George Santayana


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

Author Quotes

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.

The theatre, for all its artifices, depicts life in a sense more truly than history, because the medium has a kindred movement to that of real life, though an artificial setting and form.

There is a kind of courtesy in skepticism. It would be an offense against polite conventions to press our doubts too far.

Though the heart wear the garment of its sorrow and be not happy like a naked star, yet from the thought of peace some peace we borrow, some rapture from the rapture felt afar.

Trust the man who hesitates in his speech and is quick and steady in action, but beware of long arguments and long beards.

When a genteel tradition forbids people to confess that they are unhappy, serious poetry and profound religion are closed to them.

Life, like the porcupine when not ruffled by practical alarms, can let its fretful quills subside.

Nature is like a beautiful woman that may be as delightfully and as truly known at a certain distance as upon a closer view; as to knowing her through and through, that is nonsense in both cases, and might not reward our pains.

Of course, I like agreement, it warms the heart, but I don't expect it; and I like disagreement too, when it is intelligent and carries a thought further, rather than contradicts it a priori, from a different point of departure. These different points of departure make discussion futile and unpleasant.

Philosophers are as jealous as women. Each wants a monopoly of praise.

So I believe, compulsorily and satirically, in the existence of this absurd world; but as to the existence of a better world, or of hidden reason in this one, I am incredulous, or rather, I am critically skeptical; because it is not difficult to see the familiar motives that lead men to invent such myths.

The business of a philosopher is... to be a good shepherd of his thoughts.

Logic is a refined form of grammar.

Nature is material, but not materialistic; it issues in life, and breeds all sorts of warm passions and idle beauties.

Old age is as forgetful as youth, and more incorrigible; it displays the same inattentiveness to conditions; its memory becomes self-repeating and degenerates into an instinctive reaction, like a bird's chirp.

Philosophers are very severe towards other philosophers because they expect too much.

So in love the heart surrenders itself entirely to the one being known how to touch it. That being is not selected but recognized and obeyed.

The contemporary world has turned its back on the attempt and even on the desire to live reasonably.

Logic, like language, is partly a free construction and partly a means of symbolizing and harnessing in expression the existing diversities of things; and whilst some languages, given a man's constitution and habits, may seem more beautiful and convenient to him than others, it is a foolish heat in a patriot to insist that only his native language is intelligible or right.

Never build your emotional life on the weaknesses of others.

On the whole the world has seemed to me to move in the direction of light and reason, not that reason can ever govern human affairs, but that illusions and besetting passions may recede from the minds of men and allow reason to shine there.

Philosophy is a more intense sort of experience than common life is, just as pure and subtle music, heard in retirement, is something keener and more intense than the howling of storms or the rumble of cities.

Society is like the air, necessary to breathe but insufficient to live on.

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