The Second Epilogue offers an extended examination of the laws of history and also argues that we do not understand the meaning of the word power. A military organization is likened to a cone: the more actions a man performs in the military, the less he commands.
The part played by the French in their defeat is discussed and they are described as having shipwrecked and butchered one another. There is then a lengthy debate about the relationship between freewill and necessity and how these two concepts are in tension with each other. These ideas are related to the process of understanding the past: 'The more remote in history the object of our observation the more doubtful we feel of the freewill of those concerned in the event and the more manifest becomes the law of necessity.' Our understanding of the external world, it is argued, affects our understanding of freewill and necessity. Necessity is the examiner of freedom.
This final section is used as a space for continuing the theoretical debate about freewill and relations of power and is particularly philosophical in its reach as the tension between freewill and necessity is alluded to. The characters that have peopled this expansive work are now left behind as abstract thought is negotiated.
The analysis of how power operates in the military has been referred to previously in other Books, but using the symbol of the cone to demonstrate this debate is a new introduction. It supports the thesis that it is the actions of many individuals, of numerous wills, that contribute and even determine the process of war. It also demonstrates the lack of invested power in those that perform the majority of the actions.
The description of the tension between freewill and necessity has also been a frame of thought throughout this work. It may be argued that this novel has attempted to describe how each character has participated in Russia's war and peace; each one has not just depended on the orders of the leaders of Russia and France.
War and Peace: Novel Summary: Second Epilogue