26 OVERHEARD IN SEVILLE
grandfather honored. We cannot claim that he would have approved of
us, motley crew that we are, but I think that we all share some of
Santayana's impatience with received ways of doing and viewing
philosophy. May the study of Santayana's work long continue, and may
we all partake, to some extent at least, in the purity of Santayana's spirit.
I invoke the spirit of George Santayana! honored guest, leave your
friends with whom you are in eternal dialogue in limbo and join us in our
There are two essences that bear the name of Santayana. One is a
trope whose embodiment began a hundred and twenty years ago. The
other is the complex and well-structured essence that was the object of
his deliberate thought.
There is much to admire in George Santayana, the person. To be
sure, he was monkish and more lonely than flesh should be. But the man
had antique virtues, knew the meaning of generosity, discipline and
excellence. He understood what we cannot seem to learn, that
philosophy is a high profession which demands unity of thought and soul,
that practice of our principles without which we remain a band of
pedants and sophists.
And yet, because there are many good persons and only a very few
fine philosophers, we celebrate not Santayana the psyche but Santayana
the pure spirit. Thought is private reflection on the world; mastery of it
is a matter largely of depth of insight and scope of vision, and only
minimally of cleverness in argument. Each time philosophy deteriorates to
adolescent combativeness, setting theses to defend and to attack, we can
turn to Santayana for due perspective on our petty exertions. His work is
a permanent reminder that loss of sanity need not accompany the growth
of mind, that technique is no substitute for sound judgment, and that we
can see whole without absurd pretensions.
In a world too ready to tell us what to do and how to think,
Santayana is a priceless exemplar of autonomy. Skepticism, a measure of
disillusionment, and distance are the only safeguards against the
contagion of public moods — of fashion — in social opinion and
philosophy. Like the ideal teacher, Santayana never inculcates, only
invites us to search and get our own results.
To honor him, therefore, we need not share his views. We must
simply clean the windows of our soul and observe the world with candor
and with courage. The essence that is his philosophy will then shine in
the realm of truth, and if not, then at least in our souls as an object of