George Santayana


Spanish-born American Philosopher, Essayist, Poet, Novelist, Critic, Philosophy Professor at Harvard University

Author Quotes

Life imposes selfish interests and subjective views on every inhabitant of earth: and in hugging these interests and these views the man hugs what he initially assumes to be the truth, a sort of antecedent hatred of it as contrary to presumption, is interwoven into the very fabric of thought.

It is indeed from the experience of beauty and happiness, from the occasional harmony between our nature and our environment, that we draw our conception of the divine life.

Knowledge is not eating, and we cannot expect to devour and possess what we mean. Knowledge is recognition of something absent; it is a salutation, not an embrace. It is an advance on sensation precisely because it is representative.

Intuition represents the free life of the mind, the poetry native to it, which I am far from despising; but this is the subjective or ideal element in thought which we must discount if we are anxious to possess true knowledge.

It is a new road to happiness, if you have strength enough to castigate a little the various impulses that sway you in turn.

In the heat of speculation or of love there may come moments of equal perfection, but they are very unstable. The reason and the heart remain deeply unsatisfied. But the eye finds in nature, and in some supreme achievements of art, constant and fuller satisfaction. For the eye is quick and seems to have been more docile to the education of life than the heart or the reason of man, and able sooner to adapt itself to the reality. Beauty therefore seems to be the clearest manifestation of perfection, and the best evidence of its possibility.

Intolerance is a form of egoism, and to condemn egoism intolerantly is to share it.

If perfection is, as it should be, the ultimate justification of being, we may understand the ground of the moral dignity of beauty.

Friends must desire to live as much as possible together and to share their work, thoughts, and pleasures. Good-fellowship and sensuous affinity are indispensable to give spiritual communion a personal accent; otherwise men would be indifferent vehicles for such thoughts and powers as emanated from them, and attention would not be in any way arrested or refracted by the human medium through which it beheld the good.

Friendship may indeed come to exist without sensuous liking or comradeship to pave the way; but unless intellectual sympathy and moral appreciation are powerful enough to react on natural instinct and to produce in the end the personal affection which at first was wanting, friendship does not arise.

Habit is stronger than reason.

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.

Even under the most favourable circumstances no mortal can be asked to seize the truth in its wholeness or at its centre.

Every real object must cease to be what it seemed, and none could ever be what the whole soul desired.

Character is the basis of happiness and happiness the sanction of character.

Dogmas are at their best when nobody denies them, for then their falsehood sleeps, like that of an unconscious metaphor, and their moral function is discharged instinctively.

Assurance is contemptible and fatal unless it is self-knowledge.

Beauty is a pledge of the possible conformity between the soul and nature, and consequently a ground of faith in the supremacy of the good.

A friend’s only gift is himself, and friendship is not friendship, it is not a form of free or liberal society, if it does not terminate in an ideal possession, in an object loved for its own sake. Such objects can be ideas only, not forces, for forces are subterranean and instrumental things, having only such value as they borrow from their ulterior effects and manifestations... We are not to look now for what makes friendship useful, but for whatever may be found in friendship that may lend utility to life.

Asceticism is something forced, and therefore insecure, unless it be a refuge and happy relief from indulgences that are insatiable, always oppressive and remorseful.

A body seriously out of equilibrium, either with itself or with its environment, perishes outright. Not so a mind. Madness and suffering can set themselves no limit; they lapse only when the corporeal frame that sustains them yields to circumstances and changes its habit.

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Spanish-born American Philosopher, Essayist, Poet, Novelist, Critic, Philosophy Professor at Harvard University