Intuitions from History: The Durants (Human Character (Society is founded…
Intuitions from History: The Durants
As a constant in history.
Peace as an unstable equilibrium sustained by acknowledged supremacy or equal power
The state has our instincts without our restraints
Causes of War ~ causes of competition among individuals: acquisitiveness, pugnacity, and pride; desire for food, land, materials, fuels, mastery
The importance of self-preservation, of conflict: some conflicts are too fundamental to be resolved by negotiation.
States will unite in basic cooperation only when they are in common attacked from without
Historian always oversimplifies. Hastily selects s manageable minority of facts and faces out of a crowd of souls and events whose multitudinous complexity he can never understand
An element of chance, perhaps of freedom can have major changes. Eg: Alexander drank himself to death and let his empire fall apart
History is only a broad guide. In philosophy, we try to see the part in the light of the whole. In "philosophy of history" we see the moment in the light of the past.
First lesson is modesty:human history is a brief spot in space.
Is subject to geology. Climate no longer controls us but limits us. Man's ingenuity overcomes geological handicaps but a tornado, rain, are still powerful factors
The influence of geographic factors diminishes as technology grows
Competition is not only the life of trade but the trade of life - peaceful when food abounds and violent when mouths outrun the food.
We cooperate in our group in order to strengthen our group in its competition with other groups.
Selection. Inequality is natural and inborn. We are born unfree and unequal. Inequality grows with complexity of civilisation. Hereditary inequalities breed social and artificial inequalities, every innovation is seized by exceptional individual, makes the strong stronger, the weak weaker than before.
Freedom and equality are sworn enemies. Those who are below the average in economic ability desire equality. Those who are conscious of superior ability desire freedom. In the end, superior ability has it way.
Nature has no use for organisms or groups that cannot reproduce abundantly.
Nature and history: perceptions of good are what survives. Bad is what goes under.
it is not the race that makes the civilisation but the civilisation that makes the people: geographical, economic, and political create a culture and the culture creates a human type
Differences of tradition and type in the long run yield to influence of environment
Society is founded not on ideals of man but nature of man. Constitution of man rewrites constitution of states
Human nature hasn't changed in history by much. The poor have the same impulses as the rich with only less opportunity and skill to implement them.
Evolution during recorded time in man has been social rather than biological. Moral, economic, political innovations.
Great people are effects of the moment. But their character can shape history as well
History is in large the conflict of minorities; the majority applauds the victor and supplies the human material of social experiment.
Intellect is a vital force. But for every good idea there are hundreds of ideas that are poorer than the traditional responses the society has.
the conservative who resists change is as valuable as the radical who proposes it. New ideas must be compelled to go through the mill of objection, opposition. It is good that old should resist the young, and young should prod the old.
Man's sins maybe the relics of his rise rather than the stigmata of his fall.
Universality of moral codes. Change has happened at hunting, agricultural, industrial stages
Historians record the exceptional because it is interesting
Civilisations decay leisurely
Religion is politics.
Only when the priests used fears and rituals to support morality and law did religion become a vital force rival to the state. It told that local code of morals and laws had been dictated by the gods.
Religion has many lives and a habit of resurrection
Religion and puritanism prevail in periods where laws are feeble and morals must bear burden of maintaining social order
skepticim prevails as the rising power of law and govt permits decline of church, family, and morality without endangering stability
No example of a society that maintained moral life without the aid of religion
Economic system must rely on some form of profit motive. Substitutes (slavery, police supervision, ideological enthusiasm) are too unproductive & expensive and/or transient
Majority of abilities is gathered in a minority of men. Concentration of wealth is a natural result, recurs in history. Rate of concentration varies with economic freedom permitted by morals & laws.
Concentration may reach a point where strength of number in the many poor rivals the ability in the few rich. Critical juncture. Solved either by legislation redistributing wealth or revolution redistributing poverty. Then power/wealth concentrates again. This is the eternal cycle.
The fear of capitalism has compelled socialism to widen freedom, and the fear of socialism has compelled capitalism to increase equality.
Men love freedom. Freedom of individuals requires some regulation of conduct. Hence first condition of freedom is its limitation. Make it absolute and it dies in chaos.
Power tends to concentrate. Monarchy has been hence popular.
Most governments have been oligarchies: aristocracies (chosen by birth), theocracies (by religion), democracies (by wealth). It’s unnatural for a majority to rule because can’t be organized for united & specific action.
Majority can do no more than periodically throw out the minority and set up another.
History doesn’t justify revolutions. Effects would have in most cases come with economic developments. To break sharply with the past is to court the madness that may follow the shock of sudden blows or mutilations. Violent revolutions don’t redistribute wealth: they destroy it.
Democracy is the most difficult of all forms of government, since it requires the widest spread of intelligence, and we forgot to make ourselves intelligent when we made ourselves sovereign.
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.
If equality of educational opportunity can be established, democracy will be real and justified. Though men cannot be equal, their access to education and opportunity can be made more nearly equal. The rights of man are not rights to office and power, but the rights of entry into every avenue that may nourish and test a man’s fitness for office and power.
Growth and Decay
civilisation: social order promoting cultural creation
Political order through customs, morals ,law. Economic order through continuity of production and exchange. Cultural creation through freedom and facilities to generate, express ideas
History repeats itself, but only in outline & in the large.
Developed and complex civilisation individuals where reasoning spreads, there is more uncertainty in results. Every year is an adventure. There is no certainty that future will repeat the past
sources of growth: conquest, economic provision, tension between rulers and ruled, external invasiion
Civilizations don’t quite die, only their frame is gone & habitat changed & spread. Homer has more readers now than in his own day. Selective survival of creative minds is the most real and beneficial of immortalities
Human nature hasn't changed. So technological advances are new means of achieving old ends.
Progress: not happiness. We have infinite capacity to fret. IT IS increasing control of the environment by life.
We idolize past civilizations but forget their high rates of infant mortality, short lifespan, great disease, etc.
If education is the transmission of civilization, we are unquestionably progressing. Our finest contemporary achievement is our unprecedented expenditure of wealth and toil in the provision of higher education for all.