Personal encounter is critical precisely at this moment of raising and responding to relevant questions. As we seek to understand, we may not be aware of questions that are relevant to the issue, because such questions are beyond the scope of our horizon. But through encounter with persons of other horizons, we become aware of relevant questions of which we were previously unaware. If we are driven by the desire to know, we will address these newly discovered questions, which cannot have any other consequence than transforming our understanding, taking us beyond what was possible in the context of our horizon. Encounter thus enables us to discover relevant questions and to arrive at a more comprehensive understanding.
An Englishman in colonial Kenya, for example, may not think to ask the question, what is the role of English conquest and colonial domination in promoting poverty in Kenya? But a Kikuyu cannot possibly avoid considering the question, given that the English conquered the Kikuyu through force of arms and relocated them to “African reserves” in order to obtain land for coffee plantations. An Englishman who encounters, in Lonergan’s sense of the term, the Kikuyu social movement will become aware of this relevant question. If he is driven by the desire to know, rather than by a desire to protect English interests, his understanding will be transformed. To the extent that he is driven by the desire to know, our Englishman can move toward understanding and scientific knowledge, moving beyond the ideologies that promote particular interests, if he engages in personal encounter with the Kikuyu.
Lonergan invokes the image of horizon to refer to the culturally bounded assumptions that shape human understandings, and he maintains that the limitations imposed on human understanding by horizon can be overcome through personal encounter with persons of different horizons (see “What is personal encounter?” 7/25/2013). I have coined the term “cross-horizon encounter” to refer to this process.
Cross-horizon encounter is integral to attaining an objective understanding, that is, a universal understanding that transcends cultural differences, and as such, can be affirmed as true by persons of different cultures. Cross-horizon encounter enables us discover relevant questions, pushing us beyond an understanding rooted in our particular social positions. Cross-horizon encounter enables us to develop understandings that take into account the experiences and understandings of persons of different social positions and horizons. Anyone who desires to understand must be driven by the desire to know and must seek cross-horizon encounter.
In future posts, we will continue to explore the implications of “cross-horizon encounter” for understanding the global crisis that humanity confronts and for understanding what collective action is required in order the safeguard the future of humanity.
Greetings from Havana, Cuba
July 26, 2013
Sixtieth anniversary of the attack on the Moncada Barracks, an event that announced the armed struggle against the Batista dictatorship.
Key words: Third World, revolution, colonialism, neocolonialism, imperialism, democracy, national liberation, sovereignty, self-determination, socialism, Marxism, Leninism, Cuba, Latin America, Lonergan, cognitional theory, epistemology, philosophy