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Thread: Dostoevsky's question...

  1. #1
    Registered User Nazish's Avatar
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    Dostoevsky's question...

    Does anyone have an answer? =)


    Don't you think there are many more men in the world thieves than not thieves, and that there isn't a man in the world so honest that he has never once in his life stolen anything? That's my idea, from which I don't conclude, however, that all men are thieves; though, goodness knows, I've often been tempted to. What do you think?

    #The Idiot - Fyodor Dostoevsky
    Last edited by Nazish; 07-22-2012 at 02:23 PM.
    I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

  2. #2
    Ataraxia bazarov's Avatar
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    Surely there are more thieves then honest one, everyone stole something as a kid - candy, pear, plum or something similar. Still,probably there are some who never stole anything. If someone can hold till 12-13 years, then he could go for it
    At thunder and tempest, At the world's coldheartedness,
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    Who cares? Many men are many things...

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    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    What's wrong with the answer Prince Myshkin himself gives?

    "I think you are partially right, but you exaggerate," said the prince, who had certainly blushed up, of a sudden, for some reason or other.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

  5. #5
    Absinthe minded bIGwIRE's Avatar
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    I like the distinction Demitri made in The Brothers Karamazov, when speaking to the prosecutor. I'm at work, far from my library, but he said something to the effect of "All men are scoundrels, but not all are thieves. It takes a special kind of scoundrel to be a thief."
    His reasoning was that while every man may steal, everyman also has the opportunity each day to make amends, and absolve himself of thievery, and making him only a borrower, and a scoundrel. I will look closer at the text when I get home.

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  6. #6
    Registered User WyattGwyon's Avatar
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    First of all, did Dostoyevsky ask this question or was it asked by a fictional character he created or the narrator of the novel? In the latter cases, it should be attributed to the character or narrator, not the author; Fictional discourse cannot be assumed to equate to authorial discourse! In this case it would be particularly silly to make such an equation because the question is a rather unintelligent bit of sophistry the author would have been unlikely to endorse. Why? Because labeling everyone a thief who has ever stolen something, however trivial and at whatever age, stretches the word's meaning far beyond its standard usage, as a simple example will show. Consider a man, forty years of age, whose only offense was stealing a penny from his sister at the age of four. Would you feel comfortable denouncing such a person as a thief? Of course not, because the moniker "thief" implies an ongoing pattern of behavior or even an occupation. Indeed, it would be harsh to state that this person was ever a thief. The sister might have been expected to call him a thief on the day of the offense, but it would be considered uncommonly vindictive if she had continued to do so for a week thereafter, let alone forty years.

    In short, it is a poorly conceived question (the one attributed to the author, not yours:-) and I suspect it wasn't Dostoyevsky's.
    Last edited by WyattGwyon; 07-27-2012 at 06:24 PM.

  7. #7
    Absinthe minded bIGwIRE's Avatar
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    It was a question asked by a character Dostoevsky created, not Dostoevsky himself. It was also a question asked, in different configurations, by a few of his characters in different novels. I don't think the op actually meant it was a personal question he was wrestling with.
    However, to write it into a character meant he did analyse the question,and had a reason to include it in his novels. What he asked wasn't "did all men steal something in their life", the OP added kind of added his own part to it. What he asked, or stated and refuted, was "are all men thieves". In other words, through his characters, Dostoevsky asked if anyone can escape from base human nature, or are we animal-like in our slavery to instinctively sin. A good question for Russian people at the time, don't you think?

    Yes, initially it is a simple answer, as evidenced by the fact it was immediately answered by another character, like Prince Myshkin the idiot, or Dimitri, Karamazov, but I think the question posed calls for a more in depth answer and analysis. Can we hope in fallen mankind, or throw up our hands and admit we are all thieves?
    Last edited by bIGwIRE; 07-30-2012 at 08:46 AM.

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    What bothered him so much? Was he religious, and in equating legal and criminal law with moral and religious law, find himself horribly torn as to what rules he should live by? Or did the presumption of Modernity to dictate how people should live, and what was right, bother him enough to fuel his life's work?

    Was he simply philosophising? 'Should we abide by laws we do not agree with?'

    Personally, I think all of us have the potential to steal. In different cultures, at different times, to different people, for different reasons - I think all people will find a time and a place to steal.

    Bizarrely enough, the last thing I stole was 'The Idiot', by Dostoevsky.

  9. #9
    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bIGwIRE View Post
    Yes, initially it is a simple answer, as evidenced by the fact it was immediately answered by another character, like Prince Myshkin the idiot, or Dimitri, Karamazov, but I think the question posed calls for a more in depth answer and analysis. Can we hope in fallen mankind, or throw up our hands and admit we are all thieves?
    I would scarcely call the terse answer of Prince Myshkin simple. Nor his blush!
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

  10. #10
    confidentially pleased cacian's Avatar
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    Here is my take on it:
    Take two men and put them together and then take this question?
    Can you tell the thief from the none?
    Last edited by cacian; 08-03-2012 at 09:56 AM.
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