By Alfred I. Tauber
Thoreau was once stuck at a serious flip within the heritage of technological know-how, among the ebb of Romanticism and the emerging tide of positivism. He answered to the demanding situations posed through the recent excellent of objectivity no longer by way of rejecting the clinical worldview, yet by way of humanizing it for himself. Tauber portrays Thoreau as a guy whose ethical imaginative and prescient guided his life's paintings. every one of Thoreau's tasks mirrored a self-proclaimed "metaphysical ethics," an articulated software of self-discovery and self-knowing. through writing, by way of combining precision with poetry in his naturalist targets and ease with mystical fervor in his day-by-day job, Thoreau sought to reside a lifetime of virtue—one he might signify as marked by way of planned selection. This special imaginative and prescient of human business enterprise and accountability will nonetheless look clean and modern to readers initially of the twenty-first century.
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Extra info for Henry David Thoreau and the Moral Agency of Knowing
Thoreau, although not documented as having read Augustine (Sattelmeyer 1988), on this issue stands upon his shoulders—as did William James fifty years later. James, in The Principles of Psychology ( 1983), clearly saw the elusiveness of the present as the key perplexity in understanding consciousness and the very notion of the self. What we see in Thoreau’s musings, albeit in rough outline, are the key insights of this later philosophy, one that attempted to understand consciousness proto-phenomenologically.
As important as nature was for him, his own identity was even more intimate and crucial. Indeed, from his perspective, the self assumes its most solid standing in the moral enterprise, ordering the way one sees the world. Chapter 6 explores Thoreau’s own sense of his “heroic” venture and the construction of his moral universe using virtue ethics as the scaffold of exam- Tauber_text 2/6/01 9:08 AM Page 19 Introduction / 19 ination. For Thoreau, virtue meant living the deliberate life, one acutely selfconscious in all domains.
We must place Thoreau’s attitude toward nature within the problem of objectivity and the value of knowledge more generally, specifically how his Tauber_text 2/6/01 9:08 AM Page 18 18 / Introduction attitude toward nature is regarded within the broader discussion of the knowing subject. His was “a lovely dance between the self and nature” (Peck 1990, p. 121)—“the inner landscape . . symbiotic with the outer” (Buell 1995, p. 101). Chapter 5 explores Thoreau’s nature observations, specifically how he composed his poetic view of the world, and the difficulty he experienced in writing of that experience.