Emerson and Islam

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), a quintessentially American writer and thinker, is also one of the most international. Greek, Roman, Chinese, Indian, Persian, French, British, and German philosophers
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Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82), a quintessentially American writer and thinker, is also one of the most international. Greek, Roman, Chinese, Indian, Persian, French, British, and German philosophers and literary figures pervade his work. As we think about “Western values” and “the clash of civilizations” today, it may be useful to consider the significant role that Islam plays in Emerson’s thought. To begin, we need look no farther than the conclusion of Emerson’s greatest essay, ‘Self-Reliance,’ where he quotes “the Caliph Ali,” whom he learned about from Simon Ockley’s History of the Saracens (1718): “Thy lot or portion of life, is seeking after thee; therefore be at rest from seeking after it.” Emerson uses Ali to distinguish an accidental property like an inheritance from an essential or “living property,” something “that perpetually renews itself wherever the man breathes.” This kind of property cannot be effectively pursued, but it can be received and. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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