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Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy

Volume 24, Issue 2, Spring 2020

Russell Winslow
Pages 433-451

Enlightenment Infinitesimals and Tolstoy’s War and Peace

During the Enlightenment period the concept of the infinitesimal was developed as a means to solve the mathematical problem of the incommensurability between human reason and the movements of physical beings. In this essay, the author analyzes the metaphysical prejudices subtending Enlightenment Humanism through the lens of the infinitesimal calculus. One of the consequences of this analysis is the perception of a two-fold possibility occasioned by the infinitesimal. On the one hand, it occasions an extreme form of humanism, “transhumanism,” which exhibits limitless confidence in the possibility of human science. On the other hand, the concept of the infinitesimal also contains within itself a source for a critical “posthumanism,” that is to say, a source which initiates the dissolution of the presuppositions of humanism while simultaneously announcing a different ontological organization. In , Tostoy’s novel takes up the problem of the relation between reason and motion and makes the two-fold possibility visible by presenting a contrast between its theoretical presentations and the lived experiences of the characters in the novel. Thus, is the setting in which the author has chosen to conduct this analysis.

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