An Emergent Cosmopolis

The operating manual provided here is a copy of the "Beyond Babel: Cosmopolis-L" handbook produced by the Lonergan Center's Cosmopolis Project, © Russell C. Baker, 2015. Hard copies available upon request.

Handbook: Introduction

Common sense knows, but it does not know what it knows nor how it knows nor how to correct and complement its own inadequacies. Only the blind and destructive blows inevitable in even a partial breakdown of social order can impress on practical common sense that there are limits to its competence and that, if it would master the new situation, it must first consent to learn. Still, what is to be learnt? The problem may baffle what experts are available. A theoretical solution need not lead automatically to its propular presentation. Even when that is achieved, the reorientation of spontaneous attitudes will remain to be effected. The time of crisis can be prolonged, and in the midst of the suffering it entails and of the aimless questiioning it engenders, the intersubjecttive groups within a society tend to fall apart in bickering, insinuations, recriminations, while unhappy individuals begin to long for the idyllic simplicity of primitive living in which large accumulations of insights would be superfluous and human fellow-feeling would have a more dominant role.

— Lonergan, Insight

One may think of the Church as being old, set in its ways; but equally it may be in its infancy, the “Christ-event” as lived reality permeating not only one’s life but the lives of those around us throughout all of human history. So what? You ask. The Church is involved in ordering one’s own soul; only then can society become ordered. And more than ever this is needed, for we live in a time of fundamental institutional change.

But there are a number of new challenges. A sense of historical development, progress (or decline) means that we need to recover the best of our past and lay the foundations for creating an improved human and humane future. The rise of the empirical sciences in all its specializations draws attention to the need for a transdisciplinary framework to pull its insights together in a practical manner; but where might one be found? The dynamics of human inquiry, that ever searching and ultimately unlimited desire to know would have us criticize everything. But how are we to set criteria for distinguishing between good and not-so-good positions on the critical issues of our day?

Finally, we live at a time when the accumulated debris of positions and counter-positions clog all political and social debate. We live in a Tower of Babel of our own making that now demands a substantial control over meaning in the logosphere since our growing power makes it difficult to “muddle through.” But how do you control meaning without the use of coercion and outright force? Really, does might make right?

In the pages of this operating manual, this handbook, we sketch out one method of gradually starting to heal history. This method is encapsulated in Lonergan’s notion of a cosmopolis, a possible community that holds the promise of reversing long term decline due to common sense’s failure to accept that it is but one specialized form of human intelligence. It revolves around the idea of creating creative agents in history, agents always engaged in community in ongoing intellectual, moral and religious conversion—not to any one sect or religious community, but in the most general sense of knowing what it means to know, preferring true values over satisfactions, and washed by the love of the Divine Mystery. Giving free and liberated people a chance to come together for the expressed purpose of uncovering our own blind spots, weeding out from the logosphere the multitude distortions throughout history as various individuals and groups justify their rise to power and authority, and taking a considered reflective stand as to what is and is not true—all this is the purpose of this research project into what a functioning cosmopolis might mean when we put it into practice.
 

Russell C. Baker
Montreal, May 2015

Intellectual mastery . . . is the fruit of a slow and steady accumulation of little insights. Great problems are solved by being broken down into little problems. The strokes of genius are but the outcome of a continuous habit of inquiry that grasps clearly and distinctly all that is involved in the simple things that anyone can understand.

— Lonergan, Insight