Wednesday, May 25, 2022

May 25: Ralph Waldo Emerson, American writer and philosopher


Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was an American writer and perhaps the young country's first original philosopher. He was an essayist, lecturer, abolitionist, and poet, and a leader of the mid-19th century transcendentalist movement. In true American mode, he championed individualism, disseminating his ideology through dozens of published essays and more than 1,500 public lectures across the United States. Starting out as a pastor (like his father), he struck out on his own with the publication of his 1836 essay "Nature," which expressed the philosophy of transcendentalism. He would often lecture on a topic, then revise his notes to publish as essays. Some of the more important of these are "The American Scholar," "Self-Reliance," "The Over-Soul," "Experience," and others. He returned again and again to the ideas of individuality, freedom, the ability of humankind to achieve almost anything, and the relationship between the soul and the outside world. He was also a mentor and friend of Henry David Thoreau, another transcendentalist.


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