Chapter 23. "Beauty as Intrinsic Pleasure" by George Santayana

Table of Contents
Ideas of Interest from The Sense of Beauty
The Reading Selection from The Sense of Beauty
Related Ideas
Topics Worth Investigating

George Santayana adapted from

About the author …

George Santayana (1863-1952) spent the first nine years of his life in Madrid, the next forty years in Boston, and the last forty journeying in Europe. His early schooling was at the Boston Latin School, and later he studied at Harvard College. As a student of William James and Josiah Royce, he intently studied the work of C.S. Peirce; nevertheless, Santayana's pragmatic naturalism has a European perspective and a deference to the works of Plato and Aristotle. His focus on artistic imagination sets his philosophy apart from other Classic American Philosophers.

About the work …

The Sense of Beauty, [1] Santayana's first book in philosophy, is a naturalistic study of ęsthetics based upon his Harvard lectures—an unusual topic for a concentrated study at the time. Beauty for Santayana is a quality of experience which originates from the intrinsic emotional interest in perception and is not a derivative quality from the perceptual process. The conditions of beauty are of material (sensation), or of form (measure), or of expression (association). In sum, Santayana describes beauty as "pleasure objectified", or, perhaps as he better expresses it, beauty is "pleasure regarded as the quality of a thing." Santayana sought to explain ęsthetic theory as a type of psychological inquiry of human nature from a biological point of view. Ęsthetics, itself, involves a kind of critical perception, for beauty does not exist independently of our perception of the world. For Santayana, ęsthetic value stands to moral value as work does to play.

Ideas of Interest from The Sense of Beauty

  1. Explain what Santayana means when he concludes that ęsthetics is concerned with the perception of values.

  2. What is the source of value in the world? What is the meaning of Spinoza's dictum which Santayana expresses as " [W]e desire nothing because it is good, but it is good only because we desire it"?

  3. How does Santayana distinguish between the subjects of science and art?

  4. What two factors does Santayana draw on to explicate the difference between ęsthetic and moral values? What does he mean when he writes ęsthetic sensitiveness is "the ęsthetic demand for the morally good, and perhaps the finest flower of human nature"?

  5. What is the distinction between pleasure and the sense of beauty, according to Santayana?

  6. Two what extent does Santayana believe that ęsthetic pleasures are ends-in-themselves and not as a means to something else?

  7. What, according to Spinoza, is the source of the mistaken belief that ęsthetic judgments are universal?

  8. Thoroughly explain Santayana's definition of beauty in terms of its value being positive, intrinsic, and objectified.



George Santayana. The Sense of Beauty. New York, Scribner's. 1896.