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220 of 229 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought-Provoking, Politically Incorrect Analysis, May 6, 2005
This review is from: The Lessons of History (Will Durant Audio Library) (Audio CD)
In one of the interviews that serve as interludes between the chapters of his book, Will Durant says he started his career as a liberal and became more & more conservative during his fifty year career as a historian. If he was a conservative, he was a rather liberal one. Some of the ideas he voices would be anathema to conservatives. E.g. Wealth concentrated into fewer and fewer hands should be redistributed to the have nots. Liberals on the other hand, would be distressed by other of his views. E.g. Once the wealth gets redistributed, government should not attempt to prevent the talented and industrious from re-accumulating it.

The paradox is not really paradoxical at all. Obscene wealth in the hands of a very few causes unrest (and eventually revolution) among the obscenely poor. On the other hand, if industry and talent are not rewarded, culture stagnates. Durant gives the fall of the Roman Republic as an example of an obscenely rich aristocracy committing political suicide by refusing to peacefully redistribute some of their wealth to the poor. The economic stagnation of Communist East Europe serves as an example of what happens when you stop the natural flow of wealth back to the talented and industrious.

Durant makes some statements that would get him lynched in the 21st Century American media. E.g. "Only those who are below average really want equality."

Durant is probably most accurately classified as an agnostic, but he says that on balance, religion has done far more good than harm for civilization. Durant contends that civilizations and cultures decline and die when they lose their moral compass. And they lose their moral compass when they lose their religion. Simply put, those contemplating crime are more likely to be detered by the wrath of God than the long arm of the law.

Durant voices many other thought-provoking opinions. You may not agree with everything he says (his wife doesn't), but you will certainly be stimulated to deep thought by what he says.

I was somewhat amused by the interviews interspersed among the chapters. The reverential awe shown by Durant's interviewer was quite neatly counterbalanced by the sardonic wit of Durant's wife, Ariel. When Durant said something she didn't agree with, she let you know about it and gave excellent reasons for her disagreement. Durant quite wisely did what any intelligent husband would do. He almost always let her have the last word.
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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 5, 2011 2:33:22 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 5, 2011 2:35:43 AM PDT
I have always enjoyed Will Durant's sense of humor which the reviewer captured quiet well. Although not agnositic myself I read "Transition" as a teenager and it made a big impression on me . His "Story Of Phil0sophy" as an introductory read is marvelous for many reasons. When writing "The Story Of Civilization" he even noted and included a large volume on "The Age Of Faith" which had been omitted intentionally in his "The Story Of Philosophy". Delightful and entertaining writer and a very perceptive and helpful review. I will be soon be returning to read Durant again. I wonder does this reviewer do reviews as a hobby or as a day time job?

Cliff Simske

Posted on Jul 29, 2012 9:19:51 PM PDT
Amazoner says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2012 12:43:01 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 30, 2012 12:44:15 PM PDT
Once again we see the messengers confused with the messages. Plato was a collectivist just as much as Stalin if not more so but there was a difference between the two messengers. It is sad when people equate flawed human beings with healthy ethical and religious messages. Sad, Sad Sad!?!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2012 6:10:51 PM PDT
Amazoner says:
yes, I weep over it often. Say, what is it exactly?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 30, 2012 10:45:27 PM PDT
I am sure you know much better than I ever will.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 31, 2012 7:20:29 AM PDT
Amazoner says:
I am a know nothing person, more interested in questions than answers. A pertinent question regarding religion is, "How does worship of God lead a person to be good?" Rather than fear of damnation, it is connected to the fact that there is another spiritual world along with this material plane. The knowledge that this world is unreal helps.Then there is the expansion of the self when the spirit becomes alive.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 12, 2012 7:30:16 AM PDT
The review reads: "Simply put, those contemplating crime are more likely to be detered by the wrath of God than the long arm of the law." Were that this were so, but one evidence that it is not: African Americans consistently place at the top both of lists ranking conservative Christian religious belief and rates of crime.

Posted on Jul 22, 2013 11:08:54 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 22, 2013 11:10:06 AM PDT
David Paluch says:
A loaf of bread, a bottle of wine, and thou toting Will & Ariel's 11-Volume masterpiece

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2013 9:37:50 PM PDT
Amazoner says:
I have lived in a "black city," Oakland, California, for years. There are two main groups of AA, those who go to church and those who do not. One specializes in happiness, the other, crime.
They are not the same people, I have noticed.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2013 9:38:50 PM PDT
Amazoner says:
I thought it was 9 volumes. Anyway, it's a great piece of writing.
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