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Will Durant

1885-1981 ,  American historian & philosopher
Will Durant-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 (1926), described as “a groundbreaking work that helped to popularize philosophy”.

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Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you’re going to do now and do it.

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

Love one another. My final lesson of history is the same as that of Jesus.

You may think that's a lot of lollipop but just try it. Love is the most practical thing in the world.

It is a mistake to think that the past is dead. Nothing that has ever happened is quite without influence at this moment.

To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves; let us be above such transparent egotism. If you can't say good and encouraging things, say nothing.

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

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.

Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art.

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

No man who is in a hurry is quite civilized.

A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself within.

When liberty destroys order, the hunger for order will destroy liberty.

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

So I should say that civilizations begin with religion and stoicism: they end with scepticism and unbelief, and the undisciplined pursuit of individual pleasure. A civilization is born stoic and dies epicurean.

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

Men decided that it was better to pay taxes than to fight among themselves; better to pay tribute to one magnificent robber than to bribe them all.

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.

The trouble with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes rather than with their minds.

The political machine triumphs because it is a united minority acting against a divided majority.

To say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy.

To give life a meaning, one must have a purpose larger than self.

There have been only 268 of the past 3,421 years free of war.

From barbarism to civilization requires a century; from civilization to barbarism needs but a day.

Those who know nothing about history are doomed forever to repeat it.

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.

Knowledge is power but only wisdom is liberty.

In the last analysis civilization is based upon the food supply.

As long as there is poverty there will be gods.

The health of nations is more important than the wealth of nations.

Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages again.

Education is the transmission of civilization.

Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy can give us wisdom.

Never mind your happiness; do your duty.

In philosophy, as in politics, the longest distance between two points is a straight line.

If man 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.

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

Nothing is often a good thing to do and always a good thing to say.

In my youth I stressed freedom, and in my old age I stress order. I have made the great discovery that liberty is a product of order.

There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.

In Constantinople, more Christians were slaughtered by Christians in the years 342-343 than by all the persecutions by pagans in the history of Rome.

Wherever men do things, other men will arise who will explain to them how things should be done.

Never put a man in the wrong. He will hold it against you forever.

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

There is nothing in socialism that a little age or a little money will not cure.

It is one of the most culpable oversights of nature that virtue and beauty so often come in separate packages.

The past is not dead. Indeed, it is often not even past.

Fundamentalism is the triumph of Paul over Christ.

Paul created a theology of which none but the vaguest warrants can be found in the words of Christ.

Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it.

If you wish to be loved, be modest; if you wish to be admired, be proud; if you wish both, combine external modesty with internal pride.

Hunting is now to most of us a game, whose relish seems based upon some mystic remembrance, in the blood, of ancient days when to hunter as well as hunted it was a matter of life and death.

The ego is willing but the machine cannot go on. It's the last thing a man will admit, that his mind ages.

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.

History is mostly guessing, the rest is prejudice.

No language has ever had a word for a virgin man.

Science tells us how to heal and how to kill; it reduces the death rate in retail and then kills us wholesale in war.

It is not the race that makes the civilization, it is the civilization that makes the people: circumstances geographical, economic, and political create a culture, and the culture creates a human type.

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

Facts replaced understanding; and knowledge, split into a thousand isolated fragments, no longer generated wisdom.

The form of Christianity that developed in Europe and later spread to America and the rest of the world was the last great creation of the ancient pagan world.

If you look at a map of Europe you will observe that Greece is a skeleton-like hand stretching its crooked fingers out into the Mediterranean Sea.

The earliest uses of writing in Greece were probably commercial or religious; apparently priestly charms and chants are the mother of poetry, and bills of lading are the father of prose.

The Greek might admit that honesty is the best policy, but he tries everything else first.

All in all he was fortunate: he lived without working, read without writing, taught without routine, drank without dizziness, and died before senility, almost without pain.

on Socrates

Thucydides, in a sentence that explains much history: “The Peloponnesus and Athens were both full of young men whose inexperience made them eager to take up arms.”

The Greeks offered the East philosophy, the East offered Greece religion; religion won because philosophy was a luxury for the few, religion was a consolation for the many.

It is war that makes the chief, the king and the state, just as it is these that make war.

Property was the mother, war was the father, of the state.

The essential cause of the Roman conquest of Greece was the disintegration of Greek civilization from within. No great nation is ever conquered until it has destroyed itself.

The South creates the civilizations, the North conquers them, ruins them, borrows from them, spreads them: this is one summary of history.


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2017: Manolis Papathanassiou