Student Work for Philosophy 3387

American Philosophy

American Transcendentalism

Rozanna McNeer

Phil 3387

for: C. Freeland

Note: This is written with the Web in mind. Text in italics in the main body of the work are the key words I identified to use as the hyper-links. I've tried not to discuss what is found at the actual links so as to encourage the "surfer" to go check it out for his/herself.

Among the questions which modern day philosophers consider is one which most Americans would find interesting. That question is: "what is American philosophy?"

American Transcendentalism is considered by some to be the answer. {This link leads to an Introduction of Transcendentalism}

Two of the key figures of Transcendentalism will be familiar to those who have studied American Literature: Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry James Thoreau. There is some debate as to whether or not these two can be considered philosophers. The reason being that they do not use arguments in their writings to prove their points. There is no "I stand for X, and I am right because of A, B, C, and D,"; their works are more subtle than that. But, in reading their works, one is aware that they are each, in their own unique way, striving to establish a truth. (Establishing truth is what I consider to be the purpose of philosophy.) {The Emerson link leads to a page containing excerpts from Nature, the Thoreau link leads to a page containing excerpts from On Walden Pond} "The transcendentalist 'transcends' or rises above the lower animalistic impulses of life (animal drives) and moves from the rational to a spiritual realm." This is reminiscent of the Buddhist struggle to attain the state of Nirvana.

For more information concerning American Transcendentalism check out the Bibliography or go to AltaVista and type in +American +Transcendentalism.

© Copyright 1996 Rozanna McNeer