Socially Constructed Reality and Meaning in Notes from Underground

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Socially Constructed Reality and Meaning in Notes from Underground Just as the hands in M.C. Escher’s “Drawing Hands” both create and are created by each other, the identity of man and society are mutually interdependent. According to the model described in The Sacred Canopy, Peter Berger believes that man externalizes or creates a social reality that is in turn objectified, or accepted by him as real. This sociological model creates a useful framework for understanding the narrator’s rejection of ultimate reality or truth in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground. The reality in which the narrator tries to live in part II, and the reality that he rejects in part I, are both created and, as such, are ultimately meaningless. The underground man’s refusal to objectify social reality causes a feeling of meaninglessness and raises a fundamental question of purpose that confronts people of all dispositions. Berger’s theory is based on a dialectical relationship between man and society. To explain his theory he defines three terms. “Externalization is the ongoing outpouring of human being into the world. Objectivation, the attainment by the products of this activity of a reality that confronts its original producers as a facticity external to and other than themselves. Internalization is the reappropriation by men of this same reality, transforming into structures of the subjective consciousness,” (Berger 4). He believes that society is a wholly human invention created by man’s tendency to externalize. This created entity is then objectified by man, giving society and its features the appearance of true reality. His newly created reality then acts upon and shapes man through internalization. Man, his identity... ... middle of paper ... ...fulfills his societal roles. Chernyshevsky’s utilitarian is happy when individual needs are met. The man of consciousness can be happy, even if his happiness comes from the rejection of happiness altogether. There is no superior happiness; there is no superior type of fulfillment. The individual achieves these ends by acting individually. No hand can avoid drawing, and man finds completeness when he fulfills the purpose that he has drawn for himself. Works Cited Berger, Peter L. The Sacred Canopy: Elements of a Sociological Theory of Religion. New York: Anchor Books, 1990. Escher, M.C. “Drawing Hands.” Cover of Norton edition of Notes from Underground. Katz, Michael R., ed. Notes from Underground. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2001. Chernyshevsky, Nikolai. “What Is to Be Done?” Katz 104-123. Dostoevsky, Fyodor. “Notes from Underground.” Katz 3-91

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