Liberation, and Cosmopolis
Bernard J. F. Lonergan, S.J.
8. General Bias
To err is human, and common sense is very human.
Besides the bias of the dramatic subject, of the individual egoist, of
the member of a given class or nation, there is a further bias to which
all men are prone.
For men are rational animals, but full development of their animality
is both more common and more rapid than a full development of their
intelligence and reasonableness.
A traditional view credits children of seven years of age with the
attainment of an elementary reasonableness. The law regards as a minor
anyone under twenty-one years of age. Experts in the field of public
entertainment address themselves to a mental age of about twelve years.
Still more modest is the scientific attitude that places manís
attainment of knowledge in an indefinitely removed future.
Nor is personal experience apt to be reassuring. If everyone has some
acquaintance with the spirit of inquiry and reflection, few think of
making it the effective centre of their lives; and of that few, still
fewer make sufficient progress to be able to withstand other attractions
and persevere in their high purpose.
The lag of
intellectual development, its difficulty and its apparently meagre returns
bear in an especial manner on common sense.
It is concerned
with the concrete and the particular.
It entertains no
aspirations about reaching abstract and universal laws.
It is easily led
to rationalize its limitations by engendering a conviction that other
forms of human knowledge are useless or doubtfully valid.
runs the risk of turning his specialty into a bias by failing to recognize
and appreciate the significance of other fields.
almost invariably makes that mistake; for it is incapable of analyzing
itself, incapable of making the discovery that it too is a specialized
development of human knowledge, incapable of coming to grasp that its
peculiar danger is to extend its legitimate concern for the concrete and
the immediately practical into disregard of larger issues and indifference
to long-term results.
The Longer Cycle
Primary Lonergan Page