The Brothers Karamazov
by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Brothers Karamazov Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph). We used Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky's translation.
"Freedom, free reason, and science will lead them into such a maze, and confront them with such miracles and insoluble mysteries, that some of them, unruly and ferocious, will exterminate themselves; others, unruly but feeble, will exterminate each other; and the remaining third, feeble and wretched, will crawl to our feet and cry out to us: 'Yes, you were right.'" (5.5.11)
Ivan's Grand Inquisitor is filled with ironies. Here, he says that without religion man will be led to a self-destructive frenzy – just as Ivan will later in the novel.
"Our people believe tirelessly in the truth, acknowledge God, weep tenderly. Not so their betters. These, following science, want to make a just order for themselves by reason alone, but without Christ now, not as before, and they have already proclaimed that there is no crime, there is no sin. And in their own terms, that is correct: for if you have no God, what crime is there to speak of? [...] Salvation will come from the people, from their faith and their humility." (6.3.f)
This is probably Zosima's clearest critique of Enlightenment thinking, which is portrayed here as a Western European invention, alien to the spirit of the Russian people. Zosima views rationalism as sheer intellectual arrogance. He argues that only the humble Russian people, who accept the place of religion in their lives and in world history, will be able to create a just society.
"Imagine: it's all there in the nerves, in the head, there are these nerves in the brain (devil take them!)...there are little sorts of tails, these nerves have little tails, well, and when they start trembling there [...] an image appears, as it were [...] and that's why I contemplate, and then think...because of the little tails, and not at all because I have a soul or am some sort of image and likeness, that's all foolishness." (11.4.26 )
Dmitri here restates what he learned from the intellectual Rakitin about how the mind works from a purely scientific or neurological point of view. The ridiculousness of Dmitri's understanding again supports the novel's view that truly great ideas don't spring from random chemicals firing in your brain, but from religious inspiration.