Notes from the Underground is a novel written by Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In this book, Dostoyevsky illustrated his ideals through the words of his literary protagonist, the Underground Man. The Underground Man strikes the readers as a person
, and one of the things that he abhors was the way in which progressive thinkers of his era worship reason. This was amusing because at the same time, he does not entirely reject reason. From analyzing the text, it is apparent that the Underground Man values reason, but he also sees it as incomplete and an underestimation of the power of free will.
The Underground Man’s
is not extreme, but quite moderate, because he does see values in reason, and he constantly exhibit logical thinking in his words. For instance, he emphasizes his role as an intellectual multiple times, and he often scorns the “stupid” for not thinking logically. He said, “I exercise myself in
every primary cause at once draws after itself another still more primary, and so on to infinity.” (Dostoyevsky, 12) This explanation of his way of thinking clearly illustrated logic and reason. Furthermore, he admits the importance of reason: “You see, gentlemen, reason is an excellent thing, there is no disputing that, […]” (Dostoyevsky, 19) As an
criticize of reason, he did not bluntly reject it. Then, he also said “Choice can, of course, if it chooses, be in agreement with reason; and especially if this be not abused by kept
within bounds. It is profitable and sometimes even praiseworthy.” (Dostoyevsky, 20) In this quote, the Underground Man said reason can be beneficial, if it can compromise with the other part of human nature, choice. In short, the Underground Man sees reason as necessary
break through the wall by battering my head against it if I really have not the strength to knock it down, but I am not going to be reconciled to it simply because it is a stone wall and I have not the strength.” (Dostoyevsky, 8) By comparing laws of nature to a stone wall, the
my will.” (
Man once again acknowledges, in a seemingly unwilling tone, that the laws of nature is not something he can change or destroy.
The Underground Man did not criticize reason as much as he criticized the use of reason by his rationalist and utopian contemporaries. One of the things he criticized about them was their glorification of reason, which was not uncommon at the time. The Underground Man said, “but reason is nothing but reason and satisfies only the rational side of man’s nature,” (Dostoyevsky, 19) This absolute remark showed the Underground man’s though on the limitations of the power of reason, which the rationalists and utopians of his time ignored. Additionally, he said: “I, for instance, quite naturally want to live, in order to satisfy all my capacities for life, and not simply my capacity for reasoning, that is, not simply one twentieth of