100 Quotes by George Santayana

George Santayana, a Spanish-American philosopher, poet, and novelist, is best known for his aphorism "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." His philosophical works, such as "The Life of Reason," explored themes of reason, morality, and the relationship between individual experience and societal progress. Santayana's writings often melded a poetic sensibility with rigorous philosophical analysis, allowing readers to engage with complex ideas through accessible language. His exploration of the nature of knowledge, aesthetics, and the human condition emphasized the importance of understanding history as a means to inform present decisions. Santayana's unique perspective and contribution to both philosophy and literature have left an enduring legacy that continues to inspire critical thinking and reflection on the interconnectedness of past, present, and future.

George Santayana Quotes

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

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To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.

There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.

Do not have evil-doers for friends, do not have low people for friends: have virtuous people for friends, have for friends the best of men.

Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are.

Man is a gregarious animal, and much more so in his mind than in his body. He may like to go alone for a walk, but he hates to stand alone in his opinions.

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

Self-assurance is contemptible and fatal unless it is self-knowledge.

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 human interests.

A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.

The wisest mind has something yet to learn.

Character is the basis of happiness and happiness the sanction of character.

The philosophy of the common man is an old wife that gives him no pleasure, yet he cannot live without her, and resents any aspersions that strangers may cast on her character.

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Wisdom lies in taking everything with good humor and a grain of salt.

Advertising is the modern substitute for argument, its function is to make the worse appear the better article. A confused competition of all propagandas - those insults to human nature -- is carried on by the most expert psychological methods -- for instance, by always repeating a lie.

To me, it seems a dreadful indignity to have a soul controlled by geography.

To be happy you must have taken the measure of your powers, tasted the fruits of your passion, and learned your place in the world.

An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.

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.

For an idea ever to be fashionable is ominous, since it must afterwards be always old fashioned

It is war that wastes a nations wealth, chokes its industries, kills its flower, narrows its sympathies, condemns it to be governed by adventurers, and leaves the puny, deformed, and unmanly to breed the next generation.

Depression is rage spread thin.

A country without a memory is a country of madmen.

We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past; and we must respect the past, remembering that it was once all that was humanly possible.

Perhaps the universe is nothing but an equilibrium of idiocies.

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A man's feet should be planted in his country, but his eyes should survey the world.

Skepticism is a discipline fit to purify the mind of prejudice and render it all the more apt, when the time comes, to believe and to act wisely.

Man is not made to understand life, but to live it.

I like to walk about amidst the beautiful things that adorn the world.

Whoever it was who searched the heavens with a telescope and found no God would not have found the human mind if he had searched the brain with a microscope.

Our character is an omen of our destiny, and the more integrity we have and keep, the simpler and nobler that destiny is likely to be.

Knowledge of what is possible is the beginning of happiness.

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.

Only the dead have seen the end of the war.

If artists and poets are unhappy, it is after all because happiness does not interest them.

The earth has music for those who listen.

Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.

Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect...

To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.

Religion is the natural reaction of the imagination when confronted by the difficulties in a truculent world.

Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds.

Beauty is a pledge of the possible conformity between the soul and nature, and consequently a ground of faith in the supremacy of the good.

History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren't there.

Love make us poets, and the approach of death should make us philosophers.

A soul is but the last bubble of a long fermentation in the world.

Happiness is the only sanction of life; where happiness fails, existence remains a mad and lamentable experiment.

The young man who has not wept is a savage, and the older man who will not laugh is a fool.

There must be in our very nature a very radical and widespread tendency to observe beauty, and to value it. No account of the principles of the mind can be at all adequate that passes over so conspicuous a faculty.

Advertising is the modern substitute for argument; its function is to make the worse appear the better.

Nonsense is so good only because common sense is so limited.

The highest form of vanity is love of fame.

Habit is stronger than reason.

Society is like the air, necessary to breathe but insufficient to live on.

The truth is cruel, but it can be loved, and it makes free those who have loved it.

The true Christian is in all countries a pilgrim and a stranger.

The lover knows much more about absolute good and universal beauty than any logician or theologian, unless the latter, too, be lovers in disguise.

Oaths are the fossils of piety.

Happiness is impossible, and even inconceivable, to a mind without scope and without pause, a mind driven by craving, pleasure, or fear. To be happy, you must be reasonable, or you must be tamed. You must have taken the measure of your powers, tasted the fruits of your passion, and learned your place in the world and what things in it can really serve you. To be happy, you must be wise.

Sanity is madness put to good use.

Memory itself is an internal rumor.

Religious doctrines would do well to withdraw their pretension to be dealing with matters of fact. That pretension is not only the source of the conflicts of religion with science and the vain and bitter controversies of sects; it is also the cause of the impurity and incoherence of religion in the soul.

A string of excited, fugitive, miscellaneous pleasures is not happiness; happiness resides in imaginative reflection and judgment, when the picture of one's life, or of human life, as it truly has been or is, satisfies the will, and is gladly accepted.

Eternal vigilance is the price of knowledge.

Nietzsche was personally more philosophical than his philosophy. His talk about power, harshness, and superb immorality was the hobby of a harmless young scholar and constitutional invalid.

The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again

It takes a wonderful brain and exquisite senses to produce a few stupid ideas.

The family is one of nature's masterpieces.

There is no tyranny so hateful as a vulgar and anonymous tyranny. It is all-permeating, all-thwarting; it blasts every budding novelty and sprig of genius with its omnipresent and fierce stupidity. Such a headless people has the mind of a worm and the claws of a dragon.

Everything in nature is lyrical in its ideal essence, tragic in its fate, and comic in its existence.

Religion in its humility restores man to his only dignity, the courage to live by grace.

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

Beauty as we feel it is something indescribable; what it is or what it means can never be said.

The working of great institutions is mainly the result of a vast mass of routine, petty malice, self interest, carelessness and sheer mistake. Only a residual fraction is thought.

It is characteristic of spontaneous friendship to take on first, without enquiry and almost at first sight, the unseen doings and unspoken sentiments of our friends; the parts known give us evidence enough that the unknown parts cannot be much amiss.

We should have to abandon our vested illusions, our irrational religions and patriotisms.

In endowing us with memory, nature has revealed to us a truth utterly unimaginable to the unreflective creation, the truth of immortality. The most ideal human passion is love, which is also the most absolute and animal and one of the most ephemeral.

Man's most serious activity is play.

Each religion necessarily contradicts every other religion, and probably contradicts itself. Religions, like languages, are necessary rivals. What religion a man shall have is a historical accident, quite as much as what language he shall speak.

Our dignity is not in what we do, but what we understand.

The Bible is a wonderful source of inspiration for those who don't understand it.

There is no greater stupidity or meanness than to take uniformity for an ideal.

There is wisdom in turning as often as possible from the familiar to the unfamiliar: it keeps the mind nimble, it kills prejudice, and it fosters humor.

The loftiest edifices need the deepest foundations.

The aim of life is some way of living, as flexible and gentle as human nature; so that ambition may stoop to kindness, and philosophy to condor and humor. Neither prosperity nor empire nor heaven can be worth winning at the price of a virulent temper, bloody hands, an anguished spirit, and a vain hatred of the rest of the world.

Work and love these are the basics; waking life is a dream controlled.

Let a man once overcome his selfish terror at his own finitude, and his finitude itself is, in one sense, overcome.

The great difficulty in education is to get experience out of ideas.

The quality of wit inspires more admiration than confidence

If you prefer illusions to realities, it is only because all decent realities have eluded you and left you in the lurch; or else your contempt for the world is mere hypocrisy and funk.

Real unselfishness consists in sharing the interests of others.

The best men in all ages keep classic traditions alive

When men and women agree, it is only in their conclusions; their reasons are always different.

Fashion is something barbarous, for it produces innovation without reason and imitation without benefit.

The mediocrity of everything in the great world of today is simply appalling. We live in intellectual slums.

Life is judged with all the blindness of life itself.

It takes patience to appreciate domestic bliss; volatile spirits prefer unhappiness.

It is wisdom to believe the heart.

Prayer, among sane people, has never superseded practical efforts to secure the desired end.

To be an American is of itself almost a moral condition, an education, and a career.

There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval. The dark background which death supplies brings out the tender colours of life in all their purity.

Perhaps the only true dignity of man is his capacity to despise himself.

Skepticism is the chastity of the intellect, and it is shameful to surrender it too soon or to the first comer; there is nobility in preserving it coolly and proudly through long youth, until at last, in the ripeness of instinct and discretion, it can be safely exchanged for fidelity and happiness.

The spirit's foe in man has not been simplicity, but sophistication.

Life is not a spectacle or a feast; it is a predicament.

Wisdom comes by disillusionment.

Prayer is not a substitute for work; it is an effort to work further and be efficient beyond the range of one's powers.

The dreamer can know no truth, not even about his dream, except by awaking out of it.

Miracles are propitious accidents, the natural causes of which are too complicated to be readily understood.

History is always written wrong, and so always needs to be rewritten.

Men have feverishly conceived a heaven only to find it insipid, and a hell to find it ridiculous.

Christianity persecuted, tortured, and burned. Like a hound it tracked the very scent of heresy. It kindled wars, and nursed furious hatreds and ambitions... Man, far from being freed from his natural passions, was plunged into artificial ones quite as violent and much more disappointing.

Culture is on the horns of this dilemma: if profound and noble it must remain rare, if common it must become mean.

Truth is a jewel which should not be painted over; but it may be set to advantage and shown in a good light.

People are usually more firmly convinced that their opinions are precious than that they are true.

The effort of art is to keep what is interesting in existence, to recreate it in the eternal.

I have no axe to grind; only my thoughts to burnish.

There is no dunce like a mature dunce.

I like to walk about among the beautiful things that adorn the world; but private wealth I should decline, or any sort of personal possessions, because they would take away my liberty.

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 the light amid the thorns.

To feel beauty is a better thing than to understand how we come to feel it. To have imagination and taste, to love the best, to be carried by the contemplation of nature to a vivid faith in the ideal, all this is more, a great deal more, than any science can hope to be.

The unforgivable sin is the refusal to pardon.

The loneliest woman in the world is a woman without a close woman friend.

Those who speak most of progress measure it by quantity and not by quality.

It is always pleasant to be urged to do something on the ground that one can do it well.

In any close society it is more urgent to restrain others than to be free oneself. Hence the tendency for the central authority to absorb and supersede such as are local or delegated.

The aim of education is the condition of suspended judgment on everything.

Facts are all accidents. They all might have been different. They all may become different. They all may collapse altogether.

What religion a man shall have is a historical accident, quite as much as what language he shall speak.

We need sometimes to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.

For a man who has done his natural duty, death is as natural as sleep.

Old places and old persons in their turn, when spirit dwells in them, have an intrinsic vitality of which youth is incapable, precisely, the balance and wisdom that come from long perspectives and broad foundations

He thinks he believes only what he sees, but he is much better at believing than at seeing.

To attempt to be religious without practicing a specific religion is as possible as attempting to speak without a specific language.

The muffled syllables that Nature speaks Fill us with deeper longing for her word; She hides a meaning that the spirit seeks, She makes a sweeter music than is heard.

Our occasional madness is less wonderful than our occasional sanity.

There is nothing impossible in the existence of the supernatural: its existence seems to me decidedly probable.

Man alone knows that he must die; but that very knowledge raises him, in a sense, above mortality, by making him a sharer in the vision of eternal truth. He becomes the spectator of his own tragedy; he sympathizes so much with the fury of the storm that he has no ears left for the shipwrecked sailor, though the sailor were his own soul. The truth is cruel, but it can be loved, and it makes free those who have loved it.

There is nothing to which men, while they have food and drink, cannot reconcile themselves.

Beauty is objectified pleasure.

Reason and happiness are like other flowers; they wither when plucked.

Art like life, should be free, since both are experimental.

Religion is the love of life in the consciousness of impotence.

A simple life is its own reward.

Wisdom comes from disillusionment.

The need of exercise is a modern superstition, invented by people who ate too much and had nothing to think about.

The idea of Christ is much older than Christianity.

Does the thoughtful man suppose that the present experiment in civilization is the last world we will see?

― George Santayana Quotes

Chief Editor

Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

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