Character & Opinion in the United States: With Reminiscences of William James and Josiah Royce and Academic Life in America

Front Cover
C. Scribner's Sons, 1921 - National characteristics, American - 233 pages

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 168 - To be an American is of itself almost a moral condition, an education, and a career. Hence a single ideal figment can cover a large part of what each American is in his character, and almost the whole of what most Americans are in their social outlook and political judgments.
Page 188 - To be poor in order to be simple, to produce less, in order that the product may be more choice and beautiful, and may leave us less burdened with unnecessary duties and useless possessions — that is an ideal not articulate in the American mind; yet here and there I seem to have heard a sigh after it, a groan at the perpetual incubus of business and shrill society.
Page 94 - A prophet is not without honor save in his own country; and until the return wave of James's reputation reached America from Europe, his pupils and friends were hardly aware that he was such a distinguished man. . . . He was a sort of Irishman among the Brahmins, and seemed hardly imposing enough for a great man.
Page 168 - The discovery of the new world exercised a sort of selection among the inhabitants of Europe. All the colonists, except the negroes, were voluntary exiles. The fortunate, the deeply rooted, and the lazy remained at home ; the wilder instincts or dissatisfaction of others tempted them beyond the horizon. The American is accordingly the most adventurous, or the descendant of the most adventurous, of Europeans.
Page 209 - The American's preoccupation with quantitative standards, his insistence upon conformity, are ominous for the future. "America is all one prairie, swept by a universal tornado. Although it has always thought itself in an eminent sense the land of freedom, even when it was covered with slaves, there is no country in which people live under more overpowering compulsions.
Page 85 - But what is a good life? Had William James, had the people about him, had modern philosophers anywhere, any notion of that? I cannot think so. They had much experience of personal goodness, and love of it ; they had standards of character and right conduct; but as to what might render human existence good, excellent, beautiful, happy, and worth having as a whole, their notions were utterly thin and barbarous. They had forgotten the Greeks, or never known them.
Page 187 - Here I think we may perceive that this love of quantity often has a silent partner, which is diffidence as to quality. The democratic conscience recoils before anything that savours of privilege; and lest it should concede an unmerited privilege to any pursuit or person, it reduces all things as far as possible to the common denominator of quantity. Numbers cannot lie: but if it came to comparing the ideal beauties of philosophy with those of Anglo-Saxon, who should decide? All studies are good—...
Page 70 - All our opinions were born free and equal, all children of the Lord, and if they were not consistent that was the Lord's business, not theirs. In reality, James was consistent enough, as even Emerson (more extreme in this sort of irresponsibility) was too. Inspiration has its limits, sometimes very narrow ones. But James was not consecutive, not insistent; he turned to a subject afresh, without egotism or pedantry ; he dropped his old points, sometimes very good ones ; and he modestly looked for...
Page 82 - I think it would have depressed him if he had had to confess that any important question was finally settled. He would still have hoped that something might tum up on the other side, and that just as the scientific hangman was about to dispatch the poor convicted prisoner, an unexpected witness would ride up in hot haste, and prove him innocent.
Page 171 - If it were given me to look into the depths of a man's heart, and I did not find goodwill at the bottom, I should say without any hesitation, You are not an American. But as the American is an individualist his goodwill is not officious. His instinct is to think well of everybody, and to wish everybody well, but in a spirit of rough comradeship, expecting every man to stand on his own legs and to be helpful in his turn.

About the author (1921)

A gentle philosopher-poet, born and reared in Spain, educated at Harvard University and later professor of philosophy there, George Santayana resided in England, France, and Italy after 1914. At the beginning of World War II, he entered the nursing home in Rome managed by nuns known as the Blue Sisters and remained there until his death. His last book, The Poet's Testament (1953), contains a few unpublished lyrics, several translations, and two plays in blank verse. The title comes from the poem read at his funeral, which begins: "I give back to the earth what the earth gave/All to the furrow, nothing to the grave." Santayana wrote philosophy in an inimitable prose, enriched with imagery and metaphor. His meanings were always complex and often ironic. In this style, so untypical of the professionalized philosophy common in the English-speaking world during his lifetime, Santayana nevertheless articulated an epistemological critical realism and an ontology of essence and matter that drew the attention and admiration of philosophers and scholars. His first published philosophical book, The Sense of Beauty (1896), was an important contribution in aesthetics, a classic text that is still in use. His multivolume work The Life of Reason expresses his naturalistic philosophy of history and culture. It states the essence of his attitude toward nature, life, and society. Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923) presents his theory of knowledge and also serves as an introduction to his system of philosophy, Realms of Being (1927--40). The titles of the separate volumes of this remarkable work, now out of print, reveal the lineaments of his system: Realm of Essence (1927), Realm of Matter (1930), Realm of Truth (1937), and Realm of Spirit (1940). His ideas were "popularized" in his only novel, The Last Puritan, which became a surprise bestseller overnight. According to the New York Times, "He came into a changing American scene with a whole group of concepts that enormously enriched our thinking. He gave a moving vitality to what had often been obscure abstractions . . . he made the whole relationship of reason and beauty, each to the other, come alive and stay alive." Although Santayana's Complete Poems (1975) is out of print, several volumes of his poetry are available and are listed below. Publication of The Complete Works of George Santayana, under the general editorship of Herman J. Saatkamp, Jr., is in progress. Conforming to the guidelines of a critical edition, The Complete Works is a long-range multivolume project of which a few volumes have already appeared to critical acclaim.

Bibliographic information