Essay #1

Essay #1 - English 263 Lauren Berry December 7 2009 Self...

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English 263 Lauren Berry December 7, 2009 Emerson was a leading voice of philosophical writers in the nineteenth century that shaped American culture. In the essay, “Self Reliance”, Emerson urges readers to trust their own intuition and use common sense rather than conforming to the will of the majority or following popular opinion. Emerson believed that every person is born with knowledge that enables him to recognize and understand moral truth and that this is a gift from God. He argues that an ideal spiritual state transcends both the physical and empirical and is only realized through an individual’s intuition. This essay was provocative because it urged men to trust their instincts when making decisions rather than relying on consensus from others or rational thought. However, “self reliance” according to Emerson was not to be seen as anti- society or anti-conformity, but as a starting point to a better life Emerson defines “self reliance” by defining genius: “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.” He argues that every educated man eventually realizes that ‘‘envy is ignorance" and that he must be truly himself. God has made each person unique and, by extension, given each person a unique work to do. To trust one's own thoughts and put them into action is, in a very real sense, to hear and act on the voice of God. Additionally, one must seek solitude in one’s own thoughts because society causes man to conform. “Society everywhere is in conspiracy 1
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against the manhood of every one of its members.” In other words, in order to be self reliant one must transcend society and think for one’s self. Emerson writes about two factors that dissuade people from following their own intuition: society’s disapproval and foolish consistency. He says, “For nonconformity the world ships you with its displeasure.” He refers to the public as “trifle” and maintains that although it may be easier to go along with the world’s opinion, the mark of a great man is “he
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Essay #1 - English 263 Lauren Berry December 7 2009 Self...

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