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Episteme

Abstract

In trying to decide between Nikolay Chernyshevsky’s rational egoism and Fyodor Dostoevsky’s expressivism, the author confronts a huge overarching question: What does it mean to be human? The discussion looks at Dostoevsky’s Underground Man, who believes that a rational utopia leaves humans without their most prized advantage: free will. The author determines that Dostoevsky’s notion of freedom is designed to negate Chernyshevsky’s, but to what extent must the Underground Man exist in a society organized so rationally? If the Underground Man need not be a product of society, then what can be the value of the unpleasant experience the Underground Man seems to offer as the alternative to rational egoism? Ultimately, since the two philosophers offer incompatible conceptions of freedom, we cannot definitely decide which to prefer. But, the author asserts, Dostoevsky still fails to justify satisfactorily his conception of human nature.

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