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Self-Reliance and Other Essays

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  13,341 Ratings  ·  240 Reviews
Essayist, poet, and philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) propounded a transcendental idealism emphasizing self-reliance, self-culture, and individual expression. The six essays and one address included in this volume, selected from Essays, First Series (1841) and Essays, Second Series (1844), offer a representative sampling of his views outlining that moral idealis ...more
Paperback, 117 pages
Published October 13th 1993 by Dover Publications (first published 1844)
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Walden by Henry David ThoreauLittle Women by Louisa May AlcottThe Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel HawthorneSelf-Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo EmersonLeaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Transcendentalism
4th out of 109 books — 50 voters
The Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckThe Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel HawthorneEast of Eden by John SteinbeckOf Mice and Men by John SteinbeckWalden by Henry David Thoreau
A Journey Through Literary America
29th out of 125 books — 156 voters


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Community Reviews

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HeatRush
Sep 22, 2011 HeatRush rated it it was amazing
Ralph Waldo Emerson is the greatest writer who ever lived. I carry his collected essays around like a Mormon carries the Book of Mormon. Though I don't ride a bike. No one has every offered up more wisdom, with such jazzy tempo and energetic flow. He has a more extensive vocabulary than Shakespeare, and I believe he was the first writer who suffered from A.D.D. It is like the great UCLA professor Coulecourcio once said, "It's as if his sentences don't know each other." I appreciate that he doesn ...more
Shelly
Jan 20, 2008 Shelly rated it really liked it
when i read this i was 20 and under the impression that what was shitty about the world and people could be changed and that me and my friends could make an impact for the better on people just by talking to them and reasoning with them.
since then i've lost god and watch w "win" back to back elections, so I guess you could say i'm a bit more jaded.
still, i like a lot of what emerson says. self-reliance cannot be underestimated. if only we chided ourselves for our mistakes instead of placing blam
...more
Yann
May 19, 2015 Yann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, philosophie


Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) est un écrivain américain, chef de file d'un mouvement de pensée appelé "Transcendantalisme", sorte de déisme teinté de philosophie, et qui connut une certaine vogue. Cet ouvrage comprend six essais écrits par lui:

La Nature est un vibrant hommage à la création dont le spectacle doit nous emplir de délice, nous fournit l'ensemble des commodités nécessaires et superflues, nous charme par la variété de ses grâces. Il avance cette thèse paradoxale que le langage est u
...more
Desiree Finkbeiner
Aug 01, 2013 Desiree Finkbeiner rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Fantastic! I had a natural disposition from an early age to stand on my own ground apart from the crowd. I've embraced my own personal truth without the need to force my values and opinions upon others. This philosophy has awarded me popularity (and in some cases, intense enemies) throughout my life. There is no happiness quite like self-acceptance and the ability to be comfortable with one's own personality and conviction of beliefs. Ralph Waldo Emerson illuminates these truths with great vigor ...more
Hana
Feb 17, 2015 Hana rated it it was amazing
Shelves: inspiration
Do I always agree with him? Of course not. In particular, his emphasis on 'self-reliance' rather than wisdom handed down and tested through time has always struck me as fool-hardy.
But his thinking is so central to American identity and is so beautifully argued that it is worthwhile studying no matter what your perspective.
Iris
Jun 04, 2012 Iris rated it it was ok
Shelves: philosophy
"Self-Reliance" is an essay that captures the independent spirit behind many Americans, but it overlooks the sinfulness of people. Emerson calls on each person to listen to his own intuition rather than society, membership organizations, or religious traditions. He believes that each person can achieve his greatest genius by listening to himself.

In the middle section of the essay, Emerson presents his arguments for his belief. The support seems to largely be based on a faulty understanding of G
...more
Lindsey
Feb 13, 2010 Lindsey rated it it was amazing
Whoso would be a man, must be a non-conformist. He who would gather immortal palms must not be hindered by the name of goodness, but must explore if it be goodness. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

It is easy in the world to live after the world's opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, a
...more
Lex
Oct 31, 2010 Lex rated it really liked it
Shelves: unfinished
I reread Self-Reliance shortly after quitting Facebook, and then re-read it again twice more, in disbelief that apparently the issues I have with FB are not so removed from Emerson's times.... this is classic and timeless.
Andrea
Jun 25, 2012 Andrea rated it it was amazing
I love Ralph Waldo! I can only understand 1 out of every 5 things he says, but the parts I am getting are brilliant. I hear the American Scholar essay is fantastic. Can't wait to read it.
Caroline
Nov 09, 2010 Caroline rated it it was ok
Nathaniel Hawthorne best captured Emmerson's Transcendentalism in his short story The Celestial Railroad (inspired by Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress). He says, "He [i.e. Giant Transcendentalism] shouted after us, but in so strange a phraseology that we knew not what he meant, nor whether to be encouraged or affrighted."

Emerson’s essays are filled with feel-good rhetoric on being “one with the Oversoul.” He lectures on “originality” while borrowing ideas from Eastern religions and insists upon “reli
...more
Renee
Oct 29, 2007 Renee rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"Ne te quaesiveris extra."

i loved these essays in high school despite having to read emerson for a presentation. this is one book i really wish were here on my shelf and not back in indiana.

"So use all that is called Fortune. Most men gamble with her, and gain all, and lose all, as her wheel rolls. But do thou leave as unlawful these winnings, and deal with Cause and Effect, the chancellors of God. In the Will work and acquire, and thou hast chained the wheel of Chance, and shalt sit hereafter
...more
Claudia
Sep 24, 2008 Claudia rated it really liked it
Emerson's essays are best read when:

A) You're of the thought that the world can transcend its troubles, be changed for the better, and that you, personally, can be the agent of much of the change.

B) You've become older and jaded and need to be reminded that at one time you thought the world could be changed for the better and that you could be the agent of much of the change.
Justin Tyler
May 18, 2009 Justin Tyler rated it it was amazing
The essay "Self-Reliance" has been immensely important to me. If ever you are going through tough times, or feel that you are not being treated as well as you deserve, or fear that you are too dependent on another person for your happiness, or are just wondering about what it really means to have personal identity, read this essay. It's incredible.
matt
So dense yet lucid and poetic and rigorous....you can't get your arms around him, no matter how hard you try.

I've been coming back to this stuff for years in short but deeply felt dives into Emerson's humming catacombs.

I do believe what Bloom says when he calls Ralphie-boy "the mind of America"....it's all there
Seth Hanson
Feb 03, 2012 Seth Hanson rated it it was amazing
Pure and simple... "Self-Reliance" was life-altering. My personal philosophy of life is largely grounded in the ideals that are so well articulated and espoused in this short work. It's like scripture to me.
Kevin Wooden
Feb 09, 2009 Kevin Wooden rated it really liked it
Wow....When I read someone as gifted as RWE, I feel like Mr. Potato head. Have I ever really had an original thought? Very inspirational and also very challenging. KLW
Debi
Jan 20, 2014 Debi rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Many of Emerson's ideas, are existent in most every sector of society, especially individualism...of which America was essentially founded. Yet, it would be a mistake to take too many of his ideas to heart: namely self-righteousness. We are not gods, and to propose that possibility is ludicrous; however, the basis of "Self-Reliance" yields to the soul that would neglect conformity in the hopes of extinguishing legalistic thoughts and behaviors. Those interested in philosophy should read these es ...more
Adam
Emerson's transcendental philosophy is interesting in how it sidesteps a lot of the problems associated with similar views. Though very similar in its emphasis on the power of the imagination to Romanticism, and though Emerson makes some really outrageous claims, he has a manner of writing and argumentation that is so assured and clear that sometimes it doesn't matter that he's wrong, or at least limited, because he's inspiring in his wrongness, and wrong only in a rigorous philosophical sense. ...more
Erin
Jan 30, 2009 Erin rated it it was ok
Shelves: other-philosophy
Being a non-conformist is fine. But that doesn’t mean you are exempt from the moral code of the society in which you live, or that you are superior to those around you. Or that that God is speaking through the genuine actions of your pure, undying soul. After reading “Self-Reliance”, I understand why so many reviews of this essay begin by saying that this was formerly a much-loved read during high school. The main ideas here are straight from the diary of an angst-ridden, over-privileged, self-a ...more
Freya
May 01, 2016 Freya rated it liked it
Many inspiring lines in here, but far too libertarian for my tastes. I wholeheartedly agree with the pursuit of individual freedom in thought and approach, but Emerson has a distinct lack of empathy when it comes to individual circumstance; making the classic mistake made constantly by the privileged: That we can disregard society when it is usually responsible for our means and social status. We as humans are not equal. We should be, but the pursuit of individualism is far easier when you are a ...more
Michelle
one of the rare "text-books" that was actually enjoyable to read (other than when a "PAPER" had to be written about it or a "TEST" studied for about it...)

this was my 1st memorable introduction to RWE's work. this was the 1st time "mindfulness" really entered my consciousness, as a way of life, as a "Code" to live by. Sadly, I lacked the self-respect back then to give-up on attempting to Please the Authority Figures in my life. yikes. that just triggered some deep, distracting **FLASHBACKS** &am
...more
Julie
Jan 23, 2015 Julie rated it liked it
When I read Emerson, I find myself shouting out a resounding "yes!" and then I'll read on and wrinkle up my face with a full-throated "No!".

I believe that Emerson is only right in so far that he is coming from the standards of God. Much of what I read this week I looked through those divine glasses and I have to say that I liked him much more than when I last read him years ago. If, however, I look at his ideas through the lens of a decaying world, I cringe. For instance, when he says we ought n
...more
Paige
Mar 09, 2014 Paige rated it really liked it
Although wordy and ambiguous at times, I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would -- especially since my American Lit teacher introduced it as "difficult, dry and hard to get through." AGAIN, relevant themes to this day and age, and although it was a bit verbose, I think if the ideas were translated to be more "accessible" it could change how people think, as I'm sure it did back then.

Also, if my teacher hadn't prefaced the book by saying Emerson often would address people's "confused" lo
...more
Mark Dungey
Jan 17, 2011 Mark Dungey rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, essays
I'm not that big into non-fiction. It's strange as I enjoy learning as a general rule, but non-fiction is too close to being like a textbook to me. Emerson, thanks to the time; when the written word held more value, and more thought was given due to the effort it took to write it; put forth the ideal of America, particularly through literature. Due to him authors like Melville, Hawthorne, Whitman, Thoreau, Douglas, and, to a lesser extent Beecher-Stowe brought a new wave of modernity to literatu ...more
Jenna
Nov 26, 2007 Jenna rated it it was amazing
"There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has t ...more
Mora Lee
Jan 03, 2015 Mora Lee rated it it was amazing
Having read this book as an undergrad in the 1990s, I recently re-read it in order to teach it in my critical thinking class this year. I found "Self-Reliance" just as applicable to college students as I did back then--more so, in fact, since the Internet and social media have taken over our lives. It is clear that all the great thinkers of today have re-crafted Emerson's theories and advice about individualism; while many personal growth books offer the same sage advice, "Self-Reliance" was a t ...more
Kathryn
I'm a huge Emerson fan and, while many do not consider him the finest in terms of literary merit (though I enjoy his prose) and he himself felt Thoreau would be more the poetic prophet of Transcendentalism, Emerson's style and philosophy are dear to my heart. (PS I read many other misc. essays and books by/about Emerson and Thoreau for one of my MA term papers, so if anyone happens to be interested, let me know and I'll pull up my old Works Cited page!)
Emile
Sep 17, 2007 Emile rated it it was amazing
The essay 'Self-reliance' remains one of the most influential pieces of material that I have had to guide me in the development of my own character. So dense and spare in its proclamations, it gave me a call to arms and inspiration to become a good and true man while trusting me to determine who that man will be.
diamondkim
Jun 15, 2009 diamondkim rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reread
Yes, Emerson's elegant writing can be a bit 19th-century cumbersome, but look past it to the ideas and principles. His philosophy won't appeal to everyone, and I disagree with a few of his thoughts and arguments (for example, his opinion that traveling is a fool's paradise) but they are all thought provoking and profound, especially in Self Reliance and Friendship. 5 stars for how provocative the essays all are.
Christian
Nov 13, 2015 Christian rated it it was ok
I didn't read this exact edition. Mine had 12 essays in it, including Self-Reliance. I'm not really sure why that particular essay is so popular. I guess people take away the message of: believe in yourself and don't worry about what the critics in your life say. That's great, but Emerson seems more arrogant and extreme than that. For example: "To believe your own thought, to believe that what it true for you in your private heart is true for all men - that is genius." No, it isn't. That's one o ...more
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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
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“Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.” 473 likes
“I appeal from your customs. I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I must be myself. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me and the heart appoints. If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men’s, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. Does this sound harsh to-day? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and if we follow the truth it will bring us out safe at last.—But so may you give these friends pain. Yes, but I cannot sell my liberty and my power, to save their sensibility. Besides, all persons have their moments of reason, when they look out into the region of absolute truth; then will they justify me and do the same thing.
The populace think that your rejection of popular standards is a rejection of all standard, and mere antinomianism; and the bold sensualist will use the name of philosophy to gild his crimes. But the law of consciousness abides.”
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