George Santayana


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

Author Quotes

Happiness is impossible and even inconceivable to a mind without scope and without pause, a mind driven by craving, pleasure, and fear.

I wish to mourn perpetually the absence of what I love or might love. Isn't that what religious people call the love of God?

In this world we must either institute conventional forms of expression or else pretend that we have nothing to express; the choice lies between a mask and a fig-leaf.

It is possible to be a master in false philosophy, easier, in fact, than to be a master in the truth, because a false philosophy can be made as simple and consistent as one pleases.

Beauty as we feel it is something indescribable: what it is or what it means can never be said.

Culture is on the horns of this dilemma: if profound and noble it must remain rare, if common it must become mean.

Experience is a mere whiff or rumble, produced by enormously complex and ill-deciphered causes of experience; and in the other direction, experience is a mere peephole through which glimpses come down to us of eternal things.

He carries his English weather in his heart wherever he goes, and it becomes a cool spot in the desert, and a steady and sane oracle amongst all the delirium of mankind.

If all the arts aspire to the condition of music, all the sciences aspire to the condition of mathematics.

In those universities where philosophical controversy is rife, [philosophy's] traditional and scholastic character is no less obvious; it lives less on meditation than on debate, and turns on proofs, objects, paradoxes, or expedients for seeming to re-establish everything that had come to seem clearly false, by some ingenious change of front or some twist of dialectic.

It is rash to intrude upon the piety of others: both the depth and the grace of it elude the stranger.

Beauty is objectified pleasure.

Depression is rage spread thin.

Experience seems to most of us to lead to conclusions, but empiricism has sworn never to draw them.

He gave the world another world.

If artists and poets are unhappy, it is after all because happiness does not interest them.

In Walt Whitman democracy is carried into psychology and morals. The various sights, moods, and emotions are given each one vote; they are declared to be all free and equal, and the innumerable commonplace moments of life are suffered to speak like the others. Those moments formerly reputed great are not excluded, but they are made to march in the ranks with their companions—plain foot-soldiers and servants of the hour.

It is right to prefer our own country to all others, because we are children and citizens before we can be travelers or philosophers. ... It is no accident for the soul to be embodied; her very essence is to express and bring to fruition the body's functions and resources. Its instincts make her ideals and its relations her world. A native country is a sort of second body, another enveloping organism to give the will definition. A specific inheritance strengthens the soul.

Because the peculiarity of man is that his machinery for reaction on external things has involved an imaginative transcript of these things, which is preserved and suspended in his fancy; and the interest and beauty of this inward landscape, rather than any fortunes that may await his body in the outer world, constitute his proper happiness. By their mind, its scope, quality, and temper, we estimate men, for by the mind only do we exist as men, and are more than so many storage-batteries for material energy. Let us therefore be frankly human. Let us be content to live in the mind.

Do not have evil-doers for friends, do not have low people for friends: have virtuous people for friends, have for friends the best of men.

Faith in the supernatural is a desperate wager made by man at the lowest ebb of his fortunes.

History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren't there.

If one is the master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time insight into and understanding of many things.

Incapacity to appreciate certain types of beauty may be the condition sine qua non for the appreciation of another kind; the greatest capacity both for enjoyment and creation is highly specialized and exclusive, and hence the greatest ages of art have often been strangely intolerant. The invectives of one school against another, perverse as they are philosophically, are artistically often signs of health, because they indicate a vital appreciation of certain kinds of beauty, a love of them that has grown into a jealous passion.

It is veneer, rouge, aestheticism, art museums, new theaters, etc. that make America impotent. The good things are football, kindness, and jazz bands.

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