[Platonism is a] monstrous dream, if you take it for a description of nature; but a suitable allegory by which to illustrate the progress of the inner life: because those stages, or something like them, are really the stages of moral progress for the soul.
By spirit essences are transposed into appearances and things into objects of belief; and (as if to compensate them for that derogation from their native status) they are raised to a strange actuality in thoughta moral actuality which in their logical being or their material flux they had never aspired to have: like those rustics and servants at an inn whom a traveling poet may take note of and afterwards, to their astonishment, may put upon the stage with applause.
I should therefore agree with you completely, if it were understood that you were traversing the life of spirit only, and leaving out all physics and logic: but even then so exclusive an interest in the moral side of things, ignoring their natural basis and ontological surroundings, leads into ambiguities and illusions: the relative becomes absolute and the absolute relative.
Science expresses in human terms our dynamic relation to surrounding reality. Philosophies and religions, where they do not misrepresent these same dynamic relations and do not contradict science, express destiny in moral dimensions, in obviously mythical and poetical images: but how else should these moral truths be expressed at all in a traditional or popular fashion? Religions are the great fairy-tales of the conscience.
A chief characteristic of pictorial space, which betrays its animal origin, is that it has a centre. This centre is transcendental; that is to say, it is not determined by any distinction in the parts of space itself, as conceived, all of which are equally central. The dignity of being a centre comes to any point of space from the spirit, which some fatality has lodged there, to the exclusion, at least in its own view, of all other places. . . . Pictorial space therefore reappears, wherever an animal rises to intuition of his environment, and in each case it has its moral or transcendental centre in that animal; a centre which, being transcendental or moral, moves wherever the animal moves, and is repeated without physical contradiction or rivalry in as many places as are ever inhabited by a watchful animal soul.
The notion that there is and can be but one time, and that half of it is always intrinsically past and the other half always intrinsically future, belongs to the normal pathology of an animal mind: it marks the egotistical outlook of an active being endowed with imagination. Such a being will project the moral contrast produced by his momentary absorption in action upon the conditions and history of that action, and upon the universe at large.
There is a sense in which all moral life lies beyond truth. [T]he living spirit, in which this moral life is actualized and enacted, has other interests besides the interest in truth.
[N]ot that [experience] adds any energy or gives any new direction to the vital process, but that it is that vital process brought to a head and becoming a moral reality instead of a merely physical one. This moral reality or spiritual life . . . .
Nature reproduces itself by generation or derivation on the material plane. When it creates feeling and thought it passes to the moral plane of comment and enjoyment.
One young Harvard instructor in "Government" . . . came to see me here, and seemed a charming person, who quite understood that by "moral" I don't understand well-behaved, but everything that involves a distinction on any grounds between the better and the worse, as between good and bad architecture.
[T]he distinction between Dominations and Powers is moral, not physical. It . . . hang[s] . . . on its relation to the spontaneous life of some being that it affects.
[P]olitics is a moral subject and it is the earthly fortunes of spirit that, at bottom, are its theme . . . .
The word 'moral' comes from the Latin mores, customs.
[T]he notion of a merciless natural order may some day acquire its right of domicile in the mind . . . . Natural piety has never attempted to moralise the cosmos, but only to recognise in that non-moral natural order the reservoir of force and the field of action proper for man and his morality.
[I]t is chiefly the impact of surrounding bodies, or troubles, needs, and impulses in his own organism, that cause ideas to appear before his mind. To these removed facts his instincts and actions then adjust themselves automatically . . . . And the same animal life lends to these ideas another quality . . . : they become welcome or unwelcome, enticing or terrible. So appearance announces reality. The trivial spectrum of logic and aesthetics borrows the deep thunder and colouring of a moral world.
The notion of types or Platonic Ideas being the reality behind things is not now prevalent in physics, and never should have been so. It is an interpretation of discourse, not of nature; it belongs to moral philosophy, not natural science, since it clarifies the goals and meanings of human life, but never discloses the causes or origins of anything.
Number of quotations (including supressed): 23
Santayana contrasts moral with physical reality; speaks of moral expressions, moral distinctions and moral subjects; recognizes a non-moral order; sometimes identifies moral life with spiritual life, and other times distinguishes the two. Morality is the specific subject of three chapters of Reason in Science, and the general theme of The Life of Reason and of Dominations and Powers, which works comprise his moral philosophy (see Spirit '40 at viii (Preface)). At the same time, the concept is broached in his ontology in The Realm of Spirit, where he notes that spirit is a "moral stress of varying scope and intensity," id., a "moral illumination," Spirit '40 at 18 (The Nature of Spirit), and the "moral fruition of physical life," Spirit '40 at 8 (The Nature of Spirit) (margin note).
The widespread use of the term "moral" in Santayana's writings makes an understanding of its definition a condition to enjoying his books and essays. A review of the quotations gathered here may contribute to that understanding.
The quotes [here gathered] suggest two major meanings of the word "moral." The first relates to the presence of good/bad, that is, to the animal choices made by the psyche engaged in action. The second connects to the other necessary condition of values proper, viz. to consciousness. Without consciousness, the psyche would struggle in the dark; though there would be preference, there would be no good and bad as envisaged essences. In one way, the meanings of the word "moral" are complementary. One focuses on the values that saturate life, the other on the realm in which alone such values show up. In another respect, the meanings seem to be at odds. For the special feature of spirituality is that it liberates us from the animal partiality of the psyche, from the very partiality, that is, that grounds the distinction between good and evil. This apparent contradiction is not to be taken too seriously. It need cause no confusion and suggests the richness of the notion of the moral for this wonderful philosopher.
--Dr. John Lachs, Centennial Professor of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University (1996-07-23)