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Thoreau's Importance for Philosophy$
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Rick Anthony Furtak, Jonathan Ellsworth, and James D. Reid

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823239306

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823239306.001.0001

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How Walden Works

How Walden Works

Thoreau and the Socratic Art of Provocation

(p.143) Nine How Walden Works
Thoreau's Importance for Philosophy

Jonathan Ellsworth

Fordham University Press

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

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