Ralph Waldo Emerson

WHEN a baby, named Ralph Waldo, was born into the family of Emersons on May 2, 1803, there was nothing unusual about him. The family lived in Boston, was in somewhat better than average circumstances, and its male members were likely to become ministers. But as the baby grew, he became rather strange: he did not like to play. Other boys left him alone with his dreams, and later with his thoughts and books. To make matters worse, his father died prematurely, leaving the family-his widow and six children, Ralph being at that time 8 years of age-in a somewhat strained financial situation. But the boy was not greatly affected by this loss. If anything, he withdrew even more into himself and the world of fiction; fortunately, there were plenty of books about the house. By and by the great formative influence in his life turned out to be his aunt Mary whose literary talents inspired him to imitation in prose and poetry. When he reached the age of adolescence, he had to work his way through college (he went to Harvard), but even so he continued taking writing quite seriously.

On graduation in 1821, Emerson had no choice but to make a living. At first he taught in a finishing school for girls, but never could develop a liking for the job. Then he turned to preaching, but felt neither ready nor fit for ministry. He felt unprepared for any occupation, despondent and physically sick. Apparently he matured slowly, uncertain of himself and his plans.

All along he felt that what his body and mind needed above all was change. Finally he decided to go to Europe ( 1832) to rest and to look around. The trip was indeed the solution of all his problems, for it opened new and refreshing horizons to him. In the old world he discovered Goethe and German idealists, got acquainted with British transcendentalists, such as Coleridge, met J. S. Mill and Thomas Carlyle and established with the latter a friendship which lasted over thirty years. Somehow he began to feel stronger, gained self-respect and, surprisingly, respect from others, and, most importantly, formed a personal philosophy of life. Thus enriched he sailed home.

-253-

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American Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents vii
  • List of Contributors ix
  • Introduction - Orientation of Thought xi
  • Suggested Readings xviii
  • Part I - Fields and Problems of American Philosophy 1
  • The Philosophy of Science: The Problem of Factual Truth 3
  • Suggested Readings 19
  • Axiology: the Problem Of Human Values 21
  • Suggested Readings 33
  • Aesthetics: the Problem of Art And Beauty 34
  • Suggested Readings 47
  • Ethics: the Problem of Morality 49
  • Suggested Readings 63
  • Semantics: the Problem Of Meaning 64
  • Suggested Readings 82
  • Logic: the Problem of Reasoning 84
  • Suggested Readings 97
  • Metaphysics: the Problems Of Knowledge and Existence 98
  • Suggested Readings 113
  • Philosophy of Religion: The Problem of Faith 114
  • Suggested Readings 127
  • Part II - Sources and Choices of Philosophy 129
  • Transcendentalism 131
  • Suggested Readings 137
  • Idealism 138
  • Suggested Readings 146
  • Thomism 147
  • Suggested Readings 154
  • Personalism 155
  • Suggested Readings 161
  • Pragmatism 162
  • Suggested Readings 171
  • Humanism 172
  • Suggested Readings 182
  • Logical Positivism 183
  • Suggested Readings 191
  • Realism 193
  • Suggested Readings 202
  • Naturalism 203
  • Suggested Readings 210
  • Oriental Philosophy in America 211
  • Part III - American Thinkers 221
  • American Thought: A Chart 223
  • William Penn 227
  • Samuel Johnson 230
  • Jonathan Edwards 233
  • Benjamin Franklin 235
  • Thomas Paine 238
  • Thomas Jefferson 241
  • Benjamin Rush 244
  • William Ellery Channing 247
  • John Caldwell Calhoun 250
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson 253
  • Abraham Lincoln 256
  • Henry David Thoreau 259
  • Walt Whitman 262
  • Robert Green Ingersoll 265
  • Charles Sanders Peirce 268
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 271
  • John Fiske 274
  • William James 277
  • Ambrose Bierce 280
  • Borden Parker Bowne 283
  • Josiah Royce 285
  • John Dewey 288
  • George Santayana 291
  • Morris Raphael Cohen 294
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt 297
  • Suggested Readings 300
  • Conclusion 303
  • Index 311
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