The Brothers Karamazov
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Brothers Karamazov Fate and Free Will Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation.
"[The Grand Inquisitor] lays it to his and his colleagues' credit that they have finally overcome freedom, and have done so in order to make people happy. [...] Man was made a rebel; can rebels be happy? " (5.5.5)
Ivan restates the Grand Inquisitor's belief that man is made terribly unhappy by the burden of free will; thus the Grand Inquisitor seeks to set up a society with a strong authority (like himself) that tells men what to do. This type of society is based on the Grand Inquisitor's belief that men are essentially "rebels": they use their free will only to defy authority, as opposed to any greater aim. Ironically, Ivan himself is being rebellious with his own blasphemy; Alyosha calls him out as a rebel a few pages earlier (5.4.22).
"[...] man has no more tormenting care than to find someone to whom he can hand over as quickly as possible that gift of freedom with which the miserable creature is born [...]."(5.5.11)
According to Ivan's Grand Inquisitor, man can't stand having free will because the burden of choice – and the responsibility that comes with choice – is just too much. (For example, if you choose to steal, then you are responsible for your theft.) Man would far prefer to have someone else tell him what to do – no choice, no responsibility. (To go back to our earlier example, if somebody in a position of authority tells you to steal, then it's not your fault – you were just following orders.)
"There are three powers, only three powers on earth, capable of conquering and holding captive forever the conscience of these feeble rebels, for their own happiness – these powers are miracle, mystery, and authority." (5.5.11)
According to Ivan's Grand Inquisitor, the Church (here the Roman Catholic Church, not the Russian Orthodox Church) deprives men of their free will through engaging their belief in miracles; disabling their critical thinking processes through mystery; and controlling their actions through authority.