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One might argue that not much has changed, when it comes to expressing one’s opinions, since 1841 (when Emerson’s Essays: First series has been published): those who have something to say will be heard, the world is still split between authors and readers, authors teach, readers listen and so on. I am not sure that Emerson, had he lived today, would agree to such an opinion. After all, web 2.0 was (is!) all about breaking this barrier between authors and readers. On the web, we are all readers but more importantly we are all authors: we post on Facebook, bring important contributions (comments) to other people’s articles and blog posts and Facebook updates. We live in a world ripe with opinions, arguments, fights over ideas, facts and sometimes people. Authorship & readership have today been combined in the general category of “contributors”.
I think Emerson would have loved such a world. He had some peculiar ideas on what happens to an individual when he/she thinks. We tend to consider nowadays that an individual becomes more individualised through reason and education. Emerson thought, on the contrary, that reason & education open up an individual to something bigger than he is, a “universal mind”, a single all-encompasing mind that stretches across all humankind and makes its history. The deeper you dig as an individual the more universal you become. Call this Hegelianism, transcendentalism, whichever -ism suits you. But you will find in these essays one of the most generous, precise, perceptive and intelligent ideas you will ever stumble upon.
Essays included: "History," "Self-Reliance," "Compensation," "Spiritual Laws," "Love," "Friendship," "Prudence," "Heroism," "The Over-Soul," "Circles," "Intellect," and "Art."