Utilitarianism in Crime and Punishment Essay

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Utilitarianism in Crime and Punishment

    Raskolnikov's mathematical evaluation of the moral dilemma presented to

him in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment exemplifies the empirical view of

utilitarianism.  Utilitarianism attempts to distinguish between right and wrong

by measuring a decision based on its calculated worth.  Raskolnikov appears to

employ the fundamentals of utilitarianism by pitting the negative consequences

of murdering his old landlady against the positive benefits that her money would

bestow onto society.  However, a true follower of utilitarianism would be

outraged at Raskolnikov's claim that murdering the old woman can be considered

morally right. Raskolnikov arbitrarily leaves out some necessary considerations

in his moral "equation" that do not adhere to utilitarianism.  A utilitarian

would argue that Raskolnikov has not reached an acceptable solution because he

has not accurately solved the problem.  On the other hand, a non-utilitarian

would reject even the notion of deliberating about the act of murder in such a

mathematical manner.  He might contend that Raskolnikov's reasoning, and the

entire theory of utilitarianism, cannot be used to judge morality because it

rejects individual rights and contains no moral absolutes.


      A utilitarian bases his belief upon two principles:  the theory of right

actions and the theory of value.  These two principles work together and serve

as criteria for whether or not a utilitarian can deem an action morally right.

First, the theory of right action argues that the morally right decision is the

one whose consequences are at least as good as any other availa...

... middle of paper ...



Gibson, A Boyce. The Religion of Dostoyevsky. Philadelphia: Westmenster Press,


Monas, Sidney, trans. Crime and Punishment. By Fyodor Dostoyevsky. New York:

Penguin, 1968.


Morsm, Gary Saul. "How to Read. Crime and Punishment." Commentary 1992 June, 93

(6):   49-53.


Rosenshield, Gary "The Realization of the Collective Self: The Birth of

Religious Autobiography in Dostoevski's Zapiski iz Mertvogo Doma." Slavic Review

1991 Summer 50 (2): 317-27.


Panichas, George A. "The World of Dostoyevsky." Modern Age 22: 346-57


Mann, Robert. "Elijah the Prophet in Crime and Punishment." Canadian Slavonic

Papers 1981 Sept 23 (3): 261-72.


Yancey, Phillip. "Be Ye Perfect, More or Less: Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and the

impossible Sermon on the Mount." Christianity Today 17 July 1991: 38-41.

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