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Tolstoy, Mormonism and free will


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I’m finishing up War And Peace this week, and first off want to recommend this book. It’s a long read (started reading it last January) but it’s a work that makes you think deeply about the human condition both individually and collectively, which goes to my OP discussion. As I’m reading the second epilogue, Tolstoy seems to indicate that as human beings our free will is actually more limited then we’d like to believe, as we are subject to political, cultural, and other currents that powerfully influence our behavior. This got me thinking about the LDS concept of agency. Even though I think Tolstoy has some good points about how we are influenced by our environment, I think Tolstoy underestimates how much the acquisition of knowledge can cause us to go against what some would consider fate or destiny and act more freely for ourselves. This causes me to think part of the blessings of Grace is that we are more aware of our sins and shortcomings and can choose to be changed.

So what do you all think? Are there limits to our free will? If so why? If not why not?

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1 hour ago, boblloyd91 said:

This causes me to think part of the blessings of Grace is that we are more aware of our sins and shortcomings and can choose to be changed.

I think you're spot on. My personal experience is that the Restored Gospel removes blinders. I have found this especially true of the Book of Mormon. The first time I read it, it was a labour that took me 10 months. The second time, I couldn't put it down. And the more I read, the more clearly I saw how much I had been limited and shaped by political, cultural, and other currents that had powerfully influenced not just my behaviour but also my thought patterns., my assumptions about the world, and even my desires. Just seeing that reality was the first step for me of becoming a true agent. Every facet of the Gospel liberates those who embrace it. Every. Single. One.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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1 hour ago, boblloyd91 said:

This causes me to think part of the blessings of Grace is that we are more aware of our sins and shortcomings and can choose to be changed.

      I do not know about the blessings of Grace but I always wonder if the baptism of fire on a personal level is that we can feel all our sins for a short period of time but that the experience includes protection by the Lord so that it does not cause damage to the person.   

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2 hours ago, boblloyd91 said:

I’m finishing up War And Peace this week, and first off want to recommend this book. It’s a long read (started reading it last January) but it’s a work that makes you think deeply about the human condition both individually and collectively, which goes to my OP discussion. As I’m reading the second epilogue, Tolstoy seems to indicate that as human beings our free will is actually more limited then we’d like to believe, as we are subject to political, cultural, and other currents that powerfully influence our behavior. This got me thinking about the LDS concept of agency. Even though I think Tolstoy has some good points about how we are influenced by our environment, I think Tolstoy underestimates how much the acquisition of knowledge can cause us to go against what some would consider fate or destiny and act more freely for ourselves. This causes me to think part of the blessings of Grace is that we are more aware of our sins and shortcomings and can choose to be changed.

So what do you all think? Are there limits to our free will? If so why? If not why not?

I think that if we covenant with God to do something, He may take that pretty seriously. As Yeshua said, the people of Sidon and Tyre may have an easier time of it that the Hebrews of Bethsaida, who rejected the many miracles He did, and rejected Him. When entering into a covenant, we have already used our free agency, have we not? What I'm saying is that the free agency of the people of Tyre was on a different level that the free agency of the priests of Israel - God looks on use of agency against knowledge as being more culpable, but yeah the agency to reject the truth is still there.

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17 minutes ago, RevTestament said:

I think that if we covenant with God to do something, He may take that pretty seriously. As Yeshua said, the people of Sidon and Tyre may have an easier time of it that the Hebrews of Bethsaida, who rejected the many miracles He did, and rejected Him. When entering into a covenant, we have already used our free agency, have we not? What I'm saying is that the free agency of the people of Tyre was on a different level that the free agency of the priests of Israel - God looks on use of agency against knowledge as being more culpable, but yeah the agency to reject the truth is still there.

I agree completely that we have different levels of agency!

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1 hour ago, Metis_LDS said:

      I do not know about the blessings of Grace but I always wonder if the baptism of fire on a personal level is that we can feel all our sins for a short period of time but that the experience includes protection by the Lord so that it does not cause damage to the person.   

What has led you to believe this is a possibility?  Do you mean like Alma the 2nd experienced? (Mosiah 27:29)

"My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was rackedwith eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more."

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Well the belief stems from a personal experience while praying.  It was like I suffered from all my sins past, present and even

future ones.  I just kept saying out loud while crying heavily (like a small child after being caught in the act) to God that I was sorry really sorry it lasted about ten minutes in waves of guilt, afterwards I was exhausted.  It was like Alma the 2nd only in that "My soul was racked" with intense guilt knowing I was guilty of all the wrongs in my own life, but I was not harmed by the experience. It was a powerful experience I have always remembered. So such as that maybe the baptism of fire.

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4 hours ago, boblloyd91 said:

I’m finishing up War And Peace this week, and first off want to recommend this book. It’s a long read (started reading it last January) but it’s a work that makes you think deeply about the human condition both individually and collectively, which goes to my OP discussion. As I’m reading the second epilogue, Tolstoy seems to indicate that as human beings our free will is actually more limited then we’d like to believe, as we are subject to political, cultural, and other currents that powerfully influence our behavior. This got me thinking about the LDS concept of agency. Even though I think Tolstoy has some good points about how we are influenced by our environment, I think Tolstoy underestimates how much the acquisition of knowledge can cause us to go against what some would consider fate or destiny and act more freely for ourselves. This causes me to think part of the blessings of Grace is that we are more aware of our sins and shortcomings and can choose to be changed.

So what do you all think? Are there limits to our free will? If so why? If not why not?

Congrats on finishing up War and Peace. You are joining an elite clique of people with literary endurance. Or possibly masochism depending on what you thought of the book.

Tolstoy is impeccably Russian in this view. Russian literature is mostly depressing and often conveys a feeling of being trapped by circumstance. A key Russian virtue is enduring what comes no matter how bad. Not necessarily cheerfully but just getting through it.

Tolstoy also very badly wanted to denigrate the idea that Napoleon was a genius and so turned him into someone who was just lucky.

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17 minutes ago, Metis_LDS said:

Well the belief stems from a personal experience while praying.  It was like I suffered from all my sins past, present and even

future ones.  I just kept saying out loud while crying heavily (like a small child after being caught in the act) to God that I was sorry really sorry it lasted about ten minutes in waves of guilt, afterwards I was exhausted.  It was like Alma the 2nd only in that "My soul was racked" with intense guilt knowing I was guilty of all the wrongs in my own life, but I was not harmed by the experience. It was a powerful experience I have always remembered. So such as that maybe the baptism of fire.

Thanks for sharing.

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15 minutes ago, The Nehor said:

So what do you all think? Are there limits to our free will? If so why? If not why not?

No limits to free will within ourselves. What is it Stephen Hawking says in his television program at the

start "In my mind I am free"

What I find really interesting is if you start making only unselfish decisions someone will try to question you.

 

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2 hours ago, The Nehor said:

Congrats on finishing up War and Peace. You are joining an elite clique of people with literary endurance. Or possibly masochism depending on what you thought of the book.

Tolstoy is impeccably Russian in this view. Russian literature is mostly depressing and often conveys a feeling of being trapped by circumstance. A key Russian virtue is enduring what comes no matter how bad. Not necessarily cheerfully but just getting through it.

Tolstoy also very badly wanted to denigrate the idea that Napoleon was a genius and so turned him into someone who was just lucky.

Thanks! I actually have grown quite fond of Russian literature since reading “The Brothers Karanazov”. I completely agree with you though, one doesn’t read those Russian books for kicks and giggles. I also liked how Tolstoy described Napoleon, certainly didn’t mince words!

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On 1/21/2018 at 12:53 PM, boblloyd91 said:

I’m finishing up War And Peace this week, and first off want to recommend this book. It’s a long read (started reading it last January) but it’s a work that makes you think deeply about the human condition both individually and collectively, which goes to my OP discussion. As I’m reading the second epilogue, Tolstoy seems to indicate that as human beings our free will is actually more limited then we’d like to believe, as we are subject to political, cultural, and other currents that powerfully influence our behavior. This got me thinking about the LDS concept of agency. Even though I think Tolstoy has some good points about how we are influenced by our environment, I think Tolstoy underestimates how much the acquisition of knowledge can cause us to go against what some would consider fate or destiny and act more freely for ourselves. This causes me to think part of the blessings of Grace is that we are more aware of our sins and shortcomings and can choose to be changed.

So what do you all think? Are there limits to our free will? If so why? If not why not?

Bob hey. Great read huh? 

I love War and Peace. I will probably be reading it for the fourth time in the next couple of years. (I need to slip in another Anna K. first) Tolstoy is a GREAT story teller. Perhaps my favorite. I do not read him though for truth, but for the scope of his intellectual exercises. He goes way out on limbs that I think break beneath the weight. It seems to me that if you examine his corpus, he was unstable in his beliefs. His historical ideas about how Napoleon was somehow just a pawn in a game of fate, that the French had to come east, is in my opinion nonsense. If you have ever read Crime and Punishment by Dostoevksy, he presents an opposing view. The main character sees himself as an indivual superman, one who aspires to Napoleonic exploits. Nevermind that all he manages to do is put a hatchet into an old woman's head. Both authors are considering freedom. The one (Dostoevsky) suggests that the potential is always there for a single individual to change history. The other (Tolstoy) seems to me to believe at the time of War and Peace, that mass movements are inevitable. I believe that Tolstoy's ideas ultimately are reflected in those of Marx and Lenin who eventually convinced themselves that the Communist Revolution was inevitable because of a similar approach to history as Tolstoy took in War and Peace. 

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On 1/21/2018 at 12:53 PM, boblloyd91 said:

I’m finishing up War And Peace this week, and first off want to recommend this book. It’s a long read (started reading it last January) but it’s a work that makes you think deeply about the human condition both individually and collectively, which goes to my OP discussion. As I’m reading the second epilogue, Tolstoy seems to indicate that as human beings our free will is actually more limited then we’d like to believe, as we are subject to political, cultural, and other currents that powerfully influence our behavior. This got me thinking about the LDS concept of agency. Even though I think Tolstoy has some good points about how we are influenced by our environment, I think Tolstoy underestimates how much the acquisition of knowledge can cause us to go against what some would consider fate or destiny and act more freely for ourselves. This causes me to think part of the blessings of Grace is that we are more aware of our sins and shortcomings and can choose to be changed.

So what do you all think? Are there limits to our free will? If so why? If not why not?

When I think of Tolstoy's War and Peace, I think of the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon tries to find fulfillment in a dozen different kinds of activity and fails. Notice how every major character ends up disappointed. Whether it is service to the Czar (Natasha's brother who is foolishly killed at the end), to the poor (Prince Andrei's sister), to Freemasonry (Pierre), everyone is eventually disillusioned. I could be wrong, but I see Tolstoy as having been intellectually/morally disillusioned a lot in his rich life, and while not necessarily embracing every idea his characters embrace, he is a skeptic, at the time of the writing, of finding that which gives lasting satsifaction...like the author of Ecclesiastes.

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1 minute ago, 3DOP said:

When I think of Tolstoy's War and Peace, I think of the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon tries to find fulfillment in a dozen different kinds of activity and fails. Notice how every major character ends up disappointed. Whether it is service to the Czar (Natasha's brother who is foolishly killed at the end), to the poor (Prince Andrei's sister), to Freemasonry (Pierre), everyone is eventually disillusioned. I could be wrong, but I see Tolstoy as having been intellectually/morally disillusioned a lot in his rich life, and while not necessarily embracing every idea his characters embrace, he is a skeptic, at the time of the writing, of finding that which gives lasting satsifaction...like the author of Ecclesiastes.

Spoilers!!!!

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13 minutes ago, 3DOP said:

If you remove evil, where is mercy, for there is no one to forgive. If you remove evil, where is compassion, for there is no one who suffers. If you remove evil, where is courage, for there is nothing to fear. I conclude that the presence of evil is therefore compatible with a good God, who is omnipotent, and who sees that it is better for the sake of freedom to allow evil, than to make a world where nothing ever goes wrong. 

We discussed these exact points in my Sunday school lesson on agency this week.

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52 minutes ago, 3DOP said:

When I think of Tolstoy's War and Peace, I think of the book of Ecclesiastes. Solomon tries to find fulfillment in a dozen different kinds of activity and fails. Notice how every major character ends up disappointed. Whether it is service to the Czar (Natasha's brother who is foolishly killed at the end), to the poor (Prince Andrei's sister), to Freemasonry (Pierre), everyone is eventually disillusioned. I could be wrong, but I see Tolstoy as having been intellectually/morally disillusioned a lot in his rich life, and while not necessarily embracing every idea his characters embrace, he is a skeptic, at the time of the writing, of finding that which gives lasting satsifaction...like the author of Ecclesiastes.

I love this! Call it coincidence but I’ve been studying the book of Ecclesiastes rather intensely these past few weeks, but didn’t make that connection. I am most struck by Pierre, whose journey to finding meaning throughout the book was so beautiful yet frustrating. I think the chapters detailing Prince Andrew’s death and Pierre’s change and return from capture (particularly after meeting Karateav) are some of the most sublime passages I’ve read in literature. I have another level of appreciation now for both War and Peace as well as Ecclesiastes.

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1 hour ago, 3DOP said:

Bob hey. Great read huh? 

I love War and Peace. I will probably be reading it for the fourth time in the next couple of years. (I need to slip in another Anna K. first) Tolstoy is a GREAT story teller. Perhaps my favorite. I do not read him though for truth, but for the scope of his intellectual exercises. He goes way out on limbs that I think break beneath the weight. It seems to me that if you examine his corpus, he was unstable in his beliefs. His historical ideas about how Napoleon was somehow just a pawn in a game of fate, that the French had to come east, is in my opinion nonsense. If you have ever read Crime and Punishment by Dostoevksy, he presents an opposing view. The main character sees himself as an indivual superman, one who aspires to Napoleonic exploits. Nevermind that all he manages to do is put a hatchet into an old woman's head. Both authors are considering freedom. The one (Dostoevsky) suggests that the potential is always there for a single individual to change history. The other (Tolstoy) seems to me to believe at the time of War and Peace, that mass movements are inevitable. I believe that Tolstoy's ideas ultimately are reflected in those of Marx and Lenin who eventually convinced themselves that the Communist Revolution was inevitable because of a similar approach to history as Tolstoy took in War and Peace. 

I’m still deciding who I like better. I’ve read Dostoevsky more, but War and Peace is really good. I still can’t get over how beautiful The Brothers Karamazov was though. I see what you mean about Tolstoy compared to Dostoevsky though, his works seemed a bit more serene to me, in that there is a greater sense of the divine with him.

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1 hour ago, Calm said:

Spoilers!!!!

Heh, cal.

You could remember everything I just said, and it wouldn't affect the dramatic impact. It doesn't matter if you remember what is coming. Every time I read it, I hope Prince Andrei lives. Maybe he does? Read and find out!

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Here's an 8 minute discussion of these issues.

 

And then you have the Pragmatists who say none of this matters because we still act as if our choices are our own and if you are a bad guy you go to jail anyway for doing bad stuff.

That's me.  :)

Anything else is confused thinking.  ;)

Philosophy has advanced since Tolstoy.  

 

Edited by mfbukowski
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On 1/21/2018 at 3:53 PM, boblloyd91 said:

I’m finishing up War And Peace this week, and first off want to recommend this book. It’s a long read (started reading it last January) but it’s a work that makes you think deeply about the human condition both individually and collectively, which goes to my OP discussion. As I’m reading the second epilogue, Tolstoy seems to indicate that as human beings our free will is actually more limited then we’d like to believe, as we are subject to political, cultural, and other currents that powerfully influence our behavior. This got me thinking about the LDS concept of agency. Even though I think Tolstoy has some good points about how we are influenced by our environment, I think Tolstoy underestimates how much the acquisition of knowledge can cause us to go against what some would consider fate or destiny and act more freely for ourselves. This causes me to think part of the blessings of Grace is that we are more aware of our sins and shortcomings and can choose to be changed.

So what do you all think? Are there limits to our free will? If so why? If not why not?

I’ve been told that agency is an illusion; that my thoughts, feelings, spirituality and choices are part of a chain of physical reactions that began generations ago, and then eons before that. Just like randomness, it is an imagined concept that gives my thoughts, feelings and choices meaning, and that need for meaning is yet another part of that same physical chain, and believing all that or not are part of the same chain. Also, that the part of my brain that remembers my ever-fleeting experiences “controls” (control is an illusion; it is only another part of the chain) the narrative for my past, present and future, both in terms of acknowledged fact and interpreted meaning.

So what? Sounds to me like a lot like a Heavenly Father with intelligent spirit children, a plan of salvation, and a veil. What a wonderful narrative I’ve constructed for certain unexpected and foreseen experiences that I can only perceive them as coming from God!

So yes, there are limits to our free will... :)

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5 hours ago, mfbukowski said:

Uh oh.

Now you're going all LDS on us....  ;)

Who am I supposed to argue with ?  ;)

 

Thanks Mark...Don't worry. Something is bound to come up. ;)

Edited by 3DOP
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On 1/22/2018 at 10:16 PM, 3DOP said:

It seems that God gives us unlimited freedom.

As you indicated, this includes the freedom to impinge upon the free will of others, and for others to impinge upon ours. But I think that is only so on this side of the veil. On His side, I think both freedom and free will are unlimited, but our exercise of freedom and will land us in kingdoms that may or may not be aligned with His (hence the war in heaven and its respective outcomes for those that kept and those that did not keep the first estate, the degrees of glory, etc.).

On His side of the veil, we act and are not acted upon. On this side of the veil, we are acted upon. This is why we need the Savior: His Atonement brings a quantum of life (the light of Christ) from His side of the veil into this one, and we can act with intent to return to His kingdom on the other side of the veil.

This is why, in my example above, I like to compare (for those who say there is no free will at all) the veil with what we know beyond the edge of the observable universe. Consistent with the function of veil, they do not know, but some will say it is (infinitely) more of the same, some other massive structure, other universes, etc. and other expressions of faith.

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