What are the ethical influences of the American romanticism period?

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

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I think that one of the most profound ethical influences that the American Romanticism of Transcendentalism brings about is a transformation of how human beings are viewed and how human beings view one another.  Arising out of a point where American commerce were beginning to emerge, American society began the process of becoming capitalist driven, viewing individuals as means to the end of money.  It is here where I think that thinkers like Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman were active in their advocacy of an ethical shift in perspective.  The American Romanticism embedded in Transcendentalism sought to ethically view individuals as ends in their own right, as opposed to means to ends.  The drive for self- wisdom, greater emphasis of one's own emotional sensibilities in constructing reality, and developing a greater synthesis with the natural end all contribute to wider understanding of ethics.  The same ethical treatment in which one demonstrates upon oneself is the same ethical understanding that one possesses regarding others.  It is here where I think that the most profound level of ethical influences and implications can be found in American Romanticism/ Transcendentalism.  Its legacy is the notion that American identity can be one that radically transforms ethical treatment into one that is more holistic, wider in scope, and presents a vision of what can be as opposed to what is.


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