Speaker to teach insight Thursday

The philosophy department and Gannon’s honorary philosophy society, Phi Sigma Tau, will hold a lecture from guest speaker Monsignor Richard Liddy, Ph.D., at 7 p.m. Thursday in the Yehl Ballroom.

Liddy is a Catholic thought and culture professor at Seton Hall University.  He is director of the Center for Catholic Sudies, which includes the Bernard J. Lonergan Institute.  A member of the religious studies department, he is an editor of the Lonergan Review and regularly takes part in national and international conferences on Lonergan and Blessed John Henry Newman.

His talk will focus on the teachings of Lonergan, a Jesuit philosopher and theologian, in relation to the pains and joys that come with “real learning.”

The lecture, titled “Insight and the Universe,” will use examples to define real learning.  Liddy sees it as the “deep desire to know the truth of things as well as an openness to understanding, from whatever source.”

He believes this is an important method of learning for Catholic universities like Gannon because it mimics the human desire for God.  For Liddy, the most compelling part of Lonergan’s philosophy is the theologian’s take on the desire for knowledge.

Liddy’s lecture takes its name from one of Lonergan’s books that influenced him, “Insight: A Study of Human Understanding.”  Lonergan explains universal learning styles in the sciences and scholarly studies in this book.

“He especially emphasizes the desire to know, questioning and the little act of insight — sometimes an Aha! experience — in which a lot of things fall into place,” Liddy said.  “If we put in the time studying, that act can happen anywhere — [even] walking down the street or relaxing.”  He said he hopes that students can gain a greater appreciation for the wonder of themselves in attending his lecture.

“[Lonergan has an] ability to help us understand ourselves -—our deep desire to know and to love and even our desire for the infinite,” he said.

David Nordquest, Ph.D., an assistant professor in Gannon’s philosophy department, said Lonergan is considered one of the great thinkers of the 20th century.

“There’s been a growing interest in Lonergan’s thought since he passed away in every continent except Antarctica,” he said.  “Lonergan turns inward, like Socrates, and looks at the operations of the mind when you know know something.  He tries to find a concrete account of knowledge, as well as a method common to all disciplines.”

Nordquest said this is the way Lonergan tries to unify all the different disciplines, which is something Liddy wrote about as well.  “There’s a specialized form for studying different areas like science and theology from the basic method of learning,” he said.

Nordquest said he likes the autobiographical aspect of Liddy’s work.

“We get to see how he wrestled with Lonergan’s thoughts and it really makes the philosophy come alive,” he said.

Ben Knopf, a senior philosophy major and the secretary and treasurer of Phi Sigma Tau, said he learned about Lonergan in Nordquest’s Philosophy of Knowledge class.

“He deals with how we know what we know,” he said.  “I know this table in front of me is here, but how do I know that?”

Knopf said Lonergan is notable for bringing Thomas Aquinas’ studies into the modern era.

“He’s dense as a brick,” he admitted.  “Lonergan is difficult for average students to understand, and if they’re going, they’re going for extra credit from their teachers.  I’m going because I’m probably one of the few people on campus that wants to.”

He also said Phi Sigma Tau is using the lecture as an opportunity to re-establish itself.  The honorary society has been inactive for some time and the group hopes to offer information to perspective members before and after the lecture. Knopf acknowledged, however, that the benefits of Lonergan and his philosophy are purely academic.

“[The study of] philosophy has an impact, but it varies,” he said.  “You’re given assumptions from the time you begin learning, but philosophy makes you re-think those assumptions and most people don’t like doing that.”

KELSEY GHERING, [email protected]