George Santayana was a Spanish-American philosopher and critic who is known for spouting short, memorable expressions of truth, many of which are still used today. We hope you enjoy these George Santayana quotes.
Born in December of 1863 in Spain, Santayana immigrated to the United States when he was a young boy. He would grow up to attend Harvard College and, after completing his doctoral thesis, he became a professor of philosophy there as well.
A novelist, essayist, poet, and philosopher, Santayana became known as one of the greatest philosophical minds of the 20th century. His review on a broad range of subjects combined with his commentary on controversial beliefs and occasionally inconsistent writings left Santayana and his philosophy to be criticized by others as well.
We’ve collected 50 of Santayayan’s most famous quotes below.
Don’t forget to also check out these Paulo Freire quotes from the great educator.
Wise George Santayana quotes and sayings
1. “The wisest mind has something yet to learn.” — George Santayana
2. “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — George Santayana
3. “An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.” — George Santayana
4. “Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are.” — George Santayana
5. “A child educated only at school is an uneducated child.” — George Santayana
6. “To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” — George Santayana
7. “Chaos is a name for any order that produces confusion in our minds.” — George Santayana
8. “Wisdom comes by disillusionment.” — George Santayana
9. “The highest form of vanity is love of fame.” — George Santayana
10. “Habit is stronger than reason.” — George Santayana
11. “Before you contradict an old man, my fair friend, you should endeavor to understand him.” — George Santayana
12. “The passions grafted on wounded pride are the most inveterate; they are green and vigorous in old age.” — George Santayana
13. “Nonsense is so good only because common sense is so limited.” — George Santayana
14. “Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it.” — George Santayana
Famous George Santayana quotes about happiness
15. “Character is the basis of happiness and happiness the sanction of character.” — George Santayana
16. “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.” — George Santayana
17. “Knowledge of what is possible is the beginning of happiness.” — George Santayana
18. “To be happy you must have taken the measure of your powers, tasted the fruits of your passion, and learned your place in the world.” — George Santayana
19. “A string of excited, fugitive, miscellaneous pleasures is not happiness; happiness resides in imaginative reflection and judgment, when the picture of one’s life, or of human life, as it truly has been or is, satisfies the will, and is gladly accepted.” — George Santayana
20. “Depression is rage spread thin.” — George Santayana
21. “It takes patience to appreciate domestic bliss; volatile spirits prefer unhappiness.” — George Santayana
22. “It is always pleasant to be urged to do something on the ground that one can do it well.” — George Santayana
23. “Repetition is the only form of permanence that nature can achieve.” — George Santayana
24. “There is nothing sweeter than to be sympathized with.” — George Santayana
25. “If artists and poets are unhappy, it is after all because happiness does not interest them.” — George Santayana
George Santayana quotes about history, life and death
26. “Only the dead have seen the end of the war.” — George Santayana
27. “For a man who has done his natural duty, death is as natural as sleep.” — George Santayana
28. “It is a revenge the devil sometimes takes upon the virtuous, that he entraps them by the force of the very passion they have suppressed and think themselves superior to.” — George Santayana
29. “The muffled syllables that Nature speaks Fill us with deeper longing for her word; She hides a meaning that the spirit seeks, She makes a sweeter music than is heard.” — George Santayana
30. “Old places and old persons in their turn, when spirit dwells in them, have an intrinsic vitality of which youth is incapable, precisely, the balance and wisdom that come from long perspectives and broad foundations.” — George Santayana
31. “The theatre, for all its artifices, depicts life in a sense more truly than history, because the medium has a kindred movement to that of real life, though an artificial setting and form.” — George Santayana
32. “The dreamer can know no truth, not even about his dream, except by awaking out of it.” — George Santayana
33. “The Soul is the voice of the body’s interests.” — George Santayana
34. “Experience seems to most of us to lead to conclusions, but empiricism has sworn never to draw them.” — George Santayana
35. “All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible.” — George Santayana
36. “We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past; and we must respect the past, remembering that it was once all that was humanly possible.” — George Santayana
Inspirational George Santayana quotes
37. “There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval.” — George Santayana
38. “Love make us poets, and the approach of death should make us philosophers.” — George Santayana
39. “The earth has music for those who listen.” — George Santayana
40. “To feel beauty is a better thing than to understand how we come to feel it. To have imagination and taste, to love the best, to be carried by the contemplation of nature to a vivid faith in the ideal, all this is more, a great deal more, than any science can hope to be.” — George Santayana
41. “The Difficult is that which can be done immediately; the Impossible that which takes a little longer.” — Geroge Santayana
42. “The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.” — George Santayana
George Santayana quotes about society
43. “One’s friends are that part of the human race with which one can be human.” — George Santayana
44. “When men and women agree, it is only in their conclusions; their reasons are always different.” — George Santayana
45. “It is characteristic of spontaneous friendship to take on first, without inquiry and almost, at first sight, the unseen doings and unspoken sentiments of our friends; the parts known give us evidence enough that the unknown parts cannot be much amiss.” — George Santayana
46. “Society is like the air, necessary to breathe but insufficient to live on.” — George Santayana
47. “Perhaps the only true dignity of man is his capacity to despise himself.” — George Santayana
48. “It is veneer, rouge, aestheticism, art museums, new theaters, etc. that make America impotent. The good things are football, kindness, and jazz bands.” — George Santayana
49. “We need sometimes to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.” — George Santayana
50. “Our character … is an omen of our destiny, and the more integrity we have and keep, the simpler and nobler that destiny is likely to be.” — George Santayana
What did you learn from these George Santayana quotes?
George Santayana died in 1952 at the age of 88. Since his death, his legacy has lived on and his writings are still being quoted in the modern-day, though many might not know who they are quoting.
Santayana was famous for writing aphorisms — short, memorable expressions that speak truth or principle. Some of Santayana’s quotes have been repeated so often that they have become cliche. For instance, who hasn’t heard the quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”?
Have you ever quoted Santayana before without knowing it? Which George Santayana quotes and sayings are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.
May 5, 2021 7:00 AM EST