War and Peace at 150 Years

The New Criterion
August 24, 2019

This year marks the 150<sup>th</sup> anniversary of the publication of Count Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, arguably the greatest of all novels. Among the book’s central motifs is the fragility and contingency of human knowledge, and the subsequent futility of trying to create a social science. In an eternal warning to central planners everywhere, Tolstoy portrayed human beings as existing in a world of contingency and immediacy, continually forced to answer to events entirely unheralded and unexpected. Ultimately, humans need to be guided by something deeper than what can be found through an examination of the empirical world. Gary Saul Morson, writing in The New Criterion, shows how Tolstoy used his literary gifts to show the absurdity of what would become known as scientism, or any other reductionist account of the human.

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