The Transcendental Influences of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau

The Transcendental Influences of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau

Document details
Category: Philosophy Essay
Subcategory: Ancient Greek and Roman Philosophy
Words: 1147
Pages: 2

The American Heritage Dictionary defines transcendentalism as The belief or doctrine that knowledge of reality is derived from intuitive sources rather than objective. A more concise definition of transcendentalism would be a philosophy emphasizing the intuitive and spiritual over the material and scientific. Writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were both celebrated transcendentalists. Emerson concentrated his theories in his poetry and numerous essays like Nature and Self Reliance, where as Thoreau threw himself into his philosophies as is reflected in Walden. The transcendental influences of Emerson and Thoreau are revealed through their views on nature, government, and individualism. Through nature, Emerson and Thoreaus transcendental qualities were exposed. Both writers emersed themselves in nature Emerson through his writing, Thoreau, literally. Emerson came up with and wrote down ideas as to how man should learn from nature. In his view nature was something to be worshipped as a divine entity. Emersons philosophy focused on a God who imposed a pattern on event (Cayton 58) as is shown in the cycles of nature. It was his belief that we should regard nature as a phenomenon, not a substance to attribute necessary existence to spirit, to esteem nature as an accident and effect (Emerson). Emerson also viewed nature as a way to learn characteristics about ones own self. In his writing, Nature is brought within the sphere of the self man is fully cut adrift from the belief in any reality external to himself (Wichor 54). This idea was expressed very well when Emerson said that all natural objects make a kindred impression, when the mind is open to the influence (Emerson Nature). Thoreau, following closely the works of Emerson, emersed himself in nature and wrote about his observations and experiences. To him, nature was motherly and nurturing as a well as divine. In Thoreaus mind Natureis therapy for the tired and despairing people. It is joy, happiness, communion with God. It...

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