Is It Real?
Archival Number: CD-mp3 693
Author: Lonergan, B.
CD/mp3 693, lecture at MIT entitled 'Is It Real?' Sponsored by William Bridgeo. Two of the 1972 MIT lectures were recorded. This is the first of these. The discussions after the lectures are friendly, but disclose vast differences in horizon between Lonergan and his interlocutors.
Recording begins late, after Lonergan had distinguished ordinary meaning and original meaningfulness and applied the distinction in an original fashion to systematic meaning, where system may be formal, referential, and empirical, and after he had explained his strategy as applying formal, referential, and empirical system to the data of consciousness. The operators, the operations, and the relations between them are verifiable in an extended sense of that term.
Is such a process philosophic or simply psychological? Any revision presupposes a level of experience, a level of understanding, and a level of judgment, and so a cognitional theory in terms of experience, understanding, and judgment cannot be changed in its fundamental features. The theory thus has a durability that is of philosophic significance.
Is the world mediated by meaning real? There is the real in the world of immediacy, and the real in the world mediated by meaning. Distinctions are drawn among naïve realists, empiricists, critical idealists, and absolute idealists, only to yield to the recent emphases on decision and commitment. But decision must be based on knowledge, and the question arises as to the criteria to be met in claiming to know.
We must distinguish a proximate criterion and a remote criterion. The proximate regards single judgments, the remote the context of judgments for any single judgment. The general form of assent to propositions shows the notion of the virtually unconditioned, which is then shown in a more primitive form in cognitional process itself. This is applied to concrete judgments of fact, to analogies and generalizations, to commonsense judgments, to the probable judgments of science, and to analytic propositions and principles. The lecture ends with a brief discussion of different realms of the world mediated by meaning.
There follow questions, the first of which involved the distinction of Lonergan’s position from positivism. The response is to the effect that human knowledge is beyond human science. Cognitional theory is basic, and any statement in a cognitional theory can be verified in the data of consciousness.
There is a question about creativity in the formation of new concepts. Lonergan endorses many of Kuhn’s insights into scientific revolutions in terms of his own higher viewpoints. This question recurs later in the discussion. What happens to concepts? To get to what is permanent, you go to heuristic concepts. What is durable is the structure.
(There is a brief hiatus toward the end of the recording, after which the sound is somewhat muted.)
The discussion ends with a distinction between classical and modern controls, and the significance of Gibson Winter’s Elements for a Social Ethic.
Database and descriptions © Copyright 2017 by Robert M. Doran
Audio restoration by Greg Lauzon