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Concept Of Free Will In The Brothers Karamazov

2583 words - 10 pages

“And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. 
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for
they shall be satisfied. 
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. 
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(John 5:2­10, English Standard Version)

One of the most important concepts in Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov is the concept of free will. It is important to the novel because of the overall theme that everyone is responsible in some way for everything that happens. Also, it makes the novel more interesting because it essentially lets the characters run around doing whatever they like. However, there is one character in the novel who does not exercise his right to free will like the other characters do. Alyosha, who Dostoevsky calls his “hero”, is granted free will like the other characters in the novel, but at the same time, he doesn’t seem to actually use it. For all practical purposes, he doesn’t have free will. Because if free will is the right to make choices based on one’s own rational mindset, then Alyosha cannot be considered to have free will as the other characters in the novel have it. For example, his brothers Ivan and Dmitri are seemingly free to do whatever they please, whether it be not believing in God, or wasting large amounts of money. Their father is no different in that he pursues his own interests with the same disregard for who his actions might hurt. Within the novel and at the beginning of the novel, everyone seems to have free will in the things they do. However, in Alyosha’s case, his ability to practice his free will is stifled by his faith in God. Throughout the novel, his faith in God is never in doubt and because of that, his devotion to the practices of his faith makes him unable to make the choices he would like to make. So even though Alyosha technically has free will like all the other characters in the novel, at the same time, free will doesn’t apply to him because of his choice to practice his faith. That same faith also sets him up as the “hero” of the story.
Since Alyosha is the “hero” of the story, as Dosteovsky states a couple of times throughout the novel, Ivan is one of the best examples of free will in the novel. He is the rationalist in the novel and he sees the world much like we today see it. He uses reason and logic to make his choices as opposed to his father and brother Dmitri who make decisions based on their usually passionate feelings. For example, it is Ivan who first proposes how importance the existence of immorality is to humanity and what would happen...

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