American Transcendentalism Web
Authors & Texts     Roots & Influences     Ideas & Thought     Criticism
Resources     Search     Communication Center
Default text size Big text size Bigger text size Biggest text size

Literary Roots

Emerson and Science

Bryan Hileman

Science was crucial to Emerson’s development, particularly during the pre-Nature period of 1830-1833.  Emerson during this period was searching for parallels between the dual Kantian realms of understanding and reason.  Through grasping the principles of science, Emerson hoped to better realize and define the realm of Understanding and its relationship to the realm of reason.

The physics of Newton was very much in the fore during the Classical Period.  The Romantic period marked and influenced the rise if biology and geology.  The great biologist Georges Cuvier, Web Site brought to Emerson’s attention through the writings of his acquaintance Louis Agassiz, Web Site and James Hutton, Web Site the great geologist, popularized and expanded on by Charles Lyell, Web Site both had a definite influence on the formation of Romantic philosophy, and that of Emerson in particular.  Cuvier’s contribution was the notion that organisms are a collection of organs and bones, bits and pieces made viable and whole by thought.  Hutton’s uniformitarianism suggested that a single force, volcanism, was responsible for the creation of the majority of variations of the earth’s crust.  These were thus sciences of one from many, of constancy in change, and underlying theme of much of Emerson’s work, the human mind being the singular object necessary to bind the various phenomena in nature into a coherent whole.

The German naturalist Lorenz Oken Web Site also developed a scientific philosophy similar to Emerson that had a slight influence on Emerson’s philosophy of science in his later years.

Home:     Roots   Emerson's Inheritance