Tolstoj as analytic thinker
his philosophical defense of nonviolence
By way of countering Tolstoj's reputation as an alogical and inept philosophical thinker, this paper explores the tension between maximalism and reasonableness in his defense of the ethics of nonviolence. Tolstoj's writings of the last decade of his life show that he was perfectly capable of making appropriate conceptual distinctions, recognizing legitimate objections to his position, and responding rationally to them; in so doing, he made valuable points about the unpredictability of human actions, the futility of using violence to combat violence, the equal worth of all humans lives, and the immorality of revenge. Yet his conception of the moral ideal, together with his missionary zeal, led him to exaggerate the absoluteness of his moral message, causing him to predict the unpredictable and demand the impossible of human beings.
Scanlan, J. (2011). Tolstoj as analytic thinker: his philosophical defense of nonviolence. Studies in East European Thought 63 (1), pp. 7-14.
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