Preliminary Materials, Work in Progress 11/04

Description: I will argue that human beings are in a battle between religion and nihilism. I will juxtapose Ivan against Alyosha and his elder Zosima, and thus depict that Ivan is a rebel in his own right as a nonbeliever. In addition, my outside resources will shed light on what the characters symbolize, and I will tie in the Hidden God poetic traditions of relational identity and virtue as transfigurative. The idea of a meaningless life guided by knowledge and a meaningful life serving God is explored by SL Frank in The Meaning of Life. In addition, Philokalia offers insight on purpose found in religion by monks as well. I plan to also compare what is being said to Dostoevsky’s own beliefs as a Christian in my essay.

Draft Enthymeme Thesis: Humanity shares a natural inclination to believe in a preordained world where purpose unveils itself through love therefore, a meaningful life is often tied closely to religion and to see life as meaningless is an act of rebellion. 

Focus Chapters:

Book 6, Chapter 3: From Talks and Homilies of Elder Zosima

  • I will use this chapter to show the meaningful lives of Russian monks as told by Zosima to Alyosha
  • One loves their life when they are close to God 
  • Hell is not being able to love
  • “Love animals, love plants, love each thing. If you love each thing, you will perceive the mystery of God in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin tirelessly to perceive more and more of it every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an entire, universal love” (Dostoevsky, 319). 

Book 5, Chapter 4: Rebellion 

  • Two brothers talk about the existence of God. Ivan claims that while he has not rejected God, he feels incapable of accepting the world God created
  • This brings up the idea of life without a rhyme or reason= meaningless
  • Suffering of children 
  • “I want to remain with my unrequited suffering and my unquenched indignation, even if I am wrong. Besides, they have put too high a price on harmony; we can’t afford to pay so much for admission. And therefore I hasten to return my ticket. And it is my duty, as an honest man, to return it as far ahead of time as possible. Which is what I am doing. It’s not that I don’t accept God, Alyosha, I just most respectfully return him the ticket” (Dostoevsky, 245). 

Scholarly resources:

Cicovacki, Predrag. Dostoevsky and the Affirmation of Life, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central,      

“Dostoevsky: Religion and Atheism.” Dostoevsky: A Theological Engagement, by P.H. Brazier and Murray Rae, 1st ed., The Lutterworth Press, Cambridge, 2016, pp. 109–144. JSTOR,    

Mochulsky, Konstantin. Dostoevsky ; His Life and Work: Translated and Introduction by Michael A. Minihan. Princeton University Press, 1967.

Petrusewicz, Mary, editor. “The Brothers Karamazov: Books 1–4.” Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time,   by JOSEPH FRANK, Princeton University Press, Princeton; Oxford, 2010, pp. 848–    866.