Traces of Schelling's philosophy in R.W. Emerson

In Bruce Bégout’s article “Le transcendent et le transcendental: une lecture croiséee de Coleridge et d’Emerson” (translated to English by me) he sees a contradiction in Emerson’s conception of the ideal and common life, and seeks to ascertain what is transcendent and transcendental in them. He concludes that Emerson “recaptures the spirit of Kantian criticism which represents the true limitation of the transcendent and transcendental.” Yet, Bégout moves too quickly to this conclusion without consideration of Emerson’s method of analysis. That is, he uses the method of polarity, which is often contradictory and tension filled; it is a struggle to overcome differences. F.W.J. Schelling’s Absolute was conceived as the ground of the universe, which appears as both nature and spirit, and yet, in itself, it is neither nature nor spirit. The unity of nature and spirit transcends all oppositions and all distinctions and is the absolute indifference of subjectivity and objectivity that is operating in “The Transcendentalist.” In addition, when Bégout points to the “true limitation of the transcendent and transcendental” he does not consider Schelling’s idea of self-consciousness. It is not a mere “given entity.” It is not an unknown and inaccessible X, a mysterious transcendental “in-itself” as the formal ground of cognition, but a coming into presence of itself, a pure self-positing emergence through the dialectical process of self-positing and self-limitation. This paper should argue against Begout’s conclusion that Emerson turned back to a Kantian stance and should locate Emerson’s philosophical leanings toward Schelling.

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