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1. This conception of “moral” follows from Nietzsche's notion of “beyond good and evil,” where, in the aftermath of God's death, man is responsible for establishing his moral code, as opposed to the universal dictates of religions, most particularly Christianity. From Nietzsche's perspective, such revealed precepts are inadequate, or worse, in serving as an ethics, and are discarded as human constructions. “Morality” consequently becomes more than defining the goodevil axis, and now encompasses the entire project of constructing a moral code. To go beyond good and evil is to go to the foundations of what it means to be a moral agent, and thus the architecture of how we value becomes the philosophical problem. Nietzsche discarded a Kantian categorical imperative and Millian utilitarianism, and grounded his morality in the selfaggrandizing Will. (This biological metaphor celebrating the individuality of the striving organism was discussed in chapter 1 and is discussed further in n. 16 below.) In many respects, Nietzsche articulated Thoreau's own vision of morality, inasmuch as they both concur that

the formulation of morals is an individual responsibility and envelops the entire universe of an individual's experience. Thus, for example, the aestheticization of experience is a moral mandate in their scheme, for to search for the beautiful is a moral act, one imbued with value as determined by a freewilling individual. (See Young 1992.) [BACK]

2. Thoreau goes on to write:

When facts are seen superficially they are seen as they lie in relation to certain institution's perchance. But I would have them expressed as more deeply seen with deeper references.–so that the hearer or reader cannot recognize them or apprehend their significance from the platform of common life—but it will be necessary that he be in a sense translated in order to understand them. (November 1, 1851, Journal 4, 1992, p. 158) [BACK]

3. It is useful to compare this prayer with one written eight months later, March 15, 1852 (Journal 4, 1992, p. 390), and quoted in the Introduction, pp. 11–12. [BACK]

4. The mind for Kant consisted of distinctive cognitive functions that required synthesis: sensibility (sensations received in space/time), understanding (faculty of conceptualizing and synthesizing data into knowledge of objects), and reason (faculty of synthesizing knowledge of objects into systems, like laws of science), which was in turn divided into “theoretical” and “practical” domains. Theoretical reason was based on the transcendental categories which permitted the “translation” of the noumenal world (the unknowable Real) into the “phenomenal”— the world of human perception and “knowledge.” This socalled “Copernican revolution” in philosophy, as Henry Allison succinctly describes it, “involves reversing the usual way of viewing cognition and instead of thinking of our knowledge as conforming to a realm of objects, we think of objects as conforming to our ways of knowing. The latter include ‘forms of sensibility,’ through which objects are given to the mind in sensory experience, and pure concepts or categories, through which they are thought. Since objects must appear to us in accordance with these sensible forms in order to be known, it follows that we can know them only as they appear, not as they may be in themselves” (1995, p. 436). Thus the world of experience was structured by the categories of understanding, which in and of themselves were insufficient to capture nature in terms of simple empirical laws that could then be combined into a system of natural science. Theoretical reason was responsible for such systematic knowledge. Morality required a different form of reason, “practical reason,” which distinguished man's action in the world and allowed the work of culture to proceed. [BACK]

5. Kant's Third Critique (The Critique of Judgment [1790]) was to show that it is legitimate to think of the natural realm both as universally governed by the principle of natural causality and as embodying the effects of a rational, nonmechanistic causality. The operation of teleology in the biological world was to serve as an example of this unity, a reflective judgment that must supply a transcendental principle by which we might understand the functioning of the organic. This transcendental faculty could not be derived from theoretical understanding nor from pure practical reason, but had its own standing, and thereby permitted human comprehension of function not explained by other forms of reason (McFarland 1970). [BACK]


6. Spinozan determinism was recast in terms of Critical Philosophy by F. H. Jacobi (in Letters on the Doctrine of Spinoza [1785]), who maintained that human freedom was incompatible with the view of reality that reason seems to require us to accept. Specifically, he argued that according to “sufficent reason,” “every existing state of affairs Y is grounded in some other set of conditions X such that the presence of X is sufficient to necessitate the existence of Y…. [Therefore] how is it possible to conceive of the human being as capable of free action, if his deeds are all necessary consequences of prior conditions external to himself?” (Neuhouser 1990, p. 4). [BACK]

7. Given the complexity of drawing the configurations of Thoreau's experience as he reported it, Peck has correctly sought a broad designation for Thoreau's attempts to mark the boundaries of his structured perceptions; this he calls Thoreau's “categorical imagination” (1990, p. 81), and from here he draws the contours of “phenomenon.” The critic is primarily interested in unraveling the structuring of Thoreau's experience in his writing, and to the extent that Thoreau is assessed by his literary product, Peck's analysis is cogent and highly useful. But I believe that we must probe between Thoreau's words and the lines of his writings to the source of his experience, where we finally come to a metaphysics of the self. [BACK]

8. See n. 6 to Introduction. [BACK]

9. This passage did not appear until the post-Romantic “D” version of Walden was written (Adams and Ross 1988, p. 182), and we see it virtually intact in the Journal (August 8, 1852,Journal 5, 1997, p. 290). [BACK]

10. The paragraph ends with, “This doubleness may easily make us poor neighbors and friends sometimes.” I think it no accident that Thoreau begins with asserting his “sanity” and ends with the admission that he is difficult, ascribing his misanthropy to this double character. A complex personality, Thoreau was acutely aware of his solitude, and while I eschew a psychological analysis, it is difficult to ignore the psychic manifestations of his philosophical introspection. See various commentators (e.g., Harding 1965; Lebrieux 1977, 1984; Bridgman 1982; Richardson 1986) for wideranging discussions and opposing opinion, and Taylor 1996 for a fair and measured appraisal in the context of Thoreau's political philosophy. [BACK]

11. For instance, Thoreau read Coleridge's Biographia Literaria (1817), where Coleridge was both drawn to and ultimately dissuaded from Fichte's philosophy. The rejection, based on substituting the Logos as a divine attribute for the unifying principle (Coleridge 1983, pp. 157–60; Perkins 1994, pp. 165, 248–50), is of less interest than Coleridge's embrace of Fichte's principal tenet about personhood in action. Coleridge believed Fichte had achieved a significant step beyond Kant: “by commencing with an act, instead of a thing or substance, Fichte assuredly gave the first blow to Spinozism” (Coleridge 1983, p. 158). Coleridge goes on, however, to reject Fichte's “other” as simply a “not-I” as opposed to a divinely imbued nature. But Coleridge looked more favorably on a later Fichte, who, in The Vocation of Man, had described the act of faith by which the individual determines himself, his consciousness; this determination

of consciousness by conscience was characteristic of Coleridge's own conception of “person” (Perkins 1994, p. 248). Thoreau was exposed to Fichte through other secondary sources (Sattelmeyer 1988, p. 46), and he may even have read the original in Emerson's library, but the direct connection is not at issue. [BACK]

12. Because of the fundamental unity of his conception of the self, both theoretical and practical reason must be contained therein, and upon this construction Fichte attempted to reconcile the Kantian challenge of synthesizing the various forms of reason under one unitary scheme. The unity of the self, what Fichte called the “immediate unity” of both intellectual and empirical intuitions, constitutes a single conscious state composed of two basic modes of awareness: When seeing an object, there is, at one level, a perception or appreciation of the object, as well as an implicit (which may become explicit) selfawareness that “I know that I am seeing X.” Self-Consciousness is fundamentally different from the consciousness of objects. This early phenomenological formulation makes selfconstitution an underlying foundation of knowing, so that, as Fichte claimed, the subject is at all times present to itself within consciousness, implicitly if not explicitly (Neuhouser 1990, p. 69). Thus Fichte's early philosophy places practical reason as a precondition for theoretical reason, but that need not concern us here, except to note the continuity of Fichte's project with Kant's. [BACK]

13. Perhaps better stated in the First Introduction of the Wissenschaftslehre of 1797/98:

The representation of the selfsufficiency of the I can certainly coexist with a representation of the selfsufficiency of the thing, though the selfsufficiency of the I cannot coexist with that of the thing. Only one of these two can come first; only one can be the starting point; only one can be independent. The one that comes second, just because it comes second, necessarily becomes dependent upon the one that comes first, with which it is supposed to be connected. Which of these should come first? (Fichte [1797/98] 1994, pp. 17–18)

Fichte adopts a radical idealism, whose “philosophy shows that there is no other type of reality at all” (p. 34). [BACK]

14. We readily see the notion of the striving self, central to the philosophies of Emerson, Thoreau, and Nietzsche, in this Romantic mulch: Fichte's “absolute I with which the system seems to begin turns out to be only a practical ideal of total self-determination, an ideal toward which the finite I continuously strives but can never achieve” (Breazeale 1998, p. 642). [BACK]

15. Fichte preceded Hegel's dialecticism: “To be aware of itself the I must limit itself … and this it can do only by positing something other than itself, a non-I. (Antithesis.) The I is now involved in another contradiction: it both posits and negates itself. This can be resolved only by a synthesis: the I posits a divisible I, limited by, and limiting, a divisible non-I; that is, the non-I, in part negates the I, and the I, in part negates the non-I” (Inwood 1995, p. 278). [BACK]

16. Nineteenth-century biology discovered its own expression of dialecticism in the form of “adaptation,” the cardinal feature of Darwin's theory of evolution. The ability of organisms, and species writ large, to adapt determined their

survival in the short term, and evolutionary stability in the long run. Thus after Darwin, species were appreciated not as static entities but as subject to change as a result of the vicissitudes of time and happenstance. The scientific agenda directed itself to explain how each life form responded to endless competition and collective adaptation. Here we see the ipseityalterity scheme presented in its natural setting. Biologists pursued these issues with a very different understanding of the organism from that assumed in the pre-Darwinian era. By postulating an everchanging biosphere, the organism was constantly challenged by its environment, engaged in a dialectical process where, on the one hand, the environment was modified to the extent the organism might effect utilitarian use from it, and on the other hand, the organism/species was also subject to change through adaptation and ultimately species evolution. In this setting, a new element of relational cause and effect was introduced. Moreover, Darwinism became a scientific expression of indeterminacy, extending from the problem of defining a species (a question still unresolved) to the individual organism. Indeed, species may be regarded as an “individual” (Ghiselin 1997), and the particular organism then becomes only a constituent of the collective whole. The same kind of analysis may be applied to the organism itself, which is composed of symbiotic and parasitic elements. So, beyond the role assigned to the organism as a unit of selection (a major problem in its own right), what is the relation of the individual to the collective? Moreover, how is the individual organism in this evolutionary context to be defined in its own individual life history? The developmental process was reexamined as a process of emergence. No longer viewed as a static entity, the process character of the organism was recognized as its dominant defining element. The organism's boundaries and mechanisms of self-actualization represented definitional problems analogous to that posed for the species at large.What was the organism that must always adapt and change? In the twentieth century the question was modified, but hardly resolved: To what degree did genetics program the life history of the individual? What was the adaptive capacity of the organism? In what sense could biological “potentiality” be understood? How did the organism protect itself in its environs? Thus the core issue of organismal identity for the first time became a problem (see Tauber and Chernyak 1991) and continues to be (Tauber 1994, 1999b). [BACK]

17. Kierkegaard offered a “reflexive” definition of the self, which broadens James's selfconscious examination of consciousness as the very definition of the self attempting to “find” itself:

The self is a relation which relates itself to its own self, or it is that in the relation which relates itself to its own self, or it is that in the relation [which accounts for it] that the relation relates itself to its own self…. Man is a synthesis of the infinite and the finite…. A synthesis is a relation between two factors. So regarded, man is not yet a self…. Such a relation which relates itself to its own self (that is to say, a self) must either have constituted itself or have been constituted by another. If this relation which relates itself to its own self is constituted by another, the relation doubtless is the third term, but this relation (the third term) is in turn a relation relating itself to that which constituted the whole relation. Such a derived, constituted, relation is the human self,

a relation which relates itself to its own self, and in relating itself to its own self relates itself to another. (Kierkegaard [1849] 1955, p. 146) [BACK]

18. Fichte, Hegel, and Kierkegaard laid the foundation for later phenomenological philosophical responses to the problem of personal identity by making alterity the descriptive focus of selfhood. The self, to the extent that it can be actualized, is, from this general perspective, defined by the other (e.g., Taylor 1987). Discussion has focused on whether, and how, in response to an encounter, the self articulates itself or is altered as a consequence of that engagement. Also considered is how the engaged self might alter its object and their shared world. In short, the phenomenological approach explores how the self lives in its world, essentially in a universe of others. The self alone either is alienated, that is, alienated in its selfness, or it actively engages the world and thereby becomes actualized. The debate revolves about the contingency of this process and its problematic opportunities for success. But by and large the parties agree that the potential for self-aggrandizement must be realized in the world, and the self must ultimately actualize itself in the encounter with the other (Tauber 1994). But even the contingency of the self's construction has been attacked in more recent post-structuralist arguments. Structuralism understands meaning to be a function of the relations among the components of any cultural formation or our very consciousness. For instance, the pictures of our mind's world assume their meaning, value, and significance from their relationships, that is, their “place” in a structure. But the deconstructionists broadly argued that any structure crumbles when we recognize that no part can assume participation outside its relation to other parts. In other words, there is no center, no organizing principle privileged over structure and thus able to dominate its structural domain. From this perspective, there is nothing “natural” about cultural structures (e.g., language, kinship systems, social and economic hierarchies, sexual norms, religious beliefs), no transcendental significance to limit “meanings,” and only power explains the hegemony of one view over another. Similarly, “the self” may be regarded as constructed by arbitrary criteria, and thus occupies no natural habitat. In this scenario, the phenomenological insistence on the self's dependence on the other has been radically challenged: not only has the self's autonomy been rendered meaningless,any construction of the self is regarded as arbitrary. [BACK]

19. See n. 18 above. [BACK]

20. From a Wittgensteinian perspective, the self is a metaphysical category and thus inaccessible to philosophical discussion. The question as to the nature of the self is, according to the “early” Wittgenstein, a false question, i.e., it is not a question at all and therefore any “answer” is meaningless. So, not surprisingly, Wittgenstein had precious little explicitly to say about “the self.” In his early notebooks, written in World War I trenches and military prison camps, he sighs about the self as “deeply mysterious” (1961, p. 80e). Consequently, Wittgenstein's position has been actively debated. A distillation yields two primary concepts: Wittgenstein's views are severely solipsistic. In a fundamental sense, only the self exists; the world exists for the self; thus is “knowledge” coordinated.


And therefore it is nonsense even to attempt to define such a self, since there is no external Archimedean point by which a knowing entity might survey or characterize itself otherwise than in the totality of its experience: we cannot see ourselves from outside, and thus possess no coordinates for any discussion of these matters. James's influence here is obvious, and clearly Wittgenstein read James carefully and with respect. Wittgenstein's profoundly disturbing philosophical critique issued forth from what in the 1890s seemed to represent a sophisticated psychological description. Selfhood is a metaphysical construct that has been rendered meaningless and that cannot be analyzed or concretized in any fashion. To try to do so is to speak nonsense. We obviously do refer to “the self,” but this is an expression in our language game, a particular social convenience that allows us to communicate, but it has no logical or scientific basis. As Henri Atlan writes, “Of this ‘I’ itself one can say nothing. It can only be manifested, and that in silence. Any discourse about this subject (about the subject of the subject) is merely speaking to say nothing: words that do not mean to say anything, that are there in order to say nothing, an isolated abracadabra without context. Just like someone outside a closed door who, to the question, ‘Who's there?,’ responds, ‘It's me’; but we do not recognize his voice, and before we can open up he vanishes without a trace” (Atlan 1993, p. 401).

But in his later philosophy Wittgenstein offered a possible vehicle for at least understanding the appeal that such a construct might hold for us. The self, Wittgenstein presumably would have argued, if pressed, only “exists” as part of a “language game,” a convention within which it possesses some explanatory value. But to define that value is a seemingly hopeless task and, more importantly, a vacuous hope. Neither logic nor science can establish a basis for defining the self, and any attempt to do so sinks into the ambiguities of other metaphysical constructs like “mind.” We might want to discuss consciousness, but we can only examine neurological function, measure brain electrical activity, trace nerve networks, assess biochemical transmitters. We are, and that is that.

If the self only “exists” as part of a “language game,” a convention from which it possesses some explanatory meaning, to define that meaning is a vain aspiration. Within this postanalytic context, the self is no longer decentered, it is dissolved. The very question of selfhood is rendered meaningless altogether. This is the extreme radicalism of a postphilosophical analysis: Beyond the self as a relational construction (phenomenologists) or a decentered subject defined by arbitrary cultural constructions (deconstructionists), the self as an entity simply does not exist. If Wittgenstein's position is taken seriously, the philosophical basis of an ethics evidently also dissolves.Who is the moral agent and how is he or she defined? How can we ask about responsibility if we cannot even define the moral agent? Wittgenstein's fascinating, nihilistic response: Ethics is known, morality is enacted, but to require a philosophical answer as to how and why is to give false answers and to invoke deceptive rationalities, distorted by prejudice supposedly buttressed by logical argument. Ethics derives from beyond rationality; its ground is metaphysical. And, said Wittgenstein, metaphysics cannot be analyzed. [BACK]


21. As Jonathan Dollimore cogently observes, “what we might now call neurosis, anxiety and alienation with the subject in crisis are not so much the consequence of its recent breakdown as the very stuff of its creation, and of the culture—Western European culture—which it sustains” (1997, p. 254). [BACK]

22. Theoreau's selfportrait drew upon the same dynamic operative so clearly in Wordsworth and Rousseau, which saw the psyche “in terms of the interplay between a hidden structure that was the source of human energy and imagination and a visible one that revealed only derivative powers of intellectual invention” (Hutton 1993, p. 62). [BACK]

23. Buell's reading of Thoreau's environmentalism has been roundly attacked, for instance by Bob Taylor (see n. 5 to Introduction) and Leo Marx (1999). This debate over Thoreau's place in the development of American environmentalism is extended by the various essays assembled by Schneider (2000), a collection containing rich resource material and measured discussion, which came to my attention only after my own manuscript was completed. [BACK]

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