restricted access The Unknowable: The Pragmatist Critique of Matter

Santayana's materialism is often the target of attack by critics past and present that are sympathetic to pragmatism. A common theme found in the objections of Santayana's critics is that matter is "unknowable". After briefly outlining Santayana's materialism and discussing his relationship to the pragmatist movement, four formulations of the "unknowable" objection are presented: (1) Matter is unknowable because it is not given in experience, (2) Matter is unknowable because its true nature cannot be revealed in perception, (3) Matter is unknowable because it has no properties, (4) Matter is unknowable because existence is a surd. It is argued that these objections are based in part on persistent misunderstandings of Santayana's materialism and that some of the more controversial aspects of his ontology are similar to ideas found in the writings of James and Peirce.