He' sure got a lot of gall / to be so useless and all / muttering small talk at the wall . . . [Dylan]
Metaphysical Club (The Politics of Slavery)
Menand begins with the figure of Oliver Wendell Holmes, jr. A figure better known to the history of law than to the history of the Transcendentalists.
Emerson wrote to Holmes, "A scholar need not be cynical to think that the vast multitude are almost on all fours . . ."
Whenever I read about the Transcendentalists & post-trancendentalists, I reach for my volume of Wallace Stevens. I think Stevens is the last member of the generation of The Metaphysical Club. The underlying philosophical questions remain the same in Stevens.
The word pragmatism's earliest meaning according to the OED is akin to sophistry, or empty language. That meaning then fades out as the more modern meanings emerge.
Menand writes that pragmatism is an account of the way people think. I'm particularly interested in the ways language enters into this explanation.
Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.
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