- In Deference to the Other: Lonergan and Contemporary Continental Thought
The editors create an inviting collaboration between critical theorists and specialists in the thought of Canadian philosopher and theologian Bernard Lonergan (1904-84). True, the 'dialogue' depends on the ability of eight Lonergan specialists to engage the challenges to intellectual and social authenticity posed by their own reading of the docents of continental theory, but a fair measure of their success is offered in a generous foreword to the slender volume by John D. Caputo, an astute commentator on the progeny of the masters of suspicion who himself is not predisposed to inhabit Lonergan's approach. The eight, Caputo observes, shun ready polemics on the 'quagmire of relativism and nihilism' to sound resonances between Lonergan and recent continental thought on 'ideas of God and subjectivity, of knowledge and desire.' [End Page 377]
The attraction of the articles stems from their authors' ability not only to develop their exploration of subjectivity and the encounter with the other within the diffuse light of the general horizon of continental thought but also to engage on a specialist's level questions posed by specific theorists in their own terms. Constructive reading of both the experts of suspicion and their critics provides fertile ground on which the authors appreciate Lonergan's commitment to a spirit of inquiry. Nicholas Plants looks to Charles Taylor to clarify and develop the complementarity of the turn to interiority and decentring self-transcendence, reinventing the linkage between subjective engagement and the movement towards personal authenticity. Jim Kanaris draws lessons from Jacques Derrida ' s deconstruction and Michel Foucault's genealogy to advise Lonergan ' s critical return to the subject, refining the tools of discernment available to detect complacency before the press of legitimate suspicion. Jim Marsh integrates a Marxian critique of capitalism as he traces his own journey through the process of self-appropriation described by Lonergan to its seemingly inevitable expression in a radical political conversion. Michele Saracino finds Emmanuel Levinas's discussion of the other a helpful resource to develop Lonergan's consideration of the movement from dialectic between positions to dialogue among persons, from estrangement steeped in violence to the gradual infusion of love into friendship. Christine Jamieson synthesizes Julia Kristeva's dialectic of the semiotic and the symbolic with Lonergan's notion of emerging viewpoints as she probes women's experience of liberation and oppression. Frederick Lawrence reflects on the cognitional and metaphysical assumptions underlying the ontotheology criticized by Heidegger and explores Lonergan's notion of the self as other as an alternative corrective impetus. Mark Doorley addresses concerns expressed by Levinas and Derrida about singularity, 'es gibt,' and clôtural reading as he considers the role of wonder and transforming love in Lonergan's approach to ethics. Ronald McKinney completes the collection with a creative reading of the role of satire and humor in Lonergan and postmodern thinkers.
Repeated by several authors is the suggestion that some post-Heideggerian criticism of 'foundational thinkers' fails to appreciate the nuanced treatment of cognitional theory, epistemology, and metaphysics put forward by Lonergan. Those accustomed to presenting or puzzling over such criticisms may wish to trace this peripheral topic as they work through the text and be prepared to linger with Lawrence's reflections. But those expecting a developed apologia for foundationalism venture outside the editors' stated purpose and will be disappointed. Borrowing from McKinney, this text moves away from the crafted satire of entrenched dialectic and ventures towards the shared humour of a more transformative encounter. [End Page 378]
Gordon Rixon, Regis College, University of Toronto