Potential Author Responses
Emerson writes a compelling piece that aims to demystify the conflicts that exist between individuals and the society and issues related to divinity. He claims that what people want and what the society prescribes as norms may be at conflict. Most people do not want to disappoint society and therefore they easily conform to social standards whereas this may cause internal conflict. Whatever people may hold as virtuous and part of their characters may be against what society prescribes and therefore they feel forced to act superficially as part of conformity.
Emerson links action to what people believe in and suggests the practice of obedience and faith to prevent conflict. People pray false prayers, adopt self-cultures that do not portray them as being right, live in worlds of fantasy and they want the society to change yet they themselves do not want to change.
Emerson also notes the importance of embracing virtue. He claims that it is the upholdance and practice of virtue that can correct wrongs, appearances and lead to harmonized thoughts. Obedience to God and His divine laws is termed as imperative to a good society. Society has not been built upon the laws of God and Godly teachings are not a priority for many in society. People blind themselves with what society upholds and disregard the wisdom of their souls. The standard of goodness proclaimed at the society`s level rather than at the individual level. From his views, it is clear that he suggests reverting back to divine laws and ensuring that whatever people believe in t a personal level and whatever is taken as standard at the level of the society is at par with the law of God. This is how the tension can be resolved.
Rousseau would attribute tension between man and the society to lack of acceptance when it comes to individual differences because he claims that he, just as other people, has not been made like any other person. He would claim that having social norms do not work well in ensuring people act the same and that they share the same virtues. This means there will always be tension between individuals and the societies. Rousseau would conclude that the tension cannot be resolved because its roots are inherent to individuals who cannot change themselves if they were created the way they are.
Melville would claim that tension between individuals and society is caused by individual choices not to conform to what the society prescribes and not to do what is expected of them by society. Melville would state that though people are not perfect, there is a limit to the extent to which imperfections are acceptable in the society. He outlines the case of Bartleby who refuses to do what is asked of him and refuses to conform to even the basic social norms and thus he ends up in prison and he dies. All the other clerks have faults but they deal with work and social expectations to acceptable levels. Melville would claim that the tension can be resolved if individuals try their best to find a balancing ground between what they want and what is expected of them. People ought to have a degree of responsibility in their actions. He would claim that people cannot just act as they please because they do not live in solitude and therefore their actions must be considerate of the world around them and the demands placed on them.
Dickinson can be said not to believe in the divinity of human beings. She presents an account of aspects of religion that are supposedly linked to human divinity by people yet there is no proof that people are indeed divine. Dickinson claims that people have faith but they have not seen what they believe in. She advocates for tangibility before action and belief. She also presents human beings as sinful and mortal beings whose actions do not depict that they are divine in nature. One of her poems also highly reflects people`s mortality and their lack of understanding of the afterlife because she claims that death as all people know is reality yet no one can clearly claim that there is heaven or hell. Her poems, to a great extent, depict a mindset that does not believe human beings are divine.
Whitman believes that human beings are divine. This is depicted through his presentation of human life as continuous despite death. He claims that the dead are alive somewhere and that there is really no death but rather, a transition to better life in the spirit world. He claims that the dead are luckier possible because they experience a life that is spiritual. He alludes to love and to the importance of co-existing because to him, human life is divine. Whitman believes that there is heaven and hell and that good deeds are what will determine where people end up after their deaths. His poems have instances when he actually wishes to portray the picture of heaven and what it would be like to live in heaven. His belief is that the whole earth is in fact divine and that human beings are part of the divine equation in the existence of the universe. His poems edge on emphasizing the upholdance and practice of virtues in order to streamline paths to the afterlife. Whitman equates treating another man negatively to treating other people and God negatively as well. He sees man as an earthly representation of God and therefore each person ought to be respected and treated well. Whitman claims that he sees God in every man and woman and in everything he touches and therefore humans are divine.
Shelley`s writing depicts her perception of human beings as creatures who are heaven sent but who also have the capabilities to choose the direction of their spiritual fate. For instance, she states that “I gazed upon the fortifications and impediments that seemed to keep human beings from entering the citadel of nature, and rashly ad ignorantly I had repined.” To her, people may not achieve the status of purity and perfection because they have feelings, emotions and minds that depict them as human creatures rather than as divine beings. She shows that she believes in the existence of heaven and hell and believes that though people die, their bodies are home to their souls and spirits. People come from heaven, but after death, they may either go to heaven or hell, they are not at their mercies but at the mercies of their creator (God). She states “my mother`s tender caresses and my father`s smile of benevolent pleasure while regarding me are my first recollections. I was their plaything and their idol, and something better — their child, the innocent and helpless creature bestowed on them by heaven”. She alludes to heaven and hell severally. She notes that “A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind and never to allow passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquility.” People die and end up being eaten by maggots but their souls survive and they end up in heaven or hell depending on their deeds and the decision of their creator.
Kant`s model clearly presents an individual who is best equipped to make the decision to resist government. Kant claims that Individuals are not allowed to resist actions that are covered under the law and which are meant for the good of all. What Kant rejects is `negative resistance` but he goes on to note that when leaders act in ways that depict they are breaking the law, their actions should not be condoned. Locke`s theory claims that poor treatment, exploitation and lack to adherence to the law should trigger individuals to resist government. Kant therefore links resistance to intuition basing on what the law provides and how leaders act. Kant claims that the government must know its limitations and that resistance occasioned by non-adherence to the law is totally welcome.
Emerson presents a rather docile individual in society. His main claim is that people act in ways that are not considered socially acceptable and this is not right. To him, acting on individual intuition over issues that are not personal may as pass as lack of conformity to social norms, resisting may therefore not be taken in good faith. Emerson limits the extent to which an individual can opt to act basing on what he thinks is right. His propositions for action are highly based on religious laws and not on political ones and therefore they limit political action. Political action and resistance has for a long time been associated with demonstrations and other activities that might as well go against what society considers prudent behavior. Emerson presents coverage of personal activity that is highly devoid of political engagements and activities. He advocates for self-reliance and therefore does not seem to push for action linked to resisting governance.
Whitman`s model is also less successful because he presents an individual who has the ability to discern his rights and the statuses of equity and proper treatment but does not act to ensure they are met. Whitman does not necessarily provide any stance to show that there is need for intense revolution, but rather, he adopts a prescriptive stance for what should be the status of people`s relationships and what the ideal world should be. Whitman does not call for any action that is related to injustice but rather targets the perpetrators of injustice to change for the better as the recipients wait for change.
Emerson, R. (2012). Essays First Series/Self Reliance.
Emerson, R. (2010). Divinity School Address.
Emily Dickenson. Selected Poems.
Melville. Bartleby the Scrivener.
Rosseau, J. The Confessions of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
Shelly, M. Frankenstein.
Whitman, W. Selected Poems of Walt Whitman.
Potential Author Responses
Potential Author Responses
Potential Author Responses