George Santayana Quotes

Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruiz de Santayana y Borrás, 1863 – 1952

Born: 16 December 1863, Madrid, Spain
Died: 26 September 1952, Rome, Italy

Josefina Borrás had been married to a Boston merchant until his death, she returned to her native Spain and married a Spanish diplomat, Augustín Ruiz de Santayana in 1862. The family lived at Madrid and Ávila until 1872 when they had all moved to Boston, although Señor Santayana immediately returned permanently to Spain. Jorge Anglicized his name while attending Boston Latin School and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard University in 1886. After two years studying at Berlin he returned to Harvard to teach philosophy, and studied at King’s College, Cambridge in 1896-1897. In 1912 he resigned from Harvard and spent the rest of his life in Europe, originally at Ávila, Paris, and Oxford. He started wintering at Roma in 1920, and finally lived there full time until his death. He was part of what has been called the Golden Age of the Harvard philosophy department, and he wrote another 19 books while declining numerous academic positions during his four decades in Europe. In addition to his books, eight volumes including over 3,000 letters have been published. His aphorism “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” was, as far as I can tell, the first quotation your Quotemaster ever committed to memory.

George Santayana quotes:

A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.

George Santayana

“Why I Am Not a Marxist” in Modern Maturity (April 1935)
A conception not reducible to the small change of daily experience is like a currency not exchangeable for articles of consumption; it is not a symbol, but a fraud.

George Santayana

The Life of Reason, Vol. II, “Reason in Society”, Chap. VIII: “Ideal Society” (1905-1906)
A dream is always simmering below the conventional surface of speech and reflection.

George Santayana

The Life of Reason (1905)
A fanatical imagination cannot regard God as just unless he is represented as infinitely cruel.

George Santayana

The Sense of Beauty, Pt. III: “Form”, p. 121 (1896)
A man is morally free when, in full possession of his living humanity, he judges the world, and judges other men, with uncompromising sincerity.

George Santayana

letter to two Bryn Mawr students, from Rome (11 December 1934)
A man’s feet should be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.

George Santayana

The Life of Reason, Vol. II, “Reason in Society”, Chap. VII: “Patriotism” (1905-1906)
A man’s memory may almost become the art of continually varying and misrepresenting his past, according to his interest in the present.

George Santayana
A soul is but the last bubble of a long fermentation in the world.

George Santayana

Little Essays (1920)
A string of excited, fugitive, miscellaneous pleasures is not happiness; happiness resides in imaginative reflection and judgment, when the picture of one’s life, or of human life, as it truly has been or is, satisfies the will, and is gladly accepted.

George Santayana
Advertising is the modern substitute for argument; its function is to make the worse appear the better.

George Santayana
All his life he [the American] jumps into the train after it has started and jumps out before it has stopped; and he never once gets left behind, or breaks a leg.

George Santayana
All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible.

George Santayana

Dialogues in Limbo, “Normal Madness”, Chap. 3, P. 62 (1926)
Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it.

George Santayana
America is a young country with an old mentality.

George Santayana
America is the greatest of opportunities and the worst of influences.

George Santayana

The Last Puritan (1935)

An ideal cannot wait for its realization to prove its validity.
    George Santayana

Animals are born and bred in litters. Solitude grows blessed and peaceful only in old age.
    George Santayana

Art like life should be free, since both are experimental
    George Santayana

Art supplies constantly to contemplation what nature seldom affords in concrete experience; the union of life and peace.
    George Santayana

Beauty as we feel it is something indescribable: what it is or what it means can never be said.
    George Santayana

Beauty is a pledge of the possible conformity between the soul and nature, and consequently a ground of faith in the supremacy of the good.
    George Santayana

Before he sets out, the traveler must possess fixed interests and facilities to be served by travel.
    George Santayana

Before you contradict an old man, my fair friend, you should endeavor to understand him.
    George Santayana

Boston is a moral and intellectual nursery busy applying first principles to trifles.
    George Santayana

By nature’s kindly disposition most questions which it is beyond a man’s power to answer do not occur to him at all.
    George Santayana

Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds.
    George Santayana

Character is the basis of happiness and happiness the sanction of character.
    George Santayana

Children are natural mythologists: they beg to be told tales, and love not only to invent but to enact falsehoods.
    George Santayana

Culture is on the horns of this dilemma; if profound and noble it must remain rare, if common it must become mean.
    George Santayana

Depression is rage spread thin.
    George Santayana

Do not have evil-doers for friends, do not have low people for friends: have virtuous people for friends, have for friends the best of men.
    George Santayana

Each religion, by the help of more or less myth which it takes more or less seriously, proposes some method of fortifying the human soul and enabling it to make its peace with its destiny.
    George Santayana

Emotion is primarily about nothing and much of it remains about nothing to the end.
    George Santayana

England is the paradise of individuality, eccentricity, heresy, anomalies, hobbies, and humors.
    George Santayana

Even the most inspired verse, which boasts not without a relative justification to be immortal, becomes in the course of ages a scarcely legible hieroglyphic; the language it was written in dies, a learned education and an imaginative effort are requisite to catch even a vestige of its original force. Nothing is so irrevocable as mind.
    George Santayana

Every nation thinks its own madness normal and requisite; more passion and more fancy it calls folly, less it calls imbecility.
    George Santayana

Everything in nature is lyrical in its ideal essence, tragic in its fate, and comic in its existence.
    George Santayana

Experience seems to most of us to lead to conclusions, but empiricism has sworn never to draw them.
    George Santayana

Familiarity breeds contempt only when it breeds inattention.
    George Santayana

Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.
    George Santayana

Fashion is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without reason and imitation without benefit.
    George Santayana

For a man who has done his natural duty, death is as natural as sleep.
    George Santayana

For gold is tried in the fire and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity.
    George Santayana

Friends are generally of the same sex, for when men and women agree, it is only in the conclusions; their reasons are always different.
    George Santayana

Friends need not agree in everything or go always together, or have no comparable other friendships of the same intimacy.
    George Santayana

Friendship is almost always the union of a part of one mind with a part of another: people are friends in spots.
    George Santayana

Fun is a good thing, but only when it spoils nothing better.
    George Santayana

Graphic design is the paradise of individuality, eccentricity, heresy, abnormality, hobbies and humors.
    George Santayana

Habit is stronger than reason.
    George Santayana

Happiness is the only sanction of life; where happiness fails, existence remains a mad and lamentable experiment.
    George Santayana

History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there.
    George Santayana

History is nothing but assisted and recorded memory.
    George Santayana

History is nothing but assisted and recorded memory. It might almost be said to be no science at all, if memory and faith in memory were not what science necessarily rest on. In order to sift evidence we must rely on some witness, and we must trust experience before we proceed to expand it. The line between what is known scientifically and what has to be assumed in order to support knowledge is impossible to draw. Memory itself is an internal rumour; and when to this hearsay within the mind we add the falsified echoes that reach us from others, we have but a shifting and unseizable basis to build upon. The picture we frame of the past changes continually and grows every day less similar to the original experience which it purports to describe.
    George Santayana

I believe in general in a dualism between facts and the ideas of those facts in human heads.
    George Santayana

I like to walk about amidst the beautiful things that adorn the world; but private wealth I should decline, or any sort of personal possessions, because they would take away my liberty.
    George Santayana

If pain could have cured us we should long ago have been saved.
    George Santayana

In endowing us with memory, nature has revealed to us a truth utterly unimaginable to the unreflective creation, the truth of immortality. The most ideal human passion is love, which is also the most absolute and animal and one of the most ephemeral.
    George Santayana

In this world we must either institute conventional forms of expression or else pretend that we have nothing to express; the choice lies between a mask and a figleaf.
    George Santayana

Injustice in this world is not something comparative; the wrong is deep, clear, and absolute in each private fate.
    George Santayana

Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are.
    George Santayana

Intolerance itself is a form of egoism, and to condemn egoism intolerantly is to share it.
    George Santayana

It is a revenge the devil sometimes takes upon the virtuous, that he entraps them by the force of the very passion they have suppressed and think themselves superior to.
    George Santayana

It is always pleasant to be urged to do something on the ground that one can do it well.
    George Santayana

It is easier to make a saint out of a libertine than out of a prig.
    George Santayana

It is not society’s fault that most men seem to miss their vocation. Most men have no vocation.
    George Santayana

It is possible to be a master in false philosophy, easier, in fact, than to be a master in the truth, because a false philosophy can be made as simple and consistent as one pleases.
    George Santayana

It is veneer, rouge, aestheticism, art museums, new theaters, etc. that make America impotent. The good things are football, kindness, and jazz bands.
    George Santayana

It takes patience to appreciate domestic bliss; volatile spirits prefer unhappiness.
    George Santayana

Knowledge is not eating, and we cannot expect to devour and possess what we mean. Knowledge is recognition of something absent; it is a salutation, not an embrace.
    George Santayana

Knowledge is recognition of something absent; it is a salutation, not an embrace.
    George Santayana

Knowledge of what is possible is the beginning of happiness.
    George Santayana

Language is like money, without which specific relative values may well exist and be felt, but cannot be reduced to a common denominator.
    George Santayana

Let a man once overcome his selfish terror at his own finitude, and his finitude is, in one sense, overcome.
    George Santayana

Life is not a spectacle or a feast; it is a predicament.
    George Santayana

Love is only half the illusion; the lover, but not his love, is deceived.
    George Santayana

Love makes us poets, and the approach of death should make us philosophers.
    George Santayana

Man is as full of potentiality as he is of impotence.
    George Santayana

Many possessions, if they do not make a man better, are at least expected to make his children happier; and this pathetic hope is behind many exertions.
    George Santayana

Matters of religion should never be matters of controversy. We neither argue with a lover about his taste, nor condemn him, if we are just, for knowing so human a passion.
    George Santayana

Miracles are propitious accidents, the natural causes of which are too complicated to be readily understood.
    George Santayana

Music is a means of giving form to our inner feelings, without attaching them to events or objects in the world.
    George Santayana

Music is essentially useless, as life is: but both have an ideal extension which lends utility to its conditions.
    George Santayana

My atheism, like that of Spinoza, is true piety towards the universe and denies only gods fashioned by men in their own image, to be servants of their human interests.
    George Santayana

Never build your emotional life on the weaknesses of others.
    George Santayana

Nietzsche said that the earth has been a madhouse long enough. Without contradicting him we might perhaps soften the expression, and say that philosophy has been long enough an asylum for enthusiasts.
    George Santayana

Nonsense is so good only because common sense is so limited.
    George Santayana

Nothing can so pierce the soul as the uttermost sigh of the body.
    George Santayana

Nothing is really so poor and melancholy as art that is interested in itself and not in its subject.
    George Santayana

Nothing so much enhances a good as to make sacrifices for it.
    George Santayana

Oaths are the fossils of piety.
    George Santayana

Old age is as forgetful as youth, and more incorrigible; it displays the same inattentiveness to conditions; its memory becomes self-repeating and degenerates into an instinctive reaction, like a bird’s chirp.
    George Santayana

One’s friends are that part of the human race with which one can be human.
    George Santayana

Only the dead have seen the end of war.
    George Santayana

Our dignity is not in what we do, but what we understand.
    George Santayana

Parents lend children their experience and a vicarious memory; children endow their parents with a vicarious immortality.
    George Santayana

Perhaps the only true dignity of man is his capacity to despise himself.
    George Santayana

Perhaps the universe is nothing but an equilibrium of idiocies.
    George Santayana

Periods of tranquillity are seldom prolific of creative achievement. Mankind has to be stirred up.
    George Santayana

Philosophers are as jealous as women. Each wants a monopoly of praise.
    George Santayana

Philosophers are very severe towards other philosophers because they expect too much.
    George Santayana

Prayer, among sane people, has never superseded practical efforts to secure the desired end.
    George Santayana

Profound skepticism is favorable to conventions, because it doubts that the criticism of conventions is any truer than they are.
    George Santayana

Progress, far from consisting 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.
    George Santayana – The Life of Reason (1905)

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness…. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
    George Santayana – The Life of Reason (1905)

Real unselfishness consists in sharing the interests of others.
    George Santayana

Religion in its humility restores man to his only dignity, the courage to live by grace.
    George Santayana

Sanity is a madness put to good uses; waking life is a dream controlled.
    George Santayana

Scepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon, or to the first comer.
    George Santayana

Science is nothing but developed perception, interpreted intent, common sense rounded out and minutely articulated.
    George Santayana

That fear first created the gods is perhaps as true as anything so brief could be on so great a subject.
    George Santayana

That life is worth living is the most necessary of assumptions and, were it not assumed, the most impossible of conclusions.
    George Santayana

The aim of life is some way of living, as flexible and gentle as human nature; so that ambition may stoop to kindness, and philosophy to candor and humor. Neither prosperity nor empire nor heaven can be worth winning at the price of a virulent temper.
    George Santayana

The Bible is a wonderful source of inspiration for those who don’t understand it.
    George Santayana

The Bible is literature, not dogma.
    George Santayana

The body is an instrument, the mind its function, the witness and reward of its operation.
    George Santayana

The brute necessity of believing something so long as life lasts does not justify any belief in particular.
    George Santayana

The degree in which a poet’s imagination dominates reality is, in the end, the exact measure of his importance and dignity.
    George Santayana

The diseases which destroy a man are no less natural than the instincts which preserve him.
    George Santayana

The dreamer can know no truth, not even about his dream, except by awaking out of it.
    George Santayana

The effort of art is to keep what is interesting in existence, to recreate it in the eternal.
    George Santayana

The existence of any evil anywhere at any time absolutely ruins a total optimism.
    George Santayana

The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.
    George Santayana

The God to whom depth in philosophy bring back men’s minds is far from being the same from whom a little philosophy estranges them.
    George Santayana

The great difficulty in education is to get experience out of ideas.
    George Santayana

The highest form of vanity is love of fame.
    George Santayana

The human race, in its intellectual life, is organized like the bees: the masculine soul is a worker, sexually atrophied, and essentially dedicated to impersonal and universal arts; the feminine is a queen, infinitely fertile, omnipresent in its brooding industry, but passive and abounding in intuitions without method and passions without justice.
    George Santayana

The hunger for facile wisdom is the root of all false philosophy.
    George Santayana

The irrational in the human has something about it altogether repulsive and terrible, as we see in the maniac, the miser, the drunkard or the ape.
    George Santayana

The line between what is known scientifically and what has to be assumed in order to support knowledge is impossible to draw. Memory itself is an internal rumour.
    George Santayana

The living have never shown me how to live.
    George Santayana

The loneliest woman in the world is a woman without a close woman friend.
    George Santayana

The love of all-inclusiveness is as dangerous in philosophy as in art.
    George Santayana

The lover knows much more about absolute good and universal beauty than any logician or theologian, unless the latter, too, be lovers in disguise.
    George Santayana

The mind of the Renaissance was not a pilgrim mind, but a sedentary city mind, like that of the ancients.
    George Santayana

The more rational an institution is the less it suffers by making concessions to others.
    George Santayana

The only kind of reform usually possible is reform from within; a more intimate study and more intelligent use of the traditional forms.
    George Santayana

The passions grafted on wounded pride are the most inveterate; they are green and vigorous in old age.
    George Santayana

The philosophy of the common man is an old wife that gives him no pleasure, yet he cannot live without her, and resents any aspersions that strangers may cast on her character.
    George Santayana

The primary use of conversation is to satisfy the impulse to talk.
    George Santayana

The spirit’s foe in man has not been simplicity, but sophistication.
    George Santayana

The tendency to gather and to breed philosophers in universities does not belong to ages of free and humane reflection: it is scholastic and proper to the Middle Ages and to Germany.
    George Santayana

The things we know best are the things we haven’t been taught.
    George Santayana

The truth is cruel, but it can be loved, and it makes free those who have loved it.
    George Santayana

The whole machinery of our intelligence, our general ideas and laws, fixed and external objects, principles, persons, and gods, are so many symbolic, algebraic expressions. They stand for experience; experience which we are incapable of retaining and surveying in its multitudinous immediacy. We should flounder hopelessly, like the animals, did we not keep ourselves afloat and direct our course by these intellectual devices. Theory helps us to bear our ignorance of fact.
    George Santayana

The wisest mind has something yet to learn.
    George Santayana

The word experience is like a shrapnel shell, and bursts into a thousand meanings.
    George Santayana

The world is a perpetual caricature of itself; at every moment it is the mockery and the contradiction of what it is pretending to be.
    George Santayana

The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the older man who will not laugh is a fool.
    George Santayana – Dialogues in Limbo (1925)

There are books in which the footnotes or comments scrawled by some reader’s hand in the margin are more interesting that the text. The world is one of these books.
    George Santayana

There is a kind of courtesy in skepticism. It would be an offense against polite conventions to press our doubts too far.
    George Santayana

There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval. The dark background which death supplies brings out the tender colors of life in all their purity.
    George Santayana

There is no God and Mary is His Mother.
    George Santayana

There is nothing impossible in the existence of the supernatural: its existence seems to me decidedly probable.
    George Santayana

There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar: it keeps the mind nimble, it kills prejudice, and it fosters humor.
    George Santayana

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
    George Santayana – The Life of Reason (1905)

Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality.
    George Santayana

To be brief is almost a condition of being inspired.
    George Santayana

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.
    George Santayana

To call war the soil of courage and virtue is like calling debauchery the soil of love.
    George Santayana

To condemn spontaneous and delightful occupations because they are useless for self-preservation shows an uncritical prizing of life regardless of its contents.
    George Santayana

To delight in war is a merit in the soldier, a dangerous quality in the captain, and a positive crime in the statesman.
    George Santayana

To knock a thing down, especially if it is cocked at an arrogant angle, is a deep delight of the blood.
    George Santayana

To me, it seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography.
    George Santayana

To reform means to shatter one form and to create another; but the two sides of this act are not always equally intended nor equally successful.
    George Santayana

Tyrants are seldom free; the cares and the instruments of their tyranny enslave them.
    George Santayana

We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past; and we must respect the past, remembering that it was once all that was humanly possible.
    George Santayana

Wealth is dismal and poverty cruel unless both are festive. There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.
    George Santayana – Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies (1922)

Wealth, religion, military victory have more rhetorical than efficacious worth.
    George Santayana

What brings enlightenment is experience, in the sad sense of this word, the pressure of hard facts and unintelligible troubles, making a man rub his eyes in his waking dream, and put two and two together. Enlightenment is cold water.
    George Santayana

What is more important in life than our bodies, or in the world than what we look like?
    George Santayana

What religion a man shall have is a historical accident, quite as much as what language he shall speak.
    George Santayana

What renders man an imaginative and moral being is that in society he gives new aims to his life which could not have existed in solitude: the aims of friendship, religion, science, and art.
    George Santayana

When omniscience was denied us, we were endowed with versatility. The picturesqueness of human thought may console us for its imperfection.
    George Santayana

Why shouldn’t things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go very well together.
    George Santayana

Wisdom comes by disillusionment.
    George Santayana

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