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Friday, January 22, 2021

Tolstoy on the French Revolution

All human actions, even the quest for reason, liberty, and atheism, have unintended consequences. The idealistic French philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment, who hectored their countrymen to fight for a utopia of reason, liberty, and atheism, were the intellectual architects of the bloody French Revolution. Therefore, I say, one must beware of the philosophers who talk about reason, liberty, and atheism—they might be the breeders of violence and chaos. Here’s Tolstoy’s description of the French Revolution and its aftermath (in the epilogue of his novel War and Peace): “At the end of the eighteenth century there were a couple of dozen men in Paris who began to talk about all men being free and equal. This caused people all over France to begin to slash at and drown one another. They killed the king and many other people. At that time there was in France a man of genius Napoleon. He conquered everybody everywhere that is, he killed many people because he was a great genius. And for some reason he went to kill Africans, and killed them so well and was so cunning and wise that when he returned to France he ordered everybody to obey him, and they all obeyed him. Having become an Emperor he again went out to kill people in Italy, Austria, and Prussia. And there too he killed a great many.”

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