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George Santayana (1863-1952) was born in Madrid, Spain, but he had an American mother. I believe EGOTISM IN GERMAN PHILOSOPHY was written in 1916, though I do not see any copyright information except "All rights reserved" in the old hardcover copy I just read. In the Preface, which mentioned "the present war," the author admits, "During more than twenty years, while I taught philosophy at Harvard College, I had continual occasion to read and discuss German metaphysics." (p. 5). After his Spanish father's death in 1912, Santayana's inheritance was sufficient to allow him to give up teaching and move to Rome. When I acquired this book, I expected an American point of view, fraught with anticipation of being dragged into a fight which was not of our own choosing. German philosophy could be considered as a factor for which Germans expected us to fear having to fight the Germans precisely because it could contribute to understanding what we would be up against. This book seems to be more interested in arguments against Egotism than in practical considerations in which politics would be the prime consideration for deciding who should defend civilization as we expect it to continue thriving on the weight of arguments for and against how American participation might push things one way or the other in the great war which is now considered World War One. The intervening 96 years have provided the world with the political example of Adolf Hitler, a master of putting German feelings into words that defied the rest of the world so emotionally that almost everyone understands how the Germans thought that he was on their side, even if no one else would. Santayana seems to be opposed to that kind of national Egotism, but his writing is limited to the examples in philosophy which preceded it.Read more ›
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