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BOOK REVIEWS 419 Josiah Royce: An Intellectual Biography. By Bruce Kuldick. (Indianapolis: The BobbsMerrill Company, 1972. Pp. 270. $12.50) Near the end of Bruce Kuldick's painstaking study of the themes and variations sounded in the philosophy of Josiah Royce, the following statement appears: "We would not now regard what we do regard as confusion if intelligent men had not at one time been purveyors of confusion" (p. 199). This book reveals Royce's intelligence. It shows him to be as broad-gauged and expansive as he was repetitious. It accurately portrays him as a brilliant, if still unconvincing, dialectician. In turn, the analysis shows Kuklick to be a young scholar worth watching. He combines a wide-ranging understanding of the history of philosophy with a special interest in logic and mathematics. Having already published works in political science and history, his versatility is evident. A promising future lies ahead of him. Kuklick's account is part of a modest Royce revival. Unfortunately, the book will not brighten Royce's future very much. It exhibits him as a fascinating philosophical relic, but does little to convince us that Royce would make timely reading today. Indeed, this intellectual biography creates a suspicion, or perhaps confirms a prejudice, that Royce's substantial intelligence did not save him from purveying considerable confusion. Likewise, although Kuklick tries hard to avoid it, needless confusion lurks in his own analysis. This appears less in the actual treatment of Royce's philosophy than in the reader's trying to pin down just what the writer sees as the purpose of his interpretation of Royce. Since those concepts were so important to Royce himself, it leaves one with an ironic sense of incompleteness and frustration to have that issue so clouded after the last footnote has been digested. This history of Royce's thought (very little of the man's life intrudes) revolves around three main themes: (I) the centrality of logical problems in Royce's work; (2) the significance of Kant in setting many of the issues that concerned him; and (3) the relationship between pragmatism and idealism as these trends developed at Harvard around the turn of the century. The third receives less attention than the first two, and the notion of Royce-as-logician is stressed most. But all three recur in the chronological treatment which Kuklick gives to Royce's books, essays, unpublished papers, and notes--all of which have obviously been researched with a care and devotion that few could imagine, let alone practice. The author succeeds in defending his thesis that Royce is in some sense a "pragmatist." He does so not only by capitalizing on the fact that Royce often called his philosophy "Absolute Pragmatism," but also by illustrating how Royce shared many insights and concerns with Peirce and James. According to Kuklick, these include: "a constructionalist epistemology stressing the changing character of our conceptual schemes; a commitment to a variety of voluntarism; a Kantian concern with the nature of possible experience; an adherence to the idealist principle that existence does not transcend consciousness; a distrust of traditional British empiricism; a recognition of the importance of logic for philosophy ; an uncomfortableness with the dichotomy between the conceptual and the empirical ; a refusal to distinguish between questions of knowledge and of value; an emphasis on the relation of philosophy to practical questions; and a desire to reconcile science and religion" (p. 2). Of course, these tendencies are variously emphasized and balanced by different pragmatists , and Kuklick does not ignore the fact that Royce and William James did part ways, even though they kept crossing paths---physically and philosophically--almost daily. Here Kuklick lays the groundwork for a new major study of the relations between these men. The present book, however, gives a rather one-sided (Royce's) account of their debates about truth and the Absolute. It only begins to develop the tantalizing suggestion that James might be regarded as a "pluralistic idealist" (p. 5). 420 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY Royce was a clever critic of James's theory of truth. Still, only a few feel compelled to agree with his firm conviction that an Absolute Knower is a required condition for...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 419-421
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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