Miguel de Unamuno

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Ideas lose themselves as quickly as quail, and one must wing them the minute they rise out of the grass, or they are gone.
Thomas F. Kennedy
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Killing time is perhaps the essence of comedy, just as the essence of tragedy is killing eternity.

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (29 September 1864 - 31 December 1936) was a Spanish essayist, novelist, poet, playwright and philosopher.


  • The devil is an angel too.
    • Two Mothers
  • There are pretenses which are very sincere, and marriage is their school.
    • Two Mothers
  • Use harms and even destroys beauty. The noblest function of an object is to be contemplated.
    • Niebla (Mist) (1914)
  • All of this that is happening to me, and happening to others about me, is it reality or is it fiction? May not all of it perhaps be a dream of God, or of whomever it may be, which will vanish as soon as He wakes? And therefore when we pray to Him, and cause canticles and hymns to rise to Him, is it not that we may lull Him to sleep, rocking the cradle of His dreams? Is not the whole liturgy, of all religions, only a way perhaps of soothing God in His dreams, so that He shall not wake and cease to dream us?
    • Niebla (Mist) (1914)
  • Whenever a man talks he lies, and so far as he talks to himself - that is to say, so far as he thinks, knowing that he thinks - he lies to himself. The only truth in human life is that which is physiological. Speech - this thing that they call a social product - was made for lying.
    • Niebla (Mist) (1914)
  • We men do nothing but lie and make ourselves important. Speech was invented for the purpose of magnifying all of our sensations and impressions - perhaps so that we could believe in them.
    • Niebla (Mist) (1914)
  • Isolation is the worst possible counselor.
    • Civilization is Civilism
  • Every peasant has a lawyer inside of him, just as every lawyer, no matter how urbane he may be, carries a peasant within himself.
    • Civilization is Civilism
  • It is sad not to be loved, but it is much sadder not to be able to love.
    • To a Young Writer
  • These terrible sociologists, who are the astrologers and alchemists of our twentieth century.
    • Fanatical Skepticism
  • Faith which does not doubt is dead faith.
    • La Agonía del Cristianismo (The Agony of Christianity)
  • We never know, believe me, when we have succeeded best.
    • Essays and Soliloquies
It is sad not to be loved, but it is much sadder not to be able to love.

Del Sentimiento Trágico de la Vida (The Tragic Sense of Life) (1913)

  • The man of flesh and bone; the man who is born, suffers, and dies—above all, who dies; the man who eats and drinks and plays and sleeps and thinks and wills; the man who is seen and heard; the brother, the real brother.
    • Ch. 1
  • Man is said to be a reasoning animal. I do not know why he has not been defined as an affective or feeling animal. Perhaps that which differentiates him from other animals is feeling rather than reason. More often I have seen a cat reason than laugh or weep. Perhaps it weeps or laughs inwardly — but then perhaps, also inwardly, the crab resolves equations of the second degree.
    • Ch. 1
  • Consciousness is a disease.
    • Ch. 1
  • Everything vital is, not only irrational, but anti-rational, and everything rational is anti-vital.
    • Ch. 1
  • Pantheism is said... to be merely atheism in disguise.
    • Ch. 5
  • Science is a cemetery of dead ideas, even though life may issue from them.
    • Ch. 5
  • La verdadera ciencia enseña, por encima de todo, a dudar y a ser ignorante.
  • True science teaches, above all, to doubt and be ignorant.
    • Ch. 5
  • To believe in God is to yearn for His existence and, furthermore, it is to act as if He did exist.
    • Ch. 8
  • Martyrs create faith, faith does not create martyrs.
    • Ch. 9
  • To fall into a habit is to begin to cease to be.
    • Ch. 9
  • The intellectual world is divided into two classes — dilettantes, on the one hand, and pedants, on the other.
    • Ch. 11
  • Warmth, warmth, more warmth! for we are dying of cold and not of darkness. It is not the night that kills, but the frost.
    • Conclusion

San Manuel Bueno, Mártir (Saint Manuel the Good, Martyr) (1933)


  • And killing time is perhaps the essence of comedy, just as the essence of tragedy is killing eternity.
  • I would say that teleology is theology, and that God is not a "because," but rather an "in order to."
  • Let us go on committing suicide by working among our people, and let them dream life just as the lake dreams the sky.
  • One of those leaders of what they call the social revolution has said that religion is the opiate of the people. Opium...opium...opium, yes. Let us give them opium so that they can sleep and dream.


  • Besos que vienen riendo, luego llorando se van, y en ellos se va la vida, que nunca más volverá.
    • Kisses that come with a laugh later leave among tears, and with them goes life, never to return.
  • Contra los valores afectivos no valen razones, porque las razones no son nada más que razones, es decir, ni siquiera verdad.
    • Against emotional values arguments have no power, because arguments are only arguments, in other words, not even truths.
  • Creo en Dios porque creo a Dios.
    • I believe in God because I create God.
  • El modo de dar una vez en el clavo es dar cien veces en la herradura.
    • To strike a nail once, you must strike the horseshoe a hundred times.
  • Existe gente que está tan llena de sentido común que no le queda el más pequeño rincón para el sentido propio.
    • There are people who are so full of common sense that they haven't the slightest cranny left for their own sense.
  • La envidia es mil veces más terrible que el hambre, porque es hambre espiritual.
    • Envy is a thousand times worse than hunger, since it is hunger of the spirit.
  • La filosofía responde a la necesidad de hacernos una concepción unitaria y total del mundo y de la vida.
    • Philosophy fulfils the need to create for ourselves a single and complete concept of the world and of life.
  • Lo sabe todo, absolutamente todo. Figúrense lo tonto que será.
    • He knows everything, absolutely everything. Imagine what an idiot he must be.
  • Procuremos más ser padres de nuestro porvenir que hijos de nuestro pasado.
    • We should try to be the parents of our future rather than the offspring of our past.
  • Tu desconfianza me inquieta y tu silencio me ofende.
    • Your lack of faith worries me and your silence insults me.
  • Venceréis pero no convenceréis.
    • You will win but you will not convince.
    • In a famous public polemic with General José Millán Astray during the feast of 12 October 1936 at Salamanca.
  • ¡Que inventen ellos!
    • Let them (the foreigners) invent!
    • Contrasting Spanish spirituality with foreign practicality. Often quoted to deplore lack of scientific appreciation in Spain.
  • If a person never contradicts himself, it must be that he says nothing.
    • quoted by Douglas R. Hofstadter in Godel, Escher, Bach (1979)

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