Name…………. ………. Does Thoreau’s Views of Nature Stem from Locke’s Writings? Introduction Henry David Thoreau, a central figure among the transcendentalists, is well-known for his passion for nature and his modest dwelling in Walden Pond…
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His political view seems to be much closer to the concept of Individualism but at the same time, it is of dangerous effects in terms of the line he drew through the chapters like Civil Disobedience. As any other writer, Thoreau’s writings may bear resemblance to the thoughts of different authors. To see through him from the perspective of an individualist thinker in comparison with some other individualistic ideologists is interesting. John Locke, a prominent English writer and philosopher of the 17th century who questioned the divine rights of the King, triggered a revolution of theorization in the field of political and philosophical thoughts. Locke is strictly an empiricist, who holds the view that the experience of the senses is pivotal in pursuit of knowledge. In this sense, when we turn back to Thoreau and his practical experiment with the simplicity of life in Walden Pond, can we find any similarities or dissimilarities between Thoreau and Locke? Or can we say that did the views propounded by Thoreau derive from the Locke’s writing? This research paper is an attempt to look into Thoreau’s thoughts on nature from this viewpoint. Does Thoreau’s Views of Nature Stem from Locke’s Writings? Let’s start with a quote used by Thoreau in his essay titled Where I Lived and What I lived for. “I am monarch of all I survey; My right there is none to dispute” (Thoreau retrieved from http://thoreau.eserver.org/walden00.html) Thoreau asserts that man is supreme in constituting his understanding of nature as we see in the philosophy of empiricism. From these words, it is obvious that Thoreau believes that human beings are absolutely free to lead their life in nature as they wish and a particular government or a law cannot reign over the free will of them. Again in the essay titled Civil Disobedience, one of the most controversial and influential essays by him which inspired the great social thinkers like Mahatma Gandhi and Tolstoy, “I heartily accept the motto , that government is best which governs least(Thoreau. Retrieved from http://thoreau.eserver.org/civil1.html)”. We can a draw a line connecting the main thought of both of the citations, which accentuates man’s freedom in the state of nature. In this regard, he is obliged to Locke’s views of nature as we read the essay titled Of the State of Nature: TO understand political power right, and derive it from its original, we must consider,what state all men are naturally in, and that is, a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man. (Locke. retrieved from http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtre). Here, we can see the meeting points of the ideology of both the writers and it is most probable that Thoreau’s views must have shaped from Locke’s thoughts. According to individualistic ideology man is supreme and above another’s restrictions. The above-mentioned wordings of the both of the writers assert the same line of thought in different manner. It is easy to infer from this similarity in thought that Thoreau should have forged his conception of nature and human freedom from the individualistic ideologists like Locke. Through the analysis of The Second Treatise of Government by Locke it is obvious that he upholds the view that sovereignty is secured in the hands
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Locke argues that in a state of nature, all individuals have a natural right to whatever it is they obtain, so long as they labour upon it. In a state of nature, all individuals have equal rights against eachother. The following will examine the state of nature in both philosophers, and in turn, it will be argued that Hobbes view of nature leads to a position that defends a strong sovereign or monarchy, by contrast, Locke's more egalitarian view of nature leads to a more democratic society.
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