Voluntarism: A Difference that Makes the Difference between German Idealism and American Pragmatism?

European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy 10 (2) (2018)
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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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Daniel Brunson
Morgan State University

References found in this work

Idealism, Pragmatism, and the Will to Believe: Charles Renouvier and William James.Jeremy Dunham - 2015 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 23 (4):1-23.
The Philosophy of ‘as If’.Hans Vaihinger - 1924 - London,: Routledge. Edited by C. K. Ogden.
The eternal and the practical.Josiah Royce - 1904 - Philosophical Review 13 (2):113-142.

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