SAAP Annual Meeting 2015

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Trails to Walden Pond: Pragmatic Aesthetics and Relational Aesthetics Approach the Examined Life

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This presentation, prepared jointly by a philosopher and an artist, considers two ways to approach Thoreau’s experiment at Walden Pond, and his memoir of the experience in Walden. The first approach is grounded in pragmatic aesthetics, and focuses on the social meaning of Thoreau’s work and his expressed and implied message for us. The second approach focuses on how the material conditions necessary for Thoreau to do his work are interrelated with its social implications, and how those material conditions can be interpreted productively through the artistic practice known as relational aesthetics. Our goal is to demonstrate how these two disciplinary trails to Walden Pond complement each other, advancing our understanding of the strategies Thoreau employed to live a more examined life. Throughout, the talk will be illustrated by documentation of Thoreau’s rebuilt cabin, as well as the work of contemporary artists who approach their work in a similar manner.


James Campbell    
The University of Toledo
United States

Anna Campbell    
Grand Valley State University
United States


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