• Strange Notions Strange Notions Strange Notions

Why the Ultimate Cause of Everything in Existence Must be God


(NOTE: This it the third of a three part series on Bernard Lonergan's philosophical proof for God. Be sure to read the first part and second part.)

V. The One Unrestrictedly Intelligible Uncaused Reality is an “Unrestricted Act of Thinking”

We will now explain Lonergan’s contention that unrestricted intelligibility can only occur through an unrestricted idea, which in turn can only occur through an unrestricted act of thinking.

As noted above, the one uncaused reality that exists through itself is unrestricted in its intelligibility. This means that it can answer from within itself not only the question “Why is it so?” but also all other questions grounded in this question for explanation. For Lonergan, this kind of intelligibility cannot be material (conditioned by space and time) or individuated (restricted to an instance and therefore unable to unify or relate distinct or opposed objects). It must therefore be trans-material and trans-individual – having the qualities of an idea. In order to explain what Lonergan means by “idea,” it will be helpful to distinguish between two kinds of thinking – “picture thinking” and “conceptual thinking.” Picture thinking results in what is called “perceptual ideas” – ideas which correspond to an individual image (such as my dog Fido), and “conceptual thinking” corresponds to conceptual ideas, which require more explanation.

Look at the words in the previous two paragraphs. How many of them correspond to an individual image (like my dog Fido)? As you can see, the vast majority of them do not correspond to any individual image. Instead they correspond to concepts which designate groups of objects and even groups of groups. Thus they can be conjunctions, prepositions, logical terms, mathematical terms, verbs, adjectives, abstract nouns, etc. How are these abstract “group” concepts formed? By placing perceptual and conceptual ideas into relationships with each other. Though some animals are capable of forming perceptual ideas, humans alone are capable of forming conceptual (“relationship based”) ideas.1 So how do we form conceptual ideas that can stand for groups of objects and groups of groups? How do we form relationship-based ideas that do not directly refer to perceptual objects? How do we form ideas that can be used as predicates, objects, and grammatical, logical, and mathematical constructs? In a word, “heuristic notions.”

Notions are general inclusive concepts, and heuristic notions are among the highest of these inclusive concepts. They are capable of unifying (bringing together) all other less general concepts under their broad and inclusive intelligibility. These high-level unifying concepts enable humans to create superstructures through which to interrelate perceptual ideas among one another, perceptual ideas with conceptual ideas, and conceptual ideas among one another. These superstructures are like context for organization of particular ideas – like a map is a context for organizing specific places or a clock or calendar for organizing specific times, or a table of genus and species for organizing similarities and differences among realities, etc. Each superstructure has particular heuristic notions (high-level ideas) intrinsic to it that determine the way in which ideas are to be organized and interrelated.

For example, the notions of “similarity and difference” are essential for interrelating answers to the question, “What is it?” The notions of “here and there” are essential for interrelating answers to the question “Where?” The notions of “earlier-now-later” are essential for interrelating answers to the question “When?” And the notions of “causation-possibility-necessity-contingency-actuality” are essential to organizing answers to the question “Why?” Without heuristic notions to give intelligibility to organizational superstructures, we would have no way of relating ideas among one another, and if we could not do this, we would have no conceptual ideas. We would be reduced to about 4% of the words we use – limited only to those having direct pictorial referents.

Heuristic notions cannot be learned from the empirical world because we would have to use them in order to learn them. Recall that notions are necessary for transforming our perceptual ideas from the empirical world into conceptual ideas, and that notions are the highest-level conceptual ideas. Thus we are confronted with a paradox. We would have to use the very notions that we have not yet learned from the empirical world to translate our perceptions from the empirical world into notions – we would have to use them before we learn them so that we could learn them – an obvious impossibility. They must therefore be innate. Lonergan believes that all such heuristic notions are derived from the supreme heuristic notion – the notion of completely intelligible reality (what he terms “the notion of being”).2

Bearing this in mind, we may now examine the function of heuristic notions. We use them to create organizing superstructures to relate perceptual ideas among one another, relate perceptual ideas with conceptual ideas, and relate conceptual ideas among one another. Let’s return to the heuristic notions of “here,” “there,” and “where.” Notice that these notions provide a superstructure (like a map) for relating one location to another location. Without this superstructure, we would not be able to understand location—because location requires interrelating the data of experience. Thus, perceptual ideas alone cannot make location intelligible. Similarly, the notions of “similarity,” “difference,” and “What?” enable us to create an organizational superstructure to relate one kind of object with other kinds of objects. Again, without these notions (and the superstructure they organize), we would not be able to understand various kinds of objects because perceptual ideas alone (unrelated to each other) do not reveal similarities and differences among objects.

The human mind with its innate heuristic notions is not limited to relationships among perceptual ideas; it can also organize relationships among conceptual ideas. This gives rise to second level abstractions (such as particular conjunctions – “and,” “or,” etc.) and particular prepositions (such as “here,” “around,” “below,” etc.), and third level abstractions (such as the concept of “conjunction” and “preposition”). The mind can generate higher and higher levels of abstract ideas in language, logic, mathematics, and metaphysics. Some of the higher levels of logic are manifest in the complex operators of contemporary modal logic; higher level mathematical concepts may be found in tensor geometry and the mathematics of higher dimensional space; and higher level metaphysical concepts are manifest in the ideas of space, time, reality, intelligibility, causation, and unrestricted intelligibility.

Notice that no conceptual ideas can exist in the physical world, because physical realities are limited by individuation and space-time particularity. Conceptual ideas transcend individuality and space-time particularity, and require the power of mentation (mind)—with its capacity to relate perceptual and conceptual ideas—to achieve this status.

Let us review – humans move from the domain of individual things and individual images (perceptual ideas) to the domain of conceptual (relational) ideas through the use of heuristic notions (high-level ideas that act as superstructures to organize relationships among perceptual and conceptual ideas). These conceptual ideas go far beyond the domain of individual material objects and perceptual ideas, because they contain relational contents that underlie the whole of language, logic, mathematics, metaphysics, and every science and discipline that uses them. Conceptual ideas, then, are vehicles to convey not only meaning, but the intelligibility of reality. Such ideas cannot come from the world of material things; they must come from the domain of mind (thinking) in which heuristic notions organize relationships among individual perceptual ideas and the conceptual ideas derived from them.

We may now proceed to the main point of this section – that the unique unrestrictedly intelligible uncaused reality is an unrestricted act of thinking. Recall from Sections I – IV that an uncaused cause existing through itself (necessary for everything else to exist) must be unique and unrestrictedly intelligible. What kind of being has unrestricted intelligibility? As can be seen from the above analysis, it cannot be something physical or material which is limited by individuality and space-time particularity. Furthermore, it cannot be something which is merely abstract (such as a conceptual idea) because an abstraction is restricted by the ideas from which it is derived. Moreover, it cannot be a restricted act of thinking (which can still inquire) because a restricted act of thinking by definition is not unrestrictedly intelligible. Well then, what is a reality with unrestricted intelligibility? It must be an unrestricted act of thinking (mentation) which grasps everything about everything – every relationship among things and relations – the complete set of correct answers to the complete set of questions. Lonergan puts it this way (using “act of understanding” in the same way I have been using “act of thinking”):

…[I]ntelligibility either is material or spiritual [immaterial] or abstract: it is material in the objects of physics, chemistry, biology, and sensitive psychology; it is spiritual [immaterial] when it is identical with understanding; and it is abstract in concepts of unities, laws…. But abstract intelligibility necessarily is incomplete, for it arises only in the self-expression of spiritual intelligibility. Again, spiritual intelligibility is incomplete as long as it can inquire. Finally, material intelligibility necessarily is incomplete, for it is contingent in its existence and in its occurrences, in its genera and species… moreover, it includes a merely empirical residue of individuality, noncountable infinities, particular places and times…. It follows that the only possibility of complete intelligibility lies in a spiritual intelligibility that cannot inquire because it understands everything about everything.3

So what is an unrestricted act of thinking like? Let’s begin with what it is not. An unrestricted act of thinking cannot occur through a material brain because a material brain cannot accommodate unrestricted intelligibility since it is restricted in both its intelligibility and its material functioning. The same can be said for artificial intelligence, which also is restricted in its intelligibility and material (electromagnetic, electrochemical, or even biochemical) functioning. Indeed, we will have to eliminate any apparatus, power, or activity which is in any way material or restricted in its power to ground intelligibility.

This means that an unrestricted act of thinking must be a power which is capable of bringing together, in a single act, the interrelationship among unrestricted intelligibility and all restricted intelligibility. What kind of power could this be? It must be a power that can be in relationship to itself and anything extrinsic to itself – a power which is not restricted by a spatial or temporal manifold; a power which has no intrinsic limitations or extrinsic restrictions that would prevent it from being unrestricted in its intelligibility; a power that can act as a unifying agent of every restricted reality and idea as well as for itself; a power which can be completely self-reflective, self-appropriating, self-conscious, and self-transparent because it has no intrinsic restriction preventing it from being present to itself and everything distinct from itself (the whole domain of restricted reality and intelligibility).

This pure mentative power cannot be imagined (i.e., picture thinking), because that would subject it to individuation as well as space and time (which it completely transcends). We can only approach it through an appreciation of its unrestricted and self-transparent unitive and unifying power. Any attempt to further refine this notion will only serve to restrict and particularize it – which would render our conception false.

For Lonergan, then, the only possible source of complete intelligibility is an unrestricted act of understanding – what we have called an unrestricted act of thinking – an unrestricted power capable of comprehensive unification of itself (unrestricted intelligibility) with the whole of restricted intelligibility in a completely self-transparent self-reflective act. This unrestricted mentative power is the ultimate cause of everything else in existence – including restricted powers of mentation (like ours). For this reason, Lonergan refers to it as “God.”

VI. Conclusion

We began this proof with showing the necessity for at least one uncaused reality that exists through itself – without which nothing would exist. We then proceeded to show that such a reality would have to be unrestricted in its explicability and intelligibility. We then showed that an unrestrictedly intelligible reality could only be one – absolutely unique – and then showed that this one unrestrictedly intelligible uncaused reality would have to be the ultimate cause (Creator) of everything else in reality. We then asked what an unrestrictedly intelligible reality would be like, to which we responded that it could not be a physical reality, an abstract idea, or a restricted power of mentation. This left only one remaining option – an unrestricted power of mentation which is described above. These proven attributes – unique, unrestrictedly intelligible, uncaused reality existing through itself, which is the Creator of everything else in reality and an unrestricted mentative power—may refer to “God.” Inasmuch as a denial of the above proof entails either a contradiction of fact (i.e. that nothing exists) or an intrinsic contradiction (e.g. an unrestrictedly intelligible reality which is restricted in its intelligibility), we may conclude that “God” as defined, exists.

Notice that this “God” is a metaphysical God – which emphasizes “what God is” – the attributes of God – but does not emphasize “who God is” – “the heart of God.” If we are to answer the latter question, we will have to go beyond the domain of reason, logic, and experience – and delve into the domain of revelation.


  1. This is explained in Spitzer 2015 The Soul’s Upward Yearning: Clues to Our Transcendent Nature from Experience and Reason (Chapter 3, Section VI)
  2. For a thorough explanation of this, see Spitzer 2015—The Soul’s Upward Yearning—Chapter 3 (Section V).
  3. Lonergan 1992, pp. 696-697.
Fr. Robert Spitzer

Written by

Fr. Robert Spitzer, PhD is a Catholic priest in the Jesuit order, and is currently the President of the Magis Center of Reason and Faith and the Spitzer Center. He earned his PhD in philosophy from the Catholic University of America and from 1998 to 2009 was President of Gonzaga University. Fr. Spitzer has made multiple media appearances including: Larry King Live (debating Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, and Deepak Chopra on God and modern physics), the Today Show (debating on the topic of active euthanasia), The History Channel in “God and The Universe,” and a multiple part PBS series “Closer to the Truth." Fr. Spitzer is the author of five books including New Proofs for the Existence of God: Contributions of Contemporary Physics and Philosophy (Eerdmans, 2010); Ten Universal Principles: A Brief Philosophy of the Life Issues (Ignatius, 2011); and Healing the Culture: A Commonsense Philosophy of Happiness, Freedom and the Life Issues (Ignatius, 2011). Follow Fr. Spitzer's work at the Magis Center of Reason and Faith.

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  • William Davis

    This pure mentative power cannot be imagined (i.e., picture thinking), because that would subject it to individuation as well as space and time (which it completely transcends).

    Ever heard of meta-cognition (thinking about thinking)? How is that not imagining "mentative power"? It gets worse is there is an entire discipline dedicated to this now:


    Not only are we imagining intelligence (better than "mentative power" which sounds like something from a comic book), we are beginning to recreate it artificially. The stated goal of many of these companies is to solve intelligence, not just imagine it. They are having some decent success in the past couple of years, mastering visual abstraction, and gaming strategy by actual learning, not being pre-programmed with a script.

    Heuristics are basically thinking shortcuts, and often lead to erroneous thinking, but we use them because they usually work and make thinking faster and more energy efficient. They are probably a combination of learning and some level of genetic hardwiring.


    One general question, why isn't the unrestricted mind simply the universe? If the universe is God's imagination, and there is only one universe, God's mind would simply be what he's imagining, thus God=universe.

    • Phil Rimmer

      "why isn't the unrestricted mind simply the universe?

      Well there you have committed the sin of subjecting it to the power of your puny thought. The unrestricted mind when observed (or "pictured" as we say in our PoMo parallel world to Quantum Mechanics) is a function that must necessarily collapse from its Divine potential into space time, the merely discrete universe.

      • William Davis

        We need to change Nietzsche's "God is dead" to "God's wavefunction has collapsed."

  • "What kind of being has unrestricted intelligibility? As can be seen from the above analysis, it cannot be something physical or material which is limited by individuality and space-time particularity."

    Okay, this would exclude a individual part of space-time, but what about all space-time?

    What is the problem with all space-time existing uncaused, and being unrestricted in its intelligibility?

  • David Hardy

    I will focus this response to the part of the argument presented in the article, as I responded previously to the other premises and why they seem uncertain to me.

    While I agree that humans have the most advanced ability to form conceptual thinking, this does not divorce it fully from "picture thinking." Most concepts can be brought to the level of a specific example (picture thinking) if needed. Therefore, conceptual thinking of this sort might be understood as forming associations across like experiences. Other forms such as recognizing connecting words such as "or" or and", demonstrate an ability to form not only associations, but also ideas to indicate an association. One sees similar effects in the ability to form metaphors, forming higher level concepts in part through association to experiences.

    Despite this, the author seems to make assumptions that do not appear certain. For example, suggesting that an unrestricted act of thinking cannot be restricted by a material brain. This, on its own, would be fine. However, there is no reason to assume an act of thinking can occur without a brain. Brain injuries in certain areas invariably disrupt thought processes, including the sort of conceptual thinking the author appears to be implying transcends the material. Therefore, the more likely conclusion appears to be that an unrestricted act of thinking is not possible since no brain could generate it, rather than it not only is possible, but certainly occurs and does so devoid of the structure that seems necessary for thinking to occur.

  • From this three part series I would conclude that all of what I know as existing is my thought, with Lonergan and Spitzer being two of my thoughts. Lonergan is a conceptual thought of mine because I have not yet familiarized myself with his photo. Spitzer is one of my perceptual thoughts because his appearance, even his voice, comes immediately to my mind upon sensing his name.

  • Doug Shaver

    From Part I:

    We will first prove the minor premise—“all reality is completely intelligible” (Section I)

    I found that proof inadequate, and so everything that followed was irrelevant.

    • Paul Brandon Rimmer

      This is often the "problem" I run into with these series. I disagree with the argument on Part 1, and then there's no point in following Parts 2, 3, etc.

      The other "problem" is that arguments get recycled. The same unconvincing arguments are repeated over and over, they rely on intuitions that I don't share, so even from Part 1, I wonder if there's any reason to comment (it's the same comments I've left for previous articles).

      These are not really problems. It just means I take a break from the site for a week or so, until the series in question is ended.

      • Doug Shaver

        I had high hopes when I first found this site. The articles I initially read seemed superior in their intellectual quality to most of the apologetics I'd seen from Protestant evangelicals. And some of them actually are. For the most part, though, they're the same arguments, just written more literately.

  • Phil Rimmer

    I have just had this pointed out by Geena Safire.

    16 years after the above musings were first published (in fact, in 1957), Lonergan, clearly a clever chap, saw more of the light...

    REVOLUTION IN CATHOLIC THEOLOGYDelivered at a joint session with the College Theology Society. © 1972
    Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society of America, 27th Annual Convention

    I may assume, no doubt, that everyone is aware of the profound changes that have occurred in the thought of Catholic theologians during the present century. But to enumerate in detail just what changes have occurred in the thought of individual theologians seemed to me to be just a long litany that presupposed a great deal of not very illuminating research. So I have been led to think it more profitable to inquire into the causes of such change and to estimate which changes have come to stay.

    Now it is in the area of scholarship—of the linguist, the exegete, the historian—that the most startling changes have occurred in Catholic theology. More rapidly in the fields of patristic and medieval studies, more slowly in the field of Scripture, there gradually have been accepted and put into practice new techniques in investigating the course of history, new procedures in interpreting texts, new and more exacting requirements in the study of languages.

    The result of these innovations has been to eliminate the old style dogmatic theologian. For the old style dogmatic theologian was expected 1) to qualify his theses by appealing to papal and conciliar documents from any period in Church history and 2) to prove his theses by arguing from the Old Testament and the New, from the Greek, Latin, and Syriac fathers, from the Byzantine and medieval scholastics, and from all the subsequent generations of theologians.

    But the new techniques in history, the new procedures in interpretation, the new requirements in the study of languages reveal the performance of the old style dogmatic theologian to be simply out of date. For the new techniques, procedures, requirements demand specialization. They demand that opinions be based on full knowledge. They consider it self-evident that one man cannot know all there is to be known either on the Old Testament or the New, either on the Greek or on the Latin or on the Syriac fathers; and, as the same holds for the Byzantine and the medieval scholastics and for their later successors, the old style dogmatic theologian has simply become obsolete.

    There are further and far more general consequences. Culture used to be conceived normatively. It was something that ought to be, and accordingly, de jure if not de facto, there was just one culture for all mankind. It was the fruit of being brought up in a good home, of studying Latin and Greek at school, of admiring the immortal works of literature and art of the classical period, of adhering to the perennial philosophy, and of finding in one's laws and institutions the deposit of the prudence and the wisdom of mankind.

    But exploration, anthropology, the proper interpretation of texts, and the composition of critical histories have given currency to an empirical notion of culture. A culture is simply the set of meanings and values that inform the way of life of a community. Cultures can decline rapidly, but they develop only slowly, for development is a matter of coming to understand new meanings and coming to accept higher values.

    Moreover, any notable culture has a long history: it has borrowed from other cultures; it has adapted what it borrowed into its new context; it has effected the development of its own patrimony. Cultures are many and varied; they all have their good points and their deficiencies; and the ideal culture is far far rarer than the ideal man. To grasp the empirical notion of culture leads to a grasp of what is meant by a person's historicity. What counts in a person's life is what he does and says and thinks. But all human doing, saying, thinking occurs within the context of a culture and consists in the main in using the culture.

    But cultures change; they wax and wane; meanings become refined or blunted; value-judgements improve or deteriorate. In brief, cultures have histories. It is the culture as it is historically available that provides the matrix within which persons develop and that supplies the meanings and values that inform their lives. People cannot help being people of their age, and that mark of time upon them is their historicity.

    What I have been saying has considerable importance in the Church's task of preaching the Gospel to all nations. A classicist could feel that he conferred a double benefit on those to whom he preached if he not only taught them the Gospel but also let them partake in the riches of the one and only culture. But the empirical notion of culture puts an entirely different light on the matter.

    The preacher's task now becomes one of inserting the Gospel within a culture in which it has not been known. To make it known there, there must be found in the local language the potentialities for expressing the Gospel message, and it is by developing these potentialities and not by imposing an alien culture that the mission will succeed.

    There are further implications to the shift from a normative to an empirical apprehension of culture. For the normative apprehension projects upon laws and institutions a permanence and rigidity that the study of history finds to be illusory. From the normative viewpoint one will think of the Church as a societas perfecta, a perfect society endowed with all the powers necessary for its autonomy. From the empirical viewpoint one will conceive the Church, as in the Handbuch der Pastoraltheologie, as a Selbstvollzug, as an ongoing process of self-realization, as an ongoing process in which the constitutive, the effective, and the cognitive meaning of Christianity is continuously realized in ever changing situations.

    There are not a few writers who assert that the normative view of culture and the universal uniformity it implies derive from Greek thought and, specifically, from Greek philosophy. And while I believe it is true that the Greek philosophers did not know about the techniques developed by more recent exegetes and historians, it remains that a more exact understanding of the normative approach is to be had by turning from the Greek philosophers to the humanists, the orators, the school-teachers, to the men who simplified and watered down philosophic thought and then peddled it to give the slowwitted an exaggerated opinion of their wisdom and knowledge.

    After all, from a contemporary viewpoint it seems an incredible conceit to suppose that one's own culture is the one and only uniform and universal culture. However that may be, we must go on to further sources of change in the thought of Catholic theologians. Not only is it true that the Greek philosophers did not foresee the implications of contemporary hermeneutics and history.

    It also is true that they did not grasp contemporary notions of science and of philosophy.
    • Only in the nineteenth century was it recognized that Euclid's Elements was, not the one and only geometry, but just one out of many possible geometries.
    • Only more recently did mathematicians deduce their conclusions not from necessary truths but from suitable postulates.
    • For years physicists proclaimed the necessary laws of nature, but less than fifty years ago they began to speak of the statistical probabilities of quantum theory.
    • Even economists spoke of the iron laws of economics, only eventually to renounce them and turn their hand to advising bureaucrats on the probable results of this or that course of action. [bullets added]

    There has emerged a new notion of what a science is, and it in no way corresponds to the knowledge of the cause, knowledge that it is the cause, and knowledge that the effect cannot be other than it is, that is set forth in Aristotle's Posterior Analytics.

    The content of modern scientific doctrine is not an intelligibility that is necessary but an intelligibility that is 1) possible and 2) probably verified. Moreover, to give an account of a modern science one cannot be content to list logical operations, that is, operations with respect to terms, propositions, and inferences. The modern scientist does perform logical operations: he defines, formulates, infers. But he also observes, discovers, experiments.

    Moreover, the two sets of operations are interdependent. Discoveries are expressed in definitions and formulations. Inferences from formulations are checked by observations and experiments. Checking by observation and experiment can give rise to new discoveries, and the new discoveries in turn generate new definitions and formulations to make science not an unchanging system but an ever ongoing process.

    There is a further departure from Aristotle in modem science. Aristotle wanted the sciences to derive their basic terms from metaphysics. Potency and act, matter and form, substance and accident were key concepts. Such sciences as physics or psychology obtained further key concepts proper to their respective fields by adding appropriate further determinations to the metaphysical basic terms.

    In contrast, modern science sets up its own basic terms; it does so by deriving them from empirically established laws; and such are the concepts of mass, temperature, the electromagnetic field, the elements of the periodic table, the branching of the evolutionary tree. Now when the modern procedure is adopted in cognitional psychology, then one's basic terms will refer to conscious operations and one's basic relations will refer to conscious relations between operations.

    Through such basic terms and relations one can tell just what one is doing when one is coming to know. From such cognitional theory one can go on to explain why doing that is knowing, and so arrive at an epistemology. From cognitional theory and epistemology one can go on to setting up a metaphysics, that is, to state in general what one knows when one does come to know.

    On this showing metaphysics ceases to be the first science on which all others depend. But ceasing to be the first science has its advantages, for now a metaphysics can be critically established; every statement it makes about reality can be validated by a corresponding cognitional operation that is verifiable. [emphasis added]

    We have been observing both in science and philosophy a shift from the intelligibility that is a necessity to the intelligibility that is a possibility and, as well, probably verified. Now this shift means the dethronement of speculative intellect or of pure reason.

    Neither the scientist nor the philosopher has at his disposal a set of necessary and self-evident truths. He has to observe external nature. He has to attend to his own internal operations and their relations to one another. Neither the observing nor the attending reveal necessity. They merely provide the data in which insight may discern possible relationships, and which further experience may confirm as de factovalid.

    The dethronement of speculative intellect has been a general trend in modern philosophy. Empirical science led to empiricist philosophy. Empiricist philosophy awoke Kant from his dogmatic slumbers. The German absolute idealists, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel, attempted to restore speculative reason to her throne, but their success was limited. Kierkegaard took his stand on faith, Schopenhauer wrote on the world as will and representation, Newman toasted conscience, Dilthey wanted aLebensphilosophie, Blondel wanted a philosophy of action, Ricoeur is busy with a philosophy of will, and in the same direction tend the pragmatists, the personalists, the existentialists.

    I am far from thinking that this tendency is to be deplored. What once was named speculative reason today is simply the operations of the first three levels of consciousness—the operations of experiencing and inquiring, understanding and formulation, checking and judging. These operations occur under the rule and guidance of the fourth level, the level of deliberating, evaluating, deciding. Philosophers and scientists recognize this fact when they deliberate about the proper method to be followed in their work.

    I have said that contemporary hermeneutics and history have made the old style dogmatic theologian obsolete. I have gone on to argue that the contemporary notion of science and its consequences in forming the notion of philosophy are quite different from the notions entertained up to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

    It is not only the old style dogmatic theologian that is obsolete. It also is true that the old style dogmatic theologian cannot be replaced on the basis of old style notions of science and of philosophy. What the new style is to be, I cannot prophesy.

    But perhaps I should mention what I tend to think.
    • First, then, there is going to be a lot less metaphysics. It has ceased to be the basic and universal science, the Grund- und Gesamt-wissenschajt.
    • General theological terms will find their roots in cognitional theory.
    • Specific theological terms will find their roots in religious experience.
    • There will be far less talk about proofs, and there will be far more about conversion, intellectual conversion, moral conversion, religious conversion.
    • The emphasis will shift from the levels of experiencing, understanding, and judging, to the level of deliberating, evaluating, deciding, loving.
    [emphasis added]

    In the present century, then, theology is undergoing a profound change. It is comparable in magnitude to the change that occurred in the middle ages, that began with Anselm's speculative thrust, Abelard's hard-headed Sic et non, the Lombard'sSentences, the technique of the Quaestio, and the fusion of these elements in the ongoing process of commentaries on the Sentences, Quaestiones disputatae, and the various Summae.

    Then, without any explicit advertence to the fact, theology operated on the basis of a method. For over a century it brought forth precious fruits. To theology as governed by method and as an ongoing process the present situation points. If that pointing is accurate and effective, then the contemporary revolution in theology also will have the character of a restoration.

    Regis College
    Toronto, Canada

    (Link also posted by Michael Murray in part one.)

  • Dennis Bell

    "Heuristic notions cannot be learned from the empirical world because we would have to use them in order to learn them."

    Manifestly untrue, and the collapse point of the whole argument.