In Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, what should be respected above the law?

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enotechris's profile pic

enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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In Thoreau's words, becoming a "majority of one" was the key to self-determination.  However, that state requires that individual to be self-aware, something that he did not see very many of his Concord neighbors attempting.  What laws embodied where (are?) the tacit acceptance of the majority; however, his arguments in Civil Disobedience and other works point to a higher authority, that found within, or in other words, one's own moral convictions, which only an individual can decide for him or herself, despite what the culture at large might insist upon.  This is in keeping with the Transcendentalist movement during the first half of the 1800's.  See link for more info:

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kimfuji | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Thoreau criticizes society and democracy. Especially he challenges convention, in that , he thinks people should act from within their own, internal value system, not rely upon the government or other people to tell us what to do or how to live.

Thoreau was against the governement the way it was run. He said it was a person's moral imperative to not support the government that was based upon immorality, such as slavery. One basic aspect of democracy is that the majority wins, however Thoreau believed that even oif the majority rules it does not mean it achieves justice. A higher moral law exists. The citizens of a democracy should obey a higher law, according to Thoreau. When the governement laws go aginst morality, it is the duty of each person to not obey the government.

The citizen should honor thier own inner moral order, above the law.

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