Author Topic: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy  (Read 532 times)

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David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« on: June 22, 2015, 04:53:12 PM »
Interesting thoughts on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy from David Bentley Hart:



Among converts to Orthodoxy, for instance, as well as among many cradle Orthodox of a particularly rigorist kind, Dostoevsky is especially honored for having held firmly to Chalcedonian orthodoxy and having introduced the greater world to the figure of Father Zosima (“The Brothers Karamazov”), from whom all the light of Eastern Christian contemplative spirituality shines out; and, more generally, among Christians of many confessions, Dostoevsky is revered as a prophet, the great Christian anti-Nietzsche, the voice of ancient Christian truth crying out in the spiritual desert of the modern West.

Tolstoy, by contrast, was practically a liberal Protestant, who thought of Jesus principally as a divinely inspired teacher of moral truth; he was not only indifferent to, but scornful of dogmatic tradition; he was even excommunicated, for goodness’ sake.

Fair enough, I suppose. I would observe, however, that there are all kinds of orthodoxy and all kinds of heresy. It is true that Dostoevsky personally assented—despite occasional episodes of doubt—to the creeds of the ancient church, and that he believed deeply in the mystical and sacramental traditions of the Orthodox Church, and that in general his vision of things was shaped by traditional Christian understandings of sin and redemption.

That said, it is also true that his Chalcedonian Orthodoxy was often almost inextricably confused with a dark, semi-pagan mysticism of the “Russian Christ” and of Russian blood and soil, and that he nursed slightly deranged fantasies of an Eastern Christian crusade to recapture Constantinople by violence, and that his virulent and contemptible anti-Semitism was anything but an accidental feature of his moral philosophy.

Tolstoy, on the other hand, despite his creedal heterodoxy, at least believed that, say, the sermon on the mount should be taken quite literally, and that Christ’s injunction to love our enemies and Paul’s claim that, in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek (and so forth) meant that Christians really ought not to kill Turks or hate Jews. If we were really to make conformity to Christian teaching our chief criterion of comparison between the two men, I would still hesitate to concede Dostoevsky the advantage.

Anyway, that is neither here nor there, I suppose. The claim on my part that always elicits a gasp of dismay from my audience is a purely aesthetic claim. It is quite possible to acknowledge Dostoevsky’s greatness as a novelist, and to concede his unquestionable preeminence as a moral and religious philosopher among modern thinkers, and to marvel at how uncannily accurate his predictions regarding the modern age were proved to be by the events of the twentieth century, and still think Tolstoy the far greater writer.

This is only, after all, a relative evaluation made between two figures of monumental accomplishments, neither of whom has ever been threatened by many plausible rivals in his special field of achievement. Even so, it seems to me nothing but simple justice to grant the one his prophet’s mantle and his tragic wisdom, but still to grant the other the supremacy of his art.


Full article here:
http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2009/09/tolstoy-and-dostoevsky-and-christ


Selam
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Offline William T

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2015, 05:47:59 PM »
It's a tendency of great Russian writers to be overcome by ideas, insane moralisms, and crazy political drives.  When the idea takes over the man, the man dies.  I don't think anyone was as bad as Tolstoy  though.  He was the best writer, and the worst moralist. He wrote the greatest novels of the 20th century, followed by the worst Puritanical stories and pamphlets I've ever come across, to me that's a horrible  tragedy. Tolstoy  the artist is much better than Tolstoyism....the best art and worst pamphlets of Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Solzhenitsyn, or whomever all fall between that spectrum.  Their art is what makes them good, their preaching is what makes them insufferable.  There was always a Dostoyevsky left after he got polemical and philosophical (The Brothers  Karamazov is after all, his last major work)...Tolstoy never really recovered, and that may be why his ideas are so  much more totalizing and unforgiving.  The scope of bloody minded crazy "blood and soil" Nationalist drives is limited when compared to crazy internationalist moralisms that quite literally, destroy the life in everything.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2015, 05:50:43 PM by William T »
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Ovid, Metamorphosis Book I

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #2 on: June 22, 2015, 05:52:50 PM »
That said, it is also true that his Chalcedonian Orthodoxy was often almost inextricably confused with a dark, semi-pagan mysticism of the “Russian Christ” and of Russian blood and soil, and that he nursed slightly deranged fantasies of an Eastern Christian crusade to recapture Constantinople by violence, and that his virulent and contemptible anti-Semitism was anything but an accidental feature of his moral philosophy.

He'd fit right in here.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2015, 05:53:05 PM by Cyrillic »
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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #3 on: June 22, 2015, 05:58:00 PM »
That said, it is also true that his Chalcedonian Orthodoxy was often almost inextricably confused with a dark, semi-pagan mysticism of the “Russian Christ” and of Russian blood and soil, and that he nursed slightly deranged fantasies of an Eastern Christian crusade to recapture Constantinople by violence, and that his virulent and contemptible anti-Semitism was anything but an accidental feature of his moral philosophy.

He'd fit right in here.

Seriously. 
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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #4 on: June 22, 2015, 06:13:20 PM »
It's a tendency of great Russian writers to be overcome by ideas, insane moralisms, and crazy political drives.  When the idea takes over the man, the man dies.  I don't think anyone was as bad as Tolstoy  though.  He was the best writer, and the worst moralist. He wrote the greatest novels of the 20th century, followed by the worst Puritanical stories and pamphlets I've ever come across, to me that's a horrible  tragedy. Tolstoy  the artist is much better than Tolstoyism....the best art and worst pamphlets of Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Solzhenitsyn, or whomever all fall between that spectrum.  Their art is what makes them good, their preaching is what makes them insufferable.  There was always a Dostoyevsky left after he got polemical and philosophical (The Brothers  Karamazov is after all, his last major work)...Tolstoy never really recovered, and that may be why his ideas are so  much more totalizing and unforgiving.  The scope of bloody minded crazy "blood and soil" Nationalist drives is limited when compared to crazy internationalist moralisms that quite literally, destroy the life in everything.

I like Tolstoy's moralism. I don't agree with it all, but I have great respect for much of it. And I love Tolstoy's short stories. I often think that some of the so-called great novels in history could have been written better as short stories, or at least much shorter works. I did think The Brothers Karamazov was wonderful. But I've started Crime and Punishment three or four times and just can't get more than about 1/3 of the way into it. It seems like it takes about 10-15 pages and then there's something really profound, and then I have to read through another 20 pages before I come to something else that's really good. And the good parts make me want to keep reading, but it just gets draining after a while. I tried War and Peace as well, and it was just too exhausting. But when I read The Kingdom of God is Within You, one of Tolstoy's "moralizing" tomes, I couldn't put it down. Same with Tolstoy's short stories. Very readable. I guess I'm just not smart enough for a lot of these huge classic novels. That's why I like Hemmingway. He knew how to get to the point.


Selam
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Offline William T

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #5 on: June 22, 2015, 06:30:07 PM »
It's a tendency of great Russian writers to be overcome by ideas, insane moralisms, and crazy political drives.  When the idea takes over the man, the man dies.  I don't think anyone was as bad as Tolstoy  though.  He was the best writer, and the worst moralist. He wrote the greatest novels of the 20th century, followed by the worst Puritanical stories and pamphlets I've ever come across, to me that's a horrible  tragedy. Tolstoy  the artist is much better than Tolstoyism....the best art and worst pamphlets of Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Solzhenitsyn, or whomever all fall between that spectrum.  Their art is what makes them good, their preaching is what makes them insufferable.  There was always a Dostoyevsky left after he got polemical and philosophical (The Brothers  Karamazov is after all, his last major work)...Tolstoy never really recovered, and that may be why his ideas are so  much more totalizing and unforgiving.  The scope of bloody minded crazy "blood and soil" Nationalist drives is limited when compared to crazy internationalist moralisms that quite literally, destroy the life in everything.

I like Tolstoy's moralism. I don't agree with it all, but I have great respect for much of it. And I love Tolstoy's short stories. I often think that some of the so-called great novels in history could have been written better as short stories, or at least much shorter works. I did think The Brothers Karamazov was wonderful. But I've started Crime and Punishment three or four times and just can't get more than about 1/3 of the way into it. It seems like it takes about 10-15 pages and then there's something really profound, and then I have to read through another 20 pages before I come to something else that's really good. And the good parts make me want to keep reading, but it just gets draining after a while. I tried War and Peace as well, and it was just too exhausting. But when I read The Kingdom of God is Within You, one of Tolstoy's "moralizing" tomes, I couldn't put it down. Same with Tolstoy's short stories. Very readable. I guess I'm just not smart enough for a lot of these huge classic novels. That's why I like Hemmingway. He knew how to get to the point.


Selam

To clarify:

I hope  I didn't  imply you weren't  "smart enough" for something.  Reading a novel is more difficult  than reading a short story, if you aren't used to reading  novels, that's to be expected.  What I meant to say was that early Tolstoy  was in fact a masterful artist, not a moralizer.  Every thing he wrote after his "conversion" was there to push a message.  The fact that they tend to be short stories or novellas doesn't matter. 

If you want an example of what I mean when I think of the great Tolstoy try reading g "The Death of Ivan Ilyavich".  Nothing he wrote later in his life compares.

Dostoyevsky   (who is a great writer, but not as good  as Tolstoy) wrote great short stories and Novellas as well, it's not all long novels.  I would be happy  to suggest short stories if you want suggestions.

As for liking the late Tolstoys messages and morals, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on that.  I guess I don't have the ear for that kind of thing.  I suppose I find good in things many people don't and vice versa, there's nothing wrong with that.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2015, 06:31:24 PM by William T »
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Ovid, Metamorphosis Book I

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #6 on: June 22, 2015, 06:57:05 PM »
It's a tendency of great Russian writers to be overcome by ideas, insane moralisms, and crazy political drives.  When the idea takes over the man, the man dies.  I don't think anyone was as bad as Tolstoy  though.  He was the best writer, and the worst moralist. He wrote the greatest novels of the 20th century, followed by the worst Puritanical stories and pamphlets I've ever come across, to me that's a horrible  tragedy. Tolstoy  the artist is much better than Tolstoyism....the best art and worst pamphlets of Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Solzhenitsyn, or whomever all fall between that spectrum.  Their art is what makes them good, their preaching is what makes them insufferable.  There was always a Dostoyevsky left after he got polemical and philosophical (The Brothers  Karamazov is after all, his last major work)...Tolstoy never really recovered, and that may be why his ideas are so  much more totalizing and unforgiving.  The scope of bloody minded crazy "blood and soil" Nationalist drives is limited when compared to crazy internationalist moralisms that quite literally, destroy the life in everything.

I like Tolstoy's moralism. I don't agree with it all, but I have great respect for much of it. And I love Tolstoy's short stories. I often think that some of the so-called great novels in history could have been written better as short stories, or at least much shorter works. I did think The Brothers Karamazov was wonderful. But I've started Crime and Punishment three or four times and just can't get more than about 1/3 of the way into it. It seems like it takes about 10-15 pages and then there's something really profound, and then I have to read through another 20 pages before I come to something else that's really good. And the good parts make me want to keep reading, but it just gets draining after a while. I tried War and Peace as well, and it was just too exhausting. But when I read The Kingdom of God is Within You, one of Tolstoy's "moralizing" tomes, I couldn't put it down. Same with Tolstoy's short stories. Very readable. I guess I'm just not smart enough for a lot of these huge classic novels. That's why I like Hemmingway. He knew how to get to the point.


Selam

To clarify:

I hope  I didn't  imply you weren't  "smart enough" for something.  Reading a novel is more difficult  than reading a short story, if you aren't used to reading  novels, that's to be expected.  What I meant to say was that early Tolstoy  was in fact a masterful artist, not a moralizer.  Every thing he wrote after his "conversion" was there to push a message.  The fact that they tend to be short stories or novellas doesn't matter. 

If you want an example of what I mean when I think of the great Tolstoy try reading g "The Death of Ivan Ilyavich".  Nothing he wrote later in his life compares.

Dostoyevsky   (who is a great writer, but not as good  as Tolstoy) wrote great short stories and Novellas as well, it's not all long novels.  I would be happy  to suggest short stories if you want suggestions.

As for liking the late Tolstoys messages and morals, I guess we will just have to agree to disagree on that.  I guess I don't have the ear for that kind of thing.  I suppose I find good in things many people don't and vice versa, there's nothing wrong with that.

Thanks. No, I didn't interpret your words as implying I wasn't smart enough to understand the big novels. I think I just don't have the patience. In college I read "The Grand Inquisitor" (an excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov), and I loved it so much that I went out and got the novel. I remember it took me a while to learn all the names and characters, but once I did I found it to be the best novel I've ever read. But the older I get, the less patient I am with books. I guess I feel that life is too short, and if an author doesn't engage me pretty quickly, then I tend to move on to something else.

As for Tolstoy's post conversion writings, I loved The Kingdom of God is Within You, but I found his The Gospel in Brief to be pretty poor in almost every regard. But I do love his short stories. The Thee Hermits is one of the greatest pieces of literature I've ever read, and I found it to be very much in the spirit of Orthodoxy. I guess I value simplicity in a writer. No simplicity of subject matter or theme, but simplicity in the writer conveys or grapples with those subjects and themes. For example, while I did enjoy David Bentley Hart's article on the subject, I was frustrated by the unnecessary use of big words that only detracted from the otherwise interesting and understandable points he was making. I felt like he was more interested in impressing academics and intellectuals than in actually persuading the reader. That kind of stuff frustrates me sometimes.

Just my two cents. Interesting discussion.  :)


Selam
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Offline Justin Kissel

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2015, 07:01:51 PM »
One of the interesting things about Orthodox people saying that Dostoevsky was prophetic, was a great defender of Orthodoxy, etc., is that the guy had 99 problems, and his own sins were 98 of them. I'm ok with that--actually I rather like him being so publicly, flawedly human, just like the rest of us--and I think you can argue a case of vice being able to coexist with profound thought. Still, many or most of the Church Fathers I've read (or read about, such as St. Justin's essay on St. Isaac the Syrian) talk as though such profound thoughts and insights come only when one is long-practiced in virtue and has eliminate the vices/passions (or healed the soul, or did this or that with the nous, or whatever). I wonder how Dostoevsky's works would have differed had he not been under enormous pressure and in a rush to finish things, since he was constantly trying to pay off gambling debts, and since from the time he was a teen he tried to live a lifestyle he could not realistically afford (for example spending long periods of time in Europe--in between writing about how awful their morals are--so that he could indulge in the pleasures and vices they offered). Would the writing have been better had he not been rushed? I dunno... he clearly thought out a lot of things, sometimes spending years and years on characters or plots: developing, redeveloping, scrapping, resurrecting, etc. Would some of his insights have fallen through the cracks instead of seeing print? Would the often chaotic or suffocating writing have been toned down, perhaps being 'better' as literature, but also losing some of the rawness and fire (smoothing the rough edges isn't always a positive...) If he had been a saintly man, would he have had such an obsession with sin, suicide, dichotomies in tension, morality, etc.? The Fathers I mentioned would perhaps say he would have understood such things and their proper context/solutions better, having refined his spiritual discernment... but would he have been able to communicate it to us as well as he did?
« Last Edit: June 22, 2015, 07:06:05 PM by Justin Kissel »

Offline nothing

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2015, 07:06:53 PM »
It's a tendency of great Russian writers to be overcome by ideas, insane moralisms, and crazy political drives.  When the idea takes over the man, the man dies.  I don't think anyone was as bad as Tolstoy  though.  He was the best writer, and the worst moralist. He wrote the greatest novels of the 20th century, followed by the worst Puritanical stories and pamphlets I've ever come across, to me that's a horrible  tragedy. Tolstoy  the artist is much better than Tolstoyism....the best art and worst pamphlets of Dostoyevsky, Gogol, Solzhenitsyn, or whomever all fall between that spectrum.  Their art is what makes them good, their preaching is what makes them insufferable.  There was always a Dostoyevsky left after he got polemical and philosophical (The Brothers  Karamazov is after all, his last major work)...Tolstoy never really recovered, and that may be why his ideas are so  much more totalizing and unforgiving.  The scope of bloody minded crazy "blood and soil" Nationalist drives is limited when compared to crazy internationalist moralisms that quite literally, destroy the life in everything.

I like Tolstoy's moralism. I don't agree with it all, but I have great respect for much of it. And I love Tolstoy's short stories. I often think that some of the so-called great novels in history could have been written better as short stories, or at least much shorter works. I did think The Brothers Karamazov was wonderful. But I've started Crime and Punishment three or four times and just can't get more than about 1/3 of the way into it. It seems like it takes about 10-15 pages and then there's something really profound, and then I have to read through another 20 pages before I come to something else that's really good. And the good parts make me want to keep reading, but it just gets draining after a while. I tried War and Peace as well, and it was just too exhausting. But when I read The Kingdom of God is Within You, one of Tolstoy's "moralizing" tomes, I couldn't put it down. Same with Tolstoy's short stories. Very readable. I guess I'm just not smart enough for a lot of these huge classic novels. That's why I like Hemmingway. He knew how to get to the point.


Selam
Crime and Punishment is a terrible book and extremely overrated. It pretty much started as a climax and fell off a cliff shortly thereafter. Really boring book. I found TBK and Notes far more interesting to read during my hyperdox days.

As far as Tolstoy's shorter works, I really liked his A Confession. Gebre if you haven't read it, I think it would be right up your alley.
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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #9 on: June 22, 2015, 07:08:48 PM »
One of the interesting things about Orthodox people saying that Dostoevsky was prophetic, was a great defender of Orthodoxy, etc., is that the guy had 99 problems, and his own sins were 98 of them. I'm ok with that--actually I rather like him being so publicly, flawedly human, just like the rest of us--and I think you can argue a case of vice being able to coexist with profound thought. Still, many or most of the Church Fathers I've read (or read about, such as St. Justin's essay on St. Isaac the Syrian) talk as though such profound thoughts and insights come only when one is long-practiced in virtue and has eliminate the vices/passions (or healed the soul, or did this or that with the nous, or whatever). I wonder how Dostoevsky's works would have differed had he not been under enormous pressure and in a rush to finish things, since he was constantly trying to pay off gambling debts, and since from the time he was a teen he tried to live a lifestyle he could not realistically afford (for example spending long periods of time in Europe--in between writing about how awful their morals are--so that he could indulge in the pleasures and vices they offered). Would the writing have been better had he not been rushed? I dunno... he clearly thought out a lot of things, sometimes spending years and years on characters or plots: developing, redeveloping, scrapping, resurrecting, etc. Would some of his insights have fallen through the cracks instead of seeing print? Would the often chaotic or suffocating writing have been toned down, perhaps being 'better' as literature, but also losing some of the rawness and fire (smoothing the rough edges isn't always a positive...) If he had been a saintly man, would he have had such an obsession with sin, suicide, dichotomies in tension, morality, etc.? The Fathers I mentioned would perhaps say he would have understood such things and their proper context/solutions better, having refined his spiritual discernment... but would he have been able to communicate it to us as well as he did?

Great thoughts! Thank you for sharing brother.

If I may dare to utter a possibly blasphemous comment: Hagiography is good because it doesn't stir up my passions. But I also find that hagiography rarely stirs my soul either.


Selam
« Last Edit: June 22, 2015, 07:11:15 PM by Gebre Menfes Kidus »
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Offline nothing

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2015, 07:09:57 PM »
One of the interesting things about Orthodox people saying that Dostoevsky was prophetic, was a great defender of Orthodoxy, etc., is that the guy had 99 problems, and his own sins were 98 of them. I'm ok with that--actually I rather like him being so publicly, flawedly human, just like the rest of us--and I think you can argue a case of vice being able to coexist with profound thought. Still, many or most of the Church Fathers I've read (or read about, such as St. Justin's essay on St. Isaac the Syrian) talk as though such profound thoughts and insights come only when one is long-practiced in virtue and has eliminate the vices/passions (or healed the soul, or did this or that with the nous, or whatever). I wonder how Dostoevsky's works would have differed had he not been under enormous pressure and in a rush to finish things, since he was constantly trying to pay off gambling debts, and since from the time he was a teen he tried to live a lifestyle he could not realistically afford (for example spending long periods of time in Europe--in between writing about how awful their morals are--so that he could indulge in the pleasures and vices they offered). Would the writing have been better had he not been rushed? I dunno... he clearly thought out a lot of things, sometimes spending years and years on characters or plots: developing, redeveloping, scrapping, resurrecting, etc. Would some of his insights have fallen through the cracks instead of seeing print? Would the often chaotic or suffocating writing have been toned down, perhaps being 'better' as literature, but also losing some of the rawness and fire (smoothing the rough edges isn't always a positive...) If he had been a saintly man, would he have had such an obsession with sin, suicide, dichotomies in tension, morality, etc.? The Fathers I mentioned would perhaps say he would have understood such things and their proper context/solutions better, having refined his spiritual discernment... but would he have been able to communicate it to us as well as he did?
Yeah I wouldn't consider Dostoevsky at all Orthodox, but from his biography he seemed to have suffered immensely which, as you point out, lends to the serious topics he engages in his work. Great sorrow or misery produces great work, or whatever that cliche is.

Truly hope he rests in peace, but I think he gets put on the pedestal too highly amongst Orthodox. I mean I totally get it, but still.

Oh and strangely it was because of him that I read Don Quixote, and for that I'm forever indebted to been introduced to such a masterpiece.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2015, 07:12:06 PM by nothing »
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Offline William T

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #11 on: June 22, 2015, 08:13:21 PM »
One of the interesting things about Orthodox people saying that Dostoevsky was prophetic, was a great defender of Orthodoxy, etc., is that the guy had 99 problems, and his own sins were 98 of them. I'm ok with that--actually I rather like him being so publicly, flawedly human, just like the rest of us--and I think you can argue a case of vice being able to coexist with profound thought. Still, many or most of the Church Fathers I've read (or read about, such as St. Justin's essay on St. Isaac the Syrian) talk as though such profound thoughts and insights come only when one is long-practiced in virtue and has eliminate the vices/passions (or healed the soul, or did this or that with the nous, or whatever). I wonder how Dostoevsky's works would have differed had he not been under enormous pressure and in a rush to finish things, since he was constantly trying to pay off gambling debts, and since from the time he was a teen he tried to live a lifestyle he could not realistically afford (for example spending long periods of time in Europe--in between writing about how awful their morals are--so that he could indulge in the pleasures and vices they offered). Would the writing have been better had he not been rushed? I dunno... he clearly thought out a lot of things, sometimes spending years and years on characters or plots: developing, redeveloping, scrapping, resurrecting, etc. Would some of his insights have fallen through the cracks instead of seeing print? Would the often chaotic or suffocating writing have been toned down, perhaps being 'better' as literature, but also losing some of the rawness and fire (smoothing the rough edges isn't always a positive...) If he had been a saintly man, would he have had such an obsession with sin, suicide, dichotomies in tension, morality, etc.? The Fathers I mentioned would perhaps say he would have understood such things and their proper context/solutions better, having refined his spiritual discernment... but would he have been able to communicate it to us as well as he did?


Balaam was a prophet and Nebuchadnezzar was called  "the annointed of God", and struggling alcoholic in alcoholic  anonymous  can lead many alcoholics on the road to recovery

I'm not saying Dostoyevsky  was a "prophet", or his art is as good as Tolstoy, it wasn't.  Tolstoy compares with Shakespeare ( whom he despised), Bach, Goethe, etc.  Dostoyevsky is about one or two steps down from that level.  I don't get what's so bad about Dostoyevskys life though.  The only thoughts that I found repugnant were the antisemitism and imperial  nationalism that came out in his pamphleteering.  But I'm not really a big fan of looking down at people with my "superior moral sentiments".  Regardless, on both a spiritual and philosophical level antisemitism and nationalism can be engaged in better terms than on trying to say one has better morals.

The impression I get from the biography  of Dostoyevsky  though is, to quote Shakespeare was  "He was a man. Take him for all in all."  The fact that I find a lot of Tolstoy's  thoughts and aspects of his life repugnant  doesn't take away from his indisputably impressive accomplishments ....and while I have no problem arguing against the ideas of Tolstoyism or what I consider the drop in the quality of his writing, or arguing against Dostoyevskys antisemitism  and nationalism .... I don't think focusing on their personhood is the best route to go.  Either way, I don't think Dostoyevsky led any life that I would consider alarmingly excessively and unrepentantly "evil".

Both were artists first and foremost  . Criticize their art.  In so much as they were Philosophers, critique their ideas.  They were not priests, theologins, or bishops, or whatever.  In so much as they were self appointed "spiritual gurus" I guess then their life might be worth being critical of (and I would be apt to accuse Tolstoy more of this than Dostoyevsky) ..but I don't know how many of us are qualified for going after character assassination.  That's probably very dangerous work.

As for calling Dostoyevsky  "not Orthodox", he died in communion with the Church, I don't think that statement should be made.  Ivan the Terrible, or whomever generally awful person you want to site,  did not get excommunicated, and it's really not the business for any of us to say one whether or not he was truly Othodox or not, we are not privy to such information .  You can say "idea X" is "not Orthodox", that's a bit more tempered a statement.  I think some monk or saint said something along the lines of "hate the sin, not the sinner", or something  to that effect.  Heck, I think in Brothers Karamazov the saintly monk Zosima says "even love the sin itself", I don't know  if that's possible...but that's probably on the same gist of the best way approach to things.
« Last Edit: June 22, 2015, 08:26:53 PM by William T »
"While other animals look downwards at the ground, he gave human beings an upturned aspect, commanding them to look towards the skies, and, upright, raise their face to the stars. So the earth, that had been, a moment ago, uncarved and imageless, changed and assumed the unknown shapes of human beings."

Ovid, Metamorphosis Book I

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2015, 08:25:56 PM »
One of the interesting things about Orthodox people saying that Dostoevsky was prophetic, was a great defender of Orthodoxy, etc., is that the guy had 99 problems, and his own sins were 98 of them. I'm ok with that--actually I rather like him being so publicly, flawedly human, just like the rest of us--and I think you can argue a case of vice being able to coexist with profound thought. Still, many or most of the Church Fathers I've read (or read about, such as St. Justin's essay on St. Isaac the Syrian) talk as though such profound thoughts and insights come only when one is long-practiced in virtue and has eliminate the vices/passions (or healed the soul, or did this or that with the nous, or whatever). I wonder how Dostoevsky's works would have differed had he not been under enormous pressure and in a rush to finish things, since he was constantly trying to pay off gambling debts, and since from the time he was a teen he tried to live a lifestyle he could not realistically afford (for example spending long periods of time in Europe--in between writing about how awful their morals are--so that he could indulge in the pleasures and vices they offered). Would the writing have been better had he not been rushed? I dunno... he clearly thought out a lot of things, sometimes spending years and years on characters or plots: developing, redeveloping, scrapping, resurrecting, etc. Would some of his insights have fallen through the cracks instead of seeing print? Would the often chaotic or suffocating writing have been toned down, perhaps being 'better' as literature, but also losing some of the rawness and fire (smoothing the rough edges isn't always a positive...) If he had been a saintly man, would he have had such an obsession with sin, suicide, dichotomies in tension, morality, etc.? The Fathers I mentioned would perhaps say he would have understood such things and their proper context/solutions better, having refined his spiritual discernment... but would he have been able to communicate it to us as well as he did?


Balaam was a prophet and Nebuchadnezzar was called  "the annointed of God", and struggling alcoholic in alcoholic  anonymous  can lead many alcoholics on the road to recovery

I'm not saying Dostoyevsky  was a "prophet", or his art is as good as Tolstoy, it wasn't.  Tolstoy compares with Shakespeare ( whom he despised), Bach, Goethe, etc.  Dostoyevsky is about one or two steps down from that level.  I don't get what's so bad about Dostoyevskys life though.  The only thoughts that I found repugnant were the antisemitism and imperial  nationalism that came out in his pamphleteering.  But I'm not really a big fan of looking down at people with my "superior moral sentiments".  Regardless, on both a spiritual and philosophical level antisemitism and nationalism can be engaged in better terms than on trying to say one has better morals.

The impression I get from the biography  of Dostoyevsky  though is, to quote Shakespeare was  "He was a man. Take him for all in all."  The fact that I find a lot of Tolstoy's  thoughts and aspects of his life repugnant  doesn't take away from his indisputably impressive accomplishments ....and while I have no problem arguing against the ideas of Tolstoyism or what I consider the drop in the quality of his writing, or arguing against Dostoyevskys antisemitism  and nationalism .... I don't think focusing on their personhood is the best route to go.  Either way, I don't think Dostoyevsky led any life that I would consider alarmingly excessively and unrepentantly "evil".

Both were artists first and foremost  . Criticize their art.  In so much as they were Philosophers, critique their ideas.  They were not priests, theologins, or bishops, or whatever.  In so much as they were self appointed "spiritual gurus" I guess then their life might be worth being critical of (and I would be apt to accuse Tolstoy more of this than Dostoyevsky) ..but I don't know how many of us are qualified for going after character assassination.  That's probably very dangerous work.

As for calling Dostoyevsky  "not Orthodox", he died in communion with the Church, I don't think that statement should be made.  Ivan the Terrible, or whomever  did not get excommunicated, and it's really not the business for any of us to say one whether or not he was truly Othodox or not, we are not privy to such information .  You can say "idea X" is "not Orthodox", that's a bit more tempered a statement.

More good thoughts. I am learning a lot from this thread. I'm glad I started it.  :)

BTW, can you elaborate on why Tolstoy didn't like Shakespeare? That makes me like him even more (Tolstoy that is.)


Selam
« Last Edit: June 22, 2015, 08:27:12 PM by Gebre Menfes Kidus »
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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #13 on: June 22, 2015, 09:20:34 PM »
I didn't mean to say that Dostoevsky wasn't Orthodox, if that's how it came across. Like I said, I like the warts, I didn't mean to be smearing him or condemning him. :)

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #14 on: June 22, 2015, 09:47:23 PM »
I didn't mean to say that Dostoevsky wasn't Orthodox, if that's how it came across. Like I said, I like the warts, I didn't mean to be smearing him or condemning him. :)

Whoops, sorry. There was another poster who called him not Orthodox.  I was doing a general response to a few posts.  My bad, I wasn't clear about that.

@GMK

Tolstoys main essay:

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/27726/27726-h/27726-h.htm

Also his famous "what is art" essay gets more into his new philosophy  on art after his conversion.


An amusing  story from Anton Checkov (one of my favorite Ruskie writers)  on Tolstoy:

“I admire him greatly. What I admire the most in him is that he despises us all; all writers. Perhaps a more accurate description is that he treats us, other writers, as completely empty space. You could argue that from time to time, he praises Maupassant, or Kuprin, or Semenov, or myself. But why does he praise us? It is simple: it’s because he looks at us as if we were children. Our short stories, or even our novels, all are child’s play in comparison with his works. However, Shakespeare… For him, the reason is different. Shakespeare irritates him because he is a grown-up writer, and does not write in the way that Tolstoy does.”
 

And a quote from Orwell on a sentiment I share:

"Artistic theories such as Tolstoy's are quite worthless, because they not only start out with arbitrary assumptions, but depend on vague terms ('sincere', 'important' and so forth) which can be interpreted in any way one chooses. Properly speaking one cannot answer Tolstoy's attack. The interesting question is: why did he make it? But it should be noticed in passing that he uses many weak or dishonest arguments. Some of them are worth pointing out, not because they invalidate his main charge but because they are, so to speak, evidence of malice."

(From: http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/lear/english/e_ltf)

« Last Edit: June 22, 2015, 09:51:26 PM by William T »
"While other animals look downwards at the ground, he gave human beings an upturned aspect, commanding them to look towards the skies, and, upright, raise their face to the stars. So the earth, that had been, a moment ago, uncarved and imageless, changed and assumed the unknown shapes of human beings."

Ovid, Metamorphosis Book I

Offline Velsigne

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #15 on: June 22, 2015, 09:52:01 PM »
There is disagreement as to whether Dostoevsky was anti-semitic or not.  Those who take issue with that categorization of his thinking also point out that in comparison with what he had to say about others he is mild in his treatment of Jews.   

Having read both authors with no concern about religion or Orthodoxy, I thought Dostoevsky was a far greater writer and thinker. 

As for the beauty of Tolstoy's prose, his wife Sofia copied and edited with pen and paper the novel War and Peace seven times, so he had considerable help. 

Still and all, I wonder about the influence of Orthodoxy on great thinkers, such as Nikola Tesla, son of an Orthodox priest.   He literally changed the entire world with his inventions.   The man lived an extremely ascetic life though his biographies never mention that he observed any religious practice at all. 

Tolstoy, for his part, is credited with inspiring Gandhi to implement non-violent resistance to colonial power.  Then Martin Luther King, Jr. followed suit.  Not bad for an excommunicated Orthodox.   

His wife's diaries, Sophia Tolstaya, were published some years ago.  Tolstoy was no saint either-- he tended to preach one thing and do another, and was a very difficult husband.   His moralizing was for others, not for himself.  Definitely human in his foibles as well as Dostoevsky.   


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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #16 on: June 22, 2015, 11:22:11 PM »
  The scope of bloody minded crazy "blood and soil" Nationalist drives is limited when compared to crazy internationalist moralisms that quite literally, destroy the life in everything.

I'd be interested to see your explanation of how Tolstoy's "internationalist moralisms... quite literally destroy the life in everything."

I think DBH has a serious point.

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #17 on: June 22, 2015, 11:41:11 PM »
I am not sure if anyone can say if Dostoevsky or Tolstoy was better.  They had different styles.

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #18 on: June 22, 2015, 11:44:42 PM »
  The scope of bloody minded crazy "blood and soil" Nationalist drives is limited when compared to crazy internationalist moralisms that quite literally, destroy the life in everything.

I'd be interested to see your explanation of how Tolstoy's "internationalist moralisms... quite literally destroy the life in everything."

I think DBH has a serious point.
Firstthings sayeth so I'd venture.

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #19 on: June 23, 2015, 12:55:26 AM »
There is disagreement as to whether Dostoevsky was anti-semitic or not.  Those who take issue with that categorization of his thinking also point out that in comparison with what he had to say about others he is mild in his treatment of Jews.   

Having read both authors with no concern about religion or Orthodoxy, I thought Dostoevsky was a far greater writer and thinker. 

As for the beauty of Tolstoy's prose, his wife Sofia copied and edited with pen and paper the novel War and Peace seven times, so he had considerable help. 

Still and all, I wonder about the influence of Orthodoxy on great thinkers, such as Nikola Tesla, son of an Orthodox priest.   He literally changed the entire world with his inventions.   The man lived an extremely ascetic life though his biographies never mention that he observed any religious practice at all. 

Tolstoy, for his part, is credited with inspiring Gandhi to implement non-violent resistance to colonial power.  Then Martin Luther King, Jr. followed suit.  Not bad for an excommunicated Orthodox.   

His wife's diaries, Sophia Tolstaya, were published some years ago.  Tolstoy was no saint either-- he tended to preach one thing and do another, and was a very difficult husband.   His moralizing was for others, not for himself.  Definitely human in his foibles as well as Dostoevsky.   

More good thoughts. Thanks.


Selam
""Love is a dangerous thing. It will crush you if you trust it. But without it you can never be whole. Love crucifies, but love saves. We will either be saved together with love, or damned alone without it."    Selam, +GMK+

Offline William T

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #20 on: June 23, 2015, 01:05:53 AM »
  The scope of bloody minded crazy "blood and soil" Nationalist drives is limited when compared to crazy internationalist moralisms that quite literally, destroy the life in everything.

I'd be interested to see your explanation of how Tolstoy's "internationalist moralisms... quite literally destroy the life in everything."

I think DBH has a serious point.

I liked  the article.  Interestingly enough, I am slowly realizing how much I may disagree with it.  Tolstoy vs. Dostoyevsky is always a great question to get the juices flowing though.

Hopefully you can grant me this caricature as a premise just so I can highlight one aspect of my negative  view of Tolstoy:

1) Dostoyevsky:  Hey  let's invade Turkey, and I'll make some cryptic remarks about the Jews that could end ugly (and my invasion of Turkey could prematurely start off World War I and the Russian Revolution by 35 years).

2) Tolstoy:  I love all mankind...even the Turks and jews.  Let's abolish everything, never marry, never have sex, never smoke, never own anything, never dance, never create  art..let's just sit here and die, because I said so and I love mankind...at least the way I wrote  about it in my Gospel.

Even granted World War I, the Russian  Revolution, and maybe  even a sly  nod  to pogroms Dostoyevskys  eccentricity  is more limited in scope and perscription.  Not only that Dostoevsky still subjects himself to a corporate  body, so there is at least a chance to reign him in.  Tolstoy literally created his own gospel and forces us to fall under its interpretation (which may actually call for extinction / nirvana)  .... I don't get the appeal of Tolstoy in this regard.  What does he love exactly?  His idea of  peace?  And as the author of the article said, he forces a hard line "fundamentalist" (is that the right word?) interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount (or at least the fundamentalist interpretation of the gospel he edited)...that's probably bad news.

It's like comparing  a scientist who still subjects his theories to the scientific  community and the laws of the land, vs the paranoid  sectarian crank who comes up with his own system and dismisses  all other ideas as a conspiracy, "bourgeois  science", "Jewish  science", or whatever.  Regardless of what the scientist who subjects himself to a larger body believes, at least in theory, there are ways to put him in check if he gets delusional.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2015, 01:22:43 AM by William T »
"While other animals look downwards at the ground, he gave human beings an upturned aspect, commanding them to look towards the skies, and, upright, raise their face to the stars. So the earth, that had been, a moment ago, uncarved and imageless, changed and assumed the unknown shapes of human beings."

Ovid, Metamorphosis Book I

Offline William T

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #21 on: June 23, 2015, 01:11:32 AM »
When I think of Tolstoy I always  think of this HL Mencken  quote:

"Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.'"
« Last Edit: June 23, 2015, 01:11:51 AM by William T »
"While other animals look downwards at the ground, he gave human beings an upturned aspect, commanding them to look towards the skies, and, upright, raise their face to the stars. So the earth, that had been, a moment ago, uncarved and imageless, changed and assumed the unknown shapes of human beings."

Ovid, Metamorphosis Book I

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #22 on: June 23, 2015, 03:00:13 AM »
  The scope of bloody minded crazy "blood and soil" Nationalist drives is limited when compared to crazy internationalist moralisms that quite literally, destroy the life in everything.

I'd be interested to see your explanation of how Tolstoy's "internationalist moralisms... quite literally destroy the life in everything."

I think DBH has a serious point.

I liked  the article.  Interestingly enough, I am slowly realizing how much I may disagree with it.  Tolstoy vs. Dostoyevsky is always a great question to get the juices flowing though.

Hopefully you can grant me this caricature as a premise just so I can highlight one aspect of my negative  view of Tolstoy:

1) Dostoyevsky:  Hey  let's invade Turkey, and I'll make some cryptic remarks about the Jews that could end ugly (and my invasion of Turkey could prematurely start off World War I and the Russian Revolution by 35 years).

2) Tolstoy:  I love all mankind...even the Turks and jews.  Let's abolish everything, never marry, never have sex, never smoke, never own anything, never dance, never create  art..let's just sit here and die, because I said so and I love mankind...at least the way I wrote  about it in my Gospel.

Even granted World War I, the Russian  Revolution, and maybe  even a sly  nod  to pogroms Dostoyevskys  eccentricity  is more limited in scope and perscription.  Not only that Dostoevsky still subjects himself to a corporate  body, so there is at least a chance to reign him in.  Tolstoy literally created his own gospel and forces us to fall under its interpretation (which may actually call for extinction / nirvana)  .... I don't get the appeal of Tolstoy in this regard.  What does he love exactly?  His idea of  peace?  And as the author of the article said, he forces a hard line "fundamentalist" (is that the right word?) interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount (or at least the fundamentalist interpretation of the gospel he edited)...that's probably bad news.

It's like comparing  a scientist who still subjects his theories to the scientific  community and the laws of the land, vs the paranoid  sectarian crank who comes up with his own system and dismisses  all other ideas as a conspiracy, "bourgeois  science", "Jewish  science", or whatever.  Regardless of what the scientist who subjects himself to a larger body believes, at least in theory, there are ways to put him in check if he gets delusional.

I didn't get this impression from reading The Kingdom of God is Within You. To the contrary, Tolstoy was invoking the words and person of Christ to condemn the "Orthodox" fundamentalism of his day which was justifying many evils in the name of the Church. I think that in many ways Tolstoy was more reigned in by the Gospel than was the Church of his time. But yes, he was quite the anarchist, and I have never quite been able to go that far with him.


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« Last Edit: June 23, 2015, 03:02:11 AM by Gebre Menfes Kidus »
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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #23 on: June 23, 2015, 09:14:48 AM »
I think if we compare the body counts of blood and soil nationalism with internationalist pacifism, your fears about the latter come up hypothetical. Not that I'd personally lean toward pacifism and definitely not any totalizing puritanism. That said, I don't think pacifism and internationalism necessarily entail a totalizing attitude rejecting art, fun, etc.

Quote from: Gebre Menfes Kidus
But yes, he was quite the anarchist, and I have never quite been able to go that far with him.

How can you be an absolute pacifist without being an anarchist?

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #24 on: June 23, 2015, 10:49:49 AM »
I didn't get this impression from reading The Kingdom of God is Within You. To the contrary, Tolstoy was invoking the words and person of Christ to condemn the "Orthodox" fundamentalism of his day which was justifying many evils in the name of the Church. I think that in many ways Tolstoy was more reigned in by the Gospel than was the Church of his time. But yes, he was quite the anarchist, and I have never quite been able to go that far with him.


Selam
This is a good point. I would wager that many of us would have had trouble maintaining our Orthodox loyalties if we experienced what Tolstoy did. The 19th c. Russian Church was in a bad way. Vladimir Solovyov wrote about his reasons for leaving Orthodoxy for Roman Catholicism, and while I don't agree with all his points, he makes some excellent ones about the Russian hierarchy of his day.

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #25 on: June 23, 2015, 12:35:37 PM »
I think if we compare the body counts of blood and soil nationalism with internationalist pacifism, your fears about the latter come up hypothetical. Not that I'd personally lean toward pacifism and definitely not any totalizing puritanism. That said, I don't think pacifism and internationalism necessarily entail a totalizing attitude rejecting art, fun, etc.

Quote from: Gebre Menfes Kidus
But yes, he was quite the anarchist, and I have never quite been able to go that far with him.

How can you be an absolute pacifist without being an anarchist?

I'm saying that Tolstoy himself called for the abolition of both marraige and sex.  He denied that sex was anything good.  And he also denied dancing, smoking, drinking , civilization, etc. And was OK with human extinction. He actively promoted  such things.

I agree, to call for pacifism or the end of the state is one thing.  That is theoretical and up for debate as to what the consequences would be.  But when Tolstoy himself called for this because it would allow mankind to fade away, I am judging him by his own criterea and stated ends.  If Dostoyevsky  called for a complete Turkish  genocide and an establishment of "4th Rome " ruling the world and the abolition of marriage, but using selective breeding plans and open brothels with female sex slaves for sexual  gratification .... I would still be confused on how Tolstoy wins this argument.   I would rather give the good citizenship award /Humanitarian of The Year/ Nobel Peace Prize to Ghangis Khan or Caligula than a man calling for peaceful and spiritual mass extinction.

I still don't see how Tolstoy loves man.  At least in this scenario  Dostoyevsky would like himself enough to act, and would at least have the common decency not to actively promote human extinction..if for no other reason his own titanic ego would get some pleasure out of human affairs.  Tolstoy seems to be an outright nihilist.

Read Tolstoy's 100 page rant in the Kreutzer  Sonata, where  he condems sex (and Beethoven) ..or Father Sergius.   I think he joined some "christain anarchist" group that did the usual liberal protestantism of the time:  it denied (and openly hated) miracles, resurrection, sacraments, and the like but loved "the morals" of the bible.  The gimmick: the sect promoted castration, I guess it ignored the biblical moralism about self castration.

Tolstoy (not the Tolstoy  of Anna Karenin, but the late Tolstoy), was a moralizer.  I am of the opinion that a self proclaimed  moralizer unhinged  and unchecked from mercy, love, or grace is one of the worst things that could happen to mankind.  To be nothing but a moralist is to hate mankind.

You could probably  get all those old spurious self willed gospels written in ancient times (Gospel  of Marcion, etc)  and some may sound nice, and the heretic may have even thought the Church was hypocritical  or corrupt and had a decent point, but my guess is we are going to see similar patterns with these heretical groups and it may eerily echo Tolstoy.  It's painfully obvious  Orthodoxy  from The Apostles, to Constantine, to the Czardom  of Dostoyevsky  and Tolstoy, to today has been used for and has helped fanatical,  imperalistic and racist agendas ....this is a great abomination, shame, and tragedy of the worst kind.  I don't want to minimize  it.  I'm just showing my distaste for Tolstoy  and similar styled philosophies.

The best argument I can make for Tolstoy I can think of  may be a "fruit from the tree" argument, he inspired the civil rights movement, so I'm obviously missing something or have blinders on somewhere .

Lol, Rant Over.  Now I'm starting to start like a flipping russian moralist.  Sorry, like I said  Tolstoy vs Dostoyevsky topics may be like waving a red flag to a bull to some Orthodox.  The next topic should be Zorba the Greek, or My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
« Last Edit: June 23, 2015, 12:51:47 PM by William T »
"While other animals look downwards at the ground, he gave human beings an upturned aspect, commanding them to look towards the skies, and, upright, raise their face to the stars. So the earth, that had been, a moment ago, uncarved and imageless, changed and assumed the unknown shapes of human beings."

Ovid, Metamorphosis Book I

Offline William T

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #26 on: June 23, 2015, 02:37:41 PM »
The Thee Hermits

OK I just read this  on your  recommendation.  It's really really good.  Tolstoy  never fully lost  "it".  He was always  a masterful  craftsman, even later in life he could still wow in a way few can.
"While other animals look downwards at the ground, he gave human beings an upturned aspect, commanding them to look towards the skies, and, upright, raise their face to the stars. So the earth, that had been, a moment ago, uncarved and imageless, changed and assumed the unknown shapes of human beings."

Ovid, Metamorphosis Book I

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #27 on: June 24, 2015, 12:35:47 AM »
The Thee Hermits

OK I just read this  on your  recommendation.  It's really really good.  Tolstoy  never fully lost  "it".  He was always  a masterful  craftsman, even later in life he could still wow in a way few can.

I might go back and give Tolstoy another read.  Today I was looking into translations a bit and realized that I was probably reading dated translations. 

It's said that Hemingway was inspired by Dostoevsky, but he was really reading Constance Garnett. 

The Constance Garnett translations are said to make both authors sound the same. 

I read a critique of the much lauded Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s translations, and strangely enough, the critic took offense at the translator's for using Orthodox terminology.  Of course they didn't recognize it as Orthodox, expected Western religious terms, and gave a poor review. 

Pevear and Volokhonsky are both Orthodox Christians. 

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/01/the-pevearvolokhonsky-hype-machine-and-how-it-could-have-been-stopped-or-at-least-slowed-down

Maybe if I read Tolstoy not sounding something like Jane Austen I might appreciate more of what his work really is.

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #28 on: June 24, 2015, 04:41:37 PM »
The Thee Hermits

OK I just read this  on your  recommendation.  It's really really good.  Tolstoy  never fully lost  "it".  He was always  a masterful  craftsman, even later in life he could still wow in a way few can.

I might go back and give Tolstoy another read.  Today I was looking into translations a bit and realized that I was probably reading dated translations. 

It's said that Hemingway was inspired by Dostoevsky, but he was really reading Constance Garnett. 

The Constance Garnett translations are said to make both authors sound the same. 

I read a critique of the much lauded Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s translations, and strangely enough, the critic took offense at the translator's for using Orthodox terminology.  Of course they didn't recognize it as Orthodox, expected Western religious terms, and gave a poor review. 

Pevear and Volokhonsky are both Orthodox Christians. 

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/01/the-pevearvolokhonsky-hype-machine-and-how-it-could-have-been-stopped-or-at-least-slowed-down

Maybe if I read Tolstoy not sounding something like Jane Austen I might appreciate more of what his work really is.

They are my favorite  translators.  I have a lot of Dostoyevsky  and the two big Tolstoy  novel translations from them. 
I think they do more authors as well like Pushkin, Checkov, Turgenev, etc.   I think I heard they did a few Russian religious philosophers too...people  like Berdayev.



That was a strange review, not sure I get what she was on about.


Speaking of Russian  Religious philosophers Soloviev wrote a great dialogue  entitled  "War, Progress, and The End of History" as a polemic against Tolstoy's  morals.  In it he compared  Tolstoy  to a type of antichrist!  If the dialogue  is too long, at the end of it is the story  of the antichrist.

https://archive.org/stream/warprogressendof00solouoft/warprogressendof00solouoft_djvu.txt
« Last Edit: June 24, 2015, 04:49:09 PM by William T »
"While other animals look downwards at the ground, he gave human beings an upturned aspect, commanding them to look towards the skies, and, upright, raise their face to the stars. So the earth, that had been, a moment ago, uncarved and imageless, changed and assumed the unknown shapes of human beings."

Ovid, Metamorphosis Book I

Offline Velsigne

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #29 on: June 25, 2015, 12:08:53 PM »
The Thee Hermits

OK I just read this  on your  recommendation.  It's really really good.  Tolstoy  never fully lost  "it".  He was always  a masterful  craftsman, even later in life he could still wow in a way few can.

I might go back and give Tolstoy another read.  Today I was looking into translations a bit and realized that I was probably reading dated translations. 

It's said that Hemingway was inspired by Dostoevsky, but he was really reading Constance Garnett. 

The Constance Garnett translations are said to make both authors sound the same. 

I read a critique of the much lauded Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s translations, and strangely enough, the critic took offense at the translator's for using Orthodox terminology.  Of course they didn't recognize it as Orthodox, expected Western religious terms, and gave a poor review. 

Pevear and Volokhonsky are both Orthodox Christians. 

http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2013/01/the-pevearvolokhonsky-hype-machine-and-how-it-could-have-been-stopped-or-at-least-slowed-down

Maybe if I read Tolstoy not sounding something like Jane Austen I might appreciate more of what his work really is.

They are my favorite  translators.  I have a lot of Dostoyevsky  and the two big Tolstoy  novel translations from them. 
I think they do more authors as well like Pushkin, Checkov, Turgenev, etc.   I think I heard they did a few Russian religious philosophers too...people  like Berdayev.



That was a strange review, not sure I get what she was on about.


Speaking of Russian  Religious philosophers Soloviev wrote a great dialogue  entitled  "War, Progress, and The End of History" as a polemic against Tolstoy's  morals.  In it he compared  Tolstoy  to a type of antichrist!  If the dialogue  is too long, at the end of it is the story  of the antichrist.

https://archive.org/stream/warprogressendof00solouoft/warprogressendof00solouoft_djvu.txt



Thanks for the recommendation!  I'll try reading those translations. 

Soloviev looks interesting.  I'll have to read that.  Thanks for the link.


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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #30 on: June 27, 2015, 02:52:46 AM »
For example, while I did enjoy David Bentley Hart's article on the subject, I was frustrated by the unnecessary use of big words that only detracted from the otherwise interesting and understandable points he was making. I felt like he was more interested in impressing academics and intellectuals than in actually persuading the reader. That kind of stuff frustrates me sometimes.



https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/david-bentley-hart-the-most-interesting-theologian-in-the-world/

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #31 on: June 27, 2015, 04:16:48 AM »
The story of the Three Hermits seems to convey deception and false humility in regards that one should be awed by those who allegedly attain supernatural capability but cannot pray as our Lord taught us to. Perhaps we should bow down to Hindu sages also.

http://www.online-literature.com/tolstoy/2896/
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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #32 on: June 27, 2015, 05:41:41 AM »
For example, while I did enjoy David Bentley Hart's article on the subject, I was frustrated by the unnecessary use of big words that only detracted from the otherwise interesting and understandable points he was making. I felt like he was more interested in impressing academics and intellectuals than in actually persuading the reader. That kind of stuff frustrates me sometimes.



https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/david-bentley-hart-the-most-interesting-theologian-in-the-world/

 :D So apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way.


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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #33 on: June 27, 2015, 05:42:34 AM »
The story of the Three Hermits seems to convey deception and false humility in regards that one should be awed by those who allegedly attain supernatural capability but cannot pray as our Lord taught us to. Perhaps we should bow down to Hindu sages also.

http://www.online-literature.com/tolstoy/2896/


We certainly read the story differently.


Selam
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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #34 on: June 27, 2015, 05:48:25 AM »
I think if we compare the body counts of blood and soil nationalism with internationalist pacifism, your fears about the latter come up hypothetical. Not that I'd personally lean toward pacifism and definitely not any totalizing puritanism. That said, I don't think pacifism and internationalism necessarily entail a totalizing attitude rejecting art, fun, etc.

Quote from: Gebre Menfes Kidus
But yes, he was quite the anarchist, and I have never quite been able to go that far with him.

How can you be an absolute pacifist without being an anarchist?

I'm saying that Tolstoy himself called for the abolition of both marraige and sex.  He denied that sex was anything good.  And he also denied dancing, smoking, drinking , civilization, etc. And was OK with human extinction. He actively promoted  such things.

I agree, to call for pacifism or the end of the state is one thing.  That is theoretical and up for debate as to what the consequences would be.  But when Tolstoy himself called for this because it would allow mankind to fade away, I am judging him by his own criterea and stated ends.  If Dostoyevsky  called for a complete Turkish  genocide and an establishment of "4th Rome " ruling the world and the abolition of marriage, but using selective breeding plans and open brothels with female sex slaves for sexual  gratification .... I would still be confused on how Tolstoy wins this argument.   I would rather give the good citizenship award /Humanitarian of The Year/ Nobel Peace Prize to Ghangis Khan or Caligula than a man calling for peaceful and spiritual mass extinction.

I still don't see how Tolstoy loves man.  At least in this scenario  Dostoyevsky would like himself enough to act, and would at least have the common decency not to actively promote human extinction..if for no other reason his own titanic ego would get some pleasure out of human affairs.  Tolstoy seems to be an outright nihilist.

Read Tolstoy's 100 page rant in the Kreutzer  Sonata, where  he condems sex (and Beethoven) ..or Father Sergius.   I think he joined some "christain anarchist" group that did the usual liberal protestantism of the time:  it denied (and openly hated) miracles, resurrection, sacraments, and the like but loved "the morals" of the bible.  The gimmick: the sect promoted castration, I guess it ignored the biblical moralism about self castration.

Tolstoy (not the Tolstoy  of Anna Karenin, but the late Tolstoy), was a moralizer.  I am of the opinion that a self proclaimed  moralizer unhinged  and unchecked from mercy, love, or grace is one of the worst things that could happen to mankind.  To be nothing but a moralist is to hate mankind.

You could probably  get all those old spurious self willed gospels written in ancient times (Gospel  of Marcion, etc)  and some may sound nice, and the heretic may have even thought the Church was hypocritical  or corrupt and had a decent point, but my guess is we are going to see similar patterns with these heretical groups and it may eerily echo Tolstoy.  It's painfully obvious  Orthodoxy  from The Apostles, to Constantine, to the Czardom  of Dostoyevsky  and Tolstoy, to today has been used for and has helped fanatical,  imperalistic and racist agendas ....this is a great abomination, shame, and tragedy of the worst kind.  I don't want to minimize  it.  I'm just showing my distaste for Tolstoy  and similar styled philosophies.

The best argument I can make for Tolstoy I can think of  may be a "fruit from the tree" argument, he inspired the civil rights movement, so I'm obviously missing something or have blinders on somewhere .

Lol, Rant Over.  Now I'm starting to start like a flipping russian moralist.  Sorry, like I said  Tolstoy vs Dostoyevsky topics may be like waving a red flag to a bull to some Orthodox.  The next topic should be Zorba the Greek, or My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

I'm really impressed with your depth of knowledge about both of these authors. You should write a critique of your own about their works. I'd be quite interested to read it.

I've never heard anything about Tolstoy desiring the abolition of humanity. But you seem to know more about him than I do. I do know that he held to some very unorthodox views, and that he was certainly an anarchist. But his radical pacifism always seemed based in his understanding of Christ and his deep belief in the brotherhood of humanity. Life affirmation seemed to be at the core of his convictions. At least that's what comes across from The Kingdom of God is Within You. But perhaps he expressed other views in other works. You seem to have read much more of him than I have.

Anyway, I really thank you for your excellent contributions to this thread. Quite informative and very intriguing!


Selam
« Last Edit: June 27, 2015, 05:49:55 AM by Gebre Menfes Kidus »
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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #35 on: June 27, 2015, 11:43:09 AM »
The story of the Three Hermits seems to convey deception and false humility in regards that one should be awed by those who allegedly attain supernatural capability but cannot pray as our Lord taught us to. Perhaps we should bow down to Hindu sages also.

http://www.online-literature.com/tolstoy/2896/

How did the Lord teach us to pray?
"Do not tempt the Mor thy Mod."

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #36 on: June 27, 2015, 11:47:52 AM »
Yes, William T, great posts.

Regarding the Three Hermits, I believe this legend actually originates in Tibetan Buddhism. The story is basically the same, except it revolves around the correct pronunciation of the mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum"- the three hermits pronounce it the Tibetan way, as "Om Mani Peme Hung."

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #37 on: June 27, 2015, 01:21:50 PM »
The story of the Three Hermits seems to convey deception and false humility in regards that one should be awed by those who allegedly attain supernatural capability but cannot pray as our Lord taught us to. Perhaps we should bow down to Hindu sages also.

http://www.online-literature.com/tolstoy/2896/

How did the Lord teach us to pray?


Matthew 6:9-13King James Version (KJV)

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

King James Version (KJV)
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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #38 on: June 27, 2015, 02:01:37 PM »
The story of the Three Hermits seems to convey deception and false humility in regards that one should be awed by those who allegedly attain supernatural capability but cannot pray as our Lord taught us to. Perhaps we should bow down to Hindu sages also.

http://www.online-literature.com/tolstoy/2896/

How did the Lord teach us to pray?


Matthew 6:9-13King James Version (KJV)

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

King James Version (KJV)

Thanks.  A follow-up: how do Tolstoy's three hermits fail to pray in this manner so as to justify your comparison to Hindu sages?   
"Do not tempt the Mor thy Mod."

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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #39 on: June 27, 2015, 02:05:22 PM »
For example, while I did enjoy David Bentley Hart's article on the subject, I was frustrated by the unnecessary use of big words that only detracted from the otherwise interesting and understandable points he was making. I felt like he was more interested in impressing academics and intellectuals than in actually persuading the reader. That kind of stuff frustrates me sometimes.



https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/david-bentley-hart-the-most-interesting-theologian-in-the-world/

 :D So apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way.


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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #40 on: June 27, 2015, 06:32:45 PM »
The story of the Three Hermits seems to convey deception and false humility in regards that one should be awed by those who allegedly attain supernatural capability but cannot pray as our Lord taught us to. Perhaps we should bow down to Hindu sages also.

http://www.online-literature.com/tolstoy/2896/

How did the Lord teach us to pray?


Matthew 6:9-13King James Version (KJV)

9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

10 Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

11 Give us this day our daily bread.

12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

King James Version (KJV)

Thanks.  A follow-up: how do Tolstoy's three hermits fail to pray in this manner so as to justify your comparison to Hindu sages?

I think it is important to note that the story is spun in such a way as to portray the monks as untouchable. Anyone who will correct them seem to be already a virtual Pharisee.

'But how do you pray to God?' asked the Bishop.

'We pray in this way,' replied the hermit. 'Three are ye, three are we, have mercy upon us.'



further on:

That is not the way to pray; but listen to me, and I will teach you. I will teach you, not a way of my own, but the way in which God in the Holy Scriptures has commanded all men to pray to Him.'

The Bishop tried to teach these men the Lord's Prayer, he always seems a bit of a heavy in this (one wonders why?).


 And all day long the Bishop laboured, saying a word twenty, thirty, a hundred times over, and the old men repeated it after him. They blundered, and he corrected them, and made them begin again.

As the bishop & other sailed away alas our holy heroes could not remember the Lord's prayer but have attained the supernatural & we are to be humbled by whatever their humbleness is supposed to signify.
 They saw the hermits coming along hand in hand, and the two outer ones beckoning the ship to stop. All three were gliding along upon the water without moving their feet. Before the ship could be stopped, the hermits had reached it, and raising their heads, all three as with one voice, began to say:

'We have forgotten your teaching, servant of God. As long as we kept repeating it we remembered, but when we stopped saying it for a time, a word dropped out, and now it has all gone to pieces. We can remember nothing of it. Teach us again.'

The Bishop crossed himself, and leaning over the ship's side, said:

'Your own prayer will reach the Lord, men of God. It is not for me to teach you. Pray for us sinners.



Oh well.









« Last Edit: June 27, 2015, 06:34:16 PM by recent convert »
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Re: David Bentley Hart on Dostoevsky and Tolstoy
« Reply #41 on: June 28, 2015, 03:46:15 PM »
Yes, William T, great posts.

Regarding the Three Hermits, I believe this legend actually originates in Tibetan Buddhism. The story is basically the same, except it revolves around the correct pronunciation of the mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum"- the three hermits pronounce it the Tibetan way, as "Om Mani Peme Hung."

Glad some of you guys are getting a kick out of my posts.  My grandma, and the school I attended pushed heavy reading on me, so I have a bit of a knack for reading. I'm happy when people read Tolstoy, and I get that most people nowadays associate him with Civil Rights and Gandhi, which is good.

I like Hart, and I didn't know if many people here (being Orthodox) had a "fuller view" of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.  Most Eastern Europeans (including Catholics and non religous I talk to tend to know the more controversial aspects about the writers. Not everyone knows of Dostoyevsky and his pamphlets, and only some aspects of Tolstoy the philosopher seems common to people in the West today.  Stories like Father Sergius, The Kreutzer Sonata, Resurrection, all his pamphlets were big news in the east, and still seem to be fairly well known there.  I was just wondering why Hart brought up the bad stuff on Dostoyevsky, while ignoring Tolstoy.  It seems that he, being a "professional intellectual" and Orthodox (though I think he is an American convert of a "non traditional" Orthodox background?),  would have to engage "Tolstoyism" if he wanted to do a fair comparison (which was one of Marxisms biggest competitors). I guess that's my biggest gripe.  I didn't mean to give to crazy a left field view.

I think you may be right that Three Hermits is an old Eastern Buddhist folk tale.  Tolstoy definitely read and was influenced by many folk stories and Buddhist thoughts and stories later in his life.  Part of his later philosophy was to use these themes and stories in his writings. It reads like an old Christian monk tale though.  It fooled me.
« Last Edit: June 28, 2015, 03:56:45 PM by William T »
"While other animals look downwards at the ground, he gave human beings an upturned aspect, commanding them to look towards the skies, and, upright, raise their face to the stars. So the earth, that had been, a moment ago, uncarved and imageless, changed and assumed the unknown shapes of human beings."

Ovid, Metamorphosis Book I