Spirit's Primary Nature
is to be Secondary
Timothy Sprigge finds a kinship between moments of spirit and natural
moments in Santayana's philosophy. He argues that this kinship is one of
sentience or consciousness, and that here Santayana comes close to a
panpsychist position. That there is a kinship, I entirely agree, and shall
try to explain the nature of the link in the later part of this paper.
However it is quite mistaken to infer that sentience forms a part of this
There is a distressing tendency for readers of Santayana to question
the resoluteness of his materialism and anti-metaphysical stance, perhaps
because he introduces such ideas as essence and spirit, platonism and
transcendental centres. Sprigge does not give this reading to Santayana;
in the above, as in his book on Santayana,1 he acknowledges Santayana's
epiphenomenal version of materialism and rejection of panpsychism. Yet
it appears that Sprigge shows some "tendencies" towards the reading, and
at times "hovers on the brink of it," to appeal to some of his own phrases.
These tendencies of Sprigge, I should like to show, do not reflect similar
tendencies on the part of Santayana himself.
The ontological categories of Santayana's mature philosophy come to
dominate all phases of his thinking, and give rise to a remarkably self-
consistent system, as Sprigge affirms.2 In terms of these systematic
categories, I argue that a panpsychist position is not* merely false, but
comes close to being self-contradictory. While it is impossible to be sure
what tendencies lurk at the back of Santayana's mind, the validity of such
an argument indicates that tendencies to panpsychism do not figure in
the system he finally enunciates. The argument rests on Santayana's
account of spirit; for sentience belongs to the realm of spirit, and Sprigge
offers a definition of panpsychism in terms of sentience.
Whatever constitutes existence must be substantial - it must be the
source of that movement and change which is characteristic of existence.
On the other hand, spirit is by its very nature inert and cosmologically
superficial. "The inefficacy of spirit [is] inherent in its nature."3 It is
secondary in respect to movement and existence (although not in its
moral significance), at whatever level it may appear,
.. the nature of spirit is not, like that of matter, to be a principle of
existence and movement, but on the contrary a principle of enjoyment,
1 Timothy. L. S. Sprigge, Santayana, An Examination of His Philosophy, (Routledge and
Kegan Paul, London, 1974).
2 See for example page 3 of Sprigge, op. cit.
3 See page 835 of George Santayana, Realms of Being, One-volume edition, (Scribner*s,
New York, 1942). Subsequent page numbers will refer to this text.