Critics in both philosophy and literary studies have rightly emphasized a “poetics of transition” relating the thought of Ralph Waldo Emerson to that of William James. However, less attention has been given to the ways that Emerson’s philosophy of rhetoric correlates with James’s rhetorical perspectives on psychology and philosophy. Fundamentally rhetorical interests in the contiguous circumstances and contingent reception of thinking link James to Emerson beyond matters of poetics and style. This article correlates Emerson’s understanding of a rhetoric of metonymy as the basis of thinking with the principle of contiguity crucial to James’s philosophy of mind. This relation between rhetoric and philosophy reiterates a rhetoric of mind that both Emerson and James associate with the older liberal education of the college just at the point that this curriculum is displaced by the professional, specialized disciplines of the emerging university in late nineteenth-century America.