Talk:Will Durant

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older discussion[edit]

The subject (Will Durant) is an interesting and worthy one. He was, and remains, an important historian and thinker in the English language. So far, the article is sketchy.

Durant started off as a socialist, then taught in an experimental libertarian school. Did this signal some sort of shift in his perspective or commitments? Maybe, maybe not - but the article, as it now stands, does not delve into these things. The writing Durant was doing by the end of his life (e.g., The Lessons of History) suggests that his thinking wandered through many experiences, viewpoints, speculations.

The sense of the man and his evolution is not very much in the article as it exists - although what is in the article now may be a decent beginning.

Please expand and deepen the article, and re-write for flow. J.R. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 207.194.162.77 (talk) January 25, 2005

Durant documents his own intellectual, religious journeys[edit]

Will documents his religious and philosophical turmoil (in what he repeatedly refers to as his "hot youth") both in his scholarly works, his biography and an essentially autobiographical novel, Transitions, which is referenced by the original contributor of the article.

As a synopsis, the original article was good. I felt however, that, to do the man and his monumental work justice, much more needed to be added. This should not be taken, in any way, as criticism of the original writer. The Story of Civilization has been on the constants in my wildly uneven and often disappointing life. Will and Ariel have offered me shelter from many storms; there is always a friendly place within those volumes for those of us who have felt the icy ostracism this society can inflict upon those who cannot, or will not, conform.

He began as a pious Roman Catholic youth, and went through all the "stages of religious development", his words, through socialism until his studies gave him the wider perspective needed to see the essential hollowness of Marxian "philosophy" and ideology. He also frankly confesses the loss of his faith; in that he is symbolic of the Twentieth Century. A phenomenon the rock group REM summed up in their greatest song, "Losing My Religion."

I really would not like to speak for the man on such deeply personal issues and recommend the novel and biography for personal details. The real effects of his moral/intellectual/religious journey can be found in the The Story of Civilization. Anyone seeking a thorough grounding in the history of the West as well as the most beautiful prose written by historians since Gibbon, my personal opinion, of course, should read the entire series. I have every volume and have spent more than 25 years (since I was 8) reading and re-reading the work. There is so much in the approximately 10,000 pages of text, that it will take almost as long to get everything out of it as a reader as it took him and his wife to write it--i.e. a lifetime.

I often read the books for the sheer beauty of the writing. Few historians are good writers, and fewer still writers of genius. Will and Ariel Durant surely belong in the latter category. If you love the English language and history, an inexhaustible treasure awaits you in the 11 (12 if the The Lessons of History is counted) volumes. My introduction to the Durants work came almost by accident. The latter book was given to my father by a former business partner. I picked the book up and became instantly attracted by the wondrous style, and so felt the poverty of my own knowledge in my ignorance of the references to historical figures and events, that I sought out the series proper. It has shaped my intellectual/ideological development to an incalculable degree. Outside of those I have loved, Will & Ariel are the first people I want to meet when it's my turn to "cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees" (taken from "Stonewall" Jackson's deathbed words to his wife). I cannot think of any greater tribute to offer to these two incomparable people. PainMan 07:55, 20 May 2005 (UTC)

The words "He began as a pious Roman Catholic youth, and went through all the 'stages of religious development'" are based on the assumption that there is a real, fixed progression of degrees that must be passed through in order to arrive at a final, developed goal. This is quite a bold presupposition.Lestrade (talk) 20:08, 22 July 2012 (UTC)Lestrade

Islam[edit]

User:CltFn removed this paragraph:

The profound respect with which they treat Islamic culture and civilization--treading the groove first carved by Edward Gibbon but seldom followed up upon by historians who followed him--has caused at least one Arabic translation of their sections on Islamic Civiliziation. Their frequent use of the terms "Mohammedans" and "Mohammedanism" for Muslims and Islam, respectively, should not deter Muslim readers. It was merely a convention of the time, much as African-Americans were described as "Negroes" when the Durants were writing. Given the fairness with which all subjects Islamic are handled by the Durants, the terms can in no way be interpreted as pejorative or as being indicative of a hostility toward the Arab and Islamic world.

User:CltFn gave the explanation: remove false information , Durant did not have profound respect for the Mohamedian civilization, on the contrary he was critical of the atrocities they commited in their history

I'll note that being critical of atrocities they committed doesn't preclude respect for their civilization. One chapter in The Age of Faith is titled The Grandeur and Decline of Islam. He certainly gives a sympathetic treatment of Islamic civilization and documents their contributions to Western civilization. I believe the above paragraph should be reverted. The whole article certainly needs more additions... Jebba 03:07, 24 July 2005 (UTC)

There was no "profound respect for the Islamic Civilization" in his writings , he chronicled history making note of historical events, including accomplishments and evils commited. For example
In his book The Story of Civilization the wrote:
The Mohammadan conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within. Anon 14:43, 24 July 2005 (UTC)
In such a short article, it is perhaps a bit "off" to single out Islam. He really respects nearly all civilizations, and, IMHO, gives them fair treatment. I won't revert the paragraph. I just think it warranted some discussion first. Durant merits a much longer article. I was thinking much of it could be based off of his Transition for the early years. I don't know of any biographies of the Durants, other than their own. Do you know of any other good sources? Thanks. Jebba 22:29, 24 July 2005 (UTC)

I have reverted this quote into the text: The profound respect with which they treat Islamic culture and civilization--treading the groove first carved by Edward Gibbon but seldom followed up upon by historians who followed him--has caused at least one Arabic translation of their sections on Islamic Civiliziation. Their frequent use of the terms "Mohammedans" and "Mohammedanism" for Muslims and Islam, respectively, should not deter Muslim readers. It was merely a convention of the time, much as African-Americans were described as "Negroes" when the Durants were writing. Given the fairness with which all subjects Islamic are handled by the Durants, the terms can in no way be interpreted as pejorative or as being indicative of a hostility toward the Arab and Islamic world. Whilst eliminating the line about the Muslim conquest of India. The Durants were human and capable of error. The Mongol rampage across Central Asia, the Russian steppe and the Near East (I'm not even going to mention the horrors of the 20th century) were far worse than the Turkic Moghul conquest of India.

Also, balancing the history of any civilization necessarily includes the good and the evil. One can write of the Sioux and Huron Indian tribes respectfully while still noting their horrible atrocities not only against other Indians but also against European and American settlers.

I see your point, but the example you use puts you right in the line of fire for accusations of bias. I recommend Historic Trauma and Aboriginal Healing (2004) by Wesley-Esquimaux and Magdalena Smoleski to learn about the Hurons and Jesuits of the 1700s. Nothing the Natives did was not self-defense for four centuries of annihilation with the exception of treachery by a handful of chiefs who attempted to leverage the Europeans to consolidate their power; and these traitors were dealt with. I condensed the Native experience in my empathy capstone project, Spiritual Darwinism. Since writing Spiritual Darwinism, I have started a project to convert, or perhaps revert, the use of the word nativism to mean native ways or native activism rather than "Bill the Butcher" racism, which only describes a secondary phase of colonialism that attempts to close the door for future colonists (who will, in turn, enter this secondary phase), but more importantly means continued suffering and death for Natives and their culture. This may actually go to a discussion about the conflict experienced by Islam and the cultures it has absorbed, or is presently attempting to absorb.--John Bessa (talk) 15:31, 15 December 2009 (UTC)

Inclusion of the comment about the conquest of India is, imo, straight POV, smacking of anti-Islamic bias. The Roman conquest of the Mediterranean and Western Europe was hardly less bloody than the Islamic conquests (though far more permanent). The Durants note the Roman atrocities without denouncing their civilization as a whole. Should the entire history of the US be based on the mass murder at My Lai or the ejection of my Cherokee ancestors from their lands in GA & TN (during this "Trail of Tears" my great-great-great mother was murdered by the US Army)? I think not.

Some Muslims are our enemies, but not all. To assert the contrary is to edge into a mental rigidity bordering on bigotry.

The paragraph goes back in.

The article could be much longer, with summaries of each of the eleven volumes of the History of Civilization but this seems to me to be beyond the scope of an encyclopedic bio.

PainMan 03:00, 13 August 2005 (UTC)

Unfortunately Painman , you are misrepresenting Will Durant's work, unless you can provide exact examples to support your assertion then this paragraph does not belong in this article. I could provide numerous paragraphs that are critical of Islam ,as I have encountered them while reading many of his books, but then I do not see the point of quoting them all here in this article.--CltFn 23:22, 15 August 2005 (UTC)

Cltfn -- Being critical of individual Muslims or certain Muslims practices is hardly the same thing as being critical of Islam in general. Execrating the Catholic Inquisition isn't a blanket condemnation of the entire history of the Church nor of every Catholic. Haroun al-Raschid (sp?), Caliph during the time in which the "Arabian Nights" are set, was, in addition to an enlightened ruler, a brutal killer who ordered the murders of his daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren and personally witnessed the executioner's handy work. This doesn't diminish or detract from the high level of Islamic civilization in the Ninth Century--especially as compared to what was happening in Europe when he ancestors of many of us were sitting in mudhuts on the Rhine! When Augustus was building the greatest of all pre-modern Empires, children under seven were used as prostitutes. While an atrocious commentary on the social morality of some Romans, it doesn't detract from the very real benefits that Roman rule brought to the richest, most cultured part of the Earth at that time.

I'm sure you know as well as I do that any scholar can take quotes out of context, and with creative editing, make them appear to support any point one would wish.

My real point was that the Durants use several now archaic terms, specifically "Mohemmadan" and "Mohammedanism" as interchangeable with Muslim and Islam. These terms are, of course, based on early Christian misunderstandings of the Islamic theology. I wanted to assure any Muslims that the use of the terms should not put them off, should not be taken as insulting but merely as a convention of the time they were writing (30 years ago at the earlist!).

My grandmother still uses the term "colored" to described African-Americans. She grew up in Jim Crow Texas when this term was quite common. My grandmother means nothing racist by its use, though some African-Americans might interpret her useage thusly. Indeed, a form of it is still used by African-Americans (and others) in the term "people of color."

And, with all due respect, your assertion that the Durants were blindly critical of Islam is simply not supported by their texts. I could fill a book with just with quotes proving that they were quite fair, quite impartial in their analysis of Islam and Muslims. By extreme effort and very creative editing, you could provide a few quotes that would, inaccurately, seem to support your thesis. Anyone who has read the books even once, let alone as many times as I have over the last 25 years, will realize that your attempts at converting them into Islamophobes is simply nonsensical.

While my ancestors were struggling thru the so-called "Dark Ages"--caused, it is true, by the Islamic disruption of the Roman economic system which had survived Rome's political collapse in the West by several centuries--Muslims were constructing, with little originality it must be said, a civilization that is one of the high points of world history: a synthesis of cultures from Spain to India. Without Muslim preservation of many Classical texts, our knowledge of ancient thought would be much poorer.

In my opinion, in this day when Islamofacists are trying to create a "war of civiliations" between the Western and Islamic peoples, it is important, critically so, for Muslims to know that their are Western historiographers who do not view their religion or their history through a monochromatic lense. It is equally important for we Westerners to understand that Islam is not only the religion of mass murdering cowards but also of scholars, theologians, artists, poets, musicians, architects, et al.

In fact, so impartial, even favorable is the Durants' treatment of Islam that I came across the translation of long sections from the texts into Arabic on an Islamic website! If Muslims themselves do not consider the Durants as anti-Islamic, who are you to argue the contrary? PainMan 09:25, 30 August 2005 (UTC)

I hear what you are saying but the paragraph in question was original research and does not belong in this article --CltFn 23:25, 12 September 2005 (UTC)

(albertod4) I have to agree that the paragraph does not belong. The Durants wrote 11 volumes. Islam constitutes 1/3rd of ONE of those volumes. That hardly seems to warrant singling out for discussion. For the same reason, I tweaked the remaining sentence about Islam in the article.

There are two assertations I have problems with in Durant's treatment of Islam in this discussion. The first involves the conquest of "India" being so called incomplete and un-lasting. When one studies the history of the Indian or "Hindu" cultural complex you must keep in mind that it ranged from Indonesia and South-east Asia in the east to central Asia (almost to Mongolia) in the north and to the Iranian plateau in the west, including what is now known as Turkestan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, the area around the Aral and Caspian seas(lakes)Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and India proper. At least half of this area is devoted to Islam (or have we forgotten the Talibans attempt to destroy to gigantic Bhudda sculptures). This conquest was BY FAR the most rapacious and violent of any before the Mongol hordes decending an the same area. These conquests can easily be blamed (still) for much of the poverty and desolation of the region. The second problem I have with this discussion is that in all history books written since Gibbon, who if any has ever recounted the wonders of islamic civilization outside of the usual bedouin, billionaires, and belly-dancers format? Yes he uses what we consider diminuitive terms today, however terms such as "black" (en espaniol negro), often seen as derogotory today, are applied by both native africans and Indians as an adjective for peoples living south of the Saharra dessert and in the deccan respectivley, with out any disrespect intended or taken. It is a stupid controversy that may turn the more liberal elaments of society off of reading his works when that is precicely the people that would enjoy it most. G-Money the Funkster

Clarity[edit]

"Alden Freeman paid his tuition for the graduate schools of Columbia University." Who is Alden Freeman, and if he's no one of consequence outside of his providing funding for Durant, can we replace his name with some sort of descriptor of his relationship to Durant?

Durant's Tribute to Spinoza[edit]

Extracted from Will and Ariel Durant's "The Story of Civilization: Part VIII", Chapter XXII - Spinoza. ISBN: 0671012150, 1963, Pages 653-657.

In the great chain of ideas that binds the history of philosophy into one noble groping of baffled human thought, we can see Spinoza's system forming in twenty centuries behind him, and sharing in shaping the modern world. First, of course, he was a Jew. Excommunicated though he was, he could not shed that intensive heritage, nor forget his years of poring over the Old Testament, and the Talmud and the Jewish philosophers. ......
p. 654. More immediately, Descartes inspired him with philosophical ideals, and repelled him with theological platitudes. He was inspired by Descartes' ambition to make philosophy march with Euclid in form and clarity. He probably followed Descartes in drawing up rules to guide his life and work. He adopted too readily Descartes' notion that an idea must be true if it is "clear and distinct." He accepted and universalized the Cartesian view of the world as a mechanism of cause and effect reaching from some primeval vortex right up to the Pineal Gland. He acknowledged his indebtedness to Descartes' analysis of the passions.
p. 654. The ''Leviathan'' (book) of Hobbes, in Latin translation, obviously evoked much welcome in Spinoza's thought. Here the conception of mechanism was worked out without mercy or fear. The mind, which in Descartes was distinct from the body and was endowed with freedom and immortality, became, in Hobbes and Spinoza, subject to universal law, and capable of only an impersonal immortality or none at all. ...... Perhaps it was through Hobbes that the gentle Jew was led to Machiavelli; he refers to him as "that most acute Florentine," and again as "that most ingenious..., foreseeing man." But he escaped the confusion of right with might, recognizing that this is forgivable only among individuals in the "state of nature," and among states before the establishment of effective international law.
p. 655. All these influences were tempered and molded by Spinoza into a structure of thought awe-inspiring in its apparent logic, harmony, and unity. There were cracks in the temple, as friends and enemies pointed out: Oldenburgh ably critized the opening axioms and propositions of the ''Ethics'' (book), ..... So the inescapable logic of determinism reduces consciousness as Huxley confessed) to an epiphenomenon—an apparently superfluous appendage of psychophysical processes which, by the mechanics of cause and effect, would go on just as well without it; and yet nothing seems more real, nothing more impressive, than consciousness. After logic has had its say, the mystery, tam grande secretum', remains.
p. 655. These difficulties may have shared in the unpopularity of Spinoza's philosophy in the first century after his death; but resentment was more violently directed against his critique of the Bible, prophecies, and miracles, and his conception of G-D as lovable but impersonal and deaf. The Jews thought of their son as a traitor to his people; the Christians cursed him as a very Satan among philosophers, an Antichrist who sought to rob the world of all meaning, mercy, and hope. Even the heretics condemned him.
p. 656. The German spirit was more responsive to this side of Spinoza's thought. According to a conversation (1780) reported by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Lessing not only confessed that he had been a Spinozist through all his mature life, but affirmed that "there is no other philosophy than Spinoza's." It was precisely the pantheistic identification of Nature and G-D that thrilled the Germany of the romantic movement after the Aufklärung under Frederick the Great had run its course.
p. 657. We love Spinoza especially among the philosophers because he was also a saint, because he lived, as well as wrote, philosophy. The virtues praised by the great religions were honored and embodied in the outcast who could find a home in none of the religions, since none would let him conceive G-D in terms that science could accept. Looking back upon that dedicated life and concentrated thought, we feel in them an element of nobility that encourages us to think well of mankind. Let us admit half of the terrible picture that Jonathan Swift drew of humanity; let us agree that in every generation of man's history, and almost everywhere, we find superstition, hypocrisy, corruption, cruelty, crime, and war: in the balance against them we place the long roster of poets, composers, artists, scientists, philosophers, and saints. That same species upon which poor Swift revenged the frustrations of his flesh wrote the plays of Shakespeare, the music of Bach and Handel, the odes of Keats, the Republic of Plato, the Principia of Newton, and the Ethics of Spinoza; it built the Parthenon and painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel; it conceived and cherished, even if it crucified, Christ. Man did all this; let him never despair. Yesselman 16:25, 22 December 2005 (UTC)

Paragraph on Islam was a little long...[edit]

but it in no way contained any "original research." This is an unsupportable assertion. I have inserted a more general statement on the changes in racial and religious nomenclature since the books were written, in some cases more than 50 years ago. PainMan 13:42, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Excommunication?[edit]

I had heard that Durant was excommunicated from the Catholic Church because of the content of The Story of Civilization. Is this true? If so I believe it should be included in this arcticle. --Knowledgesmith

I think that it isn't. In his works there is not any anticatholic or antichristian ideas.--Vojvodaeist 08:43, 28 August 2008 (UTC)

Ending Paragraph?[edit]

Umm, this part seems confusing: "The Durants also shared a love story as remarkable as their scholarship; they detail this in Dual Autobiography. They died within two weeks of each other in 1981 (she on October 25 and he on November 7). She died first of boredom. He was murdered for being incredibly boring." --ehaque

That vandalism was removed hours ago, you might need to clear your browser cache. -Quiddity 23:24, 10 December 2006 (UTC)

What's Mosty Missing - the Writing Itself[edit]

What's mostly missing is now readable it is - uneven to be sure, but many times reaching sublimity. Always with compassion, and regularly throwing you complete off guard with a surprising insight. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 75.41.74.118 (talk) July 9, 2007

Removed as IMHO editorializing and unencyclopedic[edit]

Removed the following as IMHO editorializing, unencyclopedic, and unnecessary: "A note on some of the terminology: as fashions in nomenclature have changed, sometimes drastically, in the decades since these books were written, terms such as "Mohammedan" and "Negro" (and others which the historically unaware populace sometimes mistakenly consider derogatory) merely reflect the then current parlance." Please discuss here as necessary. -- 201.19.40.176 13:33, 17 July 2007 (UTC)

I agree. --Quiddity 16:41, 17 July 2007 (UTC)

Difference between Durant and Wikipedia[edit]

Durant would have written half a book in the time it took Wikipedia to have a civil war over whether a fifty year old work could be pardoned for using the terms of its day. A very typical civil war, too. One becomes aware that there seem to be people patrolling Wikipedia making sure nobody offends Islam; and people patrolling Wikipedia looking for chances to offend Islam. Here is a history of the entire world under review, and that's the overwhelming topic of interest to this talk board so far. The people who will turn this article into a battle over Israel, Iraq, 9/11 and the Kennedy Assassination just haven't gotten here yet. Wikipedia has restored my faith in professionals, even in publishers. Sadly, Profhum Profhum 23:02, 11 September 2007 (UTC)

There are only 7 comments in the above thread on #Islam (albeit a large quantity of text), plus 2 more comments in separate threads further down. Equating that to a civil war is fairly gross hyperbole!
You might like to read Wikipedia:Who writes Wikipedia, and Wikipedia:Why Wikipedia is not so great (plus Wikipedia:Why Wikipedia is so great). Hope that helps ;) --Quiddity 00:18, 12 September 2007 (UTC)

Quote taken out of context[edit]

I posted this on the Apocalypto talk page too. I think it's an insult to Durant to associate a meaningless blockbuster with his "life and works".

Will Durant saw the decline of a civilization as a culmination of strife between religion and secular intellectualism, thus toppling the precarious institutions of convention and morality:

"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. For as knowledge grows or alters continually, it clashes with mythology and theology, which change with geological leisureliness. Priestly control of arts and letters is then felt as a galling shackle or hateful barrier, and intellectual history takes on the character of a "conflict between science and religion." Institutions which were at first in the hands of the clergy, like law and punishment, education and morals, marriage and divorce, tend to escape from ecclesiastical control, and become secular, perhaps profane. The intellectual classes abandon the ancient theology and-after some hesitation- the moral code allied with it; literature and philosophy become anticlerical. The movement of liberation rises to an exuberant worship of reason, and falls to a paralyzing disillusionment with every dogma and every idea. Conduct, deprived of its religious supports, deteriorates into epicurean chaos; and life itself, shorn of consoling faith, becomes a burden alike to conscious poverty and to weary wealth. In the end a society and its religion tend to fall together, like body and soul, in a harmonious death. Meanwhile among the oppressed another myth arises, gives new form to human hope, new courage to human effort, and after centuries of chaos builds another civilization." (The Story of Civilization V.1., 71)

I will enumerate some of the most flagrant reasons why the movie Apocalypto cannot reasonably be construed as embodying Durant's model for societal decline:

1. The plot of Apocalypto centers around a man who's village is pillaged by the Mayans. Presumably Gibson's message was that the Imperialistic Foreign policy of the United States was leading to our decline, as it, in his portrayal, lead to the decline of the Mayans.

1a. WIll Durant defined the state as "[I]nternal peace for external war." (The Story of Civilization V.1., 25) If anything, imperialism, by Durant's classification, is a criterion for a successful civilization, rather than a declining one.

1b. Durant also says (in summation) that a common moral fiber, which owes, by his estimation, it's very existence to religion is necessary to ensure the internal unity of a group. A group, quite obviously, constitutes a state, thereby no imperialism can come without religion. Since the Mayans clearly practice a religion (the protagonist is nearly sacrificed at it's behest) we can see that Gibson's film does not exemplify Durant's model for societal decline.

2. Gibson, at the end of his film, allows the viewer to see a small portion of the Spanish armada. Presumably this disharmonious relationship between the Mayan's and the outlying tribes is supposed to be the causation of the fall of the Mayan empire. In presenting this implicit explanation, Gibson suggests that without having concerted its forces against the small tribes, the Mayans could've defeated the Spanish; or, he suggests that through unity (of the tribes and the mayans) the same ends could've been achieved. What he fails to see, however, is that he conceded the Mayans as a civilization not yet at the pinnacle of power (given that no secular movement was present in the movie, as Durant mandates in his model for decline). The only possible explanation (given the premise created by Gibson) was conquest by a greater power. (read guns, germs and steel by Diamond.) Durant was obviously far too intelligent a man to see that civilizations couldn't fall for reason's other than the antiquation of religion. He specified that only GREAT civilizations had to be internally distraught to fall. The Mayan's, compared to the Spanish were not great. Numerous factors rendered the America's far behind the technological curve compared to the Europeans, which I will not go into here. That quote (and the body of supporting and contextual information that accompanies it) is simply meant to explain the phenomenon of natural decline, rather than external conquer. Long story short, I'm gonna delete it.

The deleted section contains two statements: 1) Durant wrote a certain passage, and 2) that passage was quoted in a popular film. Both statements are factual. Whether of not it is your personal opinion that the message of the particular film was inconsistent with Durant's broad body of work is immaterial. The quote shows that Durant's writing - interpreted properly or not - continues to influence American culture. Millions of moviegoers have seen the quote, so to delete it here is silly. If you can cite historians who disagree with the placement of the quote in the film, that would be illuminating to Wikipedia readers, and a worthwhile addition. But to delete a factual statement, as you have done, because you personally diagree with it, smacks of censorship. I'm restoring the quote pending a consensus here on the Talk page. Plazak (talk) 02:44, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

Though both statements are true, what you neglect to acknowledge is the fact that it is listed under the section entitled "Life and Works [of Durant]". Regardless of your personal sympathies towards the movie it is wholly irrelevant to the topic under which it is listed (given that Will Durant was in no way associated with the production of the film Apocalypto), thereby providing false pretense that Will Durant in some way corroborated the message in the movie. If you would like to include something, then it must be nominally accurate as well as factually accurate so as not to be misleading. A reader skimming through this article and unfamiliar with Durant's work could easily infer an innacurate association, thus detracting or unduly influencing one's perception of the late Durant.

If you would like to include a new section on contemporary influence or something to that effect, by all means, be my guest; but, considering it has no bearing in the context in which it is currently placed I feel that I am justified in deleting it because all it amounts to is trivial and irrelevant information, with a capacity for detriment, and no capacity whatsoever for edification on the real "life and works" of Will Durant. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 70.179.130.243 (talk) 05:12, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

Jarrodca falsely accuses me of having "personal sympathies towards the movie," when in fact I have never seen the movie, and did not in my post comment either favorably or unfavorably upon it. However, many people have seen the movie, no doubt many more than ever read the Durant quote in its original. Many moviegoers may look up Durant in Wikipedia, wodering who this guy is. For Wikipedia to stick its collective head in the sand to pretend that this never happened is silly; it clearly belongs in the article. Whether under "Life and works" or under "Contemporary influence" is of minor importance. I will restore it under "Contemporary influence." It would be helpful if some properly cited views of historians on the appropriateness of the quotation could be added to the section. (Also, please sign your posts.) Plazak (talk) 14:59, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I've reverted the addition because: The phrase "comparing (in Gibson's opinion)" needs to be cited, otherwise it is original research; and regardless, the quote's usage is not notable or even very relevant in reference to the life of Will Durant. It might make sense at the Apocalypto article, but not here, just as we don't remark on every usage of a Shakespeare quote in his article. -- Quiddity (talk) 20:17, 19 December 2007 (UTC)

The guy who said "I think it's an insult to Durant to associate a meaningless blockbuster with his life and works" doesn't know what he's talking about. Your personal, terribly misguided and naiive opinion is hardly justification to delete it from an encyclopedia article. It isn't "The Encyclopedia of YOU", it's for the whole world. Many, many people (probably more than have read about his life and works) have seen Apocalypto, and probably only know W. Durant as the guy whose quote about civilization was featured in the film. You seem to keep coming up with bad excuses to delete it while "Plazak" intellegently reverts your silly logic every post he makes. I'm putting it back in. 24.60.239.47 (talk) 17:37, 8 August 2008 (UTC)

Durant's Personal Loss of Faith & His Description of the Fall of a Civilization[edit]

I was surprised there was no mention in the article of Durant's loss of faith. It would be helpful for the largely Christian (or at least post-Christian) American audience to have an understanding of Durant's overall perspective and the personal journey that molded his thinking. His own experience seems to mirror his description of a declining civilization (see below), except that it apparently didn't lead to his own personal 'unraveling'.

Also, as one who grew up a zealous fundamentalist Christian and then came razor-close to losing my own faith (after gaining a better understanding of cosmology and evolution), I think Will Durant's description of the transition a society goes through—toward disintegration—is absolutely fascinating. It is not only relevant to our times, but it is also unbelievably ironic, that an increase in knowledge, followed by an abandonment of 'religious mythology', actually leads to chaos and societal disintegration. I believe the excerpt below (preceded by a comment from another author on this discussion page) should be included on the main page. It may be one of the greatest insights derived from Durant's life work that is pertinent to our world today:

Will Durant saw the decline of a civilization as a culmination of strife between religion and secular intellectualism, thus toppling the precarious institutions of convention and morality:

"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. For as knowledge grows or alters continually, it clashes with mythology and theology, which change with geological leisureliness. Priestly control of arts and letters is then felt as a galling shackle or hateful barrier, and intellectual history takes on the character of a "conflict between science and religion." Institutions which were at first in the hands of the clergy, like law and punishment, education and morals, marriage and divorce, tend to escape from ecclesiastical control, and become secular, perhaps profane. The intellectual classes abandon the ancient theology and-after some hesitation- the moral code allied with it; literature and philosophy become anticlerical. The movement of liberation rises to an exuberant worship of reason, and falls to a paralyzing disillusionment with every dogma and every idea. Conduct, deprived of its religious supports, deteriorates into epicurean chaos; and life itself, shorn of consoling faith, becomes a burden alike to conscious poverty and to weary wealth. In the end a society and its religion tend to fall together, like body and soul, in a harmonious death. Meanwhile among the oppressed another myth arises, gives new form to human hope, new courage to human effort, and after centuries of chaos builds another civilization." (The Story of Civilization V.1., 71)

--mpb1 (talk) 12:47, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

It's a fascinating paragraph, but I think way too long to quote in its entireity. Can you cut it down? It definitely should be put in intellectual context: do you have documentation for his loss of faith? Plazak (talk) 15:37, 13 December 2008 (UTC)
So far as I can tell, the second and third sentences form the gist of it, and are of manageable size. 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. For as knowledge grows or alters continually, it clashes with mythology and theology, which change with geological leisureliness.

Adding the right contextual explanation for that quote might be a bit trickier though. --Christofurio (talk) 00:46, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

I just wanted to add, that the book Dianetics- the modern science of mental health,written by L.Ron Hubbard, was dedicated to Will Durant by L.Ron Hubbard himself. The dIanetics book is the number one self-improvement book on the planet, and I founf it very interesting that the founder of Dianetics and Scientology has dedicated his most important work to Will Durant. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 189.33.144.67 (talk) 19:47, 18 December 2008 (UTC)

Mansions/contraversy/relavence[edit]

3 bits:

  • 1) I beleive that the mansions of philosophy (a dead link, btw) was later retitled The Joy of Philosophy.
  • 2)I'm not sure, but wasn't Will Durant somewhat derided and/or contraversial in his time?
  • 3) So, like, of course, there should be stuff on Durants infleunce/relevance. Hubbards Dianetics is dedicated to him, for instance. I have seen 9 volume (or larger) encyclopedias of philosophy neglect him. Why?

Slarty2 (talk) 21:21, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

"popularizer"[edit]

In the introductory paragraph, is the word 'popularizer' pejorative? It seems so. It seems diminishing, trivializing. I have not removed it, though I found the word jarring, it seems disrespectful. If there's no argument, I will remove it.Typing Monkey - (type to me) 04:05, 25 January 2009 (UTC)

On religion and evolution[edit]

This is an interesting quote. I use Durant's writing to help understand the historical context of today's society, but I usually disagree with his conclusions--which is good, because it shows the quality of his information and low bias on both his and my parts!

Reconciling natural science and religion is a basis of my writing about empathy, Spiritual Darwinism, where I attempt to show how affection is the necessary direction of evolution, making spirituality evolution's final triumph. I don't use him much there, but he, along with Joel Spring, and Lewis Mumford, has helped me with my understandings of society that I am putting into my Capital Structure: A Cheat Sheet.

Likewise I am attempting a more conservative Christian approach to this "reconciliation" in Organismic Fate.

Further, I believe that is "loss of faith" issues may be explained in terms of the just world hypothesis.--John Bessa (talk) 15:53, 14 December 2009 (UTC)

How socialist was he?[edit]

I read and annotated Our Oriental Heritage and Caesar and Christ fairly carefully during down-time when I was "over the road." The feeling I got then was that he supported a "meat model" for early man, and that he felt that Rome's system that included extreme brutality ultimately led to good things such as the Renaissance.

As for the "meat model," I tend to believe Mumford's idea that hunting as killing is no different than homicide because, as he said and we can now prove, many hunters of antiquity got whacked in the woods by other hunters. Mumford goes as far as to say that the collective paranoia of the hunters who could not adapt to the early human societies of village life led to the formation of gangs and then armies that ultimately installed themselves in human society as the military wing of the nation-state.

As for Rome, as Durant points out, it never fell; it only re-invented itself as Nova Rome, or Constantinople. What was left behind in Europe was more than a thousand years of darkness in Europe when science was punishable by torture-death--by Christian Romans!--John Bessa (talk) 14:10, 15 December 2009 (UTC)

Quotes out of context II[edit]

The criticisms over the "Islamic Conquest of India" just show what happens when people jerk quotes out of context. (1) Durant was not talking about Islam in general, but about a particular historical incident which he deplored. If somebody remarked that "Germany during World War II was guilty of the worst genocide in history", would they be accused of being anti-German? (2) Only a few pages after the "Islamic Conquest" quote, Durant praises the Muslim emperor Akbar as one of the best rulers of his time in the entire world, pointing out that Akbar promoted religious tolerance, while his contempories in Europe were descending into a savage religious war. So is Durant now "pro-Islamic"? 3) Toward the end of that section he reminds the reader that in an absolute monarchy the nature of a state, barbaric vs enlightened, basically depends on the character of the king. THAT was Durant's real point.

I might add that Islam gets far more attention than "1/3 of one volume". Every one of the volumes set after Muhammed's time includes at least one chapter on the Islamic cultures of the time, usually comparing them favorably with Europe.CharlesTheBold (talk) 02:32, 22 December 2009 (UTC)

"Durant Scholars"[edit]

I was reading the article about Madame Chiang Kai-shek and it mentions she was a "Durant Scholar" at Wellesley. Apparently, this is a scholarship program, named for Will and Ariel Durant, that is still in existence. Perhaps it could be included in the "Legacy" section? Anyone have a reference, and the details? Lafong (talk) 04:37, 17 October 2010 (UTC)

Durant criticism[edit]

I'm baffled by a particular fact: NO ONE has acknowledged that Durant was often criticized by academic historians for supposed errors, especially later in his career.

One might disagree with the criticism. But surely it should be acknowledged. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Zriter59 (talkcontribs) 03:39, 17 January 2011 (UTC)

Agree... AnonMoos (talk) 17:32, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
Durant's methodology was somewhat problematic from the standpoint of an academic historian. In order to cover the vast periods of time and space that he did, he took alot of primary sources more or less at face value. That way he could write about history, literature, and biography all at once, instead of reading separate works on the three subjects. A quick glance through through his endnotes, for instance, will show just how heavily he relied on primary sources. This is an approach that academic historians would probably object to.... their whole job, after all, is criticizing and extrapolating on the primary sources. I don't think there can be too much doubt that the Story of Civilization has alot of errors of fact or detail in it. I think he took the view that it couldn't be helped, and hoped that the overall effect of his work would compensate for a few minor errors. Carinae986 (talk) 14:24, 2 December 2011 (UTC)

Addition to Legacy Section[edit]

I did not want to add this myself because I am not sure it's notable and I am biased because I used to work there, but there is a Will & Ariel Durant Library located in Los Angeles. It was named after the Durants in 1986, I believe. Feel free to add it if you think it's significant. --Olegkagan (talk) 00:23, 24 July 2011 (UTC)

Modern School[edit]

In the photo of Durant in front of his school in NYC, two students are wearing hoods over their faces. Does anyone know why this peculiarity occurred?Lestrade (talk) 19:22, 22 July 2012 (UTC)Lestrade

Citation error[edit]

One of the citations is to: Rogers, Will (1966). Steven K. Gragert, ed. The Papers of Will Rogers. University of Oklahoma Press. p. 393.

This citation appears to be wrong. Does it mean: The Papers of Will Rogers: The final years, August 1928-August 1935, by Will Rogers, ed Steven K. Gragert and M. Jane Johansson , pub University of Oklahoma Press, 31 Oct 2006, ISBN 978-0806137681 ?