Emerson's Metaphysics: A Song of Laws and Causes by Joseph Urbas

The Pluralist 12 (2):120-124 (2017)

Frederic Tremblay
State University of New York, Buffalo (PhD)
This text is a review of Joseph Urbas's Emerson's Metaphysics: A Song of Laws and Causes (Lexington Books, 2016). In this book, Urbas proposes a reconstruction of the metaphysics of the American poet, essayist, and self-defined philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. According to Urbas, Emerson has a coherent metaphysics, the fundamental principle of which is the category of causation. Reacting to David Hume, Emerson would have deliberately emphasized causation, connection, relation, tie, link, and so on. Emerson is thus characterized as a "causationist" and his philosophy is considered a "causationism." Urbas also argues — against other prevalent interpretations — that Emerson's philosophy is part of the New England "ontological turn" and that it is best understood as a "metaphysical realism" of both particulars and universals alike. I examine these lines of argumentation and propose a couple of critical remarks concerning Emerson's relations to Goethe and Francis Ellingwood Abbot.
Keywords Ralph Waldo Emerson  American Philosophy  American Pragmatism  Causation and Laws  Theories of Causation
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