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Scepticism and Animal Faith Paperback – June 1, 1955
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"Skepticism and Animal Faith," along with David Stove's "The Plato Cult and Other Philosophical Follies," represents the most effective and withering criticism that has ever been directed against the idealist creed. Where Stove attacks the positive argument for idealism, Santayana focuses his polemical guns on the negative argument--i.e., on the idealist argument against realism. Santayana shows how idealist skepticism of the existence of an external reality, if followed consistently, would deprive all our ideas of their cognitive meaning. If idealism is taken to its logical extreme, we would all find ourselves trapped in a solipsism of the passing moment, unable to understand the significance of any idea, image, or feeling experienced by the mind.Read more ›
Descartes could not bring himself to be profoundly skeptical, which would have meant doubting his own principles of explanation. For example, he suggested that a malign demon might be the causing him to be deluded. "He thus assumed the principle of sufficient reason, for which there is no reason at all. If any idea or axiom were really a priori or spontaneous in the human mind, it would be infinitely improbable that it should apply to the facts of nature. Every genius, in this respect, is his own malign demon." The rest of Descartes is similarly exploded, after which Hume and Kant are taken to the woodshed for similar demolition.
What does Santayana himself offer? Starting from a truly profound skepticism in which nothing is given, he offers a sort of Platonic Darwinism in which all we have access to are intuitions of fleeting appearances, less than shadows on the wall, because no wall is given. In our struggle to survive, we learn to take some of those appearances ("essences") to signify things and events in a real world of substantial, enduring objects.Read more ›
I've long suspected that I'd be fond of Santayana. He just has so many things going for him. For one, his background interesting: a Spanish citizen who did most of his work in Harvard, alongside William James and Josiah Royce. Like Nabokov, he learned English as a second language; and also like Nabokov, he was a fantastic writer. His philosophy is as unique as his background: less about the technical examination of problems than the thoughtful examination of life. And in addition to writing several influential philosophical works, he was also a man of letters, writing a best-selling novel and autobiography. He belonged to no country and no philosophical school. He was an individual.
Seeking an entry point into the writings of this half-forgotten sage, I picked up this book. Skepticism and Animal Faith is meant as a critical introduction to a longer work Santayana later wrote on epistemology and metaphysics, The Realms of Being. But Santayana manages to compress an entire epistemological argument and metaphysical system into just over 300 pages. It's a rewarding read.
The first thing the reader will notice is Santayana's writing style, which is literary, and often poetic:
"My endeavor is to think straight in such terms as are offered to me, to clear my mind of cant and free it from the cramp of artificial traditions; but I do not ask any one to think in my terms if he prefers others.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of the greatest american philosophist is more philologist with intension in pragmatism - Good!Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás (but known as “George Santayana”; 1863–1952), was a philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Steven H Propp
Santayana has an unusually lucid, nuanced and expressive prose style. This book is worth reading for that alone.
I had never thought I'd read Santayana. Read more
Before reading George Santayana's Scepticism and Animal Faith, I had read the same author's The Life of Reason and The Sense of Beauty. I had no rationale for this sequence. Read morePublished 13 months ago by not a natural
Santayana first strips away the myths and misconceptions about truth. If you haven;t done any reflection on the origin or soundness of your beliefs you may be in for a tough ride. Read morePublished on September 9, 2012 by Joseph Balensi
Like Santayana's INTERPRETATIONS OF POETRY AND RELIGION, this book has been digitized from a library copy, with no attempt to format for easy Kindle reading. Read morePublished on May 27, 2012 by Thomas L. Jeffers
It's a gem of little taught philosophy from the early 20th century. Santayana levels interesting arguments against the Modern period (particularly in chapters 19 and 22) and... Read morePublished on January 27, 2012 by amlaw13