Presentation on theme: "Transcendentalism 1840-1860. Definition of Transcendentalism Transcendentalism is an American literary, political, and philosophical movement It was."— Presentation transcript:
Definition of Transcendentalism Transcendentalism is an American literary, political, and philosophical movement It was centered around Ralph Waldo Emerson. Criticized contemporary society for its unthinking conformity Believed in the innate (inborn) goodness of humans Transcendentalism, is a form of idealism, or a belief in and pursuit of human perfection as an attainable goal.
The Big Three The three major authors of transcendentalism are: Ralph Waldo Emerson Henry David Thoreau Margaret Fuller.
The Industrial Revolution The industrialization of America Expanded transportation Expansion of factories Effective harnessing of electricity Improved agricultural practices People moved from farms to cities Overcrowding, disease, and pollution Terrible work conditions Dehumanization: people became factory lines Increased materialism Transcendentalism was a reaction AGAINST the Revolution
Religious Roots Differed greatly from the bleaker beliefs of Puritans Transcendentalists believed that humans could strive to become better and be closer to God through nature
Religion Cont’d Nineteenth Century American Transcendentalism is not a religion It is a pragmatic philosophy, a state of mind, and a form of spirituality. People must have a direct relationship with God and nature.
The Oversoul All forms of being- God, nature, and humanity are all spiritually united through a shared universal soul, or Oversoul. Every individual is to be respected because everyone has a portion of that Oversoul (God). God can be found in both nature and human nature (Nature, Emerson stated, has spiritual manifestations). can be found everywhere - travel to holy places is, therefore, not necessary.
Self-knowledge Before Transcendentalism many believed John Locke's blank slate theory (tabula rasa), or, we are all born with a "blank slate"- all knowledge comes from the outside. The entire resource of knowledge is built up gradually from experiences and sensory perceptions of the outside world. This is the “nurture” side of the nature vs. nurture debate. Transcendentalists believe however, that all knowledge comes from self- knowledge (the “nature” side of the debate). We each know how to behave if we only trust our inner light (Emerson called it our "whim")
Individualism The Transcendentalists, in keeping with the individualistic nature of this philosophy, disagreed readily with each other. They were not a cohesive, organized group who shared a formal doctrine. They were distinct and independent individuals who accepted some basic premises about man’s place in the universe. An individual is the spiritual center of the universe - and in an individual can be found the clue to nature, history and, ultimately, the cosmos itself. The soul of each individual is identical with the soul of the world and contains what the world contains.
Self-realization Centered upon the belief that individual virtue and happiness depend upon self-realization. A philosophy that requires human beings to go beyond (transcend) reason in their search for truth. an individual can arrive at the basic truths of life he or she takes the time to think seriously about them.
Critics Hawthorne and Melville (Dark Romantics) criticized Transcendentalism thought that Transcendentalists ignored two powerful realities: reality of evil reality of human love were not convinced that humanity, if left to its own devices would behave well.