The “Lords of Life”: Fractals, Recursivity, and “Experience”

Philosophy and Rhetoric 45 (1):65-88 (2012)
First published in Essays: Second Series in 1844, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Experience” has long been considered an enigmatic touchstone of the Emersonian corpus. This essay seems to point to many difficult—and key—questions as to the aims and implications of Emerson’s literary style, intellectual methods, and philosophical inquiries. Conventionally viewed as evidence of a hinge in Emerson’s intellectual development from youthful innocence to middle-aged experience, this essay has often been understood as an arena for the contestation of Emersonian ideas about self-reliance, philosophical idealism, and self-knowledge; as with ancient gladiatorial spectacles, not all of these ideas may walk out of the arena alive.1 ..
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