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American Transcendentalism Transcendentalism as espoused by Ralph Waldo Emerson is essen tially an idealist philosophy derived from Kants concept of the Tran scendental and opposed to the skepticism of Locke and the Empiricists In the essay The Transcendentalist Emerson wrote Kant showed that there was a very important class of ideas or imperative forms which do not come by experience but through which experience was acquired that these were intuitions of the mind itself and he denominated them Tran scendental forms1 According to Emersons understanding of Kant Transcendentalism becomes a union of solipsism under which the only verifiable reality is thought to be the self and materialism under which the only verifiable reality is the quantifiable external world of objects and sense data Through this fusion of paradigms Transcendentalism as a living and organic philosophy was transported to America Emerson was the source of most of its poetry and mysticism and fostered the growth of the New England variant Emerson separated the universe into two primary categories nature and soul and constantly sought to elucidate the interrelations of both Mans key to these relations what Emerson called analogies was individual intuition which cannot fail because it is necessarily and origi nally linked to the universal spirit Emersons Transcendentalism thus proposed a resolution of the duality that defines the human condition selfother selfworld materialspiritual through the powers of human intuition Eric Ericson an Emersonian scholar says this circular reason ing and contradiction posed no problem for Emerson He writes Emerson the chief celebrant of individuality and self-reliance is thus the foremost teacher of the eternal unity and of the essential identity of the individual self with the oversoul the universal self This dual aspect poses no problem or contradiction for Transcendentalism which sees a complementarity a harmony of the individual and the universal 2 The source of this complementarity and unity was the Over-Soul which has a relationship of identiticality with man and nature
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