Department of Philosophy, University of Arizona
—The transcendentalist philosophy of Ralph Waldo Emerson has almost no resonance at all in the contemporary Anglo-analytic philosophical mainstream. And it is not mysterious why he might be on the outs with philosophy as we tend to practice it today: his metaphysics is exuberantly pantheistic; his writing style much more of the pulpit than the seminar room; his methodology, a matter of often-inchoate insight sparked by aphorism, much more than a conceptual truth laid bare by discursive, logical argumentation. Nonetheless, I cannot shake the feeling that Emerson presents for us a valuable treasure of the American philosophical legacy — one which we are, to our own loss, failing to inherit and make our own. My project here is to attempt an initial reconnaissance of whether contemporary analytic philosophy, especially in its “naturalistic” vein, can find a new home in itself for this old tradition. The challenge, in a nutshell, is this: if we are not to become pantheists ourselves (and surely most of us will not), then what possible form could such an inheritance take?