Many people have theories and philosophies about life in general. There have been hundreds of thousands of books published by many different people on the ideas of people in the past and the present. Transcendentalism falls in amongst all of these ideas. There have been articles, essays, poems, and even books written about this subject. Transcendentalism has effected many people since the philosophy was first introduced. The idea was complex and hard to grasp for many commoners and therefore it was understood by few people, and some would think that the idea was not understood at all and that was part of the idea. Henry David Thoreau once stated about himself, “I should have told them at once that I was a transcendentalist. That would have been the shortest way of telling them that they would not understand my explanations” (Reuben 1).
Even the people that called themselves “transcendentalists” had only their own thoughts of what transcendentalism was, which in turn were based on the thoughts of others. So, transcendentalism is defined as a philosophy. This philosophy was uniform for everyone that believed in it. This is a difficult concept to comprehend because the philosophy called for people to trust themselves and their own thoughts, which meant that even though transcendentalists held the same central idea, all of their individual thoughts branching off transcendentalism contradicted the other transcendentalists. In Paul Reuben’s web site, Noah Porter made this statement about transcendentalism:
The word Transcendentalism, as used at the present day, has two applications. One of which is popular and indefinite, the other, philosophical and precise. In the former sense it describes man, rather than opinions, since it is freely extended to those who hold opinions, not only diverse from each other, but directly opposed. (1)
These transcendentalists all had different opinions on the different things in life, but they believed in the philosophy of transcendentalism. According to Webster’s Dictionary, transcend means to go further than, or to go past. This would give transcendentalism the definition of an idea beyond other people’s ideas, or even possibly beyond this earth. The idea of transcendentalism is definitely an idea beyond what other people thought about at the time it was first thought up.
This idea of transcendentalism started with a small group of people in the New England area around the year of 1836 (American 1). This group of people, who were all friends, met together and discussed their ideas on philosophy, literature, and religion, and called themselves the Hedge Club, from the name of one of the members. Later other people gave them the name of the Transcendental Club because of their discussion of Immanuel Kant’s ideas on transcendentalism (1). These...