Failures at Transcendence

The most common way of falling short of transcendence is ignoring it altogether. People can talk about knowledge, epistemology, the mind, consciousness, etc. for years without ever noticing the transcendental character of the objects known to mind.

The second most common falling short of transcendence is to deny one of the terms of transcendence. It is difficult to see how a sort of thing and a particular can be in a real sense one. It is far easier to simply deny that one of terms exists. Nominalism denies the term “sort of thing” which it calls, usually, “an abstract idea”. That nominalism is false is plain even from speech- a rose is a sort of thing, and one sort of thing is a rose. Transcendence is also denied by extreme realism, which denies that the particular exists and gives all existence to the “sort of thing”. This is the position usually attributed to Plato.

The third falling short of transcendence is to make the “what it is” exist “within” the particular, as though the particular thing was made out of a “what it is” and a particular mixed together. This seems to be the way most people understand Aristotle’s doctrine: the universal is “taken out of” or “abstracted” from the particular in the same way that a man might be pulled out of a well, or salt evaporated out of salt water.

All of these ways fall short of transcendence by trying to understand it in a way that is too materialistic. When confronted with the paradox of transcendence, it is easy to deny one of the terms, or to try to mix together the terms as though they were paint colors or cooking ingredients. Transcendence confronts us with the radical new way that mind can “read the interiors” of things. The “what it is” and the particular thing are not like two blocks, or two ingredients that are mixed with each other.

This transcendence, though it is known through sense, and it is about sensible things, is in an essentially different order of knowledge from sensation. Since we know insofar as we can relate to sense, much of what we say about transcendence is negative. We can, however, critique materialistic or naively spiritualistic accounts of transcendence- accounts that try to deny the verity of our internal word.

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