Anna karenina, p.7
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       Anna Karenina, p.7

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 7

  On arriving in Moscow by a morning train, Levin had put up at the houseof his elder half-brother, Koznishev. After changing his clothes he wentdown to his brother's study, intending to talk to him at once about theobject of his visit, and to ask his advice; but his brother was notalone. With him there was a well-known professor of philosophy, who hadcome from Harkov expressly to clear up a difference that had arisenbetween them on a very important philosophical question. The professorwas carrying on a hot crusade against materialists. Sergey Koznishev hadbeen following this crusade with interest, and after reading theprofessor's last article, he had written him a letter stating hisobjections. He accused the professor of making too great concessions tothe materialists. And the professor had promptly appeared to argue thematter out. The point in discussion was the question then in vogue: Isthere a line to be drawn between psychological and physiologicalphenomena in man? and if so, where?

  Sergey Ivanovitch met his brother with the smile of chilly friendlinesshe always had for everyone, and introducing him to the professor, wenton with the conversation.

  A little man in spectacles, with a narrow forehead, tore himself fromthe discussion for an instant to greet Levin, and then went on talkingwithout paying any further attention to him. Levin sat down to wait tillthe professor should go, but he soon began to get interested in thesubject under discussion.

  Levin had come across the magazine articles about which they weredisputing, and had read them, interested in them as a development of thefirst principles of science, familiar to him as a natural sciencestudent at the university. But he had never connected these scientificdeductions as to the origin of man as an animal, as to reflex action,biology, and sociology, with those questions as to the meaning of lifeand death to himself, which had of late been more and more often in hismind.

  As he listened to his brother's argument with the professor, he noticedthat they connected these scientific questions with those spiritualproblems, that at times they almost touched on the latter; but everytime they were close upon what seemed to him the chief point, theypromptly beat a hasty retreat, and plunged again into a sea of subtledistinctions, reservations, quotations, allusions, and appeals toauthorities, and it was with difficulty that he understood what theywere talking about.

  "I cannot admit it," said Sergey Ivanovitch, with his habitualclearness, precision of expression, and elegance of phrase. "I cannot inany case agree with Keiss that my whole conception of the external worldhas been derived from perceptions. The most fundamental idea, the ideaof existence, has not been received by me through sensation; indeed,there is no special sense-organ for the transmission of such an idea."

  "Yes, but they--Wurt, and Knaust, and Pripasov--would answer that yourconsciousness of existence is derived from the conjunction of all yoursensations, that that consciousness of existence is the result of yoursensations. Wurt, indeed, says plainly that, assuming there are nosensations, it follows that there is no idea of existence."

  "I maintain the contrary," began Sergey Ivanovitch.

  But here it seemed to Levin that just as they were close upon the realpoint of the matter, they were again retreating, and he made up his mindto put a question to the professor.

  "According to that, if my senses are annihilated, if my body is dead, Ican have no existence of any sort?" he queried.

  The professor, in annoyance, and, as it were, mental suffering at theinterruption, looked round at the strange inquirer, more like a bargemanthan a philosopher, and turned his eyes upon Sergey Ivanovitch, asthough to ask: What's one to say to him? But Sergey Ivanovitch, who hadbeen talking with far less heat and one-sidedness than the professor,and who had sufficient breadth of mind to answer the professor, and atthe same time to comprehend the simple and natural point of view fromwhich the question was put, smiled and said:

  "That question we have no right to answer as yet."

  "We have not the requisite data," chimed in the professor, and he wentback to his argument. "No," he said; "I would point out the fact thatif, as Pripasov directly asserts, perception is based on sensation, thenwe are bound to distinguish sharply between these two conceptions."

  Levin listened no more, and simply waited for the professor to go.

 

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