26 September

The philosopher George Santayana died on this day in 1952. Santayana was the author of one of the most famous - and most misquoted - aphorisms of the 20th century: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

September 26, 2009 · 1 min read

This is a fuller version of the quote, from Santayana’s The Life of Reason, Volume 1, first published in 1905:

‘Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement; and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the first stage of life the mind is frivolous and easily distracted, it misses progress by failing in consecutiveness and persistence. This is the condition of children and barbarians, in which instinct has learned nothing from experience.’

Santayana also reckoned that ‘to be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring’. Not when the daffodils are out, George, not when the daffodils are out …


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