The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress

The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress: Reason in Religion, Volume VII, Book Three

Marianne S. Wokeck
Martin A. Coleman
with an Introduction by James Gouinlock
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: CRI - Critical
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress
    Book Description:

    Santayana'sLife of Reason, published in five books from 1905 to 1906, ranks as one of the greatest works in modern philosophical naturalism. Acknowledging the natural material bases of human life, Santayana traces the development of the human capacity for appreciating and cultivating the ideal. It is a capacity he exhibits as he articulates a continuity running through animal impulse, practical intelligence, and ideal harmony in reason, society, art, religion, and science. The work is an exquisitely rendered vision of human life lived sanely. In this third book, Santayana offers a naturalistic interpretation of religion. He believes that religion is ignoble if regarded as a truthful depiction of real beings and events; but regarded as poetry, it might be the greatest source of wisdom. Santayana analyzes four characteristic religious concerns: piety, spirituality, charity, and immortality. He is at his most profound in his discussion of immortality, arguing for an ideal immortality that does not eradicate the fear of death but offers a way for mortal man to share in immortal things and live in a manner that will bestow on his successors the imprint of his soul. This critical edition, volume VII ofThe Works of George Santayana, includes notes, textual commentary, lists of variants and emendations, bibliography, and other tools useful to Santayana scholars. The other four books of the volume includeReason in Common Sense, Reason in Society, Reason in Art, andReason in Science.

    eISBN: 978-0-262-32188-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-lii)

    Santayana’sLife of Reason,published in five volumes, 1905—6, is one of the greatest works in modern philosophical naturalism. it proved to be a major stimulus to the revitalization of philosophy in America, and its value continues today. There is no canonical definition of “philosophical naturalism,” but a workable understanding of the idea is indispensable to an appreciation of Santayana’s achievement. The meanings of naturalism cluster around a certain nucleus, which might seem innocent enough but in historical fact is radical. The core idea is this: Any philosophy that would bring clarity and resource to human existence and fructify...

  5. Table of Contents based on Scribner’s first edition (1905)
    (pp. liii-lviii)
  6. Reason in Religion critical edition text
      (pp. 3-10)

      Experience has repeatedly confirmed that well-known maxim of Bacon’s, that “a little philosophy inclineth man’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men’s minds about to religion.” in every age the most comprehensive thinkers have found in the religion of their time and country something they could accept, interpreting and illustrating that religion so as to give it depth and universal application. Even the heretics and atheists, if they have had profundity, turn out after a while to be forerunners of some new orthodoxy. What they rebel against is a religion alien to their nature; they are atheists only...

      (pp. 11-18)

      We need not impose upon ourselves the endless and repulsive task of describing all the superstitions that have existed in the world. in his impotence and laziness the natural man unites any notion with any other in a loose causal relation. A single instance of juxtaposition, nay, the mere notion and dream of such a combination, will suffice to arouse fear or to prompt experimental action.

      When philosophers have objected to Hume’s account of causation that he gave no sufficient basis for thenecessaryinfluence of cause on effect, they have indulged in a highly artificial supposition. They have assumed...

      (pp. 19-30)

      That fear first created the gods is perhaps as true as anything so brief could be on so great a subject. To recognise an external power it is requisite that we should find the inner stream and tendency of life somehow checked or disturbed; if all went well and acceptably, we should attribute divinity only to ourselves. The external is therefore evil rather than good to early apprehension— a sentiment which still survives in respect to matter; for it takes reflection to conceive that external forces form a necessary environment, creating as well as limiting us, and offering us as...

      (pp. 31-42)

      Primitive thought has the form of poetry and the function of prose. Being thought, it distinguishes objects from the experience that reveals them and it aspires to know things as they are; but being poetical, it attributes to those objects all the qualities which the experience of them contains, and builds them out imaginatively in all directions, without distinguishing what is constant and efficacious in them. This primitive habit of thought survives in mythology, which is an observation of things encumbered with all they can suggest to a dramatic fancy. it is neither conscious poetry nor valid science, but the...

      (pp. 43-50)

      As the Vedas offer a glimpse into the antecedents of Greek mythology, so Hebrew studies open up vistas into the antecedents of Christian dogma. Christianity in its Patristic form was an adaptation of Hebrew religion to the Græco-Roman world, and later, in the Protestant movement, a readaptation of the same to what we may call the Teutonic spirit. in the first adaptation, Hebrew positivism was wonderfully refined, transformed into a religion of redemption, and endowed with a semi-pagan mythology, a pseudo-Platonic metaphysics, and a quasi-Roman organisation. in the second adaptation, Christianity received a new basis and standard in the spontaneous...

      (pp. 51-60)

      Revolutions are ambiguous things. Their success is generally proportionate to their power of adaptation and to the reabsorption within them of what they rebelled against. A thousand reforms have left the world as corrupt as ever, for each successful reform has founded a new institution, and this institution has bred its new and congenial abuses. What is capable of truly purifying the world is not the mere agitation of its elements, but their organisation into a natural body that shall exude what redounds and absorb or generate what is lacking to the perfect expression of its soul.

      Whence fetch this...

      (pp. 61-76)

      The western intellect, in order to accept the gospel, had to sublimate it into a neo-Platonic system of metaphysics. in like manner the western heart had to render Christianity congenial and adequate by a rich infusion of pagan custom and sentiment. This adaptation was more gentle and facile than might be supposed. We are too much inclined to impute an abstract and ideal Christianity to the polyglot souls of early Christians, and to ignore that mysterious and miraculous side of later paganism from which Christian cultus and ritual are chiefly derived. in the third century Christianity and devout paganism were,...

      (pp. 77-88)

      That magic and mythology have no experimental sanction is clear so soon as experience begins to be gathered together with any care. As magic attempts to do work by incantations, so myth tries to attain knowledge by playing with lies. The attempt is in the first instance inevitable and even innocent, for it takes time to discriminate valid from valueless fancies in a mind in which they spring up together, with no intrinsic mark to distinguish them. The idle notion attracts attention no less than the one destined to prove significant; often it pleases more. only watchful eyes and that...

      (pp. 89-106)

      The human spirit has not passed in historical times through a more critical situation or a greater revulsion than that involved in accepting Christianity. Was this event favourable to the life of Reason? Was it a progress in competence, understanding, and happiness? Any absolute answer would be misleading. Christianity did not come to destroy; the ancient springs were dry already, and for two or three centuries unmistakable signs of decadence had appeared in every sphere, not least in that of religion and philosophy. Christianity was a reconstruction out of ruins. in the new world competence could only be indirect, understanding...

      (pp. 107-116)

      Hebraism is a striking example of a religion tending to discard mythology and magic. it was a Hebraising apostle who said that true religion and undefiled was to visit the fatherless and the widow, and do other works of mercy. Although a complete religion can hardly remain without theoretic and ritual expression, we must remember that after all religion has other aspects less conspicuous, perhaps, than its mythology, but often more worthy of respect. if religion be, as we have assumed, an imaginative symbol for the life of Reason, it should contain not only symbolic ideas and rites, but also...

      (pp. 117-128)

      In honouring the sources of life, piety is retrospective. it collects, as it were, food for morality, and fortifies it with natural and historic nutriment. But a digestive and formative principle must exist to assimilate this nutriment; a direction and an ideal have to be imposed on these gathered forces. So that religion has a second and a higher side, which looks to the end toward which we move as piety looks to the conditions of progress and to the sources from which we draw our energies. This aspiring side of religion may be called Spirituality. Spirituality is nobler than...

      (pp. 129-136)

      Those whom a genuine spirituality has freed from the foolish enchantment of words and conventions and brought back to a natural ideal, have still another illusion to vanquish, one into which the very concentration and deepening of their life might lead them. This illusion is that they and their chosen interests alone are important or have a legitimate place in the moral world. Having discovered what is really good for themselves, they assume that the like is good for everybody. Having made a tolerable synthesis and purification of their own natures, they require every other nature to be composed of...

      (pp. 137-148)

      At no point are the two ingredients of religion, superstition and moral truth, more often confused than in the doctrine of immortality, yet in none are they more clearly distinguishable. ideal immortality is a principle revealed to insight; it is seen by observing the eternal quality of ideas and validities, and the affinity to them native to reason or the cognitive energy of mind. A future life, on the contrary, is a matter for faith or presumption; it is a prophetic hypothesis regarding occult existences. This latter question is scientific and empirical, and should be treated as such. A man...

      (pp. 149-162)

      In order to give the will to live frank and direct satisfaction, it would have been necessary to solve the problem of perpetual motion in the animal body, as nature has approximately solved it in the solar system. Nutrition should have continually repaired all waste, so that the cycle of youth and age might have repeated itself yearly in every individual, like summer and winter on the earth. Nor are some hints of such an equilibrium altogether wanting. Convalescence, sudden good fortune, a belated love, and even the April sunshine or morning air, bring about a certain rejuvenescence in man...

      (pp. 163-166)

      The preceding analysis of religion, although it is illustrated mainly by Christianity, may enable us in a general way to distinguish the rational goal of all religious life. in no sphere is the contrast clearer between wisdom and folly; in none, perhaps, has there been so much of both. it was a prodigious delusion to imagine that work could be done by magic; and the desperate appeal which human weakness has made to prayer, to castigations, to miscellaneous fantastic acts, in the hope of thereby bending nature to greater sympathy with human necessities, is a pathetic spectacle; all the more...

  7. Chronology of the Life and Work of George Santayana
    (pp. 167-170)
  8. Appendix List of Variants between Reason in Religion (1905) and The Life of Reason (abridged one-volume edition)
    (pp. 173-188)
  10. Index
    (pp. 313-338)