Reading · Semantics

Open and Closed-Ended Questions Regarding “Self Reliance”

“Self-Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Three most thought-provoking questions from other students

  1. Does being misunderstood mean you’re different in a good way?
  2. What does he mean by “Everywhere there is conspiracy against manhood?”
  3. If we can only experience ourselves, our mind, and no one else’s, then wouldn’t mean that all actions are carried for our own selfish reasons?

I believe these three questions could lead to a very thought-provoking conversation with another.  They are all very thoughtful questions which couldn’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

Two questions from students that wouldn’t be considered thought-provoking

  1. Can cowards get work done?
  2. When was this written?

Maybe I misunderstood the purpose of these two questions, but in my personal opinion I don’t believe these questions could lead to anything really “thought-provoking”.  The former I don’t believe makes much sense, but maybe thats due to miscommunication. The second is a very closed-ended questions that could only be answered by a specific date, which happens to be 1841 in this case.  However, maybe they asked in regards to why the text was written in such a way, or maybe why Emerson thought in this perspective?  Both could be answered with the fact that it was written in a different time period.

One random question and response to it…

  • What is Transcendentalism?
  1. 1.
    an idealistic philosophical and social movement that developed in New England around 1836 in reaction to rationalism. Influenced by romanticism, Platonism, and Kantian philosophy, it taught that divinity pervades all nature and humanity, and its members held progressive views on feminism and communal living. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were central figures.
  2. 2.
    a system developed by Immanuel Kant, based on the idea that, in order to understand the nature of reality, one must first examine and analyze the reasoning process that governs the nature of experience.

    (Taken from google)


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