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  • Introduction: “Process” in Royce’s Late Philosophy
  • Frank M. Oppenheim

First, I offer an introduction to set the context suited for scholars engaged in studies of Josiah Royce, focusing upon how “process” operates in Royce’s late philosophy. After that, I want to offer signposts to inform Royce scholars about several paths of possible future research.


For students of Royce’s late philosophy, frequent encounters with the terms “Community” and “the Holy Spirit” may seem indeed to overshadow the usage of the term “process.” Granted, the index of Royce’s Problem of Christianity cites ten entries under the term “process.” Yet John Clendenning’s own indexes to Royce’s Letters and his revised Life of Royce do not mention the term “process” in their lists. Students of Royce, both old and young, will find in these two volumes shining models of scholarship that are very useful in practice, but we must not be misled into thinking that the Idea of “process,” if recognized at all, plays just a hidden and minor role in the late Royce.

Meanwhile, in the search to retrieve greater balance in Royce’s most mature philosophy, scholars see that the Idea of “Community” has clearly and deservingly played a role “downstage,” front and center. However, just how students of Royce respond to the Idea of “the Holy Spirit” varies widely. The term “spirit” has eight meanings—difficulty enough. When introduced by “the Holy” and when both adjective and noun are capitalized, an august, unique “spirit” stands before us with a capital “S,” depending upon whether “the Holy” is recognized at all by being effectively dismissed or, on the contrary, welcomed on stage to play a central role as downstage, ever present, and co-equal with “Community.” [End Page 8]

When viewed from the perspective of Royce’s letter to Mary W. Calkins of March 20, 1916, the idea of “process” is intriguing.1 In this letter, Royce clarifies what this term “process” means and involves. It involves the Ideas of “Community” and “the Holy Spirit.” These are the two centrally pivotal Ideas which Royce found, for instance, animating his process of planning serially and then writing down his Hibbert Lectures, to create his most mature masterpiece.

Yet, more strikingly, Royce witnesses how, in the three-and-a-half years since “doing his Problem of Christianity,” he has grown personally. He has come to understand more fully how the processing in these two Ideas of Community and the Holy Spirit takes place. Even more personally, he has been increasingly experiencing how these two Ideas have taken over his life from Summer 1912 until Spring 1916. He says, “[They] have been working in my mind daily more and more, ever since I wrote that book.”2

Moreover, what do we say such processing of these two Ideas means? As these two Ideas process daily, they intend an intrinsic growth ever deeper and wider. This means that with the daily growth of these two Ideas, they become both more “creatively inventive” and “endlessly fecund”—Royce refers to the “endless fecundity of invention”3— in producing consistent yet novel re-interpretations of the graced and Spirit-led Community. Moreover, these two Ideas reveal more and more their teleological thrust toward the Beloved Community. Finally, some of us frail mortals, including the genuine but “everyday mystics,” can “sense” having been embraced by a trans-natural destiny, as hinted in Royce’s “new teleology.”


Signposts for a Royce Agenda: Pathmarks for Future Scholars4

  1. 1. Royce’s Life and Letters: Doors will open through the inventorying of archives concerning correspondence existing in the United States, Canada, Great Britain, plus the “as yet unsearched” private owners who hold letters either to or from Royce.

  2. 2. Royce the Logician: What purely logical theory did Royce use to organize the Problem? More specifically, after he chose to pioneer a logical path different from that cut by Russell and Whitehead, how did he employ his distinctive System Sigma (= Ʃ) to orchestrate the Problem’s combination of theory and practice?

  3. 3. Royce the Syncretizer: Do the ideas of Process, Mystery, and “Life in the Unity of the Spirit,” as found in The Problem of Christianity, provide...


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