Transcendentalism is a philosophy about people who know clearly both themselves and their environment, that goes beyond the feelings, touches, sees, hears and tastes of both men and women. It emerges by imagination and intuition, but not by senses or reasoning. People should trust what they think is right (Newman 5). Transcendentalist people welcome these theories as an approach to understanding human interaction, not from a religious viewpoint. The transcending club that met at George Ripley’s residence in Boston is the party that brought together those thinkers (Newman 5). Margaret Fuller edited their thoughts, published in the periodical, “The Dial,” a political activist whose book, “Women of the Nineteenth Century” was among the most famous of those days. The team had several amazing thinkers under the leadership of Ralph Waldo Emerson (Newman 5).
These group of scholars advanced several social issues in the community touching on politics, moral, and social matters. Some of these issues included the following: first, campaigns against alcohol taking (Newman 6). Secondly, advancements for women’s rights particularly rights to participate in elections. Thirdly, reforms in the educational sector. Fourth, transformation in prisons; that is treating prisoners fairly fairy and abolition of death sentences. Fifth, improvement of the work environment in manufacturing industries, and antislavery sentiments (Newman 6).
Transcendentalism was grounded on Unitarian optimism, that is, they believed in the natural goodness of people especially children. Their emphasis on the innocence of kids as the future of human beings motivated their reform agenda in education (Newman 6). These group of transcendentalist included Elizabeth Palmer, James Freeman Clarke, and Bronson Alcott. They held the view that children should be granted freedom to explore and adventure and develop their perspective about the world (Newman 6). From their perspective, through modeling and interaction with morally upright adults, children will develop good moral and an innate goodness thus becoming responsible future citizens (Newman 6).
Besides, the transcendentalists promoted love for the environment, self-reliance, and the individual drive for people to work and make the world a better place. Through journalism, poetry, lectures, and essay writing, the transcendentalism club tried to tackle the pressing issues in society (Stuhr 22). Further, this group consisted of highly learned people who studied on Persian poetry, Hindu scriptures, literature philosophy and history and Eastern religions (Stuhr 22). When they gathered, their discussions centered on Socrates teachings. Furthermore, they employed Socrates techniques of asking questions to dig deep into the issues affecting the American people (Stuhr 22).
Even though they engaged in general debates, the transcendentalists often differed on how to bring reforms. For instance, the group consisted of some radicals like George Ripley who believed in Utopian ideology and emphasized on collaborative and non-competitive social frameworks (Stuhr 23). According to him, tasks should be matched with their abilities and individual desires. Everyone had the responsibility of ensuring that the people around are well-taken care, a situation which would bring harmony. However, this ideology failed because people were not determined to adopt this school of thought (Stuhr 24).
In conclusion, the transcendentalists spearheaded the celebration of the American test as one of self-reliance and individualism. They led fruitful campaigns on education, reform, abolition rights of women, etc. Besides, they criticized creeping industrialization, social organizations, laws, organized religion, and the government. They nurtured an American school of thought where reason was inferior to the imagination, the theory was less important than creativity, and taking action was superior to meditation. Also, they firmly believed that great heights would be attained because human beings could stretch their limits and reach greater heights.
Newman, Lance. Our Common Dwelling: Henry Thoreau, Transcendentalism, and the Class Politics of Nature. Springer, 2005.
Stuhr, John J. “Pragmatism and classical American philosophy: essential readings and interpretive essays.” (1999).