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Sunday, March 14, 2021

The Solipsism of Tolstoy

Tolstoy says that in his boyhood days, he was fascinated by skepticism to such an extent that his mind took a flight into the solipsist territory. Here’s an excerpt from his book Childhood, Boyhood and Youth (Chapter 19; “Boyhood” section): “But by none of my philosophical tendencies was I so carried away as by skepticism, which at one time brought me into a state bordering on madness. I fancied that besides myself nobody existed in the universe, that objects were not objects at all, but images which appeared only when I paid attention to them, and that as soon as I left off thinking of them these images immediately disappeared. In a word, I coincided with Schelling in the conviction that not objects exist but my relation to them. There were moments when, under the influence of this idée fixe, I reached such a state of insanity that I sometimes looked rapidly round to one side, hoping suddenly to find nothingness where I was not.”  In my opinion, it is understandable that in his youth, Tolstoy became fascinated by the solipsist (subjectivist) position—to prepare himself mentally for being a writer of great novels, he had to view himself at the center of the world, as the world’s only mind, one that sees all and can write about all.

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