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.


1 comment:

A M Benders said...

Thanks for creating this. I just found your blog on Lonergan and look forward to finding time to read it - and perhaps contribute.
Alison Benders