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BOOK REVIEWS 333 Roemer, are equally as paradigmatic; equally at home in reconstructing Marx and Marxism in terms which are as familiar to contemporary philosophers as they probably would not have been to Marx or his early followers. JEVrREV BURKHARD'r Universi~ofFlorida John Clendenning. TheLife and ThoughtofJosiahRoyce.Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985. Pp. xv + 447. $~7.5o. This excellent biography of one of the leading figures in the Golden Age of American philosophy is the product of more than a quarter century of painstaking scholarship by a professor of English at California State University-Northridge. Formidable skills--those of a diplomat and a detective as well as those of a historian and a philosopher-were needed in the collection and organization of the materials. Fortunately, John Clendenning also writes lucid prose and tells a story well. Although he gives a running exposition of Royce's philosophical work, including some of the most technical, Clendenning never breaks the absorbing narrative of his subject's personal life. The narrative is remarkable in a number of respects. First, Ciendenning is able to relate Royce's literary, historical, religious and philosophical works to one another in helpful ways. A philosopher-biographer might have been inclined either to treat Royce's philosophical achievements as separate from (and uncontaminated by) his other work or to consider his philosophical work not to be philosophy at the highest professional level since it is so often bound up with other concerns. Clendenning effectively presents Royce's philosophical work as often sophisticated and technical yet related to non-philosophical themes. The narrative is also noteworthy in the care with which Royce's philosophical ideas and arguments are related to his emotional life. This is, of course, an especially tricky aspect of any biography of a philosopher. In recent decades much rubbish has been published as psycho-biography, and Royce could easily be made grist for psychoanalytic mills. Although he makes a few unnecessary references to Erik Erikson, Clendenning usually uses only common sense psychology in discussing how Royce's intellectual life and emotional life are interrelated. For example, he suggests that "to some extent, [Royce's] relentless love of polemics, which observers sometimes found to be his most remarkable trait, grew out of his youthful timidity and feelings of physical inadequacy" (28) and his "metaphysics was partly, by his own interpretation, an attempt to exorcise his childhood fears" (3a). Even Royce's lifelong search for a father-substitute is so obvious that Clendenning's account need not appeal to the absurdities of psychoanalysis . Only on occasion does he indulge in glib psychoanalysis, as, for example, when he says that "the impulse to denounce Abbot, a fellow idealist, suggests a displacement of self-hatred" (221). It seems more likely that Royce simply did not want his beloved idealism to get a bad reputation from the unprofessional work of Abbot. Usually judicious, Clendenning does not overdramatize the events of his subject's life. There is one exception, however. "Royce's life," he says, "was also a profound 334 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY 26:2 APRIL 1988 tragedy, personal as well as philosophical. In his last decade he suffered from a crippling illness, family disasters, and the desertion of his disciples" (x). Although Royce's last years were troubled in many respects, they were no more troubled than the last years of many, many human beings, and Royce had compensations few others have. To be sure, the loss of disciples is not commonly experienced, but that cannot be considered tragic since he never lost the respect of many in the philosophical community , much less suffered disgrace. It needs to be stressed (as Wilmon H. Sheldon, an 1899 Royce Ph.D., once told this reviewer with much feeling) that for about a decade Royce enjoyed a preeminence on the American philosophical scene that no philosopher before or since has enjoyed. Neither James nor Dewey ever enjoyed the eminence that Royce briefly had. During that period Royce had no serious competitor in the U.S.--James was then considered eminent only in psychology. It seems an overdramatization to think of Royce's partial descent from such Olympian heights as tragic. One...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 333-334
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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