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Bias, 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. 

Every specialist runs the risk of turning his specialty into a bias by failing to recognize and appreciate the significance of other fields. 

Common sense 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.

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