Friday, 25 June 2010

William Richardson, SJ

Met William Richardson at lunch. Richardson, great Heidegger scholar, spoke at a Lonergan Workshop a couple of years ago. Was wonderful to hear him: it just poured out of him. Of course, he said at one point: I just don't know what Lonergan means by the pure desire to know.

I asked Richardson about his contacts with Heidegger. He said yes, he had met Heidegger personally, and Heidegger was very good to him, contrary to other people's experience. He also said that he was happy with the new scholarship about the Young Heidegger. Better than all the stuff about his Nazism. I told him I had read the ACPQ issue on Heidegger, and had learnt a lot from it. What's your interest in Heidegger, he asked. I said I just was fascinated by him. I told him I had first begun getting an idea of what Heidegger was about from Walter Biemel's book. He said the book was good, and that Biemel was a charming man.

And where did you study? At the Greg, I said. What was your study of Lonergan? His hermeneutics, I said.

He said years ago, in the 60s, he had given a series of lectures on hermeneutics at BC, and Lonergan was part of the audience. I asked about Heidegger's hermeneutics: that he hardly seems to use the word. Yes, he said, but hermeneutics was underlying all that he did.

Later Misael said to me: You have been dining with an anti-Lonerganian! I said I had no problem. He was very kind. What did you tell him, Misael asked. I said I told him that I loved Lonergan and I loved Heidegger too. As Fred Lawrence had said at the conclusion of the Workshop: we need not be partisans of one thinker or another.

Kerry Cronin said that once Richardson had given a talk, and someone from the back of the audience got up and said: You have understood Heidegger well. That was Heidegger himself.

Richardson is 90, and still productive... Wonderful.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

De Smet, de Nicolas, Clooney

Charles Oduke has put me in touch with Antonio de Nicolas, brother of the current Jesuit General, who used to be a student of De Smet's in Pune. He said he might possibly have De Smet's Latin notes.

Charles also put me in touch with F.X. Clooney. Several of Clooney's students are here, part of the Workshop. I was asking Stephen Cone, who is one of these, about Clooney's position on Sankara. He was not sure.

Hefling's Workshop

The afternoon workshop with Charles Hefling was again very fruitful.

Charles said that sections 3 and 4 (Pluralism in Expression; Pluralism in Religious Language) were probably repetitions, and that a good editor might have pushed Lonergan to correct them.

He brought up a text from Foundations of Theology (1971) where Lonergan explicitly includes the response in what he calls religious experience or religious conversion.

Then again, he said that all three conversions, religious, moral and intellectual, could well be spontaneous before being objectified; or rather, that one does not have to be able to objectify conversions in order to be converted. I objected about intellectual conversion, but he seems to hold that one is normally and naturally intellectually converted, and adduced a text of Lonergan's to the effect that if you know to speak your native language, you are intellectually converted - till you are corrupted by reading certain philosophers. He said that if you are reading Insight, you probably stand in need of a reconversion.

I will have to think more about that!

Retrieving Good Work

Presented my paper to the Lonergan Workshop yesterday.

One very interesting response to my comment that Sankara is probably one of those most responsible for the disappearance of Buddhism in India: John Dadosky commented on the relevance - the historical impact - of a good systematic theology!

Bob Doran said that I had moved (forward) from my book Hermeneutics and Method. Perhaps: a better understanding of the canons of hermeneutics and their relation to Method ch. 7 on Interpretation.

Fred Lawrence said that De Smet was a wonderful instance of making things better than they are: developing the position. Wonderfully charitable and generous interpretation of Sankara and even of Ramanuja.

Gilles Mongeau was trying to understand his Indian seminarians in Toronto. He was wondering whether the idealism - realism dialectic might be relevant. I thought that the undifferentiated consciousness vs theoretical consciousness might be more relevant. But there is a certain tendency in Indian theology today to a disincarnate spirituality - expressed in an anti-ritualism, for example. All this, coupled with a great desire for concreteness in philosophy and theology.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Being in love with God

Just back from a workshop with Charles Hefling.

I asked him about 'being in love with God' in Lonergan's Method in Theology: does it include response or not?

His answer delighted me: he said Lonergan in Method was ambiguous on this point. He also said that this just might possibly have been deliberate, the reason being that 'response' questions are not phenomenological.

I asked whether he was clearer when he spoke in terms of operative and cooperative grace. He said Lonergan was doing indirect discourse there, so... and then said no, he was not completely clear. But he also said that in some of his unpublished Latin theology courses, he was far more abundant on the question than in Method.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Functional history

I attempted, very roughly and crudely, a functional interpretation of Sankara as read by De Smet, and also functional history.

While rough and crude, there are gains. It became clear to me that not only Lonergan, but also De Smet, came to the insight that Sankara's ideas about knowing and meaning determined his interpretation.

The attempt to relate Sankara to earlier, contemporary and later writers is also useful in fixing his meaning.

Where I am still very raw is in the larger historical picture, the effort to relate viewpoints to one another. There I have probably to hit upon some anomaly and follow through. That might well be Sankara's understanding of understanding; or the mirror theory of knowledge; or the postulate of similarity.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Quiet gratitude...

I wrote this morning that I have been struggling with my paper for the forthcoming Workshop in Boston. I write now, in the late evening, with some measure of satisfaction and gratitude. Gratitude is the only proper word, for the insights that are not under the command of our will, for their arrival, their giftedness....

Not that there have been major insights. But it has been a day of quiet, mostly flowing, writing. I experienced the goodness of having small summaries of the main points hanging out in print. I suppose that was the point of the old schede system. And once again, the importance of not being kanjoos, of generously printing out (despite the damage to the trees!), because insight calls for the phantasm!

Also the importance of having more or less worked out what seems to be a workable scheme. Then, with the schede / printouts in front of you, you can read slowly, ruminate, pommel things into shape, insert.

So today I found myself wanting to modify the three part scheme I had worked out for De Smet on Sankara. The first part of quite okay, not really problematic, the part about Sankara's stage of meaning and mode of expression, though I found it clicking rather well with what I had written / suggested last year: Sankara is really in the 'mixed mode' that is neither purely symbolic nor yet fully systematic.

The second part really needed modification or expansion, and that because of the introductory part of my paper, or better the overall aim of my paper: Retrieving Good Work. Such retrieval involved attempting to read De Smet / Sankara from generalized method. How do I do that? I am just falling back, without too much fuss, on the little notes I had made already. So I incorporated, without being too ambitious, notes on Sankara on experience/ consciousness, understanding, judging; on being; on objectivity. Now that I write that, perhaps I must try to see whether I can do something similar also about meaning, given the importance that vakya / sentence / proposition plays in Sankara's exegesis. ...

So that's where I am, and its a good feeling.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Boston 2010

Still struggling with the paper for Boston 2010. Backbreaking! You work through the year, and then through the summer, and then the year begins again... But then, what would I do if there were nothing to do?

At any rate: the first part of the paper, which is a Lonerganish background attempting to unfold what "Retrieving Good Work" might mean, seems to be relatively stable. I began, strangely, only now to understand the difference between the hermeneutical canon of relevance and the the canon of explanation. These two seem to parallel the later distinction between the functional specialities interpretation and history, except that 'determining the particular viewpoint' is shifted out to dialectic.

The second part is the tricky one: there are no paths here. As McShane wrote to me, you have to create the path here, and that is done by walking!

All these days I was working at a sort of 'raising of categories' in Sankara as seen by De Smet: judgment (pratyaksa, which is sense perception), understanding (clearly Sankara is intellectualist), experience (the Buddhists and the Purva Mimamsakas speak of bare sensation or the nirvikalpa phase of pratyaksa, but I have not found Sankara doing so; but Sankara does, of course, speak of consciousness, and he has a notion of consciousness as experience, I propose); intellectual dynamism, being (I found that very difficult, because Sankara has so many things to say on this point, and it is one of the controverted points!), objectivity (yathatmya; the self-validity of judgment or sva-prakasatva, which De Smet says is the only sensible approach to knowing). I was trying to work out also the 'metaphysical' categories (cause, relation, tadatmya, atman) but did not get far.

Yesterday another approach: De Smet himself provides three points: (1) establishing that Sankara is a srutivadin, a theologian, an exegete of scripture, rather than a systematic philosopher; (2) showing that Sankara's extra-textual understanding of understanding and of meaning (intellection and vakya, in his terms) determines his exegesis; (3) the interpretation itself: Sankara as non-dualist rather than acosmist or monist.

These points correspond neatly to (1) establishing the level of expression and stage of meaning; (2) showing how cognitional theory and its extensions - generalized method or the general and special categories - influence exegesis; (3) the exegesis itself.

Will it work? Let's hope so.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Lotz and Heidegger

O’Meara, Thomas F. “Johannes B. Lotz, S.J., and Martin Heidegger in Conversation: A Translation of Lotz’s Im Gespräch.” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 84/1 (2010) 125-131.

Lotz and Rahner were companions. As students, they had 4 semesters with Heidegger in Freiburg, if I am not mistaken.

Lotz taught at Munich and at the Gregorian. He reports that Heidegger was grateful to him for trying to dispel misunderstandings of his thought at the Greg.

Lotz has a book called Martin Heidegger und Thomas von Aquin. He seems to be saying that some of Heidegger's insights were anticipated by Thomas. That would be interesting.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The metaphysical depth of things

I am, I think, finally beginning to understand what Joaquim might have meant when he used to speak of the 'metaphysical depth' of things. But - I am not really sure what Joaquim meant.

Reading De Smet on Sankara, it is becoming clear that, in Sankara's perspective, all ordinary knowledge is a-Vidya, precisely because it does not go to the true depth of reality - which is the Brahman-Atman. Here is one summary of what he says:
Knowledge results from the sources of valid knowledge whose objects are existent things as they are in reality. (B.S.Bh. 1, 1, 4) The objective identity, yathatmya, is not easy to attain. Things have a physical substantiality, which pratyakṣa and anumāna can ascertain, but also a metaphysical depth, namely, their total dependence on their Cause. So long as we ignore or deny this, our knowledge has not yet reached yathatmya. However correct it may be as far as it goes, it is avidya, for it lacks the complement and finality which śruti alone can give. The śruti will not cancel its content but only its pretention of having reached exhaustively the yathatmya of things. [“Śaṅkara’s Non-Dualism” Religious Hinduism 1997 86.]