The End of Dialectics

Finished Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” at last … a rather disrupted read over several months … I last blogged an extract when I was less than a third of the way through back in April. Despite the lack of quality time to devote to it, I somehow sensed this was an important one to finish. Glad I did.

The final page includes this …

“In place of dialectics life had arrived, and in his consciousness something of a wholly different nature must now work towards fruition. …

 … But that is the beginning of a new story”the story of the gradual renewal of a man, the story of his gradual regeneration, of his passing from one world into another, of his initiation into a new unknown life. That might be the subject of a new story, but our present story is ended.”

As Gav says, over on MoQ-Discuss highlighting that closing sentence, this is a lesson learned for “man” not just for Raskolnikov.

Overall the book is a complex study of Raskolnikov’s psychological struggle between emotional guilt and intellectual justification for the murder of “a loathsome, harmful louse, a filthy old moneylender” as an “audacious” academic exercise rather than the ostensible material motive of robbery. Some excellent passages on motives and virtues, not just Raskolinokov’s, also in the many characters and dialogues around him. More later hopefully. Three or four passages – on the psychological game-play on guessing what the other person knows and their motives in any dialogue – I will return to.

[Spoiler warning] Fresh in my mind is the final cliff-hanger (before the Eiplogue above) where we hear of Svidrigailov’s suicide and the note explaining his motives, of sound mind and body; We already know he was fully aware of and sympathetic to Raskolnikov’s higher-good intellectual motives in the “murder(s)” – does Svidrigailov’s suicide note plead the guilt, and let Raskolinikov off the hook ? No, the final confession is Raskolikov’s.

2 thoughts on “The End of Dialectics”

  1. Hey Ian,
    The disjointed read was exactly my experience, something about the way the stroy unfolds and characters are introduced seems to allways mean I cant read more than a few pages at a time without putting it down, but then can’t resist picking it up again. Every time I’ve read it I always lose my place and end up re-reading the first few chapters. The world thats depicted is immensely compelling though, and the other striking feature of my experience of reading it, is that my own writing and speech becomes convoluted and opinionated for weeks after I put the damn thing down. If it didnt fizzle out so weakly at the end I think I’d probably be done lasting damage. As to the means by which moral dilemas are created and then “solved”, theres a parralel to the Brujo, with what seems to be the apparent delusion (?) that he will change the moral framework of those around him to accomodate his the morality of his own actions. What I really like about it is that the leniency shown by the judges almost confirms that this does in fact take place. Given the terriffic cruelty and cheapness of life that pervades the rest of the book, you can only see the rascals punishment as little more than an asbo. Message from dostoyevski: You can create some degree of “rightness” in any action, or that if the action is done well (ibued with great arete) then that “goodness” should subordinate the relative values of the situation, and thereby mitigate consequence.

  2. Hi Jos, thanks for your comment … reassuring you had the same experience … so many characters and relationships … and with the difficult Russian names, and assorted shortened familial versions, so much to re-read and cross-check at every turn. I found the same with Karamazov Brothers, which I also ultimately got a lot out of.

    Funnily enough, the core moral case … the murder “crime” vs the intellectual “games” … was not the aspect that stuck with me after that final page … which is scary. But I think you are right. My agenda is much more concerned with the logic vs “nonsense” angle in decision making and justification for actions.

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