Tim St. Amour Mrs. McKenny English 10 Honors May 15, 2000 Transcendentalism and Ralph Waldo Emerson So what is Transcendentalism anyway and how have mens thoughts and outlooks been able make it what it is remembered as? I. Ralph Waldo Emerson A. Emersons Life 1. Childhood 2.
Adulthood B. Emersons thoughts and views 1. Thoughts on resolutions 2. Views of people 3. Feelings about the universe and soul II. Transcendentalism A. History 1.
When it occurred a. what was going on around the time of transcendentalism? b. How did these events affect its development 2. Where it comes from a. where did Emerson get his ideas? b. What cultures influenced the philosophy? B.
The movement 1. The transcendentalists 2. What views were they trying to influence upon Americans? 3. The Transcendental Club a. Members b. What was its purpose? C.
The Philosophy 1. What was Transcendentalism about? 2. What beliefs did transcendentalists have? 3. What about these beliefs did they try to influence upon people? Transcendentalism and Ralph Waldo Emerson ? Transcendentalism was a literary movement that began in the beginning of the 1800s 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 mens 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 until just before the Civil War. The Revolutionary war had ended shortly before the time of Transcendentalism; therefore, Emerson had been influenced by its affects and had shared his thoughts about war in his writings. At the age of twelve, Emerson wrote “Fair Peace and Triumph blooms on golden wings, and War no more pf all his victories sings” (“Way to Peace” 2).
He viewed war as being unnecessary and in his eyes, the soul has no enemies and rises above all conflicts. He thought soldiers to be ridiculous and war to “Abhorrent to all reason” (“Way to Peace” 2), and against human progress. Basically he was against all war and his views on war were apparent in his writings. Even though he thought that the Civil War was good because it was trying to stop the evils of slavery, he detested the lack of freedom during the war, and he vowed that if martial law came to Concord, that he would disobey it or move away. These events developed Transcendentalism though Emersons views and writings on war (“Way to Peace” 1-2). Transcendentalism in America centered in Concord and Boston.
The philosophy came from many different beliefs and peoples thoughts and outlooks. Emerson was a huge person whose beliefs greatly influenced how transcendentalism evolved. Around the year 0f 1836, a discussion group was formed in New England called the Transcendental Club. It met at various members houses and it included Emerson, Bronson Alcott, Frederick Henry Hedge, W. E. Channing and W.
H. Channing, Theodore Parker, Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Peabody, George Ripley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry Thoreau, and Jones Very. From 1840 to 1844, a quarterly newspaper printed their early essays, poems, and reviews (Abrams, 215-216). Emersons transcendentalism is an idealist philosophy that was derived from Kants concept of the Tran scendental. 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 Emmanuel Swedenborg, and some varieties of Oriental philosophies (Abrams 216). Basically, Transcendentalism was about promoting peace and developing the mind and soul. Also, it was about sharing your views on what was wrong with the world and how it could be fixed. William Ellery Channing was a forerunner of the Transcendentalists and preached against war and was active in the peace movement that began in 1815 when Noah Worcester founded the Massachusetts Peace Society, the first influential peace society in the world. Channing wrote about the miseries and crimes of war, their causes and some possible remedies.
In addition to the suffering and destruction he points out that war corrupts the morals of society and gives the government dangerous powers. Channing preached in Boston from 1803 until his death and was praised by Emerson above all other ministers. The sources of war which Channing wrote of are the human propensity for excitement, the lust for power, admiration for warlike deeds, false patriotism, and the upbringing and education which glamorizes military exploits. He also sees the remedies as well as the causes to be of a moral nature. He believes we must honor our rulers and nations fro their justice, goodwill, and educational institutions not for their foreign conquests.
He thought that we must also admire heroes for their conscience, human rights, and the ones who bring peace and freedom. He believed that the peace teachings of Christians ought to be emphasized. He warned that the attitude of rulers and nations of foreign states, which is usually partial and unjust, should show us that war is rarely just or unnecessary. He advised Christians to refuse war and if necessary, submit to prison or execution in an attempt for peace (“Way to Peace” 1-2). James Freeman Clarke once dubbed the transcendentalists the club of the likeminded; I suppose because no two of us think alike” (“American Literary Movements” 1).
But despite the disagreement among transcendentalists themselves, the overall movement shared similar philosophies. These philosophies rested on the Slockean concept of Idealism and Kant’s belief in intuition. In other words, transcendentalism opposed empiricism, which is gaining knowledge from experience. Physical world observations were only appearances of reflections of the spirit. One should learn of the spiritual world through reason alone, thus guiding them towards the ultimate goal, Absolute Truth (“American Transcendentalism1” 1).
All of the Transcendentalists had more in common with what they reacted against rather than what they proposed. They were opposed to rigid rationalism; to the eighteenth-century empirical philosophy of the school of John Locke which derived all of its knowledge by sense impressions; by highly formalized religions, and especially the Calvinist orthodoxy of New England; and to the social conformity, materialism, and commercialism that they found increasingly prominent in American life. The counter-views that were affirmed by Transcendentalists, especially Emerson include confidence in the val …