Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




John C. Robertson, Jr


Cathleen M. Going


As the title (Complete Intelligibility: A Study of Bernard Lonergan's Argument for the Existence of God) suggests, the focus of this dissertation is an argument. The argument runs: If the real is completely intelligible, God exists; but the real is completely intelligible, therefore, God exists. This argument is studied and discussed in two ways: expositionally and critically.

In the expositional part, I seek to explain the argument in such a way that, on the one hand, the reader unfamiliar with Lonergan's thought may become apprised of its main lines and, on the other, the reader familiar with Lonergan's thought may see more clearly how the argument is continuous with other parts of Lonergan's thought, notably with his cognitional theory. It becomes clear in the expositional part, for example, that Lonergan's conception of complete intelligibility as an unrestricted act of understanding (which, on analysis, has the properties of what is meant by the name "God") is closely related to what Lonergan sees at the heart of human knowing, viz. a pure, unrestricted desire to know.

In the critical part, I submit each premise of the argument, as well as the concept of God which emerges from the major premise, to a dialectical scrutiny. That is to say, on the one hand I determine and represent the major types of challenges to which the premise or concept is susceptible and, on the other, I draw on the resources of Lonergan's thought to offer a Lonerganian response. In so doing I beiieve that I not only test the argument in a way that it has not been tested but I also single out points of departure for ongoing critical inquiries and I provide the wherewithal for at at least a provisional personal judgment. One such judgment is given in the concluding chapter. In it I express qualified approval of the argument.

Lonergan's argument is transcendental, in the sense that its affirmations are uItimately based on notions discernible in the data of consciousness. The present study both brings out this transcendental character and deals with the objection that this approach cannot go as far as Lonergan would have it go. This is done by both by a reflection upon Lonergan's claims and by a reflection upon our consciousness as we examine these claims. In other words, the study not only discusses Lonergan's transcendental approach. It also, at least in part, illustrates it.

I cannot say whether I have discovered, in this study, anything which Lonergan himself has not discovered. I have, however, made explicit and manifest certain ideas which are present in Lonergan's writings only implicitly or as a latent tendency. For example, as far as I know, Lonergan has not addressed at any length the question whether his argument confuses the desirable and anticipated with the real and actual. To this question, I believe I offer a cogent, if not totally convincing, response from a perspective engendered by Lonergan's thought, a response centering on the unique character and role of the desire to know.

whether his argume:lc1t confuses the' desirable,~d ant~cip~t~d , :, '. . . ..withther~aiancl'actual.. !!!o this quest.i.~ntlbelieyeI· , .' offer aC9gent, if nO,t totally convincing; response from ",,\ , ',,' a perspective "engendered by ,Lonergan's thought, a res~onse . ,. ",., . , centeI'ing on the unique cha.racte; and role of, the desire /,- to know.,

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