Perry, Ralph Barton

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Perry, Ralph Barton,

1876–1957, American realist philosopher, b. Poultney, Vt., grad. Princeton (B.A., 1896) and Harvard (Ph.D., 1899). He taught at Harvard from 1902, becoming professor of philosophy in 1913 and professor emeritus in 1946. He revised (1925) Alfred Weber's History of Philosophy. Editor of the works of William James, he won the 1936 Pulitzer Prize in biography for The Thought and Character of William James (1935). His other writings include The New Realism (1912), General Theory of Value (1926), Puritanism and Democracy (1944), The Realms of Value (1954), and The Humanity of Man (1956).
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Perry, Ralph Barton


Born July 3, 1876, in Poultney, Vt., died Jan. 22, 1957, in Cambridge, Mass. American idealist philosopher and representative of new realism.

Perry was a professor at Harvard University from 1913 to 1946. He studied under W. James and later became his biographer. After beginning his philosophical career with a critique of the idealism of J. Royce (1901-02), Perry published Present Philosophical Tendencies (1912), in which he formulated the basic tenets of the new realist theory of knowledge. He was one of the authors of the new realist manifesto (1910) and the anthology The New Realism (1912). In the mid-1920’s he began concentrating on ethical and political problems, viewing values as “functions of interest” (General Theory of Value, 1926, and other works). In his sociopolitical views, Perry was a proponent of bourgeois democracy.


The Thought and Character of William James, vols. 1-2. Boston, 1935.
Puritanism and Democracy. New York, 1944.
Realms of Value: A Critique of Human Civilization. Cambridge, Mass., 1968.


Hill, T. E. Sovremennye teorii poznaniia. Moscow, 1965. (Translated from English.)
Bogomolov, A. S. Burzhuaznaia filosofiia SShA 20 v. Moscow, 1974.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Perry, Ralph Barton

(1876–1957) philosopher; born in Poultney, Vt. Earning a Harvard doctorate (1899), he taught briefly at Williams and Smith Colleges, then returned to Harvard, where he taught from 1902 to 1946. He was a key advocate of the "new realism" and of philosophical clarity and precision. He outlined a naturalistic value theory in such works as The General Theory of Value (1926). His Puritanism and Democracy (1944) was a classic, and his 1935 biography of his teacher and colleague, William James, won a Pulitzer Prize. He was a U.S. Army major during World War I; later he supported the New Deal and campaigned for formation of the United Nations.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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