Dostoevsky — Sonia’s reading of the raising of Lazarus in Crime and Punishment

“So you pray to God a great deal, Sonia?” he asked her.

Sonia did not speak; he stood beside her waiting for an answer.

“What should I be without God?” she whispered rapidly, forcibly, glancing at him with suddenly flashing eyes, and squeezing his hand.

“Ah, so that is it!” he thought.

“And what does God do for you?” he asked, probing her further.

Sonia was silent a long while, as though she could not answer. Her weak chest kept heaving with emotion.

“Be silent! Don’t ask! You don’t deserve!” she cried suddenly, looking sternly and wrathfully at him.

“That’s it, that’s it,” he repeated to himself.

“He does everything,” she whispered quickly, looking down again.

“That’s the way out! That’s the explanation,” he decided, scrutinising her with eager curiosity, with a new, strange, almost morbid feeling. He gazed at that pale, thin, irregular, angular little face, those soft blue eyes, which could flash with such fire, such stern energy, that little body still shaking with indignation and anger–and it all seemed to him more and more strange, almost impossible. “She is a religious maniac!” he repeated to himself.

There was a book lying on the chest of drawers. He had noticed it every time he paced up and down the room. Now he took it up and looked at it. It was the New Testament in the Russian translation. It was bound in leather, old and worn.

“Where did you get that?” he called to her across the room.

She was still standing in the same place, three steps from the table.

“It was brought me,” she answered, as it were unwillingly, not looking at him.

“Who brought it?”

“Lizaveta, I asked her for it.”

“Lizaveta! strange!” he thought.

Everything about Sonia seemed to him stranger and more wonderful every moment. He carried the book to the candle and began to turn over the pages.

“Where is the story of Lazarus?” he asked suddenly.

Sonia looked obstinately at the ground and would not answer. She was standing sideways to the table.

“Where is the raising of Lazarus? Find it for me, Sonia.”

She stole a glance at him.

“You are not looking in the right place. . . . It’s in the fourth gospel,” she whispered sternly, without looking at him.

“Find it and read it to me,” he said. He sat down with his elbow on the table, leaned his head on his hand and looked away sullenly, prepared to listen.

“In three weeks’ time they’ll welcome me in the madhouse! I shall be there if I am not in a worse place,” he muttered to himself.

Sonia heard Raskolnikov’s request distrustfully and moved hesitatingly to the table. She took the book however.

“Haven’t you read it?” she asked, looking up at him across the table.

Her voice became sterner and sterner.

“Long ago. . . . When I was at school. Read!”

“And haven’t you heard it in church?”

“I . . . haven’t been. Do you often go?”

“N-no,” whispered Sonia.

Raskolnikov smiled.

“I understand. . . . And you won’t go to your father’s funeral to-morrow?”

“Yes, I shall. I was at church last week, too . . . I had a requiem service.”

“For whom?”

“For Lizaveta. She was killed with an axe.”

His nerves were more and more strained. His head began to go round.

“Were you friends with Lizaveta?”

“Yes. . . . She was good . . . she used to come . . . not often . . . she couldn’t. . . . We used to read together and . . . talk. She will see God.”

The last phrase sounded strange in his ears. And here was something new again: the mysterious meetings with Lizaveta and both of them– religious maniacs.

“I shall be a religious maniac myself soon! It’s infectious!”

“Read!” he cried irritably and insistently.

Sonia still hesitated. Her heart was throbbing. She hardly dared to read to him. He looked almost with exasperation at the “unhappy lunatic.”

“What for? You don’t believe? . . .” she whispered softly and as it were breathlessly. Continue reading “Dostoevsky — Sonia’s reading of the raising of Lazarus in Crime and Punishment”

John Locke

“John Locke (1632-1704) follows Machiavelli by moderating the political philosophy of Hobbes. Power controlled by consent is also the central theme of the Second Treatise on Government; but the issue goes beyond just self-preservation as with Hobbes to comfortable self-preservation; not just staying alive but being well off. This shift in emphasis from mere life to the accumulation of property shows up in his version of the state of nature in which labor as giving the right to property and money as making unlimited accumulation of property possible are featured much more centrally. Continue reading “John Locke”

Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) wrote his Pensées in order to provide an apology for the Christian religion. He contrasts the geometric spirit (esprit géometrique = Descartes’ method of reducing complex whole to simple elements, ideas, or principles followed by deductive reconstruction) with the spirit of finesse (esprit de finesse) in which we intuitively see things at a glance and not through progressive analysis and reasoning. Continue reading “Blaise Pascal”

René Descartes

“René Descartes (1591-1650), like Bacon, follows Machiavelli in orienting knowledge to the acquisition of the power to “promote as far as possible the general good of mankind.” In his Discourse on Method he preferred the clear and distinct ideas of geometry with its certain conclusions to all other forms of knowledge. He tried to set all knowledge on the sure and firm foundation of certainty, arguing that we should suspect as false anything we think we know that can be doubted. His “method of universal doubt” stats the Enlightenment “prejudice against prejudice.” His “I think therefore I am” (cogito ergo sum) is supposed to prove his own existence as a thinking being and becomes the basis for the certain foundations of all knowledge, which includes two kinds of substance: non-corporeal (thinking beings, subjects) and corporeal (extended things, objects). Beginning from the knowledge he finds in himself, he proceeds to the “book of nature” outside him to build up an edifice ofknowledge with a certainty that is supposed to equal that of geometrical demonstration (the key to which is clear and distinct perception by reason independently of sense experience). The purpose of such knowledge, however, is “to make man the master and possessor of nature” (Frederick Lawrence, Philosophers and Theologians, Boston College).

Francis Bacon

“Franicis Bacon (1561-1626) followed Machiavelli’s idea of conquering and controlling nature “for the relief of man’s estate.” He had a plan for the total reorganization and development of human knowledge. His chief concern was with the method for acquiring knowledge and for using it to increase human dignity and greatness, which he presented in The Great Insatauration (first part on Advancement of Learning and second part called Novum Organum) [Insatauration=restoration]. His restoration of mankind to “dominion over the universe” was to be based on “pure and uncorrupted natural knowledge” and not on moral or religious knowledge. The Novum Organum calls the four great impediments to learning (1) the Idols of the Tribe (distortions of sense perception to which all are subject), (2) Idols of the Cave (personal limitations and prejudices of individuals), (3) Idols of the Market Place (i.e. of misleading communications with others on account of the misleadingness of words), (4) Idols of the Theater (i.e. of dogmas, systems, and theories). To advert these he proposed the inductive method of deriving general laws (“simple natures” that are like an “alphabet of nature”) or principles from a number of particular instances (a posteriori). His methodical strategy intended for human beings to obey the laws of nature in order to conquer it (parendo vincere); the end of science is “the invention of principles to command nature in action” (Frederick Lawrence, Philosophers and Theologians, Boston College).

Niccolò Machiavelli

“Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), the founder of modern thought who set out to overthrow the great tradition of ancient philosophy and theology in his work The Prince, which is apparently a book of practical advice for rulers, but really is meant to establish “new modes and orders” that will not be based on “imagined republics that have never been seen or known to exist in truth” but teaches the effectual truth of “learning to be able not to be good, and to use this and not use it according to necessity.” This is Machiavelli’s notorious realism: “For a man who wants to make a profession of good in all regards must come to ruin among so many who are not good.” Machiavelli takes his bearings from great Founders of states (e.g. Romulus, Moses) because in those cases the need for force and fraud (the lion and the fox) is plain. If what you need to do to acquire equipment for fame and glory (the highest good for Machiavelli) goes against virtue, too bad for virtue. Virtù (the cunning use of force and fraud to reach one’s aims) exercised for the good of the state replaces Christian or Greek ideas of virtue. Fortune (Machiavelli’s term for nature) comprises chance or opportunity in human and subhuman virtue, which Machiavelli compares to a woman who can be raped by anyone young and bold enough. Machiavelli opposes the role of religion and of the Papal states in keeping Italy disunited and Italians unpatriotic” (Frederick Lawrence, Philosophers and Theologians, Boston College).