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The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress

The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress: Reason in Art, Volume VII, Book Four

Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: CRI - Critical
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 336
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    The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress
    Book Description:

    Santayana'sLife of Reason, published in five books from 1905 to 1906, ranks as one of the greatest works in modern philosophical naturalism. Acknowledging the natural material bases of human life, Santayana traces the development of the human capacity for appreciating and cultivating the ideal. It is a capacity he exhibits as he articulates a continuity running through animal impulse, practical intelligence, and ideal harmony in reason, society, art, religion, and science. The work is an exquisitely rendered vision of human life lived sanely.In this fourth book, Santayana writes that art is perfectly native to human endeavor; it is the paradigm of all productive activity. Any worthwhile work of art creates an organic whole, and the whole appeals to many facets of one's nature; beauty brings these many feelings and powers into harmony. The benefits of a cultivated artistic taste contribute to the further growth and harmonization of the self in all its worthwhile activities. Art, or "the remodeling of nature by reason," is, according to Santayana, the most generic form of rational activity; hence the life of reason falls within its domain. The conduct of the life of reason is the supreme art.This critical edition, volume VII ofThe Works of George Santayana, includes notes, textual commentary, lists of variants and emendations, an index, and other tools useful to Santayana scholars. The other four books of the volume areReason in Common Sense, Reason in Society, Reason in Religion, andReason in Science.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32994-1
    Subjects: Philosophy, Art & Art History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS (pp. ix-xii)

    Santayana’sLife of Reason, published in five volumes, 1905–6, is one of the greatest works in modern philosophical naturalism. It proved to be a major stimulus to the revitalization of philosophy in America, and its value continues today. There is no canonical definition of “philosophical naturalism,” but a workable understanding of the idea is indispensable to an appreciation of Santayana’s achievement. The meanings of naturalism cluster around a certain nucleus, which might seem innocent enough but in historical fact is radical. The core idea is this: Any philosophy that would bring clarity and resource to human existence and fructify...

  5. Table of Contents based on Scribner’s first edition (1905) (pp. liii-lvi)
  6. Reason in Art critical edition text

      Man exists amid a universal ferment of being, and not only needs plasticity in his habits and pursuits but finds plasticity also in the surrounding world. Life is an equilibrium which is maintained now by accepting modification and now by imposing it. Since the organ for all activity is a body in mechanical relation to other material objects, objects which the creature’s instincts often compel him to appropriate or transform, changes in his habits and pursuits leave their mark on whatever he touches. His habitat must needs bear many a trace of his presence, from which intelligent observers might infer...


      If there were anything wholly instrumental or merely useful its rationality, such as it was, would be perfectly obvious. Such a thing would by exhaustively defined by its result and conditioned exclusively by its expediency. Yet the value of most human arts, mechanical as they may appear, has a somewhat doubtful and mixed character. Naval architecture, for instance, serves a clear immediate purpose. Yet to cross the sea is not an ultimate good, and the ambition or curiosity that first led man, being a land-animal, to that now vulgar adventure, has sometimes found moralists to condemn it. A vessel’s true...


      Action which is purely spontaneous is merely tentative. Any experience of success or utility which might have preceded, if it availed to make action sure, would avail to make it also intentional and conscious of its ulterior results. Now the actual issue which an action is destined to have, since it is something future and problematical, can exert no influence on its own antecedents; but if any picture of what the issue is likely to be accompanies the heat and momentum of action, that picture being, of all antecedents in the operation, the one most easily remembered and described, may...

    • CHAPTER IV MUSIC (pp. 29-42)

      Sound readily acquires ideal values. It has power in itself to engross attention and at the same time may be easily diversified, so as to become a symbol for other things. Its direct empire is to be compared with that of stimulants and opiates, yet it presents to the mind, as these do not, a perception that corresponds, part by part, with the external stimulus. To hear is almost to understand. The process we undergo in mathematical or dialectical thinking is called understanding, because a natural sequence is there adequately translated into ideal terms. Logical connections seem to be internally...


      Music rationalises sound, but a more momentous rationalising of sound is seen in language. Language is one of the most useful of things, yet the greater part of it still remains (what it must all have been in the beginning) useless and without ulterior significance. The musical side of language is its primary and elementary side. Man is endowed with vocal organs so plastic as to emit a great variety of delicately varied sounds; and by good fortune his ear has a parallel sensibility, so that much vocal expression can be registered and confronted by auditory feeling. It has been...


      There is both truth and illusion in the saying that primitive poets are sublime. Genesis and theIliad(works doubtless backed by a long tradition) are indeed sublime. Primitive men, having perhaps developed language before the other arts, used it with singular directness to describe the chief episodes of life, which was all that life as yet contained. They had frank passions and saw things from single points of view. A breath from that early world seems to enlarge our natures, and to restore to language, which we have sophisticated, all its magnificence and truth. But there is more, for...


      We have seen how arts founded on exercise and automatic self-expression develop into music, poetry, and prose. By an indirect approach they come to represent outer conditions, till they are interwoven in a life which has in some measure gone out to meet its opportunities and learned to turn them to an ideal use. We have now to see how man’s reactive habits pass simultaneously into art in a wholly different region. Spontaneous expression, such as song, comes when internal growth in an animal system vents itself, as it were, by the way. At the same time animal economy has...


      Imitation is a fertile principle in the Life of Reason. We have seen that it furnishes the only rational sanction for belief in any fellow mind; now we shall see how it creates the most glorious and interesting of plastic arts. The machinery of imitation is obscure but its prevalence is obvious, and even in the present rudimentary state of human biology we may perhaps divine some of its general features. In a motor image the mind represents prophetically what the body is about to execute: but all images are more or less motor, so that no idea, apparently, can...


      It is no longer the fashion among philosophers to decry art. Either its influence seems to them too slight to excite alarm, or their systems are too lax to subject anything to censure which has the least glamour or ideality about it. Tired, perhaps, of daily resolving the conflict between science and religion, they prefer to assume silently a harmony between morals and art. Moral harmonies, however, are not given; they have to be made. The curse of superstition is that it justifies and protracts their absence by proclaiming their invisible presence. Of course a rational religion could not conflict...


      Dogmatism in matters of taste has the same status as dogmatism in other spheres. It is initially justified by sincerity, being a systematic expression of a man’s preferences; but it becomes absurd when its basis in a particular disposition is ignored and it pretends to have an absolute or metaphysical scope. Reason, with the order which in every region it imposes on life, is grounded on an animal nature and has no other function than to serve the same; and it fails to exercise its office quite as much when it oversteps its bounds and forgets whom it is serving...

    • CHAPTER XI ART AND HAPPINESS (pp. 131-140)

      The greatest enemy harmony can have is a premature settlement in which some essential force is wholly disregarded. This excluded element will rankle in the flesh; it will bring about no end of disorders until it is finally recognised and admitted into a truly comprehensive regimen. The more numerous the interests which a premature settlement combines the greater inertia will it oppose to reform, and the more self-righteously will it condemn the innocent pariah that it leaves outside.

      Art has had to suffer much Pharisaical opposition of this sort. Sometimes political systems, sometimes religious zeal, have excluded it from their...

  7. Chronology of the Life and Work of George Santayana (pp. 141-144)
  8. Appendix Variants to the Text of Reason in Art that appear in the One-Volume Edition of The Life of Reason. (pp. 147-160)
  10. Index (pp. 261-276)