Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Wednesday, 9th September from 5-6:30pm in ib3.307.

This week the Deakin Philosophical Society, continuing with the great books, will discuss two brief chapters from Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground (VII and VIII of Part I - Underground, for those with the full text). A copy of the text is available here. A Libriox audiobook version is also available.

There are two main questions with which the chapters deal. First the underground man asks if we only do wrong because we are unaware of our true interests. Then: If through the application of reason we become aware of our true interests, won't we simply act contrary to those interests out of boredom or to assert that reason is not all that we are? Like Cleopatra, won't we stick gold pins into our slave-girl's breast just to hear her scream?

It is interesting to note that Dostoevsky wrote Notes from Underground partly as a review of Nikolai Chernyshevsky's What is to Be Done? Last week Beckett told us that there is nothing to be done. This week Dostevsky tells us that maybe there is something to be done after all, but not the something that rational egoists (Chernyshevsky) and utilitarians would have us do.

Dylan Nickelson,
President, Deakin Philosophical Society.

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One Response to Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky

  1. The Raskol says:

    Does anyone know the original Roman source for this reference to Cleopatra’s supposed sadistic habit of poking gold pins into breasts? I’ve been searching Strabo, Plutarch, and Dio and have yet to find this reference. The only thing anywhere close to it I can find is that she tested poisons and snake venoms on prisoners condemned to death, but that not out of sadistic delight but rather to determine which would be most painless for use in suicide. If anybody can post a legitimate historical account of this, I’d like to see it.

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