William James Durant (1885-1981) was an influential American historian and philosopher.
He is renowned for “The Story of Civilization”, an 11-volume series detailing the history of Eastern and Western civilizations, co-written with his wife, Ariel Durant, from 1935 to 1975.
Another notable work is “The Story of Philosophy” (1926), which greatly popularized philosophy.
Durant believed in seeing things from the perspective of the whole and aimed to integrate and humanize vast historical knowledge, making it relevant for modern use.
Their contributions earned them the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1968 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.
Durant, born to French-Canadian Catholic parents in Massachusetts, initially pursued priesthood.
He later explored socialist philosophy but post-WWI, recognized the universal “lust for power” in politics.
His passion for philosophy, especially Spinoza, deterred his interest in anarchism.
Let’s go through some of the most popular quotes by Will Durant.
Best Will Durant Quotes
“Knowledge is power but only wisdom is liberty.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Forget mistakes. Forget failure. Forget everything except what you’re going to do now and do it. Today is your lucky day.” ~ (Will Durant).
“A civilization is born Stoic and dies Epicurean.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Never mind your happiness; do your duty.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Those who know nothing about history are doomed forever to repeat it.” ~ (Will Durant).
“From barbarism to civilization requires a century; from civilization to barbarism needs but a day.” ~ (Will Durant).
“The time when you need to do something is when no one else is willing to do it, when people are saying it can’t be done.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Knowledge is the eye of desire and can become the pilot of the soul.” ~ (Will Durant).
“To give life a meaning, one must have a purpose larger than self.” ~ (Will Durant).
“We teach more by what we are than by what we teach.” ~ (Will Durant).
“The health of nations is more important than the wealth of nations.” ~ (Will Durant).
Top Will Durant Quotes
“Civilization begins with order, grows with liberty and dies with chaos.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Science without philosophy, facts without perspective and valuation, cannot save us from havoc and despair. Science gives us knowledge, but only philosophy can give us wisdom.” ~ (Will Durant).
“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.” ~ (Will Durant).
“A great civilization is not conquered from without, until it has destroyed itself from within. 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.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Sixty years ago I knew everything; now I know nothing; education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance. We teach more by what we are than by what we teach.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Every science begins as philosophy and ends as art; it arises in hypothesis and flows into achievement.” ~ (Will Durant).
“The political machine triumphs because it is a united minority acting against a divided majority.” ~ (Will Durant).
“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.” ~ (Will Durant).
Famous Will Durant Quotes
“Rome remained great as long as she had enemies who forced her to unity, vision, and heroism. When she had overcome them all she flourished for a moment and then began to die.” ~ (Will Durant).
“If we have never been amazed by the very fact that we exist, we are squandering the greatest fact of all.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Nothing is often a good thing to do and always a good thing to say.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Who will dare to write a history of human goodness?” ~ (Will Durant).
“Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it.” ~ (Will Durant).
“History is always repeating itself, but each time the price goes up.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Philosophy begins when one learns to doubt – particularly to doubt one’s cherished beliefs, one’s dogmas and one’s axioms.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Bankers know that history is inflationary and that money is the last thing a wise man will hoard.” ~ (Will Durant).
“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.” ~ (Will Durant).
Popular Will Durant Quotes
“No man who is in a hurry is quite civilized.” ~ (Will Durant).
“War is one of the constants of history, and it has not diminished with civilization or democracy.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Education is the transformation of civilisation.” ~ (Will Durant).
“When liberty exceeds intelligence, it begets chaos, which begets dictatorship.” ~ (Will Durant).
“As knowledge grew, fear decreased; men thought less of worshiping the unknown, and more of overcoming it.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Philosophy is harmonized knowledge making a harmonious life; it is the self-discipline which lifts us to serenity and freedom. Knowledge is power, but only wisdom is liberty.” ~ (Will Durant).
“History is mostly guessing; the rest is prejudice.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Knowledge that does not generate achievement is a pale and bloodless thing, unworthy of mankind.” ~ (Will Durant).
“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.” ~ (Will Durant).
“The greatest question of our time is not communism vs. individualism, not Europe vs. America, not even the East vs. the West; it is whether men can bear to live without God.” ~ (Will Durant).
“To say nothing, especially when speaking, is half the art of diplomacy.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Our knowledge is a receding mirage in an expanding desert of ignorance.” ~ (Will Durant).
Inspiring Will Durant Quotes
“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.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Most of us spend too much time on the last twenty-four hours and too little on the last six thousand years.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Nature smiles at the union of freedom and equality in our utopias. For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies.” ~ (Will Durant).
“The soul of a civilization is its religion, and it dies with its faith.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Liberty is a product of order.” ~ (Will Durant).
“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.” ~ (Will Durant).
“So I should say that civilizations begin with religion and stoicism: they end with skepticism and unbelief, and the undisciplined pursuit of individual pleasure. A civilization is born stoic and dies epicurean.” ~ (Will Durant).
“Nothing is new except arrangement.” ~ (Will Durant).