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Transcendentalism was an intellectual movement founded by Emerson that affected most of the writers of his day. The Transcendentalists believed that the human senses can know only physical reality. To the Transcendentalists, the fundamental truths of existence lay outside the reach of the senses and could be grasped only through intuition. As a result, the Transcendentalists focused their attention on the human spirit. They also had a deep interest in the natural world and its relationship to humanity. Through the careful observation of nature, they believed that the human spirit is reflected in the natural world. This led them to the conclusion that formed the heart of their beliefs: All forms of being—God, nature, and humanity—are spiritually united through a shared universal soul, or Over-Soul.
During the 1830s and 1840s, Emerson and a small group of like-minded intellectual friends gathered regularly in his study to discuss philosophy, religion, and literature. Among them were Emerson’s protégé, Henry David Thoreau, as well as educator Bronson Alcott, feminist writer Margaret Fuller, and ex-clergyman and author George Ripley. The group, known as the Transcendental Club, developed a philosophical system that stressed intuition, individuality, and self-reliance. In 1836, Emerson published “Nature,” a lengthy essay that became the Transcendental Club’s unofficial statement of belief.
Defining the term “Transcendentalism”
-This word was made up by the Transcendentalist thinkers. However, you can still figure out what it means. Think of what the word “transcends” means. How does this apply to the philosophy we’ve been learning about?
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