The New England Renaissance brought out two distinct, yet influential movements known as transcendentalism and anti-transcendentalism. The two concentrated on intuition and human nature and formed a revolt against previously accepted ideas such as Calvinist orthodoxy, strict Puritan attitudes, ritualism, and the dogmatic theology of religious institutions.
Transcendentalism is a term rooted back to Plato, a Greek philosopher who first affirmed the existence of absolute goodness, which he characterized as beyond something of description and as knowable only through intuition. He laid the tracks down for others to build off of. The Scholastic philosophers were the first to add to Plato's theory during the middle ages. They came up with the transcendental concepts, which show the capabilities of all types of things. Essence, unity, goodness, truth, thing, and something were the six that they recognized. Still the term transcendentalist needed refining. Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, and Edmund Husserl formed a distinction between the terms transcendent, entities that are unknown and cannot be defined, and transcendental, signifying a priori forms of thought, innate principles with which the mind gives form to its perceptions, and classified their views as transcendental.
The transcendental movement began to take shape in 1836 at the Transcendental Club in Boston, in which the most influence leaders of the movement came together and published a magazine known as The Dial which was expressed their ideas and brought them to the public. Some of the attendees included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Theodore Parker, Brunson Alcott, and William Willery Channing.
If there were only one word that I could use to describe transcendentalism it would be optimism, because it seemed to be the philosophy that dominated people's minds in outlining the views to transcendentalism. The belief that basic truths of the universe lied beyond our senses was one such belief. Others included the fact that we know, through intuition, that reality lies beyond the physical world, and that everything is symbolic in spirit, making mature the place to find oneself. The groundwork for these beliefs and views can be seen in Deism (with the opposition of Calvinist orthodoxy) and in Romanticism (self-examination and individualism).
As stated above, several authors led the transcendental movement, but none were as influential as Emerson and Thoreau. They are the writers that you hear about in all the definitions of transcendentalism and in the flowering of New England.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, philosopher, and poet. He was born on May 25, 1803 and died on April 27, 1882. He graduated from Harvard in 1821 and was the youngest member of his freshmen class there at the age of 14. IN 1829, he was ordained as a Unitarian minister, and left three years later because of...