Dostoevsky - Notes from Underground

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  • Topic: Notes from Underground, Mind, Human
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  • Published : October 23, 2012
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14 November 2007
Notes from Underground
Armed with a view that strongly opposes the ideas presented by rational egoism, Fyodor Dostoevsky conducts an all-out assault against the theory in his 1864 novel, Notes from Underground. The narrator is a sick, pessimistic man who remains nameless throughout the course of his ranting. Without any recognizable respect for his own health and well being out of pure spite, he is the perfect character to illustrate Dostoevsky's argument against the theory of rational egoism. The narrator decides upon actions that may directly oppose his true interests for the sole reason of proving that he is an unpredictable man who enjoys his own free will and ability to make voluntary decisions of his own, without being restrained by the ideas of rationality and reason. A particular profit (advantage) is revealed in the narrator's philosophical ranting that describes man's ability to decide to act in an unpredictable manner. The narrator challenges the definition of profit saying, “What is profit? Will you take it upon yourself to define with perfect exactitude precisely what man’s profit consists in?” (Dostoevsky 21), and continues by introducing his idea of an overlooked advantage that is so important that all the other advantages rely upon it. He describes this masochistic advantage, questioning “And what if it so happens that on occasion man's profit sometimes not only may, but precisely must consist precisely in sometimes wishing what is bad for himself, and not what is profitable?” (21). This abnormal advantage refers to an individual's freedom, the ability to choose, when given multiple options, a detrimental course of action over a more favorable option with the intention that one may demonstrate their free will, in order to express that they are unpredictable and refuse to be easily categorized and stereotyped by others. The common desires such as prosperity, wealth, freedom, and peace cannot possibly describe the...
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