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American literature is full of hidden meanings that need philosophical approaches to explore and understand. Ralph Waldo Emerson is an American historical author who managed to compose several literary pieces whose main intentions were to explore the relationship between human beings and human civilization. In his ideologies, Ralph Waldo Emerson understands that the world is full of innovative people, who come in each successive generation, but upholding ethical transformation should remain a paramount issue in civilization (Emerson par. 3).
Emerson believes that every fresh generation must take what it has inherited from the past and modify it-sometimes quite aggressively…to suit the demands of the present. This means that innovations or developments can appear aggressively, but should meet the ethical and legal requirements of the users. Using this quote from the book of Ralph Waldo Emerson known as ‘The Divinity School Address‘, this essay explores the several aspects that associate with the principle of aggressive ideas and innovations.
An Overview of the Ideas generated from the Principle
The statement, ‘every fresh generation must take what it has inherited from the past and modify it-sometimes quite aggressively…to suit the demands of the present’ is full of hidden philosophies that may only have a meaning when one explores the possible ideas produced from this statement. In this statement of Emerson, and based on his book contents, several concepts concerning human civilization, human moral virtues, the guiding laws, human happiness, and other important themes that Emerson explored. These themes, according to Emerson, form the greatest pillars of human civilization where ethical transformation revolves around human life. Even though each successive generation deserves to achieve the very best innovations and developments, Emerson believes the innovations must come from the fruitful souls. Despite the histories of achievement where planters, astronomers, inventors, builders, and mechanics have contributed towards the growth of unique towns and cities, efficient changes must recognize the above themes.
Civilization as a Virtuous Process
The greatest idea that Ralph Waldo Emerson tries to bring into the reader’s understanding is that civilization is a dynamic and pragmatic process that requires each successive generation to understand the background of a certain idea or an innovation (Emerson par. 2). Philosophers believe that a generation that tends to ignore history has no background and even a future to rely upon. Nonetheless, what people inherit may be useless or excessively useful. Such a connotation means that taking the right decisions and investing human efforts and brains in worthy innovations makes the newly generated ideas look more ethical and honorable (Emerson par. 2). In his philosophy of inherited ideas and aggressive transformation, Emerson is right to dismiss that being creative is important, although taking the right steps to make the right decisions in inherited ideas and principles is what matters most for the continuation of a virtuous generation (Emerson par. 3). Emerson believes that each generation must consider learning from its predecessors.
The Guiding Laws and Virtues
In his book, Emerson postulates, “but when the mind opens and reveals the laws which traverse the universe and make things what they are, then shrinks the great world at once into a mere illustration and fable of this mind” (Emerson par. 2). Emerson believes that the human spirit that often creates motivation, it motivates innovation, and it creates an unending curiosity for new and better things (Emerson par. 3). However, the same mind and spirit should respect the inner urge that upholding the laws unwritten and untold is ideal for creating new survival ideas. Emerson believes that the new generations should improve the inherited ideas while upholding and respecting the forces that play a part in these activities (Emerson par. 5). The sentiments of virtue and lawfulness coexist, and those who wish to create or alter an old idea must respect the innate laws of human beings that exist in the souls, the written, the unwritten principles, and the spoken and unspoken laws.
In his text about the Divinity School Address, Emerson brought the idea that the new generation must respect the happiness of human beings when inheriting ideas, creating new ideas, or modifying the old ideas. Emerson believes that be it leadership or quest for global superiority among nations and their people, ensuring human happiness should remain the foremost priority. Emerson (par. 7) claims that evil is “merely privative and is not absolute because all evil contains death or nonentity, and in contrast, benevolence is absolute and real, and so much benevolence as a man hath, so much life hath him.” All inherited ideas and property must remain modified not for the malice of a few individuals, but for the happiness of the people of the world (Emerson par. 4). Human happiness must come first in all the intended ideas, and as the world does not belong to a specific group of individuals, but it belongs to several innocent human souls.
Respect for God and other humans
Before the coming of several human generations, God existed. The new generations must respect that creating new things or ideas must be in respect to the desires of humans and God (Emerson 4). All things produced without considering the sentiments of humans and the commands of God are not divine.
God loves absolute goodness, God loves justice, God loves purity, and therefore, things created by man through aggressive efforts must enshrine these Godly virtues. “If a man is at heart just, then in so far is he God; the safety of God, the immortality of God, the majesty of God do enter into that man with justice” (Emerson par. 5). Respecting God and humans is the first pillar of improving the word and all its components to appear better for tomorrow and the infinite human generations. According to Emerson (par. 7), being aggressive in inheriting and producing new ideas should not supersede the human love for God and his favorite creature, the human being.
Emerson feels that the successive generations must take their inheritance and improve it, even with aggressive means to suit the demands of the present. This statement from Emerson describes human civilization as a pragmatic process. The statement also contains hidden concepts of moral virtues, lawfulness, respect for God and humans, and human happiness. In his book, ‘The Divinity School Address,’ Emerson expects that although people must innovate new ideas and developments, they should keep in mind that their practices should meet human desires, respect the dignity of humans, and the superiority of God, and make people happy. Improving the inherited property or ideas must put into consideration the essence of acting virtuously, the essence of respecting God as the Supreme Being, the essence of providing humans with happiness, and the essence of respecting all the laws.
Emerson, Ralph, 2009, Divinity School Address. Web.