Searching for the Abandoned Soul: Dostoevsky on the Suffering of Humanity

  • Predrag Cicovacki
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 85)


Life Worth Living Innocent Child Spiritual Transformation Dialogical Form Grand Inquisitor 
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  1. 1.
    Quoted from The Dostoyevsky Museum in St. Petersburg: A Guidebook, by N. Ashimbaeva and V. Biron, trans. J. J. Day (St. Petersburg: Lyceum, 2000), p. 19.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Umberto Eco, Six Walks in the Fictional Woods (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), p. 27.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    According to Isaiah Berlin, this phrase — which became widely used in Russian culture — was coined in 1858 by Mikhail L. Mikhailov, when he tried to render “die verdammten Fragen” in his translation of Heine’s poem “Zum Lazarus.” See footnote 1 of Berlin’s essay “The Hedgehog and The Fox,” reprinted in The Proper Study of Mankind: An Anthology of Essays (New York: Ferrar, Straus and Giroux), pp. 445–446.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Quoted from James P. Scanlan, Dostoyevsky the Thinker (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002), pp. 1–2. For the best and most comprehensive account of Dostoyevsky’s life and thought, see the indispensable five volume set by Joseph Frank: Dostoyevsky: The Seeds of Revolt, 1821–1849 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976); Dostoyevsky: The Years of Ordeal, 1850–1859 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983); Dostoyevsky: The Stir of Liberation, 1860–1865 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986); Dostoyevsky: The Miraculous Years, 1865–1871 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995); Dostoyevsky: The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871–1881 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002). Among the best Russian biographies are: Konstantin Mochulski, Dostoyevsky: His Life and Work, trans. I. R. Titunik and R. Durgy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967); and Leonid Grossman, Dostoyevsky: A Biography, trans. Mary Mackler (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1975).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    This point is emphasized by Joseph Frank; see his Dostoyevsky: The Miraculous Years, 1865–1871, pp. 290–291. For a valuable discussion of the role of dialogue and Dostoyevsky’s writing technique in general, see Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Poetics, trans. and ed. Caryl Emerson (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    On the relevance of “meekly” characters in Dostoyevsky, see, for instance, L. A. Zander, Dostoyevsky, trans. Natalie Duddington (London: SCM Press, 1948); Ernest J. Simmons, Dostoyevsky: The Making of a Novelist (New York: Random House, 1962); and Eduard Thurneysen, Dostoyevsky, trans. K. R. Crim (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1964).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoyevsky links the murder motive of the old Karamazov by this biblical reference; he first puts a version of it in Smerdyakov’s mouth, and then even more explicitly in Ivan’s. This has been pointed out by Frank; see his Dostoyevsky: The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871–1881, p. 602.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See Martin Buber, Good and Evil, trans. Ronald Gregor Smith (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952), especially pp. 141–143. For an account of the problem of evil in the Enlightenment period, see Susan Neiman, Evil in Modern Thought (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002). For a detailed discussion of Dostoyevsky’s view on evil, see primarily Nicholas Berdyaev, Dostoyevsky, trans. Donald Attwater (Cleveland: The World Publishing Company, 1965), ch. 4, pp. 89–110. See also Scanlan, op. cit., especially chs. 2–3, pp. 57–117; and Peter Vardy, The Puzzle of Evil (London: HarperCollins, 1992).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Lev Shestov was very supportive of this aspect of Dostoyevsky’s thought. See his Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Nietzsche, trans. and ed. Bernard Martin and Spencer E. Roberts (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1969).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    For further discussion of this issue, see my article “Trial of Man and Trial of God: Reflections on Job and the Grand Inquisitor,” Diotima: A Philosophical Review, 2: 2001, No. 2, pp. 83–94. On the problem of pride in Dostoyevsky, see also René Girard, Deceit, Desire, and the Novel, trans. Y. Freccero (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976), especially chs. XI–XII, pp. 256–314.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    For a very useful comparison of the two greatest Russian novelists, see George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971). In their insistence on the importance and complexity of freedom, both Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky probably had the same opponent in mind: Nicolai Chernyshevsky. His seminal novel What Is to Be Done? (1862) had a very profound effect on the Russian cultural and political scene. Orlando Figes argues in his book Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia (New York: Henry Holt, 2002), p. 221, that this book “became a bible for the revolutionaries, including the young Lenin, who said that his whole life had been transformed by it.” Chernyshevsky argued that it had been scientifically proven that free will is impossible, and that rational egoism is at the bottom of all ethics, of all virtue and sacrifice. On Dostoyevsky’s negative reactions to Chernyshevsky’s book, see Joseph Frank, Dostoyevsky: The Stir of Liberation, 1860–1865, pp. 286–295 and passim; see also Frank, Dostoyevsky: The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871–1881, pp. 72 ff.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Here is how Dostoyevsky himself explained the meaning of the “Legend of the Grand Inquisitor” to students of St. Petersburg University: “What that poem is saying is that if the Christian faith is combined and corrupted with the objectives of this world, then the meaning of Christianity will perish. Human reason will abandon itself to unbelief, and in place of the great ideal of Christ a new Tower of Babel will be built. Where Christianity had an exalted view of mankind, under the new order of things mankind will be viewed as a mere herd, and behind the appearance of social love there will arise an open contempt for humanity.” Quoted from Geir Kjetsaa, Fyodor Dostoyevsky: A Writer’s Life, trans. Siri Hustvedt and David McDuff (New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1989), p. 339. For very different discussions of the Legend of the Grand Inquisitor, see Vasily Rozanov, Dostoyevsky and the Legend of the Grand Inquisitor, trans. Spenser E. Roberts (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972); Ellis Sandoz, Political Apocalypse: A Study of Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor (Baton Rouge: Lousisana State University Press, 1971); and Joseph Frank, Dostoyevsky: The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871–1881, pp. 567–703.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Tolstoy expresses the same thought in War and Peace in the following way: “By loving people without cause, [Pierre] discovered indubitable causes for loving them.” According to Clifton Fadiman, “In this sentence... lies the essence, the center, the inner flame, of the prerevolutionary Russian novel. It is only after one has pondered its meaning that one can understand what lies back of the sudden changes in Tolstoy’s and Dostoyevsky’s characters.” Quoted from Fadiman’s “Foreword” for War and Peace, trans. Louise and Aylmer Maude (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1942), xxxii.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Frank points out that “in an entry in his notebook set down after the work had been completed, [Dostoyevsky] wrote that ‘the whole book’ was a reply to the Legend of the Grand Inquisitor.” See Frank, Dostoyevsky: The Mantle of the Prophet, 1871–1881, p. 571.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    For further discussion of these views, see Monroe C. Beardley, “Dostoyevsky” Metaphor of ‘Underground’,” Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. III (June 1942), pp. 265–290. See also Frank, Dostoyevsky: The Stir of Liberation, 1860–1865, pp. 310–347.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Martin Buber, “What is Man?,” in Between Man and Man, trans. R. G. Smith (New York: The Macmillan, 1965), p. 168. Jaroslav Pelikan has correctly emphasized that Dostoyevsky draws a sharp line between the Holy and the Good; see his Fools of Christ: Essays on the True, the Good, and the Beautiful (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1955), esp. ch. 3, pp. 56–84.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    This point, which Dostoyevsky could have easily made himself, was emphasized by Nicolai Hartmann. See his Ethics, trans. S. Coit (New York: Macmillan, 1932), especially vol. 2, chapter XI, section (d): “Suffering as a value.” For a useful discussion of suffering from a Christian point of view, see also Max Scheler, Formalism in Ethics and Non-Formal Ethics of Values, trans. Manfred S. Fringes and Roger L. Funk (Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1973), especially pages 330–348, and Scheler, “The Meaning of Suffering,” in the collection of his essays published in English under the title On Feeling, Knowing, and Valuing, translated, edited and introduced by Harold J. Bershady (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), pp. 82–115. For a discussion of suffering in Dostoyevsky, see Berdyaev, op. cit. Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    See more on this in Arthur Koestler, The Art of Creation (London: Picador, 1975), p. 353. As Koestler correctly points out, an unconscious recognition of archetypal material significantly affects our reading of a text: “[W]henever some archetypal motif is sounded, the response is much stronger than warranted by its face value — the mind responds like a tuning fork to a pure tone.” For further discussion of archetypes and symbolism in Dostoyevsky, see Zander, op. cit., and Ralph Matlaw, “Myth and Symbol in The Brothers Karamazov,” in The Brothers Karamazov and the Critics, ed. Edward Wasiolek (Belmont: Wadsworth, 1967), pp. 108–118.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    This has been pointed out by Yuri M. Lotman, who also provides a very instructive discussion of the difference between linear and cyclical plots; see his book Universe of the Mind: A Semiotic Theory of Culture, trans. Ann Shukman (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990), pp. 153–159. For further discussion of the role of doubles in Dostoyevsky, see René Girard, Dostoievski: du double à l’unité (Paris: Plon, 1963), and Dmitry Chizevsky, “The Theme of the Double in Dostoyevsky,” in Dostoyevsky: A Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Rene Wellek (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1962), pp. 112–129.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Quoted from Victor Terras, Reading Dostoyevsky (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998), p. 84.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Quoted from Geir Kjetsaa, op. cit., pp. 365–366.Google Scholar

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© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Predrag Cicovacki
    • 1
  1. 1.College of the Holy CrossUSA

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