An Emergent Cosmopolis

Educational Projects: Insight Chapter 1: Section 2 - Definitions

This week we moved on to the second section of chapter 1: definitions. The idea is that definitions provide the channel whereby private insights enter the public domain, where they in effect create the world mediated by meaning within which we live out our lives.


Nominal, explanatory, and implicit definitions--as well as primitive terms--will be the subject of next week's workshop.


After reading the sections on clues, concepts, images, etc. we moved on to the task of not only understanding Lonergan's example of a definition of a circle but continued to work out two further explanatory definitions. In this we hoped that participants would come to recognize their own search for clues, concepts, etc. in their own process of taking an insight from their own private realm to the arena of public discourse.

This week we continued our examination of the way in which insights enter the public realm through the notion of definitions. Last week we dealt with the various elements of a definition--concepts, images, relationships, necessity, etc. This week we move on to Lonergan's three primary types of definitions: nominal, explanatory, and Implicit. And since an infinite regress is to be avoided, he raises the notion of primitive definitions.


There were a number of things that arose during our session that are blocked out in the attached pdf (notes). But a few things of interest are:

1. different definitions seem to be related to different realms of meaning

2. language, though infinite in complexity, has boundaries (George Steiner)

3. nominal definitions are open to abuse in myth and magic

4. different realms provide depth to common sense experiences, e.g., sunsets


Russell C. Baker

October 19, 2018