The philosophical ideas behind the rise of transcendentalism in the first half of the century

Origins and Character What we now know as transcendentalism first arose among the liberal New England Congregationalists, who departed from orthodox Calvinism in two respects: 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 — in holding that Jesus was thoroughly human, although endowed with special authority.

The philosophical ideas behind the rise of transcendentalism in the first half of the century

The adherents to Transcendentalism believed that knowledge could be arrived at not just through the senses, but through intuition and contemplation of the internal spirit.

As such, they professed skepticism of all established religions, believing that Divinity resided in the individual, and the mediation of a church was cumbersome to achieving enlightenment.

The genesis of the movement can be accurately traced to and the first gathering of the Transcendental Club in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The father of the movement, an appellation he probably did not relish, was Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson lacked the vitality and desire to follow in her path.

Though their hold on the public imagination was short-lived, the long-lasting influence that the Transcendentalists had on American literature cannot be denied.

For Transcendentalism was a distinctly American expression, with concerns and ideals that perhaps did not fully translate in England or Continental Europe. A philosophical-literary movement cannot solve such problems, but it can provide the vocabulary to discuss them reasonably.

On the most basic level, Transcendentalism represented a new way of understanding truth and knowledge. The roots of the philosophy go back to Germany, specifically the writings and theories of Immanuel Kant. In contrast to the scientific revolutions which were daily adding to the store of facts, Kant concerned himself with the abstractions of existence — those things which cannot be known for sure.

He argued that individuals have it in their power to reason for themselves whether a thing be true or not, and how to fit their reasoning into an overall view of the world. Kant set himself apart from those who believed the senses to be perfect measures of reality.

He encouraged a healthy level of doubt and skepticism, but not to the point of nihilistic despair. Kant asserted that humans must embrace the fact that some things cannot be known with certainty, no matter how advanced science and technology become.

In addition to their heady philosophical forebears, the Transcendentalists owed a great debt to the English Romantics of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Many distinctly Romantic tropes echo through the pages of Transcendental literature. Obviously, the predilection to turn to the natural world for intimations of truth was a recurrent theme for the Romantics.

In Transcendental philosophy, the grind of ordinary life and society are seen as barriers between the self and the spirit. Thus, Nature presents a way to free the mind of its typical distractions. Another strongly Romantic concept that the Transcendentalists embraced was the renewed potency and potentiality of the individual.

Specifically, the imagination was glorified as one of the defining, almost divine characteristics of consciousness.

Through imagination, the human mind could extend itself in ways that had never been considered.

The philosophical ideas behind the rise of transcendentalism in the first half of the century

Transcendentalists differed somewhat from the Romantics in that they ultimately wanted to effect change, both personally and globally. Romanticism, generally speaking, was too much preoccupied with the ego and aesthetics to work for change in the real world.

This newly enlightened, transcendent individual could go into the world and work to make it a better place. The Transcendental Movement was nothing if not idealist.

The philosophical ideas behind the rise of transcendentalism in the first half of the century

Not surprisingly, the conflation of German philosophy and English Romanticism transplanted on American soil produced something quite original.

The fact that the United States was still such a young nation, still seeking out her borders, had a powerful impact on the literature being produced. Emerson and his contemporaries saw a nation on the brink of discovering its own voice. Until that time, American literature had merely replicated the fashions of Europe.Transcendentalism is an American literary, political, and philosophical movement of the early nineteenth century, centered around Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Other important transcendentalists were Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Amos Bronson Alcott, Frederic Henry Hedge, and Theodore Parker. The Philosophical Ideas Behind the Rise of Transcendentalism in the First Half of the Century PAGES 1. WORDS View Full Essay.

The 18th century

More essays like this: 19th century, transcendentalism, philosophical ideas. Not sure what I'd do without @Kibin - Alfredo Alvarez, student @ Miami University. Exactly what I . Transcendentalism is an American literary, political, and philosophical movement of the early nineteenth century, centered around Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Other important transcendentalists were Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Amos Bronson Alcott, Frederic Henry Hedge, and Theodore Parker. What we now know as transcendentalism first arose.

American literature - The 18th century: In America in the early years of the 18th century, some writers, such as Cotton Mather, carried on the older traditions. His huge history and biography of Puritan New England, Magnalia Christi Americana, in , and his vigorous Manuductio ad Ministerium, or introduction to the ministry, in , were defenses of ancient Puritan convictions.

Transcendentalism In his book The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine advanced a religious philosophy called Deism that struck at the tenets of organized religions, particularly Calvinism as it was practiced by the Puritans.

Transcendentalism, or American Romanticism, was the first of several major traditions to characterize philosophical thought in America's first full century as a nation, with Transcendentalism succeeded by the impact of Darwinian evolutionary thought and finally developing into America's most renowned school of thought, Pragmatism.

Commitment to Privacy - Virginia Commonwealth University