Thursday, 25 July 2013

The dialectic of methods in Lonergan's Method in Theology

Chapter 10: Dialectic of Lonergan’s Method in Theology has three sections entitled simply Dialectic of Methods Part One, Part Two, Part Three. One of the questions raised in our seminar on methods of interpreting a philosophical text was: what do these sections really talk about? I am putting down here the answer, which, I must say, ‘emerged’ with something new even for me.

‘Dialectic of Methods’ harks back, for those who are familiar with the corpus, to chapter 14 of Insight, with its section 4 on The Dialectic of Method in Metaphysics (CWL 3:426). The editorial note f is helpful: it indicates that at some point, Lonergan wanted to put this title as Critique of Some Methods in Metaphysics.

So sections 7-9 of Method in Theology are really critiques of some methods. And, like section 4 of chapter 14 of Insight, here too these critiques follow on an exposition of Lonergan’s own method – dialectical method, as it turns out to be, in both cases.

So that clarifies the general title of the three sections: Dialectic of Method. But why the three parts? What we discovered is that they do not correspond to critiques of three different methods. There are only two methods that are criticized: linguistic analysis (in sections 7 and 8) and idealism (section 9). This is borne out by MT 254: “Acccordingly, I shall comment briefly, first, on certain contentions of linguistic analysis and, secondly, on certain conclusions that follow from idealist premises.”

Section 8 clarifies that talk about mental acts – which Lonergan has ‘defended’ in section 7 – is fuller, more accurate and more explanatory in the more differentiated horizons. “We have been talking about mental acts and now we must note that such talk can occur in genetically distinct horizons. In any of these the talk may be correct or incorrect but, the more differentiated the horizon, the fuller, the more accurate, and the more explanatory will be the talk.” (MT 257)

Obviously the most differentiated horizon in question is the world of interiority. “From within the world of interiority, then, mental acts as experienced and as systematically conceived are a logical first….” (MT 261)

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