Tolstoy writes in a letter to his friend A. A. Fet that what he has written in War and Peace, “especially in the epilogue,” is also said by Schopenhauer in The World as Will and Representation. Tolstoy adds, however, that Schopenhauer approaches “it from the other side.” Schopenhauer does indeed say much the same thing as Tolstoy says in his epilogue and elsewhere about history and the will. Each of these authors argues that history is not progressing and that it is not governed by the actions of individual political or military leaders alone, but by the infinitely many actions of the multitude of people. What underlies this critique of history in each case is a quietist outlook on life, a perspective from which one must abandon the assertion of the will and accept life as it is given. Tolstoy's quietism, however, is a happy quietism; he wants his reader to joyfully embrace life for all that it has to offer. Schopenhauer's is an unhappy quietism; he wants his reader to accept life in the face of all that it is not. Thus, Tolstoy and Schopenhauer approach quietism, and consequently their critiques of history and the will, from different “sides.” These sides—to borrow Wittgenstein's way of speaking—are the sides of the happy and the unhappy. To approach quietism from one side rather than another is no small matter. In Tolstoy's case in particular, it made all the difference in the world.
Caleb Thompson; Quietism from the Side of Happiness: Tolstoy, Schopenhauer, War and Peace. Common Knowledge 1 August 2009; 15 (3): 395–411. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0961754X-2009-020
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