Action from Principle: Transcendentalism in Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience”
John Michael Corrigan
Resistance to civil government
Henry David Thoreau
Ralph Waldo Emerson
|上傳時間: ||2018-07-03 17:21:36 (UTC+8)|
本文視《公民不服從》為文學作品，從文學觀點（Literary Perspective）出發、佐以超驗主義作為研究途徑（Transcendentalist Approach），探討19世紀新英格蘭超驗主義（New England Transcendentalism）如何影響、型塑與啟發梭羅《公民不服從》，並試圖證明《公民不服從》本質上為體現（embody）超驗主義精神的作品。
本文分為六章。第一章為緒論，介紹研究背景與問題意識（超驗主義如何影響公民不服從？）。第二章為文獻回顧，爬梳政治與文學領域如何看待梭羅《公民不服從》。第三章為時代思潮背景，概述19世紀新英格蘭超驗主義。第四章為方法論，採用愛默生（Ralph Waldo Emerson）、從其代表性作品《隨筆全集》（Essays）萃取四個核心原則作為超驗主義基石，分別為：超靈（Over-Soul）、內在神性（Inner Divinity）、反權威（Anti-Authority）、自立（Self-Reliance）等。第五章為文本分析，以細讀（close reading）方式逐步檢視梭羅《公民不服從》如何體現超靈、內在神性、反權威、自立等原則。第六章為結論，提供研究發現與貢獻。
本研究得出結論三點：1.《公民不服從》是梭羅貫徹超驗主義下的成果；2.《公民不服從》包含神秘（the mystical）、道德（the moral）、政治（the political）、實用（the practical）等多元面向，且皆具概念與實作；3.梭羅政治三元體（Thoreauvian political triad）是由行動秉持原則（action from principle）、公民不服從（civil disobedience）、和平革命（peaceable revolution）三者組成。
Academic researchers typically position Henry David Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” within a narrow political science framework, dismissing Thoreau as a second-rate political thinker and characterizing “Civil Disobedience” as a conceptually disorganized rather than academically significant theory. However, the political science lens provides only a partial view of “Civil Disobedience.” Placing Thoreau within the literary and philosophical milieu of his time, this study utilizes a Transcendentalist approach derived from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s First & Second Series of Essays to engage in a close reading of Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” from a literary perspective. It explores the connections between “Civil Disobedience” and the New England philosophy, Transcendentalism. To this end, I develop the following research question: to what extent and in what way does New England Transcendentalism inform Thoreauvian civil disobedience? I hypothesize that 1) Thoreauvian civil disobedience exemplifies the confluence of “action from principle” (Thoreau 154) and 2) “principle” refers to Transcendentalist Principles while “action” refers to the enactment of those principles.
To answer the above research question, I use a Transcendentalist analytical framework that involves four principles, each representing a different dimension of Transcendentalist thought: the Over-Soul (the mystical), Inner Divinity (the moral), Anti-Authority (the political), and Self-Reliance (the practical). Through these lenses, I utilize textual evidence to demonstrate how Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” enacts Transcendentalist Principles. First, Thoreau enacts the mystical principle of the Over-Soul by connecting himself to the Universe, Nature, and others. Second, Thoreau exemplifies the moral principle of Inner Divinity by following his conscience and Higher Law. Third, Thoreau embodies the political principle of Anti-Authority by distrusting authorities like governments, institutions, and the various iterations of the mainstream. Finally, Thoreau asserts the practical principle of Self-Reliance that consists of self-sufficiency, self-motivation, and defiance.
With the aid of a systematic categorical analysis and textual evidence, I decipher the covert Transcendentalism in “Civil Disobedience.” My analysis shows that 1) Transcendentalism fuels Thoreauvian civil disobedience, 2) Thoreauvian civil disobedience has mystical, moral, political, and practical dimensions and involves both theory and action, and 3) there exists a “Thoreauvian political triad” that encompasses principled action, civil disobedience, and peaceable revolution.
Ultimately, I draw the following conclusions: 1) to understand fully “Civil Disobedience,” one must reread it from a literary Transcendentalist perspective rather than viewing it merely as a political tract; and 2) the phrase “action from principle” encapsulates the core of Thoreauvian civil disobedience––the combination of Transcendentalist Principles and the corresponding political actions.
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