Lonergan Forum

Main Forum Topics => Method In Theology => Topic started by: Artfulhousing on October 12, 2012, 10:27:33 PM

Title: Functional Collaboration
Post by: Artfulhousing on October 12, 2012, 10:27:33 PM
I would like to open this new topic by outlining very briefly my somewhat messy journey of coming to understand something of the significance of functional specialisation (or as I prefer to call it Functional Collaboration).

My starting point, many years ago, was one of profound ignorance. It was also a matter of belief, belief in Bernard Lonergan. I had little idea about the significance of FC but my contact with BL had convinced me that he was a man of integrity who had the courage to work through writings of others even though they were profoundly at odds to his starting point. Anything he wrote was very considered and profound.

The more I explored FC in Method in Theology, the more it fell apart as a presentation of FC. In my view, its primary goal was to address a range of issues that confronted theology in the 1960s and 1970s and in doing this it suggested some radical changes. Despite its title and the structure of the chapters, it did not develop FC much beyond what was presented in Chapter 5 (the original article from Gregorianum in 1969). So for all its profound insights, MiT was not much help in understanding FC, particularly for someone who is interested in its significance beyond theology.
With this discovery, what was I to do?

I’m a housing researcher immersed in that particular world of research and policy. So my primary strategy was to ask myself continually what was I doing as I was doing housing research, or more particularly, as I shifted from one method to another – quantitative, qualitative, theorising, developing analytical frameworks, history, socio-economic critiques, methodological critiques, evaluation studies, comparative studies, policy analysis and development, strategic planning and applying the recommendations of research findings. It was by shifting between (i) my expertise in these methods, asking myself what I doing and (ii) going back to Insight supplemented by the writings of other authors such as McShane, Melchin, Mathews, Sauer, Crowe, Shute, Drage etc. that I began to understand something of FC.

In the process I made some discoveries and eventually began to grasp the significance of FC. I would summarise these as follows:

(i) While Chapter 5 of MiT articulates the relevance of FC for the development of theology, it has relevance beyond this. Richard Moodey gives us a good lead into this broader significance (http://www.lonerganforum.com/index.php?topic=40.msg136#msg136). (I would add here an aside regarding ‘doctrines’ - Phil McShane has noted previously, instead of ‘doctrines’ we could talk of ‘policies’ – both are guides or values that inform future directions.)

(ii) While MiT articulates the relevance of FC for the development of one research field, viz. theology, its wider context is within a practical theory of history, i.e. its relevance is not just to the development of theology (or housing research, sociology, social science, cultural studies, political studies etc.) but also to the development of religious living (or housing, society, culture, politics etc.).

(iii) I began to understand the eight functional specialties in terms of eight questions and the eight methods we use to answer those questions. These questions regard the process from the data of the current situation to the creation of new situation, or to put it another way from the current set of practices/activities to a new set of practices/activities.

(iv) In a common sense mode I describe these eight questions and relate them to the functional specialties as follows: Research as answering as an empirical question, Interpretation a theoretical question, History a historical question, Dialectic a critical/evaluative question, Foundations a transformative question, Doctrines/Policies a policy question, Systematics a strategic question and Communications a practical question. Though Lonergan clearly makes a stand on the importance of theory, MiT seems to unfold functional collaboration within a common sense framework. Currently the human sciences (including philosophy and theology), despite books on theory and discussions of theory, still remain locked in world of common sense. So I was left with three question: What is theory? If FC is understood in terms of eight questions, how are these questions to be understood in relation to one another? How would the various methods of the human sciences ‘look’ within the world of theory? To answer these questions I had to move into the world of the subject as subject (or interiority or self-appropriation). I had to develop a sense of each question, its orientation, its anticipated answer and how we go about answering this question (method) and how this differs between questions... (The transformation of these questions into this new world is struggle we face and beyond this short (!) post.)

(v) In an article many years ago (Explanation in the Social Sciences) Bill Mathews reflects on asking questions. Three things struck me about that article: without understanding, we are blocked, we are stuck, we cannot move forward; that we do not think enough about the questions we ask and what they anticipate; the differing meanings of a ‘why’ question.
As I began to appropriate the orientations of the eight questions and the differing way in which I answer them, I came to the view that these eight questions are a complete ordered set of questions. In other words, they are all the questions we can ask about something. They are ordered in that they regard the ‘stages’ in process from the current situation to creating a new situation.

(vi) As a complete ordered set of inter-related questions, I came to the conclusion that FC is a theory of science. Rather than describing science as knowledge, or in terms of precision or its empirical base, FC outlines the significant, relevant and essential questions that constitute or bring about science (just as experience, understanding and judging constitute knowing and are the elements in a theory of knowledge). This is an explanatory definition of science, one that incorporates not only knowledge but also incorporates implementation and the creation of something worthwhile.

(vii) Finally, as a completed ordered set of inter-related questions, I also came to the conclusion that FC is a theory of progress, it is what constitutes or brings about progress in any field of human endeavour. We cannot move forward in any area unless we answer each of these eight questions. So if we want to make progress in theology or philosophy or social science or religious living or society or culture or an economy, we need to answer all these eight questions. It is an understanding of progress not in terms of tangible outcomes but rather in terms of what brings about those tangible outcomes, in other words, method.

(viii) We can work as individuals and seek to answer each of these questions in turn. We can, however, be more effective if we collaborate, if we develop expertise in the different methods for answering different questions. These questions are often complex and difficult. Again Richard Moodey’s discussion of ecology, the power within ‘the boardrooms of the great corporations that dominate industrial production’, the blocks to structural change and the legal system that supports powerful interests highlights these complexities (http://www.lonerganforum.com/index.php?topic=40.msg110#msg110). FC of itself cannot change these structures, for they are the results of a long history of decisions. However, it can improve the chances of success for its fruits lie in practical advice. FC forces us to confront all the questions we need to ask. As collaborative, it has within it the self-correcting process of many researchers. Moreover, Dialectic continually asks us to integrate differences and conflicts and, work towards what is the best of the past. FC brings together the best of methods linking them with efficiency of working together. FC provides the grounds upon which a researcher working on one question in any place in any culture in any time can draw on the work of others, relate their work to the work of others, and so make their contribution to the whole.
Title: Re: Functional Collaboration
Post by: Richard Moodey on October 14, 2012, 09:09:19 PM
Dear Artfulhousing,

I agree that we can be more effective in answering the questions you have posed if we collaborate.  I believe that you point out one of the very considerable costs of collaboration when you describe Lonergan as a man who had the courage -- and I would add the energy and persistence -- to work through the writings of others, even others with whom he disagreed.  I can speak best of my experiences in sociology, and some of the best collaboration in sociology occurs within relatively small "theory groups" or "invisible colleges."  Men and women who have spent a considerable amount of time listening to one another, reading and discussing their projects and completed works, are able to achieve some degree of functional collaboration. 

One of the things that works against genuine functional collaboration is the degree to which young researchers in colleges and universities are coerced into treating their colleagues as competitors rather than collaborators.  They move out from a situation in graduate school in which, ideally, they have been collaborating with a thesis advisor with greater experience in some area of research, into a department within which they have struggle to meet the requirements for tenure.  In most situations, some of the untenured members of a department will be denied tenure.  This tends to "politicize" interactions in ways that interfere with the collaborative search for truth.  In case that last sentence sounds too grand, the political agendas of faculty members interfere with collaborative attempts to verify and/or falsify hypotheses, and to synthesize hypotheses about which there is consensus into higher level propositions -- "higher viewpoints."

Title: Re: Functional Collaboration
Post by: Phil McShane on October 25, 2012, 12:07:10 PM
Hello "ART" and Dick,
I have just finished a comment on 'method and insight' shared by Adrial and Dick, A comment from an encouraged state, and further encouraged here. Yes Yes, the collaborative minding, and - thanks Dick - not competition.  Method, ART, was not written for the full global audience: it was a tired  descriptive appeal to mainly his catholic followers.  Sadly, the appeal failed.   My own appeals and efforts have failed: most recently a 6-year project of 25 seminars on collaboration. But there are now signs of a shift. How it is to be followed up is another and difficult matter. It is to be quite a new ballpark. I have devoted my energy in these past months to generating a context for a beginning in 9 essays titled "Posthumous" on my Website. The last two will go up tomorrow. There I do talk of entry-points: one of them happens to be the direction that the 'method and insight' points to. But how in heaven's name can we get the Lonergan community to lift beyond the old style of lone-ranger competitive focus? E.G. neither Obama nor Romney have a clue how an economy works: could we not have a shot at the eighth functional collaborative dynamic and point back, a vigorous community, back 70 years to Lonergan's answer to the mess?  But that is just the most immediately obvious  crying shame. As Dick hints, there is the general shame of mis-directed  students. 
Title: Re: Functional Collaboration
Post by: Richard Moodey on October 27, 2012, 09:43:51 AM
ART and Phil,
I believe that the "Lonergan community" is too large for it to be the setting for functional collaboration.  By saying this, I don't mean to reject the ideal of functional collaboration on a global scale, but I think it could only go global by there being connections among a large number of relatively small networks of collaborators.  The principle of subsidiarity might be invoked here, but I flesh out that principle by an appeal to the notion of primary and secondary relationships.  Functional collaboration requires the collaborators to develop primary social relationships with one another.  The reason for this is that they cannot really understand one another without a good grasp of one another's "backgrounds."  What each of you mean by what you say draws upon a vast number of personal beliefs and values that serve as the context within which any particular assertion has its meaning.  I can get a better approximation to what you mean only by knowing more about your background, the background from which you give meaning to what you speak and write.
Best regards,
Title: Re: Functional Collaboration
Post by: Phil McShane on October 27, 2012, 12:06:53 PM
Hello Dick and Art,
a short reply from Phil ... you are magnificently prolific and energetic, both of you, and are pushing  forwards in ways that I find encouraging .... ho ho after waiting 40 years for serious reactions to functional collaboration. Yes, Dick, it has got to start small, in a sub-Lonerqan community perhaps [but there are other groups e.g. ecological]. The sub-Lonergan community needs some conversion shift to glimpsing that Lonerganism has dodged the paradigm shifts in Lonergan, e.g. in Hermeneutics - Insight 17.3. The shift of FS has been strangely avoided from the start. That is the reason why I twisted forward from your good stuff on conversion to talk about the top half of page 250.  Lonergan offers a powerful paradigm shift to dialectic collaboration in that short section.
 Now re research, which you two are discussing at length, Lonergan just did not have the energy to define  functional research: our little seminar [see Fuses zero to nine] had a shot at it and made some progress. The useful hint there is the division of labour in physics at present. The great stuff you are pushing would benefit from that fuller context of baton-exchanging  round the full 8-cycle. So, thinking of physics again, the question What is Physics?, is now a full-cycle question, so functional research has a wide range from data-messing re the Higgs phenomena, to detecting anomalies in failed teaching. But you see that the paradigm of cyclic collaboration has global significance. I wont go into the manner in which it weaves disciplines together.
But yes, Dick, there is a huge presuppositional context. Lonergan offers that complex context, breaking forward from old paradigms in philosophy, economics and theology that are simple not working, indeed that are emerging now as massively destructive of earth and its inhabitants..   
Title: Re: Functional Collaboration
Post by: Richard Moodey on October 28, 2012, 07:34:03 AM
Hi Phil,
Although I agree that functional collaboration in physics can serve as both a model and an inspiration for those of us who work in other disciplines, I have decided to let those who know physics better than I focus their attention upon it.  In the limited time that I have, I intend to focus on functional collaboration in social science.  My discipline is sociology, but I believe that disciplinary specialization in the social sciences has hindered the development of a genuine science of society.  The departmentalization of the study of the human world has resulted, among other things, in turf wars in which the agents and representatives of the competing disciplines battle for resources, faculty positions, students, and prestige.  This is a far cry from collaborating in the pursuit of truth or subordinating other desires to the pure desire to know.
The competition and conflicts among disciplines in the social sciences, however, are embedded in competition-conflict between divisions within academic organizations.  There are competitions-conflicts between the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences within colleges and universities, and competitions-conflicts between colleges and universities, all seeking greater "market share."  I live in Erie, and the sharpest rivalry is between Gannon University, where I am teaching, and Mercyhurst University, two Catholic organizations. 
Gannon is a diocesan university and Mercyhurst is run by the Sisters of Mercy.  The hierarchical suspicion of unsufficiently docile nuns is a part of the picture here, although in Erie it is the Sisters of St. Benedict have inspired more episcopal ire than the Sisters of Mercy or the Sisters of St. Joseph, the three dominant orders in Erie. 
I do not mean to rant, but the polarization of American (and global) society is reflected in the polarization within universities and within the Church.  This an important part of the context within which the struggle to establish greater functional collaboration in social science sometimes seems to be naively idealistic
Functional collaboration in physics is facilitated both by not having these kinds of conflicts be an important part of its subject-matter, and by having a history of prestige and riches bestowed upon it by governments and corporations.  Developments in physics are much less likely to threaten powerful people than are developments in social science.   Social scientific findings and theories are quickly seized upon by interest groups of one kind or another, and used as ideological weapons in the service of their interests.
Best regards,
Title: Making progress! - Dialectic and Foundations
Post by: Artfulhousing on December 02, 2012, 07:03:28 PM
In this post I want to propose a more precise understanding of the FS Dialectic and Foundations. I do so through a series of approximations.

Each day we make decisions. These decisions pre-suppose a series of prior decisions. As a first approximation, in Dialectic we ‘retrace our past steps’ and reflect upon the effectiveness of our past decisions – are we achieving what we want to achieve? Or, to put it another way, are we making progress in the areas we want? Foundations, on the other hand, presupposes some new discovery and a decision to act in the future upon that discovery.

I can discover some data and decide to incorporate that into my understanding, e.g. that swans are not always white – there are some black swans.

I can discover some new understanding and decide to use that new understanding as a heuristic for further understanding, e.g. that explanatory definitions move towards a more complete answer to a what-is-it-question than a descriptive definition.

I can discover some movement within history and decide to work with that movement, e.g. I discover the value of capitalism, I discover the value of the environment movement, I discover a religious movement.

These decisions then become the ‘data’ for Dialectics in its concern for the effectiveness of past decisions.

As a second approximation, both Dialectic and Foundations are about the accumulated discoveries of a community or culture as to how individuals and communities make progress. Each of us learns the accumulated wisdom through the taken-for-granted ways of doing things. Dialectics is concerned with the conflicts that ensue as different individuals and different communities pursue progress in different ways.

Further, each of us discovers ourselves as active participants, as the source of progress. I responsible for who I am and who I become and, that what I do constitutes the community within which I live, that my character will bring about a new future.

Yet this is ever provisional, always moving into some new future as the community learns through trial and error what works and what doesn’t, learns how to resolve conflicts between different ways of pursuing progress.
This is the common sense view of Dialectic and Foundations: where Dialectics is simply a critique of ‘what others say’ – pointing out their limitations, even aiming for their; where Foundations is simply ‘what I say’ dismissal – it is the defacto expression of a dominant ideology and its interests.

As a third approximation, both Dialectic and Foundations are about the discovery (and differentiation) of the internal dynamics whereby I have become who I am, how I develop and how I make progress in becoming who I am (these latter two are just different aspects of who I am). It is the discovery of the dynamics whereby communities develop.

The discovery of such dynamics presupposes the discovery of theory which, on the one hand, answers a what-is-it-question with an explanatory definition (the elements and their relations that constitute this ‘what’). On the other hand, theory explains the particularity of this ‘what’ in terms of a complete series of relations with other ‘whats’ – the role it plays within these other ‘whats’. Theory takes seriously others views and seeks to integrate them into a complete framework of relations. “If Descartes has imposed upon subsequent philosophers a requirement of rigorous method, Hegel has obliged them not only to account for their own views but also to explain the existence of contrary convictions and opinions” (Insight: 553). (So, in my view, we cannot understand Dialectic without understanding theory as an aggregate of related forms which explain particularity for it is the tension between the related forms that explains the contrary decisions that different individuals make and their apparent legitimacy. A generalized discussion of dramatic, individual, group and general bias just doesn’t cut it.)

Each person and our society have their origin in our fundamental desires and are constituted by our own activities and that of others. These fundamental desires include the desire to understand which underpins all our learning, researching, discovering and knowing; the desire to create something worthwhile which underpins the expression of ourselves in the development of symbol and language, arts, technology, economy, society and culture; the desire of sociality which underpins our living together and which binds together families, communities and societies; the desire of being in love which underpins our identity and the world we live in. Each of these desires constitutes each person and society through some set of processes, an internal dynamic. The articulation of these processes distinguishes what is relevant and significant to its achievement from what is irrelevant and insignificant. A theory articulates how each person is constituted and how society is constituted – it articulates how we bring them about, their conditions, their method.

So we can come to understanding of knowing, a theory of knowledge, as a three level process of experiencing, understanding and judging. But if we are to ‘explain’ other ‘theories’ of knowledge, then we can do so in terms of the complex set of relations between the dynamic of the desire to know and other internal dynamics.
Understanding, self-understanding each of these dynamics, is difficult. Understanding, self-understanding the relations between these dynamics, is more difficult. Understanding, self-understanding the relations between these dynamics in any one particular situation, is even more difficult. So our understanding of these internal dynamics is always provisional.

As a fourth approximation, Dialectics and Foundations is concerned with particularity. It is concerned with the operating subject and the decisions they have made or are making, with each person and each society (as persons sharing common meaning), with who each person and each society is, with who each will become and with how each will make progress.

Dialectics then evaluates each person’s decisions and the decisions of the group (society) in terms of these internal dynamics. It has three movements: an appreciation of what has been achieved and how it has been achieved; a critique which grasps its limitations; and, its integration into a larger more complete framework.
Further, discovery of the actual dynamics operating within each person or society is one thing. It is another thing for that person or that society to decide whether or not to continue as they are or to act in accord with these dynamics. Indeed, for each person, a decision to act in accord with this discovery is a transformative decision, a conversion, if you will. Further, it is another thing to transform all the taken-for-granted ways of operating that move with or against these dynamics. It is another thing whether to give precedence or priority to one or other dynamic and to decide when and where to operate within one or other dynamic. So decisions to implement these discoveries are always provisional. We work toward the best we can in this moment of history. We do so because the more we are attuned to our internal dynamics, the more we are on the way of growth, development and progress.
Title: Re: Functional Collaboration
Post by: Richard Moodey on December 05, 2012, 04:42:03 PM
Hello Art,

You have enlarged my ways of thinking and writing about functional collaboration.  Specifically, you have treated the eight fs as a series of ordered questions, as a theory of science, and as a theory of progress.  In this most recent post, you have taken a different tack by specifying a series of approximations to a better understanding of two key specialties, dialectic and foundations.

Focusing just on dialectic and foundations, the questions you proposed in your earlier post were: “Dialectic [poses] a critical/evaluative question, Foundations a transformative question.”  These questions fit nicely with your most recent post, in which you have developed four successive approximations to answering both the critical/evaluative question of dialectics, and the transformative question of foundations.

I have a question about what you have written about dialectic.  Lonergan (MT 249) describes the structure of dialectic as having two levels.  When I am working on the lower level, I have to assemble materials “to be operated on.”   I operate on these materials by following Lonergan's prescriptions, “develop positions; reverse counterpositions.”  In my reading of what he then says about dialectic as method, ISTM that he puts a great deal of emphasis on language.  I understand that at least part of the task of reversing counterpositions requires me to be critical of the language in which propositions are expressed.  My question for you is, do you think that the language of a proposition should enter into my decision as to whether it is a position to be developed or a counterposition to be reversed? 

Best regards,