Saturday, 4 April 2015

Euphuia, discernment, and Aquinas' Plato-Aristotle option regarding knowing as identity

This has to do with the question, how did Aquinas know he had to choose Aristotle's theorem of knowing as identity over Plato's theorem of knowing as confrontation. (See also my Wisdom Epistemology article somewhere...). Pat Bryne, in his International Lonergan Workshop Jerusalem contribution, has something very useful on the point, in fact, he sheds great light on the matter, when he notes that for Aristotle, dialectic alone was not enough; something called EUPHUIA was needed, which can perhaps be translated as discernment. 

Question to Pat Byrne:
when Thomas makes a choice between Plato and Aristotle, between knowledge as confrontation and knowledge as identity, is he exercising euphuia? if he is, then your paper is casting wonderful light on what has been a little question for me for several years...
Pat Byrne's reply, 4 april 2015:

     As for Thomas’s choice between Plato and Aristotle, between knowledge as confrontation and knowledge as identity, that is a question beyond my expertise, but it sounds right. Strictly speaking, what Aristotle means by euphoria should be preceded by a meticulous dialectical analysis. That would mean that Aquinas himself should have done something like the questions and answers put to both Plato and Aristotle as sources of great acumen, come to the options of what confrontation vs. identity imply, and then chosen knowing by identity on the basis of the inner light (of both the unrestricted desire and faith). I don’t know how much Plato he actually read. In Verbum Lonergan is contrasting Aristotle’s knowing by identity with a Platonic knowing by confrontation, but he does not actually offer texts to show that Aquinas himself actually did that. Aquinas seems to have gotten the great insight from his careful reading of Aristotle’s De Anima. Whether Aquinas also saw that this posed a dialectical choice against Plato, I am not sure.
        Be that as it may, at some point Aquinas himself no doubt realized he had to abandon knowing as confrontation, because of the options it leads to, and that itself certainly would have been an exercise of euphuia.
        This was a great question. I never thought of applying it in this way. When I heard C.D.C. Reeve explain this, the lights went on for me also — a problem in Aristotle’s dialectics that has been also bothering me for years, and something I never found explained satisfactorily by any other Aristotle scholar.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Self-Knowledge, and Understanding

I am continuing here the point I was pushing in the previous chapter: the remoteness of serious understanding, and the problem, raised in the chapter on dialectic, of taking an honest stand about your stand regarding it. The honesty relates to the struggle towards genuineness, and it is sadly amusing to bring together two statements of Lonergan, one about the historian “at pains not to conceal his tracks,” the other talking about the self who “keeps matters some entirely to oneself, and refuses even to face others.”135 The “outer rind of the persona” 136 may well be eager to take a stand on the importance of understanding’s “bloody entrance,”137 but some hidden layer rejects this and, oddly, that hidden rejection can be quite manifest in that self’s attitude towards the effort to seriously understand, even going to the extreme of a certain stand about the inevitability of C.P.Snow’s two culture, a stand that fits nicely with “the substitution of pseudometaphysical myth-making for scientific inquiry.”138 So, one talks of feelings with disdain for chemistry.  
Such an exclusion of serious understanding is presently supported by the dominant traditions of contemplation, which are anaphatic. The new systematics, on the other hand, is to be increasingly kataphatic. Systematic searchings, in a later maturity, will, as a “Language of the Heart”, “as central feature of the world of sense, intimate its finality, its yearning for God.”139 (Philip McShane, p. 77) 

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

The Salesian titanothore?

“But we are not there yet. And for society to progress towards that or any other goal it 78 140For a New Political Economy, 20. must fulfil one condition. It cannot be a titanothore, a beast with a three-ton body and a ten-ounce brain. It must direct its attention .... to the overhead product of cultural implements. It must glory in its deepening, in the pure deepening that adds to aggregate leisure, to liberate many entirely and all increasingly to the field of cultural activities .... It must lift its eyes more and more to the more general and more difficult fields of speculation, for it is from them that it has to derive the delicate compound of unity and freedom in which alone progress can be born, struggle, and win through.” [n.140: Lonergan, For a New Political Economy, 20.] [P. McShane,, "Systematics."]
I am jotting this down, this fantastic comment from Lonergan, because it has all to do with my / our being Salesian at this moment in history. Is there or is there not place for the 'intellectual,' the theoretical, the mind? True, I have been emphasizing the Way of the Heart, which is what we miss. I have been saying that we have shored up enough the Way of the Mind. And that is true, but only in a sense: we have the structures, and by now the average provincial does not think twice about having to set aside persons for 2 or 3 years for a master's degree or a doctoral degree in philosophy or theology and sometimes salesianity and spirituality. But: as a congregation, do we really think, reflect, and allow intelligence under faith to guide us? Is there a place for the graced mind in our being and acting? Are we running the risk of being a beast with a three-ton body and a ten-ounce brain?