Will Durant

The Lessons of History

Will Durant, Ariel Durant

A delightful read. Surprisingly small in terms of number of pages, for a book that’s titled “The Lessons of History”. A total of 13 chapters, of which 10 are devoted to history’s relationship with other sciences- from biology to economics and philosophies – from politics to morals.
The book covers a lot of ground and vast swathes of history are reduced to a paragraph with learning that is applicable even now. The text is succinct and it would seem like each word has been weighed carefully before being used in a particular context. In uncovering the thesis, antithesis and synthesis in different domains, there are some superb profundities. e.g. “for freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails, the other dies.” or “Heaven and utopia are buckets in a well: when one goes down, the other goes up.”

The Story of Philosophy

Will Durant

“Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy can give us wisdom”, states Will Durant in the introduction to this book that chronicles the lives and opinions of Western philosophers from Socrates to John Dewey. The idea behind this book is to make philosophy accessible to the layman, and as one among the intended audience, I can say that it does a fantastic job of it!

There are nine chapters each dedicated to a philosopher, and two additional ones that capture the thoughts (in lesser detail) of three European and three American contemporary philosophers. (the book was published in 1924, so ‘contemporary’ is actually almost a century away) One of the great aspects of this book is how it manages to give the milieu in which the philosophers operated – both the socio-political contexts and the influences of his predecessors.

This gives a wonderful flow to the overall narrative and gives the reader a kind of seamless path of thought. The effect of their personal lives on their thinking has also been well captured. More