Pierre’s Errors

Day 142 of A Year of War and Peace

ierre has lost his practice. After suffering through Prince Andrei and Natasha’s engagement — he is secretly in love with Natasha — and then his mentor Iosif Alexeevich’s death, Pierre finds himself in a great funk. Like all funky heroes, then, he just wants to go out, get drunk, and have a good time. It doesn’t help. Life, it seems, is still unbearably loathsome.

At the request of his wife, speaking of loathsome, he decides that perhaps a change of scene will do him good so he moves back to Moscow. Moving back to Moscow doesn’t do him any good. You can always change your location. It’s much harder to change your mind.

Sure, there is that pleasant warmth in his body and the general amiability he feels towards his fellow men but that’s merely the wine working its way through his mind. It’s nothing real. He’s lost all sense of sustained contentment that came with the adoption of his philosophical practice. Now, instead of focusing on how to live virtuously and be a better brother to all men, Pierre wastes his time with parties and drink. On the rare occasion he is able to soberly assess his living he finds himself confronted with his failures. Wasn’t he supposed to free his serfs? Help establish a republic in Russia? Be a Napoleon? A philosopher?

What happened?

What happened is he gave up when confronted with difficulty. At just the moment when he needed philosophy the most he abandons it.


Again, in a fever, we should have our judgements ready with regard to that; and not, as soon as we fall into a fever, abandon and forget them all, saying, ‘If I ever study philosophy again, let things turn out as they will. I shall have to go off somewhere and care for my poor body.” As if the fever will not go along with you too! But what is it to study philosophy? Is it not to prepare yourself for future events?

Epictetus, The Discourses

This is the one hundred and forty-second installment in a daily, yearlong, chapter-by-chapter reading devotional and meditation on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. For more information on this project please read the introduction to the series here.

I’m also very interested in hearing what you have to say about the novel. So leave a comment and let me know.

I’m on twitter and I have a webpage if you want to talk more.

For my friends and family, love. For my enemies, durian fruit.

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