To Understand Another
Napoleon’s problem seems to be what is discussed in a new Atlantic article: Jerry Useem, “Power Causes Brain Damage”:
Subjects under the influence of power, he found in studies spanning two decades, acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury — becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.
I find such articles bemusing for attributing discoveries to neuroscientists, when novelists have long known about them.
I spent the weekend writing about causation as treated in Chapter 164 of War and Peace and similarly by R. G. Collingwood. For Collingwood, studying history properly means re-enacting it: not by dressing up like nineteenth-century soldiers, but by rethinking their thoughts and (especially) the thoughts of the men commanding them. In this case, it may be difficult to distinguish between history and historical fiction. The distinction seems particularly difficult to make with Tolstoy. How well does he know (and through him, how well do we know) the real Napoleon?