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Transcendentalism Notes. Emerson and Thoreau. The term transcendental comes from the eighteenth-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

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transcendentalism notes

Transcendentalism Notes

Emerson and Thoreau


The term transcendental comes from the eighteenth-century German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

  • In determining the existence of God, the universe, and the self, one must transcend, or go beyond, everyday human experience, and instead connect through the natural world.
  • God is in every aspect of nature, including every human being
    • Referred to as the Divine Soul or Oversoul
    • Every living thing on earth is connected
  • One will connect with one’s true self in nature.
  • Optimistic view—we can find God directly through nature.
    • God is good.
    • Death is simply a part of the life cycle.
  • Idealism—they believed in the perfectibility of man.

Intuition is an important tool

    • Intuition is God’s voice
  • Self-reliance and individuality outweigh external authority and blind conformity to custom and tradition.
    • Often, we are unaware as to the true reasons why we conform
    • Always question authority and tradition
  • Spontaneous feelings and intuition are superior to deliberate intellectualism and rationality.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were at the forefront of this movement.