(Churchman [1946]) Hugh Barber–The Liberal and Post-Liberal Estimate of Man

Count Leo Tolstoi wrote an interesting spiritual autobiography which he .entitled ” Christ’s Christianity.” In it he declared that most of his life had been based on belief in the
doctrine of general perfectibility. “This belief,” he says, “may be summed up in the word ‘ progress.’ Everything develops, and I myself develop as well ; and why this is so will one day be apparent.” This facile philosophy failed to provide Tolstoi with an explanation of decay and death: “There Was a time when I was myself developing, when my muscles and memory were strengthening, my power of thinking and understanding on the increase. I, feeling this, very naturally thought that the law of my own growth was the law of the universe and explained the meaning of my own life. But there came another time when I had ceased to grow, and I felt that I was not developing but drying up; my muscles grew weaker, my teeth began to fall out, and I saw that this law of growth, not only explained nothing, but that such a law did not and could not exist; that I had taken for a general law what only affected myself at a given age.” A period of despair descended upon Tolstoi when he realised that his optimistic philosophy was a psychological rationalisation of his personal experience. This disillusionment carried him forth from academic speculation into the common ways of men. From the peasantry he sought to learn the meaning of life. For the Count, and his circle, life was hollow and pointless ; for the poor, the labouring, and the humble, life had meaning. Why was this? It was, he observed, because the common, unlearned. people had that childlike faith which sustained them in happiness and peace. They did not reason ; they believed ; and through their belief they found comfort and joy.

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