Milltown Institute student Dalibor Renic, S.J. has successfully defended a dissertation entitled “Ethical Elements in Epistemic Normativity: Lonergan and Virtue Epistemolog,” which was prepared under the supervision of James G. Murphy, S.J.
This dissertation explores the role of ethical factors in Bernard Lonergan’s model of epistemic normativity in the categories and terminology of the contemporary epistemological debate on the same topic. It offers a reconstruction of Lonergan’s model of epistemic evaluation, epistemic value, and epistemic responsibility, and its interpretation in a critical dialog with the virtue–epistemological models of epistemic normativity in particular. The virtue–epistemological models are represented by the virtue responsibilism of Linda Zagzebski and the virtue reliabilism of Ernest Sosa. This dissertation argues that Lonergan’s model of epistemic normativity is in broad agreement with Zagzebski’s virtue responsibilist model, and that they can share similar explanatory and defence strategies. On the other hand, this dissertation indicates the relevance of Lonergan’s cognitional theory for the study of epistemic normativity in general. It argues that Lonergan’s epistemology is best understood as a version of responsibilist virtue epistemology, retaining as its distinctive feature Lonergan’s transcendental method. Like virtue responsibilists, Lonergan defines the normative properties of knowledge in terms of the normative properties of the conscious and responsible cognitive subject. The warrant of the subject’s epistemic success, however, must incorporate both the isomorphism between the cognitional structure and the structure of being, and the subject’s responsibility in respect of the transcendental notion of value. This dissertation finds that Lonergan’s notion of epistemic responsibility is based on such a model of cognitive agency in which epistemic freedom does not exclude the rational necessity inherent in the cognitional dynamism, but depends on that rational necessity. In this way his ethical model of epistemic normativity avoids the common objections based on problems of doxastic voluntarism. Finally, this research shows that according to Lonergan’s account, the value of knowledge should be understood in terms of its being a realization of the desire to know, i.e., cognitive self–transcendence. Consequently, the value of knowledge cannot be reduced to the value of true beliefs that knowledge contains, but should include the specific contribution of knowledge to the knower’s intellectual perfection. The dissertation concludes that, according to Lonergan’s model of the unity of intentional levels, epistemic responsibility is subordinate to the level of moral responsibility, and epistemic value is an aspect of the holistic human good and, as such, largely overlaps with moral value.
Doctoral students are invited to advise us of the completion of their work so we can pass along a congratulatory word and notice of their accomplishment. They are also invited to donate a (bound or unbound) copy of their completed doctoral projects to the LRI library.