American Transcendentalism

American Transcendentalism

The radical aspects of the renaissance in America were chiefly represented by what is known as Transcendentalism. It was a spiritual, philosophical and literary movement that was prominent in the intellectual and

  cultural life in the New England during the 1830's. Transcendentalism was the name given to an intellectual attitude that was developed by a group of young men who formed a Unitarian discussion group in 1838 that was known as the 'transcendental Club'. And by 1840 they issued a magazine for philosophical discussion known as the 'Dial'. Three big names associated with the transcendental club were, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Margaret Fuller.

The Term 'Transcendental'

The term transcendental was taken from the philosophical writings of the German philosopher and thinker Immanuel Kant. Kant spoke of the 'transcendental knowledge'. When he spoke of transcendental knowledge, he confined it to the knowledge of the 'forms and categories' such as : space,time,quantity and causality, that are imposed on whatever we perceive by the constitution of the human mind. But the transcendentalists extended the concept of transcendental knowledge to include the 'intuitive cognizance of moral and other truths that transcends the sense experience'. They held the view that men can apprehend reality by a 'direct spiritual insight' which they called 'intuition'. According to the transcendentalists 'intuition can transcend knowledge or truths that are accessible by logical argument or scientific enquiry- meaning to say that intuition can transcend knowledge acquired by reason or by sense perception.
Making use of this concept of intuitive knowledge or transcendental knowledge the transcendentalists argued that if everyman could apprehend the truth by direct intuition, then any forms of external authority political

  or religious was unnecessary. Their thinking was supported by 'puritanism' which also emphasized man's...