Ralph Waldo Emerson is often considered essentially a poet, in verse and prose. But Susan Dunston takes him seriously as a philosopher whose environmental ethics influenced such diverse figures as Henry Thoreau, William James, D. T. Suzuki, Aldo Leopold, Loren Eiseley, Annie Dillard, Alan Watts, and E. O. Wilson, and whose ecological concerns are paralleled in contemporary eco-feminism, Indigenous culture, and other forms. Implicit in Emerson’s stirring charge to “Build . . . your own world,” Dunston shows, is not egoism but rather an ethic of accountability, “that we not harm.” Her widely informed, close analyses of Emerson’s writings open exciting new contexts for understanding his Transcendentalist manifesto Nature (1836) as well as several of his essential essays. At the same time, her book is a quietly impassioned call for an empathetic sense of “interconnected diversity” and genuine “nature literacy,” which are desperately needed for our planet’s ecological health.
Susan L. Dunston's Emerson and Environmental Ethics reacquaints readers with Emerson as a brilliant mind in his time and ours. Every chapter is full of surprising insights into his work and its relevance to the most compelling concerns of today.
In this lucid, accessible, and beautifully written account of Emerson's philosophy, Susan Dunston charts a compelling path from Emerson's unifying vision to much later environmental philosophies. Her magnificent close readings reveal a writer equally committed to a philosophical thinking that is "sensuous, experiential, and reformist" and a practice that is "attentive, relational, empathetic, and aesthetically sensitive." Readers of this book will discover a progressive, practical, and influential Emerson who remains the deeply reflective writer we have long known.