The passage in question is in Walden's conclusion:

The philosopher said "From an army of three divisions one can take away its general, and put it in disorder; from the man the most abject and vulgar one cannot take away his thought."

Who is Thoreau referencing here? Is it anyone in particular, or is he making more of a general reference to "The Philosopher" as a cultural construct?


1 Answer 1


This comes from Confucius, in his Analects, 9.26.

The Master said: “You can snatch away the general of a large army, but you cannot snatch away the will of even the lowliest of men.”

This connection is made in Bill McKibben's edition of Walden, page 307.


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