Story of Philosophy

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A brilliant and concise account of the lives and ideas of the great philosophers—Plato, Aristotle, Bacon, Spinoza, Voltaire, Kant, Schopenhauer, Spencer, Nietzsche, Bergson, Croce, Russell, Santayana, James, and Dewey—The Story of Philosophy is one of the great books of our time. Few write for the non-specialist as well as Will Durant, and this book is a splendid example of his eminently readable scholarship. Durant’s insight and wit never cease to dazzle; The Story of Philosophy is a key book for any reader who wishes to survey the history and development of philosophical ideas in the Western world.
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About the author

Will Durant (1885–1981) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize (1968) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977). He spent more than fifty years writing his critically acclaimed eleven-volume series, The Story of Civilization (the later volumes written in conjunction with his wife, Ariel). A champion of human rights issues, such as the brotherhood of man and social reform, long before such issues were popular, Durant’s writing still educates and entertains readers around the world.

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Simon and Schuster
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Published on
Jul 24, 2012
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Biography & Autobiography / Philosophers
History / Civilization
Philosophy / General
Philosophy / History & Surveys / General
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Despite their extensive service in World War I, few members of the Kansas-Missouri 35th Division left lengthy memoirs of their experiences in the American Expeditionary Forces. But Ward Loren Schrantz filled dozens of pages with his recollections of life as a National Guard officer and machine gun company commander in the “Santa Fe” Division.  In A Machine-Gunner in France, Schrantz extensively documents his experiences and those of his men, from training at Camp Doniphan to their voyage across the Atlantic, and to their time in the trenches in France’s Vosges Mountains and ultimately to their return home. He devotes much of his memoir to the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, in which the 35th Division suffered heavy casualties and made only moderate gains before being replaced by fresh troops. Schrantz provides a valuable “common soldier’s” view of why the division failed to live up to the expectations of the A.E.F. high command. Schrantz also describes the daily life of a soldier, including living conditions, relations between officers and enlisted men, and the horrific experience of combat. He paints literary portraits of the warriors who populated the A.E.F. and the civilians he encountered in France.  Schrantz’s small-town newspaper experience allowed him to craft a well-written and entertaining narrative. Because he did not intend his memoir for publication, the Missourian wrote in an honest and unassuming style, with extensive detail, vivid descriptions, and occasional humor. Editor Jeffrey Patrick combines his narrative with excerpts from a detailed history of the unit that Schrantz wrote for his local newspaper, and also provides an editor’s introduction and annotations to document and explain items and sources in the memoir. This is not a romantic account of the war, but a realistic record of how American citizen-soldiers actually fought on the Western Front.

CHILDHOOD Bruckenthal evokes my fondest memories. With nostalgia I recall walks through immense wheat fields – a huge yellow ocean with slight ripples of waves gently swaying in the summer breeze, a glorious intense orgy of colorful wildflowers interspersed throughout it: the vivid blues of cornflowers, brilliant reds of poppies, immaculate whites of daisies. I was surrounded by nature’s best. The sweet fragrance, the breathtaking beauty of it filled me with overwhelming joy. Carried upon the currant of happiness I dang out loud. On lazy summer days, when the atmosphere became heavy with the heat, I lay down on the cool, dark, rich earth, looking up into the translucent blue sky through hot simmering air. Made drowsy by the monotonous buzz of bees, I let myself overflow with a child’s dream. It was the loveliest corner in the world.


Hour after hour, I, a twelve year old, shuffled behind the wagon, battling harsh howling winds, gust of snow and sleep. Sometimes when slowing down, I could feel the steamy warm breath and hear the occasional snorting of following horses near my ears. What if I should fall down? Would I be trampled to death, rolled over by the churning wheels? The trek came to a hold. I was fatigued beyond endurance, almost hallucinating. An overturned wagon on the side of the road, the casualty of mortar fire, beckoned me. Next to its dead horse, still in harness, was leaning against an embankment with its head grotesquely twisted and its legs stiffly sticking upward. Large lumps, faintly bearing human shape, were half buried in a snow tomb. I climbed onto the deserted wagon and curled up between baggage. It snowed heavier. Big beautiful snowflakes floated silently down. Soon, everything would be covered softly, just one white, serene wonderland. I would be asleep, finally blissfully asleep, maybe forever. My eyes closed. I felt myself drifting off peacefully. PART 3: POSTWAR BAD OLDESLOE, GERMANY Hunger was our steady companion. The prayerful sentence “Give us this day our daily bread”, so carelessly uttered by many took on an urgent meaning. To subsidize the meager rations, being near the starvation point, Mother and I went foraging for food. Droves of hungry people from the big City Hamburg, joined us in that venture. They came by trains that were filled beyond capacity. Humans were hanging on the outside like overripe grapes. The trains hardly came to a stop, when everyone jumped down and descended on the already harvested fields, in hope of finding leftovers. We all walked and picked through the scratchy stubble of reaped wheat fields. It was a painful experience. Legs and hands were cut and bleeding. The reward came when found grains were carefully separated from salvaged husks, and Father pounded the kernels into coarse flour. The bread Mother made from it was delicious but hardly enough for five. Putting it into a locked box, she doled it out a few slices at a time. PART 4: AMERICA! AMERICA! THE “GENERAL LANGFITT” I sank down in wet planks in a vacant corner, licking the salty air. Some of my fellow travelers, reeking if garlic, were strolling on deck. Garlic was supposed to be a remedy not only against vampires but also for seasickness. Others, their faces showing greenish hues, joined me. We didn’t exchange pleasantries, simply nodded sympathetically whenever one of us left to lean over the railing. I couldn’t bring myself to return to the mess hall. The thought of food repulsed me. Nevertheless, I was hungry. One night, unable to sleep, listening to the snoring around me, the growling stomach and the constant rattle of the nearby engine, I spotted a couple of oranges alongside the bunk. Impossible! My eyes must have deceived me. But no, soon more followed – big juicy oranges. Neither did I care
This classic is the benchmark against which all modern books about Nietzsche are measured. When Walter Kaufmann wrote it in the immediate aftermath of World War II, most scholars outside Germany viewed Nietzsche as part madman, part proto-Nazi, and almost wholly unphilosophical. Kaufmann rehabilitated Nietzsche nearly single-handedly, presenting his works as one of the great achievements of Western philosophy.

Responding to the powerful myths and countermyths that had sprung up around Nietzsche, Kaufmann offered a patient, evenhanded account of his life and works, and of the uses and abuses to which subsequent generations had put his ideas. Without ignoring or downplaying the ugliness of many of Nietzsche's proclamations, he set them in the context of his work as a whole and of the counterexamples yielded by a responsible reading of his books. More positively, he presented Nietzsche's ideas about power as one of the great accomplishments of modern philosophy, arguing that his conception of the "will to power" was not a crude apology for ruthless self-assertion but must be linked to Nietzsche's equally profound ideas about sublimation. He also presented Nietzsche as a pioneer of modern psychology and argued that a key to understanding his overall philosophy is to see it as a reaction against Christianity.

Many scholars in the past half century have taken issue with some of Kaufmann's interpretations, but the book ranks as one of the most influential accounts ever written of any major Western thinker. Featuring a new foreword by Alexander Nehamas, this Princeton Classics edition of Nietzsche introduces a new generation of readers to one the most influential accounts ever written of any major Western thinker.

In the tradition of his own bestselling masterpieces The Story of Civilization and The Lessons of History, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Will Durant traces the lives and ideas of those who have helped to define civilization, from its dawn to the beginning of the modern world.

Heroes of History is a book of life-enhancing wisdom and optimism, complete with Durant's wit, knowledge, and unique ability to explain events and ideas in simple, exciting terms. It is the lessons of our heritage passed on for the edification and benefit of future generations—a fitting legacy from America's most beloved historian and philosopher.

Will Durant's popularity as America's favorite teacher of history and philosophy remains undiminished by time. His books are accessible to readers of every kind, and his unique ability to compress complicated ideas and events into a few pages without ever "talking down" to the reader, enhanced by his memorable wit and a razor-sharp judgment about men and their motives, made all of his books huge bestsellers. Heroes of History carries on this tradition of making scholarship and philosophy understandable to the general reader, and making them good reading, as well.

At the dawn of a new millennium and the beginning of a new century, nothing could be more appropriate than this brilliant book that examines the meaning of human civilization and history and draws from the experience of the past the lessons we need to know to put the future into context and live in confidence, rather than fear and ignorance.
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