Chapter

Speaking Extravagantly

James D. Reid

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/9780823239306.003.0004

Series: American Philosophy (FUP)

Speaking Extravagantly

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Reid explores two main reasons why Thoreau's work has largely failed to find an echo in contemporary Anglo-American philosophy: (1) his intense interest in the significance of the life of an exemplary individual and (2) his frequent use of a language more poetic than academic. Reid contends that Thoreau's project can be read as a sustained response to the problem of nihilism, or the possibility that we might find our lives drained of significance; in this respect, it invites comparison with the work of figures such as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Drawing from the work of phenomenologists, especially Heidegger, and the philosophy of value, Reid argues for the integrity of Thoreau's vision of human life, as it finds expression in Walden and related passages in the Journal, and offers a philosophical defense of Thoreau's eccentric way of giving voice to philosophic concerns.

Keywords: Value; nihilism; aesthetics; poetics; moral ontology; personalism; existential philosophy

Chapter.  11200 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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