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Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (Dover Thrift Editions) [Paperback]

Henry David Thoreau
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 20, 1993 0486275639 978-0486275635 Reprint
Philosopher, naturalist, poet and rugged individualist, Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) has inspired generations of readers to think for themselves, to follow the dictates of their own conscience and to make an art of their lives. This representative sampling of his thought includes five of his most frequently cited and read essays: "Civil Disobedience," his most powerful and influential political essay, exalts the law of conscience over civil law. "Life without Principle" distills the essence of Thoreau's philosophy of self-reliance and individualism. "Slavery in Massachusetts" is a searing attack on government condonation of slavery.  "A Plea for Captain John Brown" is an eloquent defense of the radical abolitionist, while "Walking" celebrates the joys of that activity and pleads for conservation of the earth's wild places. The latter essay is recognized as one of the pioneer documents in the conservation and national park movement in America.

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Civil Disobedience and Other Essays (Dover Thrift Editions) + Self-Reliance and Other Essays (Dover Thrift Editions) + Leaves of Grass: The Original 1855 Edition (Dover Thrift Editions)
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Product Details

  • Series: Dover Thrift Editions
  • Paperback: 90 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Reprint edition (May 20, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486275639
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486275635
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Arise, Ye Overworked Americans! October 31, 2002
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was an American philosopher, poet, and naturalist who moved in the same intellectual and social circles as Ralph Waldo Emerson. This Dover Thrift edition contains several important Thoreau tracts: Civil Disobedience, Slavery in Massachusetts, A Plea for Captain John Brown, Walking, and Life Without Principle. Thoreau also wrote the famous "Walden," and several other influential pieces shaped by his sense of environment and his unwavering belief in the power of the individual.
In "Civil Disobedience," Thoreau discusses the role of the individual in society and government. Starting off with his famous statement, "That government is best which governs not at all," Thoreau waxes philosophic about the role of the United States government in the Mexican War and slavery. Thoreau argues that majorities in a democracy decide what the laws are because they are the strongest element in society. According to Thoreau, what is law is not necessarily right, and just because the majority decides an issue doesn't automatically make that issue palatable to a man's conscience. Individuals can, and sometimes should, oppose the majority, and they can be right even if they are in the minority. Ultimately, if laws are not reliable beacons of truth, one should appeal to one's conscience to decide what is right and wrong. However, merely deciding something is wrong is not enough if that decision is not followed by concrete action. Thoreau criticizes the voting process in this context, since anybody can vote for something. Without action following a decision, voting or supporting something is useless. This essay also contains Thoreau's account of his stay in jail for failure to pay a tax.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Live by the words of Civil Disobedience December 22, 1998
By A Customer
If ever a document came close to matching the Gospels in detailing a way to live morally, it is Civil Disobedience. In a brief, clear, and concise essay Thoreau proffers a challenge to all men, "not to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right." In all my life, no words so simply and yet so profoundly has affected my view of our country and our world.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The moral obligation to resist August 29, 2003
Henry David Thoreau did not just think, he acted. In order to see which luxuries of life he could live without, he lived in a secluded area for two years near Walden pond. Instead of paying a poll tax he thought unjust, he spent a night in jail. Thoreau backed his thoughts with action, and this gives validity to many of his writings.
Perhaps no work of Thoreau has been more influential than his essay "Civil Disobedience." Many world leaders, including Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., drew inspiration from this classic treatise on passive, nonviolent resistance. Simply put, Thoreau did not believe in allowing government to take more of his personal liberty than he, Thoreau, was willing to surrender. He also believed that, as citizens under a government, people have the moral obligation to break any law they think unjust (provided it does not injure another). This is the basic premise of "Civil Disobedience," that "I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn."
All of the essays in this collection are important, but none has the tremendous power of "Civil Disobedience," one of the classics in American thought.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seminal American political philosophy September 21, 2002
It is unfortunate that Henry David Thoreau experience little renown in his lifetime, but I am glad to see that he is now recognized as one of the leading lights of American political philosophy, as he well deserves to be. His writings, which have influenced everyone from Martin Luther King Jr. to Ghandi to Robert A. Heinlein to Don Henley, are the very essence of the strength of invididualism and freedom of the spirit. Thoreau was vehemently against slavery (his two essays on the subject in this volume are so passionate that they may move you to tears), and the title essay is, of course, a classic in itself. Distilling the virtues of conscience over the mere created laws of man, Thoreau makes a very good case here for self-government, and I am surprised he is not more frequently cited by the Liberterian movement. His remembrance of when he spent a night in jail for refusing to pay his poll tax - in which he says he felt that the prison walls did not confine him, that he felt more free than ever inside them, that he came to feel sorry for the state and even pity them for resorting to such measures, and that he, in fact, felt like he was the only citizen who did pay his poll tax - I find truly inspiring. They just don't make men like that, anymore. While many of us may find it hard to be so idealistic about things, we are reminded, in reading this, of a time when people could - and did - truly die for what they believed in. One wonders what Thoreau would think of present-day America. Life Without Principle is another eye-opening piece, in which Thoreau condemns the American social system and job ladder. Walking is a classic that is still cited by conservationists everywhere, and that helped in a big way in the U.S.'s national parks movement. Seminal American writing in the tradition of Thomas Paine, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and other great American thinkers.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars It's a Classic!
I could't say anything more than all that has been said before. This book needs no comments. Just read and enjoy it!
Published 1 month ago by Wagner W. Castro
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!
If you have never read any Thoreau before, pick this up and at least read the civil disobedience essay. Very good stuff!
Published 2 months ago by AC
5.0 out of 5 stars A great essay!
I've always thought of Thoreau as a peace loving writer. His poems, psalms and writings are of a naturalists perspective. Loved to take walks in the forest, think, and be merry. Read more
Published 3 months ago by BacaGil
5.0 out of 5 stars book
This is an great set of books to have I plan on writing my next English paper from this book.
Published 3 months ago by Dante Devon Robertson
1.0 out of 5 stars I'd like the WHOLE book, please.
"Even the Chinese philosopher was wise enough to regard the individual as the basis of the empire. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Llama
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Essay - As appropriate today as it was those days.
It is very relevant to our times also when the present day Politicians have become very corrupt and selfish. I recommend to everybody to read it.
Published 4 months ago by K.V.Krishna Murthy
5.0 out of 5 stars Budget Poetry
For about the price of a cup of coffee you can get a head full of wisdom. His works push the edge and made thought of our place and our practices in this country a responsibility... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Edd Anderson
5.0 out of 5 stars Small and Cheap
The book arrived in perfect condition and is exactly what I thought I was buying. Just ensure you want this particular version of this famous piece and you can't go wrong.
Published 4 months ago by Bob
4.0 out of 5 stars worth reading
It's an interesting worth reading book about ethics. But his passionate naive criticism of public service is too weak to survive an utilitarian or consequentialist attack.
Published 6 months ago by Thiago Model Pereira Bertho
5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful
David really hits on the main points of where we need to continue to follow the norm or to take a stand for what we believe. Great insights and striking political questions.
Published 8 months ago by Joshua G. Peters
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