Santayana’s Ghost


George Santayana was a Spanish-born (Madrid, December 16, 1863), American-educated philosopher who practiced education at Harvard University (died September 26, 1952, in Rome).  In an almost-off-hand comment in a book, he wrote the statement which is this blog’s unofficial motto:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

(The Life of Reason, vol. 1: Reason in Common Sense)

Who or what is Santayana’s Ghost?  It’s the shade of Santayana, watching us, watching those condemned to repeat history as they repeat the bad parts over and over.  The shade smiles when a student learns a valuable lesson from history, and laughs with delight when those lessons find application to prevent further tragedies that could so easily be prevented, if policy makers only made the effort to avoid the errors of the past.

Why does the ghost haunt us?  Because he knows, as Santayana also wrote, “only the dead have seen the end of war.” (Soliloquies in England and Later Soliloquies, number 25 (1922))

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19 Responses to Santayana’s Ghost

  1. […] Santayana’s Ghost wonders if we ever learn from history. […]

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  2. […] Can we learn from this history, for immigration reform now? Santayana’s Ghost wonders. […]

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  3. […] Santayana’s Ghost dines with von Hayek’s Ghost tonight, and they both smile pityingly at those who ignore Krugman and claim to ridicule him while failing to even check out the accuracy of what they thought Krugman said. […]

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  4. […] history repeat itself?  George Santayana said history repeats for those who forget what happened […]

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  5. […] history repeat itself?  George Santayana said history repeats for those who forget what happened […]

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  6. […] don’t much like crude political dysfunction and disinformation from people who don’t know U.S. history, and won’t defend American principles.  Am I being […]

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  7. [...] I wrote about George Santayana’s observation that, “Only the dead have seen the end of war,” I didn’t realize it was a quote with controversy over the [...]

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  8. [...] Santayana’s Ghost looks on, hoping we’ll get the message, remember history, and act accordingly. [...]

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  9. [...] FDR warns about Republican hypocrisy and sarcasm, from 1936 A haunting by Santayana‘s Ghost, on Social Security, unemployment insurance, job training, job creation and budget [...]

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  10. [...] Santayana’s Ghost wonders whether you and I remember history correctly. [...]

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  11. [...] And from our old friend, George Santayana: [...]

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  12. [...] sometimes if the state board races aren’t even more important than your local school board.  Santayana’s Ghost agrees with the sentiments on the TFN logo [...]

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  13. [...] Santayana’s Ghost weeps a bit with joy, with those who know history. Share [...]

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  14. [...] Santayana’s Ghost just dropped by to remind us, suitably the day after Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday anniversary, of the Report of the Commission on Excellence in Education, the report that saved Reagan’s presidency and got him a second term: Our nation is at risk. The educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity. If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. We have, in effect, been committing an act of unthinking, unilateral educational disarmament. History is not kind to idlers. [...]

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  15. Girly says:

    Oh wow, that’s a beautiful quote – “only the dead have seen the end of war”. I’ll think about that all day.

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  16. [...] …followed immediately by reflection on Santayana’s Ghost [...]

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  17. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Alltop Education, Mr. Darrell. Mr. Darrell said: Who was George Santayana, and why should any history student care? Santayana's Ghost: http://t.co/JGyHU3D [...]

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