Referring to Emerson, discuss the basic principles of American Transcendentalism.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Emerson's primary contribution to the Transcendental movement was the assertion of individual voice in all circumstances.  Emerson's belief in human "transcendence," the ability to perceive and experience reality that is beyond the contingent (and the basis of the movement's name) became his primary distinctive qualities and the principles of the movement.  When Emerson articulates early on in his thought that “the law of all nature, … the whole of Reason” resides in the self, it becomes the very essence of the movement.  Transcendentalism owes this notion of "know thyself" to Emerson, who was seeking to give the individual voice at a time when conformity and homogeneity in the form of expanded industrialization in America began to grip the nation.  It is in this very idea that Emerson argued that individuals should feel the need to transform, to change, their own identities and the identity of the social order, stressing that part of the Transcendental identity was to see what is and envision what can be.

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