How Does Intellectual Labour Proceed? (Part 2)

Human Knowing

At the end of Journeyism 3, we selected and highlighted, in order of appearance, a number of expressions. For ease of reference, we present them in Table 1 (below). Your own Table 1 might look similar to this.


Table 11The tables function as convenient diagrams, arranged in such a way so as to ground a higher plausibility and acceptability for the results that suggest themselves.

Approaches Understanding ways of knowing and being
knowledge and beliefs approach knowledge
comparative analysis “thinking like an anthropologist” Rethinking
experience knowledge theoretical
analytical thinking core inquiry
critical orientations How Research
Approaches Questions Methods
Questions processes evaluate
theoretical developments interpret explain
theories thought historical
how processes of theorizing ideas
theories practice theorists
critical understand how theory
debates current debates critically informed questions
produced and circulated historically significant foundation
methods how historical
theory contemporary theoretical productions the kinds
examine a range of concepts How Reconnect
it may be possible to imagine Foundations Theory
theory with acts of change?
how theory


There is a recurrence of data (expressions of topics and tasks or activities) we would be accustomed to seeing in any discipline, in any university syllabus, in any type of intellectual labour. For example, the word, “Theory” appears in some form eight times, “Questions”, “How”, “approach(es)” “Methods”, appear multiple times, etc. We can also say that they intend some sort of meaning. However, it is evident that there is no clear or systematic structure either to their use or to their placement and whether the intended meaning is either fixed or loose.

In this segment we consider the question, “What, precisely, is their function in how intellectual labour proceeds?” Their function can be revealed when we recast human products (static) in Table 1 into human activities (dynamic) in Table 2 (below). We would suggest you do likewise with the data in your “Table 1” and label it “Table 2”.

Table 2

Human Product (Static) Human Activity (Dynamic)
Approaches to approach
knowledge and beliefs to know, to believe
comparative analysis to compare, to analyze
experience to experience
analytical thinking to analyze, to think
critical orientations to criticize, to orient
Approaches to approach, how theory
Questions, to question, to wonder
theoretical developments to theorize, to develop
methods how-to-do
critical to criticize
debates to debate
produced and circulated to produce, to circulate
examine a range of concepts to examine
it may be possible to imagine to imagine
(theory with) acts of change? to evolve, to develop
Understanding to understand
knowledge to know
processes to do, to make
interpret to interpret
thought to think
processes of theorizing to conceive
practice to practice
understand to understand
current debates to debate
historically significant to signify
contemporary theoretical productions
core, Foundations


Table 2 suggests the possibility of two distinct approaches to reading that yield two different results: “static” and “dynamic”. “Static” represents an approach to reading that has been almost exclusively “educated” into us: reading to be informed, to absorb or memorize information. “Dynamic”2dynamic 1. adjective (of a process or system) characterized by constant change, activity, or progress. 2. (noun) a force that stimulates change or progress within a system or process. (Retrieved 01-22-20, represents an approach to reading that, regrettably, has been virtually “educated” out of us: reading controlled by our desire to understand data.3This should not be confused with the pervasive myth about “understanding concepts”. See Journeyism 9.

Are you curious about what this implies? If so, your wonder is beginning to take control of your reading. How is this revealed? By experiencing it for yourself, of “making sense” of data, where your “making sense” is not the act of becoming “informed about this or that content”, but of creatively generating the additional act of understanding data in “a flash”.

“It’s no joke. Get it?”

For example, do you recall not getting the punch line to a joke? You wondered why others suddenly burst into laughter. You wondered how they made sense of the punch line. You heard the same punch line but that “taking in” of the language, of the words themselves and how they were arranged on their own, was not enough to “get it”. In the meantime, you persisted in your desire to understand, and seconds later, or perhaps longer, when you were on your own, you experienced “a flash,” when tension was released and you burst out laughing.

Our example helps to illustrate contrasting ways of reading. The implication of the difference between the two is not a joke.4See Journeyism 9. Even though you memorized the words to the punch line, they were just an unknown pattern of sounds or linguistic signs (sensory data) until they eventually entered the playground of your intelligence. You then struggled with sensory data long enough to be rewarded with a creative “flash” of understanding and a healthy laugh.5We are also drawing your attention to the dynamic relationship between human wonder and human language. There is the challenge to break through to its discovery, in contrast to conventional reading, the exercise of which, like blindly repeating the words to a punchline, allows us to repeat “an insightful world-view, but if it includes [me], does it include [me] that I am, that I might be [to] the exclusion of my curiosity…?” Philip McShane, Introducing the Thought of Bernard Lonergan, London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1973, p. 12

On to Journeyism 5 where we will consider what role many of these expressions play in structuring how6Question types and expressions associated with them will be italicized, bolded or capitalized for emphasis throughout this series. A handy way to think of the question, “HOW?”, would be as an acronym for Home Of Wonder. we generate and reflect on data.




A brief word of encouragement to “stay the course”

The difference between natural and human science is that the data for the former are basically sensible, while the data for the latter add human meanings.7Bernard Lonergan. Macroeconomic Dynamics: An Essay in Circulation Analysis (CWL 15), University of Toronto Press, 1999, p. 10.

We are slowly working toward how to read this quotation with understanding. Remember our pledge to observe a leisurely pace that respects the struggle to understand? We encourage you to persevere, to move at your own pace as you work through these exercises and examples.8In addition, we discover a startlingly symmetrical relationship between how our curiosity works and how language works and “[i]t would seem that this preliminary task would have to be conducted in literary language….” See Bernard Lonergan, “The Method of Metaphysics”, Insight, (CWL 3), University of Toronto Press, 1992, pp. 448-455. The literary language to which Lonergan refers is a future form of philosophical language, uncompromising in its reach, called “linguistic feedback”. Our Journeyism series is a modest, initial undertaking in that regard – a sort of halfway house. We have to face this preliminary struggle of a shift in approach before making sense of how these human activities are structured and what they mean. Why is this shift difficult but necessary? We touch on that by briefly describing a historically fragmented academic landscape.9We slide past the important topic of how current academic practice evolved. For a brief historical context, see Chapter 7, “A Dialectic Analysis of the Investigation into Language Universals,” Shaping the Future of Language Studies, 82-100.

If your exposure to higher education is literary, then it will be difficult enough not only to see the need, but also to undertake the required shift to an empirical approach. After all, thinking empirically is an activity foreign to traditional commonsense discourse of spontaneity, rhetoric, eloquence, erudition, feats of memory, humour, satire and wit that have inhabited the domain of Philosophy, the Arts and Humanities for centuries.10That having been said, we are certainly not diminishing its symbolic value insofar as it brilliantly reveals our humanity in all its foibles and aspirations and opens up further possibilities for an enriched human living.

If you are inclined toward the sciences, there is a mistaken tendency to restrict “science” or “scientific thinking” to the domain of Natural Sciences.11The philosophical tradition proposed “an analogy of science. Science properly so called is the conspicuously successful science….Other subjects are scientific in the measure they conform to its procedures and, in the measure they do not, they are something less than scientific….So today the English word, science, means natural science. One descends a rung or more in the ladder when one speaks of behavioral human sciences [that] often have to be content if their subject is included in a list not of sciences but of academic disciplines.” Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology, 1972, 3. We will resume this particular topic in Journeyism 22. There is the further danger of filtering this view through a distorted lens that would deny, unequivocally, Philosophy, the Arts or Humanities admission to the academy of “science”.12The dye was cast by the Aristotelian tradition. Evidence of its origin appears, for example, in n82a Magna Moralia 1: “Neither was Socrates right in making the excellences sciences. For he used to think that nothing ought to be in vain, but from the excellences being sciences he met with the result that excellences were in vain. Why so?  Because in the case of the sciences, as soon as one knows what the science is, it results that one is scientific (for any one who knows medicine is forthwith a physician, and so with other sciences). But this result does not follow in the case of the excellences. For any one who knows what justice is not forthwith just, and similarly in the case of the rest. It follows then that the excellences are actually in vain and that they are not sciences.” Bernard Lonergan would write of Artistotle’s position in a 1935 letter, “I advance that Aristotle was a bourgeois, that he introduced the distinction between speculative and practical to put the ‘good’ as Socrates and Plato conceived it out of court.” Please see Journeyism 19, footnote 3.

It is not our immediate task to resolve this issue13Our critical resolution to this issue will be addressed beginning at Journeyism 22, “Redefining Academic Discipline (Part 1)” and with a few leading remarks added in Journeyism 26, “Follow your spirit…Here. Now.”. dividing these communities.14This problem will be revisited in Journeyism 24. A beginner’s introduction to a resolution will emerge much later in the series.15See Journeyism 18 to 26. At this stage of our journey we draw your attention to the fact that when you begin any investigation with relevant data and questions, you are being both concrete and empirical. Your approach will be on secure ground, immune to charges of merely guessing, or being fanciful or even being “unscientific” in your thinking.

Therefore, each of our elementary exercises points to a (perhaps distant) empirical culture that will possess an explanatory perspective on the meaning of science, natural and human.

The point I wish to make is that modern science is not simply an addition to what was known before. It is the perfecting of the very notion of science itself, of knowing things by their causes, by analysis and synthesis … science in general is a gradual actuation of intelligence with respect to empirical data, and that gradual actuation yields an ever more accurate notion of what science is.16op. cit. (CWL 3) 14.3 “Method in Metaphysics,” 155 and 157.

References   [ + ]

Leave a Comment