Ralph Waldo Nature

In the next four chapters, Emerson discusses the ways in which man employs nature ultimately to achieve insight into the workings of the universe this is through Commodity, beauty, language and discipline. He describes solitude as when a man gazes at the stars, he becomes aware of his own separateness from the material world. Unlike children, most adults have lost the ability to see the world in this way. All aspects of nature correspond to some state of mind. Nature offers perpetual youth and joy and counteracts whatever misfortune befalls an individual.

There is a special relationship, a sympathy, between man and nature. By itself, nature does not provide the pleasure that comes from observing this relationship Moreover, man harnesses nature through the practical arts, thereby enhancing its usefulness through his own humour. Thirdly, Emerson points out the capacity of natural beauty to inspire the human intellect, which uses nature to grasp the divine order of the universe. Man understands unity in the diversity of natural forms and conveys these forms in their totality. The poet, painter, sculptor, musician, and architect are all inspired by natural beauty and offer a unified vision in their work. Whether real or not, he perceives nature as ideal. Even if nature is not real, natural and universal laws nevertheless apply.

In Chapter four Language, Emerson explores nature’s service to man as a vehicle for thought. He first states that words represent particular facts in nature, which exists in part to give us language to express ourselves. In language, God is, in a very real sense, accessible to all men. Man cannot be understood without nature, nor nature without man. Emerson states that the same symbols form the original elements of all languages. Emerson then discusses the way in which the poet communicates his own power over nature. The poet sees nature as fluid and malleable, as raw material to shape to his own expressive purposes. He provides an ideal interpretation of nature that is more real than concrete nature, as it exists independent of human agency.

Emerson closes the chapter by referring to the difficulty of reconciling the practical uses of nature, as outlined in Commodity with its higher spiritual meaning. In the eighth and final chapter of Nature, Emerson promotes intuitive reason as the means of gaining insight into the order and laws of the universe. The world exists for each man, the humble as well as the great. As we idealize and spiritualize, evil and squalor will disappear, beauty and nobility will reign. Man will enter the kingdom of his own dominion over nature with wonder.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store