Mankind has long struggled to explain the course of life, why things happen the way they do and why they happen to certain people and not to others. We illustrate these issues of uncertainty and our need to explain how and why things happen with throwaway statements like, Thats life and, Why do bad things happen to good people In truth, it is the fact that we are uneasy having no hard and fast, concrete explanation for the reasons that things happen or why they happen to specific people that makes us seek these explanations. We try to find reasons in many places we seek reason in God, in theories of predestination and evolution, in concepts of greatness from past lives that has carried over to the present. We turn to all of these theories simply because we need to believe in some sort of explanation that we can have faith in, because the alternative is unthinkable. If we dont rationalize events of life and the world in some way, if we dont find some purpose or direction and reason for why, when and how they happen, then we have no rationale to place our faith and trust in. The concept of having no rational explanation could mean that there really is no purpose, no predestined plan, no way for us to guide our future or have control over our destiny or our world. The thought of not having control, of not at least having some way to understand and explain the things that we arent in control of, scares us. In determining how and why things happen and who they happen to, we can not only understand the world around us and the events taking place, but we have a chance at being one of the meaningful, important, great ones that makes the meaningful events happen.

Leo Tolstoy believed that everything was predestined. He felt that, every actis involuntary and predestined from eternity. He is basically stating that every action that takes place is not one that has been caused by any movement of mankind, but that mankind is actually powerless to stop it. Every action that takes place is one that has been predestined and preplanned to occur before the dawn of history, so mankind cant explain it, change it or affect it in any way. He is stating that we are powerless over the strength of predestination. If everything is predestined, it could be argued that there is no merit in praising or blaming individuals for their actions. This indicates that people are powerless to control their destiny and therefore should not be held accountable for the good or bad that they do. The problem with the concept of predestination is that it initially negates the power of free will. Mankind cant have free will if everything has already been planned out. But it could also be argued that people should be held accountable for their actions because, in spite of actions being predestined, ones reactions to these events might not be. It might be predestined that a plane will crash and a million dollars will fall out of the wreckage, and an individual is powerless to stop the crash. But the individual can make the choice to help the injured passengers or to serve themselves by gathering up the money for their own gain. Tolstoy felt that, Every act of theirs, which appears to them an act of their own willis involuntary , but it could still be argued that the individual can still have the power to choose their reactions to the acts of others, thus putting them in control of their own feelings.

It could be argued, based on the possibility that while everything in life is predestined, individuals can still choose their reactions to the things that occur, that they hold some control over greatness. It is somewhat inconsistent to say that a person, even a great man, can be praised or blamed for their acts. If everything is predestined, then it stands to reason that even a great man has no control over their actions. This inconsistency can be remedied with the admission that a person might not be predestined for greatness, but predestined to choose how they react to a predestined event or action. They can be praised or condemned for the reaction they provide to a predestined event, because this reaction or feeling based on an event that they had no control over could in itself render them great by allowing them to rise to the occasion and be a hero or leader.

Tolstoy also felt that, the standard of good and evil given us by Christ renders mankinds action immeasurable and impossible to weigh in comparison. Yet Christianity and religion are often used to represent and explain away the uncertainty of how and why things happen. Tolstoy intimated that God had predestined everything and that mankind, being powerless to change the events of history as they were predestined, could not measure any of his actions or his good and evil deeds against the standard set by God. Christianity, then, is turned to in times when some explanation is needed out of desperation to understand how or why something is happening or why mankind is powerless to stop or change it. Anna Pavlovna illustrates this point and this sort of unwavering but blind faith in her defense of Russia and Emperor Alexander. She refers to Alexander as being almost godlike himself, referring to his, loftiness of soul and declaring, I have faith only in God and the lofty destiny of our adored monarch. He will save Europe She seems to feel that God has given her beloved Russian monarch his destiny and that because of this power and destiny being bestowed upon him, that there is no way that Alexander will do wrong or be defeated. She states that he will save Europe, but it is not made clear if she is referring to Alexander or to God himself. This statement is a good example of the use of Christianity to give power to a great being, therefore explaining their greatness and ones faith and praise for their greatness by aligning it with God. In trusting in both God and her Emperor, Anna is trusting in the power of both of them, regardless of which of them it comes from or how, to ensure Russias greatness and victory. This eliminates her need to explain any human faults of Alexanders or how his destiny has been chosen.

Tolstoy felt that, We are forced to fall back on fatalism as an explanation of irrational events It is not necessarily illogical to rely on fatalism and the concept of predestination instead of relying on mankinds ability to govern them based on free will, but it is easier. In relying on the concept of predestination, it is possible to relieve mankind of responsibility for the state of the world or the course of history. If everything is predestined, then individuals cant be held responsible or blamed for what occurs, because according to the theories of predestination they are powerless to stop it. This is easier than admitting to oneself that mankind does have the free will to make choices, to choose their actions, and to determine the course of history and the world with their deeds and actions. The argument could be made for predestination, based on Christian thought and the concept that God has predetermined everything that will occur with his omnipotent power. If there is no predestination, and if mankind really is in control of the course of history and ones own actions are up to them, then it becomes the responsibility of the individual to choose between right and wrong, good and evil, just and unfair, moral and unethical. Its much more difficult to decide that the individual decides their actions, chooses their destiny and causes their own effect on the world around them and history as it occurs. Both theories have logical arguments for and against them, but the argument for predestination allows one to relinquish a certain level of responsibility for their actions and the effect that their life leaves on the world around them. It was predestined, so its not my fault. If one believes in free will instead, one must also be willing to accept that mankind must be held accountable for his actions, be they great or mundane, and that every person has the freedom to choose their fate.

In this light, Tolstoys views are defensible, but so is the argument against them. It can be argued that there is some merit in his belief in predestination, but it could also be said that he is taking the easy way out by not holding mankind, or his characters, accountable for their actions and instead allowing them to have a sort of blind faith in their god, their country and their predestined future. This does not make Tolstoy a bad novelist or a bad historian. His characters represent human beings trying to reconcile the warfare and historical events taking place all around them by finding something to have faith in. His characters are a representation of every individuals need to have some way to explain the things they dont understand or dont think they can control. He used his characters to illustrate how theories can be believed and used to lead the course of ones life when one has little to believe in or in which to put their trust and faith. Because of this, historical fiction is not a contradiction in terms, but a method of using fictional characters to represent very real moral and ethical struggles that take place in fiction, as they have in real life, as the result of real and significant historical events.

Were Tolstoy to be faced with this criticism that his belief that man is forced to rely on fatalism and predestination is just an excuse for taking the easy way out and discounting the concept of free will, he would probably argue that the will of God is stronger than the free will of any man. He would probably react by pointing out that since mankind was created by God, that mans free will is predestined too. This could be true, but in the end what is true is just as debatable as what is destined.


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