Practical value of INSIGHT, fragment
Sku: 35100DTE050
Archival Number: A351
Author: Lonergan, B.
Language(s): English,
Decade: 1950
Open 35100DTE050.pdf

Reverse of pp. x and xi of A350, showing an earlier version of BL's answer to the question of the practical value of the book


... hard-headed and peremptory.  Today it is apt to be thought old-fashioned and unimaginative.  But, perhaps, this difficulty may be evaded by offering two answers.

            To those, then, that are slow to change, I should say that knowledge stands above utility and that I have, I feel, a contribution to make principally to the method of philosophy but also, in subordinate fashion, to the theory of science, to the analysis of ordinary modes of thought, to the teacher's task of communicating insights, and to the preacher's office of directing religions feeling.

            Still are are not slow to change.  Indeed, it is somewhat difficult to maintain that philosophy is a merely academic pursuit when a renunciation of Marx by the Kremlin would startle the world.  It is equally difficult to suppose that, if the Kremlin did renounce Marx, it would place its faith in automatic progress.  After all, do we ourselves any longer believe that progress is automatic?

            Where, then, to we stand?  For we are confronted by a dilemma.  Knowledge is power.  It is power to do and power to control.  As natural science yields power over nature, so human science yields power over men.  But if philosophy exists, if an organization of all knowledge exists, then it must be the basic and immanent source of the direction and control of power.  Are we to say that philosophy does not exist?  Or are we to acknowledge that philosophy is the most significant of all practical pursuits?

            In fact, philosophy does exist.  Other departments of knowledge settle particular ranges of issues, but philosophy exerts its sway over all.  The reality of that influence is not limited to such explicit and militant philosophies as that of Marx.  It is merely obscured in an age that settles all ultimate issues by appealing to a philosophy of laisser faire, of tolerance, and of automatic, evolutionary progress.

            The issue is not whether philosophy exists.  It is not whether philosophy is supremely practical.  It is whether we can succeed in so revising the philosophy dominant in the West that its essential inspiration is retained while its obvious inadequacies are overcome.  We began by deserting the old political economists.  Then we witnesses too many evils in too many unexpectedd quarters to remain convinced that progress is automatic.  Now we are witnessing a challenge to tolerance itself.  On the practical level there is the unpleasant question of how far we can tolerate those that seem to have no intention of tolerating us.  On the theoretical level there is the power over men offered by human science.  Are we to suppose that that power will not be used?  And if it is used in a deliberate, communal making of man by man, in whose image and likeness is man to be made?

            A study of human understanding is primarily a study of methods.  Its bearing on concrete policies is by implication rather than by direct pronouncements.  Still ...


            There is material also on the reverse of p. xii of the ts.  It is numbered xi, and begins in the same manner as the p. xi that stands in the finished product.  This beginning corresponds to pt, p. xiv, line 17, and the page reads as follows:


... biased mind with factual evidence in which the bias is claimed to be verified.  So in ever increasing measure intelligence comes to be regarded as irrelevant to practical living.  Human activity settles down to a decadent routine, and initiative becomes the privilege of violence.

            Unfortunately, as insight and oversight commonly are mated, so also are progress and decline.  There results the problem of distinguishing between the two, of learning to encourage progress without putting a premium upon decline, of removing the tumor of the flight from understanding without destroying the organs of intelligence.

            No problem, perhaps, is at once more delicate, more practical, or more profound.  How is a mind to become conscious of its own bias when that bias springs from a communal flight from understanding and is supported by the whole texture of a civilization?  How can the partly blind see what clear vision is?

            It is a problem in which, I believe, we are deeply involved.  To its solution this work makes a partial contribution not only inasmuch as it offers an insight into both insight and oversight but also inasmuch as the heuristic structures employed in empirical science are integrated and developed to the point where they become relevant to the investigation of ethical and religious issues.  Still we have to be content with such methodological considerations.  For it lies beyond the limits of our already large undertaking to determine whether in fact there is operative in ...

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