Archival Number: A498
Author: Lonergan, B.
History A: as a Form of Existence
(α) To act, I have to know who I am / what the situation is. If amnesia, not know I am Cath. relig. priest, prof., not know what could and could not be done, consequences of action.
(β) For a group to act, it has to know itself and its situation. Unless it knows itself as a group, there will be no question of group action undertaken & carried through by common decision. Unless it knows its situation, its common decision will not be enlightened.
(γ) Hence, (1) biography and history are the narrative form in which individuals and groups apprehend themselves and their situation.
(2) This concrete narrative form of apprehension is an existential category – something that must be had if individual and group action is to occur and to be relevant, opportune, successful.
History B History as Belief
History A is a fruit of experience, memory, tradition, belief. It is communicated spontaneously as the explanation of customs, usages, modes of procedure.
History B is a written history, the fruit of an inquiry, a more methodical and a more extensive “narrative form.”
But its methods are essentially the methods of history A: it commits to writing experiences, memory, tradition, belief; it exercises critical choices when oppositions arise [if it feels competent to decide].
As it essentially is a matter of believing what was said and done by whom, when, where, so it expects from its readers a similar belief.
History C: as an empirical science
(1) The weakness of History B is that not only History A is a form of human existence but also myth-mystery is also a form of human existence.
(2) Myth-mystery is the mode of apprehension of the universe (i) prior to the reflective acknowledgment of logos, (ii) subsequently, as the sensitive counterpart to the logos.
It is an imaginative mode: it may be quite valid as an expression, apprehension, of things as they are (mystery): but it is without resources against mere aberration in symbolic creativity.
(3) Further, history as A is not the less effective because its narrative has a mystery-myth dimension. On the contrary, it can be all the more effective for that reason. Effectiveness of the group in self-apprehension is not dependent on the actual occurrence of past events but on the present acceptance of itself as a group.
(4) Thus, history as an empirical science goes beyond the category of belief in tradition. It seeks a knowledge that is independent of truthfulness of witnesses and bona fides of clues.
(5) But if it is to get beyond a set of unrelated “technical histories,” it needs an apprehension of the “dynamics of system” as its operator from above – mutual interaction of dynamics of system and technical history.