Volume 82, Issue 2, Spring 2008
Immanence, Self-Experience, and Transcendence in Edmund Husserl, Edith Stein, and Karl Jaspers
Phenomenology, understood as a philosophy of immanence, has had an ambiguous, uneasy relationship with transcendence, with the wholly other, with the numinous. If phenomenology restricts its evidence to givenness and to what has phenomenality, what becomes of that which is withheld or cannot in principle come to givenness? In this paper I examine attempts to acknowledge the transcendent in the writings of two phenomenologists, Edmund Husserl and Edith Stein (who attempted to fuse phenomenology with Neo-Thomism), and also consider the influence of the existentialist Karl Jaspers, who made transcendence an explicit theme of his writing. I argue that Husserl does recognize the essential experience of transcendence within immanence; even the idea of a physical thing
has “dimensions of infinity” included within it. Similarly, he asserts profoundly that every “outside” is what it is only as understood from the inside. Jaspers too
makes the experience of transcendence central to human existence; it is the very measure of my own depth. For Edith Stein, everything temporal points toward
the timeless structural ground which makes it what it is. Transcendence is an intrinsic part of being itself. Furthermore, the very lack of self-sufficiency of my own self shows that the self requires a ground outside itself, in the transcendent. There is strong convergence between the three thinkers studied on the concept of transcendence, which is indeed a central, if largely unacknowledged, concept in phenomenology both in Husserl and his followers (Stein), but also, through
Jaspers, in Heidegger.