Essay about Victorian Thinkers: The Victorian Sage

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Matthew Arnold, Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin and William Thackeray are among the Victorian thinkers to earn the title of “sage.” To some degree, the Victorian sages were respected and enjoyed by people from all social classes. They were certainly considered intellectuals and trailblazers of alternative viewpoints. They passed their message through public speaking, periodic columns in newspapers, poetry, and in novel-form. It is a difficult task to describe them as a group because they were each so unique in their style and beliefs. Yet, their focus and aims had much in common.

The sage’s general purpose was to express notions about the world and people’s situation in it, in order to promote the discovery of a righteous lifestyle
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Carlyle eternally struggled with traditional faith and could not resolve the conflict between religion and philosophy.

Nearly all of the sages came from religious upbringings and so, whether or not they subscribed to the beliefs of some particular religious sect in their adult life, their theories and understandings about the meaning of life were very cosmic in nature. For example, Carlyle based his philosophy on four major tenets outlined by John Holloway:

1. The universe is fundamentally not an inert automatism, but the expression or indeed incarnation of a cosmic spiritual life;
2. Every single thing in the universe manifests this life or at least could do so;
3. Between the things that do and those that do not there is no intermediate position, but a gap that is infinite;
4. The principle of cosmic life is progressively eliminating from the universe everything alien to it; and man’s duty is to further this process, even at the cost of his own happiness (23).

They believed that the issues came equipped with a proof of a higher kind (Holloway 6). The emphasis was on feelings, and awakenings of those dormant understandings of life that everyone does possess. The formal arguments of logic had to be supplemented by something richer, more varied, more personal; something irreducible to any mechanism or pattern. Mechanical logic was only the beginning of a process

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