Welcome to the Pons Asinorum
There is no easy fix
Entering Lonergan's Novum Organon
Facing the Reality of a Lack of Moral Courage
Joyous Insurgency & the Long Game?
A Strategy for People Celebrating Life
In any epistemology, metaphysics, and/or philosophies there exists an initial distinction of value that establishes the essential form of all that is to follow.
The value of the first canon is that by placing an accent on the clue that leads to the eventual development of a philosophy it is possible to anticipate not only the general manner of its further development but the initial stance on any number of questions. This applies not only to Lonergan’s own exercise in Insight, but the general metaphysical and ethical stance of other suggested comprehensive philosophies.
The First Distinction
Make a distinction within the realm of all possible cognitive events related to human understanding.
Name this distinction “insight.”
Let this distinction be called into being according to the following axioms:
If the content of this distinction has value, let that value be known by the name “insight.”
Let the value of an insight take the following form:
Let the internal conditions of the subject be paramount through the recognition of a clue, the reality of a tension (a need to know), and an image that brings the concrete into the process of pivoting with the abstract (Insight, 31-35).
Let the value of definitions take the following form:
Let insights coalesce around a single question or cluster of questions.
In any such cluster, the intentionality of the human mind is invited to find order and consistency rather than exist in a state of confusion and disorientation. This involves a process of homogeneous expansion as limitations to various operations are relaxed or extended to their full range (Insight, 39-40).
If the inquiring human mind expands any such collection through a process named “homogeneous expansion”, the field of endeavor eventually encounters anomalies and/or paradoxes that cannot be resolved through any process of expansion.
Postulate 1.2.1: Paradoxes/Anomalies
Let there exist questions within any field of study that cannot be answered within this field of inquiry.
Postulate 1.2.2: Emergence
Let the subject then seek a higher perspective or viewpoint that will place the prior field of study within a larger more comprehensive context. The lower point of view will remain valid within its own range, but will now be conceived as one possible approach within a higher viewpoint (Insight, 41-42).
Postulate 1.2.3: Vertical Liberty
Let the emergence of such a higher viewpoint provide answers to the questions, anomalies, and/or paradoxes that arise within the lower viewpoint.
Such a higher level viewpoint itself consists of a cluster of related insights subject to the same dynamics of homogeneous expansion and the emergence of higher viewpoints.
Postulate 1.2.4: An Upper Level
There exists an upper level of abstraction involving implicit definitions that cannot itself be abstracted and which contains all lower levels within its boundaries; the process of moving through a series of ever higher viewpoints cannot be sustained forever.
Postulate 1.2.5: Conversion
Let this process of expansion to higher viewpoints be an essential feature of any form of conversion, as lower levels are displaced by the emergence of higher orders of intelligibility.
Postulate 1.2.6: Communications
Let those who operate from a higher perspective understand those coming from a lower one, but those operating from a lower perspective find higher perspective horizons, intentions, and values beyond their comprehension.
Let the value of higher viewpoints include the following:
Theorem 1.3: Negation
Let there exist two forms of negation: falsifiability through the denial of the legitimacy of the question, and falsifiability through a failure to abstract in an appropriate manner from the sensate world.
Postulate 1.3.1: Inverse Insights
Let continued frustration with inquires within a field cast doubt upon the validity of the question being raised.
Let the name “inverse insight” refer to an insight that negates the legitimacy of the question (Insight, 43-50).
Let the value of an inverse insight include:
Postulate 1.3.2: Empirical Residue
Let there be observable data that has no intrinsic intelligibility (Insight, 50-56).
Let the empirical residue have a dual function: to signify a realm of data that exists yet does not have significance of its own, and to denote those realms of data that are part of the discussion and yet not part of the essential intelligibility of the data.
Let the value of the empirical residue lie in the fact that it permits a setting aside of observable data in order that human intelligence can focus on what is really of importance, what is essential as opposed to what is incidental (Insight, 52-53).
Postulate 1.3.3: Abstraction
Let the process of abstraction involve this process of separating out what is truly important in the data from what is incidental and/or inconsequential.
Let the value of an abstraction include:
The initial distinction named “insight” is Lonergan’s starting point for all that follows in both Insight and Method. It is a differentiation that creates a universe of discourse that only later can be affirmed as the proper ground for any metaphysics, ethics, and/or transcendental knowledge. All subsequent discussions—be they concerning mathematics, the empirical sciences, common sense intelligence, reflective thought, metaphysics, ethics, and/or transcendental knowledge—must extend from, be enhanced by, and at least not negated by—these essential elements of human understanding. In short, all further discussions must take the distinction of “insight” as the primary form of inquiry.
This first distinction is Lonergan’s starting point. Once affirmed (let there be an “insight” such that . . .), there are three questions that require answers if what follows in Lonergan’s approach is to be considered internally consistent.
Since an insight is a function not of exterior but of interior conditions, there must be a way of giving it an “external” communicable form. What external or objectified forms do insights take?
We never have only one insight; instead, insights join up with each other. What happens when insights are considered as a dynamic collective?
Finally, if an entire philosophical position is to have any meaning, its individual statements must be subject to negation, i.e., they must have the property of being falsifiable. Within this universe of “insights”, what types or forms of negation exist?
The three theorems of encapsulation, expansion, and negation form the core features of Lonergan’s initial invitations or injunctions in chapter 1 of Insight. Of course, there is more to this chapter, for along with the “incidentals” of the examples used come a series of invitations and/or directions for the reader to follow that sketch out a few of the implications of his transdisciplinary approach. The emergences of primitive terms as well as the importance of images and the need for an appropriate symbolism are only a few of Lonergan’s invitations to the reader’s self-appropriation of their own coming to know, to understand.
Next in the series. The Second Canon: Multiple Realms of Meaning. There exist multiple realms of meaning such that each realm manifests its own distinct sought-for insights, its own unique way of organizing and using such insights, and its own specialized methodology for achieving valid results. This is in effect a continuation of the “expansion” theorem, though as we shall see in subsequent canons this expansion lays the experiential ground for Lonergan’s cognitive operations of experiencing, understanding, and judging.
Lonergan, Bernard J. F., S.J. Insight: A Study of Human Understanding. Volume 3 of the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan. Edited by Frederick E. Crowe and Robert M. Doran. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992.
――. Method in Theology. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971.
Spencer-Brown, C. Laws of Form. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1969.
 “[The] primary form of mathematical communication is not description, but injunction. In this respect it is comparable with practical art forms like cookery, in which the taste of a cake, although literally indescribable, can be conveyed to a reader in the form of a set of injunctions called a recipe. Music is a similar art form, the composer does not even attempt to describe the set of sounds he has in mind, much less the set of feelings occasioned through them, but writes down a set of commands which, if they are obeyed by the reader, can result in a reproduction, to the reader, of the composer’s original experience.” C. Spenser-Brown, Laws of Form, (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1969), 77, hereafter referred to as Laws.
 “To arrive at the simplest truth, as Newton knew and practiced, requires years of contemplation. Not activity. Not reasoning. Not calculating. Not busy behaviour of any kind. Not reading. Not talking. Not making an effort. Not thinking. Simply bearing in mind what it is one needs to know. And yet those with the courage to tread this path to real discovery are not only offered practically no guidance on how to do so, they are actively discouraged and have to set about it in secret, pretending meanwhile to be diligently engaged in the frantic diversions and to conform with the deadening personal opinions which are being continually thrust upon them.” Laws, 110. Italics in the text.
 “The theme of this book is that a universe comes into being when a space is severed or taken apart. The skin of a living organism cuts off an outside from an inside. So does the circumference of a circle in a plane. By tracing the way we represent such a severance, we can begin to reconstruct, with an accuracy and coverage that appear almost uncanny, the basic forms underlying linguistic, mathematical, physical, and biological science, and can begin to see how the familiar laws of our own experience follow inexorably from the original act of severance.” Laws, xxix. In this paper we do not use Spenser-Brown’s actually theorems relating to such basic forms. Instead, we use his basic approach to highlight the underlying form or skeleton of Lonergan’s work in both Insight and Method combined. RCB.
 Laws, 79-81.
 “The more important structures of command are sometimes called canons. They are the ways in which the guiding injunctions appear to group themselves in constellations, and are thus by no means independent of each other. A canon bears the distinction of being outside (i.e. describing) the system under construction, but a command to construct (e.g. ‘draw a distinction’), even though it may be of central importance, is not a canon. A canon is an order, or set of orders, to permit or allow, but not to construct or create.” Laws, 80.
 “In discovering a proof, we must do something more subtle than search. We must come to see the relevance, in respect of whatever statement it is we wish to justify, of some fact in full view, and of which, therefore, we are already constantly aware. Whereas we may know how to undertake a search for something we can not see, the subtlety of the technique of trying to ‘find’ something which we already can see may more easily escape our efforts.” Laws, 95. Italics are in the text.
 “Another point of interest is the clear distinction . . . that can be drawn between the proof of a theorem and the demonstration of a consequence. The concepts of theorem and consequence, and hence of proof and demonstration, are widely confused in current literature [in mathematics and logic] where the words are used interchangeably. This has undoubtedly created spurious difficulties.” Laws, xxii. When “value” is discussed in the core of this article, it refers to demonstration, i.e. a demonstration of value. RCB.
 Bernard J. F. Lonergan, S.J., Insight: A Study of Human Understanding (Toronto: Volume 3 of the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, edited by Frederick E. Crowe and Robert M. Doran, University of Toronto Press, 1992), 27-31, hereafter known as Insight. It is interesting to note that Lonergan’s five elements are less descriptive than a set of starting points that later turn out to be of great significance. RCB.
 The notion of a judgment cannot be affirmed at this time for the simple reason that the necessary components for such an act are not yet in place. What can be affirmed is a distinction between proper and improper forms of abstraction. RCB