Civil Disobedience Questions and Answers
by Henry David Thoreau

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How does Thoreau use appeals to authority to make his point without sounding like a pedant?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The original question had to be edited down.  I think that Thoreau is able to use his power of appeal without being pedantic because he is imploring individuals to be their own authority.  Thoreau is able to appeal to individuals to assert their own authority in determining what they see as right or wrong.  I think that it is here where Thoreau's use of appeals is done on an  effective level.  Thoreau is able to make clear how his own experience of not supporting his government as a call to his own conscience.  This is an appeal that he would like to have others follow.  It is not necessarily in the embrace of his own path, and it is here where Thoreau's appeals are not pedantic.  He does not seem to be suggesting that individuals must do what he does.  Rather, he is suggesting that individuals follow their own conscience and reflect on why they do what they do.  The authority that is suggested to be respected here is one that is internal, within the individual.  This notion of authority as being intrinsic to one's own being is where Thoreau's appeals are not pedantic or preachy.  Rather, they are passionate calls to the individual sense of self.  This notion of identity becomes critical to Thoreau and helps to make clear how the authority to which he appeals is within the individual and through this, the authenticity is evident.  Due to this, he avoids sounding pedantic, and comes across as one who seeks to reclaim the voice of the individual that might have been silenced by a conformist social setting. 

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