Will Durant on Great Minds and Ideas

Durant Great Minds IdeasWill Durant (1885 – 1981) the wiki informs us “was an American writer, historian, and philosopher.” He wrote the 11-volume The Story of Civilization, published between 1935 and 1975,  written in collaboration with his wife, Ariel Durant. His work The Story of Philosophy (1926) helped to popularize philosophy. “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,” the wiki notes.

Indians may find his view of India interesting. Once again let’s refer to the wiki:

In 1930, he published The Case for India while he was on a visit to India as part of collecting data for The Story of Civilization. He was so taken aback by the devastating poverty and starvation he saw as result of British imperial policy in India that he took time off from his stated goal and instead concentrated on his polemic fiercely advocating Indian independence. He wrote about medieval India, “The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.”

Sadly hundreds million Indians continue to suffer “devastating poverty and starvation” nearly a century after Durant made the case for India’s release from British imperialism. Among the many causes for this immense tragedy is an important one missed by most Indians — that while British imperialism ended in 1947, imperialism did not end. The British designed and constructed the machine that imposed grinding poverty on India but Indians not only maintained the machine in good working order but improved its efficiency.

India’s heart-breaking poverty is entirely indigenous, made in India by Indians for Indians. Continue reading

Opening lines

Here are the opening lines of four books that are important. For each, I have provided a link for a free download of the book.


How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it. Of this kind is pity or compassion, the emotion which we feel for the misery of others, when we either see it, or are made to conceive it in a very lively manner. That we often derive sorrow from the sorrow of others, is a matter of fact too obvious to require any instances to prove it; for this sentiment, like all the other original passions of human nature, is by no means confined to the virtuous and humane, though they perhaps may feel it with the most exquisite sensibility. The greatest ruffian, the most hardened violator of the laws of society, is not altogether without it.

The Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith 1759 Continue reading

The Panchatantra — Textbook of Niti

The following is an extended edited excerpt from Arthur Ryder’s introduction to his translation of the Panchatantra. What’s the book about? Ryder begins his introduction with:

“The Panchatantra contains the most widely known stories in the world. If it were further declared that the Panchatantra is the best collection of stories in the world, the assertion could hardly be disproved, and would probably command the assent of those possessing the knowledge for a judgment.”

The editing consists of removing quotations from the main text. Even if you don’t get around to reading the translation, you must read the introduction in full. And if you don’t want to do that either, you must read this shorter version.  Continue reading

Thomas Schelling (April 14, 1921 – December 13, 2016) RIP

schellingthomas-cCelebrated economist Thomas Schelling died today at the age of 95. He was the recipient of the 2005 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for “having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis”. I note his passing because he was instrumental in my recognizing that I belonged to his tribe — that I was at heart an economist. Mere accident led me to pick up his book Micromotives and Macrobehavior (1978) at the Sunnyvale Public Library sometime back in the early 1990s. He received his bachelors degree in economics in 1944 from UC Berkeley, my alma mater.  Continue reading

Links are good: David Weinberger

You never thought of the web reflecting the morality that permeates human behavior, did you? I did not. I just read a fine article on the topic. The article title by David Weinberger, “The Morality of Links“, is a tad disturbing to me because it smacks of anthropomorphism but the article is a delight to read. The article is from a collection in the book, “The Hyperlinked Society: Questioning Connections in the Digital Age“, Joseph Turow and Lokman Tsui, editors.

Weinberger starts off with the simple declaration “Links are good” and then goes deep into what makes us human. Here are a few excerpts, for the record.
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Where’s Waldo Now?

wheres-waldo-now

Good news!

Where’s Waldo Now” has been reissued. Worth having around the house. Kids of all ages would love it.

I have copied bits from one of the reviews at Amazon below the fold.

(If you are considering a gift for me, I strongly recommend “Where’s Waldo: The Complete Collection.”)

🙂

OK, so where am I now? I am in Mumbai on my way to Hyderabad this afternoon for a meeting at the Indian School of Business. I’ll be back.
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