Frank M. Oppenheim, S.J.
“This meticulous and thorough book is a major contribution to the field. Scholars and students in American philosophy and theology will need to take Oppenheim’s work into serious consideration.” —Kelly Parker, Grand Valley State University
Josiah Royce and William James lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on Irving Street, just two doors apart, while Charles Peirce grew up just a few blocks away. In nearby Vermont, John Dewey was born and educated. These four great thinkers shared more than just geographic space. They engaged in a series of formative discussions. By tracing the interactions of Royce (1855–1916) with James, Peirce, and Dewey, Oppenheim hopes to “re-imagine pragmatism” in a way that will highlight Royce’s key insights.
Josiah Royce emphasized that communities of all sizes—ranging from families to towns—needed “reverence for the relations of life” not only to thrive but to survive. This theme permeates the dialectic of Royce’s interactions with Peirce, James, and Dewey. Oppenheim dicusses how these thinkers agreed or disagreed about method and content, skepticism and intelligibility, nominalism and intentionality, as he uncovers their varied stances toward transcendent Reality.
Oppenheim counters R.B. Perry’s view that James and Royce held almost completely conflicting doctrines, and he repudiates Perry’s tactic of using Royce as a foil to display James positively. Oppenheim offers a richer portrait of Royce by calling attention to Royce’s “doctrine of two levels” and its effects on the distinction of human and super-human, by showing the contrast of Royce’s “third attitude of will” against two primarily self-centered attitudes of will, and by examining the roles of Spirit, Community, and semiotic process in Royce’s thought.
Frank M. Oppenheim, who is widely regard as an expert on Josiah Royce, brings more than 40 years of study to bear on this magnum opus. Reverence for the Relations of Life will be essential reading for those interested in American philosophy and theology.
“This volume is . . . a lengthy appreciation of the philosopher James Royce. . . . The book has three parts in which the author compares Royce to Charles Peirce, then to William James, and finally to John Dewey. . . . Each part mixes biographical information on each thinker and analysis of contrasting doctrines.” — The Journal of American History
“Frank M. Oppenheim’s book is a study of the personal and intellectual encounters Josiah Royce had with his contemporary philosophical colleagues Charles S. Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. . . . This book is as much a work of philosophy as it is an intellectual history. Oppenheim offers an interpretation of Royce’s philosophy organized around the theme of “reverence for the relations of life,” which he argues permeates Royce’s philosophy and, especially, his late writings. . . . Oppenheim has made a strong case that Royce was indeed a pragmatist of a Peircean orientation and that his philosophy needs to be better known and understood if the full story of the development of pragmatism is to be written.” — American Historical Review
“This book . . . interpret(s) American pragmatism through the prism of Josiah Royce by focusing on his personal and philosophical interactions with Peirce, James, and Dewey. . . . [A] well-researched and scholarly work by one of the great experts in the field.” — Catholic Library World
“. . . a carefully researched, clearly written history of American pragmatism centered on the development of Josiah Royce’s thought and his connections with other turn-of-the-century American philosophers. . . . Recommended.” — Choice
“Oppenheim’s book signals a change . . . in the contested story of American pragmatism. It represents an opening for a deeper exploration of the origins and meaning of pragmatism in relation to religion and in particular Christianity.” — Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
“In a time when the patience for scholarship has in large part been put to flight by the need to publish quickly and widely, Oppenheim has taken the time to produce a fascinating provocative look at Josiah Royce’s relations with the ‘big three’ American pragmatists—Charles Pierce, William James, and John Dewey. . . Those seriously interested in the history and culture of pragmatism should read Reverence for the Relations of Life.” — Transactions of the C.S. Peirce Society
“This meticulous and thorough book will stimulate new insights into the thought and life of Josiah Royce as well as into the ideas and experiences of three other giants in American philosophy, Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. This book will be a valuable resource to all who wish to explore the nuances and depths of the lives and philosophical work of these four giants in American thought.” — The Review of Metaphysics