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The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time

The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time [Kindle Edition]

Will Durant
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From Publishers Weekly

This engaging, accessible book of essays from Pulitzer Prize-winning philosopher and historian Durant, author of the authoritative 11-volume Story of Civilization, should be essential reading for anyone interested in the evolution of thought. Little, the founder and director of The Will Durant Foundation, includes in his slim compendium such works as "The One Hundred 'Best' Books For an Education" and "Twelve Vital Dates in World History." Durant's "The Ten 'Greatest' Thinkers" details minds as enlightening as Confucius and as influential as Darwin, whom Durant says "reduced man to an animal fighting for his transient mastery of the globe." "The Ten 'Greatest' Poets," charts a course from Homer's brilliance to Dante's haunted heart to Whitman's "frank and lusty" originality, in prose peppered with biographical bon mots and excerpts of the world's loveliest poems. Lay folks especially will find this a delightful introduction to Durant's irrepressible style. What else would one expect from Durant, an intellect who, when asked, "Whom in all of history would you most like to have known?" drolly replied, "Madame de Pompadour."
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

By the time of his death in 1981, it was fashionable for many scholars to deride the works of Will Durant; his faith in human progress and emphasis upon the great achievements of individuals seemed outmoded in circles that stressed pessimism about the fate of humanity and lauded the power of mass movements. So it is refreshing to again encounter historical writing that brims with optimism and pays just tribute to individual minds and ideas that have shaped history and advanced both moral and material progress. Editor Little is a lecturer on philosophy, a documentary filmmaker, and director of the Will Durant Foundation. His compilation of Durant's essays is divided into sections on the greatest thinkers, poets, books, and landmarks of human progress. Even Durant acknowledges that his efforts to rate "top tens" borders on the frivolous, but there is nothing frivolous about Durant's elegant prose and cogent insight into the lives and minds of men as diverse as Confucius, Voltaire, and Darwin. This compact work is a gem that elevates historical writing to the level of superb literature. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 256 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 127 Seiten
  • Verlag: Simon & Schuster (29. Oktober 2002)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ISBN-10: 0743235533
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743235532
  • ASIN: B0036QVP1I
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Nicht aktiviert
  • X-Ray:
  • Durchschnittliche Kundenbewertung: 5.0 von 5 Sternen  Alle Rezensionen anzeigen (1 Kundenrezension)
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #236.759 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen
5.0 von 5 Sternen In a nutshell 21. Februar 2010
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Will Durant's language is beautiful and his thoughts and opinions are well worth reading. For anyone trying to consolidate and structure his/her accumulated knowledge but also for "beginners" this collection of "must-reads" and "must knows" is an interesting and enlightening approach to history, literature, philosophy and thought.
Frankly, this book should probably be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in Western civilization and the minds that made it what it is.
War diese Rezension für Sie hilfreich?
Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 3.9 von 5 Sternen  35 Rezensionen
43 von 45 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A pocketbook education 8. Dezember 2002
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
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.
99 von 115 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Very Good, with One Very Large Problem 4. November 2005
Von Joseph Biskup - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
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.
34 von 37 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A Great Introduction To The Wisdom Of Will Durant 9. November 2003
Von W. C HALL - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
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
11 von 11 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen For all those who slept in their Western Civilzation courses! 25. Januar 2007
Von Blaine Greenfield - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Audio CD

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

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


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.


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.
18 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Exalting the Human 20. April 2003
Von C. Middleton - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
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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The greatest fortune of a people would be to keep ignorant persons from public office, and secure their wisest men to rule them. &quote;
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it is in the lasting contributions made by geniuses to the sum of human civilization and culture. &quote;
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The illustrious ancients,when they wished to make clear and to propagate the highest virtues in the world, put their states in proper order. Before putting their states in proper order, they regulated their families. Before regulating their families, they cultivated their own selves. Before cultivating their own selves, they perfected their souls. Before perfecting their souls, they tried to be sincere in their thoughts. Before trying to be sincere in their thoughts, they extended to the utmost their knowledge. &quote;
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