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American poet, essayist, and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson was born on May 25, 1803, in Boston, Massachusetts. After studying at Harvard and teaching for a brief time, Emerson entered the ministry. He was appointed to the Old Second Church in his native city, but soon became an unwilling preacher. Unable in conscience to administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper after the death of his nineteen-year-old wife of tuberculosis, Emerson resigned his pastorate in 1831.
The following year, he sailed for Europe, visiting Thomas Carlyle and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Carlyle, the Scottish-born English writer, was famous for his explosive attacks on hypocrisy and materialism, his distrust of democracy, and his highly romantic belief in the power of the individual. Emerson's friendship with Carlyle was both lasting and significant; the insights of the British thinker helped Emerson formulate his own philosophy.
On his return to New England, Emerson became known for challenging traditional thought. In 1835, he married his second wife, Lydia Jackson, and settled in Concord, Massachusetts. Known in the local literary circle as "The Sage of Concord," Emerson became the chief spokesman for Transcendentalism, the American philosophic and literary movement. Centered in New England during the 19th century, Transcendentalism was a reaction against scientific rationalism.
Emerson's first book, Nature (1836), is perhaps the best expression of his Transcendentalism, the belief that everything in our world—even a drop of dew—is a microcosm of the universe. His concept of the Over-Soul—a Supreme Mind that every man and woman share—allowed Transcendentalists to disregard external authority and to rely instead on direct experience. "Trust thyself," Emerson's motto, became the code of Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau, and W. E. Channing. From 1842 to 1844, Emerson edited the Transcendentalist journal, The Dial.
Emerson wrote a poetic prose, ordering his essays by recurring themes and images. His poetry, on the other hand, is often called harsh and didactic. Among Emerson's most well known works are Essays, First and Second Series (1841, 1844). The First Series includes Emerson's famous essay, "Self-Reliance," in which the writer instructs his listener to examine his relationship with Nature and God, and to trust his own judgment above all others.
Emerson's other volumes include Poems (1847), Representative Men (1850), The Conduct of Life (1860), and English Traits (1865). His best-known addresses are The American Scholar (1837) and The Divinity School Address, which he delivered before the graduates of the Harvard Divinity School, shocking Boston's conservative clergymen with his descriptions of the divinity of man and the humanity of Jesus.
Emerson's philosophy is characterized by its reliance on intuition as the only way to comprehend reality, and his concepts owe much to the works of Plotinus, Swedenborg, and Böhme. A believer in the "divine sufficiency of the individual," Emerson was a steady optimist. His refusal to grant the existence of evil caused Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry James, Sr., among others, to doubt his judgment. In spite of their skepticism, Emerson's beliefs are of central importance in the history of American culture.
Ralph Waldo Emerson died of pneumonia on April 27, 1882.
Essays: First Series (1841)
Essays: Second Series (1844)
Addresses, and Lectures (1849)
Representative Men (1850)
The Conduct of Life (1860)
English Traits (1865)
Society and Solitude (1870)
Transcendentalism and Ralph Waldo Emerson Essay examples
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Transcendentalism and Ralph Waldo Emerson
Transcendentalism was a literary movement that began in the beginning of the 1800’s and lasted up until the Civil War. Ralph Waldo Emerson was a man whose views on life and the universe were intriguing and influential. Emerson, along with other great men, helped to mold what Transcendentalism was and what it was to become. Without these men, Transcendentalism would not have been anything. Nor would these men have been anything without this concept. So what is Transcendentalism anyway and how have men’s thoughts and outlooks been able make it what it is remembered as?
Transcendentalism was prominent in the cultural life of the U.S., especially in New England from 1836 to…show more content…
According to his understanding of Kant, transcendentalism becomes a union of solipsism under which the only verifiable reality is thought to be self. It also comes from materialism in which the only verifiable reality is thought to be quantifiable outside world of objects, and sense data. Through this fusion, transcendentalism was transported to America as a philosophy. Through his source of most of its poetry and mysticism, Emerson fostered the growth of transcendentalism of the New England variant. His ideas, which came from Kant, were taken from the German philosopher Immanuel Kant whose ideas of the universe and soul were very intriguing. He believed in “transcendental knowledge” but confined it to things such as time, space, quantity and casualty, which in his views were imposed by the perception of human minds. He regarded these aspects as the universal sense experience. Emerson, however, extended this concept of transcendental knowledge to include moral and other truths that go beyond the limits of the human sense experience, which Kant had specifically denied. Besides Kant, other intellectual predecessors of American Transcendentalism are very diverse and few, but include post-Kantian German Idealists, the English thinkers Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Thomas Carlyle (who were also exponents of German Idealism), Plato, Neoplatonists, the occult Swedish theologian