Context

(Student Guide to World Philosophy)

George Santayana is one of the few philosophers whose writings have a beauty of style that can be appreciated independently of their philosophical worth. Literary ability should not be taken as a substitute for clarity in presenting ideas; but at his best, Santayana had the fortune of combining both well. In this early work, not only does he present a provocative account of aesthetics in what may be called a “naturalistic” vein, but in addition he gives an insight into the development of his later metaphysics and ontology.

The Sense of Beauty is divided into four parts. In the opening part, Santayana discusses the nature of beauty. He points out that the term “aesthetics” originally meant “perception” and that it was associated, by use, with a particular object of perception and its study, that which we call “the beautiful.” This can be put in a different but related manner if we speak of a perceptual quality that we are to analyze; namely, beauty. Here one should remind oneself of words that make use of the “perception” meaning of “aesthetics”; for example, we use the term “kinaesthesis” to refer to a certain sense that our muscles have, and we speak of “anaesthesis” as the loss of our sensations.