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Self-Reliance and Other Essays

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  17,374 ratings  ·  399 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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Bruno Who would know better than thy? "Whatever have been thy failures hitherto, be not afflicted, my child, for who shall assign to thee what thou hast lef…moreWho would know better than thy? "Whatever have been thy failures hitherto, be not afflicted, my child, for who shall assign to thee what thou hast left undone?" HDT(less)

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Sep 22, 2011 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
Jan 20, 2008 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
Desiree Finkbeiner
Jul 10, 2013 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
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ralph Waldo Emerson is a spiritual experience, an intense one indeed, for everyone who is afraid of conformity, afraid of the loneliness that thinking for yourself can put you in. Emerson is here to remind you, that it not only ok, but it is your duty to think for youself, to find your own way, to look at the world with your own perspective, and there is nothing wrong about that, there is nothing to be afraid of, on the contrary, there is everything to gain, it is the only way you can live a ful ...more
Oct 07, 2010 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
Brad Lyerla
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Emerson's Essay on Self-Reliance is the classic argument for non-conformity. Everyone should read it if only for the quotes. Check it out: "Whosoever would be a man must be a non-conformist." Or how about: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds."

It's best to read this essay when you are 19, but no one is too old to enjoy this classic.
Sep 17, 2008 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.
Feb 17, 2015 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.
Dominic Robin
Dear Lord, please no -never again- if it can be helped, and if I must be tortured for some wrong and made to read a terrible book, give me Twilight or a bad fan fiction but not this.
Jun 04, 2012 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
Feb 13, 2010 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
Apr 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-school
as we are studying Emily Dickinson in our American literature class, our teacher said that it was important to include Emerson in our analysis of her poems! I see the different connections between the two authors (as Dickinson admired Emerson). moreover his writing style is simple yet every word has an important role in his construction of sentences, I see Dickinson’s fascination for him
Aug 26, 2010 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. ...more
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-help
A difficult book to review. Six of Emerson’s best essays along with his controversial Divinity School Address. History, Self-reliance, Friendship, The Over-Soul, The Poet and Experience are the topics of the essays written around 1841.

The recurrent theme throughout the essays is think for your self. The need for each individual to avoid conformity and false consistency, and follow his own instinct. The idea of believing in one's self and one's worth is another key theme.

It is the source of one
David Calhoun
Oct 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Holy smokes. This is one of those rare things you hear about your whole life but put off because it sounds boring. Something hailed as a classic but something you are skeptical of being relevant for the current age.

But when it finally comes to you, and when you finally get the discipline to read it, it resonates and turns out to be just the thing you needed to read, right at that stage in your life.

This is an essay about self-reliance, not in the Thoreau sense, but being self-oriented even when
Nov 02, 2015 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
So dense yet lucid and poetic and 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"'s all there
Justin Tyler
May 18, 2009 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. ...more
Seth Hanson
Feb 03, 2012 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. ...more
Kevin Wooden
Feb 09, 2009 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
Aug 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is going to take a few more reads for me to really get.
Greg Hickey
Jan 31, 2021 rated it liked it
It's easy to see why Nietzsche liked and admired Emerson. They share an affinity for individualism, a belief that humanity will improve upon itself, and a penchant for arguing from intuition. And while I appreciated "Self-Reliance" and parts of the other essays in this collection, I seem to identify more with Nietzsche's intuitions than Emerson's. Emerson's poetic prose and seemingly inconsistent arguments for individualism and for the interconnectedness of human spirits make for some challengin ...more
Ben Lind
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Reading Books

Emerson thinks that you should only read as a last resort. "Books are for the scholar's idle times. When he can read God directly, the hour is too precious to be waster in other men's transcripts of their readings. But when the intervals of darkness come, as come they must,—when the soul seeth not, when the sun is hid and the stars withdraw their shining,—we repair to the lamps which were kindled by their ray, to guide our steps to the East again, where the dawn is. We hear, that we
Oct 02, 2019 rated it liked it
I first read “Self-Reliance” in a 4000 level undergrad course. At the time I really enjoyed it, and I fell for Emerson’s ideals. However, after reading this collection in its entirety, and perhaps with also having a much higher level of knowledge and deeper background into this type of work, my love for Emerson now feels misplaced. This is in part due to his religious points and the notion of the “Oversoul” that I in no way agree with, which has created an issue where I can’t really follow his t ...more
Oct 29, 2007 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
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
Sep 14, 2007 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. ...more
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!) ...more
Sahar Pirmoradian
Nov 27, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is a collection of several essays by Emerson. The "Self-reliance" essay helped me better digest the mentality of Americans - why they do not have many charities or their social insurance is so poor, compared to Europeans. I also enjoyed his essay on "Friendship", where he defines friendship ingredients: equality and sincerity. ...more
Emily Lo
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy
I read this as a Freshman in High School and it's a challenge, to say the least.

It's worth it. You can't miss out on a classic like this. Every sentence is a jewel, and it's really really rich.

Beautiful prose and simple philosophy. Don't let the words scare you. This is some of the most beautiful, candid works I've read in a long time.
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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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