Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Lessons of History

By Will (and Ariel) Durant

After dedicated life-times devoted to the study and understanding of history, Will and Ariel Durant summarize their conclusions in this short but deeply insightful book. Seeing the broad influences on the evolution of human culture and civilization from a packed-with-knowledge perspective, they examine history “not merely as a warning reminder of man’s follies and crimes, but also an encouraging remembrance of generative souls… a spacious country of the mind, wherein a thousand saints, statesman, inventors, scientist, poets artists, musicians, lovers, and philosophers still live and speak, teach and care and sing.”

Quotes from Lessons of History

“‘You can’t fool all the people all the time,’ but you can fool enough of them to rule a large country.”

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“After the breakdown of Roman democracy in the class wars, Augustus organized, under what in effect was monarchical rule, the greatest achievement in the history of statesmanship—the Pax Romana which maintained peace from 30 BCE to 180 CE from the Atlantic to the Euphrates, from Scotland to the Black Sea.”

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“All deductions having been made, democracy has done less harm, and more good, than any other form of government.”

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Themes: Democracy

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“all technological advances will have to be written off as merely new means of achieving old ends... we repeatedly enlarge our instrumentalities without improving our purposes.”

Chapters: 80. A Golden Age

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“As education spreads, theologies lose credence, and receive an external conformity without influence upon conduct or hope”

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“As the sanity of the individual lies in the continuity of his memories, so the sanity of a group lies in the continuity of its traditions; in either case, a break in the chain invites a neurotic reaction... To break sharply with the past is to court the madness that may follow the shock”

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“By the time of Plato's death, his hostile analysis of Athenian democracy was approaching apparent confirmation by history... the gap between rich and poor widened... the rich organized themselves for protection against the poor... debtors massacred their creditors en masse... the middle classes, as well as the rich began to distrust democracy as empowered envy and the poor distrusted it as a sham... the class war left Greece internally as well as internationally divided”

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Themes: Democracy

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“Caught in the interval between one moral code and the next, an unmoored generation surrenders itself to luxury, corruption, and a restless disorder of family and morals."”

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“Civilizations are the generations of the racial soul... Mercuries of the air are binding nations and civilizations together, preserving for all what each has given to the heritage of mankind.”

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Themes: Civilization

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“Consider education not as the painful accumulation of facts... nor merely the preparation of the individual to earn his keep... but as the transmission of our [world's] mental, moral, technical, and aesthetic heritage”

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Themes: Education

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“cruelty is the memory—if only in the blood—of a time when the test of survival was the ability to kill... Pugnacity, brutality, greed, and sexual readiness were advantages in the struggle for existence.”

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Themes: Evil Aggression

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“Democracy is the most difficult of all forms of government since it requires the widest spread of intelligence.”

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Themes: Democracy

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“Do civilizations die? ...Homer has more readers now than in his own day and land.”

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Themes: Civilization

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“Every advance in the complexity of the economy puts an added premium upon superior ability, and intensifies the concentration of wealth, responsibility, and political power... Economic freedom, even in the middle classes, become more and more exceptional, making political freedom a consolatory pretense.”

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“Have we given ourselves more freedom than our intelligence can digest?”

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Themes: Wisdom Freedom

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“History is a fragment of biology... the laws of biology are the fundamental lessons of history. We are subject to the processes and trials of evolution, to the struggle for existence and the survival of the fittest to survive.”

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Themes: Evolution

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“If equality of educational opportunity can be established, democracy will be real and justified.”

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“If undertakers are miserable, progress is real.”

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Themes: Progress

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“If we were to judge forms of government from their prevalence and duration in history, we should have to give the palm to monarchy; democracies, by contrast, have been hectic interludes.”

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Themes: Government

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“In ancient Greece the philosophers destroyed the old faith... in many nations of modern Europe the philosophers achieved similar results. Protagoras became Voltaire, Diogenes Rousseau, Democritus Hobbes, Plato Kant, Thrasymachus Nietzsche, Aristotle Spencer, Epicurus Diderot.”

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Themes: Philosophy

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“In progressive societies the concentration of wealth may reach a point where the strength of number in the many poor rivals the strength of ability in the few rich; then the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealth or by revolution distributing poverty.”

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Themes: Revolution Wealth

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“insecurity is the mother of greed, as cruelty is the memory - if only in the blood - of a time when the test of survival (as now between states) was the ability to kill.”

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Themes: War Greed

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“Plato's reduction of political evolution to a sequence of monarchy, aristocracy, democracy, and dictatorship found another illustration in the history of Rome.”

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“Probably every vice was once a virtue — i.e. a quality making for the survival of the individual, family or the group. Man's sins may be the relics of his rise rather than the stigmata of his fall.”

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Themes: Evolution Virtue

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“Prostitution has been perennial and universal, from the state-regulated brothels of Assyria to the 'night clubs' of West-European and American cities today.”

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Themes: Prostitution

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“Prostitution has been perennial and universal, from the state-regulated brothels of Assyria to the 'night-clubs' of Western European and American cities today.”

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Themes: Sex

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“Since inequality grows in an expanding economy... internal barbarization by the majority is part of the price that the minority pays for its control”

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“Somewhere, sometime, in the name of humanity, we must challenge a thousand evil precedents , and dare to apply the Golden Rule to nations as the Buddhist King Ashoka did in 262 BCE”

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Themes: Golden Rule

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“The American Revolution was not only a revolt of colonials against a distant government; it was also an uprising of a native middle class against an imported aristocracy.”

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Themes: Revolution

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“The fear of capitalism has compelled socialism to widen freedom, and the fear of socialism has compelled capitalism to increase equality. East is West and West is East, and soon the twain will meet.”

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“The only real revolution is in the enlightenment of the mind... the only real revolutionists are philosophers and saints.”

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“We double, triple, centuple our speed, but we shatter our nerves in the process and we are the same trousered apes at 2000 MPH as when we used legs.”

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Themes: Technology

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