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Religions 2017, 8(9), 164; doi:10.3390/rel8090164

Sovereignty of the Living Individual: Emerson and James on Politics and Religion

Department of Religious Studies, Brown University, 59 George Street, Providence, RI 02912, USA
Received: 20 July 2017 / Revised: 20 August 2017 / Accepted: 20 August 2017 / Published: 25 August 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transcendentalism and the Religious Experience)
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Abstract

William James and Ralph Waldo Emerson are both committed individualists. However, in what do their individualisms consist and to what degree do they resemble each other? This essay demonstrates that James’s individualism is strikingly similar to Emerson’s. By taking James’s own understanding of Emerson’s philosophy as a touchstone, I argue that both see individualism to consist principally in self-reliance, receptivity, and vocation. Putting these two figures’ understandings of individualism in comparison illuminates under-appreciated aspects of each figure, for example, the political implications of their individualism, the way that their religious individuality is politically engaged, and the importance of exemplarity to the politics and ethics of both of them. View Full-Text
Keywords: Ralph Waldo Emerson; William James; transcendentalism; individualism; religious experience Ralph Waldo Emerson; William James; transcendentalism; individualism; religious experience
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Bush, S.S. Sovereignty of the Living Individual: Emerson and James on Politics and Religion. Religions 2017, 8, 164.

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