Emma Watson Pussy
War And Peace
inevitable because, watching the movement of history, we see that
every year and with each new writer, opinion as to what is good for
mankind changes; so that what once seemed good, ten years later
seems bad, and vice versa. And what is more, we find at one and the
same time quite contradictory views as to what is bad and what is good
in history: some people regard giving a constitution to Poland and
forming the Holy Alliance as praiseworthy in Alexander, while others
regard it as blameworthy.
The activity of Alexander or of Napoleon cannot be called useful
or harmful, for it is impossible to say for what it was useful or
harmful. If that activity displeases somebody, this is only because it
does not agree with his limited understanding of what is good. Whether
the preservation of my fathers house in Moscow, or the glory of the
Russian arms, or the prosperity of the Petersburg and other
universities, or the freedom of Poland or the greatness of Russia,
or the balance of power in Europe, or a certain kind of European
culture called "progress" appear to me to be good or bad, I must admit
that besides these things the action of every historic character has
other more general purposes inaccessible to me.
But let us assume that what is called science can harmonize all
contradictions and possesses an unchanging standard of good and bad by
which to try historic characters and events; let us say that Alexander
could have done everything differently; let us say that with
guidance from those who blame him and who profess to know the ultimate
aim of the movement of humanity, he might have arranged matters
according to the program his present accusers would have given him--of
nationality, freedom, equality, and progress (these, I think, cover
the ground). Let us assume that this program was possible and had then
been formulated, and that Alexander had acted on it. What would then
have become of the activity of all those who opposed the tendency that
then prevailed in the government--an activity that in the opinion of
the historians was good and beneficent? Their activity would not
have existed: there would have been no life, there would have been
If we admit that human life can be ruled by reason, the
possibility of life is destroyed.
If we assume as the historians do that great men lead humanity to
the attainment of certain ends--the greatness of Russia or of
France, the balance of power in Europe, the diffusion of the ideas
of the Revolution, general progress, or anything else--then it is
impossible to explain the facts of history without introducing the
conceptions of chance and genius.
If the aim of the European wars at the beginning of the nineteenth
century had been the aggrandizement of Russia, that aim might have
been accomplished without all the preceding wars and without the
invasion. If the aim was the aggrandizement of France, that might have
been attained without the Revolution and without the Empire. If the
aim was the dissemination of ideas, the printing press could have
accomplished that much better than warfare. If the aim was the
progress of civilization, it is easy to see that there are other
ways of diffusing civilization more expedient than by the
destruction of wealth and of human lives.
Why did it happen in this and not in some other way?
Because it happened so! "Chance created the situation; genius
utilized it," says history.
But what is chance? What is genius?
The words chance and genius do not denote any really existing
thing and therefore cannot be defined. Those words only denote a
certain stage of understanding of phenomena. I do not know why a
certain event occurs; I think that I cannot know it; so I do not try
to know it and I talk about chance. I see a force producing effects
beyond the scope of ordinary human agencies; I do not understand why
this occurs and I talk of genius.
To a herd of rams, the ram the herdsman drives each evening into a
special enclosure to feed and that becomes twice as fat as the
others must seem to be a genius. And it must appear an astonishing
conjunction of genius with a whole series of extraordinary chances
that this ram, who instead of getting into the general fold every
evening goes into a special enclosure where there are oats--that
this very ram, swelling with fat, is killed for meat.
But the rams need only cease to suppose that all that happens
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