Henry David Thoreau’s Understanding of Political PhilosophyJune 27, 2021
Nearly a century after Jean-Jacques Rousseau suggested that nature is inherently good, the American philosopher Henry Thoreau took this idea further, saying that “all good things are wild and free”, people’s laws suppress individual freedoms rather than protect them.
Thoreau thinks that political parties are necessarily one-sided and their policies often go against our moral beliefs. Therefore, he argues that it is the duty of the individual to oppose unjust laws, and to passively allow such laws to be passed is to effectively approve them. He said “Any idiot can make a rule and any other idiot can worry about it” for English grammar, but the same principle can be used for political philosophy.
In his 1849 work “Civil Disobedience” he argues that a citizen has the right to conscientious objection through nonviolent resistance; He himself did this by rejecting the taxes that supported the war in Mexico and perpetuated slavery.
Thoreau’s views are in stark contrast to that of his contemporaries, Marx, and the revolutionary spirit that prevailed in Europe at that time, calling for acts of violence. However, in the following years, it was adopted by numerous resistance movement leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook