Thursday, 14 February 2013

An honest myth


Santayana was a literary philosopher in that he believed there are subtle and ultimately unfathomable aspects of human life which are best approached in a literary way. I'm sure he was right.

Here he is on the exquisitely complex threads spun from even the simplest question. I don't know how many people spot themselves doing this, but I'm certainly one of them.

How much do I know about my own animation? How much is too fluid to be caught in the sieve of memory, and to be officially assimilated in verbal soliloquy? 

When any one asks me what I think of the weather or of the Prime Minister, does my answer report anything that I have previously thought ? Probably not ; my past impressions are lost, or obliterated by the very question put to me ; and I make bold to invent, on the spur of the moment, a myth about my sentiments on the subject.

Whereupon I may proceed laboriously to create and modulate my opinion, groping perhaps to a final epigram, which I say expresses just what I think, although I never thought it before.

Such is my discourse when I am really thinking ; at other times it is but the echo of language which I remember to have formerly used, and therefore call my ideas. It is clear therefore that even in expressing my own mind when I conceive what I have felt, I have never really felt just that before. My report is an honest myth.


George Santayana - Scepticism and Animal Faith


To my mind, this leads us back to the famous ancient Greek dictum know thyself.

In being open to influences we risk vacillation, but the alternative is a dogmatic personal philosophy which fails to offer the deep spiritual satisfaction of fitting new aspects to old problems.  

2 comments:

James Higham said...

In being open to influences we risk vacillation, but the alternative is a dogmatic personal philosophy which fails to offer the deep spiritual satisfaction of fitting new aspects to old problems.

And knowing precisely where to pitch it is the issue.

A K Haart said...

James - yes it is. It's why I read a range of blogs, although admittedly not a particularly wide range.