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Philosopical Ideas In CRIME AND PUNISHMENT. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). Born and raised in Stuttgart, Germany Graduated from University of T übingen Member of philosophy department of University of Jena (among its members were Fichte, Schelling, von Schegel, and Schiller)

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georg wilhelm friedrich hegel 1770 1831
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel(1770-1831)
  • Born and raised in Stuttgart, Germany
  • Graduated from University of Tübingen
  • Member of philosophy department of University of Jena (among its members were Fichte, Schelling, von Schegel, and Schiller)
  • During the Napoleonic Wars, Hegel moved to Bamberg, where he worked as a newspaper editor
  • Worked as a school principal in Nuremberg
  • Became a professor of philosophy in Heidelberg, then transferred to the University of Berlin where he remained for the rest of his life
the hegelian tragedy
The Hegelian Tragedy
  • Tragedy, according to Hegel, is a conflict between two opposing forces – a conflict of rights
  • A tragic event is one in which two “good” values are in opposition and one must give way to another
  • A conflict between “good and “evil” cannot be tragic, rather, tragedy is when a “good” value is in fatal conflict with another equally “good” conflict

←Antigone is the quintessential Hegelian tragedy – Antigone is bound by family responsibility to bury her brother Polynices, but this act would violate the decree of Creon, the king

the hegelian tragedy in crime and punishment
The Hegelian Tragedy in Crime and Punishment
  • Raskolnikov’s “desire to provide for his first steps in life” (Epilogue, Ch. 1) and be “extraordinary” vs. obeying society’s regulations, namely those regarding murder
  • His orders to “Go at once, this very minute, stand at the cross-roads, bow down, first kiss the earth which you [Raskolnikov] have defiled and then bow down to all the world and say to all men aloud ‘I am a murderer!’” (Part Five, Ch. 4) oppose his belief that he has an “inner right to decide in his own concept to overstep… certain obstacles” (Part Three, Ch. 5)
history and truth
History and Truth
  • History, as well as reason, is progressive (river)
  • History shows humanity moving toward greater rationalism and freedom
  • Truth: coherence within a complete system of thought
  • “The truth is the whole.”
hegelian dialectic
Hegelian Dialectic
  • History= chain of reflections
    • Thesis: the proposed thought
    • Antithesis/negation: a thought rising counter to the proposed thought
    • Synthesis: negation of the negation, combines the best elements of each of the two other thoughts
    • Synthesis => Thesis, whole triad repeats
  • History reveals itself through this dialectical pattern
  • Dynamic logic: reality is characterized by opposites
hegel and romanticism
Hegel and Romanticism
  • Individualism rose as a thesis during the Romantic Age
  • Hegel proposed an antithesis: “objective” powers (family, civil society, and the state)
  • Synthesis: individual is an organic part of the community—state is more than the individual citizen, more than the sum of its citizens
  • 3 stages of the “world spirit”: “subjective” spirit (individual), “objective” spirit (interaction), “absolute” spirit (art, religion, philosophy)
friedrich nietzsche 1844 1900
Friedrich Nietzsche(1844-1900)
  • Born in Röcken, Prussia to a devout Lutheran minister who died when Nietzche was four
  • Loved Classical literature and philosophy (especially that of Plato) as a child
  • Attended University of Bonn, but found his Bonn classmates and teachers too “superficial,” and transferred to Leipzig, where he met he was profoundly influenced by the philosophy of Schopenhauer and the music of Richard Wagner
  • Became a professor at the University of Basel when he was 24
  • Left the university to become a full-time writer
the philosophical ideas of nietzsche
The Philosophical Ideas of Nietzsche
  • No things exist in and of themselves
  • Rejected entirely the concept of the Platonic ideal
  • Existence is a dynamic flux upon which human will acts. This will is not bound by reason, which Nietzsche denounces as ancient unreality
  • “God is dead” – the philosophical concept of a supreme deity no longer serves a positive function
  • The powerful must impose their will on the weak – the Übermensch
  • No absolute truths, the best way to exist is to lie in a manner that is fundamentally creative and subjugates others’ wills to one’s own
raskolnikov as the bermensch
Raskolnikov as the Übermensch
  • In his dialogue with Porfiry Petrovitch in Part Three, Chapter 5, Raskolnikov makes it clear that he is a proponent of Nietzsche’s Übermensch. He claims men like “Kepler and Newton… Lycurgus, Solon, Mahomet, Napoleon…” were all “extraordinary people” who “would indeed have been duty bound… to eliminate the dozen or the hundred men for the sake of making his discoveries known to the whole of humanity.” Raskolnikov kills Alyona Ivanovna because he wondered “whether I have the right” In the end, however, he “felt clearly of course that I [Raskolnikov] wasn’t Napoleon.” (Part Five, Ch. 4)
  • However, Raskolnikov’s dream refutes the ideal of übermensch: “Each thought that he alone had the truth and was wretched looking at the others, beat himself on the breast, wept, and wrung his hands…Men killed each other in a sort of senseless spite.” (Epilogue, Ch. 2). In essence, when multiple people believe themselves to be übermensches, chaos ensues.
the nihilists
The Nihilists

Herbert Spencer (1820-1903):

  • Born in Derby, England
  • His father taught him empirical science at a very young age
  • Was introduced to pre-Darwinian concepts of evolution by the Derby Philosophical Society (that his father was Secretary of)
  • Wrote books dealing with psychology initially, and then philosophy

Charles Darwin (1809-1882)

  • Initially went to University of Edinburgh to become a doctor but he found lectures and surgery uninteresting
  • Studied at University of Cambridge to get a Bachelor of Arts and developed an interest for natural science
  • 5-year trip on the H.M.S. Beagle making geological and natural observations
  • Developed the theory of natural selection as shown in On theOrigin of Species
nihilism the belief that values do not exist
NihilismThe belief that values do not exist


  • Agnostic because there is no way for humanity to have certain knowledge of God
  • Ardent proponent of evolution to even society and mental development
  • There is a final point in evolution where we see the “perfect man in the perfect society”
  • Evolutionary value would be the maximization of utility


  • Believed that natural selection described life and did not need a design
  • Did not believe that an omnipotent deity could be responsible for so much pain and suffering in the world
  • “an Agnostic would be the more correct description of my state of mind”
  • Last words: "I am not the least afraid of death – Remember what a good wife you have been to me – Tell all my children to remember how good they have been to me"
nihilism in crime and punishment
Nihilism in Crime and Punishment
  • Raskolnikov (regarding Sonia): “and your worst sin is that you have destroyed and betrayed yourself for nothing. Isn’t that fearful? Isn’t it fearful that you are living in this filth which you loath so, and at the same time you know yourself (you’ve only to open your eyes) that you not helping anyone by it, not saving anyone from anything!” (Part Four, Ch, 4)
  • Dostoevsky (regarding Raskolnikov): “And what comfort was it to him that at the end of eight years he would only be thirty-two and be able to begin a new life! What had he to live for? What had he to look forward to? Why should he strive? To live in order to exist?” (Epilogue, Ch. 2)
  • Svidrigaïlov (on helping the little girl [an act of benevolence/virtue]): “‘What a folly to trouble myself,’ he decided with an oppressive feeling of annoyance. ‘What idiocy!’” (Part Six, Ch. 6)
the existentialists
The Existentialists

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855):

  • Born in Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Studied theology, literature, and philosophy at the University of Copenhagen
  • Originally deeply influenced by Hegel, but came to reject his philosophies

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

  • An orphan, Sartre was raised by his grandfather who had an extensive library, which Sartre regarded as “a temple”
  • Studied philosophy at École Normale Supérieure and in Berlin
  • Taught philosophy bur resigned to become a full-time writer
  • Was awarded the Nobel Prize but rejected it because he viewed it as a tool of the military-industrial complex (Sartre was very left-wing)


  • Traditional philosophy and institutional religions hamper human individuality and prevent an authentic life
  • Self-existence through self-actualisation
  • Thought is an abstraction and prevents direct engagement with reality
  • Since objectivity is impossible, the subjective thinker lives in perpetual uncertainty – escape by “leap of faith”


  • God’s inexistence means there are no objective values and that existence is without purpose
  • Human existence precedes human essence
  • No universally true statements regarding how life should be lived
  • Consciousness implies being free
  • “Man is condemned to be free. Condemned because he has not created himself–and is nevertheless free. Because having once been hurled into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”
existentialism in crime and punishment
Existentialism in Crime and Punishment
  • Raskolnikov, while still feeling guilty regarding the murder, has a very existentialist outlook on life, especially regarding the concept of God. This is especially prominent when he is notes that it is religiosity that keeps Sonia from utter depravity or worse. He asks her, “And what does God do for you?” and concludes that “She is a religious maniac!” (Part Four, Ch. 4). His lack of reverence and his judgment of Sonia show that Raskolnikov has a very impious, doubtful view of God. Like Sartre, he views God as irrelevant.
  • Kierkegaard’s Leap of Faith: “Raskolnikov at that moment felt and knew once for all that Sonia was with him for ever and would follow him to the ends of the earth, wherever fate might take him. It wrung his heart… but he was reaching the fatal place.” (Part Six, Ch. 8) The “Leap of Faith” is a jump from the ethical stage to the highest stage of life, where one surrenders their self to a greater power, in which they have faith. Raskolnikov gives up his freedom and his pride and trusts in Sonia, who will follow him “to the ends of the earth.”
john stewart mill 1806 1873
John Stewart Mill(1806-1873)
  • Born in London, England
  • Educated by his father, a prominent philosopher, historian, and economist
  • Had read all the works of Plato in their original Greek by age 8
  • Worked for the East India Company
  • Ran for Parliament in 1865 and won by a landslide
  • Achieved sweeping reforms for the working class
  • Self-interest is inadequate for moral goodness
  • Intellectual and moral pleasures are superior to physical forms of pleasure
  • Happiness is determined by the individual
  • Morality of an action is judged by its outcome – consequentialism
  • A person should follow a moral that brings more good consequences than another
  • Morals that provide the greatest good for the greatest number of people should be followed
  • Rights must be protected for the greatest good
utilitarianism in crime and punishment
Utilitarianism in Crime and Punishment
  • The quintessential manifestation of utilitarianism is the murder of Alyona Ivanovna. The student discussing the pawnbroker with the officer eschews the “very same ideas” as Raskolnikov when he says “On the other side, fresh young lives thrown away for want of help and by thousands on every side! A hundred thousand good deeds could be done and helped, on that old woman’s money which will be buried in a monastery! Hundreds, thousands perhaps, might be set on the right path; dozens of families saved from destitution, from ruin, from vice, from the Lock hospitals – and all with her money.” (Part One, Ch.6). The moral ambiguity of murdering Alyonya Ivanovna would be dissipated by the good that could come out of it.
works cited
Works Cited
  • Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1994.
  • Gaarder, Jostein. Sophie's World. New York: Berkely Books, 1996.
  • Kolak, Daniel, and Garrett Thomson. The Longman Standard History of Philosophy. New York: Pearson Education, Inc., 2006.
  • The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2008 Edition) URL = <>