Fragments on Assent, p. 13
Archival Number: A14
Author: Lonergan, B.
This fragment from Lonergan's lengthy essay on assent written in the 1930s was used as a wrapper for what has become A13. It is here transcribed by R. Doran. A copy of the transcriptions of all the fragments from this essay found in the Lonergan archives appears here at 16500DTE030.
Database and descriptions © Copyright 2017 by Robert M. Doran
[Wrapper of A12 and A13: Fragment on assent, etc.]
concrete is model, exemplar, paradigm, and the like. [Arrow drawn from 'concrete' to left margin, where the following is handwritten: All art is an idea in the concrete. The art critic deals w notions and always complains that he cannot do justice to the work of art. e.g. Shakespeare.] Since there is no actual understanding but only a reference to it unless something is actually being understood, we have here an explanation of the need of phantasm, of diagrams in geometry, of experiments in physics. Parallel to this is the need of illustration in oratory and exposition, of the importance of similitude, parable, analogy in gaining ideas of things unseen. The last brings us to the most profound example of the idea in the concrete, the Incarnation; in the words of St.John, kai ho logos sarx egeneto.
It is worth noting what a thorough-going application of this principle is the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. And while on the point, one may mention how well the theory of intellection as an immanent act fits in with a philosophy of mysticism; the mystical experience is sui generis because it is an experience, a transcendence, of the soul as soul and not merely as united to the body. The uniqueness of this experience is the more readily understood, if our theory of ordinary knowledge does not postulate spiritual apprehensions.
Returning to less elevated topics, we may observe that on the one hand the scholastic theory of abstraction seems to require nothing more than a concentration of attention upon the common features of similar objects. Just what the spiritual apprehension has to do with the matter of concentrating attention is not quite clear. If one tries to think of the spiritual apprehension as separate one gets the ridiculous Aristotelian interpretation of Plato as holding 'universalia a parte rei'. The very argument Aristotle uses against Plato (tritos anthropos) is used in one of Plato's dialogues by Parmenides against 'young' Socrates. i.e. Socrates got over that notion in his youth. Cf. Plato's Theory of Ideas by Stewart, Oxon
Plato, in speaking of the idea as separate or separable (choriston), may very well have been no more than referring to the idea as such, the abstract idea separate and distinct and entirely different from the pure presentation which it informs. His intellectual place (noetos topos) may be no more than a metaphor for what we with other metaphors describe as the intellectual order, the intellectual level, the intellectual plane.
A brief discussion of language is here appended to expedite later discussions in logic and metaphysics. Language is a system of vocal gestures and has as the unit gesture the sentence. This unit, which alone makes complete sense, is composed of words. Words have a triple significance, as follows:
1. Objective reference to experiences, presentations, interpretations, either as members of a class or to the class taken collectively.
2. Word function: what part of speech a word is.
3. Sentence function: the function of the word in the sentence; thus, subject tells what we are speaking about
predicate tells what we wish to say of subject
The relations between these three are somewhat complex; we shall touch upon only a few pertinent points.
In word-function we may note the distinction between noun and adjective which has close relations to the scholastic distinction between substance and accident. The noun (singular common as opposed to collective and common concrete as opposed to abstract) denotes an intellectual grouping of phenomena, our understanding them as constituting but a single unit, a thing by itself, a thing in its own right, an ens per se (substance plus accidents). The adjective primarily denotes the mere phenomenon, the appearance, whether quality, relation, action, passion, etc. The abstract noun is the adjective fulfilling the normal function of noun, i.e. being subject, e.g. Heat is a vibration. The verb is the adjective fulfilling the sentence function of predicate; commonloy, when what is denoted is action or passion, the very form is historically prior to the analytically fundamental adjective form, eg the boy sings.
Suffixes are regularly added to adjectives to make them fulfill the function of a noun; to have them fulfil the function of predicating, a special verb is used when the language has not