Experiences of ineffable significance

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An 'experience of ineffable significance' is sudden feeling of knowing something very significant but which cannot be described in words, sometimes accompanied by chills or tears. Amongst its types are the sublime and (secular) 'epiphanies'. Drawing on work by Huron and by Meyer, I propose that it is a type of surprise, arising from perceptions whose match to our schematic knowledge falls outside the normal range of discrepancy, either by radical discrepancy or by uncanny identity. Assuming a theoretical context of Relevance Theory, and drawing on work by Sperber and by Raffman, I explore some reasons how we are able to suddenly judge that the perception produces deeply significant knowledge, and why that knowledge cannot be expressed in words.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBeyond Meaning
EditorsElly Ifantidou, Louis de Saussure, Tim Wharton
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
Number of pages37
ISBN (Electronic)9789027259592
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • relevance theory
  • ineffability
  • prediction error
  • surprise
  • chills
  • sublime
  • epiphany
  • literature
  • music
  • metarepresentation
  • inferential pragmatics
  • ostension
  • non-intentional communication


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