Following text is an excerpt from the book of Giovanni B. Sala Lonergan and Kant (University of Toronto Press)
6. Lonergan’s Correspondence Thesis as the Foundation of a Rational Conception of Reality
Lonergan’s theory of a correspondence between the principles of knowledge and the principles of reality can best be explicated in terms of two doctrines around which Lonergan’s own critical realism, as he calls it, revolves. These are (1) the doctrine of intentionality, and (2) the doctrine of the threefold structure of human knowledge. From the two doctrines taken together the conclusion follows that the conditions of human knowledge in the full sense of the word, which we can express by means of the Kantian term ‘experience’ (Erfahrung), that is, the conditions of the knowledge of world things (Weltdinge), are at the same time conditions that allow us to know these same things in their ontological status as reality in itself. In this sense and for this reason the conditions of cognitive performance as an immanent activity of the subject are at the same time conditions of the capacity for transcendence of that same knowledge, and they thereby prove themselves to be conditions of the objective validity of knowledge.
6.1 Intentionality and Reality
Our cognitive process consists in the performance of a dynamism that, on the one hand, is dependent on sense, and, on the other hand, is directed toward being. We can label this cognitive striving, which manifests itself in an ever-flowing stream of questions, with the traditional term ‘intentionality.’ The characteristics of this dynamism of our mind are intelligence and rationality (and, further, morality), which express themselves in the various kinds of questions we ask. With the question, What is that? (Quid sit?) we search for an intelligibility in the data (of sense, initially), an intelligibility that is inherent in and constitutes reality. With the further question, Is it so? (An sit?) we search for the correctness of what is initially only a hypothetical interpretation of the data, in order in this way to reach the absolute positing of the judgment and thereby knowledge of reality. When I speak of characteristics of the cognitive dynamism in the human person I mean thereby that this dynamism of itself already ‘knows’ the intelligibility and absoluteness of the being that it aims at; in other words, there is at work in our questions a primordial meaning (Ur-Sinn) in search of the intelligible, the true, the real, a primordial meaning that is a priori because it constitutes the ‘stuff of the human spirit itself. This dynamism is unlimited in its reach: it is a dynamism towards infinity. Every question about how far our intentionality reaches, and every doubt about its unlimited character, merely confirms that as a dynamism, as a seeking, it is indeed unlimited. Nothing is utterly beyond the range of our intentionality as the capacity for questioning: outside its questioning about being lies only what ‘is not’ – namely, nothing! And because we are capable of posing questions about what lies beyond all conditions and limitations, we are capable of asking about any object from an unconditioned point of view: we ask about the object simply insofar as it ‘is’ and, as such, also insofar as it is unconditioned by our knowledge. Therefore, there is no inner realm of subjectivity, for our consciousness, that is, our self-presence as subject, is characterized by a tendency toward the transcendent. If there is no reality that is disparate from our intelligent and rational intentionality, then reality and intentionality are correlative. The rational conception of reality that I am advancing here is grounded precisely in this correlativity. On the basis of this thematization of intentionality in the first part of Insight, in the second part of the work Lonergan defines being as the correlate of intentionality: ‘Being … is the objective of the pure desire to know.’ This definition contains Lonergan’s correspondence thesis. This operational definition is further articulated with reference to the two features that characterize our desire to know and according to which it operates: ‘Being is whatever is to be known by intelligent grasp and reasonable affirmation.’
Thus Lonergan has transposed the correlativity of mens and ens into a rational conception of reality. In other words, the thesis that being is intrinsically intelligible and rational expresses the correlativity of intentionality and reality. The old thesis ‘ens et verum convertuntur’ (being and the true are convertible) says nothing other than this. ‘Now if by being one means the objective of the pure desire to know, the goal of intelligent inquiry and critical reflection, the object of intelligent grasp and reasonable affirmation, then one must affirm the intrinsic intelligibility of being. For one defines being by its intelligibility; one claims that being is precisely what is known by understanding correctly; one denies that being is anything apart from the intelligible or beyond it or different from it, for one’s definition implies that being is known completely when there are no further questions to be answered.’ It is clear that any objection to the thesis of the essential intelligibility of reality that is raised by means and in the name of intelligence and rationality in fact confirms this intrinsic intelligibility, since it presupposes it in its very performance of objecting. However, the thesis of the intrinsic intelligibility of being does not mean that being is to be measured in terms of our limited ability to understand; it does not mean that we cannot ask questions to which we know no satisfactory answers. For being is not defined by means of the answers cannot be doubted that Kant conceives it according to the model of sensible intuition – which, incidentally, is unavoidable, since the latter is the only kind of intuition known to us. This so-called intellectual intuition is not defined by the features of intelligence and rationality, which characterize our understanding and our reason – if this were the case there would be no reason to deny that human beings are capable of intellectual intuition! – but by extroversion, which is proper to the dynamism of sense. There is, of course, a difference, since the intellectual intuition that Kant conceives of but then denies to us reaches the being of beings. We therefore find in Kant a disparity between the intellectual intuition that he denies to us and the acts of understanding and reason that he attributes to us. It is precisely in this disparity between the intellectual acts that we perform and that Kant recognizes in his own way, on the one hand, and the intellectual intuition that alone would be capable of knowing reality, on the other hand, that the negative key to understanding the KRV lies. The disparity between our intelligence and rationality and the intellectual intuition that is sought for but not found in us leads to the disparity between our intelligence and rationality and the object of intellectual intuition, which Kant takes to be reality existing in itself (the thing-in-itself). In other words, this disparity implies an irrational conception of reality as it exists in itself.
What we have said up to now about intentionality indicates the way in which Lonergan successfully overcomes phenomenalism (that is, Kant’s solution to the problem of conformity). According to Kant, the transcendental condition of the objectivity of knowledge is (intellectual) intuition, for only it is capable of bridging the gulf between the subject, or the representations in the subject, and the object. Lonergan’s alternative to Kant’s phenomenalism, which is a direct consequence of the sensually understood principle of intuition, is simply to abandon the myth of intuition and identify the act that reaches being (or the intuition, if you insist!) with the intelligent and reasonable activity of our intentionality, which is so evident in our experience when we earnestly strive to overcome wishful thinking in order to come to know things as they are. One may call this activity of our unlimited intentionality ‘intuition,’ but in this case it is no longer a duplication of sensible intuition, but an intelligent and reasonable activity, as we recognize when we thematize it by an introspective analysis. If we abandon the intellectual intuition postulated by Kant, then the puzzling thing-in-itself also disappears; for the Kantian thing-in-itself is in fact the correlate of this intuition, which is neither intelligent nor reasonable, and therefore, as Kant himself correctly infers, lies outside the range of the acts of understanding and reason, acts which Kant himself describes in the Analytic and Dialectic. At the end of section 5 I gave two series of terms which laid out (1) Kant’s transcendental idealism and (2) the transcendent realism that lies at the foundation of this idealism. Lonergan’s intentionality analysis, which contains his thesis of correspondence between the principles of knowledge and the principles of being, now enables us to formulate the following series of terms, which lays out the position of critical realism: correspondence of the principles of knowledge and being, knowability of reality, transcendent reality. In other words, if reality is nothing other than that about which our intelligent and reasonable intention asks, then reality is intrinsically intelligible and rational. Now, if reality is intrinsically intelligible and rational, then the correspondence thesis holds true. And if the correspondence thesis holds true, then it is in principle possible for a representation, as a performance of this intention, to agree with reality as it exists in itself and to mediate this reality cognitively to the subject. In this way the performance of an intentionality that asks about reality as it exists in itself reaches the object that it aims at – precisely as a transcendent reality. Being-in-itself and knowability do not exclude one another!