Will Durant quotes page 1
5 November 1885 – 7 November 1981; American philosopher and historian
A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from
The essential causes of Rome's decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her
failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars.
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.
Sixty years ago I knew everything; now I know nothing; education is a progressive discovery
of your own ignorance.
The trouble with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes rather
than with their minds.
Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people
killing, stealing, shouting and doing things historians usually record, while on the banks,
unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry... The
story of civilization is what happened on the banks.
The political machine triumphs because it is a united minority acting against a divided
When liberty destroys order, the hunger for order will destroy liberty.
Those who have suffered much become very bitter or very gentle.
Most of us spend too much time on the last twenty-four hours and too little on the last six
To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves... let us be above such
Education is the transmission of civilization.
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.
Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy can give us wisdom.
Even when repressed, inequality grows; only the man who is below the average in economic
ability desires equality; those who are conscious of superior ability desire freedom, and in the
end superior ability has its way.
Forget mistakes. Forget failure. Forget everything except what you're going to do now and do
it. Today is your lucky day.
Bankers know that history is inflationary and that money is the last thing a wise man will
Truth always originates in a minority of one, and every custom begins as a broken precedent.
It is a mistake to think that the past is dead. Nothing that has ever happened is quite
without influence at this moment. The present is merely the past rolled up and concentrated
in this second of time. You, too, are your past; often your face is your autobiography; you
are what you are because of what you have been; because of your heredity stretching back
into forgotten generations; because of every element of environment that has affected you,
every man or woman that has met you, every book that you have read, every experience
that you have had; all these are accumulated in your memory, your body, your character,
your soul. So with a city, a country, and a race; it is its past, and cannot be understood
History is mostly guessing; the rest is prejudice.
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.
To say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy.
The most interesting thing in the world is another human being who wonders, suffers and
raises the questions that have bothered him to the last day of his life, knowing he will never
get the answers.
There have been only 268 of the past 3,421 years free of war.
Will Durant, The Lessons of History, 1968
As long as he fears or remembers insecurity, man is a competitive animal. Groups, classes,
nations and races similarly insecure compete as covetously as their constituent individuals,
and more violently, knowing less law and having less protection; Nature calls all living things
to the fray.
Never mind your happiness; do your duty.
Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.
There is nothing in socialism that a little age or a little money will not cure.
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.
Knowledge is the eye of desire and can become the pilot of the soul.
Man became free when he recognized that he was subject to law.
Tired mothers find that spanking takes less time than reasoning and penetrates sooner to the
seat of the memory.