Follow The Heart Not Society Philosophy
Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau helped developed a philosophical movement in the nineteenth century, Transcendentalism. Both authors theorize that self-reliance and non-conformity is the solution to ultimate freedom and an improved society. Thoreau exhibits his beliefs in an innovative way, such as refusing taxes and living in solitude. Emerson captured an approach that consisted of the universe is entailed by nature and the soul. In Emerson's essay "The Transcendentalist," he states, "What is popularly called Transcendentalism among us, is Idealismâ€¦As thinkers, mankind have ever divided into two sects, Materialists and Idealists; the first class founding on experience, the second on consciousness; the first class beginning to think from the data of the senses, the second class perceive that the senses are not final, and say the senses give us representations of things, but what the things are themselves (Emerson 81). In further analysis of Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self-Reliance" and Henry Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience," it is evident that each author gives evidence of the Transcendentalist depiction.
Emerson argued how modern society had disabled the individual ability to learn through his/her heart and soul. "Self-Reliance" ultimately shaped the American Renaissance and character by the transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson begins his essay with the importance of the human soul, "To believe your own thought, to believe what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, that is genius" (Emerson 132). He believed conformity had American, and the main dream of Emerson is for society to follow their heart. If society did this then humanity would be filled with works of a genius. Emerson is not the first human in the universe to grasp non-conformity, but he did capture and deified it. "Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its membersâ€¦The virtue in most request is conformity. Self-reliance is its aversion. It loves not realities and creators, but names and customs" (Emerson 134). Emerson speaks of conformity as a pessimistic aspect in humanity, "It loses your time and blurs your impression of your character" (Emerson 136). He wishes a man would know his worth, exemplify his beliefs, and epitomize the ignorance of society.
Emerson goes into detail that society never improves. Man insists that it must, society changes but never for the greater good. For example Emerson states, "The civilized man has built a coach, but has lost the use of his feet. He is supported on crutches, but lacks so much support of muscle. He had a fine Geneva watch, but he fails of the skills to tell the hour by the sun." (Emerson 151). Emerson defines a real man as an individual. An individual allows the genius to form within himself, not through the reliance of men from a prior generation or the general public. A man would not create changes that made us not dependent on ourselves.
Thoreau lived by his beliefs of what society was alleged to be. "Civil Disobedience" is a work that encompasses what Thoreau suspected humanity should be like. He starts his essay with "government is best which governs least" (Thoreau 227). He goes on to state he rather there be no government, but society is not ready for that. The individual conscience should govern. He finds the current government useless and a waste of power. "If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go: perchance it will wear smooth, certainly the machine will wear outâ€¦ I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine" (Thoreau 234). The government just proves that the majority of America has unjust viewpoints. The citizens that do not fall into the majority category tend to follow the majorities beliefs to avoid the consequences. He then goes on to utter that the government proves that men are not completely free; the government "imprisons" society. Thoreau pleads for a government that respects humankind. "I know this well, that if one thousand, if one hundred, if ten men whom I could name, if ten honest men only, ay, if one HONEST man, in this state of Massachusetts, ceasing to hold slaves, were actually to withdraw from this co partnership, and be locked up in the county jail therefore, it would be the abolition of slavery in America" (Thoreau 235). Thoreau's theory is if one man will follow his conscious and stand up to society, others would follow. It only takes one. "For it matters not how small the beginning may seem to be; what is once well done is done forever" (Thoreau 235).
With Thoreau's theory that the majority of the nation has atrocious viewpoints leads into the idea that petitioning and voting is useless. Voting for justice is not exemplifying righteousness in Thoreau's eyes. Voting is supposed to exhibit one of the privileges of being free, but in reality, it is just for what benefits the individual. If an individual wanted to exhibit their freedom, they would have self-reliance. Thoreau then recounts on his own experience to describe the unjust government. Thoreau refused to pay taxes in his protest to slavery. " I have paid no poll-tax in six years. I was put in jail once for this account" (Thoreau 238). As he sits behind stonewalls, he still manages to smile. He smiles because he knows he is still more free than the townsmen roaming outside the prison are. He has self-reliance unlike the others. This experience made Thoreau have less respect for the state. It proved the masses could not force him to abide the government. Hence, Thoreau continued to follow his own laws of life. Thoreau always paid highway tax; he desired to be a good neighbor. He did so for one reason, supporting schools. " I simply refuse allegiance to the state" (Thoreau 243). If Thoreau could have managed to start a war with the state, he would have. Thoreau states no man smart in legislation has appeared in this nation. He continues that this nation has made progress even if it is not the ultimate development he desires, "progress from an absolute to a limited monarchy, from a limited monarchy to a democracy is a progress toward a true respect for the individual" (Thoreau 246). Thoreau ends his essay with the thought that the state will never be truly free until it recognizes the individual before the government. The government must value the creative conscious of man not use him for war or as a slave.
Ralph Waldo Emerson's "Self-Reliance" and Henry Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience" is the depiction of Transcendentalism. Emerson believed an individual allows the genius to form within himself, not through the reliance of men from a prior generation or society around him.
Emerson took an approach that consisted of the universe is entailed by nature and the soul. Whereas, Thoreau lives in solitude to escape the government to experience freedom. Thoreau believes the nation has made steps to allow the individual to be free, but this will not happen until the individual is recognized over the government. " As Thoreau describes it, "American life is full of contradictions and American policy is inconsistent with its stated values" (Thoreau 559). Both authors theorize that self-reliance is the key to ultimate freedom and an improved society. In addition, both believe that conformity is repulsive. Ultimately, conformity leads the individual to forget their conscious. Hence, we lose our identity among society. Emerson " belief that a man's inclination, once awakened to it, would be to turn all the heavy sails of his life to a moral purpose" (Emerson xi).
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