Category Archives: Bernard Lonergan

Elements of The Analysis

Our aim is to prescind from human psychology that, in the first place, we may define the objective situation with which man has to deal, and, in the second place, define the psychological attitude that has to be adopted if man is to deal successfully with economic problems.  Thus something of a Copernican revolution is attempted: instead of taking man as he is or as he may be thought to be and from that deducing what economic phenomena are going to be, we take the exchange process in its greatest generality and attempt to deduce the human adaptations necessary for survival. [CWL 21,42- 43]

Taking into account past and (expected) future values does not constitute the creative key transition to dynamics.Those familiar with elementary statics and dynamics will appreciate the shift in thinking involved in passing from equilibrium analysis…to an analysis where attention is focused on second-order differential equations, on d2θ/dt2, d2x/dt2, d2y/dt2, on a range of related forces, central, friction, whatever….. What is significant is the Leibnitz-Newtonian shift of context. [McShane 1980, 127]

A distinction has been drawn between description and explanation.  Description deals with things as related to us.  Explanation deals with the same things as related among themselves.  …  description supplies, as it were, the tweezers by which we hold things while explanations are being discovered or verified, applied or revised. … [CWL 3, 291/316]

again, as to the notion of cause, Newton conceived of his forces as efficient causes, and the modern mechanics drops the notion of force; it gets along perfectly well without it.  It thinks in terms of a field theory, the set of relationships between n objects.  The field theory is a set of intelligible relations linking what is implicitly defined by the relations themselves; it is a set of relational formsThe form of any element is known through its relations to all other elements.  What is a mass?  A mass is anything that satisfies the fundamental equations that regard masses.  Consequently, when you add a new fundamental equation about mass, as Einstein did when he equated mass with energy, you get a new idea of mass.  Field theory is a matter of the immanent intelligibility of the object. [CWL 10, 154]

 

The Relativistic Invariant: The Ideal Pure Cycle at the Root of the Aberrant Trade Cycle

The heart of the normative theoretical framework that can actually explain business and trade cycles is what (Lonergan) calls the ‘Pure Cycle’ (§10, §24, 114).  This cycle generalizes into clearly articulated relationships the ideal phases characteristic of major economic transformations as they depart from a stationary phase and move through phases first of surplus expansion and then of basic expansion, only to return to a new stationary phase. … (CWL 15, Editors’ Introduction, lxiii)  (Continue reading)

Two Summaries in Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics

.I.   Summary of the Analysis:  Heuristic, Observations, and Discoveries

.II.  Summary of the Argument (verbatim from CWL 15, 5-6)

.III. Supplement to the Summaries

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Lonergan on the Foundations of the Theories of Relativity

[2/8/20] Albert Einstein, Bernard Lonergan: In a paper recently presented before the Boston Colloquium of the History and Philosophy of Science, Prof. Max Jammer of Bar-Ilan University surveyed the history of the attempts to provide axiomatic (or conceptual) foundations for the Special Theory of Relativity (hereafter abbreviated as “STR”). Among other things, Prof. Jammer’s paper revealed that, in contrast to quantum mechanics, no generally accepted axiomatic foundations for STR have yet emerged.  Furthermore, Jammer’s paper showed that several attempts at axiomatic foundations were beleaguered with problems not to be found in the use of the theory by Einstein or the successive generations of practicing physicists. ¶ The shortcomings of these efforts to develop axiomatic foundations for STR  –  and indeed of any parallel efforts directed towards the search for axiomatic foundations for the General Theory of Relativity as well  –  are, in my judgement, inherent in the theories themselves.  That is, the proper foundations of the theories of relativity reside, not in conceptual axioms, but in the foundational reality of the subject as subject.  It is not my purpose in this paper to enter into a detailed critique of the various attempts at axiomatization discussed in Prof. Jammer’s paper.  Rather on this occasion celebrating the achievements of Bernard Lonergan, I simply intend to show how his phenomenological appropriation of the structure of consciousness has opened up the possibility of approaching the question of the foundations of the theories of relativity from the viewpoint of the subject as subject.   [ Byrne, Patrick H. “Lonergan on the Foundations of the Theories of Relativity,” Creativity and Method, Matthew Lamb (ed.), Milwaukee: University of Marquette Press, 1981, pp. 477-478 in pages 477-94.]

Harvard Magazine’s Podcast, “Ask a Harvard Professor”

Harvard Magazine’s podcast, “Ask a Harvard Professor,” recently featured an interview of professors Doug Elmendorf and Karen Dynan – two good people – under the title Doug Elmendorf and Karen Dynan: How Much Can the Federal Budget and the Deficit Continue to Grow? (Click here for video and print versions of the interview)

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Explanation By Gross Domestic Functional Flows To Supplement Description By Gross Domestic Product

A distinction has been drawn between description and explanation.  Description deals with things as related to us.  Explanation deals with the same things as related among themselves.  The two are not totally independent, for they deal with the same things and, as we have seen, description supplies, as it were, the tweezers by which we hold things while explanations are being discovered or verified, applied or revised. … [CWL 3, 291/316]

The analysis of the overall dynamic functioning, which we call in nominal terms the economic process, must seek the explanation of the process.   It must seek the objective immanent intelligibility among the interdependent, dynamic “functionings” which altogether constitute the process.  The functionings are rates of so much or so many every so often, and, thus, they are velocities.  And the scientific analysis must be in terms of abstract, implicitly-defined, explanatory conjugates rather than in terms of the descriptive accountants’ unities of merely legal or proprietary entities called “firms.” (Continue reading)

Notes Re Reading The Images and Graphs In CWL 15, pp. 121-25

In the graphs of CWL 15, pages 121-25, it is easy to become disoriented by the symbols on the vertical axes and by the titles and annotations.  In particular, one might tend mistakenly to view Q as a symbol for an absolute quantity or an accumulation rather than for a rate of flow of a quantity.  Recall:

In Lonergan’s circulation analysis, the basic terms are ratesrates of productive activities and rates of payments.  The objective of the analysis is to discover the underlying intelligible and dynamic (accelerative) network of functional, mutually conditioning, and interdependent relationships of these rates to one another.  [CWL 15  26-27  ftnt 27]

Lonergan never used terms for magnitudes, only for rates and their accelerations (‘rates of rates’) in the Essay in Circulation Analysis.  [CWL 15, 182]

But if the ultimate product qi is related by a double summation to the contributions of factors of production qijk, then the total flow of ultimate products Qi is also related by a double summation to the rates of the contributions of the factors of production Qijk, where both Qiand Qijk are instances of the form so much or so many every so often.’  (CWL 15, 30)

In the graphs superscripts identify basic (‘) or surplus (“) elements.  Absence of superscripts here indicates “in any case.”

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Are We Outside Or Inside The Economic Process? And What Constitutes The Equilibrium To Be Achieved?

Our inquiry differs from classical analysis and from traditional economics.  Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics prescinds from human psychology to replace Walras’ general equilibrium with a prior and more fundamental equilibrium to which human participants must adapt.

Participants are not to dominate as willy-nilly, ignorant, external, efficient causes, but rather to adapt to the immanent intelligibility of the objective mechanism.  This immanent intelligibility is the set of laws explaining the process – laws not to be enforced by a civilian police force but rather abstract laws to be understood and honored by enlightened free people. Continue reading

“We Wish to Suggest a Structure … “

We wish to suggest a structure for the salt of deoxyribose nucleic acid (D.N.A.). This structure has novel features which are of considerable biological interest. [J. D. Watson and F.H.C. Crick] (Attribution below)

We wish to suggest a structure for the objective, dynamic, economic process. This structure, which is independent of human psychology, is composed of both productive and correlated monetary flows.  The structure of the interdependent, pretio-quantital, monetary flows is double-circuited and has novel features which are of considerable macroeconomic interest.

Attribution and URL:

reprinted with permission from Nature magazine

A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid
J. D. Watson and F. H. C. Crick (1)

April 25, 1953 (2), Nature (3), 171, 737-738