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Emerson Essay Nature

In: English and Literature

Submitted By maryia
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Emerson prefaced the prose text of the 1836 first edition of Nature with a passage from the Neoplatonic philosopher Plotinus. The 1849 second edition included instead a poem by Emerson himself. Both present themes that are developed in the essay. The passage from Plotinus suggests the primacy of spirit and of human understanding over nature. Emerson's poem emphasizes the unity of all manifestations of nature, nature's symbolism, and the perpetual development of all of nature's forms toward the highest expression as embodied in man.

Nature is divided into an introduction and eight chapters. In the Introduction, Emerson laments the current tendency to accept the knowledge and traditions of the past instead of experiencing God and nature directly, in the present. He asserts that all our questions about the order of the universe — about the relationships between God, man, and nature — may be answered by our experience of life and by the world around us. Each individual is a manifestation of creation and as such holds the key to unlocking the mysteries of the universe. Nature, too, is both an expression of the divine and a means of understanding it. The goal of science is to provide a theory of nature, but man has not yet attained a truth nbroad enough to comprehend all of nature's forms and phenomena.

Emerson identifies nature and spirit as the components of the universe. He defines nature (the "NOT ME") as everything separate from the inner individual — nature, art, other men, our own bodies. In common usage, nature refers to the material world unchanged by man. Art is nature in combination with the will of man. Emerson explains that he will use the word "nature" in both its common and its philosophical meanings in the essay.

At the beginning of Chapter I, Emerson describes true solitude as going out into nature and leaving behind all preoccupying activities...

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