The Merge

Underwriting Underwriting


  • Gordon C.F. Bearn Lehigh University


Cavell’s conviction that there is an American transcendentalist underwriting of the philosophical return to the ordinary appears in his writings only after the completion, in 1979, of The Claim of Reason, and I suspect there is a story to tell about how the completion of that book, the writing of its inimitable Part IV, prepared the ground for that conviction. For the moment, I leave the telling of that story to others. In this paper I simply want to understand what Cavell might have meant by the claim to a transcendentalist underwriting of the ordinary, and in addition, to suggest that this underwriting could be even further secured by including what Whitman calls “the merge” and “the outlet.” This paper is therefore a contribution to determining Whitman’s position in Cavell’s writing, both why Whitman’s voice is so rarely invoked, and how Whitman’s voice might have supplemented that of Emerson and of Thoreau. My suggestion is that Whitman’s merge underwrites the underwriting.