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In philosophy, transcendental/transcendence, has three different but related primary meanings, all of them derived from the word's literal meaning (from Latin), of climbing or going beyond: one that originated in Ancient philosophy, one in Medieval philosophy and one in modern philosophy.


Original DefinitionEdit

The first meaning, as part of the concept pair transcendence/immanence, is used primarily with reference to God's relation to the world and is particularly important in theology. Here transcendent means that God is completely outside of and beyond the world, as contrasted with the notion that God is manifested in the world. This meaning originates both in the Aristotelian view of God as the prime mover, a non-material self-consciousness that is outside of the world, and in the Jewish and Christian idea of God as a being outside of the world who created the world out of nothingness (creatio ex nihilo). In contrast, philosophies of immanence such as stoicism, Spinoza, Deleuze or pantheism maintains that God is manifested in and fully present in the world and the things in the world.

Medieval UsageEdit

In the second meaning, which originated in Medieval philosophy, concepts are transcendental if they are broader than what falls within the Aristotelian categories that were used to organize reality conceptually. Primary examples of the transcendental are the existent (ens) and the characteristics, designated transcendentals, of unity, truth, and goodness.

"Transcendence" in Modern PhilosophyEdit

Further information: Transcendental idealism

In modern philosophy, Kant gave transcendental a new, third meaning in his theory of knowledge, concerned with the conditions of possibility of knowledge itself. For him it meant knowledge about our cognitive faculty with regard to how objects are possible a priori. Something is transcendental if it plays a role in the way in which the mind "constitutes" objects and makes it possible for us to experience them as objects in the first place. Ordinary knowledge is knowledge of objects; transcendental knowledge is knowledge of how it is possible for us to experience those objects as objects. This is based on Kant's acceptance of David Hume's argument that certain general features of objects (e.g. persistence, causal relationships) cannot derive from the sense impressions we have of them. Kant argues that the mind must contribute those features and make it possible for us to experience objects as objects. In the central part of his Critique of Pure Reason, the "Transcendental Deduction of the Categories", Kant argues for a deep interconnection between the ability to have self-consciousness and the ability to experience a world of objects. Through a process of synthesis, the mind generates both the structure of objects and its own unity. For Kant, the "transcendent", as opposed to the "transcendental", is that which lies beyond what our faculty of knowledge can legitimately know. Hegel's counter-argument to Kant was that to know a boundary is also to be aware of what it bounds and as such what lies beyond it -- in other words, to have already transcended it.

In phenomenology, the "transcendent" is that which transcends our own consciousness - that which is objective rather than only a phenomenon of consciousness.

Colloquial UsageEdit

In everyday language, "transcendence" means "going beyond", and "self-transcendence" means going beyond a prior form or state of oneself. Mystical experience is thought of as a particularly advanced state of self-transcendence, in which the sense of a separate self is abandoned.

In religion, transcendence is the concept that God can be either close to you or very separate from you, because he is perfect and beyond all things human:

Jews see this as the idea that God is very great and omnipotent, like a Judge, father, warrior, or teacher. Jews say God is all good, that He can be angry and jealous.

Muslims have the belief that God is a perfect entity, without sin or corruption.

Christians believe that because Jesus came in human form they have the idea of God as a man and as a divine spirit. They saw Jesus as divinity and as human, with pain, sadness, joy and uncertainty, but also power, piety and dominance. However, rather than believing that God can either be very close or very separate from you, the Bible teaches that upon accepting Jesus Christ as savior, God is always close to you.

Some forms of Hinduism believe that God is both transcendent and immanent, in other words panentheistic. He pervades the whole universe, yet is not only the material universe, but more than that. The Supreme Cosmic Spirit or Brahman, however, has more immanent characteristics than transcendent. In Vaishnavism and Shaivism, God is regarded as an anthropomorphic person, and hence is transcendent. See Ishvara.


See also Edit

de:Transzendenz

fr:Transcendance nl:Transcendent th:อุตรภาพ

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