Sunday, 7 March 2010

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.

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