George Santayana

George
Santayana
1863
1952

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

Author Quotes

Perhaps the universe is nothing but an equilibrium of idiocies.

Since the days of Descartes it has been a conception familiar to philosophers that every visible event in nature might be explained by previous visible events, and that all the motions, for instance, of the tongue in speech, or of the hand in painting, might have merely physical causes. If consciousness is thus accessory to life and not essential to it, the race of man might have existed upon the earth and acquired all the arts necessary for its subsistence without possessing a single sensation, idea, or emotion. Natural selection might have secured the survival of those automata which made useful reactions upon their environment. An instinct would have been developed, dangers would have been shunned without being feared, and injuries avenged without being felt.

The body is an instrument, the mind its function, the witness and reward of its operation.

The God to whom depth in philosophy bring back men's minds is far from being the same from whom a little philosophy estranges them.

Life is a succession of second bests.

Nature is innocent, and so are all her impulses and moods when taken in isolation; it is only on meeting that they blush.

Oblivious of Democritus, the unwilling materialists of our day have generally been awkwardly intellectual and quite incapable of laughter. If they have felt anything, they have felt melancholy. Their allegiance and affection were still fixed on those mythical sentimental worlds which they saw to be illusory. The mechanical world they believed in could not please them, in spite of its extent and fertility. Giving rhetorical vent to their spleen and prejudice, they exaggerated nature's meagreness and mathematical dryness. When their imagination was chilled they spoke of nature, most unwarrantably, as dead, and when their judgment was heated they took the next step and called it unreal.

Periods of tranquility are seldom prolific of creative achievement. Mankind has to be stirred up.

Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon, or to the first comer.

The body must be loosely clad if the mind is to forget it and impetuously lead its own life.

The human mind is not rich enough to drive many horses abreast and wants one general scheme, under which it strives to bring everything.

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.

Author Picture
First Name
George
Last Name
Santayana
Birth Date
1863
Death Date
1952
Bio

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