Transcendentalism and existentialism are two philosophical movements that are often compared or conflated with each other. While they share some commonalities, they are fundamentally different in their beliefs and approaches. In this article, we will explore the similarities and differences between transcendentalism and existentialism.

What is Transcendentalism?

Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that emerged in the early 19th century in America. It was influenced by Romanticism, Platonism, and German idealism.

Transcendentalists believed that individuals could transcend their physical senses to reach a higher spiritual reality. They believed in the inherent goodness of humanity and nature, and advocated for self-reliance, individuality, and nonconformity.

The Key Ideas of Transcendentalism

What is Existentialism?

Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emerged in Europe during the 20th century. It was influenced by phenomenology, Nietzschean philosophy, and Kierkegaardian existential philosophy.

Existentialists believed that individuals were responsible for creating their own meaning in life because there was no inherent meaning or purpose to existence. They emphasized freedom, authenticity, and personal responsibility.

The Key Ideas of Existentialism

The Similarities between Transcendentalism and Existentialism

Both transcendentalism and existentialism emphasize individuality and nonconformity. They reject the idea that individuals should blindly follow societal norms or expectations.

Both also emphasize the importance of personal experience over external authority or dogma. Transcendentalists believe in intuition as a way to access spiritual reality, while existentialists believe in individual experience as a way to create meaning in life.

The Differences between Transcendentalism and Existentialism

Despite some similarities, there are fundamental differences between transcendentalism and existentialism. Transcendentalists believe in a higher spiritual reality beyond physical senses, while existentialists reject the existence of any inherent meaning or purpose to existence.

Transcendentalists see nature as a source of inspiration and renewal, while existentialists see it as indifferent to human existence. Finally, transcendentalists believe in the inherent goodness of humanity, while existentialists see human existence as inherently flawed.

Conclusion

In conclusion, transcendentalism and existentialism are two philosophical movements that share some similarities, but are fundamentally different in their beliefs and approaches. While transcendentalists believe in a higher spiritual reality and the inherent goodness of humanity, existentialists reject the existence of inherent meaning or purpose to existence and see human existence as inherently flawed. Both movements emphasize individuality and nonconformity, but they differ in their views on freedom, authenticity, and personal responsibility.