Thursday, 25 March 2010

Bambach's review of recent Heidegger books

Charles Bambach. “Situating Heidegger: A Review of Several Recent Works.” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 83/4 (2009) 599-613.
Heidegger’s turn can be read not simply as a turn away from the Daseinsanalytik of SZ, but as a return to his earliest insights. (Bambach 2009 603)
Sean J. McGrath. The Early Heidegger and Medieval Philosophy: Phenomenology for the Godforsaken. New York: Fordham University Press, 2006. $ 69.95.
Robert Mugerauer. Heidegger and Homecoming: The Leitmotif in the Later Writings. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008. $ 95.00.
Bret David. Heidegger and the Will: On the Way to Gelassenheit. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2007. Paper $ 29.95.
Heidegger and the Greks: Interpretive Essays. Ed. Drew Hyland and John Panteleimon Manoussakis. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006. Paper $ 24.95.
Victor Farias. Heidegger et la nazisme.
Jacques Derrida. De l’esprit: Heidegger et la question.
Hugo Ott. Martin Heidegger: Unterwegs zu seiner Biographie.
Reading Heidegger from the Start. Ed. Theodore Kisiel and John van Buren.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Retrieval of good work

What exactly did I do in my Boston paper of 2009, "Person and Subject in Lonergan: A Methodical Transposition"?

Ostensibly, it deal with Lonergan's transposition of the metaphysical term person into the psychological term subject. This itself took place in the context of his effort to transform the language of Christian doctrines from a metaphysical to a methodical context. Thus the one person two natures of Christ became one subject and two subjectivities of Christ.

But what Lonergan actually does is to generate a set of interlocking terms and relations from appropriation of interiority (see Insight, and then Method in a different way). This is then used as an upper blade to recast doctrines and eventually systematics.

My question is: what to do with a work like that of De Smet on Sankara?

I am just thinking aloud.

1. My first reaction would be to say: let's do research, interpretation, history, dialectic, foundations on Sankara; this will generate a basic set of general categories (and perhaps also special categories). This would be justified in some way by Lonergan's call in Method ch. 11: Foundations to appropriate interiority through the writings of saints and holy people in different traditions.

1.1 Research as applied to Sankara is quite clear: bibliographies, critical editions, translations, lexicons, etc. Interpretation would (a) complete what was lacking (the bibliographies would identify work done and work remaining to be done); (b) retrieve in a methodical key good work already done (is this a requirement of Insight or of Method?)

1.2 Since I am interested in De Smet on Sankara, what could I do? Where would this fit in? Obviously in 1.1.b: retrieval of good work in a methodical key. But what does such retrieval involve? I do not seem to be clear on this point.

1.3 Here is some help from Method. Lonergan notes that a serious contribution to one of the eight specialties is all that can be demanded of a single piece of work; in fact, the distinction and division of specialties enables us to resist excessive demands (Method 137).

Again, he envisages an interim period until method is generally recognized. In this interim period, any single contribution will have a major part and a minor part.

The major part is to produce evidence proper to the specialty. The examples Lonergan gives are: the exegete, the historian, the doctrinal theologian, and the systematic theologian. We may note that dialectic and foundations are not mentioned, though research and communications are equally absent.

The minor part serves to preclude misunderstanding, misinterpretation and misrepresentation. It consists in drawing attention to the fact of specialization and gives some indication of the specialist's awareness of what is to be added to his statements in the light of the evidence available to other specialties. (Method 137-138)

The point is that Lonergan envisages quite independent efforts in the functional specialties - even in doctrines and systematics, which should presuppose the categories generated in dialectic and foundations!

Of course it is easier to envisage efforts in research and in interpretation. For even if research is incomplete, interpretation can be launched. What about history? If interpretations are incomplete, can functional history be done? I am not so sure about that.

And what about doctrines? How to do functional doctrines in the absence of categories generated in foundations? Is some shortcut presupposed here? And what of systematics?

1.4 Still, all this is merely support for independent pursuit of functional specialties in the interim period - which, after all, is not so difficult. A study of De Smet on Sankara will not fit exactly into this kind of thing - though it could well be a species of functional interpretation.

What is relevant to me is rather the remark on "retrieval of good work already done" which is to be found in Insight ch. 17. Two points: (a) This remark is in Insight; how valid is it in the context of Method? (b) How to go about such retrieval, even if it is still valid?

Here is the retrieval remark, Insight 610: the possibility of an explanatory interpretation of a non-explanatory meaning. The original writer's meaning may have its source in insights into things as related to him, and in all probability he will have no clear notion of insight nor any distinct advertence to the occurrence of insights. Still, he had the insights, and these were either different or not different from the insights of other earlier, contemporary, and later writers. If they were different, they stood in some genetic and dialectical relations with those other sets.

It is through these genetic and dialectical relations that interpretation is explanatory. It is through these relations that explanatory interpretation conceives, defines, reaches the insights of a given writer. It reaches the descriptive knowledge of a writer by establishing the verifiable differences between writers.

Insight goes on to speak of the canon of successive approximations, which deals with the necessary division of labour. This need is met by establishing reliable principles of criticism which will select what is satisfactory and reject what is unsatisfactory in any single contribution.

These principles are four: (1) the demand for a universal viewpoint; (2) taking advantage of the conditions of the extrapolation of meaning; (3) taking advantage of the genetic sequence of modes of expression, and the recurrent gap between meaning and expression; (4) taking advantage of the goal, which is truth, the criterion of which is the virtually unconditioned. (Insight 610-612)

The first principle of criticism seems to repeat the first canon, which is the canon of relevance, and which demands that the interpreter begin from the universal viewpoint, and that his interpretation convey some differentiation of the protean notion of being. It applies this canon to contributions that fail to present results in terms of the universal viewpoint: a critic can proceed from the universal viewpoint to determine the contributor's particular viewpoint, identify valid elements, and point out to "others working in the contributor's special field" the points needing revision. (Insight 611)

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Integration of Yoga into religious formation

Another thing that the Yoga-sutras have borrowed from Buddhism is the notion of bhumi (land) in the sense of level or state of the mind in its advance towards kaivalya. These bhumis are: ksipta (restless), mudha (torpid), viksipta (distracted), ekagra (one-pointed), and niruddha (suppressed). The first two involve the predominance of rajas and tamas respectively; in the third sattva is predominant with some rajas. The fourth is the predominance of sattva. The fifth is the arrest of all gunas, but persistence of samskaras in the 'unconscious'. (Very much what Vipassana teaches.)

I was thinking: this is what we need to stress in our novitiate and post-novitiate. Obviously all our candidates, and all of us too, are restless, torpid, distracted, and we have to become one-pointed. But even at this fourth stage there is the work of handling the subconscious. Only beyond this is kaivalya or whatever it is that is homologous to kaivalya....

Hence the practice of sitting... under guidance.

"[T]he Yoga of Patanjali may at its best approach 'natural mysticism'" (Guidelines 256) A judgment shared also by Bede Griffiths.

Yoga borrowings from Buddhism

I am amazed to find that Yoga has borrowed from Buddhism, rather than vice versa!

I must make this more precise: the Yoga-sutras of Patanjali have borrowed from Buddhism. Yoga itself is far older than the Yoga-sutras, which De Smet places in late 5 AD or early 6 AD. In fact, De Smet points out that Buddhism as a whole must be considered essentially as a system of yoga (see Guidelines 250).

The requisites of yoga are vairagya and abhyāsa. Abhyāsa is the repeated practice of the means of yoga and the good use of the 5 means (upaya) (cf. upaya-kausalya of Bddhism and Gita): sraddha, virya, smrti, samadhi, prajna. "These five means are obviously adopted from Buddhism." (Guidelines 252-253) In fact, I remember some of these terms from my brief acquaintance with Vipassana at Igatpuri: the need for faith in the method; the prajna or panna.

The epistemological staircase fallacy

Nyaya on pratyaksa: perception is "that knowledge which arises fro the contact of a sense with its object, and which is well-determined, not erroneous, and not [yet] associated with a name." (Gautama, Nyaya-sutra 1, 1, 4)
Perception is determined (savikalpa) but it is a complex process which involves a first phase (not yet a complete act) of mere sensation when it is not yet "associated with a name," hence, still indeterminate (nirvikalpa) and then a second when it is a determinate conception (cf. Kant.) (Guidelines 241)
De Smet's comment here is interesting:
Thus Nyaya avoids the fallacy of the epistemological staircase theory that we have first sense-experience, then conception, and then judgment. Perception is not a combination of three acts but a unitary perceptual judgment (yet analyzable into phases.) These phases are not perceived as such but inferred and commentators differ somewhat in explaining them. (Guidelines 241)
Is this a veiled reference to Lonergan, who De Smet was certainly familiar with? I am not sure. But this needs chewing upon. In general, the Marechalians tend to differ from Lonergan on this very point: they hold for a unitary sensitivo-rational judgment, and if pushed, tend to say that the judgment comes first: "Something is", and then, subsequently, we clarify what that something is.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010


After outlining the Vaisesika theory of causality, which is asat-karya-vada, De Smet says: "It may be mentioned here that the only way out is to establish a refined theory of sat-karya through recourse to the notions of actuality and potentiality." (Guidelines 232)

Samavaya or relation in Indian thought

The Vaisesikas hold that there is a special padartha called samavaya, which is a necessary relation of inherence in opposition to the contingent relation of conjuction (samyoga), which is a mere guna.

Even though the connected members be transient, samavaya is eternal.

Bhatta and Sankara reject samavaya, since it seems to beg the question: it is an entity between entities, and it would have to be linked to them by other linking entities, which leads to infinite regress. "But the tadatmya or bhedabheda by which they have replaced it lead to other insurmountable difficulties or at least cannot be a final answer. All this demonstrates how unfortunate it is that Indians did not discover the full authentic theory of relation, especially that it can be either logical or real (ontological) and that it must not therefore necessarily be ontological in order to give rise to a true judgment." (Guidelines 231)

Does De Smet modify this judgment upon Sankara later on? I think he does, or at least, he is not so categorical. He is able to find, in Sankara's tadatmya, something that at least implies a non-symmetrical relation between Brahman and world, logical from Brahman to world, and real from world to Brahman.

Problem of universals in India

Kanada's solution to the problem of universals is extreme Realism; that of Jainism and Vedanta is Conceptualism; and that of extreme Buddhism is Nominalism (apoha-vada). (De Smet, Guidelines 231)

Categories and predicables, mode of being and mode of thinking

De Smet makes a wonderfully clear distinction between categories / predicaments and predicables: categories belong to the mode of being, predicables to the mode of thinking. It is unfortunate, he goes on, that this distinction has not been seen clearly by Indian philosophers; and this failure vitiates many of their teachings. In particular, Kanada's table of categories / padarthas includes the predicables which it unduly ontologises. "Although he did see that they depend on thought for their discovery, he did not see that they are by their very nature purely logical. This is due to his uncritical realism as expressed in the saying, 'And there is no knowledge without an [ontological] object' (na c'avisaya kacid upalabdhih)."

Bhartrhari's Sabda-brahman and inner word

De Smet has a one page outline of Bhartrhari's Sadbadvaita, which I found fascinating. And then he ends with this even more rewarding remark:
N.B. Fascinating parallels could be made between this doctrine and the rich and varied conceptions of the internal word among Christians, especially St Augustine and the medieval Schoolmen. (Guidelines 226)
De Smet never ceases to amaze me: he knew about Augustine's doctrine of the inner word, and surely Thomas' reworking of it. But this is the first mention I have come across in the De Smet corpus.
It [the Sabda-brahman] is not to be attained through a special experience of the mystical order beyond all empirical phenomena (as the Sabda-brahman of Mandana Misra) but as the internal Word at the point of consciousness wherefrom all empirical knowledge radiates. This is why this is a philosophy for the man-in-the-world.
The Sabda-brahman is the ontological-linguistic Fullness wherefrom emanate in reciprocal harmony (a) the consciousnesses, (b) the objects with their visible or invisible potencies, (c) the Vedic word which relates these two realms. It is the Spiritual Energy (cit-sakti) of the universe.

For a revision of the teaching of Indian Philosophy

The curriculum of Indian Philosophy that we teach here in Divyadaan is largely what we have inherited from JDV, Pune, which means that it is largely Brahminical, even though the nastika darsanas such as Lokayata, Jainism and Buddhism are not absent. It is in Contemporary Indian Philosophy that people like Kabir, Tukaram, Phule and Ambedkar find a place.

This can be revised. The whole historical, cultural, social and economic context, for example, can be introduced. (This will certainly bring in the question - now so controverted by the efforts of revisionist historians - about the Aryans and Dravidians.) Chanakya Kautilya's Arthasastra and his politics will certainly have to be studied. Indian aesthetics. The non-written subaltern elements. A whole new endeavour. And of course the Laws of Manu and things. The puranas and the whole bhakti literature.

Perhaps also the strictly religious, which tends to be left out of 'Indian Philosophy', would need to be introduced. And by 'strictly religious' we should not assume 'Hindu' - keeping in mind the cauldron of religiosity that India used to be, with the Nandas and Guptas being Jains, Asoka clearly Buddhist, and so on. Away with monolithic history. Let the complexity be brought on.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Knowledge of self in Purva Mimamsa

For Prabhakara the self is not self-luminous, since it is not revealed in deep sleep. But every consciousness is self-consciousness [and is therefore self-luminous]. In every cognition the self is revealed as the subject of that cognition (cf. triputi-pratyaksa-vada) and never as its object. But cognition is passing; hence the self is not always revealed.

For Bhatta, as for N.V., self-knowledge is a later cognition; first comes object-consciousness. N.V. holds that the self is revealed through an introspection (anuvyavasaya) of the latter. Consciousness is never self-luminous but is inferred from the cognizedness of the object. Thus inferred, it reveals its subject as ego and we have a self-cognition in which the subject knows itself as the object of this cognition. "Against the majority of Indian thinkers who hold that the subject is never known as object, B. maintains that there is no contradiction in the self knowing himself as that object which is the subject of cognition." (Guidelines 223)

Purva Mimamsa idea of atman

There are a plurality of atmans.

Each atman is an eternal, omnipresent, ubiquitous, infinite substance which is the substratum of consciousness.

The atman is a real knower, active agent and passive enjoyer / sufferer (jnatr, kartr, bhoktr). The body is the locus of his experiences, the senses the instruments of experience, and the internal feelings and external things are the objects of his experience.

Consciousness is not the essence of the self. Prabhakara, like N.V., conceives it as an accidental static guna of the atman. The atman is by essence jada, unconscious, and, insofar as moksa is admitted, it means the isolation of the atman from all gunas, and hence also from consciousness and bliss. !!

For Bhatta, consciousness is not a static guna but a modal change (parinama) of the self. it is therefore a dynamic modification, a passing from potency to act. The atman is not simply unconscious, but unconscious-conscious (cid-acid-rupa or jada-bodh-atmaka), namely, characterized by the potency to know which belongs to his very nature (jnana-sakti-svabhava). In moksa, the self is divested of all his qualities and modes, including cognition and bliss, but remains, as in deep sleep, endowed with potential consciousness. (De Smet, Guidelines 223)

Self-knowledge in Purva Mimamsa

In the section on The Nature of True Knowledge, De Smet begins by saying:
Knowledge as such is always an immediate awareness, but of what? (Guidelines p. 220)
Once again, there seems to be a confusion here between knowledge (pratyaksa, presumably, also from what follows) and consciousness.

He goes on to outline Prabhakara's tri-puti-pratyaksa-vada. For P, knowledge is not eternal but is a self-luminous (svaprakasa) event wich arises and vanishes as a moment in the cognitive process. [Very good.] It is always a triple revelation: it reveals itself (svasamvitti of jnana); the knowable as its object (visaya-vitti of jneya); and the knower as 'I' (aham-vitti of jnatr). Thus it has simultaneously three terms.

The note that follows is interesting:
Note that the self is not self-luminous but known only in cognition and not in its absence as in deep sleep. Dream cognition, though derived only from memory, is of the same general type. To hold, like the N. Vaisesikas, that knowledge is known through another cognition would lead to infinite regress... (Guidelines 220)
K. Bhatta's theory is called jnatata-vada, because he holds, in contrast to P., that the only immediate datum in cognition is the cognizedness (jnatata) or illuminedness (prakatya) of the object., i.e. the object as cognized. Both the act/process of knowing and the knowing ego have to be inferred.

De Smet's judgment:
Prabhakara's theory seems to be closer to the fact. But he fails to distinguish the implicit (awareness of the ego and the knower) and the explicit (awareness of the object as known) in the immediate content of cognition which he erroneously considers as totally explicit. Hence, Bhatta wants to correct him but for the same reason he reduces the immediate to the explicit and thinks that the implicit is not immediate but mediate and inferable only. (Guidelines p. 221)

The active synthesizing nature of intellect in Sankara

What enables us to synthesize disparate sounds and to comprehend their meaning? Here is the solution of Prabhakara (and also Bhatta):
Words are combinations of letters or rather syllables (varna). But how can we understand words and sentences when each syllable vanishes the moment it is uttered? The solution can be found either in our intellect or in sabda itself. For Prabhakara, it is found in the latter. Varnas have each an (eternal) potency of leaving a semantic impression which, combined with that of other varnas brings about the meaning of words and sentences.... (De Smet, Guidelines p. 219)
Sankara was dissatisfied with this solution
because it is too particular to the understanding of a series of syllables. We should have a general solution which would explain our understanding of other kinds of series too (line of ants, of trees, of soldiers, etc.) Besides, in any case the impressions left by the varnas must be synthesized by the intellect. Hence, the solution must be found in the intellect. In fact, it is simpler to admit that our buddhi functions as intellectual memory, i.e., has the power of synthesizing elements apprehended at successive moments of time. This function is samasta-praty-avamarsini buddhi (intellect looking back on past experiences as a whole). Cf. Brahma-sutra-bhasya, 1,3,28. (De Smet, Guidelines p. 219)
Yet more evidence for the active nature of intellect in Sankara.

Prabhakara's dis-essentialized notion of being

Prabhakara of the Purva Mimamsa seems to imply that being is not to be regarded as yet another essence or whatness. De Smet remarks, in fact, on this dis-essentialized notion of being:
There are many jatis but no highest one, called satta (beingness), as acknowledged by Nyaya. Indeed, we can find groups of characteristics common to classes of beings but no set of characteristics common to all. Beings are ultimately disparate. When we call them all sat (being) we do not mean that they have something like a common essence but that each one is an individual "existing in its own way" as endowed with its own particular essence (svarupa-satta). Note the interest of this dis-essentialized notion of being. (De Smet, Guidelines p. 218)
Useful for a history of the notion of being in India.

Pratyaksa of the universal in Purva Mimamsa

Indian thinking seems to be Platonic also in this respect, that no clear distinction is drawn between mode of thinking (grasping something as universal, for instance) and mode of being. Thus De Smet says:
The universal (jati) is a different kind of whole than the dravyas.... The question of its perception and its nature arises as a knot of difficulties in India because, (like in Platonism), no neat distinction is generally made between mode of thinking and mode of being and, hence, the universal being valid in thought is also judged to be an ontological reality (vastu). (De Smet, Guidelines, p. 218)
Still, Prabhakara at least does not hold that jati has separate existence apart from the individuals, as Nyaya supposes.

Pratyaksa pramana in Purva Mimamsa: knowing as confrontation

Back to Purva Mimamsa in De Smet's Guidelines.

Pratyaksa, perception. Most difficult pramana, most ambiguous. Is it merely Lonergan's first level, 'experience'? or is it the three levels, so that it is, properly, the sensitivo-rational judgment (De Smet or Marechal language)?

De Smet, Guidelines p. 217:
Although we do infer after perceiving that it arises by means of senses, its immediacy is an original, underived and first-hand datum of consciousness.
Here pratyaksa is described as immediate; this immediacy is a first-hand datum of consciousness. This sounds very much like Lonergan's description of consciousness.

More complications.
Prabhakara defines it as direct apprehension (saksat pratitih). Bhatta defines it as direct knowledge arising from the contact free from defects of the sense-organs with the presented objects.... Four contacts have to be admitted: (i) of the sense-organs with the object, (ii) of the sense-organs with the qualities of the object, (iii) of the manas with the sense-organs, and (iv) of the manas with the atman.
If P's direct apprehension is still ambiguous, Bhatta's direct knowledge is not ambiguous. What is interesting is that Bhatta presupposes the Platonic theorem of knowledge as confrontation. Very interesting. (The next para reveals that P also presupposes this theorem. Also, the other theorem of like as known by like.)

Possible papers

Possible papers for Boston:

1. Raising the category of 'creation' in Sankara with the help of De Smet and Lonergan.

2. Studying the contrast between traditional organically related hierarchical societies and modern societies - democracies among them - based on an atomic conception of the individual. Which is more respectful of persons? The former vibes well with an organic notion of the person as intrinsically social; the latter, as we have said, presupposes the atomic individual, such that society has to be a construct. Gandhi opted for the former (see the brilliant articles of Howards and Swanger in the last 3 issues of Divyadaan), while Ambedkar clearly opted for the latter as alone destroying the caste system (very much a hierarchical traditional system) and ensuring liberty, equality, fraternity.

3. Economics. What is Lonergan saying? is that pertinent to the global crash that we now seem to be slowly getting out of? what explanations?

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Knowledge as self-validating

The Purva-Mimamsas held that knowledge is self-validating, svatah-pramanya. I find this thesis extremely interesting. De Smet calls it a "profound and inescapable view" that contradicts Nyaya-Vaisesika and is rejected by Buddhism, but espoused by Sankara and practically all the Vedantins. What is it?
The cornerstone of Mimamsa epistemology is that knowledge is self-ascertained as true. It carries within itself its own evidence.
Any other position leads into a vicious infinite regress (anavastha).
It belongs to the very nature of knowledge to be self-certified. It is not true knowledge which demands explanation but error. And the conditions of error are not to be found in knowledge but outside it.
Knowledge reveals all things, and it directly reveals itself: it is svayam-jyoti both with regard to its arising (utpatti) and its proper effect (sva-karya) which is to inform the knower about all realities. In short, the validity of knoweldge is independent whereas its accidental invalidity is dependent on extraneous defects (jnanasya pramanyam svatah, apramanyam paratah).
From De Smet, Guidelines p. 216.

I need to study this better, in comparison with Lonergan. I think Lonergan also would hold something like this. I remember him saying somewhere that transitions (from one ordering of doctrine to another) are by themselves valid; if they are invalid, it is because of extraneous circumstances or elements. Also, in the Introduction to Insight: not whether we know, but the nature of knowledge. And the chapter on Self-affirmation too.

Bhartrhari on meaning and utterance

From Bhartrhari, Vakyapadiya, I, 45-49, cited in De Smet, Guidelines, p. 214:
Some of those who follow the ancient path say that sphota and nada are different in nature. Others say that we divide by thought what is really one into two. Just as the flame of the firestick is the cause of other flames being produced, so the sphota in the buddhi is the cause of the variety of sounds we hear (nada). It is first thought out by the mind, then associated with some object, and then grasped as sabda. Nada is produced in succession; but sphota has no before or after. Although not successively produced, it appears as if gradually made and thus appears divided. Just as a reflection [of the sun, for instance,] seems to take on the motion of the water in which it exists because it is subject to that motion, so also is the relation of sphota and nada.
This text has echoes of Augustine on the inner word; or at least, it hovers around the same area. Nada is the utterance - also known by others as dhvani; it bears all the marks of manifold particularity (difference of pitch, accent, etc.). Sphota - also known by others as artha or meaning - is the sense-giving internal cause of nada.

We see Bhartrhari struggling with the relationship between sphota and nada: some say they are different; others say they are one. [But the problem is not really the relationship between meaning and utterance; the problem is the relationship between intelligere and dicere, the moment of the insight and the emergence of the inner word.]

Sphota is "first thought out by the mind", "then associated with some object", and "then grasped as sabda." First thought out by the mind is fine; what is "then associated with some object"? Is it the moment of identification / objectification? Or does B hold here for some simple application of the eternal sphota to some concrete individual? And what is "then grasped as sabda"? What is sabda here?

"Nada is produced in succession; but sphota has no before or after." Very much like Augustine describing the inner word as beyond any particular language, etc.

At any rate: B holds clearly for a distinction between sphota and nada.

The problem is that he has a theory of eternal sphotas, rather than sphotas / meanings that are actively grasped in data.

Bhasya and Quaestio

In his Guidelines in Indian Philosophy, p. 208, De Smet makes the interesting observation that the bhasya method developed by the 'schoolmen' of India is almost identical with the method of the quaestio developed independently by the medieval Schoolmen of Europe.

In the bhasya method, each topic is to be explained and settled in 5 steps: (1) the object (visaya) of the sutras concerning that topic is declared; (2) the doubt (samsaya) regarding that object; (3) the prima facie view (purvapaksa) which has some plausibility but which contradicts the tradition of the bhasyakara; (4) the final and authoritative opinion (uttarapaksa or siddhanta) is explained and defended and established; (5) this accepted opinion is then applied to other passages (samgati) which both confirm and are explained by it.

I find it exciting that questioning and dialectic is once again, in India as in the West, the road to truth.

Lonergan on judgment

Thomas Chacko, SVD, arrived yesterday to discuss some points about his doctoral dissertation on Lonergan's notion of judgment as grasp of the virtually unconditioned. He has been working on this in Dharmaram, under Saju Chackalackal, a Kant scholar. I had been asked to give some feedback on the matter.

I was surprised to learn that there is, actually, no other attempt to study this important and seemingly obvious topic. Tom said that he had confirmed this during his six-month stay in Toronto with Bob Doran and others. Doran seems to have said that the only study on the matter is an article by Giovanni Sala.

We discussed the distinction between the criteriological and the critical questions that Lonergan makes in chapter 2 of Verbum, a distinction that he certainly carries into Insight. Roughly, I would say that the criteriological question is to be found in chapter 10 of Insight on 'Reflective Understanding,' while the critical question is approached in chapters 11, 12 and 13 and finally clinched in chapter 14. The former question deals with the mechanism of judgment: what makes us 'feel' that we have arrived at a sound judgment? The latter deals with the validity of this process: what do we arrive at when we reach such a point? This critical question is really what was handled by Aquinas under the rubric of wisdom, which was, fittingly, the virtue of right judgment.

I believe that Aquinas' and Lonergan's notion of judgment accounts beautifully both for the (often minor and insignificant) certitudes that we all have, that are vital for the conduct of our daily lives, and whose validity is upheld by the survival of the human species, and for the fragility of the human attainment of truth in many other spheres such as the personal and interpersonal, the moral, the religious, etc.

The complexity of Lonergan's position deserves to be properly highlighted, both as it is presented in Insight, and as it finds another presentation in Method, especially in the (for many, irritatingly banal and inconclusive) functional specialty, Dialectic.