Volume 8, 2016
The Problem of ‘Experiencing Transcendence’ in Symbols, Everyday Language and Other Persons
Alfred Schutz made a point which is crucial for understanding communication and social coordination. Through symbols, signs or indications we experience that which transcends our experience. However, Schutz never solved the conceptual problems his claim implied. A solution is proposed through constructive criticism of Schutz. Symbols, signs and indications are based on typical expectations. In contrast, ‘experiences of transcendence’ are analyzed as experiences which deviate from typical expectations due to a tendency inherent to experience, as opposed to deviations prompted by the frustration of types. Such experiences are shown to be constitutive of our use of symbols, our use of language, and our relation to individual others. Experiences of transcendence do not passively reflect the situation, but they are motivated in their selectivity by ‘anxiety.’ Anxiety is phenomenologically understood as the expectation of atypical experiences. While anxiety motivates deviations from types, it is itself motivated by previous frustrations of types. Through this dynamics of motivation, experiences of transcendence and typical experiences refer to each other. Even so, the two categories are logically distinct. The possibility of communication and social coordination can only be explained by assuming, in addition to shared types, anxiety as a shared readiness to transcend types.