Josiah Royce

Professor of the History of Philosophy, Harvard

The World and the Individual

In his two series of lectures, Royce distinguishes three approaches to natural theology and investigates the third type, ‘the philosophy of religion’. In the first series, he defends absolute idealism against realism, mysticism, and critical rationalism. In the second series, he asserts that the ‘Theory of Being’ is not ‘a barren Absolute, which devours individuals’, but a place in which the aspirations of ethically free individuals can find their fulfilment and completion.


Josiah Royce was born on 10 November 1855 in Grass Valley, California. Royce is best known for his absolute idealism and was the founder of American idealism. His first appointment was as an instructor in English at the University of California, Berkeley in 1878. In 1882, he accepted a one-year position at Harvard, replacing William James, who was on sabbatical. Attaining a permanent position as Assistant Professor of Philosophy in 1885, he went on to become Professor of the History of Philosophy in 1892.

Royce’s ‘A Word for the Times’ (1914) was quoted in the 1936 State of the Union Address by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His major works include The Religious Aspect of Philosophy (1885), The Spirit of Modern Philosophy (1892), The Conception of God (1897), The World and the Individual (2 vols., 1899–1900), The Philosophy of Loyalty (1908), Race Questions, Provincialism, and Other American Problems (1908), The Sources of Religious Insight (1912), The Problem of Christianity (1913), War and Insurance (1914), and The Hope of the Great Community (1916).