Callaway’s intention, as he states in his Foreword, is to contextualize Emerson’s thought historically and so to help readers see that Emerson is not just an essayist and idealist poet but also an important philosopher whose later thought has been neglected. Emerson’s most familiar texts are probably some of his earliest, like Nature, “Self-Reliance,” the Divinity School Address, and other Transcendentalist texts Emerson wrote in the 1830s and 1840s. Arguably, the texts that Emerson produced in the subsequent three decades are both more mature and more philosophically important. As Callaway suggests in his Introduction, the later Emerson may have overcome his earlier Transcendentalism, at least if we understand his Transcendentalism as a reaction against materialism and its attendant political concerns. The essay in the Conduct of Life are, as the title suggests, concerned with the material conditions of our life and with the tug-of-war that goes on as we are pulled between them and the universal Ideal. This same tug-of-war of “double consciousness” is present in his earlier texts, certainly, but in this later text it receives a different treatment. These texts were written in the years leading up to the Civil War, and they are consciously marked with the stamp of the societal questions that were coming to a boil in American as Emerson wrote.
Keywords Ralph Waldo Emerson  American philosophy  ethics
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ISBN(s) 2155-2789
DOI 10.5840/saap20093710815
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