Royce’s “Conception Of God” -- By: Edwin Stutely Carr

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 055:217 (Jan 1898)
Article: Royce’s “Conception Of God”
Author: Edwin Stutely Carr


Royce’s “Conception Of God”1

E. S. Carr

Stillman Valley

This work is a report of a discussion held before the Philosophical Union of the University of California in 1895. It contains the leading-address of the symposium by Professor Royce; remarks, critical and constructive, by the other participants in the discussion; and finally a supplemental essay by Professor Royce in which he develops more thoroughly his central doctrine, and replies to his critics.

It is apparent, from Professor Royce’s introductory remarks, that the Philosophical Union of the University has been studying his work, “The Religious Aspect of Philosophy.” “Were there time, I should be glad indeed if I were able to throw any light on that little book. But my time is short. The great problems of philosophy are pressing. It is the death of your philosophizing if you come to believe am-thing merely because yon have once maintained it. Let us lay aside, then, both text and tradition, and come face to face with our philosophical problem itself “(pp. 5, 6). This seems to breathe a spirit of admirable candor; but if, as we shall find later, the conclusions of Royce’s present discussion are utterly irreconcilable with his results in “The Religious Aspect,” it would seem more candid, and also a saving of time, at least for the students of the Philosophical Union, to recognize and deal thoroughly with this fact at the outset.

In seeking a philosophical conception of God, Royce begins with the idea of an Omniscient Being. This is evidently the Absolute Thought of “The Religious Aspect,” but the Absolute Thought has experienced a remarkable transformation. There the Absolute Thought could not be personal or a Power, for an infinite person is an absurdity, and if a Power, the Absolute is responsible for the bad world. But now, “The attribute of Omniscience, if it were once regarded as expressing the nature of a real being, would involve the presence of other attributes,— Omnipotence, Self-consciousness, Self-possession,,—yes, I would unhesi-

tatingly add, of Goodness, Perfection, and Peace” (p. 8). This is the conception of God which Professor Royce maintains throughout this work,—evidently a reasonably satisfactory presentation of the Christian personal God. Our joy that one of our prominent philosophers is coming out into the light on this question is tempered by curiosity as to the motives for the change, and by astonishment that he can reach such conclusions from his philosophical premises.

Royce proceeds to prove the reality of the Omniscient Being by the same general argument by which the...

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