Henry David Thoreau, an 18th century philosopher and writer, might not be the first one you think of when thinking of protest. Thoreau is famous for his book Walden, which is a diary of his experiences of retracting from society into a small hut he had built himself in the forests close to a pond called Walden. He uses his retraite to think about society and al it quirks, which he, very rhetorically criticised. In the last year of his five-year long retraite he published an essay called Civil Disobedience, which stresses a form of agency in civil life. We are going to examine this essay and try to define what Thoreau called ‘civil disobedience’.
Thoreau saw philosophy as a way of life, not as a mere reflection on it. He thus tried to develop what now may be called philosophy of life. His ideas conflict with the by then popular ideas of dualism introduced by Descartes. Dualism implies a separation between mental and physical life, which Thoreau disagreed with. Life and thinking should be united. This conception is extended upon in his essay Civil Disobedience, in which he forwards agency against the objectifying apparatus of government – which turns subjects into ‘stone, wood and iron’.
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