Chapter

Wonder and Affliction

Edward F. Mooney

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/9780823239306.003.0010

Series: American Philosophy (FUP)

Wonder and Affliction

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Thoreau's writing evokes Nietzschean themes of tragedy and Dionysian religion, provokes comparison with a number of Kierkegaardian motifs, and prompts reflection on the possibility of human communication with animals. Thoreau works at redemptive writing, giving us this-worldly perceptions of heaven and hell as moments in achieving (or losing) sensory affinity with things. His writing recalls Hamlet's “wonder-wounded hearing” and his wildly startling eloquence, and it displays what Stanley Cavell calls “passionate speech” – that is, invitations to improvisation in the disorder of desire. Argument unfolds within image, drama, parable, and myth, supplementing bare-bones argument. The resulting confluence of wonder, poetry, and philosophy earns a place in the tradition of those great moral philosophers who attentively trace the contours in our troubled world of delight, affliction, despair, awe, and final serenity.

Keywords: Wonder; tragedy; redemptive writing; animals; serenity; Cavell; Kierkegaard; Nietzsche; existential philosophy

Chapter.  10402 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

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