to “live deep”, concerned only with the essential facts of life

Philosophy – Henry David Thoreau (1817 to 1862; born near Boston)

Summary of main ideas in article:
– modern life often about technology, being connected with others, working hard for as much money as possible – the conventional prescription for success
– Thoreau was unemployed, lived alone in the woods, did not pay taxes (because he believed they were used to fund the Americn-Mexican war & uphold the practice of slavery)
– son of a pencil maker
– attended Harvard university & gained good grades
– became a teacher, but left due to philosophical differences concerning corporal punishment
– befriended Ralph Waldo Emerson (US philosopher; 1803 to 1882) who believed in Transcendentalism (spiritual is more important than the material when it comes to leading a fulfilling life)
– Emeron’s ideas hugely influenced Thoreau
– Thoreau was allowed to build a cabin (3m x 4.5m) on Emerson’s woodland property near Walden Pond – the cabin was spartan
– Thoreau lived here with 2 aims:
– write a book ( Walden or Life in the Woods) which was published in 1854 – a text about self-discovery, to “live deep”, concerned only with the essential facts of life.
– to test if it was possible to work 1 day & live 6 days using this time upon philosophical pursuits & interests

– Thoreau believed that people often “miss life”, stuck in ways which fail to see there are other paths to fulfilment (as if there is no other choice)
– he discovered a “more conscious” life
– he believed people needed few things
– he suggested thinking about how little you can get by with
– rather than how much we can get
– money does not help develop the soul
– he believed work in the traditional sense was unnecessary (& instead devoted time to study)
– believed in value of walking, of contemplating Nature
– he believed in self-reliance & solitude (while recognising the need for society from time to time)
– he did not believe in imitating others
– he believed in changing oneself before attempting to change the world
– he believed most technology was an unnecessary distraction
– he believed happiness came from time (for oneself) rather than work, money, technology or lots of friends
– he was always alert to finding/seeing God in Nature which teaches a person to be humble, self-aware through introspection & self-discovery
– progress he believed was through conscious self-awareness/personal authenticity rather than money or technology (things Of distraction)
– he also expressed views on the need to hold government to account & inspired non-violent civil disobedience movements such as those organised by Ghandi & in Denmark against the Nazi regime during WW2

One he left Walden, he travelled widely, continued to write & became a surveyor

Source: The Philosopher’s Mail @


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