Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson - The Transcendentalist Summary & Analysis

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The Transcendentalist Summary and Analysis

In this lecture delivered in 1842, Emerson strongly links the then current philosophy of transcendentalism with Buddhism and strongly emphasizes its spirituality. He also draws a clear distinction between "materialism" and "idealism," and claims the latter category for his brand of philosophy. Materialism relies on the senses and our awareness of the physical world for its orientation, but idealism arises from a spontaneous form of consciousness that is not bounded by physical forms or categories, Emerson says.

Although there is no specific transcendentalist doctrine or party, Emerson says, it is most similar to Buddhism in its spiritual inclusiveness of "anything grand and daring in human thought or virtue, any reliance on the vast, the unknown, any presentiment, any extravagance of faith." Emerson attributes the term transcendentalism to the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who used the moniker for consciousness that arises...

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