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Josiah Royce

Birthplace: Grass Valley, Nevada, California, United States
Death: Died in Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States
Immediate Family:

Husband of Katherine Royce
Father of Christopher Royce; Edward Royce and Stephen Royce

Managed by: Martin Severin Eriksen
Last Updated:

About Josiah Royce

Royce, born in Grass Valley, California, grew up in pioneer California very soon after the California Gold Rush. He received the B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley (at that time located in Oakland) in 1875 where he also accepted an instructorship teaching English composition, literature, and rhetoric. After some time in Germany, where he came to admire Hermann Lotze, the new Johns Hopkins University awarded him in 1878 one of its first four doctorates, in philosophy. He taught a course on the history of German thought, which was “one of his chief interests” because he was able to give consideration to the philosophy of history (Pomeroy, 6). He then taught philosophy, first at the University of California, Berkeley, then at Harvard from 1882 until his death, thanks to the good offices of William James, who was at once Royce's friend and philosophical antagonist. Royce stands out starkly in the philosophical crowd because he was the only major American philosopher who spent a significant period of his life studying and writing history, specifically of the American West, “As one of the four giants in American philosophy of his time […] Royce overshadowed himself as historian, in both reputation and output” (Pomeroy, 2). During his first three years at Harvard, Royce taught many different subjects such as English composition, forensics, psychology and philosophy for other professors. He finally received a position as a professor in 1892. During this time he suffered a breakdown and took a semester off during which he did most of his historical writing (Pomeroy, 3).

Grass Valley Library Royce Branch Clendenning (1999) is the standard biography. Autobiographical remarks by Royce can be found at Oppenheim (2001). In 1883 he was approached by a publishing company who asked him to write the state history of California, “In view of his precarious circumstances at Harvard and his desire to pursue the philosophical work for which he had come east, Royce found the prospect attractive […]. He wrote to a friend that he was ‘tempted by the money’” (Pomeroy 3). Royce viewed the task as a side project, which he could use to fill his free time. Royce spent a significant period of time writing histories of California, enjoying it so much that he began to write novels set in California in which he was able to include his philosophical ideas. The books were considered to be “the fictional counterpart to his history, in which he developed similar philosophical themes” (Pomeroy, 5). In 1891 his historical writing career came to an end, but not before he had published several novels, reviews of California’s historical volumes, and articles in journals. [edit]Ideas

Royce's key works include The World and the Individual (1899–1901) and The Problem of Christianity (1913), both based on lectures, given at the Gifford and Hibbert lectures series respectively. The heart of Royce's idealist philosophy was his contention that the apparently external world has real existence only as known by an ideal Knower, and that this Knower must be actual rather than merely hypothetical. He offered various arguments for this contention in both of his major works. He appears never to have repudiated this view, even though his later works are largely devoted to expositing his philosophy of community.

The inscription at the entrance to the library Two key influences on the thought of Royce were Charles Sanders Peirce and William James. In fact, it can be argued that a major way Peirce's ideas entered the American academy is through Royce's teaching and writing, and eventually that of his students. Peirce also reviewed Royce's The Religious Aspect of Philosophy (1885). Some have claimed that Peirce also supervised Royce's Ph.D., but that is impossible as Peirce arrived at Johns Hopkins in 1879. Royce is also perhaps the founder of the Harvard school of logic, Boolean algebra, and foundation of mathematics. His logic, philosophy of logic, and philosophy of mathematics were influenced by Charles Peirce and Alfred Bray Kempe. Students who in turn learned logic at Royce's feet include Clarence Irving Lewis, who went on to pioneer modal logic, Edward Vermilye Huntington, the first to axiomatize Boolean algebra, and Henry M. Sheffer, known for his eponymous stroke. Much of Royce's writings on logic and mathematics, reminiscent in some ways of Bertrand Russell's much better known Principia Mathematica, and on scientific method, are reproduced in Royce (1951, 1961). In recent decades, Royce appears not to have attracted as much attention as other now-classic American philosophers, such as Peirce, John Dewey, and his Harvard colleagues William James, and George Santayana. Philosophers influenced by Royce include Brand Blanshard in the United States and Timothy L.S. Sprigge in the United Kingdom. [edit]Legacy

The Royce School, which later merged with Anna Head's School for Girls to become the Head-Royce School Royce Hall, one of the original four buildings at UCLA Grass Valley Library-Royce Branch Josiah Royce Hall, Fresno High School

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Josiah Royce's Timeline

November 20, 1855
Grass Valley, Nevada, California, United States
April 11, 1882
Age 26
Grass Valley, Nevada County, California, United States
Age 30
May 1889
Age 33
Massachusetts, United States
September 14, 1916
Age 60
Cambridge, Middlesex, Massachusetts, United States