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Did the Eastern philosophers interact much with the St. Louis Hegelians?
Although they were not academic philosophers, the St. Louis philosophers were in conversation with the Eastern transcendental thinkers, such as those of the Concord School of Philosophy, which had been organized by William Harris (1835-1909) and
Was there other philosophical activity in St. Louis besides the St. Louis Hegelians?
Contemporary with the St. Louis Philosophical Society, and also located in St. Louis, were a Kant Club, an Aristotle Club, and a Plato Club that later became known as Akademe.
transcendentalist Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888). The Concord School held conferences during the summer from 1879 to 1887, and when Alcott first visited Harris in St. Louis, he was abused by Henry C. Brokmeyer (1826-1906) in what the Hegelian observers called "the first bout between East and West." The result was celebrated as a victory for the West. Another famed Eastern philosopher, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), also visited the St. Louis Philosophical Society.
What were the shared goals of the St. Louis Hegelians?
Although Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) was chosen as the guide for the group by Henry C. Brokmeyer (1826-1906), their interests were not so much in theoretical abstractions as in understanding their own life and times, particularly the U.S. Civil War. According to Denton Jacques Snider (1841-1925), their goals were "to philosophize ... practical life," to be able to give a rational account of their vocations, and achieve self-realization. They also wanted to contribute to the future greatness of society. Philosophy for them was closer to a religious practice than an academic one.
What happened to the founders of the St. Louis Philosophical Society?
They went on to distinctive careers. Henry C. Brokmeyer (1826-1906) set up a law office and was elected to the Missouri Senate. He composed the Missouri constitution in 1875, became lieutenant governor, and was acting governor from 1876 to 1877. Then he moved farther west, lived with the Creek Indians, and attempted to get his translation of Friedrich Hegel's (1770-1831) Science of Logic (1812) published, which he never did. He ended up whittling wood and making toothpicks, which he brought to St. Louis to sell.
William Harris (1835-1909) became a journalist and lecturer, head of the Concord school, and Missouri's first commissioner of education. Denton Jacques Snider (1841-1925) wrote more than 60 books, including the intellectual history of the St. Louis Hegelians. He taught from kindergarten to college level at the Communal University of Chicago, and set forth his "Sniderian psychology" in 10 volumes. Snider's most famous work is The St. Louis Movement in Philosophy, Literature, Education, Psychology (1920).
Thomas Davidson (1840-1900), who was another early member of the St. Louis Society, founded the Breadwinner's College in New York City and a summer school in Glenmore, New York, where he later lived.
How did Denton Jacques Snider interpret Friedrich Hegel?
Denton Jacques Snider (1841-1925) thought that Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831), in the Lectures on the History of Philosophy (Berlin, 1820 and published as the Philosophy of History in 1858), was not able to achieve a full system of thought, but that his "principle of evolution" held the greatest promise for future philosophy. He read Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind (1910, first published as Philosophy of Spirit in 1817) as a guide for how the individual can achieve total self-understanding through the analysis of his experience as a mirror of the history of his times.
So the St. Louis Hegelians tried to analyze their own times as an expression of the Absolute. There was thus a comparison between Hegel's vision of the Absolute in Napoleon Bonaparte and Snider's understanding of the U.S. Civil War and the end of the Great St. Louis illusion (which was shattered by the civic realization that Chicago had outpaced them in population). Snider's insight that Hegel's Phenomenology of Mind "is a book written in a Romantic style, which destroys Romanticism," has been considered subtle and sophisticated by his commentators. He meant by this that Hegel had a grand project but ran out of optimism about human history and the Absolute itself.
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