Archival Number: A440a
Author: Lonergan, B.
Language(s): English, Latin
(1) rev of p. 1
knowing the nature of the principle results from seeing the conformity of the act. For St. Thomas knowing the proportion of the act results from knowing the nature of the active principle and, moreover, the proportion of the act cannot be known without knowledge of the principle.
A 440a (2) rev of p. 2
(4) Dr. Fay holds that there is no need for any prior reflective knowledge of the nature of the active principle and of the nature of the act, if we are to know the conformity of particular acts to particular things. On the contrary, first, we know the conformity of the acts, not by any process of reflection or inference, but by the simple business of seeing the conformity. Only after we have seen the conformity in given instances do we reflect, invoke operatio sequitur esse, and infer that it is the nature of the active principle, intellect itself, to conform to things.
(5) The contradiction between Dr. Fay’s interpretation and the text he is interpreting is manifest. According to Dr. Fay intellect knows that particular acts conform by seeing them conform. According to St. Thomas intellect cannot know that particular acts conform without reflecting on the nature of the act and of the active principle of the act.
(6) Dr. Fay’s appeal to the distinction between causa essendi and causa cognoscendi does not remove this contradiction. The contradiction lies within the order of knowing; it is between Dr. Fay’s statement in the order of knowing and St. Thomas’ statement in the order of knowing.
(7) It is somewhat ironic that Dr. Fay should attempt to defend the analogy of ocular vision by appealing to a passage in which St. Thomas is establishing the difference between intellectual and sensitive knowledge.
A 440a (3) rev of p. 3
that govern the making of boxes and buildings and do not vary with changes in standpoint; again what he sees are the ‘real’ colours, i.e., the colours things have under some typical lighting, and the practical man sees those colours even despite notable changes in the lighting.
Proceeding from such an account of ocular vision, the relativist will point out that the same thing happens in the analogous seeing of the mind. Quod homines, tot sententiae. There may be only one real world to be known by man, but there are many men to do the knowing. Nor does this knowing occur in some subjective vacuum; it occurs in a dynamic context of interests, aims, loyalties, presuppositions, prepossessions, prejudices; such dynamic contexts differ from man to man, from culture to culture, from epoch to epoch; and the result is an endless manifold of quite contradictory opinions.
A 440a (4) rev of p. 4
Fourthly, I reject the analogy of ocular vision because it can be employed only if one does not know what is meant by the absoluteness of truth. On this point Dr. Fay has already stated quite frankly and quite correctly that he does not know what I am talking about. I shall endeavour to make the matter clear to him, and I beg to be excused if others find me rather long-winded.
Dr. Fay employs the analogy of vision to arrive at a realism. Jack or Jill holds up a hand and looks at it. But similar to the seeing of the eye there is an analogous seeing of the mind. “Being” is like Jack or Jill’s hand; “knowledge” is like Jack or Jill’s seeing; and we know truth because the analogous seeing of the mind beholds not only the being that is like the hand but also the conformity of the analogous seeing to the being.
Now it is quite possible, if one knows a bit of elementary psychology, to employ the analogy of ocular vision and arrive at a relativism. The artist sees the visible colours that change with every change of lighting; he sees the visible shapes that change with every change of standpoint. The scientific observer sees what is selected, not by artistic interests, but by the quite different interests that are implemented by elaborate classifications. The average man, absorbed in his practical concerns, sees in quite a different manner; not only does he miss the shapes that are visible and the colours that are visible; what he sees are “real” shapes, e.g., the parallel sides and right angles