George Santayana

On this date in 1863, philosopher George Santayana was born in Madrid, Spain, where he was schooled in Roman Catholicism before immigrating with his parents to the United States at age nine in 1872. Santayana earned a Ph.D in philosophy at Harvard University in 1886 and joined the faculty from 1889 until 1912. His first book was Sonnets and Other Verses (1894), followed by his eloquent philosophical works: The Sense of Beauty (1896), The Life of Reason (1905-6), Skepticism and Animal Faith (1923), and the 4-volume The Realms of Being (1927-1940). Santayana wrote one novel, The Last Puritan (1935), which proved popular. His final work was Domination and Power (1951). He resigned from Harvard to travel abroad and never returned to the United States. He lived a secluded life and died in Rome at age 88. "My atheism, like that of Spinoza, is true piety toward the universe and denies only gods fashioned by men in their own image, to be servants of their human interests." "On My Friendly Critics," Soliloquies in England (1922). "We should have to abandon our vested illusions, our irrational religions and patriotisms," he wrote in The Life of Reason: Reason in Art (1906). "The fact of having been born is a bad augury for immortality," Santayana quipped in The Life of Reason. "Wisdom comes from disillusionment," he wrote in Reason in Common Sense. He sagely observed in Reason in Religion: "What religion a man shall have is a historical accident, quite as much as what language he shall speak." "That fear first created the gods is perhaps as true as anything so brief could be on so great a subject," he wrote in Reason and Common Sense. D. 1952.

"No religion has ever given a picture of deity which men could have imitated without the grossest immorality."

—George Santayana, Little Essays, No. 24, "Pathetic Notions of God"

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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