Why Ralph Waldo Emerson Is My Favorite Philosopher
The early years
Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston on May 25, 1803. His parents were William and Ruth Emerson. Unfortunately for young Ralph, his father passed away in 1811. He further endured hardship when three of his siblings died in childhood, two died before the age of thirty and another brother was mentally handicapped. His older brother William was the only other Emerson child to enjoy adulthood as a lawyer in New York. His family was so poverty stricken that one winter Ralph Waldo had to share a coat with his brother Edward. One could arrive at the conclusion that these hardships early in his life drove him to write about the human condition like no other philosopher. His aunt, Mary Moody Emerson was instrumental for encouraging young Ralph to pursue academics. He enrolled in the Boston Latin School at age nine and continued his education at Harvard at the age of fourteen. He studied rhetoric, formed a club for public speaking and won the Boylston oratory prize.
After graduation he had aspirations to become a school teacher and that was his chosen occupation until 1826 when he became a minister. While preaching in New Hampshire, He met Ellen Tucker. She proved to be the love of his life and they were married and settled in Massachusetts where Emerson worked in a prominent position at the second church of Boston. Tragedy would visit Emerson once again when his wife died from Tuberculosis in 1831. This heart breaking event would set his sail on a radically different course.
With his religious beliefs altered and his faith shaken to the core, he left everything behind and toured Europe. It was then that Ralph Waldo Emerson started meeting intellectual elites such as Thomas Carlyle, who he began a correspondence with that lasted thirty eight years. In 1833 he returned to America to discover that his late wife left him a substantial inheritance. This financial security allowed him an opportunity to explore his creative side. He began lecturing on the topics of history, literature, biography and ethics. These public lectures enabled him to add upon his financial security. During this period Emerson truly loved his chosen path, thus increasing his reputation as one of America's outstanding intellectuals. Emerson added to his happiness in 1835 when he married Lydia Jackson and she gave him four children. The late 1830's were years of achievement for Emerson. It was in these years that he published the essay entitled "Nature" and gave two great speeches at Harvard. The first speech was "The American Scholar," which Oliver Wendell Holmes referred to as the declaration of independence of American intellectual life. The second speech, "The Divinity School Address" so enraged Harvard that they banned him for the next twenty five years. Tragedy struck in 1842 when his son Waldo died at the tender age of five years old.
In his later years Emerson continually gained a reputation as a leading spokesperson of the transcendental movement. Transcendentalists believe that organized religion and political parties corrupted the purity of the individual. Emerson produced great works of philosophy in his later years. He published Representative Man in 1850, The Conduct of Life in 1860, and Society And Solitude in 1870. Emerson was a leading philosopher during the period when the literary character of the United States was being formed. He gave voice to the spiritual potential of every human being. Ralph Waldo Emerson died quietly on April 27, 1882.
Ralph Waldo Emerson was a giant in the field of philosophy. Two of my favorite essays that Emerson wrote were "Nature" and "Spiritual Laws." Napoleon Hill often quotes Emerson on these two essays. Brian Tracy, one of our modern day success guru's encourages his students to study Emerson, especially the above mentioned essays. I fell in love with Emerson's writings when I was in middle school. Ralph Waldo Emerson is my favorite philosopher not only because of the hardships he endured, but the dignity in which he endured them. He is a man who has proven himself time and time again.