Emerson's essay "Self_Reliance" is a definitive statement of his philosophy of individualism.Comment?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For the Transcendental, individualism is paramount.  In his essay Self-Reliance, Emerson commences and ends with the idea that to be an individual is intrinsic to the soul, for "Infancy conforms to no one," he writes, and declares that "imitation is suicide."  When he conforms, a man's own thoughts, his "genius," leave him and he is without peace in his heart:

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,— that is genius.

Further, Emerson perceives society as in a conspiracy against the individual because the group agrees for their own safety what should be thought and believed.  Therefore, 

Whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore it it be goodness.  Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

Indeed, there are few texts that affirm the essential "vibrat[ing] to that iron string" of individualism.  For, unless a man be his own person--an individual--Emerson writes, he is but a shadow of a true man.  It is the "namer, the doer, and the knower" who are the "highest progeny of the Over-Soul" that approaches the sublime in their individual liberty.

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