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Words of Wisdom

Excerpt from the Essay “Prudence” by Ralph Waldo Emerson (vegetarian), Part 1 of 2

2022-05-04
Language:English
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Ralph Waldo Emerson was a renowned 19th-century American essayist, philosopher, lecturer, poet, and a leader of the transcendental philosophical movement. Emerson is most famous for his essays, through which he expresses ideas of freedom, spirituality, individuality, the great ability of humans to have profound realizations and the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world. Ralph Waldo Emerson traveled widely giving lectures, and became well known for his publications “Essays” and “Nature.” Today, we will read a selection from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essays, First Series, Essay 7, entitled “Prudence,” in which the philosopher talks about prudence as the good quality of rationality.

“Prudence is the virtue of the senses. It is the science of appearances. It is the outmost action of the inward life. It is God taking thought for nature. It moves matter after the laws of matter. It is content to seek health of body by complying with physical conditions, and health of mind by the laws of the intellect.”

“Once in a long time, a man traverses the whole scale, and sees and enjoys the symbol solidly, then also has a clear eye for its beauty, and lastly, whilst he pitches his tent on this sacred volcanic isle of nature, does not offer to build houses and barns thereon reverencing the splendor of the God which he sees bursting through each chink and cranny.”

“The true prudence limits this sensualism by admitting the knowledge of an internal and real world. This recognition once made, -- the order of the world and the distribution of affairs and times being studied with the co-perception of their subordinate place, will reward any degree of attention.”

“Prudence does not go behind nature and ask whence it is? It takes the laws of the world whereby man's being is conditioned, as they are, and keeps these laws that it may enjoy their proper good. It respects space and time, climate, want, sleep, the law of polarity growth and death.”
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