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Notes from Chapter 12 – Section 4

– He had a complicated relationship with the United States because even though he had a major impact on American thought for 40 years, he still clung to Spanish ancestry first and saw America/English ideas through “aesthetic Catholicism with skepticism”

– His novels showed a depth of conservative thinking and ideas few outsiders could attain – even Tocqueville

– Even with a focus on materialism, Santayana’s conservative ideals overcame that

“Yet Santayana’s metaphysics, though at odds with dualism, repudiates the common sort of mechanism, exposes the egoism of the Idealists, and, with a good-natured nudge, consigns James’ pragmatism to the nursery.” (443-444)

– He had a Hellenistic view and agreed with Plato that practical knowledge is mythical but knowledge of ideas is exacting and literal but could not commit to the dualism of man

“‘To double the world would unspirtualize the spiritual sphere; to double the truth would make both truths halting and false. There is only one world, the natural world, and only one truth about it; but this world has a spiritual life possible in it, which looks not to another world but to the beauty and perfection that this world suggests, approaches, and misses.’” (444)

– His view were a naturalistic view – Spirit is only in matter

– A “divine purpose” only comes through natural means – “nothing is immortal”

– Religion is not something to renounce but serves as a creation of hope/ignorance to guide but cannot be fully grasped

– He can be seen as a philosopher in the same light as Stilbo – even in the chaos of change, he retains his self and is able to look upon “the immense variety of character and phenomenon” and be sustained

“Beneath this generous tolerance, however, Santayana adheres to a firm and haughty standard for judging dominations and powers: a good society is beautiful, a bad society ugly. Upon this ground, he builds his conservatism and his condemnation of the direction modern life has taken.” (445)

– He could see the monopolist like Rockefeller and the collectivist like Marx in the same light

– Both sought the devaluing of the individual to the point of their ability to function within the utilitarian utopia

– Captialism – when seen through the light of “triumph of the cheapest” is just the domination of a force over men and society

– He recounts a conversation he had with Rockefeller where he mentioned the population of Spain and Rockefeller could only reply with “‘they don’t sell enough oil in Spain’” and in that moment he saw the “ideal of the monopolist” that mankind will be perfected in their consumption of goods as determined by an administrative state

“This utilitarian utopia, prophesied by Henry and Brooks Adams as the triumph of the cheapest, starves the realm of spirit and the real of art as no other domination can. The culmination of liberalism, the fulfillment of the aspirations of Bentham and Mill, and of the French and American democratic spokesmen, it is also the completion of capitalism. It is communism, Rockefeller and Marx were merely two agents of the same social force – an appetite cruelly inimical to human individuation, by which man has struggled up to reason and art.” (445)

Notes and Quotes from George Santayana

– For over 50 years Santayana defended the notions of conserving social harmony and tradition and was contemptuous of the innovation in the name of efficiency and uniformity which “despoils the world”

  • Reason in Society
  • Domination and Powers

– Individualism is the ideal state of man

– A state of industrializing force that seeks to subdue the individual, is to be despised

Democracy can grow an individual but soon democracy joins forces with industry and forgets the real aim of society – to let life and art flourish

“‘That comfortable liberal world was like a great tree with the trunk already sawed quite through, but still standing with all its leaves quietly rustling, and with us dozing under its shade. We were inexpressibly surprised when it fell and half crushed us; some of us are talking of setting it up again safely on its severed roots.’” (446)

– Liberalism has shifted from liberty to control of property, trade, work, amusement, education, and religion

“‘The philanthropist are now preparing an absolute subjection of the individual, in soul and body, to the instincts of the majority – the most cruel and unprogressive of masters; and I am not sure that the liberal maxim, ‘the greatest happiness of the greatest number,’ has not lost whatever idleness of the largest possible population.’” (446-447)

– Liberalism is a shallow rooted ideology which just feasts on what is built by previous generations

– It transitioned Christendom/aristocracy into collectivist ideology when the generations changed

– Great world events disproved Liberalism in those paying attention

“‘The Irony of Liberalism,’ included in Soliloquies in England, is a funeral sermon over the aspirations of Bentham and Cobden and J.S. Mill” (447)

“Modern liberalism – though the ancients knew better – wanted to enjoy both liberty and prosperity simultaneously. Prosperity involving subjection to things, however, soon it appears that the real love of the liberals is not for liberty, but for progress; and by ‘progress’ the liberals mean expansion.” (447)

“‘If you refuse to move in the prescribed direction, you are not simply different, you are arrested and perverse. The savage must not remain a savage, nor the nun a nun, and China must not keep its wall.’” (447)

“But logically, the application of liberal doctrines would lead to a Nietzschean world, if anywhere, and no one who has tasted the actual liberal system seems to like it; for if it represses its Nietzschean squint, it turns out dismally hollow. Even for the rich, a liberal system is an agony of doubt and hesitation.” (447)

– Liberals overthrew Christendom/aristocracy for a lie of “happy freedom” on the other side

– Discouragement is rampant when life’s aim is to imitate the rich and opportunity is always available because the average man won’t enjoy his talent but strive for more material wealth and burn out to exhaustion and boredom

“‘Liberalism has merely cleared a field in which every soul and every corporate interest may fight with every other for domination. Whoever is victorious in this struggle will make an end of liberalism; and the new order, which will deem itself saved, will have to defend itself in the following age against a new crop of rebels.’ The present-day liberal, become an advocate of the tyranny of the state in every field, offers as an apology his intention of freeing the people. ‘But of freeing the people from what? From consequences of freedom.’” (448)

Notes and Quotes from George Santayana

– Industrial liberalism upset Santayana greatly because it reduces civilization to a cheap product

– Men get reduced down to numbers, rather than individuals, and live as “Burke’s flies of summer”

“Liberalism ‘had enabled mankind to grow far more numerous and more exacting in its standard of living; it had multiplied instruments for saving time and labour; but paradoxically had rendered life more hurried than ever before and labour more monotonous and in itself less rewarding. The people had been freed politically and nominally by being given the vote, and enslaved economically in being herded in droves under anonymous employers and self-imposing labour leaders. Meanwhile the liberal rich, who had expected to grow richer and did so when individually enterprising, became poorer and idler as a class, and more obviously withdrawn from the aristocratic leisure, sports, and benevolent social and intellectual leadership which they had supposed themselves fitted for. Nothing was rationalized by the liberal regime except the mechanism of production. Society meantime had been unhinged, and rendered desperate, and governments had been either incapacitated by intellectual impotence or turned into party tyrannies.’” (449)

Liberals thought they could concede to the Will of the reformer and eventually be left with the “best” of old ways and traditions

– A reformer’s ego can never be satisfied so reform must never stop and no peace can live in society

– The consequence of the reformer’s ego is that everything they want total destruction

“‘The concupiscence [lust] of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life exhaust and kill the sweets they feed upon; and a lava-wave of primitive blindness and violence must perhaps rise from below to lay the foundations for something differently human and similarly transient.’” (449-450)

– His contemporary reformer discussed uniformity as “freedom” in Russia and America

– Russian method was compulsion and illusion of “be like Stalin

– American method was “contagion and attraction” to “adjust to the group” as Dewey wanted

– Both reformer types sought “sheep-le” like nations

“A militant demand for unanimity leads to a society hypnotized by the statistical psychologist, the strings and wires of the human psyche in his hands, and he commissioned to pull them. His subjects are the proletariat, ‘an ugly modern word for an ugly thing,’ a vast crowd of exiles in their own country, who have nothing in common but the mere physical and vital powers of man, whatever traces of civilization linger among them rapidly dying in their nondescript and unsettled society. They have no art, no religion, no friends, no prospects; work for them is an evil, so that their chief effort is to diminish work and increase wages. This endeavor failing in the long run (for they multiply like wild animals), proletarians become equal in one thing, certainly: in their misery.” (450)

– This will eventually fail because even those tasked to run the society – administrators and statisticians – lack imagination from a poor education

– He illustrates the reformers cursed mission with Cyrus Whittle in The Last Puritan

– He wants to wipe everything away but fails to see/ask what it will be replaced with – his religion is seeking the approval of others to be seen as a reformer in good standing

– 1920 – Character and Opinion in the United States

– He sees that the old Yankee is replaced by a cocky upstart

– Social radicals will win out but the American spirit of toughness and individualism will need to be broken to succumb to the coddling socialist state

– America was built by radicals so it seems only fitting that radicals would bring it down too

“The tradition of English and American liberties (which are a world away from ‘absolute liberty’) now struggles against ‘an international democracy of the disinherited many, led by the disinherited few,’ that ‘would abolish those private interests which are the factors in any cooperation, and would reduce everybody to forced membership and forced service in one universal flock, without property, family, country or religion.’” (451)

– America has turned materialism and production into a religion, one that doesn’t enable the mind but creates a slave like force – but the slaves or proletariat – are the one running the state

“The lover of reason and beauty will contend against a brutal mechanized monotony with all his powers; and conceivably he may so modify any domination that in some measure nobility of mind will endure under the yoke.” (452)

  • Kirk, Russell. The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot – Seventh Revised Edition. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing Inc., 2001

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