Transcendentalism: The Philosophy Of The Mind Essay, Research Paper
Transcendentalism: The Philosophy of the Mind
Transcendentalism is the view that the basic truth of the
universe lies beyond the knowledge obtained from the senses, a
knowledge that transcendentalists regard as the mere appearance of
things (Adventures 162). Transcendentalists believe the mind is
where ideas are formed. The transcendentalist ideas of God, man,
and the universe were not all original, but were a combination of other
philosophies and religions.
One of the major questions of philosophy is “What is the nature
of the universe?” Immanuel Kant was one of the major
Transcendentalists of his time. One of the major questions he asked
was, “What is knowledge, and how is it possible?” Transcendentalists
believe that one really only knows personal experiences, and that one
can not know the universe which exists. Kant came to the conclusion
that there are two universes, one of experience, called the
“Phenomenal Universe”, and the other the “Noumenal Universe”, the
one of reason. The first is scientific and the other practical (Frost 42).
Transcendentalists think there is a dimension of depth in everything
that exists. They also think the spirit is what controls your physical side
(Halverson 431). Some transcendentalists say the world has no
beginning in time, everything takes place according to the laws of
nature. The same people think there is not necessarily an absolute
Being who causes the world to be (Frost 42). Transcendentalists think
nature is a product of the mind, and without the mind nature would not
exist (Santayana 42). These ideas come from the Romantic traditions
which originated in England. The Romantics believed in spiritual unity
of all forms of being, with God, humanity, and nature sharing a
universal soul (Adventures 208).
Transcendentalists came to the conclusion that good and evil
were things only man could control. Their belief of man is that man is
part of the universe of objects and things. His knowledge is confined
to ideas. He is able to reason, and he can form ideas of the outer
world of God, freedom, and immortality (Frost 53). Immanuel Kant
said, “Always act in such a way that the maxim determining your
conduct might as well become a universal law; act as though you can
will that everybody shall follow the principle of your action.” He called
this the “categorical imperative.” Kant believed this was a sure
criterion of what is right and what is wrong. Kant also made the point
that an act desired of everyone would be a good act, or if the act is
performed with good intentions it is good no matter if it brings pain.
He also said human life is only possible on this moral basis (Frost 95).
Is there a God? This question has been around for hundreds of
years. Many transcendentalists think they have answered it. Kant
said there must be a God who is wise, good, and powerful to join
happiness and goodness. He thought the idea of God was necessary
to serve as a foundation for moral life (Frost 132). The
transcendentalists explain that when God made the world, he found it
good, and when the transcendentalists assumed the Creator’s place,
they followed his example (Santayana 121). Other transcendentalists
believe the unseen part of the universe dwells in God (Halverson 429).
Theodore Parker was nicknamed the Savonarola of
transcendentalism, by Emerson, because he denied the necessity of
biblical inspiration and miracles in life (Edwards 479).
Transcendentalists firmly believe that the mind is superior to
matter. According to Kant, there are intuitions of the mind itself not
based upon experience, but through which experience is acquired.
Kant called these “transcendental forms”(Edwards 480).
Transcendentalists believe the mind is the only source of knowledge,
but Kant said there is a world other than the mind (Frost 242). Kant
also thought humans are shut up in their minds and must interpret
everything. He believed that space and time are not realities existing
by themselves, but are ways the mind has of receiving and shaping
sensations. Kant stated, “Take away the thinking subject, and the
entire corporeal world will vanish, for it is nothing but the appearance
in the sensibility of our subject.” To the thinkers who followed Kant the
most logical solution to the problem of mind and matter was to
eliminate matter. The mind seemed evident but matter had to be
interpreted as something other than and outside of the mind (Frost
Transcendentalists believe many ideas come from the mind
itself, not from experience. They believe that these ideas of the mind
are a very important part of life. An anonymous pamphlet (many
believe to be written by Charles Mayo Ellis), An Essay on
Transcendentalism, says, “Transcendentalism maintains that man has
ideas that come not through the five senses, or the power of
reasoning; but are either the result of direct revelation from God, his
immediate inspiration, or his immanent presence in the spiritual
world.” The transcendentalists called the spiritual body within the
physical body the oversoul, the conscience, or the inner light
(Encyclopedia 3). Kant says the mind is like a bowl with many
crevices and depressions in it’s contour. When one pours water into
the bowl, it takes the shape of the bowl, filling all the crevices. In the
same way the environment pours impressions into the mind and they
are received by the mind and shaped according to the nature of this
mind (Frost 257). Some transcendentalists think all minds are alike.
They say all minds have certain categories such as totality, unity,
plurality, and reality. Transcendentalists believe knowledge is limited
to the combined role of sensibility and understanding, both of which
are concerned with sense and experience, though in different ways
(Hakim 98). They also think knowledge is universal (Frost 258).
Some transcendentalists think the ideas are of the mind and cannot
be applied to a world outside of the mind. They believe ideas are a
result of the kind of thinking organ which people have, and are
determined by it’s nature.
Transcendentalism is a combination of beliefs, some of which
are from other religions and other people and their philosophies. It is
a belief that there is another way knowledge is obtained, not only from
the senses, but also from the mind.