Liberation, and Cosmopolis
Bernard J. F. Lonergan, S.J.
It is time to end this study of common sense. In the first section of
Chapter VI there was worked out the parallel between common sense and
empirical science; both are developments of intelligence.
Next, attention centred on the differences between empirical science
which relates things to one another, and common sense which relates things
It was seen that the relations grasped by common sense stand between
two variables; on the one hand, common sense is a development of the
subject to which things are related; on the other hand, common sense
effects a development in the things to which we are related.
Moreover, both developments are subject to aberration; besides the
progressive accumulation of related insights, there is the cumulative
effect of refusing insights. In the subjective field, such refusal tends
to be preconscious; it heads towards psychoneurotic conflict; it is
opposite to the subjectís rational judgment and deliberate choice, which,
accordingly, can provide the analyst with his opportunity.
In the objective field, the refusal is rationalized by a distinction
between theory and practice; it heads both to social conflict and to
social disintegration; it is to be opposed both by the common-sense view
that practicality is for man and not man for practicality and, on a more
recondite level, by the principle, implicit in dialectic, that practice
succeeds in diverging from theory by taking the short view and refusing to
raise and face further relevant questions.
Our account of common sense has led us to touch on many issues, but our
concern is not these issues, which function illustratively; but the fact
and the nature of insight. Within the perspectives of the present work,
there is no point to a full and accurate account of the fields of
psychology and of sociology.
The topic is insight. To exhibit its nature and its implications, one
has to venture into every department in which human intelligence plays a
Still that venture is essentially a limited venture. For it is enough
for our purpose to show that the notion of insight is indispensable in an
adequate view, that it explains both the high esteem in which common sense
is commonly held and the limitations to which it is subject, that this
explanation can begin from independent and apparently disparate premises
and, within the larger context that they yield, succeed in hitting off the
thought of the average man, the problem of his affects, and the dialectic
of his history.
Further, though our topic is common sense, still it has not been the
whole of common sense. Besides intelligence, there are operative in
common sense both judgment and choice with their implications of truth and
error and of right and wrong. These higher components of common sense
will receive some attention later. The foregoing study has been concerned
with common sense as an accumulation of related insights.
A final observation has to do with method. From the beginning we have
been directing attention to an event that occurs within consciousness.
Accordingly, our method has not been the method of empirical science,
which draws its data from the field of sensible presentations.
However, we have had occasion to speak of a generalized empirical
method that stands to the data of consciousness as empirical method stands
to the data of sense.
In the present chapter, the nature of this generalized method has come
to light. As applied solely to the data of consciousness, it consists in
determining patterns of intelligible relations that unite the data
Such are the biological, artistic, dramatic, and intellectual forms of
experience; moreover, our previous studies of mathematical and of
scientific thought would regard particular cases of the intellectual form
of experience; and similar differentiations could be multiplied.
However, generalized method has to be able to deal, at least
comprehensively, not only with the data within a single consciousness but
also with the relations between different conscious subjects, between
conscious subjects and their milieu or environment, and between
consciousness and its neural basis.
From this viewpoint, dialectic stands to generalized method, as the
differential equation to classical physics, or the operator equation to
the more recent physics.
For dialectic is a pure form with general implications; it is
applicable to any concrete unfolding of linked but opposed principles that
are modified cumulatively by the unfolding; it can envisage at once the
conscious and the non-conscious either in a single subject or in an
aggregate and succession of subjects; it is adjustable to any course of
events, from an ideal line of pure progress resulting from the harmonious
working of the opposed principles, to any degree of conflict, aberration,
break-down, and disintegration; it constitutes a principle of integration
for specialized studies that concentrate on this or that aspect of human
living and it can integrate not only theoretical work but also factual
reports; finally, by its distinction between insight and bias, progress
and decline, it contains in a general form the combination of the
empirical and the critical attitudes essential to human science.
It is perhaps unnecessary to insist that dialectic provides no more
than the general form of a critical attitude. Each department has to work
out its own specialized criteria, but it will be able to do so by
distinguishing between the purely intellectual element in its field and,
on the other hand, the inertial effects and the interference of human
sensibility and human nerves.
Moreover, just as our study of insight has enabled us to formulate on a
basis of principle. a large number of directives that already had been
established through mathematical and scientific development (I am thinking
of higher viewpoints, the significance of symbolism, of functions, of
differential equations, of invariance, of equivalence, of probability), so
we may hope that a fuller study of manís mind will provide us with further
general elements relevant to determining a far more nuanced yet general
To this end, the
present chapters on common sense are contributory. May we note before
concluding that, while common sense relates things to us, our account of
common sense relates it to its neural basis and relates aggregates and
successions of instances of common sense to one another.
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