Philosophic Development and Applications
The terms transcendent and transcendental were used in a more narrow and technical sense by Scholastic philosophers late in the Middle Ages to signify concepts of unrestricted generality applying to all types of things (see Scholasticism). The Scholastics recognized six such transcendental concepts: essence, unity, goodness, truth, thing, and something (Latin ens, unum, bonum, verum, res, and aliquid).
The German philosopher Immanuel Kant was the first to make a technical distinction between the terms transcendent and transcendental. Kant reserved the term transcendent for those entities such as God and the soul, which are thought to exist outside of human experience and are therefore unknowable; he used the term transcendental to signify a priori forms of thought, that is, innate principles with which the mind gives form to its perceptions and makes experience intelligible. Kant applied the name transcendental philosophy to the study of pure mind and its a priori forms. Later German idealist philosophers who were influenced by Kant, particularly Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, and Edmund Husserl, described their views as transcendental. Consequently, the term transcendentalism came to be applied almost exclusively to doctrines of metaphysical idealism.
More important, the transcendentalists were influenced by romanticism, especially such aspects as self-examination, the celebration of individualism, and the extolling of the beauties of nature and humankind. Consequently, transcendentalist writers expressed semireligious feelings toward nature, as well as the creative process, and saw a direct connection, or correspondence, between the universe (macrocosm) and the individual soul (microcosm). In this view, divinity permeated all objects, animate or inanimate, and the purpose of human life was union with the so-called Over-Soul. Intuition, rather than reason, was regarded as the highest human faculty. Fulfillment of human potential could be accomplished through mysticism or through an acute awareness of the beauty and truth of the surrounding natural world. This process was regarded as inherently individual, and all orthodox tradition was suspect.
American transcendentalism began with the formation (1836) of the Transcendental Club in Boston. Among the leaders of the movement were the essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, the feminist and social reformer Margaret Fuller, the preacher Theodore Parker, the educator Bronson Alcott, the philosopher William Ellery Channing, and the author and naturalist Henry David Thoreau. The Transcendental Club published a magazine, The Dial, and some of the club's members participated in an experiment in communal living at Brook Farm, in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, during the 1840s. Major transcendentalist works of the American movement include Emerson's essays “Nature” (1836) and “Self-Reliance” (1841), as well as many of his metaphysical poems, and also Thoreau's Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854), which is an account of an individual's attempt to live simply and in harmony with nature."Transcendentalism," Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2007
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