The American Scholar By Ralph Waldo Emerson Essays

The American Scholar By Ralph Waldo Emerson Essays

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Ralph Waldo Emerson delivers his address The American Scholar to a Harvard audience in 1837, where he presents the three crucial aspects of being an American Scholar. First of the scholarly characteristics was the influence of nature, second was the mind of the past, and the last was action. He states that, “action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential.” He further states that that “inaction is cowardice, but there can be no scholar without the heroic mind.” What exactly does Emerson mean by the word action? Is action actually “subordinate” to the other aspect of what is known as the human mind? Action does indeed come after thought, but is it any less important than that of thought? A Transcendentalist philosopher and essentially a student of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau had beliefs of his own that he reflected on in one of his own writings, Walden. The word action is definitely taken in a more literal sense for Thoreau. Although there are segments of Walden where Henry David Thoreau 's idea of thought is extremely imperative to mankind, as they are in Emerson 's, there is more evidence in Thoreau’s beliefs that proves action is just as important as thought, if not more.
Henry David Thoreau defines action in a more external sense compared to Emerson in which he portrays it in his thoughts and writings. In Thoreau’s Walden, he explains and expands on his “Where I lived, What I lived for” section, with this following quote:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Thoreau chose to take physical action in his life, leaving behind ...


... middle of paper ...


...horeau. Nonetheless, there is still the slight difference in that Thoreau’s main focus is the act of taking physical steps to achieve the goal of living with a purpose, while Emerson elaborates on the internal action of thinking and how to connect the influence of thought to the soul. A commonly known phrase is used in the nation when action is not taken at all after thought: “it’s the thought that counts.” But is it really only the thought that counts? Emerson makes a valid point when he suggests that “action is essential, inaction is cowardice, and that there cannot be a scholar without a heroic mind.” However, physical action is just as necessary and fundamental as internal action with thought. As Henry David Thoreau himself states, “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

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