What’s wrong with Emerson

Thomas Bertonneau writes:

Browsing James Kalb’s website Turnabout, I came across this description of Ralph Waldo Emerson in the essay that Kalb devotes to him:

Emerson tells us that truth is “such a flyaway, such a slyboots, so untransportable and unbarrelable a commodity, that it is as bad to catch as light.”[1] However things may be with truth, it is so with Emerson’s thought. What he says is often wise or inspiring, but he has no coherent theory, and his commitment to what he writes is uncertain. He tells us what currently appears true to him, in penetrating, compressed and sometimes shocking language, but his indifference to consistency makes his writings imply everything and nothing.

I was reminded in reading Kalb’s judgment of your characterization of Newt Gingrich. Kalb’s perceptive essay crystallizes my own reaction to Emerson going back to my undergraduate days in the early 1970s when I first read him. Kalb’s is well worth reading.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at December 28, 2011 10:10 AM | Send

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