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Examine points of agreement with what Emerson says about society.

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sandhar1 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 24, 2013 at 8:08 PM via web

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Examine points of agreement with what Emerson says about society.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 25, 2013 at 8:15 AM (Answer #1)

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I think that Emerson is fundamentally right about how there is a tension between the will of the individual and the collective social consciousness.  Emerson speaks of conformity and how the desire to conform robs the individual of uniqueness, preventing the realization of designs of Providence.  I believe that there is much truth to this. Conformist society is driven by the need to remove individuality. The drive for individual identity is not necessarily understood in a conformist setting.  Emerson has a point in the idea that one of the fundamental precepts for happiness is for individuals to embrace their condition of "self- reliance."  This state of being is one in which individuals recognize their responsibility to their own sense of self as opposed to conforming to fit the expectations of a larger element.

Emerson's idea of the nonconformist is relevant today.  When he says that, ‘Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist," he is suggesting that individual identity cannot be made within the desire to please others.  I think he's valid on this point.  He furthers his case with a list of individuals who we consider to be "great" because they did not conform to what others wanted.  Jesus, Socrates, Galileo, Newton, and Pythagoras are just a handful of names that were nonconformists, embraced their identities, and changed the world in the process.  If nonconformity moves an individual closer to this group, I think that this could not be seen as a bad thing.  In these notions, I think that Emerson's views about society have much in way of validity.

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