Self-Reliance Questions and Answers
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Self-Reliance book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Does Ralph Waldo Emerson reference anything relating to religion or God in his essay "Self-Reliance"?

Expert Answers info

Adam Mangum eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2018

write239 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

All of the references to organized religion in Emerson's classic essay "Self-Reliance" are negative, since the philosopher rejects any constraints that would hamper the non-conformity that he regards as the essence of self-reliance. Instead, he embraces the Socratic teaching that the voice of god dwells within each individual. As he himself expresses the individual's relationship with God, "The relations of the soul to the divine spirit are so pure, that it is profane to interpose and seek help."

If one regards religion as a refuge and bulwark against human vulnerabilty and suffering, however, Emerson is having none of it. In his belief that "Power is the essential measure of right," it's easy to see the philosopher's great appeal for Friedrich Nietzsche, who was also fascinated with power and who famously proclaimed the death of God. Likewise, in Emerson's oft-expressed disdain for human weakness, he seems to signal a solidarity with a strain of Calvinism that was becoming increasingly...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 877 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


check Approved by eNotes Editorial

booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2003

write4,119 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

check Approved by eNotes Editorial