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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pocketbook education
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to more fully develop themselves through self-education. The book is not too heavy-handed with the various subject matter, nor is it written in the stale, esoteric language of an academic. It is a series of papers written by a man of the people for the people, and the passion that Durant has for the material (and the love...
Published on December 8, 2002

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111 of 127 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Good, with One Very Large Problem
I just read this book and it is a quick, easy, read. I think this book is an excellent way to develop perspective, either as a high school or college student, or for someone older who wants to more rigorously develop his or her world-view. The model of this book is a "classical education", along the lines of the recently re-released Harvard 5-foot bookshelf. Most of...
Published on November 3, 2005 by Joseph Biskup


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47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pocketbook education, December 8, 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time (Hardcover)
I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to more fully develop themselves through self-education. The book is not too heavy-handed with the various subject matter, nor is it written in the stale, esoteric language of an academic. It is a series of papers written by a man of the people for the people, and the passion that Durant has for the material (and the love of knowledge) shines through.
This book is a wonderful and concise lesson in history, arts, and sciences, and will help start any one's pursuit of knowledge and wisdom.
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111 of 127 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Good, with One Very Large Problem, November 3, 2005
By 
Joseph Biskup (Sunnyvale, ca United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time (Hardcover)
I just read this book and it is a quick, easy, read. I think this book is an excellent way to develop perspective, either as a high school or college student, or for someone older who wants to more rigorously develop his or her world-view. The model of this book is a "classical education", along the lines of the recently re-released Harvard 5-foot bookshelf. Most of the people critical of this publication completely missed the point. Many times in the essays Will Durant specifically says that these are merely his opinions, and there are many other educated people out there with different opinions. These essays are intended as a STARTING place to educate yourself and he specifically suggests that you should read further and along your specific lines of interest. (The author also suggests on page 65 that as a college graduate, you might be ready to BEGIN your education with his suggested reading.) Anyone who complains that such-and-such was "rated" ahead of someone else [that they like], or that someone they revere was left off the "top 10" (because most likely they were not left out of the book completely, the author drops a lot of names of people who should be highly considered) just completely didn't understand this book.

However, there is one huge problem with this book. I didn't realize it when I started the book (I am not really aware of who Will Durant was) but even though the publication date is 2002, nothing in this book is recent. Actually, Mr. Durant died 25 years ago and I suspect that most or all these essays were written long before then. Unfortunately Mr. Little, the compiler, does not tell us when these essays were written. This becomes painfully obvious when you get to the list of suggested reading. To start off there are a lot of general overview books on history, science (physics, chemistry, astronomy, biology, etc.), art, music, psychology and health. I looked most of these books up on Amazon and all the ones I saw were close to 75 years old (some had been re-released). I find it completely shocking that a publisher would print such an out-of-date book under the guise of a new publication. I mean, A LOT HAS CHANGED IN 75 YEARS, especially in the sciences.

I know that in the last few years specifically there have been some very highly regarded books on the history of Art and on World War I (a glowing but out-of-date suggestion was specifically mentioned on page 80) and Karen Armstrong published several good books on the western religions. One of his suggested readings, "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" by Gibbon; might still be relevant even though it is quite old, but I am very suspicious of the rest of the suggested overview readings. There are quite a number of translated works, and for most of them I am sure there are more recent translations. Sometimes he suggests a specific translation, it would be up to you to decide if a more recent translation would be better. That said, presented is an excellent system for "Since we wish to have orderly minds, and avoid the chaos of desultory reading, we shall want to begin at the beginning...we want it in such an order that the knowledge we win may fall into logical sequence in our memories, and give us at last that full perspective which is the source and summit of understanding."

Additionally, almost exclusively this books focuses on pre-20th century. I think this is completely understandable and acceptable, but if you are only interested in the 20th century then this book is not for you. I took two stars off for these out-of-date suggestions, no reference to the acutal dates the essays were written and no revised (alternative) suggested reading list. Now it is up to you, the reader, to substitute the suggested readings for modern, up-to-date, versions and start reading.
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Introduction To The Wisdom Of Will Durant, November 8, 2003
By 
W. C HALL (Newport, OR USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time (Hardcover)
It's said that good things come in small packages. Sometimes great things do, too. This book may be only 118 pages long, but between these covers you will find reasoned and inspired discussion of some of the people and works who have truly ennobled mankind.

Will Durant, in partnership with his wife Ariel, spent his lifetime celebrating our highest and best achievements as a people. His essays on the greatest thinkers, greatest poets, best books, peaks of human progress and vital dates in world history should not only serve as a compact education, it should also fill you with a sense that for all of humanity's folly and waste, we have actually accomplished much that is worthwhile these past few thousand years. It's also very likely this book will spark within you a desire to know and to learn more about our rich heritage.

My only wish for this book is that compiler John Little had included the dates these works were originally written. The chapter on the best books for an education, for example, while including many timeless classics, also includes some volumes which have been surpassed by later works--including the Durant's own magisterial lifework, the "Story of Civilization." But this a minor quibble over what is on the whole an exceptional work.--William C. Hall
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For all those who slept in their Western Civilzation courses!, January 24, 2007
Heard THE GREATEST MINDS AND IDEAS OF ALL TIME by

Will Durant, a best-selling historian and philosopher, who devoted his

life to studying human history . . . his efforts earned him a Pulitzer

Prize.

Although I never read anything by Durant, this work gave me

a feel for his writing . . . in addition, it made me realize that though

I have spent many years in both undergraduate and graduate education,

I should now return to many books that I missed along the way if

I want to attain a true liberal arts education.

This book is actually a summation of Durant's work . . . it presents

a series of somewhat brief essays with titles ranging from

"The One Hundred Best Books for an Education" to "The Ten Greatest

Thinkers" and including "The Ten Greatest Poets," "The Ten Peaks

of Human Progress" and "Twelve Vital Dates in Human History."

I particularly liked those dealing with people . . . the ones dealing

with dates and events were less interesting.

Overall, I'd recommend THE GREATEST MINDS AND IDEAS OF

ALL TIME, particularly if you slept in or never took a course in

Western Civilization . . . Durant makes the material come alive,

particularly when he makes such observations as the following:

Confucius was one of the top thinkers. (He then explains why.)

You might as well not lived until you have heard Bach's work.

Balzac is almost as illuminating as life itself.

Miss not a word of Flaubert's MADAM BOVARY.

You will marvel at the delicacies of Anatole France.

Meander through the 1,700 pages of WAR AND PEACE.

Poe is a little bit overrated.

Whitman is our only American giant.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exalting the Human, April 19, 2003
This review is from: The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time (Hardcover)
In these modern times of cynicism, worn as a garb of superiority, it has become intellectually fashionable, a pose of small minds, to negate greatness, revealing that our heroes are not heroes at all, but mere historical constructs with feet of clay. Unfortunately, this is a pathological symptom of democracy, where mediocrity must be exalted at all costs, to maintain the notion of equality. Men and women must be viewed as equal under the eyes of the law and society, for this is justice. But we are not equal in health, wealth, intelligence and talent. What Will Durant has shown us unashamedly is "...that at the beginning and summit of every age some heroic genius stands, the voice and index of his time...the guide and pioneer into the future." (10)
This necessary little book presents six essays on the greatest thoughts, minds and books of all time. The reader may disagree occasiionally with his choices, though Durant compellingly argues his choices from his informed view as a recognized historian, philosopher and teacher.
The text is a snap shot of history; an opportunity to see the past and its great historical figures through the eyes of a man who made it his life mission to celebrate what it means to be human. Durant's humanism and enthusiasm is highly infectious - one comes away from his texts with a renewed hope that civilization was once great and can be great again. We have been submerged into the pessimistic, fragmented and distilled perspectives of Modernism far too long. Durant's optimism slices like Excaliber through our fashionable cynicism about the world; he is the intellectual white knight, celebrating the miracle of existence and the endless potential of humanity.
At the moment the world is filled with uncertainty and pessimism, therefore this text is highly recommended, for it might cast a glimmer of hope, and a renewed optimism about the world, the future and us.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Approval of the approach, disappointment at the execution, October 15, 2004
Like many many readers I have long been a fan of Will Durant. As a child I remember being excited, moved, uplifted by his 'Story of the Great Philosophers'. In my mind to this day is his remark about Spinoza, " The only great philosopher who lived as he wrote."

But this small work, divided into six sections "A Shameless Worship of Heroes" "The Ten Greatest Thinkers" "The Ten Greatest Poets", "The One hundred best books for Education" "The Ten Peaks of Human Progress "TwelveVitalDatesin World History" disappoints. It does not really go movingly into the stories and thought of any of the great people selected. It does not develop their ideas in an illuminating way.

I do question a large number of the selections. Keats Shelley Whitman are included but Wordsworth Coleridge Chaucer Hopkins Wallace Stevens Emily Dickinson(just to mention nineteenth and twentieth century poets) are not. The lists that is at a certain point ( Not at all points. No one would quarrel with Shakespeare) not very convincing.

But all said and done I would still recommend this book, and above all other books of Will Durant. Durant's great love of learning, respect for the life of the mind, enthusiasm for the life of creation teach Values our world sorely needs.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WONDERFUL COLLECTION OF SHORT ESSAYS, December 23, 2004
This review is from: The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time (Hardcover)
I confess to be a huge fan of Will and Ariel Durant's work and confess to being fastinated with "lists." That being said, it is obvious that I liked this work. It is short and pretty much to the point. The author clearly states that these are his selections and states "I let the reader, then, to make his own lists, helping himself to what he likes in mine. Let him try to build for himself another perspective and unity that shall clarify human development for him." I note that much of the negative comments, here in these reviews, centered on the fact that the particular reviewer did not agree with all of Dr. Durant's choices. These reviewers need to read the last paragraph in the book. Anyway, I, like most, did not agree with all the choices, but I suspect that if you picked 1,000 individuals and invited them to create their own list of the categories Durant chose, we would have before us 1,000 different lists. Durant's writing is as always, wonderful, has a almost musical quality and is quite spellbinding. This is the type of work which should lead the reader to continue exploring history, art, poetry and philosophy on his or her own. It is a work that should stimulate further reading and study. As one reviewer pointed out, they were disappointed that the author did not delve deeper into his subjects and subject matter. Hey folks, this is a short work of short essays. If you want more delving, then do like the rest of us....go to the library or book store and go for it! I highly recommend this one!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accurate Title, Wonderful Book, May 30, 2009
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This review is from: The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time (Hardcover)
Some will obviously quibble over Will Durant's selections, but I will not. I got hooked on Durant after reading his 1916 doctoral disseration (a full thirty years after I acquired the multi-volume History of Civilization), and have been working my way through various "short books" in the past six months.

Here are my fly-leaf notes.

Slams H. G. Wells early on. Durant seems to be the anti-thesis to Marx.

He opens by pointing out that the greatest minds of history were those of philosphy and science, not captains of war, priests, or artists.

As is my tendency, I praise the book by summarizing it. Below are his lists.

Ten greatest thinkers:
01 Confucius as a moral philosopher
02 Plato for first university, philosophy as means of remolding world
03 Aristotle as philosopher and scientists, creating new science
04 St. Thomas Aquinas for bridging between knowledge and belief
05 Copernicus (Poland) for astronomy and mathematics, shifting attention from man to the cosmos
06 Sir Francis Bacon, for knowledge as remodeling power, opened eyes to nature (see my review of Intelligence in Nature, forthcoming).
07 Sir Isaac Newton, for scientific mastery of modern thought
08 Voltaire for ending despotism and starting the enlightenment, but see my review of Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West
09 Immanuel Kant for mind over materialism, restored faith to co-equal status with science
10 Charles Darwin for state of nature, life as conflict, natural selection

Ten greatest poets:
01 Homer
02 "David"
03 Garupedes
04 Lucretius
05 Li Po
06 Dante
07 Shakespeare
08 Keats
09 Shelly
10 Whitman

Ten "Peaks" for Humanity
01 Speech
02 Fire
03 Conquest of Animals
04 Agriculture
05 Social Organization
06 Morality [see my review of The Lessons of History)
07 Tools
08 Science
09 Education
10 Writing & Print

I have a note to myself in which I iclude the Internet in #10, and see #11 as being "True Cost" accounting, see my reviews of, among others:
Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming
Ecological Economics: Principles And Applications
The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism

Twelve Major Dates in Human History
01 4241 BC Egyptian Calendar
02 543 BC Death of Buddha
03 478 BC Death of Confucius
04 199 BC Death of Socrates
05 44 BC Death of Caesar
06 BC-AD Birth of Christ
07 AD 632 Death of Mohammed
08 AD 1294 Death of Roger Bacon, birth of gunpowder
09 AD 1455 Gutenberg Press
10 AD 1492 Columbus discovers America (see 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
11 AD 1769 James Watt and the Steam Engine
12 AD 1789 French Revolution

One can only speculate at what he might have picked in the past century or two, that alone would make a marvelous semester-long course.

The book has a lovely index of all names, both those considered and those considered but not selected.

I consider this a classic gift item, along with Ralph Nader's The Seventeen Traditions and Durant's Lessons of History linked above as well as his edited work drawing out others On the Meaning of Life

For my own contribution, a work marvelously edited by Canadian PhD candidate Mark Tovey, see Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace. All of the work I have sponsored or produced can be found for free at OSS.Net.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Insight into Will Durant and his passions, April 22, 2009
This review is from: The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time (Hardcover)
This collection of articles and writing from Durant is his opinion of the greatest thinkers, poets and books of all of humanity. Clearly an almost impossible task and one filled with biases. I won't go through the list and critique each selection, as that is up to the reader to decide, but I will point out some interesting facets of his thoughts on the matters.

In thinkers he states that it "breaks his heart" to have to include St. Thomas Aquinas in the list.

Durant unashamedly loves the French Renaissance and thinks of it as the height of human culture.

In a possibly shocking narrative Durant dreams of having a library, which could be considered a shrine, which he lavishly details as a place of worship for himself and friends. He specifically calls the great philosophers, thinkers, and scientists "gods", and speaks of lighting candles to their images. Durant waxes wistfully for the lost faith of his youth, and replacing it with reverence and worship, towards great men. His critics are right to point out this sort of unapologetic hero worship taints scholarship.

Those criticisms aside, this book is still worth reading for one man's learned opinion about what is great in humanity. To Durant's credit he does expose and admit his hero worship and biases in this book, and realizes his focus on Western culture and general dislike of religion, particularly Christianity, shapes his recommendations.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Durant's heroes., May 29, 2004
This review is from: The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time (Hardcover)
After having read Durant's `The story of Philosophy' I was hooked. This author had made the main ideas that had troubled philosophers accessible to the non-Philosopher; to the average Joe that wanted to know what Philosophy was all about. So when I found out he had written a book about "The greatest minds and ideas of all times" I knew I had to get it.
This book is really short, so you know straight away that he wont be going into too much detail and that the book will have to be really selective about who it discusses. It was unfortunate, to me at least, that Durant had to spend so many pages justifying his selection and thus making the actual discussion of the people and ideas much shorter. Some people received only 2 pages which was a disappointment. It would have been better had Durant instead of justifying himself, written more about those people and ideas which would have justified themselves to the reader.
As he admits readily, many of the greatest poets are his favorites, so I think it would be fair to say that his choice of greatest peoples and ideas are not as objective as one might like them to be, but can such a `top 10' or 'top 12' list ever be wholly objective?
That said, I would still recommend this book to those wanting to know what Durant thought was important to human civilization over its thousands of years of history.
The selection of book Durant gives is quite good, although personally I prefer Mortimer Adler's, which you can get from the Internet or his book "How to read a book: - Appendix A".
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The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time
The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time by Will Durant (Hardcover - November 7, 2002)
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