- Frank M. Oppenheim, SJ: A Celebration of His Life and Legacy
Frank Mathias Oppenheim was born in Coldwater, Ohio, on May 18, 1925, and studied at Xavier, Loyola, and Saint Louis Universities. He joined the Chicago Province of the Jesuit Order in 1942 and was ordained on June 15, 1955. He is the author of four books on Josiah Royce’s philosophy: Royce’s Journey Down Under (1985), Royce’s Mature Philosophy of Religion (1987), Royce’s Mature Ethics (1993), and Reverence for the Relations of Life: Re-Imagining Pragmatism via Josiah Royce’s Interactions with Peirce, James, and Dewey (2004), in addition to scores of journal articles devoted to Royce. Oppenheim is also the editor of Josiah Royce’s Late Writings: A Collection of Unpublished and Scattered Works (2 vols.), and was instrumental in the re-issuing of Royce’s The Problem of Christianity and The Sources of Religious Insight through The Catholic University of America Press in 2001.1 Oppenheim currently resides at the bucolic Colombiere Center in Clarkston, Michigan, where he continues to reflect upon the philosophy of Josiah Royce.
No one has invested more time, energy, dedication, and commitment to Royce’s thought than Oppenheim.2 Through the ability to combine levels of acute detail with breadth of synoptic vision, Oppenheim’s work has provided impetus and has held up an ideal for generations of Royce scholars. In an insightful piece entitled “How Can a Philosopher’s Specialization Interdigitate with His or Her Teaching of Philosophy?,” Oppenheim indicates the important role Royce played during the course of his own intellectual development:
I needed to grow intellectually and Royce exemplified how to do it. As a Jesuit, I wanted to examine a philosopher who thought Christianity worth careful philosophical scrutiny. I wanted a philosopher who faced the problem of evil squarely without reducing it to the merely practical question of how to eliminate it. I also found that Royce fit my Jesuit mission because he was not afraid to be prophetically countercultural when that seemed a wiser way to offer his witness.3 [End Page 1]
From his doctoral dissertation, “Royce’s Mature Idea of a General Metaphysics,” published in 1962, to “Royce’s Relevance for Intrafaith Dialogue,” published more than fifty years later, Oppenheim’s works demonstrate how the “mind of this mental frontiersman led me into many areas of philosophy I might not have entered on my own.”4 Oppenheim’s most recent reflections on Royce concern the importance of “process” in the late Royce along with “signposts” by which future Royce scholars might forge their own trail.
The role of process in Royce’s mature thought has been recognized by Oppenheim for some time. He perceived in the later Royce a sense of the inadequacy of a “one-dimensional fit” between the evolution of humankind and that of the universe. Instead, by looking above, below, and beyond human beings, Royce inquired whether a “multidimensional fit” was likely among all evolving communities (whether minded or not) and the evolving cosmos, and whether, perhaps, one basic plan of action united and gave direction to the totality of the world’s processes. Taking into account changing events, pluralisms, and chance diversities at work both within physical evolution and within the evolution of all communities of minded beings—human and non-human—Royce went to the extent of asking whether any plan governing actual human communities might govern possible communication between extraterrestrial minded beings. Oppenheim believed, along with Royce, that something deeper than biology, deeper, too, than mere vitalism, shines forth from this evidence.5
Therefore, in his introductory remarks, when Oppenheim refers to Royce’s letter to Mary Calkins as “intriguing,” he is purposely recalling our attention to Royce’s later emphasis upon the serial process through which the Holy Spirit is revealed in and through time—what Oppenheim refers to as our “trans-natural destiny.” In the letter to Calkins, Royce says:
All this . . . serves as a hint of what I have been trying to formulate in this recent phase not merely of my thinking but of my experience. I do not know any reason why this phase of...