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The Life of Reason begins boldly, with Santayana explaining his concept of reason in great detail. How a mind may embark and progress on applying rational thought to life is explained, and the practical value of such thinking methods are demonstrated. More abstractly, Santayana expounds on how a rational mind confers value to the person, and considers how such value may be measured.
The second volume sees the author questioning whether men can be exhorted to virtuous behaviors without the concept of a creator, heaven, hell or other supernatural concepts. Realizing that morality has never been divorced from aspects of spirituality, Santayana dismisses the concept of a purely rational society as a fancy of various philosophers. However, he notes that many virtuous but non-supernaturally aligned persons result from a healthy upbringing and social life.
The third volume, Reason in Religion, is an emotional and at times autobiographical account of Santayana's own struggles with faith. Though raised in the Spanish Catholic faith, personal problems with the organized and hierarchical expression of religion led the philosopher to distance himself. Yet Santayana is unhappy with the satiric barbs hurled at established religions such as Catholicism, and notes that one can never understand mankind without also comprehending faith.
Volumes four and five concern science and art, respectively. The basis of artistic expression and its grounding in reasoning is discussed, with chapters dedicated to the visual art of painting and also music. Santayana begins his analysis of science by distinguishing between types of scientific thought, before discussing the scientific method, and the moral questions surrounding scientific experiment and progress.
Towards the conclusion of his life, Santayana was urged by his publisher to condense the myriad teachings of The Life of Reason into a single volume. While the author was successful in this task, it is the original, five-volume edition which clearly - and in many instances, utterly - express the philosophical ideas.
In popular culture, The Life of Reason is most famous for containing many of Santayana's most celebrated aphorisms, such as "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it". Beyond this frank wisdom, it is a treatise profoundly personal and intellectual, brimming with knowledge and a provocative yet fresh approach to age-old questions.
The Complete Works of George Santayana
Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, known in English as George Santayana, was a philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist.
This collection includes the following:
The Life of Reason
Some Turns of Thought in Modern Philosophy
Winds Of Doctrine
The Sense of Beauty
Character and Opinion in the United States
Three Philosophical Poets
Soliloquies in England
Egotism in German Philosophy
Interpretations of Poetry and Religion
A Hermit of Carmel and Other Poems
It is remarkably appropriate that this work on aesthetics should have been written by George Santayana, who is probably the most brilliant philosophic writer and the philosopher with the strongest sense of beauty since Plato. It is not a dry metaphysical treatise, as works on aesthetics so often are, but is itself a fascinating document: as much a revelation of the beauty of language as of the concept of beauty.
This unabridged reproduction of the 1896 edition of lectures delivered at Harvard College is a study of "why, when, and how beauty appears, what conditions an object must fulfill to be beautiful, what elements of our nature make us sensible of beauty, and what the relation is between the constitution of the object and the excitement of our susceptibility."
Santayana first analyzes the nature of beauty, finding it irrational, "pleasure regarded as the quality of a thing." He then proceeds to the materials of beauty, showing what all human functions can contribute: love, social instincts, senses, etc. Beauty of form is then analyzed, and finally the author discusses the expression of beauty. Literature, religion, values, evil, wit, humor, and the possibility of finite perfection are all examined. Presentation throughout the work is concrete and easy to follow, with examples drawn from art, history, anthropology, psychology, and similar areas.
This book brings together two seminal works by George Santayana, one of the most significant philosophers of the twentieth century: Character and Opinion in the United States, which stands with Tocqueville’s Democracy in America as one the most insightful works of American cultural criticism ever written, and “The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy,” a landmark text of both philosophical analysis and cultural criticism.
An introduction by James Seaton situates Santayana in the intellectual and cultural context of his own time. Four additional essays include John Lachs on the ways Santayana’s understanding of “the soul of America” help explain the relative peace among nationalities and ethnic groups in the United States; Wilfred M. McClay on Santayana’s life of the mind as it relates to dominant trends in American culture; Roger Kimball on Santayana’s “most uncommon benefice, common sense”; and James Seaton on Santayana’s distinction between “English liberty” and “fierce liberty.” All the essays serve to highlight the relevance of Santayana’s ideas to current issues in American culture, including education, immigration, and civil rights.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana’s The Life of Reason stands as one of the most influential and beautifully written works of philosophical naturalism. In it, Santayana articulates his vision of human progression from chaos to reason and the pursuit of the ideal life. Focusing his thought on the lived experiences of people, these phases are traced through humanity’s many endeavors, including art, science, politics, religion, friendship, and reason. Drawing on a range of influences, from Democritus and Aristotle to Spinoza and Schopenhauer, Santayana develops a materialist system of thought that stresses the importance of imagination and spiritual experience.
Originally published in five volumes, from 1905 to 1906, The Life of Reason is Santayana’s most complete statement of moral philosophy and an inspiring account of human dignity.
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Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe sum up the chief phases of European philosophy,—naturalism, supernaturalism, and romanticism—Ideal relation between philosophy and poetry.
Development of Greek cosmology—Democritus—Epicurean moral sentiment —Changes inspired by it in the system of Democritus—Accidental alliance of materialism with hedonism—Imaginative value of naturalism: The Lucretian Venus, or the propitious movement in nature—The Lucretian Mars, or the destructive movement—Preponderant melancholy, and the reason for it—Materiality of the soul—The fear of death and the fear of life—Lucretius a true poet of nature—Comparison with Shelley and Wordsworth—Things he might have added consistently: Indefeasible worth of his insight and sentiment.
Character of Platonism—Its cosmology a parable—Combination of this with Hebraic philosophy of history—Theory of the Papacy and the Empire adopted by Dante—His judgement on Florence—Dante as a lyric poet—Beatrice the woman, the symbol, and the reality—Love, magic, and symbolism constitutive principles of Dante's universe—Idea of the Divine Comedy—The scheme of virtues and vices—Retributive theory of rewards and punishments—Esoteric view of this, which makes even punishment intrinsic to the sins—Examples—Dantesque cosmography—The genius of the poet—His universal scope—His triumphant execution of the Comedy—His defects, in spite of which he remains the type of a supreme poet.
The romantic spirit—The ideals of the Renaissance—Expression of both in the legendary Faust—Marlowe's version—Tendency to vindicate Faust—Contrast with Calderon's "Wonder-working Magician"—The original Faust of Goethe,—universal ambition and eternal dissatisfaction —Modifications—The series of experiments in living—The story of Gretchen fitted in—Goethe's naturalistic theory of life and rejuvenation: Helen—The classic manner and the judgement on classicism—Faust's last ambition—The conflict over his soul and his ascent to heaven symbolical—Moral of the whole.
Comparison of the three poets—Their relative rank—Ideal of a philosophic or comprehensive poet—Untried possibilities of art.
The sole advantage in possessing great works of literature lies in what they can help us to become. In themselves, as feats performed by their authors, they would have forfeited none of their truth or greatness if they had perished before our day. We can neither take away nor add to their past value or inherent dignity. It is only they, in so far as they are appropriate food and not poison for us, that can add to the present value and dignity of our minds. Foreign classics have to be retranslated and reinterpreted for each generation, to render their old naturalness in a natural way, and keep their perennial humanity living and capable of assimilation. Even native classics have to be reapprehended by every reader. It is this continual digestion of the substance supplied by the past that alone renders the insights of the past still potent in the present and for the future. Living criticism, genuine appreciation, is the interest we draw from year to year on the unrecoverable capital of human genius.