The following are some powerful quotes from the essay “Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson.
This masterful essay, from one of America’s most revered philosophers, covers a variety of important themes. On the positive side, Emerson writes eloquently on originality, motives, self-trust, living true to oneself, integrity, authenticity, courage, duty, and of course, self-reliance. But he does not shy away from negative subjects like envy, ignorance, the fallacy of travel, conformity, being misunderstood, and group think.
When you boil it down, Emerson is trying to make a case for individual heroism. He believes great people have a duty to stand out from the conformist crowd and earn their value through action or good deeds. This is no doubt good advice, but it also requires a great deal of courage. He also believes that this process is worth the social cost of misunderstanding and alienation from family. In his view, no other human, be it family or lover, is a substitute for sublime transcendence.