Thoreau's Importance for Philosophy

Thoreau's Importance for Philosophy

Thoreau's Importance for Philosophy

Thoreau's Importance for Philosophy

Synopsis

The philosophical significance of Henry David Thoreau's life and writings is far from settled. Although his best-known book, Walden, is admired as a classic work of American literature, it has not yet been widely recognized as an important philosophical text. In fact, many members of theacademic philosophical community in America would be reluctant to classify Thoreau as a philosopher at all. The purpose of this volume is to remedy this neglect, to explain Thoreau's philosophical significance, and to argue that we can still learn from his polemical conception of philosophy.Thoreau sought to establish philosophy as a way of life, and to root our philosophical, conceptual affairs in more practical or existential concerns. His work provides us with a sustained meditation on the appropriate conduct of life and the importance of leading our lives with integrity, avoidingwhat he calls "quiet desperation." The contributors to this volume approach Thoreau's writings from different angles, collectively bringing to light what, in his own distinctive and idiosyncratic way, this major American thinker has meant to multiple areas of philosophical inquiry, and why he isstill relevant. They show how the imagination, according to Thoreau, might be related to the disclosure of truth; they illuminate the nuances of embodied consciousness and explore the links between moral character and scientific knowledge. They clarify Thoreau's project by locating it in relation toearlier philosophical authors and traditions, noting the ways in which he either anticipated or influenced a host of later thinkers. They explore his aesthetic views, his naturalism, his theory of self, his ethical principles, and his political stances. Most importantly, they show how Thoreaureturns philosophy to its roots as the love of wisdom.

Excerpt

James D. Reid, Rick Anthony Furtak, and Jonathan Ellsworth

To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found
a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of
simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the
problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically.

—Henry David Thoreau, Walden, “Economy”

The philosophical significance of Henry David Thoreau’s life and writings is far from being a settled matter. Although his best-known book, Walden, is admired as a classic work of American literature, it has not yet been widely recognized as an important philosophical text. In fact, many members of the academic philosophical community in the United States would be reluctant to classify Thoreau as a philosopher at all. For decades, Stanley Cavell’s book The Senses of Walden remained the only philosophical monograph on Thoreau written in living memory, and Thoreau’s work is seldom taught or studied in most American philosophy departments. The purpose of this volume is to address and remedy this neglect, and to provide a clear account of Thoreau’s contributions to philosophy. Our aim is to encourage more readers to appreciate his writings in this light and to justify the inclusion of his work within the philosophical canon. In the process of doing so, we will revisit some fundamental questions about the nature of philosophy and of philosophical writing.

Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts, on the 12th of July, 1817. He attended Harvard College and graduated, without . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.