Transcendentalism and Ralph Waldo Emerson
Transcendentalism was a literary movement that began in the beginning of the 1800’s 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 men’s 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 Emerson’s 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 people’s 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).
Emerson’s transcendentalism is an idealist philosophy that was derived from Kant’s 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...