In all its forms, American philosophy emphasizes freedom and the supreme importance of the individual. Indeed, an examination of four major American writers shows these concepts in all four main schools of American thought-- Epicureanism, Transcendentalism, Pragmatism, and Protestantism.
Epicureanism is the pursuit of pleasure in order to avoid pain. This philosophy is very American. One of the most famous American-Epicureans is Walt Whitman. Whitman is, perhaps, America's greatest poet. He was an ardent supporter of freedom and democracy. His poetry not only reflected his love and respect for America, but also the importance and the needs of the individual. Whitman's love for America stems from the fact that, in America, the individual has the right to pursue whatever makes him or her happy. This concept is the basis for Epicureanism. Just as the United States is associated with liberation and freedom, so is Walt Whitman. Whitman wanted to liberate Americans from their sexual conduct and exercise their freedom. Whitman expressed that through the freedom granted to Americans, individuals are able to have freedom of their senses, in particular sexual senses. Many of Whitman's poems contain graphic sex scenes. By describing his own feelings, Whitman hoped to encourage other Americans to pursue their own feelings in a country that allowed it.
Transcendentalism is another American philosophy that also deals heavily with the individual. Transcendentalists believed formalized society oppressed the individual. Thus, they strove to create a doctrine that stressed the importance of the individual. Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested this idea in his book Nature. Emerson maintains that man is one with Nature and Nature is one with God, therefore giving the ordinary individual validity and worth. These two qualities are attributes that every American is familiar with and has a desire for. Another Transcendental concept is the phrase "Trust Thyself." Transcendentalists believed that human nature is...