From Universal Laws to Historicity of Knowledge: The Realist Interpretation of Tolstoy's View of History in 'War and Peace'
The Realist interpretation of 'War and Peace' - articulated by Martin Wight and Stanley Hoffmann - is based on Tolstoy's understanding of history as it is elaborated in his account of the Napoleonic invasion in the second epilogue of the book. There Tolstoy puts forward a mechanistic view of international relations which are assumed to be governed by inexorable laws of history determining human behaviour and limiting man's exercise of free will. However, Tolstoy's subjection of man to the workings of impenetrable laws of history in the second epilogue is at variance with a multiplicity of conscious moral choices that his three main characters - Nikolay Rostov, Andrey Bolkonsky and Pierre Bezukhov - make throughout the book. It is argued that the different treatment of the freedom vs. necessity problem in the fictional and historical narrative can only be understood contextually, i.e. from within Tolstoy' rejection of the Enlightenment tradition of scientific and moral inquiry.