December 30, 2003



Josh Daniel points out that the quote in the David Brooks column on Dean's amnesiac character came from George Santayana's 1920 book, Character And Opinion In The United States. (Why couldn't I Google that successfully on my own? Good question.)

Brooks paraphrased the quote, though I don't think much violence was done to the original sentiment. Here is the relevant passage:

"One of the peculiarities of recent speculation, especially in America, is that ideas are abandoned in virtue of a mere change of feeling, without any new evidence or new arguments. We do not nowadays refute our predecessors, we pleasantly bid them good-bye. Even if all our principles are unwittingly traditional we do not like to bow openly to authority."

Here are two other passages that struck me:

"In America there is a tacit optimistic assumption about existence, to the effect that the more existence the better."

"Even what is best in American life is compulsory--the idealism, the zeal, the beautiful happy unison of its great moments. You must wave, you must cheer, you must push with the irresistible crowd; otherwise you will feel like a traitor, a soulless outcast, a deserted ship high and dry on the shore. In America there is but one way of being saved, though it is not peculiar to any of the official religions, which themselves must silently conform to the national orthodoxy, or else become impotent and merely ornamental. This national faith and morality are vague in idea, but inexorable in spirit; they are the gospel of work and the belief in progress. By them, in a country where all men are free, every man finds that what most matters has been settled for him beforehand."

Posted by Sasha at December 30, 2003 03:33 PM | TrackBack