Redirecting Philosophy: Reflections on the Nature of Knowledge from Plato to Lonergan


327 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-8140-1
DDC 121




Reviewed by Jay Newman

Jay Newman is a professor of philosophy at the University of Guelph. He
is the author of Competition in Religious Life, Religion vs. Television:
Competitors in Cultural Context, and Inauthentic Culture and Its
Philosophical Critics.


The author, a professor of religious studies at the University of
Calgary, has long been one of the liveliest philosophical writers in
Canada. Though his interests are wide-ranging, he is perhaps best known
as the most philosophically sophisticated expositor and defender of the
epistemological project of the Canadian Jesuit theologian Bernard
Lonergan. This volume is not directly about Lonergan, but it presents a
series of theoretical and critical studies in which Meynell attempts to
demonstrate the value of a “generalized empirical method” that he
sees as most comprehensively developed and applied in Lonergan’s
writings. Most of these studies appeared earlier as articles in
scholarly journals. Meynell stresses throughout the book his conviction
that “the world or reality is nothing other than what conscious
subjects or persons tend to come to know by the asking and answering of
questions about their experience.” After introductory discussions of
skepticism, truth, data, and reality, Meynell turns to his main
enterprise, that of indicating fundamental weaknesses or limitations of
the most influential contemporary philosophical perspectives and
methods, including those of Wittgenstein, Popper, Rorty, Heidegger,
Derrida, Foucault, and Habermas. The book concludes with some
idiosyncratic but illuminating readings of Plato, Aristotle, and
Descartes in which Meynell relates their historic epistemological
insights to Lonergan’s project.

Meynell is a very engaging philosophical writer: clear, enthusiastic,
focused, unpretentious, and amusing. He does an effective job here of
situating Lonergan’s position in relation to the philosophical
positions currently most fashionable. Inevitably, the quality of the
criticism offered in so comprehensive a survey will be uneven; but even
at their most one-dimensional, Meynell’s criticisms are worth a look.
Still, this volume is not recommended for anyone who is not already
familiar with the views that Meynell criticizes. And while Meynell
rightly emphasizes that a sound account of human knowing must show
proper recognition of both the role of the human subject (and human
values) and the rational methods of the sciences, he is in this regard
confirming the judgment of countless philosophers, many distinguished,
most obscure, who have attained this insight without having to embrace


Meynell, Hugo A., “Redirecting Philosophy: Reflections on the Nature of Knowledge from Plato to Lonergan,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 24, 2024,