Mansions of Philosophy – Will Durant – Worth the Read

by on November 29th, 2010
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A Survey of Human Life and Destiny

‘In my Father’s house are many nations.’

Dedicated to his wife Ariel and daughter Ethel

Will Durant

Simon and Schuster, 1929 – My copy a third printing.

Will Durant’s, Mansions of Philosophy, does not start with a preface, nor an introduction, this classic begins with an invitation. The door opens – leading us into the cool marbled foyer up the steps to the cultivated area, we are served wine and invited to a civil discourse. The philosophical topics are varied, but the paths are well maintained and the fruits of his labor are ripe for our picking. ‘Primum est bibere’ – first one must drink, referring to learning. We are gathered to hear what the philosopher thinks wise.

He harvests the burning questions, under headings, such as The Morality of Nations, And the Case Against Progress, The Coming of Socialism, but don’t let that put you off. This is not a textbook. It is a very human book, as passages unfold, you find yourself profoundly influenced. Questions formulated in our collective minds are addressed, moving us, from the tempest, with gratifying effect.

From the beginning it is clear that the man that wields this pen is not an amateur. His phrases conjure a golden tapestry. Page after page, he tells, what has come before, where we have been and the possibilities. Without demanding, without preaching, and with a tempo of affectionate guidance we are brought to heights of panoramic splendor.

His pen scrawls, ‘Knowledge is power, but only wisdom is liberty’, in sight of the words, ‘we are rich in mechanism and poor in purpose.’ and as true today as in 1929, ‘we have a hundred thousand politicians, and but a single statesman.’

This is a journey of civilized man displaced from agriculture, transplanted to factory, moved from village to town to city, how the economic change divided us from long established concepts to new realities of a new age, told with a warm voice.

‘Childhood may be defined as the age of play; therefore some children are never young, and some adults are never old.’


And I will share these lines, before I close, ‘…. medieval Christianity; and for another thousand years the world thought ill of itself, and placed its happiness in a pretty paradise that lay just beyond the valley of death.’

‘ It takes much philanthropy to deodorize a fortune.’

Consider my meager words an Hors d’oeuvre served at the entrance to the Mansions of Philosophy.


Mansions of Philosophy – Worth the Read

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