A George Santayana Home Page

Thoughts of Some Professors

Use of moral

Essence / existence
Truth as category

Spirit incarnate
Virtual knowledge
Mind function of body

Superficial will
Human nature
Relativity of morals
Law & government
Reason & spirit
Free will

British philosophy
False steps

©1996-2017 T. P. Davis

Professor's Thoughts on the web page entitled:

Use of the Term MORAL by Santayana

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

Professor's Thoughts on the web page entitled:

Truth as a Category

Santayana's categories, his realms, are developed in large part through comparison and contrast with each other. His development of the realms would be dismissed as unsuitable by any earnest analytic philosopher; for Jorge launches into talk about matter, spirit, truth, etc., without the expected definitions at all. Indeed, his starting point and guide is the scandalously imprecise common sense notion we all have of these categories. Clarification only comes gradually, and often it comes by contrast of changing matter vs. eternal essence, of objective matter vs. subjective spirit. There is something to be said for this approach. The definitions offered by analytic philosophers, and especially empiricists, seem often to lead further away from their definienda, in direct proportion to their complexity. There is something to be said for one who refuses to stray away from, for example, truth or spirit as commonly understood, towards things unrecognizable as such. Of course, Santayana does permit refinements and clarifications which are not envisaged in common sense speech. However, I find that he sticks to the subject at hand better than many others; a revision should be an improvement in a familiar way of seeing something, and not a divergence from this. His method consists largely of juxtaposing the various realms and other categories. In light of this, a category will be important and a candidate for the gang-of-four, if its contrastive interplay with the other three is significant in the development of those, and important to the philosophical life. This is amply true of truth, and I give one example, the contrast between the frenzied realm of changing existences and the placid realm of truth, where nothing ever changes. (This sort of contrast arises also with arbitrary essences, but in the case of an essence which is a truth, this is an essence of consequence.) Santayana likes to distinguish between carrying out an action and the contemplation of it. The former is an often unconscious performance by the psyche, whereas the latter is spiritual and the only source of ultimate spiritual good. If the contemplation of this essence attains a sufficiently detached viewpoint, it will approach the contemplation of truth. As Spinoza says, it is the truth about our actions and selves which alone will survive us, and which can give us our solace, that of tying ourselves to the only part of us which is eternal the truth. Small consolation for many, but its importance grows to the extent that one candidly discards as illusory other more personal candidates for survival.

--Dr. Angus Kerr-Lawson, Professor of Philosophy, University of Waterloo

This page lists all Professor's Thoughts found on this web site.