Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Men First


Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?— in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislation? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right. 

27 comments:

  1. Transcendentalists really emphasize conscience and individuality, and that can be reflected here.

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  2. Thoreau asks questions to the reader whether are there any times that the majority decide everything. His point is that majority always decide everything. He believes that people has an obligation to think. I think he references that the citizens should decide, not the majority.

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  3. Thoreau sees government as an unwanted necessity. It's ugly, painful, and subjective, but it is completely necessary. However, it is up to us to adjust it so that we use our conscience first.

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  4. Here, Thoreau is probably saying that the government should not be a person's first priority; as quoted, "We should be men first, and subjects afterward." This shows that he's not quite so happy to be obeying a government (and paying his taxes), an idea which ultimately sends him to prison for a night.

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  5. This shows the transcendentalist ideas of being non-conform and being self-reliant by thinking for themselves, instead of listening to society, like the last paragraph of being a mindless machine.

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  6. This is a really strong idea coming from Thoreau because he is very passionate about being a non-conformist. So this idea of people not thinking about choices and laws because the government gets them to conform, I see to be very true.

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  7. Thoreau expresses his disgust for the system of the government, and our dependence on it. He speaks against how decisions are made based on the majority. However, he does not suggest an alternative system. I wonder if he realizes that a government is necessary.

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  8. Although I do agree that we are dependent on our government, I don't see his argument on how that's necessarily a bad thing; what would happen if there was no liaison between countries and the people? We need a unified voice to talk for our people, and he can't believe that there is a way for ALL voices to be satisfied.

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  9. There is definitely no way for a government to meet the needs and wants of everyone.
    - and he should know that, for he does have a education and knowledge. What is the alternative? Civilizations have almost always had a central state.

    If a government that supports all of his ideas exists, what kind of government would it be?

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  10. In this passage, Thoreau clearly explains his negative outlooks on society and the government. He believes that the government makes men subjects, and not true men that live on what they believe in. His concern for the men that are influenced by the government are significantly shown, and his hatred towards the government is emphasized. As "we should be men first, and subjects afterward", Thoreau truly believes that men should not be conformists, and they should stick to their conscience.

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  11. Throughout this paragraph Thoreau shares many rhetorical questions about society he uses these questions to convey his ideas on the negative realities of society as well as the government. He believes that the majority of people do not always have the right way hidden within them. He believes that leaving it up to a majority vote is not always the correct way of doing things, so through these rhetorical questions he is revealing his dissatisfaction for the government system.

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  12. In this paragraph, Thoreau brings to question the reason that people have a conscious if they constantly choose to ignore, and disregard it. I agree with this. Our society educates people so that they can use their conscious, but what is the point of naturally, we begin to ignore it, and follow the majorities action?

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  13. EMMA TAKAHASHI

    This paragraph talked a lot about the features of a great transcendentalist. Not following what the majority does or says and also to be self-reliant and have faith in yourself. Thoreau wants the future generation to be non-conformed and use their natural talents to do whatever they desire to do in life.

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  14. Thoreau brings to light the fact that there should not be an instance where a group of people are making decisions for a large number of people (like you know... a country). As a transcendentalist Thoreau is advocating for non conformity by having an aversion to too many laws. But in order to speak for a country, wouldn't you need the voices of the people? It would be impossible to have everyones voice of course but without laws or a government people would have a harder time having their voices heard.

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  15. A form of government, or central state/power is essential for a country to unite and function, and prevent absolute chaos between the people. But, this regulation/control also means certain rights and methods to express our thoughts are regulated as well. How we manage to remain creative and expressive within these restrictions depend on the people. I respect Thoreau's ideas, and I agree that we should be paying more attention to the conscience we are given, but we also need to keep in mind that "utopian" societies do not exist. Thoreau's ideas can only be fully accommodated in a government at the expense of sacrificing the opinion of others.
    The biggest, and most difficult question is, where do we draw the line? How do we maintain a good balance between the power of the government versus the power of the people?
    Also, Thoreau seems to strongly criticize the current form of government, but I wonder what alternative options he thought of.

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  16. Thoreau stresses the transcendentalist idea of non conformity by saying that since every person has a conscience, they should follow and stand up for it. He yearns for a society where people follow their inner feelings, rather than having a government controlled by the majority view. While I agree that people should listen to their inner feelings and not neglect them, they should also know what is right for the society as a whole. Being too dependent on your conscience can lead to a chaotic society, so I believe that there should be moderation with non conformity.

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  17. In this paragraph Thoreau was trying to tell his thoughts about individualism. He strongly disagreed with the idea of one self sacrificing their values to the government. I think that this relates to one of the themes of transcendentalism, self-reliance.

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  18. I feel this really shows the self-reliance concept of transcendentalists. I understood that Thoreau wanted the inner voice(or at least the opinions) of people to be more powerful than laws and an the government; "Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislation?" - he is questioning(rhetorically) if people should just forget about what they actually feel and follow the law/government without asking any questions.

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  19. Thoreau is criticizing the way the government makes men feel like they have to conform. In other words the legislation is taking their conscience because they feel they have to follow the system. Thoreau believes they should put their true beliefs first.

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  20. Reading this passage, I recalled the rich imagination and the superiority in the ability to think beyond Thoreau possesses. Those characteristics are shown abundantly in his masterpieces, such as Walden. Therefore, it makes sense that the social conformity and the "common sense" are rather restricting those abilities. For the same reason, a government that reflects only upon the majority's opinion may become disturbing for him, or for people who think beyond in general.

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  21. Thoreau again criticizes the government and how every seems to be following society rather than their conscience. He emphasizes this point of individualism and non conformity over again and again, but I wonder if he realizes that it is almost impossible for everyones opinions to be heard. If everyone follows their conscience, the sense of unity would be lost and everyone is just living for themselves.

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  22. Thoreau here shows his disgust of the the government system that society depends on. He believes it is a terrible thing that people have become dependent on and is too focused on the majority view.

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  23. I think Thoreau is trying to imply that sometimes the majority can be wrong; however, it is like a bandwagon thing because everyone starts to agree with the side that has the most votes. He wants people to focus individually and choose by themselves.

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  24. Here he says that laws should not be prior than conscience, which is also the meaning of the passage. We should not be restricted by laws, but use our potential to think and use our conscience to judge. That is the ideal government Thoreau wants, where every individual can share their own ideas to judge, not judged by absolute laws made by rulers.

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  25. Although a government in which all voices and opinions were heard would be ideal, Thoreau needs to realize that there can be no such thing. Government is important, and what the majority wants is usually the way to go. “Conscience” is important, but not everyone’s opinions can be heard and so going with the majority vote is the logical choice.

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  26. Thoreau probably wrote this to show his view of our government and how the majority isn't always the right path to take. The majority always makes the decisions in the government but Thoreau wants individual to think better on what they believed in not because others tell them to. During this time period Political Machines were common where people were threatened or forced to vote on certain politicians and laws. Many unnecessary laws and corrupt politicians were being voted on, not because people believed they were voting for the right thing but because they were told to vote for them.

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  27. I agree; an individual's morality should not be determined by the ethics of other people. Morals vary from person to person and cannot, in my opinion, be objectively right or wrong; morality therefore should not be borrowed from other people. People should find their own ethics through living life individually. Ethics are part of what makes people individuals; they should not be taught as part of a curriculum or ingrained into people's heads by a government.

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