Essays On Anti-Transcendentalism

Stimulated by English and German Romanticism, the Biblical criticism of Herder and Schleiermacher, and the skepticism of Hume, the transcendentalists operated with the sense that a new era was at hand.They were critics of their contemporary society for its unthinking conformity, and urged that each person find, in Emerson’s words, “an original relation to the universe” (O, 3).

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What we now know as transcendentalism first arose among the liberal New England Congregationalists, who departed from orthodox Calvinism in two respects: they believed in the importance and efficacy of human striving, as opposed to the bleaker Puritan picture of complete and inescapable human depravity; and they emphasized the unity rather than the “Trinity” of God (hence the term “Unitarian,” originally a term of abuse that they came to adopt.) Most of the Unitarians held that Jesus was in some way inferior to God the Father but still greater than human beings; a few followed the English Unitarian Joseph Priestley (1733–1804) in holding that Jesus was thoroughly human, although endowed with special authority.

The Unitarians’ leading preacher, William Ellery Channing (1780–1842), portrayed orthodox Congregationalism as a religion of fear, and maintained that Jesus saved human beings from sin, not just from punishment.

Herder blurred the lines between religious texts and humanly-produced poetry, casting doubt on the authority of the Bible, but also suggesting that texts with equal authority could still be written.

It was against this background that Emerson asked in 1836, in the first paragraph of : “Why should we not have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs” (O, 5).

Thoreau influenced many leaders of later Civil Rights movements.

"Thoreau's essay is a noble ringing reiteration of the highest religious individualism as a self-evident social principle"(Emerson, 5) The essay also had a power with great minds who were looking to break free of oppressive governments.Henry David Thoreau and Transcendatalism Henry David Thoreau harbored many anarchist thoughts toward the American government of the decades before the Civil War, which he collected and wrote about in the essay, "Civil Disobedience", which, in fact was originally called "Resistance to Civil Government", giving the essay a powerful message that would not only reflect Thoreau's own views toward the Mexican war, but also give the essay a powerful anti-slavery message, as well as affect the whole idea of Civil Rights, as well as shape the leaders of Civil Rights.In examining the essay, "Civil Disobedience", we must also immerse ourselves into the reasoning of the essay.Thoreau speaks by the basic Transcendentalist though of self-reliance.Thoreau also, "questions the personal morality involved in the Mexican war" (Hildebidle, 69).For although they admired Channing’s idea that human beings can become more like God, they were persuaded by Hume that no empirical proof of religion could be satisfactory.In letters written in his freshman year at Harvard (1817), Emerson tried out Hume’s skeptical arguments on his devout and respected Aunt Mary Moody Emerson, and in his journals of the early 1820s he discusses with approval Hume’s and his underlying critique of necessary connection.The whale also personifies the evil that exisists within Ahab.The evil Ahab possesses is the result of his obsession with...In "Civil Disobedience", we can see the stark contrasts between the attitude of the state and Toreau's own views. Thoreau only disagreed with the principle behind slavery, "he knew no Negroes, had never experienced the slightest social oppression, but was a radical individualist" (Smith, 62).Thoreau was a staunch supporter of John Brown, and went as far as to honor his death at Harper's Ferry.

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