Philip McShane (1932-2020)

Philip McShane, one of the leading interpreters of Bernard Lonergan’s writings, died last week. He devoted his life to teaching, exploring and extending the insights of Bernard Lonergan. “It is worth a life.”

Phil was an authority not only on Lonergan’s Insight: A Study of Human Understanding but also on his economic, philosophic and theological writings. He vigorously promoted Lonergan’s method of functional collaboration as the key to sustained global progress, as relevant to all areas of human endeavour, indeed to the future of humanity. He also vigorously promoted Lonergan’s economics – edited Lonergan’s early writings on economics (For a New Political Economy, Volume 21 of the Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan) and, authored a primer (Economics for Everyone: Das Jus Kapital) and other books on this economics.

Among his students, he was loved and respected for his joie de vivre, his friendship, humour and creativity and, for inviting them into unexplored depths of human living. While his writings, full of references and allusions to literature and historical figures, were difficult reading, they invited readers to take the next steps in their development and think through issues themselves. Phil was forever seeking new understandings of Bernard Lonergan’s writings and ways of communicating this among many different groups of people. Among his peers, he was a respected and challenging figure as he was always pushing forward in this thinking and writing… and nonplussed as to why others weren’t.

In 2007, at the invitation of Conn O’Donovan, Phil came to Australia. As scholar-in-residence at Saint Ignatius’ College Riverview for 5 weeks, he gave a series of classes and seminars on Ignatian pedagogy and spirituality and, on Lonergan’s breakthrough to a science of economics. He generously accepted an invitation to present the keynote address, Insight into the Future, to the Australian Lonergan Workshop. He also presented a seminar on “Reforming education: applying Bernard Lonergan’s theory of education”.

Phil returned again later in 2007 for the 50 Years of Insight: Lonergan’s Contribution to Philosophy and Theology Conference which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the publication of Bernard Lonergan’s Insight: A Study of Human Understanding. At this conference he presented “Insight within a Global Culture” as well as a long list of Lonergan’s achievements.

Truly, he will be missed by his many friends and those searching to understand their world.

Philip McShane’s writings and a longer biography are available on his website, along with tributes and the video below.

Philip McShane with Bernard Lonergan in 1971
Philip McShane with Sally McShane and Conn O'Donovan in Melbourne 2007