Transcendentalism: The Philosophy of the Mind Transcendentalism is the view that the basic truth of the universe lies beyond the knowledge obtained from the senses, a knowledge that transcendentalists regard as the mere appearance of things (Adventures 162). Transcendentalists believe the mind is where ideas are formed. The transcendentalist ideas of God, man, and the universe were not all original, but were a combination of other philosophies and religions. One of the major questions of philosophy is 'What is the nature of the universe?' Immanuel Kant was one of the major Transcendentalists of his time. One of the major questions he asked was, 'What is knowledge, and how is it possible?' Transcendentalists believe that one really only knows personal experiences, and that one can not know the universe which exists. Kant came to the conclusion that there are two universes, one of experience, called the " Phenomenal Universe', and the other the 'Noumenal Universe', the one of reason.
The first is scientific and the other practical (Frost 42). Transcendentalists think there is a dimension of depth in everything that exists. They also think the spirit is what controls your physical side (Halverson 431). Some transcendentalists say the world has no beginning in time, everything takes place according to the laws of nature. The same people think there is not necessarily an absolute Being who causes the world to be (Frost 42). Transcendentalists think nature is a product of the mind, and without the mind nature would not exist (Santayana 42).
These ideas come from the Romantic traditions which originated in England. The Romantics believed in spiritual unity of all forms of being, with God, humanity, and nature sharing a universal soul (Adventures 208). Transcendentalists came to the conclusion that good and evil were things only man could control. Their belief of man is that man is part of the universe of objects and things.
His knowledge is confined to ideas. He is able to reason, and he can form ideas of the outer world of God, freedom, and immortality (Frost 53). Immanuel Kant said, 'Always act in such a way that the maxim determining your conduct might as well become a universal law; act as though you can will that everybody shall follow the principle of your action.' He called this the 'categorical imperative.' Kant believed this was a sure criterion of what is right and what is wrong. Kant also made the point that an act desired of everyone would be a good act, or if the act is performed with good intentions it is good no matter if it brings pain. He also said human life is only possible on this moral basis (Frost 95).
Is there a God? This question has been around for hundreds of years. Many transcendentalists think they have answered it. Kant said there must be a God who is wise, good, and powerful to join happiness and goodness. He thought the idea of God was necessary to serve as a foundation for moral life (Frost 132). The transcendentalists explain that when God made the world, he found it good, and when the transcendentalists assumed the Creator's place, they followed his example (Santayana 121). Other transcendentalists believe the unseen part of the universe dwells in God (Halverson 429).
Theodore Parker was nicknamed the Savonarola of transcendentalism, by Emerson, because he denied the necessity of biblical inspiration and miracles in life (Edwards 479). Transcendentalists firmly believe that the mind is superior to matter. According to Kant, there are intuitions of the mind itself not based upon experience, but through which experience is acquired. Kant called these " transcendental forms' (Edwards 480).
Transcendentalists believe the mind is the only source of knowledge, but Kant said there is a world other than the mind (Frost 242). Kant also thought humans are shut up in their minds and must interpret everything. He believed that space and time are not realities existing by themselves, but are ways the mind has of receiving and shaping sensations. Kant stated, 'Take away the thinking subject, and the entire corporeal world will vanish, for it is nothing but the appearance in the sensibility of our subject.' To the thinkers who followed Kant the most logical solution to the problem of mind and matter was to eliminate matter. The mind seemed evident but matter had to be interpreted as something other than and outside of the mind (Frost 243). Transcendentalists believe many ideas come from the mind itself, not from experience.
They believe that these ideas of the mind are a very important part of life. An anonymous pamphlet (many believe to be written by Charles Mayo Ellis), An Essay on Transcendentalism, says, 'Transcendentalism maintains that man has ideas that come not through the five senses, or the power of reasoning; but are either the result of direct revelation from God, his immediate inspiration, or his immanent presence in the spiritual world.' The transcendentalists called the spiritual body within the physical body the oversoul, the conscience, or the inner light (Encyclopedia 3). Kant says the mind is like a bowl with many crevices and depressions in it's contour. Whe none pours water into the bowl, it takes the shape of the bowl, filling all the crevices. In the same way the environment pours impressions into the mind and they are received by the mind and shaped according to the nature of this mind (Frost 257). Some transcendentalists think all minds are alike.
They say all minds have certain categories such as totality, unity, plurality, and reality. Transcendentalists believe knowledge is limited to the combined role of sensibility and understanding, both of which are concerned with sense and experience, though in different ways (Hakim 98). They also think knowledge is universal (Frost 258). Some transcendentalists think the ideas are of the mind and cannot be applied to a world outside of the mind. They believe ideas are a result of the kind of thinking organ which people have, and are determined by it's nature.
Transcendentalism is a combination of beliefs, some of which are from other religions and other people and their philosophies. It is a belief that there is another way knowledge is obtained, not only from the senses, but also from the mind.