War and Peace Notes – Tolstoy on Free Will and War

War and Peace on the Brain Banner

Written for Slavic 90A: Introduction to Russian Civilization – Spring 2013. Read more of my previous notes on “War and Peace” here.

Tolstoy artistically expounds the intricacies of war through War and Peace. In the Appendix, Tolstoy later questions why men engage in war and kill one another. His answer is that there is an “elemental zoological law” that impels us to destroy each other (1315). The law exists in direct contradiction to our notion of freewill. If there is such an innate evil in humans, then it’s an internal conflict. We begin to doubt whether our actions are dictated by our own free will, a higher being (God?) or our animal instincts. Interesting, right?

Works Cited: Tolstoy, Leo, Louise Maude, Aylmer Maude, and Amy Mandelker. War and Peace. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.


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