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Culture and transcendence – the concept of transcendence through the ages

From the book Volume 1

  • Eero Tarasti


The notion of transcendence is perhaps the most provocative new issue which existential semiotics tries to launch for theoretical reflection in contemporary semiotics and philosophy. The following paper lays out three species of transcendence in existential semiotics: empirical, existential and radical. Empirical means elements in our living world which are abstract, intelligible aspects as in the sense of the German understanding of sociology. The existential means that we leave our four-part ‘zemic’ universe by a reflection, either as negation or affirmation. That constitutes the supra-zemic level. The radical one is beyond all temporality, narrativity, etc. a purely conceptual state, of which we can speak only by metaphors. Either transcendence can be naturalized as an aspiration to something more complete than our deficient Dasein. Or it is seen as the ultimate principle which emanates its influence on earth as in theological doctrines. It depends on the epistemic choice which standpoint we adopt. Thus we have views on transcendence through the ages from Plato to Sufi thinkers, Ibn Arabi and Avicenna through Thomas Aquinas and Dante reaching Kant, Hegel and other philosophers.

Ultimately, the goal discussed in this paper is the elaboration of a transcultural theory of transcendence whereby we could construct a metalanguage to deal with different conceptions of transcendence. Such a theory would have far-reaching pragmatic consequences.

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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