Introduction to Philosophy The_Problem_of_Experiencing_Transcendenc.pdf - The problem of \u2018experiencing transcendence\u2019 in symbols everyday language

Introduction to Philosophy The_Problem_of_Experiencing_Transcendenc.pdf

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1 The problem of ‘experiencing transcendence’ in symbols, everyday language and other persons 1 Jan Straßheim [email protected] This manuscript forms the basis for the following paper: Straßheim, Jan 2016: “The problem of ‘experiencing transcendence’ in symbols, everyday language and other persons.” Schutzian Research 8: 75-101. Online access at: Abstract: 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. 1 Introduction and overview Philosopher and sociologist Alfred Schutz highlighted a problem which remains important for social theories and theories of communication today. But the problem has not yet been solved. The central claim of Schutz’s 1955 essay Symbol, Reality and Society , and a central claim in his book The Structures of the Life-World , completed by Thomas Luckmann after Schutz’s death, was that our symbols, our everyday language and even our gestures and bodily expressions are fundamentally related to what Schutz called “experiences of transcendence.” The realities beyond everyday life to which symbols point (for example, religious symbols), the other individual and their unique personal situation, the larger group to which we both belong – all of these transcend my immediate experience. Even so, I can come to grips with their “transcendence,” and signs, symbols and indications are crucial assets for doing so. Due to his early death, Schutz could not, however, clarify in what sense we experience that which transcends experience and what precise role signs, symbols and indications play in this experience.
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