By Eric Wilson (auth.)
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Extra resources for Emerson’s Sublime Science
Whitehead has shown, Romantic organicism comprised the primary vehicle of a major shift in thought, the move from matter to force, the result of which was a marriage of invisible energy and visible patterns. The key assumption behind nineteenth-century organicism was that each part - from atom to ant to Andes - is not discrete, static, acted on from a distance, but inhabited and animated by a vast holistic force. Whitehead recognizes that in the nineteenth century mass lost 'its unique pre-eminence as being the one final permanent quality' and was renamed 'a quantity of energy considered in relation to some of its dynamic effects'.
Kant was one of the many late eighteenth-century thinkers who had grown dissatisfied with the Newtonian theory of matter. ' These particles are bound together by and moved 'by certain active principles, such as is that of gravity, and that which causes fermentation, and the cohesion of bodies'. 3 For Newton, then, matter is constituted by passive particles, acted on from a distance by forces like gravity, moving through the void mechanically. Matter is separate from force, inert until moved. Kant retorted in his Critique of Pure Reason (1781).
The whole history of Science since the time of Bacon is a commentary and exposition of his views' (1: 333). BOUNDLESS MIND, DYNAMIC NATURE However, for all his admiration of Bacon, Emerson found him partial; Bacon used his great imagination, almost as powerful as Shakespeare's, as 'an instrument merely to illustrate and adorn the objects 36 Emerson's Sublime Science presented under the agency of the Understanding' (EL 1: 321). Bacon's neglect of Reason, of the organizing powers of his mind, leaves his texts lacking in unity: All his work lies along the ground, a vast unfinished city.