Rorty on historicism and Emerson’sCircles

“Emerson is particularly insistent on saying there is no circumference to human life — that is, there is no point at which we find a resting place for thought, no way to escape from time into eternity, no way to escape from living in refractive prismatic light to a pure white radiance.

We will always live within language — language is a creation of the imagination just as the Romantics say, but the imagination is not trying to get back to the eternal. It is trying to create something new in time. It is trying to create a new historical moment, a new way for human beings to exist, a new linguistic home in which for them to dwell.

The process of developing new languages, new ways of talking about ourselves, will continue indefinitely. It is not aiming for somewhere, as Hegel sometimes suggests. It is not going to reach the end of history where all things will be made known and there is no need for any further poetic imagination. It is just a process of endless enlargement — of growing larger and larger circles.”


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