Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Hegel in Canada

I've been reading up on the history of Canadian philosophy. Anglo-Canadian academic philosophy was strongly influenced by British, particularly Scots, Hegelians. In 1994, John Burbidge published 'Hegel in Canada', a short piece in which he documented Hegel's influence in Canada via John Watson (among others), a student of Edward Caird's who taught at Queen's University (Kingston, Ontario). According to Burbidge, Watson influenced the training of Presbyterian clergy at Queen's. Here's another item on Hegel and Canada; it's by sociologist David MacGregor.

A new collection of papers, Hegel and Canada (ed. Susan Dodd & Neil G. Robertson), will be released in 2018 by the University of Toronto Press.

In his paper on Watson's influence at Queen's, Burbidge quoted a line about 'seeing life clearly and seeing it whole'. He says that he had often heard these words during his Canadian upbringing, and he takes the phrase to be an especially apt characterization of an idealist outlook.

I have the impression that I've heard the line before but can't recall the context. A similar line was used by Charles Prestwich Scott, an editor (and owner) of the Manchester Guardian. Scott had said that 'the function of a good newspaper and therefore of a good journalist is to see life steady and see it whole'. Stephen C. Bandy pointed out that essentially the same phrase was earlier used by Matthew Arnold in his poem 'To a friend' (1849), where Arnold wrote of one who 'saw life steadily and saw it whole'. H. G. Wells used similar wording in a discussion of Gissing in 1897. Probably, though, it was Hamilton Wright Mabie who's responsible for the line's currency in Canada and for its association with idealism (in a loose, popular sense of that label). While largely forgotten now, Mabie published widely in popular American magazines. In his 'Interpretation of Idealism' (1896), Mabie valorized the idealist's attempt 'to see life clearly and to see it whole', by which he meant not just grasping given 'facts' (or data) but understanding them in context, or in relation to a larger whole.

Finally, one of the British idealists who moved to Canada was Rupert Clendon Lodge (1886-1961). He was influenced mainly by Bosanquet's version of idealism. Lodge won Oxford's John Locke Scholarship in Mental Philosophy and taught at the University of Manchester before leaving England. He was visiting Germany on a scholarship when WWI began. He had to leave in a hurry. After fleeing Germany, he taught at the University of Minnesota. He bounced around between there and the University of Alberta before settling in at the University of Manitoba (in Winnipeg) in 1920, where he was appointed Professor of Logic and History of Philosophy and headed the philosophy department for almost thirty years. I've started a public page on Lodge at Ancestry.com.

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