Category Archives: Bernard Lonergan

Lilley and Rogoff Recommending Negative Interest Rates

We are commenting with respect to Andrew Lilley and Kenneth Rogoff’s “conference draft” discussing the advisability of a FRB policy of negative interest rates:

 Lilley, Andrew and Kenneth Rogoff, April 24, 2019: “The Case for Implementing Effective Negative Interest Rate Policy” (Conference draft for presentation at Strategies For Monetary Policy: A Policy Conference, the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, May 4, 2019, 9:15 am PST) [Lilley and Rogoff, 2019]     (Continue reading)

The Abstract and Concrete Components of Science (Brief Item #89)

[9/22/2020] (Bernard Lonergan, Albert Einstein) Because insights arise with reference to the concrete, mathematicians need pen and paper, teachers need blackboards, pupils have to perform experiments for themselves, doctors have to see patients, trouble-shooters have to travel to the spot, people with a mechanical bent take things apart to see how they work.  But because the significance and relevance of insight goes beyond any concrete problem or application, men formulate abstract sciences with their numbers and symbols, their technical terms and formulae, their definitions, postulates, and deductions.  Thus, by its very nature, insight is the mediator, the hinge, the pivot.  It is insight into the concrete world of sense and imagination.  Yet what is known by insight, what insight adds to sensible and imagined presentations, finds its adequate expression only in the abstract and recondite formulations of the sciences. [CWL 3, 6/30] [#89] (Click here for previous “Single Paragraphs” or “Brief Items”)

A Comparative Note on Einstein’s Special-Relativity Field Theory and Lonergan’s Macroeconomic Field Theory

Special Relativity and Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics are field theories.  (Click here and here and here)  We wish to gain further appreciation of FMD as a field theory by juxtaposing it with Special Relativity.

… Special Relativity is primarily a field theory, that is, it is concerned not with efficient, instrumentalmaterial, or final causes of events, but with the intelligibility immanent in data; but Newtonian dynamics seems primarily a theory of efficient causes, of forces, their action, and the reaction evoked by action. … Special Relativity is stated as a methodological doctrine that regards the mathematical expression of physical principles and laws, but Newtonian dynamics is stated as a doctrine about the objects subject to laws.  [3, 43/67] (Continue reading)

Theoretical Breakthroughs of Euclid, Newton, Hilbert, Einstein, and Lonergan

To help the reader gain an appreciation of Lonergan’s achievement of Modern Macroeconomic Field Theory we will, in each section, print leading excerpts, then highlight the key concepts of those excerpts. We will comment on the historically-significant advances in geometry of Euclid and Hilbert, in physics of Newton and Einstein, and in macroeconomics of Lonergan.

  • Euclid’s great achievement was his rigorous deduction of geometry.
  • Hilbert’s great achievement was his employment of implicit definition to reorder Euclid’s geometry.
  • Newton’s two great achievements were unifying the isolated insights of Galileo and Kepler into a unified system of mechanics and his invention of the calculus.
  • One of the great achievements of Einstein was the invention of the field theories of Special Relativity, General Relativity, and Gravitation.
  • One of Lonergan’s several great achievements was his systematization of macroeconomic phenomena in his Modern Macroeconomic Field Theory. He combined the technique of implicit definition introduced by Hilbert and the concept of a field theory developed by Faraday and Einstein; and he developed an explanatory macroeconomics, which is general, invariant, and relevant in any instance. (Continue reading)

Understanding All in a Unified Whole

“if we want a comprehensive grasp of everything in a unified whole, we shall have to construct a diagram in which are symbolically represented all the various elements of the question along with all the connections between them.” [McShane, 201644]

Continue reading

“The Most Significant Book of the Twentieth Century”

from [McShane, 2017, Preface xii] “I have brought you face to face with the first page of the most significant book of the twentieth century.* There the man suggests: 1) that a key move is to pause over little things, 2) that Archimedes invented the permanent science of hydrostatics by focusing on a crown-weighing problem. You are on the edge of the invention of the permanent science of econo-dynamics. What is your next move? Obviously, if you are an economist, you get moving towards a Nobel Prize.”

*The book is Bernard Lonergan’s Insight, A Study of Human Understanding, 1957, 1992 CWL 3, University of Toronto Press.

The Fundamental Quantum of Political Economy is Denoted by the Subscript “k”


Taking a cue from Descartes, Lonergan advised that we attend to the simple things that anyone can understand.

Again and again, in his regulae ad directionem ingenii, (Descartes) reverts to this theme.  Intellectual mastery of mathematics, of departments of science, of philosophy, is the fruit of a slow and steady accumulation of little insights.  Great problems are solved by being broken down into little problems.  The strokes of genius are but the outcome of a continuous habit of inquiry that grasps clearly and distinctly all that is involved in the simple things that anyone can understand.  (CWL 3, 3/27) Continue reading

Lonergan’s Laws of Economic Motion

Newton’s Laws of Motion are laws of efficient cause.  In brief:

  • A body at rest or in uniform motion remains at rest or in uniform motion unless acted upon by an(external, efficient-causal) force
  • F = ma; force equals mass times acceleration
  • When one object exerts a force on a second object, the second exerts an equal and oppositely directed force of equal magnitude on the first. (Continue reading)

A Contrast: Understanding Pricing in Macrostatic DSGE and in Macrodynamic FMD

.I.  Introduction: Contrasting Diagrams and What They Represent

We contrast an assumption and description with an explanation and interpretation.  We contrast the Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) assumption and description of pricing as exogenously given and acceptable as a lead item in analysis of economic problems with Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics’ (FMD’s) explanation and interpretation of pricing in the light of the significant functional pretio-quantital flows, which explain the dynamic economic process. (Continue reading)

Explanatory Macroeconomic Dynamics; Relevant In Any Instance

There are five figures below from CWL 15:  The single figure on the left represents the interrelations of interdependent Monetary Flows; and the figure contains the important condition of dynamic equilibrium: G = c”O” -i’O’ = 0.  The four figures stacked on the right demonstrate aspects of the productive phases constituting a Pure Cycle of Expansion. The bidirectional arrows uniting the two sides signify that the dynamic equilibrium among interdependent flows specified on the left is to be achieved consistently throughout the long-run expansion represented on the right.  This condition of dynamic equilibrium is that the crossover flows between the two interacting circuits must continuously balance even as they continuously vary in magnitude in the succession of phases constituting the expansionary process.  Just as the general laws of simple parabolic or pendular motion are explanatory and applicable to any particular instance of initial angle and velocity, so a) the primary relativities of productive and monetary flows, and b) the primary differentials of long-term expansion explain the economic process, and are normatively relevant in every particular instance.  All five diagrams are unitary.  Each and every velocitous and accelerative flow of products and money has proximate or remote explanatory aspects embedded in all five diagrams. (Continue reading)