Sunday, March 14, 2021

The Solipsism of Tolstoy

Tolstoy has said that in his boyhood days, he was fascinated by skepticism to such an extent that his mind took flights of solipsism. 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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