The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 11 January 2017

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The parable of the Grand Inquisitor is told by Ivan to Alyosha found in the novel, The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Both Ivan and Alyosha are brothers. The difference is in their respective religions wherein Ivan is a dedicated atheist while Alyosha is a monk. The parable is an important component of the novel and also one of the most famous passages in modern literature because it contains ideas about human freedom and nature. The parable also consists of a fundamental ambiguity.

The leadership of the Grand Inquisitor is based on his amazing and exceptional strength to have freedom that has endured that majority of the human beings found it so terrible. From his point of view, only people who have knowledge enough to lie and who have the strength to endure suffering by being forced to make lies can rule over those people who want to stay weak, disillusioned and obedient. The Grand Inquisitor made an accusation against Christ of only speaking to the strong in spirit and can endure freedom while he is enforcing dogmatic solutions and continues his ministry to the weak.

This style of leadership by the Grand Inquisitor can be compared to the leadership of Socrates. The Socratic method is described as the series of questions that are prolonged and answers that will refute a moral principle by letting the opposing argument to come up with a conclusion that will contradict the person’s original point of view. Socrates developed this style as a way to examine, refute or shame the opponent into reversing his earlier opinion. The Grand Inquisitor challenges the very essence of human life, the concept of evil and the free will of man.

The concept of freedom is being examined and is described using a perspective that is bleak and contemptuous. The ideologies of man is being depicted as being a destructive force that has brought down humanity into chaos and anguish. The parable can be perceived as an attack on religion and God but a closer look will reveal a conclusion that remains the opposite. It is concluded that the Grand Inquisitor becomes the explanation for the crucial need for a religious institution. The context of the parable may be a shock to religious advocates.

God will visit the earth in the form of flesh and blood. He performs miracles and is imprisoned in a cell by a man who punishes him for giving free will to mankind. It is clear from the beginning of the story that Alyosha is religious while Ivan is being cynical in his position on the matter. After the Grand Inquisitor becomes aware of the presence of God here on earth, he orders his men to capture him. The depiction of the Inquisitor has contradicted the description of God’s human form. The Inquisitor is being presented as a formidable, cold and judgmental and sinister.

Another contrast that can be found between God and the Inquisitor is the reaction of the crowd to both of them. The people displays a fearful obedience as their behavior towards the Inquisitor and not the same adoration and awe like before. It is noted here that the people is quick to abandon God who in such a short time before they were all so enamored with. The weakness of man as a theme and the need for a rigid government will begin will begin to come out. A lengthy monologue follows which is delivered by the Grand Inquisitor to God. The lecture talks about the Inquisitor’s reprimand for freedom.

The Inquisitor is speaking against the internal freedoms that are borne out of man’s free will. He describes how freedom has enslaved humanity and placed the human race into a state of disorder and chaos. He confronts God on this error and boldly declares that the human race will reject Him ultimately. The argument of the Inquisitor is difficult to refute as the ability of man to differentiate the good from the evil is undoubtedly questionable. The freedom of the will permits every individual to have a different system of morals or in some instances having no morals at all.

If one will put into consideration the violence and the deprivation that is happening in the world everyday, it seems that man cannot manage the freedom that he enjoys with his will. The many choices and responsibilities, the moral decisions that he has to make on a daily basis has already overwhelmed so many. The mind has the ability to create an environment of its own by making hell out of heaven. This ability of the mind is what the Inquisitor has spoken of and has claimed that it has led to the destruction of mankind.

There are many people who make choices in their lives that paved the way for the creation of circumstances that are hellish in nature. It is not the responsibility of free will that comes with it that overwhelms mankind. The reference of evil and the existence of God can also be found in the Confessions of Augustine. A person only needs to look around the world and have the realization later on that something is not quite right. The existence of evil is one of the challenges that have puzzled many Christians and those that are not for that matter.

For most of Ausgustine’s life, he tried to find a solution for it. The question of the existence of evil can be reworded in many ways. One approach could be to address the source and beginnings of evil that will prompt a series of statements that will eventually form an argument with reason. It is said that God is the creator of all things. Evil is also a thing so therefore God also created evil. If the first arguments were true, then there is no escape to the solution. This formula is frustrating for the whole of Christianity. God would not be known as good if he intentionally created evil.

Augustine has approached the problem from a certain angle. He questions if there is any convincing proof that God exists. If there is any proof that would suggest and lead to the conclusion that he really does, then God could not possibly be capable of creating evil. Evil must have come from something else. He also had an observation that evil could not be selected because there really is no certain evil thing to choose. A person can only turn away from good preferring a lesser good over a greater good since everything is good. For when the will abandons what is above itself, and turns to what is lower, it becomes evil – not because that is evil to which it turns, but because the turning itself is wicked” (Augustine 2007). Evil is therefore an act of choosing the lesser good over th greater good. To him, evil comes from the free will of the people. Evil was a perversion of the free will in man who turned away from God in preference of lesser things. Back to the Grand Inquisitor, Satan or evil has obviously grown impatient by the values of kindness, humility and love that he has found to have no defenses and forced to capitulate.

He is powerless with the overwhelming humility that he is forced not to live up to his threat of burning Christ at the stake. The prisoner is released and is allowed to walk freely and safe. Before the release, the prisoner gave a valedictory kiss on the lips of the inquisitor. Satan was a rebel in heaven. Because he wanted to rule, he preferred hell. In the continuing political power struggle, he has claimed the world to be his own and has a message for Christ to keep out of his world. The ends justify the means. The previous statement aptly characterizes a consequentialist’s way of reasoning.

The outcome or result of an action when beneficial is morally right regardless of the means to get the end result. Consequentialists for example think of what they want, how they are going to get it and what the good in it is if they take action towards their goal. Deolontologists would be thinking of the rationality of an action and base it on a moral rule to know if it is right or wong. Comparing the personal identity of both theories, consequentialists consider the will, reason and desires as important in determining morality.

Meanwhile, deolontologists consider only will and reason because they believe that desires only distract the mind from thinking rationally. Desires reflect emotions and in deolontology, there is no room for that because the moral rule is to be followed. Regardless if they want to do something or not, they must perform their duty because the performance of it is morally right. The rationality of consequentialism is in getting what you want out of that action. You want to achieve something because it is beneficial for you. Therefore you think of actions to take that would lead to the things you want and bring you the greatest good.

Reason dictates the actions of deontologists. It is in reasoning that deolontologists discover what is right or wrong based on moral principles. The primary source for evaluating morals in consequentialism is the consequence of an action while in deolontology, it is the actions themselves. The virtue of consequentialism may be the feeling of having maximized the utility available. For deolontologists who are performing their moral duties, it the feeling of having done the right thing. However, both of these theories have criticisms in their arguments.

One of the criticisms by Anscombe state that in consequentialism, it is not clear what one ought to do because the validity of the action is based on the consequences. As compared to deolontology, the theory suggests what one should do because the validity of an action is based on moral principles. These moral principles have a definite description of what is right and wrong. In another criticism by Thomas Nagel, consequentialism should not encompass those actions that are morally wrong but produced positive results in the long run. An example of this would be an uprising by the people of a country.

The action of the people may be considered treason and according to the moral rule, that action is wrong. Because of the uprising, the corrupt government was toppled and it was replaced by new government that is elected by the people. Consequentialism is an ethical theory that in which the consequences of a particular action becomes the basis for an acceptable judgment on that action. It finds the source of a moral value in a good situation and results into a consequence of that action. Many forms of consequentialism exist and the most common is utilitarianism.

The theory puts emphasis on the “good” as the center of its concept. Utilitarianism holds that actions that result to the greatest good to a greater number of people are considered to be moral actions. The outcome of an action makes that action either moral or immoral. In consequentialism, emphasis is given to the results or consequences in analyzing what is right and wrong in our actions. If the result of an action has a positive outcome then it is considered as moral and therefore right. Likewise if the action produces negative outcomes, the action becomes wrong and immoral.

Deontology is another ethical theory that is of Greek origin, deos which means duty and logos as science. Using its etymological meaning, deontology becomes the science of duty. The theory argues that understanding our moral duty and its regulations to help us decide on the right choice. If we do our duty, we are doing the right thing. Doing our duty is considered a moral behavior. The theory states that we are obeying God when we do our duty for it is He that determines it and its regulations. The moral actions of deontology are separate from the consequences brought about by those actions.


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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 11 January 2017

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