Brand Blanshard, On Philosophical Style (Indiana University Press, 1967), pp. 49-50. Originally appeared in 1954. Emphasis added. The most distinguished recent example of imaginative prose in philosophy is certainly George Santayana. Santayana was no man's copy, either in thought or in style. He consistently refused to adopt the prosaic medium in which most of his colleagues were writing. To read him is to be conducted in urbane and almost courtly fashion about the spacious house he occupies, moving noiselessly always on a richly figured carpet of prose. Is it a satisfying experience as one looks back on it? Yes, undoubtedly, if one has been able to surrender to it uncritically. But that, as it happens, is something the philosophical reader is not very likely to do. Philosophy is, in the main, an attempt to establish something by argument, and the reader who reads for philosophy will be impatient to know just what thesis is being urged, and what precisely is the evidence for it. To such a reader Santayana seems to have a divided mind, and his doubleness of intent clogs the intellectual movement. He is, of course, genuinely intent on reaching a philosophic conclusion, but it is as if, on his journey there, he were so much interested also in the flowers that line the wayside that he is perpetually pausing to add one to his buttonhole. The style is not, as philosophic style should be, so transparent a medium that one looks straight through it at the object, forgetting that it is there; it is too much like a window of stained glass which, because of its very richness, diverts attention to itself.
There is no reason why a person should not be a devotee of both truth and beauty; but unless in his writing he is prepared to make one the completely unobtrusive servant of the other, they are sure to get in each other's way. Hence ornament for its own beautiful irrelevant sake must be placed under interdict. Someone has put the matter more compactly: "Style is the feather in the arrow, not the feather in the hat."
It seems to me that far too much Continental philosophy is plagued by the same "divided mind" and "doubleness of intent."
George Santayana (1863-1952), Character and Opinion in the United States (Norton, 1967), p. 171:
His instinct [the American's] is to think well of everybody, and to wish everybody well, but in a spirit of rough comradeship, expecting every man to stand on his own legs and to be helpful in his turn. When he has given his neighbor a chance he thinks he has done enough for him; but he feels it is an absolute duty to do that. It will take some hammering to drive a coddling socialism into America.
Santayana remarks in his Preface that his observations were made over a forty year period prior to January, 1912. Despite all the socialist hammering (and sickling?) that has gone on since then, we are still at some distance from the coddling socialism found elsewhere. American self-reliance may be on her last legs, but she ain't dead yet.
Maybe we can revivify her a bit this November 2nd.
George Santayana, Character and Opinion in the United States (New York: Norton, 1967), p. 35:
So long as philosophy is the free pursuit of wisdom, it arises wherever men of character and penetration, each with his special experience or hobby, looks about them in this world. That philosophers should be professors is an accident, and almost an anomaly. Free reflection about everything is a habit to be imitated, but not a subject to expound; and an original system, if the philosopher has one, is something dark, perilous, untested, and not ripe to be taught, nor is there much danger that anyone will learn it. The genuine philosopher -- as Royce liked to say, quoting the Upanishads -- wanders alone like the rhinoceros.
Is it any wonder that Santayana quit his teaching job at Harvard and spent the rest of his life in retirement in Rome?
The difference between a philosopher and a professor of philosophy is the former lives for what the latter lives from.
From Animal Faith and Spiritual Life, ed. John Lachs, Meredith, 1967, p. 168:
There are three traps that strangle philosophy: the Church, the marriage-bed, and the professor's chair. I escaped from the first in my youth; the second I never entered, and as soon as possible I got out of the third.
Perhaps we could call them the theological trap, the tender trap, and the tenure trap. But are they truly traps? That might be disputed.
Nietzsche might be brought in as a witness concerning the marriage trap, not that he had any experience in the matter. Somewhere in his Nachlass he compares the philosopher burdened by Weib und Kind, Haus und Hof with an astronomer who interposes a piece of filthy glass between eye and telescope. The philosopher's vocation charges him with the answering of the ultimate questions; pressing foreground concerns, however, make it difficult for him to take these questions with the seriousness they deserve, let alone to answer them.
But in another place Nietzsche balances this harsh observation by noting that the man without Haus und Hof, Weib und Kind is like a ship with insufficient ballast: he rides too high on the seas of life and does not pass through her storms with the steadiness of the solid bourgeois weighted down with property and reputation, wife and children. The judgments of such a high-rider on matters local and temporal should not be taken too seriously.