The Structure of Thoreau’s Epistemology, with Continual Reference to Descartes

International Journal for the Study of Skepticism:1-20 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

We can find in Henry David Thoreau’s work a response to Cartesian skepticism. Thoreau takes this skepticism to get its start in us only when we are not attuned to the world, that is, only when we lose sight of our being integrated with the world in the way we quite naturally are. Thoreau posits for human beings a natural and unshakeable integration with the world. This develops into an attunement with the world, making us ready to engage with the world as mature epistemic agents. Yet even if we fall out of attunement with the world, perhaps in response to the reasonableness of a comprehensive doubt, our natural integration with the world remains. Skepticism lacks force because we are integrated with the world even when we are not attuned to it, and because our integration with the world can always help us return to a healthy epistemic engagement with the world.

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Tim Black
California State University, Northridge

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