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Die Grenzen des Begriffs in ‚Anna Karenina‘

Günther Clemens

Pages 393 - 416

The Limits of Concepts in ‚Anna Karenina‘
While working on Anna Karenina, Lev Tolstoi was intensely reflecting on the possibilities and limitations of philosophical thinking. Dissatisfied with his reading of Kant, Hegel, and other philosophers, Tolstoi eventually underwent a conversion and turned toward religious thinking. The paper argues that this philosophical crisis becomes visible in Anna Karenina as a crisis of conceptual thinking. By examining the status of philosophy in the novel, I argue that the novel is highly critical of conceptual reasoning and reframes true philosophical thinking as a dialogical, proto-existential meditation on the meaning of life. Public discourse and reason, both highly relying on conceptual thinking, are unable to provide insight into the meaning of life. On the example of the depiction of love and death in the novel, I show how the novel experiments with nonverbal and nonreferential modes of narration.


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