Santayana, Pragmatism, and the Spiritual Life

By Henry Samuel Levinson | Go to book overview

5
A PRAGMATIC LIFE OF REASON

The Age of Interpretation

Hermes the interpreter does not figure in The Life of Reason, because Santayana is not ready to give up Platonic spiritualization or its background assumptions; he will not embrace Hermesan understanding as a spiritual ideal until the Great War. But "interpretation" is now Santayana's philosophical signature. The Life of Reason, indeed, is an effort to charter the idea that philosophy is interpretation; it is Santayana's bid to win people over to the startling assertion that opens up the five volume work: "The age of controversy is past, that of interpretation has succeeded" ( LR, 1:32). What Santayana has in mind is a reprise of claims he has already made in his work on Lotze, the sense of beauty, and the essays constituting Interpretations of Poetry and Religion. Transcendental philosophy is a dead option. The philosopher's task, as Lotze had maintained, is "mediation" among a diversity of parties to cultural dispute, including common sense, social thought, religion, art, and science. But contrary to Lotze, Santayana argues that there should be genuine give-and-take among those communicants. No one of them holds veto power over all the others; nor does philosophy reveal any "special knowledge" authorizing this or that cultural hierarchy. On the contrary, diverse claims are authorized by the "representative" weight they carry, that is, by the extent to which they are "favorable to all other interests and [are] in turn supported by them all" ( "WA?", 35). In this vein, he says that "our task is not to construct but only to interpret ideals, confronting them with one another and with the conditions

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Santayana, Pragmatism, and the Spiritual Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • 1 - Pragmatic Naturalism and the Spiritual Life 3
  • 2 - Grace and Law 20
  • 3 - Wistful Materialism and the Sense of Beauty 52
  • 4 - Poetic Religion 87
  • 5 - A Pragmatic Life of Reason 119
  • 6 - Festive Criticism 164
  • 7 - Comic Faith 205
  • 8 - Strong Liberal Democracy and Spiritual Life 249
  • EPILOGUE 285
  • Notes 305
  • Bibliography 321
  • Index 331
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