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  • Loyalty to Philosophy
  • Jason Bell

is philosophy worthy of loyal service? Using Josiah Royce and Frank Oppenheim as guides, I will argue that philosophy is indeed a worthy and crucial loyalty. Its special cause will be considered here as a mode of what Royce terms a "loyalty to loyalty," as an infinite service of all specific truth-seeking activities undertaken by all communities of loyal individuals. Regarding them as individually valuable, philosophy champions them in their individuality and plays an interpretive function among them, so that specification of truth-seeking in distinct domains leads to communicable discoveries valuable for all truth-seekers, as opposed to the discreteness, separation, and lifeless abstraction that can occur when specialization leads to isolation and divorce from the essential purposes of truthful investigation. This gives philosophy a crucial role to play in service both to the human interest in truth, and to the academy as a special place of truth-seeking. Royce's philosophical writings develop this theory of philosophical loyalty, while Oppenheim shows how Royce's life exemplified his teachings—as has Oppenheim's own loyalty to philosophy. The first part of this paper explores the idea of loyalty to philosophy; the second part discusses Royce's idea of the relation of philosophical loyalty to knowledge and being; the third part discusses Oppenheim's portrait of the loyal teacher of philosophy.

What Is Loyalty to Philosophy?

During Royce's own lifetime, in an era in which philosophy was often conceived as a subjectivism (whether as a rationalism of the cogito or a relativism of the cogito) lacking a robust intersubjective component, a major debate was over the ultimate condition of the subject (or ego, or cogito): was this ultimate essence of subjective awareness in perception (as in empiricism) or [End Page 45] conception (as in idealism)? Royce endeavored to show that philosophy is an art of loyal interpretation among perspectives to find the truth indicated by but inexhaustible by any finite set of perspectives, an interpretation that involves percept and concept, but which also involves the intersubjective comparison among perspectives in service of achieving the same intersubjectively valid and sound meant objects. For Royce, Kant had come closest to this, of the modern philosophers, but not even he had reached the triadic logical structure of interpretation that was only opened again (recovering a possibility left open by Aquinas) by C. S. Peirce. Oppenheim, in turn, during an era in which philosophy was often reduced to the single activity of linguistic analysis, has shown how Royce's loyal interpretation offered a vastly wealthier philosophical vision—one that engaged in analysis but also spoke to crucial human problems that include but transcend language—and indicated how these problems can be addressed through interpretation among nations, philosophical eras, and in relation to the community of inquiry found in the emergent American pragmatism. For Oppenheim, Royce represented a virtuous alternative to a narrow reduction of philosophy as a single conceptual activity (e.g., of the concept clarification of linguistic philosophy), culminating in Oppenheim's apt description of Royce's philosophy as a loyal reverence for the relations of life. These approaches can, I believe, help to illustrate the importance of philosophical loyalty in the present day.

First, some preliminary definitions. Philosophy in this interpretive sense, suggested by Royce and clarified by Oppenheim, is a special non-sectarian and non-individualistic realm of interpretation of all human truth-seeking in which distinct ideas of the special individual perspectives and sects of human truth-seeking (including the languages in which inquiry is expressed, the various special sciences, the arts, as well as the various temporal moments of history, past, contemporary, and planned efforts, etc.) are compared in a common purpose. Philosophy preserves a ground that emphasizes the good to all people of the search for knowledge and the truths gained by this search. This takes place only when there is, for Royce, a "will to interpret." For Royce, despite the temptations of naïve realism to assume that facts are merely imprinted upon docile receivers, facts and the search that precedes them are instead subjective and intersubjective achievements, in which the will to truth precedes the intellection of truth. There...


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