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Jeremy Keeshin

Self-Reliance – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I. Thesis: Society is preying on all men, and only the reliance on the power
of the individual and the soul can lead men to truth and greatness.
II. Contention: A person needs to trust his or her own thoughts and instincts and
speak them aloud.
a. If you speak your opinion, and it will be the universal opinion (59).
b. Speak your idea today so another person does not take it tomorrow (60).
c. Trusting yourself is important in finding truth (74).
d. You can be clear sighted if you trust yourself (75).
III. Contention: Acknowledge your place in society.
a. A child knows their place, and it is not among adults (61).
b. A child can speak well among his contemporaries (61).
IV. Contention: A person who conforms to society loses part of their identity.
a. The most important virtue is self-reliance (62).
b. Consistency is boring.
c. Great men are not imitators (79).
d. Society weakens men, strong men stand alone (82).
V. Contention: Great minds are misunderstood.
a. Pythagoras, Galileo, Luther, Jesus, Socrates, Newton, and Copernicus
were misunderstood (66).
b. People are misunderstood when they have excellent ideas.
VI. Contention: Great men believe in themselves and other will follow them.
a. The Roman Empire followed Caesar (68).
b. The Reformation followed Luther (68).
c. The poor drunken sot who wakes up and is treated like a duke shows the
true worth of man (68).
VII. Contention: Perception is real, but time and space are only perceived
a. Generations will believe what generations before them thought (70).
b. Time is the only difference between the oak and acorn and parent and
child (71).
c. Man does not live in the present, but if he wants to be strong he must (71).
VIII. A renewed reliance on the individual will change all aspects of life.
a. Self-reliance changes the way you look at prayer (76).
b. Traveling leads you nowhere, only away from yourself (78).
c. Society advances nowhere because its gains in certain areas are losses in
others (80).
d. We rely on other mechanisms such as property and government, but we
truly want to rely on our selves (82).