Rediscovering Character

Several writers near the start of the 21st century have urged looking back in time to recapture a spirit they say has mostly disappeared. Tom Brokaw’s book, The Greatest Generation, tells the stories of ordinary and famous Americans who grew up during the Depression years, mobilized heroically to defeat the Axis powers in World War II, and in the following decades established the most prosperous society known so far on the earth.

After the war, Brokaw writes, “Americans at home rushed to start families and build communities and careers….” He continues – Continue reading “Rediscovering Character”

The Anthropic Principle

Since the dawn of human intelligence two things have evoked puzzlement and wonder: the physical universe and the inner testimony of will that connects existence with responsibility.[1]

Placing these apprehensions side by side, I cannot help repeating an age-old question: Is the physical world connected somehow with responsibility? Has the world been created? Has some kind of super-intelligence – God – brought all of this into being? Continue reading “The Anthropic Principle”

Does Free Will Exist? Summary Q & A

A question-and-answer format may summarize free will most simply. We’ll start with some general questions first and then recall very briefly what has been contributed by specific thinkers over time.

What is free will? Continue reading “Does Free Will Exist? Summary Q & A”

Is Free Will an Illusion? Not by These 5 Rules

“Is free will an illusion?” Four of 6 philosophers surveyed by the online Chronicle of Higher Education in 2012 agreed that free will is an illusion. One said no, and one gave an in-between answer.

The majority answer derives from an arbitrary assumption of objectivity. That assumption, even when recognized as arbitrary, remains difficult to discard.

Not only in 2012, but from the earliest time I can remember thinking about GSOT, the question of free will and its arbitrary answer has provoked in me the long search described in these blogs. Continue reading “Is Free Will an Illusion? Not by These 5 Rules”

Sonya or Leo Tolstoy – Whose Side Are You On?

In October 1910 the world-renowned author and Christian reformer Leo Tolstoy, age 82, fled his ancestral home at Yasnaya Polyana south of Moscow and boarded a train headed toward the Caucasas Mountains. He did not travel far. What happened next transfixed the attention of the world.

It’s a story mainly about two good, virtuous persons – Leo and his wife Sonya – and a third good, virtuous person named Vladimir Chertkov. The 8 Tolstoy children had their roles to play also, taking largely but not unanimously their mother’s side because of her concern for their welfare. Continue reading “Sonya or Leo Tolstoy – Whose Side Are You On?”

Tolstoy, History, and Mutual Will

Which offers more, a good movie or a good novel? Many would answer that a good movie offers more – pictures in motion, sounds, dialogue, close-up facial expressions, special effects, and mood-setting music.

But the viewpoint of a movie remains external, and with few exceptions the thoughts of the actors must be evoked through audible speech and visible expression or action. By reading a good novel, a person can enter the minds of multiple characters interacting with each other. Continue reading “Tolstoy, History, and Mutual Will”

Sonya Tolstoy’s Contribution

Feminism sprang up as a social movement a few decades after Leo Tolstoy published his two great novels. Predating feminism, both War and Peace and Anna Karenina feature female characters whose lifelike portrayal equals and often exceeds that of the male protagonists.

In War and Peace, Natasha Rostov provides the developing character around whom the male figures come and go. In addition we meet Anna Pavlovna Scherer, who commands the true center of Petersburg society, orphan Sonya, the Rostovs’ niece, whose fate past childhood hangs in the balance, and Maria Bolkonsky, whose moral elevation redeems those around her. Anna Karenina has 4 major characters paired as Anna and Vronsky, Kitty and Levin, as well as a touching portrait of Varenka, a common girl raised and educated by an heiress.

Tolstoy leads his female and male readers alike not only to appreciate the women in his novels, but to identify with them, to feel their pain and their victories. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment, and one wonders how these fictional women became so true to life. Continue reading “Sonya Tolstoy’s Contribution”