Anna Karenina Part 1, Chapter 7 Summary
by Leo Tolstoy

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Part 1, Chapter 7 Summary

After Levin arrived in Moscow by train this morning, he came to his half-brother’s house. After changing clothes and refreshing himself, Levin entered Sergey Ivanovitch Koznishev’s study and intended to talk with him about his plans and ask his advice, but his brother was not alone. He was engaged in a discussion with a professor of philosophy who is writing a series of articles against materialists. After the most recent article, Koznishev wrote the professor a letter stating his objections to the professor’s positions and now the man is here to debate the issue in person.

After greeting Levin with the chilly smile he gives everyone and introducing him to the professor, Koznishev resumes his conversation and both men ignore Levin’s presence. Levin intended just to wait until they were finished, but he finds himself interested in their discussion about man’s origin and spiritual issues such as the meaning of life and death. Lately Levin had been giving much thought to the meaning of life and death, and it is an interesting concept to Levin to connect scientific questions with spiritual problems.

Koznishev says he refuses to believe that his entire conception of the world around him has come from mere perceptions: he believes in existence not because of some sensation but because he exists. The professor argues that his consciousness of existence is derived from the culmination of his sensations, that his belief in existence is merely the result of sensations. And, as several scientists have pointed out, if there are no sensations then there can be no existence. Koznishev begins to argue to the contrary when Levin interrupts with a question of his own: if his body is dead and his senses are annihilated, does he then have no existence of any kind?

The professor is annoyed that a crass non-philosopher has inserted himself into a discussion which is far above his ability to comprehend. He looks at Koznishev as if to ask what one is to say to such a creature, but Levin’s half-brother smiles and says this is a question none of them have the right to answer yet. The professor quickly agrees, and the discussion continues as if there had been no interruption.

Levin stops listening and simply waits for the professor to leave.