Journals were evolving body of thought Most important word in writing is soul Not spiritual self Not spiritual self Rather, related to our intellectual perceptions, moral nature as individuals, and our sense as organic beings alive in the world Rather, related to our intellectual perceptions, moral nature as individuals, and our sense as organic beings alive in the world Soul is the “activator” or power source Inspirational and exhilarating b/c it is the power of God within each of us Inspirational and exhilarating b/c it is the power of God within each of us
Over-Soul Beyond natural law and human reason there must exist a higher, spiritual law that permeates all forms of life Over-soul is an ultimate spiritual unity that encompasses ALL existence
Critical Questions from Nature Why in nature, as opposed to society, can we become a “transparent eyeball”? What transcendental belief does “the distant line of the horizon” imply? Can we reach the horizon?
from Nature Chief obstacles to change are personal comfort and the safety of traditional beliefs Habit and tradition have become a way of living The truths and ideas of other times are the barriers against our soul’s insights
from Nature Nature is divine inspiration Need to experience nature through our own eyes, not through the eyes of historians, philosophers, etc… [“transparent eye”]
Emerson’s “transparent eyeball” Describes the indescribable Represents the influx of divinity that lets one look inwardly and see that he or she is part of the whole creation Most of Emerson’s literary images are of sight
Humanity and nature pre-existed in God’s mind, so all are related, none are insignificant, and all contain God’s spirit Facts of nature and human nature show spiritual truths (acorn oak = something mighty has small beginnings.) Seeing the connectedness of man and nature frees us from the past Must not conform to society Must not conform to society Must insist on INDIVIDUALISM Must insist on INDIVIDUALISM
Calls for practical reform and renewal to renovate life and social state Most important: Nature emphasizes that the secrets of nature and human nature are one, and we have a potential of which we’ve never dreamed Nature emphasizes that the secrets of nature and human nature are one, and we have a potential of which we’ve never dreamed OPTIMISM & POTENTIAL
American Scholar To Harvard College Phi Beta Kappa (scholars of US) “Man thinking”---thought is never ending process Man must not rely on books or knowledge from the past as they are limited to the times Must see interconnectedness of nature and man Limitless potential of nature = limitless potential in self
Homework: Critical Questions from American Scholar Who is the scholar? What is the responsibility and nature of the scholar? What pitfalls must the scholar avoid? What is the scholar’s role in building the future?
“For non- conformity the world whips you with its displeasure.”
from Self-Reliance Sums up his ideas up to this point in his life Complicated thought boiled down into short sentences Criticism directed at society and social institutions Individualism is in sharp, deadly conflict with society
“Trust thyself; every heart vibrates to that iron string.” “A foolish consistency is the hobglobin of little minds.” “To be great is to be misunderstood.”
Homework: Critical Questions The effect of “society” is to do what? What does it mean to conform in Emerson’s terms? Why does Emerson see society as the enemy of individuality? What opens up a persons power of perception, of virtue, and of “the sense of being”?
What does Emerson mean when he says “envy is ignorance and imitation is suicide”? How is trust a part of being self- reliant? What is the role of nonconformity? What does this word mean to Emerson? What is a foolish consistency and does it get in the way of genius?
from Fate Contrast to Nature Life is precariously poised between the expansive freedom promised by the soul and the “fate” imposed by natural and societal constraints around every life Fate = limitations, but even limitations have their limits Power is the antagonist of Fate
“So far as a man thinks, he is free.” “…yet it is wholesome to man to look not at Fate, but the other way”
Critical Questions from Fate How does the imagery used in Fate contrast with that used in Nature? In what way has Emerson’s views on human freedom and potential for change changed since his writing of Nature? Is he pessimistic or just realistic?