The Saint Louis Hegelians, Adam-ondi-Ahman, and the Metaphysically Essential Center of the United States of America

Matt is whining about the implication that the Northeast isn't “real” America. I can't imagine why he's so defensive about it. He's so wrong that he should just quietly let it go. The core of real America is, of course, Missouri, and I can prove it. A mile from Missouri is a mile from the the essence of America and the fate of the human experiment.
The argument from Mormonism and St. Louis Hegelianism together provide irrefutable support for the proposition that the Show Me State is the quiddity of America.
sc2004_arch.jpgNot a lot of people know that there was a band of thinkers called the St. Louis Hegelians. This simply has to change. The thrust of Hegelianism from the STL is basically that the these United States are in fact the culmination of history. Who can doubt it? Hegel got the logic right but the time and place wrong. One of the STL Hegelians even provided a complicated dialectical proof that St. Louis is destined by the logic of history to be the greatest city of all the world! Understanding that that the east coast of America still gazed longingly across the Atlantic and would never fully slough off the political and cultural logic of the Old World, the STL Hegelians campaigned to move the capital of the US into the next phase of history and the “next great city of the world.”
Here's a taste:

During the Civil War, Harris and Brokmeyer [the leading STL Hegelians] had come to believe that the conflict was properly understood in much the same way that Hegel understood the French Revolution. Sectional tensions had come to a head, they believed, because abolitionists and slaveowners both appealed to the abstract, transcendent rights of the individual. Both groups conceived of the individual as existing over and against society. Abolitionists had argued that slaves had an inalienable right to freedom; Southerners defended slave ownership on the grounds that their property rights were sacred and inviolable. In Hegelian terms, both parties asserted merely formal morality, thus indicating that American Sittlichkeit, or concrete morality, was inadequate to the issue at hand. There was no common sense of morality adequate to the resolution of the conflict between abolitionists and slaveowners. Ultimately, Snider was also convinced of this analysis of the war, and developed it at length in several books. Harris’s and Snider’s activities in public education after the war, and Brokmeyer’s involvement in politics, were efforts to promote the formation of a progressive American Sittlichkeit in which moral and political disputes could be resolved without violence. The St. Louis Hegelians’ Journal of Speculative Philosophy was a key part of their efforts to reform society. Though the JSP is often characterized as the first journal in the English language devoted to philosophy; it was in fact equally devoted to the study of art and religion because the St. Louis Hegelians believed those subjects were the paths to Bildung and the formation of Sittlichkeit.

Isn't that awesome! If guys like that say St. Louis is the culmination of the American experiment, and the capital of the End of History, then I say they must be right!
Second, my birthplace, Independence, Missouri, just a jaunt across the state on I-70 is, according to Joseph Smith, the prophetic founder of the one truly and essentially American major world religion, the site of the Garden of Eden and the second coming of Christ.

Latter-day Saints know, through modern revelation, that the Garden of Eden was on the North American continent and that Adam and Eve began their conquest of the earth in the upper part of what is now the state of Missouri. It seems very probable that the children of our first earthly parents moved down along the fertile, pleasant lands of the Mississippi valley.” (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, three volumes in one, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft 1960, p. 127)

More significant is the fact that America is the true promised land, and New Jerusalem sits in Jackson County, Missouri. Christ will return here first to receive the keys to heaven on earth from Adam. (Click here and scroll down to “Valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman”. Also check out the the RLDS Temple just above.) This is the purpose and destiny of America.
Now, it cannot be mere coincidence that two profound strains of American thought place the End of History in Missouri, at the same latitude, on the banks of a mighty river.
As someone born near the site of the second coming, who saved quarters as a child to rear a temple there in accord with God's commands, and who was raised amid the Iowa corn on the truth about America, and especially Missouri, as the cradle of humanity and God's promised land, I must say (as, I should mention, a small measure of Sioux blood courses through my veins) that city fancy boys like Matt know nothing of America. Any real American knows that New Yorkers are merely nominal Americans, and that that exotic, obscene Babelian city might as well be in Roumania so distant is it, both spiritually and geographically, from the deepest truths about America.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

9 thoughts

  1. My greatest regret concerning college was that I didn’t party enough. Everyone always went out, while I always said I’d join them “next week, as soon as I get over this organic chemistry to physics or something else hurdle.” By the time I graduated, I wondered where the four years went. I’m only in my late 20s, and am a pretty happy med student, but I feel a bit like I squandered my youth. And I’ll continue squandering it until I finish the end of my residency in my early to mid- thirities. My advice to anyone considering a career that requires a lot of formal education: think about how short life is, and whether or not you could be happy in a job that requires less training, yet provide similar fulfillment (PA or nurse practitioner for med students).

  2. I think measuring regrets about the past tells us more about the sorts of things that people tend to regret than it does about the sorts of things people would be better off choosing. People aren’t necessarily good at estimating the costs and benefits and probabilities of outomes in alternative histories in an unbiased manner.
    But, I agree with the conclusion that having a planner deciding for everyone would be even worse.

    1. More than just mistaken costs and benefits, its very easy to create unreal alternatives. I would have loved to travel to Europe and have a fling with S____ over my sophomore winter break. Neither were real alternatives, but the regrets remain.

      1. Nah, stay in America and have a fling with a fellow seminar student at a classical liberal foundation function . Cheaper, and might very well be from Europe anyway.

  3. Yeah, that’s what I meant by the “probabilities of outcomes”. I suspect that it’s pretty common to overestimate the probabilities of good outcomes and underestimate the probabilities of bad outcomes when we consider alternative histories.

  4. Seneca says somewhere (one of his letters, I think) that everything should be done in moderation, including over-indulgence. That’s not quite the same thing the article seems to be on to, but an important truth along the same lines, I think.

  5. isn’t there a selection bias here? the people who have real bad regrets might be too dead to talk about it, eh?

  6. It’s worth noting, of course, that people who feel these regrets (and I count myself among them) are not really in a position to know what would have happened in their lives had they partied more and studied less.

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