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

This week we delved in the way in which symbols are related to definitions, where appropriate symbolization facilitates easy operations while others may not. Take arithmetic: multiplyng 2,356 x 21 is easy; MMCCCLVI by XXI is not. In the first part, we extend the idea of an image being essential to uniting concepts with relationships and hence necessity to the use of symbols (images) that provide the same function at a higher level. For example, the cross (the "x" to be known) brings together all the pertinant features of a foundational stance in a single image or symbol.

The second part deals with the possibility that world views are to the realm of common sense what theories are to the realm of the empirical sciences. Both are high level abstractions; both are grounded in reality, though the reality for the former is the universe as it relates to us as humans and for the latter the sensate world itself. Here lies a key insight: one's opinions and positions on any topic are not grounded in a world "out there to be seen" but in the state of the person's foundational stance. In other words, one's foundational stance is the independent variable while one's world view is a dependent variable.

The third part deals with what is probably the most important aptitude of our species, i.e., the capacity to create and manipulate symbols. Definitions provide the core material, images grounding definitions (and symbols grounding foundational stances). When we ask questions (intentionality), find answers (insights), place these insights into the public realm (definitions), and cluster such insights into higher viewpoints, we create worlds mediated by meaning. Note: fundamental institutional change is often a change in an organization's foundational stance or a conflict between different institution's foundational positions.

Part four deals with the difference in the way in which the hard sciences develop as opposed to philosophy and/or theology. In the former, the empirical heuristic structure leads to ever growing unity as theories are discarded or reframed within a larger horizon; in the latter, differences in foundational stances leads to fragmentation, to more and more schools of thought and belief. It is important to note that Lonergan's transcendental method and the functional specialization that is derived from this provide the means for sorting through and restoring a degree of unity among various disciplines and schools of thought.

Finally, there are a number of points that came up during the discussion, e.g., at the foundational level, questions seize the individual; love of another and finally of God as the terminal value changes everything; and truth does exist, although it takes a differentiated mind to acknowledge different realms of meaning and the methods appropriate to each for answering the questions specific to that realm.

Note: this pdf is also part of the DennisPragerSketches/Data Mapping, the "Foundations & Symbols" button.


November 2, 2108

Educational Projects: Insight (1) Chapter 1: Section 3 - Perspectives

Today we delved into the ways in which insights, as definitions, cluster together only to have the ever-searching mind find discrepancies and paradoxes that lead to the emergence of higher perspectives that solve the problem or problems. Lonergan delves into the mathematical world as being the best realm to work out the dynamics of the human mind, since it is purely abstract and thus free from any cross-contamination from the sensate world or from the world of common sense.

We use two examples to illustrate this process, one from mathematics (the number line) and the other from music (Western musical notation). In both cases, the original starting point ran into paradoxes or limitations that demanded a better way of doing things, and the better way was a higher perspective that would put the previous one in context. Lonergan's structure of cognitive operations is a high level perspective that is of particular interest, for the only way to change it would be to use the very structure itself.

It is important to keep in mind that the object of our quest is not the two examples brought to our attention, but the activities of the human mind when confronted with the development of human thought: the ever-questioning intelligence, the pushing of boundaries, the encounter with odd paradoxes or unexpected consequences in what one would expect, and the subsequent search for ways to explain or understand these discrepancies in a better way.

Note also the vast expansion of operational possibilities when a higher level of understanding is put into place. What was before considered impossible or at least unlikely now become possible if not inevitable. Such is human development; such is human de-evolution to smaller and smaller sets of distinctions and operations.

RCB, October 16, 2018