In The Faith of Emerson: American Transcendentalism, Kantian Epistemology, and Vedantic Thought, Daniel A. Campana makes the case for seeing Emerson as a prophet for a new concept of religious faith that transcends the boundaries of particular religious traditions. By tracing Emerson’s intellectual development from his early years to his last works, Campana demonstrates the progression in Emerson’s thought from a dogmatic to a dynamic sense of living faith. He presents Emerson’s synthesis of Kantian and Vedantic philosophies as the key to understanding his life and works from a new perspective, forging a novel connection between Emerson’s transcendental idealism and developments in contemporary analytic philosophy of religion. In both cases, post-Kantian epistemology provides the impetus for a notion of faith as an active, interpretive process that is not bound to religious truth claims. Vedantic monism supplies an image for how one might understand this interpretive process in its larger, metaphysical context. This book provides us a vision of life as participation in a narrative greater than ourselves, a narrative that may be spoken of in the language of various religious traditions but is not constrained to any one.
Daniel A. Campana is professor of philosophy and religion at the University of La Verne.
Part 1: Emerson’s Early Phase: Keeping the Faith—1803-1821
Chapter 1: The Intellectual Context: In America
Chapter 2: The Intellectual Context: Family and School
Part 2: Emerson’s Revolutionary Phase: Rejecting the Faith—1821-1832
Chapter 3: Building Materials for an Alternative Faith
Chapter 4: The Breaking Point
Part 3: Emerson’s Mature Phase: Faith Recovered—1832-1882
Chapter 5: Did Emerson Lose His Faith?
Chapter 6: Faith as Interpretive Act
Chapter 7: Seeing Emerson’s Faith in His Works: Nature and Early Addresses
Chapter 8: Seeing Emerson’s Faith in His Works: Oversoul and Self-Reliance
Chapter 9: Seeing Emerson’s Faith in His Life: Brook Farm and Emerson’s Alternative Vision
Chapter 10: Seeing Emerson’s Faith in His Life: The Slavery Issue
Chapter 11: Seeing Emerson’s Faith in His Life: The Problem of California
Epilogue: Emerson for Today
By re-reading Emerson’s biography and writings through the lens of Kantian and, especially, Vedantic philosophies, Daniel A. Campana offers another useful contribution to a postsecular turn in Emerson studies that helps to mediate between earlier postmetaphysical (Cavell) and more recent metaphysical (Urbas) readings. Again, Emerson becomes not only a window to the past but also a mirror to our present
This book makes a compelling, insightful argument for understanding Emerson’s thought as an original and prescient blend of Kant’s Transcendental Idealism and Vedantic monism with Emerson’s own naturalist disposition into a ‘transcendental living faith,’ one we are just ‘growing into’ today … It is a well-informed and thoughtful study that will inspire further thought and reading.