The Complete Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson - Submit blogs (Digital papers)
Emerson and The Examined Life
Emerson and the Examined Life
Address Given by Richard Geldard
June 28, 2003
Faneuil Hall, Boston
Here in this Cradle of Freedom, our young nation began to frame
the language of an authentic independence. The founders, Adams and Jefferson in particular,
articulated the two great principles upon which America was to form its national character: namely,
the sovereignty of the individual and freedom of worship. A half century later the eloquence
of Ralph Waldo Emerson, our Founding Thinker, spelled out the elements of these two principles.
In effect, he clarified the experience of independence for us.
And at the core of his work, the very marrow of it, was the examined life.
Is Emerson Useful?
Emerson himself proposes at the beginning of "Considerations by the Way"
that there is very little we can do to help each other. Why? As he
says, life has too many shifting moods and so much chance (or fate) in
daily existence, that one person's experience seems to have little to
do with another's. Is he right? Can we -- or rather -- can Emerson be a
useful guide in the Conduct of Life?