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Symposia. Pragmatism and Idealism

Voluntarism

A Difference that Makes the Difference between German Idealism and American Pragmatism?
Daniel J. Brunson

Abstract

This paper proposes an alternative perspective on the question of the relationship between German Idealism and American Pragmatism through attention to the philosophy of Josiah Royce. Despite being seen as a Hegelian, Royce declared himself a pragmatist. However, he also called his position Absolute Voluntarism. This paper suggests that the real issue between Idealism and Pragmatism is Intellectualism vs. Voluntarism. This distinction both parallels and cuts across the traditions of German Idealism and American Pragmatism, and promises to open up a view broader than the traditional accounts of the qualified appreciation of Hegel seen in Peirce and Dewey, or the outright antipathy of James. With Peirce, we see that his continual call for Royce to study logic includes, or complements, his criticisms that Royce neglects Secondness. Regarding James, we see his influence on Royce is mediated also in their mutual study of Wundt’s voluntaristic psychology, which has its own roots in the pre-Kantian German Idealism of Leibniz. As for Dewey, he acknowledges Royce’s voluntarism, but rejects Royce’s claim that his Absolute Pragmatism/Voluntarism is pragmatism at all. Nonetheless, even if Royce failed to fuse his idealism and pragmatism, the very effort suggests he saw them as distinct enough to need fusion.

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1. Introduction

  • 1 For example, John Herman Randall Jr., identifies at least four schools of American philosophical id (...)
  • 2 See LW 5: 154; cf. Good 2006, and Shook 2000.
  • 3 “Modern Voluntarism is chiefly due, if I mistake not, to the effort escape the relentless conclusio (...)

1The relation between (German) Idealism and (American) Pragmatism is complex, as both are better seen as traditions with their own internal tensions or even outright contradictions rather than fully-codified sets of doctrines. This is obvious from the debates between Left and Right Wing Hegelians, or from Peirce’s famous re-christening of his position as pragmaticism, “[…] which is ugly enough to be safe from kidnappers” (CP 5.414). I put the demonyms in parentheses because, while the founders and key proponents were German or American, each were international movements. For example, the American William Torrey Harris, Brit Francis Herbert Bradley, and Italian Benedetto Croce, among others, continued and developed the tradition of German Idealism, while German-born Ferdinand Canning Scott Schiller and Italian Giovanni Papini aligned themselves with American Pragmatism.1 On the other hand, we should expect some commonalities between each tradition due to mutual influence, though the preponderance of influence is probably from the German Idealists to the American Pragmatists simply because of timing, as exemplified by John Dewey’s “permanent Hegelian deposit.”2 More broadly, we can see each tradition as motivated by similar concerns, such as reconceptualizing the human in light of the sceptical culmination of modern philosophy in David Hume and the success of the physical sciences.3

  • 4 To add three more: the influence of Ralph Waldo Emerson and other transcendentalists, the U.S. Civi (...)

2What, then, might we say about the relation between idealism and pragmatism in light of these complications, as well as others not mentioned?4 In this paper I propose one promising line of inquiry into this question: an examination of the philosophy of Josiah Royce. Royce was one of the first four philosophy Ph.D’s from Johns Hopkins University, and trained in Germany in the 1870s. He engaged deeply with the thought of his Harvard colleague William James and with that of Charles Peirce, as well as with the history of philosophy and religion more broadly. In particular, in his late masterwork The Problem of Christianity, Royce called his position Absolute Pragmatism. This may seem a contradictio in adiecto, but as James Cotton (1954: 11) argued “[…] the most important point […] in the work of Royce lies in the union between idealism and pragmatism in his thought.” This suggests at least two things. First, that, regardless of his success, Royce thought idealism and pragmatism could be unified. This is a small point in favor of those who think pragmatism is, in some sense, an outgrowth of idealism, in that an offshoot might be dialectically re-absorbed by the whole. Second, and this is the side I emphasize, Royce’s efforts to synthesize idealism and pragmatism suggests that there is something right about pragmatism that idealism lacks. And what might this be? A bit later in The Problem of Christianity Royce (1913: 293) calls his philosophy Absolute Voluntarism:

In its most general form, this philosophy to which I myself adhere, asserts that, while every metaphysical theory is the expression of an attitude of the will, there is one, and but one, general and decisive attitude of the will which is the right attitude, when we stand in presence of the universe, and when we undertake to choose how we propose to bear ourselves towards the world.

  • 5 Royce also acknowledges the Kant scholar Hans Vaihinger’s Die Philosophy des Als Ob (The Philosophy (...)

3The “one general and decisive attitude of the will” is the Absolute part of Royce’s doctrine, while “every metaphysical theory is the expression of an attitude of the will” is the Voluntarism part, which Royce says the pragmatists are right about. In other words, for Royce Voluntarism is “[…] the spirit of pragmatism, as James defined it” (ibid.: 291).5 Furthermore, as Mahowald (1972: 14) argues, “[…] voluntarism is the key to the distinction between Royce and the speculative idealists.” Might it thereby also be the key to the distinction between pragmatism and idealism?

  • 6 I say “semi-independent” because the influence of Kant, and thereby some form of idealism, looms ov (...)
  • 7 “Concreteness requires an appeal to history, to our actual, historical situatedness and (for unders (...)

4Of course, this raises the question of the relation between pragmatism and voluntarism. However, I think this is a fruitful complication, because it is clear that commentators at the turn of the twentieth century also thought the key issue between idealism and pragmatism was the question of intellectualism or voluntarism. Accordingly, this paper will now turn to a survey of Royce’s conception of idealism and the development of his voluntarism, especially through his engagement with Peirce, James, and Dewey. Additionally, we will explore some of the authors who weighed in the importance of voluntarism as a distinct feature of pragmatism. The upshot will be that voluntarism, while itself a contested term, was seen as a fundamental difference between idealism and pragmatism, and one of (semi-)independent origin.6 While I make no pretense at resolving the debate about the relation between idealism and pragmatism here, I do hope to show the promise of voluntarism as a more concrete topic for further inquiry.7

2. Royce’s Early Pragmatism: Correcting Kant

  • 8 In “On Purpose in Thought” from a year prior Royce presents a similar account of ‘projection,’ whic (...)
  • 9 CP 8.7-38 and CP 5.388-410, respectively. From the former: “A better rule for avoiding the deceits (...)

5In 1881 Royce gave a talk at a Kant centennial on “Kant’s Relation to Modern Philosophic Progress,” published later that year in The Journal of Speculative Philosophy.8 This talk comes ten years after Peirce’s early articulation of what will be called the pragmatic maxim in his 1871 “Review of Fraser’s Berkeley,” and three years after its presentation in the Popular Science Monthly series, especially “How to Make Our Ideas Clear.”9 Royce’s address also comes two years after James’ “Sentiment of Rationality,” and a year before he joined Harvard as a sabbatical replacement for James; for example, it includes two complimentary references to James’ concept of a spatial quale (Royce, 1881: 376). However, Royce’s focus is squarely on Kant of the first Kritik, rather than some nascent form of pragmatism. The paper has two main sections: first, a survey of whether any post-Kantian ontology is successful; and second, finding that none are successful, Royce’s suggestion for “[…] a direct development of the Kantian thought” (ibid.: 361).

  • 10 This is not to say that Royce does not take Schopenhauer seriously; see Auxier 2013, and Carlson 20 (...)

6Royce sees monism, in its variety of forms, as the dominant ontology of the nineteenth century. He quickly dispenses with both materialist and mentalist (e.g., William Clifford’s Mind-Stuff) atomic monisms, as no aggregate can achieve the unity of consciousness: “Consciousness, then, as a continual synthesis of innumerable elements into the unity of active judgment is more than an aggregate, and can never be explained as an aggregate of elementary atoms of sensation” (Royce, 1881: 364-5). Thus, materialist atomic monism is doubly mistaken, for it also cannot explain the origin of mind. As atomism fails, he turns to “[…] the numerous efforts that see in the world the expression of psychical powers as such, not mere mind-stuff atoms, but organized wholes […]” (ibid.: 366). Again, he sees two broad classes of monism: Logical and Alogical. Hegel exemplifies the former, though he goes unnamed here, as the Panlogical Monist, who “[…] conceives the world as a process whereby the world-spirit makes actual what was potential, and the world-history therefore as an Evolution” (ibid.). Why must there be evolution, though? Why does the Logos not simply actualize the perfection it already contains? Furthermore, there is the pessimistic critique of Schopenhauer’s Alogical monism, wherein despite its evolution towards perfection the world is almost wholly marked by imperfection: “We mortals know of no one point in the universe where one might lay his hand and say: Here the ideal is attained” (ibid.: 368). However, Royce dismisses Schopenhauer’s Alogical Monism even more swiftly, as he think it lacks even a consistent statement.10 Here I take Royce to mean not a particular failure of Schopenhauer’s writing, but rather the general difficulty in articulating rational claims about the irrationality of everything. Thus, for Royce Alogical Monism is a non-starter, while Panlogical Monism faces difficulties further down the line.

7Even if a version of Panlogical Monism could be established that is not internally inconsistent, “[…] the terrible passage through the gates of the Kantian Dialektik would remain for each […] The great problems of the theory of knowledge would demand solution” (Royce, 1881: 370). Kant’s solution is unsatisfactory, for commonly expressed reasons (e.g., the particulars of the relation between the form and matter of appearances), and so Royce (ibid.: 378) offers his own modification of Kantianism:

The view here maintained is that the past data, instead of being picked up, as it were, by the synthesis of apprehension and recognition, and carried bodily into the present consciousness, are really projected out of the present data, into the conceived past, by the momentary activity of judgment […] Our view would make all the world of reality immediately subject to a unity implied in the present act by which this world is projected from the present into a conceived but not given infinite space and time.

  • 11 Of course, Peirce suggests a similar relation to Kant in 1905: “The Kantist has only abjure from th (...)

8Royce distinguishes three classes of conscious acts of projection from present data: Acknowledgement of the Past, Anticipations (of the future), and Acknowledgement of a Universe of Truth (reference to external reality and other minds). Understanding the past, future, and external reality as a projection from present data by an act of consciousness eliminates “[t]he three imposters of the Kantian Kritik (imposters because they so well deceived Kant himself), whose names are Ding an sich, transcendentaler Gegenstand, and Noumenon” (ibid.: 379).11 Although not put explicitly in these terms, this triple act of projection seems to be an act of the will, and so we can see this as an early expression of Royce’s voluntarism. Royce’s tenth and final postulate of the “true critical theory of Reality” makes the connection a little clearer:

The goal of philosophy can only be reached in an Ethical Doctrine. For since the ultimate fact of the knowing consciousness is the active construction of a world of truth from the data of sense, the ultimate justification of this activity must be found in the significance i.e., in the moral worth of this activity itself, a matter only to be discussed in the light of Ethics. (Royce, 1881: 380)

9If this is still not clear enough, Royce’s 1903 American Philosophical Association Presidential Address, published in 1904 in The Philosophical Review, asserts that under his own understanding of his intellectual development this youthful correction to Kant is thoroughly pragmatist, in that it makes even the most basic functions of cognition actions bound by ethical norms:

It was a mere sketch. But since it expressed a sincere effort to state the theory of truth wholly in terms of an interpretation of our judgments as present acknowledgements, since it made these judgment as embodiments of conscious attitudes that I then conceived to be essentially ethical, and to be capable of no restatement in terms of any absolute warrant whatever, I may assert that, for a time at least, I did seriously struggle not only to be what is now a pragmatist, but also to escape falling into the clutches of any Absolute. (Royce, 1904: 117)

10In the intervening years Royce seemingly did fall into the clutches of an Absolute, while also striving to maintain his early commitment to pragmatism/voluntarism. He published numerous essays and several major works during this period, and here I will highlight some aspects of two: The Religious Aspect of Philosophy (1885) and The World and the Individual (1899-1901). In particular, during this period we see some of Peirce’s criticisms of Royce speak directly to the question of voluntarism.

3. Peirce and Royce: Increasing Appreciation for Secondness

  • 12 Cp. Scott (1991: 25): “The very intuition of one’s own ignorance and fallibility is then, according (...)

11The Religious Aspect of Philosophy features, among other positions, one of Royce’s governing insights: a transcendental proof of the Absolute from the possibility of error. First, that there is error is an experiential fact. Error is the failure of an idea to represent its object. But how is an error known to be an error? The mind must have an idea of the intended object along with the misrepresented object. Kelly Parker (2008: 112) gives a concrete example: “If I think that my keys are on the hall table, but discover that my idea is erroneous, I do not conclude that my keys never existed as the object of my thought. Rather, I focus on an idea that I had all along – that my keys do definitely exist somewhere. They are the true object of an idea, and an object which is at the moment available to me only imperfectly.”12 This is a higher order idea, that for Royce eventually concatenates into an all-inclusive Absolute Thought (Royce, 1885: 426).

  • 13 Peirce continues: “You may quarrel with the word volition if you like; I wish I had a more general (...)
  • 14 See CP 1.389 (from “A Guess at the Riddle” 1887-1888) for the terminology of “immediate” (Firstness (...)
  • 15 Though I should note that Royce (1885: xi) declares in the preface to The Religious Aspect of Philo (...)

12Royce argues that this Infinite Thought must be actual, rejecting the view of ‘Thrasymachus’ that “[…] if all were known to an all-knower, he would judge error to be mistaken.” In his review of this volume Peirce recognizes himself as this “Royce-forsaken Thrasymachus” and makes a remark especially relevant to our current inquiry: “[…] the Hegelian school does not sufficiently take into account the volitional account of cognition” (CP 8.41). Peirce continues by arguing that Royce neglects recent developments in logic (a common refrain in their relationship), especially the indispensable function of an index in designating the subject of a proposition. More generally, on Peirce’s view Royce neglects Secondness as Will: “The element of feeling is so prominent in sensations, that we do not observe that something like Will enters into them, too” (CP 8.41).13 Will is the outward variety of polar consciousness, and “[t]he capital error of Hegel which permeates his whole system in every part of it is that he almost altogether ignores the Outward Clash” (CP 8.42).14 Thus, we can see Peirce as offering a voluntarististic corrective to Royce’s intellectualist Hegelianism.15

  • 16 For a brief account of the “Abbot Affair,” and Peirce’s relationship with Royce overall, see Oppenh (...)
  • 17 Quoted in Oppenheim (1997: 259), from 30 December 1897 review in The Nation. Perovich 2016 argues t (...)

13Peirce’s review was unpublished, and his relationship with Royce would sour shortly afterwards due to Peirce taking Francis Ellingwood Abbot’s side in his quarrel with Royce.16 Indeed, Peirce’s criticism of Royce’s argument from error seems to have made little impact, for as Kelly Parker (2008: 116) notes “[Royce] continues to present it, in its original form, until the end of his career.” Furthermore, Royce does not mention Peirce as an influence in 1892’s The Spirit of Modern Philosophy. Their relationship improves, however, with Royce acknowledging the influence of Peirce’s “brilliant cosmological essays” (the Monist Series culminating in 1893’s “Evolutionary Love”) in 1895’s “Self-Consciousness, Social Consciousness, and Nature II” (602). Conversely, in 1897 Peirce approvingly notes that with Royce’s introduction of individual wills into his system in 1895’s The Conception of God “a seed of death […] [was] implanted in the Hegelian system.”17 Again, we see Peirce suggesting that a larger interest in, or proper understanding of, the Will improves Royce’s system.

14Royce was greatly impressed by Peirce’s 1898 Cambridge Lectures, and again acknowledges Peirce’s influence in his The World and the Individual. While not made explicit, we can perhaps see some of Royce’s debt to Peirce in the following account of his development from the preface of Volume I:

In my first book [The Religious Aspect of Philosophy] the conception of the Absolute was defined in such wise as led me then to prefer, quite deliberately, the use of the term Thought as the best name for the final unity of the Absolute. While this term was there so defined as to make Thought inclusive of Will and of Experience, these latter terms were not emphasize prominently enough, and the aspects of the Absolute Life with they denote have since become more central in my own interest. (Royce, 1900: ix)

15Royce fulfills this promise to see the Absolute as more than Thought in at least two ways in The World and the Individual. The first is his definition of ideas as essentially purposes: “Whatever else our ideas are, and however much or little they may be, at any moment, expressed in rich, sensuous imagery, it is certain that they are ideas not because they are masses of series of images, but because they embody present conscious purposes. Every idea is as much a volitional process as it is an intellectual process” (ibid.: 310-1). In other words, the correspondence to its object that makes an idea true or false is not similarity, as in a photograph looking like the person photographed, but rather in the fulfillment or frustration of the embodied purpose. “When I have an idea of the world, my idea is a will, and the world of my idea is simply my own will itself determinately embodied” (ibid.: 327). Second, Royce combines this reconceptualization of ideas with his argument from error to provide a non-Hegelian conception of the Absolute, one that Royce does not hesitate to call God: “In him, namely, and as sharing in his perfect Will, my will comes consciously to find wherein lies precisely what satisfies my will, and so makes my life, this unique life, distinct from all other lives” (Royce, 1901: 435). In other words, now the final unity of the Absolute is a unity of Willing, not only Knowing.

  • 18 This is not to say the influence was one-sided; again, see Oppenheim 1997.
  • 19 Also, “It is time, I think, that the long customary, but unjust and loose usage of the adjective ‘H (...)
  • 20 See Pratt (2010: 204): “Like other idealists of the time, Royce viewed consciousness (in particular (...)

16The influence of Peirce on Royce deepens after 1900, leading to a further reconstruction of Royce’s Absolute as a Universal Community of Interpretation in 1913’s The Problem of Christianity. However, these developments are commonly seen to come from engagement with Peirce’s logic conceived as semeiotic rather than more specific voluntarist corrections to Royce’s Hegelian tendencies.18 Indeed, there Royce asserts that he now owes more to Peirce than anything he might have owed to Hegel over the years (Royce, 1913: I.xi-xii).19 Furthermore, what his critics see as a Hegelian logic Royce sees as Peircean, and thereby both independent and more general than Hegel’s logic (ibid.: II.184-5). In this way Royce’s critics (and here James is probably at the foremost of Royce’s mind) have some justification for their confusion of Hegel and Peirce. H. G. Townsend argues that Peirce and Hegel are closer than even Royce admits. So why does Royce side with Peirce? Because of “[…] one respect in which the difference between Peirce and Hegel is fundamental and significant. Peirce’s mind leans hard toward voluntarism” (Townsend, 1928: 301). Townsend sees this both in the Peircean account of interpretation Royce gives in The Problem of Christianity as well as the role of agency in his logic, especially System Σ.20 Thus, while Peirce is not the sole voluntarist influence on Royce, he might have been the decisive one: “I have no doubt that this is the secret of [Royce’s] confessed indebtedness to Peirce. Peirce taught him how to find a place for the will in a universe of Hegelian absolutes” (Townsend, 1928: 302).

  • 21 On the other hand: “Such reasonings and all reasonings turn upon the idea that if one exerts certai (...)

17I do not mean to suggest that Peirce is a radical voluntarist, for Secondness is only one of three irreducible categories present to varying degrees in all phenomena, so the “Will” is not simply Secondness. Furthermore, I take seriously his reminder about the formulation of pragmatic maxim in “How to Make Our Ideas Clear”: “This employment five times over of derivatives of concipere must then have had a purpose […] One was to show that I was speaking of meaning in no sense that that of intellectual purport” (CP 5.402 Fn P3).21 Nonetheless, balancing intellectualism and voluntarism is perhaps part of why Peirce and Royce came to see each other as philosophically kindred spirits. Of course, Peirce was not the only pragmatist offering voluntarist insights to Royce, so let us now turn to James.

4. James and Royce: Engaging with Experimental Psychology

  • 22 Cf. Jarvis (1975: 151 fn 42).
  • 23 See especially Oppenheim 2005, and Auxier 2013.

18Again, in 1904 Royce saw his 1881 Kant paper as an expression of a ‘pure pragmatism’: “I was then twenty-six years old and had been deeply influenced by Professor James’s earlier lectures and essays” (Royce, 1904: 117). Given this early date, James’ original 1879 version of “Sentiment of Rationality” is likely the key text.22 Of course, by 1904 James’ “Will to Believe” further influenced Royce. However, even more so than between Royce and Peirce, detailing all of the interactions between James and Royce is a monumental task. Fortunately, this task has been undertaken by scholars such as Clendenning, Oppenheim, Kegley, and Auxier, so I need not repeat all of it here.23 In short, the continual debate between James and Royce led James to intensify his commitment to empiricism and pluralism, if anything, while Royce maintained his own commitment to some form of Absolutism. While we will see some more of Royce’s critique of James below, here I want to focus on suggestion by Auxier (2013: 102): “This is a feature of Royce’s thought that is often overlooked – that is voluntarism, while often stated as a fundamental postulate when he does metaphysics, is based upon an empirical psychology.” Thus, rather than rehearsing a fairly well known story about James and Royce’s inability to convert each other, let us look a little more closely at their shared background in psychology.

  • 24 While in Germany Royce studied philosophy with the neo-Kantian Wilhelm Windelband (1848-1915) and R (...)
  • 25 As Mary Whiton Calkins’ (1901: 435) notes in her own psychology text, “Perhaps the most significant (...)
  • 26 Though James had qualms with Wundt’s terminology, at least: “I must confess finding all Wundt’s utt (...)
  • 27 I say “seemingly” because the transcendental unity of consciousness/apperception is one of the more (...)

19In addition to the influence of the early James, by 1881 Royce had studied psychology with Wilhelm Wundt.24 Widely regarded as the father of psychology, Wundt was deeply influenced by Leibniz, and he produced a variety of philosophical works, such as his 1886 Ethik.25 Significantly for our present inquiry, Wundt argued for what is now called psychological voluntarism. For Wundt, consciousness originates in sensation. However, sensations are always already presented as representations that, if considered as representing external reality, are perceptions. Conscious awareness might also be more or less broad, and Wundt calls perceptions in the “focal point” of consciousness apperceptions. Obviously, this is a precursor to James’ “focus” and “fringe.”26 However, perceptions do not transform into apperceptions passively, but rather through an act of attending or will: “[…] the act of apperception in every case consists in an inner act of will” (Wundt, 1880: I.34). This act of will provides the unity of apperception, in contrast to seemingly intellectual act of synthesis via the categories in Kant’s account.27 In addition, as apperceptions are also representations, ideas, at least insofar as we are aware of them, are products of the will.

  • 28 Philp argues that Royce’s account of attention “[…] developed into the Voluntarism for which Royce (...)
  • 29 See (Auxier 2013: 142).
  • 30 In addition to the novelty of this set of distinctions Royce (1903: viii) highlights “[…] the persi (...)
  • 31 “In brief, the preservation of a happy balance between the imitative functions and those that empha (...)
  • 32 “But what is my will? By nature I know not; for by birth I am a mere eddy in the turbulent stream i (...)
  • 33 Compare the role of the ‘social impulse’ in Peirce’s 1877 “The Fixation of Belief” (CP 5.378, 5.384 (...)

20In the The World and the Individual Royce (1901: I.23) says: “[…] an idea appears in consciousness as having the significance of an act of will.” Indeed, Royce holds this position as early as 1882’s “How Beliefs are Made”: “When impressions are modified by attention […] [which], in its most elementary forms, is the same activity that, in a more developed shape, we commonly call will. We attend to one thing rather than another, because we will to do so, and our will is here the elementary impulse to know” (Royce, 1920: 345).28 Thus, while Royce was influenced by James (who was 13 years Royce’s senior) from early on, this was in part because of their shared background in voluntaristic experimental psychology, especially concerning the role of attention in cognition. For example, from James’ “Attention” chapter in The Principles of Psychology: “The practical and theoretical life of whole species, as well as of individual beings, results from the selection which the habitual direction of their attention involves […] Suffice it meanwhile that each of us literally chooses, by his way of attending to things, what sort of a universe he shall appear to himself to inhabit” (James, 1890: I.424). Replace ‘chooses’ with ‘projects’ and we have something much like the position Royce held since his Kant address. Nonetheless, Royce and James are typically seen as philosophical opponents, despite this shared background. Why so? One reason is James’ combination of voluntarist psychology with “the principle of Peirce” to develop his own form of pragmatism, conceived as both a method for clarifying ideas and as a theory of truth. Royce rebuts with an Absolute Voluntarism and an Absolute Pragmatism. However, another reason is that Royce, like Peirce, sees James’ pragmatism as too individualistic; not simply in the sense of particular differences made to particular individuals, but in failing to emphasize that individual wills are themselves fundamentally social.29 In his own Outlines of Psychology, Royce substitutes the common distinctions of Feeling, Intellect, and Will with Sensitiveness, Docility, and Initiative, with the ‘will’ playing a role throughout.30 For example, he concludes the section on Sensitiveness (which includes sensations, images, and feelings) with “[…] the whole consciousness of any moment is an expression of the will of that moment, in so far as that will is concerned with these sensory experiences, and with these objects, in view of the present values which our feelings give to the objects in question” (Royce, 1903: 196). This is a primordial form of will, or conation more broadly, while the fuller concept of Will can only come after an account of docility, or our ability to learn; in particular, through imitation.31 Through imitation of others we come to develop our individuality and to grow a will of our own through the organization of our desires.32 The need to satisfy more than our individual will does not go away however, even for ‘pure’ pragmatists: “It is the need that I before called the need of companionship, the need not only of thinking for ourselves, but of finding somebody who either will agree with us, or else at least, to our mode of thinking, ought to agree with us” (Royce, 1903: 126).33 Even the pluralist, Royce notes, wants people to agree with him. This felt need for companionship pushes even a pure pragmatist to be more than a pragmatist, and in a variation of Royce’s argument form error culminates in the Absolute – “[a]ll that is practical borrows its truth from the Eternal” (Royce, 1903: 142). Here is Royce’s Absolute Pragmatism, though not yet by that name. What of his Absolute Voluntarism? As with “pragmatism,” Royce adopts (or attempts to co-opt) a newly popular designation for his position.

5. Tufts and Schiller: Naming a Tradition

  • 34 Quoted in CP 5.494. No variant of “Voluntarism” is noted in the Robin Catalog. I say “half-hearted, (...)

21While we have been talking about the voluntarism of the pragmatists, the term “voluntarism” itself arrives comparatively late. For example, the only mention in Peirce’s Collected Papers is an, at best, half-hearted agreement with one of Schiller’s definitions of pragmatism: “[…] a conscious application to epistemology (or logic) of a teleological psychology, which implies, ultimately, a voluntaristic metaphysic” (Schiller, 1912: 12).34 Likewise, Royce does not use the term until his 1908 Heidelberg Address “The Problem of Truth in the Light of Recent Discussion,” republished in 1911’s William James and Other Essays on the Philosophy of Life.

22The advent of “voluntarism” as a common term of art appears to be 1901’s Baldwin’s Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology. The topic has an entry of two full double-column pages written by James Hayden Tufts, who at this point had been developing the Chicago School of Pragmatism with Dewey, George Herbert Mead, and others, for almost a decade. Here is Tufts’ definition:

Voluntarism (in metaphysics) […] The theory that the ultimate nature of reality is to be conceived as some form of will (or conation); contrasted with INTELLECTUALISM (q.v.). (Tufts, 1901: 807; etymology omitted)

  • 35 George Santayana considered Leibniz the first German philosopher, whose voluntarism is a symptom of (...)
  • 36 Of course, mentioning the long history of voluntarism is not to deny the originality of the pragmat (...)

23Tufts goes on to trace these contrasting tendencies in the history of Western philosophy, with the Greeks as intellectualists and Augustine as a voluntarist; in the medieval period Ibn Rushd, Aquinas, and Eckhart were intellectualists, while Ibn Gabirol, Duns Scotus, and William of Occam defended voluntarism. The early modern period is largely intellectualist, with Spinoza as the best representative and Leibniz as attempting a voluntarist correction.35 In contrast, the late modern period shows voluntarism as a growing tendency, rooted in Kant. As for the nineteenth century: “Following Kant, two distinct types of voluntarism have proceeded […] They may be called respectively rational and irrational voluntarism, whose originators were respectively Fichte and Schopenhauer” (Tufts, 1901: 808). Rational voluntarists include Wilhelm Wundt, Maine de Biran (1766-1824), Charles Renouvier (1815-1903), and William James, while Tufts sees Eduard von Hartmann (1842-1906) and Friedrich Nietzsche as developers of Schopenhauerian irrational voluntarism. Royce does not merit a mention.36

  • 37 Dunham goes on to show that Renouvier’s idealist methodology informs James’ pragmatism as a whole, (...)
  • 38 More strongly: “It is the fashion among present day philosophers to depreciate reason, and in the f (...)

24Let me say a few things concerning the three less famous names given by Tufts: Renouvier, von Hartmann, and de Biran. First, Renouvier is mostly remembered for inspiring James to believe in free will. However, Jeremy Dunham (2015: 2) argues the influence is deeper: “[…] what is vital for James about Renouvier’s theory of free will is not the affirmation of its existence, but rather they way Renouvier connects it to his theory of knowledge and psychology of belief.” Significantly, Renouvier was a self-identified idealist, though not a Hegelian, and thereby provided James with resources to reject Absolute Idealism but not idealism tout court. In particular, Renouvier’s idealism offers “[…] a radical voluntarist alternative […]” (ibid.: 6).37 Second, von Hartmann was well known to Peirce, James, and Royce. For example, Peirce writes: “But I do not believe that psychology can be set to rights until the importance of Hartmann’s argument [that there is unconscious mind] is acknowledged” (CP 7.364). More specifically, for von Hartmann not only is there unconscious mind, “[…] the will in and of itself is under all circumstances unconscious” (1884: II.102). Finally, Biran is at the beginning of a tradition of French Voluntarism, reaching into the thought of Henri Bergson, another key influence on James. However, L. Susan Stebbing (1914: 11) argues that while the tradition of French Voluntarism “[…] exhibits in Renouvier an element, which, mingling with the ‘principle of Peirce,’ brings forth the pragmatism of William James, it nevertheless developes [sic] on independent and even antagonistic lines.”38 So here we have another tradition distinct from German Idealism that informs American Pragmatism.

25Stebbing (1914: 13) offers a useful expansion of Tufts’ definition of “Voluntarism”:

  • 39 Of course, this does not exhaust the varieties of “voluntarism.” For example, Cantrell argues that (...)

Its essential distinction from “Intellectualism” or “Rationalism” may be summed up briefly in that Voluntarism holds that psychologically, will is more fundamental than intellect; that metaphysically, the ultimate nature of reality is some form of will; finally, that in epistemology, will must be recognised as essential to the construction of truth […]39

  • 40 In “The Ethical Basis of Metaphysics,” an Ethical Society address also published in the Internation (...)
  • 41 In addition to Dewey, A. W. Moore’s 1904 review of Schiller’s Humanism, among others, certainly hel (...)

26We have already seen more or less qualified forms of each of these voluntarisms. Returning to the provenance of “voluntarism,” Schiller uses the term in his 1903 Humanism, which Dewey reviewed in 1904 for The Psychological Bulletin.40 There Dewey makes an equivocation, not unjustly, that helps drive the subsequent uptake of the term: “Voluntarism, now termed Pragmatism, which I should prefer to call Instrumentalism, is characteristic of the book throughout” (Dewey, 1904: 335).41 We will return to Dewey’s conception of voluntarism, especially in his understanding of Royce’s philosophy, shortly. For now, let us dwell a little more with some forgotten observers of the debates about pragmatism.

27For example, in 1905 Alfred Hoernlé argued for the thesis of this present paper:

What seems to me to give the conflict between Pragmatism and Absolutism its real importance and significance is that it is but a phase in that wider conflict between Intellectualism and Voluntarism, the roots of which can be traced back to the reaction against the Hegelian Philosophy in Germany in the years 1840-80. (Hoernlé, 1905: 21)

  • 42 In particular: “Experience can not without mutilation be resolved into three departments, one cogni (...)
  • 43 A fuller account of the relation between idealism and pragmatism would do well to look at the Engli (...)
  • 44 Again, think of Peirce on “Will” as one aspect of our polar experience of effort/resistance.

28In this article Hoernlé takes James Ward’s Gifford Lectures, published in 1899 as Naturalism and Agnosticism, as illustrative of Voluntarism.42 Since Hoernlé sees contemporary Voluntarism as primarily epistemological, he then proceeds to a critical exposition of Bradley’s Absolutist/Intellectualist account of knowledge, truth, and the relationship between logic and psychology. This is preparation for a second article on Pragmatism as presented by James and Schiller, which we will focus on here.43 Hoernlé admits his account of pragmatism is debatable because of the absence of a systematic exposition on behalf of its proponents, but again he sees it as primarily a doctrine concerning the nature of truth and knowledge, one that recognizes the seemingly insuperable gap between the Absolute and Appearance. “This takes us to the central doctrine of Pragmatism, which I take to be the insistence on the purposiveness of our whole mental life” (Hoernlé, 1905b: 446). For the Pragmatist, thought is a kind of action, and therefore true beliefs are marked in a similar fashion to successful actions – they are ‘satisfactory’ or ‘work.’ Pragmatism is not a pure subjectivism, despite the claims of its critics, because ideas are ‘made true’ by a process of experience, not simply by us. “This double-faced nature of truth, as partly revealing itself to us, partly made by us, seems best explained by the willing, purposive element of our nature. It is primarily so far as the world opposes itself to us and check our activities, whether theoretical or practical, that we distinguish ourselves from it” (ibid.: 452).44 Hoernlé sees predecessors of this voluntarism in Descartes and Spinoza – all acts of judgment are acts of will – and also the possibility of bridging the gap between faith and knowledge left by Kant (ibid.: 453; 455). Most significantly for our purposes:

I am bold enough to think that the doctrine of the development of a consciousness of self and a consciousnesses of the world, i.e., of a subject and object, in relation and opposition to each other – a doctrine with which Hegelian writers have made us abundantly familiar – could be reconciled with that I hold to be the fundamental point of Pragmatism by the recognition of that self-consciousness as essentially a purposive and willing consciousness. (Ibid.: 455)

  • 45 “Hegel made the question [of the relations between our ideals of conduct and our acknowledgement of (...)
  • 46 And one more: “The direction of development in modern epistemology clearly suggests, therefore, tha (...)

29This paper remains agnostic as to whether Hegel’s account of self-consciousness is essentially, or sufficiently, purposive. Clearly, rehabilitating teleological notions, including the purposiveness of nature, is a major part of Hegel’s project.45 What Hoernlé and other commentators show us is that pragmatism was commonly seen as at least bringing something to idealism, if not opposing it entirely, in arguing for voluntarism over intellectualism. Another example: “Mr. Schiller’s jaunty onslaughts on Kantian apriorism, Bradleian absolutism and all other forms of intellectualism are interesting reading” (Leighton, 1904: 149).46 Thus, when Royce declares in “The Problem of Truth in Light of Recent Discussion” that “[…] the solving word of the theory of truth is Voluntarism” he is self-consciously identifying with a position seen as distinctive of, perhaps even identical with, pragmatism (Royce, 1911: 198). Or, as Royce refers to it repeatedly in this address, instrumentalism. That is, Royce sees the instrumentalism of Dewey, as well as the pragmatism of James, as inspired by a voluntarism he shares with both. And yet, this voluntarism is insufficient if understood as individualistic or relativistic:

  • 47 Intriguingly, Royce’s sees support for his Absolutism in the development of non-Euclidean geometry, (...)

For what we hereby learn is that all truth is indeed relative to the expression of our will, but that the will inevitably determines for itself forms of activity which are objectively valid and absolute, just because to attempt to inhibit these forms is once more to act, and is to act in accordance with them. (Royce, 1911: 250)47

30In other words, Royce sees Dewey’s instrumentalism, James’ pragmatism, and Schiller’s humanism as voluntarism by another name, at least after voluntarism becomes a popular name for a long-standing tendency. In addition, as voluntarisms, each putatively is driven by their own logic towards Royce’s non-Hegelian Absolute. Finally, by identifying his Absolute Voluntarism with Absolute Pragmatism, Royce in effect declares himself (and Peirce) as the only real pragmatists. So what did Dewey say about (absolute) voluntarism?

6. Dewey and Royce: Critiquing the Possibility of Absolute Voluntarism

  • 48 While sometimes described as a Hegelian, Morris studied with Friedrich Trendelenburg, who favored n (...)

31In many ways, Dewey’s intellectual background is similar to Royce’s, as he studied Kant with Henry Augustus Pearson Torrey (1837-1902) in Vermont, and with the philosopher George Sylvester Morris (1840-1889) and the psychologist Granville Stanley Hall (1846-1924) at Johns Hopkins in the early 1880’s.48 Nonetheless, as might be expected, Dewey had as little use for “voluntarism” as he did for any -ism. In his preface to 1910’s The Influence of Darwin on Philosophy and Other Essays, Dewey (1910: ix) notes

  • 49 Dewey adds a footnote avering “The affair is even more portentous in the German with its capital le (...)

[…] a recent German critic has described pragmatism as “Epistemologically, nominalism; psychologically, voluntarism; cosmologically, energism; metaphysically, agnosticism’ ethically, meliorism on the basis of the Bentham-Mill utilitarianism. It maybe that pragmatism will turn out to be all of this formidable array; but even should it, the one who thus defines it has hardly come within earshot of it.49

32This is because pragmatism, as a spirit of continual reconstruction, resists classification in terms of the prior systems it is reconstructing. This is not to deny pragmatism’s relation to the history of philosophy, but runs the risk of unpragmatically seeing pragmatism as a set of fixed doctrines established in no longer extant conditions of life.

  • 50 For more on this festschrift, see Friedman 2016.
  • 51 “The transition to Absolutism is through (a) the discovery of the scepticism laten in voluntarism m (...)
  • 52 Regarding the intellectualism of the Absolute, Dewey’s criticism of Bradley in “The Intellectualist (...)

33On the other hand, when it came to the symposium held in Royce’s honor at the 1915 American Philosophical Association, published in the following year in The Philosophical Review, Dewey is happy to use Royce’s terminology.50 Dewey situates the development of Royce’s philosophy along the axis of voluntarism and intellectualism, the latter here understood as “[…] any philosophy which treats the subject-matter of experience as primarily and fundamentally an object of cognition” (Dewey, 1916: 245 Fn1). Dewey also begins with Royce’s 1881 Kant address, and argues that is is indeed an expression of voluntarism. However, Dewey contends that Royce demotes voluntarism in 1885’s the Religious Aspect of Philosophy, making intellectualism primary in his account of the Absolute as an Absolute Thought.51 This is so even though Dewey acknowledges that Royce’s treatment of all cognitive ideas is voluntaristic. Dewey also admits that the account of the Absolute in The Religious Aspect of Philosophy is somewhat anomalous: “[…] in the formulations of this absolute knowing consciousness intellectualistic considerations predominate to a greater extent than in Mr. Royce’s subsequent formulations” (Dewey, 1916: 252).52

  • 53 Or his intellectualist commitments with his voluntarist impulses. Compare Santayana’s assessment of (...)
  • 54 Peirce does this in 1905’s “What Pragmatism Is” (CP 5.412).
  • 55 Bixler (1936: 201) shares Dewey’s assessment: “If we turn to some of the early articles we find Roy (...)
  • 56 This is illustrative of the tensions within the pragmatist tradition, as Anderson (2005: 471) notes (...)

34Dewey’s remarks are fair enough, as we have already highlighted some ways Royce strove to reconcile his voluntarist commitments with his intellectualist impulses.53 Dewey continues with two potential lines of criticism of Royce. The first is that solutions are relative to problems, and “[w]ith Mr. Royce the problem is fixed by the results of the Kantian philosophy, taken in its broad sense” (Dewey, 1916: 252). Thus, while Dewey does not make the implication explicit, those unmotivated by Kantian problems will tend to be unsatisfied with Royce’s solution. Second, and most significantly for us, Dewey denies that Royce is a pragmatist, on three grounds. One, while pragmatism might be stated in psychological terms, and thereby be a kind of psychological voluntarism, it does not have to be stated so. Two, on Dewey’s view there is no attention to empirical consequences in Royce (at least, in 1881), arguing that Peirce himself repudiated this as a Practicalism, but not Pragmatism.54 Three, Royce’s theory of judgment is both intellectualist and voluntarist, but still not pragmatist: “Construing the operation of fulfilling a supreme cognitive interest in terms of purpose and will is a very different thing from construing cognitive interest in terms of a process of fulfilment of other interests, vital, social, ethical, esthetic, technological, etc.” (Dewey, 1916: 253).55 Indeed, the voluntarism of 1881 transforms into the intellectualism of 1885 because of Royce’s latent ethical absolutism. In other words, even with Royce’s voluntarism, he was never a real pragmatist.56

35Royce scholars, such as Auxier and Oppenheim, have argued that Dewey’s focus on the 1880’s, despite some references to Royce’s later work, is unfair to Royce. Dewey is kinder in a 1930 address, in part because of minimizing the ill spoken of the dead, in part because of an apparent greater familiarity with the later Royce. There Dewey concedes something pragmatic in Royce: “It is well known that Royce was favorable to a voluntaristic pragmatic theory of ideas, in their empirical aspect as distinct from their ultimate metaphysical status” (Oppenheim, 2001: 211). Nonetheless, Dewey repeats his 1916 criticism that Royce solutions are unacceptable because they derive from problems wrongly stated. Likewise, “I have had to come to the conclusion that the idealistic tradition from which Royce started continued to hamper him and prevented a full development of [his] own intrinsic genius” (Oppenheim, 2001: 214). Again, while Dewey does not make it explicit, we can interpret intellectualistic idealism as the tradition hampering Royce’s intrinsic voluntaristic pragmatism.

7. Conclusion

36I intended the title of this paper as a genuine question, though one I hope to have put additional force behind. As Dewey argues, solutions are relative to problems, and perhaps the problem of the relation between German Idealism and American Pragmatism is better recast as the contest between intellectualism and voluntarism. Of course, offering another opposed set of traditions may only amplify the complexity of the relationship between the traditions of idealism and pragmatism, but sometimes a thread that leads us through a labyrinth does so by showing us how convoluted the labyrinth is. Royce’s Absolute Voluntarism is a fertile line of inquiry because it helps us to see how his efforts to reconcile intellectualism and voluntarism informed, and were informed by, his fellow pragmatists. With Peirce, we saw both the well-known admonition that Royce study logic as well as a less-known call for a greater appreciation for Secondness and a proper conception of the Will. James was a constant influence on Royce’s thought, in part because of their mutual background in the voluntaristic psychology of Wundt. As for Dewey, he showed that Royce’s psychological, even metaphysical, voluntarism may not have been enough to make him a full pragmatist.

  • 57 While this paper is historical, I should not fail to mention that James’ “Will to Believe” remains (...)

37Nonetheless, voluntarism is likely the right question to ask. With voluntarism we were able to open windows upon other lines of influence that, while often refracted through the prism of Kant, are also distinct from at least Hegel’s form of German idealism. Again, Wundt’s voluntaristic psychology reaches back to the idealism of Leibniz, Fichte takes a larger role, and the consonances with Schopenhauer and Nietzsche are more clear. Likewise, Bergson’s Intuitionism continues a tradition of French Voluntarism with pre-Kantian roots, and includes Renouvier, an undeniable influence on James.57 Finally, thanks to Baldwin and Schiller promoting the term as defined by Tufts, “voluntarism” became more or less a keyword for the classical pragmatists, and more broadly for commentators and participants in the debates surrounding pragmatism. Of course, the distance of over one hundred years might grant us a clarity they lacked; nonetheless, we should strive to include the forgotten in our community of inquiry.

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Notes

1 For example, John Herman Randall Jr., identifies at least four schools of American philosophical idealism. Regarding our present topic, Randall (1966) emphasizes Royce’s consistent refusal to identify as a Hegelian (63), and was instead more influenced by the voluntarism of Schopenhauer (69) and of Fichte (72).

2 See LW 5: 154; cf. Good 2006, and Shook 2000.

3 “Modern Voluntarism is chiefly due, if I mistake not, to the effort escape the relentless conclusions of science, which are hostile to many current, especially religious, conceptions” (Spiller 1904: 428).

4 To add three more: the influence of Ralph Waldo Emerson and other transcendentalists, the U.S. Civil War, and the subsequent Third Great Awakening. Regarding the first: “The generation before the transcendentalists was emotionally starved; that before the pragmatists was intellectually over-fed. Given in one case Calvinism, and in the other Hegelianism, and a common result was brought about. The rigid determinism of the one, and the monotonous dialectic of the other issued in a common revolty of the will and of the feelings” (Riley 1909: 264).

5 Royce also acknowledges the Kant scholar Hans Vaihinger’s Die Philosophy des Als Ob (The Philosophy of “As If”) as an expression of Voluntarism independent of pragmatism. Vaihinger claims that his Principle of Fictionalism (that false theoretical ideas might still be practically useful) is not pragmatism (Vaihinger, 2014: viii), though he does assert that Kant is a kind of Critical Pragmatist (ibid.: 305). Vaihinger attributes his own voluntarism to Schopenhauer: “Schopenhauer’s teaching gave me much that was new and great and lasting, pessimism, irrationalism, and voluntarism. The impression he made upon me was, although not extensively, yet certainly intensively greater than that of Kant” (ibid.: xxviii-xxix). As we will see later, Schopenhauer was a significant influence on Royce’s voluntarism as well.

6 I say “semi-independent” because the influence of Kant, and thereby some form of idealism, looms over basically all of nineteenth century Western philosophy.

7 “Concreteness requires an appeal to history, to our actual, historical situatedness and (for understanding of this situatedness) an exploration of a complex, tangled past” (Colapietro, 1992: 424).

8 In “On Purpose in Thought” from a year prior Royce presents a similar account of ‘projection,’ which he sees as “[…] substantially the same as in the thesis presented to the Johns Hopkins Faculty as a candidate for the Doctor’s Degree in spring of 1878 […]” (Royce, 1920: 260).

9 CP 8.7-38 and CP 5.388-410, respectively. From the former: “A better rule for avoiding the deceits of language is hit: Do things fulfill the same function practically? Then let them be signified by the same word. Do they not? Then let them be distinguished” (CP 8.33). From the latter: “It appears, then, that the rule for attaining the third grade of clearness of apprehension is as follows: Consider what effects, that might conceivably have practical bearings, we conceive the object of our conception to have. Then, our conception of these effects is the whole of our conception of the object” (CP 5.402).

10 This is not to say that Royce does not take Schopenhauer seriously; see Auxier 2013, and Carlson 2016 for more on Royce’s engagement with Schopenhauer. Another candidate for Alogical Monism that Royce took seriously is Nietzsche: “It is rarely appreciated in Royce studies the extent to which he followed and was influenced by the work of Nietzsche” (Auxier, 2013: 29). See also Privitello 2016.

11 Of course, Peirce suggests a similar relation to Kant in 1905: “The Kantist has only abjure from the bottom of his heart the proposition the thing-in-itself can, however indirectly, be conceived; and then correct the details of Kant’s doctrine accordingly, and he will find himself to have become a Critical Common-sensist” (CP 5.452). This does not mean his correction is the same as Royce’s, however; for example, almost all of Peirce’s uses of “projection” are geometrical. Instead, Peirce advocates for a Doctrine of Immediate Perception, even of an immediate perception of the indefinitely past because time is a continuum. “But once grant immediate knowledge in time, and what becomes of the idealist theory that we immediately know only the present?” (CP 1.38). In this light, Royce is still very much an idealist in 1881.

12 Cp. Scott (1991: 25): “The very intuition of one’s own ignorance and fallibility is then, according to Royce, a sign of the possibility of an expanded consciousness in which there is no gap between idea and fact, in which our conceptions find themselves actualized in experience.”

13 Peirce continues: “You may quarrel with the word volition if you like; I wish I had a more general one at my hand.” In general, while Peirce continually emphasizes the “volitional” aspect of experience, he also worries about importing psychological concepts by using “Will” to describe this aspect; for example, “[…] what I call Molition, which is volition minus all desire and purpose, the mere consciousness of exertion of any kind […] Molition is a double consciousness of exertion and resistance” (CP 8.303-304). Peirce almost certainly coined “molition” from the Latin molere, “to grind.” See also CP 8.178 and 8.315.

14 See CP 1.389 (from “A Guess at the Riddle” 1887-1888) for the terminology of “immediate” (Firstness), “polar” (Secondness), and “synthetic” (Thirdness) consciousness or sense; cp. primisense, altersense, and medisense (CP 7.551).

15 Though I should note that Royce (1885: xi) declares in the preface to The Religious Aspect of Philosophy: “The author, however, cannot call himself an Hegelian, much as he owes to Hegel.” Just before this Royce (ibid.: x) distinguishes “[…] two Hegels: one an uncompromising idealist, with his general and fruitful insistence upon the great fundamental truths of idealism; the other the technical Hegel of the ‘Logik,’ whose dialectical method seems destined to remain, not a philosophy, but the idea of a philosophy.” Royce rejects the latter Hegel, and with the former recognizes a debt that properly belongs to the idealistic movement as a whole.

16 For a brief account of the “Abbot Affair,” and Peirce’s relationship with Royce overall, see Oppenheim 1997. The definitive biography of Royce remains Clendenning 1999.

17 Quoted in Oppenheim (1997: 259), from 30 December 1897 review in The Nation. Perovich 2016 argues that this voluntarist shift comes at least in part from Royce’s return to Fichte during this period.

18 This is not to say the influence was one-sided; again, see Oppenheim 1997.

19 Also, “It is time, I think, that the long customary, but unjust and loose usage of the adjective ‘Hegelian’ should be dropped” (ibid.: xi).

20 See Pratt (2010: 204): “Like other idealists of the time, Royce viewed consciousness (in particular, conscious choice or voluntarism) as an essential component of any account of knowledge (and any account of social systems, ethics, and science as well).” Cp. Thompson (1956: 433-4) on Cotton: “Voluntarism is the central theme of Royce’s logic as well as his metaphysics.”

21 On the other hand: “Such reasonings and all reasonings turn upon the idea that if one exerts certain kinds of volition, one will undergo in return certain compulsory perceptions […] Hence is justified the maxim, belief in which constitutes pragmatism […]” (CP 5.9). Also see CP 5.488 Fn P1: “[…] voluntary inhibition, which is the chief characteristic of mankind,” and cp. Colapietro 1985.

22 Cf. Jarvis (1975: 151 fn 42).

23 See especially Oppenheim 2005, and Auxier 2013.

24 While in Germany Royce studied philosophy with the neo-Kantian Wilhelm Windelband (1848-1915) and Rudolph Hermann Lotze (1817-1881), an especially influential and neglected critic of Hegelian Idealism.

25 As Mary Whiton Calkins’ (1901: 435) notes in her own psychology text, “Perhaps the most significant contribution of psychology is his sharp distinction between inattentive and attentive consciousness (petites perceptions and apperception).” Calkins studied with James, Royce, Santayana, as well as Hugo Münsterberg, another student of Wundt’s.

26 Though James had qualms with Wundt’s terminology, at least: “I must confess finding all Wundt’s utterances about ‘apperception’ both vacillating and obscure. I see no use whatever for the word, as he employs it, in Psychology. Attention, perception, conception, volition are its ample equivalents” (James, 1890: I.89).

27 I say “seemingly” because the transcendental unity of consciousness/apperception is one of the more obscure parts of Kant. The term “apperception” comes into psychology via Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776-1841), who drew on Leibniz as well as Kant.

28 Philp argues that Royce’s account of attention “[…] developed into the Voluntarism for which Royce stands in the academic world” (Philp, 1916: 22).

29 See (Auxier 2013: 142).

30 In addition to the novelty of this set of distinctions Royce (1903: viii) highlights “[…] the persistent stress I lay upon the unity of the intellectual and voluntary processes, which, in popular treatises, are too often sundered, and treated as if one of them could go on without the other […].” Again, think of Peirce’s recasting of Feeling, Willing, and Knowing as immediate feeling, polar sense, and synthetical consciousness (CP 1.382 “A Guess at the Riddle”). With both set of terms Peirce’s innovation is in distinguishing Feeling and Sensation, placing the later as a mode of polar sense along with the Will.

31 “In brief, the preservation of a happy balance between the imitative functions and those that emphasise social contrasts and oppositions forms the basis for every higher type of mental activity” (Royce 1903: 279). Furthermore, “[…] all the functions which constitute self-consciousness show themselves outwardly in social reactions, that is, in dealing with other real or ideal personages, and are, in our own minds, profoundly related to and inseparable from our social consciousness) (ibid.: 279-80; original emphasis removed). Royce argues for this as early as 1894’s “The External World and Social Consciousness.”

32 “But what is my will? By nature I know not; for by birth I am a mere eddy in the turbulent stream if inherited human passion. How, then shall I get a will of my own? Only through social training” (Royce 1908: 35).

33 Compare the role of the ‘social impulse’ in Peirce’s 1877 “The Fixation of Belief” (CP 5.378, 5.384); the phrase also appears in 1878’s “The Doctrine of Chances” (CP 2.655).

34 Quoted in CP 5.494. No variant of “Voluntarism” is noted in the Robin Catalog. I say “half-hearted, at best” because Peirce says if we redefine “psychology” to mean “common sense” he might agree with Schiller.

35 George Santayana considered Leibniz the first German philosopher, whose voluntarism is a symptom of the egotism of German philosophy: “From this metaphor [of an ‘unconscious’ Will], when its boldness seems to be dulled by use, we may pass insensibly to giving the name of Will to that whole transcendental potency of the soul which, like the mainspring of a watch, lay coiled up tightly within it from the beginning of time” (Santayana, 1915: 36-7). For Santayana, this tradition of German egotism ultimately expresses itself in the political developments culminating in World War I: “Not that the German philosophers are responsible for the war, or for that recrudescence of corporate fanaticism which prepared it from afar. They merely shared and justified prophetically that spirit of uncompromising self-assertion and metaphysical conceit which the German nation is now reducing to action” (ibid.: 7). See also Strehle 2011.

36 Of course, mentioning the long history of voluntarism is not to deny the originality of the pragmatists: “No one who remembers his history of philosophy would think of calling this in either its content or its method a ‘brand new’ discovery […] On the other hand, this same historical sense should make it equally impossible, even from a very superficial survey, to regard the movement as a mere masquerade of some earlier type of voluntarism” (Moore, 1904: 748).

37 Dunham goes on to show that Renouvier’s idealist methodology informs James’ pragmatism as a whole, especially his “Will to Believe.”

38 More strongly: “It is the fashion among present day philosophers to depreciate reason, and in the forefront of these are the French Voluntarists – especially the Bergsonian Intuitionists – and the Pragmatists. But in their methods and conclusions they are obviously opposed and an attempt is made to show that in no sense can the French Voluntarists be classed as Pragmatists” (Stebbing, 1914: v). Furthermore, Stebbing contends that both American Pragmatism and French Voluntarism have insufficient conceptions of truth compared to Intellectualism.

39 Of course, this does not exhaust the varieties of “voluntarism.” For example, Cantrell argues that James, following Royce’s The Religious Aspect of Philosophy, is a theological voluntarist in “The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life”: “[…] consistent with current discussion in metaethics, I mean simply that James held an obligation to perform some action has whatever moral status is possesses in virtue of God’s commanding (or failing to command) the relevant action” (Cantrell, 2013: 5).

40 In “The Ethical Basis of Metaphysics,” an Ethical Society address also published in the International Journal of Ethics. Here is the usage: “[…] [Pragmatism] is a conscious application to the theory of life of the psychological facts of cognition as they appear to a teleological Voluntarism” (Schiller, 1912: 8). I should note that here Schiller criticizes Baldwin’s, James’, and Peirce’s definitions of “pragmatism” in Baldwin’s Dictionary of Philosophy and Psychology – Peirce’s is “[…] so obvious to be comparatively unimportant […]” while James’ is insufficiently psychologically voluntarist, and Baldwin’s insufficiently metaphysically voluntarist.

41 In addition to Dewey, A. W. Moore’s 1904 review of Schiller’s Humanism, among others, certainly helped propagate the term. See also Bawden 1904.

42 In particular: “Experience can not without mutilation be resolved into three departments, one cognitive or theoretical, one emotional, one practical […] It is true that what we take and what we find we must take and find as it is given. But, on the other hand, it is also true that we do not take – or at least do not take up – what is uninteresting; nor do we find, unless we seek, nor seek unless we desire. The cognitive aspect of experience, in a word, is far more one of experiment, as its very etymology suggests, than one of mere disinterested observation” (Ward, 1899: 133). Like James, Ward began as a physiologist and psychologist, and studied under Hermann Lotze like Royce. In addition to being a Voluntarist, Ward is a Leibnizian idealist, in part due to the influence of Lotze – another reminder that German Idealism is a tradition with its own internal tensions and undercurrents.

43 A fuller account of the relation between idealism and pragmatism would do well to look at the English proponents of each side in more detail.

44 Again, think of Peirce on “Will” as one aspect of our polar experience of effort/resistance.

45 “Hegel made the question [of the relations between our ideals of conduct and our acknowledgement of truth] a fundamental one in various places in his Logic” (Royce, 1904: 114).

46 And one more: “The direction of development in modern epistemology clearly suggests, therefore, that we may hope for a final solution of the knowledge problem only if we refuse to separate theory from practice, only if we insist upon treating thought as an expression of will” (Wright, 1915: 299).

47 Intriguingly, Royce’s sees support for his Absolutism in the development of non-Euclidean geometry, as well as the mathematical logic of Peirce, Alfred Kempe, George Moore, and Bertrand Russell.

48 While sometimes described as a Hegelian, Morris studied with Friedrich Trendelenburg, who favored neo-Aristotleian idealism over Hegelian Absolutism. Hall had studied with Wundt, and was a founder of educational psychology.

49 Dewey adds a footnote avering “The affair is even more portentous in the German with its capital letters and series of muses.”

50 For more on this festschrift, see Friedman 2016.

51 “The transition to Absolutism is through (a) the discovery of the scepticism laten in voluntarism made ultimate: (b) in the demand for a community of aims or organization of wills: (c) the discovery that all recognition of ignorance and error, all sceptical doubt involves an appeal to a Judger or Thought which included both the original object and the original judgment about it” (Dewey, 1916: 250).

52 Regarding the intellectualism of the Absolute, Dewey’s criticism of Bradley in “The Intellectualist Criterion of Truth” probably expresses his view of Royce as well: “There really seems to be a ground for supposing that the whole argument turns on an ambiguity in the use of the word ‘absolute.’ Keeping strictly within the limits of the argument, it means nothing more than that thinking has a certain principle, a law of its own; that is has an appropriate mode of procedure which must be violated […] But Mr. Bradley immediately takes the word to mean absolute in the sense of describing a reality which by its very nature is totally contradistinguished from appearance-that is to say, from the realm of thought” (1910: 123).

53 Or his intellectualist commitments with his voluntarist impulses. Compare Santayana’s assessment of Royce’s system: “He wanted all minds to be one in some way which should be logically and morally necessary, and which yet, as he could not help feeling, was morally and logically impossible” (Santayana, 1955: 75). In a similar critical mode, Lindsay calls Royce’s view a “[…] mystical pan-egoistic epistemology […]” combined with a “[…] rather chaotic voluntaristic psychology […]” (Lindsay, 1918: 438). See also Flamm 2000.

54 Peirce does this in 1905’s “What Pragmatism Is” (CP 5.412).

55 Bixler (1936: 201) shares Dewey’s assessment: “If we turn to some of the early articles we find Royce’s statements about himself confirmed with one exception that ‘voluntarism’ defines the early views better than does the word ‘pragmatism.’ Royce does not seem to have shared pragmatism’s distinctive interest in the future or in the philosophical importance of other purposes than the cognitive.”

56 This is illustrative of the tensions within the pragmatist tradition, as Anderson (2005: 471) notes: “Thus Royce and Dewey, in quite different ways, sought to exclude each other from the camp of functioning pragmatism. At the same time, both men included Peirce among the pragmatists, in part because James had identified Peirce as the originator of the movement but also in part because they saw some strong affinities between Peirce’s thought and their own.”

57 While this paper is historical, I should not fail to mention that James’ “Will to Believe” remains a touchstone in more recent debates about doxastic voluntarism and the ethics of belief, even outside of pragmatist circles.

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References

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Daniel J. Brunson, « Voluntarism », European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy [Online], X-2 | 2018, Online since 11 January 2019, connection on 20 January 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/ejpap/1333 ; DOI : 10.4000/ejpap.1333

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Daniel J. Brunson

Morgan State University
daniel.brunson[at]morgan.edu

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