Thursday, 3 January 2019

Revision and Dispute

All historical argumentation is probabilistic. This is also to say that any and all historical hypotheses are subject to revision or dispute. Hypotheses subject to revision are hypotheses whose probability sufficiently approaches 1.0 that we can treat them as virtually certain. Such hypotheses include the hypothesis that Germany invaded Poland in September of 1939, or that Jesus of Nazareth existed. Such hypotheses are virtually certain not necessarily because there are no conceivable alternatives, but in many (perhaps most) cases because all conceivable alternatives are sufficiently improbable that they can be excluded. Can I conceive of a world in which all the documentary and eyewitness evidence for Germany’s invasion of Poland in 1939 is falsified and it never took place? Perhaps. Is that alternative probable? Hardly. Nonetheless, in principle, even the most probable statement is subject to revision upon the emergence either of new evidence or new insights into old evidence. The recent resurgence in arguments for Jesus’ historical non-existence rested entirely upon the argument that there had emerged new insights into old evidence. The reason that these arguments fail is because those competent in the matter and fully familiar with the evidence recognized immediately that these were not new insights at all but almost without exception insights that had been advanced and rejected the better part of a century ago. For instance, much of the argumentation rested upon a literally Victorian-era understanding of the nature of ancient myth-making, which has long since and properly been abandoned as empirically unsustainable. There is a reason that one can count on two fingers the number of credentialed New Testament scholars who subscribe to the hypothesis that Jesus never existed: quite simply, competent familiarity with the data precludes affirmation of the hypothesis.

Hypotheses subject to dispute are different. These are hypotheses with which a competent person fully familiar with the evidence can reasonably disagree. For instance, it is a virtual certainty that Jesus died on a cross sometime around Passover, between the years 29 and 35. I would argue that among those years, 30 (the long-time majority opinion) remains the most likely. I can present a number of arguments in favour of that date. However, I recognize that a competent person fully familiar with the evidence could reasonably argue for any other date within that range. As with the case of virtually certain hypotheses subject to revision, new evidence or fresh insights into old evidence can alter the probabilities. For instance, the discovery of the Delphi inscription a century ago has significantly narrowed down the date for Paul’s meeting with Gallio as attested in Acts 18, such that what was once thought to have occurred sometime between the late-40s through the early-50s can now more precisely be said to have occurred sometime between July 1st of 51 and June 31st of 52. This range can now in fact be treated as a virtual certainty. What remains subject to dispute is when within this range the meeting took place. For instance, it can be and has been argued that the meeting is more likely to have taken place very early in that range, on the grounds that Paul’s opponents very conceivably seized upon the change in governor in order to gain a hearing for their charges; this is quite plausible, and yet can hardly be treated as a virtual certainty and is such that a competent person fully familiar with the evidence could reasonably disagree.

Both the year of the crucifixion and the timing of Paul’s appearance between Gallio demonstrate that the heuristic distinction between hypotheses subject to revision and hypotheses subject to dispute allows for a dynamic understanding of probability. In my own current work—i.e. my long-percolating study of and obsessive concern with the dates at which the New Testament texts—hypotheses subject to revision tend to yield relatively large ranges. It is beyond reasonable dispute that the Gospel of Mark was written sometime after Jesus’ death and before the first attestation to the gospel’s existence. This allows for a date anytime from c. 30 to c. 120, the latest likely time at which Papias writes about Mark’s compositional work. Dates outside this range are almost certainly non-starters, although the higher end is more likely subject to revision than the lower as the probability that Mark’s Gospel was written before Jesus’ death approaches zero (although in principle one could not rule out the possibility that parts of the text were written during his lifetime). Early 21st-century scholarship has tended to favour a date about midway through this range, with c. 65 to 75 probably representing something like a majority opinion, but the salient point here is that all debates regarding where in the range c. 30 to 120 to situate Mark’s Gospel have moved from matters of revision to matters of dispute, because we are now arguing about matters upon which competent persons fully familiar with the evidence can reasonably disagree. Awareness of this heuristic distinction between hypotheses subject to revision and hypotheses subject to dispute allow us to avoid wasting time and energy either disputing that which is beyond reasonable dispute or seeking virtual certainty when the data does not allow us to do so.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

How to Date a Biblical Text

Yes. "How to date a biblical text" sounds like the title of a bad romcom or whatever. Get over it, people.

But seriously, I want to propose three basic means by which to date a biblical text. I will note that these were developed particular to the concerns of New Testament chronology, but I think that in principle they can be adapted to HB/OT chronology also.

Synchronization: this is the basic tool of the chronologist, wherein one synchronizes the text to other matters. Most basically, these can refer to manuscript evidence. If a text appears in a manuscript datable to c. 200 C.E., then it must predate said manuscript. These other matters can also refer to events. To use perhaps the best known example: if my text reports that the Jerusalem temple was destroyed by the Romans during the midst of the Jewish War, then it almost certainly post-dates 70 C.E.; conversely, if its argumentation necessarily supposes that the temple yet stands, then it almost certainly pre-dates. These other matters can also refer to other texts. I.e. if I judge that Matthew's Gospel used Mark's as a source then I judge that Matthew post-dates Mark's. The nature of such a dating technique is that it will tend to yield a relative date: after X and before Y. Absolute dates can be introduced only insofar as X or Y themselves are datable. Thus "This text was written after the destruction of the temple" is virtually synonymous for our purposes with "This was written after 70 C.E.," while "This text was written after Mark's Gospel" has no comparable equivalent. Within HB/OT studies, the vast dates with which one works will probably tend to vitiate the utility of this approach, as will the reality that certain texts appear to have developed over time spans foreign to NT studies.

Authorial Biography: really a form of synchronization, it is significant enough in its own right that it makes sense to break it out as a separate category. It uses what is known about the author(s) independent of the text in order to determine when she or he wrote. In principle, this can yield the most precise dates. It is most usable in regard to the Pauline corpus, due to the existence of Acts. For instance, given Rom. 15:25-26 and 16:2 (if the latter is original to the letter), then it is highly probable that Paul wrote Romans in the three months that he spent in Greece in (probably) the winter of 56/57 (cf. Acts 20:2b-3a). The Romans example is useful, because authorial biography arguably allows the most precise dating of any text from the biblical canon, whether Jewish or Christian. Unfortunately, the nature of our data is such that our authorial biographies tend to be woefully inadequate in most cases relevant to NT studies and one suspects almost entirely useless in HB/OT studies.

Contextualization: contextualization uses what is otherwise known about the development of early Christianity in order to determine when a text most likely originated. A sterling example of such work is Crossley's The Date of Mark's Gospel. Crossley argues that Mark's Gospel takes Jesus' scrupulous Torah observance for granted, whereas Matthew's and Luke's have to demonstrate that said observance is not obviated by statements that could be taken as abrogating the Law. He further argues that this difference makes best sense if we understand that Mark's Gospel originated before the Gentile mission made Torah observance a significant issue in Christian consciousness, while Matthew's and Luke's originated after this development. As such, he argues that Mark's Gospel probably dates to the early 40s or perhaps yet earlier. Of all the approaches, contextualization will tend to be the least precise. As a general rule, it probably should be used to narrow down within a range established upon other grounds. Very rarely should judgments about a text's date rely entirely upon contextualization. Such judgments should probably be limited to instances in which we simply have no other basis for judgment. The nature of HB/OT studies is such that I can imagine it being far more dependent upon contextualization than NT studies.

Intimated throughout the above is that these approaches do not function in isolation. Judgments about a text's date should build cumulatively upon as many of these as possible. The strongest judgments will rest upon the strongest evidences adduced by all such approaches. Which is once again to say that history is painstaking.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Acts 12 or 15?

No doubt, the single most pivotal question for establishing a Christian chronology of the 30s and 40s is whether Paul's second journey to Jerusalem reported in Gal. 2:1-10 refers to the journey narrated in Acts 11/12 (usually abbreviated simply to "Acts 12" in chronological discussions) or Acts 15. The majority of scholars hold that it refers to the journey narrated in Acts 15, whereas a minority of scholars hold to that of Acts 12. Other solutions--that it refers to the journey narrated Acts 18, for instance, or that there is no correspondence between Acts and Paul on this matter--are generally non-starters, for reasons that need not distract us in this post. When we take into account such matters as validity, scope, and parsimony, the hypothesis that Galatians 2:1-10 refers to either the journey narrated in Acts 12 or that in Acts 15 remains that which can best explain the data that we find in both the Lukan and Pauline material. But beyond that, should we prefer the Acts 12 hypothesis, or the Acts 15?

Let us begin with the Acts 15 hypothesis, as it is the majority report. The Acts 15 hypothesis depends upon supposed parallels between this text and Gal. 2:1-10. In Gal. 2:1-10 Paul describes a meeting between himself and "the pillars" in Jerusalem--James, John, and Peter--in which the latter affirm that the former had been entrusted with the gospel for the Gentiles. The Acts 15 hypothesis sees in this an impressive parallel with the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15, which narrates a discussion about whether or not Gentile converts should be circumcised. Now, prima facie, the parallels are indeed strong. There are however at least two flies in this ointment. One, the Acts 15 hypothesis has a hard time accounting for Gal. 2:11-14. Gal. 2:11-14 describes a conflict in Antioch over the issue of whether Jewish and Gentile persons can eat together between Paul on the one side and "men from James" on the other, with Peter and Barnabas in the middle, while Acts 15:1-2 states that the conflict in Jerusalem began with a dispute over circumcision in Antioch. Probably most iterations of the Acts 15 hypothesis suppose that the events of Gal. 2:11-14 precede those of Gal. 2:1-10, with the former paralleling Acts 15:1-2. This is deeply problematic, as there is frankly no hint whatsoever in Galatians that Paul intends the reader to think that the events the he reports in 2:11-14 precede those of 2:1-10. Quite the opposite: the "But when" (ὃτε δὲ) with which Paul initiates 2:11 most naturally suggests a temporal progression. Ultimately, although probably the most popular solution, the hypothesis wherein Gal. 2:1-10 parallels Acts 15:3ff. and 2:11-14 parallels 15:1-2 seems to flounder on the data. That said, a variant iteration of the Acts 15 hypothesis is probably more viable on this matter. In this iteration, Acts 15:1-2 has no parallel in Galatians, Acts 15:3ff. parallels Gal. 2:1-10, and Gal. 2:11-14 narrates a conflict that emerged subsequent to the council. This second iteration does not require us to gratuitously suppose that Paul is narrating the course of events out of temporal order, but it also does not escape the second challenge faced by the Acts 15 hypothesis, namely the number of journeys to Jerusalem undertaken by Paul.

In Gal. 1-2, Paul is much concerned to show that he had little contact with the leadership in Jerusalem. He lists the times that he went, specifying with whom he met and how little they contributed to his understanding of the gospel. In 1:18, he mentions that he went to Jerusalem after three years and met with no apostles but Peter and James. This journey can be quite unobjectionably be identified with that narrated in Acts 9:26-30. In 2:1-10, he states that he went to Jerusalem after fourteen years, and met with Peter, James, and John. On the Acts 15 hypothesis, this second journey mentioned in Galatians is actually the third narrated by Acts. One either has to conclude that Paul has failed to mention that second journey, or that Luke has introduced a journey that never happened. The former hypothesis is often advanced, on the basis that Paul is only concerned to narrate instances in which he interacted with the leadership in Jerusalem. Unfortunately for this hypothesis, Acts 11:30 of course specifies that Barnabas and Paul were sent to meet with the elders on the second journey. Now, yes, elsewhere Luke will distinguish between apostles and elders, and Paul specifically in Gal. 1-2 refers to meetings with apostles. But if anything that weakens the Acts 15 argument, for if Paul is concerned to show how little interaction he had with the apostles in Jerusalem then surely it would serve his rhetorical purpose to mention a journey to the holy city in which he didn't even meet with them (if it is objected that this construal of Pauline intent is speculative, I would observe that it is no more so than the argument that Paul is only interested in narrating journeys to Jerusalem in which he met specifically with the apostles). And in any case, there is enough slippage between the elders and the apostles that we probably do not have adequate warrant to conclude that the elders of Acts 11:30 must exclude the apostles.

By contrast, the Acts 12 hypothesis not only reads Gal. 2:1-14 in sequential order, has a very straightforward explanation for why Paul only mentions two visits to Jerusalem: as of the time that we was writing Galatians, he'd only taken two visit. In this understanding, Gal. 1:18 refers to the visit of Acts 9, 2:1-10 to the visit of Acts 12, and 2:11-14 to the events of Acts 15:1 (although not of Acts 15:2; rather, we need to assume that Paul is writing as he prepares to travel to Jerusalem for the council). In short, it combines the best of both worlds. Indeed, there is virtually only one substantial challenge that can be raised against the Acts 12 hypothesis, and that is that Luke doesn't mention any sort of conflict or discussion that takes place during that visit. Such an argument however is limited in its strength, for at least two reasons: one, Luke is always highly selective in what he presents; two, as recognized since at least F.C. Baur, Luke tends to emphasize the irenic side of inter-apostolic relationships, and as such is not necessarily inclined to report every single conflict that took place. Indeed, given the first of these reasons, lacunae in Luke's accounts should generally not be taken as evidence of absence (this, incidentally, is quite the opposite situation of the problem with the number of journeys, wherein on the Acts 15 hypothesis it is Paul who has a lacuna precisely where we'd expect there not to be one).

For comparative purposes, I have devised a handy chart.

Acts 12
Acts 15/Gal. 2 sequential
Acts 15/Gal. 2 non-sequential
Gal. 2:1-14 in sequential order?
Both are Paul’s second journey?
Acts 15:1 has Galatian parallel?
Acts 15:2 has Galatian parallel?
Both mention a conflict?

Given that it is unlikely that Paul is narrating events out of sequence in Galatians 2:1-14 and the Lukan tendencies to elide details and present an irenic front, the sequential order and the number of journeys should probably be taken as the most definitive factors. And when this is recognized, Acts 12 presents as the strongest hypothesis.

And once again, that is how historians do.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

The Date of the Crucifixion

As long-time readers of this blog will know, I am mildly obsessed with the question of chronology, that being a mildly huge understatement. For more than a year now, the process of interviewing for, being hired at, and moving to the Lonergan Research Institute in Toronto--while welcome and wonderful and a genuine honour--has kept me from really indulging that obsession, but now that I'm settled in the compulsion to precisely date events that occurred in early Christian history has returned with a vengeance. So, pulling together some recent conversations and work, here is my take on that particularly significant event of Christian history, Jesus' crucifixion.

My general procedure when seeking to date an event is to begin with the data that permits an absolute lower date and an absolute higher date, then work with the data that leads me to raise and lower those dates respectively. An absolute date is one with a numbered year, and contrasts with a relative date. For instance, if I say that Germany invaded Poland in 1939, that is an absolute date. If I say that Germany invaded Poland twenty-five years after the First World War broke out, that is a relative data. In the case of the crucifixion, the relevant absolute dates are 27 and 35. We know Jesus did not die before 27 for a cluster of reasons. First, he died in April, at Passover; the Passover at which he died had to be after Pilate arrived in Judea in 26; it had to be after the beginning of the fifteenth year of Tiberius (Luke 3:1), which began no earlier than October of 26; thus 27 is the earliest April in which Jesus could have died. We know that he did not die after 35 because that is almost certainly the last Passover that Pilate spent in Judea. 26 and 36 are just barely permissible, if we ignore the data from Luke 3:1 and play loose with Pilate's chronology, but in reality are improbable to the point that we can treat them as non-starters.

For the better part of a century, the primary way that scholars sought to narrow this down was to employ astronomical data. Jesus not only died at Passover, he died at a Passover that fell on a Friday. This yielded 30 and 33 as the most likely years, and scholarship probably for the most part opted for the former number, with the latter constituting a very respectable minority report. I no longer think that we can rely so heavily on the astronomical data. The difficulties of lining up modern astronomical observations with the practical realities of an ancient lunar calendar obviate the confidence we can place in such data. That said, I would not dispense with it entirely, and we will come back to it. We can however reasonably raise the lower date up to 29, as John reports that Jesus' ministry spanned at least three Passovers, including that at which he died, and Passover of 29 would be the third after October of 26.

So, how do we narrow it down, then? This requires that we turn to Pauline chronology. We know that Paul converted to Christianity subsequent to Jesus' death, so that event can serve to establish the latest possible date for the crucifixion. In order to establish the date of the conversion, we must first determine when the visit to Jerusalem described in Gal. 2:1-10 occurred. This depends in large part upon whether we associate that visit with the one mentioned in Acts 15, as do the majority of scholars, or with the one mentioned in Acts 12, as do a minority of scholars. (Other options, such as identifying it with the visit of Acts 18, are basically non-starters). If the former, then the visit of Gal. 2:1-10 probably occurred around 48; the latter, then sometime between 40-44. From this we, look at Gal. 1:18, which tells us that Paul first went to Jerusalem three years after his conversion, and Gal. 2:1, which tells us that he again went after fourteen years; we recognize that three years probably here means "more than two but no greater than three," and fourteen "more than thirteen but no greater than fourteen"; that the three years could be included in the fourteen years, or in addition to; and thus the conversion occurred thirteen to seventeen years before the crucifixion. This means that the conversion happened no earlier than 23--which can be moved up to 29, as it must postdate the crucifixion--and no later than 35.

So, how does this help us? In terms of establishing an undeniable, "it definitely couldn't have happened any year other than this," not at all. But in terms of allowing us to make informed judgments--which is where historical reasoning matters the most (anyone can establish possibilities; the hallmark of an actual thinker is the ability to take the risk of being wrong and say that this possibility here seems more likely)--quite a lot, for now everything depends upon whether one thinks that the Jerusalem trip of Gal. 2:1-10 is that of Acts 12 or of Acts 15. If one thinks that it is the trip of Acts 15, then one is still left with 29 to 35 as possible years for the conversion and thus the crucifixion. But if one thinks, as do I (for reasons I'll not get into here, lest the post gets even more bloated), that the trip of Gal. 2:1-10 is that of Acts 12, then one must judge that the conversion happened between the latter part of 29 through 31 (44 less thirteen yielding 31, and 40 less seventeen yielding 23, but again, moved up to 29). Now, although it is possible that Paul converted later in the same year as Jesus died, that seems a bit tight chronologically. The Christian movement proper doesn't get started, according to Acts, until May or June of that year, at Pentecost, leaving very little time for the events and developments that we can infer from Acts 3-8 if the conversion occurred in the same year. Thus, I'm disinclined to opt for a crucifixion in 31. As such, I'm inclined towards either 29 or 30 as the probable years of the crucifixion.

Here is where I would tentatively turn to the astronomical data. Helen Bond has recently challenged whether or not Jesus actually died at Passover or on a Friday, and while she makes some interesting observations ultimately I think that Brant Pitre's treatment of the matter in Jesus and The Last Supper shows that this likely remains the case. And on the astronomical data, I think it more likely that ancient persons would have ended up celebrating Passover on a Friday in 30 than in 29. Thus, I opt for Passover in 30 as still the most probable date for the crucifixion, but with Passover of 29 rather than Passover of 33 as a close second.

And that, my friends, is how historians do.

Nota bene: Douglas Campbell has argued that on the basis of 2 Cor. 11:32, correlated with data from Josephus, the conversion should be dated with certainty to 33 or 34. It is a well-argued position, but ultimately I do not think that the data permits the confidence which Campbell has in his chronology. I have a article on the matter, which is forthcoming in Journal of Biblical Literature, so I won't steal my own thunder here. Alexis Bunine published a solid rejoinder in Revue Biblique, which has not had the exposure that it deserves, probably because it was written in French.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

It's Inference, People

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine who was staying in Toronto for a bit came to visit me at the Lonergan Research Institute. Around 11 am, he texted me to say that he was at Bay and Bloor. I immediately apprehended three things. One, he had taken the subway to get to the LRI. Two, he had taken the Bloor-Danforth line. Three, he had just exited the Bay St. subway station, which is located at Bay and Bloor. How did I know all this? Well, because I know the city, and I knew that he knows the city. I know that Bay and Bloor is the closest station on the Bloor-Danforth line to the LRI. I know that the only reason one would specifically text from that location to say one is in the area is if one was just getting out of the station. I further know that he had exited the station because I know that wi-fi is virtually nonexistent in Toronto subway stations. This is all data, and when presented with the new datum that was this text message, led me to correctly apprehend my friend's past actions, even though I neither witnessed them nor was told what they were.

And that is history. That's how we make judgments. We take our relevant knowledge about the world, and use that to infer what happened in the past. The study of the ancient past does not differ from this methodologically. It tends to be more difficult, not for methodological reasons but rather empirical. Quite simply, our data on the past is spottier than that on the present. That increases the work that must be undertaken to arrive at historical judgments, and requires us to recognize more fully that historical judgments are always implicitly if not explicitly probabilistic. Some can be described as certain, or if we're exercising an abundance of caution virtually certain. For instance, using a modern example, we can be virtually certain that on 31 August, 1939, Hitler ordered German forces to invade Poland on the following day, and that this resulted not only in Polish defeat but also in the start of the Second World War in the European theatre. In the ancient world, we can be virtually certain that the Battle of Issus occurred on 5 November, 333 B.C.E., resulted in Macedonian victory, and was a crucial moment in the conquest of the Achaemenid empire. Other matters will allow comparable certainty, but less specificity. We can be virtually certain that Jesus died on a cross at Passover, sometime between 27 and 35 (after the earliest that we can date the fifteenth year of Tiberius, but before Pilate left Judea); that Paul was converted no earlier than the summer of 27 (as his conversion postdated Jesus' death) and no later than 35 (thirteen years before the Jerusalem conference), and that he died sometime between early 62 and mid-68 (after the end of his two years at Rome, but before Nero's death as we know that he died under said emperor). We can marshal evidence to present arguments for particular dates within those specified possibilities, but barring new evidence no one argument is likely to exceed the level of possibility (although that said, in each case we can suggest that both the very early and the very late dates are far less likely than those in the middle). But the crucial point is that while our capacity to speak with certainty to the specific details of the lives of a Jesus or Paul might be less than our capacity to speak to the life of a Hitler or an Alexander, that is not due to methodological but rather empirical limitations. The fundamental procedure of historical judgment remains the same, whether inferring from someone's message that they took the subway to meet up with you, or inferring from data scattered across a number of relevant ancient texts that certain events had to have happened within a specified range. It's inference, people.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

RIP Sean McEvenue

Hello, all. The Lonergan Research Institute today received the sad news that Prof. Sean McEvenue, emeritus at Concordia University (Montreal), has passed away. Prof. McEvenue worked in the area of Lonergan and scripture, and his contributions in regard specifically to Old Testament studies have helped to fill a significant lacuna. A few of his more significant works include

Sean McEvenue and Ben F. Meyer, eds. Lonergan's Hermeneutics: Its Development and Application. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1989.

Sean McEvenue. Interpreting the Pentateuch. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1990.

Sean McEvenue. Interpretation and Bible: Essays on Truth in Literature. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1994.

Rest in peace, Prof. McEvenue.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Why Hypocrisy Matters

It's become a veritable international past time to point out the manifest contradictions in the political positions adopted by other groups. One of my favourites consists of people who loudly proclaim that since the unborn are human beings we must take steps to ensure that they are born, yet actively place barriers in the way of women seeking adequate prenatal care. There can be no cogent defense of such a position. Denial of such prenatal care increases the probability of fetal death, precisely what the opposition to abortion claims to find so repugnant. A coherent pro-life position must also seek and support policies that will increase access to adequate prenatal care, although exactly what those policies might be will no doubt be a matter of legitimate debate. When a self-proclaimed pro-life position lacks such coherence, we can rightly describe it as hypocrisy. But I think it is something deeper. It is a contradiction, and it communicates some very important data.

Here we can learn much from the Marxist and Freudian traditions. Both put contradiction--whether economic or social or cultural or personal--at the centre of analysis. What we learn from these traditions is that it is insufficient albeit potentially accurate to pass a moral judgment on the contradiction before us, which of course is precisely what we do whenever we diagnose it as hypocrisy. Rather, we must ask why this contradiction exists. Marxist thought will tend to see contradiction as generated by and evidence of class conflicts, while Freudian thought will tend to see contradiction as generated by and evidence of repressed desires. A Marxist account might observe that both the prohibition of abortion and the barriers to adequate prenatal care will tend to be implemented by upper-class persons and disproportionately affect lower-class persons, and thus conclude that both are elements in a more generalized class struggle. A Freudian account might observe that both the prohibition and the barriers are typically implemented by male persons while female persons are the most immediately affected, and thus conclude that both represent male fantasies about dominating and controlling women. Both will likely conclude that the arguments from morality ("protect the unborn," "universal healthcare obviates our freedom to choose") seek to obfuscate the actual motivations from self or others: a Marxist might suggest that these arguments are ideological attempts to disguise class struggle, while the Freudian might suggest that these are psychological defense mechanisms intended to avoid acknowledging the pathological drive for control. Both accounts argue that in fact the apparent contradiction has what we might call a higher-level unity, whether rooted in class conflict or in psychological repression.

It must be emphasized that in this sort of analysis what matters is not whether either of the two positions that stand in contradiction are well and good. Rather, what matters is that they cannot both be coherently affirmed by the same person at the same time. By contrast, one can coherently hold that we must protect the unborn, and from this position argue both for a prohibition against abortion and efforts to increase access to adequate prenatal care. Alternatively, one can coherently hold that both abortion and access to adequate prenatal care are necessary components of women's rights. Neither position is immune to moral critique, but the critique operates on a different level than is involved with the analysis of contradiction. Precisely the absence of contradiction allows us to more fully accept that the reason the person gives for her or his position is in fact the primary reason. This is where the Lonerganian tradition will tend to differ from the Marxist or the Freudian: whereas the latter tend to suppose that everything (except strangely not frequently their own operations: itself a not uninteresting tendency for contradiction) is suspect, the Lonerganian tradition recognizes that there must be cogent empirical reasons to suspect ill-will.

(Nota bene: I recently stumbled upon a fascinating excursus in Ben Meyer's unpublished material that aims to take fuller account of the insights provided by the Marxist and the Freudian traditions and their mastery of suspicion).