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Dicke, Robert J. (ed.) / Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters
volume XLIV (1955)

Hedges, William L.
A short way around Emerson's nature,   pp. 21-27 ff. PDF (2.5 MB)


Page 23

1955] Hedges—Emerson's Nature 23 
rent tendency to think of it first and foremost as existence. And temporarily
Emerson is linked with the eighteenth century rather than struck off from
it. Nature is order and "appears to us one with art" ("Art,"
II, p. 358).
The law of nature and natural law are redundancies. If the nature of man
is his rationality, then the law of reason is inevitably natural. And the
capitalized faculty remains in Emerson's psychology Reason. The reasonable
is the natural, the natural is what is expected. 
 The landscape then, being only one aspect of nature, is perhaps not even
that which has lent its name to the whole. What is the whole? It must be
whatever is natural—whatever puts man's experience into shape,
gives
it meaning, explains it, justifies it, and thus makes it what it seems to
be—whatever is— life or experience as it is. This whole
nature
must be the whole: 
nature "suggests the absolute" (Nature, I, p. 61), and in suggesting
it,
for Emerson's purposes, becomes it. As Pope had previously suggested, "All
are but parts of one stupendous whole,/ Whose body Nature is, and God the
soul" (Essay on Man, i, 11. 267—8). Nature by starting as
the form
in which experience or its expression is cast, becomes that experience and/or
expression. Emerson tells us in the full circle of his Reasoning what would
be, if directly stated, the truism, his life is determined by his life. It
(and all other lives, which he knows through his own) he calls "nature."
 Would one say that whatever is roomy is a "room"? Perhaps not,
but one could,
though the metaphor becomes involved. The extended meaning of the noun is
dependent on the meaning of the adjective, which in turn largely depends
on a more specific designation of "room." But Emerson, equally
wrapped up
in his subject and more concerned with qualities than with things themselves,
appears to call whatever is natural "nature." 
 The meanings reverberate then, grow by bounds, and leap to "whatever
is,
is" natural, which is according to reason, and thus practically "right."
Looked at properly (that is, if you can get yourself to see him in this way)
Emerson is a parody of Pope, parody by virtual reduction to absurdity. 
 What is always seems appropriate and meaningful when juxtaposed to the immediate
past. Since it "follows," from what was, it makes sense, functions
regularly,
proceeds logically and irrevocably, is unified and rational. The natural
being the expected, once the present has arrived, no matter what surprises
it has naught us in, we soon get used to it, soon find an excuse for it.
Emerson might change only one word in Pope's dictum: from whatever "is,"
to what "happens," is right. For nature, or what 


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