Emerson, by apprehending the importance of culture, seems to anticipate Postmodern theory. He writes in Circles that "the things which are dear to men at this hour are so on account of the ideas which emerged on their mental horizon, and which cause the present order of things."1 He adds that "a new degree of culture would instantly revolutionize the entire system of human pursuits." "Such a proposition," as Richard Poirier observes, "could be expected from Nietzsche and Foucault."2 Granting the precocity of Emerson's proto-theory, and however much one may marvel at his insights into paradigm shifts,3 I argue, nevertheless, that his aesthetic assumptions are not so much "cultural" or even mind-based, as "natural" or ground-based. They are more methodological than theoretical in kind.
"The ideas which emerged on Emerson's mental horizon," specifically, are in large part the ideas/ideals of sensation put forward by Wesley and Edwards in their Lockean mode. On the basis of the essays that I have emphasized so far, and on the basis of Nature in addition, I infer that the "things" "dear" to Emerson at the "hour" in which he lived include both natural and spiritual objects raised to concepts and to words. Derivable not only from The Poet but also from his practice in general, his understanding of language is not so much theoretical or top-down as method-built. His philosophically theological theme refers to his words on one side and on the other to extra-conceptual reality, for his thought-thing world underlies, verifies, makes resonant, and unifies the sign systems of empiricism and evangelicalism to which he is drawn. By these systems, and by what he regards as their points of reference, that is, natural and spiritual things, he is perennially renewed; and if his literary universe is too large for his