Josiah Royce
Josiah Royce

What’s in a Name?

Royce Hall is named for the American objective idealist and pragmatist philosopher Josiah Royce, born in 1855 in Grass Valley, CA.

Royce graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1875, studied in Germany with Hermann Lotze and was the first of four people to earn a doctorate (in philosophy) from Johns Hopkins University, where he eventually taught. He went on to teach at Harvard University from 1882 to 1916. 

In early adulthood Royce dabbled in a range of interests—he wrote a novel, investigated paranormal phenomena (as a skeptic), and published a significant body of literary criticism. But he distinguished himself as a historian and a philosopher. In a passionately written history of California published in 1886, Royce questioned the moral consequences of the American conquest of Mexican California. He stands out among academics of his time as the only major American philosopher who spent a significant period of his life studying and writing history.

Royce’s scholarly interests encompassed many different subjects, from psychology to ethics to the foundations of mathematics. His epistemology, logic and philosophy of mathematics were heavily influenced by Charles Sanders Peirce, the founder of pragmatism. As a Harvard professor Royce taught a number of important thinkers, including the sociologist and activist W.E.B. Du Bois, the cyberneticist Norbert Wiener, the poet T.S. Eliot and the philosophers George Santayana and C.I. Lewis. He coined the phrase "Beloved Community,” a term which was later adopted by Martin Luther King Jr., to refer to the ideal universal community formed by a shared dedication to truth and interpretation.

Though he never attended or taught at UCLA, the choice of his name for the new campus’s flagship building demonstrates the degree to which Royce was revered by many of his contemporaries in academia. Royce’s emphasis on ethical commitment, social inquiry and community service personify the highest ideals of a public university.