Sunday, January 07, 2007

Outbreaks of the Hegelian mania.

Peter D. Kramer's December 24 review of George Prochnik's Putnam Camp in the New York Times Review of Books refers to
Susan Blow, a brilliant former patient with whom Putnam developed a deep personal relationship (well tolerated by Putnam's wife, herself an innovative social theorist). A founder of the American kindergarten movement and a Midwestern Idealist -- a mania for Hegel had swept St. Louis in the 1860s -- Blow believed that her intimate philosophical conversations with Putnam had helped her depression.
Jim Holt writes to the editor in today's edition:
. . . A similar Hegelian mania, it should perhaps be noted, also swept through the upper Bronx and large swaths of Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties, as attest the many vestigial Dialektischenpfosten ("dialectical posts") that still dot the landscape there.
Um, what?

A "dialectical post" looks like a sort of abstract totem pole, with three segments (thesis, antithesis, synthesis) and an overall form coyly suggestive of Absolute Spirit. In the late 19th century they were frequently erected, usually in rural areas, by (often ill-informed) followers of Hegel.
"Coyly suggestive"? Sweet. I'll have to look for them on my next trip to Westchester.
You had best hurry. Thanks to the plague of "McMansions," these historic (and unprotected!) monuments to Hegelian idealism are being toppled at an alarming rate. That is why I'm proud to be vice chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee to Preserve the Dialektischenpfosten of Westchester County.
I live in Westchester and would LOVE to see one of these things - would be most grateful if anyone could give an exact location for one!
I googled this word, seeing the same reference in the Times. Yours was the only hit! Thanks for the information. An odd thing, these Dialektischenpfosten.
Photo, anyone? Could someone please (ahem) post a photo of one of these posten? I'm dying to see one, and it's likely to be a very long while before I get to that part of the world. (Google image search turned up nothing, needless to say.)
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