Saturday, 7 September 2013

Scotus and Lonergan

Fred Lawrence's comments on Bill Russell's paper for the ILW4 (e-mail to me, 8 Sep 2013):
I did read William Russell's paper on the plane that night, and it became clear to me why you like him so much. The part about switching from confrontation to dialogue was extremely well taken, and the example of Edith Stein was terrific. The Scotus section was not particularly convincing, but his style is nevertheless captivating--clearly a brainy guy with that wonderfully fluent style of the well-educated British Isles person.
Scotus's page on politics is indeed prescient and and tantalizing, especially in Fr Russell's contextualized retelling. It certainly  complements Aquinas (the "unsubtle doctor") on politics as 'civilis conversatio.' Consensus populorum, however, is surely not a panacea, as Tocqueville's remarks on 'the tyranny of the majority' make clear, and as Habermas on 'manipulated public opinion' as exemplified by current U.S. politics makes manifest, and as Austria's plebiscitary majority proved as it welcomed Hitler's Anschluss with eager applause.
As far as efficient causality in Aquinas's account of the procession of the Verbum is concerned, doesn't the agent intellect's illumination of the phantasm in the process of inquiry exercise efficient causality in bringing about the actus  intelligendi in the possible or passive intellect? Then, as the act of understanding prescinds or abstracts from what is irrelevant to the definition to bring about the intelligible emanation (or procession), which is the sine qua non that differentiates the definition that is only memorized from a definition that is proposed because one has grasped something by understanding (intelligere) [or, in the case of  an sit questions, differentiates rash judgment from true or correct judgment, which latter proceeds because one has grasped the sufficiency of evidence] The key word in either case as stated is the BECAUSE. That's Aquinas's whole point, and the issue surrounds not just efficient causality as underlying the BECAUSE, but something else, which, if it is not present, does not make good sense of the analogy to explain the creed's "begotten not made."
Sorry to go on and on.  One thing's for sure: we need to have Bill Russell present at our next Jerusalem Workshop, inshallah!
My response to Fred:
I've just browsed through Bill's paper and your own comments on it.
A question to you about the politics. I grant all that you point out about the limitations of consensus populorum. But Bill's - and Scotus' - point is about the source of political authority: not ownership of land, but consensus. What, according to you, should that be, given the limitations you have pointed out in consensus? And: is there any currently existing form of government exemplifying that ideal source? 
About the cognitional question: my impression is that Bill is not questioning the active role of intellect in Aquinas. What he actually succeeds in doing is a sort of back-handed compliment to Lonergan. While questioning whether Lonergan's interpretation of Scotus is correct, he seems to, in my opinion, assimilate Scotus to Lonergan at least in some sense: he admits that intellect is active; and that understanding precedes concepts.
Whether then Scotus - or Bill - have anything further, more precise to say on the matter, is a different question. So I would ask Bill to distinguish:
  1. Lonergan's interpretation of Scotus.
  2. the 'correct' interpretation of Scotus. (What did Scotus really say?)
  3. Do I / Bill / whoever agree with what Scotus really said?
  1. What did Lonergan mean by conceptualism
  2. What do I have to say about conceptualism in that sense
  3. How do I explain the workings of the human mind, w.r.t. the quid sit and an sit questions...

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