“Transcendence for Realists”

In Being and Nothingness, Sartre uses transcendence to describe the relation of the self to the object oriented world, as well as our concrete relations with others.

My friend Lawrence Rifkin published another great piece the other day in the Huffington Post “Transcendence for Realists.” His basic point is that transcendent experiences—by which he means experiences beyond the ordinary—don’t need to be interpreted as supernatural. He concludes:

Those having such experiences need not discount reason, and need not interpret a profound experience or emotion as being part of a supernatural explanation. Numinous is not synonymous with miraculous. Transcendence properly understood—a naturalistic transcendence—embraces the non-rational, not the irrational. Non-rational transcendent emotions are harmonious with reason, evidence, and naturalism. They can be cherished as supreme human experiences.

 As usual, I agree with my friend. One need not, and should not, posit supernatural explanations for anything, as the supernatural is just the imaginary and irrational. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t non-rational experiences. Being moved by Beethoven is neither irrational or supernatural, but listening might evoke an experience of non-rational transcendence.
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