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Who was George Santayana?

George Santayana (born Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borras; 1863-1952) was a philosopher, poet, art critic, and author of the international best selling novel The Last Puritan (1935; new edition, 1936). His father was Spanish and he was born in Madrid, but his Scottish mother brought him to the United States when he was nine and enrolled him in the Boston Latin School. In 1889 he received a Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard, with Josiah Royce (1855-1916) as his advisor. In 1892 he accepted an instructorship at Harvard and later became professor of philosophy, teaching there for 20 years. Santayana's students included authors Conrad Aiken, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens, and Walter Lippman, as well as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.

What did George Herbert Mead contribute to philosophy?

Mead was a philosopher of "emergence," in his studies of Darwinian evolution. He proposed that new forms of life change the nature of the past, because after a new form exists, what preceded and led to it needs to be reinterpreted. Mead did not publish while he lived, although his works were prepared by his students to appear posthumously as Mind, Self, and Society (1934).

Santayana retired from Harvard in 1912 and spent the remainder of his life writing and traveling in Europe. His main publications are The Sense of Beauty (1896), Interpretations of Poetry and Religion (1900), The Life of Reason (five volumes, 1905-1906), Skepticism and Animal Faith (1923), The Realms of Being (four volumes, 1927-1940), Persons and Places (1944), The Middle Span (1945), and My Host the World(1953). In addition to numerous other books and essays, Santayana's published correspondence to over 350 respondents runs to eight volumes.

What was George Santayana's contribution to pragmaticism?

Other than the fact that Josiah Royce (1855-1916) was his teacher and C.I. Lewis (1883-1964) argued against his intuitive theory of knowledge, it is not always clear how Santayana was a pragmatist. The philosophical convention places him within that group, mostly due to time and place and the pragmatist philosophers he interacted with while living in the United States. Still, Santayana's ideas about aesthetics, reason, philosophy itself, and human nature share a common spirit with William James (1842-1910) and John Dewey (1859-1952).

Santayana's theory of aesthetics was that beauty is the experience of pleasure in the form of an object, rather than the effects on the sense organs of the person experiencing the artwork. He claimed that all preference is basically irrational and that values are based on pleasure. His take on reason emphasized human creativity in science, religion, society, and ordinary life, as well as more obviously in art. Overall, he identified human beings as animals, inhabiting a physical world, oriented toward food, and fearful of danger. Santayana thought that nature was a kind of backdrop within which we have our experience. In The Life of Reason (1905-1906), he described nature as "drawn like a sponge, heavy and dripping from the waters of sentience." The "nature of nature" is thus conditioned by our experience of it. These views characterize his early work.

After he left Harvard, Santayana wrote about metaphysics and ontology, emphasizing objective reality as opposed to human experience. But Santayana himself did not acknowledge this change in his subject matter, and in his later writing he claimed to be providing a more comprehensive and rigorous foundation for his earlier theories of art and experience.

How did George Santayana spend his last years?

At the outbreak of World War II, Santayana found himself in Rome. He was unable to access his U.S. bank accounts and so took very modest accommodations in the Clinica della Piccola campagna di Maria (Clinic of the Little Company of Mary). This clinic was run by an order that, because of the color of their habits, were known as "The Blue Nuns." Santayana ended up spending 13 years there, until he died. Originally, he stayed on because he liked the safety of the convent as a refuge from the war. But in time he came to appreciate its old fashioned ways away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, for their own sake.

What was George Santayana's ontology?

He rejected the kind of philosophical skepticism about physical reality that had led to idealism. But he thought one positive effect of that skepticism was to show that "essence" is what is ultimately real. However, people can't experience pure essences. Our "animal faith" posits a world beyond our immediate experience. That world is made up of essence and matter, and also truth and spirit. Matter is constantly changing, but it has a continuity, which renders it a "substance." Truth is about matter and what exists, whereas spirit is pure transcendental consciousness. Spirit intuits. Santayana described intuition as "the direct and obvious possession of the apparent without commitments of any sort about its truth, significance, or material existence."

 
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