The Essential Santayana
Publication Year: 2009
Although he was born in Spain, George Santayana (1863--1952) became a uniquely American philosopher, critic, poet, and best-selling novelist. Along with his Harvard colleagues William James and Josiah Royce, he is best known as one of the founders of American pragmatism and recognized for his insights into the theory of knowledge, metaphysics, and moral philosophy. The Essential Santayana presents a selection of Santayana's most important and influential literary and philosophical work. Martin A. Coleman's critical introduction sets Santayana into the American philosophical tradition and provides context for contemporary readers, many of whom may be approaching Santayana's writings for the first time. This landmark collection reveals the intellectual and literary diversity of one of American philosophy's most lively minds.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Series: American Philosophy
John Lachs, Herman J. Saatkamp Jr., William G. Holzberger, and Angus Kerr- Lawson laid the foundation for The Essential Santayana through many years of documentary research, editorial work, critical scholarship, and conversations with publishers. ...
Chronology of the Life and Work of George Santayana
About This Book
Given George Santayana’s exquisite style and prolific output, it was difficult to condense his important writings into a single volume. But this wealth of material ensures that everything included in The Essential Santayana is a significant piece of work by an extraordinary thinker. ...
Introduction: The Essential Santayana
Certainly there is such an essence, at least according to Santayana. As certainly as Santayana existed, there is a particular character that distinguishes him as the individual he was and not Charles Peirce or John Dewey. And as certainly as he had a philosophy made up of thoughts which were “events in the world” ...
Santayana enjoyed the role of detached observer and outsider. In his autobiography, he wrote “I like to be a stranger . . . , it was my destiny; but I wish to be the only stranger. For this reason I have been happiest among people of all nationalities who were not of my own age, class, or family circle; ...
A General Confession (1940)
This three-part autobiographical essay appeared in its present form in The Philosophy of George Santayana, the second volume in The Library of Living Philosophers. The format of the series, which continues today under the editorship of Randall E. Auxier, includes a collection of articles about a particular philosopher, ...
My Place, Time, and Ancestry (1944)
This is the first chapter in the first volume of Santayana’s three-volume work Persons and Places: Fragments of Autobiography. Santayana finished the first volume, The Background of My Life, in 1941, while forced by the war to remain in Rome. Italian wartime regulations prevented transmission of the manuscript by post to his publisher, ...
Epilogue on My Host, The World (1949)
This is the final chapter of the third and final volume of Santayana’s autobiography (Chapter XXXII in the one-volume edition). Santayana completed the third volume in 1945 but wished it to be published posthumously. He permitted excerpts (with minor changes) to appear in The Atlantic Monthly prior to his death, ...
II. Skepticism and Ontology
When Santayana claimed that skepticism is an exercise, not a life, he certainly was not diminishing the importance of skepticism. He described it as “the chastity of the intellect” which allows the speculative philosopher “to view all experience simply, in the precision and distinctness which all its parts acquire ...
Philosophical Heresy (1915)
First intended as a lecture, this article was published in the Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods (12 : 113–16). Santayana wrote from Oxford, England, to the editor of the journal that he had “read the first part of this paper to the Ox. Phil. Soc.” ( LGS, 2:220). The article was later collected in Obiter Scripta. ...
Preface [Scepticism and Animal Faith] (1923)
This preface appeared in Scepticism and Animal Faith, the book title exhibiting Santayana’s preference for British spelling. The book is an introduction to Santayana’s system of philosophy subsequently presented in his four-volume Realms of Being. In this preface Santayana claimed that his system is neither his nor new, ...
There Is No First Principle of Criticism (1923)
This selection appeared as Chapter I of Scepticism and Animal Faith and announces that the philosopher must begin in medias res. There are no first principles of reasoning; rather there are long-established habits that become apparent only after they are represented in mind as principles. ...
Dogma and Doubt (1923)
In this selection, Chapter II of Scepticism and Animal Faith, Santayana observed that dogma is automatic and variable, and this guarantees that conflicts run deeply through the mass of our opinions. When shocks of experience make these conflicts actual, doubt arises, skepticism grows, and criticism becomes possible. ...
Wayward Scepticism (1923)
In this selection, Chapter III of Scepticism and Animal Faith, Santayana pursued his skeptical inquiry and called into doubt religious beliefs, history, science, perception, and memory, until he arrived at “solipsism of the present moment” (ES, 63), in which the skeptic is an unbelieving observer of the immediate show. ...
Ultimate Scepticism (1923)
In this selection, Chapter VI of Scepticism and Animal Faith, Santayana pursued skepticism beyond the conclusions of skeptics who imported hidden presumptions into their systems. In order to understand what remains for intuition after a more thorough-going skepticism, he distinguished reality and existence. ...
Nothing Given Exists (1923)
Acknowledging that skepticism is doubt about existence, Santayana in this selection, Chapter VII of Scepticism and Animal Faith, examined in more detail the concept of existence and its denial. Existence is, wrote Santayana, “such being as is in flux, determined by external relations, and jostled by irrelevant events” ( ES, 72). ...
The Discovery of Essence (1923)
Santayana undertook skeptical inquiry not to find epistemological certainty, but rather to free his mind from the prejudices, expectations, and meanings assigned to immediate appearances. In this selection, Chapter IX of Scepticism and Animal Faith, Santayana discussed how “[t]he sceptic . . . finds himself in the presence of more luminous and less equivocal objects ...
The Watershed of Criticism (1923)
Part of this selection first appeared in the essay “Literal and Symbolic Knowledge” (Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, 15 , 421–44), which subsequently appeared in Obiter Scripta in 1936. This selection, Chapter XI of Scepticism and Animal Faith, brings together the two elements of the book title. ...
Knowledge Is Faith Mediated by Symbols (1923)
Part of this selection first appeared as the second part of “Three Proofs of Realism” in Essays in Critical Realism: A Cooperative Study of the Problem of Knowledge (Durant Drake, Arthur O. Lovejoy, James Bissett Pratt, Arthur K. Rogers, George Santayana, Roy Wood Sellars, C. A. Strong [London: Macmillan] 1920, 163–84). ...
Belief in Substance (1923
Unlike modern philosophers who “make substances out of the sensations or ideas which they regard as ultimate facts” ( ES, 98), Santayana, in Chapter XIX of Scepticism and Animal Faith, pointed to the “spontaneous quality” in animal responses to show the unavoidable belief in substance. ...
Literary Psychology (1923)
In this selection, Chapter XXIV of Scepticism and Animal Faith, Santayana distinguished two ways of interpreting the behavior of other animate creatures: “whereas scientific psychology is addressed to the bodies and the material events composing the animate world, literary psychology restores the essences intervening in the perception of those material events, ...
The Implied Being of Truth (1923)
Truth, explained Santayana in Chapter XXV of Scepticism and Animal Faith, is not an immediate concern of the active animal; faith is enough. He wrote, “[t]he active object posited alone interests the man of action; if he were interested in the rightness of the action, he would not be a man of action but a philosopher” ( ES, 111). ...
Comparison with Other Criticisms of Knowledge (1923)
This selection, Chapter XXVII of Scepticism and Animal Faith, shows how Santayana employed the history of philosophy both as an object of critique and a background to clarify his own ideas. For example, he contrasts his own skeptical project with the halting skepticism of modern philosophy. ...
Normal Madness (1925)
This selection first appeared as Chapter III of Dialogues in Limbo. The book collects imagined conversations between souls from the history of philosophy and the Spirit of a Stranger still living on Earth. Several dialogues appeared in slightly different form in 1924 and 1925 in the American journal The Dial. ...
Some Meanings of the Word “Is” (1924)
This selection first appeared in The Journal of Philosophy (21 : 365–77). A shorter version with the same title was published in 1915 (The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, 12 :66–68). As early as 1914 Santayana had intended the article as the first chapter of his Realms of Being. ...
Preface to Realms of Being (1927)
This preface comes from the The Realm of Essence, the first volume of the four-volume Realms of Being. It first appeared in slightly different form as “A Preface to a System of Philosophy” in the Yale Review (13 : 417–30). Santayana thought this preface less technical than other chapters of his book, ...
Various Approaches to Essence (1927)
In this selection, Chapter I of The Realm of Essence, Santayana considered how one might discover essence. Nothing in the being of essence requires that it be discovered, and there is no privileged way by which to approach it: Skepticism can reveal essence, but so can the dialectical activity of the logician, mathematician, or gamer. ...
The Being Proper to Essences (1927)
This selection, Chapter II of The Realm of Essence, gives an account of essences and their realm. “The principle of essence,” wrote Santayana, “is identity” ( ES, 168). By this he means that the entire being of an essence lies in its character or in its being just what it is. This makes essence universal: ...
The Scope of Natural Philosophy (1930)
This selection appeared as Chapter I of The Realm of Matter, the second volume of the four-volume Realms of Being. Santayana finished the manuscript of The Realm of Matter in August of 1929, and the book was published the following year. At the end of 1929 Santayana commented in letters that he was relieved to be finished with the book, ...
Indispensable Properties of Substance (1930
In this selection, Chapter II of The Realm of Matter, Santayana distinguished five properties of substance. First, substance is external to the thought of it that is prompted by animal faith. This entails that transitions in nature are distinct from transitions in thought. Thought moves from one object to another by faith only. ...
In this selection, Chapter VII of The Realm of Matter, Santayana rejected teleology understood as an explanation of material nature based on the excellence or ideal end of a natural existence. But he did not deny natural correspondences such as the adaptation of an organ and its function, the fit of a creature and its environment, or the fulfillment of an impulse in its resulting action; ...
The Psyche (1930)
This selection, Chapter VIII of The Realm of Matter, considers psyche and its relation to spirit. According to Santayana, psyche is the self that one immediately cares about and is more essentially the body than the body itself. While psyche is not material, it is the organization of matter in living creatures or the “habit in matter” ...
There Are No Necessary Truths (1937)
This selection appeared as Chapter I in The Realm of Truth, the third volume of the four-volume Realms of Being. He jokingly remarked that “there are some signs of senility in this volume; I can’t avoid repetitions and ramblings, yet, as in the Curate’s egg, parts of it are excellent" (LGS, 6:49). ...
Facts Arbitrary, Logic Ideal (1937)
In this selection, Chapter II of The Realm of Truth, Santayana denied that fact is necessary. The capacity of spirit to contemplate an infinity of essences is the capacity to go beyond the apparent limitations of material facts in imagination. The infinite Realm of Essence reveals that there is no limit to the forms matter may embody, ...
Interplay between Truth and Logic (1937)
In this selection, Chapter III of The Realm of Truth, Santayana explained how logic might be called true. He was concerned to defend both truth and logic against idealistic philosophy that would set up logic, a system of essences, in the place of truth, which Santayana regarded as the complete record of existence. ...
Dramatic Truth (1937)
This selection, Chapter VII of The Realm of Truth, makes a place for myth and drama in the Realm of Truth. While the flux of matter is not itself dramatic, it can be read in dramatic terms when intuition is directed by passion. Passion is a material force often running deeper than consciousness of it. ...
Moral Truth (1937)
In this selection, Chapter VIII of The Realm of Truth, Santayana considered the specifically moral passions and how they might lead to the expression of truth. Moral passion, the feeling or impulse that gives rise to preference, directs moral judgment. Such judgments are true insofar as they answer to the vital impulses of the one making the judgments. ...
Love and Hatred of Truth (1937)
In this selection, Chapter XII of The Realm of Truth, Santayana explained how ignorance of the nature of spirit and lack of self-knowledge lead to hatred of truth. Humans judge nature in human terms, ignoring the vast difference in scale between human experience and nature. ...
Denials of Truth (1937)
In this selection, Chapter XIII of The Realm of Truth, Santayana refuted denials of truth by distinguishing truth and the knowledge of truth. Despairing of transcending the limited and relative perspective of mortals, some have denied truth altogether. But this is the denial of knowledge of truth, not truth itself. ...
III. Rational Life in Art, Religion, and Spirituality
Santayana’s early writings, such as The Life of Reason, are distinguished by their humanistic themes from his later ontological works, such as The Realms of Being; yet he maintained that his philosophy never changed. Writing seventeen years after the first publication of The Life of Reason, ...
The Elements and Function of Poetry (1900)
This selection appeared as Chapter X in Santayana’s second philosophical book, an essay collection published in 1900 entitled Interpretations of Poetry and Religion. Santayana wrote to his publisher “that this book will arouse more interest—doubtless more adverse criticism too—than did the other; ...
Introduction [The Life of Reason] (1905)
This introduction appeared in Reason in Common Sense, volume 1 of the five-volume The Life of Reason; or the Phases of Human Progress. Santayana began working on The Life of Reason in 1896, was reading page-proofs in autumn 1904, and saw the first four volumes published in 1905 and the fifth in 1906. ...
The Birth of Reason (1905)
This selection, Chapter I of Reason in Common Sense, gives a naturalistic account of reason as growing out of irrational instinct. When considering the place of mind in the universe, other thinkers have looked for an originating principle of either chaos or order, but Santayana sought to reconcile the two views. ...
How Religion May Be an Embodiment of Reason (1905)
This selection appeared as Chapter I of Reason in Religion. On rereading this book in 1948, Santayana remarked, “What a horrible tone!”, and continued, “[i]t was life in America and the habit of lecturing that dominated one half of my celebral cortex, while England, Greece, the poets, and my friends dominated the other half, ...
Justification of Art (1905)
This selection appeared as Chapter IX of Reason in Art. Art is concerned mainly with the ideal and not with material nature. It makes matter more congenial to spirit by harmonizing impulses with nature and rendering nature more ideal. Santayana conceived art as “a rehearsal of rational living” in that it recasts the world imaginatively. ...
The Criterion of Taste (1905)
This selection appeared as Chapter X of Reason in Art. Just as artistic inspiration and creation are grounded in nature, so is taste. Santayana believed it was rooted in unreflective preference but thought this no reason to reject the authority of taste. In fact, one’s taste gains authority as one gains experience and engages in reflection. ...
Art and Happiness (1905)
In this selection, Chapter XI of Reason in Art, Santayana contended it was a weakness and a vice to forsake practical matters for art understood as “rhythms and declamations, . . . imaginary passions and histrionic woes” ( ES, 331). Such “detached indulgences” leave one alienated and paralyzed ( ES, 333). ...
Ultimate Religion (1933)
Santayana read this essay in September 1932 at a conference in The Hague celebrating the tricentennial of Spinoza’s birth. It appeared in the conference proceedings, Septimana Spinozana (Hagae Comitis: Martinus Nijhoff , 105–15), then in Obiter Scripta, and had been intended for The Realm of Spirit. ...
The Nature of Spirit (1940)
This selection appeared as Chapter I of The Realm of Spirit. Santayana found this to be “a most difficult book to put into proper shape” (LGS, 6:208) and characterized it as “a funeral oration, if not a tombstone, on my opinions” (LGS, 6:330) (though he went on to publish a three-volume autobiography, two new books, and two extensive revisions before his death). ...
In this selection, Chapter VIII of The Realm of Spirit, Santayana considered how spirit might avoid what distracts it from its essential calling. Traditional views of spiritual liberation attributed distraction to nature or life and looked for salvation in a new life or in the rejection of life altogether. ...
In this selection, Chapter IX of The Realm of Spirit, Santayana looked beyond the negative goal of liberation to the positive ideal of spiritual union. Adapting the classical understanding of spiritual union with the Good, he characterized the union of spirit as “a moral unanimity or fellowship with the life of all substances ...
IV. Ethics and Politics
Santayana’s ethics and politics are grounded in his materialism. This section traces the natural and prerational grounds of moral judgments through ethical reasoning and the desire for universal harmony and then takes up questions of political organization. ...
Prerational Morality (1906)
This selection appeared as Chapter VIII of Reason in Science. Santayana wrote to his publisher that the final volume of The Life of Reason “is in many ways the most important” ( LGS, 1:267) and later asked for more time to finish it, explaining that, “I am trying to make clearness doubly clear in volume 5” ( LGS, 1:312). ...
Rational Ethics (1906)
In this selection, Chapter IX of Reason in Science, Santayana considered the application of reason to morality. He acknowledged that a rational morality was impossible, because morality is grounded in material conditions and reason could never eliminate material conflicts. However, it is possible that conflicting parties can share common ideal interests in the midst of their material conflicts, ...
Post-Rational Morality (1906)
In this selection, Chapter X of Reason in Science, Santayana considered morality in a fragmented society that has abandoned the Life of Reason as a vain pursuit. This rejection comes not from prejudice or ignorance, as in prerational morality, but rather from despair at the transience of existence and the conclusion that all is vanity. ...
Hypostatic Ethics (1913)
An early and slightly different version of this selection appeared as part III of “Russell’s Philosophical Essays” (Journal of Philosophy, Psychology, and Scientific Methods, 8, : 421–32). This selection appeared as part IV of “The Philosophy of Mr. Bertrand Russell,” Chapter IV in Winds of Doctrine. ...
Public Opinion (1951)
This selection appeared as Chapter 11 in Book Third of Dominations and Powers. As early as 1918 Santayana mentioned his intention to write this book ( LGS, 2:314–15), which he described as “a sort of psychology of politics and attempt to explain how it happens that governments and religions, with so little to recommend them, ...
Government of the People (1951)
This selection appeared as Chapter 26 of Book Third in Dominations and Powers. In this book, which Santayana thought “closer to reality than any of [his] other books” ( LGS, 8:265), he proposed “that there are three Orders of Society: the Generative, that grows up of itself: the Militant, which is imposed on mankind in all sorts of contradictory ways by bandits, conquerors, prophets, reformers, and idealists; ...
Who Are “The People”? (1951)
This selection appeared as Chapter 27 of Book Third in Dominations and Powers. In a letter, Santayana related the surprise at the title question of a guest who “had never thought of asking that before. I got the impression that he was not clear what it was all about, or whether it was acceptable or all wrong at bottom” ( LGS, 8:245–46). ...
The United States as Leader (1951)
In this selection, which appeared as Chapter 45 of Book Third in Dominations and Powers, Santayana considered how the United States might be best-suited to lead a universal government that directed material conditions and left the various peoples of the world to manage their own moral affairs. ...
Conclusion [Dominations and Powers] (1951)
This conclusion appeared as Chapter 43 of Book Third in Dominations and Powers. Book Third, explained Santayana, is “concerned with rationality in government rather than with moral rightness in precepts or ideals. Moral rightness has its credentials in nature. All life, if not all existence, has an intrinsic direction; ...
V. Literature, Culture, and Criticism
Santayana’s literary and critical endeavors did not take second place to his philosophical works. In fact, his first published book was Sonnets and Other Verses (1894). Interpretations of Poetry and Religion, his third book (after his well-known The Sense of Beauty), was as much literary criticism as philosophy. ...
Sonnet III (1886)
This poem first appeared in the Harvard Monthly in 1886. It was reprinted with some changes in Sonnets and Other Verses and thereafter often anthologized. Santayana wrote the sonnet while studying Greek tragedies as a sophomore at Harvard in 1884. ...
To W. P. (1894)
These four sonnets first appeared in Sonnets and Other Verses (1894). Santayana wrote them in 1893 after the death of his former student and close friend Warwick Potter. Santayana and Potter had been “constant companions” in the two years before Potter’s graduation from Harvard in 1893. ...
Prologue [The Last Puritan] (1935)
This prologue appeared in Santayana’s only novel, The Last Puritan (1935). The story was born in 1889 as sketches about college life composed when Santayana was a 25-year-old philosophy instructor and completed 45 years later. Santayana wrote that “the theme is the sentimental education, or disillusionment, of a superior young American: ...
Epilogue [The Last Puritan] (1935)
This epilogue appeared in Santayana’s novel, The Last Puritan (1935). Santayana wrote that “the book is really what I call it, ‘a Memoir in the Form of a Novel’ and, although not an autobiography, it is rooted throughout in my personal recollections” ( LGS, 5:224). ...
The Poetry of Barbarism (1900)
In this essay, which appeared as Chapter VII in Interpretations of Poetry and Religion (1900), Santayana diagnosed the limitations of contemporary poetry. He found it lacking in wisdom and vision. The poets of the time had “no grasp of the whole reality, and consequently no capacity for a sane and steady idealisation” ( ES, 498). ...
This essay appeared as Chapter VIII in Interpretations of Poetry and Religion (1900). Its beginnings can be traced to an unpublished essay, “The Optimism of Ralph Waldo Emerson,” that Santayana submitted in 1886 as a senior at Harvard for the Bowdoin Prize (which he did not win). In the essay, Santayana observed Emerson’s love of idealization over any particular idea. ...
The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy (1911)
This essay was first delivered as an address to the Philosophical Union of the University of California on 25 August 1911. It appeared in the University of California Chronicle (13 : 357–380), and then two years later as Chapter VI in Winds of Doctrine. On 23 January 1912, Santayana departed the United States for Europe. ...
English Liberty in America (1920)
This essay appeared as Chapter VII in Character and Opinion in the United States, which developed out of lectures delivered in England. In this chapter Santayana considered the English trait of free cooperation as manifested in America. It is a method of social organization that assumes unanimity and adaptability among the population, and Santayana thought it had been a great success in America. ...
The Genteel Tradition at Bay (1931)
The three parts of this selection were first published in three issues of The Saturday Review of Literature in January 1931 and then appeared together as a small book. It was commissioned by the editor of The Saturday Review, who had sent Santayana recent books on humanism in America by Irving Babbit (1863–1933) and others. ...
The Ethics of Nietzsche (1915)
This selection appeared as Chapter XII in Egotism in German Philosophy. Critics frequently regarded the book as a piece of war propaganda, but the subject of “egotism in German philosophy” had been current at Harvard for over fifty years prior to the publication of Santayana’s book ...
William James (1920)
Character and Opinion in the United States was one of three books that together marked, in Santayana’s words, his “emancipation from official control and professional pretensions. . . . all was now a voluntary study, a satirical survey, a free reconsideration. . . . My official career had happily come to an end” (P 414). ...
Josiah Royce (1920)
This selection appeared as Chapter IV in Character and Opinion in the United States but originally was part of a lecture on both William James and Josiah Royce (1855–1916). Santayana explained to a correspondent that “in filling out the paper on James and Royce I got into a terrible mess; and that one lecture has now expanded into four chapters” ...
Dewey’s Naturalistic Metaphysics (1936)
A version of this selection first appeared in The Journal of Philosophy (22 : 673–88) as a review of John Dewey’s Experience and Nature (Chicago: Open Court Publishing Company, 1925). It was reprinted with changes in Obiter Scripta and in the inaugural volume of The Library of Living Philosophers series, ...