Posts tagged ‘Brothers Karamazov’

June 16th, 2012

Dostoevsky’s “Rebellion”

by Max Andrews

Dostoevsky depicts a conversation between two brothers: Ivan and Alyosha.  Ivan is an atheist (a weak category, perhaps) and he observes all the suffering going on in the world.  Alyosha is a Christian and is attempting to bring Ivan closer to the truth that there can be forgiveness.  Ivan has this rebellion against God and doesn’t believe there is such a being that will actually forgive the world of these evils.  Ivan makes the distinction between the sufferings of children and the sufferings of adults.  It’s the adults that Ivan has little sympathy for since they are the only creature that can practice artistic evil.  A tiger maims its prey but it would never even think of nailing the prey’s ears or blowing the brains out of another animal, even if it could.  He suggests that the adults, even the elderly, should be damned because they have eaten the apple (participated in conscious acts of sin).  However, the children have done nothing wrong.  Children have just shown up in existence and have no conscious control or recognition of morality.  When these children are bayoneted, shot in the face, or receive long tortuous beatings and those who fulfill these acts take joy in it this becomes an artistic evil and is unwarranted evil against the children because they have not eaten the apple.

The argument wasn’t so much of a conclusion that God doesn’t exist; rather, it was Ivan’s way of expressing his desire to “return God’s ticket.”  The world is unjust and this was Ivan’s rebellion against God.

March 30th, 2012

The Artistry of Evil

by Max Andrews

It seems, by all evidences, that man is the only creature that can make evil artistic.  Not only can we be merely evil but we add artistry to it.  Consider this section from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.

“By the way, a Bulgarian I met lately in Moscow,” Ivan went on, seeming not to hear his brother’s words (Alyosha), “told me about the crimes committed by Turks and Circassians in all parts of Bulgaria through fear of a general rising of the Slavs.  They burn villages, murder, outrage women and children, they nail their prisoners by the ears to fences, leave them so till morning, and in the morning they hang them–all sorts of things you can’t imagine.  People talk sometimes of bestial cruelty, but that’s a great injustice and insult to the beasts; a beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel.

October 24th, 2011

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Understanding of the Divine Telos

by Max Andrews

In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov (1821-1881), a story of four brothers in Russia is a grim description of the reality of what the world would look like if God were not to exist.  One brother, Ivan, an atheist, tells another brother that there are no objective truths, specifically that there are no moral absolutes.  Ivan’s brother then kills his father, an act that obtains no condemnation if God does not exist.

This can be understood as ☐(~Eg ⊃ ∀ϕ~Wϕ),[1] also known as Karamazov’s Theorem.  It is necessarily true that if God does not exist then any action cannot be wrong.  It may also be true if a conjunct of rightness is inserted into the theorem.  This ultimately leads to moral nihilism—a nonexistence of value.  Without God, everything is permitted.  Nothing can be praised and nothing can be condemned.  This world, as Dostoevsky understands it, is a world of nothingness.

Dostoevsky, like Camus, Nietzsche, and Sartre, acknowledges the absurdity that arises.  Every man must face the anxiety an absurdity that obtains in a world without God.  Dostoevsky’s response is that every man must face this reality and overcome this absurdity by trusting in and putting his faith in Christ.  Christ is the only one who can overcome the absurdities and relieve man’s anxiety.

Dostoevsky is Christianity’s Nietzsche.  Dostoevsky realizes the despair, guilt, anxiety, and absolute absurdity of a life without God, like Nietzsche; however, he does not self-construct his own teleology.  There is no higher state of being in a world of absurdity.  There would be no incentive to attain any state of being.  There could not be any differentiation between a higher and lower state of being since one would need an objective referent to make such a determination.  The only rational act a man could make in an unreasonable world would be to trust in the reconciling ability of God.  There would be no hope for any reconciliation in a closed system of absurdity—from absurdity only comes absurdity.


            [1] Let Eg represent the existence of God, ϕ for any action, and W for wrong.