thoreau and emerson

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Many philosophers stand out from the crowd of the rational world and inspire the lives of some. They seem to do this through their literary skills, through which they create essays that help people think in a way that necessitates thorough and consistent brainstorming. Philosophers such as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson have been on the front lines of inspiring audiences on many occasions. The two thinkers were among the nineteenth-century authors who were able to elicit philosophical thoughts on one’s inner self as the foundation of one’s existence. This article intends to examine the thoughtful similarities that the authors had in their literary skills. Also, the article aims to explore the points where the two philosophers differ.

Notably, there are several aspects of writing that the two authors share and those that they differ. The main similarities that the share are simplicity in their literary appreciation and the love of nature. The literary skills of the two would be quite inseparable when considered under the two fields above. They seem to share a lot on conceptual experiences in the areas as though they shared the same line of thought (Reid et al., 2012, p 1–13). However, individualism and governance are aspects of life that help separate the works of the two. They don’t seem to share the same line of thought when these two aspects are concerned.

Reid, James D., et al. “LOCATING THOREAU, REORIENTING PHILOSOPHY.” Thoreau’s Importance for Philosophy, edited by RICK ANTHONY FURTAK et al., Fordham University Press, NEW YORK, 2012, pp. 1–13,

The article gives a key and profound examination of the similarities and differences that Thoreau and Emerson may have in their literary works. The writings of the two authors have been of significant importance to the rational world. However, the differences that arise in the writings are far from being merged to form a standard course.

When Thoreau explores the ideological thoughts that Emerson has about nature, he gets drawn to the simplicity of the manner in which the soul and the mind function in their full potential. He concludes that the deepness of the imagination to which our minds and hearts go may be the primary key to uplifting and changing our lives at some in time (Reid et al., 2012, p 1–13). The simplicity that Thoreau and Emerson share drives them to the prevailing thought that the ideological theories of the mind are dependent on nature; owing to the constant change that is evident in nature, human beings must always be on the lookout to gain insight into human life in consideration to these changes.


Inner Being versus the Human Soul

In comparing the literary appreciations by Thoreau and Emerson, they stand out just like a mirror and an image forming an almost perfect replica of the other. The reflection that one gets when comparing the two side by side is that of transcendental individualism. Both of them have clutching points that they depend on to bring out the ideas they intend to. The general intention that is perceived when reading the works of the two philosophers is the reliance and diffidence that does so inspire the soul. Their articles speak of an abrasive, contemplative and refined side of the human soul which forms a colorful epitome of perfection.

The literary presence by Emerson and Thoreau portrays a stereotypical pictograph. In the determination of a natural generalization of the manner in which Thoreau and Emerson are alike, using the study involving the use of prose voices is critical. The study generalizes the literary figures that are binding between Thoreau and Emerson. The two are the best example of the manner in which most people choose to live their lives abiding strictly to personal philosophies. The philosophers also shared the plight endeared towards the fate of men about their independence and existence.


Transcendentalism was a movement that had the intellective motive to stress on self-reliance, individuality, and intuition of the human mind and soul. The article where I lived and what I lived for by Thoreau and The American Scholar by Emerson give the clear views that the authors have about the primary motives (Reid et al., 2012, p 1–13). The authors, through writing, try to show how the human soul can attain a feeling of self-reliance from the body itself. The means to achieving a sense of individuality and the working of the intuition that drives the soul to act. The approach they both give share most of the aspects in consideration. Also, the basis of their arguments is almost inseparable to the readers reading through the articles for the first time and some of those re-reading them. The message that both authors convey involves the gaining and maintaining one’s independence and the feeling of self-reliance.


In the direction that both writers argue, they drive towards the methods that a person may envision their independence. They feel that human beings have actually lost their sense to make individual decisions. The government makes its decisions relating to slavery, domestic issues and war instead of the people. This is the perfect way in which the government imposes its self-interests on the citizens. This conclusively means that the citizens do not have the freedom to take part in the decisions on matters involving their well-being.


Even though the two philosophers share a multitude of ideological aspects in their literary appreciations, they have major differences. They include;

Freedom and Independence

The two aspects; liberty and independence may seem similar, but in the real sense, they are not. While freedom is the ability to be free from the ties with oneself, independence is the circumstance in which one can make their decisions and execute them without the interference of the authority. Both authors might have shared the same views on the independence of the people, but they made different approaches regarding the matter. Thoreau seems to be championing for freedom from the domination of the rule of the government (BUELL, 1973, p. 284–311). However, Emerson appears to be for the freedom of a person from oneself. Emerson had the belief that people needed to attain their liberty to make their decisions by their convictions and opinions.

Moral Law and Civil Law

The writers had contrasting views about the stated beliefs on either civil law or moral law. The view that both authors had in the perspective of religion was that they both were for the fact that God’s authority transcended over the government (BUELL, 1973, p. 284–311). They believed that God’s power was incompatible to the human authority of the government. The conclusive thought was that all human beings ought to be dependent on God for survival at all times. However, on this philosophical perspective, the authors were championing for naturalization. They were trying to give an expression of their views on life. Whereas Emerson gave a deep reflection that could translate to the power of God above all nature, Thoreau chose to envision nature as an independent component whose co-existence has no link to God (BUELL, 1973, p. 284–311).This clearly proves that Emerson held the belief that moral law was higher and more dominant compared to civil law. On the other hand, Thoreau was for the fact that civil law was independent of moral law.


Apparently, it is evident that both authors wrote from deep within their beings. It is for this fact that it is vital to note that they did not hold back any matter that was worth mentioning. They wrote what they felt and knew was the perspective they had about worldly occurrences. They made the sole decision to share the views they had with the world. The most important part is that they did not try to prove whether they were right or wrong, all they did was share what they knew and leave the debating part to the reader. They intended to offer free lessons to readers about various aspects of the world.

Works Cited

BUELL, LAWRENCE. “Emerson and Thoreau: Soul versus Self.” Literary Transcendentalism: Style and Vision in the American Renaissance, Cornell University Press, Ithaca; London, 1973, pp. 284–311,

Reid, James D., et al. “LOCATING THOREAU, REORIENTING PHILOSOPHY.” Thoreau’s Importance for Philosophy, edited by RICK ANTHONY FURTAK et al., Fordham University Press, NEW YORK, 2012, pp. 1–13,

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