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Guarding What Is Essential: Critiques of Material Culture in Thoreau and Yang Zhu

Guarding What Is Essential: Critiques of Material Culture in Thoreau and Yang Zhu Department of Philosophy, University of Delaware But I would say to my fellows, once and for all, As long as possible live free and uncommitted. --Henry David Thoreau, Walden Introduction In his book Walden,1 Henry David Thoreau (1817­1862) purports to describe an experiment designed to determine what is essential in life, and thus to distinguish between what people want and what they need. His analysis includes a critique of the excesses of material culture, concluding that the most important concerns for human beings revolve around the retention of what he calls ``heat.'' By ``heat'' he seems to refer to vitality or life force. I suggest that there are a number of interesting parallels between this analysis and a cluster of ideas generally describable as ``proto-daoist,'' and often attributed to the legendary and obscure figure known as Yang Zhu or Yangzi . In particular, both of these models can be seen to relate one's efficient preservation of life force to the accomplishment of what I am calling one's ``natural destiny,'' and both include a concomitant critique of material culture. In this essay I will define the concept of natural destiny and articulate and compare the two models' common concern http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Philosophy East and West University of Hawai'I Press

Guarding What Is Essential: Critiques of Material Culture in Thoreau and Yang Zhu

Philosophy East and West , Volume 58 (3) – Jul 16, 2008

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Publisher
University of Hawai'I Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 University of Hawai'i Press
ISSN
1529-1898
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Abstract

Department of Philosophy, University of Delaware But I would say to my fellows, once and for all, As long as possible live free and uncommitted. --Henry David Thoreau, Walden Introduction In his book Walden,1 Henry David Thoreau (1817­1862) purports to describe an experiment designed to determine what is essential in life, and thus to distinguish between what people want and what they need. His analysis includes a critique of the excesses of material culture, concluding that the most important concerns for human beings revolve around the retention of what he calls ``heat.'' By ``heat'' he seems to refer to vitality or life force. I suggest that there are a number of interesting parallels between this analysis and a cluster of ideas generally describable as ``proto-daoist,'' and often attributed to the legendary and obscure figure known as Yang Zhu or Yangzi . In particular, both of these models can be seen to relate one's efficient preservation of life force to the accomplishment of what I am calling one's ``natural destiny,'' and both include a concomitant critique of material culture. In this essay I will define the concept of natural destiny and articulate and compare the two models' common concern

Journal

Philosophy East and WestUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Jul 16, 2008

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