Prefatory Notes to The Life of Reason
This was originally published in The Journal of Philosophy, Psychology
and Scientific Methods, 15:3 (31 January 1918), 82-84. In the case ofthe last
item ("Apollo in Love"), the book with the original inscription can be found
at James Cummins Bookseller in New York City, so the published version
was collated with a photocopy ofthe original and emended.
The inscription in Reason in Common Sense was revised and partially
used in the 1922 "Preface to the Second Edition" (x.22-xi.6). The poem
"Paganism Inevitable" was otherwise unpublished until William Holzberger's
Complete Poems of George Santayana (350). The poem "Apollo in Love"
was revised and appeared as Apollo's love song to Venus in The Marriage of
Venus, published in The Poets Testament in 1953 (49-50). —D.E.S.
NOTES AND NEWS
The Brick Row Book and Print Shop of New Haven was offering recently for
sale a copy of the Life of Reason by George Santayana, in the volumes of which
the author had written various prefatory notes, dated Cambridge, April 18, 1907.
Through the courtesy of Mr. Hackett, the Journal of Philosophy is able to publish
some of these.
Reason in Common Sense
A Short Preface
The first impulse to write this book came to me in 1889, on reading Hegel's
Phaenomenologie des Geistes. There, it seemed to me, was a great idea spoiled
by the sophistry and mythology that encumbered it. The great idea was to review
the history of the human mind, picking out certain crucial episodes in it, and
showing how the insights and habits then gained had contributed to our present
moral constitution. The sophistry and mythology lay in supposing that such selected
episodes must form a necessary dialectical chain, must make up the whole evolution
ofthe world, and must be governed miraculously by their ultimate issue.
It occurred to me, then, that a more honest criticism of progress might be based
on a frankly human ideal, applied to experience conceived in its natural historical
setting. The project, however, took shape slowly, and it was not until 1896, under the
influence of my first Platonic studies, that I made a beginning in actual composition.
This is not, therefore, a work of metaphysics, nor of history, nor even of
psychology. It is a work of criticism. Its object is not to trace the connection or define
the nature of all things, but merely to estimate the value of some of them —those that
chiefly concern civilization. Yet, in order to criticize, it is necessary to understand
and to be sympathetic; and for this reason I have been often led to reconstruct and
to analyze the historical or psychological episodes of which I wished to estimate
the value. The work of criticism has consequently become, in method, a work of
imagination. It is as such only that, in its turn, it ought to be judged.