Royce and Perry on Idealism and Realism

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Virginia Tech

This thesis is primarily an attempt to reconstruct the debate between Josiah Royce and Ralph Barton Perry concerning the viability of both the realist and idealist positions. Secondarily, I will show that this debate is a crucial part of an adequate understanding of the changes that took place in American philosophy in the early part of twentieth century. Royce's arguments against the neorealist position of Perry (and others) centered on both the nature of error, and the nature of independence. Perry' response to these arguments was an elaborate effort to demonstrate a coherent and consistent neorealist system which avoided the problems that Royce claimed must beset any such system. I will not attempt to assign the label of "winner" to either participant, however, I will show that the degree of incommensurability involved in the debate played an important role in the shift in American philosophy at the time.

Royce, Realism, Perry, Error, Neorealism, Idealism