Chapter

How <i>Walden</i> Works

Jonathan Ellsworth

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/9780823239306.003.0009

Series: American Philosophy (FUP)

How Walden Works

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This chapter argues that to neglect the philosophical concerns of Walden is not merely to miss part of the work's message, it is to miss the point entirely. Ellsworth argues that Walden can be understood as a modern variation on the ancient literary genre of the Socratic discourse. Walden is designed to serve as a catalyst for self-examination, and it employs a number of authorial strategies to assist the reader in this task. Hence, if it is agreed that a crucial component of philosophical activity is the business of self-examination, then texts that foster this ought to be regarded as important philosophical resources. In this sense, Walden is arguably one of our most valuable philosophical texts.

Keywords: Socrates; self-examination; Hadot; autobiography; spiritual exercises; ancient philosophy

Chapter.  6413 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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