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Josiah Royce

Who was Josiah Royce?

Josiah Royce (1855-1916) is known as an "absolute pragmatist." He sought to combine German and British absolute idealism with American pragmatism.

Royce was born in Grass Valley, California, which, at the time following the gold rush, was a mining town. His family moved to San Francisco when he was 11 and he graduated from the University of California in 1875; he then received a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1878. Royce also studied at universities in Leipzig and Gottingen, after which he taught English at the University of California for four years.

In 1882, he was invited to join Harvard's philosophy department, where he eventually became a professor and led a highly acclaimed and distinguished career. Royce's major publications are The World and the Individual (1899), Sources of Religious Insight (1912), The Problem of Christianity (1913), War and Insurance (1914), The Hope of the Great Community (1916), and Lectures on Modern Idealism (1919). Also available is Royce's Logical Essays: Collected Logical Essays of Josiah Royce (1951).

What were some of Josiah Royce's metaphysical ideas?

Royce's metaphysical system was intended to solve the problems posed by a religious worldview. He believed that what exists is a totality of everything that is known, so that the nature of Being can be understood by understanding how it comes to be known. Although knowledge starts with data from the senses, to arrive at the idea of a public object, as well as a past and future, transcendence is necessary. Transcendental judgment is not isolated, but part of a system of judgments. Such a system can account for error as a failure to define an object. An idea is a purpose that seeks an object, but the object in turn clarifies the original idea. The infinite is real, because the Absolute, which is One, represents itself along with everything else that mirrors it.

What were Josiah Royce's ethical and religious views?

The primary virtue according to Royce was "loyalty to loyalty." While some people are loyal to bad causes, only good causes could support the loyalty to themselves that constituted loyalty to loyalty. In Royce's interpretation of Christianity, the Church, sin, and atonement were united by God as Spirit. Royce's idea of the role of God as Spirit, in community, was perceived as addressing a neglected aspect of the doctrine of the Trinity. (Christian religious history, in emphasizing God and Jesus, had often minimized the Holy Spirit.) Although it should be noted that his emphasis on community is similar to Martin Buber's (1878-1965) description of how Judaism differs from Christianity.

John Dewey

Who was John Dewey?

John Dewey (1859-1952) was the most famous philosopher in the United States during the early twentieth century. He was a public intellectual during the decades when ordinary people, as well as intellectuals, filled halls to hear intellectually stimulating and edifying speeches. His interactive, pragmatic approach to ordinary life, education, and art appreciation has shaped American experience in fundamental ways that do not always refer to him by name.

Although, or because, Dewey was shy, he wrote 37 books and more than 700 articles. His main publications include Psychology (1887), Human Nature and Conduct (1922), Experience and Nature (1925), The Public and Its Problems (1927), The Quest for Certainty (1929), Philosophy and Civilization (1932), A Common Faith (1934), Art as Experience (1934), Liberalism and Social Action (1935), Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938), Freedom and Culture (1939), and Problems of Men (1946).

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