Quotations by Santayana, George


The Difficult is that which can be done immediately; the Impossible is that which takes a little longer.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
(Attributed)

Quoted in Reader's Digest (Nov 1939), but without citation. The sentiment has a number of antecedents (see discussion here).
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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 (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
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It would repel me less to be a hangman than a soldier, because the one is obliged to put to death only criminals sentenced by the law, but the other kills honest men who like himself bathe in innocent blood at the bidding of some superior.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
Persons and Places, entry, c. 1880 (1944)
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The world is not respectable; it is mortal, tormented, confused, deluded forever; but it is shot through with beauty, with love, with glints of courage and laughter; and in these, the spirit blooms timidly, and struggles to be a light amid the thorns.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
Platonism and the Spiritual Life (1927)
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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 own human interests.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
Soliloquies in England, “On My Friendly Critics,” (1922)
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There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
Soliloquies in England, “War Shrines” (1922)
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Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Introduction (1905-06)
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That life is worth living is the most necessary of assumptions, and were it not assumed, the most impossible of conclusions.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 1 “Reason in Common Sense,” ch. 10 (1905-06)
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There is a kind of courtesy in scepticism. It would be an offence against polite conventions to press our doubts too far and question the permanence of our estates, our neighbours’ independent existence, or even the justification of a good bishop’s faith and income. Against metaphysicians, and even against bishops, sarcasm was not without its savour; but the line must be drawn somewhere by a gentleman and a man of the world.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 1 “Reason in Common Sense,” ch. 4 (1905-06)
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Added on 6-Aug-07 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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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 (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 1, “Reason in Common Sense,” ch. 12 (1905-1906)
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Often given as "Those who do not remember the past ...." Quoted at the Auschwitz Holocaust Museum, via Polish, as: "The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again."

Often misattributed to Winston Churchill, who paraphrased it in a Commons speech in 1948: "Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it."
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Individualism in one sense the only possible ideal; for whatever social order may be most valuable can be valuable only for its effect on conscious individuals.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 2 “Reason in Society,” ch. 2 “The Family” (1905-06)
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Added on 11-Aug-15 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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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 (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, vol. 2 “Reason in Society,” ch. 3 “Industry, Government, and War” (1905-06)
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Injustice in this world is not something comparative; the wrong is deep, clear, and absolute in each private fate.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, vol. 2 “Reason in Society,” ch. 4 “The Aristocratic Ideal” (1905-06)
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To fight is a radical instinct; if men have nothing else to fight over they fight over words, fancies, or women, or they will fight because they dislike each other’s looks, or because they have met walking in opposite directions. To knock a thing down, especially if it is cocked at an arrogant angle, is a deep delight of the blood.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, vol. 2 “Reason in Society” (1905)
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Fashion is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without reason and imitation without benefit.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 3 “Reason in Religion, ch. 7 (1905-06)
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Added on 25-Jun-10 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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Matters of religion should never be matters of controversy. We neither argue with a lover about his taste, not condemn him, if we are just, for knowing so human a passion.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 3 “Reason in Religion,” ch. 6 “The Christian Epic” (1905-06)
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It is easier to make a saint out of a libertine than out of a prig.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 3 “Reason in Religion,” ch. 11 “Spirituality and Its Corruptions” (1905-06)
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Added on 13-Sep-13 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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To be interested in the changing seasons is, in this middling zone, a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 4 “Reason in Art,” ch. 9 “Justification of Art” (1905-06)

Full text.
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Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Vol. 5 “Reason in Science,” ch. 8 “Prerational Morality” (1905)
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Added on 19-Mar-14 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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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 (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Sense of Beauty, Part 1 “The Nature of Beauty,” sec. 4 “Work and Play” (1896)
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For an idea ever to be fashionable is ominous, since it must afterwards be always old-fashioned.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
Winds of Doctrine (1913)
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