Major Tenets and Study Guide
I. Major Tenets:
Listed below are tenets (ideas) shared by many, not all, of the authors
associated with Transcendentalism.
(In bold are some of the key terms that function in Transcendentalism.)
1. Transcendentalism is a form of philosophical idealism (Platonic).
2. The transcendentalist rises above the lower animalistic
impulses in life, as well as the cultural restrictions
of society, and moves from the rational to a spiritual realm.
3. God or the Life Force
in the universe can be found everywhere, thus no need for churches or
4. God can be found in both nature
and human nature. God is not super human being but a spirit in us all.
5. Every person possesses the "inner light" of God, which
must be nourished to sustain us.
6. Every person possesses "intuition,"
an essentalist understanding of right and wrong (moral action).
7. Culture and society tend to corrupt our intuition, establishing
other determiners for morality and truth
(church, government, peer groups,etc.) that deny us our own truths.
8. Thinking helps us to actualize the authority of our
intuition. Thus, we feel what's right/wrong; then we know what's
9. Learning can also aid intuition and connect us to nature,
resulting in the drive for self-culture--learning
new ideas and skills.
10. However, the past, in terms of learning and knowledge, should not
limit or define who we are today. The material world is influx;
realm (fixed) mansfests itself in different ways over time.
Hence, emphasis on the here and now.
11. We should live close to nature, for it is our greatest
teacher. Nature is emblematic,
and understanding its "language" can
bring us closer to God . Poets know this, and they write in the
language of nature, helping us to connect our lives
to the spiritual realm. They replace the priests and ministers of the
12. Individualism lies at the heart of Transcendentalism.
Every indivudual needs to be self-reliant
and thus not depend upon others
if he or she is to be free and to live life fully. Self-empowered
is attained by defying the authority of "empty" conventions and
13. The Bible was written for people in the past and may offer
some transcending lessons. But it is not the word of God. or the
ultimate authority on how to live your life.
14. Jesus had God in him too, like all of us, but he was not God.
In many ways, though, he taught valuable lessons and lived a
transcendent life, which should be studied. The miracles of the
Bible are doubted in terms of specialness; the universe around us
full of the miracles of nature.
15. Evil (dark) is the absence of good (light), but good is more
powerful. The law of
compensation means that good will always arise
II. Study Guide for mid-term
Understanding the major tenets of Transcendentism will be useful on the
mid-term. Listed below are several focused topics that might
appear on the exam.
Definition of nature (two types); concepts of self-reliance, intuition,
and self-culture; nature versus "art;" main characteristics of
the poet; world is emblematic; good and evil--law of compensation;
spiritual and human co-creation; arguments for non-conformity.
Relationship between two aspects of human nature; busking; railroad as
metaphor and chapter on "Spring;" solitude and self-culture;
his purpose in going into the woods and writing Walden; the meaning and
significance of the title of first chapter, "Economy;" his
proclamation-"What shall I
learn of beans and beans of me?"
pro-slavery arguments; how he attacks those arguments; his position on
religion and slavery; how slavery corrupts family and
marriage for both owners and slaves.
Fuller: The cult
of domesticity; types of marriages, ranked; on slavery and women; male
arguments against equality; influence of Transcendentalism
on her views; Fuller as essentialist and/or constructionist.