Cover image for Fallen leaves : last words on life, love, war, and God
Fallen leaves : last words on life, love, war, and God
Durant, Will, 1885-1981, author.
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, 2014.
Physical Description:
x, 192 pages ; 21 cm
"The final and most personal work from Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Will Durant--discovered thirty-two years after his death--is a message of insight for everyone who has sought meaning in life or the council of a wise friend in navigating life's journey ... [containing] twenty-two short chapters on everything from youth and old age, religion and morals, to sex, war, politics, and art"
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B934 .D87 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
B934 .D87 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
B934 .D87 2014 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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Praised as a "revelatory" book by The Wall Street Journal , this is the last and most personal work of Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Will Durant, discovered thirty-two years after his death.

The culmination of Will Durant's sixty-plus years spent researching the philosophies, religions, arts, sciences, and civilizations from across the world, Fallen Leaves is the distilled wisdom of one of the world's greatest minds, a man with a renowned talent for rendering the insights of the past accessible. Over the course of Durant's career he received numerous letters from "curious readers who have challenged me to speak my mind on the timeless questions of human life and fate." With Fallen Leaves , his final book, he at last accepted their challenge.

In twenty-two short chapters, Durant addresses everything from youth and old age to religion, morals, sex, war, politics, and art. Fallen Leaves is "a thought-provoking array of opinions" ( Publishers Weekly ), offering elegant prose, deep insights, and Durant's revealing conclusions about the perennial problems and greatest joys we face as a species. In Durant's singular voice, here is a message of insight for everyone who has ever sought meaning in life or the counsel of a learned friend while navigating life's journey.

Author Notes

Will Durant was born in North Adams, Massachusetts on November 5, 1885. He received an undergraduate degree at St. Peter's College in New Jersey and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Columbia University. His first book, Philosophy and the Social Problem, was published in 1917. His other works include The Story of Philosophy, The Mansions of Philosophy, and the ten-volume The Story of Civilization. By the time the seventh volume was published in 1961, his wife Ariel Durant was listed as a coauthor for her diligent assistance on the project. In 1968 they received the Pulitzer Prize for Rousseau and Revolution. The husband and wife team also wrote A Dual Autobiography in 1977. He died on November 7, 1981.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Asked by a journalist what his field of specialization was, the great historian Durant supposedly replied, Humanity. The story is, perhaps, apocryphal, but it does reflect a truth about the body of Durant's work. In more than 60 years of writing, Durant (sometimes in partnership with his wife, Ariel) covered the civilization of humans on every inhabited continent, including history, philosophy, religion, art, and science as part of his tableau. This last, compact work, now discovered and published 32 years after his death, is a deeply personal work containing a series of ruminations on the human condition. Why do people lose the fire of rebellion as they age? How can we explain the persistence of racism? Why do we need religion? Some of his musings are provocative, even outrageous, such as his rejection of the inherent right to produce children and his antiquated views on female characteristics. Still, this is a work that demands we think, and it is a worthy conclusion to a long and distinguished career.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2014 Booklist

Library Journal Review

After a long career of summarizing the events and views of others, in the 1960s and 1970s, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Durant (The Story of Philosophy; The Story of Civilization) set out to document his views on the most important topics of human existence. Now, over three decades later, the manuscript of his efforts has come to light and is offered to readers who may remember fondly his works from earlier days. In 22 brief essays on everything from youth to old age, politics, Vietnam, art, education, and the lessons of history, Durant (1885-1981) expresses his attitudes and thoughtful opinions with grace and occasionally with wisdom. His paternalistic, romanticized views on youth and love, and his benevolent sexism, will strike the reader as quaint and dated. VERDICT It's a pity that this book did not see publication in Durant's lifetime. He is most engaging when telling the story of his life and his insights into the processes of history. Most of the work, however, offers evidence of just how different today's world is from the one the philosopher inhabited. Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Fallen Leaves CHAPTER ONE OUR LIFE BEGINS A group of little children with their ways and chatter flow in, Like welcome rippling water o'er my heated nerves and flesh. --WALT WHITMAN, "AFTER THE ARGUMENT" We like children first of all because they are ours; prolongations of our luscious and unprecedented selves. However, we also like them because they are what we would but cannot be--coordinated animals, whose simplicity and unity of action are spontaneous, whereas in the philosopher they come only after struggle and suppression. We like them because of what in us is called selfishness--the naturalness and undisguised directness of their instincts. We like their unhypocritical candor; they do not smile to us when they long for our annihilation. Kinder und Narren sprechen die Wahrheit--"Children and fools speak the truth"; and somehow they find happiness in their sincerity. See him, the newborn, dirty but marvelous, ridiculous in actuality, infinite in possibility, capable of that ultimate miracle--growth. Can you conceive it--that this queer bundle of sound and pain will come to know love, anxiety, prayer, suffering, creation, metaphysics, death? He cries; he has been so long asleep in the quiet warm womb of his mother; now suddenly he is compelled to breathe, and it hurts; compelled to see light, and it pierces him; compelled to hear noise, and it terrifies him. Cold strikes his skin, and he seems to be all pain. But it is not so; nature protects him against this initial onslaught of the world by dressing him in a general insensitivity. He sees the light only dimly; he hears the sounds as muffled and afar. For the most part he sleeps. His mother calls him a "little monkey," and she is right; until he walks he will be like an ape, and even less of a biped, the womb-life having given his funny little legs the incalculable flexibility of a frog's. Not till he talks will he leave the ape behind, and begin to climb precariously to the stature of a human being. Watch him, and see how, bit by bit, he learns the nature of things by random movements of exploration. The world is a puzzle to him; and these haphazard responses of grasping, biting, and throwing are the pseudopodia, which he puts out to a perilous experience. Curiosity consumes and develops him; he would touch and taste everything from his rattle to the moon. For the rest he learns by imitation, though his parents think he learns by sermons. They teach him gentleness, and beat him; they teach him mildness of speech, and shout at him; they teach him a Stoic apathy to finance, and quarrel before him about the division of their income; they teach him honesty, and answer his most profound questions with lies. Our children bring us up by showing us, through imitation, what we really are. The child might be the beginning and the end of philosophy. In its insistent curiosity and growth lies the secret of all metaphysics; looking upon it in its cradle, or as it creeps across the floor, we see life not as an abstraction, but as a flowing reality that breaks through all our mechanical categories, all our physical formulas. Here in this expansive urgency, this patient effort and construction, this resolute rise from hands to feet, from helplessness to power, from infancy to maturity, from wonder to wisdom--here is the "Unknowable" of Spencer, the Noumenon of Kant, the Ens Realissimum of the Scholastics, the "Prime Mover" of Aristotle, the To ontos on, or "That Which Really Is," of Plato; here we are nearer to the basis of things than in the length and breadth and thickness and weight and solidity of matter, or in the cogs and pulleys and wheels and levers of a machine. Life is that which is discontent, which struggles and seeks, which suffers and creates. No mechanistic or materialistic philosophy can do it justice, or understand the silent growth and majesty of a tree, or compass the longing and laughter of children. Childhood may be defined as the age of play; therefore some children are never young, and some adults are never old. Excerpted from Fallen Leaves: Last Words on Life, Love, War, and God by Will Durant All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. 1
Prefacep. 9
Chapter 1 Our Life Beginsp. 13
Chapter 2 On Youthp. 16
Chapter 3 On Middle Agep. 22
Chapter 4 On Old Agep. 27
Chapter 5 On Deathp. 30
Chapter 6 Our Soulsp. 33
Chapter 7 Our Godsp. 40
Chapter 8 On Religionp. 46
Chapter 9 On a Different Second Adventp. 52
Chapter 10 On Religion and Moralsp. 59
Chapter 11 On Moralityp. 68
Chapter 12 On Racep. 75
Chapter 13 On Womenp. 81
Chapter 14 On Sexp. 86
Chapter 15 Oil Warp. 90
Chapter 16 On Vietnamp. 100
Chapter 17 On Politicsp. 108
Chapter 18 On Capitalism and Communismp. 116
Chapter 19 Oil Artp. 125
Chapter 20 On Sciencep. 132
Chapter 21 On Educationp. 137
Chapter 22 On the Insights of Historyp. 156
Notesp. 179