Studies in East European Thought

, Volume 59, Issue 1–2, pp 119–140 | Cite as

The specter of freedom: ressentiment and Dostoevskij’s notes from underground

  • Alina Wyman


The essay examines the Underground Man’s ambivalent position in Dostoevskij’s hierarchy of values in light of the Nietzschean concept of ressentiment. To elucidate the problem of free will in Notes from Underground, I propose to supplement Nietzsche’s theory with the concept of ressentiment as developed by Max Scheler, whose endorsement of Christian love as a means of overcoming ressentiment suggests an affinity with Dostoevskij’s own deeply religious worldview. With the help of Schelerian phenomenology, I read the novel as an early statement of the problem of Christian freedom in Dostoevskij’s oeuvre. Like the “Pro and Contra” section of The Brothers Karamazov, Notes from Underground turns our attention to the “costs” of the Christian ideal: in a world exposed to the ultimate horizon of desire through Christ, those lacking the serenity of faith may be doomed to the merciless torment of ressentiment.


Agape Modes of freedom Nietzsche Ressentiment Scheler Selfhood Systems of values Underground psychology 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ChicagoNilesUSA

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