Transcendentalism: the Rebellion

Topics: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Transcendentalism, Henry David Thoreau Pages: 4 (1273 words) Published: December 5, 2007
Transcendentalism: The Rebellion
Transcendentalism, as defined by, is "any philosophy based upon the doctrine that the principles of reality are to be discovered by the study of the processes of thought, or a philosophy emphasizing the intuitive and spiritual above the empirical…" (Transcendentalism). This new philosophy created a rebellion and turn away from the traditional religions in the United States. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are two primary authors and promoters of Transcendentalism. In this paper I will be focusing on Emerson's Nature and Thoreau's Walden, or Life in the Woods, from now on to be referred to as simply Walden, to show the rebellion against religion and the quest to know one's self through a different way.

To begin with, I'll start with a basic overview of what Transcendentalism was. "Transcendentalism is not a religion (in the traditional sense of the word); it is a pragmatic philosophy, a state of mind, and a form of spirituality…. [I]t does not reject an afterlife, but its emphasis is on this life" (Reuben). Transcendentalism has four basic principles, in which the transcendentalists agreed upon. The four principles are 1.An individual is the spiritual center of the universe - and in an individual can be found the clue to nature, history and, ultimately, the cosmos itself….

The structure of the universe literally duplicates the structure of the individual self - all knowledge, therefore, begins with self-knowledge. This is similar to Aristotle's dictum "know thyself." 2.Transcendentalists accepted the neo-platonic conception of nature as a living mystery, full of signs - nature is symbolic. 3.The belief that individual virtue and happiness depend upon self-realization – this depends upon the reconciliation of two universal psychological tendencies: a.the expansive of self-transcending tendency – a desire to embrace the whole world – to know and become one with the world. b.the contracting...
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