The mid-eighteenth century was the Enlightenment period or the Age of Reason. French philosophes believed that reason could provide critical, informed, scientific solutions to social issues and problems, and basically improve human condition. Notes from Underground, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky is a famous anti-Enlightenment novel and is famous for rejecting the very notions of the French philosophes.
Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground is a story about the thoughts, views, and actions of a strange unnamed man who we’ll refer to as The Underground Man. The Underground Man is strange because he lacked self-respect, he had sadistic and masochistic tendencies, and he enjoyed inflicting emotional pain on himself and others.
Dostoyevsky does not believe in the norms set by society. The underground man is the opposite of what society deems acceptable and appropriate. He is intelligent with lucid perception, and is self-admitted to be sick, depraved, and hateful. He is determined to ruin every chance fate offers him to be happy and content. He actively seeks to punish and humiliate himself. Dostoyevsky implies that man is not governed by values that are made important by society. The main idea in Notes from Underground is that human actions cannot be calculated or scientifically explained.
The Underground Man is a symbol of what could happen to mankind if reason should take over. Dostoevsky suggests that rationality is actually useful for analyzing situations but can be damaging to ones self if it becomes the main focus. Many Enlightenment thinkers believed that reason frees man but instead Dostoevsky believes that it takes something essential away from human existence. Reason reduces mankind to something that can be scientifically explained and calculated. Man’s freedom of choice should not be controlled by anything including...