ON GRUE AND BLEEN
Santayana is no philosopher of science; frequently he laments his inability
to participate in the scientific advances of his day. Still, the integrity of
his materialist philosophy, and the soundness of his common sense, give
to his statements on natural philosophy a special value. In our day, when
many philosophers are caught in the retreat from empiricism, and may
find themselves unsure of their footing, we find much that is useful in his
writings. Santayana's works are innocent of the delusions of empiricism,
uninflated by claims of final justifications, and undogmatic about what
subjects can or cannot be discussed coherently.
On several issues, philosophers have seemed in recent years to be
retreating toward positions which Santayana has held all along - positions
which earlier they were scarcely prepared to treat as serious philosophy.
One example is his insistence that sensation has no special epistemic
status, and that no sharp separation can be made between sensation and
concept, observational data and theoretical constructs. Another example
is his scepticism about induction as a mode of inference.
Santayana believes that it is rational for us to project into the future,
but he rejects any final justification of this projection or induction:
The habits of nature are marvellous, but they are habits; .... This assumption
is not justifiable by induction, because no experience covers any great part of
nature, nor that part thoroughly; but it is nevertheless the anchor of rational
Our faith in uniformity rests entirely on an "animal attitude:"
Belief in law when hasty is called superstition or, when more cautious,
empiricism: but the principle in both cases is the same. Both take expectation
for probability; and what probability can there be that an expectation, arising
at one point, should define a law for the whole universe? Expectation is an
animal attitude resting not at all on induction or probability, but on the fact
that animals are wound up to do certain things and vaguely but confidently
posit a world in which their readiness may become action. [RB p.303]
However this, he continues, is justification enough:
Yet in a roundabout way, on the scale and in the period of that animal life,
this blind courage is normally justified by the event. For how should the
See for example page 102 of George Santayana, Scepticism and Animal Faith, (Constable,
London, 1923). We shall cite this book as SAF.
See page 224 of George Santayana, Realms of Being, One-volume edition, (Scribner's,
New York, 1942). We shall cite this as RB.