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3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  1,304 ratings  ·  74 reviews
Nature is an essay written by Ralph Waldo Emerson, published anonymously in 1836. It is in this essay that the foundation of transcendentalism is put forth, a belief system that espouses a non-traditional appreciation of nature. Recent advances in zoology, botany, and geology confirmed Emerson's intuitions about the intricate relationships of Nature at large. A visit to th ...more
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Published March 10th 2011 by McCarthy Press (first published 1836)
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“In wildness is the preservation of the world.” ~Thoreau

NATURE: After listening to Professor Arnold Weinstein’s 3 lectures on Emerson from Classics of American Literature (The Great Courses) I listened to this essay on LibriVox, a free resource which has many audio recordings of books in the public domain. I was very grateful for Weinstein’s preliminary explanation although I still found myself ‘at sea’ so-to-speak when it came to many of the classical and contemporary references and metaphors.
carl  theaker

This essay by Emerson takes up about 56 of this little book's pages, and I
feel like I could write about 100 pages on it.

Written in 1836, it's interesting that Emerson starts off with
how the current generation never got to face nature at it's most pure, that was
a task their forefathers got to experience. You know, they had it easy in 1836!

Sometimes he has a thought merging Nature, Man and Spirit that is simple,
in sentence structure anyway, and I have to read it several times to co
My favorite quotes: "These enchantments are medicinal, they sober and heal us."
"Cities give not the human senses room enough."
"Nature is loved by what is best in us."
Rick Wilcox
To Emerson, there is little distinction between the natural and the supernatural. Rather than parsing the universe into a bifurcated and dualistic compartmentalization of science and theology, he wraps one in the binding of the other. Echoing Augustine in The City of God he writes "The difference between the actual and the ideal force of man is happily figured by the schoolmen, in saying, that the knowledge of man is an evening knowledge, vespertina cognitio, but that of God is a morning knowled ...more
Ana Rînceanu
I like Emerson's writing, but this feels to my modern eyes repetitive. These theme of praising nature and encouraging understanding the world through nature are so deeply engrained in our culture that the essay comes off as simplistic compared to the scientific essays I love to read. I like the section on idealism most, but the rest were just okay. That this idea of nature is so widespread must to be Emerson's credit since he brought Transcendentalism into the mainstream, but I have not studied ...more
Rupertt Wind
Its poetry, pure unadulterated poetry of nature.
Rhys O'Shea
Loved it when I first started reading it over 12 months ago and just haven't picked it up since, until today, and I realised why. Some great ideas and arguments conveyed in this book but many are quite fundamental and reading this, is to just revisit them. Really in modern society this and other similar texts are merely used by those wishing to be an intellectual and while this can stand as the foundation for that it is generally just quoted by those trying to sound intelligent. I now realise th ...more
Lindu Pindu
If I hadn't been reading this on a train, I think I would have flung it across some room.

The subject is exhilarating to me, as a city dweller obsessed with leaving the fumes behind and going to live in the countryside, but there is the issue of the writing itself: Emerson's wit is most apparent in short sentences, as in the famous "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds", yet he mostly prefers to write long sentences that I had to read and re-read as they weren't really making a point, an
I re-read Nature recently (re-reading classics that I read when I was young, but never felt I understood properly).

I love Emerson's prose, I could happily read him for hours on end; perhaps unintentional, but he comes across like an old hermit preaching in the park to no one in particular.

The philosophical view espoused in this essay seemed to suffer from his religious world-view, i.e., nature as separate from man as separate from God; that said, he is eloquent and loving of nature, as if to apo
Joss Dent
In my opinion the arguments Emerson presents in this essay are not very convincing. I believe the kind of knowledge he is positing might render such arguments fundamentally meaningless anyway - potentially making large parts of the work equally meaningless - but I'm not entirely certain about this. When Wittgenstein talks about climbing then throwing away the ladder, the same could be true here. Anyway, the essay works much better as a subjective introduction to Emerson's entire way of perceivin ...more
Emerson's transcendentalist essay (and two others in this edition, History and Self-Reliance) present a few appreciable points about humanity's relation to and position within nature, but my twenty-first century brain kept returning to a Dr. Bronner's soap bottle as a reference: that is to say, it was a bit too rambling and woo-y for me. I read all the appropriate Wikipedia articles and get that transcendentalism was pretty groovy in its day as far as religious philosophy goes, but I can't help ...more
Jen Mays
So much time has passed since I read this that I'm not sure I can review it adequately at this point, though my notes had already indicated a rating of 3 so I feel confident that's how I felt about it at the time. I do recall thinking how advanced, ahead of his time, Emerson's comments seemed, that there was much that he said with regard to man and his relationship to and need of nature that felt like newer ideas, and that I was surprised to discover how NOT new they actually were.

I remember hav
Andrea De Pace
Beauty in nature is the herald of eternal beauty. Each particle is a microcosm, and faithfully renders the likeness of the world.
Nature is symbol of spirit. It is the organ through which the universal spirit speaks to individual, and strives to lead back the individual to it.
Nothing in nature is exhausted in its first use. As in God, every end is converted into a new means.
Roses make no reference to former roses or to better ones; they are for what they are.

And speaks all languages the ros
Emerson's 'essay' in eight Chapters is interesting from a historical perspective, as it proposes an appreciation of nature that involves transcendental and metaphysical aspects. Some passages are lyrical and highly quotable. Such as:"Who looks upon a river in a meditative hour, and is not reminded of the flux of things?". Or: "Empirical science is apt to cloud the sight, and, by the very knowledge of functions and processes, to bereave the student of the manly contemplation of the whole. The sav ...more
Nicholas Armstrong
Emerson opens this treatise on life with powerful, captivating words, "Our age is retrospective." From here he launches into assaults on all of the assembled histories and beliefs of man and asking 'why not WE' should have advantages that our ancestors had; such as discovering philosophy, religion or the secrets of the universe - and then he goes exactly against such sentiments.

The introduction to Nature is marvelous. The opening paragraph is an argumentative essays dream and the supporting para
To Emerson, Nature sets human potential: “The visible creation is the terminus or the circumference of the invisible world”. Nature is a finality that people merely distil in symbol.

To the extent that his work (and romanticism in general) is the line marking the end of antiquity, Emerson is one of the last true polymaths.

His thinking coincides with an age of optimism, at least in the New World, founded on the ‘unstoppable’ territorial expansion of the American empire. Thus he challenges the co
Nature was the founding essay of the transcendentalist movement, and it's quite a remarkable read. In it, author Ralph Waldo Emerson argues that an appreciation of nature will reveal existing truths about our lives while helping to shape a philosophy of balance as we move forwards. The natural world, he says, is a living, breathing library of knowledge, which we use to supply our basic needs in four encompassing terms: Commodity, Beauty, Language and Discipline. Each of these has a direct connec ...more
Obviously one of those books that you have to read, or risk being shunned by the "civilized" world, "Nature" was a difficult book for me to get my head around. I think that Emerson's philosophy is vital to understanding the Golden Age of American Literature (indeed, maybe all of American literature), but the text itself seemed needlessly confusing. Emerson was somewhat inconsistent in delinating the different tenets of Transcendentalism, and some of his points were just foolish. For instance, ev ...more
Emerson immediately demands of the reader: "The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?"

Emerson then guides the reader through an exploratory look into various aspects of man's relation to Nature, from which I cite a few pearls:

Commodity - "T
Oui, hein. Pourquoi pas? Une petite soixantaine de pages de philosophie sur la Nature.
Je dois m'avouer vaincue. Okay, je ne sais rien du mouvement transcendantaliste. Ça n'aide pas. Et le texte est dans un anglais parfois très simple (ce qui n'empêche pas la relecture multiple avant compréhension) et la plupart du temps étrangement agencé et ponctué (mais occasionnellement clair). Vous me direz, je n'avais qu'à lire en français.
Mais en fait, je crois que la langue n'a rien à voir avec la diffic
Josh Fish
I read this right before I heard an interview with Mechael Shermer, author of the Believing Brain who posits that humans tend to invent patterns where there are none, wanting to believe there is an order which seems to me what Emerson and all of the Transcendentalists are doing. Emerson says throughout that nature is a symbol for the divine which weirded me out throughout as well. Granted I know little of the historical context for the transcendentalist movement but the idea that there is this s ...more
Paul Bard
It's a great book, but this version of it is expurgated - that is, about half the book is taken out.

Do you really want to read Emerson with half his words taken out? Would you like your own words to be cut in half by the lovely editing staff at Penguin?

Read the original in Dover Books until Penguin quits patronizing us.
Taylor Storey
I re-read the opening pages of this probably 6 times because I kept thinking, there's something important here that I'm not catching. I finally did catch the idea that we should believe that God is revealing himself to us today like he did to Moses. It's something I believed growing up, but had not caught the full implication of. Why do we rely on what we believe God said to Moses? Is he not speaking the to us today? How does the divine reveal itself? Emerson argues the divine reveals himself/he ...more
I forgot how talented Emerson really is. This essay is full of the expected: humans as the stewards and centers of the world, the "rustic" or country life being more authentic than the urban. Blah blah. It is also full of unexpected insights: the world as a text to be deciphered, meaning is immanent within things of the world. Borderline semiotics. And then there is Emerson's ambiguity concerning Idealism versus Materialism. He doesn't care either way, each is perfectly fine and perfectly useles ...more
Definitely a challenging read. Emerson is a more challenging author that wants to make you think. Once I was past the first decent chunk of pages, I was able to slowly progress through the rest of the book and enjoy his thoughts on all things and aspects relating to nature.
Emerson is crazy and this really makes no sense at all but entertaining?? I think? American literature doesn't make sense to me but none the less his crazy non sense writing makes for a great paper topic.
Cindy Winder delong
Emerson is obsessed with nature. His love of it is strange and unhealthy. He also makes disturbing comparisons. He groups children and savages together.
John Yelverton
It's pretty amazing to read a philosophy book when it's written by a real writer instead of a thinker trying to write. As amazing as the writing is, Emerson is no philosopher and he gets hung up on unnecessary distinctions. It's still well written though.
Emerson celebrates Nature devotedly and looks at it from inside, outside, above, below, as a poet, artist, philosopher, scientists, a spiritual man, and a child. He is awed by Nature as a manifestation of the Divine in the universe right in the introduction where he questions why contemporary men should not communicate with God directly as the ancient prophets did instead of only relying what these prophets wrote for us about what Nature revealed to them when he asks: “Why should not we also enj ...more
Cyrus Molavi
The language was too archaic to understand, and I wasn't convinced the content was worth the effort of decoding to find the true message.
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in 1803, Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston. Educated at Harvard and the Cambridge Divinity School, he became a Unitarian minister in 1826 at the Second Church Unitarian. The congregation, with Christian overtones, issued communion, something Emerson refused to do. "Really, it is beyond my comprehension," Emerson once said, when asked by a seminary professor whether he believed in God. (Quoted ...more
More about Ralph Waldo Emerson...
Self-Reliance and Other Essays Essays and Poems Self-Reliance The Essential Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson Essays and Lectures

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“The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship” 54 likes
“Every spirit builds itself a house; and beyond its house a world; and beyond its world, a heaven. Know then, that the world exists for you. For you is the phenomenon perfect. What we are, that only can we see. All that Adam had, all that Caesar could, you have and can do. Adam called his house, heaven and earth; Caesar called his house, Rome; you perhaps call yours, a cobler's trade; a hundred acres of ploughed land; or a scholar's garret. Yet line for line and point for point, your dominion is as great as theirs, though without fine names. Build, therefore, your own world.” 21 likes
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