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Quotes of the day: Will Durant

Published Tuesday, November 04, 2014 @ 6:49 PM EST
Nov 04 2014

William James Durant (November 5, 1885 - November 7, 1981) was a prolific American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife Ariel Durant and published between 1935 and 1975. He was earlier noted for The Story of Philosophy, written in 1926, which one observer described as "a groundbreaking work that helped to popularize philosophy." (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


As to harmonizing the theory of evolution with the Biblical account of creation, I do not believe it can be done, and I do not see why it should be. The story of Genesis is beautiful, and profoundly significant as symbolism: there is no good reason to torture it into conformity with modern theory.

By and large the poor have the same impulses as the rich, with only less opportunity or skill to implement them.

Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it.

Civilization begins with order, grows with liberty, and dies with chaos.

Civilization exists by geologic consent, subject to change without notice.

Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art; it arises in hypothesis and flows into achievement.

Excellence... is not an act but a habit.

Forget mistakes. Forget failure. Forget everything except what you're going to do now and do it. Today is your lucky day.

Freedom and Equality are sworn enemies. When one prevails, the other one dies.

Hence a certain tension between religion and society marks the higher stages of every civilization. Religion begins by offering magical aid to harassed and bewildered men; it culminates by giving to a people that unity of morals and belief which seems so favorable to statesmanship and art; it ends by fighting suicidally in the lost cause of the past.

History has been too often a picture of the bloody stream. The history of civilization is a record of what happened on the banks.

History reports that the men who can manage men manage the men who can manage only things, and the men who can manage money manage all.

How much more suffering is caused by the thought of death than by death itself.

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.

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.

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.

In its youth a people produce mythology and poetry; in its decadence, philosophy and logic.

In progressive societies the concentration (of wealth) may reach a point where the strength of number in the many poor rivals the strength of ability in the few rich; then the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealth or by revolution distributing poverty.

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.

It may be true... that 'you can't fool all the people all the time,' but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.

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.

Nature has never read the Declaration of Independence. It continues to make us unequal.

Nature smiles at the union of freedom and equality in our utopias. For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies.

Nothing is impossible to gods and authors.

One of the lessons of history is that the gods can be silent in many languages.

Our knowledge is a receding mirage in an expanding desert of ignorance.

Peace is an unstable equilibrium, which can be preserved only by acknowledged supremacy or equal power.

Perhaps our supercilious disgust with existence is a cover for a secret disgust with ourselves: we have botched and bungled our lives, and we cast the blame upon the 'environment,' or the 'world,' which have no tongues to utter a defense.

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

Progress is the domination of chaos by mind and purpose, of matter by form and will. It need not be continuous to be real.

Read, think well of mankind, go to our libraries and rejoice.

Rome remained great as long as she had enemies who forced her to unity, vision, and heroism. When she had overcome them all she flourished for a moment and then began to die.

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.

Sixty years ago I knew everything. Now I know nothing. Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

So the story of man runs in a dreary circle, because he is not yet master of the earth that holds him.

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.

Those who have suffered much become very bitter or very gentle.

To rulers religion, like almost everything else, is a tool of power.

To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves; let us be above such transparent egotism.

Tolerance grows only when faith loses certainty; certainty is murderous.

Truth always originates in a minority of one, and every custom begins as a broken precedent.

When liberty exceeds intelligence, it begets chaos, which begets dictatorship.

When we have learned to reverence liberty as well as wealth, we too shall have our Renaissance.

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