This astonishing volume shows how the potential beauty latent in all sorts of worldly artifacts and events are rooted in differing forms of power and dominion. The work is divided into three major parts: the generative order of society, which covers growth in the jungle, economic arts, and the liberal arts; the militant order of society, which examines factions and enterprise; and the rational order of society, which contains one of the most sustained critiques of democratic systems and liberal ideologies extant.
Written at a midpoint in the century, but at the close of his career, Santayana's volume offers an ominous account of the weakness of the West and its similarities in substance, if not always in form, with totalitarian systems of the East. Few analyses of concepts, such as government by the people, the price of peace and the suppression of warfare, the nature of elites and limits of egalitarianism, and the nature of authority in free societies, are more comprehensive or compelling. This is a carefully rendered statement on tasks of leadership for free societies that take on added meaning after the fall of communism.
The author of a definitive biography of Santayana, John McCormick provides the sort of deep background that makes possible an assessment of "Dominations and Powers. "He permits us to better appreciate the place of this work at the start no less than conclusion of Santayana's long career. For the author of "The Life of Reason "himself admits to having led a life in unreason--deeply impacted by the war of 1914-1918, DEGREESand then again, 1939-1945.
McCormick provides in his opening essay a careful story of Santayana's exile from his Anglo-American homeland, a deeply embittered figure in search of options to annihilation at the military level and an alternative to false and fatuous ideologies at the spiritual level. We know better now how to cope with this profound, yet disturbing classic in political thought.
Santayana derives this practical philosophy from a wide and fascinating variety of sources. He considers critically the positions of such philosophers as Descartes, Euclid, Hume, Kant, Parmenides, Plato, Pythagoras, Schopenhauer, and the Buddhist school as well as the assumptions made by the ordinary man in everyday situations. Such matters as the nature of belief, the rejection of classical idealism, the nature of intuition and memory, symbols and myth, mathematical reality, literary psychology, the discovery of essence, sublimation of animal faith, the implied being of truth, and many others are given detailed analyses in individual chapters.
About the same time he produced his Philosophical Essays , including the famous Essay in Miracles which gave rise to so much controversy. These were followed in 1751 by his Enquiry into the Principles of Morals, which he considered his best work; and in 1752 by his Political Discourses, which alone of his works had an immediate success.
In the same year he applied unsuccessfully for the Chair of Logic in Glasgow, but was appointed Keeper of the Advocates’ Library in Edinburgh. The access to books and original authorities which this position gave him appears to have suggested to his mind the idea of writing a history, and the first vol. of his History of England, containing the reigns of James I. and Charles I., was published in 1754. Its reception was not favourable, and the disappointment of the author was so great that, had it not been for the state of war between the two countries, he would have left his native land, changed his name, and settled permanently in France. The second vol., which appeared in 1757, dealing with the Commonwealth, and the reigns of Charles II. and James II., had a better reception, and had the effect of “buoying up its unfortunate brother.” Thereafter the tide completely turned, and the remaining four vols., 1759 and 1762, in which he turned back and finished the history from the invasion of Julius Cæsar to the accession of Henry VII., attained a vast popularity, which extended to the whole work.
Hume published in 1757 Four Dissertations: the Natural History of Religion; of the Passions; of Tragedy; of the Standard of Taste. Two others on Suicide and on The Immortality of the Soul were cancelled, but published posthumously.
Singer shows how Santayana’s genius consisted in his imaginative ability to turn various types of personal alienation into creative elements that recur throughout his books. Singer points out that Santayana was a professional philosopher who addressed immediate problems of existence, a materialist in philosophy who believed in both a life of spirit and a life of reason, a product of American pragmatism who nevertheless rebelled against it, a Spaniard who wrote only in English, an American author who spent the last forty years of his life in different European countries. Against the grain of most twentieth-century philosophy, Santayana kept in view questions that matter to us all in our search for meaningful and satisfying lives.
The beautiful, according to Burke, comprises that which is well formed and aesthetically pleasing. The sublime, on the other hand, possesses the power to compel and destroy. This distinction bears a noteworthy historical relevance, since the popular preference for the sublime rather than the beautiful indicates the transition from the Neoclassical to the Romantic era. Burke's dissertation is both a precursor of his later political writings and one of the first major works in European literature to explore the concept of the sublime—a topic as fascinating to eighteenth-century thinkers as it is to modern philosophers and critics.
For 70 years, the only unabridged English translation of this work was the Haldane-Kemp collaboration. In 1958, a new translation by E. F. J. Payne appeared that decisively supplanted the older one. Payne's translation is superior because it corrects nearly 1,000 errors and omissions in the Haldane-Kemp translation, and it is based on the definitive 1937 German edition of Schopenhauer's work prepared by Dr. Arthur Hübscher. Payne's edition is the first to translate into English the text's many quotations in half a dozen languages. It is thus the most useful edition for the student or teacher.
In discussing the meaning of life, Bergson considers the order of nature and the form of intelligence, including the geometrical tendency of the intellect, and examines mechanisms of thought and illusion. In addition, he presents a critique of the idea of immutability and the concept of nothingness, from Plato and Aristotle through the evolutionism of his contemporaries.
Bergson's influence on Marcel Proust and other twentieth-century writers renders a grasp of his theories imperative to students of literature as well as philosophy. Historians of science and other readers will also appreciate the importance of this milestone in philosophical and evolutionary thought.