American Philosophy

St. Louis Hegelians

How did the St. Louis Hegelians apply their philosophy?

The St. Louis Hegelians tried to apply their philosophy directly to current events. They were very proud of St. Louis, in contrast to Chicago. Due to an error in the 1870 census, the St. Louis Hegelians, along with other residents of the city, were thrilled by the statistic that the population of St. Louis was greater than that of Chicago. On October 8, 1871, the day of the great Chicago fire (believed to have been started by a kick to a lamp from Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, although overall conditions were extremely dry and inflammable), Snider asked Brokmeyer what he thought of this disaster. Brokmeyer’s reply (note: Snider spelled Brokmeyer’s name as “Brockmeyer”), according to Snider, was:

Chicago was the completely negative city of our West and indeed of our time, and now she has carried out her principle of negation to its final universal consequence; she has simply negated herself. The positive result of that negative is bound to arrive, but not over there in the same place again, but here, here in our St. Louis.

But Alas, the 1880 census put the population of St. Louis below that of Chicago. The Saint Louis Philosophical Society hired a mathematician from Washington University to check the census figures. He told them that the 1870 census had been in error and that the population of St. Louis really was 350,000 compared to 503,000 in Chicago!


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