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Posts Tagged ‘Henry David Thoreau

“In wonder all philosophy began, in wonder it ends”*…

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) stands tall in the cultural pantheon for his poetry. It’s less well known that in his own lifetime, and in the decades following his death, this canonical poet had an equal reputation as a philosopher. His published works containing much of his philosophical prose span from The Statesman’s Manual (1816), which set out his theory of imagination and symbolism; Biographia Literaria (1817), one of the great and founding works of literary criticism; The Friend (1818), which includes his philosophical ‘Essays on the Principles of Method’; Aids to Reflection(1825), where he expounds his religious philosophy of transcendence; and On the Constitution of the Church and the State (1829), which presents his political philosophy.

The effect of those last two books was so impressive that John Stuart Mill named Coleridge as one of the two great British philosophers of the age – the other being Jeremy Bentham, Coleridge’s polar opposite. His thinking was also at the root of the Broad Church Anglican movement, a major influence on F D Maurice’s Christian socialism, and the main source for American Transcendentalism. Ralph Waldo Emerson visited Coleridge in 1832, and John Dewey, the leading pragmatist philosopher, called Coleridge’s Aids to Reflection ‘my first Bible’.

Yet philosophical fortunes change. The almost-total eclipse of British idealism by the rise of analytic philosophy saw a general decline in Coleridge’s philosophical stock. His philosophy languished while his verse rose. Coleridge’s poetry resonated with the psychedelia of the 1960s and a general cultural shift that emphasised the value of the imagination and a more holistic view of the human place within nature. Today, Coleridge is far more often remembered as a poet than a philosopher. But his philosophy was spectacular in its originality and syntheses…

Though largely remembered only as a poet, Coleridge’s theory of ideas was spectacular in its originality and bold reach; Peter Cheyne explains: “Coleridge the philosopher.”

For other literary philosophers, see “On Exploring Philosophy in Fiction and Autobiography: A Reading List.”

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Aids to Reflection

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As we muse on meaning, we might spare a thought for one of Coleridge’s philosophical beneficiaries, Ralph Waldo Emerson; he died on this date in 1882.  The essayist (“Nature,” “Self-Reliance,” et al.), lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century, he was one of the linchpins of the American romantic movement, and friend and mentor to Henry David Thoreau.

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Dude!…

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A request for submissions from the venerable academic publisher Blackwell:

Black Sabbath and Philosophy

Edited by William Irwin

The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series

Abstracts and subsequent essays should be philosophically substantial but accessible, written to engage the intelligent lay reader. Contributors of accepted essays will receive an honorarium.

Possible themes and topics might include, but are not limited to, the following: “Am I Going Insane?”: Madness in Sabbath and Foucault; Purging Fear and Pity with Sabbath and Aristotle; “War Pigs” and Pacifism; Gods who can Dance: Nietzsche, Sabbath, and Dionysus; Sabbath’s Sonic Meaning and the Devil’s Interval; “Fairies Wear Boots”: Drugs and Transcendence; “Push the Needle In”: The “Hand of Doom” and Addiction; “Solitude”: Existential Alienation and Despair; Working Class Heroes: Sabbath’s Politics; Spiral Architects and Rock Poets; “My name is Lucifer, please take my hand”: The Occult and the Virtues of Blasphemy; Sweet Leaf and Snow Blind: The Epistemology of Addiction; Is it still Sabbath without Ozzy?: The Metaphysics of Band Identity through Time; The Godfathers of Metal: Genre and Influence; Iron Man and The Wizard: Sabbath’s Mythology; “Tomorrow’s Dream”: Existential Freedom and Rebellion; Johnny Blade and Hypermasculinity; Why Scary Music Makes Us Feel Good: Sabbath and the Paradox of Horror; “Dirty Women”: Gender and Sexuality in Black Sabbath; The Fifth Member in “Creativity and Performance: Is Sabbath more than the Sum of its Parts?; “Lord of this World” and the Problem of Evil.

More (including, for interested readers, submission guidelines and a link to the series’ site) at Christopher Shea’s “The Philosophy of Heavy Metal.”

Ozzy Osbourne (in his pre-reality show days) and mates: Black Sabbath c.1970

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As we search tirelessly for meaning, we might send homey birthday wishes to the second daughter of Amos Bronson Alcott, teacher and transcendentalist philosopher, and Abigail May, social worker and reformer: Louisa May Alcott was born on this date in 1832.

While Louisa May was largely schooled by her father, she received instruction from Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller– all family friends.  She worked as a seamstress. a governess, and a domestic, then as a Union nurse during the Civil War, before her writing was successful enough to support her.  A committed abolitionist and feminist, she was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts.

Success– and lasting fame– came to her with the publication of Little Women…. the heroine of which, Jo March, was, like her creator, born in the “difficult month” on November.

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Hallelujah!…

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Back in 1972, your correspondent spent a summer working working as a utility infielder at WBTV, the Charlotte CBS affiliate.  In those distant days, local stations did original public affairs programming of all sorts, including local documentaries (that weren’t simply “service” programs promoting tourism, shopping, or dining out); for instance, your correspondent recorded the audio for the first documentary made on the now-legendary Blue Grass conclave, The Union Grove Fiddlers Convention.

But the most memorable shoot of that summer was a documentary on Charles Keyes, The Parson of the Hills.  Keyes, an itinerant preacher for 71 of the 76 years that he lived (he passed away in 1996), ministered to the poor of the North Carolina Appalachians.  His flock was scattered in such out-of-the-way places that he was, for many, the only “outsider” they knew and trusted… and so, as we accompanied him, filming his “rounds,” we saw corners of America that were then effectively as remote and untouched as as the most hidden corners of the Brazilian rain forest.

Among the extraordinary things we saw, probably the most striking was the snake handling service to which Keyes led us– one he attended as an unofficial social worker, not an officiant. Since the early 20th Century,  snake handling has been a feature of Pentecostal worship in a small number of Appalachian congregations which take the Bible literally…

And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover. (Mark 16:17-18)

Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. (Luke 10:19)

Snake handling survives, but it’s dwindling.  So it’s a gift that Oregon-based photographer Hunter Barnes, who had spent time documenting “Rednecks,” turned his lens to create “A Testimony of Serpent Handling.”

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Barnes posted his project on Kickstarter, where he successfully raised the funds he needed to finish– and where readers will find a fascinating video explaining and illustrating the project.

As we contemplate the manifold manifestations of faith, we might send the simplest of birthday greetings to writer, philosopher, and naturalist Henry David Thoreau; he was born on this date in 1817.  From 1845 to 1847, Thoreau lived in a small cabin on the banks of Walden Pond, a small lake near Concord, Massachusetts.  Striving to “simplify, simplify,” he strictly limited his expenditures, his possessions, and his contact with others, intending “to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach.”

Thoreau became a pillar of New England Transcendentalism, embracing and exemplifying the movement’s belief in the universality of creation and the primacy of personal insight and experience.  Perhaps best remembered for his advocacy of simple, principled living, his writings on the relationship between humans and the environment also helped define the nature essay.

source: Library of Congress

Nostalgia: careful what you wish….

As Mad Men continues its ascendency in the zeitgeist, Retrocomedy provides some context:  “The 15 Creepiest Vintage Ads Of All Time“…  from murder and suicide to eerie babies and demented clowns, it’s all here!  (Thanks to reader RS for the tip.)

As we turn the page, we might consider the (admittedly radical) alternative as we wish the most Transcendental of birthdays to Henry David Thoreau, born on this date in 1817.

Thoreau

Written by (Roughly) Daily

July 12, 2009 at 12:01 am

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