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Philosophy of Crime and Punishment: A Reflection and Reaction

We explore how the various philosophies contemporary to and surrounding Dostoevsky influenced Crime and Punishment.
by

Henry Jacqz

on 7 December 2012

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Transcript of Philosophy of Crime and Punishment: A Reflection and Reaction

Dostoevsky's Life A Reflection and Reaction Philosophy of Crime and Punishment: Dostoevsky was born and raised in Moscow. Serfs murdered his father in reaction to excessive cruelty. He was brought up a Russian Orthodox, but like his parents was not deeply devout.

During his twenties he lived in St. Petersburg, pursued his writing, and became acquainted to Visaron Belinsky, an atheist and socialist.

He began attending radical meetings led by Mikhail Petrashevsky (of the Petrashevsky Circle) and Sergey Durov to discuss utopian ideals and revolutionary actions.

After hearing of the groups, Czar Nicholas I ordered the members to be arrested and executed, but ended up reducing the term to hard labor in Siberia.

In Siberia, he turned back to his faith and rebuffed his earlier revolutionary ideas as treason.

Finally upon his return to St. Petersburg, Dostoevsky became critical of the nihilistic antiestablishment, irreligious, amoral beliefs that he believed evolved out of earlier utopian socialism. The Political and Social Climate of Russia What is Nihilism? Connections to Nihilism Related Quotes Who was Hegel? Connections to Hegel Related Quotes Who was Nietzsche? Connections to Nietzsche Related Quotes Conclusion The Philosophies existential vs Russian nihilism - a proponent/figure of existential nihilism
- der Wille zur macht -Will to Power
- human endeavor for achievement/ambition
- Übermensch - super-man/overman
- he actually came after Dostoevsky
- it appears as though Dostoevsky influenced him
- but, some critics say they just had similar influences
- he may have staged an incident with a horse that mirrors a scene in C+P Russian nihilism:
- Dostoevsky criticizes it
- extreme rationalism contradicts emotions and moral thoughs -- this causes confliction and despair
- influence of Dimitry Pisarev
Existential nihilism:
- Nietzsche - social darwinism
- distinction between weak and strong; strong have right to dominate/trample weak
- utilitarian thought
- greatest good for greatest number
- emphasis on rationality, logic, reason - life has no purpose, meaning, or value
- there is no God
- any action is permitted because there is no afterlife and no consequences -übermensch is analogous to Dostoevsky's extraordinary man/superman
-transcends humanity's boundaries in order for greater public benefit
- Death of God nihilism in characters:
- Raskolnikov: conflicted, in extreme physical and mental pain after murdering Alyona (pawnbroker) and Lizaveta
- Svidrigaïlov: attempted rape of Dounia, subsequent suicide
- Luzhin: believes in trickle-down economics - believes his self-interest will benefit society at large; tries to attract Dounia with his money, but she rejects his marriage offer "'Now for the reign of reason and light … and of will, and of strength … and now we will see! We will try our strength!' he added defiantly, as though challenging some power of darkness. 'And I was ready to consent to live in a square of space!'" Part II Chapter VII "It was like this: I asked myself one day this question—what if Napoleon, for instance, had happened to be in my place" Part V Chapter IV “I’ve only killed a louse, Sonia, a useless, loathsome, harmful creature.” Part V Chapter IV "And I know now, Sonia, that whoever is strong in mind and spirit will have power over them. Anyone who is greatly daring is right in their eyes. He who despises most things will be a law-giver among them and he who dares most of all will be most in the right!" Part V Chapter IV “You turned away from God and God has smitten you, has given you over to the devil!” Part V Chapter IV “In his article all men are divided into ‘ordinary’ and ‘extraordinary.’ Ordinary men have to live in submission, have no right to transgress the law, because, don’t you see, they are ordinary. But extraordinary men have a right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way, just because they are extraordinary. That was your idea, if I am not mistaken?” Part III Chapter V "Andrey Semyonovitch really was rather stupid; he attached himself to the cause of progress and “our younger generation” from enthusiasm. He was one of the numerous and varied legion of dullards,of half-animate abortions, conceited, half-educated coxcombs, who attach themselves to the idea most in fashion only to vulgarise it and who caricature every cause they serve, however sincerely." Part V Chapter 1 "He remembered afterwards that he had been particularly collected and careful, trying all the time not to get smeared with blood." Part I Chapter VII Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher who lived from August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831

He was an influential philosopher and major figure in German Romanticism/ Idealism

In the 1840s after his death his ideas spread into Russia, where a group of young radicals (known as Young Hegelians or Left Hegelians) were particularly influenced by his philosophy.

These progressives ultimately came to believe all reality is subject to rational categorization and used this thinking to promote rampant atheism, anarchism, and terrorism. The Westernization that had begun under Peter the Great sped up in the first half of the nineteenth century with the Napoleonic Wars (1805-1812) and waves of German Romantic idealism.

Throughout the nineteenth century, Russia's social order lay in a struggle between Westernizers who advocated rationalism and science and Slavophiles who maintained the cure to Russia's problems lay in its traditional spirituality and culture.

After the Crimean War (1853-56), a younger, more radical group of reformers frustrated with the slow ineffective change of the earlier liberals sought to bring about more drastic changes by overthrowing the Tsar, Eastern Orthodox Church, and aristocracy. - a radical named Dimitry Pisarev influenced Dostoevsky
- split humans into two groups
- the mass "does not make discoveries or commit crimes"
- a select, superior few are allowed to transgress law - nothing is forbidden to them
- existential and Russian nihilism meet In his work "Philosophy of History," Hegel proposes a theory of "World Historical Individuals," whom he also calls heroes.

As opposed to ordinary mundane individuals these people further humanity by contributing an idea that is simultaneously uniquely their and the best of their time.

These heroes have the right and duty to transcend human laws and morals for the sake of progress.

Raskolnikov's Extraordinary Man Theory directly reflects this thinking. It is an obsession with this question that drives him to kill the pawnbroker in order to test whether he is an "extraordinary man." "I maintain that if the discoveries of Kepler and Newton could not have been made known except by sacrificing the lives of one, a dozen, a hundred, or more men, Newton would have had the right, would indeed have been in duty bound … to eliminate the dozen or the hundred men for the sake of making his discoveries known to the whole of humanity." Part III Chapter V "Then, I remember, I maintain in my article that all … well, legislators and leaders of men, such as Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon, and so on, were all without exception criminals, from the very fact that, making a new law they transgressed the ancient one, handed down from their ancestors and held sacred by the people, and they did not stop short at bloodshed either, if that bloodshed—often of innocent persons fighting bravely in defence of ancient law—were of use to their cause. It’s remarkable, in fact, that the majority, indeed, of these benefactors and leaders of humanity were guilty of terrible carnage." Part III Chapter V In the "Encyclopedia Philosophy" (1972) Dostoevsky was quoted saying “there is no reason, only reasoners; behind every rational formula there is a formulator; behind every generalization there is a generalizer.” "But, perhaps, there is no God at all." Part IV Chapter IV Crime and Punishment not only reflects the major philosophies eminent in Russia during the mid-19th century but also displays Dostoevsky's rejection of these progressive ways of thinking for more traditional and religious ideologies.
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