What was Emerson's opinion on consistency and conformity?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The answer to this question can be easily seen in two very famous quotes.

When it comes to conformity, Emerson says "whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist."  When it comes to consistency, he says "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."

What Emerson is saying in both these quotes is that people must follow the dictates of their own consciences.  In the first, he is saying that they must not conform to what other people believe is right.

In the second, he is also saying that they should not bow to peer pressure.  The idea in this second quote is that people should not feel like they have to be consistent just because others will make fun of them if they are not consistent.  Instead, Emerson says you have to say what you believe today even if it is the opposite of what you said yesterday.

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