Crime and Punishment: Dostoevsky's Portrayal of Anti-Nihilism Essay

Crime and Punishment: Dostoevsky's Portrayal of Anti-Nihilism Essay

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During the mid- to late- 1800s in Russia, a radical phenomenon swept the nation. The idea that life was meaningless and that there was no "mind" or "soul" outside the physical world infected the minds of Russia's elite and Russia's poverty-stricken. This became known as Nihilism. According to Whitney Eggers on "Philosophies in Crime and Punishment," "Nihilists argued that there was a distinction between the weak and the strong, and that in fact the strong had a right to trample over the weak" (Eggers). Nihilism is commonly linked to utilitarianism, or the idea that moral decisions should be based on the rule of the greatest happiness for the largest number of people. Raskolnikov, the protagonist in Crime and Punishment, is a Nihilist, which is his main reason for committing the murders. As a Nihilist, Raskolnikov is a man who "approaches everything from a critical point of view...who does not bow down before any authorities, who does not accept a single principle on faith, no matter how much respect might surround that principle" (Cassedy, 1639).
The author of Crime and Punishment, Fodor Dostoevsky, was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1821. In 1841, he graduated from military engineering school, but he soon left the military to pursue literature. Reform dominated Russia in the mid-1800s, and Dostoevsky held liberal, Western, views. Dostoevsky's ideas toward new radicals practicing Nihilism are paramount in Crime and Punishment, where he advances the idea that Nihilism is "detrimental to society and can lead to suffering and chaos" (Lin). Crime and Punishment takes the reader on a mentally perilous journey through the mind and actions of Raskolnikov, a Russian man who deals with tremendous guilt after committing murder. Dostoevsky use...

... middle of paper ... love, he throws off his nihilism. Through this action, the novel condemns nihilism as empty.

Works Cited

"Crime and Punishment." SparkNotes. SparkNotes, 2012. Web. 13 May 2014.
Miller, Paul D. "The Philosophy of Murder." Schaeffers Ghost. N.p., 4 Sept. 2012. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.
Eggers, Whitney. "Philosophies in Crime and Punishment." Center Stage. Center Stage, 2009. Web. 15 Apr. 2014.
Lerner, K. Lee and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. "Crime and Punishment." Crime and Punishment: Essential Primary Sources. Detroit: Gale, 2006. 5-8. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 15 Apr. 2014.
Cassedy, Steven. "Nihilism." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. Ed. Maryanne Cline Horowitz. Vol. 4. Detroit: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2005. 1638-1641. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 15 Apr. 2014.
Lin, Kaisen. Russian Nihilism. Rep. Berkeley, Mar. 2002. Web. 15 April, 2014.

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