296 pages, no illustrations
Thoreau's Living Ethics is the first full, rigorous account of Henry Thoreau's ethical philosophy. Focused on Walden but ranging widely across his writings, the study situates Thoreau within a long tradition of ethical thinking in the West, from the ancients to the romantics and on to the present day. Philip Cafaro shows Thoreau grappling with important ethical questions that agitated his own society and discusses his value for those seeking to understand contemporary ethical issues. Cafaro's particular interest is in Thoreau's treatment of virtue ethics: the branch of ethics centered on personal and social flourishing. Ranging across the central elements of Thoreau's philosophy - life, virtue, economy, solitude and society, nature, and politics - Cafaro shows Thoreau developing a comprehensive virtue ethics, less based in ancient philosophy than many recent efforts and more grounded in modern life and experience. He presents Thoreau's evolutionary, experimental ethics as superior to the more static foundational efforts of current virtue ethicists. Another main focus is Thoreau's environmental ethics.
Philip Cafaro understands very clearly and communicates very effectively the profoundly ethical basis for Thoreau's writings and convincingly details the many facets of Thoreau's ethical philosophy. Scholars and critics have rarely given sufficient emphasis to Thoreau's ethics, which Cafaro rightly places center stage. - Bradley P. Dean, editor of the Thoreau Society Bulletin; "Philip Cafaro's analysis expands virtue ethics beyond concern for persons in dialogue with their society to a more inclusive concern: our residence in the natural world. Thoreau is a splendid role model for excellence in personal life, in citizenship, and in living on earth. Cafaro's insights complement those of his hero." - Holmes Rolston III, Colorado State University"
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