August 13, 2010

George Santayana Quotes and Biography

George Santayana quotes are evocative! Not only that, but he's uttered so many insightful, and profound quotes that this blog post just kept getting bigger and bigger. I came across him quite randomly as I was reading some inspirational quotes, and Santayana's poignancy just made me want to dig deeper. When it was all said and done I had a big ol' quote list and pared it down to just the gems you'll read below.

So, here are some of the fantastic George Santayana quotes I came across, as well as a brief biography in case you've never heard of this philosophy legend (it's ok... I never heard of him before this either!).





George Santayana Biography


George Santayana was born in Spain in 1863. He was known as a Spanish-born U.S. philosopher. He graduated from Harvard with a bachelor of arts and then went on to complete his Ph.D. also at Harvard by the age of 26. As an undergraduate he was said to have a very active social life and he was also a member of 11 clubs, as well as president of the philosophy club. After earning his Ph.D. George Santayana became a professor at Harvard until he retired from teaching in his 40's, much to the dismay of Harvard, who tried to get him back on numerous occasions. He was heavily recruited by many of the world's top universities for his incredible abilities.

After retiring he moved back to Europe and bounced around Europe, Britain and the United States. Unfortunately, World War I and then II prohibited Santayana's traveling lifestyle and eventually he was trapped in Rome, where he later died.

During his earlier years he partook in poetry, but later undertook philosophy as his major work. He wrote many books, and his only novel The Last Puritan was a worldwide hit and best-seller. George Santayana was also a great student of philosophy and he credits a lot of his learning to Aristotle, Spinoza, and Lucretius. Furthermore, William James, commonly known as one of the fathers of modern psychology, had an impact on Santayana since they worked together at Harvard.

As far as his views on philosophy are concerned, George Santayana quotes that philosophy attempts firstly to, make an account of "the shrewd orthodoxy which the sentiment and practice of laymen maintain everywhere" and secondly at drawing out "a distinct vision of the universe and definite convictions about human destiny [that] inspires and expresses the life of those who cherish it."

Santayana died of cancer on September 26, 1952 in Rome, Italy.



George Santayana on Life


"Before he sets out, the traveler must possess fixed interests and facilities to be served by travel."

"The truth is cruel, but it can be loved, and it makes free those who have loved it."

"For gold is tried in the fire and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity."

"If pain could have cured us we should long ago have been saved."

"It is a revenge the devil sometimes takes upon the virtuous, that he entraps them by the force of the very passion they have suppressed and think themselves superior to."

"It is always pleasant to be urged to do something on the ground that one can do it well."

"We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past; and we must respect the past; remembering that once it was all that was humanly possible."
The Philosophy of George Santayana, Northwestern University Press, 1940, p. 560

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

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

"To possess things and persons in idea is the only pure good to be got out of them; to possess them physically or legally is a burden and a snare"

"... if you bravely make the best of a crazy world, eternity is full of champions that will defend you."
Dialogues in Limbo, Constable, 1925, p. 32



George Santayana Quotes on Education and Learning


"Before you contradict an old man, my fair friend, you should endeavor to understand him."

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

"Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are."

"There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar: it keeps the mind nimble, it kills prejudice, and it fosters humour."
The Birth of Reason and Other Essays, Columbia University Press, 1968, p. 15

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

"The wisest mind has something yet to learn."

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


George Santayana "Doomed to repeat it..."Quote

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
Life of Reason, Reason in Common Sense, Scribner's, 1905, page 284


George Santayana Quotes on Happiness and Character


"Character is the basis of happiness and happiness the sanction of character."

"Happiness is the only sanction of life; where happiness fails, existence remains a mad and lamentable experiment."

"To be happy, even to conceive happiness, you must be reasonable or (if Nietzsche prefers the word) you must be tamed. You must have taken the measure of your powers, tasted the fruits of your passions and learned your place in the world and what things in it can really serve you. To be happy you must be wise."
Egotism in German Philosophy, Scribner's, 1916, p. 152

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

"Knowledge of what is possible is the beginning of happiness."

"To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring."


George Santayana quotes from The Sense of Beauty


"Nothing so much enhances a good as to make sacrifices for it."

"Familiarity breeds contempt only when it breeds inattention."

"The only kind of reform usually possible is reform from within; a more intimate study and more intelligent use of the traditional forms."
The Sense of Beauty, MIT Press, 1988, p. 105

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

"Fun is a good thing, but only when it spoils nothing better."


Santayana Quotes from Letters


"... philosophy seems to me to be its own reward, and its justification lies in the delight and dignity of the art itself."
—To William James, 18 December 1887, The Letters of George Santayana, Book One, [1868]-1909, MIT Press, 2001

"... the idea that horrors are required to give zest to life and interest to art is the idea of savages, men of no experience worth mentioning, and of merely servile, limited sensibilities. Don't tolerate it."
—To G. Lowes Dickinson, 26 November 1913, The Letters of George Santayana, Book Two, 1910-1920, MIT Press, 2002

"The moment we turn the magic of the moment into a maxim, we have clouded the sky."
—To Llewelyn Powys, 20 October 1937, The Letters of George Santayana, Book Six, 1937-1940, MIT Press, 2004

"I have always liked understanding views with which I did not agree—how else could one like the study of philosophy?"
—To Daniel MacGhie Cory, 9 May 1939, The Letters of George Santayana, Book Six, 1937-1940, MIT Press, 2004

"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."
—To Charles Augustus Strong, 15 September 1939, The Letters of George Santayana, Book Six, 1937-1940, MIT Press, 2004


George Santayana Quotes on Philosophy


"The philosophy of the common man is an old wife that gives him no pleasure, yet he cannot live without her, and resents any aspersions that strangers may cast on her character."

"The hunger for facile wisdom is the root of all false philosophy."
Facile means: arrived at without due care or effort; lacking depth; "too facile a solution for so complex a problem"


Quotes from Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense


"In order to discern this healthy life, for the soul no less than for the body, not much learning is required; only a little experience, a little reflection, and a little candour."
Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense

"An ignorant mind believes itself omniscient and omnipotent; those impulses in itself which really represent the inertia and unspent momentum of its last dream it regards as the creative forces of nature.
—Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense, Scribner's, 1905, p. 187

"An ignorant mind believes itself omniscient and omnipotent; those impulses in itself which really represent the inertia and unspent momentum of its last dream it regards as the creative forces of nature.
—Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense, Scribner's, 1905, p. 187

"Now the body is an instrument, the mind its function, the witness and reward of its operation."
—Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense, Scribner's, 1905, p. 206

"A man's hatred of his own condition no more helps to improve it than hatred of other people tends to improve them."
—Life of Reason: Reason in Common Sense, Scribner's, 1905, p. 225


More George Santayana Insightful Quotes


"By nature's kindly disposition most questions which it is beyond a man's power to answer do not occur to him at all."

"The word experience is like a shrapnel shell, and bursts into a thousand meanings."

"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."

"Parents lend children their experience and a vicarious memory; children endow their parents with a vicarious immortality."

"Depression is rage spread thin."

"Sanity is a madness put to good use."

"I like to walk about among the beautiful things that adorn the world; but private wealth I should decline, or any sort of personal possessions, because they would take away my liberty."

"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."

"Only when vitality is low do people find material things oppressive and ideal things unsubstantial."
—Winds of Doctrine, Scribner's, 1913, p. 19

"Wealth is dismal and poverty cruel unless both are festive. There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval."
—Soliloquies in England, Scribner's, 1922, p. 97

"I suppose people aren't ashamed of doing or feeling anything, no matter what, if only they can do it together. And sometimes two people are enough."
The Last Puritan, MIT Press, 1994, p. 227

"A need is not a good. It denotes a condition to be fulfilled before some natural virtue can be exercised and some true good thereby attained. To feel needs is to feel separated from the good by some unfulfilled prerequisite to possessing it."
—Dominations and Powers, Scribner's, 1951, p. 40

"Music is a means of giving form to our inner feelings, without attaching them to events or objects in the world."

"Many possessions, if they do not make a man better, are at least expected to make his children happier; and this pathetic hope is behind many exertions."

"Never build your emotional life on the weaknesses of others."

"Emotion is primarily about nothing and much of it remains about nothing to the end."

"A man is morally free when, in full possession of his living humanity, he judges the world, and judges other men, with uncompromising sincerity."

"Advertising is the modern substitute for argument; its function is to make the worse appear the better."

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

"Habit is stronger than reason."

"The highest form of vanity is love of fame."

"Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality."

"To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say."


Finally, here is what I believe to be a very profound quote to end this page with:


"Our character... is an omen of our destiny, and the more integrity we have and keep, the simpler and nobler that destiny is likely to be."


Reading about George Santayana and tons of his quotes had me wanting to read more about philosophy. One of my favorite personal development mentors, Jim Rohn is very big on studying philosophy. And not just classic philosophy, but your own personal philosophy.

If you're interested in studying philosophy then a) keep reading this blog because philosophy is a big part of it, and b) look into reading The Last Puritan (I read that it's tough to read, but I'll be checking it out anyways) or a biography of the life of George Santayana. Have a great day, and work on those good habits!


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