Henry Thoreau Civil Disobedience Essay

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, which was to exercise a great influence on subsequent generations of thinkers.

This module explores political obligation generally, including the questions whether one should submit to unjust demands from political authorities and whether a citizen should acquiesce when the state makes him or her "the agent of injustice to another." Thoreau draws on a long libertarian tradition that holds that, although our universal, or general, obligations are not the result of choice or action (for example, the obligation not to take the life, liberty, or justly held possessions of any other person), particular obligations, that is, specific obligations to specific persons, are based on some act of the obligee, for example, assenting to a contract that requires the payment of a sum of money for a service rendered.

As he said of his incarceration for his refusal to pay a tax: "I did not for a moment feel confined, and the walls seemed a great waste of stone and mortar. I saw that the state was half-witted, that it was as timid as a lone woman with her silver spoons. For those interested in the deep connection drawn by rights theorists between personal choice and responsibility, which motivated the early rights theorists, the Abolitionists, and the individualist feminists of the nineteenth century, this book offers a careful examination of the philosophical issues involved. In addition to containing a moving essay on Henry David Thoreau, this book is full of wisdom about how a free man might live in a world only partially free.

Libertarianism, understood as the theory that individuals can initiate actions and responsibility for action can be traced back to them, is neatly contrasted with determinism, understood as the view that our behavior is entirely determined by external factors, with a corresponding lack of personal moral responsibility for behavior. Chodorov wrote a very provocative and insightful little essay, "Don’t Buy Bonds" (reprinted in his (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1995).

In contrast, William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) was moved to devote all of his energy and resources to a tireless crusade for abolition.

In response to those who criticized him for his enthusiasm, he retorted, "I have need to be all on fire, for there are mountains of ice around me to melt." His "immediatism" was realistic but uncompromising: "We have never said that slavery would be overthrown by a single blow; that it ought to be, we shall always contend." (It bears mentioning, however, that while Garrison criticized John Brown for his attempt to liberate the slaves through a slave uprising, Thoreau defended Brown, writing, "No man in America has ever stood up so persistently and effectively for the dignity of human nature, knowing himself for a man, and the equal of any and all governments.• Henry David Thoreau survived his passive resistance to the American state, as Gandhi did his to British colonial rule, but would he have been so lucky under a National Socialist or Communist state? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) contains, in addition to his essay on civil disobedience (titled "Resistance to Civil Government" in this edition), "Life without Principle," "Slavery in Massachusett," his essays on John Brown, and selections from . I could not but smile to see how industriously they locked the door on my meditations, which followed them out again without let or hindrance. I lost all my remaining respect for it, and pitied it." Aileen S. Kraditor discusses how such issues as moral suasion, civil disobedience, electoral activism, and slave rebellions were debated and action was taken.Does the character of the state determine the appropriate response to it? Thoreau reminds us that the state can punish the body but the human spirit remains capable of freedom. As they could not reach me, they resolved to punish my body; just as boys, if they cannot come against a person against whom they have a spite, will abuse his dog. For Further Study Jennifer Trusted, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984).One may liken this inborn knowledge to conscience or intuition.that is, they believed that this inner knowledge was a higher, transcendent form of knowledge than that which came through the senses.Thoreau first presented the essay as a lecture on January 26, 1848, at the Concord (Massachusetts) Lyceum.In May 1849, it was published under the title "Resistance to Civil Government" in Aesthetic Papers, a short-lived journal of transcendentalist Elizabeth Peabody (1804-1894).Readings to Accompany The Audio From : William Lloyd Garrison, "Man Cannot Hold Property in Man" (pp.77-80); Frederick Douglas, "You Are a Man, and So Am I" (pp.Because Thoreau and his fellow transcendentalists trusted their own inner light as a moral guiding force, they were possessed of a fierce spirit of self-reliance.They were individualists; they liked to make decisions for themselves.


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