Sunday, November 16, 2008

Experiential & Explanatory Conjugates

Experiential and Explanatory Conjugates
In the drafts of Insight on ‘Space and Time’, Bernard Lonergan writes that Classical Physics was involved in the distinction between primary qualities, susceptible of mathematical treatment and secondary qualities that apparently did not admit such treatment.[1] His book Insight, proposes a solution to the primary and secondary qualities controversy with the introduction of two new terms ‘experiential conjugates’ and ‘explanatory conjugates’. To understand these terminologies we need to grasp description, explanation and the transition from description to explanation. Description is about the relationship of things to us. Explanation is about things related to one another. This usually involves a shift to a technical language.[2] It is a shift to a theoretical point of view, which will eventually return to the concrete by way of verification.[3] In Insight Lonergan says that the advance of science is from description to explanation, from things as related to our senses, through measurements, to things as related to one another.[4] Description and explanation are not totally independent, for they deal with the same things. Description supplies the tweezers by which we hold things while explanations are being discovered or verified, applied or revised.[5] It is significant to understand the primary and secondaryqualities controversy along the historical timeline.



A Controversy along the Historical Timeline
The distinction between primary and secondary qualities has its roots in the thinking of the ancient Greek philosophers especially Parmenides and Democritus. Parmenides suggested of the distinction between primary and secondary qualities in an indirect manner. He speaks of the choice between the two paths: ‘necessarily it is’ and ‘necessarily it is not’.[6] Democritus was the first philosopher to recognize secondary qualities, even though he did not so name them. According to Democritus, our senses present the world to us as consisting of things characterised by colour, sound, taste, smell and so forth, but in reality the world consists of atoms moving in the void.[7] Thus we have a distinction between how things seem to us and how they are in reality.
In the sixteenth century it was Galileo who introduced the distinction between primary and secondary qualities to separate the relative from the absolute. Primary properties are the properties really in the object.[8] On the other hand secondary qualities were considered to be the effects that the object has on us; they exist only in the mind, not in the object itself. Galileo maintained that all sensible qualities such as colour, sound, warmth, taste and smell were really only in the mind.[9] In his zealous promotion of the mathematical interpretation of nature Galileo distinguished between primary qualities, susceptible of mathematical treatment and secondary qualities that were no more properties of things than sensation.[10]
In 1641, Boyle visited Florence where he was introduced to Galileo’s ideas.[11] Probably this led Boyle to borrow the primary and secondary qualities distinction from Galileo. Boyle was also influenced by Francis Bacon’s conception of science. Bacon gives systematic accounts of qualities such as colour, firmness and coldness as they appear under a variety of circumstances.[12] Boyle exerted an important influence on philosophy by lending the authority of a practicing scientist to the corpuscular theory of matter and the associated doctrine of primary and secondary qualities.[13]
John Locke seems to borrow the distinction between primary and secondary qualities from Robert Boyle. According to Locke, observation of the world in which we live consists essentially in having ideas. These ideas are the immediate objects of the mind, and they are in the mind.[14] This means that if there were no minds, there would be no ideas. Ideas have causes. Locke supposed that the occurrence of ideas in our minds could be attributed to the operation of purely physical causes. He believed that God allows and decides what causes are to have what effects, because we cannot explain why the cutting of my finger causes me pain, except by saying that God has annexed those sensations to that event. Locke sees no objection to the view that one event is the cause of another.[15]
George Berkeley had studied the modern philosophers carefully from the time he was at Trinity College, Dublin. From Descartes he retained the conviction that there is nothing more certain than one’s own act of thinking. From Malebranche he learned that the objectivity and reality of those thoughts that one finds in one’s mind are fundamentally dependent on the ultimate, infinite mind that is called God.[16] According to Berkeley, esse est percipi, which translates as “To be is to be perceived”. It seems to follow that what is not perceived does not exist.[17] There are ambiguities in this statement. Berkeley’s statement would mean that if x is not perceived now, then x does not exist now.[18] So if a person turns his back to something then it no longer exists because he does not perceive it.


Lonergan’s Contribution: Experiential and Explanatory Conjugates
The term conjugate as defined by Lonergan denotes terms defined by their relations. Lonergan gives the following explanation of experiential conjugates:
Experiential conjugates are correlatives whose meaning is expressed ultimately by appealing to the content of some human experience. Thus, ‘colours’ will be experiential conjugates when defined by appealing to visual experiences; ‘sounds’ when defined by appealing to auditory experiences; ‘heat’ when defined by appealing to tactile experience; ‘force’ when defined by appealing to an experience of effort, resistance or pressure.[19]
The terms joined here are the experiencing like seeing, or hearing, or smelling, etc and the content of experience like colour, or sound, or taste etc. Experiential conjugates are terms whose meaning is expressed in the ultimate analysis by appealing to human experience. For example, weight is an experiential conjugate, because its meaning is expressed by appealing to our experience of the heaviness or lightness of objects, or our experience of their resistance to our efforts.[20] The canon of parsimony states that everything unverified and unverifiable must be excluded from empirical science, where verification means verification in sensible data.[21] Experiential conjugates satisfy the canon of parsimony.



In the explanatory conjugates elements on the content side are joined together, thus effectively bypassing the relativity to the experience. Lonergan defines explanatory conjugates thus: “The explanatory conjugates or pure conjugates are correlatives defined implicitly by empirically established correlations, functions, laws, theories and systems.”[22] These explanatory conjugates reside in relation of things to one another. According to Bernard Lonergan in science there are as many pure conjugates as are necessary, when it reaches a stage where it has the complete explanation of all phenomena.[23] For instance in the case of ‘red’ there would be one experiential conjugate, also one could explain ‘red’ in terms of wavelength, ‘red’ could also be explained in terms of chemical combinations, it could also be interpreted from the viewpoint of an artist in the sense of a composite of three or four different colors.[24]



A Solution to the Primary and Secondary Qualities Controversy
Galileo’s mistake was to assume that primary qualities were objective, while secondary qualities were subjective. Lonergan rejects the position of Galileo that secondary qualities are only in the mind. For example colours can be either experienced or else explained. Both the experience of colour and the explanation of colour can be verified. If verified they are real. Lonergan is not just worried about the secondary and primary qualities distinction but he emphasises a more crucial concept of relationships. For the person (for example ‘Y’) dipping his or her hand in the water the experience of coldness is an experiential conjugate which is objective in its own way. On the other hand for a scientist studying that same person ‘Y’ and the temperature of the water becomes as things related to one another and therefore an explanatory conjugate. Things can be either related to us or they can be related to one another. Bernard Lonergan’s solution to the primary and secondary qualities controversy is something novel and thought provoking.

BIBLIOGRAPHY
Primary Sources
Lonergan, Bernard. Insight: A Study of Human Understanding. Fifth Edition. Edited by Frederic E. Crowe and Robert M. Doran. Collected works of Bernard Lonergan 3. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992.
Lonergan, Bernard. Understanding and Being. Edited by Elizabeth A. Morelli and Mark D. Morelli. Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan 5. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000.
Lonergan, Bernard. “Space and Time”. Insight Residue. Draft of Insight.
Toronto: Lonergan Research Institute (LRIT) Archives. Unpublished
Material from LRIT Archives.

Secondary Sources
Ackermann, Robert. Theories of Knowledge. New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill
Publishing Company Limited, 1965.
Cronin, Brian. Foundation of Philosophy: Lonergan’s Cognitional Theory and
Epistemology. Nairobi: Consolata Institute of Philosophy, 1999.
Edwards, Paul. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Vol 5 & 6. New York:
Macmillan Publishing Co, Inc & The Free Press, 1972.
Gilson, Etienne. Modern Philosophy: Descartes to Kant. New York: Random
House, 1963.
Long, A. A. The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1999.
Warnock, G. J. Berkley. Oxford: Pelican Books, 1982.

Webliography
Galileo and the Origins of the Modern World. http://www.anslem.edu/
homepage/dbanach/h-galileo-banach-outline.htm Accessed on
15/6/2007.

Unpublished Works
Coelho, Ivo. A Study Guide to Lonergan’s Insight. B.Ph. Class Notes. Nashik:
Divyadaan, 1997.



Footnotes:
[1] Bernard Lonergan, “Space and Time”, Insight Residue (Toronto: Lonergan Research Institute Archives) 4.
[2] Brian Cronin, Foundations of Philosophy: Lonergan’s Cognitional Theory and Epistemology (Nairobi: Consolata Institute of Philosophy Press, 1999) 101.
[3] Brian Cronin, Foundations of Philosophy: Lonergan’s Cognitional Theory and Epistemology, 101.
[4] Bernard Lonergan, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, Fifth Edition, Edited by Frederic E. Crowe and Robert M. Doran, Collected works of Bernard Lonergan 3 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992) 201.
[5] Lonergan, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, 316.
[6] A. A Long, The Cambridge Companion to Early Greek Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) 114.
[7] Paul Edwards, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol 5 & 6 (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co, Inc & The Free Press, 1972) 455.
[8] http://www.anselm.edu/homepage/dbanach/h-galileo-banach-outline.htm Accessed on 5/6/07.
[9] http://www.anselm.edu/homepage/dbanach/h-galileo-banach-outline.htm Accessed on 5/6/07.
[10] Lonergan, “Space and Time”, Insight Residue, 1.
[11] Paul Edwards, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 357.
[12] Paul Edwards, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 358.
[13] Paul Edwards, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 357.
[14] G. J Warnock, Berkeley (Oxford: Pelican Books, 1982) 93.
[15] Warnock, Berkeley, 93.
[16] Etienne Gilson, Modern Philosophy: Descartes to Kant (New York: Random House, 1963) 227.
[17] Robert Ackermann, Theories of Knowledge (New Delhi: Tata McGraw-Hill
Publishing Company Limited, 1965) 149.
[18] Ackermann, Theories of Knowledge, 149.
[19] Lonergan, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, 102.
[20] Ivo Coelho, A Study Guide to Lonergan’s Insight, B.Ph Class Notes (Nashik: Divyadaan, 1997) 15.
[21] Ivo Coelho, A Study Guide to Lonergan’s Insight, 15.
[22] Lonergan, Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, 103.
[23] Bernard Lonergan, Understanding and Being, Edited by Elizabeth A. Morelli and Mark D. Morelli, Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan 5 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000) 317.
[24] Lonergan, Understanding and Being, 317.

Article by:
Cl. Leon Cruz Ratinam
St. Dominic Savio Boys Home
Mahakali Caves Rd
Andheri(E)
Mumbai – 400 093
Maharashtra
India

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