Lev Tolstoy

Lev Tolstoy also explores the theme of free will and determination. His views differ from those, presented by Borges. Tolstoy centers on the past believing that it determines our future and he spends a lot of time investigating the powers, which influence the destinies of the entire nations and separate people. Finally he drops a conclusion that there is a “power”, which drives different nations and determines the history of the mankind.

This very concept of power he also applies to the describing forces, which determine human existence. At the same time Tolstoy does not reject the concept of free will. Here he comes to a kind of paradox, because free will sounds like a mythic notion for him but, at the same time, he can not imagine people without this free will. Tolstoy believes in historical determinacy but at the same time can not reject that each separate person possesses the freedom of choice and thus free will.

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In the Second Epilogue to War and Peace he tries to approach this paradox by presenting two different view on human nature and determination: “Looking at man as a subject of observation from any point of view—theological, ethical, philosophical—we find a general law of necessity to which he is subject like everything else existing. Looking at him from within ourselves, as what we are conscious of, we feel ourselves free. ” (Tolstoy, 15)

So, all people, according to Tolstoy are governed by outer law of necessity but at the same time they have the inner quality and this quality is a free will. All the works by Tolstoy contain philosophical, theological and religious ideas. They fully reflect the main purpose of their creating – one great quest for meaning, passionate search for truth, which becomes the main source of creativity for Lev Nikolaevitch. Addressing historical issues, Tolstoy hopes to find the answers to the eternal questions about life and death, meaning of life and human destination.

As he writes at the beginning of his most famous novel War and Peace: “History, only history, only the sum of the concrete events in time and space—and sum of the actual experience of actual men and women in their relation to one another and to an actual three-dimension, empirically experienced, physical environment—this alone contains the truth, the material out of which genuine answers—answers needing for their apprehension no special senses or faculties which normal human beings did not possess—might be constructed” (Tolstoy, p. 11).

The view on free will and the role of determination presented by Dostoevsky is also very interesting. Dostoevsky is famous for his ability to present deep survey of complicated moral issues with the help of his characters, who present different views on the same problem. This lets Dostoevsky explore complicated issues of freedom of choice, determinism, human responsibility from different perspectives without dropping any conclusion. Dostoevsky addresses the theme of free will and responsibility in many his works, such as Notes from Underground, The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment.

He does not hold strong position pro or contra free will and gives arguments in favor of both views. He insists on exact notion of freedom and states that freedom is worth nothing, if people don’t know what to do with it. “What kind of freedom? ” he asks. “Equal freedom to do anything one likes within the limits of the law. When can one do that? When one has a million. Does freedom give everyone a million? No. What then is a person without a million? A person without a million is not one who does anything he likes but one who has everything that other people like done to him. ” (Dostoyevsky, p. 54)