Published Humanitas, Volume XX, Nos. 1 and 2, 2007

I. Philosophical Poets

In lectures from 1910, subsequently published as Three Philosophical Poets, George Santayana provisionally placed Goethe among the philosophical poets. He had no reservation including Dante and Lucretius in this class of poets. Their major works situated them both within the reigning philosophical systems of their day: Santayana viewed Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura as the culmination of antique naturalism, and he regarded Dante’s Divine Comedy as the embodiment of medieval supernaturalism. Though Santayana unequivocally placed Goethe’s Faust within the context of Teutonic romanticism, with its idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible and what he called an attitude marked by the “self‑trust of world‑building youth,” still Goethe’s “thoughts upon life were fresh and miscellaneous.”1 Santayana found only incidental philosophies and existential strategies in Faust, which he viewed as representative of romanticism’s preoccupation with the subjective immediacy of experience. Nonetheless, they encompass a pragmatic charter and philosophical outlook which, it can be said, underpins Faust’s redemption.

This is a preview. Read the full article here.