A BRIEF COMPARISON BETWEEN THE THOUGHT OF EMERSON AND WITTGENSTEIN
By Paccelli Zahler
I would like to compare the thought of Emerson and Wittgenstein, but to do this, I have to come back in time.
I would like to began with John Locke (1632-1704). Polemizing with Descartes (1596-1650), Locke defended the inexistence of innate ideas, demonstrating by arguments extracted by experience that the human mind is like a “tabula rasa” or a sheet of white paper where the practice of the external world and the reflective activity of the individual about himself will print what we name “knowledge” . In other words, we are the receptacle of stimuli from the world.
On the other hand, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) had a different view. For him, the mind goes out into the world, and we make our experience in active way. In his essay “Experience” (1844), he said that the experience of life is confusing, and this affects our perception of our place in relation to nature. So, we are unable to see beyond our material existence and to utilize the creative vigor that nature has given us .
In other essay called “The Self-Reliance”, Emerson promotes self-reliance as an ideal, even a virtue, and contrasts it with various modes of dependence or conformity . He highlighted the importance of thinking for oneself rather than meekly accepting other people's ideas and that we are free to recreate every day. For him, society is not the measure of all things; the individual is.
He claimed : "A true man belongs to no other time or place, but is the centre of all things. Where he is, there is nature." 
However, Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) tried to understand ordinary language, how we talk to each other and what we can understand by paying attention to that. For him, we learn through use.
He claimed: “The individual words in language name objects--sentences are combinations of such names. Every word has a meaning. The meaning is correlated with the word. It is the object for which the word stands”. .
And add: “A child uses such primitive forms of language when it learns to talk. Here the teaching of language is not explanation, but training”. .
It is interesting to highlight that, in this point, Wittgenstein agreed with Locke that the child is a “tabula rasa”. He pointed out: “The individual words in language name objects--sentences are combinations of such names. Every word has a meaning. The meaning is correlated with the word. It is the object for which the word stands”.
So, we obtain knowledge by the stimuli of the world and by repetition and the use of it. With this instrument – the knowledge – we can think by ourselves and get self-reliance, like Emerson claimed.
. NICOLA, Ubaldo. Antologia Ilustrada de Filosofia: das Origens à Idade Moderna. São Paulo:Globo, 2005.