Sunday, 19 December 2010

The 'pure' desire to know

Shute gives a good clarification of Lonergan's often misunderstood term 'pure' desire to know: it is "intelligence unencumbered by the drag of the biases." (Shute, Lonergan's Discovery of the Science of Economics, Toronto 2010, 79 n 57) Thus he is not affirming that we have, at any time, a pure desire to know. It is rather the pure desire considered apart from the biases. It is a 'line of reference' or a first approximation, somewhat like the 'state of pure nature' in medieval theology.

Lonergan also talks of the pure theory of external human action ("Essay in Fundamental Sociology," LEER 17), of the 'pure cycle' and 'pure surplus income' in his economics, and of 'pure formulations' in his theory of interpretation (Insight CWL 3:602).

Rationalism

I have been suspecting that an example of a religious counterposition (Lonergan) is rationalism, and in fact this does seem to be the case, not only if we look at the Epilogue of Insight, but also from the 'dialectic of thought' in his early writings, the Essay in Fundamental Sociology: see M. Shute, Lonergan's Discovery of the Science of Economics (Toronto 2010) 86. He mentions liberalism and Bolshevism as examples of such rationalism.

I wonder whether contemporary theology must not take a look once again at rationalism, or rather, the danger it runs of being rationalistic.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Marcel Mauss and others on 'gift'

Stefano Curci, associate professor at the UPS, mentioned Benedict XVI's "economy of the gift" (economia del dono) during his talk at the Demaria Convegno. He mentioned several contemporary philosophers who have been discussing 'gift': Marcel Mauss, Levinas, Derrida and Ricoeur. He did not mention John Milbank. Matter for a good MPh paper here.

Lechte, John. “Exchange.” Key Contemporary Concepts: From Abjection to Zeno’s Paradox. London: Sage, 2003. 76-80.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Questions for and about Lonergan

I am just back from Thomas Chacko's defence of his thesis, Lonergan's Virtually Unconditioned: The Ground of Judgment, at Dharmaram Vidya Ksetram, Bangalore.

The defence was a rather vigorous affair, with four on the board including the chairperson / moderator, who was also the Dean of the Philosophy Department, and Director of the thesis, Saju Chackalackal. The others on the board were: Jose Nandhikkara, Wittgenstein specialist; Mathew Chandrankunnel, specialist in science and religion; and myself for the Lonergan angle. Saju is a Kant specialist.

The style of defence at Dharmaram is, as I have said, rather vigorous: a no holds barred attack. That, the professors told me, is how they interpret intellectual honesty and challenge.

Some of the questions for and about Lonergan were interesting: Does Lonergan have anything original to contribute, or is he simply repeating Aristotle, Aquinas and Newman? What is the difference between Lonergan and Kant? The only difference between Aquinas and Kant is that Kant was more honest about the limits of knowledge; otherwise, both are agreed that human knowledge is a product of sense intuition as well as the mind. Is Lonergan a critical realist? Then he cannot be an empiricist. Is he empirical? Then he cannot be critical. And so on.

The Kant thing particularly stunned me. Is there no difference between Kant and Aquinas, except in the direction of greater honesty or modesty? I think we have to reflect here on the basic assumptions: does Aquinas assume - as I presume Kant does - that there is a primordial split between subject and object, that we have privileged knowledge of the subject, and that the problem of epistemology is that we have to get from subject to object? Does he not, as Lonergan points out, make an option between Aristotle and Plato - Plato who thought of knowledge as confrontation, and was then faced with ultimate duality when thinking of the knowledge in the Ultimate, and Aristotle who thought of knowledge as perfection and identity, so that he had no problem of duality when thinking of divine knowledge?

Saturday, 6 November 2010

The hermeneutic tradition and its transformation

Ormiston and Schrift make a connection between Schleiermacher, Dilthey, Heidegger, Gadamer, Betti, Habermas and Ricoeur, and propose that Nietzsche challenges this tradition. (Gayle L. Ormiston and Schrift, "Editors' Introduction," Transforming the Hermeneutic Context: From Nietzsche to Nancy, ed. Gayle L. Ormiston and Alan D. Schrift [Albany: SUNY Press, 1990] 14.) This is an interesting reading! The book itself deals with the transformation of the hermeneutic context, meaning the transformation wrought by Nietzsche, Foucault, Derrida, Kristeva, and so on, of the tradition represented in the companion volume The Hermeneutic Tradition: From Ast to Ricoeur (Albany: SUNY press, 1990).

Which means that my notes are more centred on the tradition; I still need to get familiar with its breakup or transformation.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

A different interpretation of Schleiermacher's hermeneutics

Jean Grondin challenges Gadamer's interpretation of Schleiermacher's hermeneutics. Today I discovered that Klemm agrees with Grondin, and in fact points out that Dilthey, Gadamer and Ricoeur have all contributed to the misunderstanding of Schleiermacher:
“Serious errors of understanding occur when one side or the other is given such arbitrary preferential treatment. I need only mention the names of Dilthey, Gadamer and Ricoeur to refer to some of these errors, which cannot be attributed to Schleiermacher. Recent scholarship, led by Manfred Frank, has seen through the one-sided interpretations of each of these otherwise great thinkers who have influenced generations of Schleiermacher interpreters.” (David E. Klemm, "Schleiermacher's Hermeneutic: The Sacred and the Profane," The Sacred and the Profane: Contemporary Demands on Hermeneutics, ed. Jeffrey F. Keuss [Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003] 68.) 

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Interviews on hermeneutics

Keith D'Souza, SJ, professor of philosophy at St Pius X Seminary, Goregaon, Mumbai, and I were interviewed twice at the IGNOU seminar on Philosophy and Distance Learning. The first was a video recording meant largely for undergraduate students; the anchor was Prof. Gracious Thomas, HoD Social Work, IGNOU. The second was a live telecast, with a live audience and Dr Babu Emmanuel, SVD, Spokesperson CBCI, as anchor.

I realize I have to brush up my Schleiermacher and Dilthey, and also Deconstructionism.

Dr Annie Kunnoth, recently returned from Paris with a PhD on Paul Ricoeur, and currently teaching at the Jamia Milia University, Delhi, pointed out that for the last 20 years or so, Schleiermacher is not considered as the 'father' of modern / universal hermeneutics. I guess she was pointing out to what people like Grondin (and Greisch, she said) are saying, that universal hermeneutics was proposed already in the previous century, by rationalists like Dannhauer, Chladenius and Meier. The plea fell on deaf ears; Ast and Schlegel know nothing about this attempt, and so Schleiermacher can make the claim to be the first to call for a universal hermeneutics.

Annie also 'objected' to or perhaps corrected my mention of friendship as a condition for attainment of truth. Not friendship, she said, but respect. Friendship is interpersonal, and cannot be expected in a collaborative search for truth; respect, instead, can and must be demanded. Whatever: but the group is an important element in the question of objectivity / truth in hermeneutics / interpretation. I think I remember Ricoeur saying that dialectic is the royal road to truth. Lonergan' functional specialty dialectic is designed to be done in group. That is one emphasis that he can surely bring to the hermeneutics debate.

What was a strange sensation was to find that 'objectivity' and 'truth' was not seen as much of a problem by Keith. In fact, coming to think of it, he never once mentioned historicism during all our discussions, and certainly not in the recorded / live interviews. Yet that was the great problem facing the historicists - especially Dilthey. And that was, according to many, Heidegger's great contribution: the demolition of the problem: don't try to get out of the hermeneutical circle of your historicity, just get into it properly. Which Gadamer put in his famous formulation, that prejudices, far from being hindrances to truth, are the only means we have to truth. Effective history as the only way to truth. And effective history as more being than consciousness - another thing that Keith did not seem to want to emphasize.

So what was the way to truth / objectivity for a Ricoeurian like Keith? Understanding (from Gadamer); explanation (from Ricoeur - basically, use of the 'lower blade' methods such as form and redaction criticism); application (a la Ricoeur - in the more traditional sense of 'application' to some problem, relevance, rather than the "If I cannot apply I do not understand" of Gadamer - if I don't have a question, if the text does not answer my question, there is no understanding at all).

Then again, from Habermas, four aspects: the statement must be understandable (logical criterion of meaningfulness); it must be true (objectivity - a matter of 'explanation'); it must be truthful (I should not want to deceive; I must tell the truth); it must be right (there must be respect; no manipulation).

All fine. I prefer to summarize these in terms of the proximate criterion in grasp of the virtually unconditioned - with the absence of further relevant questions, as well as evidence, as the key moments; and authenticity as the remote criterion, where authenticity is at least triple layered: intellectual / philosophical; moral; religious.

But probably both Keith and I were rather 'uncontroversial'. I wonder what would have happened if the postmodern / deconstructionist questions had really arisen. But then one has to take a stand. Does Derrida proscribe all talk of truth as will to power? One simple tack is to simply disagree.

ACPI Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The ACPI Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2 vols), ed. Johnson J. Puthenpurackal, OFM Cap and George Panthanmackel, MSFS, was released on 23 October 2010 by H.E. Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi, at Father Agnel School Auditorium, Gautam Nagar, New Delhi, in the presence of a number of dignitaries, including Justice Sree Markandey Katju of the Supreme Court of India, Dr Cyriac Thomas, Member of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, Dr Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Islamic Scholar and Padma Bhushan Awardee, Mr John Dayal, Chairperson, Minority Commission of INdia, and Prof. Gracious Thomas, Coordinator, CBCI Chair, IGNOU.

The encyclopedia is the  fruit of the very hard work of the two chief editors, assisted by a board of sectional editors who include Keith D'Souza, SJ, Augustine Thottakara, CMI, Kuruvilla Pandikattu, SJ, Stanislaus Swamikannu, SDB, Vincent Aind, Saju Chackalackal, CMI, and Ivo Coelho, SDB.

The two volume work contains 422 entries, more than 80% of which were contributed by members of the ACPI and staff of various Christian institutions all over the country. Very handsomely brought out by ATC Bangalore, the encyclopedia is a pleasure to the eye.

Among Indian Christian thinkers, the following are included: Swami Abhishiktananda, Robert De Nobili, Richard De Smet, (Mother Teresa), Raimon Panikkar, Brahmabandhav Upadhyaya. Missing: J. Putz, Pierre Johanns, J. Bayart, G. Dandoy, R. Antoine, P. Fallon... the whole 'Calcutta Jesuit School of Indology'. But that is largely my fault: I could not whip up an article in time for the publication, and perhaps the matter was difficult to come by. I am very glad that De Smet and Thomas Stephens (strangely listed under 'T') found their way in, though.

A milestone for the ACPI which was "conceived in 1975 and born in 1976 at Aluva (Kerala)" under the guidance and inspiration of the late Fr Richard De Smet, SJ, and the initiative of Dr Albert Nambiaparambil, CMI.

Our warmest congratulations to Johnson and George, and to the whole ACPI!

For a Divyadaan angle (besides the sectional editors), here is a breakdown:

Joachim [sic] D'Souza: Neo-Scholasticism
Jose Alapurackal: Bhagavad Gita
Nelson Falcao: Stephens, Thomas
Ashley Miranda: Conscience; Duty; Justice
Robert Pen: Communication; Media (in India); Rumour
Ivo Coelho: Analogy; Critical Realism; De Smet, Richard; Foundationalism


For a Salesian angle, besides the above, see:

John Alexander
Thomas Anchukandom
Edwin George
Sahayadas Fernando
Joy Kachapilly
Jose Kuruvachira
Jose Kuttianimattathil
Arnold Mahesh
Jose Maliekal
Joe Mannath
Joe Tony Previnth
Rinoy Joseph
Stanislaus Swamikannu
George Thadathil
Tomy Augustine
Dominic Veliath
Swami Vikrant
Wilson Jose

Violence and its Victims: ACPI vol. 11

The 11th volume of the ACPI proceedings is finally out: Violence and its Victims: A Challenge to Philosophizing in the Indian Context, ed. Ivo Coelho (Bangalore: ATC, 2010). Rs 300.00. 

The book was released together with the ACPI Encyclopedia of Philosophy at a function on 23 October 2010 at New Delhi. 

Wonderful and memorable year for the ACPI. 

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Collected Works of Lonergan in Italian

Information about the Italian Collected Works. 
Lonergan, Bernard J. F.
TitoloOpere di Bernard J. F. Lonergan
PubblicazioneRoma : Città nuova
Descrizione fisicav. ; 22 cm.
Titolo uniformeCollected works of Bernard Lonergan.
Comprende 2: Conoscenza e interiorità
 3: Insight
 5: Comprendere e essere
 10: Sull'educazione
 12: Il metodo in teologia
NomiLonergan, Bernard J. F.
Polo SBN di Cosenza / Biblioteca Nazionale di Cosenza

Lonergan's economics and laissez-faire

“Lonergan found seriously wanting, as universally valid advice, the policy of laissez-faire for government (conventionally linked with the names of Marshall and Walras, even though this may never have been the explicit intention of either) and thrift and enterprise for individuals. For Lonergan this policy was based on assumptions of equilibrium theory that did not integrate a grasp of diverse and highly contingent equilibria appropriate to different phases of an expanding economy. Thus, the presupposition of the automatic movement of the market toward equilibrium tended concretely to result in liberal capitalism’s exploitation and oppression of the workers that Marshall, too, wanted to resolve through economic intelligence. As Lonergan stressed repeatedly, thrift and enterprise are the correct behaviour when an economy is undergoing the vast widening and deepening of capital formation. As soon as capital formation levels off, and a new phase of widening and deepening the standard of living ought to begin, raising workers’ wages and extension of their credit balances, for instance, might be more responsible courses of action than thrift and enterprise.” [Frederick G. Lawrence, Patrick H. Byrne, Charles C. Helfing, Jr., “Editor’s Introduction,” Bernard Lonergan, Macroeconomic Dynamics: An Essay in Circulation Analysis, Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan 15 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999) xlvii-xlviii.] 

So: not blanket laissez-faire, but: the concrete players in the economy are the individuals; strategic advice is given by the practical economist; the government's role is to lay down the rules of the game, and to make sure they are obeyed. 

The advice recommended: thrift and enterprise during a surplus expansion; benevolence during a basic expansion. An anti-egalitarian distribution of income during a surplus expansion to ensure that the savings rate increases; an egalitarian shift during a basic expansion to ensure that the expansion takes place or continues to take place. 

Again: maximization of profit cannot be the ruling mantra. The anti-egalitarian distribution is valid only for the surplus expansion, and the pure surplus income of the rich is meant not for their own comfort and pleasure, but for reinvestment. This distribution has to come to an end, in favour of a more egalitarian distribution, otherwise the basic expansion will not take off or continue. 

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Lonergan on economics: For a New Political Economy

After having gone through chapters 5-8 of Shute, I felt I had to get some matters clear, especially regarding the trade cycle, so I began dipping into Lonergan himself, For a New Political Economy. Delighted that I am able to more or less keep up with him, and he is certainly much clearer than his interpreters, at least, that is my first impression. But then having read the interpretations is already to be factored into the 'clarity' and 'ease' with which the original is opening up....

I wrote something to Viplav Kambli about a piece on inflation that he sent me yesterday - advice on how to invest at a time when inflation cuts into fixed deposits. He wrote back briefly, and I wrote back trying to outline how Lonergan might understand inflation as not primarily an economic phenomenon, but as a phenomenon linked to the production process. I realized in the course of writing that there is much more that I have to become clear about.

I have to keep in mind, first of all, Lonergan's use of the method of approximation. The pure cycle, with its 3 or 4 phases (capitalist, materialist, cultural, stationary) is a first approximation. The trade cycle is the beginning of a second approximation: what happens when pure surplus income is misunderstood by capitalists, or by governments, or by labour and labour unions. In his economics manuscripts, Lonergan does not go into the third step of the approximation, the step of healing or redemption: that is reserved for his later work, and is necessarily theological in his perspective.

But it is a nice feeling when, going through FNPE, the famous baseball diamond diagram becomes clearer....

One of the questions that I have to tackle: why the theorem of continuity? I think Lonergan says that this theorem is valid, as elaborated in chapter 5, only in the static phase. In chapter 6 he generalizes it. But: what is the point of this theorem?

Another question: why the normative proportion? And what is the significance of the consequences drawn? “It follows that the profit motive is subject to decreasing returns.” [FNPE 54.]


At any rate, Lonergan clearly critiques the profit motive of capitalism: it works very well in the capitalist phase; it works less and less well in the materialist phase when surplus ratio is decreasing; it has no leverage at all in the static phase when S is zero; and it works less well in each successive stage of economic development. [FNPE 56.]

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Arthos' The Inner Word in Gadamer's Hermeneutics

Just received for review John Arthos' The Inner Word in Gadamer’s Hermeneutics (Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009). Wonderfully brought out, a pleasure to see and feel. As Pradeep Sebastian says: "The book is a physical object. And I see it as a work of art, where binding, typography, edition matter." (The Groaning Shelf, Hachete, cited in Suresh Menon, "A Modest Miracle: The Groaning Shelf is a stylish, cultural landmark communicating one man's passion to a larger audience," The Hindu, Sunday, 3 October 2010, p. 2.)

To his credit, Arthos notes that De natura verbi intellectus is possibly spurious, even though Gadamer regarded it as a genuine work of Aquinas. 

Again, interestingly Lonergan’s Verbum and The Way to Nicea are cited in the Bibliography, though not in the (very short) Index. Fred Lawrence is not, however. 

Pickstock is mentioned in the book (p. ??), though neither in the Bibliography nor in the Index. 

Friday, 24 September 2010

Postmodern theology: bibliography

Diogenes Allen. Christian Belief in a Postmodern World: The Full Wealth of Conviction. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster / John Knox Press, 1989.

Claude Geffre. The Risk of Interpretation: On Being Faithful to the Christian Tradition in a Non-Christian Age. New York / Mahwah: Paulist, 1987.

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Postmodern Theology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, [2003] 2009.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Wilfred's Beyond Settled Foundations

From Felix Wilfred, Beyond Settled Foundations:

The Theological Heritage of Thomas Christians
The Colonial Times and Roberto de Nobili
A Turning Point: Brahmobandhav Upadhyaya
Widening of the Horizons: Fr P. Johanns and the Calcutta School; Theology in the Milieu of Ashrams; Swami Parama Arubi Anandam [Jules Monchanin]; Swami Abhishiktananda; Swami Dayananda [Bede Griffiths].
Theology in a New Socio-Political Context
Supports for Theologizing
Representatives of Religio-Cultural Orientation: Panikkar; Amalorpavadass; Chethimattam; Amaladoss.
Representatives of Socio-Political Orientation: Kappen; Rayan; Soares-Prabhu.
Theology, the Divine Mystery and the World
Christology and Ecclesiology
Evangelization and Liberation
Dialogue and Theology of Religions
Conclusion: Whither Indian Theology?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Lonergan on person

"The Origins of Christian Realism," Second Collection 251-3.
'The Contemporary Notion of Person' in "Lecture 3: Philosophy of God and the Functional Specialty 'Systematics'," CWL 17:210-11.

Common names and properly explanatory terms

One of Aristotle's defects, according to Lonergan is "a certain blurring" of the difference between common names and truly explanatory conjugates:
"Again, there is to his thinking a certain blurring of the difference between the common names developed by common sense and the technical terms elaborated by explanatory science." (Method in Theology 311.)
Lonergan, instead, distinguishes sharply between common names and explanatory conjugates. Common names involve 'linguistic' insights - insights into proper use of language, whereas explanatory conjugates are the fruit of science. So, properly speaking, the 'concepts' that we usually have are mostly common names; we have really very few concepts that are explanatory conjugates. When we see a tree and recognize it, we do not really obtain - 'by abstraction' - the concept of a tree in the properly explanatory sense. We are merely using the name 'tree' properly. Abstraction of the concept of tree is a matter for the botanical scientist - and even she does not come to the concept 'automatically', but only at the term of much hard work. We do not, in other words, obtain 'forms' by 'automatic abstraction' or by some sort of 'intellectual intuition' - we have to work to obtain them. Thus the nature of a free fall might descriptively be said to be a constant acceleration, but the pertinent conjugate form is given only in the relevant empirically verified law - s = gt2/2. 

Embarassing doctrines

Quotable Quotes from Lonergan"
"Doctrines that are embarrassing will not be mentioned in polite company." (Method in Theology 299.)

A "perhaps not numerous center"

Quotable Quotes from Lonergan"
Neither the solid right nor the scattered left but a “perhaps not numerous center”. [see Lonergan, “Dimensions of Meaning,” Collection, CWL 4:245.]

New relation between philosophy and theology

Quotable Quotes from Lonergan: 
“Indeed, once philosophy becomes existential and historical, once it asks about man, not in the abstract, not as he would be in some state of pure nature, but as in fact he is here and now in all the concreteness of his living and dying, the very possibility of the old distinction between philosophy and theology vanishes.” ["Dimensions of Meaning," Collection, CWL 4:245.] 

Friday, 17 September 2010

Postmodern theology: bibliography

John D. Caputo, ed. The Religious. Oxford: Blackwell, 2002. "Introduction: Who Comes After the God of Metaphysics?" Part I: Landmarks. [Selections from Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Levinas, Derrida, Irigaray.] Part II: Contemporary Essays. [By Marion, Dominique Janicaud, Kevin Hart, Richard Kearney, Mark I. Wallace, Ellen T. Armour, Grace M. Jantzen, Walter Lowe, Charles E. Winquist, Merold Westphal, John Milbank, "Darkness and Silence: Evil and the Western Legacy," 277-300, Sharon Welch.]

Postmodern theology and the tradition-innovation dialectic

Postmodern theology: actually one more aspect of the tradition-innovation dialectic. But one that is quite different, insofar as one tendency in it tends to eschew the notion of truth taken for granted in earlier theology. This itself is qualified by the fact that Radical Orthodoxy, post-liberal theology, post-secular theology, and post-postliberal theology perhaps do retain the traditional notion of truth.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Hauerwas inspiration for Radical Orthodoxy

Just learned that Hauerwas is actually a major inspiration for Radical Orthodoxy (see McMahon in Heythrop Journal). This does not, of course, mean that they are saying the same thing - I find myself more in sympathy with Hauerwas than with RO.

Secularism, the Scotist notion of being, and India

Milbank's bete noire - as, interestingly, also Lonergan's - is Duns Scotus and his equivocal notion of being, applicable equally to both God and creatures. It is this notion of being that made possible an account of the world as apart from God, and provided the basis for the concepts of pure nature and the secular in Western modernity.

Certainly Sankara's understanding of Being / Sat is not equivocal: even the most extreme monist interpreters would admit that, to the point of actually regarding the world as maya understood as illusion.

So: where are we?

What do we need to do as Christian thinkers in India? What kind of reading of the Western and Indian tradition? Our complexity, which is largely unknown to the West except for people like Clooney, is the new post-inculturation opposition between Brahmanic Hinduism and the subaltern / Dalit sensibility. Yet perhaps we cannot simply jettison the past. I am for engagement with it - even the Brahmanic past.

Lonergan is not 'sexy'

Extremely interesting remark by McMahon in his article on Radical Orthodoxy and Lonergan: "Lonergan's project is not 'sexy'." ["Theology and the Redemptive Mission of the Church: A Catholic Response to Milbank's Challenge." Heythrop Journal 51/5 (2010) 788.]


He goes on: "His writing is precise and seldom given over to rhetorical flourish or the playfulness found in much RO writing." [788.]

I think this remark is remarkable in the way it captures an essential difference between Lonergan and much other, extremely attractive, writing: Heidegger, for example (but not Gadamer), and now certainly Milbank, Pickstock and company.


In fact, what Milbank says about Aquinas in comparison to Heidegger might well be applied to Lonergan in comparison to Milbank and his companions: "Some thinkers, like Heidegger, appear on the surface to be obscure and deep, but on analysis are revealed as offering all too clear and readily statable positions. But as Rudi te Velde very well intimates, with Aquinas the opposite pertains. Only superficially is he clear, but on analysis one discovers that he does not a t all offer us a decently confined ‘Anglo-Saxon’ lucidity....” [John Milbank and Catherine Pickstock, Truth in Aquinas (London and New York: Routledge, 2001) 20.]

The varieties of postmodernism

Certainly one of the gains of recent reading is the realization that there are more varieties of postmodernism that I have been given to understand.

Perhaps I - we - have been under the impression that postmodernism means only people like Derrida and Rorty, and Caputo following Derrida, and of course Lyotard, Foucault, Irigaray, Vattimo...

But there are some other, perhaps unwelcome, bedfellows: the recent discovery is of Radical Orthodoxy, with John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, Graham Ward, Gerard Loughlin; the postliberalism of Lindbeck and Frei; the post-postliberalism of Stanley Hauerwas and Kevin Vanhoozer; Alasdair MacIntyre. Then also the willingness of the RO people to include Balthasar as one of their inspirations.

RO and the post-postliberals, for example - and here they have common cause with Caputo - mount a vicious attack on secularism. (I wonder whether Hauerwas' remarks on capitalism are echoes of Milbank.) But, where RO is anti-authoritarianism and anti-pope, including anti-John Paul II (I think), Hauerwas is clearly pro-John Paul II, and is even accused of being too Catholic. But he remains unfazed.

Radical Orthodoxy on faith and reason

I was trying to find out how Radical Orthodoxy understands the relationship of faith and reason in Aquinas. They certainly do not deny that Aquinas has this distinction. However, they say that it is far more porous than usually thought.

So: in what way more porous? I quote my summary:

Milbank hopes to show that the distinguished approaches “can at the very most be thought of only as distinct phases within a single gnoseological extension exhibiting the same qualities throughout. Then we will further establish that even the phases are not clearly bounded in terms of what can or cannot be achieved.... Having established these points concerning Aquinas’s method, we shall then show how his ‘rational’ treatment of Creation is informed by faith, while his exposition of the revealed Trinity is in fact highly demonstrative. [So what’s new about this?] Throughout we hope to show how a ‘radically orthodox’ position (primarily characterized by a more persistent refusal of distinct ‘natural’ and ‘supernatural’ phases and a consequent assault upon an autonomous naturalism as ‘nihilistic’), can indeed be rendered as an attentive reading of Aquinas.” [21.]

So the rejection of the natural-supernatural distinction – see de Lubac – is fundamental to RO. Wonderful. Something to be chewed upon! See Guy Mansini, who calls this the fundamental theological point – a watershed – in the 20th century. See also Michael Stebbins’ excellent reading of Lonergan on this point in his The Divine Initiative. See my notes on this topic somewhere – perhaps on this blog. I have also downloaded an article by Raymond Moloney, “De Lubac and Lonergan on the Supernatural.” But Stebbins is far superior on the point.

My feeling: what RO is trying to say might not be that different - or radically new - when compared to someone like Lonergan. In fact, my feeling is that Lonergan will be far superior on the proper understanding of the natural-supernatural distinction. From my cursory reading of Stebbins, I have the impression that Lonergan even corrects de Lubac, and certainly brings a far more sophisticated reading to the distinction. 

Whatever: I must admit that Mansini - despite his snide remarks on Lonergan - seems right on when he identifies the distinction as a watershed in 20th century philosophy. 

Metaphysics and the sciences

I am reading ch. 14 of Insight, on the relation of metaphysics to the sciences and to common sense: metaphysics conceived as the integral heuristic structure of proportionate being takes the results of science and common sense, reverses their counterpositions, and integrates them.

A very precise relationship between metaphysics and science / common sense.

Also the - perhaps so far unique to Lonergan - idea that forms are obtained, not by (descriptive) common sense, but by (explanatory) science. That the insights of common sense, far from arriving - automatically, as it were - at the forms of things, are actually linguistic insights, and they give us the ability to deal with the world. But that the true understanding or explanations of things is to be obtained by the respective science. (And here, as far as common sense is concerned, plenty of echoes with postmoderns like Rorty.... My feeling that what Rorty says fits in very well with what Lonergan says about common sense.)

How, I wonder, would Radical Orthodoxy conceive of the relationship between metaphysics and science? Or perhaps there is no relationship? Not likely.

Certainly both Lonergan and RO meditate / take seriously the idea of theology as the queen of the sciences. The question is to pinpoint the differences, for differences there do seem to be. RO is aggressively anti-secular, and perhaps also anti-other-religions.

Radical Orthodoxy and Lonergan

I was searching for someone engaging Radical Orthodoxy and Lonergan, and here is one such: Christopher McMahon, "Theology and the Redemptive Mission of the Church: A Catholic Response to Milbank's Challenge." Heythrop Journal 51/5 (2010) 781-94. I have just glanced through the article, but there does not, however, seem to be any reflection on the natural-supernatural distinction.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Radical Orthodoxy and Balthasar

It would seem that Radical Orthodoxy is not averse to Balthasar. Several of the essays (see Loughlin and Bauerschmidt) in Radical Orthodoxy quote him, if not actually study him, with approval, though there is also the occasional disagreement and 'correction' of perspective.

Aidan Nichols and Radical Orthodoxy

I have been dipping into the work of Aidan Nichols as well as Radical Orthodoxy, and just now came across an interesting interaction between the two in Nichols' Christendom Awake: On Re-energizing the Church in Culture (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans, 1999). In his introduction he says:
At the beginning of the decade a courageous and encouragingly influential study was dedicated by its author, Dr John Milbank of Peterhouse, Cambridge, to 'the remnants of Christendom'. (xii)
However, in the note Nichols makes note of his own caveats in his essay, "Non tali auxilio: John Milbank's Suasion to Orthodoxy," New Blackfriars 73/861 (1992) 326-32.

Nichols also quotes Gerard Loughlin, another proponent of Radical Orthodoxy, in the same introduction.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Objectivity, reality, the 'already-out-there-now-real'

Phil and I talked all the way down to Mumbai yesterday, and then more during the day at Provincial House. One of the points he kept making was about the strangeness of reality: what you see is not really real; it is an illusion; try taking off your glasses. He cited Lonergan at the end of "Cognitional Structure", which I must really look up. But: I am uncomfortable with this way of speaking. I prefer to say: the data of seeing is just that - the given, the data. To say it is an illusion is already to have made a judgment! I prefer to say: we do not know the real by seeing - otherwise we would not say, "The stick in the jar of water seems bent, but it really is not." We know the real by judging.

The 'already-out-there-now-real', in my understanding is the real as a part of what is already out there now: one part is real, the other unreal; and real and unreal are fixed by relevance to biological satisfaction.

The given is valid in all its parts, but differently significant. If I am seeing, I am seeing; but I may realize, upon judging that I have been hallucinating, or, perhaps, dreaming. The given still remains valid; but it may be of interest to the psychologist or the psychiatrist rather than the physicist or chemist.

Monday, 13 September 2010

How Great Ye art

Phil has been speaking all day about the Trinitarian God and eschatology and things. He has been saying, for example, that the hymn "How Great Thou art" should really run "How Great Ye art". "Thou", according to him, indicates the "Hebrew God", whereas the "Ye" takes into account the Trinitarian God.

There is a sense in which the "I" is always a "We" as well: the three persons and my little I.

So when Lonergan writes "As we have been saying...", the "we", quite beyond his intention perhaps, indicates the action of the three. And this, I would think, fits in very well with human instrumentality; with the idea of understanding as a pati, as a passion rather than an action, and with the stumblings of Heidegger and the postmoderns towards the decentering of the isolated Cartesian subject so as to recognize the emergence of insight and action from sources far beyond this kind of isolated subject...

Lonergan and Thomas Aquinas

I was surprised this evening at tea when one of our priest confreres, Lawrence D'Souza, revealed that he had been reading Lonergan on the web "in order to fight with you." He was surprised to learn that Lonergan had learnt from Thomas Aquinas, and that, in fact, he was one of the major interpreters of Thomas in the last century. He was, naturally, also surprised to learn that Lonergan had also written on economics. But the greatest surprise was on my part: that one of my confreres has been reading Lonergan. Cheers!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Economics slowly by slowly

Phil McShane said he was trying out a new approach. In the past, he had tried to present the whole of Lonergan's economics, and he had failed to make any impression. Now he was trying to go step by step. The "Grade XII Class" was one such effort. The 8 articles in Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education was another effort in the same line, introducing the notions of basic and surplus circuits, promising, credit, money, and the goal of the economy with the help of examples of simple businesses.

My impression is that this new strategy is helpful. Though it is quite impossible to assume that I have really understood, still, it is a good start. I found that, against the background of my reading of the articles in Divyadaan, other reading began opening up: Michael Shute's Lonergan's Discovery of the Science of Economics; McShane's own Sane Economics and Fusionism; Anderson and McShane's Beyond Establishment Economics: No Thank You, Mankiw.

So "economics slowly by slowly" seems to be working... Though I think it is possible sometimes to go too slowly; then a little speed might help. A variation of approaches, then. McShane himself admits the need to break up elementary presentation with the long term view.

"Towards a New Economic Order": Day Three

The third day of the McShane Workshop began with an attempt to image global economics along the lines of global hydrodynamics. In 1897 we had Howard Lace's 800 page book on hydrostatics, which remained in use for over half a century. In 1997 we had Lighthill's four volumes of a 1000 pages each on the history of hydrodynamics. Perhaps in 2097 we will have a book on global economics, Phil suggested.

The next two sessions were dedicated mostly to questions: about the mechanism of price rises when there is excess money and the quantity of consumer goods remains static; the 'idealism' of Lonergan's exclusion of centralist controls and expectations that the economy will one day be controlled by the good sense of people, given that there will be a culture in which his 'diagram' has become a molecular image, something that people carry in their bones; the role of politics (no role, Phil answered, just as today politicians would never dare to pontificate on hydrodynamics); the role of religion (great role in shaping the hope of a fair and just society); the role of the common man and woman (tree-hugging; making a noise; spreading the word; nudging economists or friends of economists).

In the concluding session, Ms Dakshayani, Denver D'Silva (a student) and I shared our impressions of the workshop, while Fr Savio D'Souza, the Rector, proposed a vote of thanks.

Ms Dakshayani, who is a graduate of Jawarharlal Nehru University Delhi, and has a research degree from the  Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, and is now a researcher at Shelter Don Bosco R&D, questioned the idea that the Indian economy was static; it was quite dynamic, she noted. (Perhaps  this was not quite what Phil had been saying. What he said was that Lonergan was moving economics from being a static theory to a dynamic one.) She also asked how Lonergan's theory differed from the classical capitalist laissez-faire. Again, she asked for a fuller understanding of leisure; this was important, especially in a context where unemployment was a major problem. Finally, she said that the idea of promise presented during the talks was too individualistic. In the Indian context, one would have to talk about commitment, duty, responsibility, as, for example, in the joint family. Promise, she said, cannot be reduced to a business term. The cultural context must be taken into account.

I myself noted that this was the very first time that Divyadaan had taken up economics as a topic for discussion; it went very well with the suggestion of the 26th General Chapter of the Salesians that the vow of poverty included an educative dimension: enabling youth, especially those on the margins, to take their rightful place in society and in the transformation of society. Secondly, the connections that had been made with KTHM College, St Xavier's Mumbai, the local press, and Shelter Don Bosco R&D were precious. Thirdly, while Phil had given us a taste of a different type of economics, it was up to us - or some of us at least - to study further, and to make up our minds about it. At the very least, we could become members of SGEME. And then, since the majority of us were going to be teachers and educators, there was the task of being educators who enabled Minding, who allowed Whatting, rather than educators who suppressed Minding and Whatting. (And it had been great to see young students and novices asking excellent questions.) Finally, Lonergan's work is built on faith and hope: faith that understanding the economy correctly is vitally important for sane action, even if we have not quite arrived at that correct understanding; hope that a first step has been taken, and that we are moving in the right direction when we ask: What is happening in the economy?

Friday, 10 September 2010

"Towards a New Economic Order": Day Two

Day Two of the McShane Workshop got off to a start at 0930 this morning, with a few particpants missing and a few new ones added - chiefly a couple of professors from the Department of Economics of KTHM College, and a parishioner with a background in business studies and management and his friend.

Phil began by talking about the new culture of the future. Just as we know when a person is driving badly, and we want to tell him that he should change gears, so in the future we will know when the economy is being driven badly, and there will be a widespread agreement about this, together with knowledge about what must be done.

The topics of the day were the Rhythms of Innovation, and Promises, Notes and Credit. The famous diagram which Phil began introducing yesterday moved to completion, with basic and surplus circuits, demand functions and supply functions on both levels, and the redistributive function in the middle.

Taking his example from the little barber shops that he had noticed along the Nashik streets, Phil introduced the idea of pure surplus income. An American comes in for a haircut. The usual cost of the haircut is Rs 25; but the American pays $ 5. The excess over Rs 25 is pure surplus income for the barber. Why pure? Because it is not needed for anything: for basic expenditures, or for surplus expenditures. The barber can do what he wants with it. He can donate it to a temple, or to a charitable organization, or use it for his family. In later years Lonergan called this pure surplus income also by the name social dividend, since it can be used for the benefit of humanity. If there is any money left after all the basic and surplus expenditures are met, it is pure surplus income. Pure surplus income is not necessary as long as the economy is stable.

What about the notion of profit, someone asked. Phil had been avoiding the word all through. He pointed out that profit tends to include both the surplus demand function (D'') and pure surplus income. That makes it a vague term. He also said that in traditional economics there was no criterion for determining pure surplus income and robbery (making profits by underpaying workers, or by over-pricing the goods).

Phil went on to introduce Innovation with the help of his famous Irish island and the invention of the horse-drawn plough: the banker giving credit to the inventor; the time taken for production of ploughs and the effects on the economy; the rise in wages on the surplus circuit; the problem created if these wages are immediately pumped into the basic circuit; the possibility of redistribution in terms of savings and re-investment; the eventual slowing down of the surplus surge; the need to allow then a basic surge; and so on.

The significance of the distinction between basic and surplus circuits became slowly clear, especially in comparison with diagrams from standard textbooks of economics which simply tend to lump together basic as well as surplus businesses.

Towards the end of the day, along with questions about innovations and technology displacing workers, Phil remarked that for Lonergan, the goal of the economy was, strangely, unemployment. This might be a difficult idea to digest, because we are surrounded by a mythology of work. But human beings really need to aim at a life in which there is place for leisure and contemplation. With adequate technology - including biomimicry and nanotechnology - we should be able to bring forth a sufficiency of consumer goods so as to permit leisure for all. The economy might thus slope up into a preparation for eternity!

But perhaps the most interesting part of the day was the awakening Whats: some students and SDB novices raising interesting and intelligent questions on the floor, little groups of questioners in between sessions, Dr Agnelo Menezes thinking of getting St Xavier's Mumbai to invite Phil for another Workshop. Something seems to be stirring. Seeds of hope!

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Of footballers and coaches

I have often used the example of footballers and coaches: to be a good coach, it is not enough to be a good footballer. You have to be able to talk about football. It is the difference between apprehensive and formative abstraction. The footballer, I think, grasps the universal in re; the coach grasps the universal in itself, so that the insight is no longer tied to the phantasm but the inner word has emerged and is free of the original phantasm and can be applied now to any number of other instances.

Phil made me aware yesterday, however, of another dimension: a good coach, he said, is someone who has a good memory, and is able to come to his task with a history of the game. He remembers different games, different tactics, different moves. He comes with a historical heuristic - but not merely with a heuristic, but a heuristic that is concretely filled with actual memories. He brings that dimension to his coaching.

So I guess Thomas is being updated by this kind of remark: the advertence to the historical aspect of the process of knowing / teaching.

Of course Phil also remarked several times that the goalkeeper awaiting the penalty shot, or the centre forward with the ball in his control, are WHATS. They are there with all of their memories - and good players have good memories - and they are completely alert, weighing all possible courses of action, and preparing to decide and to act.... Phil's point was that Whatting - questioning and thinking - is not something that happens only 2 inches behind one's eyes, but over the whole body. His great image was that of a child asking questions: the child tends to jump up and down. In contrast, people who have been "educated out of their minds" - which tends to include most of us sitting demurely and listening to Phil - either ask questions only with a hesitant show of hands, or not at all. But Navtej from Shelter R&D was a great exception: she just marched up to the mike and the board and asked her question.

Whatting with the whole what I am: not only a great image, but, I am beginning to see, a great truth. Every cell participates in my questioning and thinking. Every cell stores memories of the past - the Buddhist vipassana tradition recognizes this when it talks about the samskaras which are stored memories - evident when certain memories evoke a shudder or a thrill that passes through my length and breadth. And these stores of memories are completely involved in any questioning, any thinking. One way or the other. Either as completely collaborating with the process, or else as damaged by dramatic bias, individual bias, group bias, general bias....

"Towards a New Economic Order", Divyadaan, Nashik, Day One

The Workshop by Philip McShane "Towards a New Economic Order" began this morning at Divyadaan, Nashik.

The inaugural session involved a prayer-song in Hindi, the lighting of the lamp, and then an introduction to and welcome to the chief resource person and some of those who would interact with him: Dr Agnelo Menezes of St Xavier's College, Mumbai; Dr D.R. Bachhav, Head of the Department of Economics, KTHM College, Nashik, and myself.

I introduced Phil as well as the workshop (see my earlier blog entry for the text of my speech), after which Dr Menezes and Dr Bachhav gave their expectations of the workshop.

Dr Menezes said that he begged to disagree with the widespread idea that the Indian economy was doing well; it was not, he said; there were a very large number of people - 95% - who were not benefitting from the liberalization and the so-called surge. He summarized the problems in terms of 3 'ins': insecurity, informality (the informal or unorganized sector), and inequality.

Dr Bachhav said that the policies and plans of the government were magnificent; the problem was implementation. The agricultural sector, for example, was suffering very much.

McShane said that this was a "magnificently gloomy picture" of the Indian economy, and a wonderful start to the workshop.

He spent the next session introducing the audience to their Whats, inviting them to be Whats. The other three sessions of the day were dedicated to analysing a small business - McShane's father's bakery business. The basic circuit of demand function and supply; the need to set aside money for repair, maintenance and replacement; the recognition of a surplus circuit with its own demand function and supply. Practically the whole day was spent on this diagram, and attempting to compare it with the standard diagrams found in elementary textbooks of economics, which tended to fuse the two circuits, talking only, for example, of households and businesses and the flows of labour and money.

Dr Menezes said that he was delighted to hear this kind of analysis, and said that his college was actually making students study the local economy and analyse it carefully.

I myself asked about the traditional diagrams: what was wrong with them? What consequences followed from their failure to distinguish basic and surplus circuits?

Many of the participants - the majority of them innocent of any economics - felt that what McShane was presenting was quite agreeable, and a matter of common sense. For a layperson in the field of economics, it is probably difficult to understand why such a fundamental distinction is not drawn by most economists.

One point that became clear to me was that the four elements of the diagram did not represent concrete households or businesses, but rather demand and supply functions.

Tomorrow's sessions will complete the diagram by introducing the topics of banking and innovation, though the topic of innovation had inevitably come up during the day.

McShane and the Workshop "Towards a New Economic Order", Divyadaan, Nashik

PHILIP McSHANE: BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

Philip McShane is Professor Emeritus at Mount St Vincent University, Canada, and is one of the five or six most important scholars in the thought of Bernard Lonergan (1904-84), Canadian philosopher and theologian.

Born in Ireland, Phil has a master’s degree in mathematical science (University College, Dublin, 1952-56). He notes that his original training was in theoretical physics, which included working with Lochlainn O’Raifeartaigh who later occupied the Schrodinger position in the Dublin Institute of Theoretical Physics.

After taking a master’s degree in philosophy (St Stanislaus College, Tullamore, Ireland, 1956-59), and another master’s degree in theology (Heythrop College, Oxon., England, 1960-64), he went on to take a doctoral degree from Oxford (1965-68) for his thesis on “The concrete logic of discovery of statistical science, with special reference to problems of evolution theory,” later published under the title, Randomness, Statistics and Emergence.

Subsequently he was Lecturer in mathematics at the University College, Dublin (1959-60), Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the Milltown Institute of Philosophy and Theology (1968-73), Associate professor of Philosophy (1974-79) and then Professor of Philosophy (1980-94) at Mt St Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, and First Visiting Fellow in Religious Studies, Lonergan College, Concordia University, Montreal (1979-80).

His interest in economics began with a request from Bernard Lonergan “to find [him] an economist” – to read one of his economics manuscripts.

His publications on economics include: Lonergan’s Challenge to the University and the Academy (1980); Wealth of Self and Wealth of Nations (1994); Economics for Everyone: Das Jus Kapital (1998); PastKeynes PastModern Economics: A Fresh Pragmatism (2002); with Bruce Anderson, Beyond Establishment Economics: No Thank You, Mankiw (2002); and the recent articles in Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education 21/1 and 21/2, including editing the latter issue with the title Do You Want a Sane Economy?

He has lectured on economics at universities in Mexico, Colombia, the United States, Canada, Ireland and the United Kingdom.

At present he is directing research projects on the relation between economic theory and law, education, environmental problems and world hunger.

Among his other publications are the following: The Shaping of the Foundations (1976); A Brief History of Tongue: From Big Bang to Coloured Wholes (1999). A more complete list may be obtained at www.philipmcshane.ca; several items are also available online.

Besides publications, there are a very large number of “online publications” with strange names: Bridgepoise, Cantowers, Sofdaware, Quodlibets, Joistings, Eldorede, Prehumous, Lonergan’s Model, Method in Theology: Revisions and Implementations, Humus, Field Nocturnes, SURF, Fusion. All these are also available at www.philipmcshane.ca.

His wide range of interests reach out from mathematics, physics, botany, economics and Lonergan to include music, poetry and literature. The music and the poetry are, in fact, continually invading all his writings, which are often characterized by a Joycean mangling of language.

At present, pushing 78, Phil lives in Vancouver with his wife Sally.

I think it would not be wrong to describe Phil as a brilliant man of volcanic energy and enthusiasm, with a passion for the implementation of Lonergan’s project.

We are privileged to have you with us, Phil. Welcome!


PURPOSE OF THE WORKSHOP

The purpose of the workshop is to propose the elements of a new economic order, or to move towards a massive restructuring of present economic praxis.

To speak of a new economic order, or a restructuring of present economic praxis, is to imply that present economic order and praxis are less than satisfactory.

Is that true?

The chief resource person of the present Workshop is convinced that it is.

In support of his stand he might quote from Schumpeter who spoke of the fundamental need for economic theory to ‘cross the Rubicon’: by ‘crossing the Rubicon Schumpeter meant replacing current static economic analysis “by a system of general economic dynamics into which statics would enter as a special case.” [J. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis (New York: OUP, 1954) 1160. xxv.]

The elements of the proposed new order or massive restructuring are to be found in the work of Canadian philosopher and theologian Bernard Lonergan. This itself is a strange thing: the very tall claim that a rank ‘outsider’, a layperson in the field of economics, might have something so revolutionary to suggest. But let that pass.

I quote from the blurb of the volume of Lonergan’s Collected Works edited by McShane, For a New Political Economy: “Lonergan’s concept of economics differs radically from that of contemporary economists and represents a major paradigm shift. He takes a fresh look at fundamental variables and breaks from centralist theory and practice, offering a uniquely democratic perspective on surplus income and non-political control.” [Blurb, FNPE, CWL 21.]

“He takes a fresh look at fundamental variables.” That statement could be illustrated by turning once again to Schumpeter, and here I quote from McShane’s Introduction:

Both in his Theory of Economic Development and in his Business Cycles: A Theoretical, Historical, and Statistical Analysis of the Capitalist Process, Schumpeter begins from the dynamics of a stable economy and moves to a consideration of the ‘destabilizing’ effect of entrepreneurial activity. Lonergan, however, focuses immediately on such activity, particularly in its occurrence on the massive scale associated with economic cycles, revolutions, surges. He approaches that focus armed with precise analytic distinctions between basic and surplus activities, outlays, incomes, etc., and it is extremely important to note that these distinctions are equally relevant also to the understanding and control of an economy without major surges. [FNPE xxv-xxvi.]

Lonergan, in other words, begins not from static analysis, but from dynamic analysis: an economy in which entrepreneurial activity is the normal thing.

He brings to this analysis precise distinctions between basic and surplus activities, outlays, incomes, etc.

Such a dynamic analysis is equally relevant “to the understanding and control of an economy without major surges”; in Schumpeter’s words, it is “a system of general economic dynamics into which statics would enter as a special case.”

So this Workshop is not going to enter immediately into practical problems of solidarity, justice, etc. The conviction behind this is that we have to first understand correctly the workings of the economy, before we can talk about What can be done, or What should be done. To put it more starkly, Lonergan and McShane are convinced that economics has not yet become a science. They are not alone in this: I have been quoting Schumpeter, but I could also quote Joan Robinson to that effect, and Robinson, I should note, was Amartya Sen’s doctoral guide.

But enough of that. Let me end with two points.

The first is that the approach of this Workshop will be largely to avoid global and total presentations of Lonergan’s view, and to take instead little steps towards that view. Thus McShane will begin by analyzing a small business, and then go on perhaps to introduce the ‘real economic variables’: the basic and surplus circuits, the corresponding flows of payments, the notion of credit, the idea of money, etc.

The second is the underlying conviction that the goal of the economy is not “making money”, but rather, improving the standard of living for all. And that, I am sure, this audience will agree is a worthwhile goal.

Thank you. 

(Ivo Coelho)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Schumpeter: from statics to dynamics in economics

Schumpeter spoke of the fundamental need for economic theory to ‘cross the Rubicon’. ‘By “crossing the Rubicon,” I mean this: however important those occasional excursions into sequence analysis may have been, they left the main body of economic theory on the “static” bank of the river; the thing to do is not to supplement static theory by the booty brought back from these excursions but to replace it by a system of general economic dynamics into which statics would enter as a special case.’ [J. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis (New York: OUP, 1954) 1160. P. McShane, Introduction, For a New Political Economy, CWL 21, xxv.]

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

McShane interacting with the SYBPh class

Phil McShane came to my first class (Philosophy of Knowing) this morning and had an informal interaction with the students.

Someone asked him how he came to Lonergan. He said he had been given the text of Insight to read even before it was published. Later, Lonergan had come over to Dublin to give 5 lectures, and Phil had been in charge of seeing to his room and so on. That was when he first met Lonergan. He remembered that Lonergan had a book open on his desk: it was an Agatha Christie detective novel!

Lonergan, he said, loved jokes, and Phil and he would exchange a joke whenever they met. Phil told us the one about the Irish wake. After a little whisky, one of the mourners decided to go in and pray at the coffin. He went in, but the whisky had been strong, and he went quite past the coffin and landed at the harmonium (there was, it seems, usually a harmonium in the 'priests' room' which was also used to lay the body). Well, the man knelt down, prayed at the harmonium, and then went back to his friends. "What a lovely set of teeth the dead man had," he said. Lonergan loved to repeat this Irish joke later on.

Another student asked about the new book Phil was planning to write, on Physics, Economics and History. That gave Phil a chance to speak about how he came to Lonergan's economics.

He had his background in mathematics (Dublin) and philosophy (Oxford). At Heythrop he was able to meet Fr Louis Watts, the priest who had introduced Lonergan to economics during his Heythrop days. In 1968, Phil received a postcard from Lonergan: "Find me an economist who can read my manuscript." A day later he received another postcard saying much the same thing. Lonergan had written the essay in 1944. He had spent 10 years reflecting on the matter. He had given it to Eric Kierans, later minister for finance in the Trudeau cabinet in Canada; Kierans did not get round to reading it. Phil said he himself had spent 20 years trying to read the manuscript; finally it had begun making sense. But he was still on the lookout for an economist; he was hoping that the Nashik conference would inspire someone to either find one or become the one.

Economics today is in the position of Ptolemaic astronomy with its epicycles: they could make certain predictions with that kind of thing, but it would be impossible to send someone to the moon on that basis. But humankind changes very slowly. Ptolemaic astronomy reigned for a thousand years. Economics has been around for 200 years. Perhaps it will begin changing now. Lonergan's aim was to transform economics into a proper science.

Making judgments: practical exercises

This morning I gave a test to my Second Year BPh class on 'reflective understanding.' We were trying later to clarify how it is that we make a judgment, and I said: judging, in very simple terms, is checking whether experiencing and understanding have been done properly. 'Experiencing properly' is a question of experiential objectivity: have I been attentive? Are the 'conditions' fulfilled in the data? 'Understanding correctly' is arriving at an invulnerable insight, making sure that the 'link between conditions and conditioned' is correct.

I forget exactly how, but we got on next to the difference between playing football well, and being able to coach; it is, I said, the difference between apprehensive abstraction and formative abstraction. It is freedom from the book. It is a question of understanding so well that I am able to 'say it in my own words', to change the examples.

That got us on to finding new examples of judgments. Someone suggested the prospective judgment, "Thomas is selfish." This then is the 'conditioned.' What might be the link between conditions and conditioned? In other words, what kind of If-then premise do I usually employ? We became aware that all of us employ such premises (though without formulating them), and, further, that each of us have different premises - depending on our personal histories. We also became aware that we were not all willing to share these premises: so generalized empirical method is a 'revealing' thing - a constant interaction between subject and object. But some did share: "If X usually takes three helpings of anything, then X is selfish." "If Y does not help me, then Y is selfish."

The next question: are these 'links' sound? Are they correct? Take the second example: is that correct? No, someone said, because it might be that Y does not have the time to help me just then. So there are questions arising here, and relevant ones; the insight is not invulnerable.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Lonergan on Basic and Surplus Goods & Services

"The key to appreciating Bernard Lonergan's economic theory is to understand how he sharpens the orthodox distinctions between producer goods, consumer goods, and capital and then goes on to fully exploit the distinction he draws. [Orthodox economists also draw these distinctions, but their distinctions are not precise, and they are not basic to their analysis as they are for Lonergan.] The particular distinction Lonergan draws is one of the fundamental building blocks of his theory." [McShane and Anderson 23.]

"[O]rthodox economists think unclearly of producer goods as used in the production of consumer goods. An example is the use of sheet metal in automobiles. Sheet metal, for them, is a producer good that is used to make consumer goods, ie automobiles. For Lonergan, however, what determines whether a good is classified as basic or surplus is its use when it is sold as a finished product." Thus a table saw bought by a home handyman is a basic good; the same saw bought by a carpenter is a surplus good. [McShane and Anderson 25.]

Money is not the centre of an economy

"Orthodox economists would have us believe that money makes the world go round. The more money you make the better. the higher a corporation's profits the better. The bigger a country's GDP per capita the better. The greater the NASDAQ Index the better. Lonergan, by contrast, holds a different view. In his opinion, money & finance should not be considered the centre-piece of an economy. Rather, money & finance should meet the needs of the production. Production should not be manipulated to meet the needs of finance." (McShane and Anderson, Beyond Establishment Economics: No Thank You Mankiw [Halifax: Axial Press, 2002] 28.)

Saturday, 4 September 2010

New book by McShane: physics, economics, history

Just went through - went through is the right word, I went through it without really pausing, slowing down, attempting to digest - McShane's proposal for a new book, with the title Bernard Lonergan's View of Physics, Economics and History: A Heuristic Gauging Structure for Human Ecological Survival. McShane received a rather encouraging reply from his prospective publishers just as he was setting out for the airport to come to India, and so forwarded the mail to me, with a request for a printout, and an invitation to read on if I could. I did. Impressive.

Impressive first of all because, while there is much Philtalk, there is much less of it than is usual. On the whole the proposal reads beautifully, and does communicate without too much unexpected (Joycean) jargon.

What is Phil trying to do? "To break through to a heuristic of history" by drawing on and then expanding Lonergan's writings. The expanding will involve creative integration from the two sciences that were Lonergan's greatest interest: physics and economics, the one a natural science and the other a human science.

More specifically, the project intends to follow Lonergan's advice to select "the conspicuously successful science of our time" - which is physics, and to use it to lift up the conspicuously unsuccessful science - which Phil identifies with economics. And all this, in the service of working out "an integral heuristic of history." Thus: "The writings of O'Raifeartaigh are key here: can I lift O'Raifeartaigh's work, both in physics and in the heuristics of dialectic, to a level where I can identify, heuristically and effectively, a future dynamics of both physics and economics that I discern in the history of macro-hydrodynamics[,] a history which powerfully nudges us to conceive of a beginning of ecologically-responsible economic dynamics?"

Economics as a non-science is, I think, one of the claims made by Lonergan and pushed by McShane in many of his works, including the recent issue of Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education 21/2: Do You Want a Sane Economy? edited by him.

He wants to do for economics (and for history), I think, what Lochlainn O'Raifeartaigh did for gauge theory in physics, with his The Dawing of Gauge Theory and other works.

What is impressive are Phil's credentials: his original training was in theoretical physics; he went on to take a D.Phil. in Oxford; his interest in economics began in 1968 when Lonergan requested him to "find [him] an economist"; and his publication record is "excellent" in the words of the two editors of the current proposal.

But, but: what on earth is a heuristic of history? This is related to Lonergan's search for an integral heuristic structure, "a symbolic indication of the total range of possible experience". The sought after heuristic of history is "a key sub-structure of that search". In Lonergan's words, the problem of general history "is the real catch". The problem is fundamentally solved "by a functional specialist theoretic of the merging - through sloping up from isolated research - horizons of disciplines." "The core of the present project is the tackling empirically of that issue of sloping, in both history as lived and as written, in the disciplines of physics and economics and their ecological technologies."

And: why search for a heuristic of history? Hints: liberation from "contemporary myths of maturity of humanity or of science or industrialization"; reaching "a coherent and humble heuristic that is remote from contemporary disorientations regarding physics, economics and ecology"; a meshing of economic and ecological concerns in Lonergan's writings on history and economics that "anticipate elements of the openness of present leading ecologists, reaching out to a post-industrial culture of leisure, self-attention, and creative post-industrial and nano-innovation of such dimensions as would warrant the global implementation of Lonergan's pragmatics of long-term cyclic economic innovations"; "a beginning of ecologically-responsible economic dynamics".

Milbank and Pickstock on Lonergan

From John Milbank and Catherine Pickstock's Truth in Aquinas, some comments on Lonergan.
Concerning those essences it cannot be deceived, in such a way that here it partakes infallibly of the divine power of intuitive recognition. (John Jenkins has recently refuted Lonergan's denial of this aspect of intellectual vision in Aquinas.) [Note 9: John I. Jenkins, Knoweldge and Faith in Thomas Aquinas (Cambridge: CUP, 1997) 107-11.]
See also ibid. 22, 45-6, 52.

See also John Milbank, The Word Made Strange: Theology, Language, Culture (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999) 13 and 93.

Wittgenstein - and Lonergan

This is another old draft blog entry for what it is worth. (I still intending having the paper mentioned published in Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Religion):
Yesterday I digitalized an old paper of mine on Wittgenstein's Private Language Argument. his is a paper prepared in November 1980 during the second year of the Master’s degree course in Philosophy at Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune, under the guidance of Dr Lisbert D’Souza, SJ. I publish it here without significant changes - quite conscious of the fact that Wittgenstein scholarship has probably made large strides in the intervening space of 29 years – because I find it still provides a rather nuanced interpretation of Wittgenstein, and in the hope that it might be a small step towards dialectic and dialogue between Wittgenstein and Lonergan. Scholars will know that Lonergan dedicates a section of his chapter on Dialectic in his Method in Theology (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990, 253-257) to Wittgenstein (section 7: The Dialectic of Methods: Part One), insisting rather strongly on mental acts and on the essentially private character of language in its origins. Lonergan, however, was no Wittgenstein scholar; he was reacting, as is evident also from the text itself, to questions posed him by Edward MacKinnon during one of his institutes on method in theology (see Transcendental Philosophy and the Study of Religion, Boston, 1968); so, despite the strong language he uses, the relationship between Wittgenstein and Lonergan still remains, to my mind, an open question.

God?

I found this unpublished draft blog entry:

We use the word 'God' so freely across religious traditions - but does it really mean the same thing? What would be the proper equivalent of the Christian word 'God' in India?

In the light of my recent reading of Caputo's On Religion, it might be interesting to pursue this line of thinking further.

Kerr on Lonergan's Grace and Freedom

In Lonergan's early work, published in English in 1971 as Grace and Freedom, Kerr finds "an as yet unsurpassed analysis of Aquinas' theory of divine transcendence and human liberty" (115).

Friday, 3 September 2010

A thousand gardens

Wonderful and intriguing sentence from Lonergan, with special echoes for a land in which Gandhi dreamed of a village republic:
“Nor is it impossible that further developments in science should make small units self-sufficient on an ultramodern standard of living to eliminate commerce and industry, to transform agriculture into a superchemistry, to clear away finance and even money, to make economic solidarity a memory, and power over nature the only difference between high civilization and primitive gardening.” (For a New Political Economy, CWL 21:20)

Introducing the Economics Workshop

Gave a brief presentation of "Do You Want a Sane Economy" (Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education 21/2 [2010]) to the Divyadaan students last evening, as an introduction to the forthcoming Workshop "Towards a New Economic Order" by Philip McShane (9-11 September 2010).

As I write, Phil must have boarded his flight for Mumbai... He arrives early morning, 5 September. Should be here 6 September. A press conference is being planned for 1630 hrs, 7 September. Mr Deokar, Editor of Sakala, has taken a great interest in the matter, together with Mr Francis Waghmare.

The leading ideas:

1. Distinguish basic and surplus circuits: the basic circuit concerns consumer goods; the surplus circuit concerns producer or capital goods.

2. What is fundamental in the economy is production, not money. Money, while essential, has a redistributive function.

3. The aim of the economy is not therefore "making money." It is an improved standard of living for all.

4. Money is a promise, a note. The betrayal of this promise seems to be at the bottom of the current economic crisis.

5. The failure to understand the workings of the economy - and therefore the crisis - is the true fault. Economics has not yet become a genuine science. Most economists and textbooks concentrate on money. They should recognize that production is basic. They have to identify the real variable. Then economics would become a science.

The 8 articles in Divyadaan attempt to introduce the real variables of economics in a very simple way, often appealing to simple businesses that do not involve money, somewhat in the manner that Wittgenstein's language-games at the beginning of his Philosophical Investigations. Thus McShane introduces the notion of credit; Brown the related idea of keeping promises; Shute the economic variables; O'Leary brings in money, and talks about what happens when the basic and surplus circuits are not balanced; and Zanardi the goal of the economy as making sense rather than making money. McShane rounds up with the call for genuine understanding, true theory.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Kung Fu Panda and the notion of being

Had fun yesterday and the day before in my philosophy of knowing class - I must say classes, because I had 3 each per day. The topic was uninviting: The Notion of Being. But it turned out well. What did I do? Not even sure I can remember. But I remember it flowed. The two poles: constantly appealing to experience - inviting the students to identify their experience, of curiosity, of the desire to know, of the eros of the mind - and to stories.

The stories were interesting: what came to mind was Kung Fu Panda. Why KFP? I was trying to explain how the notion of being is the fundamental heuristic notion. I remembered also how Thomas and Lonergan call it an inchoate wisdom. So: particular wisdoms - knowing 'everything' about carpentry, or electricity - and just wisdom: knowing 'everything about everything' - or at least a strategic knowledge of everything about everything.  But of course in a commonsense way we regard wise those who are masters of commonsense, or or 'life' as we call it. That's where KFP came in: the obviously wise Master Oogway. And our students, though they might not have seen KFP, are sensitive to this kind of talk: "There are no accidents in life." "Unless you believe you will never change him." "Your anxiety to avoid problems will itself cause problems." And so on.

The Notion of Objectivity: I decided that the problem had to be raised. So the reading of Descartes came in handy. What was the problem left us by Descartes? And how might we attempt to get out of it? - Only by rejecting that manner of posing the problem. Thus Heidegger: not that I know myself, and then have to know the world; but always already I am being-in-the-world. And Lonergan: the pseudo-problem of transcendence, becasue we are always heading for being, within which we learn to make distinctions between subject and objects, and some objects which are also subjects.

And the loud reading was interesting: slowing down the pace, so as to attend, give a chance to attend to the phantasm. And writing out, for the same reason. The importance then of attending to the data. And then: asking questions. "We have earlier considered..." Where? "We have earlier considered the problem of method in knowing." What is the problem of method in knowing? Und so weiter....

Rewarding to see the sparkle in the eyes...

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

ACPI 2009 papers

Managed to send the text of the ACPI 2009 papers to Johnson Puthenpurackal and George Panthanmackel at Bangalore. The last of the bio notes came in this morning. I really should have asked for them earlier, but did not think it was necessary.

Johnson says to put in also the ACPI Statement. I could not find it.

Hard work editing the papers, but it is done, and it is a satisfying feeling.