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The Brothers Karamazov

The Brothers Karamazov

by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fate and Free Will Quotes

How we cite our quotes:

Quote #10

"Who could say which of them was to blame or calculate who owed what to whom, with all that muddled Karamazovism, in which no one could either define or understand himself?" The whole tragedy of the crime on trial [Rakitin] portrayed as resulting from the ingrained habits of serfdom and a Russia immersed in disorder and suffering from a lack of proper institutions. (12.2.37)

Rakitin takes the view of social determinism: we have no free will because our social condition determines how we act. Basically, society makes us do what we do, and we have no control over it. Specifically Rakitin ascribes Fyodor's murder to the fall of serfdom and the weakening of aristocratic power in Russian society. (See "Setting" for more historical details.)

Quote #11

[The Moscow doctor] spoke at length and cleverly about 'mania' and the 'fit of passion' and concluded from all the assembled data that the defendant, before his arrest, as much as several days before, was undoubtedly suffering from a morbid fit of passion, and if he did commit the crime, even consciously, it was also almost involuntarily, being totally unable to fight the morbid moral fixation that possessed him. (12.3.2)

The Moscow doctor here takes the stand of psychological determinism: our psychology makes us do what we do, and we have no control over the matter. It's a kind of insanity defense for Dmitri: he was crazy when he committed the murder so cannot be held responsible for what he did. (Of course, Dmitri didn't kill his father.)

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