Transcendentalism in America's Past and Present

Essay by Steph17888High School, 11th gradeA, December 2004

download word file, 2 pages 3.0

Ms. Ogarek

period 5

Stephanie B.

Transcendentalism; Webster's dictionary defines it as a philosophy that emphasizes the a priori conditions of knowledge and experience or the unknowable character of ultimate reality or that emphasizes the transcendent as the fundamental reality. Since the beginning of man, transcendentalism has existed. Transcendentalism emerged at the very beginning of American literature and culture and continues on today.

The first great American writer of the past, Emerson, wrote many writings two of which especially contain the idea of transcendentalism. The first of the two, Nature, features the idea that Nature speaks to the human spirit and to truly understand oneself one needs to live with nature and no one else. The following quote is an example. "To go into solitude, a man needs to retire as much from his chamber as from society" (Nature). Emerson also wrote Self Reliance. This talked about depending upon oneself and living without help from others.

Emerson said to trust in intuition, "Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place that the divine providence has found for you; the society of your contemporaries, the connexion of events" (Self Reliance). Emerson also discussed the importance of one's mind. Emerson believed that if one had their own mind then they had the most important thing in the world. In Emerson's own words, "Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity or our own mind" (Self Reliance).

Thoreau, a great American writer of the past, uses transcendentalism throughout his writings. In Walden, transcendentalism is stressed throughout the writing. "What should we think of a shepherd's life if his flocks always wandered to higher pastures than his thoughts?" In this quote Thoreau urges society to think for themselves. He continues this thought with a quote,"Renew thyself every day;...