An educated fury: faith and doubt

Novelists are used to their characters getting away from them. Tolstoy once complained that Katyusha Maslova was “dictating” her actions to him as he wrestled with the plot of his last novel,
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Novelists are used to their characters getting away from them. Tolstoy once complained that Katyusha Maslova was “dictating” her actions to him as he wrestled with the plot of his last novel, Resurrection. There was a story that after reading Mikhail Sholokhov’s And Quiet Flows the Don, Stalin praised the work but advised the author to “convince” the main character, Melekhov, to stop loafing about and start serving in the Red Army. At their next meeting, Sholokhov said to Stalin, “I tried to do that, but Melekhov does not want it.” The challenge of controlling the material is one that historians also face, even if the stakes are generally lower. “It does seem,” Carl Becker once protested, “that people living in past times often act as if the convenience of the future historian were a matter of negligible importance.” When I began a project on the ethical roots of unbelief, I had a clear sense of what I was going to argue. It would be a history of conscience in which morality triumphs. . .

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News source: OUPblog » Philosophy

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