Self-Reliance. Home · Self-Reliance Author: Ralph Waldo Emerson. 48 downloads Views KB Size Report. DOWNLOAD EPUB. Recommend. that as well as for Emerson, self-reliance was the starting point for Mary Ann. Shadd's idea to achieve independence. For the former, intellectual. PDF | In the essay “Self-Reliance” Ralph Waldo Emerson presupposed a democratic society of free and equal individuals – an idealized.
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Self-Reliance. Ralph Waldo Emerson. “Ne te quaesiveris extra.” “Man is his own star; and the soul that can. Render an honest and a perfect man. Ralph Waldo Emerson: Self-Reliance. (). Emerson is the seminal intellectual , philosophical voice of the nineteenth century in. America. Although readers. Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the public and we .
Though at the end of the day someone needs to mend your shoes, bake your bread and so on - we can't all be primes if we want to function as a cohesive society. With regard to the contempt for charity, while you can celebrate that you are the product of your own hard work, you forget that's never really true in a society where we don't all start life with the same level of nutrition, warmth, care, location, education or skin. The track is rockier and longer for some, shorter and smoother for others. While we know charities are inefficient, and putting a dollar in the hand of a beggar won't teach them how to make more purposefully, I'd sooner hand over the dollar than pretend I wasn't the benefactor of circumstance. That doesn't mean you have to self-flagellate for being fortunate and dedicate yourself to others, it's just honesty. Emerson's essay was more about being the best version of yourself you can be.
There is a class of persons to whom by all spiritual affinity I am bought and sold; for them I will go to prison, if need be; but your miscellaneous popular charities…alms to sots.
These walks unsettled Emerson. This quote is often read to reject charity and obligation. But the full, original passage, drafted across three July journal entries, is more ambivalent. Simon, Fourier, and Owen as a conformist fad. Bostonians jailed the fugitive Thomas Sims in and Anthony Burns in , riling Massachusetts and radicalizing Emerson. No longer could he contemplate slavery in distant, disembodied terms. Emphasis added. Three years after Louisiana passed its Act, he wrote: As I have walked in the pastures and along the edge of the woods, I could not keep my imagination on those agreeable figures, for other images that intruded on me…poor black men of obscure employment as mariners, cooks, or stewards, in ships, yet citizens of this our Commonwealth of Massachusetts — freeborn as we — whom the slave-laws of the State of South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana have arrested.
Moral Imagination Yet Emerson did not witness the plantation slavery from which he benefitted. XII ed. Emerson used imagination to transcend his limited personal experience — and that of his Massachusetts audience — stirring empathy with distant Caribbean slaves.
Emerson understood imagination as the faculty of making mental images, seeing what was not physically present. He pities and scorns those who do not act self- reliantly. Compassion…cannot reach out farther than what is suffered by one person and remain what it is supposed to be, co-suffering.
Smith opens the work by recounting the torture of a man on the rack. The resemblance to Smith is no coincidence — Emerson adopted his approach to moral imagination and empathy from Scottish moral sense thinkers.
D Diss. University of Pennsylvania, , ; Edgeley W. New York: Cambridge University Press, : 63, II ed. William H. Gillman, Alfred R. Ferguson, Merrell R. Davis Cambridge: Harvard University Press, , Half a dozen entries on moral imagination and empathy followed, including an entry listing the Earl of Shaftesbury and Hume as necessary reading.
The latter drew him back to politics. Many abolitionists felt guilt or pity, but not empathy. Imagining himself not only as the perpetrator, but also the victim, Emerson transcended his private quest for moral purity, turning to other-regarding public action.
In sum, Emerson mixed two kinds of introspection. One was retrospection — remembering his kidnapped neighbors, his economic complicity, and his attendant debts. The other — imagination — extended his introspection beyond his personal memory.
Both memory and imagination of slavery rose involuntarily during private contemplation, and were so vivid they interrupted his reflection. Turner rightly notes rejecting commerce also spurs action. They revealed obligations to a particular class of persons, giving personal, self-reliant reasons for political action. Retrospection and moral imagination let Emerson reenter politics without violating his self-reliance. Self-reliance requires acting for self-derived reasons rather than coerced or imitative ones.
Constrained only by the moral law he derived during introspection, Emerson was self-reliant, recalling Kantian autonomy as self- auto legislation nomos , as opposed to heteronomy, or constraint by others.
He is not self-reliant or free. To be a self-reliant abolitionist, he must act for the sake of his personal antislavery intuitions. Also note that Kant, like Emerson, stresses the universality of moral law, acting for the sake of the law, and the importance of autonomy. II, But both Kant and the Scots felt autonomous contemplation revealed universal moral law, guiding human action.
The Fugitive Slave Act split Massachusetts into abolitionist, secessionist, unionists, and proslavery factions. Emerson publicly preached that the universal antislavery law obligated all of his listeners, making abolitionism the only moral solution to the slavery crisis.
Further, Emerson needed a higher, universal antislavery law to trump the many, corrupt proslavery civil laws of Massachusetts and the Union. His higher law rhetoric was not apolitical transcendentalism, but a pragmatic suasionist method to legitimize civil disobedience.
Even were these connection rare, they are still important demonstrations of his suasionism. In a characteristically Emersonian paradox, he appeals to abstract, disembodied universal moral law to obligate others to aid concrete, embodied slaves.
Similarly, he mixed solitude and society. Society pushed Emerson back to solitary contemplation. Contemplation pushed political action, provoking further contemplation.
Abolition by Moral Suasion How did Emerson practice politics? Antebellum Northerners ignored the source of their West-Indian sugar and Southern cotton. As Turner explains, these measures reduce our complicity, increasing our self-reliance. Abolitionists converted others through mass speeches, conventions, and rallies, and were just as conformist and constricting as the mass political parties.
An act is self-reliant if done for self-derived reasons, so a conformist abolitionist could not be self-reliant. Mere mouthpieces of a party…they are inestimable workers on audiences; but for a private conversation, one to one, I much prefer to take my chance with that boy in the corner. Abolitionist conventions were too crowded for self-reliance. Ralph H. Orth and Alfred R. Ferguson Cambridge: Harvard University Press, , Politics must occur in a middle ground, smaller than a convention but bigger than one man.
The sunny Emerson answers that this one-on-one conversation disrobes power and skill.
That which we keep back, this reveals…There lies the unspoken thing, present, omnipresent. Suasionists also upset their audiences to remind the listener that he, like slaves, suffered. This closed the distance between the British or American listener and the Caribbean slave, building a transatlantic political community.
Unlike Arendt, Emerson saw empathy as a political tool. First, the conversation is vulgar. It rejects politeness and rank for common gut reactions, equalizing participants.
In this equality, it is democratic. Second, conversation through door-to-door canvassing was a mainstay of American abolitionism. In their wake sprang local abolition groups, often of several dozen members each.
For a contemplative man like Clarkson, educating others comes naturally. He then learns, that going down into the secrets of his own mind, he has descended into the secrets of all minds.
The horrid story ran and flew; the winds blew it all over the world. Stories from plantations radiated across the Anglophone world, stirring widespread indignation.
As the historian Michael E. Emerson praised William Wilberforce for bringing ten contentious antislavery petitions to Parliament, and Granville Sharp for advising the pivotal Somerset and Zong cases, alerting the British public to the particular horrors of Caribbean slavery. See Emerson, Journals, Vol.
IV, By , as many as , people had signed antislavery petitions. What is man born for but to be a reformer, a Remaker of what man has made. We bend all institutions to our aims. The fact, that a new thought and hope have dawned in your breast, should apprize you that in the same hour a new light broke in upon a thousand private hearts.
Maintaining Self-Reliance Emerson was wrong. Slavery so divided antebellum America that war — not conversation — united the halves. As James H. In Andrew Jackson asked the federal post to impound abolitionist mail. Soon after, the House of Representatives passed a gag rule tabling federal antislavery petitions. So abolitionists preached and printed locally, ranging south and west. The lynching of Elijah Lovejoy by a proslavery Illinois mob riled abolitionists.
Two years later, Emerson attended the funeral of Charles Turner Torrey, a suasionist who died in a Maryland prison. No excess of good nature or of tenderness in individuals has been able to give a new character to the system.
The Act turned Emerson from private contemplation to the sort of politics he once detested. The Act outraged many Northerners, allowing mass partisan and Republican organizing, but this could coerce members into uncontemplated action on party dogmas, violating their self-reliance.
Garrison and Phillips suggested New Englanders abrogate the Act by seceding from the Union, but this would not achieve Southern abolition. These tactics included refusing to vote, personally boycotting plantation goods, harboring runaways, and resisting a Fugitive Slave Act posse. Emerson learned this from Concord friends, including Thoreau. Thoreau also withdrew from politics to his cabin and woods at Walden Pond.
Athens: University of Georgia Press, , But he insisted these principles lead to action in and against the realm of conventional politics. Emerson hoped common moral sense would unite individuals to abolition.
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