10 Tostolyan Conclusions

These conclusions, which paraphrase Tolstoys thought or draw dotted lines from his thought to the present, are offered not as so many truths but as prompts for dialogue.

1. We live in a world of uncertainty. Assured prediction is impossible. History and individual lives contain contingent events that might just as well not have happened. No account that tries to think contingency away can be adequate.

2. There can never be a social science, in the sense that nineteenth-century physics is a science.

3. We need not only knowledge but also wisdom. Wisdom cannot be formalized or expressed adequately in a set of rules. If it could, it would not be wisdom at all. Wisdom is acquired by attentive reflection on experience in all its complexity.

4. Because the world is uncertain, presentness matters. The present moment is not an automatic derivative of the past. In human life, more than one thing can happen at any given moment. Theories that assume otherwise mislead.

5. Because presentness is real, alertness matters. The more uncertain a situation, the greater the value of alertness.

6. Numerous biases distort our perceptions of our lives. We must undeterstand these biases to minimize their effect.

7. The idea that truth lies in the extreme is not only false but also dangerous. Even extraordinary moments are largely the product of what happens at ordinary ones.

8. The road of excess leads to the chamber of horrors.

9. True life takes place when we are doing nothing especially dramatic. The more drama, the worse the life.

10. Plot is an index of error.

Anna Karenina In Our Time
Gary Saul Morson
From the section One Hundred Sixty-Three Tostolyan Conclusions