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Traditionally existentialism has been viewed as mostly twentieth-century philosophical movement and transcendentalism a nineteenth-century one Not only is Henry David Thoreaus Walden Pond an existentialist work but by examining the similarities and interrelations between existentialist thought and Walden we can understand Thoreaus purpose in writing it Walden Pond is not a treatise on nature nor a manual on how to live ones life but rather a kind of how-to guide for those interested in finding their own personal truth This is a common theme in existentialist works Despite the label of transcendentalist Thoreau is primarily an existentialist as made clear by the similarities between his writings and philosophies and those of the great existentialists Existentialism is a particular branch of philosophical thought that stemmed from a reaction against the works of Georg Friedrich Hegel Hegel thought that he had worked out a complete philosophical system by which all thought worked including the exact innerworkings of the metaphysical man While most existentialists found Hegels attempts at a unified philosophical worldview unpalatable they did agree with his concept of the dual components of mankind According to Hegel the human being has two facets the physical animal and the self-aware consciousness From the very beginning the similarities between transcendentalism and existentialism become apparent the transcendentalists divide world into the ethereal spirit and the concrete earth This simply mirrors Hegels duality It is the consciousness that sets man apart from beast and Hegel defined consciousness in terms of itself feeling that consciousness transcended its own self Existentialist thought dictates that these forces will forever be in conflict and that one can find success by living them with maximum lucity and intensity Guigon xix Thoreaus existence typified this conflict as he was not destroyed by an internal conflict between the transcendentalist and the surveyor between the Yankee and the Greek he was made he was created because he was both Seldes 269 Thoreau was defined by the duality of
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