Interestingly enough, after the more personal and less directly historical Books 6, 7, and 8, Tolstoy begins Book 9 with a long philosophical digression on the nature of history, causation, and freedom. To me, this seems to only reinforce one of the points Tolstoy makes regarding history – that ultimately, everything is historical, even the most intimate details of the personal lives of individuals (such as the touching scene between Pierre and Natasha at the end of Book 8). Of course, this touches upon the distinction Tolstoy draws between the “individual life” and the “elemental hive life” of the individual, and upon Tolstoy’s rather odd statement that one’s “individual life is the more free the more abstract its interests” (537). It would seem that Tolstoy is claiming that, the further one removes oneself from practical affairs, the more one escapes the “hive life,” the historical drive. But it seems that the decision to withdraw from practical affairs is just as susceptible to transformation into historical fact as practical action—so perhaps Tolstoy means that withdrawing into abstract affairs makes one less susceptible to the social impulse of history.
This brings up another point: that, for Tolstoy, history seems to be psychologically and socially driven, but not causally or consciously driven. History marches toward a goal, but the goal is chosen not by a rational principle but by “the unconscious, general hive life of mankind" (537). Yet we should probably be careful in saying that for Tolstoy history is irrational, given Tolstoy’s remark on page 537 about the nature of irrational events. It might be better to say that, for Tolstoy, the progress of history does not conform to anyone’s conscious aims. Moreover, history is not driven by any sort of recognizable causality—we cannot pick out a neat, discrete set of causes for a given historical event; we can only say that the totality of historical facts prior to the event led to the event via coincidence. Given the weightiness of Tolstoy’s discussion of history, the beginning of Book 9 marks a pronounced shift in perspective (or perhaps a pronounced declaration of a perspective) on the lives of the characters.