Philosophy of Crime and Punishment Essay

This essay has a total of 1039 words and 5 pages.

Philosophy of Crime and Punishment



Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is a tale of poverty and suffering by all characters.
Through suffering comes rationalization of decisions made and the circumstances of life.
Philosophical theories develop through rationalization of the character.

Two main philosophical motifs arise through out Crime and Punishment. Existentialism and
Nihilism are the two main philosophies represented. Raskolnikov, the main character, is
involved with the text in which these philosophies are represented.

Although Existentialism and Nihilism and heavily represented by characters in the novel
Dostoevsky’s personal belief were quite the opposite. Being an avid member of the Russian
Orthorodox Church was Dostoevsky dedicated to religious mysticism. (Barna, 320)
“Dostoevsky himself was a Christian, to be sure, and for that matter also a rabid
anti-Semite, anti-Catholic, and anti-Western Russian nationalist. We have no right
whatsoever to attribute to him the opinions of all of his most interesting
characters.”(Kaufmann, 14)

Representation of Dostoevsky’s opposition is most easily found in the last few chapters of
the book. Raskolnikov the Existentialist/Nihilist is eventually punished for his crime.
Raskolnikov failure is Dostoevsky way of dispelling the beliefs of Existentialism and
Nihilism. If Dostoevsky true believed in the righteousness of Existentialism and Nihilism
Raskolnikov would never have been punished or shown as a criminal failure.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language Existentialism is “A
philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a
hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses
freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one’s acts.” These idea’s of
the individual defines everything is a philosophy used throughout the novel when crimes
and criminals are concerned.

In part three, chapter five at the police station a conversation arises between the police
officer Porfiry and Raskolnikov concerning a topic discussed at Rasumihin (Raskolnikov’s
friend) party. The discussion was concerning the Socialist doctrine, and centered around
the belief that crime is a protest against the abnormality of the social organization.
(251) This statement is in clear consensus with the dictionary definition of
Existentialism.

However Raskolnikov is never clearly in agreement with this theory. Instead the
conversation is turned to an article Raskolnikov wrote when he was a student. The article
was the psychology of a criminal before and after the crime, but the point of interest lay
in the extraordinary man theory. This theory is basically “a suggestion that there are
certain persons who can…that is, not precisely are able to, but have a perfect right to
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