Thoreau's Moral Epistemology and Its Contemporary Relevance

Alfred I. Tauber

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:

Series: American Philosophy (FUP)

Thoreau's Moral Epistemology and Its Contemporary Relevance

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Resisting nineteenth-century positivism and the professionalization of science, Thoreau sought a way to configure knowledge into a personal context, in which objectified nature was also experienced aesthetically, spiritually, and morally. This human-oriented science proceeded by knitting “facts” together with various kinds of epistemic and non-epistemic values. This program of moral epistemology guided him in composing his observations within a context of individualized significance and meaning. So, analogous to a landscape painted with dabs of color, Thoreau's portrayal of the factual world was coherently organized by his imaginative vision. While never developed into a formal philosophical position, Thoreau's moral epistemology serves as a prelude to more developed constructions, of which John Dewey's dictum, “meaning is wider in scope as well as more precious in value than is truth,” clearly articulates Thoreau's own proto-pragmatism.

Keywords: Epistemology; objectivity; subjectivity; moral philosophy; fact-value distinction; pragmatism; Dewey

Chapter.  5865 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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