Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

George Santayana

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

"Wisdom comes by disillusionment."

"A child educated only at school is an uneducated child."

"A body seriously out of equilibrium, either with itself or with its environment, perishes outright. Not so a mind. Madness and suffering set themselves no limit."

"Tyrants are seldom free; the cares and the instruments of their tyranny enslave them."

"Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it."

"A string of excited, fugitive, miscellaneous pleasures is not happiness; happiness resides in imaginative reflection and judgment, when the picture of one's life, of human life, as it truly has been or is, satisfies the will, and is gladly accepted."

"A man's feet must be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world."

"An ideal cannot wait for its realization to prove its validity."

"An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world; he is a highly suggestible mind hypnotized by reality."

"Art is the response to the demand for entertainment, for the stimulation of our senses and imagination, and truth enters into it only as it subserves these ends."

"Existence should be met on its own terms: we may dance a round with it, and perhaps steal a kiss; but it tempts us only to flout us, not being dedicated to any constant love."

"In imagination, not in perception, lies the substance of experience, while knowledge and reason are but its chastened and ultimate form."

"Art is a delayed echo."

"Friends are generally of the same sex, for when men and women agree, it is only in the conclusions; their reasons are always different."

"Friendship is almost always the union of a part of one mind with a part of another; people and friends in spots."

"Government is the political representative of a natural equilibrium, of custom, of inertia; it is by no means a representative of reason."

"Government neither subsists nor arises because it is good or useful, but solely because it is inevitable."

"If a man really knew himself he would utterly despise the ignorant notions others might form on a subject in which he had such matchless opportunities for observation."

"Imagination is potentially infinite. Though actually we are limited to the types of experience for which we possess organs, those organs are somewhat plastic. Opportunity will change their scope and even their centre."

"Heaven is to be at peace with things."

"History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten."

"Love makes us poets and the approach of death should make us philosophers."

"Life is judged with all the blindness of life itself."

"It is the acme of life to understand life."

"It takes patience to appreciate domestic bliss; volatile spirits prefer unhappiness."

"It is war that wastes a nation's wealth, chokes its industries, kills its flower, narrows its sympathies, condemns it to be governed by adventurers and leave the puny, deformed and unmanly to breed the next generation."

"Life is not a spectacle or a feast; it is a predicament."

"Nothing is really so poor and melancholy as art that is interested in itself and not in its subject."

"Men have become superstitious, not because they have too much imagination, but because they are not aware that they have any."

"Not to believe in love is a great sign of dullness. There are some people so indirect and lumbering that they think all real affection must rest on circumstantial evidence."

"Memory itself is an internal rumor; and when to this hearsay within the mind we add the falsified echoes that reach us from others, we have but a shifting and unseizable basis to build. The picture we frame of the past changes continually and grows every day less similar to the original experience which it purports to describe."

"People are usually more firmly convinced that their opinions are precious than they are true."

"Prayer, among sane people, has never superseded practical efforts to secure the desired end."

"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

"Religion should be disentangled as much as possible from history and authority and metaphysics, and made to rest honestly on one's feelings, on one's indomitable optimism and trust in life."

"Old places and old persons in their turn, when spirit dwells in them, have an intrinsic vitality of which youth is incapable; precisely the balance and wisdom that comes from long perspectives and broad functions."

"One's friends are the part of the human race with which one can be human."

"Religion in its humility restores man to his only dignity, the courage to live by grace."

"Science is nothing but developed perception, interpreted intent, common sense rounded out, and minutely articulated."

"Proofs are the last thing looked for by a truly religious mind which feels the imaginative fitness of its faith."

"Sensations are rapid dreams."

"Society itself is an accident to the spirit, and if society in any of its forms is to be justified morally it must be justified at the bar of the individual."

"That the end of life should be death may sound sad: yet what other end can anything have? The end of an evening party is to go to bed; but is use is to gather congenial people together, that they may pass the time pleasantly. An invitation to dance is not rendered ironical because the danced cannot last for ever; the youngest of us and the most vigorously wound up, after a few hours, has had enough of sinuous stepping and prancing. The transitoriness of things is essential to their physical being, and not at all sad in itself; it becomes sad by virtue of a sentimental illusion, which makes us imagine that they wish to endure, and that their end is always untimely; but in a healthy nature it is not so. what is truly sad is to have some impulse frustrated in the midst of its career, and robbed of its chosen object; and what is painful is to have an organ lacerated or destroyed when it is still vigorous, and not ready for its natural sleep and dissolution. We must not confuse the itch which our unsatisfied instincts continue to cause with the pleasure of satisfying and dismissing each of them in turn. Could they all be satisfied harmoniously we should be satisfied once for all and completely. Then doing and dying would coincide throughout and be a perfect pleasure."

"Sentimental time is a genuine, if poetical, version of the march of existence, even as pictorial space is a genuine, if poetical version of its distribution... the least sentimental term in sentimental time is the term now, because it marks the junction of fancy with action... For it is evident that actual succession can contain nothing but nows, so that now in a certain way is immortal. But this immortality is only a continual reiteration, a series of moments each without self-possession and without assurance of any other moment; so that if ever the now loses its indicative practical force and becomes introspective, it becomes acutely sentimental, a perpetual hope unrealized and a perpetual dying."

"The brute necessity of believing something so long as life lasts does not justify any belief in particular."

"The difficult is just which can be done immediately; the impossible takes a little longer."

"The family is one of nature’s masterpieces."

"The great difficulty in education is to get experience out of ideas."

"The loftiest edifices need the deepest foundations."

"The man who would emancipate art from discipline and reason is trying to elude rationality, not merely in art, but in all existence."