Talk:George Santayana

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Untitled[edit]

Santayana may be best known for his remark on repeating the past, but that does not mean he is known as an aphorist. His reputation is first as a philosopher and cultural critic, then as a poet, novelist, and memoirist. He never wrote aphorisms. They have all been culled from his work.

--Rmrwiki (talk) 03:52, 1 February 2010 (UTC)

when did Santayana move to Rome?[edit]

The article as I came across it says "1925", my encyclopedia (it's mispelled, that's how you can tell it's American) says "1932", the Stanford page says "late twenties", and this bio says "1924". I've left it as 1925 because I can't decide when it really was. Does anyone know? --MarkGallagher 20:59, 7 August 2005 (UTC)

  • This is an unimportant detail. McCormick's fine biography (in the library of my university) surely can set this matter straight. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 132.181.160.42 (talkcontribs) 20:54, November 30, 2005 (UTC)
    • I'm not sure what the unsigned commenter means by "an unimportant detail." My guess is this person thinks the degree of detail required to explain Santayana's residence in Rome is not appropriate for the article. But if it were to be explained it would require mention of Santayana's peripatetic habits. During WWI Santayana was forced to reside in England. In 1919 he resumed his travels in Europe. McCormick writes that after WWI "Santayana's geographical movements now established a pattern which he maintained until the outbreak of World War II in 1939" (McCormick 1987, 242). This pattern included spending winters in Rome. It was not until 1941 that Santayana was forced to remain in Rome year round. The Letters of George Santayana, Volume V (in eight books) of the critical edition of The Works of George Santayana (MIT Press), includes an editorial appendix of addresses from which Santayana wrote letters. He remained in Rome for an extended period in 1912 and 1913. He again stayed in Rome in 1920 from late January to early May. He wintered in France in 1922-23, and again in Rome in 1923-24 and continued to do so until 1939-40. That winter his preferred hotel was closed for renovation and he spent the winter in Venice. He returned to Rome in 1940. In 1941 after failing in an attempt to move to Spain, Santayana moved into Calvary Hospital, Clinic of the Little Company of Mary, where he lived during World War II and died in 1952. Mc2000 15:32, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
Dear Unsigned User, what is unimportant to thee may be important to me.Lestrade (talk) 17:45, 9 February 2011 (UTC)Lestrade

An Admission[edit]

I, Philip Meguire, expatriate American economist employed in New Zealand, have become, by and large, the author of most of this entry. Let the brickbats come as they may. My philosophical tastes incline to logic, analysis, and scientific method. So why do I love Santayana? Nor for his philosophy, which I find impenetrable. Rather, he reminds me of my French ancestors. I also point to the editor of "Overheard in Seville" being an academic mathematician. Santayana is not hugely popular among mainstream academic philosophers nowadays, but apparently easily makes friends elsewhere. I own copies of Persons and Places and The Last Puritan, and have read McCormick's biography. I look forward to perusing the Letters one day. Most of all, once he left Harvard, Santayana was, to a remarkable extent, a free man, a shining exemple to us more modest sorts. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 132.181.160.42 (talkcontribs) 20:57, November 30, 2005 (UTC)

Lovely to hear from you. The article is looking very good. How do you feel about creating an account? It's free, it makes your work easier to identify (you could be User:PhilipMeguire, instead of a bunch of numbers), lets you bung particular pages onto a "watchlist" to help you more easily keep track of them, gives you your own userpage, etc. etc. You can create an account by clicking the "Create account / login" button in the top right of your screen, or by following this link. fuddlemark (fuddle me!) 14:05, 1 December 2005 (UTC)

Santayana's unattached "freedom" is reminiscent of the lives of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. To them, it was the most important quality of life, worth any sacrifice or suffering.Lestrade (talk) 17:49, 9 February 2011 (UTC)Lestrade

Another mea culpa[edit]

Actually, I too have contributed significantly to this article, as I was the first to develop the section on his philosophy, for example. I see that some of my other revisions and additions have been removed by others; the replacement of the bibliography with the Santayana Edition index is a nice change, although I think that The Life of Reason and The Sense of Beauty do deserve their own pages. As to one of the claims in the article, it's been my understanding that Santayana's finances weren't so strong towards the end of his life, although I confess to not having yet read the McCormick biography. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 24.107.156.44 (talkcontribs) 21:48, December 1, 2005 (UTC)

Note that those entries in your bibliography dealing with titles the critical edition does not yet include, survive. I invite you to make sure that the section on his philosophy does justice to your understanding of that philosophy. You are most welcome to create separate entries for Reason and Beauty and to shift text there. McCormick is fairly strong on Santayana's finances, because these were managed in Boston by his half-brother Robert Sturgis and the descendants thereof, and McCormick had access to the records. The Last Puritan and Persons and Places sold well, leaving George quite comfortable. Pearl Harbor meant that he could not access his American funds, but the nuns looking after him were understanding and he settled in full after the war. At his death, things were not as bright as they once had been, but I rather doubt the wolf was at the door. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 202.36.179.65 (talkcontribs) 12:11, December 2, 2005 (UTC)
You're right; I recall now that it wasn't so much a matter of his not having money, as it was of his not having access to it. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 24.107.156.44 (talkcontribs) 00:51, December 5, 2005 (UTC)
I've also seen Santayana's name on a Wikipedia list of academics (mostly philosophers) who are believed to have been, but for which there is no strong evidence, homosexual. In Bruce Kuklick's The Rise of American Philosophy, he cites an unidentified source to whom Santayana confided later in life that he believed that he'd had homosexual inclinations as a Harvard undergraduate, but so far that is the only documented mention of Santayana's sexuality I've come across. I admit that the absence of a marriage or any other romantic attachment that I've seen thus far in the biographical material on Santayana struck me as mildly noteworthy at first but it didn't occur to me to presume his orientation to be anything but heterosexual until reading Kuklick. Does McCormick address this? Would this be worth including in the Wikipedia article? I realize, of course, that our contemporary definitions of sexuality, particularly homosexuality, do not easily map onto American belief and practice in the Victorian era, but I'd be curious to learn if there has been any other scholarship on this aspect of Santayana's personal life. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 24.107.156.44 (talkcontribs) 00:51, December 5, 2005 (UTC)
McCormick definitely does speak to this, and I urge you to read him for yourself. I've confined my entry to a very brief mention of a bald fact: Santayana never married. That's what I prefer; I do not like the current fashion of writing or speculating about the sexual feelings or activities of celebrities, unless they splash it all over their diaries and letters, or run afoul of the law. That said, there is at least one passage in The Last Puritan does smell a bit homosexual to me. There is also a letter from before 1900 in which he good-humoredly reveals that his youthful self was not devoid of sexual urgings. The elderly Santayana is also supposed to have confided to Daniel Cory "I must have been that way [homosexual] in my Harvard days." But I do not wish that sort of stuff mentioned in the article. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 202.36.179.65 (talkcontribs) 04:06, December 5, 2005 (UTC)
By "sort of stuff" do you mean inconvenient truths? --Kstern999 00:55, 21 August 2006 (UTC)
"Sort of stuff' may here mean immature, unnatural, and repulsive physical relationships between two persons of the same gender, which were later regretted by a mature individual.Lestrade 12:59, 24 August 2006 (UTC)Lestrade
I see from the article history that some jackass has been playing around, taking advantage of the question I raised; I'm glad to see that it was promptly cleaned up. If I had known that someone would be so puerile I wouldn't have introduced the topic for discussion. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 24.107.156.44 (talkcontribs) 05:11, December 16, 2005 (UTC)
I assume only incorrect or clearly untrue statements were "cleaned up." Facts which are, for the moment, unsubstantiated might merit a "citation required." --Kstern999 00:58, 21 August 2006 (UTC)
Allow me to add that the "Man of Letters" section is a wonderful addition to the article. Somewhat ironically, I think Santayana is read more today by those outside philosophy departments than within (both his philosophy and his literature/criticism), so a section on his literary works and belles lettres is quite fitting. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 24.107.156.44 (talkcontribs) 00:51, December 5, 2005 (UTC)
You are very kind, and I thank you. Saatkamp claims that much of the Anglo-American philosophical world is moving towards positions Santayana staked out, but I am rather skeptical. I doubt that Santayana the technical philosopher sits well with what passes for philosophy in the Anglo-American world since the deaths of Bradley and McTaggart. James has proved durable, Dewey's reputation is rising, Royce has proved durable and (I think) is set to rise (a critical edition would help). My hero Charles Peirce is amply studied, and is looking more and more like the greatest abstract thinker the western hemisphere has ever produced. In no way, however, does Santayana the philosopher elicit that sort of academic interest. I own the abridged version of Reason and find it largely opaque. On the other hand, Santayana the man of letters is proving rather durable. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 202.36.179.65 (talkcontribs) 04:06, December 5, 2005 (UTC)
I also made a couple of small improvements to the "Philosophy" section by adding links to two of the philosophical terms ("naturalism" and "metaphysics"). —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 24.107.156.44 (talkcontribs) 00:51, December 5, 2005 (UTC)

I've picked up Vol. I of his letters but haven't had much opportunity to peruse it yet. I recently found out that Franklin Roosevelt also took a class with him when Santayana taught at Harvard. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 24.107.156.44 (talkcontribs) 21:48, December 1, 2005 (UTC)

A nice detail, but keep in mind that Roosevelt unlike, say, T S Eliot, was no intellectual. BTW, the excerpts from the correspondence with various Sturgises I've read reveal a very American Santayana. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 202.36.179.65 (talkcontribs) 12:11, December 2, 2005 (UTC)

Doomed to fulfill or repeat history?[edit]

Does the corrent quote not end it "doomed to fulfil it"? This website suggests it is this, not 'repeat' - (It is ironic that George Santayana's statement in his "Life of Reason" about progress is so often twisted into something void of reason regarding history. You hear it most often stated in a pontifical tone that "History is the great teacher. Thus it is that those who cannot remember to past are doomed to repeat it." The message being, I suppose, is if you don't pay attention to your history teacher, you will help move the country toward World War III. Which, of course, is trite nonsense completely at odds with Santayana's overriding philosophy based on reason. What Santayana actually wrote is: "Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness...and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it.") —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 192.28.65.210 (talkcontribs) 03:25, January 26, 2006 (UTC)

The quote is "Progress, far from constituting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." At least that's how it is in the 1998 Prometheus-published edition. What's ironic is how that poster quoted above thought that the statement was used ironically! I'm not an expert on Santayana, but I would think that paying attention to history is pretty much the equivalent of "retentiveness". I guess there's some small disconnect in that people who state Santayana don't seem to convey the sense that rather than running or hiding from the past we CARRY THE PAST WITH US, RETAINING IT in our minds. Though I suppose that if BAD history teachers are just SENSELESSLY miming the words "Know the past or repeat it!" to their students, without really teaching them much, then that would not convey Santayana's emphasis of REASON in the desired process (not just knowing dates and names). Regardless, I don't really see the "irony".78.86.140.151 (talk) —Preceding comment was added at 01:45, 24 February 2008 (UTC)

To assist others in referring to and finding Santayana's aphorism on the consequences of not remembering history, I suggest naming it, "Santayana's Aphorism on Repetitive Consequences." 70.16.111.38 (talk) 21:36, 16 October 2008 (UTC)

Note: The quote can be verified at Project Gutenberg. --Florian Blaschke (talk) 21:07, 23 October 2011 (UTC)

Rivals Pursuing Both Philosophy and Letters[edit]

Thanks for creating this article. I've got a question: What's the basis for claiming "Among American writers combining philosophy and letters, Ralph Waldo Emerson is his only rival"? I cast my vote for Ayn Rand, as an American that bests Santayana in terms of books sold and influence. Apparently, she's also gaining weight with academic philosophers, whom she mostly despised. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Computer dream (talkcontribs) 21:30, June 2, 2006 (UTC)

That sounds like original research to me. I've put up some 'scare tags'. Miraculouschaos 21:45, 1 September 2006 (UTC)
Though I am not a fan of Ayn Rand, I have to agree--her influence is much greater than that of Santayana. She is indeed being taught in high-grade philosophy departments, such as the University of Arizona, whereas Santayana is entirely overlooked. --MickCallaghan (talk) 19:05, 21 November 2007 (UTC)
But is there a case to be made for her literary value? L. Ron Hubbard also wrote doorstops.75.7.229.214 (talk) 10:06, 15 June 2008 (UTC)

Arithmetic[edit]

Unless I am missing something, Santayana spent 39 of his 89 years in the US and not 28 as stated in the first paragraph. I wanted to post it here before correcting it because it seemed like an obvious error and that made me suspicious. But even with his summers abroad I cannot see how one can knock off 11 years off his time in the US. Mc2000 03:38, 6 November 2007 (UTC)

Request for more detailed information[edit]

Unfortunately, Santayana is overlooked all too frequently in academic philosophy. With great difficulty, since most of his works are out of print, I finally obtained a copy of "The Life of Reason" and will, when I have time, read it. I would greatly appreciate an expansion of this article, to make it more detailed and make it look more like other, more mainstream philosophers. Though I compliment those who wrote what is there so far and appreciate it, Santayana deserves more! --MickCallaghan (talk) 04:26, 20 November 2007 (UTC)


Hey all, I added quite a bit to the separate article on "The Life of Reason". I'll try to transport the info from there to this article, but I'm by no means an expert on Santayana's philosophy, so hopefully someone else can help me here! :) --MickCallaghan (talk) 06:42, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

Academic philosophy is correct in ignoring Santayana. He left Harvard for a reason. His philosophy was bona fide philosophy, not intended to conform to evanescent professorial criteria.Lestrade (talk) 23:59, 11 February 2011 (UTC)Lestrade

Speculations looking for verification[edit]

His decision to leave his profession and to move to Europe came at the age of midlife crisis. Could this strange and common urge have been the reason for his immigration?

One of his favorite philosophers, Schopenhauer, remained a bachelor so that he could carefully conserve his finances in order to live independently. He claimed that a wife's haberdashery expenses would have forced him to seek academic employment. Was Santayana influenced by Schopenhauer in his decision to never marry and to live off of his savings?Lestrade (talk) 19:24, 7 November 2008 (UTC)Lestrade

Amazing how supposedly "wise" men feel free to make public their irrational, pejorative assumptions about women. Yes, we all spend all 'our man's' money on clothes, of *course*, what a burden we are. Had they never heard of women of independent means? Or women who worked for a living (and yes, there were a great many, even then, gasp)? Talk about rationalising prejudice.86.163.212.255 (talk) 19:47, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

National designation[edit]

I removed the designation of "Spanish" in connection with his being a philosopher. It makes little sense to call him a Spanish philosopher except for the fact that he had Spanish citizenship. This political allegiance seems a slim basis for characterizing his philosophy. Furthermore, taking scholarly commentaries, histories of philosophy, and encyclopedia articles as the standard, it seems inaccurate to label Santayana a Spanish philosopher. His philosophical concerns go beyond what one might be able to capture in a national label. It certainly makes more sense to call him an American philosopher given his education, his teachers, and his academic affiliation; except that he seems to work hard to hold himself apart from any school of thought that might be called American. And if one were to judge the matter on the basis of his idiom he might be called a British philosopher, which seems also quite misleading. If one were to insist on characterizing him as a Spanish philosopher, I think consistency would require that Aristotle be designated a Macedonian philosopher. Mc2000 (talk) 03:03, 18 February 2009 (UTC)

In Wikipedia we call someone American, Spanish etc. according to their citizenship status. If he was a Spanish citizen then you should add "Spanish" back to page. I will add Spanish-American next to his name. --Arash Eb (talk) 02:46, 6 April 2010 (UTC)
Ah, I see. This is a well reasoned argument that I cannot refute. Mc2000 (talk) 01:32, 2 March 2011 (UTC)
You know, I can't refute the deployment of authority like in the preceding, but it seems Santayana ought to have a say in it. And I believe that in Wikipedia, as you say, we defer to citations. So according to Santayana he is to be counted as an American (Schilpp, _The Philosophy of George Santayana_, 1940, 603). I will delete the Spanish next to his name. Mc2000 (talk) 14:32, 18 November 2011 (UTC)

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Santayana as a Pragmatist[edit]

Santayana's identification as a pragmatist is matter of scholarly dispute. Santayana himself complained that other tried to "annex" him "to the pragmatist heresy." The reference to his pragmatism should be dropped from the lead. In later sections this dispute can be referred to with appropriate citations.Rmrwiki (talk) 00:34, 7 January 2014 (UTC)