For the transcendentalist, the “I” transcends the corporeal and yet nature is the embodiment of the transcendence and, or, the means to achieving transcendence, which gives way to a belief that the physical “I” is at the root of all transcendence.In practical terms, the transcendentalist is occupied with the natural over the synthetic (though it is doubtful that either Kant or Emerson would have couched it in those terms) and determines value as it relates to the individual.
Among the most noted of the Transcendentalist philosophers have been Emmanual Kant, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.The connection between transcendentalism and utopian thinking is not always clear; inasmuch as the individual holds the highest measure of transcendence; however, the importance that is placed on nature and natural living within nature has spawned communal beliefs based on transcendental thought.As Catherine Keller sees it, “Our civilization,” she writes, “is centered on the assumption that an individual is a discrete being: I am cleanly divided from the surrounding world of persons and places…. For our culture it is separation which prepares the way for selfhood.Realizing that “real” selfhood has thus been reserved for men (whose masculinity is culturally defined by such separation), … To be “on one’s own” does not necessarily mean to be out of relation. Is there even such a thing as a separate self at all-or only a posture?” (quoted in Zimmerman 646).The
current debate is centered on the discussion of the future and whether the ‘utopia’ that evolves will be valid and, or, founded on transcendentalist philosophies.
Brook Farm, the New England Transcendentalists’ experiment in communal living is perhaps the most famous of America’s intentional communities.Fruitlands, a smaller contemporary of Brook Farm, was also based on the transcendental thought of early Am…