|題名: ||Upholding manhood : a study of Henry D. Thoreau's social criticism and political thought|
|其他題名: ||良心至上 : 梭羅政治社會思想研究|
|作者: ||陳育忠;Chen, Yu-zhong|
|關鍵詞: ||神性;自我改革;個人良知;道德;人性;公民不服從;非暴力;divine nature;self-reform;higher law;individual conscience;moral obligation;morality;humanity;civil disobedience;nonviolence|
|上傳時間: ||2010-01-11 00:07:12 (UTC+8)|
Thoreau is famous for his writing about nature and philosophy of life, but it is also important to remember that Civil Disobedience that builds up his reputation in the wider political world. Civil Disobedience is the representative work which best exemplifies his political thought and ideals. To understand the factors influencing the shaping of Thoreau’s political thinking, it is necessary to examine both Thoreau the man and the transcendentalist background. Thoreau is a famous transcendentalist writer in the nineteenth century. Transcendentalism proposes that mankind should lead a peaceful and simple life by transcending the trap of civilization and everyone must be free to act according to his conscience. Thoreau listens to the inner voice of his conscience, a voice all men possess but few men follow. His strict obedience of the individual conscience, which is the key to Thoreau’s political philosophy, is what leads to his incarceration and to Civil Disobedience. The individual is the final judge of right and wrong.
The incarceration has enduring effects through his political writing Civil Disobedience, which is written after the outbreak of the Mexican-American war and protests both slavery and war. Civil Disobedience describes the Mexican-American war as an evil comparable to slavery because the war is doubly offensive to Thoreau because it permits slavery in the new territory. The protest is an open defiance of the unjust law that violates his conscience. In short, Thoreau believes the government authority should never rank above the individual conscience. If we do not act according to our conscience and distinguish right from wrong, Thoreau contends that it is highly probable that we will eventually lose the capacity to make the distinction and become, instead, morally numb. Therefore, Thoreau maintains that everyone has a right to resist the state if the state demands a person’s first allegiance by asking him to violate his moral conscience and participate in any injustice.
Despite Thoreau’s endeavor to promote the supremacy of the individual conscience and even to achieve the glorification of man’s morality, evidence shows that man’s complete subjection to the highest moral standards contradicts with their normal human nature. In fact, through an in-depth analysis, we will discover that there may be some problems in the formation of Thoreau’s ideas that results in the low feasibility of his ideals. While he emphasizes so much the necessity of obeying the moral absolutism and of subjecting to the law of conscience, he neglects the political reality and men’s economic needs in his ideal of absolutism of morality in society, which are fundamental dilemmas in its realization. For the common man, in general, achieving the highest moral standards is impossible and unattainable. We may even say that the low practicability of Thoreau’s ideal of absolute morality actually has something to do with his ignorance of man’s doubts about its feasibility and his inability to make some compromise between his ideals and realities.
In this thesis, Introduction explains objectives, research method, research restriction, data resources and framework of this study. Chapter One begins with Thoreau’s related information and discusses factors that influence the formation of his political thinking. Chapter Two analyzes Thoreau’s political writings to explore Thoreau’s pursuit of individual liberty, practice of moral right, political ideas and ideals, and humanitarian concern. Chapter Three not merely discusses with what kinds of flaws and problems in Thoreau’s ideals, but also analyzes the practicability of his ideals and discusses Thoreau’s enduring legacy. The final part of this thesis is the conclusion which evaluates Thoreau’s contribution for the tradition of the philosophy of nonviolence and his long-lasting influence on the after ages.