Panentheism.  Revisionism.  Anarchocapitalism.



Essays by Me

Essays by Others

Process, Insight, and Empirical Method 

An Argument for the Compatibility of the Philosophies of Alfred North Whitehead and Bernard J. F. Lonergan and Its Implications for Foundational Theology.

A Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of the Divinity School, The University of Chicago, for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

December 1983

Thomas Hosinski, C.S.C.

Chapter II:

The Tenability of Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s Interpretations of Scientific Method (Continued)


A Comparison of Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s Interpretations of Empirical Scientific Method to Those of Karl Popper and Michael Polanyi


Although it would be an interesting project, my principal purpose in this section is not to argue the relative merits of Popper’s and Polanyi’s interpre-tations of empirical scientific method.  The nature of my project does not require that I focus on judging the one to be a more relatively adequate interpretation of scientific method than the other. Accepting them both as powerful influences on the contemporary understanding of science and its method, I merely wish to illustrate that Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s interpretations of empirical scientific method fall within an acceptable spectrum of interpretation.  In the course of my comparison it will become clear that Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s interpretations correspond more closely to Polanyi’s. However, their interpretations also agree with and include (or could include) the elements upon which Popper insists.

I shall point out the areas of agreement and disagreement by comparing all four thinkers simultaneously as I review the major topics I have discussed concerning the structure of scientific method and the general method of knowing.


The Structure of Empirical Scientific Method

The first question confronting us concerns the starting point of empirical scientific method.  Popper and Polanyi both affirm that science begins with problems.  [Compare Thesis, pp. 141-143 and 166-168.]  Whitehead and Lonergan begin their descriptions of empirical scientific method by saying that observations and descriptions, are the first moment of that method.  [See ibid., pp. 11-13, 17-18 for Whitehead; pp. 56-58 for Lonergan.]  This is not a disagreement.  Both Popper and Polanyi would certainly acknowledge that before a problem could be recognized there must necessarily be observations and descriptions.  Furthermore, Lonergan explicitly states that the outcome of observations and descriptions are “questions for understanding” or problems. [See ibid., pp. 58, 63-64.]  While Whitehead does not explicitly state that observations and descriptions give rise to problems, this is clearly implicit in his description of the method.  It was to him, perhaps, something so obvious that it did not seem to call for comment.  If the imaginative generalization or formulation of the hypothesis is to be equated with the achievement of understanding, then clearly prior to this second moment there must be something that is not yet understood, namely, a problem.  Thus on this point, that science begins with problems, all four of our thinkers are in agreement.

There is a disagreement, however, over the role of observation in empirical scientific method.  All four agree that there are no “pure” observations; that is, they all agree that observations are in fact “theory-laden”—under the influence of theory—from the start. [For Popper, see ibid., p. 142; for Polanyi, pp. 170-171; for Whitehead, pp. 19-21; for Lonergan, p. 86.  See also p. 111.]  Popper, however, concludes from this that observations have no role to play in the logic of hypothesis formation.  More precisely, he concludes that there is no logic of hypothesis formation at all, and he limits the role of observation to the critical task of testing hypotheses.  Polanyi, on the other hand, accords two roles to observation.  He agrees with Popper that observation has a role to play in testing; he insists, however, that observation also has a role to play in arriving at an hypothesis.  The role is to provide the clues which will be tacitly integrated in the moment of discovery.  The disagreement here, as we have seen, is over the presence of inductive procedure in empirical scientific method.  I shall attend to this issue in a moment, but first I must note that both Whitehead and Lonergan have analyses of observation that concur entirely with Polanyi’s analysis.  Observation not only uncovers the problem to be solved and is used not only in the testing of the proposed solution, but also it provides the clues for the discovery of the solution.

A major difference between Popper and Polanyi is over the existence of inductive procedure in empirical scientific method and, consequently, whether the process resulting in the formation of hypotheses is part of that method.  Popper, on logical grounds, is convinced that there is no such procedure as induction and therefore concludes that the process of arriving at an hypothesis does not belong to the logic of scientific discovery but is a matter to be relegated to psychology.  Polanyi, in contrast, while agreeing that formal inductive procedure such as that championed by the positivists does not occur, concludes that an informal procedure of induction does occur in empirical scientific method.  This informal procedure, Polanyi finds, is at the very heart of scientific discovery.  It is here that Polanyi discovers strong evidence for the personal dimension of knowing that is ignored by the objectivist account.  Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s accounts of empirical scientific method are in complete agreement with Polanyi’s on all points involved in this issue.  Since it is the central issue of disagreement between Popper and Polanyi and of such great importance for how one understands scientific method and knowing, I will specify the points of agreement between Whitehead, Lonergan, and Polanyi as against Popper’s interpretation.

Let me begin with the influence of theory on observation, one of the reasons why Popper denies the existence of induction.  I have already noted that all four thinkers agree that there is such influence. Popper concludes that hence scientific method is really deductive in character.  Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan argue—implicitly, in the case of the latter two—that this conclusion is unwarranted.  It is important to take into consideration the nature of this influence of theory on observation.  That influence is not explicit or formalizable.  We have seen that Whitehead characterizes the influence of theory on observation as a “dim apprehension” or a vague anticipation.  Polanyi speaks of this influence as a foreknowledge or heuristic anticipation of the solution that cannot be explicitly stated.  As he argues, the paradox of the Meno can only be overcome by admitting that the knowledge of a problem involves an inarticulate foreknowledge of the unknown, a dimly intuited anticipation of the solution, which in fact guides the inquirer toward the yet unknown.  Lonergan, too, stresses the heuristic character of empirical scientific method, pointing out the ways in which the course of inquiry is structured by anticipating the unknown.  It is significant that Lonergan also understands the heuristic character of scientific method to be the answer to the paradox of how a scientist can begin an inquiry when he or she does not yet know the unknown. [Ibid., pp. 69-70.]  In sum, Whitehead and Lonergan are in agreement with Polanyi’s analysis that the influence of theory on observation in the first moment of scientific method is unformalizable and not explicit.  That influence is dependent upon the anticipatory or intuitive powers of the scientist, and it draws the scientist along an inductive path, from the particulars of a problem toward the yet unknown solution.  All three men are in agreement that some account of the formation of hypotheses is necessary for a full analysis of what is actually done in practicing scientific method.

Whereas Popper restricts the logic of scientific discovery to the deductive logic of testing, Whitehead argues that there are two logics at work in empirical scientific method: a logic of discovery (which is inductive) and a logic of the discovered (which is deductive). [Ibid., pp. 14-15.]  Whereas Popper locates scientific discovery in the testing of hypotheses alone, Whitehead understands scientific discovery necessarily to involve the “flight of the imagination” in arriving at the hypothesis as well as the testing of the hypothesis.  In this Whitehead agrees with the analysis of Polanyi, for whom the discovery of the hypothesis is the central creative act in scientific method.  While Popper admits that imagination and intuition are in fact the source of most hypotheses and theories [Ibid., p. 143.], he simply refuses to take them into account systematically in his analysis of scientific method.  Polanyi insists that their role is so significant that to omit them from an account of the knowing process leads to an essential distortion of knowledge and the process of knowing. With this Whitehead would undoubtedly agree. Lonergan also would concur.  He notes that “nonlogical” operations are essential to empirical scientific method, and includes discovery among these. [Ibid., pp. 62-63.] Thus Whitehead and Lonergan would both agree with Polanyi that Popper’s account of empirical scientific method, in omitting the crucial roles of imagination and intuition in the discovery of the hypothesis, is seriously incomplete.

While Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan all speak of “insight” as an integral element of scientific method, Lonergan’s analysis of insight is perhaps the most helpful in making clear the difference between these three and Popper.  As we have seen in Lonergan’s analysis, insight is essentially a private and preconceptual event. [Ibid., pp. 59-60.] In Polanyi’s terms, it is a momentary flash of illumination bridging the logical gap between the problem and its solution. It is the experience of an inquiring subject dwelling in heuristic tension at the brink of the logical gap.  As such, the experience of insight is the experience of a person, and it is an experience, not a logical inference or argument, not a product, but a preconceptual event.  It is the sudden grasp of understanding, and it is private.  There is, however, the urge in the inquirer to formulate this insight, to express it in public terms so as to show how the insight explains the problem.  While the insight is private and personal, the dynamic of inquiry compels the inquirer to formulate the insight in such a way that it becomes public and inter-subjective.  Since the hypothesis is the public formulation of the private insight, both must be taken into account in describing how a scientist works.  To focus attention on the hypothesis alone while neglecting the process of insight which gave birth to it, is to neglect the creative heart of scientific discovery.

From the point of view of Polanyi’s and Lonergan’s analyses (with Whitehead implicitly concurring), Popper is so concerned to eliminate the subject from knowing, so interested in limiting scientific method to formal logical inference and argument alone, that he overlooks the fact that the process of arriving at an hypothesis is an informal, non-logical, preconceptual event.  Popper’s critical programme in defense of objective knowledge causes him to ignore the undeniable fact that a-critical processes do occur and that these a-critical processes, which involve the personal contribution of the inquiring subject, are essential to the production of understanding and knowledge.  There must be a distinction made between the private, preconceptual insight and the methodical expression of that insight in public form, but both must be included in a descriptive account of empirical scientific method.

On this basis Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan all agree that induction is definitely a part of the method of empirical science.  It is not a completely formal process of inference, nor is it a strictly logical operation such as the positivists sought to make it. Rather, it is an informal procedure: a movement from the particulars of a problem to the solution of that problem with the aid of imagination and intuition. The notion of induction as a logically formal inference or an argument cannot be defended.  On this Popper, Whitehead, Lonergan, and Polanyi would all agree. But from this Popper concludes that there is no such thing as induction at all.  In contrast, Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan point out that induction as an informal procedure does take place in scientific work.  For them induction is a descriptive-explana-tory name for one part of cognitional process, not the name of a logical argument.  Moreover, all three find in this cognitional process strong evidence for the position that the achievement of understanding necessarily involves and elicits the contribution of the inquiring subject.

Concerning the testing of hypotheses, there is again a major difference between Popper and Polanyi.  On the basis of his prior analysis Popper insists that since it is impossible ever to verify a proposition or an hypothesis (strictly speaking), therefore all attempts to “justify” our hypotheses must be given up.  The only proper empirical test is falsifiability, subjecting all hypotheses to the strongest possible tests intended to falsify them. This is in keeping with his position that empirical scientific method is really completely deductive in character: a falsification is really a deductive inference, but it proceeds in an “inductive direction.”  [Ibid., pp. 135, 137-138.]  Polanyi disagrees with this analysis for two basic reasons.  First, Polanyi asserts, even though there are many strong “objective” criteria governing the testing of hypotheses, these criteria alone never totally decide the fate of an hypothesis.  In the end, it is the personal judgment of the scientist, made according to self-set standards, that governs how the external criteria of testing are to be applied and decides whether or not an hypothesis has been refuted and must be abandoned.  In short, even the final judgment of whether or not an hypothesis has been refuted by the evidence is dependent on a scientist’s intuition and judgment: this final moment in empirical scientific method is dependent upon the personal contribution of the scientist, and all that is involved in this personal contribution cannot be formalized in some set of external “objective” criteria.

Secondly, Polanyi seems to defend the position that, contrary to Popper’s analysis, a form of verification does take place in the actual conduct of the scientific work.  He does not make this argument explicit, but it is implied in his position.  Even though formal verification in a strict sense is impossible, this does not mean that scientists do not consider some hypotheses to be verified in their experiments.  Since verification is really an inductive procedure (even Popper admits that it is), the same solution that Polanyi proposes for the problem of induction is applicable to the problem of verification.  Verification is not a strictly logical, strictly formal procedure; but it is an informal procedure.  The scientist can have a tacit integration of the particulars of his or her experiments which illustrates that in these tests the hypothesis has been verified.  Verification in this sense, of course, is limited, partial, and always open to further understanding and judgment.  But it does occur.  The evidence for this position is discoverable in the actual conduct of scientists.

Whitehead and Lonergan again are in complete agreement with Polanyi’s analysis.  Whitehead includes the testing of hypotheses by experimen-tation within the “logic of discovery” and states that this is inductive logic.  [Ibid., pp. 14-15.] Although Whitehead does not devote specific attention to the question of verification, the clear implication of his analysis of empirical scientific method and scientific knowledge is that limited and partial “verifications” of scientific hypotheses do occur.  These verifications are always subject to further understanding (since the limitations of scientific generalizations are never completely known), but they are confirmations that in the scientific generalization some aspect of reality has been partially grasped. [Ibid., pp. 23-26.] In addition to this, although we have not yet seen Whitehead’s detailed analysis of judgment),

I shall devote attention to Whitehead’s analysis of judgment in Chapter III.

it is clear from his analysis of scientific method that the scientist’s judgment plays a crucial role in the testing of hypotheses.  The culmination of the whole method is the judgment of verification or falsification. Hence even from what we have seen thusfar) it is clear that Whitehead’s account is compatible with Polanyi’s.

Lonergan also speaks of verification throughout his analysis of empirical scientific method) and it is clear, especially from his treatment of judgment and its conditions) that in his view verification in science is always partial and limited. [Thesis, pp. 60-61, 81-92.] Lonergan’s extensive analysis of judgment, though using a different terminology, is essentially identical to that of Polanyi.  Lonergan recognizes, as does Polanyi, that there are external criteria governing the exercise of scientific judgment, and Lonergan devotes a good deal of attention to these criteria.

Ibid., pp. 73-79.  For Polanyi, see pp. 171-173.  Whitehead also discusses  the external criteria of scientific method in a generalized sense; see ibid., pp. 13-14.

However, when the exercise of judgment in science is investigated closely, the surprising discovery is that ultimately the judgment is made according to the self-set standards of the scientist. [See ibid., pp. 178-182 for Polanyi’s analysis of this point.] Lonergan expresses this same point by noting that ultimately the norm for scientific judgment is the internal dynamic of questioning itself, driven by the restless Eros of the mind to know. [Thesis, pp. 60-61, 91-92.] The demands of inquiry can only be met by responsibly carrying out the operations of cognitional process in the related pattern disclosed by a study of empirical scientific method, and these demands cease only when the inquirer is able to make a virtually unconditioned judgment.  The canons of empirical method attempt to formalize the demands of inquiry, but ultimately it is the dynamic of questioning itself which is the norm for the inquirer. Moreover, it is only when the inquirer himself or herself is satisfied that the demands of questioning have been met that the dynamic of inquiry will allow the inquirer to cease questioning and make the judgment.  The normative nature of scientific inquiry ultimately resides in the personal commitment of the scientist to the dynamic of inquiry and the scientist’s awareness that the conditions required for judgment are in fact fulfilled.

Thus on the issue of testing in empirical scientific method, both Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s analyses are in essential agreement with Polanyi’s.  All three agree that a partial and limited form of verification does occur in the exercise of scientific method.  More importantly, all three agree that the crucial factor in scientific testing is the judgment of the scientist. There are external criteria which aid and to some degree control the exercise of scientific judgment, but ultimately it is the scientist himself or herself who must judge how those criteria are to be applied, whether they have been met, and what the results of the experimentation indicate regarding the hypothesis tested.  The personal contribution of the inquiring subject is as essential and necessary in the final moment of empirical scientific method as it is in the central creative moment of discovering the hypothesis.

There is a further point to be raised concerning the exercise of judgment in empirical scientific method in comparing Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan.  In my estimation, Polanyi’s account stresses a factor that does not receive sufficient attention in Whitehead’s or Lonergan’s accounts: the ways in which the personal judgment of the scientist is formed, trained, and governed by the scientific community and its tradition.  [Ibid., pp. 182-185.] As Polanyi points out, one of the controls which prevent the exercise of personal judgment in science from slipping into mere subjectivism is the fact that the personal judgment of the scientist is formed and trained by the scientific community and exercised within the shared tradition of that community.  In this way the personal commitment to the truth which is the ultimate norm for scientific judgment is shared within and handed on by the scientific community. This does not make the scientist’s judgments any less personal, but it does establish an inter-subjective check on subjectivism.  Even though Whitehead and Lonergan do not address this issue in a systematic way, I find no reason why they could not both agree wholeheartedly with this analysis. Polanyi’s systematic account of this factor seems to complement their analyses.

There is another point of contrast between Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan on the one hand, and Popper on the other.  This contrast arises when we ask if their interpretations of empirical scientific method are descriptions of how science is actually done.  First, it must be admitted that all four interpretations I have discussed are interpretations. The actual conduct of scientific research on a daily basis undoubtedly departs in several respects from the ideal structure of the general method these interpretations present.  It seems evident to me, however, that there is a significant difference between Popper’s interpretation and those of Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan.  Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan, it seems to me, are trying to develop interpretations that are descriptive of the general method underlying the actual practice of empirical science, including all the operations of the inquiring subject.  All three of them, Polanyi and Whitehead especially, appeal continually to science as done, to examples from the history of science, attempting to show that their interpretations describe what is actually done by scientists.  In their stress on the existence of inductive procedures in arriving at hypotheses and on limited forms of verification in testing, Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan are all appealing to the actual practice of scientists.  Popper, in contrast, is not so much concerned to present a descriptive interpretation of what scientists actually do.  [Ibid., pp. 145-147.] He is trying, rather, to describe the logical core of correct science; that is, he wants to identify what it is that makes science correct, no matter what else scientists do or think they do.  From the strictly logical point of view, Popper insists, all the rest is “psychological.”  These “psychological” aspects of empirical science are not what demarcate science from non-science; they are not part of the logical procedure that gives scientific method its legitimacy and separates science from other modes of thought. This is why Popper so consistently denies that there is any inductive procedure in science, why he refuses to include the processes involved in hypothesis formation in his description of empirical scientific method, and why he insists that the only proper empirical test is the active seeking of falsifications. He might agree that what the others describe actually occurs in the experience of scientists, but he would insist that this is not what makes science science.  Only the logical backbone of empirical scientific method distinguishes science from non-science, and Popper’s analysis tries to scrape away the subjective and psychological “flesh” of the actual experience of doing science in order to get at this logical “backbone” of correct science.  This alone, he holds, is the guarantee of objectivity in science.

A further topic to be considered in this subsection is the nature of the knowledge arrived at by science. It is important to note that all four thinkers I have discussed agree that the knowledge arrived at by science is limited.  Both Popper and Polanyi characterize this knowledge as hypothetical, always remaining open to revision. [See ibid., pp. 140-141 for Popper; pp. 171-173 for Polanyi.]  Whitehead and Lonergan concur in this evaluation, Whitehead speaking of all knowledge as partial and limited [Ibid., pp. 26-28.], and Lonergan speaking of scientific judgments as probable, not certain. [Ibid., pp. 92-95.] Interestingly, all four men agree that progress in scientific knowledge is made, and that the process of its growth is cumulative.

Compare Ibid., pp. 26-28, 94-95, 157-159.  I have not discussed this issue in my treatment of Polanyi but it is the clear implication of his interpretation of science.

It ought to be noted, however, that the four men differ in their specific interpretations of what knowledge is and how it progresses; that is, even though they are agreed that in general knowledge is hypothetical and the process of its growth is cumulative, these statements mean quite different things for the four thinkers.  I shall discuss this issue in the following subsection.

Finally, there is an apparent contradiction between Polanyi’s and Lonergan’s descriptions of empirical scientific method which calls for some comment.  As we have seen, Polanyi stresses the passionate nature of the scientist’s inquiry, the personal involvement of the scientist, and the intense interest and excitement of the scientist seeking discovery.   Lonergan rather consistently describes the orientation of the scientist as being that of “inquiring intelligence, the orientation that of its nature is a pure, detached, disinterested desire simply to know.

Insight, p. 74.  In another place (ibid., p. 352) Lonergan adds the adjective “cool” to the list.

Lonergan, in other words, seems to adopt the “objectivist” ideal of scientific inquiry that Polanyi so forcefully rejects.  With regard to this apparent contradiction between Lonergan and Polanyi, I would point out first that Lonergan’s whole analysis of cognitional process and judgment is so similar to Polanyi’s that the contradiction can only be apparent, not substantive.

The great similarity between Lonergan’s and Polanyi’s analyses of empirical scientific method, cognitional process, and epistemology has been established in the detailed study of Harold Kuester, “The Epistemology of Michael Polanyi,” Part 5, 2: 482-590, 600-601.  The same conclusion has been reached by Joseph Kroger, “Polanyi and Lonergan on Scientific Method” Philosophy Today 21 (1977): 2-20.

Secondly, I would note that Lonergan’s use of such adjectives as “cool,” “detached,” and “disinterest-ed” when describing the desire to know seems to contradict his other description of the desire to know as “an Eros of the mind.” [Insight, p. 74.] Harold Kuester has suggested that perhaps Lonergan’s use of these “objectivist” adjectives comes from his grounding of the cognitional process upon the virtually unconditioned. [Kuester, “The Epistemology of Michael Polanyi,” p. 588.] I suspect that Lonergan uses this “objectivist” terminology because faithfulness to the desire to know (as Polanyi would agree) prevents the inquiring subject from lapsing into mere subjectivism and instills in the subject a sense of responsibility to what the knower is trying to know. In giving himself or herself over to the desire to know, the inquirer stands under the judgment of the truth. Lonergan, in other words, is trying to express how the desire to know elicits the transcendence of subjectivity in the cognitional process, and so he describes that desire to know in what Polanyi would regard as “objectivist” terminology.  In any case, I agree with Kuester’s conclusion that there is no reason why either man could not agree with the position of the other. [See ibid.]

I have been concentrating in this subsection on the differences between Popper’s analysis of empi-rical scientific method and those of Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan.  I have shown that there is a fundamental compatibility between Polanyi’s, Whitehead’s, and Lonergan’s interpretations of scientific method, and that all three would disagree with Popper’s interpretation.  It is important, however, to be clear about the nature of their disagreement.  In my judgment neither Whitehead nor Lonergan would claim that Popper’s analysis is mistaken.  Rather, they would hold that it is incomplete.  As is implicit in my discussion above, Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s disagreement with Popper is not over the accuracy of his logical analysis, but rather over its adequacy as a complete account of empirical scientific method.

Popper restricts empirical scientific method to its logical elements alone, primarily because he wants to establish that this logical core (together with science’s ability to predict empirical states of affairs and test theories against empirical facts) is what demarcates science from all other modes of human thought.  This is what guarantees the objectivity of science, not the “psychological” states of the subjects who do science.  So far as concerns the importance of the logical and empirical criteria of science, Whitehead and Lonergan would not disagree.  We have seen in Chapter I that Whitehead and Lonergan both include in their interpretations of scientific method the logical and empirical criteria that Popper stresses and studies in great detail.  But Lonergan and Whitehead are interested not only in the “objective” rational and empirical criteria which function in empirical scientific method; they are also interested in the subject who is searching for knowledge.

This is already clear for Lonergan from my discussion of his programme in Chapter I.  It will become clear that this is also the case for Whitehead in my discussion in Chapter III.

They are seeking to understand how the subject participates in and contributes to the knowing process.  Thus their descriptive analyses of empirical scientific method include not only the logical and empirical structure and criteria stressed by Popper, but also the non-logical, a-critical, “subjective” or personal operations and processes stressed by Polanyi.

My point is that Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s analyses of empirical scientific method include those logical and empirical elements that Popper stresses. They would disagree with him only in so far as he tries to claim that his account is a complete description of what takes place in an act of scientific knowing.  Whitehead and Lonergan want to take into account the personal or subjective participation of the knower.  Popper might insist that this has nothing to do with what is strictly scientific about scientific method, but that is not the concern Whitehead and Lonergan have.  They would agree with Polanyi that whether or not the “personal” participation of the knower has anything to do with what is strictly scientific in scientific method, it is nevertheless an essential part of the entire process of knowing and cannot be overlooked.  Thus the essential compati-bility between the interpretations of empirical scientific method produced by Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan ought not to be taken to mean that they reject Popper’s analysis.  Rather, all three insist that in addition to what Popper stresses, the participation of the knowing subject must also be taken into account.  In this sense, the antagonism between Polanyi and Popper is actually misleading. They agree on more than one would be led to believe by their criticisms of each other.

I must now pursue the implications of these interpretations for the broader philosophical issues of knowing and knowledge.


The Nature of Knowing and Knowledge

We have now seen the basic agreement between Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan in their interpretations of empirical scientific method, and both their agreement and disagreement with Popper’s analysis.  As I pursue the larger philoso-phical issues raised by a study of empirical scientific method, the differences in approach between Whitehead and Lonergan will again begin to surface. Even while acknowledging these differences, however, it will remain clear that Whitehead and Lonergan are in general agreement with Polanyi’s interpretation.  Once again, they will disagree with Popper, not in outright rejection of his positions, but in their attention to the subjective contribution of the knower.  I will begin by discussing two points on which there is significant agreement between all four thinkers I have discussed.

The first point on which all four men would agree is that the distinction between understanding and knowledge corresponds to the difference between an untested hypothesis and a tested one.  Whitehead, Polanyi, and Lonergan would all agree that understanding is an achievement of the inquiring subject, but none of them would call this achievement knowledge.  Likewise, it seems to me, Popper would agree that an hypothesis is the expression of understanding.  For all four of these men, one cannot speak of knowledge until the understanding has been subjected to testing. Knowledge is the child of responsible judgment, and judgment can occur responsibly only when the understanding has been tested against the facts of experience.  The import of this for all knowledge is clear.  As we shall see when we come to discuss objectivity, there is a major difference between Popper on the one hand and Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan on the other concerning the meaning of testing, the criteria for making such judgments, and the role of the subject in knowledge.  But all are agreed on the general point that one can only speak of knowledge when understanding has been subjected to the proper testing.

A second point on which all four men agree is that the general or essential structure of empirical scientific method is the underlying general structure of method in philosophy and in all cognitional knowing.  [For Whitehead and Lonergan see Thesis, pp. 113-115; for Popper, pp. 126, 154-155; for Polanyi, pp. 188-196.]  Now just as we saw when comparing Whitehead and Lonergan on this point [Ibid., pp. 113-115.], so also here this general agreement seems to cover a host of important differences.  “Philosophy” means something different to each of these four men, and in this case we even have a major disagreement over what the general method of empirical science is.  Yet even in the face of these important differences, there is significance in the fact that all four men agree that any act of knowing has the same essential structure as an act of knowing in the empirical sciences. Ideally, at least, this brings scientific knowing into a common relationship with other forms of knowing.  I will pursue the significance of this point, which may seem quite unassuming now, later in my study.

I must now take up a complex of interrelated issues in which the differences between Popper on the one hand and Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan become great.  These issues are self-transcendence and objectivity in knowing, the growth of knowledge, and the relation of knowledge to reality.  The position adopted on anyone of these issues is related to and dependent upon the positions adopted on the other two.  Thus the full positions of the thinkers I am considering will emerge only after I have discussed all of these issues.

I will begin by considering the issue of self-transcendence and objectivity in knowing.  There is a sense in which all four men I have studied would agree that faithfulness to the method of knowing leads the inquiring subject to self-transcendence and that objectivity consists in faithfulness to this method.  The disagreements arise over what specifically this means.  For Popper, as we have seen, objectivity has to do with the autonomous “world 3” of objective knowledge. [Ibid., pp. 148-154.] In this “world,” which has an existence independent of knowing subjects, are found the logical relationships and implications of all hypotheses and theories.  It is only in relation to this independent “world 3” of objective knowledge that the inquiring subject can transcend the limitations of the subjective world (“world 2”).  It is only because the subject submits his or her hypotheses to criticism in terms of the objective logical relations and implications of the autonomous “world 3” that the “world 2” subjective cognitional process transcends itself to objectivity.  Thus faithfulness to the method of criticism in boldly proposing hypotheses and keeping them open to intersubjective criticism evokes the self-transcendence of the inquiring subject from the world of human subjectivity (“world 2”) toward the world of objective knowledge (“world 3”).  Objectivity, then, has an ontological referent (“world 3”), and only insofar as the processes of subjective knowledge conform to the pattern of growth of objective knowledge can the subjectivity of “world 2” be transcended and objectivity attained.

It is remarkable how similar to and yet ultimately how radically different from Polanyi’s this position of Popper’s is.  Polanyi, too, insists that personal knowledge is a transcendence of subjectivity because it is asserted in commitment to pursuit of the truth.  It is because the scientist or any knower is faithful to the methodical structure of knowing and committed to the reality he or she is trying to know that personal knowlledge is not merely subjective. [See ibid., pp. 178-182, 193-196.] Thus for Polanyi, too, there is a sense in which objectivity has an ontological referent: the reality which the inquirer is struggling to understand and know and to which he or she is committed.  It is this commitment to the truth which structures the methodical process of knowing and elicits the self-transcendence of the human subject in personal knowledge affirmed with “universal intent.”  Yet in spite of what appears to be a fundamental agreement, Polanyi and Popper could hardly disagree more.

The heart of the disagreement concerns the role of the inquiring subject in self-transcendence and objectivity.  Popper explicitly tries to construct his view of objectivity without reference to a knowing subject.  He asserts that only after this objective realm of “knowledge without a knowing subject” has been established and understood can one finally see how subjective cognitional processes can transcend subjectivity by relating themselves to this independent world of objective knowledge.  Polanyi, on the other hand, argues that properly speaking there can be no knowledge without a knowing subject.  He affirms that knowledge cannot be separated and isolated from the subject who knows and the processes involved in knowing.  To attempt this separation not only distorts the character of knowledge but also is destructive of its bases. Ultimately, he asserts, it is not some autonomous and independent world of objective knowledge that validates our propositions as objective, but rather the strength and passion of the inquirer’s commitment and responsibility to the truth as it reveals itself to the knower in discovery and judgment.  It is the personal participation of the inquirer in the act of knowing, his or her indwelling and commitment in responsible judgment, that is the source and ground of objectivity.  The responsibility for our personal knowledge, the guarantee of its objectivity, can never be shifted from personal commitment to external “objective” criteria such as logical relations, testability, and so forth.

Polanyi’s central point seems to be illustrated quite well in Popper’s own writings.  Popper’s position on objectivity is intelligible only if one assumes the personal commitment of the inquiring subject to universal standards.  The external criteria Popper proposes cannot alone guarantee objectivity or make it automatic.  Popper actually assumes the personal commitment of the inquirer but does not take it into account systematically in his philosophy of knowledge.  For example, Popper characterizes scientific method as a critical method that subjects all proposed hypotheses to the most stringent of tests and that systematically excludes all procedures by which an hypothesis might be “immunized” against falsification. [See ibid., pp. 135, 144-145.] But as Popper himself observes [See ibid., p. 135; L.Sc.D., pp. 41-42.], it is always logically possible to find some way of “immunizing” hypotheses against falsifi-cation.  On the grounds of logic alone, falsification can always be avoided.  That is why Popper characterizes empirical scientific method as “a method that excludes precisely those ways of evading falsification which . . . are logically possible.” [L.Sc.D., p. 42.] But what does this mean if not that empirical scientific method is a radical commitment to testing?  And how can one speak of commitment if one is not referring to the personal commitment of scientists as individuals and as a group—personal commitment to the pursuit of truth?  And how can one exclude logically possible ways of evading falsification except by the exercise of responsible judgments made in commitment to the pursuit of truth?  Popper from the very beginning of his project must characterize empirical scientific method as radical commitment to testing, and yet he refuses to take this personal commitment into account systematically in his interpretation of empirical scientific method.

This same is true of Popper’s treatment of imagination and intuition.  In order to make his account of scientific method intelligible, Popper grants that there are roles for imagination and intuition in the formation of hypotheses and in the testing of hypotheses, but he tries to exclude them from his systematic account of that method.  Again, we have seen how dependent upon the exercise of personal judgment the act of knowing is even in empirical science.  Polanyi acknowledges that there are external (or “objective”) criteria but he points out forcefully that the application of these criteria to any actual situation in science always depends on the personal judgment of the scientist.  A verification or a falsification is never automatic, but depends entirely on the exercise of responsible judgment by the scientist.  Popper speaks of imagination, intuition, commitment, and judgment, but when he comes to his systematic analysis of the method of knowing, he whisks them away.  The fact that he must speak of them to lend intelligibility to his interpretation indicates that they must be more than bit players to be trotted on and off stage in the drama of scientific inquiry and knowing; they must in fact be the principal actors in that drama.

On these issues Lonergan and Whitehead have positions that are plainly resonant with Polanyi’s.  For Lonergan, as we have seen, objectivity is achieved by faithfulness to the demands of methodical inquiry. The method of knowing is normative because it carries within itself the very dynamic of questioning. The inquirer is driven by the Eros of his or her mind to know, and the inquirer cannot arrive at knowledge without faithfully submitting himself or herself to the dynamic of questioning.  That dynamic follows a pattern of recurrent and related cognitional opera-tions culminating in virtually unconditioned judg-ments, and only when such judgments can be made does the dynamism of inquiry allow the inquirer to rest.  Thus for Lonergan as for Polanyi, the ultimate ground of objectivity is personal: the Eros of the mind to know (Polanyi’s personal commitment to the pursuit of truth).  It is this personal dimension at the very root of knowing that accounts for the self-transcendence and objectivity of knowing.  Polanyi argues that the person transcends subjectivity in knowing because his or her judgments—in commit-ment and responsibility to the truth pursued—are affirmed with “universal intent”; objectivity depends on this personal contribution of the knower to knowing. [See Thesis, pp. 178-182, 194-196.] Lonergan argues the same point when he discusses the relation of judgment to being, and argues that all judgments made in commitment to the pure desire to know are affirmed with “the intention of being.”

[See ibid., pp. 101-102.  I have treated this point in Lonergan’s thought only summarily thusfar.  I shall take it up in detail in Chapter III.]

Thus Lonergan’s analysis of the personal ground of the method of knowing, the personal contribution of the knower in making judgments, and the intentionality of. the judgments made in this manner, is almost identical with Polanyi’s analysis.

Whitehead’s approach to these issues is rather different from that of Polanyi and Lonergan, but certainly compatible with them in my estimation. Whitehead would agree that what is commonly meant by objectivity is achieved by faithfulness to the general empirical method which underlies empirical scientific method, philosophical method, and any act of cognitional knowing.  The starting point, however, is actuality, the actual world, including the inquiring subject. [See ibid., pp. 11-13.] The inquiring subject is from the start immersed in actuality in the form of his or her experience.  The pursuit of knowledge is the attempt on the part of the inquiring subject to elucidate his or her actual experience.  This is done by the use of concepts and ideas which are, by their very nature, abstractions from concrete experience. [See ibid., p. 35-41.] The method of discovery develops abstractions and schemes of abstractions by the use of imagination and intuition in the hope of elucidating more deeply and thoroughly the processes and interrelations operative in actuality.  Whitehead will only speak of “knowledge,” however, when the inquiring subject tests these abstractions against experience and formulates a judgment as to their applicability and adequacy. [See ibid., pp. 23-26, 47-49. ] Objectivity, then, means faithfulness to this empirical method, and faithfulness to this empirical method means a personal commitment of the inquiring subject to the truth of experience.  But it is the inquiring subject who must judge whether or not any abstractive scheme of thought elucidates experience.  For Whitehead, too, the ground of objectivity cannot be separated from the inquiring subject: the ground of objectivity is the experiencing subject who is inquiring with the intention of elucidating experienced reality, and who elicits as best he or she can the testimony of that experience he or she hopes to elucidate.  To speak of objectivity is to speak of such a subject faithfully submitting himself or herself to the general empirical method of inquiry.  It seems to me that though Whitehead’s approach to these issues is quite different, it is an analysis quire compatible with Polanyi’s and Lonergan’s on the necessity of the personal contribution of the knower to knowing, and on the inherently personal grounding of objectivity.

I shall discuss Whitehead’s position on these issues more thoroughly in Chapter III.

Let us now shift attention to the issue of the growth of knowledge.  In Popper’s interpretation, knowledge grows through criticism of our conjectures and the elimination of errors. [See Thesis, pp. 151-159.] In science this means that we actively strive to “overthrow” our theories by falsification and construct better theories which incorporate all the falsifications of the past.  By doing this our theories become better and better approximations to the truth.  In non-science such growth occurs by subjecting our conjectures to strong criticism and developing arguments of relative adequacy so that we may judge one conjecture to be a closer approximation to the truth than the other even though strictly speaking it is impossible to refute either conjecture. [See ibid., pp. 160-162.] The model of growth Popper proposes, then, is cumulative.  The instrument of growth, however, is restricted to falsification in empirical science and judgments of relative inadequacy in metaphysical discussions.

Polanyi and Lonergan would agree that growth in knowledge is cumulative (that is, that it depends upon and incorporates what has been learned in the past), but they would not agree that the reasons for this cumulative growth are restricted to actual falsifications in science or arguments of relative inadequacy in non-scientific thought.  As we have seen repeatedly, both Polanyi and Lonergan would argue for the actual occurrence of a limited form of verification in science, and both would argue for the existence of a similar process in non-scientific thought.

Polanyi reserves the term “verification” for judgments made in empirical scientific work, and uses the term “validation” for other modes of thought.  See P.K., p. 202.  Both Lonergan and Whitehead are not adverse to using the term “verification” for the whole continuum of modes of knowing, though clearly the term is used by them in a general sense, not the specific sense applicable to empirical scientific judgments.

For both men this “positive” growth in knowledge is rooted in the affirmations of the inquiring and judging subject.  Both would grant that there are negative judgments such as Popper is speaking of, but both would deny that the judgments of knowers are in actuality limited to such negative judgments.  There are also affirmations which knowers make on the basis of responsible judgments, and these, too, contribute to the growth of knowledge.

Whitehead would clearly agree with Polanyi and Lonergan on these points.  However, Whitehead offers an additional argument against Popper’s position, an argument which in my estimation is quite powerful.  Whitehead would grant that, indeed, falsification or the detection of errors is one way in which knowledge grows.  A more important way in which knowledge grows, however, is in our discovering the limitations of our ideas. [See Thesis, pp. 26-28, 35-41.] Even in science, this does not necessarily mean falsification in the strict sense. As we have seen, Whitehead argues that one major example of progress in the science of cosmology did not really involve falsification, but the discovery of limitation.  Einstein’s discovery did not reveal Newton’s formulae on gravitation to be false, but rather to be limited in their scope of application. Likewise, with the progress of science, the limitations of Einstein’s formulae will one day come to be known. [See quotation ibid., p. 27.] Thus knowledge grows not only by the detection of errors and false hypotheses, but by the discovery of the limitations of applicability of our abstractions.  This is true not only for science, but also for all forms of cognitional knowing.

This brings us to the culminating issue of this complex of issues: the relation of knowledge to reality.  Popper’s interpretation of knowing places severe limits on the relation between knowledge and reality. [See ibid., pp. 156-157.] Our knowledge always remains hypothetical or conjectural, nothing beyond more or less good guesses.  These guesses, if informed, are serious attempts to discover truth, but we can never know if we have grasped the truth and come to know reality.  This, of course, is because we can never verify our conjectures.  By falsifying them, however, we can conclude that there is a reality, something with which our conjectures have clashed. Logically, the very idea of error implies the idea of an objective truth which we may fail to reach. Empirically, when we succeed in falsifying a conjecture this must mean that objective truth (that is, reality) exists.  Falsifications are the points at which we “touch” reality, and by discarding our falsified conjectures and formulating better ones in pursuit of the truth, we may be said to be drawing nearer to the truth.  This, however, means that our knowledge is severely limited.  Our knowledge of reality is restricted to the idea that there is a reality and that we have encountered it in detecting the errors of our conjectures about it.  This is the limit of our “positive experience” gained from reality. [See quotations; ibid., p. 157.] The idea of truth has motivating and regulative roles, but we can never know if we know the truth, nor can we know reality except in error.

Popper’s position is thus a contemporary form of the Humean and Kantian limitation of speculative reason.

This position also implies that actual contact with reality can only be achieved in empirical science where falsifications can be made.

Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan all take a very different position on this issue.  In spite of very real differences in their individual points of view, these three thinkers are in fundamental agreement as against Popper’s position.  Knowledge has a very different character for them.  Polanyi holds that contact with reality is made in personal knowing which includes positive affirmations as well as judgments of falsity.  Our personal knowledge, then, is more than the knowledge of error and that some unknown reality must exist.  His whole analysis of discovery in empirical science and in any act of knowing shows that reality beckons the inquirer on and reveals aspects of itself to him or her in intelligibility.  When the knower is able to affirm in a judgment with universal intent that contact with reality has been established, there is positive knowledge of reality.  This is, to be sure, knowledge fraught with risk, knowledge that always remains partial, incomplete, and uncertain.  It is, however, positive knowledge of reality, knowledge that goes beyond the mere knowledge of error.  Contact with reality is made by recognizing and affirming the intelligible in reality.

This is clearly the implication of Polanyi’s analysis of the nature of objectivity in knowing.  See especially ibid., pp. 5-6, 63-64, 104-106, 311-316.

Recognizing and affirming the intelligible in reality is dependent upon our commitment and responsibility to the vision of reality we are glimpsing.  Commitment, in turn, has two moments: the final commitment of the person in judgment and affirmation; and the initial commitment of the person in indwelling. [See Thesis, pp. 193-196.] Indwelling itself is an experience of the yet unknown reality, aspects of which will be affirmed and known in the final commitment of judgment.  Polanyi, in short, recognizes the limited nature of knowledge, but affirms that our knowledge is positive contact with reality.  Contact with reality is not restricted to the empty knowledge that there is a reality and the negative knowledge of error.  Furthermore, contact with reality is not restricted to the empirical sciences, but takes place in all acts of personal knowing.

Lonergan and Whitehead are in fundamental agreement with Polanyi’s position.  Lonergan also argues that contact with reality is made in affirming the intelligible. [See ibid., pp. 53-55, 81-102.] Lonergan’s whole analysis of judgment results in the argument that the problem of how a knower can get beyond himself or herself to a known world is incorrectly put, that it is in fact a pseudo-problem. The intentionality of judgment shows that the self-transcendence of the knower ought not to be sought in getting beyond a knower to an unknown world. Rather, the intentionality of judgment shows the self-transcendence of the knower in “heading for being” within the act of knowing. [See ibid., p. 102.] Once it is shown that it is possible and reasonable for the knower to affirm himself or herself as a knower (the affirmation of self as a knowing being), then it must be recognized that it is equally possible and reasonable to arrive at other judgments from which arise knowledge of other objects as beings and as being other than the knower.  In short, contact with reality is made whenever a reasonable and responsible judgment can be affirmed, and from such judgments knowledge of reality arises.  Such judgments are not restricted to negative judgments of falsity or error, but include positive affirmations. While such knowledge of reality cannot be considered absolute, complete, final, or certain, it is knowledge nonetheless.  In affirming the intelligible, we do know reality and this knowledge is not limited to the sort obtainable in the empirical sciences.

Whitehead, it seems to me, would not disagree with such an analysis of what takes place in the act of knowing.  He does, however, develop his position from a point of view more closely akin to Polanyi’s notion of indwelling

There are a number of similarities or resemblances between the philosophies of Whitehead and Polanyi which are beyond the scope of my study.  For a study of a few of these similarities, see John B. Bennett, “The Tacit in Experience: Polanyi and Whitehead,” The Thomist 42 (1978): 28-49.

than to Lonergan’s analysis of the intentionality of knowing.  Whitehead does not begin his analysis of knowing by considering an inquiring subject in isolation and studying the processes of cognition in an attempt to discover how that subject is related to reality.  He begins, rather, with the subject immersed in reality, enmeshed in a network of real relation-ships.  For Whitehead, reality is what constitutes experience.  Metaphorically, we already “know” reality in its fulness and its infinite complexity in our experience.

This, of course, is not rational knowledge nor even conscious awareness.  See Thesis, pp. 35-36.

That is the starting point for trying to understand what rational knowledge is.  Thus whereas Popper says that we “touch” reality only in our falsifications, Whitehead would say that we never lose “touch” with reality at all.  When in an act of knowing the knower can affirm the truth of some abstraction, the knower has not for the first time “touched” reality by breaking through the confines of isolated subjec-tivity.  Rather, the knower has gained rational know-ledge—always partial, incomplete, and limited—of some aspect of the reality he or she is constantly experiencing.  Rational knowing elucidates some aspects of an already experienced reality.  For Whitehead, too, in spite of its limited nature, knowledge is positive, is possible in affirmation as well as negation, and is not restricted to the inquiries of the empirical sciences.  Any true act of knowing (involving testing abstractions against experience) produces positive, though limited, knowledge of reality.

I might note that Lonergan’s and Whitehead’s positions on the relation of knowledge to reality are the philosophical undergirdings for their positions on induction.  Both of them, along with Polanyi, affirm that informal inductive procedure is an element of the process of knowing.  As we have seen [Ibid., pp. 118-119.], Lonergan grounds induction in an “immanent and operative law” of the dynamism of cognitional process, while Whitehead grounds induction in an ontological analysis of an occasion of experience.  For Lonergan induction is an inherent operation of cognitional process, but Whitehead insists that induction (even though part of cognitional process) cannot be grounded until one has illustrated that the immediate occasion of experience is related to other occasions in the past and the future.  Both solutions are empirical: Lonergan’s appealing to the data of cognitional process, Whitehead’s to the data of experience more broadly conceived.

While both Lonergan and Whitehead could present strong arguments against Popper’s solution to the psychological problem of induction [See ibid., pp. 136-140.], in my judgment Whitehead’s would be the more powerful. Popper resolves the psychological problem of induction by arguing that induction is not a psychological fact.  Rather, the psychological situa-tion is that we have “inborn” expectations that future events will conform in general ways to events of the present and the past.  We test those expectations and if necessary modify them, eliminating erroneous expectations; but, Popper concludes, this is really a deductive procedure.  Hence the psychological situation parallels the logical, and induction is a fact in neither.  Apart from several other arguments which could be formulated against Popper’s position from Whitehead’s philosophy, the fundamental one concerns the question of why such “inborn” expectations are present at all.  Popper’s response is clearly Kantian: the expectations are there because they are the instruments of our cognitional processes, and we cannot avoid having them. Whitehead would respond, I think, by making two points.  First of all, he would agree that, surely, there are inborn expectations that the future will conform to the past in some respects.  This fact, however, does not substantiate the denial of inductive procedures.  These expectations are not specific hypotheses from which formal deductions could be made.  They are, rather, general expectations; and we must actually induce our specific understandings of how in fact particular aspects of the future will conform to particular aspects of the past.  We do so by eliciting our specific understandings from our actual experience.

Secondly, Whitehead might argue, Popper’s response does not really ground these expectations. In both their general and specific forms, such expectations remain ungrounded empirically until we can illustrate in the facts of experience that the general nature of such expectations conforms to the structure of reality.  These expectations presuppose and imply a metaphysical understanding of the world. Therefore, they cannot be grounded by regarding them as mere conjectures to be tested and then developing a deductive logic of testing.  A logic alone cannot empirically ground these expectations.  They can only be grounded empirically by illustrating in the facts of experience that present events have inherent relations both to the past and the future. This calls, in short, not for a logic but for a metaphysical analysis of the structure of reality.  This alone can give empirical grounding to these expectations.  Once Whitehead establishes his ontological analysis of actual entities and their relationships, he is able to show that the expectations of conformity of future to past are present in the inquiring subject not merely because they are the unavoidable structure and instruments of rational consciousness, but because the experiencing subject is continually rooted in a reality in which the present moment is affected by the past and affects the future.  The inductive procedure of rational consciousness can now be understood and affirmed as grounded in and reflecting the actual connectivity of all events.

In this subsection I have once again concentrated on the differences between Popper’s philosophy of knowledge and the positions presented by Polanyi, Whitehead, and Lonergan.  Again, however, it is important to be clear about the nature of the disagreements between them.  In my estimation, neither Whitehead nor Lonergan would deny the legitimacy of Popper’s main points, and in fact they include them or could include them in their own analyses.  The disagreement with Popper again centers around taking the contribution of the knowing subject systematically into account in constructing a cognitional theory and epistemology.  Popper restricts his theory of “objective knowledge” to the logical relations within and between theories and the inter-subjective criticism of theories.  He argues that only by means of contact with this objective “world 3” realm of logical contents can the subject achieve self-transcendence and objectivity in knowing.  It seems clear to me that neither Whitehead nor Lonergan (nor, for that matter, Polanyi) would dispute this point.  The disagreement they have with Popper concerns the exclusion of the subject from a description of the knowing process.  I shall try very briefly to summarize the grounds for this interpretation.

It is clear that both Whitehead and Lonergan agree with Popper concerning the importance of the logical and empirical dimensions of “objective knowledge” for any account of the growth of knowledge and of objectivity and the self-transcendence of the knower.  For example, we have seen how Lonergan insists that the private, pre-conceptual insight must be formulated in public terms precisely so that it can be communicated and inter-subjectively tested. [See ibid., pp. 59-60.] Thus Lonergan would agree entirely with Popper’s statement that “only a formulated theory (in contradistinction to a believed theory) can be objective, and . . . it is this formulation or objectivity that makes criticism possible . . .” [Ob. Kn., p. 31.] Further, Lonergan would agree that self-transcendence and objectivity occur in the knowing process precisely because the subject is related to an objectively stated theory and is seeking to answer the further questions that arise.  The dynamic of inquiry drives the subject to search for the fulfilled or unfulfilled conditions of that proposition in testing.

Likewise, Whitehead would have no quarrel with the points upon which Popper insists. Whitehead even develops an analysis remarkaply akin to Popper’s discussion of “world 1,” “world 2,” and “world 3.” As I shall discuss in detail below [See Thesis, pp. 297-324.], Whitehead works out a metaphysical theory of “propositions.”  Propositions, he holds, are hybrid entities, neither actual entities nor pure concepts, but distinct entities combining characteristics of both.  Although it would take me too far afield here, it could be shown rather easily that Whitehead’s “actual entities” considered as “superjects” (objects) correspond quite closely with Popper’s “world 1” physical objects or physical states.  Whitehead’s “actual entity” considered in its formal constitution (i.e., as a concrescent subject) corresponds quite closely with Popper’s “world 2” subjective experience.  Finally, Whitehead’s “propositions” correspond quite closely with Popper’s “world 3” objective logical relations within and between theories.  Whitehead would agree entirely with Popper that self-transcendence and objectivity occur in knowing when a subject asks about the truth of the proposition in itself (apart from its relation to or interest for the subject). [See ibid., pp. 323-324, 325-334, esp. 331-333.]  Whitehead would even agree with Popper’s attempt to work out a “correspondence” theory of the truth of propositions.

See ibid., p. 324.  In light of the fundamental agreements and similarities between Whitehead’s and Popper’s positions, I find Popper’s criticism of Whitehead’s philosophy to be unfounded.  See Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies, 2 vols. (New York: Harper and Row, 1963); 2: 247-251.  Popper’s remarks in this very brief discussion of Whitehead indicate quite clearly that he does not understand Whitehead’s philosophy.

In short, in my judgment both Lonergan and Whitehead include in their cognitional theories and epistemologies the elements that Popper stresses in his philosophy of knowledge.  The disagreement between them concerns Popper’s inattention to how the subject operates in its attempt to arrive at objective knowledge.  In so far as Popper tries to limit the account of knowledge solely to the logical contents of “world 3,” Whitehead and Lonergan would hold that his account is incomplete.  As I argued above [See Thesis, pp. 209-210.], both Whitehead and Lonergan want to include in a systematic way the subject’s participation in the process of knowing.  It is not their purpose to restrict their analyses to the logical dimension of objective knowledge, but to attend to all the dimensions of knowing, including the subjective participation of the knower in the act.  This is where their disagreement with Popper would be centered.

There is one final point to which I must allude.  Popper, Polanyi, Whitehead and Lonergan all agree that the knowledge of reality gained in the empirical sciences is hypothetical, limited, partial, and incomplete.   Popper, Polanyi, and Whitehead clearly understand and affirm this to be the character of all knowledge.  Whitehead, for all his conviction that it is possible and necessary to develop a universally applicable and necessary set of metaphysical categories, affirms that metaphysical knowledge is hypothetical, partial, limited, and relative. Knowledge in metaphysics has essentially the same character as it does in the empirical sciences: it is always open to revision.  Lonergan, in contrast, seems to find a changelessness, a certainty in metaphysical knowledge that makes it quite different in character from knowledge in the empirical sciences. [See ibid., pp. 107-108, 120.] The risk of error inherent in all knowledge seems to have disappeared when Lonergan arrives at metaphysics. This position sets Lonergan apart from Whitehead, Popper, and Polanyi, and it presents me with a problem which I shall confront in Chapter III.

My final task in this chapter is to make my judgment concerning the tenability of Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s interpretations of empirical scientific method.  We have seen that in every important respect Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s interpretations of empirical scientific method are in essential agreement with the interpretation of Michael Polanyi. I have also tried to show that their interpretations agree with and include the logical and empirical points stressed by Popper.  Further, we have seen that although they take different approaches, Whitehead and Lonergan are in basic agreement with Polanyi on the elements and structure of the general method of knowing, on the nature of objectivity and the personal contribution of the knower to the act of knowing, on the growth of knowledge, and on the relation of knowledge to reality.  Thus they are in general agreement with Polanyi not only on the interpretation of empirical scientific method but also on several of the larger philosophical implications of what is discovered underlying that method.  Although Whitehead and Lonergan would disagree with Popper’s philosophy of knowledge, I have tried to indicate that this disagreement is not over the legitimacy and accuracy of Popper’s basic positions, which both Whitehead and Lonergan would accept and which are in fact included or could be included in their analyses.  Rather, Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s accounts include the contribution of the subject, which Polanyi stresses, as well as the “objective” elements of knowledge so stressed by Popper.

Thus, in sum, Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s interpretations of empirical scientific method and their cognitional theories and epistemologies include what both Polanyi and Popper stress in their interpretations.  While Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s interpretations correspond more closely to Polanyi’s, they nevertheless agree with Popper on the “objective” elements of scientific method and knowledge.  I take all of this to be sufficient grounds for judging that Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s interpretations of empirical scientific method are well within the spectrum of interpretations offered by contemporary philosophy of science.  This is the independent evidence I sought for affirming that their interpretations of empirical scientific method are tenable.

We have seen again, however, that when Whitehead and Lonergan extend the implications of their interpretations of empirical scientific method into larger philosophical questions, they take markedly different approaches.  This difference in how general empirical method is utilized in their philosophies reflects the basic differences in their philosophies.  I must now turn my attention more fully to this set of issues.


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Chapter III: The Influence of Empirical Method in Whitehead’s and Lonergan’s Analyses of Human Subjectivity

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