"The Transcendentalist adopts the whole connection of spiritual doctrine. He believes in miracle, in the perpetual openness of the human mind to new influx of light and power; he believes in inspiration, and in ecstasy. He wishes that the spiritual principle should be suffered to demonstrate itself to the end, in all possible applications to the state of man, without the admission of anything unspiritual; that is, Anything positive, dogmatic, personal. Thus, the spiritual measure of inspiration is the depth of the thought, and never, who said it? And so he resists all attempts to palm other rules and measures on the spirit than its own...."It is well known to most of my audience, that the Idealism of the present day acquired the name of Transcendental, from the use of That term by Immanuel Kant, of Konigsberg, who replied to the skeptical philosophy of Locke, which insisted that there was nothing in the intellect which was not previously in the experience of the senses, by showing that there was a very important class of ideas, or imperative forms, which did not come by experience, but through which experience was acquired; that these were intuitions of the mind itself; and hedenominated them Transcendental forms. The extraordinary profoundness and precision of that man's thinking have given vogue to his nomenclature, in Europe and America, to that extent, that whatever belongs to the class of intuitive thought, is popuparly called at the present day Transcendental...."Ralph Waldo Emerson The Transcendentalist, 1842.
It is impossible to learn about American literature in the 19th century without encountering Ralph Waldo Emerson. His influence was profound, and his essays, especially classics such as "Self-Reliance," are still read and discussed more than 160 years after their publication.
Emerson invented a philosophy appropriate to his time. He did not believe in looking back on others accomplishments but in original ideas and philosophys. He was considered by many to be a philosophical poet. This quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson on his own views on modern thinking shows how he pities those who rely on others ideas.
Ralph Waldo Emerson is all about individualism, and we can see it in these paragraphs from his essay. According to him, we should all try to return to the state of innocence of children. That's because kids don't sit around and obsess about what people think of them. They follow their own minds. They're independent, and they have strong opinions: they love things or they hate things.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, "Self Reliance" Essays (Boston, 1841)
Even though Ralph Waldo Emerson is writing in essay form, his style of writing in the above passage is still very literary. Check out those flowery flourishes. Dang.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo, "The Conduct of Life" 1860, Power
Ralph Waldo EmersonEmerson's essays and poetry have never ceased to be popular, widely respected and influential among students, the liberally religious and general readers. Moreover, the closing decades of the 20th century witnessed a reevaluation of Emerson in academic circles, showing him to be a writer of more complexity than earlier critics imagined. Scholars now argue that Emerson did not reject his inherited Unitarian faith but, rather, transformed it. New understanding has emerged from reading his well-known works in the context of other documents: his sermons, letters and journals, many of which have only recently become generally available. Understood not as dialectical argumentation, but as a secularized form of 19th century Unitarian preaching, Emerson's essays can be appreciated for their imaginative, paradoxical, accumulative and analogical rhetoric. His formative influence on American poetry, his connections with the later philosophical movement of pragmatism, and his contributions to the theory of democracy have also been explored in detail in what is known as the "Emerson Revival" of the 1980s and 1990s.
... Ralph Waldo Emerson's biography, general information. ... Ralph
During his life and for years afterwards Emerson was taken to task for putting dangerous ideas into the heads of young men and women. Some academics criticized his poetry as inconsistent in style and his philosophy as unsystematic. Although the sentences of his essays were conceded to be gems, some deemed their argument defective. The influential critic Matthew Arnold found greatness in Emerson's work only as inspirational literature. In the twentieth century unsympathetic critics rued Emersonian individualism they thought endemic to a selfish, exploitative and materialistic American culture. They found Emerson's philosophy over-optimistic, lacking any sense of irony and without a doctrine of evil.