Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson - Nominalist and Realist Summary & Analysis

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Nominalist and Realist Summary and Analysis

In this essay, Emerson delves deeper into the "biploar" nature of man, mentioned in the previous essay on character. When we greatly admire or revere someone we raise them in our minds to the level of perfection, overlooking the character flaws that are in all persons. We focus on the general rather than the particular, according to Emerson. Thus, we identify certain traits of nations (i.e., Germans are disciplined, French are romantic) that bear no relationship to the number of citizens and thus can not be defined numerically or quantified. In the dispute between nominalists and realists, Emerson notes, the realists have reason on their side; but the nominalists are more popular because general ideas about things and people are "gods" by which we intuitively understand the world.

Love, by revealing the admirable qualities of an...

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