Day 86 of A Year of War and Peace
Today Pierre answers that perennial question — partly at least — as to whether or not philosophy is practical at all. The answer, it turns out, at least for today, is that, yes, in some cases it actually is.
Consider Pierre before his philosophical encounter with the Freemasons. He’s been pretty much all over the place. In one of our first chapters with him, way back at Anna Pavlovna’s first soiree, we see that his mind is so frenetic he can just barely articulate his ideas on Napoleon. He definitely can’t defend them. Later, he’s also quite literally tricked into marrying Helene. So he’s not the most mentally fortitudinous of individuals. Not yet anyway. We’ll see first if the lessons he’s learning with the Freemasons aid him in his quest for self-improvement. Then we’ll see, if they do, whether or not they’ll stick with him and become a part of his personality.
Today Pierre is offered an opportunity to practice what he’s been preached. In fact, the chapter opens with Pierre reading a book the Freemasons have given him. Some of these ideas, therefore, are fresh in his mind. As he reads he reflects on how he should employ these new ideas in his life. Then his father-in-law, Prince Vasili, enters. Vasili, you’ll recall, is pretty much Pierre’s greatest enemy, pushing Pierre to do things he wouldn’t otherwise have done. Today Vasili wants Pierre to return to his wife.
But this time Pierre does not submit. He goes with what he thinks to be right according to his new philosophical principles. He demands that Vasili leave him in peace and then he goes about his business.
Put your reading into practice immediately.
Seneca, Letter on The Subjects of Philosophy