Will Durant had become a pedantic curmudgeon by the time this was recorded. He defends the indefensible innumerable times. However, his spunky wife Ariel was a delight, often contradicting him and arguing forcefully. Unfortunately, Will was obviously an unreconstructed sexist and often rode roughshod over her more nuanced view of world history. As a whole, I find their analysis as portrayed in the text to be painfully obvious and pedestrian. There were no great surprises here, and the usual suspects were selected for the meting out of praise or blame. Not the most educational tome.
I expected much more from this book that I got. I read their Story of Philosphy many years ago and I am till in awe of those books. It is useful to look at Lessons of History in its historical context. It was published in 1968. The country was divided about the war in Vietnam. We had a hot war with communists in Asia and a cold war with communists in Europe. The youth culture was ascending. College students were protesting. Organized religions were under attack and were not considered relevant. The civil rights movement was in full swing and had scored victories. Popular culture we eclipsing high culture. I think this book is more about that time than about history in general. It is an attempt to put that time in the context of history. This is not entirely explicit in the text. You have to read between the lines. You see these themes discussed in the book: youthful rebellion, morality, war, racisim, economics, art. It seems that at some points their analysis hits the mark but in other cases it seems to reflect a personal prejudice. Particularly annoying is the dismissal of the modern art scene as a sign cultural decline. Their discussion of accumulation of wealth seems to smack of Social Darwinism but has some cogent warnings about the disparity between rich and poor. And I really did not agree with their point of view on morality and religion. Finally at the end their proposals to fix our problems seemed rather naive. I think the main flaw in this book is its grand scale. It tried to summarize in too small a space the huge span of history. However, given that, I would recommend giving it a listen. It provides much food for thought but take it all with a grain of salt.
I know the Durants were the kingpins of history during the days of Saturday Evening Post and Readers Digests. There is no denying their incredible knowledge and breadth of not only history but literature is astounding. BUT......their relevance to the current trends of history, the astounding acceleration of information, the major shifting of both economic and political power has left their predictions lacking. This is none of their fault and one should read/listen to the Durants as giants of history with some very applicable truths about civilization and mankind but their understanding of the changes in Asia, the dismantling of Communism, and the relative lessening of the immidiate threat of Nuclear warfare as the overarching concern (as opposed to the emergence of China (military/economic) and India (economic) and the growth of Islam and all its ramifications were clearly not in the crystal ball for the Durants. I hold them blamless in these issues as we would all be. But His understanding and disdain for areas where he is weak such as modern art (meaningless drippings) and modernity is noticeable. I also can't stand his ENDLESS listing of examples to impress us. As previously mentioned the inane music between each interview is enough to wish for deafness.
The point of view of the author. Quite brilliant and reasonable.
It gives one perspective on what reason is and what experience has taught us.
There were no characters. Just question and answer.
The raspy voice of the author was unpleasant.
Americans seem particularly immune to the lessons of history but also openly disdainful of the subject. Well, for those of you who are in that category but realize reading an insightful survey of history might add to your overall education, this is the best choice.
Or, if you enjoy reading history, this recording gives you a great touchstone to the context of whatever you are reading at the time. Herodotus' Greek histories make much more sense when the aspect of the strategic importance to trade the Dardanelles played in the Greeks vs Persians.
I have listened many times over and still glean insights that I had missed or relationships.
The huge bonus of the live interviews of the Durants is worth the cost alone.
The content in this book is critical to read. It distils the knowledge learned from decades of work - and that shouldn't be taken lightly - the couple who wrote this book won a Congressional Medal of Honour for their prolific series. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone, we might even get smarter voters that aren't whipsawed around by lies if everyone read this. I found this book through Ray Dalio's recommendation as one of the most important/influential books to read. I definitely was not disappointed in the content but perhaps by the delivery, the music is irritating (and frequent) and Will Durant is incomprehensible when he speaks himself - this may be due to advanced age and bad audio quality from the 70's/80's. It's still not bad enough to detract from the audiobook.
Hard to say, this is sort of a Cole's Note or Cliff's Notes on history. It goes into more of the human condition with some historical context to support its arguments but its fundamentally a book about unchanging human nature. It's organized very well.
Decent narrator for the prose sections. I have no complaints other than the cheesy music and the 'audio-legibility' of Will Durant in the live skits sections.
I was irritated at the terrible music they would play between chapters or when they bring in Will Durant himself.
Ditch the music!!!
The entire book is about memorable moments. The Roman and medieval times, the story of Ignatius Loyola were particularly interesting to me.
Mr. Gardner's narrations enhances the story with his timbre and entonation.
There is a lot to absorb in Durants' philosophy.
If you ever wonder why America seems to be in decline, this book will explain well!
It has happened time and time before. WE JUST think, we are a different time.
I believe Social Media will expedite our decline, as the takers, will over-run the makers of our economy!
Well it's obvious Will Durant was held in check at times by his wife Ariel
At first being it was written 40 years ago, I didn't think it would be relevant.
BUT it is very relevant! As I soon discovered, the decline and decay of societies is years in the making.
The end may seemingly consummate in a few years. But was 50 years in the making! Just like we are seeing in America!
It will take my several more listening a before I can get my head around the contents of this book. On the first listening I was impressed by many simple truths that take far more to comprehend than it takes to follow the words that make up the argument. History as philosophy is an intriguing thought.
Mr Glover is a good narrator and is easy to listen to and doesn't seem to over embellish the material. Between each chapter there are interviews with the authors. This helps to "put a face" on the arguments.
Odd that Will Durant defends religion, even though he admits (paraphrasing here) that it is made up to give poor people hope. The book itself is spliced together with an extended interview with the authors. I found myself wishing the interviewer asked harder questions. But, it wasn't a debate. The book tends to repeat themes. It feels like an essay extended to book form. However, I am glad I heard it.