Use of moral

Essence / existence
Truth as category

Spirit incarnate
Virtual knowledge
Mind function of body

Superficial will
Human nature
Relativity of morals
Law & government
Reason & spirit
Free will

British philosophy
False steps

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Short Title List

The short-titles listed on this page provide basic bibliographical information on the print volumes relied upon in this web site.

For a professional bibliography of Santayana’s writings, the reader is directed to Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr. & John Jones, George Santayana: A Bibliographic Checklist, 1880 - 1980, as supplemented by the bibliographic checklists published in Overheard in Seville, and to the other bibliographies cited by Saatkamp & Jones, one by Shohig Terzian appearing in The Philosophy of George Santayana (Paul Schilpp, ed.), another by Ceferino Santos Escudero, S. J., and yet another appearing at the end of Obiter Scripta, on which Terzian based his work.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Custom Quotations

To find a phrase, surround it by quotations marks.

To search for terms, separate each by a single space. For a hit to occur, all search terms must appear in the quotation, though the order of search terms therein does not matter. Use of search terms of fewer than four characters will cause the search to fail, as will use of any of the stop words listed below. (Caveat: The search of too few characters or of a stop term may appear to succeed if either is the root of a valid search term found in a quotation).

a's, able, about, above, according, accordingly, across, actually, after, afterwards, again, against, ain't, all, allow, allows, almost, alone, along, already, also, although, always, am, among, amongst, an, and, another, any, anybody, anyhow, anyone, anything, anyway, anyways, anywhere, apart, appear, appreciate, appropriate, are, aren't, around, as, aside, ask, asking, associated, at, available, away, awfully, be, became, because, become, becomes, becoming, been, before, beforehand, behind, being, believe, below, beside, besides, best, better, between, beyond, both, brief, but, by, c'mon, c's, came, can, can't, cannot, cant, cause, causes, certain, certainly, changes, clearly, co, com, come, comes, concerning, consequently, consider, considering, contain, containing, contains, corresponding, could, couldn't, course, currently, definitely, described, despite, did, didn't, different, do, does, doesn't, doing, don't, done, down, downwards, during, each, edu, eg, eight, either, else, elsewhere, enough, entirely, especially, et, etc, even, ever, every, everybody, everyone, everything, everywhere, ex, exactly, example, except, far, few, fifth, first, five, followed, following, follows, for, former, formerly, forth, four, from, further, furthermore, get, gets, getting, given, gives, go, goes, going, gone, got, gotten, greetings, had, hadn't, happens, hardly, has, hasn't, have, haven't, having, he, he's, hello, help, hence, her, here, here's, hereafter, hereby, herein, hereupon, hers, herself, hi, him, himself, his, hither, hopefully, how, howbeit, however, i'd, i'll, i'm, i've, ie, if, ignored, immediate, in, inasmuch, inc, indeed, indicate, indicated, indicates, inner, insofar, instead, into, inward, is, isn't, it, it'd, it'll, it's, its, itself, just, keep, keeps, kept, know, knows, known, last, lately, later, latter, latterly, least, less, lest, let, let's, like, liked, likely, little, look, looking, looks, ltd, mainly, many, may, maybe, me, mean, meanwhile, merely, might, more, moreover, most, mostly, much, must, my, myself, name, namely, nd, near, nearly, necessary, need, needs, neither, never, nevertheless, new, next, nine, no, nobody, non, none, noone, nor, normally, not, nothing, novel, now, nowhere, obviously, of, off, often, oh, ok, okay, old, on, once, one, ones, only, onto, or, other, others, otherwise, ought, our, ours, ourselves, out, outside, over, overall, own, particular, particularly, per, perhaps, placed, please, plus, possible, presumably, probably, provides, que, quite, qv, rather, rd, re, really, reasonably, regarding, regardless, regards, relatively, respectively, right, said, same, saw, say, saying, says, second, secondly, see, seeing, seem, seemed, seeming, seems, seen, self, selves, sensible, sent, serious, seriously, seven, several, shall, she, should, shouldn't, since, six, so, some, somebody, somehow, someone, something, sometime, sometimes, somewhat, somewhere, soon, sorry, specified, specify, specifying, still, sub, such, sup, sure, t's, take, taken, tell, tends, th, than, thank, thanks, thanx, that, that's, thats, the, their, theirs, them, themselves, then, thence, there, there's, thereafter, thereby, therefore, therein, theres, thereupon, these, they, they'd, they'll, they're, they've, think, third, this, thorough, thoroughly, those, though, three, through, throughout, thru, thus, to, together, too, took, toward, towards, tried, tries, truly, try, trying, twice, two, un, under, unfortunately, unless, unlikely, until, unto, up, upon, us, use, used, useful, uses, using, usually, value, various, very, via, viz, vs, want, wants, was, wasn't, way, we, we'd, we'll, we're, we've, welcome, well, went, were, weren't, what, what's, whatever, when, whence, whenever, where, where's, whereafter, whereas, whereby, wherein, whereupon, wherever, whether, which, while, whither, who, who's, whoever, whole, whom, whose, why, will, willing, wish, with, within, without, won't, wonder, would, would, wouldn't, yes, yet, you, you'd, you'll, you're, you've, your, yours, yourself, yourselves, zero

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Introductions by the Editor

This page lists the editor's Introduction to each web page found on this site.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Thoughts of Some Professors

This page lists all Professor's Thoughts found on this web site.

Introduction for the web page entitled:


The citations on A George Santayana Home Page are here organized by volume cited.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

External Links

On this page are gathered links to other sites on the World Wide Web that may be of interest to readers of Santayana. These links are organized into the following categories:

•  Writings Online
•  Scholars
•  Initiatives
•  Essays
•  Historical Interest
•  Biographical

Please report dead links by comment to this web page.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Superficiality of the Actual

The premise that human nature conjoined with nature at large ground morality implies that actuality, or consciousness and will, is morally more superficial than potentiality. The quotations here gathered touch on this implication.

Introduction for the web page entitled:


This page gathers definitions of commonly used philosophical terminology appearing in Santayana's works. His commitment to clear definition is apparent in his criticism of German philosophy:

Such in brief is German philosophy, at least, such it might be said to be if any clear account of it did not necessarily falsify it; but one of its chief characteristics, without which it would melt away, is ambiguity. You cannot maintain that the natural world is the product of the human mind without changing the meaning of the word mind and of the word human. You cannot deny that there is a substance without turning into a substance whatever you substitute for it. You cannot identify yourself with God without at once asserting and denying the existence of God and of yourself. When you speak of such a thing as the consciousness of society you must never decide whether you mean the consciousness individuals have of society or a fabled consciousness which society is to have of itself: the first meaning would spoil your eloquence, and the second would betray your mythology.

What is involved in all these equivocations is not merely a change of vocabulary, that shifting use of language which time brings with it. No, the persistence of the old meanings alone gives point to the assertions that change them and identify them with their opposites. Everywhere, therefore, in these speculations, you must remain in suspense as to what precisely you are talking about. A vague, muffled, dubious thought must carry you along as on a current. [A] certain afflatus must bear you nobly onward through a perpetual incoherence. . . .

Egotism '16 at 17-18 (The General Character of German Philosophy).

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Use of the Term MORAL by Santayana

Santayana contrasts moral with physical reality; speaks of moral expressions, moral distinctions and moral subjects; recognizes a non-moral order; sometimes identifies moral life with spiritual life, and other times distinguishes the two. Morality is the specific subject of three chapters of Reason in Science, and the general theme of The Life of Reason and of Dominations and Powers, which works comprise his moral philosophy (see Spirit '40 at viii (Preface)). At the same time, the concept is broached in his ontology in The Realm of Spirit, where he notes that spirit is a "moral stress of varying scope and intensity," id., a "moral illumination," Spirit '40 at 18 (The Nature of Spirit), and the "moral fruition of physical life," Spirit '40 at 8 (The Nature of Spirit) (margin note).

The widespread use of the term "moral" in Santayana's writings makes an understanding of its definition a condition to enjoying his books and essays. A review of the quotations gathered here may contribute to that understanding.

Introduction for the web page entitled:


Santayana's descriptions of philosophical schools and movements are here offered separately from the page of general definitions. Santayana took many liberties when criticizing other philosophers and philosophies. He recognized this trait in himself in a number of places in his writings. For instance, he employed the technique of "radicalizing" the positions of other writers:

It is true that the romantic empiricist is not very radical . . . . In strictness, however, he has no right to this fond interest in himself. If he became a perfect empiricist he would trust experience only if it taught him absolutely nothing, even about is own past.

Soliloquies '22 at 200-201 (Empiricism). Santayana sounded this same note a few decades later:

What I demanded unconditionally was dramatic wholeness. I wanted to articulate each possible system, to make it consistent, radical, and all-embracing.

Phil. of G.S. '40 at 24-25 (A General Confession). Near the very end of his long life, Santayana still employed this critical method:

Nothing could therefore be more false, and willfully ignorant, than to maintain with the Greek Sophists and the British empiricists (when both are radical and consistent) that knowledge and judgment refer to nothing and are always equally true and valid, in the sense that each is equally real—as a sensation when it is felt.

Dominations '51 at 303 (Relativity of Knowledge and of Morals). Elsewhere Santayana admits to having transmuted the "official" positions of writers into ideal types:

. . . I am not at all sure that the extant sayings of Democritus and the rest will justify everything that I put in their mouths. I use them only as Platonic types for points of view which are natural to my own mind . . . .

Letters 3:256 (To Robert Seymour Bridges, Paris, August 8, 1925). Santayana also used the ideas of great philosophers as springboards to his own expression and articulation of traditional philosophical ideas:

I plead guilty to having treated Plato (and all other philosophers) somewhat cavalierly, not at all from disrespect or quarrelsomeness or lack of delight in their speculations, but because my interest has seldom been strictly philological or historical. I have studied very little except for pleasure, and have made my authors a quarry or a touchstone for my own thoughts.

Phil. of G.S. '40 at 543 (Apologia Pro Mente Sua). He acknowledged this manner of proceeding in his use of sacred Indian writings:

This [publication of The Idea of Christ in the Gospels, or God in Man] does not mean any change in my naturalism, but only a critical meditation on religion, as it might have turned to Brahmanism or Buddhism. When I was preparing The Realm of Spirit I procured complete versions of the Upanishads and Dhammapada; but I hardly feel able to write anything objective on this foreign religion: it exists for me only as a stimulus to my private speculations.

Letters 7:97 (To David Page, Rome, November 1, 1944). This said, Santayana's characterizations and criticisms of philosophical movements and schools make for entertaining reading to those familiar with his philosophy.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

The Meaning and Function of Philosophy

Santayana discussed the inherent divisions of philosophy in the Preface to the first volume of his Triton Edition (later re-printed in The Philosophy of George Santayana, Paul Schilpp, ed.). There he recognized three orthodox schools of philosophy: transcendental reflection, natural philosophy, and morals, and suggested that soundness in morals first required soundness in the philosophies of mind and nature. Phil. of G.S. '40 at 21-23 (A General Confession). Sounding the same theme is his essay, The Progress of Philosophy. There he writes:

Suppose I arrange the works of the essential philosophers—leaving out secondary and transitional systems—in a bookcase of four shelves; on the top shelf (out of reach, since I can't read the language) I will place the Indians; on the next the Greek naturalists; and to remedy the unfortunate paucity of their remains, I will add here those free inquirers of the renaissance, leading to Spinoza, who after two thousand years picked up the thread of scientific speculation; and besides, all modern science: so that this shelf will run over into a whole library of what is not ordinarily called philosophy. On the third shelf I will put Platonism, including Aristotle, the Fathers, the Scholastics, and all honestly Christian theology; and on the last, modern or subjective philosophy in its entirety. I will leave lying on the table, as of doubtful destination, the works of my contemporaries.

Soliloquies '22 at 209 (The Progress of Philosophy). Santayana's summation of the thesis of Dialogues in Limbo in a letter of 1925 to Robert Bridges also pertains to his view of the nature of philosophy. He writes to Bridges:

My Democritus is intended to establish between his "atoms & void" on the one hand and his "normal madness" on the other precisely the same opposition and connection that the Indians established between Brahma and Illusion. I think myself that this is the only right physics or metaphysics: but it is only half of human philosophy. Socrates (who is nothing in physics, or a mere child) is brought in to supply the other half, the self-justification of Illusion, because it is the moral essence and fruit of life: and the "Secret of Aristotle" (which I am much pleased that you take to kindly) is the means of harmonizing the two points of view, and proving them to be not only consistent but indispensable to one another if the nature of things is to be understood at all.

Letters 3:256 (To Robert Seymour Bridges, Paris, August 8, 1925). In another letter to Bridges, Santayana describes the scope of philosophy:

I should therefore agree with you completely if it were understood that you were traversing the life of spirit only, and leaving out all physics and logic: but even then so exclusive an interest in the moral side of things, ignoring their natural basis and ontological surroundings, leads into ambiguities and illusions: the relative becomes absolute and the absolute relative.

Letters 4:137 (To Robert Seymour Bridges, Rome, November 4, 1929). Miscellaneous comments by Santayana about philosophy and philosophizing are gathered here.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Essence and Existence

A characteristic distinction, maybe better described as a methodology, made by Santayana since his earliest philosophical writings, is that between essence and existence. The prominence of this distinction, especially as found in the early writings of Santayana, has been observed by scholarly critics and even by Santayana himself. This way of putting the matter is not far removed from the distinction between the ideal and the actual. Later works maintain this vocabulary, too, as is evident from the quotations here gathered.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Categories Distinguished

What is ontological analysis according to Santayana? Are his four realms of being better reduced to three categories? Are these four realms equally the most fundamental aspects of reality in Santayana’s philosophy? Cory reports that the four categories which ultimately comprised the realms of being signified different traditional ideas of God:

I did gather that just as The Realm of Matter was a clarification of the old Hebrew idea of Yahveh, so The Realm of Essence was a metaphysical transposition of Brahma, The Realm of Truth a substitute for Allah, while The Realm of Spirit was Apollo and all the Muses.

Santayana '63 at 40 (Two: 1929). There are many instances where Santayana discusses his categories in relation to the traditional notion of God. See, e.g., Letters 3:266 (To Warner Fite, Rome, December 12, 1925) ("Every essence . . . is in one sense a divine thing: and every existence . . . is a proof of God’s presence . . . ."). In Scepticism and Animal Faith, Santayana notes that "Truth is one of the realities covered in the eclectic religion of our fathers by the idea of God." Scepticism '23 at 268-269 (The Implied Being of Truth). In The Realm of Truth, Santayana says that monotheism introduced into the popular mind the notions of matter and of truth, divine omnipotence standing for matter and divine omniscience standing for the truth. Truth '38 at 100 (Truth and Chance). See also id. at 80 (Truth Supertemporal) ("truth nevertheless confronts existence with a divine authority"). In the final chapter of this volume, Santayana notes that "a less mystical way of going beyond truth is to personify it." Id. at 136 (Beyond Truth). He continues:

The truth, in all its detail, scope, and eternity, will then lie open to this divine mind: and if we forget for the moment the other attributes of God, such as power and love, we may say that God not only knows the truth but is the truth existing in act. The trick of identifying, or not yet distinguishing, intuition and essence, runs through the history of speculation and breeds a thousand misunderstandings.

Id. at 136-137. In his General Review of the Realms of Being, Santayana explains that traditional western religion expects God to be "a power that is a spirit," and for this reason he would warn readers against identifying either his notion of truth or of pure Being (the realm of essence) with the idea of God. Spirit '40 at 285-286. Even the orthodox notion of God in Aristotle and Plotinus, where the Good rather than the Truth is deified, must be distinguished from Santayana's philosophical system. Id. at 286-288. Rather, his analysis "transposes the doctrine of the Trinity into terms of pure ontology and moral dialectic," the Father being power, or the realm of matter, the Son being the realm of essence determined as the realm of truth, and the Holy Ghost being the love and pursuit of the Good, that is, spirit. Spirit '40 at 291-294.

On Santayana's logic of being, then, are there other realms of being as irreducible as the four on which he concentrated—such as the realms of Good or of Beauty? On this last point, Santayana writes:

The importance and beauty of any incident lie in itself: and morally they transcend its accidental function in time and belong in the realms of truth and of value. These realms, being determinate and excluding many features that figure with equal right in the realm of essence, are contingent and, viewed from outside, unnecessary. Yet their importance and beauty, being intrinsic, are inalienable and forever actual in their own being.

Animal Faith '67 at 164 (Maxims). On the same point, Santayana writes:

Existence, as it inevitably generates truth, may on special occasions also generate beauty or goodness, but not with the same pervasiveness. Beauty and goodness are far more accidental than truth: they arise only at certain junctures, when various streams of events, already flowing in definite tropes, meet and mingle in a temporary harmony; a harmony which such of these streams as are organized into psyches may feel and rejoice in.

Truth '38 at 39 (Radiation of Truth). The notion of a "single ineffable good" for synthetic spirit is expounded upon in Santayana's Hague lecture. Obiter '36 at 293-296 (Ultimate Religion).

Collected here are additional quotations relevant to the general topic of ontological analysis or the kinds of reality.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Truth as a Category

Letters dated as early as 1911 and as late as 1913 show that Santayana did not initially distinguish truth as a category in his contemplation of The Realms of Being. Letters 2:37 (To Susan Sturgis de Sastre, Cambridge, May 16, 1911); Letters 2:138 (To Charles Augustus Strong, Paris, July 25, 1913). Then in the Summer 1913, Santayana wrote to B. A. G. Fuller that "the three realms of being have increased to four, and the work of composition and revision has greatly advanced." Letters 2:142 (To Benjamin Apthorp Gould Fuller, Oxford, September 12, 1913).

The unusual status of The Realm of Truth—its status as a latecomer in Santayana's system—is confirmed in a short essay by Professor Strong written during World War II, which says:

The idea of discriminating clearly the chief Realms with which thought has to do, and making it more certain that thinkers will not be continually 'slipping into another genus,' is a great idea, which I heartily approve. I do not object to the inclusion, with the three others, of a fourth Realm—so important is Truth.

Phil. of G.S. '40 at 448 (Santayana's Philosophy).

What insights led Santayana to the expansion of his Three Realms of Being? Could it be that the abuse of the orthodox explication of the notion of truth at the hands of pragmatists was sufficient justification for Santayana to tack this additional volume onto his grand opus? Santayana does note this abuse, for instance, in an early letter to B. A. G. Fuller:

Some people say I am a pragmatist and some say I am not. On the whole, I agree with the latter, as pragmatism seems to involve a confusion between the test and the meaning of truth.

Letters 1:325 (To Benjamin Apthorp Gould Fuller, Ávila, October 5, 1905). See also Letters 1:316 (To William James, Box Hill, July 27, 1905) ("History, at least, must have a definite constitution, apart from the pragmatic value of knowing it"). In Winds of Doctrine, Santayana wrote on the same general theme:

It may seem strange that a definition of truth should have been based on the consideration of those ideas exclusively for which truth is not claimed by any critical person, such ideas, namely, as religious myths or the graphic and verbal machinery of science. Yet the fact is patent, and if we considered the matter historically it might not prove inexplicable. Theology has long applied the name truth pre-eminently to fiction. When the conviction first dawned upon pragmatists that there was no absolute or eternal truth, what they evidently were thinking of was that it is folly, in this changing world, to pledge oneself to any final and inflexible creed. The pursuit of truth, since nothing better was possible, was to be accepted instead of the possession of it. But it is characteristic of Protestantism that, when it gives up anything, it transfers to what remains the unction, and often the name, proper to what it has abandoned. So, if truth was no longer to be claimed or even hoped for, the value and the name of truth could be instinctively transferred to what was to take its place—spontaneous, honest, variable conviction. And the sanctions of this conviction were to be looked for, not in the objective reality, since it was an idle illusion to fancy we could get at that, but in the growth of this conviction itself, and in the prosperous adventure of the whole soul, so courageous in its self-trust, and so modest in its dogmas.

Winds '13 at 136-137 (The Philosophy of Mr. Bertrand Russell).

If not its abuse at the hands of pragmatists, was the situation as Professor Strong suggests—was it the general importance of Truth that coaxed Santayana into adding a book on this category and elevating it ontologically to the status of "realm"?

Introduction for the web page entitled:


Santayana describes metaphysics as a moral or logical background to existence and criticizes it in the following quotations.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

The Groundlessness of Existence

Santayana's view that existence is a surd (Matter '30 at 26-27 (Presumable Properties of Substance)) is the theme of this page.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Spirit Incarnate

Santayana's doctrine of the incarnation of spirit in a natural psyche is a restatement of an orthodox position on the relation of mind to body and is deeply characteristic of his philosophy. It seems that this important theme is presumed rather than elaborated in his early writings. E.g., Poetry & Religion at 166 (The Elements and Function of Poetry) ("When the 'infinite' spirit enters the human body, it is determined to certain limited forms of life by the organism which it wears; and its blank potentiality becomes actual in thought and deed, according to the fortunes and relations of its organism."). The following quotations, then, are chiefly from items written in his later years.

Introduction for the web page entitled:


Epiphenomenalism might be defined as the theory that consciousness is an inefficacious, immaterial by-product of the animal processes that underlie it. Santayana once used a less idealistic term, "epigenesis," to clarify this view of the relationship of mind to body:

Even those instances of essence which are not forms of substance in this passive manner, are manifestations of substance by way of active expression or epigenesis; though not embodied in substance they are evoked from it and compose the realm of spirit, which is a natural manifestation of substance in man, but not a true description of it.

Matter '30 at 27 (Presumable Properties of Substance).

Santayana did not use the expression causation in describing the unilateral relation between animal psyche and consciousness. He says:

But if we adopted this language we should have to remove from the notion of causation the suggestion of an identical substance or force passing from an earlier to a later arrangement: the psychic expression of life is contemporary with its material phases, and it is in itself perfectly unsubstantial, evanescent, inconsequential, and impotent. It is no continuation of the same process that goes on in body, no transformation of the same energy. It is a spirit brooding over the waters; and the principle on which it arises here and not there, and reveals this sensuous quality and not that, is a mysterious corollary to the morphology of animal life.

Physical Order '69 at 27 (Causation). See also Letters 1:115 (To Charles Augustus Strong, Ávila, August 10, 1890) ("If you mean only that no energy is spent on thought, and that mind wherever it may appear, is an epiphenomenon, I sympathize with you . . . ."; "The mind would have to be treated as a parasite, if that can be called a parasite which consumes nothing of the substance on which it lives.").

Rather than use the language of causation to describe the categorical distinction between mind and body, Santayana adopted terminology borrowed from the Aristotelean tradition. Santayana writes:

Yet the element of succession is absent, the terms being simultaneous; and it is consequently more proper to name the feelings that arise the expression or entelechy or hypostasis of the bodily situation, and this the organ or instrument of the actual consciousness. For we must remember that while in the order of genesis consciousness is the last, most unsubstantial, and most fugitive of beings, it is first in the order of discovery, and in its intensity of being; so much so that, from its point of view, the whole realm of matter may be called merely potential, until actualised, discovered, and brought to a head in experience.

Physical Order '69 at 28 (Causation). See also Phil. of G.S. '40 at 18 (prefers term "hypostatic"); id. at 504 ("It is in an ideal synthesis impossible in a flux, in spanning relations in the realm of truth, that mounting animal passions attain this hypostatic individuality, and become feelings."); id. at 541 ("Reflection and reason are forms taken by life, they are psychic processes in organisms . . . . They are not clear hypostatic results of these processes such as consciousness and spirit are.").

Scholars may quarrel with the provenance of Santayana's terminology. His hijacking apt expressions foreign to modern ears, though, is not without its advantages if one wishes to emphasize the categorical distinction between power and spirit. The quotations on this page may shed further light on Santayana's "epi-phenomenalism."

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Virtual Knowledge

The following quotations speak to the doctrine that mind is an index to the world in which it arises, its feelings and conceptions serving as signals, signs, or symbols to the fighting animal. As Santayana noted late in his life, "that all ideas, in so far as they convey knowledge, are signs," was a "favourite doctrine" of his. Letters 8:347 (To Max Harold Fisch, Rome, May 4, 1951).

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Mind as Function of Body

Santayana writes that "the body is an instrument, the mind its function . . . and reward of its operation." Common Sense '05 at 206 (Introduction).

This same note is struck memorably by Santayana in his essay, The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy, which contains the following language in its last paragraph:

[T]he peculiarity of man is that his machinery for reaction on external things has involved an imaginative transcript of these things, which is preserved and suspended in his fancy; and the interest and beauty of this inward landscape, rather than any fortunes that may await his body in the outer world, constitute his proper happiness. By their mind, its scope, quality, and temper, we estimate men, for by the mind only do we exist as men, and are more than so many storage-batteries for material energy. Let us therefore be frankly human. Let us be content to live in the mind.

Winds '13 at 215.

Early in the essay, The Moral Background, Santayana writes:

Although Americans, and many other people, usually say that thought is for the sake of action, it has evidently been in these high moments, when action becomes incandescent in thought, that they have been most truly alive, intensively most active, and although doing nothing, have found at last that their existence was worth while. Reflection is itself a turn, and the top turn, given to life. . . . [W]hen reflection in man becomes dominant, it may become passionate; it may create religion and philosophy . . . .

Character & Opinion '20 at 3-4.

The quotations here gathered elaborate on this theme.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Human Nature

Santayana's faith in human nature serves to distinguish his doctrine of the relativity of knowledge and morals from pure subjectivity in idea and will, and is also integral to understanding his criticism of moralisms of all stripes. See, e.g., Religion '05 at 214-215 (Charity) (having discovered ideals true to one's nature, it remains necessary to recognize their relativity). Santayana dedicates a chapter of The Life of Reason to an explication of human nature, see Common Sense '05 at 269 et. seq. (Flux and Constancy in Human Nature), which is further elaborated by the selections gathered here.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Relativity of Knowledge and of Morals

Contrasting the absolutism of moralists to the relativism of morality based on human nature, Santayana writes:

Suppose we discount as fabulous every projection of human morality into the supernatural: need we thereby relapse into moral anarchy? In one sense, and from the point of view of the absolute or monocular moralist, we must: because the whole moral sphere then relapses into the bosom of nature, and nature, though not anarchical, is not governed by morality. But for a philosopher with two eyes, the natural status of morality in the animal world does not exclude the greatest vigour in those moral judgments and moral passions which belong to his nature. On the contrary, I think that it is only when he can see the natural origin and limits of the moral sphere that a moralist can be morally sane and just. Blindness to the biological truth about morality is not favourable to purity of moral feeling: it removes all sense of proportion and relativity; it kills charity, humility, and humour; and it shuts the door against that ultimate light which comes to the spirit from the spheres above morality.

The Genteel Tradition at Bay '31 at 51 (Moral Adequacy of Naturalism).

This page focuses on quotations dealing with the relativity of opinion and judgment, as well as Santayana's ideas about the denial of this relativity in what he calls, "moralism."

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Lives of Reason and Spirit

Readers of Santayana's writings notice a difference in tone and perspective between Santayana's early, grand work in moral philosophy, The Life of Reason, and his later ontological opus, Realms of Being. See generally Letters 5:127 (To Justus Buchler and Benjamin P. Schwartz, Cortina d'Ampezzo, July 23, 1934) ("Although my feeling is—contrary to what some critics assert—that I have always held the same opinions, I am aware of a distinct change, in temper and manner, between my professorial days, when I was . . . in America, and my free-lance days, when I have lived in Europe . . . ."); Letters 5:369 to 5:370 (To Milton Karl Munitz, Glion-surMontreux, August 21, 1936) (describing his last literary period as less humanistic and more naturalistic, neither essence nor spirit being departures from naturalism). Some critics suggest in particular that Santayana's elaboration of the spiritual life in his later works is incompatible with his explication of the reasonable life in his early productions, and conclude that there are "two Santayanas." Santayana objected to this treatment of his career "as a transformation of opinions" and defended the unity of his thought. For example, in one letter, he notices the same thesis in Interpretations of Poetry and Religion as in The Idea of Christ in the Gospels. Letters 8:219 (To John P. McKnight, Rome, December 22, 1949). In volume 7 of the Triton Edition, Santayana entitled his preface, On the Unity of My Earlier and Later Philosophy. In other words, although his later books devote much space to the spiritual life (e.g., Platonism and the Spiritual Life, The Realm of Spirit, and The Idea of Christ in the Gospels), this should not surprise the reader, since ontologically considered, spirit represents a fourth of Santayana's categorical vision; while conversely, many of his early works offer sympathetic criticism of traditional religious themes (e.g., Interpretations of Poetry and Religion, Reason in Religion, and Three Philosophical Poets), thus describing and at times explicitly referring to the spiritual life, even if such references arise only in the context of noticing the religious life as one form of civilization (that is, of the art of political life), rather than in elaborating the simple premise that mind is life supervening upon a natural animal psyche. Even in these earlier works, though, Santayana not only describes the spiritual life in the context of the political life and the various forms of moral progress, (see, e.g. Reason in Science (Post-Rational Morality)), but he also describes "spirituality, or life in the ideal" as "the fundamental and native type of all life" (Reason in Religion at 195 (Spirituality and Its Corruptions)). This seems to be one early reference, then, which recognizes mind as the second entelechy and thus foreshadows Santayana's ontological analysis.

This page offers those stray passages which directly contrast the lives of nature, reason, and spirit, as well as quotations separately describing the life of reason and the life of spirit.

Introduction for the web page entitled:


In a biography of Robert Lowell, the author awkwardly describes Santayana's attitude towards Catholicism, attributing a well-known quip on the matter to Lowell:

An affirmed agnostic, Santayana had nevertheless maintained a rather decorous love affair over the years with the Catholicism of his youth. "There is no God, and Mary is His Mother," would be Lowell's way of summing up Santayana's stance.

Paul Mariani, Lost Puritan: A Life of Robert Lowell 159 (W. W. Norton & Co., New York 1994).

Roger Kimball describes Santayana's position on Catholicism as follows:

Santayana's naturalism assured his implacable hostility to supernaturalism: the patent variety—his native Roman Catholicism, for example—as well as the covert versions populating many schools of philosophy—German idealism, say, in both its original and transplanted - to - England - and - America forms. . . . In 1890, when he was in his late twenties, Santayana wrote to William James that "I doubt whether the earth supports a more genuine enemy of all that the Catholic Church inwardly stands for than I do," and he later noted that he had "never been what is called a practising Catholic." It was a position from which he never wavered. It is worth stressing this. Santayana spent the last twelve years of his life at the Blue Sisters' clinic in Rome. This has tempted some commentators to suggest that his atheism softened or even evaporated with age. But this was not the case. During his last illness, Santayana took pains to advise Daniel Cory that if he were unconscious and the sacrament of Extreme Unction were administered, no one should interpret that as a deathbed conversion.

Roger Kimball, George Santayana, 20 New Criterion (February 2002).

This page gathers a handful of quotations describing Catholicism and explaining Santayana's scepticism.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

False Steps in Philosophy

According to Daniel Cory, late in his life Santayana began putting aside notes for yet another book to be entitled, On the False Steps of Philosophy, and that he delivered a partial manuscript to Cory in the fall before his death. Cory published that material as the final essay of The Birth of Reason & Other Essays by George Santayana (Daniel Cory, ed., Columbia University Press, New York, NY 1968). That short and incomplete essay is here supplemented by other quotations on the false steps of philosophy, and on other perennial philosophical issues discussed in Santayana's works.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

New Quotations

Normally, the quotations listed here are those added to A George Santayana Home Page between 18 April of one year and 17 April of the next. Since this web site was wholly re-vamped during 2010, all quotations in the system appear as "new" this year—all 427 quotations that had been in the system prior to 2010, as well as the 300+ quotations added in 2010.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

All Quotations

This page organizes the quotations that appear in the body of the twenty-five web pages currently comprising A George Santayana Home Page. Quotations used in the editor's Introductions or in Professor's Thoughts are suppressed. Please report any typographical errors to the editor through the Comments feature of this web site.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Miscellaneous Quotations

This page gathers quotations of philosophical interest that do not fit cleanly on an existing page of this web site and do not contribute to the introduction to any of the existing pages.

Introduction for the web page entitled:


Users may contribute and view comments concerning A George Santayana Home Page from any page on the web site. Here, all comments are gathered and sorted chronologically. This page includes guestbook entries contributed between 1996 and 2006. The guestbook did not operate between March 2006 and December 2010.

Introduction for the web page entitled:

Free Will

Quotations concerning the perennial philosophical issue of freedom of the will are here gathered separately from the page on False Steps in Philosophy due to their pertinence to moral philosophy. Santayana views the question of the freedom of the will as he does the problem of evil itself: on his premises, these are artificial problems whose origin lies in the conflation of essence and existence, ideal and fact, justification and cause. Distinguishing these conflated categories is a favorite method of Santayana's which is especially prominent in his early writings (i.e., at the moment, about half the quotations found for the page, Essence and Existence, were published before 1906).

This page lists the editor's Introduction to each web page found on this site.






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