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The Life of Reason: or the Phases of
Human Progress

I. Introduction akd Reason iw Coumon Sersm

II. Reason in Society

III. Reason in Religiom

IV. Reason in Art

V. Reason in Science

The Sense of Beauty

Interpretations of Poetry and Religion

A Hermit of Carmel and Other Poems

Winds of Doctrine

Character and Opinion in the United

Soliloquies in England and Later


Little Essays Drawn from the Works of
George Santayana. By Logan Pearsall
Smith, with the collaboration of the Author.







^ yap pov ivipyeia fa)?j




COPTfRlOHT, 1905, BY


Printed in the United States of America

Published February, 1905





Fluid existences have none but ideal goals. — Nutrition
and reproduction. — Priority of the latter. — Love cele-
brates the initial triumph of form and is deeply ideal. —
Difficulty in describing love. — One-sided or inverted
theories about it. — Sexual functions its basis. — Structure
the ground of faculty and faculty of duty. — Glory of
animal love. — Its degradation when instincts become
numerous and competitive. — Moral censure provoked. —
The heart alienated from the world. — Childish ideals. — ■
Their light all focussed on the object of love. — Three
environments for love. — Subjectivity of the passion. —
Machinery regulating choice. — The choice unstable. — In-
stinctive essence of love. — Its ideality. — Its universal
scope. — Its euthanasia Pages 3-34



The family arises spontaneously. — It harmonises natural
interests. — Capacity to be educated goes with immaturity
at birth. — The naturally dull achieve intelligence. — It is
more blessed to save than to create. — Parental instinct
regards childhood only. — Handing on the torch of life. —
Adventitious functions assumed by the family. — Inertia
in human nature. — Family tyrannies. — Difficulty in ab-
stracting from the family. — Possibility of substitutes. —
Plato's heroic communism. — Opposite modern tenden-
cies. — Individualism in a sense rational. — The family
tamed. — Possible readjustments and reversions. — The
ideal includes generation. — Inner values already lodged
in this function. — Outward beneficence might be secured
by experiment Pages 35-59




Patriarchal economy. — Origin of the state. — ^Three uses
of civilisation. — Its rationality contingent. — Sources of
wealth. — Excess of it possible. — Irrational industry. — Its
jovial and ingenious side. — Its tyranny. — An impossible
remedy. — Basis of government. — How rationality accrues.
— Ferocious but useful despotisms. — Occasional advantage
of being conquered. — Origin of free governments. — ^Their
democratic tendencies. — Imperial peace. — Nominal and
real status of armies. — Their action irresponsible. — Pug-
nacity human. — Barrack-room philosophy. — Military vir-
tues. — They are splendid vices. — Absolute value in strife.
— Sport a civilised way of preserving it. — Who shaU found
the universal commonwealth? Pages 60-87



Eminence, once existing, grows by its own operation. —
Its causes natural and its privileges just. — Advantage of
inequality. — Fable of the belly and the members. — Fallacy
in it. — Theism expresses better the aristocratic ideal. — A
heaven with many mansions. — If God is defined as the
human ideal, apotheosis the only paradise. — When natures
differ perfections differ too. — Theory that stations actually
correspond to faculty. — Its falsity. — Feeble individuality
the rule. — Sophistical envy. — Inequality is not a griev-
ance ; suffering is. — Mutilation by crowding. — A hint to
optimists. — How aristocracies might do good. — Man adds
wrong to nature's injury. — Conditions of a just inequal-
ity Pages 88-113



Democracy as an end and as a means. — Natural de-
mocracy leads to monarchy. — Artificial democracy is an
extension of privilege. — Ideals and expedients. — Well-
founded distrust of rulers. Yet experts, it rational, would
serve commou interests. — People jealous of eminence. — It


is representative, but subject to decay. — Ancient citizen-
ship a privilege. — Modern democracy industrial. — Dangers
to current civilisation. — Is current civilisation a good? —
Horrors of materialistic democracy. — Timocracy or social-
istic aristocracy. — ^The difficulty the same as in all So-
cialism. — The masses would have to be plebeian in posi-
tion and patrician in feeling. — Organisation for ideal ends
breeds fanaticism. — Public spirit the life of democracy.

Pages 114-136



Primacy of nature over spirit. — All experience at bot-
tom liberal. — Social experience has its ideality too. — The
self an ideal. — Romantic egotism. — Vanity. — Ambiguities
of fame. — Its possible ideality. — Comradeship. — External
conditions of friendship. — Identity in sex required, and
in age. — Constituents of friendship. — Personal liking. —
The refracting human medium for ideas. — Affection based
on the refraction. — The medium must also be trans-
parent. — Common interests indispensable. — Friendship
between man and wife. — Between master and disciple. —
Conflict between ideal and natural allegiance. — Auto-
matic idealisation of heroes Pages 137-159



The creative social environment, since it eludes sense,
must be represented symbolically. — Ambiguous limits of
a native country, geographical and moral. — Sentimental
and political patriotism. — The earth and the race the
first objects of rational loyalty. — Race, when distinct, the
greatest of distinctions. — "Pure" races may be morally
sterile. — True nationality direction on a definite ideal. —
Country well represented by domestic and civic religion. —
Misleading identification of country with government.
— Sporting or belligerent patriotism. — Exclusive patriot-
ism rational only when the government supported is univer-
sally beneficent. — Accidents of birth and training affect
the ideal. — They are conditions and may contribute some-
thing. — ^They are not ends. — The symbol for country may
be a man and may become an idol. — Feudal representa-


tion sensitive but partial. — Monarchical representation
comprehensive but treacherous. — Impersonal symbols no
advantage. — Patriotism not self-interest, save to the social
man whose aims are ideal Pages 160-183



The gregarious instinct all social instincts in suspense.
— It gives rise to conscience or sympathy with the pub-
lic voice. — Guises of public opinion. — Oracles and revela-
tions. — ^The ideal a measure for all existences and no
existence itself. — Contrast between natural and intellect-
ual bonds. — Appeal from man to God, from real to ideal
society. — Significant symbols revert to the concrete. —
Nature a symbol for destiny. — Representative notions
have also inherent values. — Religion and science indirectly
cognitive and directly ideal. — Their opposite outlook. —
In translating existence into human terms they give hu-
man nature its highest exercise. — Science should be mathe-
matical and religion anthropomorphic. — Summary of this
book Pages 184-206




If man were a static or intelligible
jiave being, such as angels are thought to


none but ^e, his life would have a single guid-

1 ea go . ^^^ interest, under which all other
interests would be subsumed. His acts would
explain themselves without looking beyond his
given essence, and his soul would be like a mus-
ical composition, which once written out cannot
grow different and once rendered can ask for
nothing but, at most, to be rendered over again.
In truth, however, man is an animal, a portion
of the natural flux; and the consequence is that
his nature has a moving centre, his functions an
external reference, and his ideal a true ideality.
What he strives to preserve, in preserving himself,
is something which he never has been at any par-
ticular moment. He maintains his equilibrium
by motion. His goal is in a sense beyond him,
since it is not his experience, but a form which all
experience ought to receive. The inmost texture
of his being is propulsive, and there is nothing
more intimately bound up with his success than
mobility and devotion to transcendent aims. If


there is a transitive function in knowledge and
an unselfish purpose in love, that is only because,
at bottom, there is a self-reproductive, flying es-
sence in all existence.

If the equilibrium of man's being were stable
he would need neither nutrition, reproduction, nor
sense. As it is, sense must renew his ideas and
guide his instincts otherwise than as their inner
evolution would demand; and regenerative proc-
esses must strive to repair beneath the constant
irreparable lapse of his substance. His business
is to create and remodel those organisms in which
ideals are bred. In order to have a soul to save
he must perpetually form it anew; he must, so to
speak, earn his oiun living. In this vital labour,
we may ask, is nutrition or reproduction the
deeper function? Or, to put the corresponding
moral question, is the body or the state the pri-
mary good?

Nutrition and ^^ ^'^ "^^^w the situation from the
reproduction, individual's side, as self-consciousness
might view it, we may reply that nutrition is
fundamental, for if the body were not nourished
every faculty would decay. Could nutrition only
succeed and keep the body young, reproduction
would be unnecessary, with its poor pretence at
maintaining the mobile human form in a series
of examples. On the other hand, if we view
the matter from above, as science and philosophy
should, we may say that nutrition is but germina-
tion of a pervasive sort, that the body is a taber-


nacle in which the transmissible human spirit
is carried for a while, a shell for the immortal
seed that dwells in it and has created it. This
seed, however, for rational estimation, is merely
a means to the existence and happiness of indi-
viduals. Transpersonal and continuous in its own
fluid being, the potential grows personal in its
ideal fulfilments. In other words, this potential-
ity is material (though called sometimes an idea)
and has its only value in the particular creatures
it may produce.

Priority of the Reproduction is accordingly pri-
latter, mary and more completely instru-

mental than nutrition is, since it serves a soul
as yet non-existent, while nutrition is useful to
a soul that already has some actuality. Reproduc-
tion initiates life and remains at life's core, a func-
tion without which no other, in the end, would
be possible. It is more central, crucial, and
representative than nutrition, which is in a way
peripheral only; it is a more typical and rudi-
mentary act, marking the ideal's first victory over
the universal flux, before any higher function
than reproduction itself has accrued to the ani-
mal. To nourish an existing being is to presup-
pose a pause in generation; the nucleus, before
it dissolves into other individuals, gathers about
itself, for its own glory, certain temporal and
personal faculties. It lives for itself; while in
procreation it signs its own death-warrant, makes
its will, and institutes its heir.


Loveceie- "^^^^ situation, has its counterpart

brates the ini- in feeling. Eeplenishment is a sort
foraTa^L ° of delayed breathing, as if the animal
deeply ideal had to hunt for air: it necessitates
more activity than it contains; it engages ex-
ternal senses in its service and promotes intelli-
gence. After securing a dumb satisfaction, or
even in preparing it, it leaves the habits it
employed free for observation and ideal exercise.
Eeproduction, on the contrary, depletes; it is an
expense of spirit, a drag on physical and mental
life; it entangles rather than liberates; it fuses
the soul again into the impersonal, blind flux.
Yet, since it constitutes the primary and central
triumph of life, it is in itself more ideal and
generous than nutrition; it fascinates the will in
an absolute fashion, and the pleasures it brings
are largely spiritual. For though the instru-
mentalities of reproduction may seem gross and
trivial from a conventional point of view, its es-
sence is really ideal, the perfect type, indeed, of
ideality, since form and an identical life are
therein sustained successfully by a more rhyth-
mical flux of matter.

It may seem fanciful, even if not unmeaning,
to say that a man's soul more truly survives in his
son's youth than in his own decrepitude; but this
principle grows more obvious as we descend to
simpler beings, in which individual life is less
elaborated and has not intrenched itself in so
many adventitious and somewhat permanent or-


gans. In vegetables soul and seed go forth to-
gether and leave nothing but a husk behind. In
the human individual love may seem a mere inci-
dent of youth and a sentimental madness; but
that episode, if we consider the race, is indis-
pensable to the whole drama; and if we look to
the order in which ideal interests have grown
up and to their superposition in moral experience,
love will seem the truly primitive and initiatory
passion. Consciousness, amused ordinarily by the
most superficial processes, itself bears witness to
the underlying claims of reproduction and is drawn
by it for a moment into life's central vortex; and
love, while it betrays its deep roots by the im-
perative force it exerts and the silence it imposes
on all current passions, betrays also its ideal mis-
sion by casting an altogether novel and poetic spell
over the mind.

Difficulty in The conscious quality of this pas-

describing love, sion differs SO much in various races
and individuals, and at various points in the
same life, that no account of it will ever satisfy
everybody.* Poets and novelists never tire of

* The wide uses of the English word love add to the diffi-
culty. I shall take the liberty of limiting the term here to
imaginative passion, to being in love, excluding all other
ways of loving. It follows that love — like its shadow, jeal-
ousy — will often be merely an ingredient in an actual state
of feeling; friendship and confidence, with satisfaction at
being liked in return, will often be mingled with it. We
shall have to sep»rate physiologically things which in con-
sciousnesa exist uadiridtd, since a philosophic description is


depicting it anew; but although the experience
they tell of is fresh and unparalleled in every
individual, their rendering suffers, on the whole,
from a great monotony. Love's gesture and symp-
toms are noted and unvarying; its vocabulary
is poor and worn. Even a poet, therefore, can
give of love but a meagre expression, while the
philosopher, who renounces dramatic representa-
tion, is condemned to be avowedly inadequate.
Love, to the lover, is a noble and immense in-
spiration; to the naturalist it is a thin veil and
prelude to the self-assertion of lust. This opposi-
tion has prevented philosophers from doing jus-
tice to the subject. Two things need to be ad-
mitted by anyone who would not go wholly astray
in such speculation: one, that love has an animal
basis ; the other, that it has an ideal object. Since
these two propositions have usually been thought
contradictory, no writer has ventured to present
more than half the truth, and that half out of its
true relations.

Plato, who gave eloquent eipres-
inverted the- sion to the ideal burden of the pas-
ones about It g^Qjj^ Qj^^ divined its political and cos-
mic message, passed over its natural history with
a few mythical fancies; and Schopenhauer, into

bound to be analytic and cannot render everything at once.
Where a poet might conceive a new composite, making it
live, a moralist must dissect the experience and rest in its
eternal elements.


whose system a naturalistic treatment would have
fitted so easily, allowed his metaphysics to carry
him at this point into verbal inanities; while, of
course, like all profane writers on the subject,
he failed to appreciate the oracles which Plato
had delivered. In popular feeling, where senti-
ment and observation must both make themselves
felt somehow or other, the tendency is to imagine
that love is an absolute, non-natural energy which,
for some unknown reason, or for none at all,
lights upon particular persons, and rests there
eternally, as on its ultimate goal. In other
words, it makes the origin of love divine and its
object natural: which is the exact opposite of the
truth. If it were once seen, however, that every
ideal expresses some natural function, and that
no natural function is incapable, in its free exer-
cise, of evolving some ideal and finding justifica-
tion, not in some collateral animal, but in an in-
herent operation like life or thought, which being
transmissible in its form is also eternal, then
the philosophy of love should not prove perma-
nently barren. For love is a brilliant illustration
of a principle everywhere discoverable : namely,
that human reason lives by turning the friction
of material forces into the light of ideal goods.
There can be no philosophic interest in disguis-
ing the animal basis of love, or in denying its
spiritual sublimations, since all life is animal in
its origin and all spiritual in its possible fruits.


Sexual func- Plastic matter, in transmitting its
tions its basis, organisation, takes various courses
which it is the part of natural history to de-
scribe. Even after reproduction has become sex-
ual, it will offer no basis for love if it does not
require a union of the two parent bodies. Did
germinal substances, unconsciously diffused, meet
by chance in the external medium and unite
there, it is obvious that whatever obsessions or
pleasures maturity might bring they would not
have the quality which men call love. But when
an individual of the opposite sex must be met
with, recognised, and pursued, and must prove
responsive, then each is haunted by the possible
other. Each feels in a generic way the presence
and attraction of his fellows ; he vibrates to their
touch, he dreams of their image, he is restless
and wistful if alone. When the vague need that
solicits him is met by the presence of a possible
mate it is extraordinarily kindled. Then, if it
reaches fruition, it subsides immediately, and
after an interval, perhaps, of stupor and vital
recuperation, the animal regains his independ-
ence, his peace, and his impartial curiosity. You
might think him on the way to becoming intelli-
gent; but the renewed nutrition and cravings of
the sexual machinery soon engross his attention
again; all his sprightly indifference vanishes be-
fore nature's categorical imperative. That fierce
and turbid pleasure, by which his obedience is
rewarded, hastens his dissolution; every day the


ensuing lassitude and emptiness give him a
clearer premonition of death. It is not figura-
tively only that his soul has passed into his off-
spring. The vocation to produce them was a
chief part of his being, and when that function
is sufficiently fulfilled he is superfluous in the
world and becomes partly superfluous even to
himself. The confines of his dream are narrowed.
He moves apathetically and dies forlorn.

Some echo of the vital rhythm which pervades
not merely the generations of animals, but the
seasons and the stars, emerges sometimes in con-
sciousness ; on reaching the tropics in the mortal
ecliptic, which the human individual may touch
many times without much change in his outer
fortunes, the soul may occasionally divine that it
is passing through a supreme crisis. Passion,
when vehement, may bring atavistic sentiments.
When love is absolute it feels a profound impulse
to welcome death, and even, by a transcendental
confusion, to invoke the end of the universe.*
The human soul reverts at such a moment to
what an ephemeral insect might feel, buzzing till
it finds its mate in the noon. Its whole destiny

* One example, among a thousand, is the cry of Siegfried
and Briinhilde in Wagner :

Lachend lass' uns verderben
Lachend zu Grundc gch'n.
Fahr bin, Walhall's
Leuchtende Welt ! . . .
Leb' wobl, pragende
Gotter Pracbt !
Ende in Wonne,
Du ewig Geschlccht I


was wooing, and, that mission accomplished, it
sings its Nunc dimittis, renouncing heartily all
irrelevant things, now that the one fated and all-
satisfying good has been achieved. Where pa-
rental instincts exist also, nature soon shifts her
loom: a milder impulse succeeds, and a satisfac-
tion of a gentler sort follows in the birth of chil-
dren. The transcendental illusion is here cor-
rected, and it is seen that the extinction the
lovers had accepted needed not to be complete.
The death they welcomed was not without its
little resurrection. The feeble worm they had
generated bore their immortality within it.

The varieties of sexual economy are many and
to each may correspond, for all we know, a spe-
cial sentiment. Sometimes the union established
is intermittent; sometimes it crowns the end of
life and dissolves it altogether; sometimes it
remains, while it lasts, monogamous; sometimes
the sexual and social alertness is constant in the
male, only periodic in the female. Sometimes
the group established for procreation endures
throughout the seasons, and from year to year;
sometimes the males herd together, as if nor-
mally they preferred their own society, until the
time of rut comes, when war arises between them
for the possession of what they have just dis-
covered to be the fair.

structure the A naturalist not ashamed to in-
StTaJd'fic-" dulge his poetic imagination might
uity of duty, easily paint for us the drama of these


diverse loves. It suffices for our purpose to ob-
serve that the varying passions and duties which
life can contain depend upon the organic func-
tions of the animal. A fish incapable of coi-
tion, absolved from all care for its young, which
it never sees or never distinguishes from the
casual swimmers darting across its path, such a
fish, being without social faculties or calls to co-
operation, cannot have the instincts, perceptions,
or emotions whicli belong to social beings. A
male of some higher species that feels only once
a year the sudden solicitations of love cannot
be sentimental in all the four seasons: his head-
long passion, exhausted upon its present object
and dismissed at once without remainder, leaves
his senses perfectly free and colourless to scru-
tinise his residual world. Whatever further fears
or desires may haunt him will have nothing
mystical or sentimental about tliem. He will
be a man of business all the year round, and
a lover only on May-day. A female that does
not suffice for the rearing of her young will ex-
pect and normally receive her mate's aid long
after the pleasures of love are forgotten by him.
Disinterested fidelity on his part will then be her
right and his duty. But a female that, once preg-
nant, needs, like the hen, no further co-operation
on the male's part will turn from him at once with
absolute indifference to brood perpetually on her
eggs, undisturbed by the least sense of solitude
or jealousy. And the chicks that at first follow


her and find shelter under her wings will soon be
forgotten also and relegated to the mechanical
landscape. There is no pain in the timely snap^
plug of the dearest bonds where society has not
become a permanent organism, and perpetual
friendship is not one of its possible modes.

Transcendent and ideal passions may well
judge themselves to have an incomparable dignity.
Yet that dignity is hardly more than what every
passion, were it articulate, would assign to itself
and to its objects. The dumbness of a passion

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