The Philosophy of Transcendentalism
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. He was one of the most influential thinkers of his time, and his ideas continue to be studied and debated today.
Emerson was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard University in 1821. He studied for the ministry, but he soon left the church to pursue a career as a writer. In 1836, he published his first book, Nature, which outlined his Transcendentalist philosophy.
Transcendentalism was a reaction to the materialism and rationalism of the Enlightenment. Emerson and other Transcendentalists believed that there was a higher reality beyond the physical world, and that this reality could be accessed through intuition and experience. They also believed that the individual was capable of great things, and that society should not stifle individual expression.
Emerson's ideas were influential in many areas of American culture, including literature, philosophy, and religion. He was a mentor to many younger writers, including Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman. He also helped to popularize the idea of the American Dream, which holds that anyone can achieve success through hard work and determination.
Emerson's work continues to be read and studied today, and he is considered one of the most important thinkers in American history.