Wednesday, January 24, 2007

General Premises for Website Divisions & Development

The authors of this site ( in development) intend to join those who have understood or are interested in understanding general empirical method (transcendental method) more fully and to provide a place for publications about and for extending the dialogue from that understanding.

The site complex is similar to other websites that concern Bernard Lonergan's many works, but also is consciously different. It is similar because it performs many of the same functions, e.g., of referring to other sites and institutes, related publications, etc. However, the site is different in taking an empirical point of origin, and in maintaining a clear distinction between philosophical and religious-theological issues--to hopefully make Lonergan's contributions more amenable to secular-oriented scholars, scientists, teachers, and even perhaps to those who are at the beginning of critical-philosophical thought, or for those who Lonergan would refer to as having good "commonsense."

That is, the underlying vision is not to change the basic meaning of Lonergan’s work, but rather to increase the cosmopolitan aspect of it.


Thus, the site moves the focus:

FROM: Lonergan/GEM-TM
TO: GEM-TM/Lonergan

FROM: Putting forth Lonergan's ideas as "Lonergan's ideas,"
TO: GEM/TM theory, etc., as authored by Bernard Lonergan;

And moves the point of origin:

FROM: Catholicism/Christianity/Religion (from-above-downward)
TO: GEM/TM/the trans-cultural base (from-below-upward).

First, We do not intend to eliminate reference to Lonergan as author of the body of work, or of general empirical method as a verifiable theory and critically-appropriated source of philosophical development, as well as corrective, in the 21st century.

However, and though Lonergan is the author of the theory, he would be the first to agree that the method itself (not the theory of it) is given to human consciousness and, therefore, is discoverable in and by anyone, regardless of its theoretical expression. Though, of course, a good theoretical grasp gives a good and critical entrance to the basic structure and dynamism of one's own mind. The theory that is general empirical method is just such a theory.

First, this restructuring (of GEM/TM as emphasis rather than "Lonergan" as emphasis) is meant:

A. To foster the drift away from the "camp" mentality that has infected philosophy and the human sciences in the past centuries, and that continues today with regard to many theoretical developments;

B. To explicitly restore a fully critical component to philosophy, the humanities, the human sciences, and cultural studies;

C. And to join others in the development and fostering of the unity of spirit that, in fact, underpins all knowledge fields and cultures.

Second, we do not intend to eliminate reference to or import of the religious dialogue, faith, mystery, or of transcendental method on theology. Rather, we suggest that taking religion and theology as a starting place (as do many Lonergan-referenced publications) tends to obfuscate the project of exposing TM explicitly as the trans-cultural base that it is, and as a basis for dialogue between all fields, all religions, and all cultures.

Thus, from an empirical point of view, "God is, first, the question of God, not an answer to that question, especially in any prescribed ideological form or textual interpretation exclusive to any one religious institution. Our questioning reveals to ourselves our 'orientation to the divine.' Such . . . is Lonergan's understanding of the cross-cultural beginning of all religions" (Faust-Russo conversation,, Website, 02-08-07).

We emphasize first, then, the empirical venture of QUESTIONING, of the philosophical, and of what Lonergan means by self-appropriation-affirmation and its relationship to an explicit metaphysics:

... the dependence of such a metaphysics upon the sciences and upon common sense would be the dependence, neither of a conclusion on premises nor of an effect upon its cause, but of a generating, informing, and unifying principle upon the materials that it generates, transforms and unifies. (1958, p. 393; & 2000, p. 418)

Thus, in the structure of the site, we want to distinguish the philosophical from the theological/religious, but also provide a place for dialogue regarding theological and religious concerns which Lonergan recognized as so integral to a view of the whole.


We suggest that at least three fundamental issues are impediments to communicating developmental, corrective, and creative aspects of transcendental method and surrounding insights to a larger audience. That larger audience is beyond "Lonergan" scholarship and beyond a specifically religious or theological import and application of it. Those impediments are:

(1) The lack of distinction between (a) philosophical and (b) religious/theological aspects of Lonergan's contribution to the history of philosophy (and everything else) among Lonergan scholars, papers, websites, etc.

Of course Lonergan contributes much to religious and theological persons and issues. However, he was also quite aware of the present need to open channels of communication to others who would gain first from a philosophical appropriation of transcendental method and the underlying shifts of personal meaning he referred to in terms of various conversions. In this regard, many writers and websites do not clearly distinguish between religious and philosophical issues. A condensation of philosophical and theological-religious issues can foster a misunderstanding by a more secularly-grounded audience. This mistaken notion is pervasive--that a study of this philosophical work must begin in certain religious assumptions and, thus, the work is not really critical or applicable to a secular audience, or to the concerns of other critical-theoretical fields.

This site complex offers a distinct place for religious-theological presentation and dialogue. However, the site is structured to make clear and maintain the distinction (secular) between religious and philosophical concerns and issues.

(2) a "campish," and therefore isolated sense about Lonergan's work as well as about other philosophical thinkers, their studies, and those who have understood these thinkers' works. Such "camps" and name-emphasis are generated by the very philosophical viewpoints and issues that Lonergan overtly addresses through his development of transcendental method, its theory of knowledge, (epistemology), its metaphysics, the four biases, and the recovery of a dynamic unity of being through what Lonergan means by self-appropriation-affirmation.

The work developed in this site complex overtly addresses the unity that underpins all knowledge fields, namely, the trans-cultural base that is how all human beings come to know and therefore, how all cultures come into being; and the functional specialties that reveal the basic underlying structure and unity of all formal fields of study.

(3) Esoterica: The very practical issue that many of Lonergan's writings are quite technical, and they assume a basic understanding of both science and philosophy (and their terms) that many in a broader audience, whom we want to meet, do not have.

This site complex is planned to meet the needs of technical-theoretical philosophy sans religious discourse, etc., but also has a component of dialogue that overtly translates technical terms into common parlance; it uses examples and "insight stories;" it has a well-defined pedagogy (in the section on Education) designed to self-verify cognitional theory (the "shorter journey"); and it seeks to make philosophy and self-appropriation-affirmation accessible to the field of non-techincal discourse.


In Lonergan Workshop 17, Fred Crowe writes:

My hope is that by the end of this century the basic idea of the four levels will be part of our general culture; so much so that to explain them, and still more to prove them, will be quite boring. Pupils leaving primary school will be as familiar with this structure as they are with, say, the golden rule. Crowe, Frederick E. (2002). The Future: Charting the Unknown with Lonergan. In F. Lawrence (ed). Lonergan Workshop: Vol. 17. Boston College.

If this vision is to occur, then we must enter the dialogue from the point of view of empirical-secular concerns. And to do this, we will need to take general empirical method as theory as the central and comprehensive empirical basis of communication, rather than either “Lonergan’s theory” or as coming “from-above-downward;” that is, from either Catholicism, Christianity, or from any religious or metaphysical doctrine.

Thus, the site is meant to be collaborative and will function, along with many others, as a catalyst for a body of work, but it will be built from the point of view of (general) empirical method first.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007



We seek to foster reflection, self-reflection, scholarship, dialogue, and a unity of spirit in persons, in cultures, and in formal fields of study by exploring "the opportunities presented by the human mind itself . . ." transcendental or general empirical method.

We invite all thinkers--philosophers, theoreticians, scholars, teachers, theologians, and philosophical novices—to participate in and-or to provide relevant content for this site.

Monday, January 15, 2007



This interactive site posts related publications and excerpts from papers and dissertations, etc., information for events, conferences, publications, etc., and links to other related sites. Its discussion format includes educational curricula and a developing glossary and bibliography, and it provides forums that are divided under six headings:

Site Sections

Introduction to Transcendental Method and to This Site
Transcendental Method as Education
Transcendental Method as Theory
Transcendental Method in Communication with Other Theory
Transcendental Method in Theological and Religious Studies
Applications (cosmopolis)

We will cross-post any crossover publications and discourses.

Site Section: INTRODUCTION to Transcendental Method



This section tells about the site itself. It is also for newcomers to philosophy and-or to transcendental method (TM). It tells who "we" are and gives an overview of transcendental method and how it is unique and relevant to all study—the sciences, natural and human, and to historiography, hermeneutics, the arts, philosophy and theology, and to common living. This section also provides a forum for an ongoing dialogue about TM and a place for you to tell your story about your experiences with your study of insight and your critical self-understanding. “Insight Stories” are also a part of the Educational section of the site.


TO provide an overview of the Tmethod site.

TO provide a brief explanation of general empirical (transcendental) method.

TO provide place for informal narratives, comments, and interaction between those new to the study of insight and those who have had some experience with and knowledge of it—Q&A.

Site Section: Transcendental Method as EDUCATION

Transcendental Method as Education


Here, we invite participants to share your experiences and explorations of the meaning of transcendental method ("insight stories") as you come into awareness of your own conscious activities that are that awareness. Included are classrooms (informal and formal) and curricula for developing and for teaching self-reflection in terms of the transcendental method-the-theory and its call for critical self-knowledge.

We welcome dialogue, reports on educational projects, descriptions of curricula, etc., devoted to teaching transcendental method.


TO provide an interactive, informal and-or formal educational forum and method, first, for personal and institutional foundational review and development; and, second, for personally exploring and self-verifying transcendental method-the-reality through the use of transcendental method-the-theory.

TO reveal, and to assist readers in the recovery of, the relationships between, first, the personal domain and the scientific-theoretical domain and, second, the subject and the object as one-complex and dynamic whole.

TO provide the pedagogy for a self-conscious inspection, discovery, and differentiation of mind.

TO develop a working theory of knowledge for general consumption that matches (is isomorphic with) the history of scientific discovery, as well as all practical commonsense developments in all cultures over all of history. To do so while maintaining, fostering, and employing the critical components that scientists and scientific method bring to the dialogue; and by maintaining, fostering, and employing the intellectual, ethical, and spiritual development of all persons concerned.

TO recover philosophy as emerging from the questioning-philosophic spirit in all of us, as personal-and-cultural reflective development in the history of human beings, and as a relevant and potent function of all concrete human living.

TO make transcendental method (both its reality and its theoretical expression) explicitly accessible for critical applications in education and for educators in many different fields and dialogue forms.

TO explore how, as explicit, transcendental method-the-reality is trans-cultural foundation of, and as personally verified, provides a reflective source of unification for, all inquiry, all education, all creative development, and all culture.

TO show how differentiation of mind, self-correction, creativity, and self-appropriation provide the unifying and authentic foundations for an adequate integration of all other study, including that developed on other aspects of this website.


Transcendental Method as Theory

Here, as Lonergan might state it, we invite you to develop the dialogue that would help explore transcendental (general empirical) method and help move reader-participants from latent, through problematic, and into explicit metaphysics (1958 & 2000).

This section provides explorations and interpretive studies of transcendental method , commonsense, ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, and surrounding thought as well as new thinking and conceptual developments about theoretical-philosophical issues generated from and with an explicit reference to a core understanding of transcendental method and its unique (to post-modern philosophy) call to personal and critical self-knowledge.


TO bring together and continue to develop new thought surrounding the study of insight--taking transcendental method and an understanding of metaphysics as the "conception, affirmation, and implementation of the integral heuristic structure of proportionate being" as its starting point (1958, p. 391 & 2000, p. 416).

TO bring forward transcendental method and related theoretical explorations as general philosophical theory and as trans-cultural ground for further theoretical dialogue and development. (This includes further development of the functional specialties developed in Lonergan's Method in Theology.)

TO explore theoretical aspects of the formative relationship of the mind's reality to all other fields of study and human concerns, writ-large (institutions, cultures, groups, etc.) and writ-small (person).

TO provide a dialogue, critique, self-corrective foundation, and new unification for the disparate fields and sciences: "There is then a rock on which one can build" (Lonergan, Method in Theology, 1972, p. 19).

(Examples of subject matter: Functional specialties, the virtually unconditioned, the biases and the attitudes (Piscitelli, 1985), commonsense, the meaning of cosmopolis, Lonergan's treatment of myth, different "levels" and conversions, e.g., Doran's "psychic conversion," etc.)

Site Section: TRANSCENDENTAL METHOD in Communication with Other Theory

Transcendental Method in Communication with Other Theory


Here, we draw on transcendental method , etc., to dialogue-with, compare, and critique the thought of other philosophers and those in other fields who address philosophical issues. Of particular interest is to work from a personally discovered transcultural base to integrate method in all human studies, and the human in all sciences.

We invite participants to question and to share and discuss your explorations of methodological issues in particular disciplines. Typical fields would include psychology, sociology, economics, historiography, aesthetics, ethics, cultural anthropology, philosophy, theology, the arts, the natural sciences, and any subsets or combinations of these.


TO critique general empirical method, etc., to explore the import of transcendental method on other formal philosophical fields, e.g., cognitional theory, ethics, epistemology, metaphysics, hermeneutics, aesthetics, theology, etc.

TO interface TM-the-theory developments with other fields and other writers through fostering a critical dialogue with educators, scholars, scientists, and thinkers in every theoretical field, e.g., sociology, psychology, history, etc.

EXAMPLE of content: excerpts from and dialogue about Joseph Fitzpatrick's book: Philosophical Encounters--Lonergan and the Analytic Tradition (UTP, 2005).

Continued in OLDER POSTS

Site Section: Transcendental Method in a THEOLOGICAL & RELIGIOUS Context

Transcendental Method in a Theological and Religious Context


Here, we draw on transcendental method (and the functional specialties) to foster inner- and inter-faith dialogue, as well as to develop a resource for understanding transcendental method as trans-cultural from within a theological and religious context.

We invite theologians and religious persons of all faiths (or no faith) into the discussion.


TO provide a reflective place for scholarly ecumenical commentary, dialogue and critique from a point of view understanding and relating general empirical method to religious and theological foundations, development, and issues. (This section to be developed further)

Site Section: APPLICATIONS (Cosmopolis)

Site Section: Applications (Cosmopolis)


Here, we draw on transcendental method to discuss historical events, past, present and future, personal and cultural. With an explicit reference to GEM-TM in mind, we invite participants to share articles, outcomes of research studies, artistic expressions, communications, events, or applications projects for review and discussion. Here we clarify the full scope and historical context of transcendental method as both the underlying driver of events and as a guiding source of analysis, discussion, and prescription.


TO provide a “think tank” forum for discussion, dialectical analysis, critique, and potential remedy for concrete issues and problems in ongoing concrete events; and to document stories of ongoing events and activities.

TO clarify the full scope and historical context of transcendental method as both the underlying driver of events and as a guiding source of analysis, evaluation, and prescription.

(BL quotes about cosmopolis from Insight to be added).

Introduction to TRANSCENDENTAL/General Empirical METHOD


Another name for transcendental method (TM) is general empirical method (GEM). Transcendental method as a theoretical development is the contribution of the philosopher, Bernard Lonergan, and is drawn from several texts including Insight, a Study of Human Understanding (1958 & 2000), Method in Theology (1972), several Collections of papers, and other writings and dialogue.

A method is "not a set of rules to be followed meticulously by a dolt. It is a framework for collaborative creativity." Further, method is "a normative pattern of recurrent and related operations yielding cumulative and progressive results" (Lonergan, 1972).

Transcendental method as a theory points to transcendental method as the actual operating method of the human mind. Before we have a theory of the mind's method, we have a mind with a creative and self-corrective method to refer to.

Thus, transcendental method-the-theory refers to transcendental method-the-reality; or to the shared structure, developmental patterns, and activities of our thinking experience as human beings in history.

Aspects of a mind already in operation are "not a product of any culture but, on the contrary, are the principles that produce cultures, preserve them, development them" (p. 282).

Similarly, transcendental method-the-theory is a conceptual construct that we can change and develop according to discoveries about the relevant data. However, transcendental method-the-reality is not a conceptual construct, but the functioning consciousness that constructs and reconstructs concepts according to movements in human understanding. Getting a cognitional theory to adequately match the actual method, then, and providing a method for explicit access-- without vulgarizing the philosopher's work or the philosophical journey itself-- is the philosophical challenge of the day.

The following is a rather long quote; however, it is relevant to our explanation of TM and is quoted from Lonergan’s Insight, A Study of Human Understanding. (I have added non-philosophical meaning in parentheses for those who are not familiar with the technical terms used.)

If Descartes has imposed upon subsequent philosophers a requirement of rigorous method, Hegel has obliged them not only to account for their own views but also to explain the existence of contrary convictions and opinions. Accordingly, our appeal has been not only to the isomorphism (the “match”) between the structure of cognitional activity and the structure of proportionate being (all that is), but also to the polymorphism (many forms, including biases) of human consciousness. From the isomorphism there has followed (in his book Insight) a series of brief but highly effective refutations of contrary views. However our method possesses still further significance. Not only is it possible to deal piecemeal with opposed opinions but also there is available a general theorem to the effect that any philosophy, whether actual or possible, will rest upon the dynamic structure of cognitional activity either as correctly conceived or as distorted by oversights and by mistaken orientations.”

“Such a theorem in itself is simple enough but it labors under one considerable difficulty. No one would deny that conclusions follow from premises or that, as our metaphysics has followed from our conception of cognitional activity, other metaphysics or negations of metaphysics would follow from other conceptions. But obviously considerable resistance would meet the claim that the procedure yielded results that were strictly coincident with the views of other philosophers. The most that could be established would be a general similarity of structure and tendencies, while, commonly enough, philosophers living and dead are not just structures and tendencies but also less general responses to problems peculiar to particular places and times.”

“To meet this difficult, it is necessary to transpose the issue from the field of abstract deduction to the field of concrete historical process. Accordingly, instead of asking whether the views of any given philosopher follow from assumptions of a specific type, we propose to ask whether there exists a single base of operations from which any philosophy can be interpreted correctly, and we propose to show that our cognitional analysis provides such a base. In this fashion, the a priori element of cognitional analysis joins hands with the a posteriori element of historical data . . .” (Insight, a Study of Human Understanding, Chapter on Metaphysics as Dialectic; 1956, pp. 530-31; & Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan 3; 2000, pp. 553-54
(content parentheses added)

That theorem is transcendental or general empirical method (TM/GEM). Bernard Lonergan developed transcendental methodinto a formulated theory to adequately match and express actual cognitional activities. However, the theoretician himself maintained the distinction between, first, the broad outlines of commonly shared human mindedness ("infrastructure") and, second, formulated theory as a “superstructure,” as an intentional-critical, but variable affair, and as a product of the intellectual pattern of experience, aimed at better and better explanation of data--in this case, the data of the human mind.

In this way, TM--as our commonly shared human mindedness--also became referred to as a transcultural base. “Clearly it is not transcultural inasmuch as it is explicitly formulated; but it is trans-cultural in the realities to which the formulation refers. . .” (p. 282).

Further, through employment of an adequate theory, we use the mind's own method of discovery and verification and of knowing-the-real as a critical venture (as we do with any discovery and verification), to discover and verify the mind’s own method of discovery, and to know it too in critical fashion.

At its core, then, the body of work surrounding a study of transcendental method is about this discovery and how we go about knowing the real of anything. Getting the right constructs and concepts, and setting up the critical conditions for verifying those theories in the data of concern, then, become the fundamental work of the field of philosophy—a field that has always sought to discover the fount of human creativity and the source of unification for all knowledge fields.

Finally, neither the human mind, nor transcendental method as a theory of it, nor its critical verification, suggests a conflict with or divorce from anyone's faith journey. Rather, and though we can identify the general question for ultimate meaning as mystery in the structure of the mind, transcendental method (as both reality and theory) stands at the critical empirical basis of, but is not itself an answer to, that journey. Thus, no specific religious view is required or necessary to develop, to understand, or to verify the empirical work of transcendental method as general theory.

On the other hand, we invite the discussion of theological, religious, and faith issues on this site (see site section on religious and theological studies).

GUIDELINES for Contributing Content to Site

E-Book--To be developed

The site will link to relevant books and publishing sites. However, since we are about dialogue and discussion, posting such links will require that a section or sections from the book/essay, etc., be published to the site for comment and discussion.

"These flow from the Purpose statements. They comprise the criteria for reviewing the effectiveness of the site periodically. They also give the editor/webmaster criteria for editing, excluding, and amplifying articles. This is equivalent to Systematics/Planning" [Dunne].