- Paperback: 24 pages
- Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (August 21, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1537050958
- ISBN-13: 978-1537050959
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #531,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Life Without Principle
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About the Author
Henry David Thoreau was an American author, poet, and philosopher, who is best known for his works Waldena treatise about living in concert with the natural worldand Civil Disobedience, in which he espoused the need to morally resist the actions of an unjust state. Thoreau s work heavily reflects the ideologies of the American transcendentalists, and he has long been considered a leading figure in the movement along with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bronson Alcott, and, at first, Nathaniel Hawthorne (who changed his views later in life). In addition to his writing, which totaled more than twenty volumes, Thoreau was an active abolitionist, and lectured regularly against the Fugitive Slave Law. Thoreau died in 1862, and is buried along with Louisa May Alcott, Ellery Channing, and other notable Americans in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
As a naturalist Thoreau enabled himself to step outside the norms of society to gather insight not easily attained, and as a result produced some exceptionally compelling ideas. He discovered the things most people prioritize to be far too trivial and endangering to living a truly virtuous life. Put best by Thoreau himself, "We should treat our minds, that is, ourselves, as innocent and ingenious children, whose guardians we are and be careful what objects and what subjects we thrust on their attention."
Thoreau sheds light on the sad notion that society generally puts too much emphasis on enterprise; suggesting it merely represents a means to an end and has resulted in a lack of focus on what is truly important, life itself. Thoreau explains, "If a man walk in the woods for love of them half each day, he is in danger of being regarded as a loafer; but if he spends his whole day as a speculator, shearing off those woods and making earth bald before her time, he is esteemed as an industrious and enterprising fellow." He further emphasized this ideal with a profound principle: "Don't cheat yourself by working primarily for a paycheck. If what you do with your life free-of-charge is so worthless to you that you'd be convinced to do something else in exchange for little money or fame, you need better hobbies." In less refined terms, he is merely observing that your life is made up of a fixed amount of time, and if the bulk of that is merely to support a meager remaining amount, something is amiss; an ideal that merits consideration.
I highly recommend this short book to anyone willing and ready to test their own priorities. Life Without Principle will unquestionably lead you to the bedrock of your values.
Besides, Thoreau's presents a sophomoric thesis, which boils down roughly to this: "Commerce and politics - and even interest in commerce and politics - are soulless and debasing activities that dehumanize almost everyone." I write this as an admirer of Thoreau. He is a great stylist and thinker in other realms, but he has given little thought to problems of economics, scarcity, or poverty. Worse, and ironically, he puts a cramped view of human inspiration on display in this essay.
He begins by talking about business. He points out that too many people are busy working to make a living when they should be working to make a life. One who is engaged in work he doesn’t enjoy is trading away his life for a paycheck, or “sell[ing his] birthright for a mess of pottage.” A better strategy would be to find work that one enjoys doing and do it for the satisfaction of doing it, the money being merely icing on the cake. The natural and eternal joys of life rarely have a high monetary value; instead, far too much effort is expended on material trivialities in the pursuit of keeping up with the Joneses. The more one lives his life according to his own nature, disregarding the popular conception of fortune, the happier and richer he will be.
Thoreau’s doctrine in this essay sounds a lot like the teachings of the ancient Stoic philosophers Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, who urged their students to take a rational, detached look at what was truly important in life. One should distinguish between those occurrences in life over which he has control and those over which he does not have control, focus on the significance of the former, and disregard the distraction of the latter. After thoroughly discussing business and financial matters, Thoreau applies his rational individualism to science and philosophy, religion, journalism, slavery, and politics. The latter category is where Thoreau perhaps diverges the furthest from ancient Stoicism. The Stoics encouraged active involvement in civic life, while Thoreau advocates a deliberate abstention from public affairs. Though on social issues Thoreau was a liberal, as far as politics go he was a libertarian. If everyone were to take care of himself and get his own house in order, he suggests, we would have no need for politics at all.
Thoreau’s vision of life in accordance with nature does not seem as attainable as it may have been a century and a half ago. I’m not sure I would want to live in a society where everyone behaved according to Thoreau’s precepts. Nevertheless, I’m glad there’s a Thoreau, and I think we can all learn a lot from him. We could all stand to take a step back and think about what’s important in life, reconsider the importance of our lives outside of work, waste less time on the pointless trivialities of news and social media (“Read not the Times. Read the Eternities.”), and cultivate our own person rather than slavishly live our lives in response to others’ opinions or conventions. Overall, Life Without Principle is one of Thoreau’s most accessible pieces of writing. Despite references to gold prospectors and slavery, most of the issues he discusses reflect universal aspects of human nature that are still very much applicable to life in the 21st century. This essay will take up less than an hour of your time, and the food for thought Thoreau serves up makes it an hour well spent.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
WALK is for wandering souls like me.