An emperor knows how to govern when poets are free to make verses, people to act plays, historians to tell the truth, ministers to give advice, the poor to grumble at taxes, students to learn lessons aloud, workmen to praise their skill and seek work, people to speak of anything, and old men to find fault with everything.
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India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.
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What if it is for life's sake that we must die? In truth we are not individuals; and it is because we think ourselves such that death seems unforgivable. We are temporary organs of the race, cells in the body of life; we die and drop away that life may remain young and strong. If we were to live forever, growth would be stifled, and youth would find no room on earth. Death, like style, is the removal of rubbish, the circumcision of the superfluous. In the midst of death life renews itself immortally.
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In progressive societies the concentration[of wealth] may reach a point where the strength of number in the many poor rivals the strength of ability in the few rich; then the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealth or by revolution distributing poverty.
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Historically the belief in heaven and the belief in utopia are like compensatory buckets in a well: when one goes down the other comes up. When the classic religions decayed, communistic agitation rose in Athens (430 B.C.), and revolution began in Rome (133 B.C.); when these movements failed, resurrection faiths succeeded, culminating in Christianity; when, in our eighteenth century, Christian belief weakened, communism reappeared. In this perspective the future of religion is secure.
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The failure of the reformation to capture France had left for the Frenchmen no half-way house between infallibility and infidelity; and while the intellect of Germany and England moved leisurely in the lines of religious evolution, the mind of France leaped from the hot faith which had massacred the Huguenots to cold hostility with which La Mettrie, Helvetius, Holbach, and Diderot turned upon the religion of the fathers.
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..we have become wealthy, and wealth is the prelude to art. In every country where centuries of physical effort have accumulated the means for luxury and leisure, culture has followed as naturally as vegetation grows in a rich and watered soil. To have become wealthy was the first necessity; a people too must live before it can philosophize. No doubt we have grown faster than nations usually have grown; and the disorder of our souls is due to the rapidity of our development. We are like youths disturbed and unbalanced, for a time, by the sudden growth and experiences of puberty. But soon our maturity will come; our minds will catch up with our bodies, our culture with our possessions. Perhaps there are greater souls than Shakespeare's, and greater minds than Plato's, waiting to be born. When we have learned to reverence liberty as well as wealth, we too shall have our Renaissance.
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If there is any intelligence guiding this universe, philosophy wishes to know and understand it and reverently work with it; if there is none, philosophy wishes to know that also, and face it without fear. If the stars are but transient coagulations of haphazard nebulae, if life is a colloidal accident, impersonally permanent and individually fleeting, if man is only a compound of chemicals, destined to disintegrate and utterly disappear, if the creative ecstasy of art, and the gentle wisdom of the sage, and the willing martyrdom of saints are but bright incidents in the protoplasmic pullulation of the earth, and death is the answer to every problem and the destiny of every soul-then philosophy will face that too, and try to find within that narrowed circle some significance and nobility for man.
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Magic begins in superstition, and ends in science... At every step the history of civilization teaches us how slight and superficial a structure civilization is, and how precariously it is poised upon the apex of a never-extinct volcano of poor and oppressed barbarism, superstition and ignorance. Modernity is a cap superimposed upon the Middle Ages, which always remain.
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Here and there [... ] vegetation rites took on a less attractive form. A man - or, in later and milder days, an animal - was sacrificed to the earth at sowing time, so that it might be fertilized by his blood. When the harvest came it was interpreted as the resurrection of the dead man; the victim was given, before and after his death, the honors of a god; and from this origin arose, in a thousand forms, the almost universal myth of a god dying for his people, and then returning triumphantly to life.
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What is beauty? why do we admire it? why do we endeavor to create it? [... ] [B]eauty is any quality by which an object or a form pleases a beholder. Primarily and originally the object does not please the beholder because it is beautiful, but rather he calls it beautiful because it pleases him. Any object that satisfies desire will seem beautiful: food is beautiful - Thai's is not beautiful - to a starving man.
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The first source of art, then, is akin to the display of colors and plumage on the male animal in mating time; it lies in the desire to adorn and beautify the body. And just as self-love and mate-love, overflowing, pour out their surplus of affection upon nature, so the impulse to beautify passes from the personal to the external world. The soul seeks to express its feeling in objective ways, through color and form; art really begins when men undertake to beautify things.
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No society can survive if it allows its members to behave toward one another in the same way in which it encourages them to behave as a group toward other groups; internal cooperation is the first law of external competition. The struggle for existence is not ended by mutual aid, it is incorporated, or transferred to the group. Other things equal, the ability to compete with rival groups will be proportionate to the ability of the individual members and families to combine with one another. Hence every society inculcates a moral code, and builds up in the heart of the individual, as its secret allies and aides, social dispositions that mitigate the natural war of life; it encourages by calling them virtues those qualities or habits in the individual which redound to the advantage of the group, and discourages contrary qualities by calling them vices. In this way the individual is in some outward measure socialized, and the animal becomes a citizen.
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And last are the few whose delight is in meditation and understanding; who yearn not for goods, nor for victory, but for knowledge; who leave both market and battlefield to lose themselves in the quiet clarity of secluded thought; whose will is a light rather than a fire, whose haven is not power but truth: these are the men of wisdom, who stand aside unused by the world.
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Hence a certain tension between religion and society marks the higher stages of every civilization. Religion begins by offering magical aid to harassed and bewildered men; it culminates by giving to a people that unity of morals and belief which seems so favorable to statesmanship and art; it ends by fighting suicidally in the lost cause of the past.
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Civilizations are the generations of the racial soul. As family-rearing, and then writing, bound the generations together, handing down the lore of the dying to the young, so print and commerce and a thousand ways of communication may bind the civilizations together, and preserve for future cultures all that is of value for them in our own. Let us, before we die, gather up our heritage, and offer it to our children.
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A history of civilization shares the presumptuousness of every philosophical enterprise: it offers the ridiculous spectacle of a fragment expounding the whole. Like philosophy, such a venture has no rational excuse, and is at best but a brave stupidity; but let us hope that, like philosophy, it will always lure some rash spirits into its fatal depths.
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We conclude that the concentration of wealth is natural and inevitable, and is periodically alleviated by violent or peaceable partial redistribution. In this view all economic history is the slow heartbeat of the social organism, a vast systole and diastole of concentrating wealth and compulsive redistribution.
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Civilization is social order promoting cultural creation. Four elements constitute it: economic provision, political organization, moral tradition, and the pursuit of knowledge and the arts. It begins where chaos and insecurity end. For when fear is overcome, curiosity and constructiveness are free, and man passes by natural impulse towards the understanding and embellishment of life.
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Does history warrant the conclusion that religion is necessary to morality - that a natural ethic is too weak to withstand the savagery that lurks under civilization and emerges in our dreams, crimes and wars? ... There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.
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All that is good in our history is gathered in libraries. At this moment, Plato is down there at the library waiting for us. So is Aristotle. Spinoza is there and so is Kats. Shelly and Byron adn Sam Johnson are there waiting to tell us their magnificent stories. All you have to do is walk in the library door and the great company open their arms to you. They are so happy to see you that they come out with you into the street and to your home. And they do what hardly any friend will-- they are silent when you wish to think.
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The dog that buried the bone which even a canine appetite could not manage, the squirrel that gathered nuts for a later feast, the bees that filled the comb with honey, the ants that laid up stores for a rainy day - these were among the first creators of civilization. It was they....who taught our ancestors the art of providing for tomorrow out of the surplus of today, or of preparing for winter in summer's time of plenty.
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