Summary and Analysis of The American Scholar Paragraphs 8-9 - The Influence of Nature

In these two paragraphs comprising the first section on how a scholar should be educated, Emerson envisions nature as a teacher that instructs individuals who observe the natural world to see — eventually — how similar their minds and nature are. The first similarity he discusses concerns the notion of circular power — a theme familiar to readers of the Nature essay — found in nature and in the scholar's spirit. Both nature and the scholar's spirit, "whose beginning, whose ending he never can find — so entire, so boundless," are eternal.

Order is another similarity — as it is in Nature — between the scholar and nature. At first, the mind views a chaotic and infinite reality of individual facts, but then it begins to classify these facts into categories, to make comparisons and distinctions. A person discovers nature's laws and can understand them because they are similar to the operations of the intellect. Eventually, we realize that nature and the soul — both proceeding from what Emerson terms "one root" — are parallel structures that mirror each other (Emerson's term for "parallel" may be misleading; he says that nature is the "opposite" of the soul). So, a greater knowledge of nature results in a greater understanding of the self, and vice versa. The maxims "Know thyself" and "Study nature" are equivalent: They are two ways of saying the same thing.

Pop Quiz!

Emerson believes that the scholar's duties are all comprised in what?


Does mendacious refer to something that is fixable (mendable)?

Back to Top