The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy and Character and Opinion in the United States

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This book brings together two seminal works by George Santayana, one of the most significant philosophers of the twentieth century: Character and Opinion in the United States, which stands with Tocqueville’s Democracy in America as one the most insightful works of American cultural criticism ever written, and “The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy,” a landmark text of both philosophical analysis and cultural criticism.

An introduction by James Seaton situates Santayana in the intellectual and cultural context of his own time. Four additional essays include John Lachs on the ways Santayana’s understanding of “the soul of America” help explain the relative peace among nationalities and ethnic groups in the United States; Wilfred M. McClay on Santayana’s life of the mind as it relates to dominant trends in American culture; Roger Kimball on Santayana’s “most uncommon benefice, common sense”; and James Seaton on Santayana’s distinction between “English liberty” and “fierce liberty.” All the essays serve to highlight the relevance of Santayana’s ideas to current issues in American culture, including education, immigration, and civil rights.

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Editorial Reviews

John Paul Russo
“Santayana’s comments on American culture include invaluable observations about the pressure to conform in democracies, the vitality and youthful outlook of American society, the importance of humor and the love of quantity in America . . . . A welcome and substantial contribution.”—John Paul Russo, University of Miami
Mark Bauerlein
“We need to retain Santayana in the intellectual history of the United States, not as a remote figure, but as a key observer of the American mind…For that very reason, this volume promises to serve an important purpose of preservation.”—Mark Bauerlein, Department of English, Emory University
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300116656
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 10/27/2009
  • Series: Rethinking the Western Tradition Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

James Seaton is Professor of English at Michigan State University. His other books  include Cultural Conservatism, Political Liberalism: From Criticism to Cultural Studies (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 1996) and Beyond Cheering and Bashing: New Perspectives on The Closing of   the American Mind (Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green SU Popular Press, 1992), which he co-edited with William K. Buckley.

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Table of Contents

Contributors v

A Note on the Texts ix

Introduction: George Santayana-The Philosopher as Cultural Critic James Seaton xi


The Genteel Tradition in American Philosophy 3

Character and Opinion in the United States 21

Preface 23

Chapter I The Moral Background 25

Chapter II The Academic Environment 39

Chapter III William James 51

Chapter IV Josiah Royce 64

Chapter V Later Speculations 81

Chapter VI Materialism and Idealism in American Life 92

Chapter VII English Liberty in America 103


The Unclaimed Legacy of George Santayana Wilfred M. McClay 123

Understanding America John Lachs 148

The Genteel Tradition and English Liberty James Seaton 160

Mental Hygiene and Good Manners: The Contribution of George Santayana Roger Kimball 175

Index 193

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