A Sick, Spiteful, and Unattractive Man
October, 2, 2013
“I have in my own life merely carried to the extreme that which you have never ventured to carry even halfway; and what’s more, you’ve regarded your cowardice as prudence, and I may be even more ‘alive’ than you are” – The Underground Man. In the novel “Notes from Underground” by existentialist Fyodor Dostoevsky, the narrator of the novel known as the Underground Man makes a convincing case against rationalists who claim that reason alone will perfect the world. These people believe that humans live their lives with a false sense of what is important and what is not important; that if everyone thought logically with perfect reason there would be no irrationality, thus no error in society. Ultimately, if the fundamentals that governed human behavior could be understood and if every action could be interpreted and therefore foreseen through reason, “...so that all possible questions [would] disappear in a single instant, since they [would] all have been provided with answers, then the Crystal Palace [would] arise [and utopia would be attainable].” – p.24
The Underground Man is against this view; in fact he devotes his entire life against it. He believes that it ultimately overlooks the human desire for free will. He suggests that humans value the ability to practice their will more than they value reason; even if it conflicts with their physical and mental well-being. The Underground Man’s self-destructive lifestyle delineates this, instead of visiting the doctor to cure his illness; the Underground Man prefers to suffer his ailments in silence, even though this decision only brings him more pain.
Dostoevsky recognizes that one cannot argue against rationalism with reason. It is impossible to reject that 2 + 2 = 4. Moreover, a person attempting to make a case against rationalism cannot state the error in rationalism and then attempt to...