March 28, 2009

God is a pain in the fear of death (Kirilov)

- Evil men have no songs. How is it then,that the Russians have songs?
- Insanity is the exception in individuals. In groups, parties, people, and times, it is the rule.


Alexei Nilych Kirilov (or Kirillov) is one of the most astonishing characters in The Possessed. He is a "thoroughgoing madman", who has been driven to nihilistic ideas by Nikolai Stavrogin. On the one side, he is just an ordinary unsociable man, though particularly concerned with his health.

"Pyotr Stepanovitch went first to Kirillov's. He found him, as usual, alone, and at the moment practising gymnastics, that is, standing with his legs apart, brandishing his arms above his head in a peculiar way. On the floor lay a ball. The tea stood cold on the table, not cleared since breakfast."

But on the other side, this introverted engineer is also a theorist. We can trace both philosophy of religion and philosophy of freedom in his character. They are intertwined, and completelly influenced by atheism. Without any doubt, those theories had lead Kirilov to a suicide, who considered it as a highest act of free will. In the explanatory scheme of this idea, we will start with philosophy of religion and then proceed to philosophy of freedom.

Fear is a specific notion that has got a lot in common with "pain", which is the central theme in this discourse. Dostoevsky illustrates this notion with a following example - consider a big rock which would kill you if it fell onto you. Even though we are sure of it, we also know, that because of its enormous size and mass, it is sure that we wouldn't feel any pain.

In other words, we are not afraid of a rock, but of death. Since fear is a component of pain, in this case it follows that pain is in death. Now comes a crucial point: God is a pain in the fear of death'. For if there was no death or pain there would be no need for a God or Gods.

Now, we can continue with philosophy of freedom. Kirilov is obsessively attached to freedom, so that he doesn't agree, not in a single moment, that there is the slightest possibility that he is not a free agent. In a conversation to Pyotr Stepanovitch, he argues:

"It's not an agreement and not an obligation. I have not bound myself in any way." or "I didn't bind myself, I agreed, because it makes no difference to me."
And even if Kirilov doesn't bring into question the very existence of free will, he is convinced that there are several levels of it. A highest act of free will is a suicide.
"I want to put an end to my life, because that's my idea, because I don't want to be afraid of death."

Kirilov can now infer that if one commits suicide, he directly rejects God's existence, since he does not have any fear, and God is a fear. Hypothetically, one would kill oneself not in affection, but in calmness. Such an agent, who would prove that there is no God, would then declare himself as God. As one who can give and take life as one who can create or cause.

Although this is an idea of Stavrogin, Kirilov is proud of it, and lives in its accordance. At few occasions, he gets very unpleasant, when this theory is set on scene.
"No, it's not excellent, for you are being tedious. I am not obliged to give you any account of myself and you can't understand my ideas."

Pyotr Stepanovitch however, to whom these words were directed, didn't care much even if he didn't understand Kirilov ideas. Pyotr Stepanovitch only cared for the plan he was set on executing. Here Kirilov plays a central role in the plot of the novel. Pyotr Stepanovitch's plan involves an agreement between Kirilov and Pyotr Stepanovitch. That Kirilov would take guilt onto himself for a murder that Pyotr Stepanovitch's conspiracy group intends to commit.
Ivan Shatov is a son of former serf, as well as a former university student and another intellectual who has turned his back on his leftist ideas. This change of heart is what attracts Pyotr Stepanovich Verkhovensky to plot Shatov's murder. Shatov is based on I. I. Ivanov, a student who was murdered by Sergey Nechayev for speaking out against Nechayev's radical propaganda, an actual event which served as the initial impetus for Dostoyevsky's novel.

He was tutored by Stephan and from his childhood was greatly indebted to Varvara. A one time radical socialist, Shatov converts to a Russian idealist. He is married, but separated to the governess of his former merchant. Shatov is a member of the group, who tries to breakout, but fails.

Shatov wants to believe in God, but feels he has no faith. He values the idea of God and feels that religion is essential to the Russian identity. Shatov believes that his lifestyle and principles are in conflict with allowing him to have faith. He admits to the existence of God, but that alone can not give him complete faith. Dostoevsky places Shatov in a tragedian role.

As soon as he begins to understand himself and develops a religious conviction, he is murdered. Throughout the novel he seeks faith and once he has a chance to grasp it Dostoevsky has him killed. Both Kirillov and Shatov have firm convictions, the former has faith but does not believe in God, and the latter believes in God but has no faith. Therefore, Shatov is the type of character who is placed in difficult circumstances, because he tryes to have faith in God, but when he's on the good road, he is murdered, and it's taking place a tragedy.


ninni said...

Thank You mi Library, hope You have a good day there in the subburb

Anonymous said...

Have seen any ufos leitli?

Anonymous said...

Saw aguy there yesterday depressed and mornin, this mornin jumpin..some kind of updown syndrom some they have

not to mention mi. you look very calm there behind the screen
rauno. onko kevät ilmaista

sumeeri koivikko said...

Geat Day! Nihilisti on siis romantikon balanssi, millaista on Helsingissä.
Voiko Kaupunkia kuvailla kuten henkilöä
monet ova tehneet niin
mutta lienevätkö tietävän.