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La Nature

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,998 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
Together in one volume, Ralph Waldo Emerson's Nature and Henry David Thoreau's Walking, writing that defines our distinctly American relationship to nature.
Published (first published 1836)
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This is an important work for Emerson, it defined him and how he viewed his fellow man and the world around him, especially the natural world. But it was difficult to read for me because of the style and of the time and place it was written. This intellectual and philosophical language from the early 19th century was just outside my ability to fully appreciate it's message.

Memorable quote: "Infancy is the perpetual Messiah, which comes into the arms of fallen men, and pleads with them to return
“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.
Rick Wilcox
Dec 30, 2013 Rick Wilcox rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
carl  theaker
Mar 23, 2011 carl theaker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: outdoorz

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
May 02, 2013 Lisa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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."
Rupertt Wind
Apr 04, 2014 Rupertt Wind rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Its poetry, pure unadulterated poetry of nature.
Ana Maria 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
Antti Sorri
Jan 10, 2015 Antti Sorri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kaksi vuotta sitten Akateemisen kirjakaupan alennuslaarista mukaan lähti yhdysvaltalaisen filosofin, Henry David Thoreaun (1817 – 1862) vastikään suomennettu Walden – Elämää metsässä. Tätä ympäristöfilosofian klassikkoa luin ahmien ja vakuutuin sen asemasta amerikkalaisen romantiikan ajan luontokäsityksen suurena esikuvana, myöhemmän ympäristöfilosofian ja viimeaikaisen downshiftaus -ilmiön innoittajana. Ja innoitti teos myös allekirjoittanutta, joka rupesi pitkästä aikaa haaveilemaan omasta mök ...more
Sep 20, 2015 Bozhidar rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book full of clarity on what nature is. You may think that grasping nature is straightforward thing, this is a book about discovering nature through it's direct experience. The author has excellent essay writing skills and the language is perfect, not too complicated and never simplifying, but every time just the right words to communicate with clarity something that is hardly put in words, to experience nature. The first part of this book I've read just after I enjoyed a beautiful sun ...more
Feb 22, 2015 Tomek rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was an uneven book. The beginning and the end are easy to read and thought provoking, while the middle is dense and obtuse. These essays are Emerson's attempts to understand why nature is valuable and what our relationship to nature should be. This is a lofty and noble goal, but I think he ultimately fell short.

He starts off by stating his premise: that being in nature gives humans unparallelled peace and happiness. He then grapples with to the reasons behind this truth in subsequent chapt
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
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
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
Aug 11, 2015 James rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I can understand that Emerson really blew peoples minds back in the day. I know he was a champion of individual liberty, something I agree with heartily. I know that maybe one day my opinion of his writing etc. may change. However, to me he is pretentious and uses way too many words to say too little. Perhaps that is the effect of modern pop culture on me, wanting only snappy short punch lines, not having any attention for deeper sentiment. Also he seems to talk a lot about if people only spent ...more
Kelly Schoenborn

An essay on the belief of Transcendentalism suggesting non-traditional ideas that nature is divine (like a God) and that truths about life and humanity can be understood by studying nature.

Reading the writing of Emerson and similar authors like Thoreau during our Transcendentalist unit was one of my favorite experiences in an English class since high school has started. I really connected with their view on nature, and how we can find ourselves the most when we are away from society and simp
Mary Overton
Emerson’s swoony, romantic language disguises his pragmatic vision of Nature - that it can be investigated by science and that the personifications we attribute to it are projections of our human psyche. Nature and the laws of physics are material from which people create the metaphors that give life meaning.
From the essay’s introduction:
“Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the perfection of the creation so far, as to believe that whatever curiosity the
Oct 26, 2015 Amina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The introduction written by Jaroslav Pelican was a whopping 62 pages yet I'm glad to have been patient through it as it broke the actual essay down for me–it was a kind of pre-reading I really benefitted from. Chapters 1-3 were breathtaking and I had to put the book down after finishing each but afterwards everything started to become dense and I knew from the middle of the fourth chapter that I'd have to do some re-reading and/or analyzing to fully grasp the objective behind those paragraphs. I ...more
Joss Dent
May 16, 2014 Joss Dent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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
Jan 02, 2014 Romain rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 12, 2012 Jared rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 27, 2015 Courtney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-authors
I, honestly, have a serious and passionate love of Emerson. This baby is thick, but worth the work. A couple of my favorite lines...

"Know then, that the world exists for you. For you is the phenomenon perfect."

"Is not prayer also a study of truth,--a sally of the soul into the unfound infinite? No man ever prayed heartily, without learning something."

"Infancy is the perpetual Messiah, which comes into the arms of fallen men, and pleads with them to return to paradise."

"Nothing divine dies. All g
Pat Edwards
Some quotable sections. I do really like the quote, "Here again we are impressed and even daunted by the immense Universe to be explored. What we know, is a point to what we do not know."

While Emerson was a radical thinker for his day, his beliefs that "man" is set apart from nature ring like a Christian Fundamentalist today. This is probably because (as a product of his times) he saw nature and man as separate god-creations.

Still a worthwhile read even if anachronostic.
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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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“The happiest man is he who learns from nature the lesson of worship” 78 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.” 32 likes
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