Civil Disobedience

Thoreau's position on ethics and morality

How clear is Thoreau's position on ethics and morality?

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Only an individual can have and exercise a conscience. By definition, both the State and corporations are impersonal, amoral entities that are nonetheless composed of individuals. "It has been truly said, that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience." An individual has a right and an obligation to "do at any time" what he deems right, to exercise his own conscience by refusing involvement or complicity in a government that enforces unjust policies. Civil disobedience is a necessary expression of individual conscience and morality, an attempt to reconfigure the relationship between the individual and the State by making the latter more equitable and less burdensome in its treatment of the former. While supportive of democratic principles, Thoreau does not believe in settling questions of fundamental moral importance by majority opinion.