Sunday, October 17, 2004

On Emerson the Philosopher


I am excited to have found that Prof. Brian Leiter of University of Texas at Austin Law School, a philosopher who speaks his mind liberally, deemed my link to an Emerson's essay merit a place in his article update.

In my opinion, writers like Emerson (Thoreau and Voltaire immediately come to mind) are not less of a philosopher than James or Kant or Locke is. In fact, they are "truer" philosophers under the literal definition of a philosopher, that is, a lover of wisdom.

The philosopher, writes the sagacious Will Durant, "is not content to describe the fact; he wishes to ascertain its relation to experience in general, and thereby to get at its meaning and its worth; he combines things in interpretive synthesis; he tries to put together, better than before, that great universe-watch which the inquisitive scientist has analytically taken apart. Science tells us how to heal and how to kill; it reduces the death rate in retail and then kills us wholeshale in war; but only wisdom - desire coordinated in the light of all experience - can tell us when to heal and when to kill." (The Story of Philosophy 2nd ed., xxvii)

You recognize a philosopher when, after reading his work, life becomes suddenly more bearable. Few have taught us more on how to master life than Emerson has. Fxs


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