Santayana the Philosopher

Santayana the Philosopher
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Philosophy as a Form of Life
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Daniel Moreno
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Santayana the Philosopher: Philosophy as a Form of Life highlights the far-ranging nuances of Santayana’s philosophical system, while also discussing his ever-present concern for contemporary human affairs. Santayana understood the activity of philosophy in a Greek manner, as a form of life, but his interests always included the perennial philosophical questions and how they related to the present.
Regarding Santayana it has been claimed that he lacks a system while contradicting himself in outrageous ways. An attentive analysis of his complete œuvre, however, reveals something else entirely. It is not easy to classify a thinker as a Platonic materialist, an ironic nihilist, a spiritual atheist, and a conservative without political commitment, but, if one respects his own language, one discerns an astonishing, little-known Santayana, whose philosophical leitmotif consists in: 1) detecting the numerous “false steps,” logical and moral, supplied by the imagination when it confuses things with the names that designate them, or the world with the feelings that it provokes in the human animal—these errors assume diverse faces: pantheism, moralism, egotism, subjectivism, transcendentalism, Platonism, Puritanism, and utopianism; 2) avoiding these illusions in such a way as to keep the spiritual door open as a form of life to be lived out in an honest fashion; 3) recognizing the natural origin of these temptations and asking oneself what moves humans to succumb imperceptibly to these mistakes, at times tragic, at others comical, and what precautions one can take to remain cognizant of the deceitful leaps that can hijack one’s life; and 4) proposing as an alternative the radical distinction between essence and existence, which leads him to distinguish four realms of being: the realm of essence, the realm of matter, the realm of truth, and the realm of spirit. Essence as logical identity, matter as contingent existence, truth as frozen history, and spirit as the flames that part from contingency and approximate the eternal. An attempt has been made in this book to expand on and clarify these questions.

Author’s Preface

Translator’s Preface



Santayana Chronology


1. Facets of Santayana
2. The Internal Santayana

3. Santayana the Philosopher

4. Principal Biographical Dates

Chapter I. Philosophy as a Form of Life

1. Ironic Nihilism

2. Platonic Materialism

3. Spiritual Atheism

4. Apologia Pro Mente Sua

4.1 Classical and Modern Sources

4.2 Winds of Doctrine

Chapter II. Knowledge and Reality

1. The Golden Thread of Philosophy

2. A System of Philosophy

3. Scepticism and Animal Faith

3.1 Attaining the Heights of Skepticism

3.2 Descent from Ultimate Skepticism

4. Realms of Being

4.1 The Realm of Essence

4.2 The Realm of Matter

4.3 The Realm of Truth

4.4 The Realm of Spirit

4.5 Santayana and Classical Philosophical Problems

Chapter III. The Social Warp

1. Political Philosophy from the Spirit’s Perspective

2. On Liberalism and Democracy

3. Dominations and Powers

3.1 Dominations, Powers, and Virtues

3.2 Political Testament

4. Santayana and His Political Circumstances

Chapter IV. Philosophy and Novel in The Last Puritan

1. A Philosophical Parable

2. Reality and Fiction

2.1 Lord Jim, Oliver, and Mario

3. Transcendentalism and Platonism

4. Santayana and Oliver: A Cervantine Crossroads

Chapter V. Spiritual Testament

1. Apollo and Dionysus

2. From the Life of Reason to the Spiritual Life

3. Spiritual Life from a Materialist Perspective

4. How to Live in Barbaric Times

5. The Idea of Christ as an Alternative

6. The Long Road Towards Union


1. Primary Sources

2. Spanish-Language Sources

3. Secondary Sources

Index of Names

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