Emerson's Speculative Pragmatism

Askin, Ridvan. (2019) Emerson's Speculative Pragmatism. In: New Directions in Philosophy and Literature. Ediburgh, pp. 234-252.

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In their introduction to Aesthetics in the 21 st Century, a special issue of Speculations, Askin, Hägler, and Schweighauser argued that the recent speculative turn in continental philosophy is but 'German Idealism redux' (38). Graham Harman rejected this idea in a recent interview, at least with respect to his own project, and suggested that the speculative turn owed much to Romanticism instead. If one follows Frederick Beiser's account of Romanticism as a particular variant of German Idealism, however, one can easily reconcile these different views: in this vein, the recent speculative turn could indeed be seen as a revamping and recasting of German Idealist concerns, divided, roughly, into a Kantian-scientist wing (Brassier), a Hegelian-absolutist wing (Meillassoux), and a romantic wing (Harman, Grant, Morton, Shaviro). Similar to Evan Gottlieb in this volume, I wish to explore some of the romantic roots pertinent to the contemporary debate, complementing Gottlieb's focus on British Romanticism with a discussion of its American counterpart, notably Emersonian transcendentalism. Given that some proponents of new materialism, I am particularly thinking of Jane Bennett and her vital materialism here, likewise hark back to the romantics, such an endeavour promises to be particularly timely and fruitful. Apart from providing new insights into both Emerson's thought and Emerson scholarship, the present essay should thus also put into relief one of the most crucial sources of much recent speculative philosophy. With its poetic and highly paratactic style and its reliance on the essay form Emerson's program, I believe, is best captured with the expression 'speculative pragmatism'. I will attempt to give this expression some consistency. The trajectory I have chosen for this task is as follows: I will begin with considerations concerning the fundamental relation between metaphysics and aesthetics for Emerson, then move on to the more specific relation between aesthetics and the work of art with literature as its prime example, and end with some thoughts on the relation between art and ethics. What emerges at the end of this trajectory is an understanding of art as the primary means of metaphysical inquiry apt to disclose the fundamental nature of Being. In Emerson's romantic-idealist framework, such ontological disclosure at the same time amounts to the unearthing of the ethical injunction to attune oneself to the Idea. Emerson's speculative pragmatism accordingly preaches 'the practice of ideas, or the introduction of ideas into life'. The primary site of such practice, that is, the paradigmatic speculative pragmatist enterprise is precisely art; hence the form that Emerson's writings take.
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaften > Fachbereich Englische Sprach- und Literaturwissenschaft > Amerikanistik (Schweighauser)
UniBasel Contributors:Askin, Ridvan
Item Type:Book Section, refereed
Book Section Subtype:Further Contribution in a Book
Publisher:Edinburgh University Press
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Book item
Last Modified:17 Mar 2020 09:02
Deposited On:17 Mar 2020 09:02

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