“Self-Reliance” by American essayist, philosopher, and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson is a classic. It’s a short introduction to the concept of self-reliance. In other words, it addresses the needs of America’s citizens as the country becomes more urbanized.
Man must be self-reliant
“Self-reliance” is an essay written by famous American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. It contains the most concise explanation of one of Emerson’s most essential themes: that man must be self-reliant in all things, including; character, personal relations, and his social life. It was published before the Great Depression of the late 1840s. Its title – “Waldo Emerson on Self-Reliance,” gives the flavor of the topic. The essay is meant to advise both people who want to become independent, and those who are beginning to feel that need.
In this introduction to self-reliance, we find two contrasting philosophies. Emerson on the one hand upholds the traditional principle of transcendentalism – that God has an overall plan for the human condition, regardless of whether humans will fully live up to these expectations. The second school of thought underlies the prevailing transcendental attitude of the day. According to this school, man can develop a spiritual individuality independent of any religion, as a man is part of God. “Religious faith,” they say, is “a fiction,” a “delusion” used to control the human mind.
The importance of religion
Emerson upholds the importance of religion as a necessary means to self-reliance. “Religious faith,” he writes, “is but the outward expression of a deeper faith in things unseen.” Religion, he continues, “has many shades, but it has one essential.” And that essential, he suggests, is self-reliance. “The true believer believes that he can help himself. Such a belief is based upon his knowledge of himself as a whole person.”
The true foundation of successful self-development
Self-reliance, says Ralph Waldo Emerson, is “the true foundation of successful self-development… self-reliance brings no pride to the life of the individual, but only self-satisfaction… self-reliance is the key to the master’s happiness.” Self-reliance is essential, says Emerson, because it “puts us in touch with our essential selves. Dependence on others makes us dependent upon their opinions and our capacities. Nothing can make us more independent than self-reliance.”
Three key concepts for self-reliance
In this famous Emerson Self Reliance essay, he not only presents his basic arguments for self-reliance but also gives us his three key concepts: independence, belief in the innate excellence of the self, and the necessity for self-reliance. These are not some arbitrary set of keys; these are the building blocks of a sound personal foundation for independence and belief in self. In The Mysterious Utopian, Emerson presented an alternative view of the way we should live: one that rejected most of the theories of progress offered by his teacher, Immanuel Kant.
Emerson insisted that to be self-reliant, we must first “love ourselves” and then “love the world.” By insisting on the inescapable fact of independence, Emerson helped establish the cornerstone of American self-reliance: self-reliance.
An excellent illustration of the concept of self-reliance
Ralph Waldo Emerson provides another excellent illustration of the concept of self-reliance. This time, instead of presenting his arguments against self-reliance, he explains self-reliance. In the final section of the essay, he explains that true self-reliance is based on the conviction that you (yourself) are better than any external source. Self-reliance, then, is not an act of charity or selfishness, as many people believe, but a direct result of your love of yourself. To live a self-sufficient life is, after all, the essence of what it means to be a self-reliant person.