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Rob Crooks: Transcendentality
We use the word transcendentality in order to distinguish it from forms of new-age or religious transcendentalism. Transcendentality is not about the pure authentic self transcending mere appearances. Nor is transcendentality about the eternal soul transcending the finite body, or the transcendental subject, untouched by the empirical world. Rather, transcendentality is meant to describe the open-ended structure of being. Transcendentality is the play between being and nothingness.
The form of being is time. To be is thought of as being present in the now. However, time does not simply consist of an ever-present now; time consists of the present, the past and the future. The present is not a being itself, but is a coordinate at the nexus of the past and the future. But by definition, the past and the future are not present, and in this sense, they do not have being; they are nothing. To be, then, is to be at the horizon between having-been and not-yet-arrived.
As beings, we are projected towards nothingness. At any now-moment we find ourselves stretched out into the past and towards the future, oriented by the former towards the latter. Put to the extreme, this is being in it’s being-towards-death. The ultimate nothingness of our future is our death. However, short of this ultimate end is the nothingness of our future as our radical freedom. We are projected into the non-being of the future, into the nothingness of pure possibility.
Our imagination plays a formative role in this projection into the future. Since the imagination is the faculty of representing that which does not exist, it projects concrete possibilities into the open space of the future. Our imagination produces images, or fantasies of what the future may hold. And yet, our fantasies are somewhat determined by the non-being of a deep and dark past. And if we become so committed to the fantasies that we project, to the point of blocking ourselves against the radical freedom of this futural nothingness, we limit the possibilities of letting the world reveal itself to us.
Transcendentality is a positive affirmation of our being-towards-death. It gives us a responsibility to not only let ourselves become greater than we are, but also to let the world and the beings we encounter therein to be free to determine themselves. This relation to our radical freedom can be terrifying, but it can also be life-affirming.