- Emerson's Philosophical Hour of Friendship: A Reply to Robinson
- Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society: A Quarterly Journal in American Philosophy
- Indiana University Press
- Volume 53, Number 2, Spring 2017
- pp. 291-311
- View Citation
- Additional Information
This paper responds to David Robinson's reading of Emerson's "Friendship." On Robinson's reading, that essay initially offers a pessimistic picture of friendship grounded in determinism, then reverses itself and in doing so, repudiates philosophy altogether. My aim here is to establish that Emerson's arguments in that essay are not only consistent but tenable and do not call for recantation. I will argue that Robinsons misreads several key passages and applies flawed logic to what he finds in them. I argue that the Aristotelian strains in Emerson's view of friendship do not lead to the pessimism about human relations Robinson describes, nor does Emerson subordinate friendship to a determinism that would deprive friends of agency. I agree that the passage Robinson takes to repudiate philosophy is self-critical but show that this self-criticism is far more circumscribed than he believes; its import is to establish that friendship does not lie outside the process of becoming. Further, since it is possible (and common) to reject determinism without rejecting philosophy, there seems to be no basis, even on Robinson's reading of the essay, for attributing any misology to it. Taking note of several key Emersonian positions, such as the continuity between man and divinity and the distinctive epistemological role he assigns to moods, serves as a corrective to the reading and criticisms Robinson propounds.