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george santayana Quotes

George Santayana Quotes

Birth Date: 1863-12-16 (Wednesday, December 16th, 1863)
Date of Death: 1952-09-26 (Friday, September 26th, 1952)



    • O world, thou choosest not the better part! It is not wisdom to be only wise, And on the inward vision close the eyes, But it is wisdom to believe the heart. Columbus found a world, and had no chart, Save one that faith deciphered in the skies; To trust the soul's invincible surmise Was all his science and his only art.
    • In the Gospels, for instance, we sometimes find the kingdom of heaven illustrated by principles drawn from observation of this world rather than from an ideal conception of justice; as when we hear that to him that hath shall be given and from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. Such characterizations appeal to our sense of fact. They remind us that the God we are seeking is present and active, that he is the living God; they are doubtless necessary if we are to keep religion from passing into a mere idealism and God into the vanishing point of our thought and endeavour. For we naturally seek to express his awful actuality, his unchallengeable power, no less than his holiness and his beauty.
    • American life is a powerful solvent. It seems to neutralize every intellectual element, however tough and alien it may be, and to fuse it in the native good will, complacency, thoughtlessness, and optimism.
    • 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.
    • There is nothing impossible in the existence of the supernatural: its existence seems to me decidedly probable.
    • They [the wise spirits of antiquity in the first circle of Dante's Inferno] are condemned, Dante tells us, to no other penalty than to live in desire without hope, a fate appropriate to noble souls with a clear vision of life.
    • I leave you but the sound of many a word In mocking echoes haply overheard, I sang to heaven. My exile made me free, from world to world, from all worlds carried me.
    • 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.
    • Beauty as we feel it is something indescribable: what it is or what it means can never be said.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Happiness is the only sanction of life; where happiness fails, existence remains a mad and lamentable experiment.
    • That life is worth living is the most necessary of assumptions and, were it not assumed, the most impossible of conclusions.
    • Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.
    • 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.
    • The highest form of vanity is love of fame.
    • 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.
    • To call war the soil of courage and virtue is like calling debauchery the soil of love.
    • It is not society's fault that most men seem to miss their vocation. Most men have no vocation.
    • Injustice in this world is not something comparative; the wrong is deep, clear, and absolute in each private fate.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Fashion is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without reason and imitation without benefit.
    • Happiness is the only sanction of life; where happiness fails, existence remains a mad and lamentable experiment.
    • 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.
    • When Socrates and his two great disciples composed a system of rational ethics they were hardly proposing practical legislation for mankind...They were merely writing an eloquent epitaph for their country.
    • Let a man once overcome his selfish terror at his own finitude, and his finitude is, in one sense, overcome.
    • Perhaps the only true dignity of man is his capacity to despise himself.
    • Miracles are propitious accidents, the natural causes of which are too complicated to be readily understood.
    • The Bible is literature, not dogma.
    • England is the paradise of individuality, eccentricity, heresy, anomalies, hobbies, and humors.
    • 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.
    • There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.
    • 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.
    • Only the dead have seen the end of war.
    • 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.
    • The living have never shown me how to live.
    • Profound skepticism is favorable to conventions, because it doubts that the criticism of conventions is any truer than they are.
    • 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.
    • The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the older man who will not laugh is a fool.
    • Philosophers are as jealous as women. Each wants a monopoly of praise.
    • Religion in its humility restores man to his only dignity, the courage to live by grace.
    • A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.
    • A man's feet must be planted in his country but his eyes must survey the world.
    • Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it.
    • Chaos is perhaps at the bottom of everything.
    • Friends are generally of the same sex, for when men and women agree,it is only in the conclusions; their reasons are always different.
    • Friendship is almost always the union of a part of one mind with the part of another; people are friends in spots.
    • Friends need not agree in everything or go always together, or have no comparable other friendships of the same intimacy.
    • Fun is a good thing but only when it spoils nothing better.
    • Gold is tried in the fire and acceptable men in the furnace of adversity.
    • Intolerance is a form of egotism, and to condemn egotism intolerantly is to share it.
    • It is easier to make a saint out of a libertine than out of a prig.
    • Love makes us poets and the approach of death makes us philosophers.
    • Music is essentially useless, as life is: but both have an ideal extension which lends utility to its conditions.
    • Never build your emotional life on the weaknesses of others.
    • Only the dead have seen an end to war. (Incorrectly attributed to Plato by General Douglas MacArthur)
    • Religions are not true or false, but better or worse.
    • Sanity is madness put to good uses.
    • Scepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon or to the first comer.
    • Skepticism, like chastity, should not be relinquished too readily.
    • The Difficult is that which can be done immediately; the Impossible that which takes a little longer.
    • The human mind is not rich enough to drive many horses abreast and wants one general scheme, under which it strives to bring everything.
    • The loftiest edifices need the deepest foundations.
    • The truth is cruel, but it can be loved, and it makes free those who have loved it.
    • Life is neither a feast nor a spectacle, but a predicament.
    • The great difficulty in education is to get experience out of ideas.
    • 'In America literary reputations come and go so swiftly,' I complained, fatuously. [Santayana's] answer was swift. 'It would be insufferable if they did not.'
    • george santayana

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