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My Confession

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By: (1828-1910)

"My Confession" is a brief autobiographical story of Leo Tolstoy's struggle with a mid-life existential crisis of melancholia. It describes his search for answers to the profound questions "What will come of my life?" and "What is the meaning of life?", without answers to which life, for him, had become "impossible." Tolstoy reflects on the arc of his philosophical life until then: his childhood abandonment of his Russian orthodox faith; his mastery of strength, will, power, and reason; and how, after he had achieved tremendous financial success and social status, life to him seemed meaningless. After despairing of his attempts to find answers in science, philosophy, eastern wisdom, and his fellow men of letters, he describes his turn to the wisdom of the common people and his attempts to reconcile their instinctive faith with the dictates of his reason. The main body of the text ends with the author reaching a compromise: faith, he realizes, is a necessity, but it must be constrained by reason. However, an epilogue that describes a dream he had some time after completing the body of the text suggests that he has undergone a radical personal and spiritual transformation.

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