Made You Think Podcast

Mar 28, 2023
The Lessons of History
Part of

It is not the race that makes the civilization, it is the civilization that makes the people: circumstances geographical, economic, and political create a culture, and the culture creates a human type.”

Welcome back to another episode of Made You Think! In this episode, we’re talking about The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant. This concise yet jam-packed book presents pivotal moments and ideas throughout history covering thirteen different areas including religion, progress, government, and character.

We cover a wide range of topics including:

  • The progression of humans as a species
  • Religious entities being replaced by secular entities
  • Why freedom and equality are “enemies”
  • War as a constant of history
  • How tension is necessary for a society to function

And much more. Please enjoy, and make sure to follow Nat, Neil, and Adil on Twitter and share your thoughts on the episode.

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(0:00) In this episode, we’re discussing The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant. On brand with Made You Think, we start the episode with a good ‘ol tangent!

(4:19) The difference between fiction and non-fiction authors in the development of their writing and storytelling over time. For nonfiction writers who tend to write about the same few ideas, it can be hard to keep it novel when delivering those ideas.

(10:33) What makes a book the best of that author’s career- the quality of their writing or the ideas in the book itself? Nat, Neil, and Adil talk about different authors and books that were the peak of the author’s writing career.

(16:59) Authors always seem to be competing with their earlier work or their most popular book. There are also cases where a successful book later on in your career can kickstart the popularity of an earlier book that didn’t get any previous traction.

(23:23) Why people tend to avoid books that are commonly recommended by everyone.

(27:14) The last chapter talks about progress, where progress refers to our species rather than scientific progress. In many ways (ex: communication, technology) we have progressed, but if you look at it from another viewpoint, more problems stem over time from some of the solutions that we have found.

(30:45) No matter how great our lives are, we always find something to be unhappy about.

“Our capacity for fretting is endless, and no matter how many difficulties we surmount, how many ideals we realize, we shall always find an excuse for being magnificently miserable; there is a stealthy pleasure in rejecting mankind or the universe as unworthy of our approval.”

(35:53) The existence of healthy tension- You need a healthy amount of debate and disagreement in order to find the line of best fit.

(40:22) “The fear of capitalism has compelled socialism to widen freedom, and the fear of socialism has compelled capitalism to increase equality.”

We are somewhere in the middle of capitalism and socialism. Freedom vs. equality in opportunity.

(47:55) “There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion. France, the United States, and some other nations have divorced their governments from all churches, but they have had the help of religion in keeping social order.”

Everybody believes in something whether it’s formal religion or not. There are many alternatives to religion where people gather over a common interest or practice.

(52:28) Different groups come with different depths of relationships. We give the example of depth of religious relationships vs. relationships with those you meet in a CrossFit gym.

(57:40) It tells you a lot about someone when they have more obscure interests rather than mainstream interests.

(1:00:54) Are influencers taking on the role of ‘idols’?

(1:07:26) When it comes to making predictions, it’s hard to be completely accurate when there’s always a variable that changes. One thing that has been standard and constant over the years: War.

(1:12:12) Though it’s statistically unlikely to encounter a violent revolution in each given year, it’s beneficial to have a baseline level of preparedness to survive.

(1:14:05) As the population grows, we find more ways to make food. With more food, we grow more as a population. When we think we may hit max population or another ceiling, new discoveries are made.

(1:16:10) Without death, can the species still progress? While many may desire the choice of their own immortality, it may not be good for human civilization.

(1:21:30) That concludes this episode! Stay tuned as we gear up for our next episodes on Peloponnesian War and The Three-Body Problem. Plus, we talk about other fascinating science fiction books that may pique your interest as this episode winds down.

If you enjoyed this episode, let us know by leaving a review on iTunes and tell a friend. As always, let us know if you have any book recommendations! You can say hi to us on Twitter @TheRealNeilS, @adilmajid, @nateliason and share your thoughts on this episode.

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Thanks for listening. See you next time!