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Will Durant (1885-1981) and his wife, Adriel, were the principal s of “The Story of Civilization.” Durant saw history as a branch of philosophy, and he peppered his stories of great historical actors and events with moral lessons and observed patterns. One of the most regular sequences in history is that a period of paganism is followed by an age of puritan restraint and moral discipline.

After working as a reporter, he went to Seton Hall College to teach and to study for the Catholic priesthood, but he left in 1911 and took up radical politics in New York City. He became director of the Labor Temple School in 1914 while taking a Ph.D. at Columbia University (1917). When his lectures on philosophy at the Labor Temple School were published as The Story of Philosophy (1926), it became such a best-seller that he was able to quit and write full time. After publishing various books, in 1935 he came out with Our Oriental Heritage, the first of his long-planned multivolume Story of Civilization.

Durant moved to Los Angeles and for the next 40 years largely devoted himself to this project; the 11th and final volume appeared in 1975. Chaya (or Ada) Kaufman Durant had been assisting him for some years and she was credited as co of the last five volumes. The 10th volume received the Pulitzer Prize in 1968 and the Durants received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.

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

“To speak ill of others is a dishonest way of praising ourselves. Nothing is often a good thing to say, and always a clever thing to say.”

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

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

“Knowledge is the eye of desire and can become the pilot of the soul.”

“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.”

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.”

“No one man, however brilliant or well-informed, can come in one lifetime to such a fullness of understanding as to safely judge and dismiss the customs or institutions of his society, for these are the wisdom of the generations after centuries of experiment in the laboratory of history.”

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