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Ralph Waldo Emerson and Pantheism Essay

During the 17th century the people were preoccupied with the belief that the world has a grand design and behind it is a designer who knows and sees all things. This belief was the mechanistic world view in which the designer being pertained to is God. God is the omniscient being, supreme in intellect as well as other aspects. Thus, everything that takes place has a reason and will ultimately lead to something of great lengths. While this theme was popular in the said era, it has been found that even earlier philosophers have already considered seeing a supreme being as the biggest decision maker for all the occurrences and existence.

This supreme being is the unmoved mover as stated by Aristotle and the uncaused cause as according to St. Thomas Aquinas’ theory. One of the most popular analogies for this world view is the Watchmaker God analogy. The watchmaker God analogy is used for explaining the existence of God. In this analogy, the watchmaker is God and the watch being created is the world and all who inhabit it. The analogy states that as it is with making clocks, everything in the world was systematic. People exist in places because just like a missing piece, the clock will not function without it.

Furthermore, just like a watch, thee world works by combined effort of the parts. Everything is mechanical and based on an intelligent design (Paley). Many people immediately accepted the said analogy especially during the 17th century because this was the era of scientific understanding, and rationality among all faculties of man is the most exercised. By the entry of new philosophers, however, a different world view was introduced. Ralph Waldo Emerson and his theory One of the famous theorist who emerged after the era of the mechanistic world view is Ralph Waldo Emerson.

An essayist, poet, and a philosopher, Emerson’s argument became popular in the mid 1900s. Among his theories, transcendentalism earned him the most recognition. Transcendentalism is both a political and philosophical movement. Unlike the mechanistic world view in which man serves as a part of a clock with a very important role to play in order for the entire universe to function, transcendentalism promotes the individuality of a person. It states that the universe functions on its own and each aspect of the universe has a mind of its own, which it uses in order for continued existence.

Transcendentalism also contradicts the theory proposed that God is the designer behind the intelligent design of the universe. Rather it states that God is one with the universe and as nature continue to evolve, so does god. Furthermore, Emerson implied that the higher reality is found not only by the usage of human reason but through sense experience (Emerson). From this, it may be gathered that Emerson’s theory directly contradicts the points of the mechanistic world view. The man upholds the power of individual intuition and the sense of self.

Instead of accepting that God is the unmoved mover as expressed by Aristotle, he insists that God moves with the world. While the universe is indeed a grand design, Emerson argues that God is not just a designer who fixed people in a certain position. Rather god is present in all that exists. Thus, in being one with nature and all individuals, people are communing and being one with God, not just acting according to the design but purely based on innate confidence on the self (Emerson). Emerson as a pantheist

From the given arguments of Emerson as oppose to the mechanistic world view, many conclude that somehow, the poet-essayist-philosopher is a pantheist. This hypothesis may be enforced by looking through the description of a pantheist. According to Owen, pantheism is the philosophy wherein God is believed to be one with the universe. The supreme being is identical with nature and all that exists. In addition, the philosophy insists that everything exists is only one being, which is God. Thus, communing with nature is communing with the supreme being.

Putting this in parallel with the transcendentalism theory, Emerson claims that indeed there is God within all existing being. In addition, each being is not placed in a certain position by a designer, instead that person exists as through a person accord. God is not a designer behind everything but a part of the system, part of nature. This points that Emerson is a pantheist. Conclusion From the given facts, it may be drawn that the 17th century saw the emergence of powerful rational minds, which led to the acceptance of the mechanistic world view.

This view insists that god is the designer of the complexity of the universe. This world view is put in an analogy called the watchmaker god, wherein God is the watchmaker and the watch is the entire universe. By the entry of the 19th century, however, the theory was contradicted by transcendentalism pioneered by Ralph Waldo Emerson. In Emerson’s theory, he argued that God is not but a designer but part of the entire design. This makes him a pantheist, given that pantheism proposes that God is part of nature, moves and evolves with it.

This, completely agrees with Emerson’s theory and disagrees with that of the theories of the 17th century, which were founded on rationality. Works Cited Baym, Nina. “The Norton Anthology of American Literature”. 1998. Emerson, Ralph Waldo. “Transcendentalism: And Other Addresses”. 1923. Oxford. New York. Paley, William. “Natural Theology -Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity Collected from the Appearance of Nature”. 1802. Wilks and Taylor, London Owen, H. P. “Concepts of Deity”. 1971. Macmillan. London

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