Sunday, 31 July 2011

Molecular striving

'Molecular striving': irritating phrase of McShane that keeps cropping up regularly, not least in the strange biography I am reviewing: Lambert and McShane, Bernard Lonergan: His Life and Leading Ideas.

'Molecular striving' is rooted in Lonergan's idea of the way each lower level in our beings is sublated by the higher: the chemical, for example, making systematic what was merely coincident on the lower, physical level; and the botanical making systematic what was merely coincident on the chemical level; and so on.

Phil's insistence is one implication of this: that every higher science has to master the lower aggregates it systematizes, down to the lowest level. No theology, therefore, without biology and botany and chemistry and physics.... Perhaps this insistence takes its stand on Lonergan's at a question session in the 1970 Boston Workshop, "Theology as Public Discourse": How much physics should a theologian know? And Lonergan's answer, vigorous and spontaneous: Well, he should be able to ready Lindsay and Margenau. (Lambert and McShane, 192)

The unpacking of that comment would call for a scholarly thesis. Phil is perhaps the only one at present insisting again and again on it, on what Lonergan once called the 'existential gap', the failure to properly appreciate the world of theory. Phil talks about a failure on Lonergan's part to identity a 'theoretical conversion.' Perhaps he is right.

But, but, but: there is a point to the molecular striving. Even my effort to read, to do philosophy or theology, is conditioned in a very real way by what is going on at each lower level. The connectedness between thought and sexuality, for example, has often been noted. Or perhaps I should say: between sexuality and anything, any superstructure. 

1 comment:

  1. The Bhagavat Gita ( Ch III vs. 42-3 )succinctly sums up the broad spectrum of sexuality to theology , in Man.