And yet Dostoevsky reveals the complications of such a (literally) demonic utopian vision. When "The Grand Inquisitor" is contextualized within the larger narrative of The Brothers Karamazov, the shortcomings of Ivan's vision become apparent. In rejecting God, Ivan rejects the eschatological dimension to morality and earthly comfort becomes the only narrow moral standard. The grand inquisitor sees moral freedom as a burden and as long as the minimum service required to achieve comfort is paid, one is actually encouraged to sin; that is, a number of acts no longer have ethical value and are thus permitted. Similarly, in rejecting God, Ivan explicitly rejects the immortality of the soul. In doing so, he seems to jettison the only thing that grounds the enduring value of humanity. One can see quite clearly how these features of the atheist answer lead rather seamlessly to the complete evacuation of moral value and responsibility: the "everything is permitted" of a practical nihilism. "Everything is permitted" is a maxim that Ivan explicitly accepts. In this sense, the atheist position undermines itself: its attempt to deal with evil and suffering does not end with a solution to theodicy, but rather a failed attempt to minimize suffering in this life. In doing so it only succeeds in creating a world of valueless morality, one that is ultimately as indifferent to suffering as the god that it rejected in the first place."
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Dostoevsky and Theodicy
The Well at the World's End examines The Brothers Karamazov: