futurology 3

Towards Redefining “Academic Discipline” (Part 2)

[O]ne has to strive to mount to the level of one’s times.1Lonergan, in the original Preface to Insight, has quoted from Ortega y Gasset: ‘one has to strive to mount to the level of one’s times.’ See, Frederick E. Crowe, Lonergan (St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1992), note 1, 58.

To set the stage for what lies ahead, let’s review highlights of the fresh approach to method that have evolved out of the previous five installments.2We are referring to Journeyism 18 to Journeyism 22 (inclusive). Again, these five articles are intended to stir your imagination, and whether you are a beginner or beyond, “what matters is, not the elusive details, but the image of necessary complexification.”3op. cit. A Brief History of Tongue, 123. Then we will present an elementary exercise to illustrate the chasm that exists between current academic practice and how it will operate in the future.

We have sought to shed light on how a renewed philosophic tradition will be the basis upon which to redefine academic discipline. A renewed tradition rests upon two up-to-date heuristics, the implementation of which would ensure any modern field of inquiry gets the job done properly “from data to results.”4Op. cit. Method in Theology, 126.

Our effort to arrive at this point has its roots in a fundamental issue first identified in Journeyism 4: the exigency5“The very word conjures up danger and intrigue that demand a cool head and an immediate effort at a solution. The meaning of exigency is obvious from its source, the Latin noun exigentia, which means ‘urgency’ and comes from the verb exigere, meaning ‘to demand or require’.” https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/exigency. of how to read. By that we mean how to self-read anything empirically to correctly understand experience.6We note that the fuller implication of our expression, “How to self-read,” was thematized originally by Lonergan. Please see Journeyism 5, fn. 1 for the definition of generalized empirical method. A future result of generalized empirical method is foreshadowed by what Lonergan named, linguistic feedback (op. cit. Method in Theology, 88, fn. 34). “With respect to sensible presentations and representations…in the measure that linguistic feedback is achieved, explanations and statements provide the sensible presentations for the insights that effect further developments of thought and language.” (ibid. 92). How much you have actively participated in our exercises in empirical method, in the order they were presented, will in large measure determine how much elementary progress has been made.

We could make the modest claim, then, of having arrived at the edge of a beginner’s introduction to “reading on the level of the times.”7We are paraphrasing the quote by Ortega y Gasset cited in footnote 1. A further major shift yet awaits us in Journeyism 24 and 25.8Journeyism 25, in particular, draws attention to an elementary exercise in scientific insight drawn from Terrance Quinn’s Invitation to Generalized Empirical Method in Philosophy and Science, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., 2017.

In Journeyism 18, with a preliminary exercise (anticipating that further shift) we weighed in on the age-old philosophical confusion regarding the question, ‘what is real?’ The result illustrated the critical position that ‘reality’ is reached by correctly understanding experience. We anticipate that frontline scholars and scientists will routinely operate from this position.9Against the spontaneous tendency to dismiss the position as “unreal,” as mere “airy speculation…the tension between incompletely developed intelligence and imperfectly adapted sensibility grounds the dialectics of individual and social history.” op. cit., (CWL 3) 291.

However, a further challenge in this regard should be noted. While one can verify this position empirically, upon which one may nod one’s head in affirmation, there is more to the act of “nodding” than meets the eye. We will touch briefly on its “startling strangeness”10op. cit. CWL 3, 388 [413]. at the conclusion of the series.

Journeyism 19 to 21 introduced a dynamic organism of collaborative creativity in the academy, the result of which will progressively transform “everyday life on the street”. We noted that its emergence was foreshadowed by the fermentation of centuries of human thought.11Please see the exercise below. Furthermore, the startling symmetry between our two modes of thinking (the heuristics of human knowing and doing), and the eight specialized products of intellectual labour (the heuristics of genetic method), has yielded a concrete heuristic to put our global minding in order.12An image of Bernard Lonergan’s original “discovery page,” from February of 1965 may be found in Lambert and McShane, Lonergan: His Life and Leading Ideas, Vancouver: Axial Publishing, 163. We have named this heuristic a standard model13We borrow the expression, ‘standard model’, from the realm of physics as a convenient description for “respectable performance” in any field of inquiry. for genetic method.14“When culture is conceived empirically, [each modern field of inquiry is] known to be an ongoing process, and then one writes on its method.” Bernard Lonergan, Op. cit., Method in Theology, xi.

Now think of the heuristic perspective held by each person competent in one or more of the individual tasks. Would it not make sense each collaborator needs to be “on the same page” with respect to their respective role in “the big picture”? Think of the “big picture” as the immense canvas of human history.

How does empirical method fit into this process?15“Their results need to be related to an adequate intellectual framework which on the one hand embraces the observed data and on the other hand helps to decide at any moment the direction of the next inquiry.” op. cit. The Origins of Modern Science, 191. In Journeyism 22, we added two more diagrams that give us just such a glimpse of, not only how those two heuristics represent the omnidisciplinary perspective that is brought to each task, but also how the implementation of empirical method is the foundation upon which rests the ongoing fulfillment of the human good.16See ‘The Structure of the Human Good’ in op. cit. Method in Theology, 48.


The purpose of this exercise is to encourage you to discover for yourself evidence of the need for a (functional) division of labour in the academic community in order to work efficiently, effectively and progressively with any data, let alone a topic as complex as that shown in the excerpt from the journal article below, “Englands of the Mind,” by David Gervais.17With a few necessary modifications, all the material from the beginning of the next paragraph to the end of the article is drawn from Shaping the Future of Language Studies, 129-131. The writer’s spontaneous reflections illustrate, on the one hand, the foreshadowing of centuries of fermentation of human thought evident by the various “shadow zones”18Our use of the expression “shadow” here alludes to the absence of an adequate heuristics of empirical method, as well as a coherent division of labour in conventional academic writing. embedded in the text, and on the other hand, the absence of a control of meaning over the literary and linguistic data (due to the absence of an adequate heuristics for empirical method). These zones anticipate the presence of eight functional tasks or “situation rooms” introduced in the standard model of genetic method. At the same time, you will notice a random shifting among the “shadow zones”, not only between paragraphs, but also between sentences within a paragraph. And although not evident here, it is even possible to find attempts at performing more than one task between groups of words within a sentence.

Select one paragraph from any journal article related to your field and try to identify evidence of the eight “shadow zones” embedded in the text as illustrated below.


Sample Paragraph

[1] But even on these terms, ‘Englishness’ is hardly enough on its own. [2] Montesquieu once said ‘Je suis homme d’être français’. [3] English art has to be more than just English. [4] To think of Purcell as an ‘English composer,’ as if that were to distinguish him from Bach or Monteverdi, is to obscure the music. [5] The English like to think of Shakespeare as ‘English’ but, to the rest of the world, his plays are simply drama itself. [6] Great art has a nationality of its own. [7] If we link its meaning to its origins we risk confusing it with politics. [8] Cultural studies and culture is not the same thing. [9] Is Goethe any less German for discovering part of himself through Shakespeare? [10] When Charles V picked up Titian’s brush or when the evangelical Ruskin was bowled over by the counter-Reformation allegories of the Scuola di San Rocco, they were acknowledging that ideology is more finite than art. [11] Yet a great deal of English art, even that of a major figure like Britten, can seem over-conscious of its own ‘Englishness.’ [12] Geoffrey Hill matters because he is able to express the experience of ‘Englishness’ through the experience of the rest of Europe. [13] (The English poets of the great war seem to be writing about an English war.) [14] Even Kipling asked, ‘What do they know of England who only England know?’ [15] Being set in a silver sea has its drawbacks. Sometimes writers need to leave home. [16] The problem for them today is that Europe, let alone the world, offers them only a politico-economic destination not a cultural one.

Evidence of ‘Shadow Zones’

The first sentence evaluates the limitations of the meaning of “Englishness” (dialectic). The second sentence interprets Montesquieu (interpretation). The third sentence expresses a timeless truth intrinsic to English art (foundations). The fourth sentence judges Purcell’s historical standing alongside Bach and Monteverdi (history); it also implies a foundational criterion of musical development (dialectics). The fifth sentence judges the artistic stature of Shakespeare, the English people, the world at large (history); it also implies a principle by which dramatic art would be judged (policies). The sixth sentence asserts a principle about art (policies). The seventh sentence interprets the meaning of art (interpretation) and meshes this interpretation with an evaluation of the meaning of politics (dialectic). The ninth sentence interprets the meaning of “cultural studies” and “culture” (interpretation). The tenth sentence interprets the meaning of Charles V and Ruskin (interpretation); it also attributes to their doings a principle about art (policies). The eleventh sentence interprets the meaning of Britten (interpretation). The twelfth sentence interprets the meaning of Hill (interpretation). The thirteenth sentence judges the suggested nationalistic tone that consumes the poets of the “Great War” (history). The use of a rhetorical question by Kipling in the fourteenth sentence implies an interpretation of the meaning of Kipling (interpretation). The fifteenth sentence draws on a basic foundational view of poetic development to state a principle about poetic growth (policies). The sixteenth sentence offers a perspective, looking to the past, on the culture in which writers are working (dialectic).

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