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Henry Clay Brockmeyer

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Old Main, USU


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• Is the world eternal? YES
• Do humans have contra-causal free will (i.e., can humans do otherwise)? NO
• Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? YES
• Do humans have souls? YES
• Are there natural rights? YES
• Is it morally permissible to eat meat? NO
• Is the unexamined life worth living? NO
• Is truth subjectivity? YES
• Is virtue necessary for happiness? YES
• Can a computer have a mind? YES
• Can humans know reality as it is in itself? YES
• Is hell other people? YES
• Can art be created accidentally? NO
• Can we change the past? NO
• Are numbers real? NO
• Is it always better to know the truth? YES

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Brockmeyer didn’t set out to be a philosopher. He was, first and foremost, a mechanic. Born in Prussia in 1826, he lived at a strange moment in intellectual history, at a time when philosophy was read widely and had a hand in determining the social and political destiny of Europe. In the early 19th century — in the wake of an age of revolutionary idealism — philosophy had not given up its intimate relations with politics and culture. It was still written by humans, for humans, like a young Brockmeyer. And it wasn’t read for the sole purpose of becoming a professional thinker but in the hopes of becoming a better or at least a different person. This was a task that Henry undertook passionately.

When Henry was 16, his mother, a thoroughgoing pietist, burned her son’s copy of Goethe’s poems. Henry did what any self-respecting Romantic would do: He disowned her and ran away from home, all the way to the United States. This sort of gumption strikes most people as equal parts foolhardy and frightening. And it probably was, but Brockmeyer had been brought up in Prussia at a time when anything still seemed possible.

Read more here!


1 Comment

  1. Alex says:

    Great article! Except Poe hated the Frogpondians.


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