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Foundations of Philosophy


From Authentic Subjectivity to Genuine Objectivity

For it is now apparent that in the world mediated by meaning and motivated by value, objectivity is simply the consequence of authentic subjectivity, of genuine attention, genuine intelligence, genuine reasonableness, genuine responsibility.1

Preliminary Exercises.

(1) Were there electrons even before they were identified, named and defined?

(2) A schizophrenic hears voices and sees visions. Can we be sure that what we hear and see is really there?

(3) Does sound exist even if there is no one to hear it?

(4) Is it possible to do a social survey on a subject such as marriage, religion or crime and not be influenced by your personal values?

(5) Is it possible to perform a scientific experiment without being influenced by already established theory? [322]

(6) Is all knowledge prejudice? Can we ever be sure that we are not biased in our judgments?

1. Transition

Our argument so far has been limited to considering knowing as an activity. We have concentrated on the facts of knowing, as we become aware of these in our own conscious activity. Just as we could have studied our dreams or our memory, we have studied here the activities of sensing, understanding and judging and given as accurate an account of these activities as possible. We have seen how these activities coalesce into a unity of interrelated dynamic parts in cognitional structure. In intellectual conversion we identified how imagination, the criterion of sense, of the immediate tends to be more overpowering than the intangible assertions of judgment of the truth and how we must constantly struggle to keep a correct balance between imagination and judgment. If you have identified these tendencies for yourself, it should be relatively easy to grasp the correct notion of subjectivity and objectivity.

Our approach so far might also called subjective, for in a sense it has been, as we have emphasized the subjective pole of the activity of knowing. What we have been doing might be called immanentist, in the limited sense that we have focused on the activities of knowing, as they occur in consciousness, rather than on the content of these activities. It might even be called a kind of psychologism, in the sense of an empirical psychological account of the activities involved in knowing. We have made no claims so far beyond the occurrence of these activities in a patterned structure.

There is a false notion of subjectivity and objectivity in which these are conceived as opposed and mutually exclusive. They are opposed because of the imaginative schema of the subjective as 'in here' and the objective as 'out there'; this is so common as to be almost universal. In the search for objective knowledge in the natural sciences and the human sciences, subjective elements in the researcher are to be eliminated; the objective is good, all subjective elements are bad and interfere with the 'objectivity' of results. In this case subjective lumps together everything that goes on in the [323] mind, prejudice, bias, self-interest, as well as hypotheses, ideas, judgments, values. Knowledge becomes so objective, so logical, and so controlled by rules and methods, as to be able to do without human minds. Objectivity is to be attained by eliminating the subjective.

In this context the critical problem is inevitably presented in terms of a bridge between the subjective in here and the objective out there. Descartes, Hume and Kant all thought in terms of the in here and the out there and their theories of knowledge unfolded against the background of these unquestioned imaginative assumptions. But this imaginative presentation poses insuperable problems when you ask, how do you know that your knowing is true? How do you know that the subjective really attains the objective? In this context it could only be by means of a kind of super-knowing by which we can compare the subjective and the objective to see if they really correspond. But this does not seem to be humanly possible.

However, there is an alternative way of viewing the notions of subjectivity and objectivity, to view them as complementary rather than opposed. Our examination of the subjective aspects of knowing helps us to distinguish between the proper role of imagination to facilitate understanding and the imperious force of imagination which foists on us false problems and false solutions. Our examination of the processes of description and explanation clarify what we can really know and the actual advantages and disadvantages of these types of knowing. Our examination of the proper unfolding of the desire to know helped us to discriminate between subjective factors such as bias, prejudice, self-interest, which do skew results and subjective factors such as commitment, honesty, ideas and hypotheses which are essential for correct human knowing. Our examination of subjectivity has been precisely in order to attain genuine objectivity. Objectivity is to be found not by eliminating subjectivity but by an authentic subjectivity.

Similarly, developments in the objective pole help us to be more conscious of the subjective pole. We noticed that we had to have examples to work on in order to discriminate between images and ideas, description and explanation. It is developments in the [324] sophistication of scientific research that has make us aware of subtle subjective elements. The shift from classical method to statistical was first made in scientific practice before we could become aware of inverse insights, devalued inverse insights and the empirical residue. Developments in the content of our understanding have immensely helped in discriminating between the activities.

The bridge between the subjective and the objective is a construction of the imagination and has to be simply abandoned. The transition from subjective to objective for us is a matter of a shift of focus from the activities to the content, from the knowing to the known. Most of our text has focused on the activities, now we are shifting back to the content. The transition for us is a transition from considering judgment as an activity to actually positing judgments for ourselves. Are we prepared to take a stand? Can we move from considering knowing as an activity to actually knowing? Can we make some strategically important judgments which will establish our notion of objectivity? This we hope to do in self-affirmation; then by making further judgments we have the context of judgments necessary for a notion of objectivity based on judgment and not on imagination.

We are now to become aware of the fact that the activities we have identified are intentional: they have a content which is the objective pole of the activity of knowing. In this chapter we move from the subjective to the objective. We escape from immanentism to the real and that which transcends the subject. We explicitly and methodically shift our focus from the subjective pole to the objective pole of knowing. The whole purpose of the work we have already done is to enable us to make this shift correctly and systematically. There has been an ulterior motive in all the self-appropriation that we have been doing; we have been focusing on the subjective pole in order to discover the true meaning of the objective pole. Our previous emphasis on activity of knowing will now enable us to focus on the content of what is known in a correctly objective way.

Our motto is: "Genuine objectivity is the fruit of authentic subjectivity."2 I hope that our examination of human knowing has been authentic, i.e., attentive, intelligent, reasonable and [325] responsible. We have tried to face up to the data of consciousness, to sort it out, to identify the different activities, relate the different movements and verify our conclusions by reference back to the data of consciousness. We have been critical: we have allowed further questions to arise and we have faced any conceivable objection. We have not been relying on Authority or Tradition or Fashion. This is our springboard for genuine objectivity. It has taken a long time to prepare the way for this step, because the shift from subjectivity to objectivity is most often misunderstood Let us clean the slate and try to rehabilitate the terms subjective and objective, not in terms of imagination where they are opposites, but in terms of judgment where they complement one another.

2. Self-Affirmation

We have considered the activity of making a judgment and the structure of such a reflective act of understanding leading to a judgment. We have considered many particular examples of judgments, but only as examples. We have not taken a stand with on those judgments personally. The only things that we have been attempting to establish are the facts about human knowing. It seems to be time, then, to make a definitive strategic judgment for ourselves about ourselves as knowers.

1. Affirming the Judgment. The first step in implementing the complementary notions of subjectivity and objectivity is to posit the judgment 'I am a knower'. It is not as if we ever doubted this rather basic statement; it is not that now we are in a position to prove it. Whereas previously such a judgment was implicit in all out knowing, now we wish to posit this explicitly, clearly, foundationally. Our previous work has clarified the meaning of knowing and also of the subject. All the work that we have done so far prepares the way for this judgment, and having made this judgment, the way will be open for the possibility of further judgments.

Let us put this in the form of positing the antecedent in the hypothetical syllogism that makes the procedure explicit.

The conditioned: I am a knower. [326]

Link between Conditions and Conditioned: If I am a conscious unity identity whole who experiences, understands and judges, then, I am a knower.

Fulfillment of the Conditions: But I am a conscious unity identity whole who experiences, understands and judges.

The virtually unconditioned: I am a knower.

What do we mean by knower? We have spent nine chapters explaining and defining what we mean by a knower so there should be no ambiguity about that. A knower is a person who experiences, understands and judges and we have explained in detail each of these terms.

What do we mean by conscious unity identity whole? Our work so far has familiarized us with shifting attention from the content of activities to the activities themselves. So we have dwelt at length on the activities of imagining, thinking, reasoning, judging in all their forms and details. We have become conscious of these mental activities; we did this by working on a puzzle or problem, then later reflecting back and identifying the activities by which we solved the problem. Now we have to take a further step to become conscious of the subject who is always there concomitantly with our awareness of objects or activities. How can we become aware of this subject, the I, the self?

It cannot be done directly. If you try to turn around and become directly aware of the self, you can to some extent succeed; but what you become aware of by this direct reflex action is the 'subject as object' and not the 'subject as subject'; to the extent that it is possible to direct attention explicitly at the self, then the self becomes an object and not a subject. To become aware of the subject as subject you have to heighten the awareness of self which is concomitant with the awareness of activities or objects. This awareness of self is there in all conscious activities; that is the meaning of a conscious activity. This is an experience of the self which is given; it is the one subject who performs all the cognitional activities at the different levels; this is what unifies the different activities so they are activities of the same subject. The experience of the self endures over time from emerging childhood memories to maturity and old [327] age. The same self who wakes up in the morning, washes, dresses, eats, prays, studies, travels, works, relates to others, relaxes, plays, returns home, goes to bed, to sleep perchance to dream. This experienced unity identity whole is given; without it knowledge would be impossible. It starts as an experience but can become self-knowledge as we explained earlier (chapter eight). The one subject is conscious empirically, intelligently and rationally.

Are we then prepared to affirm the judgment 'I am a knower' in a personal way? Are we prepared to make this the foundation of our philosophy? Are we justified now in making this judgment? This is no longer a game, it is no longer just an example. We are moving from the activity to the content. We are affirming our philosophical position and we the foundation of that position is taking a stand on what we are and what we can know.

There should be no difficulty making that judgment. The terms have been explained not just as concepts but as corresponding to definite activities and experiences. The evidence is there in our self-appropriation. The evidence is given in the data of consciousness. A verification refers back to the data to see if the conditions are fulfilled. It seems to me that the conditions are amply fulfilled. But you have to make the judgment for yourself.

2. Alternative Answers? Let us look at it from the point of view of alternatives. A question for a judgment can be answered with a yes, a no, anything in between, or I don't know. Which of these are coherent, which of them are possible?

Is it possible to say, 'No, I am not a knower'? But that is incoherent. Here you have a person, understanding a question, experiencing the relevant data, understanding what is referred to, and passing a judgment; and yet claiming that he is not a knower! This is deeply incoherent; the content of the judgment is in fundamental conflict with the activity of affirming the judgment.

Is it possible to say, 'Well, maybe I am a knower, but I am not sure'? There is a sense in which this is legitimate. If you have not fully understood the terms of the question, or you have not fully understood the preceding sections, it would be reasonable to say, 'Wait a little until I go over this again'. That is a perfectly reasonable [328] procedure. But having done the bit of review required, having understood the terms of reference, the data, the conditions and the link between the conditions and the fulfilling conditions, can you still be reasonable and sit on the fence? Once one has grasped the implications of the syllogism, then it becomes incoherent to say I am not sure. Once you have sufficient evidence it is no longer reasonable to refrain from judging.

Is it possible to say, 'I do not know'? Again this is incoherent. There is a profound contradiction between what is being said and what is being done. A judgment is being passed, but the content of the judgment is saying that no judgment can be passed. This is not just a clever way of rebutting an adversary; it reveals an intrinsic contradiction between performance and content.

The answer 'yes, I am a knower', is coherent. This is the only answer that makes sense. It is in harmony with the evidence. There is harmony between the activity of knowing and the content of the judgment. It builds on what we have been saying all along. It prepares the way for many other prospective judgments. Let us be brave; let us affirm that we are knowers.

This lays the foundations for a multitude of other judgments. If I am a knower, then other judgments can be posited if there is sufficient evidence. We can make judgments of common sense, accepting the limitations of descriptive knowing but recognizing that it is still valid human knowing. We can make judgments of the classical scientific type if we have moved into theory, defined our terms explanatorily and experimentally shown the truth of our laws. We can make judgments of a statistical type if we have established the ideal frequencies from which actual frequencies diverge non-systematically. In this way we can build up a body of knowledge based on correct judgments. It is not that we first doubted or suspended our knowledge of common sense and science and can now reintroduce them. Our starting point has been the subject as he tries to sort out gradually his position on science, philosophy, and how the fundamentals relate to the details and vice versa.

3. Contrast with Descartes. Our approach to self-affirmation may remind some of Descartes' Cogito, ergo sum, so let us explain [329] where we differ from Descartes. We differ in the method by which we have prepared the way for this judgment of self-affirmation. Descartes approached it by way of the principle of methodic doubt; he systematically doubted everything until he found some principle that is indubitable. Our judgment on that procedure was that if you start down that road it is rather arbitrary what you consider indubitable; we found the criterion of indubitability too demanding as a criterion for most human knowing; we found that the attempt to build a philosophy on certain first principles and then deductions from these, does not conform to our actual experience of knowing.

We on the contrary start with the subject in his native bewilderment and disorientation; but even he can discover for himself what are the properties of human knowing, especially of the judgment. He can differentiate description from explanation, theory from interiority, knowledge of objects to knowledge of activities to knowledge of the subject. Descartes approach was to doubt everything that could be doubted. Our approach was to investigate how in fact we come to know, how we tend to make mistakes, how we recognize mistakes, correct them, learn form them and build up mastery in a field.

Further, Descartes made little attempt to define his terms, especially the term 'knower'; for him there was little difference between a thinker and a knower. For us this has been the crucial task of our enterprise. Everything we have been doing has been related to the self-appropriation of the knowing subject; we are clear about what we mean by knowing. Descartes more or less took for granted and presumed a kind of rationalist approach to knowing: once he established the self it was pure deductive logic that got him to God and then to knowledge of the concrete universe. We, however, have also been at pains to identify what we mean by the self, the conscious subject, consciousness of self as concomitant with consciousness of objects.

Yet there is a fundamental correctness about Descartes= position on self-affirmation 'I think, therefore I am' and with that we identify. There is something basically incontrovertible about the judgment, 'I am a knower', just as there is something ridiculous in the image of a subject who goes around claiming, 'I am not a [330] knower'. Having examined both positions in detail, we identify ourselves with the first. It is coherent, reasonable, incontrovertible, foundational.

3. Three Partial Notions of Objectivity

Let us define what we mean by objectivity. We will identify three partial notions: the absolute, the normative, and the experiential, as well as a principal notion of objectivity. What we will be emphasizing is that knowledge is by judgments and our notion of objectivity is firmly based on our notion of authentic subjectivity. It is not based on the imaginative schema of 'in here' and 'out there'.

3.1 Absolute Objectivity.

At the level of judging we encounter the partial notion of absolute objectivity. If something is de facto true, then there is certain absoluteness to that truth. If it is true that Caesar crossed the Rubicon, then it is forever absolutely and eternally true that Caesar crossed the Rubicon. Truth has a quality of absoluteness, even if it is a contingent, trivial, transient truth. Here we carefully identify and affirm this aspect of objectivity.

We have to be careful with the word absolute. We are not saying that it was absolutely necessary that Caesar had to cross the Rubicon. But once he did as a matter of contingent historical fact, then it can never be untrue. Once it is true, then nothing, even God, can make it to be untrue. The absoluteness belongs to the truth and not to the material content of the judgment. All historical facts are contingent; everything outside of God is contingent as opposed to absolutely necessary. There is an absoluteness to the correct judgment that is different from the absoluteness of time and space for Newton. Philosophers have searched for the absolute but have often searched in the wrong places. For us the absolute is the virtually unconditioned. The conditions need not necessarily be fulfilled, but in the actual case of Caesar crossing the Rubicon, they happen to be fulfilled and so the conditioned becomes the virtually unconditioned, the actually verified. [331]

The virtually unconditioned of a correct judgment is withdrawn from relativity to the knower. If you examine what we have said about a judgment, you will see that the truth of the judgment does not depend on the subject but on the conditions being fulfilled. We put this in logical form to make it clear that the virtually unconditioned depends on the conditions and the link between the conditions and the conditioned. If the conditions are fulfilled and the link is established, then the conditioned becomes the virtually unconditioned. In this sense the virtually unconditioned is independent of the knowing subject.

This is the source of the logical principles of Identity and Contradiction. These principles state that a thing is what it is, and the same thing cannot both be and not be at the same time in the same respect. If something is true for today, it can become untrue tomorrow, e.g., it is raining today, it is not raining tomorrow. From the point of view of description a statement may be true, but from the point of view of explanation the same statement may be false. The principles are asserting that from the same point of view, at the same time and in all respects something cannot simultaneously be true and untrue. This is the ground for the absolute notion of objectivity. If it is true that it is now raining here, then that limited statement in relation to this time and place will always be true and the negation of that judgment will always be false. If there is a correct judgment, then within the limits of time and space of the judgment it will always be true and can never be truly negated. The principles of Identity and Contradiction are not conclusions of logic, nor are they only principles of logic. They are the conditions for thinking and knowing. They are inherent in knowing. Knowing is impossible without them. They cannot be proved, they cannot be demonstrated; they are the conditions for the possibility of any thinking and demonstration. They are what thinking, understanding and knowing are about.

Both universal and particular judgments, if true, are absolute. >It is raining= and >water is H2O=, if they are true and to the extent that they are true, are absolutely true. [332]

Both certain and probable judgments share in this absoluteness of a correct judgment. >It will probably rain= and >it will certainly rain=, if true share equally in the absolute notion of objectivity.

This is extremely important in our answer to relativists, skeptics, and others who think that truth is only found in certain, permanent, immutable statements. Truth is very nuanced; there is the truth of probability statements, of universal statements, of contingent statements, of scientific and philosophic statements. But to the extent that they are true, they are true.

Although in this text we have focused on the subjective pole, we have to note that the conditions for the truth of a judgment are not subjective. What we know by judgment is 'what is'. We do not make it to be by our knowing; by our knowing we know that it is and, perhaps, why it is. There is a fundamental detachability of the judgment from the knowing subject. There is a possibility of communication. In knowing, we are knowing what is true, not making it to be true by our knowing.

There is a widespread illusion in our contemporary culture that we create our own truths. There is a field where we humans give meanings to cultures, language, symbols, social institutions, countries, laws of taxation, public order, and in that area we create meaning and truth. But in the normal field of knowledge of the natural world we discover truth rather than invent it. Our knowing is creative in the sense that we need to think of all sorts of possibilities and hypotheses in order to hit on the one that can be verified. This knowing is not creative in the sense that we determine what is to be true or false.

Were there quarks before they were discovered? This is a tricky question. If you say yes, then, you tend to imply that quarks are little marbles that have always existed and we have just come along and put a name on them. If you say No, then you imply that in knowing them we are also making them to exist for the first time.

We get out of this dilemma by recognizing that out knowing develops. We are getting a more and more accurate understanding of sub-atomic particles, events and forces. What is potentially intelligible is becoming actually intelligible. There is a multitude of [333] data that is being uncovered by particle accelerators and the like. But it is only data. It has to be understood, terms have to be defined, hypotheses formed and verified in the reflective act of understanding that grasps the link between the hypothesis and its fulfilling conditions.

In a sense, the quark has always existed, meaning that experiments do not create quarks, but rather lay bare the data that is the foundation for the affirmation of the existence of quarks.

In a sense, the quark never existed before, meaning that the term is new, the hypothesis is new; the verification is recent. Our knowledge of the existence of the quark is recent but there is no reason to think that our knowledge made the quark to exist. The same data has always existed but it is only now that we have instruments to measure and verify it.

3.2 Normative Objectivity.

Here we are using the word 'objectivity' in the sense of excluding influences that are detrimental to the proper unfolding of the process of knowing. We are using it in the sense opposite to the subjectivity of bias, prejudice, wishful thinking, self-interest, obscurantism, etc. The ground for normative objectivity is the proper unfolding of the pure, detached, unrestricted desire to know. It is this desire to know that throws up the further questions that reveal shortcomings in our conclusions. This is the foundation for intellectual probity which reveals undue influences in the process of knowing. The desire is the foundation for the openness that is prepared to ask any question, face any possibility, look at all the data, follow every clue wherever it may lead.

Contemporary philosophy is very conscious of the subtle influences that can interfere with the objectivity of knowing in this sense. Particularly the work of the three Masters of Suspicion comes to mind here, that of Freud, Marx and Nietzsche.

Freud has revealed some of the influences that the unconscious can exercise on the conscious mind to twist our motivations, our interests and the direction in which we move. There are many processes of repression, sublimation, resentment, transference, [334] defense mechanisms, needs for self-esteem, etc. that can distort the process of knowing and vitiate the objectivity of our conclusions. It is often concluded that these unconscious forces are always operating and hence we cannot be sure of the objectivity of our knowing

Marx has uncovered many of the social factors that influence our knowledge. There is the ideology of class that tends to structure and color everything that we know in terms of class interests. There is no such thing as objective knowledge for Marx, only ideologies of different classes defending their own interests. Culture, education and socialization are factors that determine how we will be brought up, what we will be expected to do, how we will be expected to behave. The content of our culture will depend very much on our up-bringing, our education, religion and class.3

Nietzsche has further delved into the masks we use to cover up our craving for power and manipulation of others. Moral norms and religious precepts are invented by the psyche to serve these hidden needs. God is merely an invention of an immature psyche still unable to take responsibility for existence and death. No longer can statements be taken at their face value; the question has to be asked in what way does the speaker benefit from this position, who is exercising power over whom here.

If it is claimed that the lust for power fundamentally corrupts the knowing process, then the question arises as to whether this particular claim is also corrupt. If social conditions fundamentally undermine the validity of our knowing, how can you have a theory of the ideological determinants of consciousness? Taken in their full sense these positions are self-defeating. Further the assertions can be turned back on the accusers. Nietzsche claims that religious people have invented God as a Father figure because they won't take responsibility for the world. But what of his own Superman? As Copleston remarks, "In fine, Superman is all that ailing, lonely, tormented, neglected Herr Professor Dr. Friedrich Nietzsche would like to be."4 Once you start those kinds of accusations there is no limit or control of how it can be used.

Our approach would be, not that these influences totally undermine the process of knowing, but that we can be objective in [335] the sense of controlling these influences, revealing them, making them explicit, and allowing the pure desire to know unfold in its own way. Normativity here, means the obligation to be honest, to be detached, to ask the further questions. Social influences do tend to bias our knowing, but in our view these influences can be brought to light and, to some extent, excluded. They need not undermine the project of objective knowing.

It is precisely to preserve this ideal of objective knowing that logic, method and methodologies have been developed. Logic is needed to check the internal coherence of any set of conclusions; it includes sets of rules concerning definition of terms, division of concepts, deduction, inference, etc. These are formulated and made explicit to help us to check our conclusions, but these rules come from man not from God. They are devices that we formulate in order to help ourselves be objective. Thinking comes first and logic comes second; logic is itself the result of human knowing and can be hijacked by ideology or self-interest.

The methodologies of the social sciences are formulated to exclude bias on the part of the survey designer, the researchers, the interviewers, the compilers, and the interpreters of the data; they are the result of insight and judgment. Designed to be a help in excluding the grosser forms of bias and prejudice, nevertheless these methodologies also can be ideologically in favor of positivism, mechanism, atheism or secularism. They too can atrophy, become detached from reality, and become little gods. There is nothing that can replace the pure detached desire to know as the ground and source and motive of all our knowing.

3.3 Experiential Objectivity

Here we can think of objectivity as we encounter it at the level of experience, in the sense of facing up to the data as given, rather than as imagined. The data are the given, but even at this level there are ways that we ignore aspects of the data, pick out things that we like, screen away things we are not prepared to face, supply by wishful thinking what is not even there.

The data itself is preintellectual and preconceptual, the given as given. In itself it is unquestionable, indubitable, simply given. The [336] categories of true and false, or real and unreal do not apply until questioning transforms the data into hypotheses and judgments, but even at the level of sense our faculties can play tricks on us.

4. The Principal Notion of Objectivity

The principal notion of objectivity resides in a context of judgments, not in a single judgment. The single judgment, 'I am a knower', is not in itself sufficient to establish the principal notion of objectivity. On its own the judgment I am a knower is consistent with a monist philosophy or solipsism. A monist claims that I am a knower but considers that everything is one and you are identical with the one, then, there is still no objectivity. A solipsist claims that I am a knower but there is nothing else, then this does not establish the principal notion of objectivity.

For us, objectivity arises when you combine the judgment 'I am a knower', with a context of other judgments such as 'this is a computer' and 'I am not this computer'. Now you have a context of judgments that introduce verifiable distinctions between knowers and objects known. The principal notion of objectivity lies in these distinctions. The more correct judgments that we make the more differentiated becomes our principal notion of objectivity.

Note that objectivity does not rest on the validity of a single judgment. It is not a judgment that something is 'out there' as opposed to 'in here'. It is not a judgment separate from the context of judgments. The context of judgments implicitly defines for us our notion of objectivity.

Similarly, the validity of our notion rests on the validity of the particular judgments in question. If the three judgments are true, namely, I am a knower, this is a computer, and I am not this computer, then, implicitly we have validated our notion of objectivity. If these judgments are not correct, then our notion of objectivity collapses.

This is what might be called an economical notion. It is the bare minimum: what can be justified by judgments and is not dominated by imagination. It leaves further questions to be answered by further [337] judgments. It is an example of implicit definition. The principal notion of objectivity adds nothing new to the three judgments; it does not add a fourth judgment. Our notion of objectivity rests on distinctions between knower and known, and not on a distinction between in here and out there. Here we get our implicit notion of subject and object: the subject is doing the knowing; the object is the content of the known. The two are correlative; one is defined in terms of the other.

Note that this is the level of judgment, not the level of experience. Most problems with objectivity arise from trying to solve the problem at the level of sense. The senses give us such a strong paradigm of in here and out there that we are inclined to consider that the problem of objectivity in these terms. But experiencing is only the first level of human knowing; fully human knowing is at the level of judgment. That is where we deal with the problem of objectivity.

This solves the problem of transcendence. Most of our study of knowing has concentrated on immanent activities. Some might think that we are stuck in immanentism. Others might think that the only way out is to cross the bridge between immanent and transcendent by some kind of intuition. We solve the problem by a context of judgments. We can have true knowledge of the universe and the universe is distinct from the knower. So instead of dividing everything into the 'in here' and the >out there=, we are orientated towards the totality of what is and within that totality we distinguish between subjects who know and objects that are known.

5. Self-Transcendence

In this chapter we are making the transition from immanence to transcendence, from the subjective to the objective. We conceive of this transition in terms of moving from the activity of knowing, to the content of the known. We base ourselves on judgment as the one and only form of complete human knowing. We do not establish our notion of objectivity in terms of imagination, nor of the senses, nor of any other incomplete notions. We distinguish a principal notion based on a context of judgments and a number of legitimate partial [338] notions focusing on the levels of experiencing, understanding and judging. This is a difficult message, so let us try to formulate it in terms of personal self-transcendence. This might help us to identify what we have been talking about in our own consciousness.

Our knowing is intentional; it intends an object or a content; it is transitive. Questions aim at the known unknown. They give a direction to inquiry, set the criteria for a correct answer, suggest ways in which questions might be answered. There is a purpose underlining the question leading to the answer. It is the content that is intended; the activity of knowing is for the sake of the content; we do not indulge in the activities of knowing for personal amusement but in order to grasp the content.

All the activities of our knowing intend objects or contents other than themselves. In all our knowing there is an activity and a content. The content is different from the activity. It is distinct from the activity. There is always a subject pole and an object pole in knowing. This intentionality is present in the desire to know but unfolds in specific ways at each of the levels of consciousness. At the level of understanding there is an intention towards the intelligible, the possibly relevant hypothesis, a possible definition or explanation. At the level of reflection there is an intention towards truth, towards the virtually unconditioned, towards correct understanding. The intention is not satisfied until such verification is attained. The intention keeps the flow of questions coming until all relevant questions have been asked and answered in a satisfactory manner.

There is a kind of self-transcendence at the level of experience. There is already a distinction between the seeing and the seen, the activity and the content. We are responsible for the seeing but not for the seen. The content of sensing is given. We did not invent it, create it, make it to be; it is simply given. The sensing is different from the sensed and already we have a rudimentary self-transcendence in that we attain to what is distinct from our knowing. We do not invent the data of sense that verifies our classical laws; it is given. There is an element of submission to the reality of what is given.

There is a kind of self-transcendence at the level of understanding. We intend the intelligible, the relations, definitions, causes, that make sense of the data of sensible experience. There is a [339] difference between the intelligent and the intelligible. Intelligence intends the intelligible.

There is a further level of self-transcendence when it comes to reflection. We intend the truth, the virtually unconditioned, the actually verified. Such truth does not depend on the knower, the subject. This is the objective pole of the knowing process. It is the term of all the activities. It is quite independent from the knowing subject. The conditions are not in the subject pole but in the objective pole. The knowing depends on the subject, but the truth of the judgment in itself does not depend on the subject.

There is a further level of self-transcendence when it comes to moral decisions and actions in conformity with choices and decisions. But we cannot go into that here.

6. Conclusion

Lonergan divides philosophy into three questions. The first question: What am I doing when I am knowing? This he calls cognitional theory. All of what we have been doing up to this chapter has been answering this first question. The second question is: Why is doing that knowing? And this should give an epistemology. This chapter has offered a very brief sketch of epistemology. Lonergan's third question is: What do we know when we are doing that? The answer gives you a metaphysics. We will not be able to touch on that here.

These questions correspond to the divisions of Insight. The whole of Part I, comprising ten chapters, is on cognitional theory. The first three chapters of Part II, (namely, Self-Affirmation, The Notion of Being, and Objectivity) give his epistemology. Then follows a treatment of metaphysics, ethics, and transcendent knowledge.

Our main concern in this text has been to establish the foundation of this new approach to philosophy. This foundation is to be found in cognitional self-appropriation, and nowhere else. If that foundation is built, the rest of the structure follows fairly naturally and easily. If that foundation is lacking, then the rest is largely a matter of playing [340] games with words. Our main aim has been to answer Lonergan's first question: what am I doing when I am knowing?

Lest it be thought that Lonergan was an immanentist or a subjectivist, this chapter has given a brief outline of his epistemology, and his answer to the questions of transcendence and objectivity. It has only been a sketch and should be elaborated by comparison with Aquinas on knowledge, by contrast with Kant and Hume, by further elaboration and examples. But we can do only one thing at a time and our main aim here was cognitional theory. This chapter has been an addendum to show that cognitional theory leads to an epistemology and from there to a metaphysics.

Our aim in this chapter has been to show that starting with the subject does not necessarily mire you in immanentism. We have given a new meaning to objectivity and subjectivity where these are now complementary modes rather than strict opposites.

Comments on Preliminary Exercises.

  1. We tend to think that they were there, with labels on them, already constituted and defined, just waiting to be discovered. I think it is more correct to think in terms of the potentially intelligible becoming actually intelligible.
  2. Our senses can play tricks on us. A person dying of thirst in a desert can see an oasis; but it is only a mirage. We think we hear sound from a certain direction but it is only an echo. A stick in water seems to be bent, but out of water it is perfectly straight. The point is that we can differentiate description from explanation; the stick seems to be bent from a descriptive point of view; but in explanation the principle of refraction defines why it seems to be bent. We can usually recognize the influence of illness, malaria, schizophrenia, exhaustion on the normal functioning of the senses.
  3. This is a version of the old question, if a tree falls in the forest and there is nobody to hear it, does it make a sound? Our answer would be to distinguish between description and explanation. Sound can be interpreted either descriptively or [341] explanatorily. From the point of view of description there is no sound. Descriptively, sound is a relation to the senses, in this case, to hearing. If there is no hearing, there is no sound. But from the point of view of explanation sound is vibrations in the air which can be measured by many instruments and which extend beyond the range of the human ear. There is no reason to suspect that a tree falling does not cause such vibrations even if there is nobody to hear or measure them.
  4. It is an illusion to think that we can eliminate values either from the surveyors or from those surveyed. Although the study of values properly belongs to ethics we cannot separate values from human knowing and behaving. Truth is a value. Attentiveness, intelligence and reasonableness are values. Value-free surveys are an illusion. Value freedom is often a cloak for behaviorism, for secularism, for a politically correct philosophy, or for some ideology. The best approach would seem to be to make one's values explicit: to be clear about what you are doing and state your starting point, your direction and your values. These influence what you think is important, why you pick certain areas rather than others, why you ask certain questions and not others.
  5. Our general characterization of scientific method is >theory verified in instances'. In this view there is no looking at instances without some hypothesis or theory in mind. This does not make the process of knowing subjective or biased. Knowing is not just looking; it includes understanding and judging. It is active and creative. We have seen that knowing constantly oscillates from data to bright ideas, to further questions, to reflection, and back to data, etc. It is an illusion to think that there is a theory-free observation and that that is human knowing. If there are no hypotheses, there is no understanding; and if there is no understanding, there is no human knowing.
  6. To assert that all knowledge is prejudice, is to assert that all our knowledge is somehow invalid, biased, crooked or warped. But to assert that is to imply that we have a notion of [343] human knowing which is valid, unbiased, genuine and true. To assert that all knowledge is prejudice is to say that knowledge is not possible, while at the same time pronouncing a judgment which shows that knowledge is possible. There is again a contradiction between the activity and the content of this assertion. There is no absolute certainty of not being biased. The control we are suggesting is the self-correcting process of knowing which ferrets out errors, traces them to their source, raises further questions, faces all the data, etc. This helps to reveal biases and their source and to reverse them.

End Notes

1 Method in Theology, 265.

2 Method in Theology, 292.

3 Berger, The Social Construction of Reality.

4 Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy Vol. 7 Modern Philosophy, (New York: Image Books, 1994) 414.

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