If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Category: General

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

With regard to legal matters, after the execution of the supposed incendiaries the rest of Moscow burned down.

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Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

From the twenty-sixth of August to the second of September, that is from the battle of Borodinó to the entry of the French into Moscow, during the whole of that agitating, memorable week, there had been the extraordinary autumn weather that always comes as a surprise, when the sun hangs low and gives more heat than in spring, when everything shines so brightly in the rare clear atmosphere that the eyes smart, when the lungs are strengthened and refreshed by inhaling the aromatic autumn air, when even the nights are warm, and when in those dark warm nights, golden stars startle and delight us continually by falling from the sky.

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

In her view the aim of every religion was merely to preserve certain proprieties while affording satisfaction to human desires.

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

I see only a coincidence of occurrences such as happens with all the phenomena of life, and I see that however much and however carefully I observe the hands of the watch, and the valves and wheels of the engine, and the oak, I shall not discover the cause of the bells ringing, the engine moving, or of the winds of spring. To do that I must entirely change my point of view and study the laws of the movement of steam, of the bells, and of the wind. History must do the same.

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

“The aim of war is murder; the methods of war are spying, treachery, and their encouragement, the ruin of a country’s inhabitants, robbing them or stealing to provision the army, and fraud and falsehood termed military craft.”

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

“Not take prisoners,” Prince Andrew continued: “That by itself would quite change the whole war and make it less cruel. As it is we have played at war–that’s what’s vile! We play at magnanimity and all that stuff. Such magnanimity and sensibility are like the magnanimity and sensibility of a lady who faints when she sees a calf being killed: she is so kind-hearted that she can’t look at blood, but enjoys eating the calf served up with sauce. …

“If there was none of this magnanimity in war, we should go to war only when it was worth while going to certain death, as now. … War is not courtesy but the most horrible thing in life; and we ought to understand that and not play at war. …”

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

But all these hints at what happened, both from the French side and the Russian, are advanced only because they fit in with the event. Had that event not occurred these hints would have been forgotten, as we have forgotten the thousands and millions of hints and expectations to the contrary which were current then but have now been forgotten because the event falsified them. There are always so many conjectures as to the issue of any event that however it may end there will always be people to say: “I said then that it would be so,” quite forgetting that amid their innumerable conjectures many were to quite the contrary effect.

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

They were moved by fear or vanity, rejoiced or were indignant, reasoned, imagining that they knew what they were doing and did it of their own free will, but they all were involuntary tools of history, carrying on a work concealed to them but comprehensible to us. Such is the inevitable fate of men of action, and the higher they stand in the social hierarchy the less are they free.

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

…Natásha unconsciously felt this delicacy and so found great pleasure in his society. But she was not even grateful to him for it; nothing good on Pierre’s part seemed to her to be an effort, it seemed so natural for him to be kind to everyone that there was no merit in his kindness.

Leo Tolstoy – War and Peace (1867)

…Their usefulness did not depend on making the patient swallow substances for the most part harmful (the harm was scarcely perceptible, as they were given in small doses), but they were useful, necessary, and indispensable because they satisfied a mental need of the invalid and of those who loved her–and that is why there are, and always will be, pseudo-healers, wise women, homeopaths, and allopaths. They satisfied that eternal human need for hope of relief, for sympathy, and that something should be done, which is felt by those who are suffering. They satisfied the need seen in its most elementary form in a child, when it wants to have a place rubbed that has been hurt.