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16. Higher Laws

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

“Higher Laws,” a late addition to Walden, often presents Thoreau in his least modern, least sympathetic light. After the famous opening confession of his desire “to seize and devour [a woodchuck] raw,” accompanied by the appropriate lesson (“I love the wild not less than the good”) (145), Thoreau quickly embarks on a series of repudiations: hunting, fishing, animal food (“there is something essentially unclean about this diet and all flesh” [146]), wine, coffee, tea (“Ah, how low I fall when I am tempted by them!”), and even music, which “may be intoxicating” (147). He is only warming up for the big topic. Here is Thoreau singing the virtues of chastity and sounding like Dr. Strangelove’s General Ripper, with his talk of “precious bodily fluids”:

We are conscious of an animal in us, which awakens in proportion as our higher nature slumbers. It is reptile and sensual, and perhaps cannot be wholly expelled; like the worms which, even in life and health, occupy our bodies.… The generative energy, which when we are loose, dissipates and makes us unclean, when we are continent invigorates and inspires us. Chastity is the flowering of man. (149)

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Three The Americanization of the Holocaust

Alvin H. Rosenfeld Indiana University Press ePub

Looking back upon the devastation of European Jewry during World War II, what is it that most people see and how do they understand it?

In an effort to discover answers to questions of this kind, the American Jewish Committee carried out a series of studies in the 1990s to determine what people in several different countries—among them, the United States, France, Germany, and Great Britain—know about the Holocaust.1 The findings were not encouraging, especially with respect to the levels of historical knowledge among Americans. When asked, “What does the term ‘the Holocaust’ refer to?” 38 percent of American adults and 53 percent of high school students either did not know or offered incorrect answers. Higher percentages of American adults (65 percent) and high school students (71 percent) seemed not to know that approximately six million Jews were killed by the Nazis and their allies. Presented with the names “Auschwitz, Dachau, and Treblinka,” 38 percent of the same adults and 51 percent of the high school students failed to recognize these as signifying concentration camps. Furthermore, 59 percent of the adults and the same percentage of the students did not know that the symbol that Jews were forced to wear during the war was the yellow star. It is little wonder, then, that the scholars who carried out this survey concluded that a “serious knowledge gap exists for both adults and youth in the United States with regard to basic information about the Holocaust.”2

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32. Spider

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Turn the old; return to them. Things do not change; we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. God will see that you do not want society. If I were confined to a corner of a garret all my days, like a spider, the world would be just as large to me while I had my thoughts about me. (220)

Walden’s “Conclusion” returns to the tone of exhortation with which Thoreau had begun his book seventeen chapters earlier. But while the opening salvos of “Economy” and “Where I Lived and What I Lived For” ring with the morning bravado of the cockcrow (“I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer” [60]), Walden’s final chapter offers a quieter benediction and a different creature for self-comparison. The spider, associated in popular idiom with patience and care, had implicitly appeared in Thoreau’s second chapter, where his words “wherever I sat, there I might live, and the landscape radiated from me accordingly” (58) offered the image of a spider spinning its web from a center constituted only by itself. Like a spider, which sets up shop on others’ space, Thoreau had cleared, planted, and built on Emerson’s land, but the world he had made he called his own.

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55. Review of Pearson’s The Grammar of Science

Charles S. Peirce Indiana University Press PDF

55

Review of Pearson’s

The Grammar of Science

7 July 1892

Houghton Library

The Grammar of Science. By Karl Pearson, M.A., Sir Thomas

Gresham’s Professor of Geometry. [The Contemporary Science

Series.] Imported by Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1892.

The title of this book hardly prepares the reader for its real nature. It is an attempt to elucidate, in an original train of thought, what amounts, generically speaking, to Kantian nominalism, and to show its applicability to contemporary scientific problems. Although the metaphysical doctrine from which it proceeds is all but exploded, and rests upon an inaccurate psychology and an uncritical logic, in our opinion, yet it must be conceded that the book is one of considerable power, and contains matter for salutary reflection for anybody who cares to think deeply.

“The object of the present work,” says the author, “is to insist that science is in reality a classification and analysis of the contents of the mind.” This suggests that investigation consists in first collecting one’s facts, and then locking one’s laboratory door and retiring to one’s study to work out one’s theories; whereas, in truth, it involves experimentation alternately with things and with the diagrams of things. The realist will hold that this alternation is helpful, because the reason within us and the reason in nature are essentially at one; while the conceptualist will wish to separate his facts and theories as much as possible. He holds that any uniformity or law of nature is, as Prof. Pearson says, a mere “product of the perceptive faculty.” Newton’s great work was “not so much the discovery as the creation of the law of gravitation”; and the force of gravity, because it is a concept, not a percept, has no reality.

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11. Wiesel's Post-Auschwitz Shema Yisrael

Steven T Katz Indiana University Press ePub

ALAN L. BERGER

A WRITER, ATTESTS ELIE WIESEL, is “Someone who can say no to the system, no to the surroundings, sometimes even no to God.”1 After a statement such as this, it is fitting to pause and follow with the Nobel Prize winner's favorite phrase, and yet his “No to God” is simultaneously a questioning of the deity. It is more fitting to substitute the word “why” for “no,” since for Wiesel the Holocaust is “the question of questions. It is both man's way of questioning God and God's way of questioning man. And there is no answer coming from either side.”2 I shall return to the issue of questioning shortly. Beginning with his classic memoir Night, which is central to all of his work—the rest is commentary—Wiesel poses endless questions to a God who is apparently unable or unwilling to listen. He employs irony to underscore this preoccupation, viewing traditional theological claims through a Holocaust lens. Therefore the Shema Yisrael prayer, Judaism's central confession, bears special scrutiny in Wiesel's oeuvre.

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