Redefining the classic essay, this modern edition of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s most famous work, Self-Reliance, includes self-reflections from both historical and contemporary luminaries. With quotes from the likes of Henry Ford and Helen Keller to modern-day thought leaders like Jesse Dylan, Steve Pressfield, and Milton Glaser, we're reminded of the relevance of Emerson’s powerful words today. Emerson’s words are timeless. Persuasive and convincing, he challenges readers to define their own sense of accomplishment and asks them to measure themselves against their own standards, not those of society. This famous orator has utter faith in individualism and doesn’t invoke beyond what is humanly possible, he just believes deeply that each of us is capable of greatness. He asks us to define that greatness for ourselves and to be true to ourselves. At times harsh, at times comforting, Emerson’s words guide the reader to challenge their own beliefs and sense of self. This modern edition of Self-Reliance is ideal for graduates or those who are in the midst of a career or lifestyle change. Emerson's sage guidance wrapped in modern-day reflections is a great reminder about the potential within us all and that life is what you make of it.
From December 1836 to March 1837 Emerson gave his first series of independent lectures, the first that is, that he designed himself and gave under his own auspices. It was called the Philosophy of History, and it was a very important series for Emerson, since out of it evolved the great essays on "History" and "Self Reliance" that he would publish in his first volume of in 1841. There is also a lecture on "Literature" in the Philosophy of History series, given in January 1837. The general theme of the series is stated in the introductory lecture: "We arrive early at the great discovery that there is one Mind common to all individual men; that what is individual is less than what is universal; that those properties by which you are man are more radical than those by which you are Adam or John; than the individual, nothing is less; than the universal, nothing is greater; that error, vice, and disease have their seat in the superficial or individual nature; that the common nature is whole." Literature, then, is the written record of this mind, and in one important sense literature is always showing us only ourselves. This lecture contains Emerson's most extreme--and least fruitful--statement of his idealist conception of literature. He contrasts art with literature, explaining that while "Art delights in carrying a thought into action, Literature is the conversion of action into thought." In other words, "Literature idealizes action." In an abstract sense this may be so, but Emerson is generally at his best when he sees literature moving us toward action, not away from it. In another place this lecture has a very valuable comment on how literature is able to reach into our unconscious. "Whoever separates for us a truth from our unconscious reason, and makes it an object of consciousness, ... must of course be to us a great man." And there is also a rather uncharacteristic recognition of what Gustav Flaubert would call . "The laws of composition are as strict as those of sculpture and architecture. There is always one line that ought to be chosen, one proportion that should be kept, and every other line or proportion is wrong.... So, in writing, there is always a right word, and every other than that is wrong."
RALPH WALDO EMERSON, "Self Reliance," Essays
Looks at the problem of selfhood in Emerson's essay and relates that to relevance today, especially in religious belief in our increasingly-secular age.
A short essay, some selections from the essay, and some excellent questions for thinking about Emerson's ideas.
A short introduction to American culture about 1841, looking at Emerson's essay and its relationship to ideas of democracy, culture and the masses.
A Unitarian Universalist minister muses about the position of Emerson in that faith today, where he's often considered a "prophet of religious liberalism." - about the book and its author
- by Bryan Caplan - Kristen Rosenfeld - Piper S.