Philosophy & Love

Singer & Santayana On Love

Tim Madigan considers the ideals and the realities of love.

Love but the formless and eternal Whole
From whose effulgence one unheeded ray
Breaks on this prism of dissolving clay
Into the flickering colours of thy soul.
These flash and vanish; bid them not to stay,
For wisdom brightens as they fade away.
– George Santayana (1863-1952)

The above stanza is from Santayana’s sonnet ‘Love not as do the flesh-imprisoned men’, and it expresses well a theme which he pursued throughout his many years of writing on the topic of love: the search for a perfect ideal. In his own writings on love, Irving Singer, Professor of Philosophy at MIT, often quotes Santayana’s epigram about Platonic love: “all beauties attract by suggesting the ideal and then fail to satisfy by not fulfilling it.” Singer has delivered many lectures and published many papers on Santayana, and he provided the introduction to the critical edition of Santayana’s novel The Last Puritan.

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