Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Horace Bushnell Reconsidered

Academic journal article ETC.: A Review of General Semantics

Horace Bushnell Reconsidered

Article excerpt

In a sense, 1849 was the beginning of a century of scientific optimism. Sharing this optimism, Bushnell was among those who stood for a language rooted in the exact, empirically demonstrated relations of fact. Like most of the men of his day - who today would object to the limitations of the canon of scientific "meaning" - he founded his hope for language on the optimistic prospect that the natural and physical sciences would accurately map the relations of the physical universe. But this mapping was only a preliminary to Bushnell's purpose: that a language founded in fact would make for a more accurate symbolic language of the "mind" and "spirit," of psychology, metaphysics and theology. The assumption behind his emphasis on a scientific basis for language was one widely held by the Transcendentalists here and abroad; it was the assumption of the "identity" of the natural and spiritual universes, an "identity" of the laws of "matter" and "mind" which this teleological-minded generation needed to hold back the force of Humean skepticism and rising materialism. This assumption was the content of the doctrine of "correspondences" usually attributed to Emanuel Swedenborg whose influence was widespread in America and on the Continent at this time. But it can be traced back to the structure of Plato's cosmology.

In The Republic, Plato twice bisects the line of knowledge, making the primary dualism that of the visible world and the intelligible world, the world of shadows and the world of truth or Ideas. …

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