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Emerson - I Or We: Who Knows Better?

Uploaded by Naitachal0 on Dec 12, 2001

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, “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,” The mentality that Emerson expressed in that quote is one that was a commonality among most Romantics: A personal Truth was just as valid as a truth that has been proved by others. Neoclassicists, on the other hand, believed that for an idea to become accepted as a fact, outside sources had to repeatedly verify it. This disparity in thought was one of the reactionary reversals that exemplify the differences of the two movements. While Neoclassicists tended to be extroverted and reliant on the opinions of others to confirm their own insights, Romantics tended to be withdrawn and found comfort in their own thoughts, especially while in the presence of Nature. Embodiments of this difference in thought abound in each movement’s literature; Neoclassicist writers frequently appeal to the reader of their works to verify the presented information. Romantics, on the other hand, tend to focus inward and rarely appeal to the reader for verification.

In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson made several attempts at acceptance through the appeal to others. In the beginning of his work, he openly stated that in order for the United States to validly declare independence from Britain, “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” This need for outside support was typical of Neoclassicist writers. The reason for emphasis on others and their ideas came from their epistemological source, the scientific method. The scientific method stated that in order for hypotheses to become validated, the results had to be checked again and again by other people. Samuel Johnson, an acclaimed critic of the time period, stated that in order for an author to hold any credibility, he must have experienced much of the world and intimately know the topic about which he was writing. For a Neoclassicist, if a personal thought, feeling, or idea was to hold any weight; many other people must agree with the principle. When Romanticism came about, they completely negated this concept.

When Romantics wanted to find a Truth, they looked not to other people, but instead to Nature. In one of his many books, Nature, Emerson wrote, “In the wilderness, I find something more dear and connate...

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Uploaded by:   Naitachal0

Date:   12/12/2001

Category:   Literature

Length:   3 pages (724 words)

Views:   1239

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