Reading for Friday, June 26
This chapter is really impressive more for the strength and beauty of its writing more than anything else. After having laid the foundation of free will being more or less observable based on our relation to 1. the external world, 2. time and 3. prior causes, Tolstoy proceeds to say that all of life is generated by necessity – in other words, everything that happens is definitely going to happen and no other option is possible, because of the laws of necessity. So in one sense, history is fixed from the beginning all the way to the end (assuming you belive in a beginning and ending of history – this was a distinctly Christian doctrine that used to set it apart from othe religions many centuries ago).
But, says Tolstoy, we are all conscious of our own free will. So, for Tolstoy, free will becomes the driver of necessity. It becomes the force.
Will an apple fall from a tree if it breaks off? Yes, it will. The apple will fall from necessity.
What is the necessity of the apple falling? The law of gravity.
Why does history happen a certain way (and no other)? Because of necessity.
What is that necessity that makes things happen? Tolstoy calls it freewill. We understand it as being free to make choices from a philosophical point of view. But for Tolstoy freewill is also another name for the force that drives history along.
At least I think that’s what he’s saying . . . it makes so much sense when I read it in the book, but gets fuzzy when I think about it later.