Handbook: Knowledge Base
Things to Keep in Mind: Control Over Information
Keeping track of what is going on in the world requires two forms of information gathering: standard regular channels and “telescopic” probes. Acquiring regular, reliable, and accurate information to the current interplay of positions and counter-positions, and the individuals or groups that adhere to them, is essential when it comes to any form of dialectical analysis; tools can successfully be brought into play only when the base data is in place.
The second form of information gathering involves specific problems, when attention is concentrated on a particular matter or concern that would not normally be covered in the usual channels. These one time focused “telescopic” investigations are essential for filling in blank areas or providing greater detail than normally available.
Unlike research into historical and geographical conditions, these flows represent real-time data acquisition that draws upon a theoretical framework to determine what is significant from random background noise. Ensuring accurate and reliable sources is a ongoing concern when it comes to answering the question, Is it so?
Three domains, that of the nature and nomination of God, that of higher mathematics and that of music (how are these interrelated?) set the boundary conditions of language
— George Steiner
It is far easier to draw conclusions from what one already holds than to deepen one's understanding of what one's convictions mean.
What is it that one needs to know for a Cosmopolis-L project?
Such projects lay at the pivot point between recovering the past and bringing the future into being. Thus, the critical area of knowledge is that of current affairs, operative at any level from global interests to local concerns. But a knowledge of current affairs is useless unless it is grounded in history and geography, in effect establishing one’s orientation both to the past (dialectical analysis) and to the future (foundational discernment). The key operation is that of binding time.
Binding time enables humans to make sense of things, extending time to varying degrees into both past and future. Making sense of things is a matter of creating, maintaining, and improving one’s world mediated by meaning. But how do we create such worlds? How do we know that these creations are true? What are our intentions, our in-tensions, our interests? Or our moral, intellectual, and spiritual range of concerns?
Intellectual, moral, and religious conversion involves fundamental foundational shifts in being. So one of the important things we need to know is how these conversion processes work throughout a person’s life, as our potential for freedom and liberty is actualized through conversion’s effect on a person’s orientation. This is the key for bringing to consciousness the blind spots, the oversights, that lead to decline.
Critical for interpreting current affairs is Lonergan’s transcendental method, which is laid out in broad strokes in our Schematic (2014). If we don’t have a common “rock” upon which to build our understanding of metaphysical, ethical, and transcendent matters then our efforts will go to naught.
Once this is in place, it is necessary to understand human affairs in two broad contexts of history and geography. Any human socio-political situation is unique, unlike any other, and as such is quite specific to a particular time and place. To understand issues and conflicts, positions and counter-positions, as human communities flourish or go into decline, is a function of unique socio-political contexts.
Within this broad context lies a specific concern with the history of ideas, particularly the way in which different individuals and groups have selected specific ideas to justify their search for power, authority, and influence. In taking the practical ideological or utopian approach to gaining the allegiances of others, there exists a common sense bias resulting in a series of oversights and misconceptions that become embedded in history—ideas that play havoc for any individual or group that takes them up as serious and sound positions.
The last source has to do with the ways in which the spirit of an age, the “good of order”, can be changed over time. For this a transdisciplinary framework is most useful as a means of organizing knowledge from a variety of disciplines. Combined with the above areas of knowledge, this becomes a means of carrying out the essential stages in intervening in any unique socio-political situation: Orientation, Diagnosis and Evaluation, and Estimating the Scope and Constraints for rational action in stressed and often less than rational institutional change.
The final observation is that there are different levels of development:
An Integrating Spirituality
When we look at the disorder of our world, we cannot help but have some prior notion of order. Every thinker—philosopher, historian, literary critic, or scientist—thinks of being human as a quest for order. We expect to find the struggle for order whether we are looking at the history of an entire civilization, at classical literature, or at a psychological neurosis. Obviously we do not expect to find peaceful order everywhere, but neither do we expect to find total chaos. No matter where we look, we find seekers and wonderers suffering an unquenchable desire for order.
This does not mean that every man and woman is a pure seeker. An arrogant ruthlessness lives in each of us. We see it in the totalitarian dictator as well as in the militant capitalist. And yet, our most malicious brothers and sisters have something in common with the most altruistic. Both are responsible for the actual social order or disorder that exists. In other words, we can trace the outer breakdown of social order to some inner breakdown in the personal order, just as we can trace social progress to its sources in an inner personal achievement of the soul.
Where society does break down, whether it is due to malice or weakness and ignorance, the locus of the breakdown is not City Hall or Moscow or Wall Street. It lies in the inner processes of real persons, in men and women with names and addresses. They may be linked together in common cause, but never without the inner acts of belief and consent. So the quest for order which constitutes the meaning of being human appears simultaneously as a quest for an ordered soul within an ordered civilization. We cannot have one without the other. The thesis upon which this book stands can now be stated forthrightly: The foundations for order in the soul and for order in society are the same thing.
What does this expression mean, “foundations for order in the soul”? The word foundation can evoke a picture of the cement blocks supporting a house, but that image is too static for our purposes. Foundation can also evoke a picture of civic leaders organizing a city, as in the “foundation of Rome,” and this gets a little closer to what we want because it includes the more dynamic origin and interchange of ideas and values. Still, our thesis is meant to evoke a third and more basic picture of a foundation within the soul that itself is the recurrent cause of buildings being built and cities being founded. Strictly speaking, the soul should not be conceived as a process that is ordered but rather as a process that does the ordering. Furthermore, the soul is designed not only to put buildings and cities in order, drawing from its own ordered ideas; it must also order itself. So the foundations for order in the soul already belong in some way to the soul. What our thesis means is this: There are norms built into the soul that we can discover, and these norms have the power to put order not only into our communities but also to put order into the soul itself.
Tad Dunne, Lonergan and Spirituality
(Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1985), pp. 1-2
An Emergent Cosmopolis