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What is Emerson's view about the duties of the American Scholar?(What is the problem...

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showman02 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted March 5, 2012 at 3:40 AM via web

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What is Emerson's view about the duties of the American Scholar?(What is the problem with the current state of being-how can one improve?)

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yaday | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted November 21, 2012 at 3:47 PM (Answer #1)

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In Emerson's "American Scholar," the idea of the importance of breeding/fostering a new type of intellectual is emphasized.   To begin with, Emerson feels that society creates a drag on the individual, and he becomes "the parrot of other men's thinking."  This is the idea that an individual ceases to have any original insight and merely repeats knowledge/wisdom from the past or other contemporaries.   Emerson continues to explain why we relish in unoriginal thoughts as he continues to deliver this oration to Phi Beta Kappa.  Unfortunately, because of the need to classify anomalies and natural order, man's relationship to nature is shortsided because "he is ignorant of, so much of his own mind does he not yet possess."  Because humankind focuses so much on studies and production, the individual fails to appreciate the beauty of the outside world and fails to suck the "marrow out of life"(Thoreau).   

Lastly, Emerson targets the greats from the past.  To further emphasize the dangers of unoriginal thought, he says "meek young men grow up in libraries, believing it their duty to accept the views which Cicero, which Locke, which Bacon, have given; forgetful that Cicero, Locke, and Bacon were only young men in libraries when they wrote these books."  Emerson lays out the cyclical process of learning:  history repeats itself and scholars simply study the works of the past rather than exploring the world themselves for new insight.  However, Emerson points out that an individual needs to lay a foundation down educationally before taking the next step.  He ends the speech by saying, "[books] are for nothing but to inspire"

Emerson's ideas in "American Scholar" pointed out to a new form of thinking.  Hence, he is one of the founding fathers of Transcendentalism:  rising above as an individual from the constraints of societal expecations in order to live a more rich and fulfilling life.   

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