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In 1923, Hesse settled in Switzerland, where he had been living for the past ten years and remained until his death in 1962. There he adopted a stance of detachment from political struggles, which he presented as an example for Europe’s beleaguered intelligentsia. But what was the positive content of his vision, if any? Did it serve any impulse higher than an anxious need for peace and quiet? These are questions Decker does not answer.

When saying, “Did it serve any impulse...,” what is pronoun “it” referring to? Can you paraphrase the highlighted part please?

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"It" refers to the word "vision" in the previous sentence. In this context, vision means someone’s idea or hope of how something should be done, or how it will be in the future (Macmillan Dictionary). So, in other words:

Was that new idea (of adopting a stance of detachment from political struggles) something more than just need for peace and quiet?

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The word impulse is sometimes used as a synonym for motive, purpose, intention.

He established a non-profit organization out of an impulse to improve the welfare of retired rodeo clowns.

To serve an impulse means "to further a purpose".

A higher impulse could be paraphrased as a more noble purpose.

Thus the original question can be paraphrased:

Was Hesse's retreat from politics anything more noble than the personal need of an anxious man for some peace and quiet?

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