Ralph Waldo Emerson Quotes

A lady with whom I was riding in the forest said to me that the woods always seemed to her to wait, as if the genii who inhabit them suspend their deeds until the wayfarer had passed onward; a thought which poetry has celebrated in the dance of the fairies, which breaks off on the approach of human feet.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "History," Essays, First Series (1841, repr. 1847).
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The whole value of history, of biography, is to increase my self-trust, by demonstrating what man can be and do.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. Speech, July 24, 1838, at Dartmouth College. "Literary Ethics," Nature, Addresses, and Lectures (1849).
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Bookworm, break this sloth urbane; A greater spirit bids thee forth Than the gray dreams which thee detain.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "Monadnoc," Poems (1847).
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A dilettantism in nature is barren and unworthy. A fop of fields is no better than his brother on Broadway.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "Nature," Essays, Second Series (1844).
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The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. Lecture, March 3, 1884, in Amory Hall, Boston, Massachusetts. "New England Reformers," Essays, Second Series (1844).
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The State must follow, and not lead, the character and progress of the citizen.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "Politics," Essays, Second Series (1844).
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Where dwells the religion? Tell me first where dwells electricity, or motion, or thought or gesture. They do not dwell or stay at all. Electricity cannot be made fast, mortared up and ended, like London Monument, or the Tower, so that you shall know where to find it, and keep it fixed, as the English do with their things, forevermore; it is passing, glancing, gesticular; it is a traveller, a newness, a surprise, a secret which perplexes them, and puts them out.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "Religion," English Traits (1856).
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Sentimentalists ... adopt whatever merit is in good repute, and almost make it hateful with their praise. The warmer their expressions, the colder we feel.... Cure the drunkard, heal the insane, mollify the homicide, civilize the Pawnee, but what lessons can be devised for the debauchee of sentiment?
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "Social Aims," Letters and Social Aims (1876).
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Our books are false by being fragmentary: their sentences are bon mots, and not parts of natural discourse; childish expressions of surprise or pleasure in nature; or, worse, owing a brief notoriety to their petulance, or aversion from the order of nature,—being some curiosity or oddity, designedly not in harmony with nature, and purposely framed to excite surprise, as jugglers do by concealing their means.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. "Swedenborg; or, the Mystic," Representative Men (1850).
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There is no doctrine of the Reason which will bear to be taught by the Understanding.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher. Address, July 15, 1838, delivered before the senior class in Divinity College, Cambridge. "The Divinity School Address," repr. in The Portable Emerson, ed. Carl Bode (1946, repr. 1981). Here, Emerson appropriates aspects of Kant's terminology. For Kant, the "understanding" is that mental capacity tied to sense data, whereas "reason" is the cognitive faculty with which we can conceive of ideal qualities beyond sensual data e.g., freedom or God. It should be noted that Kant's definition for "reason" expands at different points in his writings.
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