The American Scholar

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TheAmerican Scholar

Inthis address, Ralph Waldo Emerson discusses about the role ofrational thinking and the value of education in a man’s purpose ofexistence. This objective was then embodied into paragraphs thatdiscussed about how the thinking of man and education are affected bynature, human experiences as well as written texts and human actions.As the message was delivered to a group of academically-recognizedstudents in Harvard, the message opened with a comparison between theevent and the gatherings of ancient scholars in Europe. Emerson thencalled for promotion of an independent American intellectualpopulation that would not in any way depend on so-called authoritiesin order to gain acceptance or recognition. Then, Emerson went on todescribe “” as an abstract representation ofan ideal American literary disciple (617-619).

Thepurpose of the address revolved on the aim to remind the audience ofhow true scholars are educated and what their duties are. Indescribing the role of nature in this endeavor, the author said thatthe maxims “Study nature” and “Know thyself” mean the samething as an understanding of nature or the self would lead one tounderstand the other (620-622). While admitting that books are alsogreat sources of learning, Emerson gave a warning of the dangers thatcan come from depending too much on books. Instead, he emphasized thevalue of originality and innovation in learning. With this, whilesome aspects of learning would necessarily require familiarity withpast knowledge recorded through books, the scholar should not in anyway allow these materials to impair one’s creative abilities. Inaddition, a scholar should act in accordance to his or herintelligence, as such adds richness to a thinking person’sexistence.

Inconclusion, Emerson sums up the ideal American scholar: courageous,original and independent. While many influences around man are bothavailable and necessary, the American scholar should be wise enoughin developing the said characteristics in order to properly shape thetrue American culture.


Emerson,Ralph Waldo. “.” TheAmerican Tradition Literature. Ed.George Perkins. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. 617-630. Print.