"To Be Happy You Must Be Wise"
Robertson Davles, the founding master of Massey College at the University of
Toronto, chose a citation from Santayana to inscribe in the great hall of the new
college. The passage concerns happiness:
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, even to conceive
happiness, you must be reasonable, or you must be tamed. You must have taken the
measure of your powers, tasted the fruits of your passions and learned your place in the
world and what things in it can really serve you. To be happy you must be wise.
In the recent biography, Robertson Davies: Man of Myth, a description is given of
Further difficulty arose over the choice of the quotation to be inscribed in the dining
hal. Davies first proposed "a merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a broken spirit
drieth the bones" (Proverbs 17:22), but the others deemed this unacceptably frivolous,
Other short sayings likewise met rejection. The Masseys wanted a long quotation like the
passage from Milton's Areopagitica that circled the Great Hall of Hart House. So Davies
ingeniously linked two passages from the writings of Santayana that maintained die spirit
of his original suggestion and encapsulated much of what he sought to encourage at Massey
Hart House is also at the University of Toronto, and was also built by the Masseys. We
now give the two longer passages from which Davies selected. The first is from The life
of Reason,2 and bears the marginal heading 4*1ne sanction of reason is happiness."
If pleasure, because it is commonly a result of satisfied instinct, may by a figure of
speech be called the aim of impulse, happiness, by a like figure, may be called the aim of
reason. The direct aim of reason is harmony; yet harmony, when made to rule in life, gives
reason a noble satisfaction which we call happiness. Happiness is impossible, and even
inconceivable to a mind without scope and without pause, a mind driven by craving,
pleasure, or fear. The moralists who speak disparagingly of happiness are less sublime than
tiiey think. In truth their philosophy is too lighdy ballasted, too much fed on prejudice and
quibbles, for happiness to fall within its range. Happiness implies resource and security; it
can be achieved only by discipline. Your intuitive moralist rejects discipline, at least
discipline of the conscience; and he is punished by having no lien on wisdom. He trusts to
the clash of blind forces in collision, being one of them himself. He demands that virtue
should be partisan and unjust; and he dreams of crushing the adversary in some physical
Tie second comes from Egotism in German Philosophy?
1 The following passage is taken from page 407 of Robertson Davies: Man of Myth by Judith
Skelton Grant Ctopyright© Judith Skelton Grant, 1994. Reprinted by permission of Penguin Books
2 See page 252 of George Santayana, The Life of Reason, Volume Eve, Reason in Science,
(Dover, New York, 1983).
3 See pages 152-153 of George Santayana, Egotism in German Philosophy, (Scribner's, New
York, 1915). Further page references are to this book.