Thoreau has somewhat misleadingly been classified as a New Englandtranscendentalist, and—even though he never rejected thislabel—it does not fit in many ways. Some of his majordifferences from Emerson have already been discussed, and furtherdifferences appear when Thoreau is compared to such figures as OrestesBrownson, Margaret Fuller, and Bronson Alcott. A history oftranscendentalism in New England which appeared in the late nineteenthcentury mentions Thoreau only once, in passing (Frothingham 1886,133). And a more recent history of the movement concludes that Thoreauhad little in common with this group of thinkers, who were for themost part committed to some version of Christianity, to a dualisticunderstanding of mind and matter, and to the related idea that senseexperience is unreliable (Boller 1974, 29–35 & 176). Acrucial step in Thoreau’s intellectual development occurred whenhe “disassociated himself from Emerson’s Transcendentalistview of nature as symbol” (Slicer 2013, 181), as a currentscholar notes. It was suggested above that a better way of situatingThoreau within the Western philosophical tradition is to consider hima kind of transcendental idealist, in the spirit of Kant. For reasonsthat ought to be obvious by now, he should be of interest to studentsof Kant, Fichte, and Schelling—all of whom he studied at firstor second hand—and possibly Schopenhauer. Thoreau was a capableand enthusiastic classicist, whose study of ancient Greek and Romanauthors convinced him that philosophy ought to be a lived practice:for this reason, he can profitably be grouped with othernineteenth-century thinkers, such as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche, whowere critics of philosophy in the early modern period. Yet he also hasthe distinction of being among the first Western philosophers to besignificantly influenced by ancient Chinese and Indian thought. Heanticipates Bergson and Merleau-Ponty in his attention to the dynamicsof the embodied mind, and shares with Peirce and James a concern forproblems of knowledge as they arise within practical experience.


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