Entering Lonergan's Novum Organon
Phase 2 Case Study into “Fake News”
Day 1: Anticipating Emergent Levels of Meaning
Note: All that follows is not to be taken as gospel truth, but only a starting point that eventually could lead to insights into reality. As noted in phase 1, there are two methodical paths toward determining what is true: Lonergan’s transcendental method, which applies to the individual, and his functional specialities, which applies to the collective. In both cases, one starts where one is, and then through the application of these methods gradually inch toward what can be reasonably affirmed as being true. The end result would be a virtually unconditioned judgment.
It is taken as given that all “news” comes about because someone has deliberately spent time and money to put their point of view out to the public via mass media or emerging web sites. Furthermore, to narrow the investigation we focus on fundamental institutional changes taking place at the global level since this area is likely to generate the greatest amount of news on areas of interest likely to affect everyone at more regional and local levels. Our first task is to identify the key players, stakeholders, and participants at this institutional level recognizing that while individuals may be very important in determining what does or doesn’t take place, their power is expressed through institutions that provide power.
The first analytical set of tools provided by Lonergan is his world view of emergent probability, his notion of development, and the bringing of both to fruition in his genetic method. The first question to consider is: What are the levels of emergent order involved at this global level of fundamental institutional change?
We propose three levels:
The idea behind each level is a reminder that the existing global set of institutions are not only conditioned by the existing state of civilization itself, especially its technical achievements and knowledge based reality, but sublated by a transcendental realm in which individuals seek to escape the reality of their own death by attaching themselves to something transcendent to their own limited lives. It is in recognition of this transcendental level that individuals give their assent, i.e., decides to trust and give their allegiance to this or that institution, this or that individual.
Note that the transcendental level is also the primary power behind human freedom, a Divine Mystery that stands in opposition to the lower level’s preoccupation with power, authority, and influence. This tension between the conditioning and sublating levels of being is one of the primary sources of fundamental institutional change. Note that this has nothing to do with a “clash of civilizations” per se, although what we will pay attention to is the world view or fundamental orientation of all the parties concerned. This will necessarily involve conflict, but it will also at the same time involve cooperation.
We do not enter this study with an unbiased or empty mind, for that is in itself an illusion. What is important is not our starting point, but the willingness to change our beliefs as evidence derived through the application of Lonergan’s transcendental method and functional specialties. We may start from different positions, but if we attempt to be open, intelligent, reasonable, and responsible we may well end up at the same point. This is not assured, however, because fundamental differences in intellectual, moral, and religious conversion will create different histories and these histories will contain fundamental conflicts that have their root in the presence or non-presence of actors engaged in ongoing conversion.
Furthermore, this study includes the reality of a transcendental level in humans that is very much a part of being human and not something external imposed upon us. Although different religions have emerged at different times and different places in human history, we accept as trustworthy only the two monotheistic revealed world views of Judaism and Christianity. Although different, they are closely bound together—if only for the simple reason that if Judaism is considered false or otherwise deficient, than so too is Christianity. The separation of the two has distorted both, leaving Judaism exposed to an excessive legalism and Christianity prone to excessive self-flagellation. Our study is explicitly Christian in origin as it is Western in orientation.
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Educational Projects: Introductory Course: Phase 2, Day 1