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

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

By George Santayana; James Seaton (Editor); Wilfred M. McClay (Essay by)

Yale University Press, Paperback, 9780300116656, 200pp.

Publication Date: October 1, 2009


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.


About the Author
George Santayana (1863--1952) was a philosopher, poet, critic, and novelist. He is the author of "The Last Puritan" (MIT Press) and many other works.

James Seaton is a Professor in the Department of English at Michigan State University, where he teaches courses on the history of literary criticism, American literature and culture, and literature and law. His previous books include Cultural Conservatism, Political Liberalism: From Criticism to Cultural Studies (1996) and A Reading of Vergil's Georgics (1983). He is the editor of The Genteel Tradition and Character and Opinion in the United States by George Santayana (2009) and co-editor with William K. Buckley of Beyond Cheering and Bashing: New Perspectives on The Closing of the American Mind (1992). Seaton's articles and reviews have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, The Claremont Review of Books, The American Scholar, The Hudson Review, The University Bookman, Modern Age, Journal of the History of Ideas, Society, The Review of Metaphysics, the Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, Legal Studies Forum, Cardozo Studies in Law and Literature, and Michigan State Law Review.

Wilfred M. McClay is Professor and SunTrust Chair of Excellence in Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

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

“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

-John Paul Russo

“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

-Mark Bauerlein