Naturalism and Generality
in Buchler and Santayana
Having read Santayana in Morris R. Cohen's class at New York's City
College, Justus Buchler first wrote about Santayana's philosophy in 1934
when, still an undergraduate, he reviewed Some Turns of Thought in
Modern Philosophy for the college's magazine, The Lavender. In 1936, he
and a friend, the late Benjamin Schwartz, edited the volume, Obiter
Scripta, which contains some of Santayana's most important papers. Still a
graduate student, Buchler continued to correspond with Santayana and in
later years produced other papers on his writings. In "One Santayana or
Two?" first published in 1954, Buchler singled out some of the traits that
mark Santayana as a great philosopher:
He revolutionized naturalism by giving it a new freedom of expression and a
new vocabulary, by widening the scope of its inventiveness .... He was a true
systematizer, yet he avoided extravagance .... He was a powerful analyst ...
primarily an analyst of structures, as philosophers perforce are; and of grand
and intricate structures, as Hegel was. And in helping naturalism out of its
starkness and rigidity he showed what it was in other traditions that was
available to liberal understanding. *
These comments reveal the commitment to naturalism and systematic
philosophy that Buchler shares with Santayana, and the'deep admiration
that persists despite a sharp difference in outlook.
In this paper I shall make some comparisons between Buchler's
Metaphysics of Natural Complexes and Santayana's Realms of Being.
Santayana disliked the word 'metaphysics', which he used as a name for
"an attempt to determine matters of fact by means of logical or moral or
rhetorical constructions."3 (He seems to have had in mind mainly Royce's
kind of idealist metaphysics, but he found Aristotle, too, "in the treatise
... first called by that name...materializing entities, turning harmonies into
forces, and dissolving natural things into terms of discourse" [SAF vii].)
But on Buchler's understanding of metaphysics as the analysis of generic
This paper was read to the Santayana Society, New York, December 29, 1984.
1 "One Santayana or Two?" The Journal of Philosophy, January 21, 1954. Reprinted in
John Lachs, ed.» Animal Faith and the Spiritual Life, New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1967,
2 Justus Buchler, Metaphysics of Natural Complexes. New York and London: Columbia
University Press, 1966. Hereafter cited as MNC.
George Santayana, Realms of Being. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1927-1940.
, The Realm of Essence, 1927. Hereafter cited as RB.
, The Realm of Matter, 1930. Hereafter cited as RM.
, The Realm of Truth, 1938. Hereafter cited as RT.
, The Realm of Spirit, 1940. Hereafter cited as RS.
s Santayana, Scepticism and Animal Faith: Introduction to a System of Philosophy. New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1923, p. vii. Work hereafter cited as SAF.