☁ The Lessons of History PDF / Epub ✎ Author Will Durant – Writerscompany.co.uk
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 fertile and productive than that patch with some men being 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. 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. 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 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 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 mankindIs 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 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. 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 olderalthough 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. 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. A Curiosity.I liked it, not because I agreed with it, but becauseit 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 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 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 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 preliminary knowledge of history and the sciences one possesses, the they will benefit from it. 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 as the roots are 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. This is a bizarre little audiobook with short chapters followed by longish interviews that were apparently done while walking around outside with the authors The attitudes are quaint if not antiquated, but I guess that s another lesson of history As pointed out in other reviews, there is much to disagree with, but the Durants made some points I found very interesting, e.g the value of the bureaucracy conservative system in not letting upstarts keep turning the world upside down willy nilly That s not the way I usually look at things and it s not racist or whatever so they get points for that.