Please explain the meaning of Emerson's statement “Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age…”Emerson's Self-Reliance

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Just prior to the extrapolated quotation asked about in "Self-Reliance," Emerson writes,

...a true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of things. Where he is, there is nature...Character, reality, reminds you of nothing else; it takes place of the whole creation.

The honest man is a man for all times and all places. Therefore, he knows no cause, country, or age specifically, but is a man "for all seasons" and ages.  His value is universal; he is one who deals with universal and timeless truths; he speaks for all peoples of all nations. The line, "Every true man is a cause, a country, and an age," expresses Emerson's Transcendentalist philosophy that overlaps the ideas of Romanticism.  That is, the inherent worth of the individual, and his sense of freedom from social and religious restrictions is underlying in his text.  Every real man is dedicated to truth, not what works within his culture or his income or his personal desires.


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