Dostoevsky's Hegelian Parody in Crime and Punishment

By Ian L. O'Kidhain
2011, Vol. 3 No. 06 | pg. 1/1


This project examines the role of the Left Hegelian school of philosophy in Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Special attention is given to Georg Hegel's section on “World Historical Individuals” from Philosophy of History and Rodion Raskolnikov's philosophy from Crime and Punishment. The text argues that Raskolnikov is largely an agent of Left Hegelianism created by Dostoevsky to illustrate a philosophy that the author opposed. That philosophy, Left Hegelianism, held that ultimately all reality is subjectable to rational categorization, an idea that grew into a movement that was partially responsible for rampant atheism, anarchism, and terrorism in 19th century Russia. Although scholars have explored many of the themes in Crime and Punishment, almost all have overlooked Hegelianism as a major source of inspiration for Dostoevsky. This research is important because one of the essential sources of inspiration for an incredibly influential author is mostly absent from analytical texts. This project illuminates one largely unexplored area of thought from a major source of our modern culture.

In Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky relates the story of Rodion Raskolnikov, a man who murders a pawnbroker in St. Petersburg, and the mental anguish that tortures Raskolnikov as he comes to terms with his crime. Scholars have shown notable variety with categorizing the book, sometimes classifying it pragmatically as a “thriller” or more philosophically as a “comedy of mistaken identity.”1 Yet regardless of its classification, the sophisticated tale evokes the mystique of a murder mystery: even though the reader knows the identity of the killer from the beginning, Raskolnikov tries to discover his true motivation and Dostoevsky reveals key pieces of Raskolnikov's psyche and history as the plot unfolds. Like most of Dostoevsky's work, this novel includes an underlying moral message and reveals facets of the author's own psyche and history. This paper explores one of those facets: Georg Hegel's influence on Dostoevsky's thought.

Dostoevsky first began exploring Hegelianism in association with his intense interest in German Romanticism. After publishing his short novel Poor Folk in 1846 to critical acclaim, Dostoevsky was invited to numerous meetings of “Left Hegelians,” those who interpreted Hegel's philosophy as advocating atheism and liberal democracy in politics. Shortly thereafter, in 1849, the Russian government strictly enforced its stance on potential terrorist groups and Dostoevsky was exiled to a Siberian prison. Ultimately, as a result of association with these groups and his experiences both during and directly following his incarceration, Dostoevsky came to sympathize less with leftist progressivism and to rely more on a Christian moral foundation. Crime and Punishment was both Dostoevsky's response to Hegelian sentiments of the 1840s and warning to the radicals of the 1860s about the possible negative influences of their ethics. Raskolnikov is largely an agent of Left Hegelianism, constructed especially from Hegel's section on “World Historical Individuals” from Philosophy of History, utilized by Dostoevsky to illustrate a philosophy that the author opposed. This paper will begin with the historical context of Dostoevsky's work in connection with Hegelian philosophy, so that the reason for Dostoevsky's critique may be more fully understood. It will continue with a juxtaposition between Hegel's philosophy and the key sections of Crime and Punishment that parallel Hegelianism, so that the reader may clearly see the correlations. Finally, it will end with an examination of those views opposing the idea that Crime and Punishment represents a reaction to Hegelianism, offering a case for why these views, while understandable, are inaccurate.

Dostoevsky's encounters with Hegelian social groups early in his career allowed him to explore his fascination with German Romanticism, but he later found Christianity more engaging following his incarceration in Siberia. One of the first and most influential philosophical leaders with whom Dostoevsky engaged was Vissarion Belinsky, a well-known critic of Russian literature at that time. Before Dostoevsky joined Belinsky's social circle in 1846, the author entertained an acute interest in German Romanticism and “[exhibited] a horrified fascination with the theme of man's sacrilegious aspiration to dethrone God and substitute himself in God's place.”2 So Belinsky gave Dostoevsky the opportunity to examine those ideas that intrigued and disconcerted the author. However, during this time Belinsky was swiftly adopting the very values of German Romanticism that discomforted Dostoevsky: Left Hegelianism.

Although Dostoevsky wrote that he viewed Belinsky as an impassioned philosophical guide who effectively indoctrinated him into new Socialist thought, the author soon found Belinsky's ethics troubling. Whereas Socialism was potentially compatible with Christian morals, Left Hegelianism encouraged anti-Christian sentiments, which Dostoevsky opposed. In fact, notable Dostoevsky scholar Joseph Frank wrote that, “Dostoevsky had been deeply disturbed - indeed, on the point of tears - when, during a conversation in 1847, Belinsky had attacked and denigrated Christ with the new Left Hegelian arguments.”3 It is worth noting that Belinsky explored many different philosophical ideas throughout his life, but Belinsky’s enthusiastic Left Hegelian stage most greatly affected the author. Dostoevsky disliked Belinsky's philosophy; however, he disliked Mikhail Petrashevsky's form of Left Hegelian atheism even more.

Belinsky impressed Dostoevsky, who viewed the critic's negative outbursts as genuine concern for Russian people, but Petrashevsky's cold sarcasm and scorn contributed to Dostoevsky's further move away from ideologies such as Hegelianism to an aggressively Christian moral code. Initially, Dostoevsky held several reasons to shift from Belinsky's social circle to Petrashevsky's. The stifling egoism from Belinsky's circle, Belinsky’s lack of endorsement for Dostoevsky’s works following Poor Folk, and Dostoevsky's desire for a group with more open communication of ideas inspired Dostoevsky's decision to distance himself from Belinsky in 1847.

Neither the Petrashevsky circle nor Petrashevsky himself satisfied Dostoevsky's intellectual or ethical appetites. One historian reported that, after Dostoevsky's exposure to the intimacy of the Belinsky group, the author condemned the Petrashevsky meetings as a “haphazard conglomeration” and the author reputedly “[attributed] their popularity both to the free refreshments and to a desire to 'play at liberalism'.”4 Moreover, the leader, Mikhail Petrashevsky, was a devout Left Hegelian atheist who “believed that religion was not only an error but positively harmful.”5 During this time, Dostoevsky became more familiar with the arguments of Left Hegelianism, but “there is no evidence . . . that he ever gave way to [the sentiments] entirely.”6 Further, Petrashevsky's mocking irreverence toward religion and scorn for literature discomfited Dostoevsky even more than Belinsky's occasional anti-Christian outbursts. But Dostoevsky's experience with the Petrashevsky circle ultimately facilitated his decision to oppose Russian progressivism, especially in association with Left Hegelianism, for another reason. Association with the Petrashevsky group resulted in his Siberian incarceration two years later, after the government executed a raid versus radical groups in 1849. It was during Dostoevsky's time in Siberia, from 1849 to 1854, that the author rejuvenated and empowered himself with Christianity.

Dostoevsky strengthened his Christian faith while he was imprisoned in Siberia and, soon after his release, the author began to systematically examine philosophical texts. Many of Dostoevsky's experiences in Siberia may be gleaned from House of the Dead, but one may also discover how Siberia influenced Dostoevsky from his other books. Because of the environment and events in prison, Dostoevsky's relationship with Christianity evolved tremendously. Essentially he came to believe that a Christian conscience served as a necessary “inner barrier against a . . . deadening of the moral sensibility.”7 Joseph Frank argued that, before Siberia, Dostoevsky had viewed Christ as the bearer of a general canon of social change, but that later Christ became a deeply intertwined agent who soothed the author’s intellectual and ethical angst.8 Dostoevsky became an enemy of the radicals of the 1860s because he feared that their ethics would destroy this idea of defense. After reinforcing his Christian foundation in a Siberia prison, Dostoevsky began a philosophical survey while staying in a town named Omsk.

During the early 1850s, Dostoevsky embarked on an intellectual journey to examine some specific earlier philosophical movements, especially Hegelianism. Dostoevsky contacted his brother about acquiring some philosophical texts. With regard to the type of philosophy, Joseph Frank noted that Dostoevsky seemed “anxious to plunge back into the past in a very serious and systematic fashion . . . [Dostoevsky wrote,] 'slip Hegel in without fail, especially Hegel's History of Philosophy. My entire future is tied up with that'.”9 Although the author clearly requested Hegel's text in order to reexamine the philosopher's doctrine, historical sources have failed to show whether or not Dostoevsky actually secured History of Philosophy. On the contrary, Malcolm Jones, the former President of the International Dostoevsky Society, argued that the deficit of evidence to the contrary indicates that Dostoevsky did not achieve thorough comprehension of Hegelianism solely during association with Young Hegelian groups of the 1840s.10 However, one may glean echoes of Hegel in Dostoevsky's negative heroes from later works, such as Rodion Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment, which the author could not have constructed without an intimate knowledge of Hegelianism. So Dostoevsky must have studied Hegelianism later in his life, and historical documents indicate that the most likely time for research would have been directly following his incarceration since he deliberately requested the texts of Georg Hegel while living in Omsk.

Dostoevsky's experiences with Hegelianism during the 1850s supported the substantial parallelism between the vision of his negative heroes and Left Hegelian views. On this matter, Frank commented that, “if Dostoevsky had no effective answer to Belinsky in 1845, he amply made up for it later by the creation of his negative heroes.”11 These subjects “engage in the impossible and self-destructive attempt to transcend the human condition, and to incarcerate the Left Hegelian dream of replacing the God-man by the Man-god.”12 Crime and Punishment illuminated the problems Dostoevsky perceived in Left Hegelianism. Raskolnikov attempts to transcend humanity based upon his theory of extraordinary individuals and by arguing that these gods or supermen among ordinary citizens were capable of righteously committing negative acts. Deluded by his perception of righteousness, Raskolnikov murders a pawn broker, leading him down a self-destructive path that lasts mere days before its conclusion. Shadowing Dostoevsky's experiences, Raskolnikov later finds redemption in suffering and Christianity while incarcerated, according to Dostoevsky's own ethos. Echoing the Hegelian sentiments of men like Belinsky, Raskolnikov is an effective negative hero, but not a Hero in the Hegelian sense.

Georg Hegel wrote in Philosophy of History that Heroes are great people who naturally further the teleological, or progressive, world by contributing an idea that is simultaneously uniquely their own and the best of their time. He called these figures both Heroes and “World Historical Individuals,” and included men such as Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Alexander the Great in their ranks.13 By defining these people, Hegel classified and categorized two groups of historical agents with different roles. Essentially, there are notable cases of Heroes and there are unremarkable cases of mundane individuals, everyone else in society.

Hegel wrote about several differences between Heroes and mundane people. A mundane group of people seeks to establish and secure a community in order to facilitate its own ends, which usually includes a focus on comfort. Furthermore, these people work toward building harmony, establishing permanency, and generally upholding the rules given to them by their predecessors. This is not the role of Heroes. According to Hegel, Heroes inspire and fulfill a radical shift in society during the period with which they are associated.14 Often largely unaware of their impact on society, they act for their own benefit, like mundane people, but toward different ends. Heroes are passionate agents who derive their vocation from themselves and gather enough power to shape the world in the image of their own interests. Ultimately, these individuals produce significant, changing conditions that reflect their personal concerns.15 According to Hegel, they are thoughtful people whose enterprises subconsciously originate from an abstract source about a requirement of their age, which specifically parallels that Hero's personal concern. Once they glean this characteristic, all further aims are intended toward nothing else.16 This is one of the central points of Hegel's argument because it contains both the reason why Heroes achieve greatness and the unique property through which they succeed.

Although Heroes are interested in private gain, they derive their larger success from an unconscious impulse that Hegel called geist, or Spirit. Unfortunately, this central characteristic of Hegel's argument is also fairly elusive. One may define geist as an Idea, or historical medium, transmitted through the process of Nature to the Spirit within a Hero that interprets the message.17 Essentially, Spirit is the term used to describe the impetus for historical events. But to understand how this idea connects with Crime and Punishment, one must understand the relationship between Hegel's terms: Idea, Nature, and Spirit. Chenxi Tang, a scholar of German Romanticism, explained this relationship by articulating that the process is “treated first as a structure of thought.”18 This structure of thought is the Idea, or historical medium, which originates from an abstract force. The historical medium, Tang wrote, “informs nature and comes to realize itself through nature.”19 Nature, for Hegel, was the inevitable or teleological progression from one stage of existence to another.

In a historical context, the ultimate goal of Nature is the progression of Spirit, which results in civilization, laws, and modernity. But Nature does not evolve naturally; it progresses through the foundation of Idea, and eventually “[comes] to the fore in subjective consciousness.”20 This consciousness may take several forms, according to Romanticism, but Hegel notably argued that Heroes realize the Idea subconsciously through an agent within themselves: Spirit. In essence, it is from this that Heroes derive their master passion, which leads them to will and accomplish great things.21 Spirit signifies that connection between Heroes and the will of the historical medium. Using Spirit, Hegel justified how Heroes may commit monstrous acts, such as mass murder. In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov closely echoes this theory of “World Historical Individuals.”

In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov writes an essay that describes the status of ordinary and extraordinary people in the world. Magistrate Porfiry Petrovitch is the first character to reveal this theory in the novel, albeit condescendingly, declaring that, “Ordinary men have to live in submission, have no right to transgress the law, because, don’t you see, they are ordinary. But extraordinary men have a right to commit any crime and to transgress the law in any way just because they are extraordinary.”22 Porfiry Petrovitch immediately takes the theory to an extreme level, for which Raskolnikov corrects him by replying that “extraordinary people are not always bound to commit breaches of morals.”23 Raskolnikov argues that an extraordinary person has the right to commit certain crimes, based upon “his own conscience,” when fulfilling his or her idea, theory, or, as Hegel would term it, Spirit. He continues this thought by stating, “Newton would have had the right, would indeed have been in duty bound . . . to eliminate a dozen or a hundred men for the sake of making his discoveries known to the whole of humanity.”24 He furthers this reasoning in a manner similar to Hegel, commenting that Newton would not have had a right to murder people whenever and if he desired or to regularly steal; it was only for the sake of fulfilling his Spirit that Newton had the right. Raskolnikov further commits himself to the position as a Hegelian agent by the way in which he illustrates his example of Napoleon.

Raskolnikov comments that extraordinary people may commit some criminal acts justly. He begins by commenting that all world leaders are criminals because they depose old, sometimes sacred laws for their new ones and, in some cases, even commit bloodshed. Raskolnikov argues that Heroes such as Napoleon “must from their very nature be criminals . . . otherwise it’s hard for them to get out of the common rut; and to remain in the common rut is what they can’t submit to . . . and to my mind they ought not, indeed, to submit to it.”25 Parallel with Hegel's argument, Raskolnikov argues for a position of individuals who transcend common moral actions based upon the greater quality of their actions, which Hegel addressed in Philosophy of History.

Hegel argued from the position of good will, which holds that criminal acts may or may not be justifiable. Hegel wrote that nothing can inform an individual about what is right except for one's own conscience.26 It is one's responsibility to examine the conscience and determine what is right or good. Therefore, murdering for the sake of murder, for personal gain, or for sadistic pleasure are wrong actions because they are not intended to be good. But murder for the purpose of relieving or preventing suffering, or to save an innocent life can be good if the conscience deems that it is so.27 Stephen Houlgate in his book on Hegel stated this simply, “What ultimately makes me a moral individual, for Hegel, is the knowledge that I cannot go wrong as long as I will what my conscience tells me is good.”28 This position allows Heroes like Napoleon to murder freely and openly. Since they are Heroes, they are driven by the Spirit, and so their acts are justified by the conscience, which understands the acts to be good and inviolable. This particular theory served as a strong base from which the character of Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment was created. However, Raskolnikov argues that a crime is still punishable regardless of what class of individual committed the act.

Raskolnikov states that an individual who commits a crime is subject to punishment. He reveals this position during the initial conversation regarding his theory. Raskolnikov says that everyone who commits criminal acts suffers, even those who have the right to do so. He argues that, if they are an ordinary individual then, “they castigate themselves, for they are very conscientious . . . They will impose various public acts of penitence upon themselves with a beautiful and edifying effect.”29 However, even if the person is in the extraordinary class, Raskolnikov is confident about their suffering. He comments that, “pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.”30 Ultimately, regardless of whether the act was just or not, committing a crime will result in suffering. This theory is very telling about Raskolnikov's own state of mind during both the stages leading up to the murder and his illness and rage following the act. But the idea of a criminal demanding his own punishment is not a unique idea; Hegel made the same argument in Philosophy of Right.

Hegel wrote a very strong parallel argument to Raskolnikov's position in Crime and Punishment. He argued:

"Beccarria's requirement that men should give their consent to being punished is right enough, but the criminal gives his consent already by his very act. The nature of the crime, no less than the private will of the criminal, requires that the injury initiated by the criminal should be annulled."31

According to Hegel, just as Raskolnikov, there exists an inherent quality in a criminal act that inspires the perpetrator to seek punishment. This might be part of the reason why Hegel argued that it is unnatural for Heroes to be happy. Hegel wrote that, “[Heroes] attained no calm enjoyment; their whole life was labor and trouble; their whole nature was nought else but their master-passion.”32 Guided by the invisible force of Spirit, individuals are moved to obtain their passion, even when it leads them to act in monstrous ways. This anxiety leads to another state Raskolnikov suffered in Crime and Punishment.

Raskolnikov feels unhappy and anxious as he is moved by what he perceives to be an invisible power to kill the pawnbroker. Leading up to the murder, he feels that the desire was both stronger than him and somehow natural. But the state was simultaneously stressful and filled Raskolnikov with despair, as if approaching his doom. During this time, Raskolnikov undergoes similar trials and negative life experiences as Heroes from Hegel's History of Philosophy. Furthermore, the force that Raskolnikov believes guided him to commit the crime resembles that sense of Spirit that Hegel argued moved men to act.

Lastly, Raskolnikov admits that the categories utilized to divide people into ordinary and extraordinary are fairly arbitrary. He states that the important structure is that they are based on “laws of nature,” which either imparts one with the “gift or talent to utter a new word” or does not.33 He finishes his description by mentioning that Heroes could find in their consciences a sanction for “wading through blood,” if it meant fulfilling their missions. Raskolnikov's essay is the clearest Hegelian argument from Crime and Punishment, but it is not the only one in the text.

Toward the beginning of Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov overhears two gentlemen discussing the moral properties of killing the pawnbroker who Raskolnikov later murders. A student and an officer discuss several characteristics of the pawnbroker, especially her negative qualities, including how coldly she treats late payments, the interest she charges, and the abuse of her sister. Without provocation, the student mentions that he could kill the pawnbroker and make off with her money “without the faintest conscience-prick.”34 The officer laughs but the student continues by describing the pawnbroker as an old, spiteful woman who basically throws money away instead of helping the poor and sickly. As the student grows more heated, the officer interrupts him by asking if the student could actually kill the pawnbroker. The student corrects himself by replying that he was arguing whether or not the act was just, but that he could not kill her.35 With this statement, he illuminates that facet of Hegelian philosophy that examines the value of normally immoral acts, such as murder, for moral intentions by utilizing the guidance of conscience. The student's conscience signals that it was not a just act, so he answered that he would not commit murder. This conversation also alludes to Raskolnikov's later ethical issues following the murder. From these examples, the parallels between Hegel and Dostoevsky are fairly clear. But some scholars have argued that one can make no distinctive connection between the two authors.

Malcolm Jones succinctly summarized multiple critics' objections when he wrote the article, “Some Echoes of Hegel in Dostoevsky,” which contends that Hegelian philosophy does not appear in Dostoevsky's writing. He held that many of Dostoevsky’s contemporaries prior to the author's incarceration were fascinated by Hegelian ethics, but that there is no written record of Dostoevsky ever having read Hegel during the 1840s.36 Additionally, Jones argued that, while Dostoevsky requested Hegel’s History of Philosophy during his stay in Omsk, there is no historical evidence of Dostoevsky having read the book. Furthermore, Jones argued that many of those examples in Crime and Punishment cited as Hegelian ideas were different enough that they fail to substantiate the claim.

A more in-depth reading of both Hegel’s History of Philosophy and Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment reveals that not only do Jones' claims fail to refute the connection, but that they actually aid his opponents' arguments. Jones cites three specific differences between the two texts, including the role and ideas of Heroes. First, Jones argues that Hegel's World Historical Figures achieve and collect the best deeds and words of their age, while implying that the ideas do not originate with the Hero. In contrast, Raskolnikov specifically argues that the extraordinary man bears the new idea.37 However, after his original introduction of Heroes, Hegel continued the description, writing that “they draw the impulse of life from themselves . . . [World Historical Figures] know this nascent principle.”38 Hegel clearly stated that Heroes took the ideas from themselves. If it is a nascent principle, then it is a principle having come into existence from the Hero, not simply the best collected views of the Hero's time.

Jones' second criticism compares the perspective of Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov and the Hegelian idea. Jones argues that, “Raskolnikov does not see himself . . . as participating in the unfolding of the Idea.”39 However, Jones' position actually undermines his own argument. According to Hegel, Heroes are unaware of their position. They act according to their own impulses and the drive of Spirit, but without knowledge of their overall historical position.40 Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment does not utilize Hegel's argument, Dostoevsky does; Raskolnikov is the agent through which Dostoevsky portrays the Hegelian idea. Therefore, if Raskolnikov does not view himself as a participant of the Idea, then he is portrayed as an even stronger Hegelian figure, as constructed by Dostoevsky.

Jones argues that Raskolnikov does not ultimately become a Hero, and that the epilogue of Crime and Punishment does not portray Raskolnikov within the framework of Hegelian philosophy. This claim is entirely true, but the points raised are central to Dostoevsky's entire argument. Jones wrote that, “Raskolnikov's story is not that of a superman, of a world-historical individual.”41 Raskolnikov was a man who tried to become a superman and failed either to achieve or arguably even wholly define his goals. But Dostoevsky did not agree with Hegelian ethics; he designed Raskolnikov as a portrayal of the Hegelian idea that fails – and quickly, considering that Raskolnikov's crime and self-inflicted punishment take place within about two weeks. Dostoevsky scholar Philip Rahv wrote that, in devising Raskolnikov, Dostoevsky converted Hegel's theory of “men as subjects and objects of history” into “a theory of human nature.”42 By doing so, Dostoevsky deliberately contrived a parody of Hegel's “World Historical Individuals” who, in brief lucid moments, even mocks himself for the very theory that Dostoevsky extracted from Philosophy of History.

Although Raskolnikov enacts his, and therefore Hegel's, portrayal of a Hero, Raskolnikov fails because ultimately the theory was flawed, according to Dostoevsky. In the epilogue following Raskolnikov's failure, he realizes serenity solely through the acceptance of Christianity and the acknowledgment of his crime by way of suffering in Siberia for atonement. Dostoevsky constructed Raskolnikov explicitly to illustrate how he perceived Hegelianism performing outside of the abstract realm within which Hegel constructed his theory. Raskolnikov fails in the portrayed setting of St. Petersburg because, in Dostoevsky's view, Hegelianism would fail in a real-world application. After Raskolnikov's inner turmoil breaks him, Dostoevsky's moral-religious code restores him. That restoration signifies the conclusion of Dostoevsky's Hegelian parody and the message embodied therein.

Lastly, Malcolm Jones held that there is not enough contextual evidence to suggest that Crime and Punishment was influenced predominately by Hegel, as opposed to the more general, popular philosophy existent during that time. However, other experts have proven that Hegel's philosophy was a unique vision. Raskolnikov was not an agent of general Romanticism; he was largely a unique Hegelian construction, and there are some notable ways in which Hegel separated himself from contemporary thinkers. Chenxi Tang wrote that Hegel moved beyond, “the Romantic Spinozism that explains nature and spirit in terms of monist metaphysics. It does not provide a naturalistic account of spirit in the sense that spirit emerges from the development of nature.”43 Unlike other Romanticists, Hegel argued that Nature could not communicate directly with the human sphere; social communication through the Spirit was the only way Nature could connect with humans. Furthermore, Hegel argued that, “the geographic conditions of a particular people's habitat help to define the role it plays in world history.”44 During that time, popular Romanticism did not connect natural forces and particular ideas in the same way as Hegel, especially not through his “World Historical Individuals” theory. These very differences between Hegel and Romanticism help to define Raskolnikov's position and philosophy in Crime and Punishment because they illustrate that Romanticism, in general, did not inspire Dostoevsky to create Raskolnikov. Raskolnikov was a uniquely Hegelian concept.

Utilizing Crime and Punishment to illustrate the potentially harmful impact of Left Hegelian ethics, Fyodor Dostoevsky sought to warn radicals against progressive ideas that could end in calamity. Although Dostoevsky had personally experienced the negative effects of revolutionary socialist thought, he did not endeavor to vilify the Left Hegelian persona in order to realize some vendetta against Hegelian groups. Dostoevsky believed it was imperative that he inform the curious public about the possible dangers of their inquiries in order to help them. In The Miraculous Years, Joseph Frank effectively defined Dostoevsky's ambition:

"In Crime and Punishment, [Dostoevsky] would take the sporadic questionings to such impoverished representatives of the educated youth, struggling desperately to keep their heads above water amid the imperial splendors of Petersburg, and raise them to the level of a tragic confrontation between man's ambition to change the world for the better and the age-old moral imperatives of the Christian faith."45

Dostoevsky sensed a great need for Russian youth to critically analyze their liberal actions and ideas, and he wrote Crime and Punishment largely as a tool to further his conservative campaign toward tempering their progressive views. In order to support his ideas, Dostoevsky used Hegelian philosophy to create a character who fails in the ways that Dostoevsky feared that the Russian radicals could fail. Furthermore, Raskolnikov illustrates Dostoevsky's fear of a people whose ambitions were not balanced by the moral foundation of Christianity. Raskolnikov is Dostoevsky's agent of Left Hegelianism, created to intimate how an individual with a strong moral purpose can make the wrong decisions without the right ethical structure. Dostoevsky utilized the philosophy of Georg Hegel for historical and contextual reasons, which was a clear decision due to Dostoevsky's history and clearly ascertained in the context of Crime and Punishment.

1.) Rahv, Philip, “Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment,” in Dostoevsky: a collection of essays, ed. René Wellek (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1962), 34.

2.) Frank, Joseph, Dostoevsky: the seeds of revolt (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), pg 103.

3.) Frank, Joseph, Dostoevsky: the years of ordeal (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987), pg 161.

4.) Frank, “Seeds,” 246.

5.) Ibid., 242.

6.) Frank, “Years,” 117.

7.) Frank, “Years,” 150.

8.) Ibid.

9.) Ibid., 169.

10.) Jones, Malcolm, "Some Echoes of Hegel in Dostoyevsky," Slavonic & East European Review 49, no. 117 (1971): 504.

11.) Frank, “Seeds,” 198.

12.) Ibid.

13.) Hegel, Georg, Introduction to the philosophy of history (Scotts Valley: IAP, 2009), pg 42.

14.) Ibid.

15.) Ibid., 43.

16.) Ibid.

17.) Stillman, Peter, Hegel's philosophy of spirit (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1987), pg 13.

18.) Tang, Chenxi, The geographic imagination of modernity: geography, literature, and philosophy in German Romanticism (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008), pg 237.

19.) Ibid.

20.) Ibid.

21.) Hegel, 44.

22.) Dostoevsky, Fyodor, Crime and punishment (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1951), pg 263.

23.) Ibid., 264.

24.) Ibid.

25.) Ibid.

26.) Houlgate, Stephen, An introduction to Hegel (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2005), pg 193.

27.) Ibid., 194.

28.) Ibid.

29.) Dostoevsky, 266.

30.) Ibid., 268-269.

31.) Jones, 516.

32.) Hegel, 44.

33.) Dostoevsky, 267.

34.) Ibid., 68.

35.) Ibid., 69.

36.) Jones, 504.

37.) Jones, 515.

38.) Hegel, 43.

39.) Jones, 515.

40.) Hegel, 43.

41.) Jones, 514.

42.) Rahv, 34.

43.) Tang, 238.

44.) Ibid.

45.) Frank, Joseph, Dostoevsky: the miraculous years (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996), pg 79.

Suggested Reading from Inquiries Journal

Punishment from the legal system is typically seen as a proper response to lawbreakers and criminal activity. However, we do not consider how punishment enables law enforcement and the legal system to further oppress marginalized and minority populations, and how it subjects a person to further control and intervention from the... MORE»
Is there a goal or purpose to history? And if so, how is one to determine its starting point, the ways in which it develops, and how it achieves its aim? Luckily, one philosopher, Hegel, analyzed history philosophically and tried to answer these very same questions. The purpose of this piece is to first investigate Hegel’s... MORE»
It is generally accepted among researchers that incidence of crime is on average higher around vacant and abandoned properties because they can serve as safe havens for criminal activity. However, there has been little research investigating the effect of government intervention to rehabilitate vacant and abandoned properties on... MORE»
Turkey and Iran are both predominately Muslim-populated countries with a history of powerful political leaders who have shaped their societal values and perceptions towards capital punishment. Until the 1920s both countries... MORE»
Submit to Inquiries Journal, Get a Decision in 10-Days

Inquiries Journal provides undergraduate and graduate students around the world a platform for the wide dissemination of academic work over a range of core disciplines.

Representing the work of students from hundreds of institutions around the globe, Inquiries Journal's large database of academic articles is completely free. Learn more | Blog | Submit

Follow IJ

Latest in Philosophy

2021, Vol. 13 No. 12
This research elucidates the striking parallelism between the Hindu Varna System and Plato's Magnificent Myth through an unorthodox view of their class-based classification, social mobility, and meritocracy while arguing that these stem from the... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 11
It has recently been argued that longtermism it at odds with capitalism. It is said that while longtermism places great emphasis on the value of far future benefits, capitalism neglects the future by favouring short-term gains. Therefore, those... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 10
Suicide is legal in almost every country, but places where euthanasia is permitted remain in the minority (Mishara and Weisstub 2016). In many legislatures, suicide is not a criminal act. It is, however, a criminal act for you to assist me in this... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 05
Foucault raised the concept of biopower in the first volume of The History of Sexuality and placed its emergence in the context of capitalism, but he did not fully tackle the relationship between biopower and capitalism. In this article, the author... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 03
Western conservatism is often conceived as the philosophy of large landowners in the past and business executives in the present. Heightened awareness of racial and class disparities in recent years has increased the perception that conservatism... Read Article »
2021, Vol. 13 No. 03
The transformation of the philosophy of history reveals how and why methodological systems change over time. Methodological systems engage in contemplative action, and strive to assemble a distinguishable pattern of historical study. Though structure... Read Article »
2020, Vol. 12 No. 12
This paper presents a view that the brain is not the only actor responsible for emergence of our consciousness and that our consciousness is in fact a product of the brain-gut-microbiome axis. The paper first shows relevance of the contemporary... Read Article »

What are you looking for?


How to Select a Graduate Research Advisor
Finding Balance in Graduate School
Presentation Tips 101 (Video)