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Henry David Thoreau and the Moral Agency of Knowing Paperback – May 5, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

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"In arguing for the centrally moral and ethical value of Thoreau's works, Tauber is taking a brave stance in these slippery postmodern times.... It's one thing to praise Thoreau for his opposition to the Mexican War, his philosophy of passive resistance, and his fervent opposition to slavery. It's quite another to argue that his entire project--his whole sense of identity, self-formation, and his relation to nature--is part of a deeply moral enterprise....Thoreau's modernity has been defined in many ways in recent years. Tauber adds another important and distinctive dimension to this discussion."

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"Tauber's book is encyclopedic—not only a revealing and comprehensive study of Thoreau but also a full vision of the Romantic Weltanschauung and its relevance to contemporary concerns in philosophy, science, and poetics. While this scope is wildly ambitious, Tauber admirably delivers, always informing his parts with the whole, consistently altering the whole with his parts."—Eric Wilson, author of Emerson's Sublime Science

"In arguing for the centrally moral and ethical value of Thoreau's works, Tauber is taking a brave stance in these slippery postmodern times…. It's one thing to praise Thoreau for his opposition to the Mexican War, his philosophy of passive resistance, and his fervent opposition to slavery. It's quite another to argue that his entire project—his whole sense of identity, self-formation, and his relation to nature—is part of a deeply moral enterprise….Thoreau's modernity has been defined in many ways in recent years. Tauber adds another important and distinctive dimension to this discussion."—H. Daniel Peck, John Guy Vassar Professor of English, Vassar College
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; Paperback edition (May 5, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520239156
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520239159
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #448,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This is a book for two kinds of readers. Those who are particularly drawn to Thoreau will find a provocative thesis on which to hang all of his various pursuits. Tauber approaches him as a historian and philosopher of science, and shows how Thoreau was reacting against a rising tide of positivism - a form of radical objectivity -- to preserve his individualistic perspective on the world. Whether he was doing natural history or cultural history, Thoreau collected facts and assembled them to uniquely construct his own view of nature or culture. But Thoreau is only a foil for Tauber's larger purposes. Tauber's major theme is that all knowledge is value-laden and we choose the values by which to know the world and live in it. The fact/value distinction, so important in much of philosophy of science, is brought together here. This thesis is of interest, not only to understand Thoreau, but for a very much wider set of concerns. Tauber is charting out a post-critical understanding of the nature of knowledge, building on two philosophies: Michael Polanyi's "tacit mode" of understanding and Emanuel Levinas's ethical metaphysics. The first argues that the conditions that make knowing possible are not "foundational" or can ever be made explicit, but rather are embedded in individual experience and common social life; from this source, explicit knowledge is created. The second thesis maintains that values determine how we encounter the world and ultimately know it. These themes are not novel to contemporary philosophy, but when posed in present debates about the nature of reality, the claims of relativism, and the problematic status of the self, Tauber's synthesis offers a way out of the maze of postmodernism to new assertions about the primacy of the person.Read more ›
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