Monday, February 17, 2020

the American scholar

Emerson introduces Transcendentalist and Romantic views to explain an American scholar's relationship to nature. A few key points he makes include:

  • We are all fragments, "as the hand is divided into fingers", of a greater creature, which is mankind itself.
  • An individual may live in either of two states. In one, the busy, "divided" or "degenerate" state, he does not "possess himself" but identifies with his occupation or a monotonous action; in the other, "right" state, he is elevated to "Man", at one with all mankind.
  • To achieve this higher state of mind, the modern American scholar must reject old ideas and think for him or herself, to become "Man Thinking" rather than "a mere thinker, or still worse, the parrot of other men's thinking", "the victim of society", "the sluggard intellect of this continent".
  • "The American Scholar" has an obligation, as "Man Thinking", within this "One Man" concept, to see the world clearly, not severely influenced by traditional and historical views, and to broaden his understanding of the world from fresh eyes, to "defer never to the popular cry."
  • The scholar's education consists of three influences:
    • I. Nature as the most important influence on the mind
    • II. The Past manifest in books
    • III. Action and its relation to experience
  • The last, unnumbered part of the text is devoted to Emerson's view on the "Duties" of the American Scholar who has become the "Man Thinking."
  • " The scholar must needs stand wistful and admiring before this great spectacle. He must settle its value in his mind"

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