Tuesday, May 6, 2014
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in boston on May 25, 1803 to his parents, William and Ruth Emerson. His family was plagued by tragedy for most of his life, with the passing of his father in 1811 and the loss of 5 siblings, three of which died in childhood, while the other two before the age of thirty. He grew up in such poverty that he had to share a winter coat with his brother Edward. These hardships that Emerson faced were instrumental in the cultivation of Emerson’s ideas on the Human condition, which were unique at the time of their conception. However, with the help of his aunt, Mary Emerson, young Ralph Waldo Emerson pursued academics which eventually led him to Harvard University at the age of fourteen.
After Harvard, Emerson had wanted to become a school teacher, and that was his occupation until 1826, when he became a minister in New Hampshire. While preaching, he met his future wife, Ellen Tucker, and they soon moved to Massachusetts. Emerson worked at the Second Church of Boston until tragedy struck his life once more, with the passing of his wife due to tuberculosis in 1831. This tragedy shook his foundation for thought to the core, as well as his faith in god, leading him to produce the works he is known for today.
Some of the topics that Emerson chose to write about were that of religion. He had many problems with organized religion, such as his opinion that Contemporary Christianity had lost its way in how it influenced people. He felt that Christianity had ceased to activate the spirit, and had instead muffled or restrained the spirit. He felt that the image of Jesus had been changed, and his purpose as a friend of man had been altered by the organized church and turned him into more of an oppressor. He felt that the church had ruined christianity and what it truly stood for, stating that the “religious sentiment” that church should inspire was more likely to be found in “the pastures” or “a boat in the pond”. He often implied that Ministers of the church should not hold themselves above their congregation, but instead to be friends and examples to them, allowing them to share their thoughts on their own vision of the lord.
One of Emerson's most famous essays was Nature. This particular essay expressed Emerson’s belief that individuals must develop their own personal understanding of the universe that surrounds them. He makes his ideas clear from the very beginning that men should break away from the reliance on secondhand information and knowledge of the past and instead, venture out into nature and develop their own ideas. Emerson believed that people in the past had an intimate relationship with god and nature, which allowed them to come to their own conclusions regarding the universe, he goes on to say that, with the discovery of new lands and new men, we must push forward and produce our own ideas and works, as opposed to merely accepting old knowledge as enough. He also spent a portion of the essay expressing his ideas that due to our disconnect from nature, we fail to see the universe in its whole form, and until we as individuals, come to a point in which we can see nature’s relationship with god and everything else in existence, than we will have a fragmented view of the world.Emerson was incredibly influential in the progression of philosophy. Philosophers like Nietzsche read German translations of Emerson’s essays, and copied passages from History and self-reliance in his journals, even to go far as to write that Essays made him feel “so much at home in a book”. When one reads Nietzsche’s work you can see the Emersonian influence in ideas such as education and giving up control in order to gain it. Some scholars have made connections to Emersonian ideals regarding transition and the power of human will, stating that it “permeates the writings of such classical American pragmatists as William James and John Dewey. However, what makes Ralph Waldo Emerson one of my favorite philosophers, is ultimately his ideas on nature and its importance in understanding the Universe, or at least the portion of it we reside in.