Anti-Transcendentalism vs. Transcendentalism

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Anti-Transcendentalism vs. Transcendentalism

Post  Andy.S on Wed May 13, 2009 12:58 am

I’m very tired so I cannot think in logical sentences for a nice comfortable paragraph right now…so I did this response in simple organized blocks…O.o

In general, I think Melville uses basic transcendentalism aspects (ex. setting), but twist them into a more grim direction.

a) Transcendentalism views for Melville-Ahab seems to have firm faith and belief
-As hinted by Ahab when he says “Truth hath no confines”, he searches for truth and purpose
-His last stand against the whale is not only heroic, but limit breaking (to go beyond normal limits, to tear down “reality” barriers)
-The setting is the sea (or ocean), that resembles a vast “world” of unknown wonders and possibilities.
-Interacts with nature (Moby Dick)

b) Anti-Transcendentalism views for Melville
In responses to the facts above, the transcendentalism concepts begin to change…into anti-transcendentalism…

-As hinted by Ahab when he says “Truth hath no confines”, he searches for truth and purpose
Though Ahab searches for truth and purpose, his idea is to have revenge on a wale. Because it is negative and not optimistic, this cannot be a supported transcendentalism concept.

-His last stand against the whale is not only heroic, but limit breaking (to go beyond normal limits, to tear down “reality” barriers)
Ahab goes beyond limits, but the result was death. This suggests that reality still holds unbreakable laws (contradicts Transcendentalism view on no limitation).

-The setting is the sea (or ocean), that resembles a vast “world” of unknown wonders and possibilities.
The sea still has ships, which are miniature representations of society. In the story, Captain Ahab holds the highest position of power over a group of men. This is still society hierarchy, regardless if they are more exposed to natural environment. Not to mention that their purpose in whaling is motivated for materialistic goods (whale oil)

-Interacts with nature (Moby Dick)
The interaction between nature and man is hostile, because Ahab seeks to kill the whale.
Debatable, since the definition of nature varies. If we are saying nature as any natural life other than human beings, then yes. But if nature as in Nature, then it probably may not because the people are sailing with the sea, not against it.

Something to add: POV
- In the captain’s point of view, Moby dick is a creature of evil. But in a naturalistic perspective, the whale is not evil but natural. In the natural world it is not strange if a creature hurts another being out of fear or aggression. Maybe Moby dick was frighten when he encountered a ship and therefore took Ahab’s leg out of self-defense. It is all about the perspective on the issue, which suggests that humans have a tendency is to blame external causes on other things (scapegoat). If Ahab was more considerate, maybe he would just leave whales alone to ensure he doesn’t lose another leg. Concept of honor may interfere, but is it not honorable to let go of hate? Of course, the whale may also seem like a threat, but were the sailors being followed by the whale or where they following the whale instead? How can they provoke something and say it was not their fault?
Overall, this implies that humans are in reality faulty and imperfect. (Connection to Anti-transcendentalism aspect: believe that evil exists in people even in mixtures with some good. (Lesser optimism than transcendentalism.)

Hawthorne is a bit different, unlike Melville he dose not exactly transform his transcendentalism aspects into anti-transcendentalism. Instead, he has both present in his novel.
a) Transcendentalism views for Hawthorne-Setting: The Forest is a mysterious place that is away from society. It represents the connection of nature untainted by humans.
-Hester’s unfailing endurance against society’s expectation (Conflict against society)
-Pearl’s unrepressed mysteriousness nature

b) Anti-Transcendentalism views for Hawthorne
Chillingsworth: shows the evil of long term revenge and hate.
Conflict against guilt: Dimmesdale is overwhelmed with guilt and therefore deals with it by punishment (whipping).

Point: Basically, Melville and Hawthorne has similar but different use of use anti-transcendentalism. Overall, the anti-transcendentalism lacks optimism but Melville and Hawthorne share many different aspects of it:

-Both have stories that pursue revenge, as shown through the characters Chillingsworth and Ahab.
-Melville portrays human conflict against nature (whale), while Hawthorne portrays human conflict against society.
-Human/physical limitations: Ahab being killed and Hester toward soceity
-Less optimism
-Believe that evil exists, as a mixture in good and bad. Shown through Ahab (good leader) and Dimmesdale ( guilty yet honorable)

Conclusion
Finally, how Emerson and Thoreau different? Well for one thing, Thoreau and Melville are similar as they both recorded their journey experience (Thoreau paired to forest while Melville paired with sea life). As it seems, the only difference seems to be the level optimism. Not to say that Melville and Hawthorne are negative people but they tend to see realistic bounds that limit us from doing “the impossible”. Emerson and Thoreau on the other hand believe more in the Spontaneity and connection in the universe. In fact, Emerson and Thoreau are different because Thoreau applies the concepts to life while Emerson lectures it. So in reality every author is still different, we cannot just generalize anti- Transcendentalism and Transcendentalism authors, we should instead examine each and one of their unique aspect toward life because none of them are wrong, they just explore a different pathway, that’s all.
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Re: Anti-Transcendentalism vs. Transcendentalism

Post  Vincent_Lee on Thu May 14, 2009 9:01 pm

Andy.S wrote:Finally, how Emerson and Thoreau different? Well for one thing, Thoreau and Melville are similar as they both recorded their journey experience (Thoreau paired to forest while Melville paired with sea life). As it seems, the only difference seems to be the level optimism. Not to say that Melville and Hawthorne are negative people but they tend to see realistic bounds that limit us from doing “the impossible”. Emerson and Thoreau on the other hand believe more in the Spontaneity and connection in the universe. In fact, Emerson and Thoreau are different because Thoreau applies the concepts to life while Emerson lectures it. So in reality every author is still different, we cannot just generalize anti- Transcendentalism and Transcendentalism authors, we should instead examine each and one of their unique aspect toward life because none of them are wrong, they just explore a different pathway, that’s all.

I completely agree with your analysis of the Melville and Hawthorne and their respective stories, though I disagree with your conclusion. Does it seem like Melville and Hawthorne see a "realistic bound", some kind of definite point where all men fail to go beyond? It seems less like Melville and Hawthorne don't believe in a "level cap" as much as they believe that despite our inherent ability to transcend, not all of us can reach our potential. That assumption is more debatable in the case of Melville, as only Ahab is facing that struggle in Moby Dick. With The Scarlet Letter though, I think it's right to assume that Hawthorne does believe we can transcend but some people just don't. It's not necessarily out of some innate disability, just bad circumstances, bad situations, and bad influences.
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Re: Anti-Transcendentalism vs. Transcendentalism

Post  Andy.S on Thu May 14, 2009 9:12 pm

You have a good point there. Obviously I didn't make a distinct enough statement toward Hawthorne's Transcendentalism views. However, I do find this issue debatable because Dimmesdale’s death was a tragedy as he was unable to cope with his guilt, unless of course the reader views it as transcendent from his guilt instead.
Personally, I was more convinced it was a tragedy and therefore explains why I didn’t stress the difference between Hawthorne and Melville… but my interpretation may be slightly off so who knows.
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Re: Anti-Transcendentalism vs. Transcendentalism

Post  Vincent_Lee on Thu May 14, 2009 9:27 pm

I win. Very Happy

Joking.

Dimmesdale's death is a tragedy in the sense his mental agony finally catches up with him physically and claims his life. On the other hand, he does manage to finally overcome his fear and guilt. The victory is short-lived but it is victory nonetheless.
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Re: Anti-Transcendentalism vs. Transcendentalism

Post  Ajk on Fri May 15, 2009 1:33 am

Andy.S wrote:I’m very tired so I cannot think in logical sentences for a nice comfortable paragraph right now…so I did this response in simple organized blocks…O.o ok, no worries, it's the predominant feeling amongst us all, apparently, including your fearless leader here herself.

In general, I think Melville uses basic transcendentalism aspects (ex. setting), but twist them into a more grim direction.

a) Transcendentalism views for Melville-Ahab seems to have firm faith and belief here you go Andy-
As hinted by Ahab when he says “Truth hath no confines”, he searches for truth and purpose This is precisely one of the key aspects of Melville's Ahab being Transcendentalist.
-His last stand against the whale is not only heroic, but limit breaking (to go beyond normal limits, to tear down “reality” barriers) it's heroic, but how does it break limits?-The setting is the sea (or ocean), that resembles a vast “world” of unknown wonders and possibilities. good, this understanding reflects a mastery of the Transcendentalist concept of appreciating the unknown and the vastness within both it and nature, and nature being a container of the unknown.-Interacts with nature (Moby Dick)

b) Anti-Transcendentalism views for Melville
In responses to the facts above, the transcendentalism concepts begin to change…into anti-transcendentalism…

-As hinted by Ahab when he says “Truth hath no confines”, he searches for truth and purpose
Though Ahab searches for truth and purpose, his idea is to have revenge on a wale. Because it is negative and not optimistic, this cannot be a supported transcendentalism concept. Right, and as others have said, it's perhaps his ego-mind going into overdrive, or afflictive emotions, as opposed to beginner's mind, or pure interpretation of the purity of others? So again, it's dealing with perception and the mind's thoughts itself.
-His last stand against the whale is not only heroic, but limit breaking (to go beyond normal limits, to tear down “reality” barriers)
Ahab goes beyond limits, but the result was death. This suggests that reality still holds unbreakable laws (contradicts Transcendentalism view on no limitation). Right.
-The setting is the sea (or ocean), that resembles a vast “world” of unknown wonders and possibilities.
The sea still has ships, which are miniature representations of society. In the story, Captain Ahab holds the highest position of power over a group of men. This is still society hierarchy, regardless if they are more exposed to natural environment. Not to mention that their purpose in whaling is motivated for materialistic goods (whale oil) the hierarchy observation is worthy and quite good, however the need for sustaining life via providing a living and having light at nighttime - something i am valuing tonight with my 2/3 dead electrical home, without any lights whatsoever - is needed. So that this is reaching, a bit...-Interacts with nature (Moby Dick)
The interaction between nature and man is hostile, because Ahab seeks to kill the whale.
Debatable, since the definition of nature varies. If we are saying nature as any natural life other than human beings, then yes. But if nature as in Nature, then it probably may not because the people are sailing with the sea, not against it. good distinction here again, Andy, because again it gets down to perception from the inside projected onto the external view of the world. making nature something that has to be fought, rather than accepted in faith that it's all a part of the natural cycle, as Fiona said, a whale looking to survive.
Something to add: POV This style of seeming "afterthought" of yours Andy is really rich, for it seems that this is where your insights really kick in. Keep it up, this technique; it's quite functional for you. It's like your final syntheses that lead to insight.
- In the captain’s point of view, Moby dick is a creature of evil. But in a naturalistic perspective, the whale is not evil but natural. In the natural world it is not strange if a creature hurts another being out of fear or aggression. Maybe Moby dick was frighten when he encountered a ship and therefore took Ahab’s leg out of self-defense. It is all about the perspective on the issue, which suggests that humans have a tendency is to blame external causes on other things (scapegoat). Perfect incorporation and synthesis; totally relevant and on target, as I mentioned this very aspect above. If Ahab was more considerate, maybe he would just leave whales alone to ensure he doesn’t lose another leg. Concept of honor may interfere, but is it not honorable to let go of hate? Brilliant question, and it's maybe what Melville is stuck on, that makes him diverge from the Transcendentalists. Of course, the whale may also seem like a threat, but were the sailors being followed by the whale or where they following the whale instead? How can they provoke something and say it was not their fault?
Overall, this implies that humans are in reality faulty and imperfect. (Connection to Anti-transcendentalism aspect: believe that evil exists in people even in mixtures with some good. (Lesser optimism than transcendentalism.)

Hawthorne is a bit different, unlike Melville he dose not exactly transform his transcendentalism aspects into anti-transcendentalism. Instead, he has both present in his novel.
a) Transcendentalism views for Hawthorne-Setting: The Forest is a mysterious place that is away from society. It represents the connection of nature untainted by humans.
-Hester’s unfailing endurance against society’s expectation (Conflict against society)
-Pearl’s unrepressed mysteriousness nature

b) Anti-Transcendentalism views for Hawthorne
Chillingsworth: shows the evil of long term revenge and hate.
Conflict against guilt: Dimmesdale is overwhelmed with guilt and therefore deals with it by punishment (whipping).

Point: Basically, Melville and Hawthorne has similar but different use of use anti-transcendentalism. Overall, the anti-transcendentalism lacks optimism but Melville and Hawthorne share many different aspects of it:

-Both have stories that pursue revenge, as shown through the characters Chillingsworth and Ahab. good; and is this not the ego-mind stuck? stuck in its interpretation of anothers' actions, and is it not the victim mentality? versus the we have the power to create our reality by recognizing the power of thought? "so long as a man thinketh, he is free" - from fate delivered upon us by external circumstances.-Melville portrays human conflict against nature (whale), while Hawthorne portrays human conflict against society.
-Human/physical limitations: Ahab being killed and Hester toward soceity
-Less optimism
-Believe that evil exists, as a mixture in good and bad. Shown through Ahab (good leader) and Dimmesdale ( guilty yet honorable)

Conclusion
Finally, how Emerson and Thoreau different? Well for one thing, Thoreau and Melville are similar as they both recorded their journey experience (Thoreau paired to forest while Melville paired with sea life). Can we see recording journeys - as in journals, which they both kept - as Self-exploration, and even Self-Reliance and cultivating Self-Trust? Excellent detail to have pointed out; very fine distinction, Andy. As it seems, the only difference seems to be the level optimism. Not to say that Melville and Hawthorne are negative people but they tend to see realistic bounds that limit us from doing “the impossible”. But again, the bottom line question is - are limits, or bounds, actually "realistic" or is it again just perspective? Emerson and Thoreau on the other hand believe more in the Spontaneity and connection in the universe. In fact, Emerson and Thoreau are different because Thoreau applies the concepts to life while Emerson lectures it. So in reality every author is still different, we cannot just generalize anti- Transcendentalism and Transcendentalism authors, we should instead examine each and one of their unique aspect toward life because none of them are wrong, they just explore a different pathway, that’s all.
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