Philosophy In Antebellum America

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Mike Rule Intro to human service Historical essay The Rise Of philosophy and Individualism American philosophy in the early nineteenth century was an enterprise shaped by beliefs in common sense, moral feeling, and self-culture. In addition to being decisively influenced by democratic values, however, Philosophy in antebellum America was also divided by controversies about the roles science and faith would play in constituting knowledge. Scientific empiricism, Protestant theology, and Romantic literary theory contended…show more content…
In the emerging marketplace society, where social mobility and capitalistic competition destroyed aristocratic forms of social cohesion, moral ideas derived from common sense philosophy helped to assure individuals and communities that they still lived in a morally accountable universe. As Thomas Augst in particular has shown, in the lyceums and lecture halls, debate societies and libraries where people spent their leisure hours, common sense moral philosophy helped to shape an emerging cultural pedagogy about the ethical and spiritual care of the self. By writing letters to family members, reflecting on their lives in their journals, reading useful literature, participating in polite conversation, and listening to oratorical performance, ordinary antebellum citizens sought to develop "character," to account for their actions, and to socialize themselves into democracy. Moral philosophy, thus, was a widespread social practice of literate citizenship; it had civic appeal in early…show more content…
Many literary critics interested in philosophy have found in Emerson's thought the origins of American pragmatism, and philosophers from around the globe who value the active mind more than systemic philosophical exposition continue to respond enthusiastically to the two sides of Emerson that Buell identifies: the democratic idealist and the anarchic provocateur. In addition, Thoreau's philosophy of civil disobedience, which hangs on a transcendental understanding of self-reliance, helped to inspire the movements of peaceful revolution set in motion by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Futhermore, Whitman's radically cosmic belief in the unique grandeur of every self and every mindis Romantic vision of a universal oversoul connecting slave, whore, president, and preacher all alike through a daily sharing in the erotics of experience, as expressed in Leaves of Grass (1855)mounts to the first philosophically significant statement of tolerance and multicultural acceptance in American

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