Henry David Thoreau

OF distant French extraction, David Henry-he renamed himself Henry David twenty years later-was born in Concord, Massachusetts, on July 12, 1817. It was then a small town surrounded by fields and woods. The boy's mother taught him to enjoy and love everything about nature: sunshine and rain, swimming and exploring the neighborhood, watching butterflies and birds, listening to wind and all kinds of sounds, and eventually fishing and hunting. During childhood and adolescence he naturally spent much time outdoors, often by himself. Subsequently, he never could be completely happy away from the countryside.

Time passed in the usual way, and when Thoreau grew up, he entered Harvard College ( 1834). He did it somewhat reluctantly, wanting to study and willing to spend long hours in the library, yet repelled by the red-tape of registration, routine of classes, regular assignments, and inevitable examinations. He felt as if he were a pawn pushed around, deprived of freedom, no longer an individual. His autobiographical Journals date back to this period ( 1837).

On graduation he tried to teach, but could not get along with school authorities. Finally his brother John and he contrived to open a school of their own and practised some educational methods far ahead of their time. The school was very successful and would probably have continued for a long time, were it not for John's health. John died in 1842, and the school closed its doors.

It was at this time that Thoreau and Emerson became friends; shortly afterwards Henry joined the transcendentalist group and built himself a hut on the shore of Walden Pond ( 1845). But at the end of two years he was back in his father's house, much matured physically and mentally, and joined the rest of the family in helping his father in his trade, that is, in making lead pencils. However, Walden, or Life in the Woods, was published much later ( 1854) and contained in addition to many lyrical observations of nature some very pertinent social criticisms.

-259-

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American Philosophy
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Table of Contents vii
  • List of Contributors ix
  • Introduction - Orientation of Thought xi
  • Suggested Readings xviii
  • Part I - Fields and Problems of American Philosophy 1
  • The Philosophy of Science: The Problem of Factual Truth 3
  • Suggested Readings 19
  • Axiology: the Problem Of Human Values 21
  • Suggested Readings 33
  • Aesthetics: the Problem of Art And Beauty 34
  • Suggested Readings 47
  • Ethics: the Problem of Morality 49
  • Suggested Readings 63
  • Semantics: the Problem Of Meaning 64
  • Suggested Readings 82
  • Logic: the Problem of Reasoning 84
  • Suggested Readings 97
  • Metaphysics: the Problems Of Knowledge and Existence 98
  • Suggested Readings 113
  • Philosophy of Religion: The Problem of Faith 114
  • Suggested Readings 127
  • Part II - Sources and Choices of Philosophy 129
  • Transcendentalism 131
  • Suggested Readings 137
  • Idealism 138
  • Suggested Readings 146
  • Thomism 147
  • Suggested Readings 154
  • Personalism 155
  • Suggested Readings 161
  • Pragmatism 162
  • Suggested Readings 171
  • Humanism 172
  • Suggested Readings 182
  • Logical Positivism 183
  • Suggested Readings 191
  • Realism 193
  • Suggested Readings 202
  • Naturalism 203
  • Suggested Readings 210
  • Oriental Philosophy in America 211
  • Part III - American Thinkers 221
  • American Thought: A Chart 223
  • William Penn 227
  • Samuel Johnson 230
  • Jonathan Edwards 233
  • Benjamin Franklin 235
  • Thomas Paine 238
  • Thomas Jefferson 241
  • Benjamin Rush 244
  • William Ellery Channing 247
  • John Caldwell Calhoun 250
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson 253
  • Abraham Lincoln 256
  • Henry David Thoreau 259
  • Walt Whitman 262
  • Robert Green Ingersoll 265
  • Charles Sanders Peirce 268
  • Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 271
  • John Fiske 274
  • William James 277
  • Ambrose Bierce 280
  • Borden Parker Bowne 283
  • Josiah Royce 285
  • John Dewey 288
  • George Santayana 291
  • Morris Raphael Cohen 294
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt 297
  • Suggested Readings 300
  • Conclusion 303
  • Index 311
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