Self-Reliance, And Ralph Waldo Emerson's Views Of Transcendentalism

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According to the article, “Transcendentalism, An American Philosophy”, transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that arose in the 19th century, revolving around the idea that the understanding people had of themselves and the world came through intuition rather than logic and scientific knowledge. Transcendentalists strongly believed that society had negative effect on an individual and that people themselves should be their own authority. These ideas could be depicted in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Self-Reliance”, where he stresses the importance of being independent and self-reliant. The transcendentalist ideas are also present in Henry David’s, “Where I Lived and What I Lived For”, essay, in which he explains how he was able to remove himself from society and live a life of simplicity, and Thomas Cole’s…show more content…
To transcendentalists, society was preventing an individual from being their true selves. Ralph Waldo Emerson states in his essay, “Self-Reliance”, that “Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members. Society is a joint-stock company, in which the members agree, for the better securing of his bread to each shareholder, to surrender the liberty and culture of the eater” (Emerson). Because individuals wish to be approved or liked by society, they will change themselves to fit in with the rest of the world. People feel more comfortable and at ease when they are the same as everyone as else because society teaches us that we will judged or unaccepted if we decide to be open about our true selves. Emerson goes on to state that “The virtue in most request is conformity” (Emerson). He explains that being able to conform to rules and customs is what a society values the most so when one fails to do so, they will considered unwanted or an
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