Thursday, October 26, 2006

Tolstoy on Causality

In the latter part of War and Peace Tolstoy begins to explain his philosophy. In one sense he anticipates Nietzsche. The German had a wonderful metaphor about lenses. Tolstoy, as discussed in an earlier post, is skeptical of normal assumptions about authority, including his suggestions that Generals and Kings do not actually influence the course of history any more than doctors influence the course of disease. In the early part of the end of the novel Tolstoy comments that in order to understand any history one needs to look through different lenses. Thus as he says in a different place “History is nothing other than a collection of fables and useless trifles messed up with a mass of unnecessary dates and proper names....Why should any one have to know that the second marriage of Ivan the Terrible to the daughter of Temryuk took place on August 21, 1562, or that the fourth to Ann Alekseyevna Koltovski happened in 1572? Yet they demand that I learn all this by heart, and if I do not know it, they give me a ‘one.’” That is an interesting concept and one that merits a lot more thought.

1 comment:

rodolfo said...

"The Roman Republic was powerful, not because her citizens had the power to live a vicious life, but because among their number there
were heroic citizens. It is the same with art and science. Art and
science have bestowed much on mankind, but not because their
followers formerly possessed on rare occasions (and now possess on
every occasion) the possibility of getting rid of labor; but because
there have been men of genius, who, without making use of these
rights, have led mankind forward."

The above quotation is from Tolstoy's essay on Science and Art. He is a wonderful contrarian that critizices the scientific and artistic elites as worthy of manual labor so to legitimize their worthyness before his eyes. He saw man's salvation and hapiness in labor. He led by example although it made him happy, lowly manual labor is not a prerequisite for intelectual greatness.
The dogged passion with which he pusued his beliefs was integral part of who he was. I agree with you that the man should have compacted his rants, but i guess it's like asking a Clydesdale stallion to cut on the masiveness a little. You just stand back and watch in awe the hugeness of the folly and celebrate such intelligent mind as Tolstoy's ever existed.