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What is Transcendentalism? 
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Saffron wrote:
Tom wrote:
Quote:
is that Thoreau read no Kant.


Tom,
I am curious as how you know this. Is it a widely known fact? Citations? I'm not not being nit-picky or picking a fight -- I really want to know.

Thanks,
Saffron


Saffron, I'm going to ask a researcher who knows more than I do to help with citations. However, in his philosphical works Kant's style is notoriously difficult, even for native German speakers. My guess is that Robert didn't read The Critique of Pure Reason in German. Thoreau studied German but did not know enough German to read Kant, and, to the best of my knowledge, made no translations from German. I am going to look for citations and will give them as time permits.

Tom



Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:01 pm
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Thanks, Tom!


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Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:16 pm
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In my wild Kant chase -- I feel that I am looking for ghosts under the bed, but Saffron wants assurances -- besides finding things I need to dust I turned up this:

http://www.walden.org/Institute/
The Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods Library

I hadn't visited the place in years, and these folks have really grown. If you have an abiding interest in Thoreau, do visit.

Tom



Sun Jul 13, 2008 9:53 am
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Saffron, I asked a person with extensive knowledge of Thoreau's life whether I was right in believing that Thoreau read none of Kant's philosophical works, and this is what I got: "I am not aware that he ever read anything by Kant, or mentioned Kant."

From secondary sources like this

http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/Lit ... um-13.html
Thoreau, Emerson, and Transcendentalism

I see how one might come to believe that Thoreau was a Kantian Transcendentalist and had studied Kant deeply.

Nevertheless, if Thoreau read any of Kant's philosophical works, then there should be some evidence somewhere, and in the biographies and writing available to me I have found none.

In The Early Literary Career Transcendental Apprenticeship, 1837-1844
http://www.walden.org/Institute/thoreau ... ading2.pdf
(4.6 MB PDF file, about 15 minutes to download with slow access, too long for me to continue the search in this text)

"At the same time, Thoreau was also reading a more purely philosophical
treatise that summarized the tenets of this school of natural
philosophers, J. B. Stallo's General Principles ofthe Philosophy of Nature,
a work that contained, in addition to Stallo's exposition of the
various "Evolutions" (his term for the various changes of form and
development observable in nature), chapters detailing the views of
Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Oken, and Hegel. Stallo pays homage to "Father
Goethe," as he calls him, as the progenitor of this school of
thought, and distinguishes its principles from those of both the natural
theologians and the materialists."

That is the only thing about Thoreau reading Kant that I have found.

Tom


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Sun Jul 13, 2008 9:49 pm
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Tom,
Thanks for all the effort you put in to answer my query.

Saffron


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Mon Jul 14, 2008 12:21 am
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Thomas Hood wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
I was not saying that Walden was at the frontier. . . .
Robert, I'd like to convey how used the Walden area was before Thoreau moved there. The woods there was second growth, all the original trees having been cut. The area was the traditional slum district of Concord and had been inhabited by blacks and alchoholics. The blacks were, I'm told, run out of the area when the white Irish railroad workers built their shanties there along the railroad tracks just at the west end of the pond. Railroad construction had ended and the Irish were moving out when Thoreau moved to Walden. Thoreau's father had already bought two shanties for boards just as Thoreau did with the last remaining Irish shanty. Recycle, reuse, and renewal are optimistic themes in Walden. No matter what you start with, things can be reformed and made better.
Thanks Tom. From 10,000 miles away I am trying to read Walden at face value. Thoreau portrays Walden as a sort of paradise, capable of being redeemed through disciplined hermiting, despite its proximity to industrial commerce. His imaginative presentation of this place may be different from its reality as perceived by others. For example the possibility that HDT was the benefactor of ethnic cleansing places a different slant on his romantic vision.
Quote:
My objection to the term transcendental imagination (It's Kant's term, isn't it?) is that Thoreau read no Kant. Further, it suggests "a flight of transcendental fancy," that is, transcendental moonshine, the term used to dismiss the high point of the New England Renaissance. In reality, Thoreau's allusive imagery is based on concrete features of experience and wonderfully gives expression to psychological depth. This more complex used of language, American Transcendentalism, was apparently considered an American literary trade secret and evidence of American literary superiority, and was deliberately never made public. Unfortunately, it produces a prose that can be as impenetrable as a very dark woods.
The sense in which HDT's Walden is transcendent seems to start from his refusal to be defined and limited by conventional opinion - he seems to imagine he can base his life on a rational vision. I know where you are coming from given that the concept of transcendence has unwelcome baggage from its religious associations. Traditionally, these associations have resulted in fanciful myths about heaven becoming enforced as dogma, something that is very far from what either Thoreau or Kant are promoting. Kant argues the ego is transcendent, in that it synthesises perceptions to formulate a rational explanation for them, so transcendence and imagination are entirely compatible with empirical method. Einstein was Kantian in his outlook in this respect. From my reading of Walden, it seems fair to argue that HDT has a similar outlook on the transcendence of mind, that it presents a vision which links the present moment through imagination into eternity. These kantian ideas were part of the general currency of civilised thought in the early nineteenth century, and I get the impression Thoreau soaked them up as part of his education and personal philosophy.



Mon Jul 14, 2008 12:24 am
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duplicate post deleted



Last edited by Robert Tulip on Fri Sep 05, 2008 9:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Jul 14, 2008 12:27 am
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Robert Tulip wrote:
From my reading of Walden, it seems fair to argue that HDT has a similar outlook on the transcendence of mind, that it presents a vision which links the present moment through imagination into eternity. These kantian ideas were part of the general currency of civilised thought in the early nineteenth century, and I get the impression Thoreau soaked them up as part of his education and personal philosophy.


I agree, Robert. Kant's ideas were part of the popular culture of Thoreau's era.

Moby Dick:

Quote:
"Didn't I tell you so?" said Flask; "yes, you'll soon see this right whale's head hoisted up opposite that parmacety's."

In good time, Flask's saying proved true. As before, the Pequod steeply leaned over towards the sperm whale's head, now, by the counterpoise of both heads, she regained her even keel; though sorely strained, you may well believe. So, when on one side you hoist in Locke's head, you go over that way; but now, on the other side, hoist in Kant's and you come back again; but in very poor plight. Thus, some minds for ever keep trimming boat. Oh, ye foolish! throw all these thunder-heads overboard, and then you will float light and right. -- Chapter 73.


Poe takes a swipe at Kant and the Transcendentalists in Never Bet The Devil Your Head. The Devil in the Belfry shows Kant doing his perplexing work.

Tom


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Mon Jul 14, 2008 11:18 am
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Post Re: What is Transcendentalism?
Thomas Hood wrote:
"Transcendentalism began as a protest against the general state of culture and society at the time, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard and the doctrine of the Unitarian church taught at Harvard Divinity School."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendentalism

Not at all. Contrary to notions promulgated in numerous, authorative webpages, the Transcendentalism practiced by Thoreau had nothing to do with Kant, Unitarianism, or Harvard Divinity School.

Thoreau was part of the Romantic Movement -- the philosophy going back to Montaigne and Thomas Browne, both of whom he read, that focused on the uniqueness and importance of the individual. In the wilderness of mass man -- mass movements, mass culture, and political and economic collectivism -- how could an individual exist? How could individual genius find freedom in an unfree world? Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, and Poe reached the same conclusion at about the same time: The self could be both protected and affirmed by concealed disclosure. For the use of concealed disclosure in Hawthorne and Melville, see

http://www.geocities.com/seekingthephoenix/h/aeneid.htm
Hawthorne and Melville by Thomas St. John

Thoreau was the optimist in the lot, and for him I'll give three examples of concealed disclosure.

An individual is created, or at least modified, by life experiences which give an emotional charge to future experience. Subtle objective features of things that suggest the original charging experience evoke a subjective, charged emotional atmosphere and unite subjective and objective.

1.

Consider this sentence from the second paragraph of Walden: "Perhaps these pages are more particularly addressed to poor students." Thoreau was a charity case at Harvard, an outsider and a loner. The Thoreaus were so poor that a women's charity offered to make shirts for him. Harvard's dress code required a black coat. Unlike every other student at Harvard (so far as I know) because of Thoreau's poverty -- the family could not afford to buy him a black coat -- Thoreau was given an exemption and wore a green coat.

2.

1.9 "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats."

1.89 "The muskrat will gnaw his third leg off to be free."

The muskrat was Thoreau's totem animal, the creature with whom he most closely identified. As the muskrat (Thoreau perferred the Indian name 'mushquash') built his house of sticks of his own gathering, so Thoreau built his house at Walden. In reading 1.89 the reader needs to know this bit of charging, biographical information: At the age of 4 Thoreau accidently chopped off his right big toe.

3.

1.33 ". . .often the richest freight will be discharged upon a Jersey shore. . . ."

The reader needs to know the charging event to which this apparently objective observation alludes: In July, 1850, Emerson sent Thoreau to Fire Island (parallels Long Island) to recover the remains (shark-bitten body parts, manuscripts, . . . ) of their friend Margaret Fuller.

Tom


OMG! Tom! Thanks so much for putting this one up - I've never really gotten it straight, what it is . . . I'll read through the posts now.



Fri Sep 05, 2008 6:10 am
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Post Re: What is Transcendentalism?
Thomas Hood wrote:
"Transcendentalism began as a protest against the general state of culture and society at the time, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard and the doctrine of the Unitarian church taught at Harvard Divinity School."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendentalism

Not at all. Contrary to notions promulgated in numerous, authorative webpages, the Transcendentalism practiced by Thoreau had nothing to do with Kant, Unitarianism, or Harvard Divinity School.

Thoreau was part of the Romantic Movement -- the philosophy going back to Montaigne and Thomas Browne, both of whom he read, that focused on the uniqueness and importance of the individual. In the wilderness of mass man -- mass movements, mass culture, and political and economic collectivism -- how could an individual exist? How could individual genius find freedom in an unfree world? Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, and Poe reached the same conclusion at about the same time: The self could be both protected and affirmed by concealed disclosure. For the use of concealed disclosure in Hawthorne and Melville, see

http://www.geocities.com/seekingthephoenix/h/aeneid.htm
Hawthorne and Melville by Thomas St. John

Thoreau was the optimist in the lot, and for him I'll give three examples of concealed disclosure.

An individual is created, or at least modified, by life experiences which give an emotional charge to future experience. Subtle objective features of things that suggest the original charging experience evoke a subjective, charged emotional atmosphere and unite subjective and objective.

1.

Consider this sentence from the second paragraph of Walden: "Perhaps these pages are more particularly addressed to poor students." Thoreau was a charity case at Harvard, an outsider and a loner. The Thoreaus were so poor that a women's charity offered to make shirts for him. Harvard's dress code required a black coat. Unlike every other student at Harvard (so far as I know) because of Thoreau's poverty -- the family could not afford to buy him a black coat -- Thoreau was given an exemption and wore a green coat.

2.

1.9 "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats."

1.89 "The muskrat will gnaw his third leg off to be free."

The muskrat was Thoreau's totem animal, the creature with whom he most closely identified. As the muskrat (Thoreau perferred the Indian name 'mushquash') built his house of sticks of his own gathering, so Thoreau built his house at Walden. In reading 1.89 the reader needs to know this bit of charging, biographical information: At the age of 4 Thoreau accidently chopped off his right big toe.

3.

1.33 ". . .often the richest freight will be discharged upon a Jersey shore. . . ."

The reader needs to know the charging event to which this apparently objective observation alludes: In July, 1850, Emerson sent Thoreau to Fire Island (parallels Long Island) to recover the remains (shark-bitten body parts, manuscripts, . . . ) of their friend Margaret Fuller.

Tom


OMG! Tom! Thanks so much for putting this one up - I've never really gotten it straight, what it is . . . I'll read through the posts now.



Fri Sep 05, 2008 6:11 am
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[quote="Penelope"]I hate to admit it, but I hadn't ever heard of Thoreau until Tom Hood posted about him. I have only recently looked at some of these people you mentioned. I knew about Kant of course, but I just thought he was an economist!!! Critique of Pure Reason - I used to leave on a coffee table to impress my friends. :oops:

I wonder if the reason I hadn't encountered Thoreau is because I'm British.

When looking at Transcendentalism, we were more likely to be pointed in the direction of Krishnamurti. Do you know about him? How does he differ from Thoreau?

[quote]When you look at this life of action



Fri Sep 05, 2008 6:40 am
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Thomas Hood wrote:
Penelope wrote:
I wonder if the reason I hadn't encountered Thoreau is because I'm British.


Maybe Thoreau is blamed for the loss of the empire?


No, but didn't somebody here say he was well known for having started a fire?



Fri Sep 05, 2008 6:41 am
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Sorry - I made a duplicate post there.



Last edited by WildCityWoman on Sat Sep 06, 2008 1:15 am, edited 1 time in total.



Fri Sep 05, 2008 6:47 am
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Post Re: Quoting
Thomas Hood wrote:
BabyBlues wrote:
Quote:
To quote myself:

Tom,
You are quoting yourself...that is very Harold Bloom of you. :D


Alas, Babyblues, Harold was no friend of Thoreau. Let me quote myself again:

Quote:
Thoreau is the most hated man in America, blamed for the hippies and other excesses of individualism. No literature about Thoreau is to be trusted without inspection, including the biased Wikipedia article.


In the volume of essays about Thoreau that Harold edited, he repeatedly pairs Thoreau with excrement. The details are too disgusting to discuss in a public forum like this, but don't take my word for it. See for yourself. Or check out discussion of Harold Bloom on Waldenlist.

Tom


Was the hippie movement all that bad? Once they got onto meditating with the Krishna's, they got off the drugs.

What I liked about the hippie movement, was it encouraged everybody else to wear what they wanted to wear . . . I mean, what they 'really' wanted to wear.

We've still go that going today and I love it.



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Post Re: Quoting
WildCityWoman wrote:
Was the hippie movement all that bad? Once they got onto meditating with the Krishna's, they got off the drugs.


Carly, much of the hippie movement was destructive. They were "anti," remember. The lifestyle was impossible. As in any children's crusade, there were hundreds of thousands of casualities. You mention "Krishna." Perhaps you are unaware of the horrors of the Krishna Consciousness movement:

http://www.rickross.com/reference/krish ... hna21.html

The hippie and non-hippie conflict is as old as humanity.

Hippie:

THE PASSIONATE SHEPHERD TO HIS LOVE

Come live with me, and be my love;
And we will all the pleasures prove
That hills and valleys, dales and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks
By shallow rivers, to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies;
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair-lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy-buds,
With coral clasps and amber-studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.

The shepherd-swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May-morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.
-- Marlowe

Square:

[The nymph's reply to the shepherd]


If all the world and love were young,
And truth in every shepherd's tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold,
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold;
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields
To wayward winter reckoning yields:
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy's spring, but sorrow's fall.

The gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten,



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