Ralph Waldo Emerson's Transcendentalist Philosophy and Its Influence on Margaret Fuller's Feminist Philosophy

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Ralph Waldo Emerson's Transcendentalist Philosophy and Its Influence on Margaret Fuller's Feminist Philosophy

Ralph Waldo Emerson was a leading thinker in the American Transcendentalist movement, who first proposed many of the movement’s most influential ideas regarding the relation between the human mind and the world. He believed each person to possess a “soul,” a power within the self to uniquely perceive and understand the world, and grasp the intricate relationships between all things; Emerson’s universe was infinitely knowable, and his ideal, independent soul should be in a state of constant consideration and reevaluation of the world around him. Emerson’s notion of the chief end of life was the growth and development of
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Fuller was troubled, however, by woman’s fundamental inability to develop and achieve such a self-reliant freedom of soul within the rigidity of a society structured on the basis of female submissiveness in patriarchal marriage. Emerson’s “Self-Reliance” was directed mainly at males with the ability to attain this independent state of being, with the aim of reshaping society internally via the influence of their new consciousness. Fuller, in her 1844 publication “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” takes a step back from Emerson’s notion of a self-reliant internal revolution to evaluate the current condition of society and the legal and institutional changes that would be necessary to allow females equal opportunity as their male counterparts to become self-reliant.

Emerson and Fuller, though both fundamentally opposed to the current nature of society, differ quite sharply in the constitution of their aversions. Emerson holds a philosophical opposition to the existence of society in general as it hinders individuality, while Fuller concerns herself more with the reforming of society in its present state, to better foster human equality. While Emerson saw society’s pressures for consistency of thought

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