Will Durant

Philosopher, Author

1885 – 1981


Who was Will Durant?

William James Durant was a American writer, historian, and philosopher. He is best known for The Story of Civilization, 11 volumes written in collaboration with his wife Ariel Durant and published between 1935 and 1975. He was earlier noted for The Story of Philosophy, written in 1926, which one observer described as "a groundbreaking work that helped to popularize philosophy".

He conceived of philosophy as total perspective, or, seeing things sub specie totius, a phrase inspired by Spinoza's sub specie aeternitatis. He sought to unify and humanize the great body of historical knowledge, which had grown voluminous and become fragmented into esoteric specialties, and to vitalize it for contemporary application.

Will and Ariel Durant were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1968 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977.

Famous Quotes:

  • 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.
  • Nothing is new except arrangement.
  • Woe to him who teaches men faster than they can learn.
  • Inquiry is fatal to certainty.
  • Tired mothers find that spanking takes less time than reasoning and penetrates sooner to the seat of the memory.
  • One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.
  • Knowledge is the eye of desire and can become the pilot of the soul.
  • Never mind your happiness; do your duty.
  • The trouble with most people is that they think with their hopes or fears or wishes, rather than their minds.
  • Education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance.


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Nov 5, 1885
North Adams
Also known as
  • William James Durant
  • United States of America
  • Columbia University
  • Saint Peter's College, New Jersey
Nov 7, 1981
Los Angeles
Resting place
Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery

on July 23, 2013