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Henry David Thoreau on Work

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Henry David Thoreau on Work

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Tuesday, June 27, 2023 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1L0518
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Meet your new favorite coworker: Henry David Thoreau. The popular conception of the transcendentalist writer as a navel-gazing recluse who was scornful of work and other mundanities isn’t an accurate one. In fact, Thoreau worked hard—surveying land, running his family’s pencil-making business, writing, lecturing, and building his cabin at Walden Pond—and thought intensely about work in its many dimensions.

In their new book, Henry at Work, authors John Kaag and Jonathan van Belle invite readers to rethink how we work today by exploring an aspect of Henry David Thoreau that has often been overlooked: Thoreau the worker. They reveal that his ideas about work have much to teach us in an age of remote work and automation, when many people are reconsidering what kind of working lives they want to have.

Kaag and van Belle discuss Thoreau’s philosophy of work in the office, factory, classroom, and grocery store, and his reflections on the rhythms of the workday, the joys and risks of resigning oneself to work, the dubious promises of labor-saving technology, and that most vital and eternal of philosophical questions, “How much do I get paid?”

Kaag is the Donohue professor of ethics and the arts at UMass Lowell and an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute. Van Belle is an independent scholar and former philosophy editor at

Copies of Henry at Work: Thoreau on Making a Living (Princeton University Press) are available for purchase.

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