The Spell of Causality: Theories of Consciousness in Tolstoj’s Anna Karenina and Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason

Steven Mannos, University of Chicago

In this paper I take up the question of Tolstoj’s theory of mind at work in Anna Karenina. My analysis will respond directly to the work of Richard Gustafson and Donna Orwin but will also invoke the work of more structuralist-oriented readings such as those of Elizabeth Stenbock-Fermor, and Èjxenbaum. However the aim of the paper is not the structure of the novel but Tolstoj’s theory of consciousness and its affinity with Kant’s theory of the mind as transcendental. While other scholars have made direct links between Tolstoj and other philosophers, the Kantian connection has only been alluded to on the ethical/moral level and not on the level of a theory of consciousness or mind. The evidence that justifies placing Kant with Tolstoj comes from observations in Gustafson’s book Tolstoy: Resident and Stranger, where he characterizes Tolstoj’s metaphysics as “a movement out of the self toward something other, uniting this other to itself.” Also at work is Gustafson’s notion of man’s vocation as “self articulation”. This discussion is always included in a greater discussion of God and theology. My analysis will take these observations of Gustafson that are philosophical in nature and show that Tolstoj’s treatment of subjectivity is best seen in light of Kant’s theory of the subject. The affinity with Kantian metaphysics will reveal the Judeo-Christian backdrop of the novel as a problem of causality and human freedom versus necessity. What begins as an analysis of a theory of mind leads to a discussion of what one can expect from a “god” in Tolstoj’s world and how this is better understood in the context of Kant’s critique of the possibilities (faculties) of the mind.