Essays On Anti-Transcendentalism

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What we now know as transcendentalism first arose among the liberal New England Congregationalists, who departed from orthodox Calvinism in two respects: they believed in the importance and efficacy of human striving, as opposed to the bleaker Puritan picture of complete and inescapable human depravity; and they emphasized the unity rather than the “Trinity” of God (hence the term “Unitarian,” originally a term of abuse that they came to adopt.) Most of the Unitarians held that Jesus was in some way inferior to God the Father but still greater than human beings; a few followed the English Unitarian Joseph Priestley (1733–1804) in holding that Jesus was thoroughly human, although endowed with special authority.

The Unitarians’ leading preacher, William Ellery Channing (1780–1842), portrayed orthodox Congregationalism as a religion of fear, and maintained that Jesus saved human beings from sin, not just from punishment.

Thoreau speaks by the basic Transcendentalist though of self-reliance.

Thoreau also, "questions the personal morality involved in the Mexican war" (Hildebidle, 69).

The Transcendentalists feel that the world is filled with goodness, however, the Anti-Transcendentalists believe in the more reasonable idea that man has the potential to be either good or bad.

Moby Dick is portrayed as evil in the story as Ahab tells of how he lost his leg to the white behemoth.Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, attacks the views of the Transcendentalists by portraying Moby Dick, the white whale, as the personification of evil.This completely opposes the Transcendentalist idea that there is only good in the world.In "Civil Disobedience", we can see the stark contrasts between the attitude of the state and Toreau's own views. Thoreau only disagreed with the principle behind slavery, "he knew no Negroes, had never experienced the slightest social oppression, but was a radical individualist" (Smith, 62).Thoreau was a staunch supporter of John Brown, and went as far as to honor his death at Harper's Ferry.Thoreau influenced many leaders of later Civil Rights movements."Thoreau's essay is a noble ringing reiteration of the highest religious individualism as a self-evident social principle"(Emerson, 5) The essay also had a power with great minds who were looking to break free of oppressive governments.Throughout the story, Melville also incorporates the Anti-Transcendental principles that the truths of existence are illusive and that nature is indifferent, unforgiving, and often unexplainable.Moby Dick and Captain Ahab both refute the Transcendentalist principle that there is no evil, there is only love.“We have no experience of a Creator,” Emerson writes, and therefore we “know of none” (JMN 2, 161). Schleiermacher’s (1825), which introduced the idea that the Bible was a product of human history and culture.Skepticism about religion was also engendered by the publication of an English translation of F. Equally important was the publication in 1833—some fifty years after its initial appearance in Germany—of James Marsh’s translation of Johann Gottfried von Herder’s (1782).


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