American Philosophy

New England Transcendentalists

What were Ralph Waldo Emerson’s requirements for a scholar?

Emerson thought that much could be learned from ordinary experience and that spirituality was not separate from what was familiar or “common.” He did not have a high opinion of American academic philosophers, dismissing their thought as “derivative,” but he did posit necessary conditions for a scholar. These are: closeness to and experience with nature, knowledge of the past, and action as the clearest expression of thought. Emerson wrote that thinking is a “partial act,” but living is a “total act.”


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