Functional Specialization Seminars | February 2011

An Exploration of an Apparent Anomaly in Lonergan Scholarship by Robert Henman

by robert.henman 28. February 2011 14:02

     An Exploration of an Apparent Anomaly in Lonergan Scholarship

                                                                                                                 Robert Henman



            In response to Philip McShane’s invitation to participate in an e-seminar in January 2011 I chose # 4 from his list: Implementation as a component of metaphysics [a neglected zone of indexing in Insight] complexified and differentiated by functional collaboration. I chose this anomaly as the focus of my seminar which was to do functional research in what appeared to be an anomaly in Lonergan’s Collected Works. The topic of implementation was related to research I had carried out in 2009-10 on how to effectively define an audience, more specifically in the specialty of Communications by researching how one breaks into a scheme of recurrence; in essence, implementation. As I proceeded in this current research topic it slowly opened up new questions that would require analysis in order to establish if functional specialization was linked to Lonergan’s references to implementation in Insight. The anomaly may reside not so much in the neglected zone of indexing but that neglect may be an indicator of a later and greater neglect in terms of research by scholars concerning what Lonergan meant by implementation. In order to properly understand the anomaly it will be necessary to establish whether or not there is a relationship between implementation and functional specialization that has been neglected.

Lonergan did not explore or explain in Insight how to implement the heuristic structure of proportionate being. Did that absence lead to the lack of follow up in research of what Lonergan meant by implementation? Chapters I to XIII of Insight focused on the conception and affirmation of a cognitional theory in preparation for the discussion of Metaphysics in chapters XIV to XVII. The topic of implementation was not followed up in Insight.[1] Why did Lonergan not take it up in Insight? There are various possibilities. Lonergan was called to teach in Rome in 1952 and he had to “wrap” things up with the text. Concomitant with that reason is that he may not yet have worked out for himself how to implement the heuristic structure of proportionate being. Since metaphysics provides the unification of all the sciences, it was no small project. Might the anomaly reside in the neglect of research by Lonergan scholars following the publishing of the text Insight since implementation was not discussed in that text leading scholars to merely carry on in the traditional academic style of writing and teaching? Perhaps more appropriately, after the publication of Method in Theology, scholars were ill-equipped to recognize a connection between implementation and functional specialization.

Furthermore, was the topic of implementation consistently on Lonergan’s mind, apparently until 1965? Lonergan’s teaching and writings while in Rome from 1952 to 1964 manifest a focus on method. The experiences of teaching large classes of students from a variety of cultures, with a variety of academic backgrounds while attempting to implement his own self-appropriation into his lectures within a system that had become archaic would have provided him with sufficient data and challenge to continue the drive towards solution. The larger context was that Lonergan had worked out a theory of history in the 1930’s.[2] This theory set against the decline of global living would have been sufficient enough of a drive to seek a solution.

Before discussing whether or not the neglect of implementation is an anomaly it would be helpful to explain the nature of an anomaly. For if an anomaly is understood as a departure from the norm would it not assist a functional researcher in understanding the heuristic that underpins the nature of a “departure from the norm?” In the first place, what is the norm from which a departure has apparently occurred? In this case, one would expect an explanation of implementation or a method of implementation offered to the reader. In other words, the norm is an expectation of a reasonable occurrence. The departure is the absence of that reasonable occurrence. This recognition of a departure from the norm relates to the canon of selection.[3] 

What occurs in the researcher that recognizes the absence of the expected occurrence, event, situation, or a series of events as an anomaly? It is an observation that is in the order of intelligence. To observe is to observe intelligently. There occurs an insight that reveals that some particular datum does not make sense within the context of other data that is understood. The data that we grant as understood, or accepted, is the conception and affirmation of an adequate metaphysics. For our purposes in this analysis the data is contextualized by Lonergan’s repeated mentioning of implementation as the third term in his definition of metaphysics and the absence of follow up by scholars on this term over a period of five decades.[4] The insight into that non-event raises the question; “Why not?” Does the non-event justify its designation as an anomaly? In other words the norm would be: 1) to expect Lonergan to explain what he meant by implementation, 2) an explanation be provided in his later works, or 3) that scholars would attempt to work out what he meant by implementation and how to implement his ideas.

The process outlined above manifests briefly the underlying heuristic operative in the recognition of an anomaly by a researcher. Though the researcher does not know the answer to the above questions intelligence recognizes a departure from the norm and if judgment is precarious at this stage, it is up to later specialists to determine if such a judgment is unconditional.

Further questions regarding this apparent anomaly is whether or not functional specialization was Lonergan’s solution of how to implement the metaphysics he presented in Insight? Whether Lonergan did or did not follow through, what are the implications for future scholars of either occurrence? What are the implications of the neglect of discovering and working out the relationship between implementation and functional specialization? And finally, what are the implications of discovering such a relationship? These questions, as unanswered by the functional researcher are to be later answered by the proceeding specialties. This paper will attempt to provide a direction towards those answers.

References to Implementation in Lonergan’s Collected Works

Fred Crowe, who indexed the original edition of INSIGHT, left the term “implementation” out of the indices.[5] The index of METHOD IN THEOLOGY, by Philip McShane, also has no reference to the term although the word usage does appear in the text.[6]  In Understanding and Being,[7] the edited and published edition of Lonergan’s Halifax lectures of 1958, implementation occurs twice in the text, but not in the index. To begin I will, in page chronology format, list the references to the various usages of the term implementation in Lonergan’s Collected Works. Following each reference is listed the chapter and section as context in which each reference occurred.

Page 254[229]: Finally, at each stage of the process, the general bias of common sense involves the disregard of timely and fruitful ideas; and this disregard not only excludes their implementation but also deprives subsequent stages both of the further ideas to which they would give rise and of the correction that they and their retinue would bring to the ideas that are implemented.

Context: Chapter 7: Common Sense as Object: Section 8.2 Implications of Longer Cycle

Page 259[234]: The principle of progress is liberty, for the ideas occur to the man on the spot, their only satisfactory expression is their implementation,

Context: Chapter 7: Section 8.4 Reversal of Longer Cycle

Page 261[236]: It (human science) can profit by the distinction between the intelligible emergent probability of prehuman process and the intelligent emergent probability that arises in the measure that man succeeds in understanding himself and in implementing that understanding. Finally, it can be of inestimable value in aiding man to understand himself and in guiding him in the implementation of that understanding, if and only if, it can learn to distinguish between progress and decline, between the liberty that generates progress and the bias that generates decline.

Context: Chapter 7: Section 8.5 Culture and Reversal

Page 263[238]: There will be common decisions to be reached and to be implemented. … What is necessary is a Cosmopolis…that implements itself primarily through that allegiance, that is too universal to be bribed, too impalpable to be forced, too effective to be ignored.

Context: Chapter 7: Section 8.6 Cosmopolis

Page 381[357]: The instrumental act of meaning is the implementation of a formal or of a full act by the use of words or symbols in a spoken, written, or merely imagined utterance.

Context: Chapter 12: The Notion of Being: Section 5 The Core of Meaning

 Page 416[391]: Now let us say that explicit metaphysics is the conception, affirmation, and implementation of the integral heuristic structure of proportionate being. The meaning and implications of this statement have now to be explored.

Context: Chapter 14:  The Method of Metaphysics: Section 2 A Definition of Metaphysics

Page 421[396]: Nonetheless, it (heuristic structure) can be conceived, affirmed, and implemented, and from that implementation there follow a transformation and an integration of the sciences and of the myriad instances of common sense.

Context: Chapter 14: Section 3 Method in Metaphysics

Page 517[493]: Because we conceived metaphysics as the implementation of integral heuristic structure, we had to affirm that it regarded proportionate being as explained,

Context: Chapter 16: Metaphysics as Science: Section 2 Relations

Page 530[507]: The significance of metaphysical equivalence is twofold. On the one hand, it provides a critical technique for the precise control of meaning. On the other hand, it is an implement for the development of metaphysics.

Context: Chapter 16: Section 3.4 The Significance of Metaphysical Equivalence

Page 544[521]: Further, we were led to conceive metaphysics, which traditionally is the science of being, as an implementation of the integral heuristic structure of the realm of being that coincides with the field of possible experience.

Context: Chapter 16: Section 5 Metaphysics as Science

Page 547[524]: Accordingly, I have been content to define metaphysics as the conception and implementation of the integral heuristic structure of our knowing in an endeavor to ground, penetrate, transform, and unify the scattered knowledge of common sense and the sciences.

Context: Chapter 16: Section 5 Metaphysics as Science

Page 601[579]: Though the actual implementation of a method cannot be tucked into the corner of a chapter on a more general topic, still some sketch seems desirable.

Context: Chapter 17: Section 3.5 Interpretation and Method

Page 708[685]: In similar fashion the method of metaphysics consisted in integrating and implementing classical and statistical, genetic and dialectical methods.

Context: Chapter 19: General Transcendental Knowledge: Section 11 Comparisons and Contrasts

Page 747-748[726]: The antecedent willingness of charity has to mount from an affective to an effective determination to discover and to implement in all things the intelligibility of universal order that is God’s concept and choice.

Context: Chapter 20:  Special Transcendental Knowledge: Section 5 Resumption of the Heuristic Structure of the Solution

References to Implementation in Understanding and Being

Page 195: …explicit metaphysics is the conception, affirmation, and implementation of the integral heuristic structure of proportionate being.

Context: Lecture 8: A Definition of Metaphysics Section 6: Explicit Metaphysics

Page 198: If your metaphysics is an implementation of the integral structure of proportionate being, then you are concerned with anticipating the structure of your knowledge when it is at the stage of completion.

Context: Lecture 8: Section 7: Metaphysics and Explanatory Knowledge

I add pages 188 to 199 in their totality of Understanding and Being as a further reference to aid in understanding Lonergan’s use of the term implementation.           

References in Method in Theology

Page 251: Accordingly, let us see what happens, first, when the dialectic is implemented by a person that has undergone intellectual, moral, and religious conversion and, secondly, when it is implemented by a person that has not yet undergone intellectual or moral or religious conversion.  

            I have sited 19 usages of the terms implementation, implementing, implemented, implements, and implement in three texts of Lonergan’s Collected Works. I have perused other articles and texts of the CWL collection that are presently available and have found no other occurrences to date. The occurrences I have listed do occur in somewhat differing contexts but usually within a discussion of metaphysics.

Lonergan indicates on page xii of the Introduction to Method in Theology that he considered the presence of a relationship between metaphysics and functional specialization.  He links up personal discovery with the method he is presenting and cautions about the difference between a model and a method. He states that the method is a prolongation of the earlier chapters devoted to personal discovery. If Lonergan considered the early chapters of Method in Theology as a compression of INSIGHT, then he also considered the metaphysics developed in Insight as a foundation for functional specialization. Also on page 134 of METHOD the following statement is made; It follows that the very structure of human inquiry results in four functional specializations and, since in theology there are two distinct phases we are led to expect eight functional specializations in theology. The key term that would seem to be in need of analysis in this statement is “results.”

A study of the above references may assist in bringing to light, not only the existence of a relationship, but also the validity of a such a relationship, and furthermore, the necessity of the recognition and understanding of such a relationship, that both an adequate metaphysics and functional specialization would initiate a control of meaning through the unification of the sciences. In order to situate properly the role of the unification of the sciences in this discussion let us bring to mind some of Lonergan’s statements about the relationship between an adequate cognitional theory and the unification of the sciences.

An account of scientific method stands to cognitional theory as the less to the more general, so that no firm barrier separates science, scientific method, and general cognitional theory.[8]

Lonergan goes on to state the following in defense of philosophy, which is the analysis of the data of consciousness, manifesting an adequate cognitional theory as the way to the unification of the sciences. It(Philosophy)has further, secondary functions in distinguishing, relating, grounding the several realms of meaning and, no less, in grounding the methods of the sciences and so promoting their unification.[9]  

In the absence of the implementation of metaphysics is there any promotion of the unification of the sciences? This question, within the context of the above quotations, draws the functional historian to reflect on whether or not the past has initiated such activity.      


[1] The term collaboration is mentioned frequently in the last chapters of Insight. The form of collaboration over the past 5 decades as follow up to the publishing of Insight has remained in the character of traditional academic styling.

[2] See Pat Brown’s   “Implementation in Lonergan’s Early Historical Manuscripts” “ ... it was a concern with effective practice not only within the natural and human sciences but on the level of our times, on the level of constituting and, in part, directing history.” Page 7.

“There are grounds for suspecting that something like “implementation of wisdom in history” was Lonergan’s long term project from the very beginning. Page 10.   Also Insight, CWL 3, page 265. “There is needed, then, a critique of history before there can be any intelligent direction of history.”


[3] Bernard Lonergan, INSIGHT: A Study of Human Understanding, CWL 3, University of Toronto Press, 1992, page 94 ff. The researcher observes and selects data intelligently. Intelligence notes the existence of patterns and the absence of patterns.

[4] Mike Shute, Lonergan’s Discovery of the Science of Economics, University of Toronto Press, 2010. Professor Shute quotes Lonergan: “Cosmopolis is not Babel, yet how can we break from Babel? This is the problem.” (Insight, page 267) Shute situates this statement within the context of a discussion of implementation and collaboration as a massive project of functional specialization that had been on Lonergan’s mind since the 1930’s. Has the response to Lonergan’s push for implementation been a form of Babel? I leave that to the future specialties. 

[5] The term Implementation does occur in the index of the 1992 edition of INSIGHT noting two occurrences, pages 421[396] and 381[357]. Philip McShane in his Lack in the Beingstalk, page 17, footnote 13 lists 11 further occurrences of the term “implementation;” pages 254[229], 259[234], 261[236], 263[238], 416[a391], 517[493], 530[507], 544[521], 546[524], 708[685], 748[726].  

[6] Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, Darton, Longman & Todd, Gr. Br., 1972, page 251. The term implemented is used referring to dialectic and not specifically to metaphysics.

[7] Understanding and Being, Edited by Elizabeth Murray and Mark Morelli. CWL 5, University of Toronto Press, 1980.

[8] Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, Herder & Herder, NY, 1972, page 248.

[9] Ibid., page 95.


Powered by BlogEngine.NET
Theme by Mads Kristensen