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War and Peace

War and Peace

by Leo Tolstoy

Morality and Ethics Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #1

"But one must be indulgent towards little weaknesses—who doesn't have them, André! Don't forget that she grew up and was formed in society. And then, her position now isn't very rosy. One must enter into each person's position. Tout comprendre, c'est tout pardoner. [To understand all is to forgive all.] Just think how it is for the poor dear, in her condition, after the life she's used to, to part with her husband and remain alone in the country? It's very hard."  (1.1.25.8)

Marya says this about her sister-in-law Liza. The kind of deeply insightful empathy that Marya exhibits here stems from her religious beliefs. Later, however, she will not demonstrate such empathy when she meets Natasha. Why?

Quote #2

"You [Nikolai] don't want to apologize, but you, my dear boy, are to blame all around, not only before him, but before the whole regiment, before us all. And here's how: you might have reflected and taken advice on how to handle this matter, but you blurted it right out, and in front of officers. What's the regimental commander to do now? Should he prosecute the officer and besmirch the whole regiment? Disgrace the whole regiment because of one scoundrel? Is that your view of it? Well, it's not ours. And Bogdanych is a fine fellow for saying you weren't telling the truth. It's unpleasant, but what's to be done, my dear boy, you asked for it. And now, when the affair should be hushed up, out of some sort of cockiness you refuse to apologize, but want to have it all out. It offends you that you have to go on duty, but what is it for you to apologize to an old and honorable officer! Whatever Bogdanych may have done, he is, after all, an honorable and brave old colonel—and yet you're offended, and to besmirch the whole regiment is nothing to you!" The staff captain's voice began to tremble. "You, my dear boy, have been with the regiment next to no time; here today, tomorrow somewhere else as a little adjutant; you couldn't care less if people say: 'There are thieves among the Pavlogradsky officers!' But it's not all the same to us." (1.2.5.13)

Here the difference is between written ethical rules and the unwritten customs and morals that surround them. Nikolai witnessed someone stealing, but reporting it publicly was actually worse than the original crime. Nikolai's actions are now threatening the reputation of the community rather than just the property of one individual.

Quote #3

Tushin did not tell him that there were no covering troops, though that was the plain truth. He was afraid to let down another officer that way and silently, with fixed eyes, looked straight into Bagration's face, as a confused student looks into his examiner's eyes. (1.2.21.96)

This is the problem with being an overbearing leader – you'll be surrounded by people too scared to tell you the truth. The immediate threat of personal retaliation will almost always win over ethical responsibility, just like it does here.

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