Discovering the puritan enlightenment and transcendentalist ideas

Darrian Broom The famous 18th century evangelist and revivalist Jonathan Edwards as well as the famed 19th century poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson grew up in highly religious atmospheres. Edwards was of a more conservative mindset while Emerson was a great deal more progressive in his thinking. There were times, however, that each of their ideas seemed to align perfectly with one another. Their other ideas were radically conflicting from one another.

Discovering the puritan enlightenment and transcendentalist ideas

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.

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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.

Literary Periods

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.

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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.

Discovering the puritan enlightenment and transcendentalist ideas

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

English Literature History

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. There was precious little originality or innovation.

Furthermore, the cultural hub of the new nation was firmly rooted New England. The Transcendentalists saw an opportunity to make a break with England and forge a new literature for a new continent.

That literature would be bold and expressive, and a bit wild, like the land itself. If the Transcendental Movement had a founding father, then he was most certainly Ralph Waldo Emerson. However, he only reluctantly adopted the role of figurehead. He mostly preferred to remain behind the scenes, observing the action but not participating.Aug 19,  · "Immanuel Kant was the paradigmatic philosopher of the European Enlightenment.

He eradicated the last traces of the medieval world view from modern philosophy, joined the key ideas of earlier rationalism and empiricism into a powerful model of the subjective origins of the fundamental principles of both science and . Enlightenment thinkers emphasize reason.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident." - Thomas Jefferson "It is contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at secondhand." - Thomas Paine Both Puritan and Enlightenment thinkers come at "truth" in different ways: For the Puritans, God is the source of truth, and all .

The emergence of the Transcendentalists as an identifiable movement took place during the late s and s, but the roots of their religious philosophy extended much .

Enlightenment, transcendentalism, and puritan theology: 3 philosophies that shaped 3 centuries in America. Since the time periods of each philosophy overlapped with the others, all 3 had similarities as well as urbanagricultureinitiative.coms: 1.

The feelings expressed by transcendentalist writers are intense, the ideas serious, the reflection deep and meaningful,” (Literary Movements for Students ) is an impeccable description of the ’s movement that began in New England and is known as Transcendentalism.

The Puritan forebears planted the seed of American exceptionalism, which grew fast and strong in the intellectual atmosphere of nineteenth century New England. In sharp contrast to the sober calculation of Ralph Waldo Emerson is the life and work of Henry David Thoreau.

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