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Henry David Thoreau and the nature of civil disobedience – Philosopher of the Month

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Henry David Thoreau was an American philosopher, environmentalist, poet, and essayist. He is best known for Walden, an account of a simpler life lived in natural surroundings, first published in 1854, and his 1849 essay Civil Disobedience which presents a rebuttal of unjust government influence over the individual. An avid, and widely-read, student of philosophy from the classical to the contemporary, Thoreau pursued philosophy as a way of life and not solely a lens for thought and discourse. Born in 1817 in Concord, Massachusetts, Thoreau was raised in a modest household by his parents John Thoreau, a pencil maker, and Cynthia Dunbar. He was to spend almost all of his life in Concord, save for his time at Harvard from 1833 to 1837 where he studied classics, philosophy, science, and maths. After graduating and returning to his hometown, Thoreau with his brother John opened the Concord Academy, which alongside a traditional program also promoted new concepts such as taking walks in nature and paying visits to local businesses. An early friendship and influence came in the form of the essayist and Transcendentalism founder, Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson a champion of Thoreau, encouraged him to keep a journal which became a life-long habit and from which his first written piece for journal The Dial was taken. Their friendship was to last for many years, despite a differing and diverging of philosophies as Thoreau moved away from transcendentalism. Thoreau eventually built a small hut in wooded land owned by Emerson by the shores of Walden Pond, where he would live for two years. The stay was to provide the basis of Walden, published in 1854. In Walden or Life in the Woods Thoreau records his spiritual and philosophical two year, two month, and two day sojourn ensconced in a “tightly shingled and plastered” cottage deep in the New England forests. It focuses on themes of simplicity, self-sufficiency, solitude, and spirituality, with the woodland dweller recording. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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