I am a sick man are the opening words to Fyodor Dostoevsky's novella Notes from Underground. For the narrator, the Underground Man is both figuratively and literally sick his liver hurts but he will not receive treatment from doctors. Indeed, only a sick man' would choose to let his liver rot. Yet there is a strange philosophy embedded within the Underground Man's words: through irrationality, spitefulness and arbitrariness he will pronounce his existence. His purpose for existence is his freewill.
[...] The Underground Man provides a stream-of-consciousness of a victim of a toothache. seems I'm disturbing you, tearing at your heart, preventing anyone in the house from getting any sleep. Well, then, you won't sleep; you, too, must be aware at all times that I have a toothache.”' ‘Disturbing' is a key word that is at the crux of the passage; so long as he is disturbed by the pain of the tooth ache, he must ‘disturb' others with his moans. [...]
[...] In Robert Louis Jackson's 1981 book titled, The Art of Dostoevsky: Delirium and Nocturnes, he writes “Through spite, irrational will, and caprice, he [the Underground Man] seeks freedom from these laws, laws that have been humiliating him ‘more than anything else.' He seeks to escape from the inwardly experienced and outwardly perceived rule of Determinism.” (Jackson, 60) The Underground Man is rebelling against ‘Determinism' or the belief that freewill is an illusion and that the future is predetermined, a belief that relegates humans as mere cogs in the machinery of nature. [...]
[...] He accepts Determinism; however he will bang his head against the ‘stone wall' of truth to assert his freewill since that is the only outlet for him allowed by nature. If he must act irrationally, then the Underground Man will choose to be irrational and desire what might harm him. BIBLIOGRAPHY Cherkasova, Evgenia V. “Kant on Freewill and Arbitrariness: A View from Dostoevsky's Underground.” Philosophy and Literature. Dearborn: Oct Vol Issue 367 379. Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Notes from Underground: A Norton Critical [...]
[...] Furthermore, the Underground Man states “I'm told that the Petersburg climate is becoming bad for my health, and that it's very expensive to live in Petersburg with my meager resources. I know it better than all those wise and experienced advisers and admonishers. But I shall remain in Petersburg.” The Underground Man's inertia of action is a glimpse into his arbitrary nature. He knows that to remain in St. Petersburg would be a detriment to his health, but he still chooses to reside there. [...]
[...] Following in the vein of philosophical interpretation, I will focus on the Underground Man's irrational character, providing examples of his arbitrariness, an aspect of irrationality, and how this gives him the ability to assert his freewill. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “arbitrary” as, “uncontrolled in the exercise of will.” The Underground Man is an example of an arbitrary mind. By the way he writes it is evidence that he exists in the moment, unable to make up his mind what to write, constantly trying to shape and polish each word before he sets it down, fully conscious of trying to balance between what he desires to say and what he desires to evoke in his listeners. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee