Living in the eternal: a study of George Santayana by Anthony C. Woodward

By Anthony C. Woodward

Booklet by means of Woodward, Anthony C.

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There he diverged from Moore and Russell and from the predominant tendency of British and American philosophy in this century. He aimed rather at the rhetorical synthesis of a total vision of existence; but a system based, unlike Hegel's, on ultimately irrationalist premisses. Those premisses, he candidly admitted, were the expression of an organic disposition. His system of philosophy reflected the disposition, and his chosen way of life embodied the philosophy. Thus was the circle closed. The direction of the whole enterprise is aptly symbolised by the fact that his first prose work was a book on aesthetics, The Sense of Beauty.

24 In a passage like that, Santayana is casting his net widely. It is no precious formalism that he is identifying with the aesthetic phase of the late nineteenth century in which his young manhood was passed. He is commending love of beauty as the poignant and intense culmination of the human capacity for experience. " That sentence comes from Santayana's The Life of Reason and not, as one could have suspected, from one of Oscar Wilde's essays. Even in the odd casual remark Santayana struck at times a Wildean note that gave another slant to the link with aestheticism.

It is to live in the mind: To substitute the society of ideas for that of things is simply to live in the mind; it is to survey the world of existence in its truth and beauty rather than in its personal perspectives, or with practical urgency. It is the sole path to happiness for the intellectual man, because the intellectual man cannot be satisfied with a world of perpetual change, defeat and imperfection. It is the path trodden by ancient philosophers and modern saints or poets; not, of course, by modern writers on philosophy (except Spinoza), because these have not been philosophers in the vital sense: they have practised no spiritual discipline, suffered no change of heart, but lived on exactly like other professors.

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