War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I believe that I have solved a huge problem here. Nobody need read Part Two of the Epilogue anymore. For those of you who have already not read Part Two of the Epilogue, I have gotten it down to a page. Here it is:
Historians must take a new approach to their work of trying to determine the laws that govern human conduct and the great historical movements of people. (If you wish to quote him in the future, Tolstoy's exact words in this new translation are, "Jane, you ignorant slut!")
1. Forget about the study of great ideas as causes of great historical events. “Liberty, equality, fraternity” did not cause some Frenchmen to murder millions of other Frenchmen. You should send back that unopened six-CD set called “Great Ideas” that you ordered through the 800 number you got late at night on television and ask for a refund. And from now on have someone hide your charge cards before you get out the vodka.
2. The study of the lives of great men and women is no more helpful than reading Star Magazine's accounts of the fascinating but meaningless lives of the beautiful and famous today. For every one of the big shot's commands that seemed to be carried out by others there were untold numbers that were not carried out. The big shot's commands that seemed to be carried out only coincided with events that were going to happen anyway because of other causes. The study of Napoleon's “genius” may be fun, like the study of Britney's underwear or lack thereof, but it has no real historical import.
3. Our more modern historians tend to explain the causes of great historical movements of people as a mixture of necessity and free will, but all they are doing is describing those necessities they cannot see and discern as free will because they need to appear as if they know it all. (If you cannot determine why something was going to happen anyway, instead of saying, "I don't know why that happened," just say, “Napoleon used his free will and made them do it.”)
4. We do not feel the earth's movements with our senses, and neither in our stupid human being inner selves' consciousness do we feel limited by necessities. Yet our outer selves' Spock-like reason has discovered that the earth moves, and our outer selves' Spock-like reason can also detect the necessities that limit the illusory free will that our stupid human being inner selves' consciousness feels. Only with this kind of scientific approach can history become a true discipline with a realistic goal of revealing the laws of necessity that govern human conduct allowing us to boldly go where no man has gone before. (I did not split that infinitive. It was split from the outset by the Star Trek writers.)
If you read that last paragraph real fast while holding your tongue between your fingers, you will hear a secret message.
None of this is going to void the three semester of hours of B that you got in that Survey of European History core course you took in college, lo, those many years ago. That one is in the books for good, baby.
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