There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence. He cannot be happy and strong until he too lives with nature in the present, above time." -from the Essay on Self-Reliance
Emerson is my favorite poet/philosopher, and this one volume contains all his writings you could ever need. One of my favorites: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." I have to admit I haven't read the whole thing, but it's not the type of book you have to read straight through. The must-read essay for every American is "Self-Reliance." America's strain of rugged individualism starts right here with Emerson. My personal favorite is the address to the Harvard Divinity School, where Emerson explodes the authoritarian bent of Christianity as it was then taught.
American philosopher and Harvard professor Stanley Cavell claims "Emerson and Thoreau... I found Emerson less irritating than Thoreau, but less readable and challenging. So even while I hated what Thoreau had to say in "Living Without Principle" or "A Plea for Captain John Brown" I was engaged and I could see how his thinking tied in with various schools of thought and movements and the history of the era. I'm not much interested in doctrinal issues in Christianity such as examined in "An Address to Harvard Divinity School" and "The Lord's Supper" or such spiritual essays as "The Over-Soul," which I found about as relevant to reality as a horoscope. And for a quintessential American philosopher (not that Thoreau was much better in this) I couldn't help but note that Emerson pretty much ignores any American intellectuals such as Franklin, Paine, Hamilton, Madison, Jefferson et al to pretty much load up instead on classical allusions. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. called Emerson's address "The American Scholar" America's "Intellectual Declaration of Independence," but I couldn't see it in that essay. I suspect that one thing that made Emerson so difficult is so much insight and wisdom is so densely packed in that you hardly have time to take in one idea before another hits you.
Though Emerson writes on a myriad of topics, his thematic core is consistent: All things are made of one hidden stuff. The heart and soul of all men being one, this bitterness of his and mine ceases; I am my brother and my brother is me. Emerson is not an easy read, but he is worth it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 1882) Essential writings Emersons essays are the mirror of his vast knowledge drawn from extensive readings in ancient historical philosophies and religions, as well as personal studies of theology and preaching in his younger years as a minister of the Protestant Church.
Don't think I'll read the whole thing, but: At first I had no clue what Emerson was talking about, and I chalked it up to him being all transcendentalist.
During a year-long trip to Europe, Emerson became acquainted with such intelligentsia as British writer Thomas Carlyle, and poets Wordsworth and Coleridge. His books include Nature (1836), The American Scholar (1837), Divinity School Address (1838), Essays, 2 vol. The best of Emerson's rather wordy writing survives as epigrams, such as the famous: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines." Other one- (and two-) liners include: "As men's prayers are a disease of the will, so are their creeds a disease of the intellect" (Self-Reliance, 1841). He influenced generations of Americans, from his friend Henry David Thoreau to John Dewey, and in Europe, Friedrich Nietzsche, who takes up such Emersonian themes as power, fate, the uses of poetry and history, and the critique of Christianity. http://www.biography.com/people/ralph... http://www.emersoncentral.com/