George Santayana


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

Author Quotes

The lover knows much more about absolute good and universal beauty than any logician or theologian, unless the latter, too, be lovers in disguise.

The Soul is the voice of the body's interests.

Theory helps us bear our ignorance of facts.

They say dying animals go into hiding; and I could understand that instinct. There are phases of distress when help is neither possible nor desired. It is simpler, easier, more honest to be seasick alone, and to die alone. The trouble then seems something fated, not to be questioned, like life itself; and nature is built to face it and to see it out.

To me, it seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography.

What is the part of wisdom? To dream with one eye open; to be detached from the world without being hostile to it; to welcome fugitive beauties and pity fugitive sufferings, without forgetting for a moment how fugitive they are.

The mediocrity of everything in the great world of today is simply appalling. We live in intellectual slums.

The spirit's foe in man has not been simplicity, but sophistication.

There are books in which the footnotes, or the comments scrawled by some reader's hand in the margin, are more interesting than the text. The world is one of those books.

Thinking is a way of living, and the most vital way.

To reform means to shatter one form and to create another, but the two sides of this act are not always equally intended nor equally successful.

What religion a man shall have is a historical accident, quite as much as what language he shall speak.

The mind of the Renaissance was not a pilgrim mind, but a sedentary city mind, like that of the ancients

The superiority of the distant over the present is only due to the mass and variety of the pleasures that can be suggested, compared with the poverty of those that can at any time be felt.

There are three traps that strangle philosophy: the Church, the marriage-bed, and the professor's chair.

Those were the two prerequisites, in my conception, to perfect friendship: capacity to worship and capacity to laugh. Modern life is not made for friendship: common interests are not strong enough, private interests too absorbing. In each person I catch the fleeting suggestion of something beautiful and swear eternal friendship with that.

To the art of working well a civilized race would add the art of playing well.

What renders man an imaginative and moral being is that in society he gives new aims to his life which could not have existed in solitude: the aims of friendship, religion, science, and art.

The moment we turn the magic of the moment into a maxim, we have clouded the sky.

The tendency to gather and to breed philosophers in universities does not belong to ages of free and humane reflection: it is scholastic and proper to the Middle Ages and to Germany. And the reason is not too far to seek. When there is philosophical orthodoxy, and speculation is expected to be a reasoned defense of some funded inspiration, it becomes itself corporate and traditional, and requires centres of teaching, endowment, and propaganda.

There is (as I now find) no remorse for time long past, even for what may have mortified us or made us ashamed of ourselves when it was happening: there is a pleasant panoramic sense of what it all was and how it all had to be. Why, if we are not vain or snobbish, need we desire that it should have been different? The better things we missed may yet be enjoyed or attained by someone else somewhere: why isn't that just as good? And there is no regret, either, in the sense of wishing the past to return, or missing it: it is quite real enough as it is, there at its own date and place

Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality; how many people read and write, or how many people there are, or what is the annual value of their trade; whereas true progress would rather lie in reading and writing fewer and better things, and being fewer and better men, and enjoying life more.

Towers in a modern town are a frill and a survival; they seem like the raised hands of the various churches, afraid of being overlooked, and saying to the forgetful public, Here I am! Or perhaps they are rival lightning rods, saying to the emanations of divine grace, "Please strike here!"

What would you ask of philosophy? To feed you on sweets and lull you in your errors in hope that death may overtake you before you understand anything? Ah, wisdom is sharper than death and only the brave can love her.

The more rational an institution is the less it suffers by making concessions to others.

Author Picture
First Name
Last Name
Birth Date
Death Date

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