The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V


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It chronicles the tragic, sacrificial life of Oliver Alden, the title-subject, a romantic and pious youth whose inner religious sensibilities conflict with the pulsating natural life around him. Alden is from one standpoint a sympathetic character, one with whom the author himself admitted affinities. But from another standpoint the protagonist represented the tragic contemporary American as Santayana understood him—partly in reaction to troubled young poets and artists Santayana knew from his Harvard days.

The latter is an exemplary instance—of which two others include Dialogues in Limbo and Platonism and the Spiritual Life —where one finds the post-Harvard Santayana following inspirations as they come, allowing both his literary imagination and penetrating philosophical eye to take equal share in the interpretive task. These shorter works undoubtedly provided opportunities of creative release for Santayana as the ambitious project of conceiving a system of philosophy began to assert itself.

In Scepticism and Animal Faith hereafter SAF , the introductory text to his four-volume system of philosophy was published. SAF is one of the few Santayana works to have remained in print up to the present. The book introduces the terminology and critical background of his mature ontology, itself unfolded in four volumes over the period of thirteen years. Throughout the evolution of his thinking Santayana holds to an increasing, and to many interpreters troubling, epiphenomenal view of consciousness. Briefly, epiphenomenalism is the view that mind is derivative, wholly caused, and has itself no causal power.

To see this one needs a further understanding of the definitive concepts of his mature philosophy. The four realms of being Santayana identifies, in the order in which he published each RB volume, are essence, matter, truth, and spirit.


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Santayana holds that the realms are irreducibly different and are for that reason worth distinguishing. The possibility that there are more realms is not something he dismisses; his only condition for an additional realm is that it be irreducibly distinct from the four he distinguishes. As indicated, before introducing the realms individually Santayana set up their presentation through a penetrating and synthetic critical introduction, published in as Scepticism and Animal Faith. According to Santayana, the denial in speech or dialectical skepticism of the existence of matter is a solipsistic, momentary pose.

So philosophers like Descartes and Berkeley are transcendental posers, inflexibly denying in theory what they unhesitatingly affirm in practice. When we interact with, manipulate, engage, or otherwise encounter what we experience as physical objects, we are imbuing essences with intent—giving them a material existence they can never literally have.

The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952

The psyche is the material set of preferences that define individuality in organisms. The psyche is, very simply, the material manifestation of mind and as such it is imbued with, defined by, and stricken with belief. When one is intuiting essences without the addition of belief in their existence—be it a revery, daydream, or performative trance as in a locked moment of harmonious activity—one is communing spiritually with the realm of essence.

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As a skeptic Descartes was half-hearted according to Santayana as regards naturalism he also accused his contemporary John Dewey of this , in that he thought skepticism ceased with awareness of the self. So where Descartes had sought the most indubitable knowledge, and proceeded on the principle that such a thing could be achieved, Santayana tries to show in SAF that the principle of indubitable knowledge is itself a paradox; when knowledge is tested by way of a radical skepticism, and certainty is the ultimate goal, the paradox is that certainty is achieved only at the cost of knowledge itself.

Biography of George Santayana

So the goal of SAF is to bankrupt Cartesianism, and in doing so to suggest a new starting point for philosophy. That starting point is animal faith, the tacit acceptance of material reality as the source of understanding, knowledge, and common sense. Essence: The realm of essence should be understood to have a certain primacy since it is infinite and pertains to all of the forms or definite character embodiments that material objects and events may take on.


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Essence is what Santayana defines as the most radical sense in which anything is or has a character. Matter: The catch however is that Santayana is a thoroughgoing materialist, in that he holds that no form can appear to human intuition without the previous establishment of material conditions for that form to arise. Those external limits define human life and mark off the boundaries between human understanding and the unfathomable depths of material existence. Santayana holds that humans know matter only at a remove, that is, to repeat symbolically.

Whatever the reason, by 10 years before the publication of SAF Santayana had conceived truth to round out his fourfold ontology. Truth is alleged by Santayana to be a subset of the infinite realm of essence. The realm of truth is the total inventory of essences instantiated by matter. These features of truth are guaranteed by the eternal status of the terms of its acknowledgement: essences. This is where Santayana especially departs from the pragmatist account of truth: it is not reducible to experience.

The native affinity of mind is, according to Santayana, to essence and not to fact. This is an important outcome of his engagement with and overcoming of Cartesianism. As such consciousness may play with appearances apart from the believing intent of the organic manifestation of mind psyche ; to the extent that it does so play, the spiritual life has been lived.

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Spirit is the ability of mind to turn natural events and experiences into appearances of themselves, and in so doing allow a healthy cosmic repose even as nature moves ceaselessly, beautifully, and sometimes destructively along. Of the Modern philosophers, Santayana reserves his highest praise for Spinoza. Backed by these historical allies, Santayana provides in a soliloquy a memorable if partly irreverent arrangement of world-philosophies:. On the third shelf I will put Platonism, including Aristotle, the Fathers, the Scholastics, and all honestly Christian theology; and on the last, modern or subjective philosophy in its entirety.

I will leave lying on the table, as of doubtful destination, the works of my contemporaries. There is much life in some of them.

The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948–1952, Volume 5

Santayana recommends placing on the bottom, "inferior" shelves all the philosophy that is published, reprinted, and discussed in universities across the Western world today. This point is still an issue among Santayana scholars.

source What is clear is that Santayana combined an indisputably rich reading of the history of philosophy with an unparalleled synoptic critical vision. While his thinking never has, and likely never will be, given to indoctrination or discipleship, it is clear that Santayana never conceived of these as important and justifiably suspected that such things were bad rather than good indications that a philosophy is worthy of the world it struggles to understand. The Bulletin is published annually and is edited by Angus Kerr-Lawson. The Santayana Society meets annually in December at the Eastern gathering of the American Philosophical Association and has recently been added to the proceedings of the annual meetings of the Society for the Advancement of American Philosophy.

MIT Press is in the process of publishing a critical edition of The Works of George Santayana, several of which are currently released. The future of Santayana studies, whatever their course, will depend upon genuine interest in a non-reductive philosophical naturalism that expresses deep respect to religious sensibilities and leads the charge for the return to a conception of philosophy as a way of life rather than as a critical profession with little relevance to inner experience.

Matthew Caleb Flamm Email: mflamm rockford. George Santayana — George Santayana was an influential 20th century American thinker whose philosophy connected a rich diversity of historical perspectives, culminating in a unique and unrivaled form of materialism , one recommending a bold reconciliation of spirit and nature. Philosophy a.

Realms and Terminology The four realms of being Santayana identifies, in the order in which he published each RB volume, are essence, matter, truth, and spirit. Realms Defined Essence: The realm of essence should be understood to have a certain primacy since it is infinite and pertains to all of the forms or definite character embodiments that material objects and events may take on.

Backed by these historical allies, Santayana provides in a soliloquy a memorable if partly irreverent arrangement of world-philosophies: …the progress of philosophy has not been of such a sort that the latest philosophers are the best: it is quite the other way…the later we come down in the history of philosophy the less important philosophy becomes, and the less true in fundamental matters. References and Further Reading a.

Persons and Places The Sense of Beauty Interpretations of Poetry and Religion The Last Puritan Edited by John Lachs. New York: Appleton-Century- Crofts, The Birth of Reason and Other Essays. Daniel Cory, editor. Character and Opinion in the United States. Dialogues in Limbo. The University of Michigan Press, Egotism in German Philosophy. Essays in Literary Criticism. Edited by Irving Singer. The Idea of Christ in the Gospels.

Obiter Scripta. The Philosophy of Santayana. Edited by Irwin Edman. The Modern Library, The Realms of Being. Edited by Richard Colton Lyon. For example, Aristotle implies that less precise knowledge is possible in ethics than in other spheres of inquiry, he regards ethical knowledge as depending upon habit and acculturation in a way that makes it distinctive from other kinds of knowledge.

Meta-ethics is important in G. Moore's Principia Ethica from In it he first wrote about. Moore was seen to reject naturalism in his Open Question Argument ; this made. Earlier, the Scottish philosopher David Hume had put forward a similar view on the difference between facts and values. Studies of how we know in ethics divide into non-cognitivism.

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Non-cognitivism is the view that when we judge something as morally right or wrong, this is neither true nor false. We may, for example, be only expressing our emotional feelings about these things. Cognitivism can be seen as the claim that when we talk about right and wrong, we are talking about matters of fact.

The ontology of ethics is about value-bearing things or properties, i. Non-descriptivists and non-cognitivists believe that ethics does not need a specific ontology since ethical propositions do not refer; this is known as an anti-realist position. Realists , on the other hand, must explain what kind of entities, properties or states are relevant for ethics, how they have value, why they guide and motivate our actions.

The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V
The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V
The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V
The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V
The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V
The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V
The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V
The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V The Letters of George Santayana, Book Eight, 1948--1952: The Works of George Santayana, Volume V

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