Socratic Seminar– Transcendentalism and Into the Wild Prepare for the seminar by using the questions as prompts to revisit the texts we’ve studied in this unit. When you’ve formulated opinions, support each with specific passages from the text. Remember, our goal is not to simply take turns airing our opinions. Our goal is to engage the texts and deep on our understanding. Demonstrate a strong understanding of the texts and the themes of the unit. However, also demonstrate a willingness and commitment to understanding the texts and themes more deeply. 1. Between Emerson and Thoreau, which writer more fully expresses the Transcendental philosophy? Be ready to support your answer with concrete examples. Which writer lives the Transcendental philosophy? 2. Thoreau has been called a fraud because his seclusion at Walden Pond was an easy walk from a town he frequented when he felt the need for companionship. Others feel that Thoreau lived his philosophy and that his sojourn into the woods was as authentic as is realistically possible. What do you think about this issue? Was Thoreau genuine or not? 3. What higher truth did Emerson value most? How did his beliefs align with Transcendental philosophy? 4. In “Civil Disobedience,” how accurate was Thoreau’s critique of society and government? Is his criticism of other reformers fair or accurate? Was Thoreau, as he seems to suggest, the one virtuous man in a thousand? In what ways is “Civil Disobedience” influential and / or relevant in the 21st Century? Where is it still used, quoted, or celebrated? Without the evils of slavery, is there any validity to his criticism? 5. How does the following quote hold significance for Chris McCandless? “So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.” A. Is a secure future damaging to people and the adventurous spirit within? B. Was Chris brave and intelligent to believe so strongly in ideas like this, or was he naïve and foolish? C. Why is Chris’s story so memorable and enduring? Do we all secretly long to be free of our conservatism and conformity? 6. Is Chris McCandless’ story in any way a lesson about the practical applicability of Transcendentalism to our lives? If so, what is the lesson? If not, why not? In other words, if not, why isn’t McCandless a good example of Transcendentalist philosophy embodied? 7. Is Chris McCandless the best example in the book of Transcendentalist philosophy applied to modern life? The book includes many people who seem to be living as transients or squatters. Does the freedom of their lifestyle appeal to you? Do you think they should attempt to establish stable homes and livelihoods, or are they living an ideal life? Socratic Seminar– Transcendentalism and Into the Wild 8. Do you think that Krakauer's empathy for McCandless may have influenced his critical judgments in examining McCandless’ actions and decisions? Do you think the sympathetic way that Krakauer tells the story may influence your own opinion of McCandless? 9. The public response to McCandless's story has been deeply divided. Is this story an example of foolish arrogance, heroic idealism, tragic reality, or something else? 10. What questions would you like to ask your classmates about their understanding of Into the Wild and Transcendentalism? Why?
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