DeweyTo Logan Pearsall Smith
Hotel Bristol
Rome. March 19, 1925

This morning I have received a letter from an old friend, a sort of disciple, who says: “I do not fail to see, but thoroughly enjoy, how very much you have done in the direction of adapting your philosophy to the needs of Teutons and cooperative man.” Is there any ground for this ambiguous compliment? I am not aware of any adaptation, except to the evidence of things as they continue to march past, and I am not aware that the character of the procession has much changed: but a man is not able to survey his own career fairly, because his perspectives change as he changes. Let it be as God wills.

A hint from B. B. set me reading Sorel, whom I find nutritious even if half- baked.

I am now reading, and expect to review, a ponderous tome by Dewey, the pragmatic philosopher of Columbia, who also wishes to rear the truth on the sands of industrialism. I am going to call him the “Latest Oracle of the Zeitgeist:” and I have a feeling that these are swan-songs, because industrialism may be short-lived.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Three, 1921-1927.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002.
Location of manuscript: Library of Congress, Washington D.C.


St-Peters-roofTo George Sturgis
Grand Hotel
Rome. March 18, 1941

A lot of building and pulling down and park-making is going on in Rome. There is a perfect desert in front of St. Peter’s, and here from my windows I see them working desultorily on the new park round the Baths of Dioclesian and the great new Station. No thought, apparently, of earthquakes or bombs.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Seven, 1941-1947.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006.
Location of manuscript: The Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge MA.


edmund_husserl_1To Charles Augustus Strong
Hotel Bristol
Rome. March 17, 1927

I want to send off vol. I. of the Big Book, “The Realm of Essence,” which I have almost completely rewritten but to which I wish to add an appendix—concerning three contemporary equivalents for my theory which have lately come to light: viz. Guénon’s version of the Hindu Brahman, Whitehead’s chapter on “Abstraction” in his “Science in the Modern World”, and Husserl’s “Phaenomenologie”. The latter (which I am just beginning to study) is wonderfully coincident with my notions, although approached from the psychological side. . . . I think a short notice of these three writers, with some quotations, will very much conciliate the readers—at least the professorial readers—of my “Realm of Essence” and make them see that it is no hobby or madness of mine, but an obvious Columbus’ egg which their worships had never thought of erecting on its own bottom.

I am reading Congreve for the first time: he is less licentious than I expected, and infinitely more witty. I laugh aloud like a madman at many of his sallies. And his English is admirable—a great treat and lesson for me after most of what I am condemned to read—beginning with the new “Morning Post”.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Three, 1921-1927.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2002.
Location of manuscript: Rockefeller Archive Center, Sleepy Hollow NY.


frans-hals-descartesTo Richard Colton Lyon
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6
Rome. March 16, 1952

Don’t worry about what I may have said about scepticism or about agreeing or disagreeing with me. In any case the distinction you make is evidently reasonable, although scepticism as a method, especially if only a temporary method, as in Descartes, is not a system of philosophy or morals whereas openness of mind and distrust of one’s own opinion is a moral habit.

I think perhaps I ought to have been a historian rather than a philosopher talking about essences, for verbal logic doesn’t hold my attention or respect, and I must turn to something imaginable.

Wind, is not exhaustively representable in Spirit (which is an original music made by the Wind) but Spirit being secondary and an approximate index to the way the Wind is blowing in one place at a certain time, Spirit knows a lot about the ways of the Wind. Hebrews were wise and prudent in speaking about the “ways” of the Lord, rather than of his nature.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Eight, 1948-1952.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2008.
Location of manuscript: The Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge MA.

 

 


il_570xN.262145078To Rosamond Thomas Bennett Sturgis
Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6
Rome. March 15, 1946

I wish we had a medical thermometre for style, so that I could take my literary temperature when I sit down to write, and be reassured when it indicated blood heat, or average rationality, and be warned off and take a rest or a glass of something strong if it indicated dangerous fever, involving bad language, or vitality lower than 36° threatening platitudes and imbecility. Yet in the absence of scientific diagnosis it is a resource to take some good coffee which will probably do good; or at least make foolishness unconscious.

I didn’t skip a single page of the Harvard book, remembering that you believe firmly in education and not, like me, in inspiration or drink—and I wanted to inform myself a little on that important subject.

Frankly, I thought it a dull book, and full of needless repetition; but at least I was relieved to find that “general” education did not mean education in general (Kindergardens being excluded) but meant what I should call essential education, or learning the things that are most worth knowing, not for their utility in making a living, but in giving us something to reward us for being alive.

There is an orthodox system of life and thought, called apparently “democracy” which must be made the basis and criterion of right education and [illegible] right character. This is new to me in America. In my time Harvard wasn’t at all inspired in that way. Not that anyone was hostile to democracy, but that we thought enlightenment lay in seeing it, and all other things, in the light of their universal relations, so as to understand them truly, and then on the basis of the widest possible knowledge, to make the best of the facts and opportunities immediately around us. But now education is to be inspired by revealed knowledge of the vocation of man, and faith in our own apostolic mission. Perhaps the war has made this view more prevalent than it would have been in uninterrupted peace.

From The Letters of George Santayana:  Book Seven, 1941-1947.  Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006.
Location of manuscript: The Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge MA.