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Becoming Who We ArePolitics and Practical Philosophy in the Work of Stanley Cavell$
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Andrew Norris

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190673949

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: July 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190673949.001.0001

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Walden and the Foundations of True Political Expression

Walden and the Foundations of True Political Expression

(p.141) Chapter 4 Walden and the Foundations of True Political Expression
Becoming Who We Are

Andrew Norris

Oxford University Press

This chapter turns to Cavell’s first encounter with American transcendentalism and his initial exploration of views he would later characterize as “Emersonian perfectionism.” As read by Cavell, Thoreau’s Walden is a sustained attempt to wake his readers that bears comparison with Socrates’s attempt to wake his fellow citizens. Thoreau’s attempt is a provocative one in the sense that he must at once attract and disturb or repel his reader. Cavell’s reading of Thoreau both brings out and draws upon hitherto unnoticed resemblances between Walden and Being and Time. The chapter concludes by considering the manner in which a proper understanding of these works throws into high relief the profound differences between their authors’ respective understanding of politics and of the place of philosophy in public life.

Keywords:   transcendentalism, citizen, perfectionism, Socrates, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson

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