The Sense of Beauty: Being the Outlines of Aesthetic Theory, 1896
Interpretations of Poetry and Religion, 1900
The Life of Reason: Or, The Phases of Human Progress, 1905-1906 (collective title for the following 5 works)
Reason in Common Sense, 1905
Reason in Society, 1905
Reason in Religion, 1905
Reason in Art, 1905
Reason in Science, 1906
Three Philosophical Poets: Lucretius, Dante, and Goethe, 1910
Winds of Doctrine: Studies in Contemporary Opinion, 1913
Egotism in German Philosophy, 1916
Character and Opinion in the United States, 1920
Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies, 1922
Scepticism and Animal Faith, 1923
The Realms of Being, 1927-1940 (collective title for the following 4 works)
The Realm of Essence, 1927
The Realm of Matter, 1930
The Realm of Truth, 1938
The Realm of Spirit, 1940
Persons and Places, 1944 (autobiography)
The Middle Span, 1945 (autobiography)
Dominations and Powers, 1951
My Host the World, 1953 (autobiography)
The Last Puritan: A Memoir in the Form of a Novel, 1935
Lucifer: A Theological Tragedy, pb. 1899
Sonnets and Other Verses, 1894
A Hermit of Carmel, and Other Poems, 1901
The Works of George Santayana, 1986-2001 (5 volumes)
George Santayana (sant-uh-YAHN-uh), whose fame derives from his role as an urbane and skeptical philosopher endowed with an excellent literary style, was born of nominally Catholic parents, Augustín Ruiz de Santayana and Josefine Borráis. He was christened Jorge Augustín Nicholas Ruiz de Santayana y Borráis. Until he was nine years of age, he knew no English, for his parents, although well-educated in the arts, spoke Spanish in the home. In 1872 Santayana’s mother returned to the United States to fulfill an agreement with her former husband, George Sturgis, to educate the three Sturgis children in the United States. In 1872 George Santayana, then nine, joined her and the Sturgis children in Boston. Santayana was educated at the Brimmer School, the Boston Latin School, and Harvard University. In 1883 he returned to Spain to visit his father. Then, since neither military nor diplomatic service seemed advisable, he decided to continue his work at Harvard, where in 1886 he received his B.A. After spending the following two years at the University of Berlin on a fellowship, he then returned to Harvard and in 1889 received the M.A. and Ph.D. in philosophy.
At that time Harvard University was enjoying its greatest philosophical period; on the faculty were William James, Josiah Royce, and George H. Palmer. Although Santayana became a member of the faculty in 1889 and was to some extent naturally influenced by the ideas about him, he remained for the most part solitary and independent in his work. Santayana ascribed his preference for isolation and his inability to feel at home in America to his Spanish-Catholic background. During his twenty-five years of teaching, he had as students a number of individuals who later achieved their own kinds of fame, among them T. S. Eliot, Felix Frankfurter, Robert Frost, and Walter Lippmann. As a Catholic he never felt at home at Harvard, with its American Protestant roots and sensibilities. In fact, he was disenchanted with American life in general and American philosophy in particular, and he expressed his dismay in many of his critical writings.
In 1912, having received a legacy that made it possible for him to retire, Santayana left the faculty at Harvard and returned to Europe, where he spent the remainder of his life. He stayed for a brief time in Spain and France and spent five years in England. Later he settled in Rome, where he felt most at ease as a solitary and contemplative writer of philosophical works and critical essays. During World War II he found sanctuary at the convent of the Little Company of Mary in Rome. There during the last years of his life his work quietly proceeded, interrupted only occasionally by walks and brief talks with such visitors as his friends Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, and Robert Lowell.
Santayana first achieved popular notice with his only novel, The Last Puritan, which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and became a best-seller. Near the end of his life his 1944 autobiography, Persons and Places, became widely read as well. Perhaps his most controversial work was his Interpretations of Poetry and Religion, in which he expressed his conviction that religion is primarily a work of the imagination and of art.
Santayana became a prominent American thinker because he wrote about a wide range of topics in a variety of genres: philosophy, poetry, novels, essays, criticism, and drama. His main contribution, however, was in philosophy. He was interested not in narrow technical aspects of philosophy but, rather, in wider questions of life and death within the old speculative method of deliberation. He was a careful, original, and sometimes illuminating thinker whose primary virtue nevertheless consists in the fine poetic, literary expression of his ideas.
There are inconsistencies in Santayana’s attempt to bring together his materialism, naturalism, and Platonic idealism, inconsistencies sharpened by his personal conviction of being a Roman Catholic and an atheist at the same time. The foundation of his philosophy, however, lies in naturalism and critical realism, and in the view that knowledge is a human construction from the basic elements of experience–observation of the natural world through the senses. It is in this way that human beings are able to see the essence and character of the changeless universe. In his five-volume The Life of Reason and his The Realms of Being Santayana meticulously presents his philosophy of essence, matter, truth, and spirit within the contexts of religion and society.