Leo Tolstoy quotes

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Leo Tolstoy

Birthdate: 28. August 1828
Date of death: 7. November 1910
Other names: Лев Толстой, Lev Tolstoj, Lev N. Tolstoj

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy , usually referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. He received multiple nominations for Nobel Prize in Literature every year from 1902 to 1906, and nominations for Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1902 and 1910, and the fact that he never won is a major Nobel prize controversy.Born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, he is best known for the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina , often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction. He first achieved literary acclaim in his twenties with his semi-autobiographical trilogy, Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth , and Sevastopol Sketches , based upon his experiences in the Crimean War. Tolstoy's fiction includes dozens of short stories and several novellas such as The Death of Ivan Ilyich , Family Happiness , and Hadji Murad . He also wrote plays and numerous philosophical essays.

In the 1870s Tolstoy experienced a profound moral crisis, followed by what he regarded as an equally profound spiritual awakening, as outlined in his non-fiction work A Confession . His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him to become a fervent Christian anarchist and pacifist. Tolstoy's ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God Is Within You , were to have a profound impact on such pivotal 20th-century figures as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Tolstoy also became a dedicated advocate of Georgism, the economic philosophy of Henry George, which he incorporated into his writing, particularly Resurrection .

Works

Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace
War and Peace
Leo Tolstoy

„Educated people write long, nebulous treatises on beauty as a member of the aesthetic trinity of beauty, truth, and goodness… and they all think that by pronouncing these sacrosanct words, they speak of something quite definite and solid… on which they can base their opinions.“

—  Leo Tolstoy

What is Art? (1897)
Context: Such … was the theory (an outgrowth of Malthusian) of the selection and struggle for existence as the basis of human progress. Such again, is Marx's theory, with regard to the gradual destruction of small private production by large capitalistic production... as an inevitable decree of fate. However unfounded such theories are, however contrary to all that is known and confessed by humanity, and however obviously immoral these may be, they are accepted with credulity, pass uncriticized, and are preached … To this class belongs this astonishing theory of the Baungarten trinity — Goodness, Beauty and Truth — according to which it appears that the very best that can be done by the art of nations after 1900 years of Christian teaching is to choose as the ideal of their life that which was held by a small, semi-savage, slaveholding people who lived 2000 years ago, who imitated the nude human body extremely well, and erected buildings pleasing to the eye. Educated people write long, nebulous treatises on beauty as a member of the aesthetic trinity of beauty, truth, and goodness... and they all think that by pronouncing these sacrosanct words, they speak of something quite definite and solid... on which they can base their opinions. … only for the purpose of justifying the false importance we attribute to an art that conveys every feeling, provided those feelings give us pleasure.

„What is now happening to the people of the East as of the West is like what happens to every individual when he passes from childhood to adolescence and from youth to manhood.“

—  Leo Tolstoy, A Letter to a Hindu

Source: A Letter to a Hindu (1908), VI
Context: What is now happening to the people of the East as of the West is like what happens to every individual when he passes from childhood to adolescence and from youth to manhood. He loses what had hitherto guided his life and lives without direction, not having found a new standard suitable to his age, and so he invents all sorts of occupations, cares, distractions, and stupefactions to divert his attention from the misery and senselessness of his life. Such a condition may last a long time.

„The hatred and contempt of the oppressed people are increasing, and the physical and moral strength of the richer classes are decreasing: the deceit which supports all this is wearing out, and the rich classes have nothing wherewith to comfort themselves.“

—  Leo Tolstoy

What is to be Done http://books.google.com/books?id=P4dGAQAAIAAJ& (1899) p. 262
Context: The workmen's revolution, with the terrors of destruction and murder, not only threatens us, but we have already been living upon its verge during the last thirty years, and it is only by various cunning devices that we have been postponing the crisis... The hatred and contempt of the oppressed people are increasing, and the physical and moral strength of the richer classes are decreasing: the deceit which supports all this is wearing out, and the rich classes have nothing wherewith to comfort themselves.

„People saw more and more clearly, and now the majority see quite clearly, the senselessness and immorality of subordinating their wills to those of other people just like themselves, when they are bidden to do what is contrary not only to their interests but also to their moral sense.“

—  Leo Tolstoy, A Letter to a Hindu

Source: A Letter to a Hindu (1908), III
Context: In former times the chief method of justifying the use of violence and thereby infringing the law of love was by claiming a divine right for the rulers: the Tsars, Sultans, Rajahs, Shahs, and other heads of states. But the longer humanity lived the weaker grew the belief in this peculiar, God-given right of the ruler. That belief withered in the same way and almost simultaneously in the Christian and the Brahman world, as well as in Buddhist and Confucian spheres, and in recent times it has so faded away as to prevail no longer against man's reasonable understanding and the true religious feeling. People saw more and more clearly, and now the majority see quite clearly, the senselessness and immorality of subordinating their wills to those of other people just like themselves, when they are bidden to do what is contrary not only to their interests but also to their moral sense.

„But it will be instituted only by there being more and more people who do not require protection from governmental power, and by there being more and more people who will be ashamed of applying this power.“

—  Leo Tolstoy

"On Anarchy", in Pamphlets : Translated from the Russian (1900) as translated by Aylmer Maude, p. 22
Context: The Anarchists are right in everything; in the negation of the existing order, and in the assertion that, without authority, there could not be worse violence than that of authority under existing conditions. They are mistaken only in thinking that Anarchy can be instituted by a revolution. "To establish Anarchy." "Anarchy will be instituted." But it will be instituted only by there being more and more people who do not require protection from governmental power, and by there being more and more people who will be ashamed of applying this power.

„In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.“

—  Leo Tolstoy

Christianity and Patriotism (1895), as translated in The Novels and Other Works of Lyof N. Tolstoï, Vol. 20, p. 44
Context: In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.
The government assures the people that they are in danger from the invasion of another nation, or from foes in their midst, and that the only way to escape this danger is by the slavish obedience of the people to their government. This fact is seen most prominently during revolutions and dictatorships, but it exists always and everywhere that the power of the government exists. Every government explains its existence, and justifies its deeds of violence, by the argument that if it did not exist the condition of things would be very much worse. After assuring the people of its danger the government subordinates it to control, and when in this condition compels it to attack some other nation. And thus the assurance of the government is corroborated in the eyes of the people, as to the danger of attack from other nations.

„No longer able to believe in the Church religion, whose falsehood they had detected, and incapable of accepting true Christian teaching, which denounced their whole manner of life, these rich and powerful people, stranded without any religious conception of life, involuntarily returned to that pagan view of things which places life's meaning in personal enjoyment.“

—  Leo Tolstoy

What is Art? (1897)
Context: No longer able to believe in the Church religion, whose falsehood they had detected, and incapable of accepting true Christian teaching, which denounced their whole manner of life, these rich and powerful people, stranded without any religious conception of life, involuntarily returned to that pagan view of things which places life's meaning in personal enjoyment. And then among the upper classes what is called the "Renaissance of science and art" took place, which was really not only a denial of every religion, but also an assertion that religion was unnecessary.

„This new fraud is just like the old ones: its essence lies in substituting something external for the use of our own reason and conscience and that of our predecessors: in the Church teaching this external thing was revelation, in the scientific teaching it is observation. The trick played by this science is to destroy man's faith in reason and conscience by directing attention to the grossest deviations from the use of human reason and conscience, and having clothed the deception in a scientific theory, to assure them that by acquiring knowledge of external phenomena they will get to know indubitable facts which will reveal to them the law of man's life. And the mental demoralization consists in this, that coming to believe that things which should be decided by conscience and reason are decided by observation, these people lose their consciousness of good and evil and become incapable of understanding the expression and definitions of good and evil that have been formed by the whole preceding life of humanity. All this, in their jargon, is conditional and subjective. It must all be abandoned - they say - the truth cannot be understood by one's reason, for one may err, but there is another path which is infallible and almost mechanical: one must study facts. And facts must be studied on the basis of the scientists' science, that is, on the basis of two unfounded propositions: positivism and evolution which are put forward as indubitable truths.“

—  Leo Tolstoy

What then must we do? (1886)
Context: This new fraud is just like the old ones: its essence lies in substituting something external for the use of our own reason and conscience and that of our predecessors: in the Church teaching this external thing was revelation, in the scientific teaching it is observation. The trick played by this science is to destroy man's faith in reason and conscience by directing attention to the grossest deviations from the use of human reason and conscience, and having clothed the deception in a scientific theory, to assure them that by acquiring knowledge of external phenomena they will get to know indubitable facts which will reveal to them the law of man's life. And the mental demoralization consists in this, that coming to believe that things which should be decided by conscience and reason are decided by observation, these people lose their consciousness of good and evil and become incapable of understanding the expression and definitions of good and evil that have been formed by the whole preceding life of humanity. All this, in their jargon, is conditional and subjective. It must all be abandoned - they say - the truth cannot be understood by one's reason, for one may err, but there is another path which is infallible and almost mechanical: one must study facts. And facts must be studied on the basis of the scientists' science, that is, on the basis of two unfounded propositions: positivism and evolution which are put forward as indubitable truths. And the reigning science, with not less misleading solemnity than the Church, announces that the solution of all questions of life is only possible by the study of the facts of nature, and especially of organisms. A frivolous crowd of youths mastered by the novelty of this authority, which is as yet not merely not destroyed but not even touched by criticism, throws itself into the study of these facts of natural science as the sole path which, according to the assertions of the prevailing doctrine, can lead to the elucidation of the questions of life. But the further these disciples advance in this study the further and further are they removed not only from the possibility but even from the very thought of solving life's problems, and the more they become accustomed not so much to observe as to take on trust what they are told of the observations of others (to believe in cells, in protoplasm, in the fourth state of matter,1 &c.), the more and more does the form hide the contents from them; the more and more do they lose consciousness of good and evil and capacity to understand the expressions and definitions of good and evil worked out by the whole preceding life of humanity; the more and more do they adopt the specialized scientific jargon of conventional expressions which have no general human significance; the farther and farther do they wander among the debris of quite unilluminated observations; the more and more do they lose capacity not only to think independently but even to under-stand another man's fresh human thought lying outside their Talmud; and, what is most important, they pass their best years in growing unaccustomed to life, that is, to labour, and grow accustomed to consider their condition justified, while they become physically good-for-nothing parasites. And just like the theologians and the Talmudists they completely castrate their brains and become eunuchs of thought. And just like them, to the degree to which they become stupefied, they acquire a self-confidence which deprives them for ever of the possibility of returning to a simple clear and human way of thinking.

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„Tell people that war is an evil, and they will laugh; for who does not know it? Tell them that patriotism is an evil, and most of them will agree, but with a reservation.“

—  Leo Tolstoy

Patriotism, or Peace? http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Patriotism,_or_Peace%3F (1896), translated by Nathan Haskell Dole
Variant:
I have already several times expressed the thought that in our day the feeling of patriotism is an unnatural, irrational, and harmful feeling, and a cause of a great part of the ills from which mankind is suffering, and that, consequently, this feeling – should not be cultivated, as is now being done, but should, on the contrary, be suppressed and eradicated by all means available to rational men. Yet, strange to say – though it is undeniable that the universal armaments and destructive wars which are ruining the peoples result from that one feeling – all my arguments showing the backwardness, anachronism, and harmfulness of patriotism have been met, and are still met, either by silence, by intentional misinterpretation, or by a strange unvarying reply to the effect that only bad patriotism (Jingoism or Chauvinism) is evil, but that real good patriotism is a very elevated moral feeling, to condemn which is not only irrational but wicked.
What this real, good patriotism consists in, we are never told; or, if anything is said about it, instead of explanation we get declamatory, inflated phrases, or, finally, some other conception is substituted for patriotism – something which has nothing in common with the patriotism we all know, and from the results of which we all suffer so severely.
Patriotism and Government http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Patriotism_and_Government (1900)
Context: Tell people that war is an evil, and they will laugh; for who does not know it? Tell them that patriotism is an evil, and most of them will agree, but with a reservation. "Yes," they will say, "wrong patriotism is an evil; but there is another kind, the kind we hold." But just what this good patriotism is, no one explains.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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