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Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering 
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Post Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering
The Brothers Karamazov
Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering



Sun Feb 20, 2011 4:00 am
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Post Re: Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering
And did you hear his [Ivan's] stupid theory just now: if there's no immortality of the soul, then there's no virtue, and everything is lawful.

- from Book 2, Chapter 7 - A Young Man Bent on a Career

What do you think of the statement?

I agree with it. I am thinking of it in terms of my very limited knowledge of Kant and the belief that the end does not justify the means. But what is wrong with say torture in those situations where the majority benefit from it? Didn't Spock say something like the needs of the many outweigh those of the few - or one? It is not wrong to lie, cheat or steal - it all depends.


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Fri Mar 25, 2011 7:08 pm
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Post Re: Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering
Kevin wrote:
everything is lawful.
This is one of the main philosophical debates from The Brothers Karamazov, and from Crime and Punishment, where the main character Raskolnikov holds a similar view. Dostoyevsky uses it to explore the widespread cultural malaise of nihilism, the idea that nothing matters. Dmitri gets heavily into a nihilistic frame of mind when he goes on his spree after the encounter with his father. I think it rests on the distinction between ultimate values and human values. Ultimately, nothing matters and everything is lawful. Humanly, everything matters and the law is lawful.



Fri Mar 25, 2011 7:19 pm
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Post Re: Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering
Robert Tulip wrote:
Kevin wrote:
everything is lawful.
This is one of the main philosophical debates from The Brothers Karamazov, and from Crime and Punishment, where the main character Raskolnikov holds a similar view. Dostoyevsky uses it to explore the widespread cultural malaise of nihilism, the idea that nothing matters.
OK but (and I don't doubt your interpretation to be the more accurate one) but I don't see Raskol as being a nihilist at all. The point is made that without a belief in God (in both stories) there is no objective base of morality. In this limited sense then Raskol was probably a nihilist up to the terrible coda of the book. But he is determined to fill the vacuum of nihilism with something, antything, that a) works to his advantage and b) affords him some measure of justification. He determines that he is justified in murdering the moneylender because he is younger, stronger, smarter and so on... he remains an ethical creature - not because his ethics are something that is commendable but simply by his need for his actions to be justified in his own mind. I contrast contrast Raskol's murder of the moneylender with what I think is the most memorable scene of the book - which is a dream - in which a man is beating a horse because it is unable to carry its assigned load. (and of course a somewhat similar scene is mentioned in The Brothers Karamazov) The justification given by the man is that he owns the horse. Well blah blah I know... skipping a lot of steps in order to spare anyone who happens to read this... and myself... it's the same morality at work in these two situations! It's the one that says might makes right. This is what Dostoyevsky sees as being the lone alternative to the objective ethical standard that religion is able to offer. It's a formulation of the line that some will say for why they are believers - because I have to be.
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I think it rests on the distinction between ultimate values and human values. Ultimately, nothing matters and everything is lawful. Humanly, everything matters and the law is lawful.
I'm with you on the first sentece. I'm not sure what the second one means.

if there's no immortality of the soul, then there's no virtue, and everything is lawful.
The way I see it, everything is lawful (I'll go along with Dostoyevsky this far) in that, (being persnickety here,) I won't say that torture is always wrong. In contrast, a believer could say torture is wrong and that is that because so and so says it's so. I've yet to hear of a real world case in which I think it was justified but I'm willing to believe that it could happen. So yes, everything is lawful - at least potentially.

Well I'm just rambling. Dont feel obliged to reaspond. ;-D


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Post Re: Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering
Thanks Kevin, you ask what I meant by "Ultimately, nothing matters and everything is lawful."

The stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius held that whatever happens is the will of God by definition, therefore there is no ultimate basis for our human views that one thing is good and another thing is evil. Things are good and evil only relative to human concern. We are human, so this means that humanly we have to demarcate between good and evil, but the ultimate logic is that the universe continues regardless of whether humans are here to see it, so ultimately it does not matter if we prosper or fail. The workings of ultimate law are just the physical laws of the universe. We can try to break those laws, or imagine that God might break those laws, but there is no evidence of anything occurring contrary to the laws of physics. In this ultimate sense, what I meant by 'everything is lawful' is that everything follows the natural laws of physics. We can actually choose to break human law, but the consequences for us are entirely within the scope of natural law. It is not a law of the universe that says murder is wrong. We often confuse human law with ultimate law, because we wish to give extra force to human law, for example by inventing stories about hell. But the philosophical logical distinction remains, and provides a basis for us to understand the basis of human law.



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Sat Apr 02, 2011 8:15 pm
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Post Re: Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering
Robert Tulip wrote:
Thanks Kevin, you ask what I meant by "Ultimately, nothing matters and everything is lawful."

The stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius held that whatever happens is the will of God by definition, therefore there is no ultimate basis for our human views that one thing is good and another thing is evil.
I don't see that a belief in God (and IIRC it's not the christian God that Marcus Aurelius would have been referencing) - but I certainly may not be recollecting it correctly at all. I just vaguely recall reading somewhere about Aurelius and how he was hard on the christians... or not. It doesn't matter anyway since the point is, or seems to me to be, that only with the concept of God can there be an objective basis for determining what is right and what is wrong. Yes! I just looked it up and my memory is in this instance spot on! Marcus Aurelius was indeed a persecutor of christians. I'm still trying to get what you mean with this: whatever happens is the will of God by definition, therefore there is no ultimate basis for our human views that one thing is good and another thing is evil. I'm having trouble because, as I think Dos argues, the importance of God is simply that it does give an ultimate basis for humans to objectively classify things as ethically good or bad. It doesn't matter so much that God exists as it does for everyone to agree that He does. Doesn't Dos routinely mingle the absurd with the gritty? It was mentioned elsewhere in this forum how Kolya's pronouncements can be at times jarring since he is just a young kid - absolutely! I can think of no better author with which to illustrate the point that a reader has to be willfully insane when reading a work of fiction. What's the point of stories that aren't true? Do you remember that question? What's the point of stories that are true? I can, perhaps, see the butterfly, or some particular level of hell, or Black Beauty trotting along the countryside, and so I might learn something in spite of my knowing better. There wasn't even a murder Dos is saying that the argument about God is all wrong. It's not a matter of proofs or evidence for or against the actual existence that matters but rather it's the theoretical existance upon which everything depends. That's what I see in it anyway. I am concerned however in that that is my own outlook... I'm probably reading a lot into it.

Quote:
Things are good and evil only relative to human concern. We are human, so this means that humanly we have to demarcate between good and evil, but the ultimate logic is that the universe continues regardless of whether humans are here to see it, so ultimately it does not matter if we prosper or fail. The workings of ultimate law are just the physical laws of the universe. We can try to break those laws, or imagine that God might break those laws, but there is no evidence of anything occurring contrary to the laws of physics. In this ultimate sense, what I meant by 'everything is lawful' is that everything follows the natural laws of physics.
I don't think that's what Dos meant by it... which doesn't mean that your view is wrong of course. I just think I'm on it like a Beagle on a pot roast.... everything is lawful refers to human morality not the workings of gravity and so on... the Bible says God said Let there be light and then a few days later he created the Sun and the stars... Dos was aware of this. Everything is lawful because of a refusal to believe in Kant's philospohy in which lying is always wrong, because God says so, and remains so no matter how much of a knot you have to tie yourself in to defend the consequences of reckless bouts of honesty.
Quote:
We can actually choose to break human law, but the consequences for us are entirely within the scope of natural law. It is not a law of the universe that says murder is wrong.
Step back a moment from your own perspective and say something about what you think Dos meant by everything is lawful. Alyosha would disagree with your last sentence while Ivan would most likely agree. Dmitri?
Quote:
We often confuse human law with ultimate law, because we wish to give extra force to human law, for example by inventing stories about hell. But the philosophical logical distinction remains, and provides a basis for us to understand the basis of human law.
But if the stories about hell are needed, or even just beneficial, then there is a moral imperative to lie about it and say Yes, they are true! Isn't this what Dos is arguing for in the book?


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Post Re: Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering
Christians seem to have had a hard time in Rome where they were persecuted openly until Constantine legalized the religion. It was Roman Catholicism which developed and when the Western half of Rome fell to the Vandals the Aryan Christians persecuted the Roman Catholics - slaughtering their priests but, I think, sparing the Pope. It was Jesus on Jesus violence in the streets of Carthage! Woot!

It doesn't matter what religion someone is when they talk about god in my opinion. All that chatter comes from the same place where all abstract ideas are created in the brain. The point is that we're in search of an ideal, logical, and organized way of life which minimizes confusion and injustice as much as possible while bringing prosperity to the people who adhere to it. That we have to give these ideas a name such as god just shows we value them very highly and want to lend them supreme legitimacy; a legitimacy we'd have people bow down to and never ever question. So we mix love with contempt, good with evil.

Laws are different. They are acknowledged as created by man and in a democracy the laws can be questioned and changed. Men are free to create and challenge laws as they aren't written in stone. Progress and truth have an easier time of being realized. So laws are less suppressive and oppressive than religious law.... less evil.

Dos argument for the reader, my interpretation of the text or how it presented itself to me, was that God is necessary for morality to some, while others feel he isn't, and still others feel he doesn't exist and therefore there's no need for morality or ethics which is just absurd. The whole god/morals argument as presented in the book is ridiculous and a product of the confused and the brainwashed. You have to truly believe in god as a real supernatural being to get tangled up in the fantastic mess that is this argument.



Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:49 am
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Post Re: Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering
Kevin wrote:
the point is, or seems to me to be, that only with the concept of God can there be an objective basis for determining what is right and what is wrong.
Yes, that is logical, because the concept of God is used to provide an objective validation of our subjective opinions, to invest them with ultimate force and emphasis. The trouble is, whether this imagined objectivity of values has anything like the objectivity of facts. It does not. Values are subjective, not objective. We cannot say “objectively” that it is better that humans flourish through the universe than that we go extinct by cooking our planet. This “better” is a subjective opinion, a value statement that only gains its impression of objectivity from the emotional horror we feel regarding extinction of our species. The concept of God is the basis for the metaphysical objectivity of values, so without God, values are just opinions, and everything is lawful.
Quote:

I'm still trying to get what you mean with this: whatever happens is the will of God by definition, therefore there is no ultimate basis for our human views that one thing is good and another thing is evil. I'm having trouble because, as I think Dos argues, the importance of God is simply that it does give an ultimate basis for humans to objectively classify things as ethically good or bad. It doesn't matter so much that God exists as it does for everyone to agree that He does.
Here are a couple of sample comments from the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius:

"why should a man have any apprehension about the change and dissolution of all the elements? For it is according to nature, and nothing is evil which is according to nature."

"All that is from the gods is full of Providence. That which is from fortune is not separated from nature or without an interweaving and involution with the things which are ordered by Providence. From thence all things flow; and there is besides necessity, and that which is for the advantage of the whole universe, of which thou art a part. But that is good for every part of nature which the nature of the whole brings, and what serves to maintain this nature."

These statements show that Stoic philosophy teaches acceptance of nature, and recognition that we cannot extrapolate our human opinions about good and evil to supposed opinions held by an ultimate God (a.k.a. providence).

Dostoyevsky recognises the danger in Ivan's 'everything is lawful' idea in the way it helps to unhinge Smerdyakov. It makes me think of Gibbon’s comment that The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosopher as equally false; and by the magistrate as equally useful.

Smerdy imagines himself a philosopher, and that is his undoing. Your comment that agreement is more important than actuality invites us to regard religion from the magistrate’s perspective of utility. The general public are not philosophers, so the fine points of logic are irrelevant. As with the monk’s blessing for the poor suffering women, there is immense social utility in religious delusion.



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Post Re: Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering
I'll be finished with the story shortly as the trial is just about wrapped up.

Dostoyevsky recognises the danger in Ivan's 'everything is lawful' idea in the way it helps to unhinge Smerdyakov... whywhywhywhywhy

The book up to this point has been a pleasure to read for the human comedy aspect of it. D. did a great job developing the characters. I didn't think he'd achieve the depth he has in them but he has and in that way he's managed to deliver a clear picture of what he perceives as some Russian character flaws with emphasis on religion and politics.

A writer like Balzac paints a much better picture than D and doesn't have to use quite so many brush strokes as D. does. Balzac can use his characters' words and actions in a way that will make flaws in society clear without having to brow beat the reader with constant explanation and amplification. Unlike Balzac, who's good at writing about human behavior and letting the reader develop an opinion for himself, D. is trying to get people to live and think a certain way.

There's a religious and political message in this book. It explores many ways in which people live according to their chosen philosophy.

Dos is bias towards a christian god and socialism. That's fine. Who has all the ideas which exclude god? Killers, Children, Satan. Ridiculous. Satan as a Humanitarian!!!! Ah, if he's so necessary and says so then god must be necessary too then?

I think I was correct when I felt Smerdy was the representation of the up and coming bourgeoisie or future middle class - something completely disgusting to this author. It's a shame that, although intelligent, the author wants him to fall to ideas which exclude god and espouse individual achievement. I didn't really understand it and it still seems a little ridiculous. Kind of like warning someone not to eat dinner with a fork because a fork may put your eye out. Dos is scared of change. His prosecutor does a good job of carrying on about his true message with this novel.



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Post Re: Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering
President Camacho wrote:
Dostoyevsky recognises the danger in Ivan's 'everything is lawful' idea in the way it helps to unhinge Smerdyakov... whywhywhywhywhy

At Dmitri's trial, the prosecutor describes Ivan Karamazov as
Quote:
one of those modern young men of brilliant education and vigorous intellect, who has lost all faith in everything. He has denied and rejected much already, like his father. We have all heard him, he was a welcome guest in local society. He never concealed his opinions, quite the contrary in fact, which justifies me in speaking rather openly of him now, of course, not as an individual, but as a member of the Karamazov family. Another personage closely connected with the case died here by his
own hand last night. I mean an afflicted idiot, formerly the servant, and possibly the illegitimate son, of Fyodor Pavlovitch, Smerdyakov. At the preliminary inquiry, he told me with hysterical tears how the young Ivan Karamazov had horrified him by his spiritual audacity. ‘Everything in the world is lawful according to him, and nothing must be forbidden in the future—that is what he always taught me.’ I believe that idiot was driven out of his mind by this theory, though, of course, the epileptic attacks from which he suffered, and this terrible catastrophe, have helped to unhinge his faculties. But he dropped one very interesting observation, which would have done credit to a more intelligent observer, and that is, indeed, why I’ve mentioned it: ‘If there is one of the sons that is like Fyodor Pavlovitch in character, it is Ivan Fyodorovitch.’

Smerdyakov had earlier raised this question with Ivan in their Third And Last Interview
Quote:

“You were bold enough then. You said ‘everything was lawful,’ and how frightened you are now,” Smerdyakov muttered in surprise. “Won’t you have some lemonade? I’ll ask for some at once. It’s very refreshing. Only I must hide this first.” And again he motioned at the notes....

Smerdyakov articulated in a shaking voice ... ‘all things are lawful.’ That was quite right what you taught me, for you talked a lot to me about that. For if there’s no everlasting God, there’s no such thing as virtue, and there’s no need of it. You were right there. So that’s how I looked at it.”
“Did you come to that of yourself?” asked Ivan, with a wry smile.
“With your guidance.”
“And now, I suppose, you believe in God, since you are giving back the money?”
“No, I don’t believe,” whispered Smerdyakov.
(480)


This 'everything is lawful' theme recurs throughout the book, first mentioned at Chapter VI. Why Is Such A Man Alive? (p47)

Quote:
Ivan Fyodorovitch ... solemnly declared in argument that there was nothing in the whole world to make men love their neighbors. That there was no law of nature that man should love mankind, and that, if there had been any love on earth hitherto, it was not owing to a natural law, but simply because men have believed in immortality. Ivan Fyodorovitch added in parenthesis that the whole natural law lies in that faith, and that if you were to destroy in mankind the belief in immortality, not only love but every living force maintaining the life of the world would at once be dried up. Moreover, nothing then would be immoral, everything would be lawful, even cannibalism. That’s not all. He ended by asserting that for every individual, like ourselves, who does not believe in God or immortality, the moral law of nature must immediately be changed into the exact contrary of the former religious law, and that egoism, even to crime, must become not only lawful but even recognized as
the inevitable, the most rational, even honorable outcome of his position. From this paradox, gentlemen, you can judge of the rest of our eccentric and paradoxical friend Ivan Fyodorovitch’s theories.


Ivan explains his theory to Alyosha at the end of the Grand Inquisitor (194)
Quote:
I “There is a strength to endure everything,” Ivan said with a cold smile.
A “What strength?”
I “The strength of the Karamazovs—the strength of the Karamazov baseness.”
A “To sink into debauchery, to stifle your soul with corruption, yes?”
I “Possibly even that ... only perhaps till I am thirty I shall escape it, and then—”
A “How will you escape it? By what will you escape it? That’s impossible with your ideas.”
I “In the Karamazov way, again.”
A“ ‘Everything is lawful,’ you mean? Everything is lawful, is that it?”
Ivan scowled, and all at once turned strangely pale.
I “Ah, you’ve caught up yesterday’s phrase, which so offended Miüsov—and which Dmitri pounced upon so naïvely, and paraphrased!” he smiled queerly. “Yes, if you like, ‘everything is lawful’ since the word has been said. I won’t deny it. And Mitya’s version isn’t bad.”
Alyosha looked at him in silence.
I “I thought that going away from here I have you at least,” Ivan said suddenly, with unexpected feeling; “but now I see that there is no place for me even in your heart, my dear hermit. The formula, ‘all is lawful,’ I won’t renounce—will you renounce me for that, yes?”
Alyosha got up, went to him and softly kissed him on the lips.
“That’s plagiarism,” cried Ivan, highly delighted. “You stole that from my poem. Thank you though.


In Ivan's conversation with Satan (499), the devil says
Quote:
“every one who recognizes the truth even now may legitimately order his life as he pleases, on the new principles. In that sense, ‘all things are lawful’ for him. What’s more, even if this period never comes to pass, since there is anyway no God and no immortality, the new man may well become the man-god, even if he is the only one in the whole world, and promoted to his new position, he may lightheartedly overstep all the barriers of the old morality of the old slave-man, if necessary. There is no law for God. Where God stands, the place is holy. Where I stand will be at once the foremost place ... ‘all things are lawful’ and that’s the end of it! That’s all very charming; but if you want to swindle why do you want a moral sanction for doing it? But that’s our modern Russian all over. He can’t bring himself to swindle without a moral sanction. He is so in love with truth—”



Fri Apr 15, 2011 7:17 am
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Post Re: Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering
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Fri Apr 15, 2011 7:23 am
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Post Re: Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering
Yes, although I feel Ivan doesn't really believe what he's saying. I don't think D. would allow that.

Suppose Ivan was highly religious but still wanted the lion's share of his family's inheritance and let it be known. Without the 'absence of god everything is lawful' philosophy there still would have been murder and for the same reason.

Was it the philosophy that unhinged him or was it what he thought he interpreted from conversations with Ivan? Was it ambition and material gain which was the great motivator or was it an idea which clouded or poisoned better judgment? I say it was the former. His 'everything is lawful' philosophy was just another nod in Smerdy's direction as he chose to see it - not an adopted way of life that controlled his actions.

I'll concede that he may have used it as an excuse and that the philosophy is dangerous and impossible in a functioning society but I still think the argument that there is no moral or ethical law without god is crap and that's why I have a hard time with the book and its arguments for belief.

I feel somewhat bound by not being able to discuss more openly. I'm trying not to give too much away for those who aren't where I'm at in the book. I'm sure most everyone is probably already done by now but I have a little more to go.



Fri Apr 15, 2011 10:41 am
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Post Re: Book 2: An Inappropriate Gathering
I know my point of view and what I'm concentrating on is secondary to the actual purpose of the book as a treatise of D.'s ideology and a warning against living an individualistic and materialistic life. The fiction is only a literary tool for entertainingly preaching his views. No one would read a boring 1000 page book on ideology but they'd read an interesting tale such as this one. I am trying to pick apart this ideology, not the book itself when it may seem like I'm missing the bigger picture - which I may very well be.



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