Emerson Essay Project

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Without it, thought “can never ripen into truth” (CW1: 59).

Action is the process whereby what is not fully formed passes into expressive consciousness.

The scholar’s education in original experience and self-expression is appropriate, according to Emerson, not only for a small class of people, but for everyone. Only when we learn to “walk on our own feet” and to “speak our own minds,” he holds, will a nation “for the first time exist” (CW1: 70).

Emerson returned to the topic of education late in his career in “Education,” an address he gave in various versions at graduation exercises in the 1860s.

He believed in “transcendental knowledge” but confined it to things such as time, space, quantity and casualty, which in his views were imposed by the perception of human minds.

He regarded these aspects as the universal sense experience.Instead of educating “masses,” we must educate “reverently, one by one,” with the attitude that “the whole world is needed for the tuition of each pupil” (E: 154).Emerson is in many ways a process philosopher, for whom the universe is fundamentally in flux and “permanence is but a word of degrees” (CW 2: 179).Self-reliance appears in the essay in his discussion of respect.The “secret of Education,” he states, “lies in respecting the pupil.” It is not for the teacher to choose what the pupil will know and do, but for the pupil to discover “his own secret.” The teacher must therefore “wait and see the new product of Nature” (E: 143), guiding and disciplining when appropriate-not with the aim of encouraging repetition or imitation, but with that of finding the new power that is each child’s gift to the world.Nor would these men have been anything without this concept.So what is Transcendentalism anyway and how have men’s thoughts and outlooks been able make it what it is remembered as?The aim of education is to “keep” the child’s “nature and arm it with knowledge in the very direction in which it points” (E: 144).This aim is sacrificed in mass education, Emerson warns.Life is the scholar’s “dictionary” (CW1: 60), the source for what she has to say: “Only so much do I know as I have lived” (CW).The true scholar speaks from experience, not in imitation of others; her words, as Emerson puts it, are “are loaded with life…” (CW1: 59).

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