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Great Thinkers: Henry David Thoreau

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In the depths of my time, I have battled wits, slain dragons, and confounded philosophers claiming the knowledge of the century. Throughout all of my travels, I had not found one “thinker” who can be considered truly great… until I rested a fortnight in Concord, Massachusetts. There I discovered the veracity that embodied Henry David Thoreau.

In 1841 he began to live with a neighbor and friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, leader of the Transcendentalist movement. After discovering Emerson’s book, Nature, Thoreau delved into the deeper realms that comprised Transcendentalism. This ideology basically consists of a struggle to emerge as a new class of independent, and attempt to understand the spiritual and religious aspects of life while employing intuitive, rather than rational, judgment. Thoreau, however, is not a great thinker due to his adherence to Emerson’s philosophy. Thoreau’s ideals stemmed from his innate adoration of individualism and naturalism. He was often seen observing nature and recording his ascertainments in a journal that would be published after his death. Such was his love of the natural world that he spent two years, two months, and two days in a one-room cabin near Walden Pond, writing ceaselessly about the vast area that existed outside his door. His book based on such experiences, Walden, included his philosophical autobiography in which he lived away from the secular populace, where Thoreau reveled in his simplicity. He believed the constant pursuit of material possessions was futile and would bring little happiness.

Thoreau, while living the epitome of facility, was arrested after refusing to pay a poll tax that supported the Mexican War. His refusal was due to his belief that the Mexican War supported slavery, a system he passively opposed. He thus chose to be jailed instead of yielding to the government. His political philosophy of civil disobedience consequently emerged from his imprisonment, in an essay entitled, appropriately, “Civil Disobedience”. In this piece, Thoreau claimed that man’s duty was more inclined



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