Perry Miller, a Transcendentalism scholar, believes that the impetus behind Transcendentalism was "a religious radicalism in revolt against a rational conservatism. It also rejected the tenets of sensationalism, as put forth by Enlightenment thinkers, such as John Locke and David Hume. It can also be seen as a reaction to the materialism of the 18th and 19th century:
Three main currents contributed to this uniquely American school of thought: From neo-Platonism — as nineteenth-century educated Americans understood it — came the belief in the primacy of intellectual thinking over material reality, an idea originated by the Greek philosopher Plato.
Through a series of dramatic dialogues, Plato argues that there are ideal forms existing in an absolute reality; in the material world in which we live, all objects and phenomena are imperfect representations of these ideals.
Our entire lives are spent trying to perfect ourselves and our environment in hopes of attaining an ideal existence. Agreeing with Plato, philosophers like Emerson and his fellow transcendentalist Amos Bronson Alcott go so far as to say that ideas are the only reality: The tangible world exists solely as a manifestation of pure ideas.
This preoccupation with pure ideas also appears in the writings of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who was first to use the term "transcendentalism.
Kant believes that transcendental knowledge is limited because, as humans, we can understand only what we are capable of perceiving. If we cannot perceive something, it simply does not exist. Other German transcendentalists, with whom Emerson is closer in his thinking, expand Kant's reasoning.
They argue that simply because we cannot perceive something does not mean that it does not exist. Emerson maintains that the soul exists, but he admits that he cannot define what this soul is, other than acknowledging when he senses it in himself or in another person.
British romanticism also influenced Emerson and transcendentalism. Romantics such as William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge advocate the primacy of the individual over the community and foster a belief in the authenticity of individual vision over the conventions and formalities of institutions.
For romantics and transcendentalists alike, all institutions — be they religious, social, political, or economic — are suspect as being false, materialistic, and deadening to an individual's pure insight.
Both movements emphasize personal insight, or intuition, as a privileged form of knowledge. Such fierce adherence to individuality, a mainstay in Emerson's writing, influenced the progressive social movement of the mid-nineteenth century. Individuality came to be recognized as a God-given right, a belief that holds as true today as it did during Emerson's life.
Another strong influence on Emerson's expression of transcendentalism is the writings of the Swedish mystic-philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg. Heavily influenced by Swedenborg's belief in the absolute unity of God — not the Trinity — and in our personal responsibility for our salvation, Emerson expresses strong distrust and criticism of the restrictions and shallowness of conventional society.
He is not the visionary that others influenced by Swedenborg are, but he advocates an ecstatic, visionary approach to life and to knowledge.
Many of his essays express admiration for Swedenborg and acknowledge the influence that Swedenborg had on his own thinking.Critical Essays on American Transcendentalism (Critical Essays on American Literature) [Philip F Gura, Joel Myerson] on regardbouddhiste.com *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers.
The Classroom Electric: Dickinson, Whitman, and American Culture UVa/FIPSE Project with many critical essays. Poet at Work [Library of Congress poem manuscripts] Critical Comparisons between Whitman and . IUCAT is Indiana University's online library catalog, which provides access to millions of items held by the IU Libraries statewide.
Literary Transcendentalism: Style and Vision in the American Renaissance.
Ithaca: Cornell University Press, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, “The Transcendentalists” in Columbia Literary History of the United States. Critically speaking, Transcendentalism was not exactly a cohesive movement.
In other words, it was a collection of varied ideas and aims that existed among various thinkers, writers, and philosophers. The Grounding of American Poetry: Charles Olson and the Emersonian Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, Gura, Philip F., and Joel Myerson, eds.
Critical Essays on American Transcendentalism.