Will Durant

American historian, philosopher and writer
In all things I saw the passion of life for growth and greatness, the drama of everlasting creation. I came to think of myself, not as a dance and chaos of molecules, but as a brief and minute portion of that majestic process...
In a measure the Great Sadness was lifted from me, and, where I had seen omnipresent death, I saw now everywhere the pageant and triumph of life.

William James Durant (5 November 18857 November 1981) was an American historian, philosopher and writer, most famous for his works The Story of Philosophy, and The Story of Civilization.

Contents

QuotesEdit

 
Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.
 
The only real revolution is in the enlightenment of the mind and the improvement of character, the only real emancipation is individual, and the only real revolutionaries are philosophers and saints.
 
Love one another. My final lesson of history is the same as that of Jesus.
You may think that's a lot of lollipop but just try it. Love is the most practical thing in the world. If you take an attitude of love toward everybody you meet, you'll eventually get along.
  • I felt more keenly than before the need of a philosophy that would do justice to the infinite vitality of nature. In the inexhaustible activity of the atom, in the endless resourcefulness of plants, in the teeming fertility of animals, in the hunger and movement of infants, in the laughter and play of children, in the love and devotion of youth, in the restless ambition of fathers and the lifelong sacrifice of mothers, in the undiscourageable researches of scientists and the sufferings of genius, in the crucifixion of prophets and the martyrdom of saints — in all things I saw the passion of life for growth and greatness, the drama of everlasting creation. I came to think of myself, not as a dance and chaos of molecules, but as a brief and minute portion of that majestic process... I became almost reconciled to mortality, knowing that my spirit would survive me enshrined in a fairer mold... and that my little worth would somehow be preserved in the heritage of men. In a measure the Great Sadness was lifted from me, and, where I had seen omnipresent death, I saw now everywhere the pageant and triumph of life.
    • Transition (1927)
  • Love one another. My final lesson of history is the same as that of Jesus.
    You may think that's a lot of lollipop but just try it. Love is the most practical thing in the world. If you take an attitude of love toward everybody you meet, you'll eventually get along.
    • When asked, at the age of 92, if he could summarize the lessons of history into a single sentence. As quoted in "Durants on History from the Ages, with Love," by Pam Proctor, Parade (6 August 1978) p. 12. Durant is quoting Jesus (from John 13:34) here, and might also be quoting Jiddu Krishnamurti: "Love is the most practical thing in the world. To love, to be kind, not to be greedy, not to be ambitious, not to be influenced by people but to think for yourself — these are all very practical things, and they will bring about a practical, happy society."
  • It is a mistake to think that the past is dead. Nothing that has ever happened is quite without influence at this moment. The present is merely the past rolled up and concentrated in this second of time. You, too, are your past; often your face is your autobiography; you are what you are because of what you have been; because of your heredity stretching back into forgotten generations; because of every element of environment that has affected you, every man or woman that has met you, every book that you have read, every experience that you have had; all these are accumulated in your memory, your body, your character, your soul. So with a city, a country, and a race; it is its past, and cannot be understood without it.
  • Perhaps the cause of our contemporary pessimism is our tendency to view history as a turbulent stream of conflicts — between individuals in economic life, between groups in politics, between creeds in religion, between states in war. This is the more dramatic side of history; it captures the eye of the historian and the interest of the reader. But if we turn from that Mississippi of strife, hot with hate and dark with blood, to look upon the banks of the stream, we find quieter but more inspiring scenes: women rearing children, men building homes, peasants drawing food from the soil, artisans making the conveniences of life, statesmen sometimes organizing peace instead of war, teachers forming savages into citizens, musicians taming our hearts with harmony and rhythm, scientists patiently accumulating knowledge, philosophers groping for truth, saints suggesting the wisdom of love. History has been too often a picture of the bloody stream. The history of civilization is a record of what happened on the banks.
    • As quoted in "The Gentle Philosopher" (2006) by John Little at Will Durant Foundation
  • To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves; let us be above such transparent egotism. If you can't say good and encouraging things, say nothing. Nothing is often a good thing to do, and always a clever thing to say.
  • Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.
    • "What is Civilization?" Ladies' Home Journal, LXIII (January, 1946).
  • I know how unfashionable it is now to acknowledge in life or history any genius loftier than ourselves. Our democratic dogma has leveled not only all voters but all leaders; we delight to show that living geniuses are only mediocrities, and that dead ones are myths. … Since it is contrary to good manners to exalt ourselves, we achieve the same result by slyly indicating how inferior are the great men of the earth. In some of us, perhaps, it is a noble and merciless asceticism, which would root out of our hearts the last vestige of worship and adoration, lest the old gods should return and terrify us again. For my part, I cling to this final religion, and discover in it a content and stimulus more lasting than came from the devotional ecstasies of youth.
    • The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time.
  • The invention and spread of contraceptives is the proximate cause of our changing morals. The old moral code restricted sexual experience to marriage, because copulation could not be effectively separated from parentage, and parentage could be made responsible only through marriage. But to-day the dissociation of sex from reproduction has created a situation unforeseen by our fathers. All the relations of men and women are being changed by this one factor; and the moral code of the future will have to take account of these new facilities which invention has placed at the service of ancient desires.
    • Our Changing Morals, in The Mansions of Philosophy: A Survey of Human Life and Destiny, (1929), Simon and Schuster, New York, ch. 5. p. 119. [1][2]

The Story of Philosophy (1926)Edit

  • Excellence is an art won by training and habituation: we do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have these because we have acted rightly; 'these virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions'; we are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit: 'the good of man is a working of the soul in the way of excellence in a complete life... for as it is not one swallow or one fine day that makes a spring, so it is not one day or a short time that makes a man blessed and happy'.
    • p. 76. The quoted phrases within the quotation are from the Nicomachean Ethics, Book II, 4; Book I, 7.
  • Philosophy accepts the hard and hazardous task of dealing with problems not yet open to the methods of science - problems like good and evil, beauty and ugliness, order and freedom, life and death; so soon as a field of inquiry yields knowledge susceptible of exact formulation it is called science.
  • Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art.
  • Philosophy is a hypothetical interpretation of the unknown (as in metaphysics), or of the inexactly known (as in ethics or political philosophy); it is the front trench in the siege of truth.
  • When liberty becomes license, dictatorship is near.
  • Civilization begins with order, grows with liberty, and dies with chaos.

The Case for India (1931)Edit

 
India will teach us the tolerance and gentleness of mature mind, understanding spirit and a unifying, pacifying love for all human beings.
  • India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.
  • It is true that even across the Himalayan barrier India has sent to the west, such gifts as grammar and logic, philosophy and fables, hypnotism and chess, and above all numerals and the decimal system.

Declaration of INTERdependence (1945)Edit

 
Rooted in freedom, bonded in the fellowship of danger, sharing everywhere a common human blood, we declare again that all men are brothers, and that mutual tolerance is the price of liberty.
Introduced into the US Congressional Record on October 1, 1945 (PDF Document)
  • Human progress having reached a high level through respect for the liberty and dignity of men, it has become desirable to re-affirm these evident truths:
    • That differences of race, color, and creed are natural, and that diverse groups, institutions, and ideas are stimulating factors in the development of man;
    • That to promote harmony in diversity is a responsible task of religion and statesmanship;
    • That since no individual can express the whole truth, it is essential to treat with understanding and good will those whose views differ from our own;
    • That by the testimony of history intolerance is the door to violence, brutality and dictatorship; and
    • That the realization of human interdependence and solidarity is the best guard of civilization.
  • Rooted in freedom, bonded in the fellowship of danger, sharing everywhere a common human blood, we declare again that all men are brothers, and that mutual tolerance is the price of liberty.

The Story of Civilization (1935–1975)Edit

I - Our Oriental Heritage (1935)Edit

  • The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.
    • Will Durant, The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage page 459.
  • If the average man had had his way there would probably never have been any state. Even today he resents it, classes death with taxes, and yearns for that government which governs least. If he asks for many laws it is only because he is sure that his neighbor needs them; privately he is an unphilosophical anarchist, and thinks laws in his own case superfluous. In the simplest societies there is hardly any government. Primitive hunters tend to accept regulation only when they join the hunting pack and prepare for action. The Bushmen usually live in solitary families; the Pygmies of Africa and the simplest natives of Australia admit only temporarily of political organization, and then scatter away to their family groups; the Tasmanians had no chiefs, no laws, no regular government; the Veddahs of Ceylon formed small circles according to family relationship, but had no government; the Kubus of Sumatra "live without men in authority" every family governing itself; the Fuegians are seldom more than twelve together; the Tungus associate sparingly in groups of ten tents or so; the Australian "horde" is seldom larger than sixty souls. In such cases association and cooperation are for special purposes, like hunting; they do not rise to any permanent political order.
    • Ch. III : The Political Elements of Civilization, p. 21

II - The Life of Greece (1939)Edit

  • No man who is in a hurry is quite civilized.
    • Ch. XII : Work and Wealth in Athens, p. 277

III - Caesar and Christ (1944)Edit

  • There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with a fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known. Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won.
    • Chapter 30, part 1, p. 652.
  • A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.
    • Epilogue: "Why Rome Fell", p. 665

VI - The Reformation (1957)Edit

  • I have tried to be impartial, though I know that a man's past always colors his views, and that nothing else is so irritating as impartiality.
    • Preface
  • I feel for all faiths the warm sympathy of one who has come to learn that even the trust in reason is a precarious faith, and that we are all fragments of darkness groping for the sun. I know no more about the ultimates than the simplest urchin in the streets.
    • Preface

Fallen Leaves (2014, posthumous)Edit

  • Vanity increases with age
    • Preface
  • Children and fools speak the truth; and somehow they find happiness in their sincerity
    • p. 1
  • See him, the newborn, dirty but marvelous, ridiculous in actuality, infinite in possibility, capable of that ultimate miracle, growth
    • p. 1
  • Life is that which is discontent, which struggles and seeks, which suffers and creates.
    • p. 3
  • Childhood may be defined as the age of play; therefore some children are never young, and some adults are never old.
    • p. 3
  • Man is as young as the risks he takes
    • p. 4
  • Happiness is the free play of the instincts, and so is youth
    • p. 4
  • Let us ask the Gods not for possessions, but for things to do; happiness is in making things rather than consuming them.
    • p. 4
  • Youth is learning to read (which is all that one learns in school), and is learning where and how to find what he may later need to know (which is the best of the arts that he acquires in college).
    • p. 6
  • It is life that educates, and perhaps love more that anything else in life.
    • p. 6
  • The principle of the family was mutual aid; but the principle of society is competition, the struggle for existence, the elimination of the weak and the survival of the strong
    • p. 7
  • Here is a fulfillment of long centuries of civilization and culture; here, in romantic love, more than the triumph of thought or the victories of power is the topmost reach of human beings.
    • p. 8
  • Wisdom, if it were young, would cherish love, nursing it with devotion, deepening it with sacrifice, vitalizing with parentage, making all things subordinate to it till the end. Even though it consumes us in its service and overwhelms us with tragedy, even though it breaks us down with separations, let it be first. How can it matter what price we pay for love?
    • p. 9
  • Middle age begins with marriage; for then work and responsibility replace carefree play, passion surrenders to the limitations of social order, and poetry yields to prose.
    • p. 10
  • As we find a place in the economic world the rebellion of youth subsides; we disapprove of earthquakes when our feet are on the earth. We forget then the radicalism then in a gentle liberalism-which is radicalism softened with the consciousness of a bank account.
    • p. 11
  • She is a woman now, and not an idle girl, not a domestic ornament or a sexual convenience anymore.
    • p. 14
  • A man is as old as his arteries, and as young as his ideas.
    • p. 16
  • Here and everywhere is the struggle for existence, life inextricably enmeshed with war. All life living at the expense of life, every organism eating other organisms forever.
    • p. 17
  • Life is that which can hold a purpose for three thousand years and never yield.
    • p. 19
  • Space, subjectively, is the coexistence of perceptions-perceiving two objects at once.
    • p. 22
  • Time, subjectively, is the conscious sequence of perceptions.
    • p. 22
  • By mind I mean the totality of perceptions, memories and ideas in an organism.
    • p. 22
  • A sensation is the feeling of an external stimulus or an internal condition.
    • p. 22
  • The soul as distinct from the mind, I mean an inner directive and energizing force in every body, and in every cell and organ of a body.
    • p. 23
  • Will is desire expressed in ideas that become actions unless impeded by contrary or substitute desires and ideas. Character is the sum of our desires, fears, propensities, habits, abilities, and ideas.
    • p. 24
  • Logic itself is a human creation, and may be ignored by the universe.
    • p. 25
  • Though I am fond of my unique soul, I do not expect it to survive the complete death of my body.
    • p.26
  • I am quite content with mortality; I should be appalled at the thought of living forever.
    • p. 27
  • When death comes in due time, after a live fully lived, it is forgivable and good. If in my last gasps I say anything contrary to this bravado, pay no attention to me. We must make room for our children.
    • p.27
  • My conceptions of order and disorder, as of beauty and sublimity and ugliness, are subjective; they are, so to speak, my prejudices, since my mind can deal better with things when I have put order into them and the universe has no obligation to follow my preferences.
    • p.28
  • Every people in every epoch reinterpreted God after its own fashion, and has been willing to die, or at least to kill, in defense of that passing conception.
    • p.30
  • Let me then keep the term God for the inventive vitality and abounding fertility of Nature, the eon-long struggle of "matter" to rise form atomic energy to intelligence, consciousness, and informed and deliberate will, to statesmen, poets, saints, artiest, musicians, scientists,and philosophers. Let me have something to worship!
    • p.32
  • I would rather contribute a microscopic mite to improving the conduct of men and statesmen than write one hundred best books.
    • p.33
  • To me the "death of God" and the slow decay of Christianity in the educated classes of Christendom constitute the profoundest tragedy in modern Western history, of far deeper moment than the great wars or the competition between capitalism and communism.
    • p.35
  • I can rephrase "original sin" as man's inherited disposition to follow those instincts of pugnacity, sexual promiscuity, and greed which may have been necessary in the hunting stage of human history, but which need a variety of controls in an organized society that guarantees its members protection against violence, theft, and rape; we are born with the taint of ancestral passions in our blood.
    • p.36
  • "He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow," for knowledge can destroy a happy innocence and many a comforting or inspiring delusion.
    • p. 36
  • Heaven and Hell remain for me not places in another world, but states of mind often associated with virtue and vice in this life.
    • p. 36
  • I could think of Church leaders as religious statesmen who, whatever they themselves might believe, used the Bible, theology, and ritual as aids in transforming congenital savages into responsible and orderly citizens.
    • p.37
  • So many are the functions that supernatural religion fulfills that the skeptic must learn to make his peace with it, only hoping that the love which radiated from Christ will overcome the fearful intolerance of empowered creeds.
    • p.39
  • We may, however, ask that a religion shall soften the heart of man, that it shall inspire courage, conscience, and charity, that it shall make the strong and little more generous to the weak, that it shall mitigate the rigor of competition and the brutality of war.
    • p.41
  • We picture one after another of the great Christian denominations meeting in enthusiastic assembly, redefining Christianity as sincere acceptance of the moral ideas of Christ, and inviting to their membership any person, of whatever race or creed, who is willing to receive those ideals as the test and goal of his conduct and development.
    • p.42
  • For the rest of us we can only promise to do our best obstinately to try to treat all men as brothers; this is all that Christianity demands. To exact of all men a saintly level of selflessness would be to condemn Christianity to everlasting hypocrisy.
    • p.44
  • We know how much our pride and prejudice, our fearful hate and unwilling ignorance, obstruct the fulfillment of this dream; we do not expect this second coming of Christ to take place before these mortal eyes.
    • p.44
  • Religion has been the worship of supernatural powers.
    • p.47
  • Morality is the quality of that which conforms to right ideas or principles of human conduct.
    • p.47
  • Personally I should define morality as the consistency of private conduct with public interest as understood by the group. It implies a recognition by the individual that his life, liberty, and development depend upon social organization, and his willingness, in return, to adjust himself to the needs of the community.
    • p.48
  • No number of laws or policemen can replace the moral discipline inculcated by parents, teachers and priest; that in attacking these formative and protective institutions you are sapping the dykes that have been raised through the labor and wisdom of centuries against the individualistic, disorderly and savage impulses that lurk in the hearts of men.
    • p.48
  • I am not at all confident that man's unsocial impulses can be controlled by a moral code shorn of religious belief.
    • p. 48
  • The Church has overlaid the incomparable ethics of Jesus with a complex structure of incredible dogma echoing St. Paul and mostly unknown to Christ, and with an omnipresent incubus of organization and theocratical police lying heavy upon the human mind, ready to stifle any independent thought by using the powers of the state to imprison, confiscate, and kill. The local priests and nuns still remembered Christianity, but the hierarchy forgot it in a lust for unassailable and infallible authority.
    • p.49
  • The principal and overspreading cause of our moral "decay" has been the Industrial Revolution. The passage from rural mutual surveillance to concealment of the individual in the urban multitude has almost ended the force of neighborly opinion to control personal behavior.
    • P.50
  • Industrial competition among corporations and individuals has strengthened the profit motive and other individualistic instincts, and has broken down moral restraints in the conduct of business.
    • p.50
  • Technology has extended and depersonalized war, and has vastly developed man's ability to murder or destroy.
    • p51
  • The character and frequency of modern war is second only the Industrial Revolution as a cause of moral change. To fight such a war great number of young men are trained to use lethal weapons, and to kill with zest and a good conscience.
    • p.51
  • Thus the military class rises in prestige and influence, and its ways of thought, freed from moral considerations, affect the government and the people.
    • p.51
  • Nationalism overrides morality, defers social reform, and becomes a religion stronger that any church.
    • p.52
  • Obviously the old moral code was adjusted to agricultural society, and could not be expected to fit the conditions of modern industrial life. The present age is experimenting to find how far individual freedom can comport with the stability of society, the protection of women, and the security of person and property.
    • p.52
  • I am not sure, but I can reasonably hope, that the United States will gradually develop a secular ethic that-with lessened poverty and widened education- will function as effectively and a theological morality.
    • p.53
  • It does not seem impossible to make a youth understand that the stability of a society, the prevalence of moral restraint, are prerequisites to personal security, and that moral self-restraint is one of the surest guarantees of personal advancement and fulfillment.
    • p.54
  • Morality is unnatural, goes against the grain; we are equipped by nature for a hunting life in woods and fields rather than a mechanical life in cities and offices, and factories. But the problem of moral degeneration must be solved, for in the last analysis morality and civilization are one.
    • 54
  • The boy welling with hormones and coursing blood wonders why he should not solicit the cooperation of a similarly fretting girl in achieving detumescence. I warn him that such a pas de deux can plunge a generous and careless maiden into venereal infection, or to a pregnancy leading to a dangerous abortion, or to a hasty marriage, or to a career of complaisance that may win her nothing more permanent than a night lodging. I insist that a gentleman will refrain from coitus with any young lady whose social status and marital marketability would be injured by his passing triumph.
    • p.56
  • Our forefathers could find no better way of promoting youthful continence that by adopting a policy of silence and concealment. This involved much hypocrisy; but it made premarital restraint more bearable.
    • p.57
  • I have a lingering inclination toward the Catholic view of divorce- that the annulment of a marriage should only be allowed under conditions of extreme personal or national need. I believe that most divorces lead to difficulties as acute as before; we carry into a second union the same character that shared in breaking the previous bond. Better to fight out the battle on the original field than run from one duel and surface to another.
    • p.58
  • Family limitation, of course, is unnatural, even through abstention, but so is any mode of locomotion except walking or running; civilization exist by checking nature at every turn.
    • p.59
  • We give our offspring twenty years of care and education and then conscript them for murder and death in foreign wars. We preach Christ to them and then cheat so much in business that the government has to intervene to protect the consumer from deceptive labels, dangerous cars, poisonous drugs, chemicalized food, and shoddy goods, while the government itself competes in corruption and mendacity.
    • P.60
  • However I cannot admit the claim of many young enthusiast that every person has a right to reject any law that his conscience finds unacceptable; no government could subsist on such a basis; the judgment of the community, as expressed by elected legislators, rightly overrides the judgement of the individual. The individual may still carry active legitimate protest to active disobedience, but he should take his punishment as due process of law.
    • p.60
  • Civilization is at every moment dependent upon the repression of instincts, and intelligence itself involves discrimination between desires that may be pursued and those that should be subdued.
    • p. 61
  • There is an anarchist in all of us that inclines us to sympathize with a felon who is desperately and cleverly eluding the police; nobody loves a policeman until he needs one.
    • p.61
  • We need not make our penal code a machinery of punishment and revenge; we should treat criminals as victims of mental disturbance or arrested development. Let us put them not in prisons that are nurseries and colleges of crime, but in securely enclosed state farms where steady labor in the open air could make for health and stability and accumulate a fund to finance the prisoners's reentry into civil life.
    • p.62
  • We had no conception of the white man's fear of black power growing in the North, we subsided into the unconscious satisfaction of belonging to the locally dominant race. We had underrated the spread and comfortable acceptance of propaganda proclaiming the inherent inferiority and limited educability of the black mind. We saw many successful black physicians, lawyers, clergymen, and office holders, and rejoiced in their mounting number and rapid advancement, but we have never felt the horror of a lynching, the humiliating rejection from hotels and restaurants, the hopeless poverty of Harlem or Watts.
    • P.65
  • So the South as far as its need of manual laborers would permit, encouraged the black man to go north. He went dreaming of justice and plenty. For a time he found work where muscle was needed and servility was required; or he lived for a while on public aid, and alarmed the whites with his fertility.
    • p.66
  • In crowded enclaves amid our wealth, poverty became race-colored and race-conscious, and drove men into wild hostility that sanctioned any crime. White citizens returned dislike for hate, and shrugged their shoulders at civil right.
    • P. 67
  • I should be a ridiculous upstart if I pretended to have solutions for all of these problems. They arise from the nature of man, which words alone cannot change. We distrust the unfamiliar for we have not learned to deal with it; and when, in some moods and places, it speaks of burning us, we do not warm to the prospect.
    • p. 67
  • I believe that the nonwhite mind and character are as capable of improvement as any, provided that they have not been stunted by a hostile environment.
    • p.67
  • Do we not owe it to conscience and justice that every person-irrespective of their race- has full and equal opportunity to enter into the promise of American life?
    • p.67
  • Let me before I die, sing a hymn in praise of women.
    • p.68
  • No one will believe me when I claim that I have often been aroused by the beauty of a woman without desiring her in any physical sense or degree; according to me my excitement was purely aesthetic.
    • p. 68
  • Time and time again I have longed to approach a woman timidly a thank her for being such a joy to behold, and that in this longing I felt no ambition to possess her.
    • P. 69
  • I admit that women have many faults. Many are acquisitive, possessive, jealous, and proud. They are seldom capable of lasting friendships, since they must give so much time in winning, keeping, and giving love. They are capable of stealing another woman's husband, breaking hearts, and breaking up homes. They seldom think as objectively as some men; they are interested in ideas only so far as these are attached to interesting men; they often mistake wishes for facts, and repetitions for arguments.
    • p. 70
  • They listen more readily than men to peddlers of supernatural hope and consolation, for their worries and grief are not so soon forgotten in the swift turmoil of the world. They give the race fewer geniuses than men do, but also fewer idiots. Intellect is sharpened in men by economic competition or political finagling; women do not need so much of it because they are normally destined for motherhood where instinct rules; usually they win by instinct all the male has acquired by intellect. I put all the faults of woman aside because she is consumed and exalted in carrying on the race.
    • p.70
  • I see her first as a girl, doubling her beauty with modesty, and vaguely, broodingly conscious that she is soon to be a hunted prey, then a fettered captive, then a racial tool.
    • p.70
  • My heart goes out to her as her adolescence nears its end, and I see young males gathering around her anxious for her favor. I can imagine the winding narrow road she must find between flirt and prude, between self-canceling conquests and intact solitude. And what a burden is laid upon her in our time- to choose a suitor who does not stupefy her with adoration but, by his stability, restraint, and economic sense, gives promise of being a faithful husband, a competent provider a sound and sane father for their children.
    • p.70
  • I marvel at the velvet smoothness of her skin, the creamy softness of her hands, the delicate touch with which she strokes your face and lightens your wallet.
    • p. 71
* Many years ago, after watching Ariel's pains in giving birth to Ethel, I left the room dazed with shame at my helplessness and mumbling to myself "I must always be kind to women." Let the sins of woman lie gently on her head, for she is the forgiving mother of us all. 
    • P.72
  • A mother does not have to ask if life has any meaning; when she see her children growing in body and mind she knows that she is fulfilling her destiny, and that her destiny is fulfilling her. If life is lived honorably and fully it is its own reward, needing no significance outside itself.
    • p.72
  • In evolutionary theory those organisms that felt the strongest urge to mingle their seed bred most abundantly, so that in the course of the generations, the sexual instinct grew to an intensity surpassed only in the quest for food. When this basic quest has been satisfied, and man can turn his thoughts away from food and money, his soul lies open to all the lure and tyranny of sex.
    • p.75
  • Sometimes I resent the power that the sexual instinct has over us; I see it ruining lives, disordering states, making agitated apes of would-be philosophers. I can understand why past civilizations have labored, by might and myth, to build dams against that swelling surge. The institution of marriage is a device to control the flow of that stream, whether by requiring monogamy in Christendom, or by allowing polygamy, and even concubinage, in Asia and Africa.
    • p. 76
  • If we educate the body to health and the mind to a tempering harmony of instincts with reason, we shall retain the stimulus of sexual feeling while keeping it within bounds by a decent respect for public order, and a prudent foresight of our own good.
    • p. 76
  • For five hundred centuries, two thousand generations have struggled for that terrain in a calendar of wars whose beginning is as obscure as its end. Even the sophisticated mind made blase by habituation to magnitude and marvels, is appalled by the panorama of historic wars.
    • p.78
  • Such a chronicle of conflict exaggerates, without doubt, the role of war in the record of our race. Strife is dramatic, an peaceful generations appear to have no history. So our chroniclers leap from battle to battle, and unwittingly deform the past into shambles. In our saner moments we know that it is not so; that lucid intervals of peace far outweigh, in any nation's story, the mad seizures of war.
    • p. 79
  • War has always been. Will it always be? What are its cause in the nature of men and in the structure of societies? Can it be prevented, or diminished in frequency or in any measure controlled? The causes of war are psychological, biological, economic and political-that is, they lie in the natural impulses of men, in the competition of groups, in the material needs of societies, and in the fluctuations of national ambition and power.
    • p. 79
  • The major instincts of mankind-acquisition, mating, fighting, action, and association-are the ultimate sources of war. For thousands, perhaps millions, of years men were uncertain of their food supply; not knowing yet the bounty of husbanded soil, they depended their fortunes of the hunt. Having captured prey they tore it to pieces on the spot and ate until they could eat no more; how could they tell when they might eat again? Greed is eating, or hoarding, for the future; wealth is originally a hedge against starvation. war is at first a raid for food.
    • p. 80
  • Perhaps all vices were once virtues, indispensable in the struggle for existence; they became vices only in the degree to which social order and increasing security rendered them unnecessary for survival. A hundred millenniums of insecurity bred into the race those acquisitive and possessive impulses which no laws or moral or ideas, but only centuries of security, can mitigate or destroy.
    • p. 80
  • The lust for power is in most men a useful stimulus to ambition and creation, but in exceptional men it can become a dangerous disease, a cancer to the soul, which goads them on to fight a thousand battles usually by proxy.
    • p. 81
  • Men fear solitude, and naturally seek the protection of numbers. Slowly a society develops within whose guarded frontiers men are free to live peaceably, to accumulate knowledge and goods, and worship their gods. Since our self-love overflows by an extension of the ego into love of our parents and children,our homes and possessions, our habits and institutions, our wonted environment and transmitted faith, we form in time an emotional attachment for the nation and the civilization of which these are constituent parts; when any of them is threatened, our instinct of pugnacity is aroused to the limit demanded by the natural cowardice of mankind. In a divided and lawless world such patriotism is reasonable and necessary, for without it the group could not survive, and the individual could not survive without the group. Prejudice is fatal to philosophy but indispensable to a nation.
    • p. 81
  • On either scale some armament is necessary, for struggle is inevitable, and competition is the trade of life.
    • p. 82
  • To make war successfully, a modern nation must be wealthy; to be wealthy it must develop industry; to maintain industry, it must, in most cases import food, fuel, and raw materials, to pay for these, it must export manufactured goods; to sell these, it must find foreign markets; to win these, it must undersell its competitors or wage foreign war. As like it or not it will make war for any of the goods it considers vital, or for control or the routes by which they must come.
    • p. 82
  • Since men are by nature unequal it follows that in any society a majority of abilities will be possessed by minority of men; from which it follows that sooner or later, in any society, a majority of goods will be possessed by an minority of men. But this natural concentration of wealth impedes, by the repeated reinvestment of profits in promoting production, widespread purchasing power among the people; production leaps ahead of consumption; surpluses rise and generate either depression or war. Either production has to stop to let consumption catch up or foreign markets must be found to take the surplus that went unpurchased at home.
    • p. 84
  • The first law of governments is self-preservation; their second law is self-extension; their appetite grows by what it feeds on, and they believe when state ceases to expand it begins to die.
    • p. 84
  • Vague appeals to the conscience of mankind to put an end to war have had little effect throughout history, for there is no conscience of mankind. Morality is a habit of order generated by centuries of compulsion; international morality awaits international order; international order awaits international force; conscience follows the policeman. A wise people will love peace and keep their powder dry.
    • p.85
  • In the end we must steel ourselves against utopias and be content, as Aristotle recommended, with a slightly better state. We must not expect the world to improve much faster than ourselves.
    • p. 86
  • If we can become conscious of the needs a views and hopes of other peoples, and sensitive to the diverse values and beauties of diverse cultures and lands, we shall not so readily plunge into competitive homicide, but shall find room in our hearts for a wider understanding and an almost universal sympathy. Someday, let us hope, it will be permitted us to love our country without betraying mankind.
    • p. 87
  • The possession of power tempts its use; the definition of national interest widens to cover any aim; the demand for security suggests and excuses the acquisition and arming of ever more distant frontiers.
    • p. 88
  • The Constitution of the United States reserves to Congress the right to declare war, but it does not forbid the president to wage war if he can call it by another name. In effect as regards to war and peace, the American presidency is a dictatorship limited in time.
    • p. 89
  • Armed with this strategy, American Presidents have repeatedly initiated military intervention in foreign states, and Congress, face with an accomplished fact, has felt compelled to approve.
    • p.89
  • The United States, which was born of revolution, becomes, all by itself, another Holy Alliance, dedicated to the suppression of every revolutionary movement in Europe. Was this part of the American Dream?
    • p.90
  • Great Britain is no longer able to finance its old role of protecting the rights, interests, and civilization of the white man in Asia. If no other power undertakes this role the numerical superiority of the foreign races, added to their rabid adoption of Western technology, inevitably entail the subordination of Western Europe and America to a spreading coalition of Asia and Africa. Unless immediate and effective resistance is made to the extension of Chinese power the white man is doomed to second-class status in the world of the twentieth century.
    • p.90
  • We are not asserting the superiority of the white man to men of other races; it happens that we are white, and feel an obligation to defend our like, even though they may have made mistakes and committed sins in the past. We need not stress the fact that through such an extension of Chinese power Western Europe and America would lose their Oriental allies, markets, supplies, commercial facilities, and trade routes. Western Europe would be thrown back upon its own natural resources for materials and fuels, which are already inadequate.
    • p.91
  • Granting that these fears may be exaggerated, is it not wiser for America to meet the danger outset, and to fight it out on foreign, rather than wait for the problem to be doubled and trebled by delay, while we sit supine until the enemy is at our doors?
    • p.91
  • I know that political practitioners have implied that a government must feel free to like, steal, and kill whenever in its judgement this is required by the national interest. I admit that a government which, in its dealing with other states, observed the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, would run great risk of having these rules ignored by its enemies; in such a case there would be no effective superior power to appeal to.
    • p.94
  • I would rather have America lose her empire than have her forfeit all the inspiration that she has meant to mankind.
    • p.94
  • All the faults of democracy in America: dependence upon a public opinion misinformed, mislead and thoughtlessly passionate; it nominations controlled by political machines favoring obedient mediocrities; its municipal officaldom corrupt and incompetent; its legislatures and Congress subservient to lobbies and wealth; its leaders too busy with electioneering to have time to think.
    • p.96
  • Since 1929 the American democracy has matched its defects with its achievements. The national government has met the challenges of depression, racial crisis, and two world wars. It has often been far ahead of public opinion in measures that later won general acclaim. It has made almost as many concessions to labor as to business; it has begun to protect borrowers from usurers, and purchasers from false packaging or labeling. It has saved the American economy by mitigating capitalistic rigors with the welfare state.
    • p.97
  • The welfare state is distrusted by many sincere conservatives as biologically unsound; men, they believe, are naturally averse to labor, and need the fear of hunger and want as a prod to work. To them poverty is mostly due to native inferiority in body, mind, and character rather than to inequities in the relations between employers and employees. A few would agree that the poor are societies excrement and we must resign ourselves to their necessity.
    • p.98
  • The welfare state must be preserved and extended, not only as a dictate of decency but as a measure of insurance against class conflict at home and foreign competition for the suffrages of mankind.
    • p.98
  • The cheapest alternative to this vicious spiral ( of wealth concentration) is an ampler distribution of the wealth generated by the dust and stimulus of capitalism. The government of the United States achieved this by encouraging the organization and bargaining power of Labour, by extending the graduated tax on income and estates, and by payments from the treasury to promote Public Health, security, education, Recreation, and employment by extending the welfare state.
    • p.99
  • The war against poverty is in its early stages; it is an immense and unprecedented enterprise; it is entitled to make mistakes. It is handicapped by the growth of ghettos in our cities and racial animosities in our hearts. In these respects Western Europe is more fortunate than the US. Its traditions of social order are more deeply rooted in time and character, and its unassimilated ethnic minorities are relatively small.
    • p.100
  • I believe that ability has more abundant opportunities to opportunities to reach maturity and influence in our democracy than under aristocracies or monarchies- or under democracies still obstructed by aristocratic privilege. I am grateful for the freedom of mind that I have enjoyed in America.
    • p. 102
  • Many evils tarnish our record-aggressive war, childish chauvinism, political corruption, business chicanery, racial inequities, proliferating crime, and declining morals. But I see the best as well as the worst, and I will not apologize for my country. If the Founding Fathers could come back they would be amazed at the degree to which we have reduced poverty, drudgery, illiteracy, and governmental tyranny.
    • p.102
  • Let us continue to complain, to demand, and to rebel; this, too, is part of our virtue. But as for me, favored and fortunate, I should be the worst ingrate if I did not thank the fates that deposited me here between these seas, and within these liberties.
    • p.102
  • Why do we become more conservative as we age? Is it because we have found a place in the existing system, have risen to a larger income, and have invested our savings in an economy, which any significant revolt might alter to our loss? I believe this to be the primary cause; a secondary one being a growing knowledge of human nature, and the limits that human behavior puts upon the attainment of ideals.
    • P.104
  • Rebels have the same instincts as other people, without the caution that keeps others in line.
    • p.105
  • The architects of the welfare state recognized the virtues of capitalism: they perceived the creative stimulus that had been given to invention, enterprise, production, and commerce by the freedom that the laissez-faire governments, after 1789, had allowed to the acquisitive and competitive instincts of mankind. But they also saw that unchecked liberty permitted the natural inequality of economic ability to develop an extreme concentration of wealth, and that most of this wealth was reinvested in accelerating production, and that this caused periodic depressions dangerous to the survival of the system. What use was capitalism if it did not increase the purchasing power of the people?
    • p.108
  • Year by year the government took and disseminated more of the wealth, managed or controlled more of the economy. Socialism inserted itself into capitalism without destroying it; enterprise, competition, and the pursuit of profit still enjoyed stimulating freedom.
    • p.108
  • Each of the rival systems (Capitalism vs. Communism) has drawbacks that their rivalry has helped to reduce. Capitalism still suffers from a periodic imbalance between production and consumption; from dishonesty in advertising, labeling, and trade; from the efforts of large corporations to crush competition; from involuntary unemployment due to the replacement of labor. Communism suffers from the difficulty of substituting governmental prevision of what the consuming public will need or demand for the capitalist way of letting the public demand determine what shall be produced and supplied; it suffers from restraints on competition, from inadequate incentives to invention, and from reluctance to appeal to the profit motive in individuals and companies.
    • p.110
  • A hundred signs suggest that the nature of man, the danger and compulsions of conflict, and the growth of communication and trade will eventually bring the competing economies toward basic similarity. The communistic and capitalistic systems already resemble each other in many basic ways. Each has subordinated its internal economy to the needs of actual or potential war. Each aims at world hegemony, though one disguises its aim in terms of "wars of of liberation," the other with the plea that it must serve as the policeman or order in a dangerously chaotic world. In both systems the men who can manage men manage the men who can manage only things.
    • p.110
  • Why does and artist make art? Presumably because he wishes to express himself, his ideas, his moods; because he longs for distinction and reward; because he has a keener sense of beauty than most of us; because he aspires to combine the partial beauties and veiled meanings of transitory forms in a vision of clear significance or more lasting loveliness. Usually he sees more than we see, in fuller intensity of detail; he wishes to remove some of these perceived aspects in order to leave the essence and import of the scene more movingly visible to our eyes and souls.
    • p.114
  • Aristotle considered the basic elements of beauty to be symmetry, proportion, and an organic order of parts in a united whole
    • p.114
  • The most distressing feature of contemporary art is its revolt against beauty. It aims to express an emotion or attitude rather than create a pleasing or inspiring form.
    • p.115
  • I admit that change and experiment are essential to development. I can sympathize with the new art's unwillingness to go on painting landscapes, pretty faces, and moneyed heads
    • p.116
  • Art exist not merely to express but to transmit an emotion, an aspiration, or an idea. Any art that has no ruling form is the empty vanity of an undisciplined mind. The essence of art as of beauty, lies not in content or elements but in structure and form. Art without science is poverty, and science without art is barbarism. Let every science strive to fulfill itself in beauty or wisdom, and let us rejoice when a science becomes and art.
    • p.119

The progress of science has long since outstripped my understanding. Scientist differ from priest in allowing heresies among the initiated, but let them find an infallible leader, and they would be a church.

    • p.120
  • Some of the skepticism that injured my religious faith has overflowed into timid doubts of science. I distrust the astronomers when they calculate the distance of fixed stars. I am a bit dubious of the changing pictures by which the physicists represent the inside of the atom.
    • p.121
  • I mourn when I see so much scientific genius dedicated to the art to massacre, so little to the art of peace; yet I realize that scientist are not made to rule, since their gift is handling ideas and facts, not men.
    • p.121
  • We need more knowledge, and must submit to a heavy stress upon science in education and government, for we are subject to international challenges that force us to keep pace with every technological advance. But we need something more than knowledge, we need the wisdom and character to use our knowledge with foresight and caution. What is character? It is the rational harmony and hierarchy of desires in coordination with capacity. What is wisdom? It is an application of experience to present problems, a view of the part in the light of the whole. I do not despair. Man has committed a million blunders evident to our hindsight, but he has done great and noble things.
    • p.124
  • That education is of most worth which opens to the body and the soul, to the citizen and the state, the fullest possibilities of their harmonious life. Education is the perfecting of life-the enrichment of the individual by the heritage of the race.
    • p.127
  • Since morality is rooted biologically in the family, I should base moral instruction upon a deliberate exaltation of family life. I would restore the ancient stigma that was attached to celibacy, and would suggest, the moral wisdom of marriage at a natural age. The gift of children should be our payment to the race for the heritage of civilization.
    • p.129
  • I would ask such persistent moral instruction as would help the individual to see his neighbor in some degree his brother, and his community as in some degree his family, and to apply to them those principals of mutual aid which the family inoculates as the first necessity of social existence and the highest goal of social organization.
    • p.129
  • Though I respect and cherish all nations and races that have enriched our racial inheritance, I do not understand how a country can defend itself against attack if its citizens have not learned to love it in some special way as their national hearth and home.
    • p.130
  • I should never think it the purpose of education to make scholars, so much as to form human beings. The basic skill we should ask a teacher to impart to their pupil is the ability to discipline themselves. Every individual has in the long run only two options: effective self-government, or practical subjection; somewhere there must be will.
    • p. 130
  • Intellect is the capacity for acquiring and accumulating ideas; intelligence is the ability to use experience-even the experience of others- for the clarification and attainment of one's ends.
    • p.131
  • Health, character, and intelligence help us to control ourselves and our lives, and therefore constitute the bases of a free personality, and the primary goals of education. Education should teach us not only the technique but also the limits of control, an the art of accepting those limits graciously. Everything natural is forgivable.
    • p.133
  • I would like my children to be instructed in the give-and-take of human association, in the tolerance that alone can preserve a friendship through growing diversity of interests and views, and in the mutual solitude that perpetually nourishes the fragile plant of love. I would want them to learn something of the origin and development of love, so that they might approach this vital and sometimes destructive experience with a modest measure of understanding.
    • p.133
  • Psychology is largely a theory of human behavior, philosophy is an ideal of human behavior and history is occasionally a record of human behavior. No man is educated, or fit for statesmanship, who cannot see his time in the perspective of the past.
    • p.138
  • There is another way to view history; history as man's rise from savagery to civilization-history as the record of the lasting contributions made to man's knowledge, wisdom, arts, morals, manners, skills-history as a laboratory rich in a hundred thousand experiments in economics, religion, literature, science, and government. History is our roots and our illumination, as the road by which we came and the only light that can clarify the present and guide us to the future; that history tells us how we have behaved for six thousand years. One who knows that record has learned the limitations of human nature, and bears with equanimity the faults of his neighbors and the imperfections of states.
    • p. 145
  • The root of crime, in all classes, nations and ages, is the basically lawless nature of man, formed by a million years of hunting, fighting, killing and greed. Man to become civilized, must be subjected to a system of national law possessing superior force, So we must relinquish the childish dreams of unfettered liberty that inspired many of us in our youth.
    • p.147
  • A central challenge of civilization is that it is harder to produce food than beget children; so in nearly all ages the growth of population has out run the production of food, the balance between births and deaths has been restored by the ruthless Malthusian trinity of famine, pestilence, and war. The question is how long can we defer the explosive confrontation between the limited productivity of arable soil and the uncontrolled reproductive ecstasy of men?
    • p.148
  • In the United States and France education became almost wholly a furnishing of the intellect; the formation of character was turned back by the teacher to the family and the Church. But these were losing their influence, the student grew daily in sharpness of intellect and looseness of character. For the intellect is a constitutional individualist; it thinks of self first, and only in mature development does it consider the group.
    • p.150
  • How does this American capitalism compare with other economic systems in history? In productivity, of course in has no equal, and no precedent. Never before has an economic system poured forth so great and varied an abundance of goods and services, tools and labor-saving devices, books and journals, comforts and amusements. Never before has so large a proportion of the people been raised to so high a standard of living.
    • p.155
  • Capitalism is showing dangerous defects; poisoning our air, waters, and food. It uses at a reckless rate the mineral resources of our soil. Above all, it seems by its very nature to stimulate repeated concentrations of wealth, leading to concentrations of purchasing power and depressions. So economic history in this aspect, is the slow heart beat of the social organism, a vast diastole and systole of concentrating wealth and explosive revolution.
    • p.157
  • Revolt of course, is and inborn right of youth; its a mark of the ego become conscious of itself and demanding a place in the world. The youth's challenge is to our ruthless competition, our greed for possessing wealth and power, our barbaric wars for the raw material of the earth, the refusal of our governments to obey the moral code (or laws) it preaches to its citizens.
    • p.158
  • Though there are many sluggards among the poor, and discouraging abuses in the administration of relief, we must recognize that the majority of the poor are victims of racial discrimination and environmental handicaps. We must tax ourselves to provide adequate education, and a minimum of food, clothing, contraceptives, and shelter for all, as a far less costly procedure than social and political disorder through minority violence and authoritarian force, crushing between them not only democracy but perhaps civilization itself.
    • p.159
  • War is the Darwinism or natural selection of states, and not all our tears will wash it out of history until the people and governments of the world agree, or are forced, to yield their sovereignty to some superstate; and then there will be revolutions and civil wars.
    • p.160
  • Can we improve our heritage before we pass it on? I would make parentage a privilege and not a right. No one has the right to bring a child into the world without having passed test of physical and mental fitness to breed. The unity of the family and the authority of the parents should be strengthened by making parents legally responsible for their dependent children of minor age and by making the earnings of such children subject to parental control.
    • p.162
  • I would like every religious institution to preach morality rather than theology, and welcome into its fellowship every person who accepts the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments as the ideal toward which he strives to grow.
    • p.162
  • Every encouragement should be given to the further organization of labor, as a desirable counterpoise to the organization of industrialists, merchants, bankers, and generals.

p.162

  • I should advise youth to be skeptical of revolution as a monster that devours its fathers and children. Less alluring, but less costly, are those process of reform, by persistent propaganda and gradual implementation, which have achieved so many beneficent changes in our economic and political life in this country.
    • p.163
    • p.161

With Ariel DurantEdit

  • Power dements even more than it corrupts, lowering the guard of foresight and raising the haste of action.

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