In Bits of Gossip (1904), Rebecca Harding Davis tells about a dinner she had with Emerson, Hawthorne, Alcott, and others. Of the dinner conversation, she writes, “You heard much sound philosophy and many sublime guesses at the eternal verities; in fact, never were the eternal verities so discussed and pawed over and turned inside out as they were about that time, in Boston, by Margaret Fuller and her successors” (36). Even with this in depth conversation of “sound philosophy,” Davis notes that the ideas do not have any meat; instead, “[t]heir theories were like beautiful bubbles blown from a child’s pipe, floating overhead, with queer reflections on them of sky and earth and human beings, all in a glow of fairy color and all a little distorted” (36). For all of the Transcendentalist’s bold ideas that sought to seek truth, Davis viewed them as nothing more than “beautiful bubbles,” outwardly pretty but lacking any true substance.
A couple of days ago, a friend posted an article entitled “Bernie Sanders Could Replace President Trump with Little-Known Loophole.” Matt Masur, with the title and in the opening paragraph, positions The Huffington Post as factual and something that could happen. However, immediately following the first paragraph, he informs his audience that Sanders cannot replace Trump and that too many people have been getting false information on their social media feeds and elsewhere during the previous election and even before then. In the rest of the article, Masur discusses the proliferation of false information and gives a crash course for readers in sifting through the misinformation by using critical thinking skills. As you might suspect, the first reply to my friend’s post essentially called her our saying that Sanders could not replace Trump, thus proving Masur’s point.
In the Republic, Plato famously claims that there is a longstanding quarrel between philosophy and poetry, even stating that poets are nothing more than imitators and cannot relate truth to their audience, thus perverting them: “the tragic poet is an imitator, and therefore, like all other imitators, he is thrice removed from the king and from the truth.” Ralph Waldo Emerson, in Nature (1836), would differ with Plato on the differences between the philosopher and the poet. For Emerson, the two work in tandem: “The true philosopher and the true poet are one, and a beauty, which is truth, and a truth, which is beauty, is the aim of both” (615).