I want to say something like, "The argumentative scene in politics has transcended the once epistemological purpose of rhetoric and debate, in favor of treating rhetoric as a tool, debate as a means to an end other than truth and with a focus on winning the discussion, instead of learning from it."

Anyways, this transcendence is meant negatively, but I've pretty much only heard transcend in positive and/or awe-inspiring settings. Sure, there's the transcend sanity, but then the negative context is pretty obvious, given the negative connotations with insanity. However, that sentence there does leave it a bit ambiguous whether I think this transcendence is bad or not. Perhaps someone could get a Machiavellian feel of me and think I actually like this way of discussion. So, therefore, is there a synonym of transcend that has more negative connotations?

  • Appears to me "sidelined" could replace "trespassed" in that write-up. By the way, don't you think you are basically looking for an antonym of "transcend"?
    – user392935
    Aug 28, 2020 at 7:08
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    @Stockfish Well, the way I see it, transcend describes the action of changing or building upon the essence of something, whilst that something superficially has changed quite a little. If one analyses that something, one sees that it's essence has been changed, usually but not necessarily an upgrade; even more substantive and deep. As such, I'd see the antonym of transcend as a word describing a superficial change, yet a completely generic iteration of the essence. This might just be my subjective understanding of the word.
    – A. Kvåle
    Aug 28, 2020 at 8:02
  • @Stockfish I meant "...superficially changed quite little" (not "quite a little")
    – A. Kvåle
    Aug 28, 2020 at 8:19

3 Answers 3


Would “... in politics has descended from the once ...” suit your purpose?

  • 1
    Isn't this word already there in the definition of my suggestion ? :)
    – user392935
    Aug 28, 2020 at 7:28
  • 2
    Good heavens, so it is! I have withdrawn my answer.
    – Anton
    Aug 28, 2020 at 7:31
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    And changed it to what I wanted - descended. Sorry about that.
    – Anton
    Aug 28, 2020 at 7:52
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    @Stockfish, "Isn't this word already there in the definition of my suggestion?" --- Yes but that doesn't make this answer a duplicate of yours and is allowed to do. Aug 28, 2020 at 8:56
  • Ok, Sir @Decapitated Soul :)
    – user392935
    Aug 28, 2020 at 9:02

One synonym of transcend that is almost always used in a negative sense is overshoot:

1 : to pass swiftly beyond
2 : to shoot or pass over or beyond so as to miss

In other words, while transcend goes beyond something in a good way, overshoot goes too far beyond something.

Used in the example sentence:

The argumentative scene in politics has overshot the once epistemological purpose of rhetoric and debate, in favor of treating rhetoric as a tool, debate as a means to an end other than truth and with a focus on winning the discussion, instead of learning from it.

Note that Merriam-Webster specifically lists overshoot as a synonym of transcend in the same sense as used in the question (I have emphasized the word):

2 to go beyond the limit of
   // a person who believes that any true understanding of God transcends human intelligence

Synonyms for transcend
break, exceed, outreach, outrun, overpass, overreach, overrun, overshoot, overstep, surpass

Of all those synonyms, overshoot is the only one that has both a negative connotation and sounds natural in the context of the example sentence.

  • My connotative understanding of overshoot implies intention for truth and then failure, instead of what I'm trying to say, intention to win the discussion. As such, it's not like they aimed at truth and missed, as I think overshoot implies, rather they didn't aim at truth to begin with.
    – A. Kvåle
    Aug 28, 2020 at 8:23
  • @A.Kvåle I have expanded my answer to include the full definition of overshoot as well as support for it being used as a synonym for transcend in exactly the sense that you are looking for. Aug 28, 2020 at 8:32
  • Well, it might definition-wise work, but connotatively it might make it seem like I think politicians have failed in the art of debate, when in reality, I'm trying to communicate that this wrongful version of debate is completely deliberate. I feel like the word overshoot misses this message (pun definitely intended).
    – A. Kvåle
    Aug 28, 2020 at 8:38
  • @A.Kvåle It's the only thing that satisfies the question, as far as I can tell, as a synonym with a negative meaning which can be used naturally in the sentence. If it doesn't work, then either the question is phrased in the wrong way ("debate being meticulously, ingeniously deliberate" says something different than what's in the question), or there simply is no word that fits. Aug 28, 2020 at 8:42
  • Do you think transcend could be used? I mean, the negativity is pretty strongly implied later in the text, I'd say.
    – A. Kvåle
    Aug 28, 2020 at 8:47

The most appropriate word I can come up with is "devolve"

Devolve: to degenerate or deteriorate gradually: After several hours the discussion had devolved into a shouting match.

[American Heritage Dictionary]

  • 1
    I would have said 'devolve' is an antonym of 'transcend' myself. It is a downwards aspect.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 28, 2020 at 10:24

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