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Thoreau was a land surveyor; in fact, he was one of the most accurate and trusted surveyors in, and around, the Concord area. He was accustomed to spending time outdoors, which was largely a daily routine and constituted hours of his day. Thoreau was fond of the natural world; arguably, one could see it as a type of romantic or friendly fondness.

He studied nature intensively, such as documenting the date that specific flowers bloomed, the rise and fall of water levels, and the dispersion patterns of seeds. At the time, this scientific outlook was called natural philosophy, and Thoreau often identified himself as a natural philosopher. This passion of his, however, went much deeper than science; he saw nature as an important part of the human context, so to study nature was to study humanity, too. This was not the only leap he would take to cross disciplinary boundaries.

Math and poetry could be linked, nature and literature could be linked, and so could religion and politics. The important point for understanding Thoreau, then, is that study of all kinds should be integrated and assist pupils in living a freer, more responsible life marked by the quality, not the quantity, of life. A common description of Thoreau emphasizes his ardent individuality.

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I am naturally no hermit. When we think of Thoreau, then, it should be with an awareness to both aspects, that is, his ability to march out of step with the rest of society and the satisfaction he gained from being with others. Any approach to his philosophy merits a balanced awareness of these dimensions. In the end, Thoreau wrote his philosophy from the subjective position, but he composed his works to transform and edify others, too. Thoreau describes the dependence on the I in the second paragraph of Walden :. In most books, the I, or first person, is omitted; in this it will be retained; that, in respect to egotism, is the main difference.

We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking. I should not talk so much about myself if there were any body else whom I knew as well. Unfortunately, I am confined to this theme by the narrowness of my experience. Yes, there is an external world that impinges on our senses, that poses limits, and may prove false our misguided conclusions and assumptions, but all experience is the experience of someone from a particular time and location. If we focus closely on the above passage, it also is clear that our experiences are quite limited; while we may know ourselves best, Thoreau never asserts that we know ourselves completely.

Human endeavors, including philosophy, will be marked by incompleteness, which is a lack of intimacy with all that the world has to offer and a lack of intimacy with our own inner world, too. With every text, authors provide readers with only one perspective from within an infinite array of other possible angles.

He bases this ability to divide perspectives infinitely on mathematical insights. Between any two points on a number line, for example, an infinite division is possible. The subjective view admits of infinite divisions; we can change our views by altering our relations with objects. We noticed that it required a separate intention of the eye, a more free and abstracted vision, to see the reflected trees and the sky, than to see the river bottom merely; and so are there manifold visions in the direction of every object.

Depending on how you approach any object and the emphases you select, or what separate intention of the eye you deploy, it is possible to encounter any object infinitely and to reposition it within its eternal relations This is why Thoreau values uncommon sense over common sense. There are two passages in A Week emphasizing the tension between common and uncommon sense. He writes,. I perceive in the common train of my thoughts a natural and uninterrupted sequence, each implying the next, or, if interruption occurs it is occasioned by a new object being presented to my senses.


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  • In Recesses of Being: Romantic, Philosophical, Moral and Ethical Reflections!
  • Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862).

But a steep, and sudden, and by these means unaccountable transition, is that from a comparatively narrow and partial, what is called common sense view of things, to an infinitely expanded and liberating one, from seeing things as men describe them, to seeing them as men cannot describe them. For Thoreau, humans become molded by customs and habits that affect our sensations, thoughts, and actions.

He is not content with these common ways and wants to break free from them; being able to come to a rare angle of vision is not only liberating, but it is one of the elements of being wise. As a philosopher and author, therefore, Thoreau is not satisfied with supposed objective writing. He encourages readers to experience the world and life through the first person, singular I, and he advocates freeing oneself from the commonplace thoughts and interpretations of life.