Spinoza and Tolstoy in Valentin Asmus’ comparative analysis
The paper investigates the dependence of Leo Tolstoy’s ethical, religious and political ideas on Benedict Spinoza’s philosophy. The Soviet philosopher Valentin Asmus offered a solution to this problem by attempting to emphasize rationalist elements in Tolstoy’s teachings while glossing over his religious inclinations. Asmus treated Tolstoy’s “life’s religion” as a peculiar form of humanist ethics, just like Spinoza’s idea that “God” is merely infinite Nature. Asmus compared the Spinozist and Tolstoyan understanding of the relationship between metaphysics and ethics. He also showed that the fundamental difference between Tolstoy’s and Spinoza’s doctrines, was in their different understanding of human freedom. According to Tolstoy, a “free action” goes beyond the limitations of the laws of history. Regarding their relation to “real life,” Tolstoy’s, in many ways, was polar opposite to that of Spinoza’s.