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The Lessons of History

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In this illuminating and thoughtful book, Will and Ariel Durant have succeeded in distilling for the reader the accumulated store of knowledge and experience from their four decades of work on the ten monumental volumes of "The Story of Civilization." The result is a survey of human history, full of dazzling insights into the nature of human experience, the evolution of civilization, the culture of man. With the completion of their life's work they look back and ask what history has to say about the nature, the conduct and the prospects of man, seeking in the great lives, the great ideas, the great events of the past for the meaning of man's long journey through war, conquest and creation - and for the great themes that can help us to understand our own era.

To the Durants, history is "not merely a warning reminder of man's follies and crimes, but also an encouraging remembrance of generative souls ... a spacious country of the mind wherein a thousand saints, statesman, inventors, scientists, poets, artists, musicians, lovers, and philosophers still live and speak, teach and carve and sing..."

Designed to accompany the ten-volume set of "The Story of Civilization, The Lessons of History" is, in its own right, a profound and original work of history and philosophy.

119 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1968

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About the author

Will Durant

682 books2,541 followers
William James Durant was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for the 11-volume The Story of Civilization, written in collaboration with his wife Ariel and published between 1935 and 1975. He was earlier noted for his book, The Story of Philosophy, written in 1926, which was considered "a groundbreaking work that helped to popularize philosophy."

They were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1967 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.

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Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,180 followers
November 30, 2019
I am having trouble articulating the complex mix of opinions and emotions that I’ve formed around Durant. Several times I have come away from his books disappointed; and yet I continue to read them. One reason he fascinates me is that he is a species of American which is now almost entirely extinct: a product of the ‘Great Books’ paradigm in American higher education.

As far as I can tell, this paradigm in education was first popularized in 1909, when Charles W. Eliot released his Harvard Classics—the so-called Five-Foot Shelf—which consisted of 51 volumes of classic works from western history. The spirit of this idea was later epitomized in the Book-of-the-Month club, about which Bertrand Russell, writing in 1930, penned his famous line: “There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it.”

It was certainly a different time. The philosopher George Santayana and the historian Arnold Toynbee were bestselling authors, both featured on the cover of Time magazine. Will Durant, whose prose style strikes the modern ear as purple and grandiloquent, created a publishing sensation with his Story of Civilization, a series which totals four million words and ten thousand pages. And the monstrously big, 54-volume Great Books of the Western World sold thousands of copies—thousands!—even though it included works of Alexandrian astronomy, Greek mathematics, and German metaphysics, among other difficult material. One suspects that the bragging motive was the operative one in the majority of these purchases.

The spirit of the ‘Great Books’ paradigm is that of idolatry towards European intellectual history. The tone of its advocates often sound ludicrously reverential, such as this excerpt from a speech delivered on the occasion of the release of the Great Books series: “This is more than a set of books, and more than a liberal education. Great Books of the Western World is an act of piety. Here are the sources of our being. Here is our heritage. This is the West. This is its meaning for mankind.” As two World Wars wracked the European continent, and as the fear of communism and nuclear war covered the Western world with gloom, perhaps it is unsurprising to see American intellectuals and laypeople positioning themselves as the heirs of European civilization.

This idea held sway for a long time in American Universities, and perhaps is not altogether dead. The swan songs of this pedagogical philosophy can be heard in Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (1987) and in Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon (1994), wherein both authors lament and eulogize the disappearance of the ‘Great Books’ from American universities.

Educated at Columbia during the heyday of this phenomenon, Durant was formed by the ‘Great Books’ ethos, and perhaps was one of its most eloquent proponents. And it strikes me now that, in Durant’s writings, one finds both the virtues and the vices of the ‘Great Books’ idea illustrated with extreme precision.

Durant was broadminded and well-rounded; he could write ably about a multitude of subjects. He was tolerant, kindly, witty, and had a firm belief in human progress and achievement. His prose style was superb—a model of clarity and grace—which he used in his quest to disseminate as widely as possible the fruits of “Civilization” (his all-inclusive term for everything good in society). Neither a genius nor a scholar, Durant was an enthusiast: he was able to write so wonderfully about historical figures because he genuinely loved and revered them; in fact, he almost literally worshiped them, as he himself admitted.

But he also had many weaknesses. First, the ‘Great Books’ mindset caused Durant to concentrate his attention overmuch on the high-points in cultural achievement. One gets an extremely skewed picture of European history if one focuses solely on the greatest thinkers and artists. Of course, it is pleasant to contemplate these individuals, which is partly why Durant’s books are so fun to read; but such exclusive concentration also produces a kind of Pollyannish attitude, where history is seen through rose-tinted glasses, and persecutions, wars, and bigotry are not given their due—and the banality of daily life is wholly sidestepped.

A related consequence of the ‘Great Books’ attitude is a somewhat reactionary mindset. Since Durant so often equates the old with the good, tradition with right, age with quality, he can be remarkably, and sometimes stupidly, conservative. For example, whenever Durant writes of sexual mores, he comes across as a moralizing Sunday-school teacher. For Durant, promiscuity is immoral, and homosexuality a sin. Long-term, faithful heterosexual marriages are the mark of ‘civilization’. Because Durant never justifies this opinion—a habit of his—I can only conclude that this was mere prejudice on his part.

Another obvious result of the ‘Great Books’ philosophy is elitism. Durant frequently mentions in this book that talent is unequally distributed; and because of this “natural inequality of man,” the stupid majority are destined forever to toil under the dominance of the intelligent minority. Now, of course I would not disagree that people are differently endowed from birth with various aptitudes. But I am very far from believing that the inequality which we see throughout history and which persists today is simply the result of the “skill” of the wealthy and powerful. Rather, I agree with Gibbon, that “The generality of princes, if they were stripped of their purple and cast naked into the world, would immediately sink to the lowest rank of society without a hope of emerging from their obscurity.”

The ‘Great Books’ program also has the shortcoming of emphasizing breadth over depth. Durant certainly embodies this. Although he can write about many subjects, he is an expert on none of them; and this lack of serious expertise prevented him from advancing the state of knowledge in any field. Durant’s ideology also privileges the transmission of old ideas rather than the creation of new ones. After all, if one worships the past, there is little motivation to re-imagine the future. Moreover, the ‘Great Books’ doctrine stressed reputation at the expense of rigor. Ideas are praised for their lasting influence, their grandness of scope, their contribution to a long-standing debate—but not for their accuracy. In Durant, this produced a man who often cared more about whether an idea was beautiful or interesting rather than whether it was true.

Fueling this tendency is another shibboleth of the ‘Great Books’ school: that simply by reading the greatest books of the ages, one could purge oneself of all provincial prejudices and look upon history as from a timeless perspective. Durant seems to think this way, as the very title of this book shows: The Lessons of History. These conclusions are not his own theses, not his own ideas—but lessons, which Durant can gather from the fabric of history as easily as a child can infer the lesson from a fairytale. It goes without saying that this is nonsense. Durant looked at history and found his own prejudices; and this book is merely a collection of them.

I am sure you are wearied by this litany of accusations and complaints, so I will only mention in passing the other distinctive sins of this ‘Great Books’ mindset—namely, its glorification of Europe, and only Western Europe, at the expense of the rest of the world, as well as its underrepresentation of women and minorities. This is wonderfully illustrated in Durant's plan of the Story of Civilization, wherein he dedicates one volume to all of Asia, and the rest of the eleven volumes to Europe (and none to South America or to Africa).

At this point you may be wondering, “If Durant has so many faults, which you are apparently so acutely aware of, why are you reading so much of him?” Well, this has to do with my own history. At the end of my time in college, vaguely feeling that the education I received was not worth half of what I paid for it, I picked up Allan Bloom’s Closing of the American Mind. This book had a profound effect on me. Bloom seemed to articulate my dissatisfaction with my education, as well point me in the direction where it could be rectified. As soon as I finished, I looked up the list of the Great Books of the Western World, and dove in.

Now, despite all of the faults I listed above, I must still admit that one receives a stupendous education by reading the books recommended in the program. I read rabidly, desperately, doing my best to make up for lost time; and whatever may be my intellectual shortcomings now—and they are many—I am at least far better off than I was before I began. But of course I still have not read all of these hoary books—there are a lot!—and this is partly why I’m interested in Will Durant: for in him, I can see the end result of my own educational project.

Unfortunately, while Durant was truly an excellent writer, for the reasons I discussed above, he was a poor thinker. This slim volume, the fruits of a massive research project, is a collection of vague homilies, baseless theorizing, and unsupported claims. It is incredible and a bit depressing that so much learning could produce so little insight. I still think I have much to learn from Durant and the other proponents of the ‘Great Books’ school—as well as from the books themselves, of course. But now, hopefully, after sorting through Durant’s writings, I will be better able to separate the good from the bad, the worthless from the valuable; for I do think, after all, that there is something essentially precious in the idea.
Profile Image for Jameson.
Author 9 books56 followers
December 27, 2013
I inherited much of my father’s library many years ago, including the entire eleven volume Story of Civilization, by Will and Ariel Durant. Included in the set was the single slim volume they wrote afterward by way of an introduction, The Lessons of History. Over the years I have frequently dipped into individual volumes of the main text for research, but I never read any entire volume until my wife came bouncing into my office one evening and thrust The Lessons of History under my nose and said, “Read this chapter!” I read it, and immediately wondered why the hell I hadn’t read the whole thing long ago. I have now rectified that. Not the whole eleven volume set, but I have read that one-volume introduction and I was blown away by it.

The Lessons of History is intended to be both an introduction and a survey of human history as a product of the human experience, of man’s essential evolutionary nature. The Durant’s do not judge; they do not say this system is better than that, or peace is better than war. They do not even bang the drum of George Santayana’s often misquoted maxim: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” What they do stress is that man will, in fact, continuously repeat the past because he cannot help himself. Man has evolved to be a particular organism with particular needs and desires and drives and responses and those are the things that influence his behavior, over and over again throughout the millennia. It will be many a long day before the lion evolves into a critter capable of lying down with the lamb, and it will be just as long before man evolves into a critter not driven by, “acquisitiveness, pugnacity, and pride.”

So what The Story of Civilization chronicles, and The Lessons of History summarizes, is the sequence of patterns of behavior that have been repeated continuously since the first known civilization(s), with “civilization” being defined as a social order that promotes cultural creation. But it is the laws of evolution that limit civilization, so that man’s natural instincts of competition (for food, mates, power), selection (some men will always have better competitive skills than others, and so there will always be inequality), and reproduction (influenced, obviously, by competition and selection) will always be the limiting factors that cause a civilization to rise and fall. And the rise and fall of civilizations—all civilizations that have been or are yet to come—is a given. None will last forever, and the speed with which they appear and vanish can depend on a variety of factors: geological, climatological, biological, or even political. Do you doubt that last one? Consider Communism. Primitive communism, meaning a society based on communal sharing, actually worked in hunter/gatherer societies that were constantly on the move pursuing game, but those are precisely the societies that have neither the leisure nor the wherewithal to pursue the cultural creation that defines a civilization. The moment a society depends on continuous labor to feed itself with provision for the future (as in agriculture, for example, as opposed to hunting and gathering) selection comes into play, along with its concomitant concept of private property (this patch of earth is more fertile and productive than that patch) with some men being more successful than others, and communism ceases to be an effective tool for societal survival. After all, if everything is going to be shared equally, I might as well just kick back here a take nap and let you do the heavy lifting.

Competition between individuals means I run faster, fight harder, or outwit you. In a society, that translates into war, and since man is what he is, wars will continue as long as man exists. To quote the Durants (writing in 1968): “In the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war.” The only silver lining in that dark cloud is that war does stimulate the tool-using animal’s creative impulses, and occasionally those instruments designed for destruction are converted to creative and beneficial uses. Reproduction among individuals means, well, I hardly think we need go there, but in a society, it means pretty much that he who has the most children wins, which goes a long way to explaining why there are currently 7,132,780,410 people on earth, and that number will be over 7,132,800,000 before I finish this review.

But it was the repetitive evolution of different political structures that really caught my eye. The Durants used China under Wang An-shih (1068-85 AD) as an example of the failure of socialism. Wang An-shih decided the state should own and control everything, commerce, industry, agriculture, and “[succor] the working classes [by] preventing them from being ground into the dust by the rich.” For a while, everything was hunky-dory, with great feats of engineering, pensions for the elderly and unemployed, an overhaul of the educational system, governmental boards in every district to administer every damn thing in the world. Sounds a little like America today, doesn’t it? But it fell apart (the Durants cite as reasons high taxes, an enormous army, and bureaucratic corruption, also much like America today), as socialism always has throughout all of history because, to quote the late Margaret Thatcher, “Sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.” That’s me quoting her, obviously, not the Durants. Instead, they wrote: “The experience of the past leaves little doubt that every economic system must sooner or later rely upon some form of the profit motive to stir individuals and groups to productivity.”

As I was reading all this, I happened to watch the movie, Meet John Doe, with Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck, and its theme of Christ’s message in today’s world, and I started thinking about America today. In the movie, the success of the John Doe Clubs that spring up across the nation is due to people and communities coming together to create work for their less fortunate neighbors. Not once in the movie is there any mention of a handout or any form of money given away as opposed to earned.

The Lessons of History stresses that selection and the inevitable superiority of some people means that there will always be inequality, but not necessarily inequity. There are two forms of equality that no society can ignore without fatal consequences: equality under the law; and equal opportunity for education, because education provides the opportunity for every man to rise according to his ability. However, even if the law and educational opportunity are available for all, if the gap between rich and poor widens too much, and if there is no bridge of middleclass with which the poor can hope to overcome that gap, violent redistribution of wealth will inevitably occur. It’s one of the lessons of history.
Profile Image for Danger Kallisti.
59 reviews26 followers
February 13, 2008
The first thing to understand about this book is that it was written by old people. By this, I don’t even mean that they were chronologically enhanced; more that they were trapped by that inflexible mindset which places tradition and an intense desire for belonging above a natural exploration of reality.

The Durants were either intelligent people trying to reconcile their minds to the demands of the culture in which they were raised, or abject liars attempting to politick their way onto the bookshelves of the prosaic postwar American public. The doublespeak and contradictory statements make the book read like a Kerry speech.

One can’t simultaneously say that greed and hoarding are positive human behaviors and praise the charitable throughout history for their generosity, or say that fear and respect for one’s elders goes hand in hand with true creativity and individuality.

This isn’t thinking, it’s highly-skilled, well-educated apery. No wonder my father enjoys it so much, since he too is no more (and probably considerably less) than the average street kid or drug dealer. This is philosophy in its cheapest and most generic form.

In the same way that they say statistics will be used to support any point, it would seem that 3500 years of chaotic human behavior may be used in the same manner. Like anything created by mainstream Western, Judeo-Christian culture, this book seeks only to preserve the foundations upon which it was built.

I also saw a great deal of reactionary sentiment against the “upstart” 1960s youth culture.
A great deal of time is spent lamenting the decay of morality and religion (even when they, themselves agree that these things are false societal constructs designed to keep power in the hands of those in control, and not natural or even particularly healthy attributes of mankind).

“Is democracy responsible for the current debasement of art? The debasement, of course, is not unquestioned; it is a matter of subjective judgment; and those of us who shudder at its excesses – its meaningless blotches of color [Pollack?], its collages of debris [pop art?], its Babels of cacophony [rock music?] – are doubtless imprisoned in our past and dull to the courage of experiment. The producers of such nonsense are appealing not to the general public – which scorns them as lunatics, degenerates, or charlatans – but to gullible middle-class purchasers who are hypnotized by auctioneers and are thrilled by the new, however deformed.”

As is shown repeatedly throughout the book, the Durants believe that the only art worthy of the title is the realism of Renaissance painters, the stark geometry of Greek architecture, or the predictable mathematics of classical music. While I won’t disagree that there were certainly some artists of these eras, for the most part those who are considered by the traditionally “educated” to be great artists are truly no more than great technicians, capable of great dexterity and numerical understanding. In my mind, true art is deconstruction of all that the “educated” human mind holds true and certain. It is that which brings one back to the deeper, eternal, animal nature, which creates an anarchy of the soul and frees the viewer from the constraints attached by society. It is that which is capable of undoing the indoctrination of life in the modern world and creating a direct channel between the Chaos Mind and the human spirit.
Profile Image for Peiman E iran.
1,394 reviews706 followers
May 20, 2022
‎دوستانِ گرانقدر، در این ریویو تصمیم گرفتم تا از سرتاسرِ این کتابِ ارزشمند، جملاتی را به انتخاب برایِ شما دوستانِ خردگرا و اهلِ کتاب، بنویسم
‎ولتر میگوید: تاریخ در کل مجموعه ای از جنایات، حماقتها و ناکامی هایِ نوعِ بشر است
‎آیا گذشته سراسر تکرارِ ملالت بارِ خطاهایی است که آینده محکوم به ارتکابِ آن در میدانی وسیع تر و مقیاسی بزرگتر است؟
‎بخش عمدهٔ تاریخ، حدس و فرض است و بقیهٔ آن تعصب..... شواهدِ چندگونه و مورخانِ متعصب و مغرض، بیانِ وقایع تاریخی در گذشته را به نوعی تیره و مبهم ساخته است و شاید پایبندی به مسائل دینی و اعتقاداتِ مذهبی و حتی میهن پرستی این دسته از مورخان، دلیلی بر این موضوع باشد و این مورخان در انتخابِ مطالب و ظریف کاری هایِ توصیفی تمایلاتِ پنهانِ خویش را فاش میسازند
‎زمانِ حال، همان طومارِ گذشته است که برای اجرا شدن بسته شده است و گذشته همان طومارِ حال است که برایِ شناخته شدن گسترده شده است
‎آزادی و برابری هر دو دشمنانِ سوگند خورده و دیرینهٔ یکدیگرند. هنگامی که یکی از این دو برتر باشد و غالب شود، دیگری میمیرد.. اگر انسانها آزادانه به حالِ خود رها شوند، نابرابری های ذاتیشان به صورتِ تصاعدی افزایش میابد، همانطور که در انگلستان و آمریکای سدهٔ نوزدهم شاهدِ این موضوع بودیم.. از سویِ دیگر برای مهار نابرابری باید آزادی قربانی شود، همانطور که در روسیه پس از سال ۱۹۱۷ این موضوع را شاهد بودیم.. نابرابری حتی در شرایطِ سرکوب نیز رشد میکند کسی که زیر حدِ وسط قرار دارد، خواهانِ برابری است و کسی که از استعدادِ برتر بهره مند است، خواهانِ آزادی میباشد و سرانجام همان کسانی که در سطحِ بالا بوده و استعدادی برتر دارند، به خواستهٔ خویش میرسند
‎اگر تولیدِ مثلِ انسان، بر موجودیِ مواد غذایی بچربد، طبیعت برای برقرار ساختن موازنه، سه عامل در اختیار دارد: قحطی، بیماری همه گیر و جنگ
‎کمک های نقدی و مادی به فقرا، آنها را به ازدواج های بی هنگام و بچه دار شدنِ بی حساب تشویق میکند و چنین چیزی در هر سرزمینی مشکل ایجاد میکند، چراکه نرخِ زایش از نرخِ مرگ پیشی میگیرد و افزایشِ مصرفِ موادِ غذایی و منابعِ طبیعی، هر نوع طرقی در تولیدِ مواد غذایی و دیگر مواردِ مورد نیاز برای زندگی را خنثی خواهد کرد
‎این نژاد نیست که تمدن را به وجود می آورد، بلکه این تمدن است که ملت ها را میسازد.. به عبارت دیگر، اوضاع و احوالِ جغرافیایی، اقتصادی و سیاسی، فرهنگ را میسازد و فرهنگ نیز گونهٔ خاص انسان را می آفریند
‎آگاهی از تاریخ به ما می آموزد که تمدن، حاصل همکاری و تعاونی است که تقریباً همهٔ انسانها در آن سهم داشته اند.. تمدن میراثِ مشترکِ ماست و همهٔ ما مدیون تمدن هستیم
‎بنایِ اجتماع بر پایهٔ آرمانها و آرزوهایِ انسانها نیست، بلکه بر بنیانِ طبیعتِ آنهاست و ساختار فطریِ انسانها یعنی همان امیال، غرایز و عواطف، قوانینِ اساسیِ کشورها را یکی پس از دیگری، رقم میزند
‎شورشیان هنگامِ پیروزی، همان شیوه هایی را بکار میبندند که خود همواره عمل به آنها را از جانبِ قدرتها و حکومتهایِ برکنار و خلع شده، محکوم میساختند
‎قوانینِ اخلاقی، در طولِ تاریخ به دلیلِ انطباق با شرایطِ تاریخی و زیست محیطی، در تغییر و دگرگونی بوده است.. ستیزه گری، خونریزی، حرص و طمع و آمادگیِ جنسی، در تنازعِ بقا، امتیاز محسوب میشد.. احتمالاً هر فرومایگی و شرارتی، در برخی از سرزمینها و در روزگارانی، یک نوع فضیلت و خصلتی در خورِ ادامهٔ حیاتِ فرد، خانواده و یا یک اجتماع به شمار می آمد... زشت کاری هایِ آدمی، میراثِ روزگارِ ترقیِ اوست، نه داغِ ننگِ ایامِ سقوط
‎به نظر نمیرسد که دین با اخلاق، رابطه ای داشته باشد.. همانطور که لوکرتیوس، فیلسوفِ رومی گفته است، این ترس بود که خدایان را آفرید.. ترس از نیروهایِ مخفی در زمین، رودها، دریاها، درختان، بادها و آسمان و بسیاری از حوادثِ طبیعی.. پرستش و خشنود کردنِ این نیروها با دادنِ هدایا و قربانی، یا سحر و افسون و دعا، دین را به وجود آورد.. تنها زمانی که خادمانِ دین، این ترسها و نیایش ها را به حمایت از قانون و اخلاق به کار انداختند، دین به صورتِ نیرویِ حیاتی دولتها و رقیبِ آنها درآمد.. دین به مردم گفت که دستوراتِ اخلاقی و قوانین را خدا یا خدایان وضع کرده اند.. در طولِ تاریخ ادیان و مذاهب در خدمتِ حکومتها و دولتها بوده اند و از این راه سودِ زیادی نصیبِ روحانیون و ملاها در کلیساها و مساجد شده است
‎قدرتهایِ دینی و روحانیون در طولِ تاریخ اصلاحات اندکی در دین و مذهب هایِ مختلف انجام داده اند، ولی شجاعتِ این را ندارند تا برخی از اصولِ دینی و داستانها و معجزه هایِ مذهبی را که عقل و خردِ انسانی به آنها میخندد را تغییر دهند، چراکه اینگونه تغییرها موجبِ رنجشِ میلیونها پیرو مذهبی و آدمهایی میشود که به خرافات و موهوماتِ الهام بخش و تسلّی دهنده در کتبِ مقدس دل بسته اند
‎سازش میانِ دین و فلسفه و دانش ممکن نیست.. مگر آنکه فلاسفه و خردگرایان اعلام کنند برای خدمتِ اخلاقیِ پایگاه هایِ دینی و مذهبی همچون کلیسا و کنیسه و مسجد، جایگزینی نیافته اند و از سوی دیگر ادیان و مذاهب نیز آزادی در تفکر و اندیشه و خردگرایی را به رسمیت بشناسد
‎تاریخ قدرتِ آفرینش و حیات بخشِ طبیعت را به عنوانِ خدا میشناسد و اعتقادی به خدایِ واحد و علیم و رحیم ندارد.. زمین لرزه، طوفان، گردباد، سیل، بیماری و دیگر بلایاها و جنایات و جنگها، همگی نشان دهندهٔ سرنوشتی کور یا بی طرف خواهد بود که پدیده هایِ تصادفی و اتفاقی آن را خیلی از مردم از سرِ انگارهٔ نظم، عظمت، جمال یا تعالی میخوانند... حتی اگر تاریخ پشتیبانِ یک نوع الهیات باشد، این الهیات از نوعِ آیینِ مانی و حتی زرتشت خواهد بود.. یعنی نوعی جوهرِ اهورایی با جوهرِ اهریمنی مدام با یکدیگر در نبرد هستند تا بر جهان و موجوداتِ آن همچون انسانها، تسلط پیدا کنند.. از نگاهِ طبیعت و تاریخ، خوب یعنی آنچه ادامهٔ حیات میدهد و بد یعنی آنچه از میان میرود.. پس عالم هستی نه تعصبی به پیامبران دارد و نه در بر علیه و زیانِ کسی همچون چنگیزخان مغول، کاری انجام میدهد
‎رشد و پیشرفتِ دانش و خردِ انسانی و همچنین آگاهیِ فزایندهٔ انسان از جایگاهِ بسیار کوچک و حقیرش در این جهانِ بسیار بزرگ، به کاهشِ باورهایِ دینی، شتاب بخشیده است.. به همین دلیل است که فرانسیس بیکن گفت: علم و دانش، دینِ انسانِ رهایی یافتهٔ عصرِ جدید است
‎تا زمانی که در جهان فقر و تنگدستی وجود دارد، خدایان نیز وجود خواهند داشت
‎انقلابِ صنعتی، همراهِ خود، دموکراسی، آزادی زنان، تنظیم خانواده، سوسیالیسم، رهایی ادبیات از وابستگی به حمایتِ اشرافیت، جایگزینی رئالیسم با رمانتیسم در دا��تانسرایی و بالاخره تفسیرِ اقتصادیِ تاریخ را به همراه آورد
‎کسانی که میتوانند دیگران را به خدمتِ خویش درآورند، آنانی را به خدمت میگیرند که تنها قادرند بر اشیا مسلط شوند.. و انسانهایی که قادرند بر پول تسلط داشته باشند، بر همه سلطه دارند
‎در حالتِ عادی و درکل،انسانها را بر حسبِ استعدادِ خود برایِ تولید میسنجند. البته جز در زمان جنگ که در آن با معیارِ استعداد در تخریب و کشتار و انهدام سنجیده میشوند
‎از آنجا که انسان شیفتهٔ آزادی است و آزادیِ افراد در جامعه مستلزمِ قواعدی برای رفتار است، بنابراین نخستین شرطِ آزادی، محدودیتِ آن است.. اگر آزادی مطلق و بی بند و بار گردد، خود در هرج و مرج تباه خواهد شد.. پس نخستین وظیفهٔ حکومت، برقراری نظم و انضباط است
‎تاریخ ثابت کرده که حکومت از نوعِ پادشاهی و سلطنت، سازگارترین نوعِ حکومت با طبیعتِ انسانهاست.. اگر بنا باشد دربارهٔ اشکالِ حکومت بر حسبِ رواج و عمرِ آنها قضاوت کنیم، باید نشانِ افتخار را به سلطنت و پادشاهی بدهیم
‎حکومتِ اشراف، تنها پرورشگاهِ کشورداری نیست، بلکه مخزن و اسبابِ انتقالِ فرهنگ، منش ها، معیارها و سلیقه ها نیز میباشد و از این طریق در برابرِ جوش و خروشِ و طغیان هایِ اجتماعی، ناهنجاری هایِ هنری و یا تغییراتِ ناگهانی در نظامِ اخلاقی، در حکمِ سدی محکم و محافظ عمل میکند.. ببینید از انقلابِ فرانسه به بعد، چه بر سرِ اخلاقیات، آداب، سبکها و هنر آمده است
‎بسیاری از انقلابها بر علیه حکومتِ پادشاهی و روی کار آمدنِ دموکراسی، آثار مخرب داشته است و باعث روی کار آمدنِ نوکیسه ها و عقب مانده ها شده است.. به یکباره گسستن از گذشته، یعنی تحریکِ جنونی که پی آمدِ آن، اختلالاتِ شدید یا فلجِ عمومیِ جامعه است.. از آنجا که سلامتِ روانیِ انسان وابسته به تداومِ حافظهٔ اوست، سلامتِ روانِ جامعه نیز وابسته به تداومِ سنتهایِ آن است
‎افلاطون میگوید: دیکتاتوری طبعاً از دموکراسی سرچشمه میگیرد و خشن ترین شکلِ ظلم و برده داری از افراطی ترین شکلِ آزادی ساخته میشود
‎معمولاً، آزادی اقتصادی در میانِ اقشارِ متوسط جامعه، کم شده و کاهش میابد و از سوی دیگر آزادی سیاسی به صورتِ تظاهری، تسلی بخش این گروه از مردم میشود.. نباید چنین مسائلی را تماماً ناشی از انحراف و فسادِ ثروتمندان بدانیم، بلکه این موضوع از جبری بودنِ توسعهٔ اقتصادی و طبیعتِ انسان، سرچشمه میگیرد.. هرچه بر پیچیدگیِ اقتصادی افزوده شود، به استعدادِ برتر امتیازِ عالی تری تعلق میگیرد و تمرکزِ ثروت و مسئولیت و قدرتِ سیاسی را تشدید میکند
‎دموکراسی از سایرِ روش هایِ حکومت داری دشوارتر است، زیرا وسیع ترین پراکنش و پراکندگیِ تعقل و اندیشه را میطلبد و هنگامی که ما مردم خود را به حکومت میرسانیم، از یاد میبریم که خویش را عاقل سازیم... تعلیم و تربیت توسعه یافته، اما قدرتِ باروریِ مردمِ ساده و عوام پیوسته مانعِ بزرگی بر سرِ راهِ گسترشِ تعقل و خردمندی بوده است... جهل و نادانی را تنها به این دلیل که فراوان ترین چیز است، نباید بر تختِ قدرت نشاند
‎حقِ رسیدن به منصب و قدرت، جزوِ حقوقِ انسان به شمار نمی آید، اما حقِ انسان است که برای رسیدن به منصب و قدرت در هر راهی که به استعداد و لیاقت او امکانِ پرورش و آزمایش میدهد، گام بردارد... نباید فراموش کنیم که حق، هدیهٔ طبیعت یا آسمان نیست، بلکه امتیازی است که بخاطرِ منافعِ گروه به فرد داده میشود
‎اگر اقتصادِ آزاد قادر نباشد به همان شایستگی که ثروت را ایجاد کرده است، آن را توزیع کند، راهِ دیکتاتوری به رویِ هرکس که بتواند به دیگران وعدهٔ اطمینان بخشِ تأمینِ زندگی را بدهد، گشوده خواهد بود و حکومتی نظامی، تحتِ انواعِ اصطلاح هایِ فریبنده، جهانِ آزاد را فرا خواهد گرفت
‎نظمِ جهانی، با توافقِ دولتمردان و حکومتها حاصل نمیشود، بلکه از راه پیروزیِ بسیار قاطع یکی از قدرتهایِ بزرگ که قادر است قانونِ بین المللی را دیکته و اجرا کند، بدست خواهد آمد
‎تمدن یعنی نظمی اجتماعی که تعالی بخشِ آفرینشِ فرهنگی است.. نظمی سیاسی که عادتها، اخلاقیات و قانون، آن را تأمین میکند.. و در نهایت نظمی است اقتصادی که با تداومِ تولید و مبادله، برقرار میشود.. تمدن آفرینشِ فرهنگی است که در پرتو آزادی و امکانات برای آفریدن، تجربه، تفسیر و آزمایش و باروری باورها، ادبیات، منش ها و هنرها، صورت میگیرد... تمدن رشتهٔ درهم تنیده و زودگسلِ روابطِ انسانی است که دشوار بافته میشود و آسان نابود میگردد
‎اگر ما امروز پیشرفت کرده ایم، به این خاطر نیست که ما سالمتر، بهتر یا عاقل تر از انسانهای گذشته هستیم، بلکه سبب آن است که بر میراثی غنی تر و بر سطحِ عالی ترِ بنیانی که تراکمِ دانش و هنر آن را به صورتِ تکیه گاه و حفاظ وجودی ما بالا میبرد، دیده گشوده ایم.. این میراث رشد میکند و انسانی که آن را دریافت میکند نیز به همان نسبت رشد و پیشرفت میکند
‎آن انسانی سعادتمند است که قبل از مرگ، تا آنجا که میتواند از میراث تمدن خوشه چینی کند و آن را به فرزندانِ خود منتقل سازد.. چنین انسانی تا واپسین دمِ حیات مدیون و شاکرِ این میراثِ زوال ناپذیر خواهد بود و میداند که این میراث پرورانندهٔ ما انسانها و حیاتِ جاویدِ ماست
‎امیدوارم این ریویو برایِ شما دوستانِ هوشی وار، مفید بوده باشه
‎«پیروز باشید و ایرانی»
Profile Image for Lori Tian Sailiata.
243 reviews30 followers
December 29, 2014
The audio version is delightful. It enhances the original text with interviews that are relevant to each section. The intimacy between Will and Ariel is a treat. Their playful arm wrestling over ideas and concepts makes for a better interview. Sure, their world view is older...although he was a radical of his time. But even for the faults, it's a delight to linger in his mind. And an honor to be in the presence of Ariel's spirit.
Profile Image for Nawal Al-Qussyer.
167 reviews2,136 followers
December 2, 2015

كنت قد قررت أن أعطي الكتاب نجمتين .. لكن آخر فصل قلب موازين الكتب واخترت أن أقيمه ب ثلاث نجمات ..
قام ويل وزوجته ارييل بتأليف هذا الكتاب بعد انتهائهم من تأليف ونشر كتاب قصة الحضارة الضخم وكأنه في رحلته عبر التاريخ يقدم دروسا مستفادة وعبر من التاريخ الذي يكرر نفسه بصورته العامة.. يتكون الكتاب من ١٣ فصلا مختلفة الطول.. يعنون الفصول بعامل أو عنصر في حياة الانسان وعلاقته بالتاريخ وما قدم عبر العصور السالفة:
-ألوان من الحيرة
-التاريخ والأرض
-البيولوجيا والتاريخ
-العرق والتاريخ
-الشخصية والتاريخ
-الأخلاق والتاريخ
-الدين والتاريخ
-الاقتصاد والتاريخ
-الاشتراكية والتاريخ
-الحكومة والحرب
-التاريخ والحرب
-التطور والتحلل
-هل التقدم حقيقي
-وينتهي الكتاب بالهوامش..

الفصل الأخير حقيقة هو ما حرضني على التفكير أكثر بين فصول الكتاب.. إذ أنه يقدم تساؤلات كفيلة بجعلك تعيد النظر إلى واقعك وارتباطه بالتاريخ وعلاقته بالمستقبل.. تشكل وجهة نظرك للحضارة من جانب آخر ووجهة نظر تاريخية تؤمن بأن الحضارة تولد وقد تموت أو تركد.. وعملية التقدم هي نقل الحضارة إلى كل جيل عبر التعليم والوعي.. والوراثة في مسألة الحضارة شيء باطل.. فالحضارة لاتورث.

قبل أن أبدي ملاحظاتي على الكتاب أود أن أشكر المترجم.. أعتبر ترجمته من أفضل التراجم التي قرأتها.. واضحة ،ميسرة وغير ركيكة على الإطلاق.. كما كان جهده رائع إذ أضاف بعض الهوامش والتعريفات لبعض الاشخاص الذين تم ذكرهم في الكتاب وقد لايكونون معروفين لديك، فتكلف المترجم مشكورا بتوضيح بعض النقاط لأن الكتاب يبدو لي موجه شخصيا للغرب الذين هم على علم ببعض المسميات والتاريخ الاغريقي وشخوصه و و و .

الفصول الأولى جميلة لكني أرى أن الكتاب يضعف من المنتصف حتى قبل الفصل الأخير.. في هذا الكتاب وعلى مدى رحلته المبسطة للتاريخ عرفت أن البشر حين يطلقون العنان لأنفسهم ورغباتهم يصبحون وحوشا.. يتعطشون للملك والثراء ولو كان على حساب الآخرين.. يقتلون.. يفرضون أحكاما مستبدة ولايهمهم إطلاقا طبقاتا لفقراء والضعفاء وكم ستتسبب لهم هذه الاحكام من قمع وطحن ! أول درس من التاريخ أن الإنسان مرعب إذا صب اهتمامه في المال والملك ..

في نظري الكاتب يحتاج إلى نظرة إسلامية أعمق تهذب بعض نظرياته.. هناك بعض وجهات النظر والأفكار التي طرحها لا أتفق معاها إطلاقا وأشعر أن هناك أحكام تطلق من واقعه وبيئته فلاتعُمم.. لا أعرف لمَ لكني فعلا شعرت أنه بحاجة إلى نظرة إسلامية. مثلا في جدول العادات للإنسان شعرت بأن هناك مغالطات مثل النوم لايعتبر سلبيا! إلا إذا كان زائدا عن الحد.. وكذلك المغازلة ليست شيء ايجابي على إطلاقها..

وهناك نقطة نبه لها المترجم أيضا.. يقول ديورانت أن اليهود أعطوا محمد -و��لنصارى ايضا- شيء مهم لرسالته وكتابه.. يقصد أن رسولنا الكريم اقتبس من التوراة أو من التراث اليهودي.. ولمثل هذا أقول أنه ينظر للأمر بزاوية واحدة ولم يجرب أن يتعمق في النظرة الاسلامية كما تعمق في تاريخ الإغريق! فليس من المعقول أن يكون رجل مثل ويل باحث وقارئ ومؤرخ يعتقد أن القرآن إنما هو اقتباس من التوراة.. القرآن وحي وهذه النظرة أساءت لي وستسيء لكل مسلم.. اليهود والنصارى لم يعطوا شيء لرسولنا الكريم.. القرآن وحي من الله.. واليهود إن كان لايعلم فهم من أشهر الناس في تكتمهم على العلم وحوادث النبوة..

في الكتاب نقطة ذكرها في فصل التاريخ والدين.. أنه قامت حروب على رجال الدين والكنيسة والتشدد ونبذ العقل الذي حصل في العصور الوسطى وهذا مايحدث الآن لدينا.. وإن استمر الوضع أخشى ان يكون الدين لدينا شيء يضيق وليس يوسع.. ولكم أن تلاحظوا الوضع الحالي من كثرة الهجوم على المتدينين وعلى أسلوبهم وأقصد من لمتدينين النوع المتشدد جدا .. لاحظوا كثرة الهجوم مثل مسلسل طاش ماطاش وغيره حتى من بعض الدعاة أنفسهم.. ربما يتطور هذا النقد إلى هجوم شرس فيجب ان يعي رجال الدين ان الدين أوسع من نظرتهم الضيقة وأن لايتحدثوا باسم الدين في كل نظراتهم الشخصية المتشددة .. وإلا سيزداد الهجوم وسينبذ الدين سنون طوال بسبب مافعلوه.. تماما كما حصل في العصور الوسطى والتخلف الكنسي.. وهذا من دروس التاريخ العظيمة..

الدرس الذي يجب أن نستفيد منه هو إصلاحات صولون في أثينا.. إصلاحاته التي أنقذت أثينا من الثورة والدمار والتي لم تستغرق سوا جيلا واحدا! ولذلك يقول ويل : “الآثار التي تحدثها الثورة يمكن تحققها بدونها، من خلال الدفع التدريجي للتطورات الاقتصادية”.. فالثورة ليست دائما حل ..

يسمي ويل الكتاب دروس من التاريخ بينما كان يجب أن يسميه دروس من التاريخ الاوروبي والاغريقي والامريكي .. لأني أجد تجاهل و اغفال شديد لتاريخ الحضارة الاسلامية وركز على التاريخ الاوروبي والامريكي.. ولم يذكر تجربة الدول الاسلامية على الاطلاق ! بينما استمرت دول الخلافة الإسلامية لأكثر من ١٠٠٠ سنة! إجحافه هذا غير معقول..

من ماخرجت به وأراه صحيح جدا من دروس التاريخ أن النظام عندما يورث للأبناء أو للعائلة سيتولد استبداد أو جهل من الحكام أنفسهم.. بينما لا بديل لنظام اختيار الأجدر.. وهو ما أثبت فعاليته عبر التاريخ.. وللحكم الاسلامي في أوله أكبر دليل في الخلافات الراشدة.

قدم لفتة جميلة جدا عن الفن الهابط الذي نراه اليوم وعلاقته بالديموقراطية.. بتعليل منطقي رأيت فيه الكثير من الصحة والاسقاط على الواقع..

الفصل الأخير هو أجمل ما في الكتاب في نظري.. لأنه يطرح تساؤلات واشكاليات عن التقدم .. وهل وضعنا الحالي أفضل من سابقنا ولم في كل مرة نتمنى العودة للماضي وحياة الاجداد ولابطأ مع أننا نعيش فس عالم سرعتته مضاعفة في كل شيء.. الكتاب جدير بقراءة المهتمين بالتاريخ.. لكن الكتاب طبعا عمل بشري بحت يحتوي الكثير من النقص وعدم وجود رؤية أشمل وأكثر حيادية للتاريخ.

Profile Image for Mohamed.
393 reviews206 followers
July 12, 2021
يعرض ديورانت بعض الأفكار العامة عن التاريخ و تأثره ببعض العوامل كالبيولوجيا والأخلاق والدين والأقتصاد
!! الأفكار في معظمها جيدة لكن بعض الأفكار تعكس انحيازاته فهو مثلا يرى أن إسرائيل دولة حضارية تغلبت على عوائق كثيرة طبيعية و بشرية
232 reviews1 follower
October 18, 2015
What a thoroughly disagreeable book. Filled with conclusory opinionated claptrap unsupported by historical evidence. Racist and homophobic.

For example, "only the man who is below the average in economic ability desires equality" or "All strong characters and peoples are race conscious, and are instinctively averse to marriage outside their own racial group." or "...sin had flourished in every age...Even our generation has not yet rivaled the popularity of homosexualism in ancient Greece or Rome...". or ..."intelligence is perpetually retarted by the fertility of the simple."

It goes one and and on and on, notwithstanding the fact that text is only 102 pages.

Totally puts the lie to the authors' statement in the Preface in which they state that "our aim is not originality but inclusiveness; we offer a survey of human experience, not a personal revelation."

While it is true they are not "original" (there are lots of fuzzy thinking bigots in the world) they are certainly not inclusive and the "personal revelation" they do, in fact, reveal is ugly and repulsive.
Profile Image for Dennis.
659 reviews269 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
March 6, 2022
Always difficult to say whether it makes sense to read such an old book about human history. I enjoyed it in the beginning, but soon some doubts crept in. At some point it became a back and forth between enjoying and disliking the text; nicely illustrated by the following paragraph:

Intellect is therefore a vital force in history, but it can also be a dissolvent and destructive power. Out of every hundred new ideas ninety-nine or more will probably be inferior to the traditional responses which they propose to replace. No one man, however brilliant or well-informed, can come in one lifetime to such fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs or institutions of his society, for these are the wisdom of generations after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history. A youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; and if he is unchecked by custom, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life before he matures sufficiently to understand that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group.

What a rollercoaster. I think the main problem here is just that this is a book written by old people with a dated perspective.

I could look past this— to some extent. But a book of merely 120 pages of course is not going to provide a comprehensive overview of human history. And this is also not what this book is about. It’s about what we have learned from all of it (hence the title). And I’m not sure it makes sense for me to read such a book when it was written by someone that, in my humble opinion, doesn’t understand human nature. This table here of positive and negative human instincts was the nail in the coffin:


DNF at 24%

I did read the last chapter, though, because a GR-friend of mine said it would be good; and it was. But I think I’d prefer to read a book written by someone with a more modern view on humanity and human history.
Profile Image for Nazanin.
104 reviews4 followers
May 18, 2018
ظاهرا دورانت ها این کتاب را در جریان بازخوانی "تاریخ تمدن" نگاشته اند و به بررسی تاریخ در پیوند با موضوعاتی از قبیل زمین، اخلاق، دین، اقتصاد و ... و تاثیر این مسائل بر تاریخ و بالعکس پرداخته اند و در نهایت رشد و زوال و پیشرفت انسان و تمدن در گذرگاه زمان و تاریخ را واکاوی کرده اند

اگر مثل من تاریخ تمدن را نخوانده اید و مطمئن هم نیستید که اصولا روزی آن اثر را خواهید خواند یا خیر شاید این کتاب، به عنوان پیش درآمد یا دست کم چکیده ای از دیدگاه های یکی از فیلسوفان و محققان بزرگ، گزینه مناسبی باشد
البته برای من در حکم یک کتاب شکوهمند و فوق العاده نبود اما خب جملات و مطالب ارزشمند و تامل برانگیزی در آن مطرح شده بود که حتما و حتما ارزش یکبار خوانده شدن را خواهد داشت. [خودم هم بعدها باید یک بار دیگر مرورش کنم] اما عنوانِ کتاب شاید جالب تر از هر مساله ای باشد : "درس های تاریخ" که همزمان موضوعی ست هم جدی و هم به گمانم شوخی! به راستی چقدر از تاریخ درس گرفته شده و می شود؟؟؟

به قول خود ویل دورانت تاریخ تکرار می شود، تاریخ در مقیاسی وسیع تر تکرار می شود...

و اصولا اگر از تاریخ درس گرفته می شد آیا باز هم چنین خونسرد و جدی و بی رحم تکرار می شد؟
Profile Image for Daniel Clausen.
Author 11 books459 followers
January 16, 2022
This book is over 50 years old. In some ways, the book now lives in the shadows of more recent classics, such as Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" and Yuval Noah Harari's "21 Lessons for the 21st Century." In these more contemporary books, we are also called to look at the lessons of history. In these books, too, we are called on to be skeptical and hesitant in making sense out of the often nonsense of history. "History is so indifferently rich that a case for almost any conclusion from it can be made by a selection of instances." (p. 97). But each of these books owes something to this book -- Will and Ariel Durant's "The Lessons of History."

In one hundred pages, the authors cover such topics as religion, race, war, economics, decay, and progress. Though the chapters are often no longer than a few pages, the breadth of the analysis is the entirety of human history. Often, the tone of the chapters is unabashedly speculative and whimsical. The prose often reaches for something close to poetry. And through this poetry, we can come to see our own circumstances as the recurrence of an old problem in a new garb.

Perhaps the most contentious issue of the book -- and perhaps the one that makes it the most dated -- is how it deals with human nature. In this book, the recurrence of certain types of events is ascribed to human nature and the human condition. History, the authors write, “is a fragment of biology” (p. 18). Scholars with a more constructivist approach would probably take issue with analyses based on sweeping generalizations about human nature, that our primitive mental hardwiring can be seen as an essential cause for the reoccurrences of history. And yet, we can find sympathetic books in Richard Dawkins’s "The Selfish Gene" and Steven Pinker’s "The Blank Slate". And even modern historians like Yuval Noah Harari ground their understanding of history in the actions of humans as only slightly more evolved primates.

Perhaps it's the greatest value is its last chapter, which casts a skeptical gaze on progress and technology. That skepticism is even more valuable in these times when the internet and social media have unleashed a torrent of unintentional negative externalities in the form of fake news and tribalism. Skeptically, the authors conclude that while decay is a recurrent theme in history, the progress of civilizations can survive through education. “Consider education not as the painful accumulation of facts and dates and reigns...but as the transmission of our mental, moral, technical, and aesthetic heritage as fully as possible to as many as possible” (p. 101).

So, then, why go back to a book written over 50 years ago. One good reason is that the book has withstood the test of time. Though the volume is short (about 100 pages), compact, self-consciously hesitant about its findings, it has withstood the test of time and continues to find its way onto reading lists as varied as scholastic and practical. The book has moments where it is very specifically a product of its time. It worries, for example, about the contest between capitalism and socialism. Yet, its very datedness gives it value as a lesson in trying to deal with contemporary problems through a historical gaze. It offers us a chance to back-test two historians' attempts to make sense of their modern times through history. Their insights, while highly qualified, seems relevant to our current moment.

Finally, in its style, the book offers a modern example of how scholars might try to attempt to come up with their own lessons. Most chapters are only a few pages, the whole book is about one hundred pages, and the book manages to make its points with minimal amounts of references.

Sometimes for taking on big questions of our time, we don't need overly complicated tools. We can leave our extensive reading and numerous references in the background as we apply our knowledge in a concise and humble way. Perhaps that is a historical lesson from this book too.

If we apply our deep knowledge in a concise and humble way, perhaps our own words can survive for fifty years.
Profile Image for Ashok Krishna.
346 reviews54 followers
October 14, 2016
History repeats itself’, ‘Those who don’t learn from history are forced to repeat it’ – these are two of the quips about which I had been curious for so long. Is it possible that we humans are living a cycle all through our lives? Are we repeating the same things, events and experiences that our ancestors once went through? Are we humans, so-called most intelligent species of this planet, so inept at learning from our past that we go through the same pains and pleasures, events and experiences that keep staring at our face from the annals?

I was seeking answers to these questions and when Amazon ‘recommended’ this book to me, I gladly accepted. Will and Ariel Durant, the author couple, are renowned for their contribution to the field of History and ‘The Story of Civilization’, a series of eleven volumes in Western history, is their magnum opus. And, when they offer to summarize all their learning in a little book, you can’t help grabbing the same with both hands. I am glad I did.

In this book, Will and Ariel, categorize lessons of the past under various faculties. The evolution of mankind, the overcoming of geological obstacles, the biological evolution and multiplication into innumerable life forms, racial and ethnic diversities, the development of our ethics and morals, the loosening grip of religion on our conscience, growth of economics, socialism, wars and the various forms of governments. They end the book by discussing whether we have progressed by learning our lessons wisely from our past or are we running around in circles. The whole book makes not just an interesting read but worthy of some deep contemplation too.

The book is written in a plain, pragmatic and unostentatious manner. They don’t claim to know it all, but acknowledge that history is just a collection of varying perspectives, depending on our cultural, religious, social background and understanding. Also, they present a neutral stance on our past, without nurturing a tender nostalgia for our past while having bleak fears about the future, or going gaga about the modern times while dismissing the past as full of darkness and barbaric beings.

The past is full of lessons for those who want to learn, and the lessons are neither hard, nor bitter. We get what we seek from our past. If you’re looking for hope, it is full of it. If you are pessimistic about human history, then past offers an abundance of excuses for that too. It is all up to us to wisely choose lessons that suit us, learn from them, use the wisdom to sail through our present, while building a rich heritage for the future generations for whom we will soon be pages of history.

A lovely introduction into the various facets of human history and a book that no history-buff should miss!
Profile Image for Heather Campbell.
14 reviews16 followers
August 29, 2011
I'm giving this book a high rating no because I agree with it. But it is important to see where historiography was at in the 60's. Durants' main point is that the strong,tenacious, breeding society will win the day and that the world will only unite as one when aliens attack us. This is the antithesis of what Jesus taught. Also Gandhi. They also say the monarchy is the most stable successful form of government and that the church is important only because it serve as a personal behavior moderator and a societal babysitter. They put no importance in spirituality, forgiveness or hope. What a bleak picture they paint for the world. The frightening thing is that this is what history teaches. I do like the chapter they write explaining social Darwinism. They make the case for it pretty well and the person who read the book before me ate it up. Highlighted lines everywhere. Scary. But the Durants end the chapter with a short plea to treat each individual based on their merits. But since they seem so Darwinian in their view of humanity I don't see why they would try to distance themselves fromthe social application of his work. They do it weakly. Historiographers need to read this. It's part of our heritage as historians. I'm grateful I was not taught to think this way in graduate school although I got some of it growing up at home and in certain religious interpretations obsessed with knowing who could wield God's power and who could not based on inheritance. My educators (church and school) encouraged me to hold tightly to ideals of humane living, tolerance, and hope for a better future. If I had the Durants as teachers, I'd slit my wrists.
Profile Image for Farah Firdaus.
599 reviews210 followers
September 17, 2019
Pultizer Prize-winning historians Will and Ariel Durant spent their entire lives studying and writing about history. The Lessons of History is a distillation of all of their works and lessons learned in one, short 120-pages book. They presented a crux on how history events are affected/related by/with several factors/themes. The factors/themes include biology, race, morals, religion, economics, government and war and several examples were quoted to support their conclusion. It's short, concise, profound and poetic in parts. What follows is some of my favorite takeaways from the book:

1. So the conservative who resists change is as valuable as the radical who proposes it — perhaps as much more as the roots are more vital than grafts. It is good that new ideas should be heard, for the sake of the few that can be used; but it is also good that new ideas should be compelled to go through the mill of objection, opposition, and contumely; this is the trial heat which innovations must survive before being allowed to enter the human race. It is good that the old should resist the young, and that the young should prod the old; out of this tension, as out of the strife of the sexes and the classes, comes a creative tensile strength, a stimulated development, a secret and basic unity and movement of the whole.

2. Democracy is the most difficult of all forms of government, since it requires the widest spread of intelligence, and we forgot to make ourselves intelligent when we made ourselves sovereign. Education has spread, but intelligence is perpetually retarded by the fertility of the simple.  A cynic remarked that "you mustn't enthrone ignorance just because there is so much of it."  However, ignorance is not long enthroned, for it lends itself to the manipulation by the forces that mold public opinion.  It may be true, as Lincoln supposed, that "you can't fool all the people all the time," but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.

3. Since inequality grows in an expanding economy, a society may find itself divided between a cultured minority and a majority of men and women too unfortunate by nature or circumstance to inherit or develop standards of excellence and taste.  As this majority grows it acts as a cultural drag upon the minority; its ways of speech, dress, recreation, feeling, judgment, and thought spread upward, and internal barbarization by the majority is part of the price that the minority pays for its control of educational and economic opportunity.

4. Our knowledge of any past event is always incomplete, probably inaccurate, beclouded by ambivalent evidence and biased historians, and perhaps distorted by our own patriotic or religious partisanship. Most history is guessing, and the rest is prejudice.
Profile Image for Peiman.
287 reviews50 followers
July 17, 2022
در عین کم حجم بودن پربار و جالبه. کتاب شامل 13 فصله که توی هر کدوم یک مسئله تاثیر گذار روی تاریخ و تمدن رو بررسی میکنه. مثلا تاریخ و نژاد، تاریخ و اخلاق، تاریخ و دین و به همین شکل موضوعات مختلف. برای شخص من بخش اقتصاد و همچنین حکومت در درجه ی اول و بخش جنگ بعد از اون از جذاب ترین بخش ها بودن. نکته ی مهم توی این کتاب نگاه کاملا بی طرف نویسنده به مطالب و بیان ساده ی نظراتش هست. قطعا این کتاب رو به بقیه توصیه میکنم.ه
Profile Image for Jin.
637 reviews117 followers
October 7, 2020
Der Titel sagt eigentlich schon worauf das Buch hinaus will: Die Autoren fassen die 5000 Jahre Menschheitsgeschichte auf vergleichsweise wenigen Seiten zusammen und kategorisieren dabei die Geschichte in verschiedenen Bereichen wie "Rasse", Moral oder Krieg.

Ist es möglich, dass "Geschichte sinnlos ist", dass sie uns nichts lehrt und dass die unermessliche Vergangenheit nur das mühsame Einstudieren der Fehler war, die die Zukunft auf einer größeren Bühne und in größerem Maßstab zu machen bestimmt ist?

Lustiger Weise hatte ich heute eine kurze Diskussion über Geschichte. Geschichte ist für viele staubtrocken, unlustig und zu fad. Viele denken, dass es sich nur um Fakten handelt, dabei ist es noch so viel mehr! Es ist nicht nur so, dass man aus vergangenem lernen kann, sondern es gibt auch Hoffnung auf die Zukunft, auf eine bessere Welt. Ich liebe wie das Buch abschließt und die Geschichte als Erbe und Wachstum, etwas worauf Mensch stolz sein kann, bezeichnet.
Ich wünschte mir wirklich sehr, dass man an der Schule Geschichte nicht mehr nach Chronologie unterrichten würde, sondern nach anderen Kriterien wie in diesem Buch zusammengefasst. Das würde so vieles im Unterricht ändern und viel mehr Interesse wecken.

Unser Ziel ist nicht Originalität, sondern Inklusivität

Ich hatte richtig viel Spaß beim Lesen und habe das Buch in wenigen Stunden durchgelesen. Man muss im Kopf behalten, dass diese Version die Erstveröffentlichung von 1968 ist, somit natürlich nicht mehr alles korrekt ist und manches sogar schon sehr altmodisch wirkt. Aber trotz allem kann man aus den verschiedenen Interpretationen und Sichtweisen einiges lernen.
Es war mehr wie eine Zusammenfassung der Geschichte mit Kommentaren von einem alten Professor, der vor Begeisterung der Geschichte strotzt und hier und da Anekdoten zu erzählen hat.

Für professionelle Kenner der Menschheitsgeschichte mag dieses Buch nicht ausreichend sein, weil es einfach zu kurz ist um tiefer in die Materie einzudringen. Aber für jemand wie mich, der von der Geschichte fasziniert ist, bereits einiges kennt, aber noch lange kein Profi ist, war das genau richtig. Ich konnte gerade noch dem roten Faden folgen und war sehr amüsiert von seiner literarischen Reise durch die Menschheit.

** Dieses Buch wurde mir über NetGalley als E-Book zur Verfügung gestellt **
485 reviews140 followers
July 11, 2009
A Curiosity.

I liked it, not because I agreed with it, but because
it is such a rarity and an oddity.

How often are historians brave enough or rash enough to
take on the job/challenge of offering "a survey of human experience"
as Will and Ariel Durant say in their preface.
Even if you disagree with or query their views, it makes you wonder what you yourself believe and think and whether you can justify it with facts and figures.
You may not agree with much of this book, or then you may.
But you will be stimulated by and alerted to everything it says because of the aims the authors have set themselves.

My copy is scrawled with notes and underlinings, exclamation marks and mini-essays. I am as curious to reread it for these as I am for the printed text.
How much have I changed???

Profile Image for Sense of History.
388 reviews433 followers
November 1, 2020
This is a very remarkable book. Will Durant, an American philosopher and historian, together with his wife Ariel wrote a world history in 11 volumes, published between 1935 and 1975. This booklet is an attempt to summarize what they learned from this experience.

In the introduction Durant warns that it is a very subjective view, and above all departing from the doubt whether we really can learn something from history: "only a fool would try to compress a hundred centuries into a hundred pages of hazardous conclusions. We proceed. ". This laconic way of writing is very typical of this work. The Durants, despite their doubts, do not hesitate to posit some very confident assertions, especially in his first chapter: "Life is selection. We are all born unfree and UNEQUAL"/" Heaven and utopia are buckets in a well: when one goes down the other goes up! When religion declines Communism grows". These are just a few examples, but they immediately make clear that the Durants also are children of their time: in many instances they state that the world in the year 1968 clearly is in moral decline (homosexuality is explicitly mentioned as an example), that the degradation of authority has become overpowering and that modern art is a total aberration. All very conservative-reactionary, indeed. But in other places they are very cautious and nuanced: they're not sure if war is always justified, or whether religion plays a useful role in society, etc.

In short, the Durants can not be pinned down to just one stance. They have a complex, quirky look on history, with sometimes really interesting views. For example, according to them, progress is not really measurable, because depending on what criterion or angle you choose. But progress lies for them in that you can build on previous generations and civilizations, and in that respect we are better off than ever. All in all, an interesting booklet, but you have to take into account the personal view of the authors.
(rating 2.5 stars)
Profile Image for Mohammad Ali Shamekhi.
1,096 reviews237 followers
April 29, 2016

با ارفاق سه ستاره

ویل دورانت در این کتاب نظراتش رو صادقانه و بدون پیچیدگی در مورد مضامین مختلف بیان کرده. اما اون چیزی که حداقل برای من در این کتاب جالب تر بود اشارات تاریخیشه. طبیعتا کسی که از حرف های تاریخی ویل دورانت در این کتاب مطلع باشه، کتاب چیز خاصی نداره سوای همون جامعیت ویل دورانتی و قضاوت تقریبا عادلانه - اینکه سعی می کنه دو طرف قضیه رو باز کنه. ولی اصلا نباید انتظار یه آدم عمیق و فلسفی رو ازش داشت. به هر حال همینکه ذهن آدم با بعضی پرسش ها روبرو بشه خودش یه مزیته

دو فصل "سوسیالیسم و تاریخ" و "نژاد و تاریخ" برای من از نظر اطلاعات تاریخیش جالب تر بود

حاشیه: مضمون « بی عدالتی والا* » ی کالون مفهوم جالبی بود کلا
حاشیه ی دو: جفا است اگه همه جا صرفا بگم ویل دورانت، و از آریل حرفی نزنم. همه ی ویل ها رو همراه آریل لحاظ کنید

* Sublime Injustice
Profile Image for Fatima Mohamady...
363 reviews80 followers
March 4, 2020

من فترة كنت وضعته على القائمة لكن لفكرتي عنه من كونه عمل متخصص وصعب وسيحتاج وقتاً للقراءة وتركيز؛ قررت تأجيله، بشكل ما حدث قبل أيام أن اقترح بعض الأصدقاء أن نبدأ قراءة جماعية نناقش بعدها ما نقرأ فاقترعنا وكانت نتيجة القرعة هذا الكتاب، لتنقله من قائمة الانتظار الأبدية إلى القراءة الفعلية..
بدأ الكتاب بتقديم خفيف جداً وعام ما شكل عامل جذب ، ثم بدأ يتسلسل في طروحاته، وهو عبارة عن مجموعة مقالات أو قراءات تربط التاريخ بالعديد من المفاهيم الأساسية كالدين والاقتصاد والأخلاق والسياسة والعلم وغيرها، كلها مقدمة في إطار تاريخي أشبه بمنحنى ممثل لوجودها من خلال نماذج عملية من مختلف الأزمنة والأماكن.. لن يسعني تصنيفه -إضافة لفشلي الشخصي في موضوع التصنيف- لتشعبه وشموليته.. فهو اعتمد على وضع النظرية بشكل عام من ثم التدليل عليها بأمثلة من الواقع التاريخي وأحياناً الحديث بالشكل الذي يخدم الطرح الأساسي ويوضحه، واتساع نطاق المواضيع المطروحة يجعل حصره في مسمى واحد صعب.. فيه علم اجتماع وفلسفة وسياسة واقتصاد وتاريخ وكثير من المجالات المطروقة..
الغريب كان -بالنسبة لفكرتي المسبقة عنه- السخرية التي تطل أحياناً وإن كانت في كلمات بسيطة لكنها أضفت متعة وخفة على النص وخاصة في في الأجزاء التي اعتمد فيها أسلوب المقارنة..أيضاً الروابط التي استنتجتها بين الكثير من الأفكار المقدمة في الكتاب مع أخرى ألفتها في نصوص آخرين مثل فروم وباومان وساراماجو في كهفه كانت كما العادة مصدر جذب وإثارة للاهتمام..
أنا شخصياً مقتنعة أن جزءاً أساسياً من أفضلية وعظمة القراءة يكمن في المتعة، حتى في أكثر الكتب ثقلاً وتخصصاً، فالمتعة تكمن أحياناً في فكرة أو في أسلوب طرحها أو في أي شيء يمنح الكاتب القدرة على إدهاش قرائه، وهذا كتاب أدهشني واستمتعت به بأكثر مما توقعت بمراحل، حتى في أكثر أجزائه تعقيداً والتي أعدت قراءتها مرتين وثلاثة.. ويسعدني جداً أني خرجت منه بالكثير من الهوامش ��الخطوط والاقتباسات وعلامات التعجب والاستفهام، ولكل ذلك أو أكثر بفرح طفولي عظيم..
ممتنة للطف الترجمة وقدرتها على إيصال المحتوى بهذا القدر من السلاسة المحببة جداً جداً..
Profile Image for Candle.
1,242 reviews732 followers
July 29, 2021

ويليام جيمس ديورانت لمن لا يعرفه هو فيلسوف ومؤرخ وكاتب أمريكي، اشتهر بكتابه «قصة الحضارة»، ومن المجلد الحادي عشر في كتاب«قصة الحضارة». انطلق ديورانت مع زوجته ارييل، بتدوين الملاحظات التي واكبت رحلة التوث��ق تلك، فنتج عنها هذا الكتاب الذي بين أيدينا( دروس من التاريخ) والذي يقدم به ديورانت وزوجته أهم ما واكب تطور التاريخ في ٥٠٠٠ سنة.

قُسم الكتاب إلى إثنى عشر فصلا، تناولا الزوجان من خلالها تطورات حضارة الجنس البشري، والجغرافيا والحروب، والأوضاع السياسية والاجتماعية وتأثير هذا على النفس البشرية، والأعراق والشخصيات والأخلاق، كما تطرقا إلى الدين بفصلٍ خاص وقد كان هذا بالفعل أكثر الفصول تشويقًا ومتعة.

هذا الكتاب مختلف كونه لا يتبنى فكرة واحدة كما اعتدنا على كتب التاريخ أن تفعل، لكنه من أروع الكتب التي قرأتها على الإطلاق نظرًا لتعدد الأفكار والتي لا يجمعها سوى صفة البحث والتقصي الموجودة لدى ديورانت.

ماذا بعد القراءة؟
على مستوى شخصي تعتبر قراءة التاريخ مرهقة لي،ولا أجد لنفسي ميلاً نحوها ذلك لأني مؤمنة -بسبب كل ما نراه اليوم من تشويه للحقائق- باحتمالية أن يكون جزءا كبير من التاريخ الذي نعرفه ضرب من الوهم والإدعاء.

ثامن أفضل كتاب في قائمة الـtop 10 للكتب التي قرأتها من أصل 1257 ولله الحمد.

#أبجدية_فرح 5/5 🌷📚
#دروس_من_التاريخ #ويليام_جيمس_ديورانت

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Profile Image for Adam Meade.
17 reviews6 followers
May 26, 2016
Brilliant! The Durant's offer a bird's-eye view of human civilization and distill for us the principles and common threads that bind different peoples separated chronologically by thousands of years yet whom differ little to none in the passions and desires that motivate them. I can't recall reading any other book that had such a low length-to-substance ratio. It weighs in at only around 120 pages, but nearly every sentence seems pregnant with deep insights and wisdom that is as relevant today as it was millennia ago. I believe that anyone with a high school education and an open mind will reap tremendous wisdom from their words, though the more preliminary knowledge of history and the sciences one possesses, the more they will benefit from it.
Profile Image for عماد العتيلي.
Author 7 books556 followers
December 25, 2014

كتاب جميل وبسيط .. وصغير!

وربما أن صِغَر حجمه هو ما أضفى عليه جمالاً زائداً :)

ويل ديورانت وزوجته آرييل هما، بلا شك، من العقول الضخمة التي لا يملك الواحد منا إلا أن يحترمها ويجلّها – وإن اختلف معها في مواضع يسيرة.


لست هنا في معرض تقييم للكتاب .. فهو باختصار كتاب ممتع إلى حد ما (لا يخلو من الملل والرتابة ..!!) وهو استخلاص للدروس والعِبر من رائعة ديورانت الشهيرة "قصّة الحضارة" – التي أتمنى أن أقرأها خلال السنة القادمة 2015 :)


هنا سأورد بعض ما أعجبني من اقتباسات تستحق الذكر:

١] إن العلم محايد. فهو مستعد للقتل كما هو مستعد للشفاء. وهو مستعد للهدم أكثر من استعداده للبناء. وفي بعض الأحيان أُحِسّ أن أسلافنا في العصور الوسطى وعصر النهضة، عندما اهتمّوا بالأدب والفن والأسطورة أكثر من العلم والقوة، كانوا أحكم منّا. نحن الذين اهتممنا بالآليات على حساب الأهداف والغايات.

٢] وليست الثورة الحقيقية الوحيدة الا تنوير العقل وتحسين الشخصية، وليس التحرير الحقيقي الوحيد الا تحرير الفرد، وليس الثوريون الحقيقيون إلا الفلاسفة والقديسيين.

٣] ومعظم التاريخ ظن وتخمين والبقية الباقية تحامل وهوى

٤] ولا يمكن لإنسان واحد مهما كان عبقرياً او عالماً ان يصل في حياته الى درجة اكتمال الفهم التي تتيح له الحكم المضمون على عادات المجتمع ومؤسساته ورفضها لان هذه العادات والمؤسسات تمثل حكمة الاجيال بعد قرون من التجريب في معمل التاريخ.

٥] وقد تداوي الاباحية الجنسية نفسها من خلال افراطها ذاته ، وقد يعيش اطفالنا الذين تحرروا من المراسي حتى يروا سيادة النظام والتواضع ، فارتداء الملابس سيكون اكثر اغراءاً من العري.

٦] وان اول شرط من شروط الحرية هو تقييدها ، ولو جعلناها مطلقة لماتت من الفوضى

٧] ولا شك ان الدكتاتورية تنشأ من الديموقراطية ، كما ان اخطر انواع الطغيان والعبودية ينشأ من اشد اشكال الحرية تطرفاً
Profile Image for Dragos Pătraru.
51 reviews2,686 followers
May 17, 2020
O carte cum ar spune marele Gică Hagi așa și așa bună, de la doi oameni care au și ei un Pulitzer în sacoșă. O carte despre istoria care se repetă, dar doar într-un mod general. În sensul că da, civilizațiile se nasc, cresc și apoi apun, dispar, dar nu fac ca noi, ca românii, ci transmit mai departe experiența lor, cunoștințele, îmbogățindu-i astfel pe cei care vin din urmă. O concluzie a autorilor care nu îmi place deloc ar fi aceea că pacea e o stare nenaturală a omenirii. Și că suntem făcuți pentru a concura unii cu alții: pentru mâncare, pentru pământ, pentru adăpost și așa mai departe. Și de-aia ne-am adunat în triburi și apoi în state. Și că putem să ieșim din starea asta de război doar dacă ne vom trezi în fața unui inamic comun, care să ne facă să ne unim. Cum este acest coronavirus, care, iată, reușește să ne aducă împreună, chiar dacă ne ține izolați unii de alții.
Dar câteva idei foarte mișto sunt de găsit în cartea asta: de pildă, că democrația este cea mai bună formă de guvernământ, dar e fragilă și cere o populație educată. Sau că socialismul poate funcționa dacă este împerecheat cu capitalismul. Ori că e cum nu se poate mai naturală concentrarea bogăției în mâinile câtorva, de aceea e nevoie de intervenția statelor pentru o justă redistribuire. A, și faptul că valorile etice sunt un produs al condițiilor istorice și se schimbă în timp. Că de-aia nu mai e ok acum să-i dai unei femei cu bâta în cap și s-o duci la tine în peșteră, unde să-ți faci treaba cu ea. Deși unii mai încearcă.
Și sunt multe exemple faine din istorie în carte. Cum ziceam, așa și așa bună. Spre foarte bună.
Profile Image for Raya راية.
771 reviews1,338 followers
March 15, 2022
"التاريخ – أكثر من أي شيء آخر - هو تكوين وتسجيل هذا التراث، والتقدم هو تزايد وفرته وحفظه ونقله واستخدامه. لهؤلاء منا الذين لا يدرسون التاريخ كمنذر ومذكّر بجرائم الإنسان وحماقاته فحسب، ولكن – أيضاً- كتذكير مشجع للأرواح الخلاّقة، لا يعود الماضي غرفة محبطة من الأهوال؛ إنما يصبح مدينة سماوية، دولة فسيحة للعقل، ما زال يعيش ويتحدث ويتغنى بها الرهبان، ورجال الدولة، والمخترعون، والعلماء، والشعراء، والفنانون، والموسيقيون، والمحبون، والفلاسفة. لن يتفجع المؤرخ لعدم قدرتنا على إيجاد أي معنى في الوجود الإنساني إلا الذي نضعه نحن، ليكن هذا شيئاً نفخر به، أننا نضع بأنفسنا معنى لحياتنا، وأن هذا المعنى يتخطى حدود الموت في بعض الأحيان. لو أن رجلاً محظوظاً كفاية، فإنه سيمكن من تحصيل أكبر قدر من تراث حضارته قبل موته وينقله لأولاده. ولآخر نفس عمره سيظل دائماً ممتناً لهذه التركة التي لا تنضب، مستحضراً أنها أمنا المغذية وحياتنا الممتدة."
Profile Image for Henning.
104 reviews32 followers
September 18, 2020
My extremely high expectations were not met for this book. I guess ~120 pages are just not enough for so many years of history. I felt lost a couple times.
Profile Image for Murtaza .
664 reviews3,401 followers
August 30, 2020
Will and Ariel Durant were part of that great age of American writers who helped popularize history and philosophy. People all over the world, including myself, owe them a debt of gratitude for bringing knowledge down from its ivory towers to enrich the life of the common man. They wrote a lot and knew a lot, and this slim book is intended as some kind of summation of the ultimate lessons that they'd gleaned from a lifetime of study. Is there a consistent thread that unites the study of history? Unfortunately, it doesn't really seem like it. Except for the apparent pattern of inequality and redistribution that characterizes human societies. The book is eloquently written at times and concludes on an upbeat note about the solace of studying history: having an eternal city bustling with great souls that can always be visited in mind. Other than that though, the lessons of history seen in totality appear to be quite flexible and subjective.
Profile Image for Judith.
Author 15 books102 followers
May 9, 2018
The premise and the introduction sounded interesting, but soon I could not take it anymore: almost every second page asserts that Whites, Teutons or Catholics are the stronger group and therefore rule in all parts of the world or will soon rule (e.g. Catholics soon dominating Protestants in America due to greater virtue). Also, contraceptives, vaccinations and public schools are of the devil because they hinder evolution / the dominance of the strongest, and countries that have too much of the afore-mentioned must be overrun or conquered by more virile countries in order to stop the slide backwards. VOMIT-INDUCING
Profile Image for Arash.
61 reviews
February 10, 2018

دموکراسى از همه انواع حکومت‏ها دشوارتر است، زیرا وسیع‏ترین پراکنش تعقل را مى‏طلبد، و هنگامى که ما مردم خود را به حکومت مى‏رساندیم از یاد بردیم که خویش را عاقل سازیم. تعلیم و تربیت توسعه یافته، اما قدرت بارورى مردم ساده و عوام پیوسته مانع از گسترش تعقل شده است. یکى از کلبیون تذکر داد که «جهل را تنها به این علت که فراوان‏ترین چیز است بر تخت منشانید»، اما دیرزمانى است که جهل بر تخت قرار ندارد، زیرا خود را در اختیار نیروهاى سازنده افکار عمومى قرار مى‏دهد تا بازیچه ایشان شود. شاید همان گونه که لینکلن اعتقاد داشت «نمى‏توان همه را براى همیشه فریفت»، اما مى‏توان عده مورد نیاز را براى تکیه‏زدن بر مسند حکومت کشورى بزرگ فریفت.

در سرعت سه هزار کیلومتر در ساعت میمون‏هاى شلوارپوشى بیش نیستیم و با روزگارى که پیاده مى‏رفتیم فرقى نکرده‏ایم.

مورخ از این‏که نمى‏تواند در حیات انسان معنایى غیر از آ��‏که خود انسان به آن داده است، بیابد، تأسف نخواهد خورد؛ بگذارید از این که ما خود به حیاتمان معنا و مفهوم مى‏بخشیم، و گاه این معنا بر مرگ غالب مى‏��ود، احساس غرور کنیم.

ممکن است در جوامع پیشرفته تمرکز ثروت به جایى برسد که قدرتِ عددى فقیران بسیار هماورد و رقیب قدرتِ استعداد اغنیاىِ اندک گردد، آن گاه این تعادل ناپایدار وضعى حاد و بحرانى به وجود مى‏آورد، که تاریخ با دو حالتِ متضادِ توزیع مجدد ثروت به دست قانون، یا تولیدِ فقر به دست انقلاب، با آن روبه‏رو شده است.

این ها گزیده‌ای از جملاتی بود که در این کتاب نظرم رو جلب کرد، و البته تنها جملاتی نبود که می‌تونست در اینجا ذکر بشه. ویل دورانت در این کتاب در فصول مختلف راجع به مسایلی مثل اقتصاد، دین، حکومت، اخلاق و ... صحبت می‌کنه. ویل دورانت در هر فصل برای بیان دیدگاه خودش شاهد مثال‌هایی رو تقریبا به شکل تیتر وار از تاریخ میاره، بنابراین انتظار دیدن مطالب تاریخی مفصل از این کتاب نداشته باشید. اما می‌شه گفت دیدن دنیا (و تاریخ) از دید ویل دورانت واقعا خوب و لذت بخش هست.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Lowell.
182 reviews9 followers
June 10, 2011
I first heard of Will and Ariel Durant in 2004 when reading a message by Jeffrey R. Holland, then President of Brigham Young University:

No one man, however brilliant or well-informed, can come in one lifetime to such fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs or institutions of his society, for these are the wisdom of generations after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history. A youth boiling with hormones will wonder why he should not give full freedom to his sexual desires; and if he is unchecked by custom, morals, or laws, he may ruin his life before he matures sufficiently to understand that sex is a river of fire that must be banked and cooled by a hundred restraints if it is not to consume in chaos both the individual and the group.

This passage (which comes from this book) still strikes me as powerful, and is just one of countless great quotes from this book. Will and Ariel Durant wrote the 11-volume "Story of Civilization", and afterwards sought to briefly some of the patterns that occur, regardless of time and setting. While I intend to read the entire series, I just purchased The Harvard Classics collection. Prudence says I should work through that before buying another massive collection.

Despite only 100 pages and published 43 years ago (1968), I consider their work priceless. And unlike the majority of other history books, it's ENJOYABLE to read.

Other GoodReads and Amazon.com reviews discuss the content more effectively that I would be able to, so I'll end here. :)
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