In "Self-Reliance" by Ralph Emerson, what does the following quote mean?"With consistency a great soul has simply has nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall"

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

What Emerson means here is that you should not get too caught up in making sure that you have the same ideas one day as you had the day before.  That is what he means by consistency -- it is looking like you do not change your mind a lot.

Emerson thinks that it is stupid to be afraid to change your mind.  This is what he means when he says that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."  He says that we should change our minds whenever we think that it is the right thing to do.  That is part of the idea (a big one for the Transcendentalists) that we should always follow our consciences and do what we think is right at any given time.  Here's my favorite quote on that idea:

Else if you would be a man speak what you think today in words as hard as cannon balls, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today.

sunshinepoet's profile pic

sunshinepoet | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

It means think for yourself,

for every new mind is a new classification.

it means don't ask someone else for meaning.

just feel it and let it be itself for each stage of your evolution, as your perceptions change.


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