Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Henry David Thoreau: An Existentialist or Proto-Existentialist?

Expand Messages
  • bobcarter3000
    Any thoughts on this, anyone? I can think of many aspects of the philosophy of Thoreau [1817-1862] that are different from what most people think of as
    Message 1 of 5 , Dec 25, 2005
    • 0 Attachment
      Any thoughts on this, anyone? I can think of many aspects of
      the "philosophy" of Thoreau [1817-1862] that are different from what
      most people think of as existentialism. Yet, there seem to be many
      points of his philosophy and philosophical methodology that are quite
      existentialist. I would enjoy reading your comments on this topic.
    • Exist List Moderator
      ... HDT treated nature as if it served some useful, long-term purpose. Transcendental meditation, civil disobedience, and trying to connect to a great
      Message 2 of 5 , Jan 2, 2006
      • 0 Attachment
        On Dec 25, 2005, at 13:23, bobcarter3000 wrote:

        > Any thoughts on this, anyone? I can think of many aspects of
        > the "philosophy" of Thoreau [1817-1862] that are different from what
        > most people think of as existentialism. Yet, there seem to be many
        > points of his philosophy and philosophical methodology that are quite
        > existentialist. I would enjoy reading your comments on this topic.

        HDT treated nature as if it served some useful, long-term purpose.
        Transcendental meditation, civil disobedience, and trying to connect to
        a great universal ideal seem fairly removed from Nietzsche. Maybe
        Kierkegaard could appreciate a bit of the idealism; at least it was
        "authentic" in some way.

        There is no clear "higher law" in existentialism. Even the religious
        existentialists suggest we cannot know whatever it is a Creator
        considers "law" versus a general suggestion. (If everything is a "law"
        then no one stands a chance, even Kierkegaard noted. That's why I like
        Buber's form of faith: Do the best you can, since we have no idea what
        is or isn't mandatory. Even the "big sins" are guesses, in some way.)

        HDT suggested "natural law" and "higher law" while existentialists and
        post-modern philosophers suggest any meaning comes from the individual.
        Social rules are compromises, so we can coexist in relative security
        (and we see how well that works).

        So, just on the grounds that HDT suggested truth is found outside the
        individual removes him from existentialism and most modern Continental
        schools of thought. Ayn Rand is excluded for much the same reason: she
        still suggested "truth" was universal, external, and it was merely the
        special individual willing to adhere to the pursuit of truth.

        I'm not sure there aren't basic rules / truths, since I believe in
        science, but I know that philosophical truths are inherently individual
        choices made based on the ideas to which we are exposed. I create my
        own understanding of humanity and meaning, even if I am influenced by
        other factors. No Creator has "given" me meaning, and nothing in nature
        explains life to me. I'm on my own, which is a lot of responsibility.

        - C. S. Wyatt
        I am what I am at this moment, not what I was and certainly not all
        that I shall be.
        http://www.tameri.com - Tameri Guide for Writers
        http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist - The Existential Primer
      • jkneilson
        I essentially agree with theses remarks. But there is a sense, it seems to me, in which Thoreau exhibits several existential affinities. He hates abstractions,
        Message 3 of 5 , Jan 4, 2006
        • 0 Attachment
          I essentially agree with theses remarks. But there is a sense, it
          seems to me, in which Thoreau exhibits several existential
          affinities. He hates abstractions, distrusts power, authority, and
          tradition, and relates to nature as an individual, using
          its "matter" as tropes for spiritual insight.


          --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, Exist List Moderator
          <existlist1@t...> wrote:
          >
          > On Dec 25, 2005, at 13:23, bobcarter3000 wrote:
          >
          > > Any thoughts on this, anyone? I can think of many aspects of
          > > the "philosophy" of Thoreau [1817-1862] that are different from
          what
          > > most people think of as existentialism. Yet, there seem to be
          many
          > > points of his philosophy and philosophical methodology that are
          quite
          > > existentialist. I would enjoy reading your comments on this
          topic.
          >
          > HDT treated nature as if it served some useful, long-term purpose.
          > Transcendental meditation, civil disobedience, and trying to
          connect to
          > a great universal ideal seem fairly removed from Nietzsche. Maybe
          > Kierkegaard could appreciate a bit of the idealism; at least it
          was
          > "authentic" in some way.
          >
          > There is no clear "higher law" in existentialism. Even the
          religious
          > existentialists suggest we cannot know whatever it is a Creator
          > considers "law" versus a general suggestion. (If everything is
          a "law"
          > then no one stands a chance, even Kierkegaard noted. That's why I
          like
          > Buber's form of faith: Do the best you can, since we have no idea
          what
          > is or isn't mandatory. Even the "big sins" are guesses, in some
          way.)
          >
          > HDT suggested "natural law" and "higher law" while existentialists
          and
          > post-modern philosophers suggest any meaning comes from the
          individual.
          > Social rules are compromises, so we can coexist in relative
          security
          > (and we see how well that works).
          >
          > So, just on the grounds that HDT suggested truth is found outside
          the
          > individual removes him from existentialism and most modern
          Continental
          > schools of thought. Ayn Rand is excluded for much the same reason:
          she
          > still suggested "truth" was universal, external, and it was merely
          the
          > special individual willing to adhere to the pursuit of truth.
          >
          > I'm not sure there aren't basic rules / truths, since I believe in
          > science, but I know that philosophical truths are inherently
          individual
          > choices made based on the ideas to which we are exposed. I create
          my
          > own understanding of humanity and meaning, even if I am influenced
          by
          > other factors. No Creator has "given" me meaning, and nothing in
          nature
          > explains life to me. I'm on my own, which is a lot of
          responsibility.
          >
          > - C. S. Wyatt
          > I am what I am at this moment, not what I was and certainly not
          all
          > that I shall be.
          > http://www.tameri.com - Tameri Guide for Writers
          > http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist - The Existential Primer
          >
        • jkneilson
          I essentially agree with theses remarks. But there is a sense, it seems to me, in which Thoreau exhibits several existential affinities. He hates abstractions,
          Message 4 of 5 , Jan 4, 2006
          • 0 Attachment
            I essentially agree with theses remarks. But there is a sense, it
            seems to me, in which Thoreau exhibits several existential
            affinities. He hates abstractions, distrusts power, authority, and
            tradition, and relates to nature as an individual, using
            its "matter" as tropes for spiritual insight.


            --- In existlist@yahoogroups.com, Exist List Moderator
            <existlist1@t...> wrote:
            >
            > On Dec 25, 2005, at 13:23, bobcarter3000 wrote:
            >
            > > Any thoughts on this, anyone? I can think of many aspects of
            > > the "philosophy" of Thoreau [1817-1862] that are different from
            what
            > > most people think of as existentialism. Yet, there seem to be
            many
            > > points of his philosophy and philosophical methodology that are
            quite
            > > existentialist. I would enjoy reading your comments on this
            topic.
            >
            > HDT treated nature as if it served some useful, long-term purpose.
            > Transcendental meditation, civil disobedience, and trying to
            connect to
            > a great universal ideal seem fairly removed from Nietzsche. Maybe
            > Kierkegaard could appreciate a bit of the idealism; at least it
            was
            > "authentic" in some way.
            >
            > There is no clear "higher law" in existentialism. Even the
            religious
            > existentialists suggest we cannot know whatever it is a Creator
            > considers "law" versus a general suggestion. (If everything is
            a "law"
            > then no one stands a chance, even Kierkegaard noted. That's why I
            like
            > Buber's form of faith: Do the best you can, since we have no idea
            what
            > is or isn't mandatory. Even the "big sins" are guesses, in some
            way.)
            >
            > HDT suggested "natural law" and "higher law" while existentialists
            and
            > post-modern philosophers suggest any meaning comes from the
            individual.
            > Social rules are compromises, so we can coexist in relative
            security
            > (and we see how well that works).
            >
            > So, just on the grounds that HDT suggested truth is found outside
            the
            > individual removes him from existentialism and most modern
            Continental
            > schools of thought. Ayn Rand is excluded for much the same reason:
            she
            > still suggested "truth" was universal, external, and it was merely
            the
            > special individual willing to adhere to the pursuit of truth.
            >
            > I'm not sure there aren't basic rules / truths, since I believe in
            > science, but I know that philosophical truths are inherently
            individual
            > choices made based on the ideas to which we are exposed. I create
            my
            > own understanding of humanity and meaning, even if I am influenced
            by
            > other factors. No Creator has "given" me meaning, and nothing in
            nature
            > explains life to me. I'm on my own, which is a lot of
            responsibility.
            >
            > - C. S. Wyatt
            > I am what I am at this moment, not what I was and certainly not
            all
            > that I shall be.
            > http://www.tameri.com - Tameri Guide for Writers
            > http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist - The Existential Primer
            >
          • Aija Veldre Beldavs
            ... mammals exhibit a range of diversity, including social and solitary species. solitary mammals include bears, many species of rodents (but not beavers or
            Message 5 of 5 , Jan 4, 2006
            • 0 Attachment
              On Wed, 4 Jan 2006, jkneilson wrote:

              > Thoreau
              > relates to nature as an individual, using
              > its "matter" as tropes for spiritual insight.

              mammals exhibit a range of diversity, including social and solitary
              species. solitary mammals include bears, many species of rodents (but not
              beavers or house mice), anteaters, Pacific fishers...only 3% are
              monogamous, most are polygynous or both sex promiscuous but there are
              polyandrous arrangements also. depending on the species and environment
              fathers may provide no care or extensive care.

              a site with a good summary:
              <http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Mammalia.html>

              aija
            Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.