The Sense of Beauty, Critical Edition
Published in 1896, The Sense of Beauty secured Santayana's reputation as a philosopher and continued to outsell all of his books until the publication of his one novel, The Last Puritan. Even today, it is one of the most widely read volumes in all of Santayana's vast philosophical work. It is a large irony that Santayana disowned The Sense of Beauty from the beginning, and wrote it only to keep his job teaching at Harvard. In 1950 he met with the philosopher Arthur Danto in the Roman convent clinic where he passed his final years, and reminisced that "they let me know through the ladies that I had better publish a book." "On what?" "On art, of course. So I wrote this wretched potboiler" In fact, the book was based on a well known course on the theory and history of aesthetics that Santayana gave at Harvard College from 1892 to 1895. Santayana approaches the study of aesthetics through a naturalistic basis in human psychology: "Beauty is pleasure regarded as the quality of a thing." As such, he observes, beauty does not reside in the object but in the individual's sense of beauty. This in no way reduces the importance or the value of art or aesthetic experience. For Santayana, beauty is not relegated to museum art or to some limited arena of aesthetic experience; rather, beauty informs the whole of human existence.