July 21, 2003
Transcendent meaning has been increasingly called into question in
contemporary, postmodern society. Postmodern interpretations of the human
condition, both in popular and intellectual discourse, indicate a crisis of
confidence in the truth of transcendence.
But transcendent meaning is the key factor in the quest for
ultimate meaning, Glenn Hughes, Ph.D., professor of philosophy at St.
Mary’s University, says in his new book, “Transcendence and History: The
Search for Ultimacy from Ancient Societies to Postmodernity,”
published by the University of Missouri Press. Hughes seeks to increase the
understanding of transcendent meaning and its attendant problems and makes
a case for the philosophical recovery of the legitimacy of the idea of
For his analysis, Hughes examines the historical discovery of
and the impact of this discovery on human self-understanding, and then
focuses on what it says about the structure of history. He draws upon the
treatments of transcendence found in the writings of 20th century
philosophers Eric Voegelin and Bernard Lonergan. Hughes’s main focus,
however, is on clarifying the philosophical problem of transcendence
relative to historical existence. Hughes, who addresses both layreaders and
scholars, offers insights and analyses of Voegelin and Lonergan and how the
theme of divine transcendence finds expression.
The explicit recognition and symbolization of transcendent meaning
originally occurred in a few advanced civilizations during the first
millennium B.C.E., with the world’s major religious and wisdom traditions
based on this recognition.
In addition, Hughes is the author or editor of several books,
including “Mystery and Myth in the Philosophy of Eric Voeglin.”