

So interpretation and history might concentrate on What did he mean, and What really was going forward, but dialectic tries to develop the positions while reversing the counterpositions. Developing the positions: making things better than they were. Taking the good things forward in directions that perhaps were not actually taken by the protagonists.

So De Smet's interpretation of Sankara, even if proved 'wrong,' would certainly be in the line of such dialectic. And that is a legitimate thing!

Rosemary Haughton, Lonergan, and conversion

We have just had a wonderful paper by Kathleen Williams (Melbourne, Australia) connecting Lonergan and Rosemary Haughton. Lonergan is known to have admired Rosemary Haughton, and warmly recommended her books; his endorsement appears, I think, on the back covers of her books, and I have read and enjoyed and profited enormously from the work of this extraordinary woman theologian. So it was good to hear a paper linking her work with that of Lonergan.

Sr Williams focussed on conversion. Haughton might be said to engage the topic in a narrative mode, and Sr Williams has 4 utterly concrete examples of conversion in her paper. I found myself moved as she read out one of them. It is from such concrete experiences that theology must derive its categories, says Haughton. And, I thought, it is from the ability to illuminate such examples with the Word that the power of preaching derives. Or perhaps it is that the preacher must allow the Word to illuminate his own experience, which is also the experience he shares with the people of God.... At any rate, the Word becomes flesh again and again in our lives. And that is where, in the ordinary experience of our lives, in the experience of conflict, as the Law of our lives is challenged, as it breaks down, as a new horizon makes its appearance, that Haughton finds the experience of grace.

Critical Thinking with Lonergan

Plenty of thinking about Critical Thinking at the Lonergan Workshop. Or rather, more than one speaker brought to our notice the rather widespread movement that goes by the name of Critical Thinking. However, the recommendations were that we need critical thinking about Critical Thinking, which tends to be noun based rather than verb- or process-oriented, and which fails to focus on the relationships or processes connecting the nouns it concentrates on.

Also: critical thinking tends to neglect emotions, encourage linear rational thinking, favour the generic over the specific, is opposed to faith, is hostile to mystery, neglects the community, privileges the individual, etc.

People like Mike Stebbins have given up a university career to get into consultancy services, and are trying to work out a new model of critical thinking making use of the work of Bernard Lonergan.

The Catholic nature of a university

Dick Liddy, in his paper yesterday at the Lonergan Workshop, was asking about what makes a university Catholic. The US catholics have been struggling with this question for a long while now; perhaps we in India - even though we don't really have a university culture - should be asking ourselves the same question. At any rate, Liddy's suggestions were interesting: what makes a university Catholic is that it deals with questions dealing with - but not exclusive to - the Catholic tradition.

Teaching and journalling

Bill Mathews made an interesting suggestion yesterday: encouraging students to keep a journal while taking a course. This, he said, would help in maintaining the links between prayer, contemplation and thinking.

Dick Liddy added that he makes his students do some free writing at the beginning of every class, much with the same results: getting in touch with oneself, self-appropriation.

Useful suggestions, to be added to Henrici's suggestion about keeping the minutes of seminar sessions.

Managing oneself

Peter Drucker, great management guru, has been saying recently that he is no longer interested in teaching leaders how to manage people, but rather how to manage themselves. And Dee Hock: If you look to lead, spend 40% of your time on yourself, your character, motivations, principles, conduct.

Like Bulchand used to say years ago, quoting scripture: If you cannot look after your own household, how can you look after the household of God?

And so also formation: 40% of time looking after oneself. Learning how to manage oneself. The rest will follow.

The messiness of the human good

Eugene Ahner pointed out yesterday that ideas are abstract, but the good is concrete, which is why ideas can be clear and wonderful, but the good tends to be messy and ambiguous. Which explains why a thousand reasons can be brought against concrete realities like the Church, and religious congregations, and any concrete action. Any good short of God will be less than fully good, and therefore susceptible to criticism. But humility - recognition of our creature status - demands that we act and do the good that has been assigned to us. We are not the Messiah; we are part of the Body that is the Church, with our particular roles and tasks.

Reconceiving the Immaculate Conception

John Dadosky just gave a wonderful paper on the Immaculate Conception: "Women without Envy: Reconceiving the Immaculate Conception." He used Rene Girard and James Allison (the latter quite new to me) to interpret the doctrine of original sin which is at the basis of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. Theologians usually regard Pride as the root of Adam's sin; Girard and Allison seem to suggest that it is Envy that is the real root. Dadosky brought in Aquinas' distinction between good and bad desire: good desire is the desire to be like God with God's grace; bad desire is the desire to be like God on one's own.

Whatever: Mary, woman conceived without original sin, is the woman without envy, without bad desire. She is what she is entirely thanks to the grace and love of God. And, interestingly, Satan-Lucifer is envious of her: Lucifer who was the most beautiful, the brightest, second only to God, has to yield place to Mary, and that is one root of his envy and his revolt... And Mary is marked by Humility and Charity, the opposites of Pride and Envy: My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit exults in God my saviour.

Gilles Mongeau asked about the connection between Mariology and Ecclesiology: that would be important, he said, in offsetting the feeling (envy?) that many people have that Mary is somehow so special, so set apart. I asked Dadosky whether he was familiar with Ratzinger's Daughter Sion, he said no. Ratzinger has this wonderful connection - so obvious now to me - between Mary and the Church, Mary, the faithful woman, the new Israel....

Dadosky's work is a wonderful example of how to take Lonergan's hints further. Lonergan hints in Method in Theology that the development of Marian dogma has to do with humanity's development and refinement of feelings....

Lonergan on the Trinity

Was sitting with Bob Doran this afternoon for lunch. Asked him about the reviews of Lonergan's The Triune God: Systematics. He said he had not seen them, but that there were a few. According to him, he said, Lonergan's was the greatest systematics of the Trinity since Thomas Aquinas. Lonergan was far more detailed on the psychological analogy than Aquinas...

Bob says that the companion volume, The Triune God: Doctrines, should be out by the first of August. That is something to look forward to.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Remembering, Forgetting, Forgiving

The last chapter of one of Ricoeur's last books seems to have the suggestive title, Remembering, Forgetting, Forgiving.

We human beings - alone of all animals - live in time. Augustine, according to Keith, saw this as part of our fallen nature. I wonder if that is right. I thought being temporal was part of our human nature! It is more like Heidegger to conflate finitude and fallenness. But I like the expression Keith used in reporting Augustine, that our souls are plastic, they stretch backwards into the past and forward into the future.... And it is true: I am not just a creature of the present; I am, in many ways, my past; my past lives on in me, both my personal and 'my' collective past. And I stretch constantly into the future, anticipating, planning, dreading, looking forward to, expecting....

Ricoeur makes the lovely point, however, that it is not enough to remember. Memory can be cruel. We need to learn to forget, and to forgive. And here, said Keith, Christianity seems to be different from other religions who find it difficult to accept the possibility or the goodness or the rightness of learning to forget and to forgive....

"Do not ask me for forgiveness," says the Jewish survivor to the German lawyer, the protagonist of The Reader. And one understands that. One feels the outrage behind the words. And yet... is there a point at which one must let go of the past? Not necessarily for the sake of the other, but for oneself? Why did Jesus feel the need to repeatedly ask us to forgive? Because, as he himself said, we ourselves need to be forgiven and have indeed been forgiven?

And why do I tend to forget how much I have been forgiven? Why do I find it so hard to forgive, understand, make place for, human foibles, folly, cruelty, ingratitude, coarseness, la-parvah???

Good vs Right

Is there such a radical contrast between 'teleological' and 'deontological' as Keith proposed in his lecture?

The former seems to have suffered in his / Ricoeur's presentation: concern with the 'good' is static, conservative, rule-bound, and even at times violent. Concern with 'duty', instead, is concern with the right thing to do, and not merely the established 'good' thing.

I guess all these terms are so fluid that each philosopher can give his/her own meaning to them... So we would have to find out what really Ricoeur meant, before agreeing/disagreeing with him.

I would like to find out Ashley's comments on the matter. Virtue ethics seems to be a concentration on the 'good.'

Hermeneutics of trust

Keith kept calling Heidegger and Gadamer 'conservative' and 'traditionalist,' contrasting them with people like Habermas who are 'critical.'

But what of their - especially Heidegger's - efforts at Destruktion, deconstruction? Is that not a critical appropriation of the tradition?

Nietzsche, Freud and Tony De Mello

Keith passed an interesting remark while commenting on the Masters of Suspicion: it is well known that Freud had learned a lot from Nietzsche. It seems Freud said he had to stop reading Nietzsche, who seemed to be saying everything that Freud himself wanted to say, otherwise he would have nothing original left to say.

I thought of the novel I have been trying to read on Nietzsche and Freud: the impression I was getting was that Tony De Mello himself had taken a lot from Nietzsche. In the book, for example, Nietzsche says: No one really loves anyone else. All love is disguised self-interest. I remember Tony saying something like that. Might not be completely and absolutely true, but it does make one think, reflect, ask oneself about one's motives: why do I love this person? what am I getting out of it?

Hermeneutics of suspicion

Keith D'Souza's lecture was clear and stimulating. He spoke naturally about the critical component in understanding, Ricoeur's double hermeneutic of suspicion and recovery.

I found myself asking myself: in what way is this double hermeneutic at work in the functional specialty, dialectic? Lonergan used to speak indifferently of the 'double hermeneutic' and 'double dialectic.' Perhaps the moment of recovery is in research, interpretation, history, and the moment of suspicion in dialectic?

Certainly dialectic is the place for the moment of suspicion. But, what manner of suspicion? We dismiss other differences and concentrate on the dialectical ones. Differences rooted in the basic positions and counterpositions, intellectual, moral, religious. Different ways of conceiving knowing, being, objectivity. Deciding and acting on the basis of value or of satisfaction. Shutting oneself up in a rationalism, or being willing to allow for what transcends reason. Being moved by a total and unrestricted loving, and on the other hand something less than that...

Clearly, dialectical differences do not cover all types of differences. Differences rooted in data are out. Differences that are perspectival or even genetic are out. But does dialectic cover all other major differences?

What about different manners of interpreting the Preventive System? I guess most would be rooted in attitudes? and so?

Faith: propositions or relationships?

Keith D'Souza SJ gave a very interesting Inaugural Lecture this morning at Divyadaan. I forget the full title, but the subtitle was Reading Texts with Ricoeur.

One of the points was about traditional and contemporary faith. Traditional faith, Keith said, had to do with believing propositions; today faith is understood in terms of relationships.

The point is well taken. Faith is, in fact, primarily a question of relationship, of encounter, or of 'being encountered': God who has first searched for us, found us, loved us.

But: the 'existential' subject does not in any way exclude the subject functioning at the 'lower' levels of understanding and judging. A personalism and existentialism that concentrates on subjectivity to the exclusion of any concern for truth is not really doing anyone any service.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Person and Subject in Lonergan

Yesterday I managed to complete a more or less final version of my paper for Boston. Now the task of going through it once again, doing the 'toilet,' etc.

The title: "Person and Subject in Lonergan: A methodical transposition." I have omitted mention of De Smet and Sankara, because I am not really doing that, merely indicating possible results of using 'subject' as upper blade.

So most of the paper consists in bringing together the data in Lonergan on his transposition from person to subject. The data is found mostly in his Latin notes: De Constitutione Christi... (1956), Divinarum Personarum... (1957) = De Deo Trino, II (1964), and De Verbo Incarnato (1961). There is some good matter also in "Christ as Subject" (1959).

Nothing dramatic or earth-shaking. But it is instructive how Lonergan is able to make the term person systematic by inserting it within a clutch of terms, and similarly for the term subject. The former is inserted into a (largely classical) metaphysical context, while the latter is inserted into that of intentionality analysis. The crucial and critical notion as far as the latter is concerned is consciousness.

I became aware that the dialectic of consciousness is based on the Aristotelian-Thomist theorem of knowing by identity (sensible in act is the sense in act, intelligible in act is the intellect in act), but that this is precisely a theorem, a postulate, an assumption. That is why, perhaps, the 'epistemology' of Insight, the dialectical part (chapter 14), does not make use of it, appealing instead to the basic counterpositions or performative contradictions.

Using this data to read De Smet on Sankara, I discussed briefly the following: cognitional theory, the notion of being, consciousness, the human self.

The conclusion is that there is sufficient data in Sankara to indicate that he recognized both divine and human subjects, and that his notion of consciousness seems to be consciousness-experience. But all these are heuristic anticipations, to be confirmed by further and full study of the data.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Human beings and authenticity

I am still struggling to get my paper for Boston in shape. Yesterday I began a completely fresh draft, a fresh approach, a genetic or developmental approach to the notion of person, subject and consciousness.

This morning I was dipping into The Triune God: Systematics (earlier De Deo Trino II, now CWL 12), and came across some wonderful passages, e.g. the sustained comparison of temporal and eternal subjects. Lonergan speaks of the two phases of a temporal subject, goes on to note that the transition to the second phase is under the influence of other subjects, then points out that there are three ways in which this transition can be made: by understanding, by means of a true word (revelation!), and by love. Then he lists obstacles to such achievement of authenticity (he is not quite using this word here, he uses the word 'genuine' as in Insight). I have not read all this carefully as yet, but I am sure there is consideration of the role of friendship, both its positive role and its possibly negative role as an obstacle to authenticity.

Then Lonergan goes on to marvellously construct an analogous conception of the eternal subjects....