I am listening to Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground on tape.
Evidently, this was his breakout novel, if you can call it that, and the thoughts he introduces here underpin the rest of his writings. I'm enjoying the book enough that I will probably go ahead and listen to Crime and Punishment.
The protagonist has an immense amount of fun with his depressing and negative view of life, so I am loving it. I have spent the first couple hours of the book with a huge smile on my face. I don't know whether that's appropriate, but there you have it.
Our cave-dwelling, bureaucratic, emotional writer (I don't know why the book appeals to me. :-) goes on at length before he seems to arrive at the keystone of his argument. He begins to rail against predestinationists - scientific predestinationists, but all the same - and their understanding of man as a creature that seeks his own best good. He talks of advantage, and how men are always supposed to be seeking their own best advantage. He thinks that is all well and good, but that they leave the best advantage of all out of their calculations.
In assuming that man wants peace, wealth, and freedom, the scientists become unable to predict a real man's behavior. The man will often do that which is not to his own advantage, and no scientist can explain why. They are able to prove with certainty that every man always does what he perceives to be to his best advantage. And, yes, they can prove it with mathematical precision, but they can only prove it using math. A man is not a "math," and they cannot explain, much less predict, what a whole man will do in real life.
"Twice two makes four," he says (and I lifted the phrase in my previous post because it's really cool) is simply not true of a man. If it were true, it were no sense to bother being a man. A man is but a ledger entry if, "twice two makes four," can explain him. There has to be something more.
(Those of you who may know Dostoevsky inside and out, please forgive me. All this is from one listen, one third of the way through, to my first of his books. I cannot reference anything but memory to see if I'm portraying him even reasonably close to rightly. Much less do I know whether he undoes everything he says in part 1 before he closes part 3. Part 1 was just fascinating enough to give it a post.)
Dostoevsky finds his answer in, "caprice."
Man finds his greatest advantage sometimes in the simple exercise of caprice. Man wants to be able to go his own way even more than he wants to go the best way. It is for freedom that he was set free (I believe the verse allusion to be mine, not the author's,) and he will run freely, whatever the cost. He will spite even himself, if in so doing he might distance himself from twice two is four. The conscious exercise of caprice is so great an advantage, in and of itself, as to often overrule all the advantages of being right.
What think ye?
Does predestination require deterministic fatalism? (Am I just living out a script, and have no control over the outcome?)
Is caprice a great advantage? (Is the exercise of free will more beneficial than doing good for others?)
Is caprice an outcome of the fall? (If I were not a fallen man, would I always do the right thing, even if it were predictable?)