Chapter

Thoreau and Emersonian Perfectionism

Stanley Bates

in Thoreau's Importance for Philosophy

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print August 2012 | ISBN: 9780823239306
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780823239344 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5422/fordham/9780823239306.003.0002

Series: American Philosophy (FUP)

Thoreau and Emersonian Perfectionism

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This chapter considers the way in which Thoreau can be considered to be a philosopher, by examining the nature of philosophy, and reviving the notion of philosophy as a way of life. Thoreau is seen in the context of the 19th century response to the crisis in European philosophy. After considering the perfectionist elements in Kant's thought, Stanley Bates considers Thoreau as an Emersonian Perfectionist, in the spirit of Cavell's phrase. A comparison of Thoreau to the early Marx shows a surprising number of similarities, especially in their discussions of economy. A comparison of Thoreau with Emerson also reveals differences between the two thinkers. Thoreau's distinct version of moral perfectionism is explained.

Keywords: Cavell; Emerson; Kant; moral perfectionism; economy

Chapter.  7035 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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