George Santayana


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

Author Quotes

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.

The degree in which a poet's imagination dominates reality is, in the end, the exact measure of his importance and dignity.

Love is at once more animal than friendship and more divine.

Never have I enjoyed youth so thoroughly as I have in my old age. In writing Dialogues in Limbo, The Last Puritan, and now all these descriptions of the friends of my youth and the young friends of my middle age, I have drunk the pleasure of life more pure, more joyful than it ever was when mingled with all the hidden anxieties and little annoyances of actual living. Nothing is inherently and invincibly young except spirit. And spirit can enter a human being perhaps better in the quiet of old age and dwell there more undisturbed than in the turmoil of adventure.

One of the fatalities of my life has always been that the people with whom I agree frighten me, and I frighten those with whom I naturally sympathize.

Philosophy seems to me to be its own reward, and its justification lies in the delight and dignity of the art itself.

Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.

The difficulty, after having the experience to symbolize, lies only in having enough imagination to suspend it in a thought; and further to give this thought such verbal expression that others may be able to decipher it, and to be stirred by it as by a wind of suggestion sweeping the whole forest of their memories.

Love is only half the illusion; the lover, but not his love, is deceived.

Nietzsche said that the earth has been a madhouse long enough. Without contradicting him we might perhaps soften the expression, and say that philosophy has been long enough an asylum for enthusiasts.

One of the peculiarities of recent speculation, especially in America, is that ideas are abandoned in virtue of a mere change of feeling, without any new evidence or new arguments. We do not nowadays refute our predecessors, we pleasantly bid them good-bye.

Poetry is not to be spread on things like butter, but must shine on them like dew.

Something in me has always rebelled against the priggish habit of drawing up an honours-list of poets and philosophers, and proclaiming who is the winner. They were not running a race, and though they may have thought so they were not really practicing the same art. A relative rank may be assigned to artists of a single school by a public that has no other standards; but who shall judge that school or that public?

The diseases which destroy a man are no less natural than the instincts which preserve him.

It is very hard for philosophers to put on one another's shoes.

Man alone knows that he must die; but that very knowledge raises him, in a sense, above mortality, by making him a sharer in the vision of eternal truth. He becomes the spectator of his own tragedy; he sympathizes so much with the fury of the storm that he has no ears left for the shipwrecked sailor, though the sailor were his own soul. The truth is cruel, but it can be loved, and it makes free those who have loved it.

Nietzsche was personally more philosophical than his philosophy. His talk about power, harshness, and superb immorality was the hobby of a harmless young scholar and constitutional invalid.

One real world is enough

Popular poets are the parish priests of the Muse, retailing her ancient divinations to a long since converted public.

Spirituality, then, lies in regarding existence merely as a vehicle for contemplation, and contemplation merely as a vehicle for joy.

The dreamer can know no truth, not even about his dream, except by awaking out of it.

It is wisdom to believe the heart.

Man has an inexhaustible faculty for lying, especially to himself.

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