Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov explores the question of free will by presenting and contesting different explanations of human behavior. The novel challenges the notion that in the absence of moral laws, man is free to do whatever he chooses: characters who advocate an amoral freedom tend to be the most anxious and self-destructive in the novel. But the novel also challenges psychological and social determinism, that is, the idea that either our psychological makeup or our position in society controls the way we act. None of these theories – the amoral, the psychological, or the social – can offer a satisfactory explanation for the idiosyncratic and inconsistent behaviors of Dostoevsky's characters – or, one might argue, of anyone. Paradoxically, the one vision of freedom the novel seems to endorse is a religiously committed one. Only through the complete abandonment of one's selfish desires and the acceptance of religious morality in one's life can one be truly free.
Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov demonstrates the self-destructive consequences of the character Ivan's philosophy that "everything is permitted."
In Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, only the characters who can discipline their desires can truly experience love and joy.