Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson And Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience?

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The difference between a rock and a human truly just comes down to a few different variations of carbon molecules. Yet this straightforward science ignores why humans, in all of their complexity, stem from such a random happenstance. Only knowing this science of life has not necessarily led to understanding its meaning. For that answer, famed transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau look within the self, rather than in a laboratory. In his essay, Self-Reliance, Emerson hypothesizes the meaning to be in independence; whereas, Thoreau, from his nature experience in Walden, theorizes it to be in simplicity. At the least, Thoreau finds it in a life without an intrusive government, which is the reason he pens Civil Disobedience.…show more content…
Rather, he should always protest for his autonomy. Thoreau expands on this subject in Civil Disobedience. After expressing his desires for a small government, he questions the idea of government itself: “Must the citizen ever for a moment...resign his conscience to the legislator?...[W]e should be men first, and subjects afterwards” (Civil Disobedience 171). Placing the individual over the government, Thoreau shows his passion for the self. That person’s actions may go awry, but, at least, the person still has the right to learn from his or her wrongs. Thoreau likens a meaningful existence with unyielding trust in a person’s inner voice. Without nurturing this voice, an individual loses his or her personhood. Such unwavering loyalty to the self best characterizes the transcendental ideal life, where one only needs to follow intuition to be…show more content…
Yet, in Thoreau’s view, many take it too far. Some sacrifice happiness for altruistic causes; others relinquish self-fulfillment for these missions. After first promoting his reader to stand for those causes, he reveals some caveats with a full preoccupation with activism. He writes, “I have other affairs to attend to. I came into this world, not chiefly to make this a good place to live in, but to live in it” (Civil Disobedience 172). Thoreau acknowledges that self-sacrifice, while noble, is not what the transcendentalists support. Although this may be in line with an ardent moral conscience, it fails to consider the whole self. The person in question would start living for the results. He or she would aim to please others and not him or herself. To live meaningfully, Thoreau advises individuals to take care of themselves and make sure that whatever they offer the world comes from their entire effort. Like Emerson, Thoreau makes it clear that the self, above all else, must grow independently to enjoy the
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