- La Métaphysique de Royce, avec un appendice de texts, publiée et préfacée par Miklos Vetö
Gabriel Marcel's La Métaphysique de Royce (MR) is the most influential Continental interpretation of Josiah Royce's philosophy. Moreover, Marcel's monograph-length study of Royce's metaphysics remains the only significant work on Royce's philosophy written in French. MR was originally published as a series of four articles in La Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale (May-June 1918 and January-April 1919) and published, in a slightly edited form, as a monograph by Aubier in 1945. The L'Hartmattan edition of Marcel's MR is, to my knowledge, the first edition of Marcel's MR to be published in any language since the publication of the English translation of MR in 1956 under the title, Royce's Metaphysics.1
Because an English translation of MR is already available, this review will not examine Marcel's actual monograph in any significant detail. Rather, it will describe Vetö's preface and the texts comprising this book's appendices.
Vetö's preface seeks to fulfill two aims: (1) to situate MR in its own historical context and (2) to convey its insights to a contemporary audience. Vetö fulfills the first aim by situating Royce's thought within the milieu of late nineteenth-century Anglo-American idealism and its reception of German idealism (pp. vii-viii). He also fulfills this aim by explaining how a young Marcel could have devoted an entire monograph to Royce's thought. As for fulfilling the second aim, Vetö admits that doing so will be difficult, since Royce's thought "attracts only very modest attention from philosophers and historians of philosophy outside of America" (p. vii). It seems that Vetö attempts to fulfill the second aim by concentrating on how Royce's thought influenced the development of Marcel's thought. Due to space constraints, I will describe only a few of the more insightful observations Vetö makes about Marcel's MR in his preface.
One such insightful observation is Vetö's recognition that, unlike most formulations of the principle of individuation in the Western philosophic tradition, Royce's principle of individuation is essentially volitional. Following Marcel, Vetö explains how Royce does not think that an individual is definable, ontologically speaking, by its empirical qualities or by some logical designation of class membership. Royce thought that an individual cannot be defined apart from the communal and moral interests of the one who recognizes that individual (p. xi). In fact, the act of recognizing an individual is an act of love for Royce. What Royce regards as love is different than the common definitions of the term, however. Vetö reminds the reader that Roycean love involves the exclusive selection of an individual to be the object of one's attention. This means that whenever one exclusively attends to someone or something in the world, that someone or something becomes a genuine individual.2 [End Page 582]
Another insightful observation is Vetö's recognition that Royce's conception of God as fellow-sufferer, indeed as the One who experiences our sufferings more intensely and meaningfully than we do, seems to anticipate Alfred North Whitehead's process philosophy and, to a greater extent, Charles Hartshorne's process theology (p. xiv).
A third insightful observation is Vetö's description of how Royce's thought influenced the development of Marcel's thought. While Marcel writes that Royce's thought had only a negligible influence on the formation of his mature position on intersubjectivity in his author's preface to the English translation of his monograph in 1956, Vetö contends that Royce obviously played an important role in Marcel's early insights into the nature of intersubjectivity. This is especially true of Marcel's insights into intersubjectivity as they are articulated in the second part of his Metaphysical Journal (1927).3 In that work, Marcel notes how his own nascent existentialism, e.g., his distinction between being and having...