Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dilution of Scholarly Works

One of Emerson's main points is that a true scholar does not become a scholar by merely reading books and studying past philosophers (except in rare cases, as he says at one point). One must think for oneself and come up with new doctrine. To justify this argument he explains how the first scholar viewed his surroundings and recorded it. In relation to to following doctrines Emerson says, "In proportion to the completeness of the distillation, so will the purity and imperishableness of the product be" (4). I first took this to mean that scholarly works and information get diluted as it's reinterpreted and rewritten by new scholars. However, the last sentences in this paragraph confused my understanding. Emerson concludes the paragraph by saying, "Each age, it is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the next succeeding. The books of an older period will not fit this" (4). This seemed to mean that as time goes on theory and information change books and doctrines must be updated. I'm not sure if I am taking these sentences too literally or not. Perhaps you guys can clear this up for me.


  1. I felt the same way when reading that. But when I got thinking about it, I kind of related it to technology vs. books today. Books are becoming less of what they use to be because of tools such as computers, the internet and kindles-information in books is often out of date before being published with instant updates of the internet.
    So I took it as Emerson saying that with each new generation, there is new discovered information therefore books of past generations are not always the best source. Instead, create a book of your own findings (which is still confusing because your book would be about something else if it's undiscovered, right)?

    1. The way I understand this, Marie, is that the distillation Emerson's talking about here is of life, not of books: "It came into him, life; it went out from him, truth." But, since Emerson tells us, no one speaks *perfect* truth, this act of distillation needs to be happening continually.