Reading for Tuesday, June 23
And Tolstoy rants a little bit more about power, before finishing off with the thought that you can’t actually find a single cause for why a war occurs (or anything for that matter). Well, not a single cause of one person anyway. Only in taking the sum total of all actions of the masses will you find the reason for something.
And we see now why this novel devoted so much detail to all the little characters. Even if they only appeared for an instant. Because, from Tolstoy’s view, every single one of them was important to the flow of history. Some may have actually changed things, some may have stood back and let things happen – but the sum total of all those interactions was the War of 1812, the invasion of Russia by the French.
The question is – when you’ve debunked a few people at the top as being catalysts for history – where do you go from here? What can you put in its place?
The solution is quite astonishing – Tolstoy says that there is a law that governs all our actions. Every little thing we do is caused by something else which is caused by something else. Thus, despite the fact that he’s thinking he’s doing whatever he wants – is really heading down a pre-ordained path.
So while you may have been reading these chapters, secretly enjoying Tolstoy cutting down the big man at the top – really, he’s cut down you. Because if a man at the top has no more or less influence over the course of history, then neither do you.
So the question he moves on to is: do we then have free will?